Sunday, 31 March 2013


Alright! I am writing this at 11.30pm Tokyo time, the first time I have had a chance to stop and breathe today - not that it's a bad thing!

Last night, at about 10pm as we were drifting off to sleep, we got a text message from Jetstar - our flight had been delayed AGAIN, but this time it was to the far more civilised hour of 9am. This meant our wake-up call would be at 5.45 instead of 2.45, and boy did those extra three hours of sleep make all the difference. Our breakfast and lunch was all paid for by Jetstar, and the flight went pretty uneventfully. I even managed to drop off to sleep for a bit. We touched down at 4.30pm Tokyo time to a balmy 6 degrees. I hadn't changed from my skirt and singlet top that I was wearing in the tropical heat of Cairns, so I frosted over as we waited in passport control. It took about 2 and a half hours to get through customs and all, but our bags were brought to us by some incredibly efficient airport staff and the customs officer was very pleased we were going to see the cherry blossom. Then Dad picked up the mobile phones we have rented (just for domestic calls within Japan).

The original plan was to catch up with Kinjiro Murata and his family at about 9am this morning. Marnie (my grandmother) has known Kinjiro for forty years, since he was a student, and the last time Marnie saw him in person was over 20 years ago. We have been frantically emailing (with help from my Mum back in Aus) since our flight was cancelled, but thankfully, in some sort of Easter miracle, we made contact when we got our phones and he was able to drive in to meet us at our hotel. Kinjiro lives in Kawasaki, southwest of Tokyo, and he brought with him his wife, Yuriko, and his youngest son, Satoru. Putting us all to shame with their excellent English, they arranged to have dinner in the hotel restaurant, which was a multi-course, traditional Japanese banquet. We were served about 8 different dishes of food, including tempura vegetables, several types of soup and seafood dishes which I didn't remember the names of, and the most delicious beef I have ever tasted in my life. This was the stuff of myth, I swear. If beef in Australia tasted like this, I could never be vegetarian. The serving sizes were all so small, but by the end we were full enough to burst. We practised our incredibly poor Japanese (though Dad's is much better than ours) and talked for nearly three hours, about all manner of things. Satoru was two years old when he came to Melbourne, so he doesn't remember it, but is eager to go back. He is 24 and teaches primary school - a class of 32 kids, which is a 'small' class for Japan(!).

Tomorrow Kinjiro is coming to take us around Tokyo. The delayed flight has lost us an entire day in Tokyo, and I have given up Disneyland. There is no way I am missing two days of sightseeing in Tokyo! I am attempting to upload some pics - hopefully they will work because I am way too tired to sit up!

So pretty!

Mind-numbingly awesome beef (partially eaten cos I couldn't help myself)

Marnie mastering chopsticks after a lesson from Satoru!

Satoru and Kinjiro

Our beautiful waitress (is that the right term?)

The group! (Minus Dad, who took the pic)

Friday, 29 March 2013


Okay, so the more perceptive among you may notice that I am writing and uploading this blog post while I am supposed to be in the air, somewhere between Cairns and Tokyo. The reason I am bending time and space like this, is because I am not actually in the air. SURPRISE! We got up at 3.45 this morning, and Mum drove myself, Dad and Marnie to the airport where we met Margaret. We checked our baggage and bought some breakfast and waved goodbye to Mum and then snoozed on and off on the three hour plane flight to Cairns, which went more or less uneventfully all things considered. When we got to Cairns, we had the smallest of dramas with some nail scissors packed in our checked luggage, but all was resolved within ten minutes. We then spent a pleasant few hours in the terminal, browsing shops and chatting and eating morning tea. We had to be at our gate at 11.35am to board our flight, which was leaving at 12.05. I called Sean and Mum to say a last goodbye because I won't have my Australian SIM over in Japan.

At 11.35 on the dot, the announcement came over the terminal - our flight was cancelled due to maintenance issues and was delayed until 6am the following morning. An 18 hour delay. I sort of had one of those out-of-body experiences while the announcement was being said. We all sat still and listened, wondering if it was a joke, or some kind of mutual group aural hallucination. Apparently it was not, and we followed an absolutely enormous pack of people down to baggage claim to recollect our bags. Now, we were so organised and efficient this morning, that we were among the first people to check our baggage. We were rewarded for this by being the last people to collect our bags, as everyone else's luggage was piled on top of ours. During the distribution of baggage, the carousel broke. Twice. About a year later, we made our way back through to where we originally checked in and then proceeded to wait another couple of centuries, at the very back of the line, to find out where we're staying the night. I could feel pieces of my brain falling away like a wet cake (thank you for the analogy, Black Books), but we eventually got on a mini bus that took us to the Cairns Colonial Club. We queued for a bit longer, before a nice man told us just to go eat something, and then he would bus us to our ACTUAL hotel (which is the Palm Royale Cairns).

It's hot in Cairns. Hot and sticky and humid and this is weather I did not pack for. So I am currently sitting in the hotel lobby on their wifi without my shoes because all I have are thick socks and walking boots. AND THEY HAVE A BEAUTIFUL TROPICAL POOL HERE AND GUESS WHO DIDN'T PACK BATHERS. Our room is nice though. Dad and Marnie and Margaret have gone into Cairns, but I'm too tired, so I'm going to finish this blog and sit by the pool with my (white, white) legs in the water.

Oh, and we have a 2.45am wake-up call tomorrow. In order to catch the 3.15am bus to the airport, and check-in at 4am. Never mind. Hopefully we'll all be so steamrollered by exhaustion that we'll sleep all the way to Narita. It's nowhere near as bad as it could have been, and I'd much rather be on a safe flight, free of maintenance issues, but by golly it's not how I pictured starting the holiday. Dad is a superstar and has sorted the hotel and the phones and the friend that we were going to catch up with tomorrow and let them all know. I guess we're also extremely lucky because we are English speakers. There are a lot of Japanese people stranded, and not all of them have good English skills, and it would be terribly confusing for them. But it's heartening - not once have I seen a passenger get rude or aggressive to staff. It would be a douchey thing to do, but I somewhat expected it, and it's not the poor staff's fault that the plane is broken.

Hopefully, (crossing all appendages), the next time I blog will be from Tokyo!

Our Cairns hotel room

Beautiful pool I can't swim in!

I'm guess skinny-dipping's always an option...

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Imminent travels


I'm going to Tokyo first, then to Takeyama, then to Hiroshima, then to Kyoto, then to Osaka for an afternoon before I fly back to Melbourne in two and a half weeks. The aim is to update more or less every day with a blog post, like I did last year in Europe. For people who have me on Facebook and Twitter, I'm sure I'll be posting photos and everything, hopefully quite regularly. All depends on the Internet available, and how much time I have free while I'm not running around after cherry blossoms and palaces and temples and Disneyland and all the ramen I can eat.

It's going to be amazeballs.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Women of Letters recap

Ah, another weekend, another glorious Women of Letters event. I tell you, I could get used to this. And I'll be mighty ticked off if the next one sells out before I can get tickets. Today I nearly wet myself with excitement because Miriam Margolyes was going to be reading and she makes me crazy. But Michaela McGuire and Marieke Hardy are in NEW YORK at the moment, bringing Women of Letters to the US, so sadly they wouldn't be there to stalk.

Instead we had the hilarious Jane Clifton, who was a wonderful host in Michaela's absence, and made the audience roar with laughter nearly as much as the readers did. We made our way to the Regal Ballroom in Northcote and ordered drinks and squeezed into a table and chatted and then- DISASTER. Miriam had unfortunately been caught up in something and was unable to attend :( But being amazing, she had recorded her letter and they were able to source a player and a massive screen so she could share it with us. I love you, technology. A beautiful moment when the classic and timeless art of letter-writing meshes with a 21st century USB stick and creates something completely badass. So with the promise of digital!Miriam to look forward to, we settled back to bath in the lyrical prose of some amazing women, all writing 'A Letter To Something I Was Happy To Lose'.

First up was Jenny Niven, associate director of one of my fave places in Melbourne - the Wheeler Centre. Before she even got into her letter, I was hooked. She has the sexiest, most beautiful Scottish accent. It was like listening to music. She regaled us with tales of growing up in a small town in Scotland, and her subsequent travels around the world. Her descriptions of Beijing did more for me than any travel book I have read and it is now added to my bucket list. It wasn't just world-discovery, but self-discovery she was describing, and it was wonderful to hear how her mind had been moulded by her experiences. It seemed, that what she was happy to lose was the naivete that came from growing up in her quiet town. Not that she resented it, not in the slightest. But she seemed so passionate and grateful for the way her horizons and her world view had widened, the way her travels had exposed her to a beautiful, tangled mess of humanity spread across the globe. Such inspiring stuff.

Next up was Jess Ribeiro, a singer-songwriter who I have sadly never seen perform. But if her speaking voice is anything to go by, I know I would love her stuff. She had this cheeky, warm, smooth tone to her voice and she was adorably nervous. She wrote about losing her status as the eldest sibling - after fantasising for years about what it would be like to have an older brother, she discovered in her early 20's, that she had one. 11 years older than her, to be exact. Her letter was laced with humour, particularly as she described the anxiety she felt regarding her new brother meeting his extended birth family - basically she was afraid that they would come across as a bit rough and tumble. Using the word 'shitbox', when she thought her new brother might use the word 'lavatory', for example. Her delight at the connections forged with her new brother and his adoptive family was evident. She had a bit of a teary describing the ways that their new, melded family have changed, and it made my heart ache. I will definitely be buying her music.

Then...MIRIAM!! After a false start with the video, it played perfectly. The only qualm I had was that, being pre-recorded, Miriam couldn't pause for laughter, and while the audience were wheezing at her jokes, and tiny beginnings of sentences were missed. She informed us that she was going to write to her youth, but then realised that would be a lie - she wasn't glad to lose her youth. She valued things youth gave her, like functioning knees. (Oh, Miriam. I can relate). Instead, she wrote to her womb, after losing it in 1974, aged 33, to a hysterectomy. Being Miriam Margolyes, her letter was chock-full of the most delightful and vivid impressions of people. Everyone from her uber-awkward Games Mistress at high school, to the West Indian nurse who told her to be quiet and stop disrupting patients while she was in recovery was trotted out using her impeccable talent for voices. UGH, words can't describe how much I love listening to her speaking voice. Her diction and tone are perfection.

Then it was time for Women of Letters veteran and writer/broadcaster Jess McGuire. I've read quite a bit of Jess McGuire's writing, but have never actually listened to her speak (the radio in my car has been broken since forever, so I only ever listen to my iPod). I tell you, I was spoiled with the speaking voices of all the women today, and let's just say that Jess McGuire was no exception. I can see why she is such a beloved radio personality. She wrote, rather interestingly, to the year 2012. A year she said made her 'an expert on loss'. Of the many losses she experienced, she wasn't glad about any of them (though she had a damn good stab at finding the silver linings), so she was writing to the entire year of loss, 2012. She was glad to be losing that year. To summarise, her house was robbed, her car was totaled, her close friend died of cancer and she was let go from her dream job. Not an easy year by any stretch of the imagination. There wasn't a dry eye in the house by the end of her letter, but, like the skilled writer she is, she married terrific (at times, very dark) humour with the kind of pathos that makes you want to carve out your heart. Perfection.

Last but not least was Adrienne Truscott, an American choreographer and performer who I had never heard of, but who I was thoroughly in love with by the end of her letter. She wrote to a waitressing job she lost around the time Linda McCartney died. She can date it, because Linda McCartney's death was the catalyst for her losing her job. One morning when she arrived at work, after reading the biography of a suffragete who I WISH I could remember the name of, she watched as a customer picked up the paper with the headline of McCartney's death, and promptly announced Linda McCartney to be so ugly, that he was surprised cancer didn't take one look at her and run away. At that moment, something inside Adrienne twigged, and she sat down and wrote this customer a scathing and clever and condemnatory letter. The letter called him out on his disgusting comment, and also assured him that if physical aesthetics determined if cancer was attracted to someone or not, he could rest assured that his own physique ensured him a cancer-free life. She then gave him the note as he left with a sweet smile and the request that he read it when he had some time. No doubt assuming it was a come-on, he left, with a patronising smile. Adrienne then called her manager and informed him that he would need to fire her by the end of the day, got herself some lunch, and waited. About an hour later, the phone rang. Adrienne's voice barely suppressed her glee as she recounted the fun she had with that customer on the phone. Apoplectic with rage, he assured her that he would have her fired, that she was in trouble yada yada yada. Her response was a much more articulate form of 'NYAH NYAH YOU CAN'T GET ME'. Applause shook the Regal Ballroom. What a wonderful high to finish the show with.

After a break where we were encouraged to write our letters, there was a quick Q&A session with the readers, using questions from the audience. By the time it finally finished up, I was emotionally exhausted in that satisfying way that makes you want to lie down in the grass and stare at clouds. Sadly, I had to get home quickly. But it was a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

And now I really need to wrap up this blog because I need sleep. Peace out.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Misogynists on Twitter (Language and trigger warnings!)

Despite it being a waste of time and somewhat pointless because trolls are trolls, I spent a large portion of last night weighing in on an argument on Twitter. It began as some douchebag with the handle @GregJessop1 tweeting to well-known writer Clementine Ford (who has over 14,000 followers). See below.
Birth of a troll
Of course, he's an idiot to begin with. If you call someone a 'sarcastic nasty little bitch' after insulting their talent and comment on the 'worthless'ness of a women's studies degree, ON A PUBLIC FORUM, you can't turn around and act surprised when people decide to tell you where to stick it. Welcome to the internet.

It was somewhat heartening to see hundreds of women and men jumping to Clementine's defense, not that she needs it. The conversation spiraled into many different threads and basically deteriorated into Mr Jessop claiming that he understood why men raped women because feminists had destroyed the traditional family units and now women were more promiscuous and not settling down, so if the sex is available why not just take it?


There isn't enough time in the world to screencap every little gem that this guy came up with (and also, his tweets got very c-bomby and sweary after that) but he also claimed to be married himself, to a woman who hated feminists. Right. Yep. Sure, mate. He also felt completely comfortable calling women out for swearing in their tweets, despite having quite a colourful mouth himself. Oh, and lets not forget, what goes on the internet, stays on the internet.

From quite a while ago now. I remember when this made the news.
Anyway, the funniest part of all of this came this morning, when he seems to think he's won. Lolcats. Currently as I write this, he's informed Twitter that it's impossible for prostitutes to be raped, that married women need to shut up and make themselves available for sex whenever their husband wants it because it's their duty, and told me that he doesn't give 'a single fuck' about the opinions of feminists. (Yes, Greg. You're blue in the face replying to us all because YOU DON'T CARE. Sure.) 

Part of me is disgusted by this vile specimen of humanity, and part of me can't help but be deeply amused by his attitude. Obviously its a terrible and damaging attitude to have (along with tweet evidence that he is homophobic, racist and anti-Islamic as well), but the sheer weight of hundreds of people contradicting his every argument makes my heart swell, and makes me laugh as he turns to slinging insults instead of trying to argue back.

Well, I've got better things to do than devote any more time to this. Just wanted to share. I know some people find it odd that I care so much about this feminism and equality business, but this guy right here? Exhibit A.