Our Winter Holiday in the UK and Spain

Getting out of familiar territory really does help. The past three weeks spent in the UK and Spain have enabled me to become partially detached from the frenetic life I have in Tokyo, to take a look at the overall shape of things, to reconsider where my attention should and shouldn’t be directed. More on that later.

It has of course also given me a chance to spend time with my family, and friends – and it was that, more than anything else, that this trip was about.

This was our first time back in the UK since the summer of 2008. The funny thing was though, when meeting everyone again, it didn’t feel like that at all – It could have just been a few months. I think there were a number of reasons for this, including the fact that these days we can contact one another anytime at minimal or no cost (free mobile video calls now also possible thanks to a recent Skype for iPhone update), and also because now we’re all ‘grown up’ there’s far less change in our lives that there was say, ten years ago.

Unlike with any home visit I’ve done up until now, I found there was actually more change in my parents than there was in my siblings. Whilst the growing-up process can be pretty dramatic, I learnt that the ageing process can be too. Seeing mum and dad having to cope with the realities of growing old was quite shocking in a way – and this is despite the fact that they’re both actually doing pretty well.

Mum has an accident

Impressive metalwork in mum's ankle お母さんの足Admittedly, things weren’t exactly ‘normal’ whilst we were there. Mum fell down the stairs just a few hours before we arrived on Boxing Day, breaking three bones in her ankle and heel. She now has an impressive mechano set embedded in her leg.

This meant of course that she was unable to cook, rearrange furniture, or ensure that all family members had what they needed. Instead, the pressure was on dad who, despite being in a lot of pain with a bad back and angina attacks, really rose to the occasion. Whilst the first pot of soup he made was somewhat unconventional, he went on to bake a fantastic fish pie, two tasty apple crumbles, a delicious risotto and some pretty good scrambled eggs. Let’s hope that his new-found culinary confidence continues to be nurtured and grow.

I mentioned that it felt like it had only been a few months since I’d last seen everyone – but that didn’t make it any less special. It was so good to spend time with my parents, my brother, his partner, my two sisters and oldest nephew, now age 7. Seeing him all grown up was wonderful, and both *Twinkle* really enjoyed the time we spent with him (and he also seemed to enjoy the time spent with my iPad!)

We also stayed a few days with *Twinkle*s sister and her partner, now living in London. We all get on really – I’m very lucky with my in-laws! There was time to see a few friends too in both Hereford and Bristol, including my old housemates, a college friend with a 3-day-old baby, and my old boss from when I worked at Wormelow Stores. I was able to see my best friend Jo a couple of times, once at home with a nice relaxing cup of tea and once in the freezing cold on the course of the Wye valley 10km New Year Challenge.

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Twinkle, Morris, Yuki

Steiner Academy Hereford

Living just a few miles from the Hereford Waldorf School that was so much a part of our lives for so long, it seemed only right that I take a look at how it has changed since it became the UK’s first state-funded Steiner School, receiving £10 million in investment to turn it into the Steiner Academy Hereford.

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Where we once lived in a caravan

Fortunately, my old Japanese archery teacher Shinji and his wife Niki still work there, so I was able to have a full guided tour in the pleasure of their company. I must admit, I was stunned by the transformation. I’d never imagined that the school which had always struggled so hard to keep going would one day be fully networked, have an underground biomass-powered fuel generator, and smartboards on classroom walls. A hall (standing where the old playground had been and that we’d lived in a tiny caravan in 1984 when there were only 30 pupils) with huge red velvet curtains, computer-controlled led lighting, a beautifully smooth wooden floor. I was also happy to see how ‘historical’ aspects had been preserved, such as the old stone arches and doorframes that dated back to when the original government-run primary school had been built way back when.

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The barn being stripped – note the outline of the old blackboard on the far wall.

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The new hall

UK still a popular destination despite the weather!But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind a little to the beginning of our holiday. In the days leading up to our departure were unsure as to whether or not we’d actually be able to go, due to the heavy snow falls at Heathrow that had basically seen the airport closed for two days. Checking the British Airways iPhone app just before going to bed the night before we were due to fly, we found that sure enough, we were going to be effected. Our flight would be delayed 6 hours, meaning we’d miss our connection to Barcelona. No big deal though – we just decided to postpone our 3 days in Spain until the end of *Twinkle*s time in Europe, in the New Year. The flights were changed at no cost, and we only had to fork out for a new hotel booking.

Dependence upon mobile broadband

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Twinkle in Camden Town

Once in London we stayed with *Twinkle*s sister in Islington. It was whilst there that I learnt just how dependent I’d become on constant network connectivity. I needed money from the bank, but had forgotten my UK PIN. Usually I would have just googled the nearest bank branch, used my iPhone’s GPS to get me there… and whilst I did eventually manage to get it sorted, it was pretty difficult, I realised that these days I spend very little time preparing to go places before actually leaving the house. It’s only once I’m en-route that I’ll start looking places up. It really was quite a shock to me just how much of an impact it had on my ability to do what I wanted to do and go where I wanted to go.

The following day it wasn’t an issue as I had severe sickness and diarrhea, so didn’t leave my bed.

Connectivity was a problem again when driving down to the Avisford Park Hilton, about an hour south on London near my brother’s sort-of mother-in-law. We’d bought a road atlas, but it was so lacking in detail that it wasn’t any help at all. Pinching the pages didn’t change the scale, and there was no gps button to tap to show us where we were. Whilst we did find the place in the end, it was pretty stressful. (Luckily we had a brand new Vauxhall Corsa that at least meant that driving was a moderate pleasure!). Later on in the holiday, whilst in Spain where I couldn’t use the mobile broadband mifi that I’d subsequently picked up, I learnt to cache all the required google maps on the iPad and iPhone prior to leaving the wifi-enabled hotel room.

Christmas Day

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Twinkle and Pepe on Bognor beach

hilton hotel garden_3878Waking up on Christmas Day at the Hilton was lovely. Hanging on the door knob was a stocking from the hotel manager, containing chocolate, tangerines and a card. There was the usual full English breakfast cooked to perfection, and following that, a stroll in the grounds (the temperature was about minus 5!) The rest of the day was spent with my brother, his partner and her family in a converted boathouse on the beach in Bognor Regis. It was all a very relaxed affair, and came complete with a Doctor Who Christmas Special.

Boxing Day

Having visited a friend who lives on a large house boat (a lot larger and more comfortable than I had previously imagined), we headed up to Hereford (via the castle at Arundel) – it was around lunchtime that mum then decided to hoover the stairs in a pair of non-grip slippers and subsequently broke her leg. We visited the next day following her operation. Whilst somewhat groggy she was in good spirits, and seemed to be positively enjoyed the complete lack of housework needed whilst a patient at the Hereford General.

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Arundel castle

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New Year

It’s a tradition at the Tame household to celebrate the family Christmas on New Year’s Day, as this also coincides with dad’s birthday. Mum was now home from hospital and doing pretty well. We did all the usual: eating, drinking, sitting around talking, playing Racing Demon (I think Emma won).

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Twinkle and I making ourselves useful – stacking firewood

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I found a huge block of ice in a waterbutt

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…and carved some holes in it to make a handy mask

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I had a fair bit of work to do whilst in the UK too

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Wye Valley New Year 10KM challenge

joseph wye valley 10km_4582.jpgWhen visiting my friend Jo she’d mentioned that on January 1st there was an annual run around the lanes of Herefordshire that she’d be participating in. Starting at Hereford Rowing Club it took an undulating route around Breinton (where we’d lived for a year or so, surrounded by cider apple orchards, back in the mid-1980s. This sounded like the perfect opportunity to get my running off to a good start for the year, so on the day I paid my £12 and joined the 250-or-so runners at the start line.

That was a tough race! I’d never actually run a hilly route before, and was only accustomed to the flat streets of Tokyo. However, spurred on by the sight of people carrying far more weight than I was overtaking me, I pushed myself, and in doing so achieved a new personal best for 10km.

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Jo and I prior to the race

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Photo by Twinkle

I subsequently went on a number of runs along hilly routes, and found, to my surprise, that my average times were generally some of my best ever. Was this because I was unable to use GPS to pace myself? Or was it that the downhills enabled me to run so much faster that the uphills were soon cancelled out?

Well, whatever, I absolutely loved running those rural routes, and hope to have the chance to run in more diverse locations over the coming year.

Hereford hasn’t changed much. Here’s a video shot when walking over the old bridge over the river Wye… as you can see it was pretty damn cold!

Spending time with *Twinkle* / The Barcelona Trip

It was the first time since our wedding that *Twinkle* and I had spent so much time together on a constant basis …and what a pleasure it was. Waking up next to her and not having to think about going anywhere by any particular time. Driving with her navigating (OK, so that was a bit stressful at times!), visiting places, going for walks …I loved it. Our few days in Barcelona were a highlight. She’d already visited once, some 7 years ago, and so already knew here way around the city to a certain extent.

The hotel was great, with our room upgraded to a top-floor suite after we emailed to tell them it was our honeymoon (which technically it was, albeit a little late). A queen-size bed, walk in closet, and a jacuzzi with a huge window that could be opened to give us a view over the city whilst soaking.

Wow! What a place Barcelona is! I was absolutely captivated by the architecture, The incredible cathedrals, ye ancienty narrow alleyways with 6-storey buildings rising up each side, decorating them with laundry. The ridiculously imaginative and outrageous works of Gaudi, including the crown jewel – the Sagrada Familia.

That was just STUNNING! Whilst the outside is pretty impressive with those huge towers, it does look a bit like a construction site, what with it being a construction site and all. But once inside …jaw-droppingly amazing. An impossibly high ceiling supported on Mines of Morior-style pillars, featuring ridiculously detailed decorations, surrounded by beautiful stained glass windows, and a breathtaking source of light directly above the alter (is that to be the base of the final Terry Gilliam style tower that’s not yet built?)

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I was really blown away by that. Whilst in Europe we have a lot of stunning architecture, it’s either been there for decades (or centuries), or it’s made of modern-day materials. To see such a building as the Castelle Famille being built of stone in the 21st century is, I feel, pretty unique. What’s also good is that thanks to tourists they have a constant stream of income to pay for the construction to continue.

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Twinkle and Pepe above Barcelona

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At the famous park designed by Gaudi – Park Guell

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Another memorable attraction was the ropeway from the docks to the park that sits on the coastal hill overlooking the city.

Unfortunately my camera batteries died at the end of the first day, and despite my obsession with chargers and cables I’d neglected to bring anything that could rejuvenate them (and my camera, the D7000, is too new to yet be supported by the generic chargers that i found on sale in the largest department store). So, it was back to the iPhone.

The Flight Fiasco

It would be unfair to *Twinkle* to not include the story of how I ended up going to Spain without her, carrying only my passport and wallet, whilst she struggled through airport security with all the hangbaggage.

We were a little late in arriving at Heathrow Airport for our flight to Spain, so when I got off the shuttle bus from the car hire compound to the terminal I neglected to check that I had all of my belongings. It was about ten minutes later that I found that I didn’t have my wallet, which contained over £200 and all my cards. Telling *Twinkle* to wait for me, and with only 30 mins until the gate closed, I ran off to the car hire desk. About 15 mins later I had managed to retrieve my wallet (with all contents) – thank you National Car Hire for your quick and kind response.

However, when I got back to where I’d left *Twinkle* with our substantial amount of hand baggage, she wasn’t there. She had done exactly as she had told me she’d do – moved on down the building to where you enter security. Now for some reason I can’t explain, I totally forgot that my iPhone was perfectly capable of making phone calls in the UK (albeit for a price), and so rather than call her to see where she was I went on to security by myself, using a different escalator from the one that she had indicated she’d be using.

There was no sign of her at security, so I assumed she’d continued to the gate (which was a ten minute walk from security). Arriving there I asked if she’d gone through – no she hadn’t. I now spied a payphone and called her – she was still waiting for me at security! I explained the situation to the boarding gate staff, and was told that she had no chance of making it in time. She’d have to get a later flight. What was worse though, I couldn’t wait for her. The one piece of checked-in-luggage we had was in my name. It was too late to get the luggage off the plane, and the plane couldn’t leave with unaccompanied baggage on board. I had to fly.

As you can imagine, when I called her a second time to tell her that I was leaving without her and that she’d have to struggle through security with all our luggage (including a whole bunch of electronics that would need unpacking and x-raying at least twice), she wasn’t best pleased. It’s not often I’ve seen her furious, but furious she was, and let me know this in no uncertain terms down the phone. I felt terrible as I sat on the bus that was to take us across the tarmac to the plane. I had been mightily stupid.

It was only when I landed in Barcelona a couple of hours later that I realised that I could use my iPhone in Europe no problem (provided I was willing to pay), and gave her a call. Still furious, she told me that she’d had to buy a new ticket for £117, and having no British money on her had had to use the euros that she’d bought with her collection of two hundred 500yen coins.

Whilst very embarrassed, I was also kind of glad that she was more than happy to hit me damn hard upon arrival in Barcelona, 4 hours after the initial scheduled arrival time. The abuse continued on the bus to the hotel, where it was paused as we made like we were the honeymoon couple we’d reserved the room as (we didn’t have time for a honeymoon in 2008), and then gradually lessened over the course of the next 12 hours.

I admit that travelling with me can be tough. I admire *Twinkle* for having the stamina to do it.

Back to the UK

We returned to England on Jan 5th, with *Twinkle* continuing directly to Tokyo. I was to stay for another week at my parent’s house, catching up on work, creating my very special rig for the Tokyo Marathon, and keeping an eye on mum and dad as they got used to the new dynamic (featuring mum with a leg in plaster).

And that’s pretty much what I did. I spent the mornings running or catching up on odds and sods, and then afternoons and evenings working on the website for www.tylershineon.org (yet to be completed, but we’re getting there).

Click the panorama below for a larger image

Unfortunately I didn’t get to do many of the things I wanted to do for myself, which mainly involved writing, planning, finishing up personal projects that were put on hold last year. In fact it’s only now I have 11 hours to myself in splendid isolation 37,000 feet above Siberia that I’m able to document our holiday.

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This is one of the most comfortable flights I’ve yet taken to Japan. Whilst I’m in economy, when checking in last night online I deliberately chose a window seat in a row of three in which there was already someone checked in in the aisle seat – leaving the seat in the middle empty. The seat in front was also empty. The plan worked, and thus I’m able to put stuff on the chair beside me, and use this 17″ MacBook Pro – something I can’t do if the seat in front is reclined. Cunning huh?

We’ve been in the air about 7 hours now I guess. Dark outside, our flight from West to East cutting short the daytime short, and the moon, which previously lit up Scandinavia, has now set. Must be about about 1am local time, so I guess it’ll be another couple of hours before we see the sun rise.

Looking back, looking forward

Whilst in the UK I did have a chance to do some reflection and thinking. Looking back, the last 12 months has been pretty tremendous, with my moving from full time employment (that, whilst it taught me a lot, I didn’t really enjoy), to a freelance model (which has seen me busier than ever, but doing what I enjoy). *Twinkle* has been able to move from a typical Japanese-style company with little flexibility and no future to the family-owned business courtesy of our brother-in-law, so we both now feel we have a greater ability to shape our lives.

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I also celebrated my 33rd birthday whilst in England

There’s no sense of having ‘arrived’ anywhere yet, and now more than ever we’re both keenly aware of our desire and indeed the need to build our own business, something that allows us to live the lifestyle we’d like (i.e. so that we can move to another location without having to find new jobs).

I’m aware that I took too much on last year, and so will now be more careful when allotting time to third party projects. *Twinkle* and I need to spend more time together, with that time being quality time relaxing, doing nothing, leaving space for our natural creativity to grow. A former employer of mine expressed concern that I don’t ever have any downtime (very true), that I’m always multitasking, that my brain is constantly taken up with tasks. This is not good. He’s helping me to appreciate that my brain needs rest periods, and that without them the times when I am working, I’m not functioning to my fullest capacity. In in those times when the brain is let free to wander, to explore, to drift in and out of nothingness and somethingness, that it is at its most creative.

I take this seriously as one of my concerns of late has been what I perceive to be the stifling of my creativity. Idea creation has become harder, forced. It’s a process I need to reverse, and one I think I can reverse with a little care to leave space in my schedule for downtime.

Whilst in England I spent some time with an old friend who lost her partner to cancer. He’d always been a hard worker, putting 110% into everything he did, and rarely taking time off. Unfortunately, it was not long after he retired that he became ill, and the holidays and relaxation time they’d long talked about taking were no longer an option. ‘You’ve only got now Joseph. Don’t waste this precious time you have together”.

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And she’s right. One thing I’ve been reminded of through this trip is how fortunate I am to be married to *Twinkle*, to be in a partnership with her in life. It’s a relationship to cherish, and a relationship that deserves more attention that it received last year.

We’ve started booking some time off together. We’ll go places at weekends (something we’ve never really done before), we’ll eat out (likewise), we’ll just enjoy one another’s company.
Another area for improvement this year is Japanese. This has suffered hugely in the past 6 months, and I’m really quite ashamed of how bad my spoken japanese has become. I’m sure I’ll be able to pick it up again pretty quickly – but I need to put the time in. The daily study routine resumes Monday.

Long term… this requires more thought and discussion. We’re going away for a weekend at the end of the month to a hot spring resort, Planning for the next few years is top priority, after relaxation and fun.

Anyhow, I think I’ll leave it here for now. I need a break from the screen – and have about 1000 photos to start editing before we hit the tarmac at Narita!

From above Siberia with love

Joseph

July 2010: Mt. Fuji, Tweetup, and Going Freelance

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Looking back at the past month of entries on my blog, I see that I’ve completed neglected to talk about how things have panned out since I left White Rabbit Press at the end of June. The reason for that is simple – I’ve been extremely busy with new projects, and have not really not had any downtime.

I’d like to start off then with a brief summary of what I’ve been up to since my last proper check in.

To start off, we had the Mount Fuji climb.

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I documented the entire adventure though tweets, audio recordings and videos on the various social channels, so I won’t go into detail here. But in brief: this went really well. The weather was perfect, being warm and with relatively clear skies. I picked up the brand-new 10-seater minivan early in the morning, luckily remembered how to drive (after a 2-year break), picked up the other 9 team members, and headed out on the two hour trip to the 5th station of the Yoshida Guchi trail.

. It was around lunch time when we finally got our feet on the ground and started the long trek up.

Last year, we’d climbed at night time, and in appalling weather conditions, making for a pretty bad experience. This time, thanks to the fact that it was a day climb and that the weather was good, it was an entirely different story. It was an absolute breeze to reach the 8th station where we’d then spend the night – I could hardly believe it was the same mountain, it was that easy.

The staff at the 8th station were pretty surprised by all the technology that we were carrying: iPhone, Cerevo live-streaming camera, iPad, 17″ MacBook Pro, DoCoMo wifi dongle, Canon HD camera and live-stream USB converter, multiple batteries, solar panel charging kit…!

I used all of this technology to tweet, livestream (via Ustream), upload photos, audio and videos as we climbed. Of course, at the end of the day the quality of the output was to a certain extent limited by the speed of the data connection (and lets admit it, whilst it’s pretty reliable it’s not exactly fast up there!)

Reflecting on the livestream aspect of the adventure, I don’t see it as being all that successful. I made a poor decision to not broadcast constantly, and I also neglected to involve the audience to the extent that I should have done. It was very much a one-way thing, and lacked the ‘challenge’ aspect. Also, there was the time problem- we were to reach the summit at 3.30am! Still, to be honest, I don’t mind all that much. It was a learning experience.

I’m very grateful to have had the support of NTT DocCoMo and Cerevo.

Having slept for a few hours at the fantastic mountain hut we got up at about 2am, and made it to the top for the beautiful sunrise.

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We also recorded a very special music video on the rim of the crater – more on that in due course…

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The Japan Times published a story online and in print about ustream and my use of it on the morning of our descent.

This climb of Mt. Fuji is something that I won’t forget – thinking about it now brings a smile to my face. The reason for this is not necessarily the beautiful view, the fun that I had with the technology, the good weather or the tasty curry at mountain station 8, it’s the people that I went with. It’s the interactions with them, the sharing of the challenge, the friendships that grew stronger through the experience – these are the things that ultimately matter.

It’s the same with the next mini-project I was a part of: the official Twitter Tweetup held on July 23rd.

With Twitter’s crazy success in Japan, the demand for tickets far exceeded the supply – only 400 would be able to attend. As with most things round here it was a case of knowing the right people. For me, that person was @mikamika59, an employee of Digital Garage, the company that runs Twitter here in Japan.

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Mika (left) with my co-presenter montomos

I first got to know her following the Tokyo Marathon – she sent some very kind messages during the run. We subsequently met by chance on a bridge in Roppongi, and then went on to work together at TEDxTokyo – she was my co-host for the Ustream live stream.

Thus, when it came to the Tweetup she asked if fellow tech-otaku and good friend Steve would manage their official stream of the event.

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I happily accepted, and on the night worked with montomos as a presenter. Part of the deal was that I got to interview Twitter CEO Evan Williams.

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(thanks to @kirai for the photos)

Really enjoyed that – apart from the first 5 minutes in which I died on camera. I mean, it was really bad. I’m trying not to think about that. Luckily it wasn’t recorded, and only about 80 people were watching the stream at the time.

I managed to use the event as an opportunity to come out about my Twitter addiction: ABC News, Yahoo News, Fox 11

The following day it was off to @invisibleGaijin‘s to shoot a couple of short videos for a friend – his daughter wanted to enter a ukulele video competition.

Unfortunately on the way home from the shoot I twisted my ankle, and subsequently was unable to walk for a couple of days – this was a big shame as the following day was our 2nd Wedding Anniversary 🙁 Still, despite my being an invalid we had a nice time staying at a hotel in Asakusa – got a free upgrade to the best room in the hotel after I discovered and complained about a toothbrush in the bathroom that had already been used!

A week later I was on the 36th floor of a certain Japanese corporation, the name of which I cannot reveal here for reasons of rabbit security. There I was dressed in my bunny ears giving a presentation about the Tokyo marathon. It went down very well, despite my pretty bad Japanese and the fact that my keynote file completely disappeared off my computer an hour before I was due to give it. Bizarre.


All of the above has no real connection with my work, although I’m sure some of it will come to influence what I do in the future.

When it comes to work, things have panned out pretty well. I’m working freelance as a digital media producer / consultant. I have two clients at present, one a friend who has established an international education foundation (more on that in due course), and the other, my brother-in-law’s company, Total Football. Leigh (my wife’s sister’s husband), a professional football coach with 20 year’s experience, established the company in 2007 to run coaching sessions across Japan in collaboration with Nike Japan. We have ties with international level teams such as Manchester United – this coming weekend we’re running a couple of coaching sessions with coaches from FC Barcelona. Leigh himself is becoming known as the face of youth football in Japan for Nike. He’s currently in Holland having been invited by the Dutch FA to attend their elite training programme.

The company is now looking to take itself to the next level: *Twinkle*, with her experience over the past few years in many areas of business, is now in charge of everyday operations and expansion. I’m working with them to help develop a new marketing strategy. There’s huge potential here, and our job is to see that it’s realised.

The amount of work involved in both of these projects at present is such that I’m working pretty much 7 days a week. Still, the fact that I have the freedom to choose where and when I work is a huge bonus. I feel I have a degree of ownership with both projects, and this motivates me to push for big successes. I’m also learning a hell of a lot in the process of carrying them out.


Our affiliation with Nike is motivating me to think more seriously about sport – running in particular. I’ve been fortunate to be able to meet the head of marketing for Nike Running, and hearing how active he is in the sport himself (multiple marathons etc) inspires me to push myself to get back into it. I’m actually really missing running – my foot has not yet fully recovered from the accident I had just before our wedding anniversary. Last weekend I bought new running shoes, an armband for my iPhone, oh, and I finally figured out how to use the Nike+ app on the iPhone (the key is to buy the Nike+ widget thing to put in your shoe – the one I had before that I thought was broken was actually just a piece of filler-foam!)

This kind of leads into thoughts regarding my long term plans. Thoughts that are influenced by videos such as this one:

and people like Pete Gost (his site www.bigafricacycle.com seems to be down at the moment)

oh and Eddie Izzard

Well, it’s an idea to work on.

And make a reality.

Tarra.

Changes. Again.

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I find living next to a park a real lifeline, especially at this time of year. The mosquitoes are yet to really start biting, and the Cicada’s yet to start making a racket. We can keep the veranda doors wide open and enjoy the breeze, whilst talking to the rapidly growing tomatoes, sunflowers and magic bean. Gardening’s another thing that helps me escape the city, even if it is in a very limited form (that is, confined to a few flower pots).

Long term, I couldn’t stay in the city. Not when I know that I could be living in a place as beautiful as Herefordshire (my hometown).

This is Herefordshire

As hinted at in my previous post, I’ve been immensely busy, and unfortunately somewhat stressed too. Last week I made the decision to turn things around. The first thing to do was to start to say no to invitations to take part in 3rd party projects. I find this very tough to do, especially when there’s so many fantastic events etc going on. Still, I know that ultimately I’m damaging my long-term prospects, health, and relationships – so I’ve now said ‘no’ three times, and am delighted by that. Look I even have a bit of time to blog!

Feasting Bee

Despite not keeping up to date here, I have been keeping track of the wave of events and emotions that have been washing over me these past couple of months. I’ve been doing so in the form of Audioboo posts (also embedded in the sidebar of The Daily Mumble), and a lot more in the form of private audio recordings on my iPhone.

Hungry Koi

I continue to struggle with questions of purpose, with placing a value on my time, with balancing acts of goodwill with the real need for an income to pay the bills.

The exposure I’ve had over the past few months (including a TV interview recorded at home a couple of weeks ago but which I can’t talk about yet) has been a real eye-opener. In particular, it’s made me realise just how bad my spoken Japanese has become.

Seriously upsetting.

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At the moment I have ‘Joseph Japanese’. This is all very well and good; I can get my meaning across in most situations, speak with enthusiasm and passion on subjects I’m very familiar with, but when it comes to appearing on camera etc, being asked about things that I’m not so familiar with, I just seize up. I lack the vocab and grammar, despite having learnt both at university. The most recent TV interview was a particular shocker – the producer couldn’t believe the difference between my English and Japanese explanations of the same marathon story.

So, whilst I’m kind of on a roll at the moment, and feel that I should make the most of the opportunities resulting from the marathon exposure, I have this growing sensation that this is not what I should be doing at present. If I wanted to, I’m, pretty sure I could generate a similar level of interest again in the future, and take it from there. Thus, there isn’t an absolute need to push ahead with this kind of thing right now. What would be far more beneficial would be if I paused and spent some time (say, 10 months), really knuckling down and working on my Japanese. I’ve learnt that life is cyclical, and chances DO come around again – you can MAKE them come around again, provided you’re prepared and have the necessary skills.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll stop actively seeking exposure, and instead kind of go into semi-retirement. Of course if some spectacular chances do come up I’d be wise to not turn them down.


That’s all very well and good, but there’s still the larger question of WHY I want to be going down this path at all. It’s a question I struggle with a lot. And, after mych thought, I think it’s a question that at the moment I’m not in a position to know the answer to. I just feel it’s what I should do, and that the reason will present itself in due course. Whatever the ultimate reason is, it’ll be a good reason, and will enable me to improve the lives of others in some way. I feel that strongly.


In other news, and to completely contradict everything I said above, I’m probably going to start helping my brother-in-law Leigh (*Twinkle’s sister’s husband) with the tech side of his business, in order to help him capitalise upon social media etc.

We’re also moving forward with the Penguin project. We’ve gone out and bought all the ingredients needed to make a penguin, and have passed them on to a friend who’s pretty good with a needle.

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Meerkat in Harajuku, used by old man to attract young girls. Bunny rabbits used in same way in Akihabara.

*Twinkle* changed her job this week. Her new one starts at 9am instead of 10am, so this means a change in our schedule. The aim is to go to bed before midnight every day, and wake up at about 7am. So far it’s working. I like it a lot.

Along with this, I’m restarting exercising (namely jogging). My right knee is giving me considerable pain however, so I’m trying to develop a different ball-of-foot style of running to lesson the impact.

My idea for touring Japan by bicycle has been postponed until next Spring. I very much want to do that.

Anyhow, have to pop out now to buy some flash cards for japanese language practice. Or should I just use Anki on my computer / iPhone? Maybe I should.

Toodleloo for now.

Time flies like baby birds, press update

Sorry, but I just can’t resist it – the birds were at it again this morning when I woke up, couldn’t help but get a few snaps. These are taken through the glass door, thus they’re a bit noisier than they should be.

(Incidentally, one of my photos from my previous post is now on the front page of Flickr.com, having made the Flickr blog – thanks Flickr!)

It’s been another busy week, with meetings every night, covering a number of different projects. A few that stood out for me were with Sakura House, Ustream and Kanda san.

Sakura House (best place to stay when visiting Tokyo!) was White Rabbit Business. I was really impressed with their set up, and delighted by their willingness to cooperate with us. The meeting with the head of Ustream Japan (TEDxTokyo business) was certainly memorable, but not something I can talk about for now. Last night I took part in Kanda-san‘s nightly broadcast, in the ‘English corner’. I’ve been wanting to meet Kanda san for some time now, seeing him in a way as a kind of Japanese Leo Laporte – I shall watch (and contribute) to his live-streaming project with interest and enthusiasm.

We’re in the Sheffield Star and the Hereford Times this week too..

I’ve not got enough sleep this week, but hope to catch up tomorrow. We’ll be staying at one of the most luxurious hotels in Tokyo – the Four Seasons. That’s courtesy of the University of Sheffield and HSBC. Thanks to them 🙂

Next week’s looking pretty busy, but should be fun. Meeting on Monday about a live-streaming event in June, presenting at PechaKucha on Wednesday, walking through the night to the foot of Mt. Fuji on Saturday night as ‘last walker’ for the Oxfam Trailwalker event (you may recall we did the whole 100km in 2007).

Anyway, best get to bed. Nighty night 🙂

Birds and Babies in the blossom

I’d never noticed the birds taking pollen from the cherry blossom before. It was only when lying on the futon with the balcony doors open one morning last week that I saw them at it, hopping around from branch to branch, the tips of their beaks coated in golden dust.

I don’t know what kind of birds they are, as I don’t remember seeing or hearing them in the UK. They’re pretty noisy actually, only capable of an ugly screech. Still, I can forgive them this as their ugly screech is still a lot more pleasant for this country bumpkin than most of the noises around us.

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It’s been a hectic week, as outside of my work I’ve had meetings at luchtimes and in the evenings too. Next week is set to get even busier, as things really start to take off with TEDxTokyo (15th May). This is a *good* busy-ness. I’m particularly looking forward to a mid-week meeting with Ustream Japan, part of the Softbank group 🙂

I’m very happy that Spring is finally here. Today we’re seeing a lot of the cherry blossom petals finally being blown from the branches – every year I’m surprised by just how brief their stay is.

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The park has been a hub of activity lately, with the ponies coming out to give people rides, the boats being untethered, and the guinea pigs posing for photos.

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Anyway, our train is now arriving at our destination, so I’d best pack up and get off.

Tarra for now!

Snow fall in Tokyo

It snowed tonight – and settled – for the first time this winter. We seem to have had about 8cm-10cm.

What a treat! *Twinkle* and I couldn’t contain the children within us, and so at 11pm went out for a late night play in the park…

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*Twinkle* in the snow in Himonya

Snow in Tokyo

Twinkle says STOP

Snow in Himonya

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