A grating is that to which you tie recalcitrant sailors before giving them a dose of the lash with the cat. A good grating is essential on any boat.

I drenched the grating that came with the boat with wood treater stuff.

It looked like it might work

It was no good, the original grating was sun blasted and rotten, and it was clear that, if there was to be any lashing, then a new grating was needed. I go to my local woodworking shop, which is one of my favorite places, with my grating and ask if if they can make me a new one.


They make me the best grating ever from Okinawan hardwood.

I am so happy.

I rush down to the boat to place my new grating, repeating to myself tropes of old school craftsmanship that is so difficult to find these days. How lucky I am etc.

Er, it is too long. I do not know why, but my friends at the woodworking shop built it 30 cms too long. I take it back and there is the awful atmosphere of proud Japanese confronting the fact that they have failed. I feel so sorry for them.

Not to worry, they will fix it.

On the positive tack, a perfect picnic at the Marina.

Very elegant Tomomi san
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Back in Okinawa!

I go straight from the airport to the Marina. The boat is fine! Thanks Kiyuna san who has been keeping his eagle eyes on her.

Yearning for the open sea.

One of my main anxieties has been will I be able to get a sea berth in the marina for the boat? These are hot tickets and very difficult to come by. I go see Kobashigawa san, the harbormaster. “No problem, Neil san I have 3 that you can choose from.” My luck holds strong. Kobashigawa san was in the Japanese merchant navy for 30 years delivering cars all around the world. He has a great affection for Scotland. ” Bad weather, very strong wind!”

Kobashigawa san and my new mooring. Hooray!

My next anxiety has been Japanese Income Tax. I am on my own, no wonderful OIST help to deal with this kind of stuff. I go to the Onna village office and explain that I earn no money and am very poor. They remember me and are so kind. They have the amazing ability of turning a tax form submission into a party! Anyway I put 0 into two boxes on the form, sign it and that is my taxes done!

Regular readers will remember that my wonderful bird lens, a Tokina AT-X 300, busted in New Mexico. I send an email to Tokina Japan. They reply in 20 minutes saying send it over to Tokyo and we will do our best to fix it.

In the Onna Post Office they find me a box, pack the lens with exquisite care and send it off

Thank you so much!

Japan is wonderful. Everything works so well.

Not to mention the fish!
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So Long San Francisco

I have been in the United States of America and Mexico for the last 4 months. I now head back to Japan. Farewell San Francisco.

It has been a wonderful time and here are just a very few reasons why I like living in San Francisco, or more accurately, in this part of the city.

My room looking out onto the Panhandle.
My gas fire. So cosy.
We can always park the truck and the KLR right outside the house.

Walking up Haight at any time of day is always entertainment.

Grocery store.

Thank you University of San Francisco for allowing local residents to use your sports facilities. I take boxing classes until my right hand stops working and then a ‘Core and More’ class, which is hard. Koret Health and Recreation Center at USF is truly remarkable – indoor olympic pools, loads of courses, and of course, general Californian good feel; also amazing high pressure showers. I stop showering at home. I lose 9 kilos.

Tiny corner of Koret.

Lyft! Cabs/taxis were always dirty, sleazy, the drivers belligerent, disgruntled. I always felt overcharged, you could never find one. Lyft is a life changer.

How do I love you ? Let me count the ways.

The cars are immaculate and I have never waited more than 2 minutes. I do not know why but I get a 50% discount, making nearly all rides in the $4 range. The drivers are so much fun. All my drivers have been recent immigrants from, Iran, Nicaragua, Algeria, Syria, Afghanistan, etc. They have 3 jobs and are full of optimism and drive. The Algerian guy was from Oran, where I spent 1975-76. Together we chanted. “Sidi El Houari attene nous ballon!” This is the supporters chant of the MC Oran football club.     

Sidi El Houari is the patron Mufti of Oran and the chant, a typical mixture of French and Arabic means, “Sidi El Houari give us the ball!”

Anyway, Lahouari, name of driver, and I wept on each others shoulders on the wet streets of San Francisco. I hear that in some places Uber and Lyft are not welcomed. These people must be Luddites and mad.

Thanks so much to Central Coffee, just around the corner, Every morning, Maia and Chalmer make me my start of the day coffee and make me feel good.

Maia is adorable. So is Chalmer but in a different way.

A 5 minute bike ride from the house is the de Young Museum.

Incredible, if you like paintings of water lilies.

I love standing in rooms full of billions of dollars worth of er art and then walking/biking home through the Panhandle.

They would not let me borrow it.
My bike, not Big Red, but she will do.
My next truck. Notice the finger.

Above all, thanks to son James who has put up with me during this time and given me so much good advice.

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Limping Home

So, I return to Japan on Thursday somewhat broken. My eye problem that burst upon the scene in Mexico is much better but my eyesight has changed significantly and I look forward to visiting an eye doctor to work out what is going on.

Does not work!

More irritating is that my thumb on the right hand no longer functions. There is big pain along the top of my wrist if I try to do anything with the thumb. This includes, lifting weights at the gym, doing press ups, er these are my main activities of course, doing up my fly, cutting things, adjusting turnbuckles, playing the flute, holding onto the handlebars of my bike, boxing, securely grasping big glasses of beer, lifting anything. In fact nearly everything is influenced by having an incompetent right thumb.

No good!

Why, you may ask, have you not had these problems looked at in San Francisco? Simple answer; no health insurance.

Soon, I will once again be nestling in the bosom of Japan’s excellent health service.

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I am struggling to find a good analogy for what has happened to my flute. If you use something a lot, you do not notice that it is not performing as well as it could. Decay is slow and goes unremarked.

I have just picked up my flute from the amazing Daniel Deitch.

He has given her a whole body makeover and although she is ~198 years old, she now performs as if she were new. Hats off to the makers, Willis and Goodlad back in the 1820s, such quality, and to Daniel, such craft.

No words

I have only to breathe gently over the sound hole and she jumps into life. Each note is now in tune and even the dreaded low E roll booms out.

A car after a service, a replacement knee, new glasses, shirts with the right collar size, reading Chapman’s Homer?

I struggle. What I am trying to express is something that slowly descends into bad performance, but the descent being unnoticed because of familiarity, suddenly performing at its maximum potential. Such joy! Take up thy bed and walk.

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Not me, but our washing machine. She gave up the ghost on Friday. We have experience with what to do in such crises.

We borrow Topher’s truck again and zoom off to the Marina to pick up the replacement that we tracked down on Craigslist. 

KP, the nice lady who sells us the washer, offers us a brand new gas cooker for free but we don’t really need it. Anyone want a cooker?

New washer acclimatizing in my room prior to installation.
Current state of my room.

We then load the old washer into the truck and take her to the home for old washing machines in the Mission.

James having truck fun.
Doctor Double Rinse wheels her away to her new home.
We have Huevos Rancheros and pulled pork Torta in Mexican place in the Mission. A celebration breakfast.

I take the truck back to Topher, who is off to South Africa, then walk down Clayton, along Haight, down Masonic, across the Panhandle, back to the house. It is a beautiful morning, a beautiful walk through a beautiful part of the city. There is nothing better than loading and unloading washing machines into the bed of a pick up truck on a beautiful morning in San Francisco.

Houses on Clayton.
View down the Panhandle, just outside the house.

A couple of days before, Seika, one of my first colleagues at OIST, shows up.

Seika is wonderful.
Frankie Gavin also shows up.

Frankie “good at playing the fiddle” Gavin
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Cameron, Arizona

As you know, I have been on a 6 week tour including many of the South Western States of the U.S. Throughout I was impressed by the helpfulness, openness and, well, nobility of those whom I encountered. This was particularly true of Government Employees; Park Rangers, Police and Immigration Officers. This all changed in Cameron, Arizona.

As I trundled into this tiny desert town, I noticed the road had changed into a 2 lane. I also noticed a car parked on the hard shoulder with a man leaning against it holding a license plate. There was also an unmarked black saloon with a flashing light on the roof. There were no other vehicles in the vicinity. We were alone in the desert.

A few years ago but you get the idea.

I slowed down to see if the guy needed help but there was clearly no emergency and I trundled on.

3 minutes later there is a siren and a firework display of lights behind me; I am being pulled over. The unmarked black car I had seen is a police car.

Officer C. Carter, badge number 10426, explains to me, after several attempts, as I really do not understand what he is talking about, that I have broken a regulation that if there is an emergency on a road involving, Police, Ambulance, Fire Service then motorists must move over into the outside lane. This is a regulation that no one I have talked to since the incident has ever heard of. He takes my license, insurance, registration back to the unmarked car. He returns some minutes later to inform me that he is serving me a traffic ticket, my second ticket in almost 50 years of driving. A few days later I learn I have to pay a $326 fine.

This incident upset me. Officer C Carter, badge number 10426, had set up a trap for unsuspecting motorists to lure them into breaking the law. His actions were premised on deceit and trickery. I would imagine that they had the sanction of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office. There was absolutely no emergency in fact there was probably no-one within a mile of us.

Two of the core values of the Flagstaff Police Department, according to their website, are:

  • We value integrity-we recognize integrity as the basis for mutual respect and trust. 
  • We value service-by providing exemplary service we enhance our credibility and establish trust with the community.

Do not go anywhere near Cameron, Arizona. Stay far away from the Arizona Department of Public Safety. They are completely lacking in integrity and appear to strive to destroy trust.

My offence was, according to the ticket, “Yield-Emergency Vehicle-lane Change Not Adjacent” Do you understand that?

Boo!! This is not the America I love.


The Flagstaff Police Department have pointed out that Officer C Carter does not work for them but for the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Therefore references to the Flagstaff Police Department are incorrect.

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