Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas Message - 2012

As another year comes to a close and we enter the holiday season, Norman has sent us special seasons greeting which includes the first part of a recap of what 2012 held for him during his long stay in Japan whilst waiting for the permission (that sadly never arrived) to continue the circumnavigation.
Always upbeat, here in his own words is Norman's Christmas greeting.

 Christmas 2012

Hello again everyone, well what a fantastic Olympic year 2012 has turned out to be… though unfortunately it has also been an extremely frustrating year for the Gyrox Goes Global project.
It began well enough; initial spring time optimism pointed towards a timely return to the circumnavigation record attempt once the Bering Sea became unfrozen. But late spring slipped steadily into summer without any sign of the elusive (but still very necessary) Russian Flight Permission being granted. Seemingly endless negotiations continued throughout the summer months and as if in an exact replay of this same time last year, we now still find ourselves remaining firmly stuck in Japan for a second winter….
However, remaining ever the optimist (at this point I think the GGG motto should read “Spes oritur aeternum”  - hope springs eternal!), the encouraging news going forward into the new year is that I have finally managed to make contact with a highly regarded Far East Russian Navigator who is willing to assist and accompany me on the onward journey in late May 2013.   

Looking back on the year, I spent most of the summer simply waiting. I was constantly hoping for improving news from Russia (in fact any news coming out of Russia would have be seen as good progress…) and thus kept the GGG project in a constant state of readiness to immediately fly on towards Alaska, once the green light would be given by the Russian Authorities. All well and good only the “Green for Go” light never came…in fact at times it felt more like the traffic lights had been decommissioned and unable to give out any signals at all….
Dougie arrives in time to help Norman with the cherry harvest.
I was however able to put the enforced down time to good use and thus embarked on various local projects that would keep me busy. My “gastronaught” puppet co-pilot supplied by Stomawise UK ( Named “Dougie” after Douglas Bader, a very famous disabled pilot) arrived during the summer and he instantly became involved with many of the activities, including assisting in the annual Cherry picking harvest at a local family run farm.  This was a most enjoyable experience, although it also meant a very early start to the day to pick enough Cherries in time for each day’s market.
Rice planting was another wholly fascinating and unusual activity, especially for someone who hails from “Norn Iron” - where  potatoes are our staple feed-stuff
The rice seedlings are cultivated in long polythene tunnels in seed trays and then taken out to be planted in the regular rice fields. Normally the planting out is undertaken by a very bizarre looking, spindly wheeled tractor, but on one occasion I joined an organised community planting day to experience the job of planting the rice out by hand, as it would have been traditionally done many years ago.

It might not look as pretty as a sports car, but the modern planting tractor is definitely the rice farmer’s best friend in the spring time… as trying to plant out a whole field by hand alone must have been very hard work in the past, especially  while you are being baked under the hot spring sunshine…still, at least the oozy, warm mud squeezing through your toes was quite good fun! 
During the summer the rice grows quickly and a clever method is used mid season to combat pests and encourage the eventual yield of the crop. Once planted out with seedlings the fields are initially flooded to help the rice grow rapidly, but this then makes it difficult to enter the field with any large machinery to perform any necessary crop spraying.
 A highly effective solution has emerged in recent years and that is to employ large remote controlled helicopters that can hover just a few metres above the crops. Very specialised teams of remote control pilots (who are often also farmers themselves) are then very active mid season moving from field to field during a few brief hectic weeks work. 
 Rice Harvest season came up next (in early autumn) and I was thus able to complete the full growing cycle by having a lesson at driving a combine harvester.
I was very privileged to actually be allowed to take the controls as rice cultivation, as you can well imagine, is a very serious business in Japan - it proved to be great fun none the less! 

Later in the year, on a day trip over to Sendai, I came across this very peculiar sight - it was a small boy standing outside a shopping centre holding a piece of carrot on the end of a long stick….what on earth was going on?
All was revealed when the small boy duly offered up the carrot to a very well behaved horse! No chance of any bitten fingers here! The horse was part of a promotion for a local riding school and the staff where taking no chances when it came to potential personal injury claims…
Trust the Japanese to have thought of everything!
On the same Sendai trip I spotted an enormous inflatable Japanese Santa hung from the ceiling in a shopping mall, I was especially drawn to his somewhat contradictory jet black hair and white flowing beard….  Complete with umbilical air pipes to keep both he and Rudolf fully pumped up over the festive season, I thought what a perfect way to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
 And in case you are all suffering from aching feet during the endless Christmas shopping trips of late, the Japanese have triumphed once again…..what better solution can be found than by supplying some complementary sofas in your busy department store, especially for the reluctant partners of shopaholics to rest up a while…
Until the next installment…. 
From all at the Gyrox Goes Global team and from myself and my family, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and successful New year, 
Best Wishes

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