That’s how it is with transitions.

Today we go first up a mountain on a cablecar (or ropeway), which is a lot less wobbly than first thought, although the bit where it accelerates over the edge is a bit nerve-wracking: inside, fine (obviously), flying OK, transition scary. As usual. That’s how it is with transitions.

At the top: incredible views over the city, very clear air and the herb and rose gardens, which are less than optimal (being the middle of winter, though you wouldn’t know it if your were accustomed to the Northern European climate), but a lot less crowded than they would be in the summer. There’s a tiny perfume museum, a hot house and a steep walk down and up the mountain, which is good exercise.

Down again via the cable car, then a walk through a posh-ish (and tourist-y) area of Kobe to have lunch – more Westernised food, with excellent bread and I.P.A. beer, stunning service of course, and half as much as I thought it would be. It comes to something to come to Japan and find it very cheap.

Meet up with one of Haru’s web friends, go to very crowded Vienna-style coffee house for coffee and chat. As the conversation is in English, I go embarrassingly into overdrive. Ho hum.

One thing the Japanese haven’t got the hang of is non-smoking areas, which tend to be right next to the smoking areas, so the only difference between the two zones is the lack of ashtray on the table – the atmosphere is equally smoky. I’m surprisingly unoffended, in fact I’d forgotten what it was like.

Home, dinner, I download a Hiragana/Katakana app to help me understand street signs. I’m not sure that it will, but it’s worth a shot.

non-self-immolatory passengers

Up, amazingly, at about 8:00. Breakfast, news from around the world (man sets fire to knee on plane, occasioning more hassle for non-self-immolatory passengers; Japanese prime minister still humiliated by excessive pocket money).

Go out at 10:30: first to the artificial island in Kobe Bay, where there’s a bag-maker (superb stuff). Long chat, and we get some stuff – H gets an orange wallet, I get a notebook cover – then to lunch (Korean stir-fry; actually all the ingredients are delivered in a very hot iron bowl and the customer has to do their own stirring and frying, unless they want a combination of raw ingredients and burned rice), then to Pen & Message where we get pens (I get a very cool Pilot M-90) and notebooks and hang out with the cream of Kansai stationery obsessives.

By this time it is, incredibly, half-past five – we go and have tea and cake, then home for dinner.

Yokohama => Kobe

Up at 8:00, shave, shower, repack and check out.

We go to Yokohama to have breakfast – bacon and egg, Japanese style (so, very nicely cooked, with enormously thick slices of toast) and not to go to Yodobashi Camera, then to Shin-Yokohama station to catch the shinkansen to Kobe. We get a bento of gyoza at the station.

It’s difficult to overstate how much better the Japanese are at transportation than the British. I mean, they seem to be better than everybody else, but the difference in quality between Japan and Britain is just embarrassing.

Lots of kids on the train today, on their way to New Year’s celebrations.

Get to Kobe, catch more trains to Haru’s parents’ house.

Chill out, cake, a bit of a nap, then dinner – another hotpot followed by excellent strawberry cake. Mmm!

Delicious sundae at Fruit Parlor.

Beautiful sunny day, like spring.

Up at about 10, then go out for breakfast (Mos Burger) and to Ginza for shopping. I get some cool stuff for presents, then a very cool new wallet (just enough room for debit card, Oyster and a couple of notes). Delicious sundae at Fruit Parlor.

Meet-up with some of Haru’s online friends in the evening at a hotpot restaurant. Superb stuff. Also am given a tiny notebook that slots into the card holder in my new wallet. Hurrah!

Back to the hotel, watch a bit of TV and go to sleep.

interrupting my play

Wake up on the plane. At some point over Siberia, December 23rd was curtailed and turned into December 24th. Play a bit of a diamonds game – find that I quickly slip into game addiction and become annoyed at the announcements interrupting my play. Also, breakfast / lunch.

Land, passport check, collect baggage, then on to train to Yokohama. The airport is a very long way from the city – we land at 14:45 and finally get to the hotel at 17:40, which gives me just enough time to shave, shower and change before we go out to a nearby Chinese restaurant with Haru’s aunt. Excellent stuff! We drop by Haru’s aunt’s apartment and while they’re chatting I fall asleep, so we cross over the park to the hotel and crash out.

and generally linger

We give it another shot – up at 6:00. I go out to try to find a toothbrush to replace the one I dropped in the toilet last night (!) and a new shaving stick. Boots at Waterloo Station has neither, but they do have a lot of sandwiches. No other chemists seem to be open.

To Borough Station and then to London City Airport. We arrive three hours before the flight. Sadly, they only allow check-in two hours before the flight. I go and look for the toiletries at a local Chemist – no joy, though I do get the shaving stick from a corner shop. Back at the airport, as soon as our check-in is coming up, the B.A. queue becomes insanely long – apparantly some small problem has got out of hand. Many people becoming stressed, and there aren’t even any extreme weather conditions. It’s just an ordinary mess. Eventually check in and go into the departure lounge, where we wait. The flight’s delayed a bit. Eventually go to the other waiting room, where we wait, then onto the plane, where we wait, and finally the plane takes off, and it seems like we might be on our way.

Land at the very snowy Schiphol airport. Disembark, and do some more waiting, although we find toothbrush heads and an airline headphone adaptor (hurray), and drink coffee, eat an excellent sandwich and generally linger.

There’s an extra security screening thing before getting on the plane, which is then delayed by needing to be de-iced (which is an impressive procedure, and I’m prepared to wait for any procedure to be applied if it’s going to stop me falling from the sky).

On the plane, after it’s taken off – dinner, District 9 (Excellent, and apparantly untrimmed, which is a wonderful thing that personal televisions have done for us), then watch The Mummy (old Airline cut), then try to fall asleep despite the fact that the person in front of me has their blind open, which betrays the fact that it’s day out there (and endless Russian steppes, to boot).

Mmm. Difficult choice…

Up at 6:00. By 6:30 it transpires that our flight has been cancelled. Try to get to speak to KLM, firstly at their 24hr number, then at their UK office, with no joy. At 8:30 decide to go to the airport anyway. So do so.
Get there at 9:30, go to Terminal 4. It’s not entirely clear what to do – queue in the wrong queue for a bit, then move to the right queue, which is astonishingly long. The end of the queue is difficult to find. An operative works his way down the queue from the back, which means that people who arrive after us get dealt with first. Eventually get dealt with – i.e. a woman takes Haru’s mobile number and the flight number and gives us two coupons (without actually clarifying what the coupons are for). We go and have breakfast at Cafe Rouge. I don’t use the coupons to pay for breakfast, as the waiting staff are having enough difficulty doing their basic job. I ask one of the people with clipboards when we need to stay in the airport until, and he says both that we can go home, and that there’s a meeting at 14:00, so we wait until 14:00. No actual meeting transpires, so we go home. As the train is about to get into Paddington, H gets a call offering us the choice of flying tomorrow or flying to Amsterdam today and hanging around the airport departure lounge until tomorrow afternoon. Mmm. Difficult choice…

Every element of the day so far has been governed not so much by incompetence but by vagueness and inclarity, as well as an absence of any overview or strategic vision. Education that, in a way.

Go home. Have tea. I go out and walk up to Watkins, get some supplies that I wish I’d got before and walk home, then get a lift to the store with some boxes (that I also wished I’d done before), and then use the newly-created space to tidy up a bit, another thing I wish I’d managed to do.

So not so much a flight cancellation as a second chance to depart cleanly.

Have dinner and watch TV – Oliver Postgate, Clement Freud, some alleged comedy show, Screenwipe and then some Michael Jackson programming. Soon to bed. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.

recently photographed chocolate bear

Go to Walker for a very nice lunch with Ben, then (having forgotten my Oyster card and caught in freezing rain without an umbrella) go home via the bank (where I pay in a cheque). Cup of tea with recently photographed chocolate bear. Which is delicious.

Then I go out to get my last Christmas presents. The rain turns to snow, so despite having an umbrella now, it doesn’t do me a hell of a lot of good. Local wine merchant, then Tate Modern, then home. Wearing the wrong shoes – the soles have become so worn out that I’m sliding all over the place. In the end I only fall over once.

Anyway, collect and deliver final presents. Pack. Get pizza for dinner. Open presents. Watch some TV. Ready to go, I guess. Virtually ready…

a “Gangsters and Moles” theme

To Bath for lunch with most of the family. Excellent roast followed by superb cheesecake accompanied by fine beer. Posters on the wall promise that on Sunday evenings there is “gentile acoustic music, perfect for summer evenings”, and the upcoming party with a “Gangsters and Moles” theme. Also, the person who makes the posters has a copy of Photoshop and is in no way afraid to use it. I suggest that someone goes to the party dressed as a mole, but that falls, unsurprisingly, on deaf ears. Back to Sara’s for tea and chat, then to the train and home.

Quiet evening.

But then I’m only the guitar player

In the day I went Christmas present shopping, and discovered the deep political rift between the Spanish Guitar Centre and the London Guitar Studio. Also spent time looking through the London Graphic Centre. Met up with Haru and walked home. Tea and fudge, a sandwich a bit of a lie down and a shower and then out to the Bloomsbury.

I go by a route that’s even more circuitous than last time, eventually getting off at Goodge Street, because the announcer says trains not stopping at Warren Street, then realise (too late) that I could have got off at Euston, which is even closer, then that I could just have got a bus that went to Euston, which would have been a lot easier.

Interestingly the first forty minutes is composed of people whose first name begins with R.

Lovely night, I get to see Robyn Hitchcock and Barry Cryer perform, and Robyn Hitchcock says hello and shakes my hand, which makes me very happy.

Home, because Phil has to get back to the depths of beyond in the snow, probably. I have a kebab and we watch Have I Got News For You (I realise that in conversation I quote a quote that was on this, which makes me look like someone who repeats gags that were on Have I Got News For You as his own. But then I’m only the guitar player) and the 70-minute fan critique of The Phantom Menace