Long live Pabs!

June 18, 2010

2008 was the year we lost the ‘old’ Pabs. The last post appears to have been made by Eiji on 17th July, not long after he abandoned the rain-swept shores of England and raced towards the warming fingers of the rising sun. It had been with us for more than four years.

For some time now I have talked of putting together a Pabs Retrospective. The decision to call it a Pabs Retrospective – and not a ‘Best of Pabs’ – is relevant. The distinction is made for many reasons, but one more significant than the rest. At the time I began collating the material from the old website, the Pabs Soup forum was already down, putting beyond reach many of the more “in-depth” postings: the poems, stories and early photographs – and, of course, many fine essays. Measured by volume alone, Pabs Soup was by far the smaller of the two main forums; but in essence it was no less than one half of Pabs.

But the material I did manage to rescue from the old website makes for fine reading; it goes without saying that siphoning through the archives was a task that could only have been enjoyed. But more than that… as I read through all the early posts, one thought struck me more clearly than any other: It occurred to me how lucky we were to have Pabs. And how we should make the effort – all of us – to bring the new Pabs to life with all the colour, imagination, humour, reflection and variety that made the old one such a joy.

And then a lightbulb appeared above my head. What better forum for a Pabs Retrospective than the new website? And what better way to kickstart the new pabs than with some choice postings from the old? Before you could say “two birds with one stone”, the idea had flowered into something… almost too beautiful.

So over the coming weeks I’ll be drip-feeding a series of posts from the old Pabs website. Read them, enjoy them; allow your mind to roll gently down memory lane as you recall the things that seem so far away, and the things that seem like they haven’t changed at all. But above all – don’t let the old material stand in for the new. It should serve only to inspire you.

It’s fitting that we open, below, with ‘Karoshi’ by Joyce, a memento from his first tour of Japan. It is with great anticipation we await postings from his second tour of duty – just as we await new postings from all the great and good of yesteryear’s Pabs.

Pabs is dead. Long live Pabs.

TBM

Karoshi

(Joyce, 22.09.2004)

‘Karoshi’ means ‘death by overwork’ in Japanese – something that doesn’t occur often enough in other countries to be given its own word. Perhaps that’s why there are so many national holidays? Enforced three-day weekends so that the hordes of salarymen are less likely to suffer emotional and physical meltdown, and to give them some time to see their families. The fact that most people spend the day in smoke-filled ‘pachinko’ parlours, watching ball bearings clatter nosily through pins and drop into small holes, seems to be beside the point.

Last Monday was ‘Respect for the Aged Day’, celebrating longevity. We celebrated by getting up early and catching the train to Yokohama to watch Yokohama Baystars play Teddy’s team, Hiroshima Carp – a basement battle between the league’s two worst outfits.

The ‘Carp’ is probably the crappest name that I have ever heard for a sports team (with ‘Columbus Crew’ coming a close second). Naming yourself after a fat, bottom-feeding fish that spends its days gulping helplessly for air is not a way to instill fear in your opponents. Though it is a useful image for describing the way they play.

We were sat in the cheap ‘bleacher’ seats, the area of the stadium furthest away from the home plate, with the travelling Carp fans. Watching a baseball game in Japan, it struck me (again) how differently things are done over here. Our section of supporters had its own ‘O-enda’, a person who officially leads the chants and flag waving. Everyone takes their cue from this person, and there is very little spontaneity. With a Carp jacket, white gloves and whistle, he instructs the crowd on what they should be singing or chanting and when. Everyone also has plastic noise-making ‘clappers’, which are smacked together by the whole crowd in perfect rhythm.

Another peculiar thing is that the Carp fans would only cheer when their side was batting. Once the Baystars were in, the O-enda would sit down and everyone would become quiet, patiently waiting to begin again next innings. This is only polite and reasonable, given that it was the Baystars fans’ turn to support their team.

Baseball is a fairly boring game – comparable to cricket. Watching it live is spiced up by drinking beer, eating dried squid and reading the paper. Yoshiko went to sleep for about an hour and it didn’t seem to affect her enjoyment of the game. Teddy was riveted for the whole 4 hours of play – sometimes jumping up and shouting ‘YOSH!’ when something was happening.

In the end, the Carp were awful, going down 13-5. Teddy shrugged and said that he was looking forward to seeing the boys from Hiroshima play better next time. Yoshiko said that there wouldn’t be a next time, and that paying to watch baseball was a waste of money. My own opinion lies somewhere between the two.

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