Killing Time In The Rehab Centre
It has been just over a week since my accident with that damned pedestrian who decided it was more important to look at his phone than consider the safety of those around him, that resulted in me crashing to the pavement and cracking my hip bone and surgery the following day. Yes, I am still a bit bitter about that and in general not the most positive of people, but I like to think that I try to remain positive when I can and I am trying to look at anything that this experience has brought me that strays far from the negatives. There are certainly a few things I could write about that has opened my eyes and made me look differently at myself and the world around me, but I will leave that for another blog in the near future once I actually get out of here!
A physiotherapy hospital (basically an old people’s home in this case) is not the best place one would want to be during a pandemic, as I am sure you can all imagine. Thankfully the number of (recorded) cases in Japan is much lower than in the UK and I have yet to have had any close encounters as far as I am aware. Even in the prefecture where I live where the numbers are relatively high, they do not compare to the frightful numbers I have seen from back home. While there have been some changes made at work, such as defaulting to remote work instead of the office, and a few short-lived lockdowns that have limited opening hours of bars and restaurants etc, from what I can gather life has otherwise continued as normal for most people in Japan. They’re still wearing masks and they’re still regularly using alcoholic sprays and gels, albeit slightly more frequently than before, the trains are still rammed with no signs of letting up, and yet the cases just do not seem to rise to such great numbers outside of Tokyo.
With that in mind, I have not had to really readjust much to my everyday life and have not had to go through the harsh lockdowns that my friends and family have had to endure in the UK. However, now I’m finally feeling some of the effects of the coronavirus during my stay at this hospital, in as much as I have not been able to receive any guests during my stay which has made it that little bit lonelier (I can, however, receive packages of goodies, so you know, don’t be shy). I know it’s crazy to compare one week to the year or more that people back home in the UK (and of course many other countries around the world) have had to put up with and I can only imagine how crazy it could drive people.
That being said, in my own little crazy bubble I’ve been doing what I can to keep myself busy, but there are only so many episodes of Gogglebox I can watch, or pages of the God Delusion I can read, and the downtime has allowed me to reflect on a number of things during my time here that I otherwise would have likely busied myself from with work or simple, everyday conversations and activities.
I likely have a few weeks left of physiotherapy, which will be another few weeks of not being able to have any direct contact with my friends, co-workers and of course my girlfriend and cats. During that time I am sure I will be pondering on a lot more stuff as most my work is moved off from me to others to allow me to concentrate on the rehabilitation sessions and try to keep my mind off of work. This is something that I can say openly that I am very appreciative of, as the idea of having to work through this time is stressful enough, and I know I wouldn’t be able to do the job as well as I should be able to even with remote work being a thing.
While I thank my company for being flexible on this, it does make it difficult to think more seriously about leaving and changing careers, which is one of the things that has been in the back of my mind for quite some time and now has very much moved to the forefront, occupying my thoughts to annoying degree. However, now is not the time to really dwell on that either; today I want to focus on some of the things that I’ve been using to stave off boredom between awkward leg massages and crutch practice, and keep me entertained while I lie in bed, leg up, knackered and lethargic as hell. At the same time, I hope to introduce those who are not from the UK, to a small slice of what’s on offer, and a general idea of what goes on in my potty little mind. Links can be found in the text for anyone who is interested.
I’ve mentioned a few times in the past that I have liked podcasts for quite some time and they are doing a good job at keeping me entertained during my hospitalisation. From memory, the first podcast I listened to was probably Russell Brand’s BBC Radio 2 show, which I would listen to on my way to work at the old people’s home on the radio and then catch up with the podcast at a later date on iTunes (that’s still a thing, right?). Podcasts have changed since then and now it looks like everyone is at it! I’ve even thought about starting up one myself, which is something that is still in the works and will be out one day… eventually. Well, probably. However, I don’t think I’ll be going to the extent of Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross and their calls to Andrew Sachs (of Manuel/Fawlty Towers fame). I found it quite hilarious myself, but Andrew was not amused and it caused enough of a ruckus at the time for Branch to eventually ditch the show entirely. Learn from others’ mistakes as well as your own!
It seems a lot of celebrities in the UK have taken up podcasting to further their already sizeable income, but the two that I have been listening to on and off this past year have been Adam Buxton’s Podcast with, er… Adam Buxton and Something Rhymes with Purple with Susie Dent and Gyles Brandreth.
Adam Buxton, the not-so-famous British comedian, presenter, writer, etc. has a celebrity guest on his show every month with what seems to be no particular script or topic to cover. He just seems like a genuinely nice guy who enjoys a good chat with his fellow celebrities, some of whom he has had no previous knowledge or interaction with, which makes the conversations all the more entertaining and informative. Most recently he ‘chewed some fat’ (a lyric from one of the great jingles in his podcast) with the British-Japanese Kazuo Ishiguro, author of many well-known books such as The Remains of The Day. A highly recommended podcast with anyone interested in the diverse British culture that is often overlooked in mainstream media with ‘celebrities’ from various rungs of the ladder who are more than happy to spend an hour or two with Mr Buxton. They’re short, simple, and just highly entertaining.
Something Rhymes with Purple is a podcast that is all about the English language and the history of its ever-growing and impressive vocabulary. Susie Dent is, as many people in the UK will know, a famous lexicographer who appears in the ‘Dictionary Corner’ on Countdown, making sure that the words the contestants choose are spelt correctly and actually exist. She’s well-known for having a far above average vocabulary and is not afraid to share her knowledge with others, which results in a rather fascinating podcast for anyone with any interest in words.
Gyles Brandreth is someone who I only recently discovered myself in the past few years through Qi and quickly became one of my favourite contestants on that show. With his capacious vault of anecdotes that he can so easily grab an interesting story from at any moment, he is always an interesting character to have on, despite the frustrations of others who are thinking ‘Oh no, not another anecdote!’ He is extremely knowledgeable of English, literature and poetry and is always fascinated by what Susie Dent has to bring to the table in their weekly podcast. The two make the ultimate pair on this type of podcast and I cannot recommend it enough. I always come away feeling like I’ve learnt something, even it’s just a single word!
A Lovely Bit of Telly
Thank God for VPNs! I decided to sign up to Nord VPN a couple of months back and I am very glad I did. With the VPN it makes it much easier to watch TV shows from back home on either Netflix or any of the terrestrial TV channels’ streaming services, without having to resort to dodgy downloads that will no doubt mess up my computer with various viruses and malware (talking from experience). I don’t mind watching Japanese TV occasionally, but more often than not you’ll hear foreigners here expressing their dislike for the wacky Japanese shows. It’s not just a language thing either. Telly is a big part of anyone’s culture, and it is one that I seem to refuse to leave behind. No, give me a bit of UK telly any day to satiate my televisual needs. Thankfully with streaming services, it’s much easier to pick and choose what you want nowadays without having to filter through the crap, and there is plenty of that on UK TV too!
During my time in Japan, I have naturally missed out on a lot of British TV and have been playing catch up ever since I arrived. There have been some old shows I’ve rewatched here and there, but keeping up with what’s going on back home can be a bit of a struggle. One show I discovered only in the past few months was Gogglebox. Now this is a show that I never thought I would enjoy. I am not a fan of realty TV shows and I absolutely despise reaction videos on YouTube, and this is effectively what this is on paper: people sat down in front a television watching various TV shows and reacting to them. It seems to be quite popular back home, but I think I enjoy it for different reasons. All the people in the show are genuinely funny and their reactions are also great to watch, which I think is its main appeal to those watching it back home.
However, I enjoy it not just because of that, but it gives me a very strong sense of nostalgia and exposure to many of the wild and lovely accents that pepper the United Kingdom. Even a simple ‘ger’off’ (instead of ‘get off’) makes me a little tingly inside and reminds me that English still is heavily accented back home, and that is something that I enjoy and feel should be celebrated more while my accent does its own thing here in Japan. The strong northern English pronunciation of ‘u’ is not one that I have not in such a long time and sometimes I forget it even exists! It’s easily the best way to say the word ‘fuck off’! The way that people talk and act to one another just says to me ‘this is Britain’, and it’s a great insight into British culture, attitudes and life that no other show I feel really captures in such a way.
I’ve had my own experience with making a reality TV show on House Hunters International (shameless plug right there. No active link anymore, sorry!) and I know all too well that there is a certain amount of falsehoods to be found in ‘reality’ shows. However, I don’t get that feeling from this show. It is not something I feel I could recommend to my non-British friends unfortunately, but you never know, you might get a kick out of it with the accents alone. It lays a very thick cultural spread that I am happy to say I can still enjoy after years away from home. Even something as crude as a bin outside of a red brick house is a bit of gut punch, which I think is a sign that maybe, just maybe, sometimes I do feel a little homesick.
Another show I’ve got into is Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing. The premise of the show is fairly simple: two old friends going to various parts of the UK to do a spot of fishing. The reality, though, is that it is quite an emotionally charged show, with both sincere and jovial conversations on getting old and death, which is discussed in ways that you don’t often see on TV. At its heart I believe the show is meant to be comedic, as it’s hosted by two British comedians who were very big in the 90’s and who have both had severe heart problems and surgery that has changed their outlook on life a bit. I knew of this show after listening to one of Adam Buxton’s podcasts with Bob Mortimer, but went into it fairly blind and not realising that it would be so focussed on the topic of death. Had I come across this show at any other time I know that I would have still enjoyed it, but having just gone through surgery myself after a potentially severe and life-changing accident, that aspect of the show resonated with me more than it otherwise probably would have.
It’s not only entertaining with its levity and the great chemistry between the two buddy comedians; the photography is also fantastic. The show takes them all over the UK to areas so beautiful I even choked up a little on a number of occasions just remembering how pretty the countryside back home can be and how lucky I was to be able to grow up in it for half of my life there. There are many dire areas in the UK (as with other countries I am sure), but it’s always important to remind oneself of the more beautiful and peaceful parts of the country as well that truly make it a green and pleasant land. Combine that with a very fitting soundtrack and you’ve got a great combination that would get many British expats hopping on the plane back to old Blighty. This is the type of TV that I enjoy the most.
Having now finished all the Googlebox I can watch and already nearing the end of Mortimer and Whitehouse, I’ll be looking to occupy myself with some other TV programmes, and I’ll take any recommendations given! I’ve started Line of Duty series 6 (thanks again, Nord VPN!) and will torture myself with all of its cliff-hangers for the coming weeks, so I’ll need something ‘feel-good’ as well to keep my spirits up!