Published: December 1st 2006November 10th 2006
Robbie (Heart) Vikki
An original masterpiece by Chika.
As you can see she has fully captured the blondness of my hair and Vikki's passion for wearing bright red and a bow in her hair.
Living on a working farm is an amazing experience. We were honoured that Morioka-san invited us into his home and allowed us to live with him, his wife and three children for a week that we will never forget. As we found at Arinko farm with Masako and Koji, the experience of immersing oneself completely in a different culture is a much better way of learning about it. And there is a lot to learn. You find yourself swamped with new experiences - new foods, new ways of living, new ways of communicating. For some people travel is as much a journey of self discovery as it is about gaining a better understanding of other cultures. But sometimes the things you learn come from the least likely sources.
For example, I was surprised to learn, as I stooped to cut through the stem of a soya bean plant that... actually, I take that back - I wasn't surprised but highly amused to learn that, in her younger days Vikki enjoyed nothing more than a good game of "Beechgrove Garden" with her sister Susie and friend Shona. For those of you unaquainted with the "Beechgrove Garden" (and I think that will
Full of Beans
You don't get quite the same sense of achievement or job satisfaction when you work for a bank or local authority.
be anyone outside of Scotland), it was a television programme about gardening presented by a bloke whose strong Aberdeenshire accent was muffled into a soft Jazz club whisper as it filtered out through his thick beard. A heart throb in the gardening and facial hair communities Bill holds a legendary status among afficionados of Scottish TV. The tension between him and his female co-presenter was akin to that of Doctor Who and his helper/assistant/secretary - always younger, keen to get her hands in the soil and a sucker for a good Barbour jacket (on reflection, maybe only one of those qualities applies to the Doctors helper/assistant/secretary).
The mental picture of Vikki, Susie and Shona with fake beards and Barbour jackets crouched over some random flower bed caused me to convulse into a sudden laugh that saw me snip the stem of said soya plant a little closer to my finger than I'd anticipated. Vik meanwhile was giggling to herself, lost in a hazey fog of fake Aberdeenshire accents and forged forecasts of frost affecting the richness of the soil for the planting of Lapis-Conjunctivitus (or something...).
Infact, working next to each other, alone in a big field of
soya plants and frogs is a great way of having those conversations that you never had before. Naturally, after a conversation about playing "Beechgrove Garden" the drift of the conversation was inevitably towards the other strange games we played as children. I began to feel a little boring as I recalled the "Enid Blyton" childhood (thats what Vik calls my upbringing) of ganghuts and wargames I played with my friends only to find that Vikki, her sister Susan and Shona were writing their own songs for their radio station - Atlantic 252. Maybe I'm wrong here, but playing radio stations and recording songs seems to be a particulalry girly thing to do. I remember Laura (my maniac sister) and her friend recording loads of their own songs. Classics included such unforgettable gems as "Ragu-Ragu from next-next door" (it was a had to be there moment).
Well, Morioka's daughter Chika obviously pegged Vikki as a like minded sort of person and, after a hard day in the field it was nice for me to relax with a cup of green tea while Vikki revelled in her element, playing Chika's own creation - Koala Onsen (an Onsen is a communal Japanese
bath). In this case the onsen was a cardboard tub shared by four naked Koala's. And yes, we had to get them undressed first - yes, that was the first time I'd seen a Koala in the nude.
There are more photos below