Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Bought Myself A House

Weeks without a house or permanent address: 5

Months between my offer and the sale completion date: 5

Houses in the chain: 8 (of which 1 was a new-build, 1 had a trust, and 1 had a gift from somebody's rich uncle for their deposit, which HSBC thought was money-laundering)

Ikea trips: 3

Crying meltdowns: 2

New Houses: 1

It mostly needs painting (wood chip and green floral wallpaper, anyone?) and some other minor things, along with a complete rewiring (scheduled for next week, because while a 1948 house is super-cool, 1948 wiring is NOT).


Before, during and after photos to follow.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Went to Japan, Part 6: Observations

As you can probably tell from my last 5 (!) posts, I had an absolutely incredible time in Japan. While I was there, I decided to keep a running list of interesting things, particularly those which I was really impressed or unimpressed with.

In no particular order, things which are awesome about Japan:

  • Garbage trucks that play music (not my video) 
  • Baseball!!
  • Osakans biking everywhere, with brollies and kids. I thought the Dutch were crazy about bikes; the Osakans are just as bike-mad and seem to have no regulations about riding on sidewalks, the wrong way down the street, and with All The Things (including umbrellas fixed to the front of the bikes)!
  • The food!
  • Luggage racks, queuing points, and destination planners on the subway. There are maps at each station which show you which car you should be in to optimise your exit at your destination station. Also, there are little outlines of feet to tell people where to start queuing for the next train. In busy stations (or ones with multiple destinations) there are sometimes two sets of queues, next to each other, labelled "first train" and "second train". Once "first train" has boarded, all the people in the "second train" queue step to the left and into the "first train" queue. Amazing.

  • Everything has instructions, rules, and things you're supposed to do and not do. 

  •  Umbrella lockers. Not that anyone in Japan would ever steal anything.

  • Matcha everything. And I mean, everything.

  • Iced coffee is everywhere, including in vending machines, particularly the fact that it's served without milk, as a lot of Japanese are lactose intolerant.
  • Hooks or baskets for your purse everywhere you sit down, like in coffee shops and restaurants.
  • Little towels or wipeys before every meal/snack
  • Shinkansen run every 10 minutes between Osaka and Tokyo, bang on time! Even cooler: the seats swivel so you don't have to face backwards.

  • Taiko video games

    • And now, in my humble opinion, the list of dopey things about Japan:

      • The complete decentralisation of the subway. The lines are owned by a bunch of different companies and it can be tricky to transfer.
      • Riding bikes with the seat as low as it will go. (Apparently this makes them feel safer; no consideration given to the fact that it's stupendously inefficient.)
      • So much shopping - it's a massively consumer-centric culture and economy.
      • No smoking outside but you CAN smoke in cafes and pubs.
      • So much packaging - everything you buy gets wrapped up and put in a bag with a sticker and the receipt, even if you're only buying a bottle of water.
      • Plastic water bottles everywhere.
      And there you have it, my thoughts on Japan.

      Saturday, 30 July 2016

      Went to Japan, Part 5: Ate All The Things

      The food in Japan was incredible - I loved everything I ate, except for the takoyaki (fried octopus balls, very similar to clamcakes in Rhode Island) in Osaka. Takoyucky, methinks. Oh well! (I don't like clamcakes, either.)

      Here's a link that explains different types of Japanese restaurant - it was tricky dining with groups as most restaurants only do one thing (but do it incredibly well). It meant that I mostly ate by myself, but ate exactly what I wanted!

      Our first meal, straight off the plane, was absolutely delicious ramen in Kobe:

      Cold udon (with dipping sauce) in Kyoto:

      Matcha bubble tea in Kobe, which my friend thought was absolutely disgusting but I loved:

      Matcha pound cake and an iced coffee:

      Our bento lunch at "school" (Kobe University). So much better than the food at Cranfield!

      Conveyor belt sushi in Kobe:

      Mall food court lunch in Osaka:

      Kobe beef. This was the food highlight of the trip (and one of the best meals I've ever had). It was crazy expensive but worth every penny and and incredibly delicious:

      I mean, seriously.

      It just melted in my mouth - it was unbelievable.

      Okonomiyaki and noodles in Kobe:

      Bucket-list ramen in Tokyo!

      Gyoza in Tokyo:

      More gyoza the next day:

      Plastic food in Tokyo:

      Yakitori in Tokyo:

      More ramen in Tokyo:

      A matcha donut and iced coffee in Osaka:

      Bibimbap in Osaka:

      Cook-your-own-dinner (yakiniku) in Osaka:

      Katsu curry in Tokyo (it was rainy and gross outside and this was the perfect comfort food:

      Udon at a business cafe - it was cheap and delicious. Please bring to London. Thanks.

      My last dinner was wagyu beef at the airport:

      I managed to squeeze in one last sushi at the airport before we took off:

      The food was amazing - I've been really missing it since I got home!

      Friday, 29 July 2016

      Went to Japan, Part 4: Osaka

      I really liked Tokyo, but I loved Osaka. We spent four days there, after the "official" trip ended, and I thought it was a great city. It felt bustling and cosmopolitan, like Tokyo, but with more interesting little neighborhoods.

      I signed up for a CycleOsaka tour after finding it on the internet, and took the full-day tour. It was really interesting and a lot of fun (and a great way to cover a huge amount of the city in a day).

      I even managed to do the whole tour in a dress. Because I'm awesome.

      We saw Osaka castle:

      We visited Shin-Osaka, which is a bit of a time capsule:

      And Koreatown:

      A zillion temples:

      This temple had a dragon-mouth stage:

      I had really excellent sushi as recommended by my hotel at Tsuru Sushi, owned by a mother and daughter sushi-chef team.

      I loved Utsubo Park, which was converted from an aircraft runway, and has fountains, gardens, and lots of shade.

      Also, brigades of marauding Japanese schoolchildren in matching outfits. Shut up. 

      I also went to the Osaka aquarium, which was really good (with lots of signs in English):

      Next to the aquarium, I rode the ferris wheel!

      And managed not to have a panic attack on the top of the ferris wheel by myself. I mostly distracted myself by taking All The Pictures.

      Then I walked through a random neighborhood, and saw a very cute tram and a temple.

      And the most gorgeous bridge:

      I really found Osaka to be super-welcoming - it was small enough to be explorable and had a ton of really cute neighborhoods.