Monthly Archives: May 2011

Lions and tigers and bears

So far this year I have seen in my garden, one skink and one respectably sized frog. I have let one part of the garden go feral as a sort of mini biotope to attract such things as frogs and lizards. Actually, I have let whole bloody garden go feral out of complete laziness, but only one part of it is officially wild. Frogs have humoured me by moving into that bit.

I thought I had accidentally biffed the skink today. I was planting chilli when the thing zoomed out from under my trowel — stripes, blue tail, the whole skink thing. I couldn’t find any skink bits in the planting bed, so I think I missed it.

These creatures are not unknown in my garden, but every time I see one, I get childishly excited. There they are, real life creatures hanging out in my space and being cute and alive and natural. None have naff jobs or carry mobile phones.

I am, incidentally, sitting in the garden with beer while writing this. I shall have wine in a mo.

In previous years, I have seen the biggest skink ever, lots of miniature frogs (the kind that adhere to the windowpane), geckos, and even a small snake. I didn’t ever see a snake in my garden in Hackney. I did see a hedgehog in my garden in Hackney and hawks hunt over that big green space the other side of the Lea from Springfield park where magic mushrooms grow. I think that’s unspeakably cool.

A Canadian friend of mine was bitten by a baby viper on a street in Kyoto. It got him on the fleshy part of the hand between thumb and first finger. He was completely stoned at the time. You want a head full of tetrahydrocannabinol when you get bitten by a snake. He lived to get wasted again another day.

Years ago, my upper son J tried to stamp on a viper on the mountain above our house. We were strolling in the woods by the tiger shrine when this thing skittered across our path and J, about 10 at the time whooped like a loony and give chase trying to stamp on the snake’s tail. I have no idea why he thought it was a good idea. I suppose you have to be ten years old for that sort of thing to make sense. The path was narrow and I had my whole family between J and I, and I was unable to bound over in a fatherly, rescuing sort of way and had to content myself with shouting like my own kind of loony instead. Of course, the Japanese families strolling in the same woods, unable to see the snake, just saw a big foreigner shouting at a child and I inadvertently confirmed a number of unkind stereotypes in one go.

I have even seen the occasional cat in my garden.

In the neighbourhood generally, we have big snakes (shima hebi, no danger to people), herons, cormorants, ducks, tanuki (a dog-like creature that is reminiscent of a raccoon), stoats and an unnamed stoat-like thingy with longer legs and mangy mien. The river is full of big carp and the paddy fields are full of crayfish and, of course, millions of frogs, which end up flattened all over the road in the summer.

And the wildlife doesn’t confine itself to the garden. I once found one of those miniature frogs hopping across my kitchen floor. I have no problem with frogs in the house but I thought Mr. Cat might have opinions about it so I caught it. Catching a small frog after a bottle of wine and who knows what other gluggables I had consumed that night is a recipe for instant slapstick, knockabout comedy. I tumbled over a chair.

I once found a gecko curled up on the gas element of the cooker. Geckos have chameleon abilities and this guy had matched the colour of the gas burner perfectly. I think he thought he was being pretty clever, cleaving to the gas burner while wearing the colour of cinder. Lucky I spotted him or he would have been real cinder when I put on the water for my tea. I like geckos, but I think they might be a bit daft. Another time, closing the shutters one leapt from the runners right onto my hand where he clung on. You could see it in his face: hey, I just escaped squishy death with that magnificent leap! Geckos pretty much wear their thoughts on their sleeves; they don’t keep much to themselves at all. You always know what a gecko is thinking. And then he did this comic little double take as he realized he was clinging to the hand of a potential predator and leapt again, this time into my daughter’s doll house, where, endearingly, he took up residence.

Oh, and we have lots of bats. More bats than a very batty belfry. I have just been reminded of bats as one zoomed over my head a second ago. A lot of these guys apparently live in the loft of the house behind ours. When I am sitting here with my beer at this time of day I can see them dropping out of the eaves and zooming away like small, hairy jet fighters.

The sky tonight is luminous pink and blue and the moon is very milky indeed and it really is getting close to wine time.

So. Animals. I’m hanging out a bit longer this evening wondering what living things might stroll round for a chat. A herd of wildebeest sweeping majestically across this suburban lawn? A pteranodon in the olive tree, perhaps?

Whatever the beasties here, that commuter train tomorrow morning, with its cargo of blue suits and combovers will be the opposite of wild life.

Mood: deeply mellow

Music: the sound of the spheres


Leave a comment

Filed under Iroiro, Japan

Ode to the joy of going back to work

Oh, joy! The Golden Week holiday is almost at an end and I can get back to the office tomorrow.
I mean, I was getting pretty fed up of a week of getting up when I wanted to, of drinking beer and wine when I felt like it, of eating unreasonably big piles of unreasonably good food. I was getting pissed off with going exploring with my camera to Nara-machi, Shin Sekai, Shin Imamiya, Hozenji — where I had to listen to live jazz, buy art, and eat and drink a lot more. And I was totally miffed with hanging out with the kids. It really stuck in my craw that I did almost nothing productive except some picture framing and planting fennel and habanero in the garden. And I was bored rigid with having a family barbecue today and sitting in the garden till late with more wine. No, I’ll be well pleased to get back to my nice grey office tomorrow. Can’t fucking wait.

Leave a comment

Filed under Expat, Iroiro, Mortality