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A short list of things I learnt last week

10 Nov

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1) Britain is the second biggest consumer of chocolate in the world after Switzerland; we eat 7 kilos per person per year.  That doesn’t actually sound like that much does it?

2) A mammoth’s femur is longer and heavier than our rather stocky six year old.

3) French teenagers can play football and smoke at the same time.

4) Full fat milk has a blue top and semi-skimmed milk a green top in Spain too.  It’s very helpful but I imagine the European Parliament had a hand in it.  What would the Daily Mail make of that?

5) Nuns fart.  Really.  And when they do they make biscuits.

6) The Spanish for pig’s trotter.  Shame it was after I’d ordered what I thought was a pork chop.

7) How to get five seats in a row on Easyjet.  First, leave your morals at home…

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A short list of things I’ve learnt this week

31 Jul

1. The banking system in Japan is antiquated. The only ATMs which accept foreign cards are those in 7-Elevens and post offices. The latter are closed in the evening and at weekends. If you forget to withdraw cash on a Friday, you will have a tedious hike around town in the pouring rain looking for a 7-Eleven so you can pay your hotel bill. The hotel of course only accepts cash.

2. Planetarium type shows in scarily intellectual Tokyo science museums are a great place for a sneaky nap.

3. The Japanese take Disneyland VERY seriously. Never have I seen so many grown people dressed like Minnie Mouse.

4. Since we have been away, restaurant menus have become perplexingly complicated with sections called small plates, intermediate plates, big plates and so on. Makes ordering confusing.

5. You can get alcoholic ginger beer. I wonder if Enid Blyton would approve?

6. When all the magazines and newspapers are in your own language, there’s more to read than you can possibly manage. After months of word deprivation, it’s lovely.

A short list of things I’ve learnt this week

23 Jul
  1. At six pm in Takayama they play a song over the municipal loud speakers, telling children to go home for supper.
  2. When a brewery has finished a new batch of sake, they hang a ball made from fresh, green cedar fronds above their front door.  When the ball has turned brown, the sake is mature enough to drink.
  3. For some unfathomable reason, a single, weak iced coffee, drunk sitting down in a cafe, is only fractionally cheaper than iced coffee, toast, an egg and a portion of potato salad.  Must be why vending machines are so popular.
  4. The floats for Hida festivals have their own special tall warehouses with giant double doors.
  5. Japanese cranes (as in the building aid, not the bird) have special anti-earthquake dampners at the top.
  6. If you are four, Ultraman is very exciting, but a little bit scary.
  7. There is a type of tradtional puppet in Japan which is solely designed to bring you tea and cake.  Those Japanese have got their priorities sorted.

A short list of things I’ve learnt this week

17 Jul
  1. In Japanese archery, you must not think about hitting the target, but about the gracefulness and beauty of your actions.  Then the arrow will reach the target of it’s own accord.
  2. Wasabi grows best in fast flowing water at an optimum temperature of 13 degrees centigrade.
  3. Wasabi tastes nice in everything, even chocolate.
  4. Japanese castles are fighting fortresses.  They don’t have loos.
  5. The placing of small piles of salt on your doorstep is a Shinto ritual to keep death out of the house.  Shinto is the basis of many aspects of Japanese life including Samurai archery and Sumo wrestling.
  6. Japanese houses are designed to be inhabited by graceful, careful people with spare, elegant movements.  Not by a pair of small boys who have discovered the joys of sumo wrestling.  Luckily,  sliding doors are quite easy to put back on their runners.

A short list of things I’ve learnt this week

9 Jul

Party No. 1 won the Thai elections. I expect it was the promise of free wifi that did it.

Night flights are always grim and you never get used to them.

Japanese public loos usually don’t have any hand drying facility. You are expected to carry a small towel at all times.

Japan is very environmentally friendly (see above) with recycling bins in every conceivable location, including trains.

Japanese taxis are eyewateringly expensive. It’s a good thing the public transport’s so efficient.

You can buy pet stag beetles in Japanese supermarkets.

To save electricity after the tsunami damaged a number of power stations, only essential lights are being used. Tokyo is therefore weirdly dark at night, with only a single light on the tops of buildings to stop aeroplanes crashing into them.

A short list of things I’ve learnt this week

2 Jul

1. Entrails don’t taste as bad as they sound, not that I’d go out of my way to eat them again. We ordered them thanks to Mr Gum and an insistent four year old.

2. Cinemas in Thailand are fabulously comfortable, cheap (tickets start at under £2) and before each film they show a montage of photos of the King during which one stands up.

3. Lychees in Thailand are the size of apricots and so juicy you have to eat them over the sink.

4. There is an election in Thailand tomorrow. One of the campaign slogans says “politicians are like babies’ nappies, and should be changed as often”.

5. After three months in South East Asia without any serious stomach problems, I can categorically confirm that it’s safe to drink the ice.

A short list of things I’ve learnt this week

25 Jun
  1. There’s a Thai general election next week.  Party No. 1 is offering free wifi.  They’ve got my vote.
  2. Public transport in Prachuap Khiri Khan consists of a motorbike with side car arrangement, useful for carrying both fish and people.  It’s called a sahm leng.  For the record, it is possible to fit a family of five and their luggage in one.
  3. You are not allowed to do any political campaigning on a military base.
  4. No one can ever change a 1,000 Baht note except for 7 Eleven.
  5. Doctors are very cheap in Thailand.  A trip to casualty including X-rays and a course of antibiotics cost £13.
  6. Prachuap Khiri Khan civil servants wear Hawaiian shirts with a pineapple motif.  Because Prachuap is famous for pineapples, obviously.