Sunday, January 29, 2006

Aaaahhhh, Denny...

While listening to to JW on RTE Radio 1 last night, I got a call from the "other" Irish guy at work to call over to his place for a bit of breakfast. I was curious as to what he meant. Then, words were uttered that were as welcoming as the first rains in a drought...a fry. Yup, Denny's sausages, black and white pudding and rashers. Jazuz but it was good. I haven't had anything like that since I came here and the smell alone made my mouth water. Although it wasn't Clonakilty pudding, it tasted like manna from heaven. Delicious. A bit of McCambridge and that cheese of all cheeses, Kilmeaden, made the culinary experience a night to remember. We followed that by watching the Life of Brian and abit of Little Britain. All in all, an enjoyable evening.

Also had the pleasure of listening to some native Irish waders on the radio. It was great to hear JW waxing lyrical about Black-tailed godwits. When I closed my eyes, I almost felt like I was there.

A trip to Kunijima this afternoon yielded little in the shape of birds, but a couple of Mongolicus gulls made the day. It was a stunning day, clear, no clouds, not too cold (5 degrees C) and very quiet. I rattled off a few photos but the RAW data (the format I take bird photos with) is not being recognized by the program I use to edit them. Damn it all to hell but I'm too tired tonight to solve it. Therefore, you are all spared the horrible sight of feathery creatures on the blog today. Instead, you get some shots of Kunijima. It was a stunning day.

Carmo's birds: Bull-headed Shrike, Reed Bunting, Black-faced Bunting, Meadow Bunting, Mongolicus Gull* and Oriental Turtle Dove.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Noam Chomsky Podcast from Dublin, Ireland

Greetings all, I came across a
  • Chomsky Podcast
  • while searching for podcasts on the apple store website. Chomsky gave the Amnesty International 2006 public lecture in Dublin last week and this is a fantastic chance to listen to the great man speak. I urge everyone who reads this to have a listen and be amazed at what he can tell you about the biggest state-sponsored terrorist group in the world...The United States Government. I missed my train stop this morning because I was engrossed in what he was saying. It is interesting to know that the first and second poorest nations in South America are Haiti and Nicaragua, respectively. Both countires heavily influenced and governed by the USA. Also included in the podcast are many interesting facts about the Iraq war and the military occupation of Palestine by Israel. I urge you to listen to the man. He's 78 now, which I didn't know and is still active in his post in MIT, Boston. Quite a remarkable man and the greatest intellectual of the 20th Century, and now, for the moment, the begining of the 21st.

    On a different note, the week just gone was uneventful. Working hard to clear my docket before heading off to Hokkaido on Thursday. I had the pleasure of listening to Steve O'Connor on Lifefm in London on Thursday night, he's back on air at 2pm GMT which means I can tune in at 11pm here!! Great to hear a familiar voice and cool to get a request played or wha'!!?? Check out the station and Steve's show at
  • Lifefm, London
  • Nice wan Stevo. A born natural, the Irish national radio stations missing out on the young talent again. From reading the Phoenix Christmas annual over the last month, it appears that that is exactly what the airwaves need back home. They finally realized that Ryan Turbidy is a twat...they took their time. Father Ted and Scrap Saturday another perfect example of the blindness of the stations.

    Today I had a wee rest and woke at 9am to the sound of a jackhammer and god knows what else outside the apartment. Double glazing and insulation are not one of the apartments strong points :) So, what else to do but go to the gym and take a wander around Umeda for a tall soy latte in that fine establishment, Starbucks...although I hate these franchise's, they are amazing magnets for the ex-pat's of this world working in a foreign country. Crazy...

    Anyway, sin e for now, just wanted to put a brief entry as apparently I rant a lot...Hi Gabby!!! HHHmmmmmm, kettle pot black comes to mind but I haven't heard from her in ages so it was good to hear from her :)

    Carmo's diet: gone to pot (I wish, hahahahaaa)...This week, I've mostly been eating Japanese sticky short grain rice with fish eggs. The editors at Men's Health Mag would cringe if they read this.

    Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: Palm

    Sunday, January 22, 2006

    A long Sunday walk to clear the head

    Felicitations and greetings. The week has passed me by in a blur, as usual. A particularly long week and uneventful. TM and I met up with Rob on Saturday morning in Umeda for coffee, to discuss the trip, cameras and to put TM at ease that we wouldn't be hiking around for hours in -20C amongst the snow and ice. It was good to meet up with Rob, he's a really good bloke and a good laugh. Hokkaido is going to be immense!!! I went to the gym in the afternoon, the fifth day this week so I am getting back into it again full-time. I just bit the bullet this week and went after work each night, regardless of how tired I felt and I am glad that I have. It is a trend that I will certainly maintain.

    Today was spent with Neil, walking the Yawa-gawa and Ogura plain. We must have walked about 15 miles but it was a beatiful day, perfectly blue skies, not too cold and with snow-capped hills in the background, it was certainly glorious. The birding was slow, but good, a new species for Japan in the bag (Merlin) and a couple of new species photographed (yippee I hear you all cry). A total of 8 species of bird of prey, hawfinches (photo above and last), and russet sparrows (also photo below) were the birds of the day. Oh, and the bird sitting on the ariel in the photo is a White-Cheeked Starling. I also nearly broke my leg in true Carmo fashion. While proudly tromping through some tall grass scrub in my new hiking boots, which are the berries by the way, feeling invincible and talking across to Neil, I suddenly disappeared from sight. I managed to totally ignore a gaping ditch and suddenly realising I couldn't walk on air, fell staight into it, crunching (sounds nasty doesn't it) my shin bone right into the concrete lip. Luckily I managed to stay somewhat upright (ninja reflexes), and only my sagging ass hit the water and, thankfully, not my bag. My camera and lenses were saved from what could have very easily been an expensive slip. As I was wearing my longjohns (in an elderly gentleman kind-of-way Pee Wee), I couldn't check out my leg but it hurt like hell and I couldn't walk on it for a while. I laughed hard once I got out and Neil did too. All he saw was my head vanishing and hearing a big splash...we both thought it was hilarious. Which it was. By the way, gortex is great so long as the water doesn't come up over the top of the boots. Upon my return home, I took off my wet and filthy jeans to find a blood-soaked pair of longjohns. Of course the leg was embedded into the dried blood and deep gash of the wound, so that was a joy to prise loose. All in all, we all survived and no body lost an eye. Some of you may laugh, but birding is a dangerous pursuit...

    Not much else planned for the week, just working and looking forward to getting on a plane to Hokkaido in 10 days time. Before writing this, I was lying in my bed, dozing, reading Fisk and listening to Bright Eyes. A good band, you should check them out. A couple of birthdays coming up (mine included, have I mentioned that), VC on Tuesday 24th and JH on Friday...I'll be in touch when the day arrives folks. Thankfully January is nearly behind us and the glorious month of February draws near. Spring will start hitting your shores but we will retain winter for another month or so, at least into March. Every season happens a month later here than it does back on Irish soil.

    As I approach my inevitable birthday (presents and cards to the usual address please), I find myself in a place where, in all my wildest dreams, I never thought I would be. It's not so much that I am here, it's the fact I am here at the age I will be. This entry will not be about depressing thoughts or ideas, I merely want to say that I find it amazing what cards life throws at you. Who would have thought 3 years ago that I would be here? Not even 3 years ago, how about 2 years ago when my life was decidedly different and had a different direction. I like to think that there is a reason for this. That there is a reason why I am here now and not elsewhere. What that reason is, only time will tell...

    Carmo's Diet: this week, I've mostly been pumping iron, drinking protein shakes and falling into ditches

    Carmo's Birds: Osprey, Black Kite, Goshawk, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Merlin*, Peregrine Falcon, Common Buzzard, Buff-bellied Pipit, Falcated Teal, Russet Sparrow, Hawfinches, Rustic Bunting, Black-faced Bunting, Meadow Bunting, Dusky Thrush.

    Carmo's Byrds: Thank you all for the thoughts on Moncia B and for those who are making a cheeserine of her...this week, it's still Monica B

    Sunday, January 15, 2006

    Kilmeddan and Tayto...oh heaven away from the ol' sod

    Good evening everybody, how are we all today? I think this will be a quick post as the week that has just slipped me by was pretty uneventful and mundane to be honest. Tues to Fri was work and it was a hard week. However a couple of events did cIear away the shroud that is work:
    A) Kev brought me back 12 packets of Salt & Vinegar Tayto, a block of Kilmeaden Red Cheddar and a pack of McCambridge wholewheat bread (no artificial flavours, colour or preservatives); B) I had the pleasure of talking to my good friend Tikki, Kate McLoug as she is better known as, during the week however, and it was good to hear a familiar voice and I laughed a lot...which was nice. I was updated on the scene back home and by all accounts the Bodega has become another Reardon's!!! The shame of it all. In my day (go on Tommie the King) it was THE place to be seen and a great place to work. Such fun was had by all. The place us up for sale, still, but the nightclub and all others associated with the company are up for sale too. They are running from Cork!! Couldn't handle the pressure and high standards the pundits put them under. Dublin gobsheens the lot of 'em anyway. A few other bits and pieces moving and shaking on my old stomping grounds and it sounds pretty cool; C) My Mum sent over my winter coat for Hokkaido and a tin of Kimberley Chocolate biscuits!! Damn it all to hell but they were GOOODDDDDDD!!!!! My little sister is returning home to Spain, to bask in the splendour of her city. She is off to Italy though for 10 weeks then, ain't life grand??!! In fairness though, it will be 10 weeks of hard work. Somebody has to I guess.

    I met up with Rob on Saturday to discuss our itinerary for Hokkaido and I am pumped about going. It should be a wonderful experience, regardless of the birds. I can't wait to show you all the photos of the landscapes and me frolicing in the snow. The sea should be frozen and as the country is having the hardest and coldest winter in living memory, it should make for an interesting test of my driving skills on the icy roads :) However, pack ice, frozen lakes, snow galore and ice cliffs are abegging....oh bliss. We are going to concentrate around the Nemuro penninsula and Kushiro. We will also head up North to Rausau aswell if we have the time. Oh, and then there's the onsen, outdoor thermal baths....I'm looking forward to that.

    Today I just went for a casual birding walk along the Yodogawa but nothing out of the way to report. Some nice ducks, gulls, waders, buntings but no birds of prey. I was amazed. I decided to walk the 40 minutes into Umeda afterwards as I needed to purchase a couple of items. Socks for the trip were duly procured and finally, after searching for much of Saturday morning, a pair of walking boots that fit!!!! I nearly kissed the poor attendant as she asked me how they felt. It was pretty cool in the shop though. Mont-bell have everything for outdoor pursuits, ranging from ski gear, camping, rock climbing, serious climbing and hill walking. They measure your feet, length, width and arches, and suggest a pair of boots that should fit. Excellent service. I got the LAST pair of boots, size 29 (Japan sizes are in centimetres, makes sense), in the shop! Huzzah!! A dacent pair of gortex at a very good price.

    Well, sin e for now. Not much else going on. A full week of work looms, so it's a couple of episodes of 24, editing the CBR, and then bed. Still chipping away at the 1000 page behemoth that is Robert Fisk's experience of the middle east of the last 30 years. It is grippin stuff...I shit you not!

    Carmo's diet: This week I've mostly been eating McCambridge bread, Kilmeaden red cheddar and Salt & Vinegar Tayto...

    Carmo's Birds: Kentish Plover, Dusky Thrush, Vega Gull, Common Gull, Scaup, Common Sandpiper, Reed Bunting and Oriental Turtle dove.

    Carmo's Birds for Byrdy: Monica Bellucci...please

    Monday, January 09, 2006

    Coming of Age, Wryneck and snow-covered trees at Uji

    Since I was on last, I have gone back to work and enjoyed another long-weekend as we have Monday (today) off work due to a National Holiday. Today is the Coming of Age national holiday. The Coming of Age festival is celebrated on the second Monday of January (it used to be celebrated always on January 15 until the year 1999). Its Japanese name is Seijin no hi. All young people who turn twenty years old in that year are celebrated on Seijin no hi. Twenty is the age considered as the beginning of adulthood. It is also the minimum legal age for drinking, smoking and voting. Apparently, celebrations are held nationwide in every town with most of the people turning 20 participating in formal dresses. It's been quite a while since I turned 18 now, jazuz, I'm approaching the age of Christ now...scary days!!

    The two day week was quite nice last week, but like every other worker worldwide who went back to work after the holidays, it sucked big time. We had a New Years party at work on Thursday which consisted of everyone going up to the 17th floor for sandwiches, sweets, a mouthful of beer and, of course, speeches. Speeches. I'm sick of them. I just told those who were bothered to listen what I did over the New Year break. Simple and straight forward so that was fine. After that it was back to work.

    Saturday was spent looking for thermals for the up and coming Hokkaido trip. The plane tickets have been booked so we are off on Feb 2nd and back on Feb 6th. I am really excited about this trip. Lots of birds to be seen and with a bit of luck, icebergs and ice floes. The rivers and lakes should be frozen and the sea aswell. With temperatures as cold as -20C, it will be a fabulous experience. I purchased thermal leggings and had the opportunity to try them out on Sunday, but first there's something else I want to share with you. I popped into Chopstick tattoo on Saturday evening, you know, just to have a look, see what the designs were like. It's not that I'm going to do anything about it. I mean, why would I need another tattoo?? You can check out the webpage below and have a look at Ton's work. He's a fantastic tattooist.
  • Chopstick Tattoo

  • Yesterday I met up with Neil at Chushijima at 7am (I was up since 4.30am) and we caught a local train to Uji for a bit of birding. Uji is a famous region throughout Japan for it's tea and also for the temples there. The temple on the back of the 10yen coin is found in Uji. However, our mission for the day was to go to a reservoir on the top of a hill there to see if there was anything about. It was a freezing cold morning, around minus 1C and I was glad I was wearing the thermal leggings unde my cords, 5 layers under my jumper, 2 hats and a pair of gloves. Baltic once again. Oh yeah, and my fab scarf my sister gave me for Christmas :) The area was beautiful with sloping hills, covered in trees, some evergreen, others naked in the winter dawn. A very hard frost coated everything in a beautiful ghostly sheen. The trees were heavy with snow, boughs bending under the weight of snow in some places, dumping their loads on our heads as we walked through some tracks in the forest. The roads were quite icy high up the hill and the snow was deep in the forests we trudged through.

    An amazing Crested Kingfisher made itself known as we walked along the Ujia-gawa river bank just below the Amagase Dam, calling loudly and perching on a rock not too far away. Unfortunately I couldn't get my camera out in time so I missed an opportunity to get a photo. This kingfisher species is stunning, black and white stripes, a big crest that was constantly erect. Fantastic. A lifer for me. In fact, I had 3 lifers yesterday. The first was a loose flock of 61 Asian House Martin, found by yours truly. The second was the Kingfisher, which is bigger than a Jackdaw!!! The third and the best bird of the day, was a WRYNECK!! Yes boys, I finally caught up with a wryneck. This normally shy woodpecker (it doesn't look like one, but it is a member of a the woodpecker family), which turns up in Ireland during migration time, sat on a branch of a tree in a ditch and moved around for us to see it in all it's glory. A beautiful bird and one of my favourites. I was delighted and thrilled to have finally seen one. The picture below really doesn't do it justice...they are a marvellous bird to watch.

    The steep road leading through the forest to the reservoir held one more surprise, in addition to the resident pair of Peregrines and the usual woodland species, a peculiar grunt preceeded a reluctant Woodcock rise from the stream-bed just below where we'd been standing for several minutes and barely clearing the ground fly no more than a few metres to disappear into a tangle of overhanging trees and bushes. Perhaps in climax it would've been fitting to find something of
    interest on the reservoir to round-off the walk but but there's something perversely appealing about the expanse of birdless water at the end of the hike. The 12 Mallards, 2 Cormorants and a Little Grebe today didn't exceed expectations; perfectly.

    An exhausted Carmo met up with TM in the afternoon, took in Harry Potter and had a bite to eat in Umeda, before heading to Kyobashi to meet up with the lads for beers to celebrates Vin's 30th birthday. It was a good laugh and I hauled my ass home for midnight. All in all, a good weekend with some socialising and birding combined to have a full day on Sunday.

    On another note, the annual Great Island Bird Race took place on Saturday, I think it's the first one I have missed in the 17 years it has been running. The eventual winning tally of 94 species was shared between the enemy (East Cork Stringers) and my team from last year, with Ciaran taking my place. It sounded like it was a good day with 5 teams partaking. Next year, I will be least I hope.

    I hope everyone is back to normal now, back at work and making those January days drink-free in the hope to lift the January blues. It's a cold and beautiful day today, perfect light but I'm afraid there's work to be done here.

    Carmo's diet: This week I've mostly been eating sushimi

    Carmo's Birds: CRESTED KINGFISHER, ASIAN HOUSE MARTIN, WRYNECK, Brown Dipper, Redflanked Bluetail, Siberian Meadow Bunting (see photo above), Black-faced bunting, Dusky Thrush, Japanese White-eye, Woodcock and Peregrine Falcon. I've seen 184 species in Japan now.

    Carmo's Birds for Bydy: Tall, blonde or brown hair, long legs...the rest I'll leave up to your imagination as this is a family show afer all :)

    Wednesday, January 04, 2006

    Snow blizzards and Steller's eagles

    Hello all, well the gloom of Monday has lifted to the exhalted heights of Wednesday, and as I write this in the candlelight (I'm going for the Dickensian mood here), I am warm inside and delighted at having witnessed the majesty of a true marvel and the wonder of a wild winters day.

    Neil called me on Monday night and asked would I mind if we went to Biwa-ko on Tuesday morning instead of Amagaskai. There was a ring-necked duck there he wanted to connect with and missed on Monday. It was like asking a carbohydrate addict would they mind going to an all-you-can-eat pasta joint instead of an all-you-can-eat salad bar. There was only going to be one answer.

    So, at 5.15am I hopped on the train and three trains later arrived at Kyotanabe at 6.30am and off we went. The forecast was good but the cloudy and threatening sky did not bode well. We birded up the "coastline" of the lake for the first couple hours of daylight, stopping here and there and enduring the bitter cold. It was 3-4 degrees C out of the wind, but in the wind it was below freezing. Bitterly cold isn't close to describing it. Walnuts...if not even chickpeas. That is how cold it was. Anyway, first port of call, to check out a couple of thousand pochard. First spectacular birds were picked out, a Baer's Pochard (globally endagered now) and a Red-crested Pochard. Two very rare birds for Japan in our first scope of the duck flocks. Next port of call produced Daurian Jackdaws, Long-billed Plovers and the Hooded Crane, remaining since our previous visit.

    Then, we arrived at the spot where the Ring-necked duck (an American species, annual in Ireland but scarce in Japan) was previously seen. As we pulled in to the side of the road I noticed a photographer, and his 2-ton tripod and camera set-up, running and looking panicked. I looked at Neil, panicked. I jumped out of the car and looked up...there it was, Mr. Steller's Eagle flying toward me, it's immense wing-span, white shoulders, white-wedged tail and the largest hooked bill I've ever seen. The bird moved it's head, looked down and disappeared into the hills above us. I just looked at Neil with the biggest smile on my face since I came here, looked back up and jumped in the air. I wished that Ciaran could have been there with me as I've shared most of my birding moments back home with him. He would have loved this. I shook Neil's hand and didn't stop smiling all day. I had seen one of the species that I had wanted to see in Japan. The bird came and went so quickly and I just wanted to take it all in, that I didn't have time for a photo. I didn't really care. I had just seen Steller's Eagle. Majestic. For those of you out there who don't know what one of these magnificent birds look like, check out the following link...amazing aren't they
  • Picture of a Steller's Eagle

  • We waited for a while to see if the bird would reappear but it didn't. As the snow started to come in we decided to move back up the lakeside and see what else was on show. As we rounded the hill, I wanted to check a flock of Black-necked grebe that I had spotted from the car. As Neil was checking the ducks, I just scanned the hillside with the naked eye and caught a glimpse of a white patch in a tree. I put the bins up and there it was...the eagle perched in a spruce tree, feeding on a duck. Incredible. I put the scope on it and it filled the lens. What a bird. Words truly cannot describe the feeling I had watching this majestic creature feed, preen and generally look like the coolest bird on the planet. And it is certainly up there with them. As the snow came in even harder, we decided to move on. Goodbye Mr. Steller, for now at least.

    The remainder of the day was spent running from the car to areas to bird and running back to the car to warm up again. It was goddamn cold. As we were looking through a flock of Bewick (Tundra) Swans in the fields, mixed in with Greater Whitefront and Bean geese, we picked up a Whistling swan, the American race of Bewick. Magic. By now, the snow had reached blizzard conditions, it was diffiicult to stay out in it and the swans started hunkering down to shelter. It was the harshest snow I've ever seen. Hokkaido is going to be an amazing experience. I'll need Everest-style thermals for that trip.

    As we left the swans and geese, and finished watching Olive-backed pipits, I noticed a bird fly past and couldn't believe what I was seeing. Battling against the blizzard conditions was a lone Swallow flying around, looking for food. I just looked at Neil and he just laughed. It wasn't the first time he has seen a Swallow at this time of year in these conditions. This bird should have been battling against a sand storm in the Sahara, not a blizzard in below-freezing conditions in Japan. A crazy and bizarre sight.

    At this stage the weather got too bad to bird so we decided to head back south and see if the weather would improve. Once we cleared the mountains the snow had stopped and the ground was dry. However, light was fading fast so we just headed back for home. Other hightlights of the trip included 150+ Smew, Black-necked Grebe, Japanese Grosbeak (10-20, from the car, stopped at traffic lights!!), Common Sandpiper, Hooded Crane and Long-billed Plover.

    I am sure I have bored most of you by now so I shall sign off. I hope the photos are ok, it was damn cold out there trying to take these. The best shot of the Japanese Grosbeak is posted above, we were stuck at traffic lights afer all. Paparazzi birder!! It was one of the best days birding so far with a massive 79 species, the highest one-day total I've had in Japan. Simply put, an incredible birding experience watching eagles through the snow...

    Carmo's diet: today i've mostly been doing my laundary

    Carmo's birds: LONG-BILLED PLOVER, STELLER'S SEA EAGLE (adult), DAURIAN JACKDAW, BAER'S POCHARD (male), RED-CRESTED POCHARD, Rook, Red-breasted Merganser*, Japanese Grosbeak, Black kite, Buzzard, Goshawk, Eurasian Spoonbill, Great White Egret, Dusky thrush, Pale thrush, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Meadow bunting, Yellow-throated bunting and Redflanked Bluetail.

    Monday, January 02, 2006

    My Body Speaks...

    I write this with an air of missed pleasures and a feeling of disappointment. My body spoke it's mind this morning by either (a) not hearing the alarm, or (b) hearing the alarm, telling my hand to turn it off and not tell the rest of my body and then slyly went back to sleep. Neil called me at 6.30am wondering where I was...panic...oh boy, much cursing and apologies from my side of the phone. Laughter and slagging from the other end. I was gutted. Simply gutted. I went back to bed and tried to get some more sleep. The phone rings again, waking me from my slumber...Neil. It's 1pm, I have now slept for close to 14 hours, my body is definitely telling me something. I have not slept this long for as long as I can remember. Neil is looking at the Stellar's Eagle...gutted is by now not even relevant. Utter disappointment, the type one feels at the age of 12 after losing the cup final, it's not pretty. I thank him for his kindness and allowing me to dewll on the mental image of where the bird is EXACTLY sitting. With thousands of duck, more than our last visit, I am truly dejected. I still am. Hopefully I can get out tomorrow with Neil if he decides to go to Amagasaki. I hope he decides to go. I need my fix.

    I sloped off to Umeda to look at the sales in Yodobashi camera. The new Nikon D200 is out and the reviews are excellent. I managed to have a look at one in Yodobashi. Oh boy, it's nice. My friend in another camera shop was not working so I will call back to negotiate a swap deal with my present camera. The D200 is the way forward. Maybe purchasing this will lift my gloom today but my credit card will certainly self-destruct!! Someother time I feel, save some money first!!

    Anyway, back to my photograph editing. I hope you enjoy the Kingfisher and the Japanese Wagtail I saw in Kyoto yesterday. A bright bird to brighten up a dull, overcast day. Maybe I'll go to bed at 8pm tonight...

    Carmo's diet: today I've mostly been dwelling on what got away...aaagggghhhhhh!!!!! There's always Hokkaido though :)

    PS: just off to phone to Neil, not only did they see a Stellar's Eagle, but picked up a second bird hunting duck at a different location in the evening...I'm sick to my stomach. Also some Daruian Jackdaw's, long-billed plovers, whistling swan and rooks. A total of 70 species...what a day to be too exhausted to hear an alarm go off. Still, off to Amagasaki tomorrow so fingers crossed we'll see something decent.

    Sunday, January 01, 2006

    Happy New Year!

    Firstly, I would just like to wish everyone who logs on here to read about me (coz I is so important), a very succesful, joy filled and prosperous new year. It is hard to believe that I am now entering my second calendar year in Japan, time has flown by so quickly it is quite unbelievable. What do I expect from 2006? Probably the same old ding dong as last year, working hard and trying to see more of this part of the world. Hopefully, some more milestones in my life shall bear fruit, my first journalistic article (out in February folks) and the publication of the Cork Bird Report 1996-2005 which is still a concerted effort, mainly by Ciaran, Colin and Harry and myself of course. Four diligent young men giving their free time to put this book together. It is going to be superb and I am very excited about it. With some luck, other milestones shall be reached, not just for me, but for everybody. I could list off my resolutions for the year but they're all a load of b****cks in my opinion so I'm not going to do it. For example, if i said I was giving up the ciggies, many pairs of pants would be wetted from the sheer hilarity of that why bother.

    Secondly, I shall tell you all what I've been up to for the last few days. Thursday night and Friday night was spent out on the town with the lads. Into Shinsaibashi on Thursday night (after finishing work at 3.30pm, it was like Christmas for us, leaving work during daylight hours), had a couple of beers over dinner and then off to a club until 5am. A bowl of Ramen to warm the bones after walking out in the freezing conditions. Slept until sometime and then out again on Friday night in Umeda to a club called Saze. A predominantly Japanese hangout (7 gaijins in amongst 700 locals!), the music was banging techno. Can you imagine me there lads? Picture it, Carmo standing on the edge of the dance floor, beer clutched in one hand, ciggie in the other and wondering when they are going to play the guitar music! It was a good night, loads of friendly locals looking at us like we were the new wildmen of Borneo brought in for their entertainment. However, the craic was mighty and the dancin was danced. At the end, a few transvestites and cross-dressers got up on stage and the place went mad. They were pretty cool. I had to run away from a mad Russian chick..not quite what I would have liked, more Matron Helga than svelte hottie. Ah well...

    Didn't do a whole lot on New Years eve due to old age not allowing me to do 3 all nighters in a row so stayed in and watched a dvd, "Kingdom of Heaven". I really liked the movie and Orlando cast away his poncy performance in Troy to at least give a bit of decent acting in this one. If anyone hasn't seen it, read this article by Mr. Robert Fisk and then rent it out...interesting slant on it
  • Fisk's article

  • Anyway, I was never one for the New Years Eve pubbing/clubbing thing so it didn't bother me. Traditionally, the Japanese will go to a shrine and wait for midnight when the priests come out and ring the bell 108 times to signal the new year. Most people stay there for dawn and go home. Those who don't make it at midnight will descend on the temples/shrines on new years day.

    So in true Japanese tradition, i went to Kyoto today to walk around one of the temples there, it was PACKED! MADNESS!!! It was a temple I hadn't visited before and it was amazing. Called Kiyomizu-dera, it is a World heritage site. Set in beautiful surroundings with Kyoto as a backdrop. A few girls dressed as Maiko (the Kansai version of the Tokyo Geisha) were strolling around, being photographed by everyone, not just gaijins like me. Also, we walked down the last Maiko street in Kyoto where there are a few still working. In the 1970s it would have cost a party of 4 $2500 an hour so how much would it cost now?? Mindboggling. One other thing, if you are ever in Kyoto, check out a small cafe called Organic Restaurant...fabulous!

    Anyway, back home now and anticipating a day out birding to Biwa-ko tomorrow. A 5am start so hopefully we'll connect with THE eagle. Snow is forecast for the area so it will be a tad cold. The scenery should be fabulous with plenty of snow on the mountains. Hopefully I'll get some nice photos to put up for you all to see. I will also put up a new photopage on the photopage from Kyoto today.

    On that note, I bid you all adieu. I hope the hangovers are not too potent today...

    Carmo's diet: This week I've mostly been having time off