Grizedale Arts

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Wednesday 27 September '06
(from Seven Samurai)

A Letter From Toge


The Seven Samurai recently enjoyed a kind of reunion via performance in Liverpool, as well as appearing with Bedwyr as 'rent-a-tudor' backing, I plugged Toge rice as 'the best in the world' during my Tenantspin interview (quite surreal - I stuck to rice and art but Jesse Rae free ranged around bankruptcy, music, banks, slaves, the claymore and back to banks!).

In with the box of shoes, mountain veg. and rice sent over from the village was a letter ... Aiko translated for us and I was delighted to hear that Komi san and the ladies turned our house in to a cafe for the last weeks of the Triennale, apparently enjoying a huge flow through of visitors. I bet they enjoyed the delights of the Toge kitchen more than the rest of the Triennale art fare. This is the first time we have started a project and been almost unable to communicate with the people we've met remotely. Not only do the majority of Toge not have access to the Internet, without having it translated there is little point in us even sending them a long hand letter. It made the box of rice & note that arrived from them pretty exciting.

Nina

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Wednesday 27 September '06
(from Seven Samurai)

Soba Sadness


It's a long time since I've blogged and it's started to feel like a long time since we came back from Japan ... I'm scared though that I have been permanently scarred buy the experience, and since it's unlikely I will be spending a great deal of time in Japan in the near future I'm not sure it's in a good way!

Ordinarily (as I think I mentioned earlier) I am so pleased to be back in Britain that tears prick up in my eyes as we fly in over London. This trip was no exception and as we approached Heathrow I felt exhilarated to see London spreading out below us, familiar landmarks floating past and changing scale as I imagined myself in amongst them at ground level. There was obviously a slight hiccup in home-coming relief as Karen and I tried to negotiate her onward passage to Madchester airport with our 8 bags and the new hand luggage ban, but I perked up no end at Paddington where a full band of 30 odd musicians were playing on the concourse of the train station. 'Now this IS weird' I thought, as I waited to be collected and relaxed back into the warm embrace of UK eccentric extreme-hobby behaviour (by now I'd gathered this wasn't a one off and they play there every Friday).

It started though the next weekend ... we travelled up to Scotland for Jamie and Aiko's wedding party and driving up the A1 took so long that instead of camping somewhere gorgeous on the coast as I'd anticipated, we ended up in Thirsk - not, as advertised, on this occasion beautiful James Herriot country but actually a bog standard UK town symptomatic of all that is depressing at times about Britiain. Now usually I can rise to an odd B&B situation and squeeze enjoyment out of the bad decor and eccentric service. Here though I found myself intensely irritated by the over friendly man running the B&B, despite the many photos of his recently deceased Alsatian, I just felt horror rather than intrigue at his obvious desire to 'share' for any amount of time I'd like to chat. Things got worse when we went in search of food, ordinarily a rural curry - no matter how ropey - is a sure fire way to cheer me (or in fact Karen) up ... and a cheap prawn dhansak has been the saving grace of many a disastrous day's filming/travelling. Not so in Thirsk ... I felt irritated by the people around us and slightly depressed rather than cheered by the food.

As they bought me a wilted rose and dish of After Eights with that white christmas-chocolate mildew look, something in me snapped. I realised that since my return every mediocre dining experience I'd clocked up (and let's face it it quite easy to pack them in here) has been haunted by the vision of the soba noodle trays served at our favorite roadside cafe near Toge. Somehow this tray with a neat basket of noodles, bowl of dipping sauce, walnut and soya snacks and best of all mountain vegetable tempura is all I can now dream about in the way of 'modest' food.

I have tried to recreate this exact meal in my own kitchen with some limited success (the lack of mountain vegetables in Hackney being an obvious problem) but I really think it's made me turn a corner in food appreciation that there maybe no way back from. The accommodation, hospitality and food we experienced in rural Japan may not be fancy but it's I think the best I've ever enjoyed. Thirsk is probably not the only UK small town that won't seem the same again for a long time.

Nina

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