Ethel and Herman

My dad spends most of his free time working with the Stour Valley Rotary Club helping organise charity drives for the help of young people. For the past couple of years he has brought back 'penny for the guy' to the streets of Manningtree, to great success. An artist friend kindly donates her own time by sculpting heads and hands out of paper mache to give the guys a frighteningly realistic look. Two years ago it was a man's head, this year that of a woman (somewhat similar to my mum). It is my dad's aim to eventually have a nuclear family and dog. While the guys never get burnt, it is somewhat amusing and shocking in equal measure that he is theoretically putting flame to the idea of a traditional family.

For two weeks the guys have scared me every morning as I sleepily come downstairs, sitting on the dining room sofa or else slumped like murder victims on the floor. On the big day we strapped them into the passenger seats of both cars and drove to the local Co-op supermarket to set them up. More than being amused, I think most people were horrified to glance through the car window and find lifeless creatures sitting there. I am glad to say that in six hours my dad raised about five hundred pounds for a hospice in Ipswich. Now Ethel and Herman are back in bin liners in the loft, heads and hands torn off and kept in a box...shiver.

31 10 09 - 13:59 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Serenity

The River Stour early in the morning.

31 10 09 - 13:54 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Harold the Pumpkin - Halloween

For the first time in ages I helped my mum carve a pumpkin for Halloween and I quite enjoyed gutting the vegetable and giving it a personality. Harold seems to have worked a treat, bringing dozens of trick or treaters to the door and depleting our cupboards of chocolate and candy. While my mum made a great fuss of having to keep answering the door, I think she secretly loved all the festivities.

31 10 09 - 13:37 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Godzillapillar

This charming little chap happened to be munching on the remnants of Erina's eggplants, and while I find most caterpillars fairly adorable, this one had me feeling quite queasy. As plump as a fat man's finger (Rhod placed a 500 yen coin next to the beastie, but if you are unfamiliar with the largest of the Japanese coins this will probably mean nothing to you), Godzillapillar seemed just about ready to burst. I do not want to ever run in to the enormous moth or butterfly he is destined to become.

26 10 09 - 08:13 - kieren - Photostory| four comments - §

Western Bradfield

Bradfield, my home village, is an unassuming little settlement, a stereotypical slice of the peaceful English countryside. What I seem to forget is how pretty the village is, surrounded by rolling fields and overlooking a beautiful stretch of the Stour River. The main road winds past a village shop, post office, pub, orchard, village hall, park and church, amusingly confirming what foreigners consider the British countryside to be. Caught in an affluent pocket of land between Manningtree and Harwich (gulp), it remains refreshingly untouched by development.

I have no desire in the future to settle in the area, but love returning to the quiet and recharging my batteries.

21 10 09 - 08:26 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Wilds of Suffolk

Essex and Suffolk, for very different reasons, take a great deal of flak from public opinion, but no-one can argue that the borderland between the two is not beautiful. There may not be a lot of excitement to be had in the rolling countryside and amongst the picturesque villages, but there is something to be said for the fresh air and peace that this area brings to the soul. As I am learning, there are many worse places a person could be brought up.

19 10 09 - 10:59 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Burial mounds

Sutton Hoo near Woodbridge in Suffolk (about forty minutes away from our village), is the site of two Anglo-Saxon cemeteries of the 5th century and early 6th century, one of which contained an undisturbed ship burial including a wealth of artifacts of outstanding art-historical and archaeological significance. Although it doesn't sound like an ideal day out, the rolling fields and undisturbed forests are beautifully haunting during the day and it was the perfect place to spend time with my mum, dad and the irksome Archibald.

19 10 09 - 10:49 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

2009 Part 2 - A Kyonoki Retrospective

A vacuuming toddler, the fattest of fat-cheeked babes, mountain hikes and festival jostling, fireflies, hospital rooms, health regimes, speedy weddings and a summer of rain...a fine mix of madcap magic and lamentation, blitheness and sorrow for our Japanese schwanengesang. Christmas is coming, my favourite holiday and the season in which I yearn for family and home (and with it the make-believe of traditional picture postcards), but this year we will make do with a more unorthodox celebration in Kyoto surrounded by friends* and leave all journies for later.

And Kyonoki? Well as with all good stories, there is much more to come.
(more)

08 10 09 - 06:41 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

2009 Part 1 - A Kyonoki Retrospective

Rhod and I have lived abroad for so long that I often feel somehow less grown-up and the weight of certain responsibilities absent from our adventuring shoulders. Fastforward to 2009 and I couldn't feel more grown up, getting married, worrying about finances, contemplating the best place to put down permanent roots. It has not been an easy year by a long shot, but come the year's end and I cannot think of any regrets.

08 10 09 - 06:35 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Swans

It is believed that Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder General of the 17th-century, notorious for terrorising East Anglia had his headquarters in Manningtree and that it was here that he began his career (he was said to have stayed at the Thorn Hotel on Mistley High Street). Fact or fiction - who knows, but what is in little doubt is that Manningtree clings to its decaying charm, hiding the ugly rot of modernity behind stately Georgian facades.
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08 10 09 - 05:37 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Alfie and Holly

The big-boned Alfie and the bushbaby-eyed Holly were rescued from a manic depressive owner and seem to have settled nicely into my parents house. While they are still slightly wary about newcomers, they are both gorgeous wee beasties.

08 10 09 - 05:36 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

2008 Part 2 - A Kyonoki Retrospective

It took only three weeks to convince us to move to Japan, but it took far longer for us to tear ourselves away from Sarah, Simon, Steve and other friends we had made. Rhod would pine for his bracing dunks in the sea and I would miss Heinz soup (seriously), but who could ignore such opportunities for adventure.

08 10 09 - 05:35 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

2008 Part 1 - A Kyonoki Retrospective

Looking back, it was never certain that we would eventually abandon Brighton for Kyoto. While a holiday in October certainly helped cloud our future decisions, it was silver-tongued words that helped lure us back. Brighton was never a mistake, it was in fact affluent and comfortable, but the spark was not there (sadly many good friends were). While we can not be certain it is in Japan, we had to at least give it a go before settling into marital life. 2008 was to be a great learning experience.

08 10 09 - 05:26 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Family home

It is very strange to be left alone at the family home after so many years with reminders of my childhood, and nice to stir up the memories of dog-eared toys and mossy swings. Although I am not old, I do feel that school was so long ago and perhaps my time in Japan has made me slightly disconnected from the UK. Funny that no matter how much I achieve, or how far my journey takes me, my parents still treat me as if I'm a kid. The old homestead seems to have worn well, growing cosier the more I am away. While I am not happy about my exile, it is perhaps necessary in helping me to appreciate exactly what I do have.

08 10 09 - 05:17 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Milestone

Happy Birthday Paps.

08 10 09 - 05:16 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

2007 Part 3 - A Kyonoki Retrospective

Far from being a Winter of discontent, Christmas around a steaming nabe pot was very poignant. An unusual amount of snow ushered in Spring-time and with it endless days of packing. With the luxury of time, if not money, we had chance enough to bid farewell to friends and the places we would miss. Little did we know that our departure would be so short.

08 10 09 - 05:14 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

2007 Part 2 - A Kyonoki Retrospective

Throughout the Spring and Summer I must have cycled every street, hiked every foothill, sat in the gardens of a hundred shrines and temples, but it did not change the uncertain feelings circling within. Japan suddenly, and for the first time, had a sell-by date. There were of course bright moments. Rob, Ruth, Jon and Charlie came to visit, Mike and Nicki encouraged endless barbecues, and Rhod even got to visit the original home of Nintendo, but in the end work seemed to blanket all our thoughts and actions. Rhod played a key role in the creation of the Pixel Junk Series for Sony which inevitably robbed him of free time, and I took a misguided stand against my work horrors by resigning. The decision to return home was eventually made up by a notice of eviction. Finally our landlord had seen the value of his land.

08 10 09 - 05:05 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

2007 Part 1 - A Kyonoki Retrospective

2007 was like the plot to a cheap soap opera. Folk were getting married, babies were popping up, divorce was on the horizon and then there was the capsizing of our luxury yacht. With all our close friends trapped on a haunted island with my evil twin it seemed the end to...hmmm this may well have been Sunset Beach.

08 10 09 - 04:59 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Lil chap

Gilead sure has grown since we saw him last, though his obsession with everything Thomas the Tank Engine is no less intense.

08 10 09 - 02:10 - kieren - Photostory| one comment - §

Honey Honey

It takes very little effort to get Misako, Akko, Tomi and Rhod into the karaoke booth. Getting them out is another thing altogether.

08 10 09 - 02:07 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

2006 Part 3 - A Kyonoki Retrospective

Every now and then I wish I could hold on to a moment in time and spin it out for good. But perhaps the knowledge that all things come to an end helps us to live life to the fullest. Maybe it is better that such moments eventually die. 2006 will arguably always remain the high point of our Japanese adventures...Starfox Command was released, the Gion Matsuri was drowned out, Daimonji was sweltering and it was our first Christmas together.

08 10 09 - 02:04 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

2006 Part 2 - A Kyonoki Retrospective

Autumal peregrination took us to the coastal towns of Amanohashidate and Tokushima for our two big trips of the year. At a bar in Kyoto we met the bumptious Jessie and Arlo, filling the summer with flamboyant antics and a lot of river dunking. Every photo is filled with merriment, though what becomes quickly apparent is Rhod's glaring absence. Due to the outrageous demands of a never ending crunch, he missed many of the moments that made this summer so enduring in my memory.

08 10 09 - 01:56 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

2006 Part 1 - A Kyonoki Retrospective

2006 was the year of new-forged friendships and mountainous workloads. As Rhod crunched over what seemed endless weeks on Starfox Command, my change of jobs began the slow descent into two hour commutes and an irreparable dislike for teaching in Neyagawa. Through the dark clouds caused by work, there were bright moments. Misako became a permanent and wonderful fixture in our lives, and through her we met Akko. Dale and Erina moved to Kameoka, with the gorgeous Kitty, and we found that there was much to love in the city. It was to be a golden period of trips.

08 10 09 - 01:47 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Dancing Queen

The wonder that is Misako.

08 10 09 - 01:36 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Mamma Mia!

A little bit late I know, but here are the pictures from Mi-chan's 31st birthday dinner. In the next couple of days I will sort through those from karaoke, but for now please enjoy our rather drunken glee at watching Misako opening her panda-themed presents. Happy Birthday!

08 10 09 - 01:31 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

2005 Part 3 - A Kyonoki Retrospective

After twenty-four hours of bullet trains, flying and car journies I am back in my family home, having slept a full twelve hours in my brother's old bed and woken to the deafening silence of the countryside. It is both lovely to see my folks and horrible to be exiled from my husband. I am glad that I made these posts before leaving Kyoto, a nice collection of photos to reminisce upon inbetween inevitably being dragged here and there by my ma and pa.

Wonderfully Rhod has given me his treasured MacBook (to think that two of his most precious belongings are out of his reach at the same time!), which allows me to video-chat with him everyday and also feel not quite so isolated in the wilds of the Stour Valley . It will be an interesting couple of weeks, a challenge to my new healthy living and a nice catch-up with friends and family. Already my allergies to Alfie and Holly have kicked in, and the sheer chaos of the house thanks to my dad's small eBay enterprise is irritating to say the least. I feel very young again all of a sudden, and it is mindboggling to see how far I have come since I returned from university determined to revisit Japan.

08 10 09 - 00:56 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

2005 Part 2 - A Kyonoki Retrospective

This is the year that started an exodus of friends, and some very tearful goodbyes that changed things for good. I remember Martin and Rach leaving being the hardest blow, having known them for such a short and wonderful time. One of the clearest memories is a the Boxing Day tsunami, huddling round the TV at their apartment and watching things unfold. It is a strange memory, homely and terribly sad at the same time. Jol was to leave shortly after, and then Simon following his marriage.

Rhod and I started to travel further afield to compensate for dramatic changes in the city. It allowed us to explore new places and see some very wonderful parts of Japan. We blew a fortune staying at the Prince Hotel in Hiroshima, then settled on some rather cheaper trips to Takamatsu and Nara. Hiroshima will always be special, the perfect honeymoon before its time. I must have spent a month's wage on the room and Rhod his on a massive bar tab. So worth it.

Our jobs were still a lot of fun back then. I was working in Ibaraki and loving the kids, Rhod was starting his career with Q Games. Although I have the time-frame a little jumbled, it was around this time I moved in with Rhod and jumped from Kobe to Kyoto, and it was also the time my parents came to visit. It would be a horrible nightmare of a trip on the whole, but then giving your family life-changing news over the phone just before they come to visit on holiday is perhaps not the best idea...

08 10 09 - 00:40 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

2005 Part 1 - A Kyonoki Retrospective

I apologise if this seems a little self-indulgent, but in celebration of our upcoming five year anniversary I have decided to pull some of the many hundreds of photos from our albums and post them here. As this fits in nicely with my trip back to the UK, and realising that there are so many pictures within the galleries, the time seems ripe for a retrospective. I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at the last five years* and see how we and our friends here have changed. Japan has been a wonderfully frustrating journey filled with excitement and melancholy, celebrations and farewells, but more importantly it has been our home. Who can really know where the future will take us? For the time being please enjoy these snap shots of people and places that have helped shape our lives so far.
(more)

08 10 09 - 00:31 - kieren - Photostory| two comments - §

Crunch begins

Rhod and Monket take a nap.

05 10 09 - 01:57 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

...and good night

Thank you to Etsuyo, Mitsuko, Natchan, Misako, Moko, Tomomi, Dale and everyone else that wished us well (big love to Akko, Mart, Rach, Emi, Andy and Omar). We both had a wonderful day and the best dinner we could ask for. And after all that I wake up with the strange realisation that I am actually hitched. Ho-hum.

05 10 09 - 01:55 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

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Rhod and Ki's tour of life in Kyoto, Japan.

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