Oz Everywhere!

Incredibly, just about everywhere I went, a little piece of Australia popped up in front of me.

I left home on my bike not long after 6 a.m. to head out on an errand before having a regular, quarterly hospital check-up.

I left the route up to my Wahoo Elemnt BOLT device, and next thing I knew, I was riding up a hill in Hachiojji where I could see eucalyptus trees. I had been looking up news about them only recently, so stopped off, took some photos and headed to the hospital.

The doctor visit went well. He is very supportive and understanding. But I didn’t need to receive help today, and was delighted to receive blood test results that show I am physically fitter now than at any other time in my life!

Getting home, I was surprised to hear from the delivery company. With my pay severely slashed, all frivolous spending has gotta go out the back door, so I had no idea what I’d done…or, thought I had. Fortunately, I hadn’t spent anything: it was a gift of an absolutely spectacular Christmas wreath, crafted by the astounding Alex Endo. It is just exquisite, made of gum leaves and dried flowers and now adorning our front door.

Last year, we also received a wreath. Following the festive season, we brought it inside where it became a favorite of the dinosaur. This year’s wreath is at least double the size, so she’ll have something to look forward to.

The Aussie didn’t end there, though. A quick shower and change and it was off to Komazawa Park for the day’s planned Australian event, the Japan AFL Grand Final of Australian Rules football.

Blessed with a balmy 17 degrees and sunny winter skies, the day was a fantastic one and the match itself a ripper as the Tokyo Goannas held off the valiant Senshu Powers, winning by 9 points. The Goannas have a majority of ex-pat Australian players and the innate skills bore out against the kids making up the Powers, a team comprised of university players, who only started playing in adulthood. All in all, it was a much more enjoyable match than Mrs. Kangaeroo and I had been expecting, and it proved to be a fun day. Being able to watch after getting stuck into some decent tucker, including a pretty tasty lamington, was the, well, icing on the cake?

Things weren’t to finish there, though.

We got on the Keio Line train to head home and I noticed something about the baseball cap being worn by the kid sitting opposite me. A quick Google search confirmed my suspicions: it was a West Coast Eagles cap. And then the kid confirmed it when he turned his head and I could read the club logo on his headgear. This is the first time I’d ever seen a member of the Japanese general public wearing Aussie Rules paraphernalia, so it was a bit of a thrill, especially in light of what had been happening throughout the day.

Finally, I got one last taste of Aus. Tomorrow I have to spend the day working for the community, so wanted to get a blog post done tonight. But the connection was as poor as anything that Aus famously fails to deliver, so I could use none of the really decent photos I got during the day.

Gallery of the Japan AFL Grand Final

Procrastination Propagation

Winter is probably the worst time of the year to try to grow plants from cuttings, except, like for me, you’re desperately trying to avoid doing something unpleasant and you’ve been handed unseasonably fine weather.

So, instead of taking a trial test for a potential new job as I could have done sitting in front of a computer for a couple of hours, I looked up how to propagate a grevillea.

It seems the process is pretty easy (at least from the standpoint of the pros giving the advice online), but a lot of the available information was for the southern hemisphere and Australian conditions.

And, then I found some information in Japanese that saved the day. And, lo and behold, it came from Alex, the amazing bloke who designed and built Kangaeroo Corner in the first place.

One of our three thriving grevilleas has been getting busy and taking the vitality from the main trunk despite flowering proficiently, so I wanted to cut off the branch causing this problem. But I decided to make some cuttings in the process.

Following the advice in Alex’s blog, I prepared two mixes of mostly kanuma pumice with a bit of potting mix and dead leaf. I then cut off about 20 grevillea cuttings, stripping the leaves down and dipping the ends in rooting hormone.

I planted these in the pots filled with kanuma pumice, thoroughly watered them and then placed the pots in plastic bags. I then moved the plastic bags into the small greenhouse we have on the north balcony of our flat. Now I just need to wait 6-8 weeks for the cuttings to take root – if they do. I must occasionally mist the leaves and will generally keep watch on them without expecting too much.

I was inspired to try this by the Stick, which has thrived despite literally appearing to be little more than a 30-centimeter-long stick this time two years ago. Even last year we needed to protect it with a cover to get it through the winter. Doesn’t look like it will be a problem this year.

So, why did I need to do all this? Why not just throw myself into the test? Well, last night, Mrs. Kangaeroo and I went to see Maneskin, a rocking Italian band that was sheer brilliance! I raced home alone first and had ample time to take the test. I’m scared. I don’t want to fail. I know the employer and that they are a decent company with decent people. But they are also extremely detailed-oriented, which I am not. I don’t want another failure, but I am psyching myself into one. I had built up resolve only to learn that while we were at the concert, the talented young woman hired at the start of last month has been fired by the psychotic boss. Not even five weeks into the job. I felt partly responsible because the first job I submitted to her came back untouched, which the psychotic later brutally abused me for doing, saying that my work was unfit for submission to the client. Her response was savage. And it was that brutality that prompted Mrs. Kangaeroo to urge me to seek greener pastures. Then, when that opportunity presented itself, I was too scared to take the action needed. I went for a quick ride and felt like I could understand a little while brutalized abuse victims don’t simply flee.

So, while the greener pastures are on hold for another few days at least, the prospect of an even greener garden continues (though I am probably going to have to give away any grevillea that may successfully grow as there is no more free space in Kangaeroo Corner. But I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it.)

はじめてのオージープランツ図鑑 (Alex’s book on Aussie plants <Japanese>).

Alex’s Garden Party <Alex’s blog in Japanese>. (And an explanation in English)

異彩を放つオージープランツの寄せ植え講座 (Alex’s lessons on Aussie gardens <Japanese>)

Welcoming In Winter

Like it or not, and I’m firmly in the “not” camp on this one, winter is here again, but I’ve been kind’ve happy to see how well Kangaeroo Corner has held up this year as the cold sets in.

This year is the second year of our garden and for the most part it has thrived.

That’s especially fantastic considering the harsh summer we went through, followed by an Indian summer that extended deeply into the autumn.

I’ve previously experienced summers in Japan as hot as those of 2023, but none as dry.

The lack of rain might have been welcome from a cycling point of view, which it was, but not for the garden.

The lawn became a dustbowl and it took large amounts of money, effort and worry to deal with.

Ultimately, it seems like patience would have been the best approach, but I’ve never had the time for patience.

The lawn I had been so immensely proud of, and which sparked such envy among the neighbors, was destroyed by the summer heat.

I’ve tried reviving it since in the cooler weather, and for the most part have done OK, but the lush turf created by the zoysia strain we initially used is gone.

I wasn’t a great fan by the spring of this year as zoysia goes dormant and leaves the lawn brown for half a year.

I’ve tried a blend of many different grasses this year and we’ll see how it goes.

I had some troubles getting the strains to germinate, but noticed the tall fescue that was unresponsive for nearly all of the autumn has not only finally taken root, it looks great.

Unfortunately, it’s only a tiny patch of less than 30 centimeters square.

But good food for thought.

Most of the Kangaeroo Corner trees thrived in the heat and even the tree fern that we had to shield from the sun for months has now bounced back with a vengeance.

The jacaranda assumed dead in the winter has soared skyward, as has the Stick, the name I give to a grevillea purchased through the Mercari online flea market site and apparently kaput by the time we planted in March 2022.

Plants grown from seeds, those that survived, have been amazing! We’ve got a dwarf wattle, several hardenbergia, including one that looks like it will form a wonderful display if it blooms, and loads of kangaroo paw, including several handed out to neighbors.

Our major failure has been the hairpin banksia, which I so desperately wanted to succeed, but it succumbed to the summer and poor care (overwatering?) once I’d transplanted it in the autumn.

I bought a new and cheap hairpin banksia from Mercari, hoping to replicate the success of the Stick. It has held on so far, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Anyway, in what has been a generally bleak year (but an improvement on 2022), the garden has been a bit of a godsend. And the birds have loved it, too!

Here’s hoping the winter won’t be too hard on it.

Flashes of Brilliance, but Lacking Focus

Today’s title was a perfect summation of the photos I took on my morning ride, but could also describe my life to a tee.

The skies were spectacular! My photography, not quite so. I am struggling to hold my phone still. My hands shake all the time.

I got a late start as I communicated with my (retired) psychotherapist sister about how to deal with my current situation.

I’m trying to avoid dealing with my emotions and reality.

But I am going to have to face both, as the only solution lies within myself.

And that was going through my mind as I rode off.

Now I have to head to the dentist for an onerous couple of hours.

Falling Stars

I got to see a falling star this morning, the first time in many years, and immediately made a wish.

Partway through, though, I stopped myself and changed the object of my wish.

Instead of seeking some inner peace for myself, I wished happiness and contentment to come to my wife (who has the onerous task of having to put up with me more than anybody else), and then for the long list of people who despise me so that they can be relieved of the ill will that must be hard to carry around.

(It soon dawned on me that I have actually being wishing for my own quick demise, but what’s done is done….)

I like to think of myself as something of a fallen star, having skyrocketed into an apparently stellar career only for it all to come tumbling down. The reality is nothing of the the sort, and that I was never nearly as brilliant as I imagined myself to be and that, in fact, I am at my 適層…the level appropriate for who I am: a bitter, grumpy, selfish, rank-and-file employee unwanted by their employer and lacking the skills needed by society today.

Once I’d stopped thinking about the stars, I got back to reality and did what I always do while riding: prayed for the willingness to do whatever is required of me today, whatever that may be. (I haven’t gotten off to a good start, blogging through procrastination rather than doing the huge amount of work that is currently on my plate. I am sure to get yet another bollocking from the boss for that.)

Bountiful Blessings

This morning was another gloriously beautiful late autumn morning with the full, beaver moon glowing until well after the sun had risen and mists floating up above the Tama River to create wonderfully serene scenes.

Pity the mess in my head can’t turn in a similar direction.

I’m a wreck. Over the past week, my boss has used her position of superiority to abuse me, sometimes publicly, for not using bold text, using the “wrong” font (in internal documents), directly addressing her in an email instead of just cc’ing her and blasted for not delivering work I was never supposed to deliver in the first place. Of course, this is all part of an orchestrated campaign to drive me out of the company “of my own volition,” instead of having the company tell me to go and risk tarnishing its reputation as a good employer (which hasn’t been my experience over the past few years, regardless of how grateful I am to them for helping us to get through the pandemic).

Still, it’s a situation largely out of my control. I’ve sought the aid of labor authorities, who can do nothing for me, and a union, who won’t do anything, so an attorney looks to be the only way out. In the meantime, I am documenting everything, including the telephone calls where I am abused in a banshee-like, shrill scream for the most minor indiscretion and ordered to stop asking questions amid accusations of being “provocative.”

If there were somewhere else to go, I would certainly be considering it, but I am not exactly Mr. Popularity in the workforce, and I am painfully aware of being over-educated and under-skilled: effectively unskilled in the current workforce.

Mondayitis….Every Day!

Monday is gloomy and depressing in my soul-sucking job, with today being particularly so because I am the sole native English speaker working and we are inundated with work and every effort I make berated for its shortcomings. I woke feeling painfully gloomy, was shortly greeted by a Zodiac reading forecasting an awful day, my Wahoo didn’t work, and I just can’t spark myself to get into action.

Yet, I was blessed on the morning ride. The full beaver moon setting over the Tama River was simply breathtaking. I stopped before starting and went back to pick up a real camera so I could capture it’s beauty (but made the mistake of using the wrong lens, so wasn’t able to do the scene justice.) I made repeated stops trying to capture an elusive masterpiece of a shot, but the best pictures I was able to take for the day would be courtesy of the mists.