We were standing in Minami Urawa station. It's not the start of a far eastern blues song. Don't even try to pronounce it. And Jon says, 'Stay here until I get back. Don't move from that spot.' Boot. Other foot. We pulled faces at him as he walked away.
Liz's company embraced any technique they could to keep the business afloat in a downturn. Guantanamo torturers wanting to cause sleep deprivation? Make the suspects work at Cargo. Retail in a recession is possibly the only occupation designed to make the lot of a vicar seem easy. Comparisons with normal, hard-working clergy are advised. Steve simply uses a Jesus on Wheels, stunt granny, racing nuns, a plan for an Underground Restaurant, a wonderful bedside manner and the desire to train others to do the work. He has the most secure job of all his relatives. Meanwhile retail area managers rise at 5.00 a.m., get home at 8.00 p.m. and work for two hours after supper. This in a year when the West of England apparently included Copenhagen. The business still floats (well done all) and the team should be congratulated. The marriage is fine.
Japanese confectioners put sweet things for sale in a row. This may include, amongst comparatively normal choccies, bean-curd doughnuts, deep-fried sweet potato and green tea Turkish Delight. Chew, spit, repeat.
We love Nailsea but it needs style badly. One of our friends declared her interest in minimalism. She lives in a house every single part of which is utilised for storage. What's our favourite bit of town? The Bristol Road. Apart from the people, of course, who are all lovely even if they do wear fleeces a lot. Was anything good built in the 1960s?
Five or six centuries back eastern emperors didn't sleep easy in their beds for fear of assassination. So they made floors that deliberately squeaked under pressure. The servants knew the route through. Only ninjas could crack the secret. We tried. We neither servants nor ninjas. You knew that right? We do squeak under pressure though.
Both sons found themselves without work this year. Ben was made redundant by Masterlease but now has a job in debt collection, a growth industry, for RBS. 'Did you use your redundancy cheque wisely son?' 'Yeah, I bought a TV so large you can still see it if you turn your back on it.' So proud, a comment we regularly put on the boys' Facebook pages. Jon's Facebook updates often boast about his singing in the street with his pants on his head but we suspect that is Carys getting revenge for something or other. Jon, on return from Japan, found it hard to get employment at once but is now at a car-hire firm in London where conversational Japanese comes in handy. Vehicles continue to hold a family grip – all three of us fellers have worked in motor-connected industries at some time or other, without interest or reward. Ben produces a sports show for Beacon Radio. The football results repeat is read by a husky female voice – the sexifieds. What have we bred?
Kyoto pedestrian crossings make a warning noise like a duck being lasered. Unless they actually laser ducks under the pavement. Hadn't thought of that. Wak wak pee-oung.
Next month Grandma Bill will be eighty and Ben thirty. The wonderfully alliterative 'Bill and Ben's Big Birthday Bash' was then spoiled by the realisation that nephew Jacob will be eighteen that month. Should be a hell of a party. We have a thirty year old son. How that happen?
In many Tokyo restaurants you order your food using a hand-held device. It communicates your choice direct to the kitchen. Press any picture and see what turns up. It's often raw fish.
Last year Steve mislaid one of his clergy colleagues to Cornwall but hours of work drafting a parish profile which rocked produced an outstanding candidate for the Rector vacancy. Sadly he didn't get the job. It's a joke. He did. So we now have a full team and will do for three more months until Curate Michelle goes on maternity leave. That wasn't in the script. New colleague has the sort of flexible attitude to punctuality that means he's going to have to die soon, but otherwise Steve and he get on fine. He will have to get used to being insulted in a Christmas letter though.
When the Japanese overground trains stop at a station, pink-clad cleaning ladies jump on, tidy up then retreat, taking away rubbish. The underground drivers wear white gloves to work and their cabs are spotless. There is a total lack of half-eaten pasties and creased tabloids. Trains stop, doors at prescribed places where orderly queues will have formed. Just like London then.
On the gig-going front we really enjoyed Massive Attack. First time we had seen them live. Impressive. Every tune remixed and politics on the back projector. Also saw a fine performance of Anthony and Cleopatra at Bristol Tobacco Factory and Twelfth Night in the open air. Steve endured West Brom's relegation season and now can, hopefully, enjoy the promotion one. That sentence appeared in last year's letter with the words in a different order. Clevedon v Leamington FC is on the calender for March. Both doing averagely in the Zamaretto League Premier Division, high enough up the pyramid to have their results in the Observer.
Nose-blowing on cloth in public is very rude. Use a tissue. Don't put it back in your pocket.
We both have new Audi A3s. That makes us cocks according to Jeremy Clarkson. Galling, being insulted by the world's most wrong man. Wish he wasn't amusing. Let's play compare and contrast. Both cars are black. Liz's has done 40,000 miles this year. Steve's 4,000. Liz's is a saloon; Steve's a cabriolet. Liz's has four doors. Steve's two. Liz's is her company car; Steve's is leased from his lovely daughter-in-common-law, Rachel. OK so far? Now for the difficult bit. Liz's is an automatic; Steve's is a manual. You put your left foot in. Damn. An intermittent fault on the soft top control doesn't exactly raise the roof.
'The next station will be Oeno. The doors on the right hand side of the train will open.' Thirteen hour plane trip to hear a recorded tube announcement in perfect, audible English.
We celebrated the 25th year of the Clucas/Myers/Tilley CYFA Venture, which only has Clucases left from the 1985 gang of six. The old photos were good, the web-site funny and the trained young people now leaders with a flair for last-minute preparation and improvisation. We created in our own image. Sorry world.
If you have no garden, spring is dead exciting. But what is it about cherry blossom that makes so many people want to sit under it, photograph it or eat ice-cream flavoured with it?
Some 'agains'. We did an Alpha Course in the pub. We went to Gozo. Steve ran Quiet Days at home. Café Create south-west happened a few times more but, if we're honest, isn't quite whooshing like it did in Leamington. Murrays restaurant, Clevedon and the Barn at Wraxall kept us happy. Bristol Museum vs Banksy was beltingly good and curator friend Kate a genius. Only three people in the whole place knew what she had arranged. Queues every day for two months. Tweets got Steve excited. As did twurch. You could follow him if you wanted. Twurveillance? A civil partnership blessing service was spoken at. A little controversial but no-one died. We had to get new shoes for it. Had to. Steve's are lush Italian designer black leather and Liz's may be described in many ways none of which include the word practical. In fact they are not the sort of shoes you wear standing up.
By the way we went to Japan for a couple of weeks in the spring. Did we mention that? We sneaked one or two facts from our trip into the letter. Red sky in the morning; global warming. The emissions from this letter have been offset. The omissions have not.
Hope you get a glimpse of eternity in Advent when you look forward to that which has already happened and remember the future. That from theologian Paula Gooder and enough to keep us chewing for 24 days. Until next.
St and Liz x