Etape is a French word which has been engrained into my vocabulary for many years. I know various obscure words and phrases with the common theme of cycling: Roleur, Poursuivants, Col, Grimpeur, Parcours, Chute, Domestique, Flame Rouge, Maillot a pois. Etape has now become synonymous with sportif events, the name coming from those who race one stage of the Tour de France each year, and the original closed road event, in the UK, is in Perthshire in Scotland.
I usually do a bit of touring each year as well as some longer one day rides on top of the week to week cycling. Manuela shouted me in November when the organisers get everyone in order - this is why I don't enter these events: Im too busy or unorganised, or both, to plan ahead enough, taking usually only 2 months to organise a holiday or trip in advance. Thankfully I was entered by proxy and even got a hotel room by the start line as a result of having other well organised friends.
I look away from people when I'm talking to them.
Some traits you pick up from other people (parents / contemporaries) and some traits you just display without thinking. I struggle with finding the right word some times, so I look away from people. Without intending to labour the point I strive to find the correct word. Looking at the human face is one of the most off-putting (& interesting) subjects to look at and so I tend to look away a lot. It helps concentration but it annoys the majority of gentrified humans (they think there is something more important than them going on).
It's a bit like writing this stream of consciousness - it IS a stream of consciousness but even as I write I still need to think of the right word. Correct word. Appropriate word. Proper word. Applicable. This is not contrived - I don't do it to appear more clever: sometimes I repeat words too much or I know that there is a more relevant (better, pertinent, suitable) way of describing something. Staring at the page doesn't help so I look out the window and develop a 'thousand yard stare'.
This is similar to the way the brain deals with other problem-solving situations like design: riding a bicycle can help solve problems because you allow the brain to switch off from the subject and be free to answer the question without pressure. Focus can come from being, as someone might perceive it, completely unfocussed. As someone else may describe it - meditation.
Posted by stupot at 12:03 PM Monday 30 Dec
My Friend Chris set up this blog when I moved to Japan in 2004. At that time it was a bold move and I still didn't quite understand how my digital character would adapt: A little like how I didn't understand a lot of the art I used to see at Art School degree shows (turns out I didn't need to understand it). Chris also mentioned new and fashionable social networking websites such as Habbo Hotel (still rocking and rolling) which I joined and wandered about the virtual world in, lurking in the corner like a pre pubescent boy unsure of making a move on a girl at the school disco. Except I didn't even know these people: it didn't matter a jot that they were in another computer in another room in another country.
The most interesting thing about going on a package holiday to Turkey is watching some people's reaction to telling them it's a 'package holiday'. A lot of people I know go on city breaks and squirm at the thought of someone organising a trip for them by a beach. I was a bit like that until I went to Fuerteventura 10 years ago and had the most relaxing two weeks of my life. Most people who squirm have never done it or found somewhere good enough. From the beginning, it's been a case of finding a good hotel with a company that chucks in flights pretty much for free, entertaining a rep who may or may not give you some handy local hints and then doing what the fuck you want for the rest of the time. We got a hire car thrown into our deal and had a beautiful, small and quiet hotel away from Daily Mail Central that was the middle of Kalkan.
Everyone talked about how bad the driving and roads were: compared to Britain the roads aren't well marked and aren't built up at the side, and sometimes people don't indicate - but apart from that I found drivers to be courteous and relatively slow (the cost of petrol was probably the main factor).
You can be sceptical of people selling you stuff but the 75 year old fisherman who approached us as we were fresh into town, gave us a great deal and a lovely day on the water. I tipped him with a sketch of his boat.
The guys who chat you up on the street to get you into bars are salesmen, but if you give them a chance and chat to them they can be intelligent, interesting people - far more astute, witty and politically knowledgable than their British counterparts. I had a great education about Ataturk by one guy and, wanting the drawing I'd been working on, in the end let me buy my food and beer with ink and paper.
I actually grew to liking these encounters - more than many places I've been (aside Morocco) drawing was commanding great respect and even worked as a currency.
One day we pulled up to a road side eatery in a very local setting and, with no menus or conversation, ordered 'food'. Our trays of goodies, water and bag of bread came imminently and we ate a feast. The lunch service was finishing and chairs were being loaded into a van. We didn't think anything of it until when we went to pay were told there was no charge - this was a pre-wedding party and lunch was on them. Now that's hospitality.
Posted by stupot at 01:30 PM Wednesday 29 Aug
I'm writing a proposal for a series of programmes for the BBC around Independence. I have confidence that it is a worthwhile venture and I'm busy making inroads into the corporation. I am also positive it would help people understand the subject of Scottish Independence more clearly, driven by conversations on the ground, facts and, crucially, with no hidden agenda.
I can feel eyes, low to my right, as I stand at the bar - waiting on unaccomplished staff to find another wine glass and some change. I turn round and he's staring up at me so powerfully that he looks cock-eyed. His body is not tense though, he's quite calm apart from his head which is straining up toward mine, eyes boring into me. There is no emotion in his face - "having a nice night?" "not bad" I say - "long day - just having a wee one to finish up". "What do you do?" he follows up with, and I give him a quick breakdown. "how about yourself?" "Security" says he, tight-lipped. I ask if this is in Glasgow and he shakes his head. silence. "...further afield?". He nods yes. "OoooKay' I feel my self saying turning back to the bar, my eyes wide at his social skills.
"Do you understand what I mean by security?" he asks after a pause. "ehm, you weren't giving much away" I venture. "Close protection services" he says. "and not locally?" I add. "Abroad". He works security for private sector in Afghanistan. "sounds dangerous," I try. "so, so." "well paid though?" it's the line he's been waiting for - "how much are you on?" I tell him and then he throws in his bounty for a days work - one thousand british pounds. Each day for Four months. "Sounds very dangerous."
He's still looking at me, head slightly to one side. I'm too tired for his intensity and for such a laboured conversation leave him to go back to the table where my colleagues await their drinks.
Posted by stupot at 12:15 PM Sunday 20 Nov
TOBERMORY - ARISAIG
So the sun finally put on a good show - there had been a suggestion on Monday night that shepherd's were to be delighted on Tuesday but things stayed decidedly average on for our mountain goat trials. Chris had gotten up first and went for a wander shortly followed by me with the SLR - the light and strength of blue in the sky was phenomenal. We bought plentiful supplies for breakfast and had three courses - porridge with strawberries, bacon rolls and pastries with a cafetiere of coffee. I'm sure hostelling didn't used to be like this: it used to be a lot worse.
It had been stressful week brought on by the fact that the surprise bank holiday on Monday combined with Friday off meant a lot had to be crammed in to a few days. Fortunately Tiree, as a destination, is the perfect remedy to anxiety, a full brain and too much time around a computer. As we flew low over the Inner Hebrides and Argyll with perfectly clear views down to inlets of white sand, cliffs and turquoise waters I leapt from one seat to another trying to gather as much of the views as possible. It was a bit like hanging over a huge, intricate, moving map. Jura, Mull then Flotta were highlights as we circled around and descended over Coll to our destination.
After the local bus (which had been briefed by our hosts) picked us up and dropped us off we had a cup of tea, inspected the front garden (the shore) and got the bikes ready for a trip over to the southerly bay around the peninsula. The sky was clear blue, the wind light, so we donned trunks and ran as fast as we could into the Atlantic - like Victorians trying to cure an ailment. in our case, possibly another long winter.
Posted by stupot at 05:03 PM Tuesday 7 Jun
What a week of gigs it was. Little Dragon's appearance at King Tuts, inexplicably, was not sold out (describing my affection for their music). Live, her voice was as deep and as high and clear and sweet as you would hope for. It was good to also witness the band who didn't perform when we saw her duo with Damon Albarn in Amsterdam. Her clunky moves were even pretty endearing (this is sounding more and more like a man smitten - I'll stop soon). I managed to throw in a "whitbraw" - a complimentary phrase in Swedish, taught to me in Spain by a man from Carluke - after song two. "Ah someone speaks Swedish" She said. I ventured on, with the confidence that beer gives you, to compliment in Japanese after the next song - "Subarashii". I was going to progress through languages as the concert continued but it seemed futile and immature - I decided to just lap up the music and cheer like everyone else.
Yellowman's audience were much older - the dance-hall legend from Jamaica who has survived throat cancer has a face that tells that tale. In his mid fifties he jumps around the stage like someone half his age. Near-death experiences must shape you into a much more lively person I've no doubt. The crowd loved his infectious voice, charisma and moves - and especially the call throughout the evening - "Hello Scattish - How are you?". It must have been said 30 times and only increased in popularity as the evening wore on. There was an hour between support act and the main thing - a good amount of time to catch up with some familiar faces. Yellowman played for almost two hours, by the end shaking hands with most of the audience who were approaching the stage opened eyed and smiling like he was a deity. And he was pretty divine, it has to be said.
Posted by stupot at 07:13 AM Wednesday 18 May
On Sunday we wandered the streets and came across a mass procession of Spanish helpers who had just gotten off a boat. A nice lady told me they were Sinterklaas's helpers (Santa to you and me). They were there to give out sweets and amuse children. I even got some nice biscuits for myself. I was told they would be there until the 5th of December when celebrations take place. I swear they were blacked up Dutch people.
Posted by stupot at 04:49 PM Tuesday 23 Nov
I downloaded the wallpaper* amsterdam city-guide which I thought was a good idea, and it was - despite all the spelling mistakes and the fact a physical book would have been easier to navigate with: just as a real map beats google in the quick reference stakes. In any case it was easyjet's city guide on the plane which suggested I visit Amersfoort, and based on their pretty good suggestions for Glasgow and Edinburgh bars (Gandolfi and Blue blazer) I thought I'd get on the train on Monday. The place was dead on arrival - it appeared that no-one else was taking the hot tip. Or it was Monday morning. The weekly holiday, as it turned out, didn't make me feel so bad about not wanting to get out of bed on Mondays. I should move there. People started their days slowly as I wandered in the crisp November weather eventually finding the medieval gate to the town and getting a few sketches done. Soon it was populated as normal and I headed back to Amsterdam on my favourite double-decker trains in anticipation of seeing Gorillaz that night.
Posted by stupot at 01:41 PM Thursday 18 Nov
On Friday we headed over the river to the Citz to see A Clockwork Orange. As a fitting tribute to Anthony Burgess' story we took the Clockwork Orange and, as we didn't appear to stop at Bridge street, walked under the ominously dark railway arches and over barren waste ground to reach the theatre from West Street. It was a departure for Laura who had last seen daylight over Princes Street Gardens. The lead actor was convincing and the fight scenes were well choreographed so we enjoyed the evening despite the leg room. The citizens is a tiny, traditional theatre in the Gorbals area - just a stones throw from the Merchant city and perfect for an after show drink.
Posted by stupot at 01:01 PM Tuesday 19 Oct
Heard recently and for use in or near Scotland: What do you call a woman with one marigold on? Goldie Hawn. What do you call a man with one foot in his house and one foot out? Hamish. What's a rude, five letter word that starts with a P?
Posted by stupot at 04:37 PM Wednesday 13 Oct
I met up with fellow Scottish Sketcher, Wil Freeborn, and Aussie, Liz Steel, yesterday in sun bathed Glasgow. We sat and drew the new transport museum and had good, hearty chat. I went off to visit a friend who lives in the new harbour side apartments (not flats). We basked in the sun discussing the state of the country (he works for the Scottish Government) and Jimmy Reid.
Jimmy died a few weeks ago and was a great trade union activist on Clydeside during the slow decline of the shipbuilding industry. He addressed Glasgow University as rector and his speech was reprinted in full in the New York times, them describing it as "the greatest speech since President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address".
"A rat race is for rats. We are not rats. We are Human Beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement............"
Posted by stupot at 12:49 PM Sunday 5 Sep
I've never really considered Greece as a destination for a holiday and now I can't understand why I would ever have had any reservations. Perhaps snobbery that to get there I would have to go with a tour operator. Perhaps because of the reputation of resorts being full of Brits getting wasted on Ouzo. "Street's like a jungle, so call the police" as Blur once described the 18-30 phenomenon "....following the herds, down to Greece".
Wow. Big news abound - The Literary and Philosophical library of Newcastle are hosting an exhibition of artwork by Viz. The opening was catered for by Greggs and it seems like we'll be able to visit on the 30th. Seeing my obvious envy of a signed Viz annual Laura had acquired in her youth, I was presented with a signed canvas bag by Mr Bennison. Who says Christmas comes in December? and where's the framers number?
Posted by stupot at 11:05 AM Tuesday 17 Aug
Posted by stupot at 12:19 PM Thursday 12 Aug
Ardvourlie - Garenin
We woke from a great sleep and still the trees whipped about outside. We doubled up on porridge and headed out into the elements and Lewis proper. Feeling slightly guilty we trundled along, off the higher ground of Harris with, our now good friend, the sou' western tail wind. Eventually we go to the left turn which would take us to Garenin and we now had to feel more of the wind than either of us wished - the view south, back to the mountains of Harris was recompense enough though, as we glanced sideways trying to keep the bikes upright.
Berneray - Bowglass
The wind is still battering against the small windows of the blackhouses but sun now lights up the white horses in the green sea. As with the night before we make a dash from our sleeping quarters to the living and eating space situated in the next building. We repack after porridge, swap some advice with the others and head off for the ferry. Despite the terminal being only a mile away it takes an eternity and some skill to keep the bikes upright - the head wind buffeting us and occasionally trying to lift our feather-light front wheels.
Castlebay - Bernaray
Finally we made it to the ferry and at last we were on holiday proper - £29 would get us to Barra, over to Eriskay, from Berneray to Harris and from Lewis to Ullapool. The Lord of the Isles didn't command the harbour as much as I had expected and as soon as we passed Ardnamurchan point and literally hit the Minch, the undersized ferry truly didn't come into its own. The ferry was heaving - in both senses and our place in the bar was fortuitous once we realised that we had fiddles and an accordian in our midst. Unfortunately this didn't stop the sea sickness - I lay down when Chris went for a walk which kept down the lager and pork chop I was struggling with. Others weren't so lucky and as the 6 or so hours passed the toilets were not worth bothering with unless you really had no choice. We later heard some real horror stories about the Friday sailing which by some accounts saw passengers vomiting from smelling the vomit. Not a position you want to find yourself in, especially if you were one of the runners in the 'Barrathon' on Saturday.
Saturday saw the start of summer with a lie on the beach at North Berwick, the FA cup final in a pub and back to Leith for tea after an ale outside in the setting sun. I stood outside at one point and from a small gathering in some of the new flats, the tranquil 'Sunshine on Leith' by the proclaimers could be heard. I do not hide my admiration for the Proclaimers which is possibly the East Lothian side of me making itself known. Throw the R away has always been my favourite Proclaimers song - and these two different versions, 20 years apart show what fame and riders can do to you. There's the ziggy-stardust version and the who-ate-all-the-pies version. Funny that now the general consensus would not be that in the recent version they look flabby, but that in the earlier version they look malnurished.
Posted by stupot at 12:54 PM Wednesday 19 May
I'm standing in the middle of Kirkwall and it's deadly quiet - save for the twenty or so crows building their nests above me: a murder if you will. I was never sure about that collective noun but you just have to be around them to understand. It sounds like Punch is murdering Judy. There's a seriousness to them when it's quiet: you're on your own, lunch time in a small town, you might have taken the wrong road. Hitchcock didn't make that scene on the climbing frame just for it's visual appeal. They make you shiver and a bit paranoid. Perhaps it's because I'm near the harbour, but the term 'crows nest' seems well founded - when I look up at the birds they are looking down on everyone else, but I'm glad to see it's just a couple helping each other fix twigs to their nest. You can't choose what accent you're born with I suppose.
Posted by stupot at 02:07 PM Tuesday 20 Apr
Posted by stupot at 01:33 PM Sunday 18 Apr
I have very nice conversations by email with a client in Japan - this morning he taught me the term 'hanabie' which describes the coldness which comes even after blossom. Scotland was similar this weekend - a sharp wind drifting over still snowy hills whilst daffodils replace crocus in bloom. The blue skies made for good cycling and Easter day was peachy with little wind and much sun. Hanagumori is also a phrase which describes this same time of year but cloudy, no doubt a commonly used term by Japanese tourists on the Royal Mile and Buchanan Street this week.
Posted by stupot at 04:26 PM Thursday 8 Apr
It was on the news last night - reports confirmed Britain is officially 'chanking'.
Edinburgh, and Britain in general, is experiencing a cold snap which the Daily Telegraph said would "freeze the nipples off Satan". Even headlines are affected - "Water bills frozen" said the Mail yesterday. Of course the media circus is loving it, whipping up fury and pointing fingers at this week's scape goats - council workers. Reports are full of words like treacherous, battling, nightmare, arctic. And that's just the BBC. It's a media madness - News programs have actually got something to talk about that people understand, have a view on and doesn't get boring (like Israel / Iran / Afghanistan). Since communication became instant we have developed into needing immediate solutions for all life's questions - we seem to have lost the ability to understand patience and common sense. Why won't the snow just leave us alone?
I've joined a lot more groups on Flickr, the photo sharing website, over the past six months. I've realised that joining the groups (cycling in edinburgh / location drawing) is a good way to either find out about events or develop techniques, in the case of drawing. I find it positive and educational.
Up in the morning's no for me,
Up in the morning early!
When a' the hills are covered wi' snaw.
I'm sure it's winter fairly!
Cauld blaws the wind frae east to west,
The drift is driving sairly,
Sae loud and shrill's I hear the blast -
I'm sure it's winter fairly!
The birds sit chittering in the thorn,
A' day they fare but sparely;
And lang's the night frae e'en to morn -
I'm sure it's winter fairly!
Posted by stupot at 06:26 PM Wednesday 21 Oct
It's Bramble season - cycle paths and railway lines are spilling over with them. Down in West Kilbride last week I met up with the irrespressible Kirsty Reid. She's a star in many ways. She calls her mummy's Blackberry a 'Bramble', which I think a. is lovely, b. makes perfect sense and c. everyone should call them. Kirsty also draws a mean lion - almost as good an artist as my nephew, Fred!
Posted by stupot at 02:40 PM Tuesday 13 Oct
After climbing Arthur's seat on a glorious start to Autumn we sat in the secluded cafe at the bottom of the royal mile looking out to the Scottish Parliament. Interestingly you can read the Parliament website in Scots as well as Gaelic.
Posted by stupot at 07:42 PM Sunday 11 Oct
This week I'm still listening to some oldie's - a real oldie from Simple Minds in 1979 from their debut album - Chelsea Girl. Another more recent oldie from Midlake which sounds like it could have been on CSN&Y's dejavu - Roscoe.
Posted by stupot at 04:04 PM Tuesday 28 Jul
As I was drawing yesterday I thought about it as a pastime, and then cycling, and why I do them. Firstly I suppose, I wouldn't be writing this if it weren't for the amount of focus that comes from both - they can equally become meditation time or thinking time. I believe, although they can often be lone pursuits (cycling empty country roads and drawing down uninhabited lanes), they also open up the possibility for interaction.
With drawing, especially when seated, people are intrigued by what you're up to - they will come and sneak a peek and possibly have a chat. The chance encounter - a rare luxury in modern life. In a city this can also happen with a fellow cyclist at the lights or in the country when passing another two wheels - something, I imagine, the motorist will rarely encounter in a life-time.
Cycling allows you to understand the land intricately - what seems like a flat to the motorist is in fact a long climb, however shallow. Avoiding pot holes means you become fluent in reading roads - you know the exact sequences of traffic lights - you know the pedestrians who will underestimate your speed - you know the drivers who will open their door on you. You know that white lines become ice on a wet day in summer and you know if you don't take a metre then you will be the one taken advantage of.
Likewise drawing allows you to understand the dynamic of a corner of the world like nothing else. You think about Darwin as you subliminally notice the behaviour of insects and birds. Tree's mesmerize you as they sway. A lone, still puddle is violently displaced by a car just as you finish to record it - things will never be the same. Sunlight comes and goes in an instant and shadows gradually creep east. A secret, unmarked building suddenly has a purpose as the tenants return. The unseen demographic can only be identified by footwear and speech. And cobbles, eroded over centuries, tell their own tale.
Posted by stupot at 10:17 AM Monday 20 Jul
I wouldn't usually take time out to blog about a film (The Damned United would have come first this spring) but it is encouraging that the only film worth going to see last night was a British one (save O Horten and Is Anybody There?). I'm mainly documenting the posters which are Obama take-off's and done very well indeed. I really want to get a set for the house. Peter Capaldi's swearing was the funniest cinema moment for a long time - the audience were constantly laughing. Creativity in the language was in abundance with it hard to choose a favourite phrase. You kind of had to be there - so go there!
Posted by stupot at 07:50 PM Sunday 10 May
Another Ryanair field. very local. Big port small city. Grey. Eastern block. Clean. Ordered. No yellow lines. steep ramps. expensive. fast police exotic noises. bikes and trams from no where. mopeds on pavements. Italian meal. near the docks. change of clothes. out drinking. most with coffee under a blanket.
It struck me a long time ago that there are a lot more effeminate guys in Japan than there are in the UK. It's really not difficult to see. Despite there being more of everything in urban Japan due to the high, concentrated population, there are none-the-less a lot more guys who like knitting. I notice because it's still not cricket to be a gay in the UK - Julian Clary a prime example of being accepted because he's a parody of himself and not real. Most gay people on TV, certainly last time I looked, had some oddity to their character.
Today I had one of those hang-overs where everything is fascinating. I really, geniunely love days like this. The smallest learning, like a life-altering revelation - every meeting, charming. The brain has been numbed and a child-like slow comprehension creeps in. An inocence, an odd purity. Such days are quite focussed in their own blurry way - time standing still and then going at a gallop then standing still and so on. Futsukayoi, 'drunk for a second day', is what the Japanese say. No beating about the bush, in its very literal form, I feel it describes the state a lot better than 'hang-over' which suggests only unpleasantness. The picture shown is what you love and hate about Japan - the overwhelming need to (over) package. I had the usual flood of guilt when I finished todays bento I bought from KYK (I always confuse with the other great Japanese institution who manufature zips) and was left with a mountain of waste which had a life span of 20 minutes. Fascinating.
Posted by stupot at 09:36 PM Monday 8 Jan
Sunday, whilst also seeing the end of the exhibition, was the annual Japanese Language Proficiency Test. As I didn't study at University in the exam sense (I was judged continually), I haven't really smelt an exam since secondary school - back in a time my memory has almost erased. Erased because I'm not big on exams - I was reminded on Sunday of my contempt for petty rules and regualtions. I found the third level a little tricky but found out my strength is in reading - probably a result of sending and receiving emails every day. The examiners at St Andrew's University (that not being the University of St Andrews) had a system of yellow and red cards if anyone was found breaking any of the rules, which I couldn't bring myself to take seriously. Fortunately I managed to keep my head down and straight. For some reason I was surprised that most taking the test were Asian - I sat outside with a few Vietnamese chaps who were freezing their wee balls off in a rather fresh north easterly. The University was in a nice setting near the mountains but was ultimately a very confused place with the buildings looking like they might blow over, being propped up only by the bought-in heriatge. I headed up to Umeda and took the exhibition down, rather happy to have off loaded 3 peices.
Posted by stupot at 07:45 PM Tuesday 5 Dec
As I've always liked drawing, I've always liked going to stationery shops and Japans is like the Mecca of stationery. The delight of becoming excited about buying a very cheap material posession, that most people take for granted, is a nice feeling to have. Especially if you're as tight as I am. Like cash will never die in asia, neither will the mark - it is after all, why the fax machine put email back by 10 years. The mark is such an important part of the culture in Japan that pens are constantly being redefined here. As much R+D seems to go on at pilot as does at honda. If you've ever tried to write complicated Kanji (Japanese characters) on a typical application or order form in Japan then you'll appreciate why there are so many different thicknesses of pen. Going by shelf presence, Pilot's Hi-Tec C is the best selling pen in Japan. I've used one since I was in the UK but a few years ago they were getting difficult to find there. The quality of line that the Hi-tec gives is pretty flawless and for only 210 yen. I recently said that you should visit a builders centre if you ever visit japan. You should also add a stationery store to the list. Tokyu Hands in Osaka has a huge section that any creative would salivate at but the wee local dusty places still possess the charm and prize finds you can't get in department stores.
what I love about the japanese language is the very visual way in which words are derived from nature. I'm fascinated with the origins of words and that's why kanji (japanese script) is so interesting and my grammar is so bloody awful. The bonus of the leg injury is that I've managed to learn words I would otherwise never have encountered. the word for crutches is 'matsubazue' - matsu being pine tree, ba meaning leaf (or here, needle) and zue meaning stick. for something so ugly and troublesome, it's a beautiful and delicate metaphor.
Posted by stupot at 06:19 PM Monday 25 Sep
The Japanese Language Proficiency Test is on December 3rd this year and I posted my application last week. The test comes only once a year and I'm using it as an incentive to study. A level 3 examinee is described as "having mastered grammar to a limited level, knows around 300 kanji and 1500 words, and has the ability to take part in everyday conversation and to read and write simple sentences." It sounds about right but I've never been a great student at voluntary stuff although I do find myself getting excited on those rare occaisions when things are clear and my brain tells me it has processed and agreed to the information. There's a long way to go though and whilst money can't buy you intelligence, spending a bit on a test can give you the kick up the arse you were needing.
Posted by stupot at 09:11 PM Wednesday 13 Sep
douglas adams was a real influence when I was a kid - the babelfish translating device used in the hitchhikers guide was genius. now that we live in the future, of course, we have flawless peices of technology like the sony talkman and babelfish on the internet. but it's just that they're not.
a simple message from a friend about a weekend meeting translates on babelfish like this: Good morning it is. Then, it pours and this obtains and starts and would like to decide with the around. You will pass to be pleasant! ! Saturday it is the pleasure! ! Then. if you say it in a yoda accent it makes more sense. it's kind of poetic in a way and you get the jist but I certainly wouldn't translate my will on it. I had to help with some translation the other day and I now realise how difficult it is. Japanese is just so formal and english so flexible. to study I must go. for my convenience life.
Posted by stupot at 02:20 PM Friday 28 Jul
when I was away in Yamanashi last week wiping down the bikes after the race, my friend came over and said "first you need to don-don". I didn't have a clue. My japanese is fairly limited but this was one of the many onomatopoeia's that litter the japanese language and I just couldn't work it out. she picked up the bike and bounced it a few times to rid it of the worst of the water. "ahhh" I said, "don-don".
actually it's simple language when you think about it - in the same way kanji (japanese written characters) is fundamentally a drawing of something. consider that in english you'd have to say "pick it up and bounce it off the ground a few times." I'd rather just say don-don. there are countless times and english speaker will be asked for a translation of a word and there just won't be one. japanese is a very formal language but it is also a lot more concise.
the difficulty though is that where english generally has sound words, like 'cock-a-doodle-doo' or 'bang' and 'crash', the japanese also have words to describe ideas or notions. like 'bara-bara' which means scattered or 'giri-giri' which means to just fit or just in time. there's a good page of examples here.
Posted by stupot at 09:56 PM Saturday 17 Jun
the europeans landed in osaka on friday and we went out to play: firstly for a feast, then the mandatory karaoke. should you ever wonder what you might get should you cross a luxemburger, a japanese, an italian and a scotsman in a karaoke booth - it's not a pretty picture - basically a howling mess where everyone picks songs that are in too high a key and far too long. great fun!
since I've lived in japan the things you might say I lack have, I would say, made me stronger. my possessions are fewer yet I have less to worry about. I also fear death less but I'm not exactly sure why. it has perhaps been the most surprising result of moving to japan and I think it is a symptom of three possible reasons. one is being removed from familiar things and people, another is spending more time alone, without speaking and the last is living within japanese culture in general. I think it is a mixture of all three.
being at home in the mornings often brings with it the chime of the door bell. more often than not it seems to be the nhk man, apologising from the off like he'd actually seen some of the crap they air. I feel like I may be one of the few punters who doesn't give him a hard time. last week, though, brought the rice man to my attention and today was a miso rep from kyoto. strange.
as the rice guy was from only a block away he didn't do too much hanging around - the miso chap, on the other hand, was happy to explain the finer points of his no doubt delicious fermented stodge. we quickly switched back to sketchy japanese after he asked if my husband was around.
Posted by stupot at 01:06 AM Friday 17 Mar
my name is kerr and it's understood here. it's obviously not a usual name, so it's usually clarified properly. in britain this was often over-looked. I would get mail from suppliers down south addressed to 'mr kur', 'mr car' and most amusingly, 'mr care'.
for me, the name has always seemed a pretty straight-forward word to pronounce. like kerosene but without the flamability. perhaps it's just that it's uncommon even in england, but I thought more people would have made the 'simple minds' association and worked it out. seems people have forgotten about poor old jim kerr, the front-man who famously opened a japanese restaurant in glasgow which had about as much atmosphere as eating sushi in a morgue.
anyway - the name is care in japan. I'm possibly the gentle giant. the syllables used to create the name pronounce 'ke' & 'a-'. care. and as I live in a medical district with ke a- centres all over the place, I feel right at home. which is just as well, considering I'm a clumsy bastard.
Posted by stupot at 02:15 PM Sunday 19 Feb