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Resolutions 2016

I can’t believe it’s been 5 years since I last did a post about resolutions. And FYI, the last lot didn’t go that well, apart from getting a Distinction in my Masters.

So this year’s resolutions are:

  1. Clear the fields: I’m getting really fed up of all the mess taking over the hedge lines, and it will need to go if I’m going to get a shed built. Yes, the bigger stuff will need more effort and a big skip delivered, but I want to make a real effort to take at least one box of smaller crap to the town skip every week. I don’t need to get the car onto the field: I can just carry the box up to the gate. And there’s plenty of small stuff to go too.
  2. Pull ups: my general fitness has declined recently, and I would like to be stronger especially if I plan to do mounted games and want to be able to vault. So I want to be able to do pull ups. I’m pretty sure I can’t even do one at the moment. I don’t really have a goal as to how many – I’ll just see how it goes and count every extra one as a positive.
  3. Use my cameras: I have a moderately expensive DSLR camera and accessories, and now an action camera. I would very much like to make more use of them, whether that’s going out and photographing fun stuff I’m doing or just improving my skills.
  4. Get back into disasters/development: I know the chances of me getting a decent job in the field in my current situation are minute, but it is still something I’m very interested in. I spent a lot of money and time developing my knowledge and skills and it would be nice to put that to good use again. So I intend to start writing blog posts and LinkedIn posts to prove my continued interest and knowledge.
  5. Rekindle friendships: I’ve written another ‘motivational presentation’ and in it I have listed people I would consider friends, as well as close family. And I see maybe about 10% of those people on a regular basis. Which is crap. I’m always down about not having people to spend time with and friends getting coupled off; and yes, it sucks, but there are still plenty of people on that list who I could make an effort to see and I don’t.
  6. Be more positive: about 18 months ago – during one of my lethargic, apathetic, miserable periods – I started a mantra of “Woo hoo! Yeah!” for everything I did, to try to inject some enthusiasm and positivity into my life. I mean everything: vacuuming, ironing, dog walking in the rain. And it worked. Yet for some reason I stopped. So this time I’m going to make a real effort, because quite frankly, there’s a lot about my life that I would like to change, but focusing on the negative is what makes me miserable. So if I can do something simple to feel positive and enthusiastic, maybe I can find the energy to change the negatives, or at least learn to live with them a little easier.
  7. Buy nothing new for a year: I’m going to write a longer separate post on this, but basically I have a lot of stuff, it doesn’t really make me happy, and I have to pack it up and move it every time I move house, and find somewhere to put it. It’s also bad from an environmental point of view. So barring essentials, I am going to try to buy nothing new for a year.

I started well last night: I forced myself to go out, saw some friends I hadn’t seen for a while, chatted to strangers, and had a good time. And considering I flaked on climbing twice this week, I think that’s pretty positive.

But I was really hoping not to start the year fancying someone else’s boyfriend. I should find someone else to be the object of my affection. Not something that comes easily to me in my current situation.

Japan 2012

Arriving in Japan, or Fish Paper

The not-so-great view from my hotel room

We arrived in Kansai Airport 10am but had to hang around until 11.30am because Neill’s plane was delayed (Neill is Assistant Chief of Northumberland Fire & Rescue). Once he arrived we took the train to Takatsuki Kyoto Hotel, which took about 2 hours!

One thing that seemed apparent from the train is that Sunday is laundry day. Most apartments (ranging from 2-storey to many-storey buildings) have balconies, and almost all had clothes rails on. We travelled through Rinku town and it was interesting to see agriculture in the middle of an urban area: fields and fields of cabbages in amongst loads of houses.

There is hardly any space between houses. They don’t seem to do terraces like the UK, but there are really narrow gaps between buildings, and very little outside space (usually just room for one car).

So we reached the hotel around 2pm and decided to meet in the foyer around 6pm to go for food. I wanted to work on my presentation, so showered and sat in front of my laptop. And then the tiredness hit me. I climbed into bed and next thing I knew it was 5.45pm.

We went to a mostly fish restaurant for dinner, where me meal began with a tofu salad topped with bonito, or “fish paper” as it became known to us. Thankfully the rest of my meal was a bit more veggie friendly and didn’t involve scraping fish paper aside!

We left around 8.30pm: a few of us went back to the hotel while the rest tried to find the Newcastle game in a bar. I tried to get a bit more work done on my presentation before crashing out.

Electric toilets

Big thing over here. Some offer bidet facilities. Some make water sounds to disguise your own sounds. Some flush when you first sit down. But the best have heated seats. A bit unusual I know, but it is really nice to have a heated seat on a very cold day!

And any electric toilets are a welcome alternative to traditional Japanese toilets, which are holes in the ground.

One irritating thing about public toilets though: the tap water to wash your hands is freezing cold, and they don’t supply paper towels or dryers because Japanese people carry their own towels. So unless you’re prepared, you leave with a warm bum but cold hands.

Japan 2012

Flying to Japan

Thanks to this book that Rebecca bought for me, I know not to say “chin chin” in Japan! Apparently it’s slang for ‘penis’. So it’ll be “kanpai” (cheers) all the way!

It’s been about 2½ years since I’ve flown anywhere. At least, I think Dublin was the last time I flew anywhere. Anyway, quite weird considering how much flying I’ve done in the past.

Excited but still massively nervous about how little I’ve done and the presentation and interviews I have to do. Feel unprepared and like I don’t deserve this opportunity and someone else should have it. Someone who works harder.

But it’s my name on the ticket and in the programme so I just have to suck it up and hopefully come out with something worthwhile.

Part of what I find so difficult is narrowing it down. As far as I’m concerned, until the wealth inequality and power relations are sorted, we’re not going to do anything but talk about what could be achieved. And the likelihood of wealth and power being shared?

So how am I supposed to write something worthwhile about community based DRR and CCA? Maybe I’m not. Maybe I’m supposed to come out with something depressing.

Laptops must be removed from bags. Liquids need to be in a clear plastic bag. Why? No one can or wants to tell you. They just tell you that they have to be in a clear plastic bag, which you can buy: 4 for £1. So I bought them, swore and muttered a fair bit, and then took as long as I could to put everything back into my rucksack. Shame the airport isn’t busy enough for me to have created an enormous queue.

So after I email whoever it is that has a cafe at Shrewsbury train station to complain that they don’t have soy milk, I’ll be contacting all airports and airlines to find out why exactly we have to use clear plastic bags for liquids, and why they don’t provide said plastic bags in this ridiculous farce apparently fighting terrorism. On a brighter note, Cafe Ritazza are in my good books because they do have soy milk.

First flight was fairly uneventful: took off, flew, landed. The clouds over Wales were pretty: looked just like an enormous cotton wool blanket. Holland is so flat. Stating the obvious I know, but with climate change imminent, you begin to wonder what their plan is. Sea levels will rise and they’re already pretty damn low. And there are huge flat fields (I presume growing all those tomatoes that taste of nothing) which are going to more soil erosion, higher wind speeds, flooding, etc.

Anyways, the KLM lady in Cardiff told me she couldn’t see my special meal booked so to check when I get to Schippol. I go up to one of the transfer desks in the airport and the lady there also tells me she can’t see a special meal booked for me and there’s nothing she can do about it but if I go to the gate, they might be able to. Off to the gate where I explain for the third time that I called and booked the meal and it was confirmed; only to be told again that I didn’t have one booked but they’d see what they could do. (I did get my food, but seriously, should it be this complicated?!)

Found Liv and Shaun at the gate and they said everyone else was in a bar somewhere in the airport. We’ve ended up in seats all over the plane because we’ve all travelled different routes and checked in separately. There was an empty seat next to me though so Komal moved into that one. Watched Green Lantern (pretty awful) and Midnight in Paris (good fun).

Japan 2012

Leaving for Japan

So off to Cardiff to get my flight to Japan. I think Komal assumed Cardiff would be my nearest airport because it is in Wales like me. I don’t think I’ll bother telling him that Liverpool, Manchester, East Midlands, Leeds and Birmingham are all closer; and Cardiff is only slightly closer to home than Newcastle.

The reason.

Me, Liv and Shaun were all asked if we wanted to go to Japan as part of a study tour, with the intention of doing research for our dissertations for the MSc Disaster Management & Sustainable Development. It is being funded and all we have to do is come up with some research comparing the UK and Japan. Shaun didn’t have to because he was already well on his way with his dissertation. There was also going to be a UK conference in September which we would attend and write up the conference proceedings to. Originally we were going to Japan in June, but the UK Foreign Office wouldn’t clear insurance in Fukushima because of the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster. Then we were going at the end of July, but Hideyuki (our Japanese contact) got pneumonia. By this time Shaun was basically finished and Liv had settled on doing her work on South Korea, which she visited in June and July. Komal said he would arrange for me to go in September, after the UK conference.

As exciting as the trip would be, I looked forward to it less when I found out I would be going alone.

So we got to the UK conference. I missed most of the first day because Mum got married that weekend and I was so tired I overslept. To be fair, I was trying to get up at 3am to start driving at 4am. And Liv couldn’t afford the train ticket, so Shaun frantically made notes on the conference and took audio recordings for the first day. I arrived after lunch and took over the notes for the final session. I then made notes on the next two days, when we visited Tyne & Wear Fire & Rescue HQ, a Community Fire Station, SafetyWorks, and Newcastle City Council. On the third day we travelled to London for a meeting in Cabinet Office. So we put all the notes together and we are now published. Huzzah!

During this conference I found out that Shaun and everyone else would be visiting Japan in January for a study tour. So I told Komal that I would be happy to wait until then, and that would give me time to do background reading and stuff.

So that’s where we’re up to. I’m on the study tour with everyone else, and then staying a week longer to do interviews and research for my dissertation. The students have to do presentations on their research on Monday morning. I have an interview with a Japanese MP and also senior policymakers. Nervous? Me?

Shame I didn’t use all that time between September and now to do more reading. Or more relevant reading at least.