Friday 30 August 2013

Crossing the Same River

Day One
Incheon Airport – Starbucks refusing to either give or sell us hot water for the baby’s milk because, “Environmental,” despite my observation that it’s just an Americano coffee without the coffee, and thus less work for them. This does nothing to improve my general mood. Shortly after this Son #1 pisses on the play area floor, to similar effect.

Day Two
Heathrow Airport Arrivals Hall – standing in the queue to buy the necessary sugar and caffeine loaded beverage, observe magazine promising “Exclusive: Kate’s Post-Baby Weight Loss Regime” This adds a piquant dash of novelty to the standard post-flight loathing for all humanity. (That’s right, Fucknuts, close as you can. The nearer you stand to the conveyer, the quicker your bags will arrive. It’s magic like that).

Day Four
Wake at 2.30 am. Baby wakes at 2.40, eventually goes back to sleep at 3.55. Son #1 wakes at 4.10. Rest of household rises circa 7.30. This being parent’s house, am unable to judge what object can be safely kicked with minimal damage to either object of self. Day not off to best of starts.

Day Five
Everyone wakes at 5.30. Better.

Day Seven
This is new. Britain’s record with national pride has, in all fairness, fucked things up royally for millions around the world. Perhaps in some sort of unconscious reaction to this, of late its expression has been more subdued and implicit. Getting all worked up about how great your country is simply unseemly – something those excitable continentals get up to when they’re not smashing plates or dying of liver failure. Plus of course we’ve not really had much to crow about either, so making a virtue of a necessity and all that.

However, this is my first trip back since the London Olympics, at which we did rather well. It would seem that we’re all winners now, and ‘British’ has become a top-rank marketing adjective up there with ‘premium’, ‘limited edition’, and ‘wipe-clean’. Everything is British and desperate for you to know about it – ‘British Made’, ‘British Grown’ and, my personal favourite, a loaf ‘made in store with BRITISH FLOUR’. The feelings of the Polish immigrants who doubtlessly made the actual bread are left strangely undocumented.

Day Nine
Family reunion. Son #1 escapes our attention and necks the dregs of someone’s red wine. Falls asleep 10 minutes later. This may be a strategy worth further exploration.

Day Twelve
Largish shopping centre on the outskirts of a Northern city. Much changed. House of Fraser smaller. Hugo Boss gone. Primark and TK Max both much, much bigger. Clientele likewise. Massive amount of frankly unsightly tattoos and semi-naked flesh on display. 「外人コワイ」my wife observes, and on this evidence I can only agree.

Day Fourteen
Sitting on toilet in contemplative mood (recognize this is a tautology). Note that the squares of toilet paper in UK seem small. Used to think toilet paper in Japan seemed big. Feel something significant has shifted inside (this is a metaphor).

Day Seventeen
Son #1’s English racing forward, as hoped. Still not entirely proficient with voiced consonants or consonant clusters – tends to skip second part of latter. Watching medieval-ey kids’ cartoon on morning TV. Misidentifies dragon as more prosaic amphibian. Kiddy knight gets stuck up tree and said dragon is reduced to state of mild panic due to its inability to help.

“Fuck” reports son. Something of an overreaction perhaps, but correctly captures the essence of the situation.

Day Nineteen
London. You forget. Ironically you forget its biggest differences from the Japanese cities you live and work in now. You forget how much you can love the plurality and vitality of it. You forget how much you can loathe every spittle and gum flecked stone of it. You forget how rapidly and violently you can vacillate between the two.

You also forget that on crowded commuter trains it is not socially acceptable just to put your shoulder down and wordlessly knock yourself a bit of space. This may cause problems.

Day Twenty
Suit bought. Achievement unlocked.

Day Twenty-One
The statuary in St Paul’s seems to consist entirely of tributes to men who dedicated their lives to killing other people. Make of that what you will.

Day Twenty-Three
“With only fifteen minutes to go, Miranda is struggling to get the couscous stuffing ready for the roasted peppers.”

It’s almost enough to make you forgive Sanma. Almost.

Day Twenty-Seven
Departures. You’d think it’d get easier with time and practice. It doesn’t.

Day Twenty-Seven +2
No, it really doesn’t. Really rough re-entry this time around. Having kids focuses the mind in certain regards that are probably necessary but not especially mirth inducing. Note to self – when the jetlag clears up, the fatigue wears off, and the emotions balance out again, remember the promises you made to yourself. These ones really matter.


  1. I will neither humour a solo traveler's complaints, short of 'rendition', nor leave a parent without a helping hand, having two spawn of my own to travel with this summer and another decade or two. Besides my own sleeplessness (I cannot sleep even when I rarely have had 'business class', even on half-day flights), and the infant's and the toddler's, it turns out the boy chucks on landing and in cars. Thank you Gravol, now that he taught us twice.

    I am also amused to have come to understand both that making even a failed effort to calm your children is looked at in gratitude by most travelers, and all flight attendants, and how grateful I am when anybody else makes any effort to help me to do that.

    Your comments on London, which I have spent only days in, makes me loathe Toronto the more (my effective home city). It's short in the "plurality and vitality", but long on the other. Montréal on the other hand, where I spent university and another year, yes. I keep Tokyo and Montréal on my phone's dual time zone clock (Toronto's is the same as Montréal), because I cannot bear to identify with Toronto. I play with my denial.

    Within my general surliness I have a fantastic potty-mouth, some of which leaks into my blog. Sometimes, no other fucking word will do shit. After the boy repeated 'fuck' in front of the J-wife, albeit in a Japanese toddler accent, I have had to cut back. It's painful. Maybe I will take up joual again.

    1. Have to say, the cabin crew on all the flights were wonderful, the ground crew less so Obviously those actually on the plane has more of a vested interest, but even so. Asiana, I should give them their due.

      Yeah, London's special. I've never been to New York, but it's the only city I could imagine sharing that same mix of plurality and annoyance.

      At one point 'frog', 'fox', and 'truck' all got pronounced as FUCK. Obviously I found this hilarious. My wife less so. SO yeah, I'm having to watch the language a bit as well IRL. The sacrifices you make for your children, eh?

  2. "That’s right, Fucknuts, close as you can. The nearer you stand to the conveyer, the quicker your bags will arrive. It’s magic like that" - a million times YES. It is very satisfying when you *accidentally* bash them on the legs with your suitcase though.

    My son was a delight to fly with as a kid. Really. He'd probably be a right fucker now he's grown up and discovered alcohol though!

    1. In fairness the boys were pretty good on the flights. It's just that I can't sleep on planes at the best of times, so marshalling them through the transfers and immigration didn't exactly show me in my best light. More than one set of legs got 'accidentally' bashed at the luggage claim, I can tell you.

    2. Japanese and personal space! Used the gym this morning. I bet gay men in bath houses in your country and mine give each other more space than Japanese give me around the showers. Jesus!

  3. For what it's worth, it does get easier. My kids have been angels the last two years, though personal entertainment systems on the newer planes have a bit to do with that. Also, the 9 hr. direct flights to and from Seattle. (Not to rub it in or anything.)
    I made arrangements to dial into work this time on the first day they were back, expecting the jet lagged hordes to keep me awake. They didn't, so I was bright eyed and perky for online meetings. Of course the next day, I was up at 3 changing peed in beds, then heading off to the office half asleep.

    1. Yep, those personal screens are great. On the outward flight it was the old fashioned 'You all watch the same thing at the same time' style, but the way back was touchscreen interactive, and the eldest loved it.

      The jetlag was a nightmare this time round. Normally I can self-medicate with caffeine and alcohol, but that's not an option for the kids, and if they're up at 3.30am, than everyone's up at 3.30. Can't blame them, really, but didn't help matters. Glad I had a few days before heading back to work. Next day would have been very rough.