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Sunday, 12 April 2015

Plane Talking, Wild Films and Winning Olaf

Shinjuku. You kinda blew my mind.

My friend Michael used to say that if he wanted to think he would often get on a bus. Its motion, plus the literal fact of travelling somewhere used to bring thoughts to him as if by magic. I feel the same way about travel, of all kinds, whether on foot walking or running, by bus, car, train or plane, the motion calms me with its peaceful continuation, with or without me (except for the walking or running, I guess) and I often find myself thinking philosophically about my life and where I’m going with it – figuratively.

LOVE film. On Planes. I watched 6.5 on the HND-->CDG flight.

Some of this comes from watching films on aeroplanes, and with a fourteen hour flight from Haneda, Tokyo to Charles de Gaulle before my tiny final hop over le Havre, it’s easy to see why from the films I like to choose. I’ve just watched a great film – Chef – written and directed by Jon Favreau about a disenfranchised Los Angeles chef whose mighty fall from grace via an utter lack of social media knowledge leads him to reassess his priorities and find happiness in Cuban sandwiches, a food truck, and a reunion with his ten year old son.

Favreau doing what he does best: small scale, big heart, good humour. 
And the sandwiches looked amazing. Drooool.

Next up is Wild, about the writer and walker of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I've read the book – I love books (especially written by women, though Bill Bryson and Stephen Katz’s journey along some of the Appalachian Trail has a special place in my heart) about writers who are on a literal journey. I’m not obsessed by travel writing, I think it’s the bravery of doing something out there that is different and the sheer factor of their having come through their journey to an end point, challenges and all.

Katz and Bryson. A hilarious unlikely walking duo.

When I find myself in bed dreading the day, having no desire whatsoever to leave my bed because every bloody thing is just too hard, I find I can go on their travels with them, and it makes me feel better. What’s even greater about this particular plane journey, that is, my own, is the fact that I am feeling unusual sensations I haven’t recognised in myself for quite a while. I feel content. I feel rested. The idea of being delighted at the sun shining, a good film, a fun day out was almost lost to me about a week and a half ago, when I felt my depression plateauing, still bad, still not bad enough to go back to hospital, still just about okay to keep working. Today I feel...good. It’s a bizarre and unfamiliar thing for me. Perhaps it will be gone by next week – because, just in case you’re wondering, happy things do not make depressed people feel better. There’s a difference between feeling happy and feeling well. Or, to explain it better, I can still be happy about things while generally feeling pretty awful.

Walk it off. I cannot WAIT for my foot to be better so I can do more hiking. 

Here are some things that I've been able to feel good about this week: I made it to Japan in one piece and took sensible amounts of painkillers, was assertive about my mobility needs and got help when I needed it. This is a step forward: better self care. My friends (I feel genuinely) were both happy to see me and made me feel that it was okay to be myself – to drink or not drink alcohol as I wished (even if they were downing sake!); to sleep early; to say “I need to stop for a rest”. I've a long way to go toward feeling more secure in myself, but assertiveness is something positive: I've never really been good at stating my needs or putting myself first (except probably in a work context, as I've always been ambitious). I've also been able to experience joy, pure and simple, in small things: seeing friends from Australia two weeks ago and laughing till my cheeks hurt; cherry blossom, eating crab innards (probably I’m slightly out on a limb with that one). 

Aliens. "You have saved our lives." Etc. Etc.

And yesterday, on my last day in Tokyo, Helen and I went to Shinjuku in search of an arcade; not the mad slots that are louder than I knew slots could be and have promotional staff outside jumping around and shouting in a forced jollity that is either cocaine induced or must be a genetic mutation; no, I’m talking about modern old fashioned arcades like we know from the sea side, where you can try and fail to win soft toys, and in Japan where you can make your face look exceptionally weird and then decorate it for about £2.50. On our way back from the photo booth I decided to try to win an Olaf snowman soft toy from one of those claw machines (think cute green aliens in Toy Story at Planet Pizza, except 8 times the size. You got it).

Detached but still so cute. 

Helen had won an Olaf a few days before I arrived, a small cute version with detachable body parts (Velcro is a spectacular invention...see Girls Just Want to Have Fun). The only Olafs available in the arcade were enormous, but knowing I had little chance of success I thought I would go for it just the same. 500 yen bought me six goes. Helen and I talked strategy. The claws are weedy in the extreme for all their look of metallic mettle, and I played my turns by moving the claw so that it would rotate and bump Olaf towards the drop point. After six goes he had moved quite a way, and I wasn't ready to give up. Another 500 yen. This time I needed to raise my game so that Olaf would be mine. In one turn I moved him yet more across the drop point, but he rested on bars. I heard gasps behind and beside me as I played.

Lynne: Velcro. Next to the Walkman and tab it is the coolest invention of the 20th century!

Three or four Japanese young women had come to watch. Another move. Nearly – I tried to nudge him with the grabber and everyone gasped. Finally – he was so nearly mine – everyone weighed in – “Push him down with the claw,” they said – now ten or twelve people around me. I moved the claw to the right then froze with stage fright. My brain couldn't compute the final move with these people all around me. “You do it,” I told (begged) Helen, and she moved the claw forward one last time. The claws opened and the grabber moved down, pushing Olaf’s stomach. And then he fell through. Cheers from all around – young girlish yelps of delight! I have not smiled so much for a year I don’t think. I am smiling now. 

Helen and I, with *some* adjustments...

What a lovely way to end a holiday – not only with a gorgeous cuddly Olaf to envelop in warm hugs, but the pure unadulterated pleasure of others at one’s own success. They didn't know me, they will never see me again. 


But they were rooting for me and were pleased for me. It feels wonderful today, and felt wonderful yesterday. I wish I could bottle it and keep it forever, that feeling. But if I can’t, well; I had it today, didn’t I?

Giant, faintly scary, Hello Kitties. (I wonder if that's been pluralised before.)

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