Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The green bullet bites the dust

Unfortunately, my beloved green bullet is no longer. It was stolen from outside the apartment last Wednesday afternoon and hasn't been seen since. Although it was unlocked, Martin's bike was also unlocked beside mine and they didn't take it. Why they preferred my Miss Marple-esque, gearless bicycle complete with wicker basket over Martin's super dooper "Trek" machine I don't understand, maybe it was the pure comedy value. Big sister suggested that it was probably because there was a good book, a traybake and a hot cup of tea in a china cup in the basket but this was not the case.

Anyway, I tootled off to the police station on Friday to lodge a report and what an experience that was. They even asked me who took it, well if I'd known that I wouldn't have been there in the first place. After explaining that I didn't know the cretan who took it I was asked to draw a detailed map of the crime scene and label everything in Kanji (one of the THREE Japanese alphabets). My ability to write in Kanji is hardly wonderful and every time I made a mistake I was finger printed and asked to place the finger print on the mistake. By the end of the exercise it looked less like a map and more of a collage of my finger prints.

On Saturday, I went bicycle shopping and assured Martin I would buy a bike with gears this time as he had instructed.

Meet Wendy.

Wendy has no gears but she's kind of funky in a retro 1980's kind of way. I would have loved a red "Chopper" (they're all the rage here) just like the one Kevin had in The Wonder Years but there were none to be found. Below is a picture of Kevin and Winnie with the red "Chopper". Martin reckons my Wendy is nowhere near as cool as Kevin's bike.

Must go now, but if you see the green bullet around Hiroshima please ambush the bicycle and the thief, it's still a much nicer bicycle than Wendy.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Cocktails and charity work. Common misconceptions about the expat wife.

I never planned to become an expat wife, it just happened. I loved my job and all the buzz at Westminster, not once did I dread going in to work and had no plans to leave anytime soon. Then Japan happened. Luckily, I got a career break and off we trotted for two years in a country as close to another planet as you can find. Before we left, I endured much teasing about becoming an expat wife and to be honest I was a bit embarrassed about it. Afternoons spent sipping gin and tonics by the pool followed by a round of golf at the local country club isn't exactly my kind of scene. I'm more of a hot cup of tea, a packet of biscuits and a good book by the fire kind of girl. Unfortunately, when people label you as an "expat wife" they conjure up images of the former. I'm happy to say that isn't the reality either, it might be the case in some places but not in Hiroshima. For a start, space is such a premium in Japan that there's little room for vast country clubs and outdoor swimming pools for expat wives to wile away their afternoons. Here's the reality of being an expat wife in Japan.

1. I do not possess a 1980's power suit with gold buttons and shoulder pads.
1b. I don't have matching shoes and handbags.
2. I don't have a credit card.
3. I ride a bicycle (without gears) as opposed to having a driver.
4. I don't get manicures every week.
5. I don't go for cocktails in the morning.
6. I clean my apartment.
7. I do my own grocery shopping.
8. I make my husband's lunch every morning.
9. We do not have a maid. If we did I would not do points 6,7 and 8 and have more time for points 4 and 5.
10. I do play scrabble every week. Not very glamorous I know, but it keeps the brain ticking over.
11. I shop in Gap not Gucci. However, if you give me the money I'll happily shop in Gucci.

So next time you meet an expect wife don't assume she's all about cocktails and charity work. It's a harder life than you think, living in a foreign country with three different alphabets isn't always easy! It's certainly a challenge and makes life interesting but I'm looking forward to getting back to my friends, family and job. Like Joni Mitchell sang in Big Yellow Taxi "you don't know what you've got till it's gone".

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Love is in the air

I can't believe it's two years since Martin and I stepped down the aisle. It's gone so quickly and little did we know that within a year we would have moved continents. The biggest plan we had that year was to redo the kitchen and the bathroom - only the kitchen got done. Life's funny that way.

Despite the fact that I was a whole 45 minutes late it really was the best day of our lives. I know it's acceptable for a bride to be a little late but I think 45 minutes was taking the biscuit. Poor Martin, he thought I had jilted him. I blame it all on the hairdresser and the contact lenses.

The cermony was set for 12:30 so I booked the hairdressers for 8:30 thinking that this would give us plenty of time. So chief bridesmaid and I trotted off to the hairdressers at 8:30 only to find it all locked up and not a soul about. We stood outside the salon in the freezing Northern Irish weather for a whole 30 minutes only for Mrs Hairdresser to amble in at 9am and not even apologise for being late. Then she had the cheek to say it would take a "good while for the water to heat up". So she starts to do my hair and then the regulars start coming in looking for their cuts and blow drys. She continually abandons me to attend to other customers and at one point I saw the assistants in the backroom trying on my tiara - didn't they think I'd see them in the mirror?! By 10:30 I'm finished and take a seat to wait for chief bridesmaid. I'm sitting there all dolled up with a tiara in my head and this women walks in, sits down next to me and asks "are you getting married today?" and then she lights up a cigarette. Unbelievable. I asked her to move.

We sped on to the makeup artists where there were no major hickups and made it home for 11:50, ok we were cutting it fine but there was still time.

I had only recently started to wear contact lenses and was no good at putting them in yet, especially in a hurry. Big sister's friend and fellow contact lenses wearer was called to the rescue and helped me put them in. This was not a good idea. Aware that I was becoming very late my eyes would not stay open and the things would not go in. No one would tell me the time and because I hadn't my glasses on I couldn't see the clock. It was getting very late and we finally got them in at about 12.25.

It was finally time to get dressed, I must have been the quickest bride ever dressed. I was done in 2 seconds flat. The bridesmaids were packed off to the chapel which took an awfully long time, it turns out the driver went in the completely wrong direction and the sisters didn't even notice! The driver claims he didn't want to get the car dirty on the country roads.

Anyway, I eventually made it down the aisle at quarter passed one and saw a very relieved and pale looking Martin standing at the top of the altar.

I was watching the wedding DVD a while back and as my father and I got out of the car a guest said to my Father "your a wee bit late James Anthony". My father replied "I thought it was next Saturday". Always good to make light of these situations I think!

Thank you Martin for a wonderful two years, you always make me very happy, even through poison ivy, earthquakes and failing house sales.

There is more love in the air for our lovely friends Anne and Paul (pictured below) who got engaged in Hungary last week. We are really happy for you both and can't wait for the wedding. We thoroughly recommend that you book a punctual hairdresser!