Highlights of 2010


   2010 was another wonderful and eventful year.

    It began with a few days’ stay in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, a place famous for its sunset views, its black castle and the nearby Izumo Shrine, one of the oldest in Japan. Unexpectedly, there was quite a lot of snow, especially in the mountains on the way, and the train was delayed a bit.

Also interesting was the house of the writer and teacher Lafcadio Hearn, famous for his writings on Japan in the early twentieth century, especially The Kwaidan, a collection of ghost stories.

    In January also, artist friends Phil & Viv Booth, visited Meitoku for the installation and ‘opening ceremony’ in Meitoku’s new (second) campus, of Phil’s sculpture Landscape Arch – The Golden Bough, jointly acquired by GB and the school.

    In February, as usual, GB’s old friend & ‘drinking teacher’ Yoshiharu Fujita (from Anan in Tokushima Prefecture) came to Meitoku with oranges, etc. for the school. It was he who introduced GB to Yukio Yoshida, founder of Meitoku, in 1969, and that is why KGB are now living & working in the Meitoku campus..

    GB spent most of the year working on his book  – Hail, Salubrious Spot! (How’s Your Rupture?)about Barnt Green in England, where he was born in 1939, a memoir about the village as it was in the 1940s and 1950s. Brothers Anton and Cuillin have contributed writings and illustrations, and other relatives have written pieces, as well as a number of local people. The book (over 350 pages) will be available early in 2011, directly from GB and possibly from Amazon online.

    In March, KGB were visited by Masashi Miyahara, old member of Reitaku University English Drama Group, whom they hadn’t met for about twenty years. He runs a publicity company for his home town in Chiba Prefecture, and said he could print the Barnt Green book, which he did in early April (making 5 ‘pilot’ copies to show to GB’s brothers and a few other people in England – which they visited later in the month.)

    Meanwhile, GB heard that his poem White Russian had been shortlisted for a prize in the Strokestown International Poetry Competition, so KGB decided to make a visit to Ireland after UK to attend the poetry festival there. GB was able to read his poetry for fifteen minutes, but didn’t win one of the three prizes. A happy encounter with poet Mike Bannister revealed that he was from Cofton Hackett and Alvechurch (near Barnt Green) and had many things in common with GB, including an interest in dragons. Mike added his reminiscences to the BG book.

    Before this KGB had a wonderful ten days in England, firstly visiting Penzance (in Cornwall) to attend the wedding of GB’s godson Rowland, son of his long-time friend sculptor Phil Booth and his wife Viv, who have spent quite a few years living in Japan. The wedding was held in Falmouth Castle, and was a very joyous affair.

    Returning to London KGB met nephew Roland Torikian (sister Lucy’s second son) and his friend Sarah, and they went to a performance of ‘Oliver!’, the recently revived musical – a delightfully ‘English’ (Victorian) show.

    Next day KGB met Cuillin and hired a car, driving to The Woodlands B&B in Alvechurch, a big Victorian house, beautifully furnished in period style. It was wonderful to be in UK in spring again, the first time for GB since 1969.

    They spent three days ‘exploring‘ and rediscovering Barnt Green, sometimes making impromptu visits to houses we remembered and meeting new people, notably Tony and Jane Armond, who live at 36A, Bittell Road, one of the ‘new’ houses where The Grey Cottage used to stand. From there GB went up to the field behind the house to visit the Hollow Oak, which had grown enormous over the years. The Armonds gave us a wonderful tea in the garden, including some gorgeous Christmas cake!

    Overall, they found the biggest changes were in the village itself. Almost all the shops they knew were gone, and many new houses had been built in spaces between existing houses and in fields very close to the centre of the village. The surrounding countryside was almost unchanged. Only Bittell Road, now being an arterial route to and from the M42 motorway, had a constant flow of heavy traffic, so that it was often difficult to cross the road. Cuillin’s idea had been to write a ‘Postamble’ (to match the preamble) to the book, with their reactions to this visit, now included in the book.

    The visit to Barnt Green concluded with a dinner in Barnt Green House, now Barnt Green Inn, attended by Anton, Cuillin, cousin Fiona, GB and Kyoko, a rare family reunion of sorts.

     The trip to UK almost had to be cancelled. The ash from the Icelandic volcano closed many European airports. By miraculous good luck, our flight from Japan was the first allowed to land at Heathrow after the closure. Amazingly too, Dublin airport was again closed because of the ash – the day after our air flight departed from there.

    Back in Japan, in May KGB visited Osaka, meeting R.U.E.D.G. old members Koji Yamaguchi and Masami Hamaguchi (who both appeared in Pericles in 1986, he has a freshman, she as a senior). They also went to the Takarazuka All-Female Review, a spectacular show about Horatio Nelson (many spectacle & showy costumes), as well as to Wicked, a prequel musical to The Wizard of Oz by the Shiki Troupe. They took a tour round the port of Osaka in a replica of the Santa Maria, Columbus’s ship. They also attended a concert of the Vienna Boys’ Choir in Osaka Concert Hall.

    In June, Meitoku International Players (MIP) presented Aladdin as a play (not a pantomime), directed by GB, with lots of interesting effects. The Marching Band Club and Taiko (Japanese Drum) Club almost took part, adding strong musical support.

    In November, MIP presented two plays – Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure (a new play for GB and his 34th Shakespeare play to direct), and Run, Melos!, a play based on a very popular story by Japanese author Osamu Dazai, who based it on a ballad by German dramatist Schiller, who based his work on an ancient Greek legend. Both plays involve corruption of power, constancy of character and a struggle to free a man in prison, so they made a good pair. Measure for Measure is one of Shakespeare’s least known plays so was able to get a rare showing under the ‘umbrella’ of the popular Run, Melos!

    In August, KGB attended for the first time the famous dance festival (Yosakoi) in Kochi City, with the kind help and guidance of R.U.E.D.G. old member Masami Hamaguchi (Hamami), who was born in Kochi Prefecture.

    The idea of having Masashi Miyahara publish the Barnt Green book gave GB the idea to publish his long-sleeping novel The Old Woman of the Sea. This will be undertaken by the UK-based Athena Press, for a price. GB has been long averse to so-called ‘vanity’ publishing, but nowadays, with established publishers struggling to make ends meet and becoming more exclusive, this means of getting books published is becoming very common and has the added value of making the books available on Amazon bookshop online, and being given a proper ISBN number, etc. The author can receive some income through this method of publishing. The Old Woman of the Sea, written 35 years ago, will be available from Amazon early in 2011.

    GB is now planning to resurrect another long-ago-written novel (1972) Frongoch Eyrie, and have that published too, as well as two other works: A Short History of the Feste English-Speaking Theatre (1982 - 1993) and Third Form at St. Clare’s, a parody of the Enid Blyton girls’ school series, written by Cuillin, Gavin & Lucy Bantock in the early 1960s.

In September, GB bought an iPad, and later an iPod Touch – completely transforming the way he keeps information and remembers ‘things to do’. They are a fantastic extension of his brain!

    Kyoko, devoting much time to the writing of haiku, has again been shortlisted (among 9, 000 out of about 50,000) in the national Japanese NHK haiku competition, including publication in its annual anthology. She will attend the prize-giving ceremony in Tokyo in January. She also won Third Prize in the local Keiryushou Competition for fifteen haiku published in the Sekihirei Haiku Magazine.

    Again some old members of Reitaku University Baseball Club had a reunion, this time in Fukui Prefecture, including a tour of the spectacularly Wakasa five lakes are, and catching a beautiful beam of sunlight piercing the clouds (See photo below). During this trip they also met (in Kyoto) former member of Meitoku International Club, Sayaka Muto (newly married this year); former manager (1982) of Reitaku University English Drama Group (R.U.E.D.G.) Kenji Yamada (whose hobby is horse-hiding), and former great actor and manager of R.U.E.D.G. Tsuguyoshi Shimizu who served an absolutely splendid crab dinner at his hotel in Fukui City.

    Early in the year, through the good offices of American Donald Clarke, who made available online his comprehensive discology of Jascha Horenstein (1898 - 1973), GB’s favourite conductor (especially of Beethoven, Bruckner, Mozart & Mahler), GB was able to make contact with Horenstein’s son Peter (who lives in America). Peter put GB in touch (again) with his cousin Misha Horenstein, whom GB had corresponded with briefly in 1999 when MH was living in Italy. Misha, now in Israel, is writing a (long-awaited) biography of Jascha Horenstein, and GB’s cousin Fiona has been helping with this, by translating letters and reviews by and concerning JH from the 1920s & 1930s in Germany, really fascinating material. GB saw Horenstein conduct twice in London (in 1965 and 1971) and met him briefly after the concert (including Bruckner’s massive 5th Symphony) in August, 1971, Horenstein’s first since his heart attack in March in Minnesota while conducting a concert. There is now a DVD available of Horenstein conducting Beethoven’s 9th Symphony – [Doremi DHR -7960, http://www.doremi.com ].

    Photos taken by Junpei Tainaka of GB (as Director) in Meitoku in November, 2009, will soon be shown on GB’s website; one is already there. (Junpei acted Pelleas in the 2009 memorial production).

In January, with the help of R.U.E.D.G. OB Hiroo Suzuki, GB finally ‘published’ ‘A Short History of S.E.E.D.S.‘ – the drama group GB directed in Uchiko from 1995 to 2003. Former member Masafumi Ninoue helped with the binding. The illustrated book can be obtained from Hiroo Suzuki at golozzyn@hotmail.com

One last highlight: A wonderful evening on 23 December with the Morikawa family at Hyoutan in Minami-Kashiwa – the first time KGB have met all their family together.


A Barnt Green Odyssey, New Books & Conductor Jascha Horenstein

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