Headliners

Scottish independence is possibly on the cards this month. The Yes campaign led by the SNP and Alex Salmond are making ground and, after a shaky start, look to be confident of victory. The reason is not about a change f heart or persuasive argument but the No campaign’s horribly patronising and fear-mongering. The biggest worries is the removal of the pound, leaving Scotland with the choice to join the Euro or create its own currency. To soften the independence movement and bribe the wavering voters, London, I mean, the No campaign, are offering greater devolution powers for the Scottish Parliament.

You may ask why London is taking a stance on this Scottish issue. While it does affect the rest of the UK, the Conservatives stand to gain electorally from this vote. They are a solely English party with no seats in Scotland, Wales or Ireland. Labour would lose their working class seats in Glasgow, while the Lib Dems would take a hit. The greatest disaster for England would be the Tories in power for a generation. However the Tories are very much of the one-nationers, believing in the Great in Great Britain. The Chancellor George Osbourne offers devolutionary concessions on Sunday.

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It smelt of bribery. The Sun, a British paper, known for its simplified vocabulary and naked women on Page 3, ran this headline today this great headline yesterday. It summed it all up nicely despite the usual stereotyping. The headline instantly caught my eye, made me smile somewhat for the great wordplay and I took a picture.

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My Japanese Dad

My first night in Japan after 11 years has stayed with me, coming back to make me smile on a regular basis. I was nervous coming into Japan after being deported and banned many years ago. I drank on the plane. I drank a lot of wine hiding the mini bottles like a good alcoholic. But I needn’t have worried. I entered without drama and met Mayu on the other side.

Lurching through the freeways of Tokyo in an immaculate cab with electric doors and a driver with white gloves on, the road swung left and right, up and down like a video game. We made it to Mayu’s favourite restaurant where she knew all the staff, hanging out like a barfly smoking and drinking wine. It was a cool place, not the kind I remember in Japan but I guess we all have to move on.

It was late but we ate and drank, intending to stay until the first train in the morning. Conversation was flowing with the wine. When I came back from the bathroom, the next table, two Japanese guys in their 50s were talking to Mayu about me I soon learnt. They were drinking heavily but were in a happy mood. I knew this was going to be fun.

I spoke with the guy nearest me. Brown skinned and balding, his face was round making his glasses small. His grasp of English was as shaky as my Japanese. You understand? he asked. Eeeerr no, I replied smiling. We ordered sake. Soon I was replying in Japanese and his round, red face laughed. He had no idea what I was trying to say. We ordered more sake.

His friend, someone who looked like he used to be a businessman, started drifting to sleep. It was 4 am now. They decided to go. He gave me his meishi (business card), clearly a personal design with a drawn self-portrait on it, shook my hand furiously and hugged me. I kissed him on both cheeks. He laughed uncontrollably slapping his friend. This guy was great.

After he left, he banged on the window and smiled a huge smile while waving one hand. The other held his bike, a rickety old contraption. He was riding home. We left an hour later only to find he had paid the bill for us too. I emailed him to thank him and we stayed in contact ever since. His English hasn’t improved. But his enthusiasm is undimmed and he’s invited me to meet his family next time.

The streets were empty and cold as we walked back. Very cold. The business towers loomed over us. The wide pavements told us nothing. Side roads lay deserted. The air was cold in our lungs as we reached the station and boarded the first train. We talked through the almost empty morning train. It was home time. Tokyo’s grey roofs rushed by, we left the train and got in the flat and fell fast, fast asleep.

Summer 2014…..where do we go from here?

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So summer is coming to an end. I’ve never understood why we’re told autumn starts in October. Summer ends when school cuts off those idyllic late evenings of football and bike riding. Summer ends when the evenings pull in, the wind picks up to a chill and our optimism is only peaked on the odd, warm September. Or in the UK this summer, sometime around the 10th of August. We hunker down behind our coats and closed toes. We start planning Christmas meals. Crazy, three months before.

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Summer here ends for me this week when I leave the summer semester at Oxford and head abroad for a year or two. Qatar or Singapore are the options. Its natural to be drawn to the latter but the former has two benefits; money and people. The money is extravagant and will fund whatever needs for a long while. People means those I know already and a few to be added making this trip to the Middle East more enjoyable. It will be the last!

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Summer at Oxford has been long and punctuated by fun and uncertainty. I’ve not known what I’ve wanted, the standard problem for someone who thinks too much and uses instability for creative joy. I spoke to Linden the other night about instability. She noted I love my narrative and hate the idea of it being compromised by vulnerability at the behest of other’s decision making. That’s all true but that risk is lovely until I no longer want it anymore. That change in me is often very sudden and feelings are simply pushed into a cupboard known as ‘times I used to know.’ Its a clean, clear break. But then I think I just got bored here and am restless to do and see other places and people. Four years here is enough.  

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However Oxford has been a lot of fun and I’ve been taken care of. 9 weeks is a long time in a small town but I’ve enjoyed the bike riding, the same, old pubs and a lot of the work. I’ve met a few, new people, Tony, Billie, Takako, Anna and Ryan and many old friends have come to visit. I’d like to thank Pedro, Matt, Cookie, Oli, Amna, Charlie, Monsur, Mum, Dad and Imogen as well as Olivia. I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone. I’ve also caught up with Wei, Heather, Luke and Ro, Alex, Carlos, my sister and her kids and hopefully Si next week. I also saw the Notting Hill Carnival for the first time.

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I’m left with two, excellent options which will both fulfill me in pocket and heart doing a challenging job in either place. Then comes the hard work. But first comes the holiday. So its farewell Oxford and see  you in the sun.