Garden Delights

Sore knees, sore back & sore hands after 8 hours of playing in the mud.

Planting living things into some ground that you own is one of life’s pleasures I’m lucky enough to experience.



Out of the Back Window

Our new SW2 neighbours are a West African Evangelical Church and a West Indian Hindu Temple, which means we have singing waft through the house all day on Sundays.

It’s been raining for weeks but the sunshine glimmers through on occasion and today it was bouncing off the church as they sang. I’m not a believer but it raised the hairs on my arms.


London I Love You

This week it’s:

The N1 terraces.
The SW2 colours.
The SE24 pubs.
The W1 backstreets.

Next week, who knows?

Home is where the love is


Last week I bought a house with the love of my life – the man I will laugh with, talk with, dance with for years to come.

Hitting these big, life-changing stages in time is so powerful for me (and for lots of us I’m sure) but none more so than putting down roots somewhere new.

I didn’t realise quite how happy it would make me walking into our very own house; making plans in it; painting walls in it; hammering nails in it.

Damn it feels good.

Japan Discoveries Day #9

One of the best things about holidays are the must do lists, ideas and promises they inspire. Here are mine, hold me to them:

1. Listen to more African music, especially Fatoumata Diawara. We’ve been listening to lots of her music whilst we’ve been here.

2. Remember how to make tsuru – paper cranes

3. Fill my garden with Japanese maples

4. Read more novels. I’m onto book number four and I’m loving reading again. I lost my mojo for a while there.

5. Enjoy being a homeowner. Thom and I are abut to enter a pretty exciting phase of our lives, and now we have lots of little Japanese things to fill it with.

6. Eat more Japanese food, it’s my favourite cuisine in the world and we haven’t eaten one meal twice since we’ve been here (post and photos to follow).

7. And as ever… TRAVEL MORE. It’s good for the soul.

Japan Discoveries Day #8

It’s amazing how over the years things can change completely and still remain exactly the same.

I love my sister. I didn’t need to come to Japan to find that out but it has reminded me just how wonderful she is.

Japan Discoveries Day #7

Family. They’re the only people in the world you treat the way you do. Good and bad.

I’d recommend to everyone that they go on a family holiday as adults. It should be a rite of passage as we move into adulthood and into that phase when you’ve found some equality in your family group, after the kids have grown up and before the parents need help moving into later life. We celebrate turning 18, getting married, having a baby – we should celebrate the period in our lives when we can see our families just as they are and feel grateful for all that they give us.

I’ve read three books this holiday about family relationships and they too have made me look into my own and appreciate the role my parents play in my life and how precious my relationship with my sister is.

The Woodrow Hill Arais have come to Japan, a place that has always held such huge significance for us and it has helped me understand some important things about myself and the people I love most in the world. I guess that’s why we choose these adventures and why holidays are more than just getting on a plane and seeing something new.

Japan Discoveries Day #6

Japanese pottery is probably the best in the world.

We have traveled to Tajimi to visit our family friend, Maya, who is a potter here and who worked at the North Street Potters with mum a few years ago.

My mother trained to be a potter in Japan in the 1970s (not in Tajimi but in Kasama where we’re headed on Friday), so for me the aesthetics of Japanese pottery are quite familiar. Perhaps that’s why I love it so much.

Regularly I am so impressed and made-proud by my mother who makes hand thrown tableware in her workshop below the house I grew up in. As I get older, those waves of pride become more powerful and on days like today even more so.

To watch people craft something by hand, either from a mold as in the Tajimi pottery today or assembled on the wheel as my mum does, is mesmerising. For someone who spends their working lives behind a computer screen, for me this takes on a sort of magic that I understand but can never replicate.

So today was as much about being in a foreign country as it was being in a place so familiar that it felt like home.








Japan Discoveries Day #5

If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.


Japan Discoveries Day #4

The high street is a central part of city life, with individual and specialist sellers still very much thriving. There are bakers, butchers, 100¥ shops, slipper shops, dog grooming shops, rice cracker shops, you name it, lining the local streets.


The Japanese are the perfect hosts: your sake cup is never empty, your belly is always full and omiage (small gifts) are given at every event, dinner, lunch.


Katsu sandwiches: fried chicken and white bread. Why? Why? Especially when you can have some of the most delicious food in the world just by wandering off the train and into a soba shop.


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