The Green, Green Grass of Home
As we come to the sweltering season of summer here in Japan, it’s now time to prepare myself for the onslaught of UV rays and rivers of sweat that keep me nice and grumpy for the coming months. Thankfully we’re having some mild reprieve as the rainy season has decided that it will make at least one more appearance before the heat returns.
This week temperatures climbed to 37 in Nagoya and I am sure this will not be the highest this year! I am not totally against summer (the trips to the beach and rivers are a particular highlight), but every year when it hits, I am reminded of how mild the weather is back home, despite how horrible many will describe it. The weather in the UK is good, it just depends on what your definition of that is. To me, it equals a light rain and consistent spray of drizzle most of the year round and cool summers that will barely pass 20, apart from a brief two weeks of the nation’s ‘heatwave’.
Many may mock the Brits and their moaning of this heatwave but I understand. In a country whose houses have little room or need for air conditioning, the heat can be a real killer if you’re not used to it. Forgive us our whinging and our inexperience of true heat.
Note: I started writing this about a week before a genuine heatwave hit Britain’s shores, reaching a very impressive but equally dangerous 41! Now do we have a reason to moan? With melting road signs, burning fields and the like, I think it’s time that Britain prepares itself for the heat which surely will become the norm in future years.
As many regular readers may be aware, I can be a very sentimental fellow when I want to be, most of which is directed at my homeland. The motherland. Britain. I wonder what keeps me coming back to this topic in my mind, but I think my mother has a big thing to do with it. Mostly every time I speak with her she’ll say a place name or the name of a family member I cannot quite remember, but it gets my little brain cells to dig deep into my memory banks (which are admittedly always a bit dry. I swear there’s a leak) to what I often consider to simply be another life entirely. I look back on it fondly and do sometimes question why I even left.
Recently I also finished reading J.R.R Tolkien’s biography by Humphrey Carpenter. It follows his limited travel around the UK throughout his life, and seeing some familiar names meant enough for me to smile a little as I read. I didn’t know of his connection with Buckinghamshire and that he used to often visit there, but considering all the time he spent in the neighbouring Oxfordshire, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. I cannot say I have ever visited Brill myself but to know that it was the inspiration behind the famous Middle-earth town of Bree made me feel a little tingly inside. From what I have seen online, it certainly looks like a lovely little quaint town, very typical of what I would expect of the UK. Maybe I’ll visit there one day on my inevitable Tolkien pilgrimage.
And that got me thinking of my home town. I often find it very difficult to answer the question ‘where are you from?’ unless I can simply get away with answering ‘the UK’. But to those who may know more than the UK than London (or at least like to think they do), they will inevitably follow with ‘Where in the UK?’ This is where I will then reel of my now very well-rehearsed answer ‘Well, I was born in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, which is just outside of north-west London (I may or may not air-draw London and point to the location) but we moved up to Lincolnshire when I was 12 or so, which is on the north-east cost of England, just south of York, if you know where that is.’ (Usually they will nod, but I have my doubts.)
The shorter answer is ‘Buckinghamshire’, even though I have spent most of my life outside of it and I often wonder why I will choose that over Lincolnshire, which I suppose in a sense is my real home town now. Perhaps I just get a small kick out telling people I am from Buckinghamshire, which they usually respond with an impressive reaction.
I love Lincolnshire. It is the county in which I lived for the most impressionable part of my life, something I realise much later, 14 or so years later from the year in which I left it to go to uni. I had a reasonably rural experience in Japan when I first came here, but since then I have moved to down-town Nagoya, in what can only be described as urban; tall buildings on the rise and office buildings everywhere. A real concrete jungle (with an impressive number of trees, it must be said). It could not be any more different than that single-street hamlet (or so I like to call it), 10 or so miles outside of Louth where I used to live.
Most people I know of my age here would much rather live in the city and I certainly did for a while. As beautiful as the Japanese countryside is, it is sparsely populated and even more so with foreigners. Loneliness brought me here but now I feel all I want is the solitude. It could be a case of always craving what you cannot have and although I think there is a strong element of that, my desire for a much simpler and quieter life has slowly dominated any desire I had to live in the city, with a sudden surge in the last year or so. Were I to move back to the countryside, I wouldn’t be surprised if a desire to live in the city returned but my strong hope is that that does not happen.
I always thought that if I moved back to the UK, I probably wouldn’t go back to Lincolnshire. And that wasn’t because I disliked it in any way, but more an issue of what kind of job I would do if I went back. It is an agricultural county. And while I hold farming and agricultural with the utmost admiration, I am not totally sure that it is an industry I see myself in. Here in Nagoya I am very much a ‘salaryman’, working 9 to 6 (although more realistically 8 or 9 – don’t get me started on that) and equally a corporate slave that has come to a point that I feel I need to break the shackles and stretch my legs a little bit and look to something else. Education is where I will return and at least that will give me some promising prospects back home (or so I hope!) and place me in an occupation that I think I will genuinely enjoy.
That’s another topic for another time.
Being steeped in so many memories, it is difficult for me not to want to go back. Gone are the days of walking my little dog Peggy through the village and fields. Gone are the days where I would go out into the fields at night with a friend, jump dykes and creep through cow fields. Gone are the days that I would pop outside and instantly be surrounded by nature (both its sights and smells). Gone are the days where I would enjoy watching my sister riding on her horses and no longer am I able to sit outside in the garden (whether ours of a friend’s) and enjoy drinking some beer or cider in the pleasant flora. Those days may have passed but they do not have to be gone forever. (I actually got a bit teary-eyed as I write this and look at some of the old pictures I took and thankfully have kept. Bloody emotions.) As much as I absolutely love Japan, I know that I am a little British country boy at heart. It has now gone beyond calling me to come home but shouting at the top of its lungs.
Those memories feel so far away but it has only been 9.5 years since I left. Things have changed and time continues to move on. While I cannot simply get up and leave everything that I have here in Japan I cannot fight the desire to go on another adventure. One that takes me back to the green, green grass of home.
For anyone who is interested in seeing a little more of what Lincolnshire offers in terms of tourism, check out this website and if you like the look of it, I would highly recommend checking it out! I didn’t really know where this post was going to take me but this is where it ended and I think in the future I may write a few articles on places back home, most probably of an autobiographical nature. I only wish I had more high-res photos to share.
To finish on, it would be remiss of me not to end with a bit of Tom Jones. Enjoy. (I don’t know how Mary is, though.)
I hope you enjoyed this very random post.