Drumming in Ashiyagawa

This week was filled with trauma and cooking. It was time for my ten yearly visit to the dentist. I am a coward when it comes to going to the dentist, so mostly I just don’t go. But, at some stage you can’t avoid it, if only to have the old pearlies made pearly again, instead of looking like a row of old coffee beans. I thought I was on the safe side this time, I had no pain, there could be nothing wrong – oh, how wrong could I be.

After an hour-long cleanup session – after ten years, it takes an hour, the assistant told me – the dentist came in to deliver his smiling verdict. Why do they always smile when they say “I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news – that one’s got to come out.”? And so it was decided that my last wisdom tooth would be extracted, and the one next to it crowned.

Thursday was d-day (dentist’s day) and I was shitting it. I told him about my resistance to pain killers and my low pain threshold, and he smiled as he said, “I just need to do a little cold test on that tooth there” – looking at me quizzically as I jumped three foot in the air from a sitting position, “my, we are jumpy aren’t we? I think we’ll double the dose on the injection – you won’t feel a thing.”

And I have to say that he was right. I did not feel a thing as I bit viciously into my own tongue, nor did I feel anything when he drilled away at the other tooth. Or at least I felt no pain. What I actually felt veered between plain miserable and abject terror as I tried not to look into the eyes of the two faces bent over my mouth. I even took the precaution of listening to my iPod to try to dumb down the noise of the drill which works to a certain extent, but still didn’t cover the crack of the tooth in the bone as he extracted it.

But the ordeal was over quickly and it wasn’t half as bad as I’d imagined it would be. I even tried to thank the dentist for his work because I thought it must be terrible to be faced by such fearful thankless people day in, day out, but he only shook his head bemusedly, then shook my hand and rushed off to the next person trying to put on a brave face. And at the end of it I was left with a rather large hole at the back of my mouth which my tongue can’t seem to leave alone, and some rather strong painkillers which made the rest of the day seem rather more cheerful than it probably was.

That was one half of the week. The other half was cooking. We decided to have the troop we went skiing with around for some Sauerbraten. This entails taking a side of beef, about 5 kilos, immersing it in a vinegar and vegetable marinade for a week, while turning and massaging the meat everyday. Then you braise it in a very large pan for about an hour and a half, all the time adding water to the meat to form a base for the sauce. After that you roast it for another two to three hours. You then serve it with dumplings, red cabbage and lashings of thick gravy and sigh as it simply melts in your mouth, which considering the hole in my mouth was a very good thing indeed. Suffice to say all were happy and adequately stuffed to the gills.

It’s getting late now, so I think I’ll retire to my bed, and leave you with another reminiscence of my trip to Japan. You can read it here.

Go to Japan, Go to Ikea, Eat Hotdog, and Buy a Blue Bag

I have been feeling definitively crusty, if not irresolute and tardy, and, on occasion, downright lazy, these last few days. Perhaps I am suffering from an overdose of karate, or the effects of jet lag, but I doubt it. No, the real reason is probably because I entered some poems for a competition, and did not get shortlisted, and so now I am malingering, moping around the house like a humiliated cur with its tail between its hindlegs, its ears hung. Each time I wistfully pick up my fountain pen to scratch out another poem I end up kicking an old tin can in the empty backyard I call my brain, forlornly trying to dig up one or two words that I might twist into the semblance of a verse. Even drink, that faithful friend, has foresaken me, leaving me bitter and full of remorse…

Or is it because Bayern thrashed Manchester United this week?

But seriously, being beaten, or not being accepted by anyone for anything can be a knock down if you take it to heart (and I’m a sensitive guy, especially when it comes to me), but there’s nothing else for it than to take it on the chin, get back up again, learn from your mistakes, and try again. So, if anyone from Man-U is reading this – you know what to do – arses are not for sitting on!

In one of my comments last week, I mentioned how absurd it was going to Ikea in Japan. Globalization is a strange phenomena – a little shop in Sweden quietly usurping the world furniture market, or, as I saw on television the other day, Harlem drug dealers telling the world what to wear on their feet… But, I am not going to go off on one now. Instead I wrote a little poem about visiting Ikea in Japan – you can read it here.


I know, I know, long time no write… And do I have an excuse, well, apart from jetting half around the world to Japan (Kobe), and before that taking a short ski break? No, I am guilty as charged – I am, as ever, the lazy bastard who has nothing better to do with his time than write little poems and stories and consume too much alcohol.

Which is what you can really do in Japan – they have excellent beer (all kinds of brews, not just lager), but my personal favourite is saké, and lots of it, please. My hosts willingly plied me with all the alcoholic beverages they could muster – probably in the hope of numbing my brain enough so that I wouldn’t mind taking their son to karate school (and joining in).

Ever done karate? If you think jogging’s hard work, then don’t. You will be forced to stretch, and use, all those muscles, tendons and joints that, well, I’m pretty sure, aren’t actually meant to be used at all. You will run, jump, kick, punch, twirl, block and parry an imaginary opponent whom at the end you will beg for mercy. You will sweat, pant, wheeze and ache, and generally experience a level of discomfort normally associated with places like Guantanamo. That’s just the warm up.

Luckily we had a pressing engagement and had to leave the school after only an hour. I had difficulty walking for three days afterwards. If you want to get fit, and are a bonafide masochist, then karate is the sport for you. It is not the sport for me.

The best thing about Japan is the food. The worst thing about Japan is trying to read the menu (and the karate, but I think that’s the same anywhere….)

But now I’m back, safe and sound, in Germany and just getting back into my stride, whatever that might be. I’ve just dashed down a little piece of flash fiction for your perusal, and you can read it here. See you soon…

Sundays are always good for lying around and that’s just what I’ve been doing today – lying around doing nothing except typing in a few sentences here and there to finish off my latest story.

Sometimes you really have to take your hat off to capitalism and its ability to turn everything and anything into an exchange rate. I just read in the Guardian that in Japan the lend a friend business is booming. Great idea though – stuck for a best man due to a lack of suitable friends? Then just rent one out, complete with speech. Other ideas? Rent a best mate to sleep with your ex-best mate’s girlfriend, but then you’d probably have to rent a girl to – no, that’s called something else, isn’t it? Missing Gramps, not to worry, just rent a stand-in – great innit? But, I would really like to see the business plan and just how the bank would take it…