Friday, August 22, 2014

Musing about Birthdays

My birthday's coming up in a week and I've found myself lacking the energy to be bothered planning much this year.

With getting older every year the novelty wears off a little, that's part of it. And Japan kind of sucks the fun out of it by thinking the whole thing is much too selfish and childish, so that I even find it hard to write this and not feel like I am coming across as that! Neither friends nor family are under any obligation to even remember the day and say something, let alone indulge you in a whole week of 'Celebrating Me'. But it's less that I think than busyness inertia - the fear of planning because everything gets changed, cancelled or trumped, so that even blank spaces on my calendar look suspicious.

For years now, I've ensured my own birthday fun (and ensured my kids would learn how I expect a birthday to be celebrated) by making my own plans for outings, planning my own menus and ordering the things I want to be delivered (nothing better than getting boxes in the post!). No choice really, you can't just sit around waiting for everyone to realise then get all pissed off when they don't. Might as well ensure there are some things there that YOU like!

In summers gone by (I've had more birthdays in summer and/or tropical weather now that it feels normal!) I had more time off work and the kids' summer wasn't so stuffed full of things. I hate how while school is out, extra curricular classes continue. I do skip some of them, but feel obliged to keep up with others. I liked it better when we blew everything off and just forgot what day it was. Anyway, that was a bit of an aside, though summer busyness and plans certainly impact my celebrations.

So I didn't have any clear ideas about what I wanted to do, except go to the beer garden. That was my plan last year, only it got typhooned out. The problem is that my birthday falls on a Thursday, in the middle of a work week, sandwiched between two busy weekends. There simply isn't a space to put that!

Planning was complicated by there being so many things I like to do! Go out on a date with Kanji to a fancy restaurant. Or with the whole family. Have a family dinner at home with old country favourites and a bottle of expensive bubbly on NZ sav blanc. Go out with the girls. Have a home party, preferably wine and cheese. Go out for lunch with the kids. Eat pie at home for lunch (yes, meat pies, the height of exotica here!). Go out for parfaits or sundaes with the kids. Drink champagne or wine while watching a favourite DVD. Now, how on earth can I fit all that in? I can't, right? So I have to choose, and kind of let it fall by the wayside as I dithered about what I wanted and where I could fit it in.

At the same time, I was being equally dithery about our summer holiday plans. I'd had vague ideas of going to Shimonoseki, Miyajima, waterfalls, beach trips, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, maybe even Melody in Miyazaki again. And once more, I couldn't decide so kind of let it fall. Part of the reason was never knowing what was planned for Obon, and suspecting we were going to be busy with hatsubons, since there were two deaths in the family this year. It turns out that a visit from the 'head of the family' is enough and we did nothing different from normal, so we could have booked many things that weekend, except of course that that's the week every other person in Japan is booking things, and we'd probably have to had booked a year ago, plus the roads would be packed so even staying with people would be risky! I'm glad we left the week before free, and could do Gishwhes.

So for our annual summer holiday, we ended up in Beppu, because the chance came up to use the Yaskawa affiliated ryoukan at company prices (eg, cheap), and the only weekend I get a booking was the 30-31. That's the weekend directly after my birthday, and with PP stuff the weekend before, so no 'birthday weekend' with a panoply of events for moi. I've also squeezed in a girls night in Fukuoka on the night of the 24th, with a night in a hotel. That was an AFWJ event organized ages ago, that I wasn't sure I could go to, until I decided that with work and stuff crowding my birthday on both sides, I was damn well going to go, come hell or high water (probably the latter this record-breaking rainy August).

With work every day next week, that means my actual birthday will be a bit of a non-event, and it won't be a whole-weekend, or 'lunch today', 'party tomorrow', 'date night the night after' kind of long weekend I like to arrange. Just a day, and a busy one at that, with work in the morning, and three kid lessons in the evening.

So here's the plan, finally: in direct defiance of my usual practice, my goal this year is to not order a single thing. Okay so I've already broken that promise by deciding to buy the second season of The Conchords, but at least I am getting by on no ordered-in food. Breakfast will be after rajio taiso (nice way to start your birthday, lol!), and will be ham and eggs with the most expensive Buzen ham, which tastes like real ham off the bone, igirisu pan ('English' bread) and Hokkaido butter.

Then work! At least it's an off-text lesson, and the two classes that day are okay, I should have some fun with them. Maybe I should butter them up with chocolate or something to ensure a smooth day!

Lunch is going to be beef kebabs at Aile I'm in heaven since Miyuki brought the beef back!!! Then we'll go home and eat meringues with whipped cream and berries. Okay, they are not from Nakatsu, or even from Japan, Mum brought them for Christmas. I hope they are still okay!

I have to take Erica to English at 5, but I might give that a miss - at least, her American English teachers are the most likely to totally and instantly 'get' that it being my birthday is a legitimate reason to skip class. It would just bamboozle the Japanese staff. We'll have a cheese board, greek salad and deep fried camembert for our snack at about 5pm. Then I'll put the chicken on to roast!

I have to order in the chicken too, but at least I can order it locally from a shop down the road. I'll stuff it in the afternoon and have it ready to roast while I do the karate and dance class run, with Amy lovingly basting it and watering it to ensure a perfect gravy. Erica really can't miss any more karate classes since she missed so many over summer, and same for Lena with dance. It's okay! Just challenges my stubborn ability to have fun no matter what life throws at me.

So we'll have a super late dinner, probably not eating until 9, by the time we mash the spuds and make the gravy. I'll probably do roast veges and other veges in the afternoon to save time. Dessert is going to be brandy snaps! Amy's been asking for them lately, so we're going to MAKE them the day before. I've done it once before, with K helping, and have made the easier brandy baskets a few times so I know I can do it. I may have some wine, just a little, with dinner, but I think I'll be too busy eating to drink much!

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