Now recovered from tooth trauma I travel to visit the famous Nago Pension Office. Apparently I am to get more money due to some Covid help for oldies. I stupidly threw away the correspondence not realizing its importance and, in a very Japanese way, I have had two reminders to claim this money. Therefore I go to Nago to try to sort things out. I don’t but I make progress. It is a beautiful day and I go for a ramble in the forest on the slopes of Mount Nago.
The forest is beautiful.
I wander along a path for an hour then I turn around and wander back.
I enjoyed it very much; fresh air, birdsong, forest smells, sunshine, not hot, exercise.
I then visit the paddy fields of Kin. A farmer is churning up his field in preparation for planting rice of maybe Taro, which here is called Satoimo I think. Dozens of Egrets surround his tractor. It is a great sight,
Good day initiated by bureaucracy. Out of the dull came forth sweetness.
The last few days have been less than ideal. As I mentioned in the last post one of my molars suddenly came loose and wobbled all over the place. Much misery and pain. I have lived on a diet of painkillers, antibiotics, soft boiled eggs, bananas and miso soup, as anything more dense always seemed to strike against the sore tooth.
This morning I go to have it untimely ripped. This is always fun, tooth extraction is my hobby.
My old partner in crime, Mori sensei, explains that for some reason the bone around the tooth had rotted.
Ours not to reason why. I had a full check up only 3 weeks previously and nothing was wrong. I can only guess it is a punishment for some evil deed.
Lots of anaesthetic dispensed from a device that plays calming music at the same time. Mori sensei attacks with the pliers and wiggles the tooth from side to side before easing it out. I take many photos but they are too gruesome to post. So much blood. He then removes lots of diseased bone tissue and whacks in some stitches. Such fun.
I am the given lots of medication and go home.
On these occasions I always think of Samuel Pepys https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Pepys , who had a bladder stone, “the size of a tennis ball” removed as he was doubled over on his kitchen floor. An incision was made through his perineum and the stone removed with horrible tongs. No anaesthesia nor hygiene. “Pepys’ wound did not heal particularly well, but he was enormously grateful to be free from pain.”
I feel the same. Not a great morning but so glad to be free from pain.
I have lots of pills to take and go back tomorrow to check that all is well. Thank you Japanese health service.
That time of year again. Tax returns in two countries.
I get a typically jolly letter from the Ginowan Town Hall letting me know that the time has come.
Off I go the Town Hall and locate the place where you do tax stuff to try and find someone who can help me. The place is a large tent or marquee erected for the purpose. A smiling chap welcomes me and gives me a number. Five minutes later it is called. I show the lady my tiny Japanese government pension payments.
“No tax on pension, you pay no tax.”
That was it. Hooray, thanks Ginowan Town Hall folks!
Now to the USA. Some of you will remember that the person I love most is Elena who has helped me with filing my tax declaration for the last couple of years.
In previous years the process was done face to face but the idea of flying back to San Francisco just to do my taxes was terrifying. No worries says Elena, I can do it all remotely. She does. After a couple of days I get this email.
In fact life is not wonderful. On Thursday I noticed that one of my top right molars was loose. By Friday morning it was very loose, super painful and the right side of my face is now grotesquely swollen. Off to the dentist where they examine, Xray and declare that my jaw bone is diseased. Extract! They give me antibiotics and painkillers and set an appointment for the extraction on Tuesday. This gives them time to practice. The whole deal with medication cost me 560 yen.
Anyway, things are bad. The tooth is now very mobile and I would not be surprised if it came out on its own before Tuesday. Despite medication, it is very tender and it is difficult to eat anything solid. I am surprised how quickly all this happened. On Wednesday there were no symptoms and nothing happened to the tooth or jaw to provoke this condition. Maybe the rest of my teeth will spontaneously drop out. Scurvy?
I need a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda for the recipe. I go to Amazon Japan and buy a bag. I did not look carefully at the size of the bag I ordered. A couple of days later a huge 4.7 kilo bag arrived. Does anyone want some?
So, after a good day on the boat things gets better when Tomomi san comes over to make an ikebana piece for me. She is a master. That does not sound right but she is a mistress sounds worse. Let’s say she is astoundingly good.
She only has one big leaf and some ferns. She rustles around my plates and things and comes up with an idea. She builds a structure in one of my Yachimun plates and starts bending leaves and ferns with great certainty and rapidity.
It is a privilege to watch her work. She moves fast with great dexterity. If you or I did it, it would all fall apart, leaving a pile of leaves and ferns. She has an understanding of structure.
Life has been slow on Okinawa. However it appears that things are changing. The first thing I noticed was a group of city workers digging up the road just outside my apartment. I came back a few hours later to find tat they had installed what I take to be a new fire hydrant.
The new fire hydrant, together with outstanding weather, has motivated me to get on with boat jobs.
Things chez boat are bad. I mentioned that the engine was reluctant to start. The last time I tried she did not start at all and I ran the battery flat. This is disturbing as the mighty Yanmar used to start after a couple of turns. I also told you that Kiyuna san replaced an oil line before I left for San Francisco. There are 2 such lines and we hoped that only one was leaking. Not so, the bilges are again oily so the second one must be leaking. Oh well.
There are little balls that prevent the gaff throat from swinging away from the mast and also make it easier for the throat to slide up the mast when raising the mainsail. Anyway, I replaced the scruffy old ones with pretty colored ones.
I bought a tiller extension in Sausalito and carried it back with me. Too long to go in my case and ANA made up a cardboard box for it. It went in the hold and I picked it up in Haneda.
Japanese Customs, “What is in that box?”
Me, “A tiller extension.”
Japanese Customs, “What?”
This conversation was in mime. The subsequent explanation, also in mime, was one of my greatest achievements in a career in communications.
I flatten the top of the tiller with a rasp such that the attachment fitting will lie flat and snug.
There are several days of sanding and oiling in front of me. This will be a joy if the weather stays good.
Let’s hope the recharged battery bullies the engine back into life. I doubt it. Who are you gonna call?
Okinawa in a state of emergency. This means stay at home as much as possible and this is what I do. I go to the boat on the bike but I do not really get stuck into anything. I fiddle around but have not started any of the big jobs, re-treating all the woodwork, cleaning out the engine compartment, scraping weed from her bottom and that sort of thing. I lack energy, drive.
I think this is a result of spending a month without talking to anyone. I have just sat around. I would by no means classify this as depression but there is certainly a cumulative lethargy. Melancholia.
Once my quarantine period is completed, I finally go for lunch with another human being! We go to a fantastic sushi place walking distance from the apartment.It is a mixture of super hi-tech and quality food. Fish is flown in from Tokyo and Hokkaido every morning. I have the best time, I talk to someone.
The weather has been perfect, bright, cool, sunny, blue skied.
Cherry blossom, sakura, as you know, has great importance here. Now is the time and now is the hour. There is blossom everywhere.
So I hope to regain vigour with the arrival of spring. I see the first signs. I learn that it will rain massively tomorrow so rush down to put the cover on the boat.
Not much going on. Probably the most interesting event was the hatch of a cockpit locker falling on the bridge of my nose, as I fumbled around in said locker. It carved out a pretty good chunk of flesh. It bled like crazy. I take this as an indication that my heart is healthy.
Did I tell you that I got a new phone? It is an iPhone 12 mini. I am in love.
The camera is astounding. I have a big camera and lots of lenses but I will have to up my game if I am going to compete with this telephone.
Photographing flowers, especially those with long stamens is notoriously difficult. Something is always out of focus. The iPhone does not care.
Suddenly the cherry trees burst into blossom. It is Spring. Hurrah!
So I suppose photography has entered a new era. The cameras of old are well, er, old.
I am back in Okinawa but I am assured that due to a new state of emergency I should spend 2 weeks in isolation. This means don’t leave the apartment unless absolutely necessary.
Necessary is a car and after a long walk I find a rental place and leave with a Tanto. 650ccs of meanness.
She has many cute features. She unlocks herself automatically if you approach with the key in your pocket. If the key is in the car then you only have to turn an ignition switch to start her. One of the back door slides open although I do not know for what purpose. I do not think she consumes any gas. All cars should be like this.
I check the boat and she is fine.
She is a bit grubby but that is OK as I can spend a few days on cleaning.
Semmit is Scots for vest or undershirt as some people say. In one of these the Clootie Dumpling was traditionally cooked.
When I was a boy, my Auntie Janet would cook dumpling and we all loved it. It was not a dessert but a main meal.When unwrapped from the semmit, it would steam gloriously. A good dumpling was always coated with a thin skin of pure white fat.
What joy to get a wonderful Xmas present from my sister Rosy. It is a recipe for dumpling written by my Mother, which somehow Rosy had printed onto a tea towel. It is now on my bedroom wall.
My Mother’s handwriting is beautiful and for me instantly recognizable. How many letters when I was at boarding school.
The recipe is not traditional. Microwaves were unimaginable in 1960’s Scotland. A dumpling was steamed for 4 hours in a semmit.
Anyway this is an introduction to the fact that I finally made it back to Okinawa. My God, what a trip.
A new state of emergency was announced the day after I got here, basically stay at home.