Paws and Reflect

Possibly the most meaningful part of my Australian seeds experiment arose today when I transplanted my kangaroo paw seedlings.

The great experiment, which I expected would result in me proving to have a green thumb and presenting all my gardening mates with exotic plants has proven only that I am all thumbs.

I’ve killed nearly everything I planted, even the everlasting daises and golden everlastings that appeared to be growing so well.

I bumped them off by putting them in a hothouse on a boiling hot day, then giving too much fertilizer to the plants that survived.

A desert pea also looked promising, but I over-fertilized that, too.

I have a tray full of dwarf wattle ready for transplanting, a single honeysuckle banksia that can probably be nurtured under growth lights a little longer and a heath banksia that appears doom after being affected by mold.

Given the nature of my blog persona and the role of kangaroo decorations in the garden, though, it was the kangaroo paw that I most wanted to succeed.

It’s a pretty ominous role to be assigned, actually, because every plant in Kangaeroo Corner that I have most wanted to thrive–tree fern, jacaranda and mature versions of kangaroo paw planted when the garden was started–have all died or struggled.

Anyway, I started today by placing a layer of stones at the bottom of a pot, covering it with a layer or nutrient-rich potting mix bended with peat moss and then covering that with soil especially for Australian native plants.

I then gently removed the kangaroo paw seedlings from the growth pods where they had thrived over the past few weeks.

With customary clumsiness, I managed to kill off a couple of seedlings along the way, but eventually planted them all in the same pot.

I then gave the pot a good dose of water and left it in the sun with lots of prayers for success.

Last year, I killed the kangaroo paw in the garden through over-watering amid the summer humidity, only learning later that my treatment was almost the guaranteed method for ensuring the lovely flowers from Australia’s arid regions would wither and die. Oh, well. Live and learn and sorry to the adorable plants.

Potting the kangaroo paws topped off an absolutely outstanding day that would have been perfect had I been able to spend it with Mrs. Kangaeroo, but it still came bloody close to perfection anyway.

I woke early, cleaned and oiled my bike and headed off at a fierce pace, backed by a gentle tailwind.

I made it to Tokyo Tower where I met many old friends for the first time in years and had a wonderful surprise of having a packet of Iced VoVos waiting for me: a gift from a Melbourne friend who has since headed off to a separate part of the country.

Later, a group of us went off to the nearby ANA Intercontinental Hotel and had an enormous buffet breakky, where the interesting and enjoyable conversation continued.

We spent a couple of hours reminiscing, but then had to go our separate ways.

I wanted to get home quick as the dinosaur was in her cage and was probably itching to get out and about, and I was still a couple of hours away.

I rode back in the delightful spring sunshine.

Fortunately, there was almost no wind, which was a blessing as we have had strong winds daily for weeks now.

As I rode along Koshu Kaido, headed for home, I realized I was looking at a record unique for me.

My average speed for the ride was exceeding 30 km/h.

It’s not unheard of for me over short distances, but I was still over the 30 km/h mark with more than 50 km ridden.

I only had 20 km to go on terrain I knew well and felt confident I could maintain the speed.

I’ve never maintained such speed over such a distance, my most notable record of sustained pace being a 180 km-ride at about 28 km/h a few years ago.

But that was when my cycling was thriving.

The past couple of years, my cycling ability has declined thanks to injuries, illness, aging, priorities, weight gain and opportunities, to name a few factors.

So I felt chuffed to be presented with this chance.

And the glorious sunshine was making it even more appealing.

An amazing, unseasonably clear view of Mount Fuji threatened to thwart my attempt at this record, though.

As I hit the Tamagawa Cycling Road for what I regarded as the home stretch, I stopped to take a photo.

There will be other chances to create cycling records.

Seeing Mount Fuji with the opportunity to take a photo is a rare blessing that demands addressing.

So, I stopped and took some shots.

It was totally worth it.

And when I got back on the bike, I got to maintain the speed I’d been looking for.

It was a delightful reward when I got home.

But not as delightful as the pleasure-filled greeting the dinosaur gave me when I got back and let her loose.

We spent the next few hours playing together, vegging out and eating.

I’ve even managed to save a couple of Iced VoVos for Mrs. Kangaeroo (but probably only because I managed to pick up some Choco-Chip GariGarikun, which I hope might be the seasonal flavor for the early summer).

She should be home any minute now and I am looking forward to seeing her.

Bromocalypse, Now!

As fate would have it, I got to ride my Brompton in a post-apocalyptic landscape over the weekend, making for some eerie-looking pics.

It’s not the first time I have been able to ride through the area, but it was Brommie’s first chance to do so.

Although the scenes appear post-apacolyptic (and I referred to them in that manner), it really wasn’t the case.

We were in Tama Hills Recreation Area.

I woke early, as is my wont, and got on the bike I had stored in the cabin where we had stayed.

The camp area was deserted and the only noise was the morning calls of the many birds.

And my huffing, puffing and wheezing.

Tama Hills is not fold-up friendly.

Roads date back to the pre-war construction by the Imperial Japanese Arm (IJA). They are concrete and have not been well-maintained, making them bumpy, rough and full of potholes.

Some of the riding is also off-road.

Brommie isn’t really made for that type of riding.

Tama Hills has an interesting history.

What is now a recreation area for US Forces, Japan, was built as an arsenal by the IJA.

The IJA used the area as an arsenal depot.

Weapons were delivered from the nearby Sagami Military Arsenal.

From there, the weapons would be either stored or delivered to other facilities in the Tama region, central Tokyo or south to Yokohama and Yokosuka.

The Tama Hills facility was constructed in the1930s and would continue operating throughout World War II.

US Forces confiscated the facility at the end of the war and it remained largely unused until the early 1980s.

To this day, the area remains heavily forested.

The canopy would save it.

U.S. Army Air Corps B-29 Superfortress bombers obliterated Tokyo during the war.

They bombed nearby areas including Chofu, Fuchu, Machida and Hachioji.

But Allied forces never found Tama Hills and it remained untouched when all around it was flattened.

Tama Hills was connected to the Sagami Arsenal, which Occupation Forces renamed the Sagami General Depot and continued using it through the postwar period, and is now being partially returned to Japanese ownership.

The facilities were linked by what was once known as Tank Road.

The road was located until a thick canopy of trees.

The IJA would send tanks and other weapons along the road, but the canopy protected them from detection by the bombers for the duration. Large parts of the road remain in use as a cycling path to this day, and other sections are also used as hiking trails.

Eventually, Tama Hills would be rehabilitated by groups of airmen from nearby Yokota Air Base from the 1908s onward, who turned it into a recreation area.

There is also a considerable degree of protected landscape and wildlife within the facility due to its inaccessibility to the general public.

As seen from this photo essay, plenty of ruins remain scattered around the recreation area to stand as testimony to the facility’s role in Japan’s past, and as a monument of sorts to the postwar U.S.-Japan relationship (imposed as it is).

It should be noted though, that the site is developed in a pristine manner only the U.S. military is capable of when it comes to military facilities. Glamping outweighs camping and the entry area is pristine, so beautifully kept that one friend who visited several years ago likened it to The Village from The Prisoner.

There is, indeed, an air of the otherworldly about Tama Hills. Be seeing you!

Where’s the Whist Amid the Wisteria?

Being greeted by the sublimely serene sight of fully blooming wisteria in the outer suburban wonderland of Yakushiike Park only to have the calmness crushed by the piercing squeal of a little prick abusing and haranguing me for riding a bicycle in the park wasn’t really what I had been expecting at 5 a.m.

As the angry man hurled invective at me, I felt my blood boil and the urge to smash him in the face was becoming almost uncontrollable.

He screamed loudly, fiercely and incessantly as I tried to take photos of La Cangura amid the flowers.

I envisaged punching him and using my mountain bike shoes to kick him in the face while he lay on the ground. I was utterly infuriated and the prospect of clobbering this bloke was made even juicier by the fact that he was only about half my size and at least close to my age, so he was not immediately apparent physical threat, attracting the bully boy in me. Add in the self-righteousness of having done nothing to this person other than strenuously avoided coming into close contact.

Thankfully, my life is enough of a mess at the moment to not need to add charges or jail time, let alone endure starting over again from scratch and, most importantly, having to live with having severely hurt someone, so I took my bicycle and walked away.

Honestly, though, rather than those quixotic ideals, the little prick’s saving grace was that he appeared to be carrying what I thought was a small dachshund unable to walk for itself, and I didn’t want to do anything that might lead to harming the pooch.

Anyway, I strolled around the park, trying not to get too mad and focusing on getting some good shots in the rain before I would have to rush home in time for a 7 a.m. meeting.

As the gallery shows, my efforts were resoundingly successful and I was blessed. The spitting rain that stopped me going on a real ride was proving a blessing as it accentuated the greenery of the park.

And it was as I came to this realization that I made another discovery: the bloody dachshund the angry little prick was carrying wasn’t a dog; it was a bloody telephoto lens. He had been screaming at me because the bike had given me the speed I needed to get to the best photo spots ahead of him. For some reason, that made his anger a little understandable and I soothed significantly. Knowing I had a camera full of good shots also helped.

Today promises to have some more wonderful moments. I’ll meet my brother and sister-in-law for the first time in several years, albeit briefly as they are flying out. And get to be joined by my youngest daughter! It has already been a magical day and will get better, too.

Lots. And Nothing

All sorts of things have been happening, but also nothing at all. I hope that doesn’t seem too strange?

The “all sorts of things” are just day-to-day events that keep me busy.

And there was yet another clash with my boss, this time leading to her humiliation. I could have made it worse for her, but have decided to quit while ahead. I’m sure that will have repercussions down the track. I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it, though.

For the time being, I have another five months’ work, so I can hopefully make the most of it.

Kangaeroo Corner is looking OK for the most part, too, but me being me, my concern is over the plants I have failed.

My seedlings from Oz haven’t worked well at all. It will be interesting to see how the native wisteria goes. It has been outside for the past few days and yet to die, so it is as good as can be.

Tomorrow, I will meet my brother and sister-in-law at Tokyo Station on their way to Narita to fly home. It will be our first meeting in about seven years.

Thursday will then be my final day at work for a week. I need time away. And Golden Week has kindly arrived to provide that. I also need a regular job. If anybody reading this can help, please get in touch. (I pissed off a woman from work who tried to arrange a transfer to her team but I was unenthusiastic because it would have meant a 50% wage cut for longer working hours, so I need an attitude adjustment, too?)

Goodbye Possums…

Dame Edna in kimono

Barry Humphries, the creator of characters such as Dame Edna Everage – the Moonee Ponds housewife famous for her flamboyance and shouted greeting of “Hello Possums” – Sir Les Patterson and Sandy Stone, and himself an entertainer and icon of Straya in many parts of the world, has passed away.

Humphries died aged 89 on Saturday following complications from a recent hip surgery.

Personally, I wasn’t a great fan of the Moonee Ponds housewife — Dame Edna Average is my name for her — but she had her moments and was a wonderful example of Humphries’ acerbic, anti-Establishment wit that Australian author Kathy Lette described this morning as his brilliance at “pricking pomposity.”

For me, Humphries’ Sir Les Patterson was a much funnier figure than Dame Edna with his vulgar Ockerism, food-stained unfashionable suits, dalliances with lovely young secretaries and crude, booze-swilling antics a much more biting depiction of life Down Under than the gladiola-waving housewife. At least that was how I saw it, and my judgements of the characters as I knew them until I left Australia in the late ’80s.

Humphries was born into a wealthy family and had a privileged upbringing, but spent his career making a mockery of the Establishment. I shared his progressive political views and he, like me, was a recovering alcoholic, which helped me identify with him. I guess we didn’t see much of his alcoholic nature, but his four marriages and complicated family relations seem to attest to the typical struggles addicts have in getting along with others.

Dame Edna in kimono

Poor Humphries was vilified by gender fanatics in his later years, who campaigned to have the Melbourne Comedy Festival’s Barry Awards renamed because of Humphries’ dismissal and smeared his name. He did not deserve that and I hope his legacy will be view fondly rather than being put in a falsely negative light.

Humphries and his characters didn’t really have much to do with Japan, with much of his humor tough to translate. He is possibly best known here for his stint playing Dame Edna in the dying days of the hit ’90s TV show, Ally McBeal.

I was surprised to see his fame was good enough to get him a Japanese language obituary on Yahoo News Japan this morning, Japan’s most-widely read mainstream news source.

Humphries gave an account of his mother’s love for Japan in the poignant essay, Mummy, I Hardly Knew You. Here is what he had to say:

In the winter of 1958, my parents and my Auntie Elsie embarked on a world cruise. The highlight of this for my mother was Japan, the last place I expected her to enjoy. Its standards of cleanliness must have met with her approbation. They went only to grand hotels and my mother must have enjoyed the women’s exotic attire.

Yahoo Japan news reports on Humphries’ death (via, April 23, 2023

Dame Edna certainly made a trait of exotic attire. I’m not sure of contemporary Oz, but for the Australia that I knew, Humphries, or at least his characters, were an iconic part of the country and even if feelings about him were not particularly strong, they invariably existed for everyone, much in the same way that Jesus has an ubiquitous place in the thoughts of Americans.

I will miss Humphries’ in-your-face humor, and his subtle wit even more. And I will lament even further the demise of the era in which he thrived. But I thank him for what he gave. And for what he didn’t.

Wistful Wisteria

There’ve been better times than the past week, and hopefully the climbing hardenbergia comptoniana planted today augurs a rise out of the doldrums.

I couldn’t sleep, so as soon as it was light, I got out into the garden, moving the lawn, weeding and my efforts culminating in re-potting the hardenbergia comptoniana, better known as the Australian native wisteria, which had grown too much for the humidity pods.

Most of the seedlings have failed, so hopefully the wisteria will be a shining light.

There’s still the promise of kangaroo paw and dwarf wattle.

Not much else promising going on. Work absolutely slaughtered me this week, imposing another huge wage cut that I have decided to contest.

And that has shattered my well-being, though the gorgeous Mrs. Kangaeroo, thriving garden (for the most part), cycling and the bloody TerrorDactyl are among the drivers to keep on going. My neighbor also brought me great delight, presenting Mrs. Kanageroo with some delightfully pretty roses from his always beautiful garden. There’s lots of little bits of happiness wherever I look. I just need to focus on finding them.

Biking Beauty

I’ve been alternating between busy and broken over the past few days, resulting in fewer posts and less cycling, but still lucky enough to catch some tremendous snapshots of the bike like the ones here.

Work has been proceeding at a furious pace as we have not replaced people who have left and remain terribly understaffed.

It’s hard to get motivated, too, as my employer tried to cut my wage just days after inking my current contract and doing nothing to reassure me that they will not try the same thing again this year: if, in fact, they even offer me a contract at all.

A quick update. Friday night I went to a presentation given by a mate’s cycling tour business in Italy. DORY BIKE. It looked like an absolutely fantastic operation and the guy who sat next to me on the night won a tour. The operators did an outstanding job of presenting their business and I found it inspiring.

Saturday was basically a write-off. I woke and it was raining, turned on the telly and hit bum out mode. Halfway through the day, I remembered that I had a job due and got stuck into it.

Mrs. Kangaeroo had a night shift. Normally, I would ride the death machine into town and take my time coming home, but the weather was miserable and none of my mates would be around, so I stayed glued to my seat and watched YouTube, falling asleep on the couch.

Sunday promised a lot more, and delivered enormously in the end, but in no way as I had expected.

Although the forecast was for sunny weather, I woke to gloom and drizzle, which was a perfect match for my mood.

A renovated apartment on the top floor of our building was having an open house viewing today, so Mrs. Kangaeroo and I planned to use this as an opportunity to have a gander and take some photos of Kangaeroo Corner from above. But the apartment never opened.

A planned visit to Tama Hills at the end of the month got thrown into disarray through an organizational misunderstanding, continuing my somber mood as I had invited my daughters to attend and now had to tell them that they couldn’t. The elder of the girls told me that she wanted to meet anyway as she had something to report to me. Repeated requests did not result in the divulging of information that I sought, but I have my guesses, prime of which has to do with her having married in recent months.

Then, a great mate and employer from Japan Biking called me and we had our first long chat in a few years. He has gone through some tough times thanks to covid, but his kindness and warmth remained unabated. Hearing from him lifted my spirts enormously.

The weekend ended with a short shopping trip that constituted my only ride for the entire weekend and I got to stock up on a huge amount of German chocolate.

Sunday night was another rough night and Monday morning didn’t start well, being chilly and with gloomy skies.

But as the morning ride neared it’s end, the sun broke through the clouds and looked absolutely magnificent, giving me some glorious shots.

As had been the case the previous day, less than pleasant starts morphed into outcomes leaving me contented.