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24 December 2005
Domo arigato gozaimashita
The Ishikawas

(That’s Japanese for “Thank you very much.”)

A few years ago I was sitting on the platform at Chippenham railway station minding my own business when a petite Japanese woman approached me to ask where the second-class carriages would pull up.  I explained as best I could that the likelihood was that she was in the right place but with our trains almost anything could happen.

She sat down on the next bench which was an invitation even I couldn’t ignore to try out my recently-acquired Japanese language skills.  I said: “Nihonjin desu ka” which means “Are you Japanese?”  She reacted by leaping about three foot in the air.  I guess she wasn’t expecting to be spoken to in her native language.  When she recovered from the shock we got talking.  Akiko Ishikawa and I have been in contact ever since.

To say I was glad of our friendship when I fell ill is (my) understatement of the year.  Although, I tried to keep a stiff upper lip about things eventually even I could see I was going to need help.  Akiko then phoned for the ambulance, acted as translator between me and the ambulancemen and nurses, bought all sorts of supplies, lent me her phone so I could phone home, “persuaded” the nurses that a shampoo and blow dry are in fact right up there with dressing wounds and taking blood pressure readings, got her husband to clear out my hotel room, booked me a new hotel when I was discharged, (quite rightly) bullied me into looking after myself and did a hundred other things many of which I can only guess at.  I am not sure if I should mention this or not but she even (in the first instance) paid the (not insubstantial) bill.

And every time I said “thank you”, which was a lot, she just replied: “It is my pleasure.”  (Bet it wasn’t.)

I do not know (as in, I really don’t know) what I would have done without her and Kazuhiro.

So, Mr and Mrs Ishikawa, I thank you again.  I just wish I had the words that could express how desperately grateful I really am.

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