Immigration in Osaka was a weird and dislocating experience. A dozen of us advanced collectively on a determined but hapless immigration official – he insisted on scanning all our baggage while we swept slowly forwards like Hokusai’s wave. Eventually he capitulated as we swept forward.
Customs officials don’t like sunglasses. Or more specifically, they don’t like you wearing sunglasses. It’s all about eye contact I believe. I have brought a book of etiquette with me for this trip. The Japanese are intensely polite people. We British like to think of ourselves as polite and civil but, compared to the average Japanese, we are ill mannered ruffians. I think some of the youngsters find this politesse quaint, archaic at best. I disagree. I have taken great pleasure in the exaggerated head dips and bows. Even my own feeble efforts to mirror this politeness are greeted with beaming smiles. I think we should have more of this.
What I definitely need more of is sleep. I did not sleep on the aeroplane. So I went through customs slightly discombobulated. I would certainly sleep following night, right?
Wrong. Much of the night was spent walking the corridors of the hotel. I even posted a Facebook message pleading for cookies or sleeping tablets. Several sympathised but were unable to help. Ben, good friend that he is, offered a fine slab of chocolate in exchange for my wisdom on the coffee maker. I think I got the best of the deal. As I munched my way through the chocolate, with all the refinement of a velociraptor, Ben attempted to get any kind of brown liquid from this spitting Hellcat masquerading as a coffee maker. We talked about skin grafts as it became clear Ben was losing the fight.
So I was slightly discombobulated when we arrived in Japan. By mid morning, I could hardly move. The meds were not working. Jean summoned a wheelchair and had one of the volunteers push me back to the hotel. I hate wheelchairs at the best of times but to be amongst the earliest casualties of Congress seemed particularly embarrassing.
By the time of the congress opening ceremony, I barely knew who I was. I couldn’t remember the name of my hotel, or the names of my children for that matter. I could not count forwards or backwards and quivered like a demented blancmange. I would’ve scored probably 12 on an MMSE. My speech was slurred, my thinking foggy and my strength barely able to keep me standing. I was a zombie. A very well-dressed zombie perhaps but a zombie nonetheless. Kerry, a saint, fetched me food and wine while I attempted to string sentences together in a credible facsimile of conversation. The rest of the CPT team began to discuss evening plans. These already sounded ambitious. By the time Heather arrived, with mutterings of late night karaoke, I waved the white flag and headed to the security of my bed.
And guess what – I slept! And now, like Arnie, I’m back. Normal service is resumed. And just-in-time – I have a poster at lunchtime and I am cochairing a session in the afternoon. And, you know what – I’m ready.
Bring it on