Week 18: Pop goes the shamisen

I took out my shamisen from its case to find that the skin had torn. It’s the inevitable fate of any shamisen: the body is a wooden box with a skin stretched very taut and glued on. Eventually, the stresses, exacerbated by climatic variation, get too much and one day you open up the case to see this:

Torn shamisen

I knew it was coming because (a) it’s always coming and (b) last year the skin had developed a tiny flaw, which ended up being right on the split.

If you live in Japan, it’s not such a big deal: there are people who do this job, and you just get it mended. But I don’t live in Japan, so it’s more of a hassle of international shipping and customs and all that nonsense.

That’s why, this time, I’m going to have it reskinned with a synthetic skin. They’ve improved a lot in recent years, and whereas the older ones sounded like a dead banjo, the newer synthetic skins sound very good, and have the advantage of being much more durable and resistant to changes in temperature and humidity. It also avoids the awkwardness of the question “what’s the skin?” (Answer: traditionally, cat or dog, depending on the type. More recently, as those have become unavailable, goat or kangaroo.)

People in Japan are also beginning to recognise that it’s a bit of a barrier to international acceptance:

If we do a reception for those coming to the Tokyo Olympics, we don’t want to say ‘This is cat or dog skin’ if asked. If there is a high-functioning replacement, even synthetic, that no one will complain about overseas we are in favor of that.

Speaking of goats, the local Surrey Docks Farm opened to visitors again after over a year when you could only peer in from the perimeter. Visiting the animals has been a regular part of my week for a long time, and I’ve really missed it. On Friday, I went and saw the recently born lambs and goat kids running and leaping around. It brought joy to my day.

On the house purchasing side, our solicitors are still waiting for their solicitors to respond to seven outstanding queries. The estate agent phoned me up twice trying to get me to tell our solicitors not to do their job by asking awkward questions. Awkward questions like, can the vendors prove that they are the people on the deed? There’s some marriage related name change thing I do not understand but which seems to me to be yet another example of how the patriarchy is bad for everyone.

I don’t know if this is normal, but it’s very tiring. I’m beginning to wonder whether they’re not responding to these queries because they can’t, or because we won’t like the answers. Or maybe it’s just that, like everything else to do with housing in this country, the whole process is a shysters’ paradise.


  • Week 17: Corona speedrun

    On Monday, I had my hair cut by a professional for the first time in months. It’s definitely an improvement. I’ve been getting my hair cut by the same person for a decade or so, so we know each other pretty well by now. It’s one of those little things that feels like putting down roots, and something that I’ve missed.

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  • Week 16: Street crossing on the river

    We went to Stratford-upon-Avon with our support bubble friend for the weekend, taking advantage of her brother’s vacant house there. By coincidence, Friday was Will’s birthday, but there wasn’t much sign of it. Unsurprising, really, in the circumstances. It made a pleasant change to have some different surroundings to walk around, and that was all we really wanted. The mission objectives were achieved.

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  • Week 15: Approved

    The big news this week is that we have been approved for a mortgage at last. After five weeks in which it felt like I was being asked one pointless question per week, I sent a sternly worded email asking why it was taking so long, and whether the fact that I kept being asked so many questions that were irrelevant to our situation indicated some deeper misunderstanding.

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  • Week 14: A tragic event

    Tragedy struck this week. On Monday, I bit my cheek so badly that it’s been miserably painful and I’ve found it hard to eat all week. It’s only today, Sunday, that it has perceptibly begun to heal. Usually – and I do mean usually, because I do it very often – it heals in a few days, so it must have been especially bad this time.

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