I woke up in my bed this morning, having picked myself up off the floor around 3am. Peu à peu, ça s’améliore.

I’m sure that SARS isn’t as bad as the massive publicity would suggest, but it’s still a little worrying. However, I suppose that the—how can I put it politely—uncosmopolitan nature of Japanese society is quite an advantage from an epidemiological perspective. The numbers here are low. Still, it inspires me with a cunning plan: maybe if I feign a hacking cough tomorrow, I might manage to get a bit more space on the cattle truck train.

This weekend, the video, DVD and CD rental shop is running a special offer. All old items (everything more than a few months old) are JPY 100 (close enough to USD 1 or EUR 1) for a week’s rental.

I came away with a good selection of classic albums, and I’m going to copy them. I believe that makes me a “pirate” in the characteristically overblown language habitually used. Of course, no one should really be surprised; the rental shop sells a wide selection of blank CDs, MDs and cassettes next to the cash register, for that specific purpose.

It’s a strange week coming up. Under normal circumstances, this would be “Golden Week”, which has so many public holidays that the whole week is written off and no one does anything productive. It’s one of the few times that Japanese wage-slaves get a chance to take a whole week off. Naturally, it’s an orgy of price-gouging for the tourism industry. If you thought that it was hard to get a travel bargain in the school holidays, just imagine what it’s like when the entire country takes its vacation at the same time.

This year, however, it’s split over two weeks with one of the holidays being wasted by falling on a Saturday. Only Sunday holidays are transferred to the following Monday, so everyone loses out this year.

There’s one holiday this Tuesday and another next Monday. It’s quite nice to think that I only have to work for one day, and then I can have another day off.

I’m sure that the banks will do quite nicely out of Golden Week too, putting up ATM fees for the duration. At least it is now possible to make withdrawals at any time, thanks to the ATMs in convenience stores. It’s a big improvement over a few years ago, when the only ATMs available were those run by the banks themselves. One of the advantages of a machine, you might have thought, is that it doesn’t need to take rests and holidays. Not in Japan. The ATMs used to close at night, and they observed public holidays. Thankfully, I no longer have to cope with the mixture of apoplectic rage and sheer befuddlement which that particular “tradition” induced in me.

I must be getting old. Not only do I have more than my fair share of white hairs and a tendency to nap at the drop of a hat, my toe is giving me increasing amounts of gyp (imagine voice of doddering old boy). I don’t think that it’s gout due to life of unrestrained dissipation, I’m disappointed to say. As an avid reader of Stuart Hughes’ blog, however, I don’t think I’m doing too badly. If you haven’t read it, by the way, you really should. It’s sobering, heartening, honest and slightly voyeuristic all at the same time, and very well written.

It’s time to start getting everything ready for my absurdly early morning tomorrow. I’m growing more and more convinced that my ambition has to be to work at home. If I worked the same hours as I currently do, I’d have three more hours a day of free time, and I wouldn’t have to make such brutal decisions as whether to answer the call of nature or get to work on time. I think I’d like that.