Sunday 16 May 2010

In the shadow of Mount Fuji

A new class of coffee
A journey of sorts as one waits for the train which gives just about 90 minutes to while away the time but not enough to do anything substantial.
Starbucks Coffee with a carrot cake and a blueberry muffin perhaps but the ever-friendly and helpful porter suggested the Café Royale on the 1st floor, high ceilings, gilded gargoyles and 1830 just to tell you that it has been around for quite a while.
For location, Starbucks is a dreary, conventional template of dark colours and trendiness pretending to class, here, I get real bone china for a teacup and saucer with a silver spoon, not a mug and a wooden spatula – even the traditional does matter.
To Nippon with names
So, I collected my luggage and made for the platform, my name is sometimes mistaken for Japanese and there we were, a troop of Japanese tourists with their trunks, portmanteaus and suitcases, whatever happened to those humongous large Japanese-brand cameras, not one in sight – very strange.
The train was running late, they found out it would be 5 minutes late just 2 minutes before it arrived and then the train formation was reversed – I could not understand why an international train platform and announcement stuck to French and Flemish only – stubborn Belgian pride sometimes comes across as parochial – though I very well understood what was being said from the sound system that drowned out its original output with reverberating echoes. New station, rotten audio.
As we made for our coaches, the Japanese began genuflecting to each other, the guide as obsequious as could be sick-making, all that bowing and deference – we need to get on the train, for crying out loud.
Times have changed
You could see the hierarchies, the seniority, the juniors remaining standing until the seniors were settled, it all looked so colonial, the power-distance index showing a gulf as wide as to be unhealthy for genuine mentoring or leadership in the 21st Century. That kind of society thrives within its own indigenous setting but one wonders about it when teleported to multicultural settings well away from home.
Then my reserved seat – a mess, just like the last time – whilst the stewardess might have been a bit miffed, it was only right for me to ask that the rubbish be cleared away just as one would expect of a table in a restaurant that was brimming with patrons.
I would suppose the Japanese are getting off at the airport having stripped Antwerp of its diamonds, well, the times of that kind of excess – the Japanese acquiring masters and valuable antiques of note – have probably gone but then this blog would be online before I find out.
Should be home in an hour, I think, as I glimpse the lives of those in whose backyard looms Mount Fuji.

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