Woken by the warmth of the sun

First Ume

Not a great photo, but one of the first blossoms I saw this year.

It’s been a super-productive day today.

It started on a really positive note, with the warm sun streaming through the trees, through the glass doors that make up a whole wall of our bedroom, and onto my face. It made me realise just how fortunate we are to be living here – and living here legally too what with our new contract having come into effect yesterday.

At about 9am Twinkle and I headed out, she for work, me for Naka-Meguro for a couple of hours of voluntary stuff at the city hall – providing feedback and suggestions for a section of their English website. I enjoyed that, and it gave me a good opportunity to stretch my language muscles (although they couldn’t strain so far as to give a coherent description of RSS. I’ve found that both here and in the UK people who don’t visit a lot of websites often have trouble getting their heads round the concept, which is kind of understandable. In the end I just borrowed a lan cable and demo’d my MacBook’s RSS reader. That worked!).

Following that there was the really exciting changing-of-address thing at the post office, the returning of a video, the long-wait-to-not-get-served-at-the-overly-busy-Softbank-store*, and the paying of multiple bills at the convenience store. On the way home I stopped off at the little local tofu-makers for the first time ever, and had a nice chat with the owner who kindly went through all the names of the different kinds of tofu with me.

(*Softbank have just launched an ‘iphone for Everyone’ campaign, which sees subscribers to a 2-year contract getting a free 8GB iPhone. My friend bought one today – I don’t think *Twinkle*s that far off doing so either)

I was also able to listen to 6 short podcasts – 3 episodes of J-Wave’s Power Your Morning, and three of Takumi Yamazaki’s Takuraji (both highly recommended for Japanese listening practice, being short, easy to digest and interesting).

This afternoon I actively used productive procrastination to tidy the house and make a great lunch, then get on with working on illustrations for a new website (using permanent marker and watercolour pencils, a scanner and photoshop) – I’m very happy with the results. I now know I will publish a picture book within two years.

I then spent a good deal of time faffing around with code, affiliate accounts (thus the links to Amazon on this blog), and setting up / linking new social networking sites for the podcast. I’m pleased with the results. I also fired off a few emails to prospective interviewees, and am delighted to have received a positive response (just a few minutes ago).

I also read a little more of Branson’s new book, Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur.

The only unfortunate thing that did happen today was this evening when I accidentally ran the bath without turning the water filter on (we turn it off when washing the bathroom as that’s one thing that the bonus chemicals are good for!). Going into the bathroom I was hit with the smell of chlorine, and sure enough my skin is now about as dry as a hair-dryer in the Sahara dessert.

Right now I’m listening to Dick Gaughan, whose album ‘A different kind of love song’ was the first one I ever owned (copied from my brother actually). Hauntingly beautiful. Handful Of Earth is another of my favourite albums.

OK, bed time now. Night night.

Valentines Day 2009


After work last night, I came home to find the house stinking of rancid steamed broccoli – we’d forgotten to put a dish of it away in the fridge before heading off to Saitama the previous day, and what with these spring-like temperatures it had rapidly deteriorated. Windows open, air purifier on full blast …soon it was safe to breathe, and safe to tackle the washing up.

An hour or two later I headed out to Shibuya to meet *Twinkle* for our Valentines Date. It’s rare for us to spend time together doing stuff that isn’t related to business, so for a few minutes we were at a loss as to what to do. Food seemed like a good idea. What to have? I checked the Hot Pepper app on my iPhone (a directory of eateries with discount vouchers) – it brought back a google map of the street we were on with pinmarks showing the restaurants in its listings – click a pin to see a photo of the place, a description, and access the discount ticket.

We settled on sushi, and spent half an hour or so working our way through a stack of plates. Very nice. Cheap too. (I couldn’t manage the ones with the 2cm squidlets lying on top though, it seemed to me horrendous that anyone could eat such little babies).

Back on the streets of Shibuya, we thought about what to do next. Karaoke? Cinema? Nice cafe somewhere. It was then that we spotted a bus about to depart for Roppongi Hills – a clear sign that that was where we were supposed to go.

I like taking buses in Tokyo. Going overground is a novel experience, and much like my journey back to the UK by train in 2007, provides one with a sense of the connections between points on a subway map. These days you don’t have to worry about how much to pay or where to get off either – use your Pasmo (or Suica) IC card for the former (one card is good for virtually all public transport) , and your GPS enabled phone for the latter.

Roppongi Hills is an incredible place. The main 53-storey Mori tower fills me with wonder – how can humans have made something so huge?! On the lower floors there’s a lot of fashion outlets, good cafes and restaurants, interesting architecture and a giant spider.

We decided to visit Niwaka to look at wedding rings. They have a beautiful range – I like a lot of their range, which is unusual for me as I’m not a very ringy person. They’re also more affordable now, with prices having been lowered in response to the economic downturn.

Having decided upon the designs that we’d like (when we can afford them), we headed down the road to the Starbucks-equipped Tsutaya for a coffee and planning session. Out came my notepad and pen, and I started to draw a spider diagram of the business I’m building.

*Twinkle* has a great mind for business. I must admit, I forget it sometimes, but she really has got her head screwed on when it comes to business plans. She pointed out some holes, suggested amendments and action steps, and encouraged me to push forward even though it may not be profitable for a couple of years – and will involve a lot of work.

At about half eleven we headed back home. Stopped off to pick up a DVD at our local Tsutaya, and once home created a home cinema out of all our bedding and the flat-screen panel given to us by my sister-in-law.

Must have been about 3am when we finally dozed off.

This morning’s been relaxing too. Cooking, talking. Looking down at empty plot of land next door feeling happy that construction has now been indefinitely postponed. Oh, my hyacinths are flowering too, giving off a wonderful scent.

We’re both off out now. *Twinkle* to meet an ex-colleague of hers who’s interested in starting an Amway business, myself to teach English in a book store cafe.

Oh, and this time we won’t be leaving any cooked broccoli on the kitchen table.


Cafe de Twinkle

Today is a day to be remembered. *Twinkle* and I have a whole day off together. It’s a rare thing.

We stayed up pretty late last night (about 3am), planning and working on our goals in our cosy little bedroom – with the heated carpet warming our tootsies (had a little switch-on ceremony). This morning we woke up at 9am, had muesli for breakfast, and then set about continuing on our projects, *Twinkle* on her Apple-branded Toshiba, me on my Mac. Listening to the beautiful Kate Rusby.

It’s a beautiful day. The sun is streaming in on our ‘office’ through the park.

We were thinking of going to a cafe to work this afternoon to avoid distraction, but then unbeknownst to me, *Twinkle* decided to create her own cafe. I heard her pottering around the other side of the sliding doors that divide our two rooms, but didn’t peek in. Then, just after two I was invited to dine at the Cafe de Twinkle, where freshly dutch-oven baked (homemade) raisin-and-walnut bread, potato and seaweed salad were served, accompanied by chai tea.

I’m grateful for today not just for the immediate happiness we’re feeling relaxing together in our home, but also for the memory it will provide us with, which can be used as a powerful tool to encourage us in the future.

Today is representative of one of our dreams: to be working from home together, free to choose the hours that suit us. Pursuing our passions as opposed to working for the sake of creating an income.

We’ve decided to stay in this apartment come March, as despite the cost of renewing the contract, the heat in the summer and the cold in the winter, we are unlikely to find another place in such a nice location for so little. The sounds of birdsong and running water are not something you find comes with a lot of apartments in Tokyo. It seems a shame to turn our backs on such a gift.

Overly content?

A reoccurring theme for discussion in my head is one that revolves around being content.

You see, I believe that it is important to be content with today’s life, because there is no tomorrow. And thus, I generally feel very content.

Yet, I can feel that this feeling of contentness is perhaps holding me back, in that I lack serious frustrations with my lot today to motivate me to push myself forward.

I have small motivations – for example, an inability to communicate my thoughts on the new database with my boss has pushed me back to study …yet I feel I don’t feel a general discontent with my situation in general.

Perhaps I’ve thought and felt myself into a corner.