I find it somewhat ironic that it’s only now I reach the UK that internet access becomes an issue.

Mongolian Yurts? Light-speed connections to the information superhighway.

Isolated Chinese border-town hotels? SO online there’s a Google search toolbar in the bathroom to help locate lost contact lenses.

Dodgy 8th-floor youth hostels in Moscow? Username and password required to flush the toilet.

Parent’s home in Western England? A wind-up telephone attached to the net courtesy of long piece of string, and a Windows 98 PC that has all the internet-connectivity skills of a stale chocolate-chip cookie.

Thus, the lack of Mumbles of late. That, and of course the only-to-be-expected reaction against the keyboard following a month of copious drivvling.

So, where are we then?

The folks’ place, Herefordshire, 3 hours West of London. Dangerously close to Wales. I’ve been here about five days now, having spent last weekend visiting the Bristol crowd. I would be making my way to Sheffield already, my final destination, were it not for the fact that my housing contract only comes into force on Saturday morning. I welcome the pause however, as it gives me the opportunity to do the annual sort-through of belongings that mum and dad have stored under my old bunk-bed. This time I’m being extra-ruthless, as when I return from Sheffield next summer I’ll be off to Japan for good (a.k.a. a decade or so), thus anything that I won’t use this year as a student is going. Books, 200 Minidisks of music and 3 Sony Minidisk players/recorders, 90 CDs, miles of USB cabling, a chess set, more books…

I am helped in my task this time by the reminder that I am not the ‘owner’ of any of these things, just the temporary keeper, and I will be letting go of them all one day anyway. Having this at the forefront of my mind as I sort through objects that at one point were a major part of my life (such as my minidisk collection) makes assigning them to the relevant box (Charity shop / eBay / Sheffield Freecycle / recycling bin) much easier.

Whilst rummaging around in the front bedroom I came across one box that I had completely forgotten about: the one containing 6 months’ worth of anti-epilepsy drugs. That’s 3200 purple pills to be returned to the doctor with a smile. It’s been about 3 months now since I replaced my Epilim with organic multi-vitamins (and extra vitamin B complex), and I had been looking forward to seeing the epilepsy specialist in Bristol later this month. That was the appointment that I made 18 months ago, with one of the UK’s best consultants. The appointment which, when late on Wednesday afternoon I finally located the letter detailing the appointment, turned out to be early on Wednesday afternoon.


It’s been a good week though. Babies seem to have been the dominant theme. Firstly, there’s my new nephew, third son of my amazing sister (and her husband). You know, she really is incredible. If I were her I would be definitely be having a breakdown, every ounce of sanity having been purged from my brain by the non-stop stress generated by having to look after a baby whilst trying to stop a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old from destroying the planet whilst fighting over the Noddy car. The problem is, whatever one of them wants to play with, the other then wants. I think parallel universes are about the only thing that would keep them quiet.

That’s not to say that they’re not adorable. They do make you smile, especially when you listen in to the two of them on the baby monitor at bedtime, big brother Jamie trying to reassure little brother Edward that it’s alright, mummy will be coming upstairs soon, he doesn’t need to cry. Oh, and the first thing Jessie heard when she woke up in the morning: “Did you have nice dreams mummy?”

Another very cute baby I was happy to finally meet was Lewie, product of co-operation between dear Jo and Jim of Bristol fame. They make a great family; it’s so good to see how things have worked out since our college days together, and I feel very grateful to be counted as one of their friends.

Next little’un to visit was the littlest of the lot – Alice and James’ 5 day old bundle of loveliness, Isaac. He’s mightily cute, as only newly-born babies know how to be. Quiet too, something one can’t help but feel is a significant bonus having been around toddlers for a couple of days!

The final baby of the week to make my acquaintance was Jo and Joe’s 9-month-old son, Ben. He’s a lovely boy, and despite initially being a bit shy around the bearded stranger, by late afternoon he was more than happy to try to pull my nose off. I got some lovely shots of him – he’s very photogenic.

This baby-fest (which is a continuation of that that began in Japan where 4 of my friends became parents this year) has left me really looking forward to becoming a dad, and thinking what a great mum *Twinkle* will be.

I am happy being here in England. There has been no reverse culture shock – I’ve lived in this country for over 2 decades so I really should know the score. In fact, it’s all been remarkably easy, and leads me to question the very existence of (reverse) culture shock as anything other than a figment of one’s imagination – yet it is something I have felt keenly upon returning to the UK in previous years. It would seem that my three-pronged approach has worked. When on that train in Russia I made the decision to

  • be happy to return
  • accept differences in attitudes towards life and others with recognition that this is what I have always known here
  • live in the present, one day at a time
  • There is one more factor which I believe has aided me considerably, and that is the lack of heartache (something of a novelty for a Joseph returning from Japan). This time I have a great big rock of security (I’m not sure if *Twinkle* would appreciate being called a ‘great big rock’ …but it’s a very pretty rock that I happen to fancy rather a lot), a strong source of love and support which gives me an incredible sense of strength and ease. I feel very secure, protected by our partnership. Whilst I guard against becoming dependent upon another for my own sense of identity, I celebrate being a part of our relationship. Our meeting was a precious gift, which serves to further encourage me to believe in an intelligent energy that serves as our shared source.

    I wonder how I would be feeling now if I hadn’t embarked upon this voyage of self-discovery this year? I guess that I would be carrying on as before, agreeing with others who told me that it was going to be difficult, feeling that it was difficult, and having a difficult time.

    You know what though? It seems I’m not the only one who has an attitude of acceptance towards life (now there’s a surprise!). It’s the just-bought-a-red-car syndrome (suddenly there’s red cars everywhere). For the first time I’m noticing the embrace without stress or worry by friends and family of what many in this world might refer to as ‘problems’. Acceptance, and trust that all will work out (because funnily enough, it always does!). On those occasions this week when I have met people with a lack of trust / distinctly negative attitudes towards life’s happenings, I’ve found myself recognising their stance immediately, like a red hot poker up my nostril, only without the singed hair. Whereas a year ago I may have voiced agreement that yes indeed, that’s really not fair and is something to be angry about, or yes, so-and-so is a pain in the arse, now, I find it impossible to back up such opinions and not feel dark. Why confirm their negativity? It does them no favours, it does me no favours, it does the world no favours.

    I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. C, who has very kindly agreed to do me a huge favour and drive my parents’ car full of stuff to Sheffield tomorrow. The privilege is usually dad’s, but he has been struck down by a rather ferocious attack of the flu rendering him horizontal, poor chap. I’d drive myself if I had a license, but I won’t be reapplying until next summer, a year after my last epileptic seizure.

    The academic emails have begun to arrive from tutors at university, reminding me of the task ahead. This morning I read the first half of a book on dissertation writing, and have a topic in mind. I have a stack of A4 pads ready to be scribbled on, and 2 boxes full of pens and post-it notes. The kanji revision cards have been recovered from the bottom of a box of T-shirts, and are sitting expectantly on the sideboard. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway Joseph!!

    Anyway, I am now off to town with mother to pick up my freshly-serviced bicycle, the bicycle that will help me return to Japan as the most pert-buttocked Westerner ever to have stepped foot on their concrete shores. Maybe.

    And then tomorrow morning, it’s Sheffield Here I Come!


    2 Responses

    1. “Why confirm their negativity? It does them no favours, it does me no favours, it does the world no favours.”

      Love it. This is the kind of stuff I’ve been missing from you lately. Looking forward to getting into a couple more e-debates with you over the coming year. Haha.