Sunday 30 October 2016

First walk to Chinatown after trip to Japan

You could see cars of this calibre in Tokyo squeezing through the crowds in Shibuya or roaring down the street in Roppongi, but this little monster I caught on camera just at my local up the street here in Pyrmont turning right out of John Street into Harris Street. These beasts tend to make a bit of noise as they toodle along. I turned the camera to landscape to quickly capture this image and turn it into a feature spot in this blogpost.

This morning I set out on my customary walk a little later than usual, at around 11.30am, so I didn't snap this photo until around 1.15pm after I had had lunch at the Vietnamese joint down the street. It was pho, of course, and very spicy. Just like the car.

There were a lot more people than usual in Chinatown because of the time of day when I chose to get out and about. I didn't actually time it to be like this. It's just that I'm still recovering from the lack of sleep due to the 9-hour flight from Tokyo. I should be right and back on time by tomorrow. We'll see.

The seagulls were busy on my walk anyway. I saw one cramming a big piece of bread into its mouth and flying off, followed by a trail of other gulls - flying so close to the humans walking along that they almost collided with them - out over the bay. I brought my hands up to protect my face but the gulls seemed to have got the manoeuvres under wraps as they wheeled and veered to get out of our way. I was impressed by their acrobatic skills.

Around Paddys Markets the tall guy in the gaudy costume was plying his trade. I'm not sure what that is. Whether it's to distribute messages of goodwill or to curry favour with passersby and collect donations, I'm not entirely sure. He is a remarkable sight however and you can see him at any time after about 10am in the area - either in Dixon Street or nearby - on his stilts whirling hoola hoops around his hips. He seems to be aged around 60. But who knows?

On a sunny spring day like this the young people were out in numbers taking advantage of the good weather. I rambled my accustomed way up Harris Street toward home, taking notice of noone and taken notice of by noone. A ghost. A shadow. Just me.

Saturday 29 October 2016

Adjusting to Sydney after two weeks in Japan

Readjusting to the rhythms of life in Sydney after spending two weeks in Japan is proving to be problematic. I had a busy time there seeing family and friends and I came away feeling sort of at home. I felt welcome there, even a bit appreciated. The hotel in Shibuya turned out to be a real treat as on its second floor it has three restaurants - an Italian one, a Japanese one and a Chinese one - so I didn't even have to go out in the streets for dinner at night. The Chinese place was established by the mentor of Chen Kenichi - one of the Iron Chefs from the TV program - and they served authentic Sichuan food as well as some other, less fiery dishes.

The weather in Tokyo was fine every day except for one day. I bought an umbrella on that day but left it in the hotel room after I left the country. Shibuya's famous Tokyu chika gai was also a reliable resort. The liquor store there sells a range of good, inexpensive chardonnays - I tried ones from Australia, California and France - and I would buy a bottle usually every second day to drink in my room while watching Japan's famously irrational TV game shows. I loved just sitting back and letting the inanity wash over me in the afternoons, until dinner would draw me out of my room.

That's not all I miss about Japan, of course. It was great seeing the kids again, and I also met up with old friends I used to work with 20 years ago in Shibuya. They took care of me and even invited me to their home for dinner and good conversation.

I had laundry to do when I got back but on returning home I found that the washing machine had stopped working again. I called the repairman and he said he will come by this afternoon. He recently moved his family into the apartment above mine in the building. Meanwhile, I went out to lunch today and headed to the Japanese restaurant where I ate a bowl of udon in a beef curry soup.

I really miss Japan this time. It was expensive living in such a cushy hotel but it was worth it. Being in Shibuya again after so many years of coming back there made me contemplative. The wine and TV took the edge off the melancholy, but I find that now I am back in Sydney I continue to feel sad. Japan is a special place. The Japanese like to think that they are different from other places, but it's true to a large degree. They are different. And it's because of the way people take care of even the smallest things, and pay their respects to the simple gods of the mundane world.

Tuesday 11 October 2016

Day before the trip to Japan

This morning as usual I went for a walk to Chinatown. Because the scaffolding is still up around my building I couldn't go outside on the balcony to test the air, so when I got to the street I found that it was quite cold. I went back inside to get a jacket to wear on my walk.

In Darling Harbour there were few people - not unusual for a Tuesday - and I ambled along thinking about this and that, but mainly focusing on the things that I still have to do before the flight tomorrow evening. The plane departs at 10pm which means I will have to be at the airport at 8pm, so I'll have to leave home at about 7.30pm to get a cab.

When I got down to Paddys Market there were some people ahead of me holding their phones up to the sky and so I turned around to see what they were looking at, to find it was a plane skywriting. I couldn't see what was being written but it looked like there was at least a "J" and another character already written in the sky with smoke. I passed by the small gathering of people and then at the next lights walked into a group of students being taken round the traps on a tour. The tour guide had on an orange T-shirt and the students each had an orange label around their necks on a lanyard.

On Harris Street it was quiet, the only difference from normal being that I was lucky with the traffic lights, which all seemed to change to green for me as soon as I arrived at the kerb. I headed up to Pyrmont and ducked into Kura where I had a beer and a bowl of udon (thick wheat noodles) with karaage chicken (fried chicken). After lunch I continued on home and put the laundry on in the machine, because I will need some more trousers for the trip tomorrow to pack in my suitcase.

Then I headed to bed and had a short nap, and got up just in time for the washing machine to finish its cycle. I put the first load of laundry in the dryer, switched on the TV and got myself a cup of cold coffee. I noted happily that the ALP caucus has voted against allowing a plebiscite on same-sex marriage, so the bill to hold the plebiscite will not pass through the Senate and will therefore not become law. We'll have to wait until the Coalition is voted out of office next time for the Parliament to vote on same-sex marriage.

Saturday 8 October 2016

Staying inside on an overcast Saturday

When I first got up my first inclination was to do a longer-than-usual-walk up to Newtown to buy coffee but a quick look outside at the overcast sky determined me to stick to my usual route through Chinatown. Once I was outside, however, I could smell the moisture in the air and decided to call off the walk for today.

The picture you can see here is one I took yesterday while entering Darling Harbour from the north - as usual, just after coming out from under the Pyrmont Bridge - and it shows a bunch of people on exercise bikes doing riding to raise money. I heard someone on the loudspeaker - you can see the DJ's blue-and-white tent to the left - as I was walking away talking about how much they had raised.

It's a shame the weather is so bad today because I like going for a walk. In fact, I miss it if I cannot go. And I miss it now. But I don't want to carry an umbrella and I don't want to get caught in the rain. The last time it started raining during the walk I had to jump in a cab on Harris Street and ride home which cost me $10.

This morning I installed the GIMP graphics software to help me with images. It's freeware so I don't have to pay for it. When I reset my computer a few days ago all the application software I had installed was deleted. I have just got Outlook to recognise emails for the two main email addresses I use. There will be other software that I will have to install in future, but at least I got the Microsoft stuff I need for daily tasks installed.

But it's just remarkable how merely moving your legs makes you feel good. I get along when I walk at a relatively slow pace, usually, but I still can feel the tendons and muscles in my legs being stretched. And that's what feels so good when you walk.

I don't really mind sitting at home alone doing social media, on the other hand. It's just that the fitness I get from walking is good for my waistline and for general bodily health. I also went shopping yesterday - in addition to the regular walk - and I bought a lot of vegetables, because I have decided only to eat veges in the evenings. It's my new regime. Mornings for breakfast I don't eat anything. Then at lunch I can eat what I want - including a big bowl of Japanese noodles if I feel like it, along with some gyouza should it take my fancy - but at dinner time from now on it'll just be veges on my plate. (And I'm using a smaller plate than formerly.) So last night I used up the rest of the opened jar of Thai red curry paste to make a vege curry with eggplant, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

Saturday 1 October 2016

Windy Saturday walk

I entered Darling Harbour in the wake of an elderly man in a fawn-coloured jacket - he must have been 75 if he was a day - who was ambling along at just my rate of progress, so he stayed ahead of me for a while and then disappeared into the crowd. It's a Saturday and the crowds are thicker on these days. Suddenly he was gone, just like that. I simply continued ahead down the bay and underneath the Western Distributor despite the fierce wind blowing from in my face.

At Paddys Market a young woman who looked like Lionel Shriver, the author, with blonde hair and a delicate face, turned to me out of the crowd and pulled some hair back from her right ear while asking the way in an American accent to Darling Harbour. Well, I thought, there are several options. But I chose to tell her the easiest one - from my point of view - which was the reverse of the route I had just taken down Dixon Street after crossing Harbour Street at the Liverpool Street pedestrian bridge. I told her to turn left at the servicemen's memorial statue across the bridge into Darling Harbour.

It's always a relief for someone - like me - who has a beard, to be asked directions. It means that you don't look totally strange and unkempt. Maybe the young woman thought I looked like a local just out for a walk. If so, she was right on the money in her judgement. After giving directions I continued up Ultimo Road to Harris Street and turned right as usual. There were a few pedestrians on Harris Street but fewer up at the Pyrmont end which was my destination. The seeds were flying again today willy-nilly and accreting in any available crack or obstruction on the footpath. Even where there was no obstruction the seeds built up into little mounds, except where people walk. But even then, even where people were walking the seeds were building up into little piles. They were everywhere.

I had been planning my lunch while walking up Harris Street and when I got home I took two eggs out of the fridge and broke them into a pan, grabbed two slices of brown bread from the bag in the fridge and popped them into the toaster, and cut the remaining avocado, but it turned out to be completely brown so I had to throw it away. Instead of avocado with the toast I cut slices of cheddar cheese and put them on the toast, then laid the eggs over the top. The eggs had already been seasoned while in the pan with salt and pepper. So that was my lunch today.