Archives for posts with tag: Michael Munday

Old bent pine

leans on his stick

softly stirred by

warm Kanazawa


No – of course it’s not a real haiku. But it’s hard to resist the impulse to try summoning a mood, a scene, a feeling, in seventeen syllables. In Kanazawa, in the Kenroku-en gardens, there are many ancient trees propped up by wooden stakes.

Seventeen syllables

do not a haiku make


I’m standing on the old Edo trade route, or Kisoji, on the way to Tsumago. Gill is shrieking at me, her face a mask of horror. This is our second day in Japan, after leaving Sydney, and we are walking the lovely old road from Magome. The weather is beautiful – immediately after the chilly autumn of Australia, we have flown straight into the late spring of Japan, where, here in the mountains, the cherry blossom is heavy on the trees.

I was apprehensive about the Japanese part of the journey – and the autumnal Sydney day had a back-to-school feel. But I had an email from someone called Owen, apparently from Lewes, who’d seen my blog on VivaLewes, and is currently living in Sydney. In fact, coming to King Street in ten minutes! We met in the street, and of course, I know his father. He knows our son. A small world, indeed. He told us about his life in Sydney, learning to be a baker, fruit-picking in Orange, living eco-consciously, and enjoying life. A very impressive young man.

The only drawback about this Kisoji trail seems to be the bears. It’s easy walking, the signs are very explicit, parts of it are even paved. But every kilometre or so through the woods, there’s a brass bell hanging, with a sign that tells you ‘Ring the bell hard Against the bears’ (sic). There are black bears roaming the woods and we really don’t want an encounter. So we ring them really hard and hurry on to the next bell.

So – Gill is yelling my name at me while I’m thinking about the bears, but I’m on a wide paved bit of the path, and I can’t think what the matter is, until I see her pointing at my feet, and I suddenly get the dread realisation that I am, in fact, standing on a five-foot long green snake. And I do a sort of strangled gulping scream of my own and a sort of shuddering, scissor-kick little jump sideways – and the snake slithers off into the ditch. On the Kisoji there are also well-appointed toilets from time to time; and yes, they have heated seats.

It’s a sunny day, I’ve just eaten a prosciutto-and-babaganoush sandwich at Ray’s, and I’ve come in here for a haircut. Here is Clip’N’Shave for Men, on Victoria Street, Brunswick. I’m waiting for my turn, when I realise that the music playing is The Wanderer, the classic unreconstructed single by Dion & The Belmonts, but without Dion – it’s just the backing track.

The barber’s name is Michael, too. He tells me he makes up backing tracks from the original rock’n’roll records, then sings and plays against them at functions. He used to play in a band, but these are lean times for live music, and you don’t make much in an 8-piece band. This I know. So now just he and a friend play at Italian/Australian weddings – “It’s easier than a band these days…”

On the walls are lots of pictures of Elvis. Michael is a big Elvis fan. There’s a guitar in the corner, leaning against a child’s car-seat. There’s an Elvis clock, with pendulum-legs swinging. Michael’s into Kenpo, a martial art that Elvis practised. In fact, Michael’s Kenpo teacher taught Elvis! I shake his hand. He obviously has shaken his teacher’s hand. And, it must follow, his teacher would surely have shaken Elvis’s hand! I am 3 steps from Elvis.

‘200 countries of origin. 230+ languages. 120+ faiths. 1 community.’
That’s the slogan of the Melbourne Cultural Diversity Festival in Federation Square. It’s a beautiful day, there are food stalls from many national cuisines, and crowds have turned out to see band after band take the stage. Afrobeat gives way to Colombian cumbia; Vulgargrad, ‘perestroika punk rogues’, follow the Lebanese Dancers for Peace; Bombay Royale, a tight horn-riffing Bollywood 9-piece, is followed by a Serbian folk-dance troupe (I take a rest from dancing for a while). And we have a speech from the besuited Minister for Multicultural Affairs.
The festival finally winds up with Dereb the Ambassador: a thrilling, soaring, quarter-tone voice against mesmeric cross-rhythms, from a small Ethiopian in a baggy sports jacket. The day is perfect: bright sun on the plaza, and cool in the shade of the crazy modern buildings that surround Fed Square. And the most relaxed Aussie vibe, from the Chinese, African, European, Asian, Latino, and indigenous Australians watching, dancing and smiling.
We get an email fom a friend back in the UK. She went to a meeting in Brighton, about multi-culturalism. It was besieged by thugs from the so-called English Defence League. Sickening.

It’s really chucking it down as we drive back into the caravan park (formerly Cosy Cabins etc) after an evening at the Lodge. It’s cold, too. We sat in studded leather chairs in front of a big log fire, getting warmed and feeling slightly scruffy among the neatly-pressed Lodgers.

But now we return to our berth, unpowered, so we can’t use the heater. And, as I say, it’s chucking it down. And very very dark. Brian turns into the space, and there’s a big bang from the side of the van, and we stop. He reverses, but there’s a horrible cracking sound, and the big thing doesn’t move.

We have to go outside, hearts sinking, into the rain cold and dark. We shine the little cheap torch we bought and see that we are impaled on an ancient tree stump, wedged into the side of the van, just by the gas compartment. Brian is mortified, and spends a dark night of the soul, examining his life…

In the morning, big guys come in a tow truck, and drag the camper van sideways, freeing it within minutes.

At the Discovery caravan park (formerly Cosy Cabins) I wake up and walk to the shower block amongst the soaring peeling trees, light of heart and whistling the organ solo from Del Shannon’s Runaway. It’s a beautiful clean rain-washed morning.

However, I can’t turn the hot tap on – it’s really tight. I use both hands and exert undue force… and rip it out of the wall! A great searing gusher of fiercely hot water hits me full in the manhood, knocking me backwards, and I dance and hop trying to get round the side of it – but I can’t escape! I try to ram the broken tap fitting back in, but there’s a hole in the tiled wall now – this is hell! I will have to hop and twist until I am cooked… I’m trying to wedge the tap in but hot water’s spurting round the side. Suddenly I hear Gill’s voice, and I shriek “Go to reception! Tell them I’m being boiled naked and RUN!”

Well… to cut a long story short… I managed to shove the thing in and stem the full thrust, allowing me to scrape my par-boiled body around the edge of the cubicle and escape, quivering and wrinkled. The man from reception arrives finally with his toolbox. His only comment: “I dunno what that maintenance man’s been doing…”