Saturday, January 06, 2007

Commute (21) Careful!! Children

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A new old'un ... 'the hitchhiker'

My favourite old'un, the 'Wheelbarrow Woman', has dropped off the face of the planet, perhaps permanently. However, she has been partly replaced in my thoughts by her body double. The doppleganger has almost the same physique as the 'Wheelbarrow Woman' (bent double like rice stalks in a typhoon), and the same gait. Alas, she has no wheelbarrow in which to sit and rest on her painfully slow journey to her sewing class. I pass her on the precarious riverbank road of a morning, and she's normally totally knackered. As you approach her from behind, she looks like a headless ghoul shuffling through the early morning fog that hangs low and heavy over these parts. What is even more startling is when this ghostly apparition turns, steps into the path of your car and waves a withered hand for you to stop. She then opens your passenger door, scrambles up into the front seat (no mean feat for a person shy of a hundred years by only about a dozen), and points where she wants you to take her. Wheezing heavily she thanks you unceasingly for stopping (even though you have absolutely no choice in the matter), and does her best not to bash her head on the dashboard.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Missing the Wheelbarrow Woman

Back in the summer was the last time I saw the wheelbarrow woman. An extraordinary old'un whose back was paralysed in a permanent 90 degree bow - a lower-case 'r' of a woman, forced by her spine to stare intently at the ground at her feet rather than the fields and sky around her. These were my thoughts at that time.

She sits in her wheelbarrow fanning the flames of summer. She must be 90 give or take a decade. Ruddy of cheek and stooped of back. She sits there in her wheelbarrow hidden from view by a large straw hat. She breathes like a marathon runner collapsed at the finishing line. Shoulder-heaving gulps of air. I pass her most mornings, and some evenings, too. A rice farmer. In the evening she carries a torch. Just as well. In the pitch dark country lanes it is difficult to spot a tiny old woman sitting in a wheelbarrow. On a blind corner she often stops. We have had our fair share of near misses.

Beginning to wonder if we've had our last near miss. I fear she has pushed her final wheelbarrow.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Waiting for ... dough

Four junior high school boys sitting on a bench. Killing time.
Spiky, tousled hair. Shirts hanging out. Big basketball sneakers with laces slack enough to trip them up. The odd punch and push. A lot of laughter. A maelstrom of mirth. But waiting for what?
A scuffle. A bag flung across the floor. A groan and a moan and a reluctant retrieval. More laughter. Flicks of the hair. Jutting of jaws. But still waiting. For girls?
Cracking suntans. Three buttons undone on their shirts. A snatch of pop song. Some drumming on the wooden slats of the bench. Youthful exuberance barely held in check. The wait goes on. Must be for girls.
Movement to their right. Their heads turn in unison. The elderly shopkeeper stoops. Then places yellow stickers on the crackling wrappers of pizza slices, azuki bean jam rolls, and assorted baked goodies. The stickers bear the best of tidings - 20% off!
The boys swing themselves off their perch. They're in there like a shot - the change in their pockets jangling. The wait is over. There's nowt like stale pastries.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Commute (20)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tokyo Rose - siren of the wartime airwaves

Tokyo Rose died on September 26th, 2006. Or rather she didn't. The 90 year-old woman who died that day was Iva Toguri.

Her troubled tale is a sad one, a tale of racism, greed and hysteria, and you can read a summary of her life in The Times' obituary. Iva Toguri was the American woman arrested as the infamous Tokyo Rose, the seductive voice of Japanese World War 2 radio propaganda, a voice designed to make American troops go all wobbly at the knees. The fact that Tokyo Rose was a myth seemed not to bother the US authorities of the time, nor the slavering media pack, hot on the scent of a sensational scoop.
Tokyo Rose was found guilty, yet in spite of what appears an injust six year incarceration, Iva Toguri remained stoic to the end, refusing to criticize those who had hounded her. She was pardoned by the government of the country that she loved, the US, in the 1970s.

Her story has been told in great detail by Masayo Duus in Tokyo Rose: Orphan of the Pacific.

Iva Toguri's story is worth a read, if only to make you think about what actually constitutes treason in this day and age. What levels of work for the benefit of the enemy are acceptable for POWs in prison camps? What is collaboration?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Commute (19)