Let There Be Light

This morning I got an entire ride in the light for the first time this year.

I still had lights on my bike, but they were the flashing type that enabled me to be seen instead of the high-lumen shiners that all me to see.

It was lovely to be able to see the faces of people using the Tamagawa Cycling Road at the same time.

We’ve only been silhouettes to each other for an interminably long time until now.

There’s a chance to smile and greet instead of furtive glances while trying to stay safe in the dark.

Today was noticeably lighter because it was my first morning ride in about a week.

A series of events had kept me off the bike.

First, there was the lousy weather.

It started raining last Thursday and barely stopped.

I’m scared to ride in the rain after losing my nerve in a crash last year that broke my leg.

That fear was exacerbated by by plagued by punctures.

I’m not a great bike mechanic, but can handle basic field repairs.

Unfortunately, I got too much practice in the past week or so.

I couldn’t find the source of the puncture, with the tires and inner rims coming up clean and each tube seemingly leaking from a different place.

But I went through six tubes last week.

I finally found the culprit, which was a tiny stone that had torn a hole in the tire.

The tires were old, so I replaced them with the more durable Gatorskins that I had put on Belladonna before her untimely demise last spring.

The tires felt shaky and I was unsure of whether I’d tightened the quick release levers probably as La Cangura felt wobbly.

But it was good to be out there again on what shapes as a shoddy kind of day with a wake for my father-in-law tonight.

Putting the ‘Ning’ Into Gardening

Despite parents who were avid gardeners – Dad even worked as a part-time gardener – and growing up surrounded by greenery, I never got into horticultural pursuits until I got a plot of my own and became enthralled, even though I’m a bloody ning-nong in the yard.

I don’t really know what I am doing and have a garden of Aussie plants that probably need a little bit of special care because of the climatic conditions they may not be suited for.

It’s a case of live and learn, but I love it. I wish my ignorance was less harmful to the plants that suffer under my care, or lack thereof, but I hope to get better at this caper. In the meantime, I am thoroughly besotted by the springtime transformation, particularly on a day like today when rain prevented me from riding and I got to savor Kangaeroo Corner from a bird’s eye view.

Cherry Bomb!

Most of Japan is now awash in a glorious blanket of pink thanks to the blooming of the cherry trees.

The cherry blossom is Japan’s national flower and when they bloom, it’s not hard to see why.

The fragile flowers create a spectacular floral display that flourishes for about a week, gives another dazzling display as the petals fall and then disappears until it’s time to do it all again the following spring.

My opinion is that cherry blossom season turns Japan into the most beautiful place on earth and there are truly delightful sights to be seen just about everywhere. Of course, holding a special place in my heart are the cherry blossoms at Kangaeroo Corner, seen here just in front of the incredibly lush lawn!

Sodden But Sublime, Pigging Out in Yokohama

Gundam Factory Yokohama

Rain continued throughout the weekend, barely stopping from the time it began on Friday afternoon. This made me miserable at a time when I was in the mood to celebrate, but the weekend turned out to be a ripper one anyway as we hit the streets of Yokohama.

Teddy bear on sale in the hotel….there are probably cheaper ones around

I’ve always had an affinity for Yokohama, as it’s a sister-port to Melbourne (my hometown), and I arrived in Japan at the same time as Aussie Bowl ’88, the last VFL footy game in the code’s Japan experiment, was played in the city in October 1988.

But the weather was bleak and cold and I didn’t want to go out.

Mrs. Kangaeroo loves Yokohama, though, and had arranged a weekend away for a celebration.


Rain, not getting my own way, and being unable to cycle had me sulking. It got worse when I had to catch a bust, then a train.

I despise public transport (even when it runs like clockwork as it generally does in Japan), but I shut up and made an effort to avoid spoiling the time for Mrs. Kanageroo.

We got to Yokohama, left our luggage at the hotel and headed into Chinatown for lunch.

My poor mood was worsened by an absolutely obnoxious group of 70-somethings seated beside us. Two of the group of eight had extraordinarily loud voices that resonated around the restaurant and made conversation for anybody else essentially impossible.

The sublime food soothed my irritation. The nine-dish course was filling, tasty and affordable, even if the other guests left a bitter after-taste.

Despite the lousy weather, the heavy meal convinced Mrs. Kangaeroo that we would be better off walking to our next destination, the Yokohama Air Cabin.

The ropeway crossing part of the port area was a fun, but quick ride lasting less than 10 minutes. It offered some wonderful views of the Minato Mirai district and was great in spite of the rain.

Yokohama Minato Mirai area

We had a quick saunter around the area and strolled back to the hotel along promenade forming Yamashita Park.

There is a flower display going on in the park and the cherry blossoms are blooming, so it was still nice.

We stayed at the gorgeous Hotel New Grand, a stately old dame dating back to 1927. The art décor hotel maintains much of its original flavor and is serviced in the manner that Japan is renowned for.

We dropped off our luggage in the room and got ready for dinner, Mrs. Kangaeroo looking absolutely gorgeous.

Not even the magnificent surroundings and sublime dinner were a match for her beauty….but they tried their hardest.


Dinner was Italian and exquisite. Despite the huge, late lunch and lack of exercise, there was no way that every morsel of this meal could not be enjoyed.

After the meal, we strolled through the exquisite garden, adorned with fairy lights and a beautiful fountain in its center.

Scenes from the Hotel New Grand in Yokohama

By this time, I was exhausted. As I age, I find the low-pressure systems that bring rain have a debilitating effect and sap whatever energy I have. Riding often overcomes this, but no ride and eating all day knocked me out prematurely again.

Today started extremely early, as is often the case when I sleep at a preschooler’s bedtime. I woke way too early, as it turns out, as it would be several hours before Mrs. Kangaeroo would rouse herself.

In the meantime, there was cake to be eaten and coffee to be enjoyed, which I did fully. And just as well, too, as I decided to eat a continental breakfast, which to my horror, I discovered consisted of just two slices of toast and jam, albeit sublimely tasty orange and pineapple spreads.


They were filling, but not enough for my brain.

We got to eat with a glorious view of the port and could see the machinations from the Gundam Factory Yokohama across the water. But the weather was too unfriendly for any sightseeing, and we had a dinosaur waiting at home, so it was back to Kangaeroo Corner.

Nonetheless, the weekend was absolutely delightful. A nice, slow, easy time spent with my best friend in the whole world and gutsing ourselves almost incessantly in the most opulent surroundings conceivable.

Every Cloud Has a Sliver of Whining

An unseasonably warm and dry late winter and early spring has given way to more customary wet, with really lousy weather since rain began early yesterday morning.

Wet weather makes me whine, but I really shouldn’t because it was supposed to pour all day today, but I woke to warm sunshine and got to ride (and see the cherry blossoms!)

It was a bit of a mixed bag, because I ended up getting a puncture….my fourth in the past week, added to which I destroyed my pump because the tip of the tire valve got caught inside and can’t be removed without breaking the pump head.

So you can imagine how I felt when I went out on a lunchtime ride. And got another puncture. (Finally found the tiny stone in the tire causing the problem and will change tires later. Yet another pain caused by ever-dimming eyesight.) Still, I had to take the entire afternoon off work because I was unable to make it home by the end of lunchtime.

Despite the title, the time off work did provide an opportunity to update the Aussie seed situation.

There’s a fair degree of excitement, to be honest.

That’s because I’ve got a good, steady stock of kangaroo paw propagating.

Kangaroo paw

These are the plants I really want to work out, but they’re apparently pretty hard to grow. I stuffed up last year by overwatering them in summer, and they died because they don’t like the humidity. Unfortunately, I discovered this post facto, instead of studying beforehand like most people would.

It’s really delightful to see these seeds sprouting. I’ve got more kangaroo paw planted than anything else, and the results have been mixed so far. The photos here are the best examples. Other places in the humidity pods have yet to germinate. The seeds planted outside, one tray in dirt alone and the other using seed planter pods, have yet to sprout. More monitoring is required. The instructions say germination takes 21-42 days and the seeds were planted either February 19 or February 26-7, so there’s plenty of time left.

Also promising are the dwarf wattle.

They have a whole humidity pod to themselves (and part of another).

All 12 pods in the exclusively dwarf wattle planter have sprouted. They’ll be ready for transplanting into bigger pots soon.

And so will another top performer, the desert peas.

There are only three of these little fellers. I thought I might struggle with these seeds, so this is a good result. These seeds should have been burned before planting, or at least doused in smoke water. I did soak the seeds in ear-boiling water overnight, and of the 12 seeds, only three cracked open, which I suspect are those in the pod. Lovely flowers, so I hope they keep growing.

Native wisteria are also putting in an appearance. I love wisteria and am really interested to see how the Aussie version will grow, especially as we have a potted Japanese wisteria, too.

Undoubtedly the most thriving of the podded plants at the moment are the golden everlastings. I’m waiting to transplant them for a little longer, as I transplanted the ordinary everlastings too early, then killed half of them by keeping them in a hothouse on a stifling day.

I can’t wait for the seeds to sprout. I’ve still got banksia, waratah, red cap gum and Western Australia christmas trees planted, but none of them are showing signs of propagating. They are under constant light and warmth, which might be the wrong way to grow them, actually. I read that waratah don’t like too much sunlight, but figured that was after they’d sprouted.

Anyway, I’ve got to be patient and keep nurturing the plants. Neither patience or nurturing are a forte, but it’s a good chance to learn.

Saving Things For a Rainy Day

The magical beanie given to me by the wonderful folks from Four ‘N Twenty Japan

It’s drizzling and miserable weather today, which provides a wonderful opportunity for an update as my customary lunchtime ride can be substituted.

Lots has happened since my last post, but there’s little time to write about it, so this is a bit of a summary of the past couple of weeks.

Perhaps most important is the passage of the first anniversary of my garden, Kangaeroo Corner, earlier this week. Amazing Alex, his mate, Mrs. Kangaeroo, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law built the garden as I was out with a broken leg at the time. It has since become one of the great joys of my life.

In some ways, Kangaeroo Corner is thriving. But I have to admit to a tad of disappointment. I have messed up every single one of the plants that I most cherished when we first put them in the ground: the kangaroo paw (because of the kangaroo connection), tree fern (because it is such an iconic presence in the Dandenong Ranges) and jacaranda (which Mrs. Kangaeroo specified because she strongly associates the tree with Australia) are all apparently dead. Might be a bit early, based on last spring’s late flourishes, but I’m not holding my hopes too high.

That leads to the next event: seeds. I planted a pile of seeds that I brought back from Australia last year in the hope of being able to grow them. I’ve had them in humidity pods with constant light (and heat in half of the pods) since mid-February, with the exception of some everlasting daisies that I took out after they germinated and transplanted into pots. (And subsequently killed more than half of by putting them in a hothouse in the middle of an unseasonable stinker).

Growing numbers of seeds are starting to germinate. The golden everlastings have sprung up, as have a couple of native wisteria, many dwarf wattle, a honeysuckle banksia and….hope beyond hope, lots of kangaroo paw! For the time being, I’m leaving all of the little seedlings in the pods. With the exception of the golden everlastings, none of them look particularly robust. And the transplanting process is messy and cumbersome, so I need more dexterous hands than I’ve got, so it will take a dual day off with Mrs. Kangaeroo to get this going properly.

Speaking of which, the Kangaeroos got to go into town together for the first time in ages earlier this month, and got to celebrate the occasion with a visit to an absolutely amazing gyoza restaurant, Kofuku Gyoza Sakaba in the central Tokyo district of Uguisudani. For just 1,180 yen we got all-you-can-eat dumplings served with side dishes of pickled cucumber, kimchee and salad. The dumplings were huge, juicy and utterly delicious. Despite having an appetite that is ravenous pretty much all the time and a gullet with seemingly endless capacity, I couldn’t get through the entire meal. Simply scrumptious!

Work has been an ongoing nightmare, more because we are so busy than anything else at the moment. I fear that the staff shortage we’re facing may be by design.

I got to take a long-awaited ride with some Strava mates last weekend. The people I met have been long-time associates and always highly supportive. I’ve always wanted to meet and finally got to do so. As just about everybody I have ever met through cycling has been, they were excellent people, indeed! We had a wonderful ride to Yokohama, a great feed at Yokohama Zebra and parted with promises to ride together again more often. I really felt blessed.

Finally, cherry blossom season is upon us. The blossoms have bloomed at a record speed this year. They’re not quite in full bloom in western suburban Tokyo yet, but with near-constant rain forecast for the next four days, I got out this morning to take some pics in anticipation of not being able to do so during this year’s season.

Get Off Of My Cloud!

Riding today was like floating through the heavens at times, reminding me of one of my favorite songs by the world’s greatest rock band: The Rolling StonesGet off My Cloud.

I’d have loved to have been able to keep the scene for myself as I rode through the mists along the Tama River, sometimes staying above the clouds as I rode along the levy.

Thoughts were a bit too cloudy for my liking, too, as I go through another character-building, growth stage, I guess.

Wasn’t a great start to the day. Struggled to sleep again, as I have for months. Was late taking off. Went in to wake up Mrs. Kangaeroo, as we had planned, and she was furious at me for having snored loudly all night.

The weather was uplifting again. Apart from the couple of days in early January when the temperature plummeted well below zero (and apparently killed my jacaranda), 2023 has been a great year for weather so far, with a warmer than usual spring.

Be nice to have some warm fuzzy feelings about the professional side of my life….