Friday, 14 December 2012

ROUNDTABLE DIPLOMACY -- Japan 2012 election diary: Day 28

Click here to go to Day 1 of the 2012 Japan Election Diary.



Japan scrambled four F-15 fighters this morning after a Chinese civilian plane was spotted flying over the Senkaku Islands off the coast of China. These are the rocks that Beijing, Tokyo, Taipei and of course prime ministerial candidate Shintaro Ishihara claim as their own.
By the time the jets got there, the Chinese plane was nowhere to be seen, but the stylised diplomatic drama was over, having stuck to conventions to make its points. China was testing the waters, or sniffing the air, and Japan responded with a show of force. The US, which made the McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagle, said it was nothing to do with them.
It reminded me of one day a dozen years ago when my mother was still alive...

***

The round dining table had seen better days. It was a little chipped and worse, it was looking out of style, a remnant from an earlier age. I had been weaned from my mother's milk to eating solids off its once smooth surface. Later, I'd spread my books and notes over it to struggle through summer papers during university days. But on this day, it seemed smaller. I could barely fit my knees beneath it.
I was sitting next to my new wife. My mother was fetching wine glasses from the kitchen, her partner was turning down Roxy Music blasting "Love is the drug" from the living room. I held my wife's hand and we both shared a private smile.
My mother returned to the front room and counted out the cut roast potatoes (four pieces each) and her partner carved the chicken. I sipped the chilled white wine. Zinfandel. The first time I'd ever tasted it. I didn't pay attention as I put the glass down and it slipped off the coaster spilling a little on the tablecloth that my mother had spread that day in honour of our visit.
"Oops!"
"Oh, you're so clumsy! You're always doing that," my wife said.
"Heh, heh," I smiled and dabbed at the spill with my napkin.
Without a word, my mother got up from the table and disappeared upstairs. She came back and plonked something on the table next to the sprouts.
"Look at this."
It was a 1:72 model of Vickers Armstrong Wellington medium bomber flown by the RAF during the war for night bombing raids over Germany.
"My son made that when he was a child. A child. Tell me now that my son is clumsy. A clumsy person couldn't make that."
My wife sat in a heavy silence. All pretence of jollity gone. It was what you might call a pregnant pause, but this was years before we had any kids.
My wife was aware that she had made a terrible diplomatic blunder, but couldn't for the life of her think what it was. I shrugged apologetically to her but said nothing to my mother, caught as I was between a rock and a hard place.
I wanted to scream, "This has nothing to do with me!" But of course it had everything to do with me. It was about authority over me. My mother's was waning and my wife's was growing.


***

This blog series
 is now a great
 book. Honest.
Cleaned up and
 all presentable,
Guts Pose: Diary of a
 Japanese election
 gone bad
features a previously
unpublished afterword
 by me and foreword
by Michael Cucek.
You can buy it here.
I hadn't the heart to tell my mother that actually I'd made the model as a young teen, as a farewell to childhood, one last attempt to make a decent Airfix, with all the parts painted before you glue it together, like you are supposed to do, not the plastic cement hell that squadrons of Spitfires, Meteors, Hurricanes and Lancaster bombers had been consigned to when I'd been a pre-teen, too eager to hurry the production line to assemble an air force for the bedroom than to follow the instructions. 

And the modest deficiencies of the RAF planes were nothing to my USAF B-29 Superfortress whose Atomic bomb doors were so plastered with plastic cement that they'd turned to liquid before sealing shut, never to be pried open in anger again.


***

"I leant a valuable lesson from your mother that day, you know."
"Watch where you put your wine glass?"
"That was your lesson. No, in Japan you have to put yourself down. You don't boast about your husband, your kid or your family to others, you put them down. But in the West that won't work. You have to stick up for your children. You have to show pride in them.
"Are you going to start singing You Raise Me Up again?"
"No. Would you listen to me? You don't put yourself or your own people down."
"So?"
"So we were both doing the right thing, your mother and I."

Go to Day 29


7 comments:

Craig Scanlan said...

Still reading thru this, but for the record, if you're going to scramble fighters for recon patrols and dissuading an enemy, I always go with De Havilland Mosquitos. Nothing dissuades an enemy like balsa wood.

Craig Scanlan said...

Also, it's "love is THE drug."

Beyond that, my wife would surely find a connection to that story. ;-p

Our Man in Abiko said...

Thanks for THE tip. Those balsa planes were pretty nippy though until jets came in.

dr datsun kildare said...

my ex never liked my mum.but to be fair to her she never raised the subject of my airfix models.think the schism was soemwhat deeper than that

liek the new look blog

dr datsun kildare

Our Man in Abiko said...

Dr Datsun Kildare! Woah, it's been ages. Are you back in Blighty? Are you still doing your bit for Queen and Country? Very glad you are still alive.

dr datsun kildare said...

still in the ghan our man.livin the dream.....talking of the queen saw prince harry at tea time as he's on holiday here too :-) for real.I nearly went up and asked for my phot with him but i got all shy.

Our Man in Abiko said...

Don't get yourself shot, mate. Get reading up on Harry Flashman, if I were you.