The one in which Neil thinks he’s turning Japanese…

Faster, Longer, Higher, Stronger.      

Tokyo. It’s 25 years to the month since I first visited Japan as a young location sound recordist for the BBC, covering several stories for that long-gone popular science programme, Tomorrow’s World: a broadcasting institution that came out of the wonderful Science and Features department at BBC White City, which was not only a broadcasting institution in itself, but also a venue built to host the 1908 Olympics and used again in the 1948 Games; and just like the programme, the White City studios, offices and stadium are long gone to the insatiable demand of progress and the lure of property development.   

In a three-week trip, back in 1996, we travelled all over Japan and covered all sorts of emerging technology stories, several of which have since come to pass: such as driverless cars from Toyota, video watches from JVC, and plans to grow a woolly mammoth from the DNA in cells recovered from the preserved remains found in an ice-field. (Well 2 out of three isn’t bad, is it?) There were numerous other items, of course, and they all eventually found a place for themselves in the annals of history, or the commercial cornucopia that comprises the world of ‘Tech’.

This visit allowed me more time in the capital, however; and what a fantastic, huge, invigorating, and dynamic city Tokyo is. With a population of 126 million in Japan as a whole, and 38 million people in the greater Tokyo area, well over 14 million of them live in Tokyo itself. To put that into context, that’s a city with the equivalent combined population of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland… And the Irish Republic. Or 55% of the population of Australia. (And whilst we’re playing with numbers, here are a few more interesting factoids: a quick calculation suggests that Tokyo city would fit into Australia 587 times; and with Japan officially made up of 6,852 islands, it’s coastline at 29,751 kilometres is almost as long as Australia’s, which comes in at 34,000 kilometres.)

Largely flattened by American bombs during the second world war, (and the actions of Godzilla of course), there is little of old Tokyo left; but the reconstructed buildings have been laid out with care on an unlikely number of tree-lined streets and delightful urban parks – and whilst the last few decades have also flattened Japan’s economic growth curve, impressively, despite almost zero growth in the last 10 years, they have retained their manufacturing industry; something other so-called economically developed countries, such as the UK, have learned to their cost to be an economically reckless thing to lose.

Ticket to ride.

I took full advantage of our free travel pass to ride the fantastic public transport network in Tokyo; particularly the underground Metro and the overhead Monorail, which afforded me the most amazing views of this beautiful, and surprisingly green city, from its elevated track, high above the streets. We were allowed to travel on public transport when the Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) dedicated coach service, to and from the stadium from our hotel, fell outside of our split-shift patterns; so, for instance when I was on the early shift (6am to 2pm), I would take the coach to work, but return home after lunch on the tube and the overhead rail. I absolutely loved it.

As a Metro train arrives at a station, a jolly jingle plays; and each station on the underground network has its own signature tune. I stopped off at a few stations simply to experience and record their announcements and musical idents – it was indecipherable, yet somehow familiar: because these are elements of the background sound design for films like Blade Runner and Minority Report. My favourite stopping-off place was the Tokyo Teleport underground station. Just the name is exciting.

The early morning coach to work afforded us beautiful views of the Tokyo Bay area, and we would cross the famous landmark Rainbow Bridge each day, heading towards the stadium in Shinjuku: one of the ritziest wards of Tokyo, that at night normally offers a buzzing, neon-lit karaoke bar and club scene, that sits alongside elegant skyscraper restaurants and hotels such as the Shinjuku Park Tower, home to the Park Hyatt Hotel made famous in the charming movie Lost in Translation, as the place that Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson whiled away their jet-lag hours together. Inevitably, the Covid curtailments that meant that bars were unable to serve alcohol, made the evenings in this district a good deal quieter.

When I covered the evening shift, and rode the coach home late at night, I would eagerly look out for the spectacle of the Tokyo Tower. Illuminated in its instantly recognizable red and white colour scheme, it was somehow comforting to see it so incongruous amongst the modern boxes of high-rise buildings.

Late night supper, taken when I arrived back at the hotel around midnight, after the evening shift, became somewhat of a ritual when I discovered that the two convenience stores closest to the hotel, a Family Mart and a 7/11, offered a hot cabinet with freshly fried spicy chicken portions in it. One of those chicken slices, and a can of Kirin beer, might make a nutritionist wince; but on balance, I decided that this was one acceptable guilty pleasure to end the day with, before falling blissfully asleep.

Games without frontiers.

The Paralympic Games were, as I anticipated, thoroughly entertaining, enjoyable, uplifting, and of course, emotional. It’s impossible not to be inspired by the achievements of these focussed human beings, extending our understanding of what someone with a physical disability or intellectual impairment is able to achieve. Every competitor was already a champion simply by being there, and as the individual competitions progressed, we witnessed athletes pushing themselves beyond their ‘personal best’ records to break Olympic and World Records; rising to the occasion ‘on the day’: a day that for the last 5 years they had been preparing for.

The theme of the opening ceremony was ‘#WeThe15’ a hashtag and logo, promoting the biggest ever human rights movement working to end discrimination; and using the Tokyo Paralympics as its launchpad, the organisation has plans to bring together an international coalition of international associations and bodies from the world of sport, human rights, policy, communications, business, arts and entertainment, for the benefit of ‘the 15’: that is, the 1.2 billion people world-wide, or 15% of the world’s population, that has a disability.

Tokyo was the first city to host the summer Olympics and Paralympics together, back in 1964; and in 2021, it became the first city to host this double event twice. The Paralympics was held for the very first time on the same day as the London 1948 games opened at Wembley, but at the Stoke Mandeville hospital in Aylesbury. Back then it was just one day of competition; today, praise be, it extends over 12 glorious days.

Art for Art’s sake.

I felt the need to be very grown-up one day. Seeing that there was a Banksy exhibition being advertised at a gallery close to the hotel, I planned a visit after finishing a morning shift. I’d seen online that admission was by pre-paid ticket only, but these could be purchased from a ticket machine located in the local 7/11 (these convenience stores really are convenient) and so with a little help from my friends behind the counter, who negotiated the Kanji keyboard on the vending device on my behalf, my ticket was obtained.

The OBS ‘playbook’ guidelines for us being out and about were vague: we could use public transport, but it requested that out of respect to our Japanese hosts, we didn’t engage in sight-seeing trips around town; and when not working, we should remain in our rooms.

However, I made the executive decision that in such instances art must surely overrule regulation; plus, the gallery was only a block away from my hotel and I desperately wanted to spend a cultural hour or so doing something other than watching another episode of The Grand Tour, alone, in my hotel room (sanity-saving credit to Clarkson et al. acknowledged, though). I even purchased a bottle of wine from the 7/11 (again, incredibly convenient) so that when I returned from the viewing, I could inwardly reflect over a glass of something robust and red, albeit a discussion I would have to have on my own.

The exhibition was far better than I imagined it would be, and I’d thought it would be good, with thoughtful soundscapes of London, New York and the Gaza Strip cleverly used to adorn the physical installation pieces. I lost myself for almost two hours and wondered at the power art possesses to make such telling, pithy and intelligent statements so compelling. The upturn in my spirits, notwithstanding the issues being highlighted, was palpable; and I left with a feeling of having been truly nourished.

United By Emotion.

These days, every event must have a strapline, it seems. Either that or a hashtag, and often both. But there can scarcely be a more appropriate phrase to sum up an event than the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics motto of ‘United by Emotion’ (#UnitedByEmotion).

It would have been hard to say no to such a special proposal, especially when the world is watching, but one beautifully emotional moment came when blind 200m runner Keula Nidreia Pereira Semedo, representing Cape Verde, having run her season’s best time but finishing 4th in her heat and failing to qualify for the semi-finals, found that her guide runner, Vaz da Veiga, had taken to one knee just after the finishing line, so that he might ask Keula to marry him. There were tears of joy throughout the stadium, and on the track, when Keula said yes. Yet again, I thought how even more wonderful that moment would have been for them with a full house to witness it.

Less happy were the emotions felt by the Malaysian shot putter Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli, the 2016 Paralympic champion, who was disqualified after claiming gold in the men’s F20 class, whilst also establishing a new World Record. Initially told he couldn’t compete because of arriving 3 minutes late at the athlete’s assembly point, but still ahead of the event starting, under protest he was allowed to compete. However, having won the event, the Ukrainian team then lodged a complaint and demanded the initial disqualification be upheld. Which it was… Moving the second-placed Ukrainian shot putter Maksym Koval to the Gold medal position and taking his fellow countryman Oleksandr Yarovyi from winning a bronze to a silver medal. Needless to say, a Twitter-storm broke out decrying the harsh nature of the disqualification, and also about something that is really most unusual for the Paralympics: the seemingly opportunistic and unsporting conduct of the Ukrainian team. However tough the decision though, #RulesIsRules.

‘Youth is wasted on the young.’

On my last day, I took the opportunity to walk completely around the outside of the stadium, which I thought to be quite beautiful; but it is a building that is no stranger to controversy. Its final design was much modified from the original plans, which themselves replaced a popular idea to refurbish the existing national stadium. (I can fully understand the sentiment behind such an idea of acknowledging and revering the sporting past; I was desperately disappointed when Wembley stadium – the old Empire Stadium – lost its iconic twin towers.) Its cost was extraordinary, too: at an estimated 300 billion Yen, it cost three times what the London Olympic stadium cost, and five times more than Beijing’s. It finally opened in November 2019 after missing its target of hosting matches for the Rugby World Cup, which was held in Japan earlier that same year.

The stadium it replaced was was built in 1958, in good time for the 1964 Olympic games; and as I walked around the periphery, I found a small, tucked away and fenced off area that displayed the cauldron that had housed the Olympic flame that year. Tokyo was the first Olympics that I have any memory of (bear in mind I hadn’t even started school by then), but I half-remember flickering black-and-white television signals and the distinctive commentary style of David Coleman. The summer of ’64… What a summer that must have been for Ann Packer, Lynn Davies, Mary Rand, Anita Lonsbrough, Keith Musto, and the rest of that Team GB cohort.

Quite unexpectedly, I felt myself suddenly welling up as I stood quietly alone beside my discovery – this half-forgotten shrine to youthful endeavour; although I think that this was as much about me being upset by finally acknowledging the passing of my own youth, as it was about me paying my respects, so far from home, to those Olympians from my childhood who are forever frozen in time at their peak; the black and white, time-lapse images of them in action playing in my head. Through the unwelcome sensation of an uncomfortable tightening in my chest, which I desperately hoped would not develop into an audible sob, my melancholy continued by me reflecting on the rather obvious fact that this was clearly their finest hour… Which made me wonder: where on earth was mine?

Feeling more than a little pathetic, and relieved that no one had seen me having an emotional moment, I knew that as much I loved being in Japan, this behaviour was a sure sign that it was time to go home to Heather; and so with some deep breaths I pulled myself together, just as my Dad would have suggested to me at any hint of visible sentimentality on the sports field, when I was a lad.

Dude, where’s my country?

But what of the Australia I have come home to? When we arrived from the UK in June, we went straight into expensive hotel quarantine for 14 days; and arriving back in September, I was required to do the same. Except the fee had gone up from $2,800 per person to $3,220; a cool increase of 15%. ‘Nice work if you can get it’, is a phrase that comes to mind. As someone who has sampled the product before and after the increase, I can’t help thinking that neither fee is justifiable for the quality of the room or the service I received.

This is a point I made, several times, to the government officials who in a kindly manner, rang me every three days to ensure, in their words, that I was ‘happy with my quarantine arrangements’. However, just before I could answer, I was informed that the call was being recorded for quality, training, and feedback purposes. ‘All good, on all counts’, I would say in response; and then, in an equally kindly manner, go on to explain why I was not at all happy with my quarantine arrangements, running down a list of points that always started with the de-humanising treatment of locking someone in a room, with no opening windows, 24 hours a day, for 14 days, with no opportunity to breathe fresh air.

The conversation generally went like this: ‘The first time I did this, I was with Heather and there was a certain novelty to it all. This time, 90 days on, of which 56 days have been spent either in quarantine or ‘soft quarantine’ (which meant in Australia home-confinement, whilst in Japan I was allowed out of my room to go to work, but I had to return there at the end of my shift for my evening meal, bought from a convenience store or a take-away) the novelty has long worn off. And how is it justifiable to keep me locked-up for 14 days when I have spent the last 60 days having my health condition recorded every day, taken a PCR Covid test every four days and presented a clean test result before boarding the plane? Oh, and by the way, I have the coveted ‘double jab’ certificate, too.’

I would then continue, having got myself up to speed.

‘Well, you might say, maybe I could have contracted the disease on the plane; and that’s a fair point. But I was tested on arrival, tested the next day, then tested again 5 days later. Surely that must be enough opportunity to determine if I’m infected or infectious from the journey; and with negative results, that would reduce the quarantine period from 14 to 7 days. But no, I must remain in isolation to receive a test at Day 13. And before I can leave, I must sign a document that states that I will voluntarily find a hospital where I will undergo a further PCR Covid test on Day 16. Where does it end? What if I contract the disease whilst I’m in the hospital waiting room, sitting by people who equally fear that they may have Covid? Should I not test again after 3 days, and 7 days and 14 days to check that I didn’t?’

And then it would finish with me saying ‘I am not a guest of the government. I am paying $3,220 for the privilege of being incarcerated, which makes me a consumer. And as a consumer I must have rights; one of which is, on entering the room when I arrived, and saying it was unsuitable and requesting to change to a room with a balcony, which this hotel has plenty of so that I might at least get some fresh air, I should have been allowed to change room. I am therefore a paying customer who is very dissatisfied.’

Well, as you might expect, there was nothing doing, and on two counts: I was told that once a room is allocated, when you arrive, apparently it cannot then be changed; not unless there is a mental health issue, which a doctor must certify, and only then after the Day 6 Covid test comes back negative, the result of which is known on Day 7. (To no avail, I tried the tack that I feared I was terminally irritated, and this was beginning to show through the symptoms of my usually sunny personality taking on a dark side that I didn’t recognize.)

Secondly, the rooms with balconies were allocated to those people with children (absolutely fair enough) or to those people who smoked, and for whom the 14 days without fresh air to smoke in would be simply intolerable for them. (Absolutely not fair enough, in my book; and the first time I heard that as a justification, the symptoms from my potentially terminal irritation spontaneously and spectacularly presented themselves.)

Dr. Feelgood.

I’m aware that I’m on thin ice as a Permanent Resident, rather than a Citizen (and my accent immediately opens me up to being called a whinging POM), but I have to ask: what the hell happened to the previously indefatigable and proudly pragmatic Australia we left in 2018?

I would have staked my mortgage that if there was one country in the world who’s people would breathe in, lean in, and roll up its sleeves and say ‘right, what do we need to do to sort this bloody mess out?’, it would have been the Aussies. I genuinely love them for this quality; their determination and ability to rise-up from the ashes of devastating fires and all-consuming floods is nothing less than awe-inspiring. But I look around me at the country’s response to Covid, and I wonder if I’m actually in Australia, or watching the first reel of a low budget zombie movie.

As in the UK, the Australian government has fully committed to Project Fear; and the irresponsible reporting of Covid by the Mainstream Media has had a massive impact on the people here. Covid-19 has been supplemented with a dangerous variant, brought to our attention each night by television reporters: I’m pretty sure it’s called Stupid-21; and its debilitating effects can be seen nightly on Channel 7, Channel 9 and Channel 10 News. The ABC has little to commend it for with their coverage, too. Just like the BBC in the UK.

And whilst that whole Fortress Australia / ‘keep the buggers out’ policy is intentionally, unreasonably and despicably cruel for those denied the opportunity to be with their loved ones, particularly as they die from any number of the natural causes that exist other than Covid, and the associated quarantine shenanigans for those who do manage to get back in to Australia, it is the country’s vaccine policy – already 18 months behind the rest of the world – that takes the biscuit, and can only be described as a complete and utter cluster-shambles.

In June for instance, Queensland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jeannette Young, gave a televised press conference with the express objective of warning ‘of the risk of death’ for those under 60, if they were immunised with the AstraZeneca vaccine; which bizarrely, Australia was making under licence and as such had oodles of doses of. She said: “We have had very few deaths due to COVID-19 in Australia in people under the age of 50 and wouldn’t it be terrible that our first 18-year-old in Queensland who dies related to this pandemic, died because of the vaccine.” Instead, Australians were encouraged to insist they be vaccinated with Pfizer; which, rather inconveniently, the country had almost no supplies of.

Then in her July 1st televised press conference, Dr. Young reiterated her stance by saying that “There are some people who definitely should not be getting AstraZeneca, no matter what age they are.”

But by the start of August, when a tidal wave of panic was sweeping across the nation as Covid cases started to rise – despite the government’s ‘keep them out, then keep them in’ strategy, Young said: “Now is the time for people younger than 60 to speak to their GP about getting the AstraZeneca vaccine if they can’t get a dose of Pfizer.”

Confused? You will be… It turns out that the woman at the head of Queensland’s Public Health policy, who in February went on record as saying: “I doubt we’ll need to use lockdowns going forward.” – before going on to oversee state-wide lockdowns that once again cruelly refused any exemption on compassionate grounds, such as a parent dying – is married to Professor Graeme Nimmo; a public servant who not only works as the State Director of Microbiology for Pathology Queensland, but also as consultant to… Pfizer. (I know; you absolutely couldn’t make this up, could you?)

Choosing their words very carefully, the Courier Mail, a Queensland newspaper based in Brisbane, ran a story on August 8th that included in its findings that, ‘The chief health officer’s husband Professor Graeme Nimmo received travel perks and benefits while serving as an adviser to Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer Pfizer.’ Cock-up or conspiracy? Take your pick; it could be either, frankly.

On the day that I wrote this, Melbourne became the longest ‘locked-down’ city in the world, beating the record set by Buenos Aires of 235 days and counting; and with no end in sight. Australia, untouched by any hint of recession in the last 20 years, has now experienced the debilitating effects of it twice already this year.

It’s not just Australia that’s a mess of course; it’s fair to say that domestic politics have been tumultuous in every single country affected by Covid (which is to say, pretty much every country) and look no further than the conduct of Britain’s governing elite, the privileged and the morally bankrupt of Westminster, hopelessly out of their depth as they fail to figuratively organize a bottle party in a brewery, whilst all the time quietly passing lucrative contracts of questionable legality to their equally privileged chums. Unbelievably, they remain arrogantly unaccountable and smugly untouchable.

At a time like this you would hope that any reasonably competent opposition would be capable of holding a government’s feet to the fire, particularly over the complete and inexcusable ineptitude that has characterised Boris Johnson’s response to Covid-19, which remarkably, and comprehensively, continues to undermine the contribution from scientists and health professionals who are doing their very best to do their job. But no, they’re incapable; and this makes the opposition parties collectively, and the individual Members of Parliament, as equally culpable as the government are for the state Britain is in. It’s happening on all of their watches.

I mention this in passing only because this week, in an even more puzzling turn of events, the UK government decided that despite a marked resurgence of Coronavirus in Britain, now was the perfect time to dispense with the services of some of its key independent scientific advisers, confidently defending the criticism of such an action because it claimed to have the necessary expertise ‘in house’ instead. I do think that we are right to ask: given the Johnson government’s track record, what could possibly go wrong with this plan?

Two’s company, three’s a Tripartite Security Pact.

Meanwhile, Australia’s international politics have also come into the spotlight. With China proving to be a difficult customer to manage, and relations becoming what a marriage guidance counsellor might call ‘strained’; (a euphemistic term, often used to describe a situation where one partner living in close proximity to the other, is in fear of the bigger, stronger one.) Well, Australia has been talking on the phone to its oldest friends about the situation: and the UK and the US both agree – something has to be done.

The trouble is, it isn’t enough for China to buy as much coal and iron ore that Australia can dig out of the ground, which in turn provides a significant amount of Australia’s income. China – Australia’s largest trading partner – also owns considerable commercial and residential property, extensive tracts of agricultural land, and key infrastructure providers such as energy companies. Foreign land ownership by the Chinese, for instance, is only narrowly second to the amount owned by the UK – and that’s a substantial amount. What with ports, energy, dairy processors, cattle stations, waterfront mansions and country estates in Chinese ownership, when China sneezes, Australia catches a cold, to steal a phrase.

The tension between the two countries is two-fold: financial and political. The property market here, so beloved by the Anglo-Saxons and the Asians that there is little respite from an agenda of constant Real Estate hyperbole, has been accelerating ever skywards. Fuelled by what has been an insatiable demand from foreign buyers, especially the Chinese, those of us who have lived through housing bubbles and economic booms elsewhere, know that as day follows night, what goes up, tends to do this re-adjustment kind of thing, eventually. And that can be painful at best, or ruinous at worst. But memories are short; and in some cases non-existent. The great Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008, (you know, that thing that Britain is still recovering from; and incredible as it is, financial benchmarks still use figures from before the crash to measure economic progress against), made no dent whatsoever in the Australian economy. The country didn’t even pause for breath as it busily dug the earth away, washed it and shipped it overseas at great cost to the environment but great profit for the economy, mainly to power China’s economic miracle.

But now that China is experiencing a massive economic crisis of its own, it brings into focus the potential of a house-of-cards series of consequences, that could prove to be as equally disastrous as the last trigger for the GFC, the collapse of the Lehman Brothers bank. Ironic as a capitalist consequence that this is, given that China is the world’s largest communist state, the prospect of Chinese investors implementing a ‘dump and burn’ manoeuvre on their investments in Australia brings about the very real danger of the property market here collapsing. So much of the personal finances of ordinary people is wrapped up in the Australian gift that has kept on giving, for years and years: the prospect that with hard work, comes the opportunity of owning your own home, and then progressing on to achieving ownership of multiple homes and thereby securing your financial future.

In the financial world, these de-railing situations are referred to as being either a ‘black swan’ (something unpredictable with extreme consequences) or a ‘grey rhino’ (a large, visible threat that goes largely ignored). From the working Aussie’s point of view, the consequences of either could bring about a new term; and that one would likely begin with the colour brown.

‘That fellah down under.’

On the political front, tension has increased in the Indo-Pacific area – the new phrase referring to the South China Sea – by China’s decision to massively ramp-up its defence budget: including announcing an epic ship building programme for the Chinese Navy. The fear in the west is of an invasion of Taiwan, which would inevitably destabilize the region; and both the UK and US navies have sent destroyers and aircraft carriers to the region, as a show of solidarity and strength.

To this end, Australia has thrown its lot in with the British and the Americans, in a newly-created pact called AUKUS, bringing with it the knowhow for Australia to build its own nuclear-powered submarines, and join an elite club: only six countries currently operate nuclear-powered submarines — China, France, India, Russia, the UK and the US. At the press conference from the White House, President Biden stood flanked by two huge screens showing shaggy Prime Minister Johnson, and Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who looked like a delighted and cherubic schoolboy, well-scrubbed and sitting at the top table for the first time with two very big boys. I imagine his euphoria was rather short-lived however, when President Biden, wrapping up the launch of this new trilateral security partnership, thanked Boris Johnson by name, yet referred to Scott Morrison not by name, but instead by calling him ‘That fella from down-under.’ I suspect it’s a title that’s likely to stay with Morrison for some time to come.

A title also earned by Morrison this week, but one that is certainly unrepeatable, would have been bestowed by the French President Emmanuel Macron, who was reported as being incandescent with rage when Morrison backed out of an existing agreement to have France build 12 conventionally powered submarines for Australia, in a $90billion deal announced back in 2016. The French government were officially told just two hours before President Biden announced the launch of AUKUS. Unsurprisingly, the French called Morrison’s integrity into question, given that only two weeks previously, Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Peter Dutton had reconfirmed the deal with French officials. In reply Morrison said “When we are able to secure a supreme submarine capability to support our defence operations, it would have been negligent for us not to.”

A wag on twitter commented wryly that we should all be thankful that it was AUKUS that was formed, and not a group comprised of France, the UK and the US.

Welcome to Au-stasi-a.

In today’s Australia, the official paperwork required to allow what used to be considered a right for normal, free movement, is frighteningly Authoritarian. The continuing invasion of its citizen’s privacy is nothing less than Totalitarian.

Last month, the government moved up a gear to make it legal to hack a citizen’s computer, their online accounts, or just about any other aspect of technology or networks that they may come into contact with in the course of living in a modern, digitally connected world; and it seeks to do all of this without any kind of warrant and without the target citizen ever knowing it has, or currently is, taking place.

All-in-all, you can’t argue that these truly are ‘interesting’ days for us to arrive here, in this beautiful, bountiful land, amongst some of the world’s most resourceful, reliable, hard-working, easy-going, friendly – and it would seem – unbelievably compliant people.

‘Advance Australia Fair’: the Aussies deserve better than to become the next chapter in a catalogue of Stasi surveillance techniques. But rest assured, I’ll write what I can, when I can, to keep you all up to date with our Big Island life.

Coming Up…

Heather finds us a house and we move in! The only problem is, our personal possessions are delayed by events in the world of shipping. Until November. Even after receiving a £1,500 supplementary bill for ‘unexpected costs’...

Cover picture: The Tokyo Olympic stadium; home to the 2020ne Olympic and Paralympic games. [All pictures © Neil Hillman 2021]

I live and work on the lands of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and I recognise them as the Traditional Custodians of this country.

Neil Life

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