Not quite the Life of Riley

This past week has been tumultuous. Our holiday plans, three weeks in Japan, have been thrown into disarray as a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck north-eastern Japan. Of course, our holiday is trivial compared to the destruction and devastation caused by the natural disaster. And it’s something that presses on us heavily, as we bemoan our bad fortune, we’re sincerely lucky to not be, or have loved ones, caught up in the tragedy.

We’re not planning to be in Japan until 5 weeks from the day the earthquake hit, and we’re not visiting the north east. But now the FCO is advising against non-essential travel to Tokyo, until that restraint is lifted, our insurance is invalid and we’ll be forced to cancel. The kicker, our insurance won’t payout for cancellation of a trip on the recommendation of the FCO, even though this advice renders the trip impossible by the terms of the insurance.

Airline tickets are non-transferable and non-refundable, and Alitalia aren’t offering us a refund on flights. An option to rebook or reroute is an alternative, but we’d need to complete our travel before the end of May, which really isn’t enough time to plan and book another extravagant holiday somewhere else far-away.

This week Samantha also had her finals, the last exams of her masters; cocooning herself and avoiding all Japan news, she had to buckle down and study. But that’s all over now, and after ten weeks of being a student, she’s back home and we’re your average married couple again. Although Sam is yet to fully recover from the exams or the nights out drinking in celebration.

On Friday we had tickets for “Life of Riley”, a new Ayckbourn play, at Brighton Theatre. On a friday night the place was two thirds empty and the audience an average thirty years older than us. Local theatre really is no comparison to the West End. The production had its moments, and you could see the old flares of genius, but all in all it was tired, average and poor. And as the lights and music were fading out at the end of the play, the Pink Floyd track abruptly cut out and the lights flickered on and off. Our programme is lost somewhere in the stalls.

A scene from Ayckbourn’s Life of Riley
A scene from Ayckbourn’s Life of Riley

Saturday took us into London, for a friend’s 30th birthday, the first 30th we’ve been to, and I’m sure the first of many. We made a day of it, and wandered around Southbank, the London Eye, Houses of Parliament and St. James’ park, in the glorious sunshine, it felt like summer had come early. We played with the settings on the DSLR camera, and watched the pelicans at St. James’ being fed whole fish, into their chop-stick like beaks. We lunched at Hummus Bros., did a spot of last minute shopping and had a long rest in comfy leather chairs in a Nero coffee shop.

London Eye
London Eye

The meal was at Donzoko’s, around the back of Hamleys. We were downstairs in a cold room to ourselves, perched on stools with cheap disposable chopsticks. Between 16 of us we shared sushi, chicken and salmon teriyaki, a delightful aubergine dish and some tempura vegetables. Cold sake for everyone before a quick drink at a hawaiian bar nearby, then, as per usual, a dash to Victoria station to make sure we caught the last train at 00:05 am.

The train home was eventful. A seat had been smothered in digestive biscuits and conversation with a group of drunk but not rowdy twenty-somethings revolved around the conspiracy. One fella, a guy that had earlier been mugged by a girl, was sure they were Wotsits.

Sunday was again stressful, as we held a crisis meeting to work out what to do with our holiday. This week we’ll cross our fingers and hope that the nuclear situation is resolved, the FCO advice lifted and a sense of normality returns to Tokyo, in hope that our holiday can be salvaged.