The Rules of Beechgrove Garden

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November 10th 2006
Published: December 1st 2006EDIT THIS ENTRY

Robbie (Heart) VikkiRobbie (Heart) VikkiRobbie (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 BeansFull of BeansFull 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.

Additional photos below
Photos: 20, Displayed: 20


Humourous Vegetable Photo. No. 343Humourous Vegetable Photo. No. 343
Humourous Vegetable Photo. No. 343

My, that's a big Daikon you've got there! The problem with Daikon is that the Japanese can't get enough of them. We made the mistake of saying that we'd quite enjoyed a bit of Daikon at our last WWOOF. Well, that was the signal for Morioka to present us with a meal composed entirely of Daikon! Daikon soup, roast Daikon, pickled Daikon, Tempura Daikon, dried Daikon and of course, raw Daikon.
Morioka-san on his tractorMorioka-san on his tractor
Morioka-san on his tractor

The difference between this WWOOF and the last one was that Morioka-san made his living from this farm. It was about 10 times larger than Masako and Koji's place.
Wrapping up the fieldsWrapping up the fields
Wrapping up the fields

To prevent weeds and retain some of the moisture. Just call me Bill!

If you go down to the woods today, you'd better take a bucket because this is where the Shitake mushrooms are grown.
The Long DropThe Long Drop
The Long Drop

Facilities on the farm were... basic.

We thought we'd try out our new Mozzie Nets. Unfortnately there were no mozzies (although Vik claims she heard them on the first night). Our problem - the thing which caused one sleepless night and resulted in us both sharing a kids bottom bunk rather than the floor, was the presence of some small and some LARGE four legged tail draggers.

We were treated to a display of Kagura - a form of theatre/dance which tells traditional Japanese stories to the beat of the Taiko drum. It was just a practise session for the youngsters, but it was impressive all the same.

I just can't get enough of them volcanoes!
Gas PanicGas Panic
Gas Panic

Making the journey to Aso-san is risky as you don't know whether you'll be allowed near it. Access depends on the direction of the wind as the gases it produces are highly toxic. The sign at the bus stop at the base said it was off limits but we ignored it and got to the top to find that it was actually open.
Bob & the VolcanoBob & the Volcano
Bob & the Volcano

This picture cannot capture the seriously strong eggy odour eminating from deep within. I leave you to decide which "within" I'm referring too.
Comforting to knowComforting to know
Comforting to know

That little concrete shelter is there because Aso-san has a habit of spitting out chunks of rock. In previous years 3 Tourists were killed by spewing rocks and a cable car was destroyed. My only concern is that the shelter looks a bit small, hard to get to quickly and dangerously close to the edge...
Japanese Landscape from Aso Train Station - Platform 1Japanese Landscape from Aso Train Station - Platform 1
Japanese Landscape from Aso Train Station - Platform 1

This is a typical Japanese scene. We are stood in the Aso-san crater - the largest crater in the world. Its so big it contains numerous towns and villages. You can see the walls of the crater in the background. It would all be very picturesque if it weren't for some of the ugliest and most pointless buildings you are ever likely to see. Plus - why is there a grey plastic Koala and multi coloured benching?
Blame the PortugueseBlame the Portuguese
Blame the Portuguese

The Portuguese were the first Westerners to arrive in Japan (presumably at Oita). The story goes that a Portuguese ship was damaged in a storm and landed at the first islands it came across. While the ship was being fixed the sailors amused themselves by shooting at ducks on the beach. The Japanese natives watched with interest and six months later produced copied of the weapons they'd seen. Before long they were selling them back to the Portuguese with heated arm rests and glowing neon barrels.
Special KSpecial K
Special K

On the left - respect to my man K, Oita's very own Eminem. Part-time rapper, full-time guitar salesman and all-round nice-guy. On the right, the self appointed Mr Multi-talented, Multi-faceted. He took us on a whirlwind tour of his hood and gave us a sample of his guitar prowess in the middle of Tower Records. Taking inspiration and samples from the people he meets (he recorded me saying "I canny remember"), living in a three room house with his Mum and busking illegally, he has everything but a singing voice and an understanding of the words "neutral accent".

17th December 2006

Did you know
That when you search google for 'occasionally bob' you are No. 1, that's pretty impressive

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