Sitting/Lying Around

After a truly wonderful time in Scotland, I am definitely moving back, I return to San Francisco and am immediately scythed down by Covid. Not so bad as I had son James to generally look after me, go shopping and such. Not surprisingly, after a couple of days, poor James is also scythed down. Sorry James.

We have spent the last 5 or 6 days in lock down in the apartment.

Not so bad as San Francisco has fantastic deliver to your home systems. I use Instacart They work with a huge range of stores. You go to the store website order whatever you want and an hour later it is delivered to your door by gleeful young Californians.

Steaks, sausages, a chicken, pork chops, brussell sprouts, potatoes, onions, milk, apricot jam, olive bread, rhubarb pie and lots of other stuff from Gus’s, a fantastic store on Haight. I have written about Gus’s before

Booze from Bevmo, Cider, beer, lots of wine from Bevmo. I have written about Bevmo before:

The problem is neither James nor I have any appetite nor inclination to drink. Anticipated banquets stay in the fridge.

What to do day after day? Buy stuff from Amazon of course.

Coleman hiking boots. My former faithful pair gave up the ghost as I was sprinkling my Mother’s ashes on Dun Skeig.

New flute!

I am reluctant to take my Willis and Goodlad, of which I have written before, trips. She is so wonderful but I worry about damaging her, which would be a crime against humanity. I get a carbon fiber flute made by Carbony: These are indestructible and I am very much enjoying trying to get the best sound out of it.

New futon cover. Dark color hides the dirt.

Stuff for cleaning and protecting the ‘canvases’ on the camper.

New lens cap and lanyard thing for the big lens.

2 new pillows

Self explanatory

I love this stuff. Delighted to find it on Amazon. I thought it was a uniquely Japanese thing.

Nice red teapot.

Stanford T-shirt

Hub cap for 2012 Tacoma. You can get anything on Amazon.

Trousers that fit my huge bulk. Impossible to find in Japan.

Amazon is incredible! The most obscure stuff is delivered to your door the next day. Perfect for Covid boredom. Also makes for truly nail biting blog entries.

I feel much better but I am scared of taking another test in case it is positive again. Hmmm, maybe wait until tomorrow. Any suggestions as to what I can buy on Amazon are much appreciated. Maybe some Salt Cod.

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All Things Come to Those Who Wait.

I fly back to San Francisco, having had a negative Covid test before getting on the plane.

A couple of days after arrival, I begin to feel bad, sore throat, cough, headache etc. I don’t worry about covid on account of the recent test.

Son James has some do it yourself covid tests and after a few days of no noticeable improvement, I test myself.

One day apart. Same result!

I have Covid.

I somehow felt I had got away with it and would miss infection. Hubris.

I really do not want to spend days isolated in my room. There are so many great things I want to do! Luckily I have James to look after me, I mean like going out to buy beer.

Oh well, I suppose I will spend the time buying myself presents on Amazon.

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Bass Rock

I leave Kintyre and spend time with university friends. These are people I met in 1970. Over 50 years of friendship.

Will takes me to drop off my car as I am too scared to go alone. I then get a train to Edinburgh and stay with George and Jenny. Next day I take the train to Dunbar, or Sunny Dunny as it is known. Sure enough it is another perfect day. I meet Alison, another St Andrews friend and we have a glorious time in the sun.

Dunbar Kittewake.

She has a a boisterous 1 year old Poodle/Golden Retriever cross doggie called Freya. Such fun to take a dog for a walk. Anyway, you can see Bass Rock from Dunbar and Alison helps me book a boat trip the following day.

The next day was one of the best ever. Train to North Berwick and boat out to the rock.

Bass Rock! Thousands and thousands of Gannets.

I am dazed with happiness. I am on a boat, there are thousands of birds, it is a beautiful day, I have my big lens and new camera.

Soppy Gannets

Razorbills in front, Guillemots behind

Amazing birds

Click on all photos and then click again for super magnification.

They are building nests.

So elegant

Back to harbor for delicious fish and chips and squid from a shack on the harbor wall.

So good. Eating fish and chips outside on a sunny day by the sea beats most everything.

I am definitely moving back to Scotland!

Back to Bishopton to Will and Barbara’s place. Will heroically drives me to the airport at 4:15. I thought there would be no one there but hundreds of people are waiting in line to get through security at 4:30 in the morning.

Thanks to Will and Barbara, George and Jenny, Alison for their outstanding kindness and hospitality. So good to see them all again.

An excellent holiday.

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Scotland the Brave!

The whole Calder clan unites in Scotland to sprinkle our Mother’s ashes.

After a very long trip, Okinawa,Tokyo, Istanbul, Dublin, Glasgow, I find myself in a grubby Portacabin on a filthy potholed yard somewhere in Paisley. I am there to pick up a rental car. The guy is very aggressive throughout and there is a random drunken Irishman who keeps interrupting. 

I say “How can I get to Bishopton?

He says,”Take the M8.”

I say, “How can I get to the M8 from here?”

He says, “You read the fucking signs.”

Ah Caledonia!

We follow the signs. Jeremy and James

There are about 20 of us and we hole up in a palace overlooking the Kilbrannan Sound that has fantastic views across to Arran. 


Obeying our Mother’s request, we scatter on top of Dun Skeig and also bury in the family grave.

Dun Skeig
Family on Dun Skeig
James scatters

Ferries to and from Islay

The rest of the time we walk a bit but principally eat and drink.

Separate table for the kids

Breakfast – Haggis and eggs. Thanks Ian.
Amazing seafood

More amazing seafood
James and Jeremy get ready to eat.

Fresh eggs by the roadside

I get a cake! Nice Emma is the best.

It is so good to see all the family. 

Ferry in front of Jura

Massive kudos to sister Rosy and brother in law Barry for impeccable organization.

Sorry, Scottish birds.

House Martin
Mr Pheasant
F*ck off Mr Pheasant

Herring Gull
Tarbert Harbour
Not birds but Clydesdales

Bumble bee on azalea.

There but for fortune

Cruel sea

The weather was perfect throughout, the woods are carpeted with bluebells, there are rhododendrons and azaleas flowering everywhere.


The gorse or whins, if you prefer, is in full flower. So beautiful;

Such a feeling of ancientness.

Beacharr, 5000 BC


I am definitely moving back to Scotland.

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Last Weekend’s Fun

Last weekend we celebrated the 10th Anniversary of OIST. Well actually 11th; OIST was accredited in 2011. I know, I was there. As with so much else, Covid got in the way and the ceremonial had to be pushed back a year.

Anyway, we had an amazing weekend.

It started with a concert on Saturday night. Super duper violinist Eiko Kano played The Four Seasons with an orchestra of friends.

Eiko san

Lying on table in front of the stage are 4 violins, I go to have a look. They are guarded by an OIST colleague who tells me there are 3 Stradavarii and a Guarneri and I should be careful not to trip. Good advice. Wow!

Stradavarius ‘The Red Diamond’ one of the 3. I have forgotten the names of the others.

The concert was too good for language. For each movement of the Four Seasons she used a different violin. Nuts. As an encore, Eiko playing The Red Diamond, her teacher playing the Del Gesu, which is what cool people call Guarneri violins, accompanied on a 1930s Steinway just donated to the university, play some Shoshtakovich. All of this in a tiny village on the west coast of Okinawa! There was very little here when I arrived in 2011. Look at it now.

A unique experience. Eiko does not think that 4 violins of that distinction have been played in one concert before.

Super VIP dinner afterwards and I am seated next to Eiko, presumably because I can play the tin whistle.

Arisa is the super professional MC

Eiko, who is so much fun, and I discuss the salient features of the four violins and she clearly appreciates my input. Wonderful evening with much speechifying and so many old friends.

Lunch next day with Jonathan, Renee John san and the architects of the university buildings, Ken and Okomoto san. What great people, what memories. On to the big ceremony.

Peter makes excellent speech

Prime Minister Kishida san leaves dull meetings with Biden to send us a message.
Minister for Okinawa.

I spoke to him afterwards and asked if he could slip me a few bottles as I was off to Scotland. He said of course he could but I haven’t heard from him yet.

Governor of Okinawa, great guy.

Great event! My name was mentioned to wild acclaim. Incredible really – what a great adventure! I was so lucky to have been involved.

Congratulations and thanks to the organizers. I am so pleased I do not have to organize this kind of stuff anymore.

This is the sort of thing I do now.

Amazing stuff
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Drive Carefully

My driving license validity runs out at the beginning of June. Since I am now over 70, I have to go through geriatric driving training, vision testing and a supervised drive before they will re-issue my license. I am fairly intimidated as if I blow this, they will take my license away and it is impossible to live in Okinawa without a car. My future on this magic island depends on my performance.

Everything is in Japanese and I enlist the help of the wonderful Nicole san.

Thanks Nicole! She is a lot of fun.

Nicole is a freelance interpretor/translator. Hire her!

We go through a very strict eyesight test.  I worry as I don’t, despite Nicole’s best efforts, know really what I am supposed to do on some of the exercises. We troop out to pay for the training.

The receipt

We are shown movies that are admirable. They underline the dangers of driving a car but in particular the dangers of old people driving a car. Much statistical evidence of the sharp drop off after 70 of vision, reaction speed and decision making. Help!

We sit at the back.

It is pouring with rain as we drive around the special test course. Fairly anxious as there are many Japanese driving protocols that are new to me. Many thanks to Danielle Ellerby from OIST who coached me beforehand. Anyway congratulations Okinawan Police on the training – thought provoking.

The course manual. Notice ultra serious Japanese approach.

I pass!

Now to get my new license, more vision tests, a photo, my name is called and I am presented with a new license! Hooray! I am good until 2027 and God knows where I will be then.

Geriatic driver.
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Golden Wedding

50 years ago today Okinawa reverted, strange term meaning became part of again, to Japan. Since the 2nd World War Okinawa had been an US colony. The dollar was the currency and cars drove on the right. The Okinawans, after recovering from the awfulness of the Battle of Okinawa, became increasingly angry at the US occupation.

Huge bases were established on the island and most remain today.  The prefecture is home to 70% of the total acreage exclusively used by U.S. military installations in Japan despite being only about 0.6% of the country’s total area. 

Anyway, today there is a ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the reversion to Japan. Kishida san, Prime Minister, and a slew of notables will attend. It takes place in the Convention Center, which is a skip and a hop from my place. I drive down to check on the boat as it has been raining ferociously, as usual. There are security people everywhere.

Troop carrier outside the Marina.

I believe that Okinawa is hoping for some announcement on base reduction. I doubt it.

Protesters start to assemble.

It is raining.

A protesting Intermediate Egret shelters from the rain.

On a lighter note, the wonderful Hamada san gives me a bottle od Champagne for my birthday. Go to her shop :わいんや目福口福/@26.2914852,127.7750482,17z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x934452cbee9f1490!8m2!3d26.291485!4d127.777237

God bless Okinawa.

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Not Much Really

It is the rainy season in Okinawa. The weather has been very dull. I bumble around.

The boat engine still will not start despite Kiyuna san efforts. He is in no way downhearted, gently eliminating each possible cause of the problem one by one. There is no rush as the weather is awful.

Kiyuna san wires up my spare battery in er series wit the main one. He also replaces all the battery leads.

I do little jobs.

Four coats of varnish on the tiller.

I clean the lamps

One of the good things about the rainy season is the sudden explosion of blooms on the I-Ju trees.

The hills are alive with the sound of I-Ju

I pick up a friend from the airport and swing by the stinking pond so beloved by birds.

Black Faced Spoonbill

Two more

Guess what

Red and Green Shanks

After the excitement of the Mexico adventure, life seems very slow.

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Take the Money and Run

So, back in Okinawa I go through the backlog of mail that arrived during my 6 month hiatus. With invaluable help from friends, I understand that the majority of the mail offers free old people health help. There are offers of Covid boosters, flu shots, colon cancer fun and a lung injection that I do not understand but Arisa says I should get.


Most important, is an offer of 100,000 yen from the the Ginowan Town Hall. This is because I must be very poor as I do not have an income that enters into a tax category. I feel guilty. I have plenty of money and go to the Town Hall to suggest they give it to folks who do not.

They say,”Take the money and run!”


In deepest Mexico, it became clear that my creaking Nikon d300 is not up to the job. She has been a wonderful camera but you know.

Poor old thing. Does anyone want it?

With a big lens, auto focus is very important and my dear old, old d300 is very slow and has a great affinity to branch rather than bird. She is also falling apart.

I buy a second hand d500, the best birding camera in the world, from EBay for almost the same price as the gift from Ginowan. This cannot be ethical but take the money and run.

Newish camera with grimy old lens that I will clean..

It is a wonderful camera and I spend hours on YouTube trying to work out how to use it. It has abilities beyond my comprehension.

I take my first bird photo today.

Chinese Bulbul. Lots of fun ahead.

Diego, Okinawa Prefectural Flower, is in bloom.There is tons of it; apparently bad news.


I am gently oiling the teak trim on the boat.

This is a much better option than varnish that burns off very quickly

I have plenty of time as the engine will not start.

Low compression

Kiyuna san reckons that there is a compression problem. He has ordered the parts needed so I might finally get out in the boat next week.

Jacko, Kiyuna san’s doggie.
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No Awa’ Tae Bide Awa’

12 hour flight from San Francisco to Narita, Tokyo. That’s where the trouble starts. Exhausted and hung over, we then spend 5 hours going through Covid procedures. We being Japanese citizens and permanent residents, no tourists nor strolling foreigners are allowed into Japan.

It is awful. We pass from desk to desk to have various forms stamped. We wait and then shuffle off to the next desk. We finally have PCR tests and wait for a long time for results. Everything is in Japanese as only Japanese are allowed in anyway. I am everlasting grateful to Taki san, who runs a diving business in Tokyo. He explains what is going on and generally holds my hand.

By the time I get through it all, I have missed my connecting flight to Okinawa from Haneda, another airport the other side of Tokyo and after much difficulty find a very expensive airport hotel. I am asleep about 3 minutes after I get into the room.

However, all bad things come to an end and the next morning I get an early bus across Tokyo to Haneda.

ANA, the world’s best airline, are wonderful and put me on the first flight to Okinawa.

Things immediately revert to Okinawa bliss. I phone the car rental guy,” Neil san, welcome back! Car ready in 30 minutes!”


Such a great car!

I drive to Ginowan Town Hall because my health insurance card is no longer valid.

Get your health insurance here.

A young lady employee sees me looking helpless, sits me down and 5 minutes later returns with card that gives me another year of free healthcare. Thank you. 15 minutes.

I fear no evil

Straight to my local clinic. 15 minutes wait and then I get chest Xray, ECG. blood test, urine test, examination by Nagasaki sensei. Next day I return for results. He tells me that I am as fit as dog apart from high uric acid because I drink too much. I have lost 18 kilos since my check up last year! God bless America.

I get pills to lower uric acid level. The whole deal costs me 2,600 Yen. Incredible!

Shoko san is the best!

I check on the boat.

She has waited patiently. Thanks Kiyuna san and Harry san for keeping an eye on her.

I bump into Kiyuna san. The Harley is back in business and he now has a puppy that lives in a bag slung over his chest.

Gey few like him

“10:00 tomorrow Neil san we will check engine and everything is working!” He is a good friend.

I have wonderful lunch with two dear friends and then go to the specs shop. I noticed on the long drive that my vision was blurred. They immediately organize for an English speaker to give me an eye test by video link to Tokyo.

Japan still wears masks even for video conferences.

Japan is incredible. Every thing is so easy even though I do not speak the language. All the above and much more took place during a 3 day span. Thank you.

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