Tomorrow, I should have something to announce! But first, this weekend it was Tokyo Rainbow Pride. Here's a vlog update of what I got up to there, and a few other things at the end too.
I've been in Japan over a week now. When that seven-day mark had more or less arrived, I put together a video with all the random footage I shot on my little travel camera. It turned out to be pretty long, so I split it into three!
I’m in Japan, and settled, and quite pleased with myself. On the other hand, just about everything that could go wrong did indeed go wrong, and pretty much all of it was thanks to the those crazy French and all their strikes! This is the second time in a year I’ve been held up badly because of French strikes, the last time meaning we spent the night on a train in Gare de l’Est. In fairness, it was a sleeper train so not uncomfortable! I’d planned out my first day in Japan so well. I’d even made a video I was going to edit with all the bits I was going to film once I arrived at 10:50 the next day. Yeahhhh...that wasn’t to be. The sinking feeling began when we sat on the runway at London City Airport for a good half-hour after takeoff time. The first leg of our journey was to Rome, and I only had an hour to make my connection as it was, so I wasn’t too happy. Eventually, the pilot came on the tannoy and told us that as we were meant to be flying over French airspace, the French air traffic control strike meant we weren’t going anywhere. Urgh! There were some pleasant assurances from the copilot that they’d know various flights were delayed in Rome, so they’d probably hold ours. They didn’t, of course. By the time we landed, our flight to Tokyo had already gone. It was just me and a Japanese guy at the counter after that. At first they wanted us to just go to a hotel and get the plane 24 hours later. Then they suggested we could go via Shanghai and arrive at 9:30pm. Eventually, two counters and numerous phone calls later, Turkish Airlines agreed to take us via Istanbul to arrive in Narita at 6:30. Well, an 8-hour delay was a whole lot better than a 24-hour one, and there was a chance my estate agent would stay a little late for me, so we agreed for that one. Our bags would be transferred, they said, and we just had to hang around. Of course, that meant most of my plans for my first day were out of the window, and there were a couple of things I really wanted to get done before Friday, so things became a big rush. At the Turkish Airlines counter, they told us they’d confirm our bags had been transferred when we got on the plane. So after chatting with the guy in the same position as me for a bit, we went our separate ways with about four hours to kill until our flight that evening. Had a few Euros so got a snack. Not fine Italian cuisine, but welcome nonetheless. When the plane to Istanbul came, I asked about my bag. When the attendant began with ‘Actually...’ my heart sank. Yeah – Alitalia hadn’t sent our baggage over. But there was still 20 minutes until the deadline! Silver lining #1!! Okay, let’s inject some positivity! On the plus side, the food on Turkish airlines is really good! Plus there was a good selection of films even on a relatively short hop. I watched Whiplash: have written a review here. Being in Istanbul without having planned it was pretty weird, but I was just glad to be on my way. I’d emailed my estate agent to ask if the office was open a little later today, but at that point it was about 1am in Japan so I couldn’t get a response. Still, there’s a lot to see in Istanbul airport, so even if I couldn’t buy anything, it wasn’t unpleasant. The final, longest leg of the flight was over to Tokyo. There was a fellow Brit on the seats in front, so I chatted with him quite a bit before watching Nightcrawler. My thoughts on that are here. I was going to watch more films – I usually watch around 5 on long-haul journeys – but it struck me that if I was unlikely to have my luggage in Tokyo, I wouldn’t be able to put my heavy hand luggage inside it to wheel along, so it would probably be better to finish The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and leave the book behind. It’s quite a thick book so better not to have to carry it! Silver lining #2!! While the plane from Rome was crowded, the connecting flight from Istanbul was very late, local time (1am) and relatively empty. I got a whole row to myself, and so did all the people around me! So between Nightcrawler, getting quite a lot of sleep (so much easier when you can stretch out over a row) and reading, the time passed quite pleasantly, and I finished the book about half an hour before landing. Review here! Upon arrival in Narita, passport control was quiet but still took a while as I was getting my Resident’s Card, which has in the last few years replaced the far better-named ‘Alien Registration Card’. By the time I got to the luggage carousels, all the flight’s bags had appeared, and as expected, mine was not there. Filled in a lost luggage form, which took quite a long time, and then just missed the Keisei Airliner. Well, to get to Nishi-Shinjuku, the Narita Express is probably a bit faster anyway, so I paid the extra 1,000-odd yen and headed there. It was already around 9:15 by the time I got to the estate agent’s. But the lovely lady there had stayed late just for me. I was so grateful! The boss was there too – and even gave me some green tea to drink. What a brilliant place! If you ever need to rent a place in Tokyo, I highly recommend Asumirai – especially as they can sort out rental from outside the country, which is a rarity. There were numerous forms to fill in, and I got to use my chop (my seal, which is Chinese and made of jade and which I’ve had since I was small, and serves as a hanko here), which was quite a thrill! I hope I get to stamp lots of other things. I need to get an ink pad, actually...Anyway, everything was explained and I got my key. But I didn’t go straight to my new home – instead I went to meet some friends on their last night in Tokyo! Silver lining #3!! If they hadn’t lost my bag, I would have had to go to my apartment first to drop off my large suitcase. I would also have had to take it across Tokyo on the train, and lug it up several flights of stairs. Knowing as I do that it has been found and will be delivered to me, this was relatively convenient! Met my friends in Akihabara, much later by then than I’d hoped, but we went for a quick drink and some beer – I got sushi, of course, because what else is so perfect for a first meal in Japan? They’d had a blast, and I met Coji who I’d been chatting with online and who is here for a year as well, so that’s another ally to do fun stuff with! Was great seeing Luke and Sai as well, and good to be welcomed by familiar faces at the start of this new adventure! Got the last train home and went to Donki for some essentials, like toilet roll and a light. The estate agent had warned me that there were no lights in the flat, but it was only the main ceiling light that didn’t work – the others did. Went to Bic Camera but it was closed, so grabbed a futon from Don Quixote and lugged it back to my flat, which actually isn’t that rare – I’ve seen a couple of people doing the same since. My sleeping patterns were still on UK time, so I wandered Shinjuku until about 4am. Kabukichou is a great place to people-watch. There are so many beautiful guys and girls in the entertainment business there, going about their strange twilight lives where appearance matters above all else! I’ll do a blog about them one day. I have to say, I’m fascinated. The next day there was a lot to do, as I had after all planned things for Friday but had the things I’d originally wanted to do on Thursday as well! First, though, I had to wait for a man to come to switch on my gas so that I could have hot water. This was the first test of my Japanese, and not knowing how to say ‘hob’, the conversation that followed was pretty confusing: Guy: Can I ask, do you have a gas hob or an electric one? Me: Yes, I just need gas, I already have electricity. Guy: So it's gas? Can I take a quick look? Me: Please. Guy: (Looks at electric hob) This is electric. Me: Oh I see! Sorry. Guy: Can you come outside for a moment so I can show you what to do if you smell a gas leak? Me: Uhhhh (stands there awkwardly before finally getting it and awkwardly putting shoes on) So that knocked my confidence just a little bit! But I had plenty to do so soldiered on. Next was the ward office, where within two weeks a new resident has to register their address and get health insurance. I could have left this, but a job I had lined up had a deadline of that day for sending bank details (which in the event was flexible, but I couldn’t know that), and I couldn’t get a bank account without registering with the ward. So that’s what I did. After that, it was off to the bank itself. I went to the Roppongi branch because they advertised English-speaking staff, and it was good to see Roppongi Hills. Had a Matcha Frappucino but hadn’t charged my laptop so didn’t stay long, and instead went back to Shin-Okubo to explore Koreatown and get some more basic furniture from Don Quixote. Sadly, I couldn’t go to the gig I wanted to because the tickets had sold out by the time I arrived, but jetlag began to set in anyway...and I’d only slept for one hour! That was my first day alone in Japan...and it’s been hectic but wonderful since then. I feel very content here and have been having a lot of fun. Long may it continue!
I'm going to wait to publicize this post until I can link to the real announcements, but the fact is I was very excited and made my first video! I'm gonna be vlogging from now on, about writing and music and travelling, so here's the first of hopefully quite a few videos!
Gallery visit – Inventing Impressionism: Paul Durand-Ruel and the Modern Art Market at the National Gallery
Today was the day of my PhD viva! For the last five years, I’ve been undertaking a part-time doctorate. Though there was a rush at the end because of confusion over whether I could have a writing-up year, I submitted at the end of October. And today was my viva, the examination in which two experts assess the thesis and decide whether it was good enough to earn me my doctorate. It was an absolutely exhausting experience, actually. And while it certainly could have gone a lot worse, it absolutely could have gone better as well. This thesis will be in my life for a good few months yet.I got up a little earlier than I’m used to and got to Royal Holloway in plenty of time. As it turned out, it was an open day today, so the place was quite lively. I found my way to the Moore Building – the first time I’d ever been in there! – and after a few minutes recognized my examiners walking past. I’d looked up what they look like on the Internet, though both were taller than expected. My external examiner, who we’ll call Dr. C., is an expert on my subject, while Dr. M., the internal examiner, is a historian. My supervisor soon appeared and we went into our little room and set the recording device going. For the first hour, perhaps ninety minutes, I thought things were going very well. I could field the questions they put to me, and it was all really quite enjoyable. Things switched a little after that when we talked about shortcomings. The historian thought that my overview was a bit too weak – I hadn’t discussed some names he considered key, and he wanted me to add some of their arguments, which I thought wouldn’t be a difficult task. But Dr. C. was also disappointed that I hadn’t been delving into archives he had used to write his biography last year. Now, by this stage I already felt like my result was edging away from what I wanted it to be. There are six possible outcomes for the viva at Royal Holloway: an outright pass with no corrections, which is extremely rare; a pass with minor corrections to be done over three months; a pass with major corrections to be done over nine months; a request to make major revisions and resubmit in 12-18 months; the decision that the PhD is not satisfactory and only an MPhil will be awarded; and an outright fail with no chance of resubmission, which is at least as rare as an immediate pass. From this, it may be obvious at once that only the fringe outcomes are dramatic. There’s the possibility of the absolute elation of an instant pass and the debilitating despair of outright failing, but both are extremely unlikely. So whatever happens, passing a viva is going to be anticlimactic. There’s going to be months of work no matter what. Well, the discussions went on like that, until I was asked to go outside while the examiners debated between themselves. This went on for a very long time, and then they got my supervisor in for an even longer chat. I was pacing up and down outside the room for almost half an hour. Then finally they called me in again, and told me their decision. I can’t call myself a doctor yet. And since Dr. C. wants me to go and do more research in the archives, I don’t even fit into how the 9-month revisions are decided. So it’s a bad outcome for me, really. In practical terms, there’s not a huge difference between the 9-month revision and the 12-month revision, but I would have much, much preferred 9 months. For one, it’s deemed a pass. For another, I don’t have to pay the admin fees that I have to when revising and resubmitting. But that was what they decided, in the end. A revise and resubmit outcome. Which many consider a fail. It’s not failing, really. Before submission, I always intended to take another year to finish, until some issues with funding came up. And with this, I’ll have a detailed examiner’s report to tell me exactly what to do within that year. On the other hand, they’ve decided I don’t need a second viva, just to send in the completed version with the additional materials informing the argument. And if I tick all their boxes, I should be certain to get my doctorate. But...I don’t have it yet. It’s pretty unlikely I’ll have it this year. This is not the outcome I had hoped for. On the train on the way home, I read a lot of accounts online of other people who have been in my shoes. Almost all of whom – or possibly all of whom, as there were no anecdotes suggesting otherwise - resubmitted to receive their doctorate. There were a lot of people who felt the same negative things I did: sick of their thesis and feeling like just dropping it, that the examiners really could have just given them major corrections, that there are just more important things in life now than academia even if it’s taken a whole lot of work. Ultimately, I’m just back where I was before I got the idea to rush my submission. I’m going to pay a fraction of what I would have done otherwise for another year. I was always going to have to do revisions. As I don’t need another viva this is no big deal regarding plans to go to Japan, though I’ll need to try and get to the archives Dr. C. expects me to go to within the next month – and visit the library for history books. It’s just that...well, I could have been celebrating a pass right now, and I’m not. And I don’t know how exciting I’ll find the prospect in a year. On the plus side, there was well-timed good news waiting for me at home. A silly extras job might be lined up for next week, but much better than that, my agent was in touch in good spirits – she’s had a very positive message from one of the editors we submitted to, who is taking my book to his publishing house’s acquisitions meeting. Plus another editor has sent a note to say she’s halfway through and loving it so far. So that’s hugely encouraging! Having a call on Friday to discuss ‘strategy’ – I’m not sure, but we might use this interest to hopefully drum up interest from our first choices. Yay!
- Immediately submitting to absolutely all the agents you can think of
- Not doing any research on agencies or particular agents
- Never personalizing your cover letter
- Not being careful with copy & paste
Do this and Grandma will give you her look of disapproval
- Submitting before you are ready
- Ignoring the guidelines
- Going overboard with the cover letter
- Mistaking a synopsis for a Hollywood movie trailer
- Taking rejections personally
- Giving up
Here we are then – my first blog entry. Well, my first one here, on my shiny new homepage. I’ve actually been blogging online in various forms for over a decade – but the less said about LiveJournal the better, right? I should to introduce myself. My name is Bryan, and I’m a writer from London, England. I finally feel I can say that with confidence – I’m a writer. Not that I’m a student who writes, or I’m a coding administrator working on a book. You see, on Friday, my agent and I decided my manuscript was good enough and now it’s going out on submission. She’s already pitched to one of the big ones and apparently they’re keen to read my book. I’m not sure I can adequately convey how exciting that is! And while anyone is free to say they’re a writer whenever they like, this is what has really made me feel I’ve made a transition. It’s finally happening! It’s been many years and many thousands of words since I first set out to get published. In that time, I’ve been to no fewer than three graduation ceremonies (BA, MA and MPhil), finished a doctoral thesis (viva next month!) and held a dozen or more jobs to support my studies. I’ve been a PA, a data entry administrator, a logistics officer...even for a short while a professional drummer, which of course was too good to last. And I’ve written half a dozen books. While most of them at least had an agent request a full-length manuscript, sadly things went no further than that. Until this time! After finishing the first draft of my thesis, I wanted a break from the academics – so I wrote a fun, silly book for kids. And that book was the one that seemed to catch the attention of the people I sent it to. It was an incredible feeling when not just one but five agents asked for more! In the end I signed with Fiona Kenshole at Transatlantic Literary Agency, who really seemed to understand exactly the book I wanted to write and was overflowing with good advice on how to improve it. Nothing has been set in stone yet, of course. Nobody has accepted my book, or done any deals. But I’m very optimistic and excited about what the next months will bring. Meanwhile, I’ve decided I want a dramatic change of scenery and lifestyle, so am going to move to Japan at the end of March. I plan to teach English to support myself while finding time to write - and will hopefully have plenty of other adventures too. Realistically, I’m not going to be published for at least a year, so at first things might be slow, but I’ll try to keep the blog updated, and will hopefully make a few vlogs on the way too. If you’re interested in coming along for the ride, please do like my Facebook page or give me a follow on Twitter. I’ll be putting random nonsense on Instagram, too, because after all that’s what Instagram is for, right?