Monday, September 26, 2005

Hips and Makers

Well after a sleepless night last night I had to go to the doctor today to get my back/unmovable leg seen to. The pain was unbearable and I couldn't get to sleep with it despite taking copious amounts of painkillers. In I went to see Dr. Wada, a friendly ol' fella who knows the boss very well...a story he tells to all the foreign staff who visit him. His reputation as a doctor has always been mocked and ridiculed by the foreign staff who go to him and after today, although i won't be joining the ranks of those how mock and ridicule him, I wonder about his medical prowess....but I do think he's a grand gentle fella with good enough english to get by. He called me Mark-san, thinking that that was my family name but when I said it was Carmody he was mortified and apologised profusely. Such a strange thing this Japanese formality. I'm known as Mark-san at work mainly because they can't pronounce my surname.

Anyway, I digress. His office/"medical centre" is small and situated on the 21st floor of a nearby building in OBP. I told him what was wrong (for those who don't know you haven't been reading my blog but here's a run down anyway (all those who know, skip the next 20 pages): pain across my middle back at night, pain coming from my lower back down my right leg and around the groin on my right-hand side, unable to either walk properly or run a step and an inability to raise my right leg at times. When in bed, trying to sleep, I can't use my right leg to move my body and have to struggle to get up on all fours to enable to turn over...Guero, if you read this tell me what it is!!). He took some x-rays of my lower back and hips. Less than 5 minutes later, I was called back into his office where he had the x-rays in hand. He asked me did I play alot of sport when I was younger as my spine was in great shape, very strong and the "architecture" looked superb...I think the translation of "architecture" from Japanese to English may be something entirely different. Anyway, I lay down on the table and he checked the movement of my legs and hips and then slapped my thigh and exclaimed, in his best Osakan accent, "I have it!!"....Hip I have Hip Gout. How is it, particularly in someone as young as me, and particularly in the hip(!) do I get gout? He first thought it might have been a bone disease but because of the x-rays and by the lack of leg mobility, he knows it's a nerve disease (they use disease to mean ailment or condition), so gout it is. BUT GOUT IS NOT A NERVE DISEASE!!!!!!! Jeeeeeezzzzzzzzzzzz!!!!!! It's a deposition of sodium urate crystals in the's a form of arthritis for !#@% sake!!! Oh, the frustration...oh the desire for some perscribed painkillers!!!!! I just wanted to scream....

Instead, I just nodded and said thank you. He told me to give up the booze (not a bad thing I guess), coffee (not good) and eat more veggies and fruit which I can do. He gave me anti-inflammatories ("from Ciba-Geigy, the very best, no side effects") and vitamin B1 ("very good brand, no side effects") tablets. If the pain doesn't go away in 10 days I am to go back to him and he'll organize a CT or MRI scan. I think I'll go back for the scans. Not being able to lift my right leg is not only comical to see but it's damn painful. An ol' painkilling injection I thought would have been nice. What was once diagnosed as a sciatic problem has now mutated to a bout of gout...

However, the one thing which I want to point out, apart from the bad medical analysis, is the speed of the service. All that took less than 30 minutes!! And all it cost me was 12yoyos for the least my 100yoyo monthly health insurance is paying for something!!

There you go....*sigh*

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Nanko and Kyoto trips this weekend, and listening to DJ Stevo in London!

Hello folks,

another long weekend, a short week at work, sure how bad. I like this 3-day work week, put in 40+ hours and have the rest of the week off...I could get used to it. Went for a few scoops after work on Friday night, hitting my favourite bar by was along day. The bar is called Bar Double, a tiny poky place on the 6th floor, it seats about 20 people but the bar man is sound and he makes the best Gin and Tonic I have tasted. Sweet. Ran for the last train home and went to bed as I was getting up for Nanko in the morning. The lads went on to Karaoke but, not my bag that night I'm afraid.

So, up in the morning and off to Nanko, new manfrotto carbon fibre tripod in hand and not even realising I was carring it. A nice tripod and new head replacing my ol' ton weight manfrotto I traded-in last weekend. I hit Nanko at high tide, disaster, as the birds tend to huddle into edges and they are unviewable...bah humbug. However, I percevered and stayed there anyway for a few hours, hoping the birds would fly up and around and sure enough they did. Highlights of the morning were Sharp-tailed Sand, Terek Sand, Marsh Sand, LRP, Kentish Plover, Bull Headed Shrike (a nice male, see photo), Black kite and a stunning Hodgons Hawk Cuckoo flying around in front of the observation platform...a great buzz. It was HOT though and very humid, not pleasant to be walking around in but I think the weather is turning and autumn is definitely on the way.

Walking back towards the train I stumbled upon a flycatcher sp. but what exactly I'm not too sure. I managed to fire off a couple of shots but only one was anyways decent (see right). I emailed it onto Neil and Barty-boy back home. Neil said it is probably a female Narcissus Flycatcher but not definite. He thinks he could be another species that's similar but I can't remember what the latin name was he said now so I'll ask him again and fix this entry with it...nice bird though. Neil had a similar bird several years ago and he is still not sure what it was. Flycatchers are numerous in Japan with over 10 species and some of the females are ridiculously similar between species. So, if anyone reads this and wants to make a suggestion, I would be most grateful.

Didn't do much else on Fri apart from listening to Steve's show in London...great stuff young man, thoroughly enjoyed it and LONG MAY YOU RUN!!! A star in the making I tells ya!! It was great to hear a familiar voice and I laughed alot listening to Stevo. You sounded very natural Stevo, very natural.

Saturday saw me struggle out of bed and head up to Kyoto to visit some temples, gardens and see the town. I really like Kyoto, I would prefer to live there than Osaka. There's a really good atmosphere there and to have a beautiful river running through it where people hang out, chat and have a beer or two. It's a really good place to live. It probably explains why the city has a healthy population of gaijins. I will put up some photos on the photopage for you to see some of the temples and area. I hope you enjoy them...

Sin e for now

ps: this week I have mostly been eating brown rice, wahooo

Monday, September 19, 2005

Arashiyama in search of macaques

On Sunday, we headed up, via 4 trains, to a little place about an hour away from Osaka. Arashiyama, a pleasant subarb west of Kyoto, was originally used by the imperial family to relax but the palaces were later converted to Buddhist Temples and monasteries. The Hozugawa and Hatsuragawa rivers runs through this very green, leafy and lush area, cutting a fine gorge amongst the mountains. It's a small river by Japanese standards but it's a beautiful place, very peaceful once you can get away from the crowds...and there were CROWDS here on this day ladies and gentlemen, oh yes. It was a long weekend here so we had today, Monday, off. The Japanese tend to travel en masse to all these types of places in their thousands and the gaijins tend to go aswell, hence it was full of all sorts. The area is famous for it's fishing and style of fishing employed by the locals. They use cormorants to catch fish, you may have seen this on a David Attenborough progam at some point, but unfortunately we didn't see it. Apparently, they only do this at night time. Of course you can pay to go with them so maybe next time...
The main aim of the trip, for me at least, was to find the Japanese Macaques which roam the mountains here. As a tourist draw, they have set up feeding stations to lure them down the mountain and "entertain" the throngs of tourists that come here every year. Unfortunately, being the begining of autumn here, they are well up the mountain slopes feeding on nuts and berries so they tend not to come to the feeding stations. So it was with a heavy heart and I left my pursuit of seeing wild monkeys for the first time to another day.

There is a train that trundles up the gorge which we were going to take but, erroneously perhaps, declined to go as the only ticket left was standing only and the views would not have been as spectacular from that angle...another day for sure. After the train journey, one can get a boat back downriver, which takes about an hour, and it is apparently the best way to view the gorge. I feel that in autumn proper, when the leaves turn, will be a glorious time to re-visit this magical little place. Next month perhaps...

We did visit the Daihikaku Senkoji Temple which is situated about a kilometre or so up the gorge and is a bit of a hike up the steep slope but it is worth the hike. The view is fantastic and the monk there is very friendly. He is from Osaka and we were talking about our time in Japan with him. A truly nice man and I could see why he lives there. Sometimes he must use fire crackers to scare away the monkeys from taking drinks and trinkets from the shrine.

There were other critters to be seen, this little guy was most obliging in his posing!! I also saw the biggest dragonfly I have EVER seen. I spent at least an hour trying to get a photo of it but it just wouldn't stay still enough for me!! However, I did get some crippling (good word) images of a different dragonfly species! Nice....just for JW, I have put them up on the photopage, hope you enjoy them.

One of the highlights of the trip was the Bamboo Forest. It was remarkable to see bamboo as tall as these guys were! Reminded me of Crouching Tiger scene when they are fighting through the trees. Amazing spectacle and apart from the mozzies, well worth checking out...

Ok then, sin e for the moment. Check out the photopage for more images of Arashiyama and the wildlife there...thank you for your patience!!

PS: Pee Wee, this week I have mostly been eating tofu
PPS: Also got a haircut this weekend...shorto

A Saturday morning in Nanko...

I went to Nanko on Saturday morning to get a bit of birding in and to keep my sanity in was a pleasant morning and the form was good. It was very quiet to start with but when the tide started to drop, the waders began to appear. I picked up the lonely Black-winged Stilt easily enough (my first since the Ballycotton birds way back when!) and then 4 Marsh Sandpipers appeared into view!! I was delighted as they were a lifer for me and I was further delighted that I id'd them myself. Smashing waders, very elegant. When they passed by a group of Greenshank I couldn't believe how small they were. Meanwhile, as 2 Terek Sandpipers were busily feeding on the exposed mud, filling my scope view, they shunted out 3 Sharp-tailed Sands from behind a boulder!! I was thrilled to see them in summer plumage. The usual LRPs and Kentish were present and the egret family were well represented. Then the waders got jittery and I took my eye off the scope to see a juv Black Kite float in and land on the mud feeding on a bit of dead fish! Magic. While smiling at that, and as the rain started to pour down, I caught a movement from in front of me and a male and female/juv Bull-headed Shrike were sitting on a branch!! I got a couple of shots off of the female/juv type amongst the rain drops. Not a bad couple of hours for a place that's supposed to be shite for birds. I quite like it there, I know it's birding behind a window but it's better than nothing at all!! It made my week and as birding has always managed to do, washed away all the stresses of work and I felt quiet in myself for the first time this week...

When I got home, despite a few problems at first, managed to download the RAW format-type files of the I correct in the id H?? Who needs Lesser Grey Shrikes when I have this beauty (Cronin, you're breaking my're not allowed to find birds on Cape unless I'm there with you or you're using my scope, some friend you are mate!!).

Anyhoo, must tell you about my trip to Arashiyama on on readers....

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Radio Personality of the Year...Mr. Steven "Stevo" O'Connor

First of all, before I go on about this guy, my week has been like it's always been... a no-lifer. The boss surprised us all by putting on a company night away in November, should be good fun, going to the onsen, getting naked with the lads from work and my tattoos on show. I'll probably get fired or some such rubbish so may not go into the onsen...I bet Mum is going "I told you so" right now.

And so, ot the main event, I want people to do me a huge favour and take note of the following:
my good friend, Mr. Stevo O'Connor has got himself a radio show in London, England, every Thurs and Fri morning between the hours of 8 and 10am. You can tune in at so please please check this guy out. Known by thousands and loved by millions, he's a legend of a man and great friend to count as a friend (no, there's no drink taken, it's how I feel about the guy). It's a real pain in the ass that I won't be able to tune in as I'm at work when he's on air BUT next Friday, I have the day off so I plan to tune in for the couple of hours he's on, have a couple of the lads over and get pissed. Why not, it's Friday. So, tune into Stevo's show at the above website and be entertained in a way that only the man'll be worth it folks.

On another note, it's a long weekend this weekend and I plan to sleep, oh yes, sleep. However, the birds are calling me to get out there in the morning so I'm going to head out to Nanko for a couple of hours. Hopefully on Sunday I'm off to a mountainous place where Japanese Monkeys run wild and bears too. With a bit of luck we'll see a bear but the monkeys are easy to see. I am really looking forward to that.

Ok, I'm pooped and my brain stopped working hours ago. I'm off to finish Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (superb, highly recommend it)...

Monday, September 12, 2005

Working lunch on Saturday...ALL-IRELAND CHAMPIONS ON SUNDAY!!!!!

Went to the boss' gaff on Saturday for lunch and it was, in fact, quite a good afternoon. His friend, who owns a chain of restaurants, a microbrewery and a catering firm, was in charge of the food and booze. Needless to say the food was incredible but the beer was excellent. He had some belgian beer and his own special brew beer which is unavailable to buy and is only served in his top restaurant...and it was simply divine. Needless to say we attacked that with a vengance!! Conversation was pleasant and the boss was in good form, joking and philosophising to his hearts content. He's quite a remarkable man really and admiration is certainly due him for what he has acheived. Started with nothing, he has built a massively successful firm which is constantly expanding. His outlook on life is uplifting and his philosophy on life is refreshing.

After the lunch, I hobbled back to home and writhed, or rather stood motionless in agony as my back had truly decided to "slip" out of it's own accord. Mind-numbing pain and the inability to lift my right leg at all was most disconcerting. It took me 30 minutes to get to KC's place which would normally take me less than 10 minutes. Had a couple of beers there before they all headed out le club but I was in no condition to go anywhere so I went home and blissfully slept for about 10 hours. My back was in good shape the next morning and went to Umeda to do a bit of looking around. Went to see Star Wars again with TM as she hadn't seen it. Not a bad film but the guy playing Anakin is pure trite...terrible acting.

By the way, GO ON THE REBELS!!!!!!!! Fair play to the All-Ireland Champions, fantastic result and well deserved from what I've read. Magnificent defending by the legend that is John Gardiner and O'hAilpin, Ben O'Connor, we salute you....

Work today was the usual, just too late to go to the gym afterwards...and my back was starting again (yawn, even I'm getting bored with that line at this stage).

Bye for now

This week I have mostly been eating melon bread

Friday, September 09, 2005

The week that was

Hello peeps,

well time flew this week despite the lack of anything exciting happening. We were given an announcement on Tuesday night at work concerning the impending typhoon that was due to strike Osaka that night. The Big Guy came around to your side of the office and told us it was due to strike at 8am in the morning so to be careful coming to work. It would have been nicer if he had said don't come in...Anyhow, while the day was windy, some of the Japanese staff saying it was VERY windy, my air con could have blown more wind at me than that!! They haven't sat on Galley or Blanan in a Force 8!! All the shops closed early and even the gym was quiet. Structures were being tied down, bins brought in and any conceivably movable object brought indoors. Our apt block could have been brought indoors as it would have been safer. As expected, the typhoon decided not to darken our door (thankfully) and passed on without as much as a fart in our general direction, although nearby areas got hit pretty badly with rain and wind. Some residents of Shikoku (an island south of Osaka where I spent a few days in May) had some of the worst flooding in a long time.

Tonight we were given a show that I won't forget in a while, unquestionably the most intense and immense lightning storm I have ever witnessed. The sky was BLACK! I felt like Frodo trying to climb Mount Doom to cast in the ring! Sauron himself would have been proud of the black cloud. It just crept slowly towards the city from far out and the noise was quite deafening. Pretty damn cool if you ask me. But then again, why would you..

Off to the Big Guy's house tomorrow for lunch in honour of one our American associates who was over for the week visiting. Nice guy, good contact...if you know what I mean. So the folks are getting an original Picasso for their anniversary which is coming up very shortly, as I'm sure the Big Guy won't miss one of his three!! Food should be magnificent (caviar, the finest beef and seafood) and the keg of locally brewed weiss beir should be even better.

As for all the birders back comment.

I shall now depart and wash my shirts...don't you just love Friday nights :)

PS: this week I have mostly been eating almonds

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Amagasaki and a dreadfully quiet weekend...

I didn't do much this weekend, just spent it sleeping and resting up to be honest. I haven't been sleeping so my body has finally decided that enough is enough and just will not let me keep my eyes open. As a result I managed a fitful night's sleep on Friday night, followed by a relaxing afternoon strolling around Umeda, drinking a Verdi Mocchachino in Starbucks and getting an early night last night. Neil rang me yesterday so I met him this morning and we headed out to Amagasaki for some wader watching. It was disappointingly quiet but we had a good laugh anyway. Birds of the day were the usual cast of characters:

Terek Sand, Kentish, LRP, Red-necked Stint, Grey-headed Lapwing, Pacific Golden Plover, Common Sand, Greenshank, Dunlin, Osprey, Black Kite, Kingfisher, Oriental Great Reed Warbler and Fan-tailed Warbler.

Neil dropped me off near to Umeda so I decided to pop into my friendly camera guy who sold me my Nikon. I need to get a new set of tripod legs as the ones I have are too heavy and are playing havoc with my back. It turns out that the shop do trade-ins!!! Fantastico!! I am going to get a carbon fibre set as they are light and I will still be able to use the tripod head I have. I must first get him the cat no. of the one's I want and he will order them in for me...brilliant. One of the reasons I am going to get them soon is that I am off to a place called Hegura-jima with Neil and Gabor, a tiny island off the west coast/Japan Sea in October for some birding!! This is what it looks like:

It is only 1kmx2km and one can walk the perimeter of the island in under an hour!! Check out this website for all you avid birders out there: Sounds like a bit of heaven on earth to be honest. It's a 7 hour drive to the port where the ferry leaves from so we are setting off at midnight on the Friday and get back to Osaka on Sunday night. A 2 hour ferry ride will enable me to pick up some nice seabird stuff and then a nice 30 hours of birding...migrants. Will feel just like being on a tiny Cape Clear...nice

Other than that, sweet shag all. Not long in the door and feel like going to bed already. Man, I'm falling apart.

Not much else to report so I will bid you all adieu...

ps: this week I have mostly been eating peanutbutter

Friday, September 02, 2005

Crash and Burn...

left work this eveing at 6.30pm, thankfully given the all clear by CVB to do a legger. I just couldn't keep my eyes open anymore and so what was the point in staying there. It's been a long week and I haven't been feeling 100%. My back is acting up again, physio last night helped but it did what it does best and started acting the bollix during the night so little sleep was had. I just wish i could rip out the lower vertebrae, stick in a few replacements and away we go...that would be nice (if you know what I mean).

So all in all I'm wiped. Going to watch a movie now, in bed by 10pm...on a Friday night, oh how times have changed...

No plans as yet for the weekend so I'll let you know if anything fantastic happens, which I doubt very much will :)

Slan go foill