14 December 2017

Hello Hugo

It is my 40th birthday today.  I was aged 30 the day that you were born in late 2008.  I have tried to “involve” you in my day today:  the first thing that I did today was to once again visit the spot at Heathrow Airport where I last saw you.  After that I took the train to Paddington from where I walked to the nearby Regent’s Park.  This is one of my favourite places in London and I remember being taken there by my own parents when I was a similar age to you.  I have now come into work for a few hours but plan to leave early to visit the National Portrait Gallery, Westminster Cathedral and the theatre later today.  Below are some photographs that I took of the Park.




Message for Hugo – 6 years on…

Hello Hugo
In London it has just turned midnight on 20 November 2017.
We last saw each other at an airport 6 years ago today.  I, of course, don’t expect you to remember – how could I as you were still a toddler.  The date, however, shall remain with me, as your loving father, forever.
The date coincides with two very different anniversaries.  In the UK the Queen and Prince Philip celebrate their wedding anniversary today (their 70th).  November 20 also marks the anniversary of the signing in New York in 1989 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (itself signed on the 30th anniversary of adopting of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child on 20 November 1959).  The 1989 Convention came into force the following year and included the following provisions:
A child whose parents reside in different States shall have the right to maintain on a regular basis, save in exceptional circumstances personal relations and direct contacts with both parents. 
Article 10, sub section 2. 
States Parties shall take measures to combat the illicit transfer and non-return of children abroad.
Article 11, sub section 1.
These are but two provisions that can be said to relate to us but, as our experience has shown these 6 years, the reality that meets these words is very different.
Earlier this year also saw the passing, on 12 May 2017, of exactly 2,000 days from when I last saw you.
As I did last year, I will leave work early later today to visit the spot at the airport where I last saw you at the time when I last saw you. Also today, as it’s your 9th birthday in 8 days’ time, I will go to the Post Office to send you your birthday package.  I will post here again on your birthday, as I always do, and also later today with a more general update about the blog.
I hope and pray that in a year’s time this will all have changed.  For now, though, please remember that there is not a moment when I am not thinking about you, my beloved and now not so little boy.  May God bless, protect and watch over you this day and all days.

UK heatwave

Hello Hugo

Hope you are keeping well.

As the Telegraph article below relates, today was the hottest day in June since 1976 – the year before I was born.  It certainly felt it.  Ironically, the peak was recorded at Heathrow, the location where you last set foot in the UK in 2011.

The heat this week has been oppressive and reminds me of when I worked in Japan:  in the summer months, when walking to the station in the mornings, my shirt would be soaked through with sweat.  Similar experiences in London this week.

I imagine that the weather is similarly oppressive in Hiroshima so hope that you are coping with it better than I would be.

It would be great to hear from you some time…


The Telegraph

UK Weather: barristers remove wigs and gowns as Britain sizzles in hottest June day since 1976

Britain enjoyed the hottest June day for 40 years 
Britain enjoyed the hottest June day for 40 years  CREDIT: AMER GHAZZAL / BARCROFT IMAGES

Barristers and judges were allowed to ditch their traditional gowns and wigs and school sent pupils home as Britain experience the hottest day for 40 years yesterday.

Temperatures soared above 34C as the UK saw its hottest June day since 1976, the Met Office confirmed.

Heathrow in west London had recorded temperatures of 94.1F (34.5C) by 4pm, the highest for June since the 35.6C (96F) recorded in Southampton on June 28 1976.

Sweltering temperatures inside Croydon Crown Court forced Judge Deborah Charles to allow counsel to leave their heavy black gowns and horse-hair wigs to one side as they addressed a jury in the opening of a case.

Andover Church of England Primary School, Hants, closed its doors at 11.30am yesterday morning because of the increased heat.

Wednesday saw the hottest summer solstice on record as temperatures rose above 86F (30C) for the fifth consecutive day in a row.

A lady sunbathes as they enjoy the hot weather on the beach in Brighton, East Sussex
A lady sunbathes as they enjoy the hot weather on the beach in Brighton, East SussexCREDIT: GARETH FULLER PA 

But the hottest prolonged spell in June since the drought summer of 1976 is set to come to an end, as a cold front swept across the UK overnightt

There are also weather warnings in place for Wednesday afternoon and evening, with heavy rain and thunderstorms forecast for parts of southern Scotland, northern England, north Wales and the Midlands.

The Met Office warned of the potential for torrential downpours, frequent lightning, very large hailstones and strong gusts of wind, which could lead to localised flooding and temporary disruption of power supplies.

Chief meteorologist Steve Willington said: “The high pressure that has dominated our weather of late is starting to move away, allowing fresher air in from the west.

“A cold front that will pass through the UK will mark an end to the hot spell of weather in the south and bring cloudier skies and lower temperatures.”

 Large crowds of sun seekers pack Brighton beach to cool off on scorching day
 Large crowds of sun seekers pack Brighton beach to cool off on scorching day CREDIT: BARCROFT MEDIA

The sweltering temperatures have seen “unprecedented demand” for ambulance services in London, with people fainting, collapsing and becoming unconscious in the heat.

Patients calling for non-emergencies are likely to wait four hours for an ambulance, London Ambulance Service warned.

On Monday, London Ambulance Service call handlers answered 6,613 emergency calls, compared with 4,695 the week before – a 41 per cent increase – and the service warned this was expected to continue while the heatwave lasted.

Peter McKenna, deputy director of operations, said: “Our crews are extremely busy.

“On Monday we attended 20 per cent more seriously ill and injured patients than the same day last week and we’ve also been involved in a number of high-profile major incidents.”

Medical director Dr Fenella Wrigley said: “We see an increase in calls because people can forget to stay hydrated and the heat can exacerbate heart and breathing conditions.

“We are getting calls from people who do not need an ambulance – for minor sunburn, heat rash, hayfever.

“These can be dealt with by a pharmacist. If you call us for something minor, you may experience a long wait.”

Youngsters were urged not to go swimming in lakes, rivers and reservoirs during the hot weather, following the deaths of two teenagers in separate incidents.

A 16-year-old boy died at a reservoir in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, on Monday, while a 15-year-old boy died after going into a lake with friends in the Pelsall area of the Black Country, in the West Midlands, on Tuesday evening.

West Midlands Fire Service’s area commander Ben Brook, said: “We absolutely understand the temptation to swim, have fun and cool down during the heatwave, but we are asking people not to.

“It simply isn’t worth the risk nor the heartbreak for all involved when things go wrong.”

A pensioner also drowned off the Sussex coast on Monday.

Thousands of sun-worshippers witnessed a spectacular dawn as they gathered at Stonehenge for the summer solstice.

Approximately 13,000 people descended on the neolithic monument in Wiltshire to watch the sun rise at 4.52am – up from 12,000 last year.

Source:  “UK weather:  barristers remove wigs and gowns as Britain sizzles in hottest June day since 1976”, The Telegraph, 21 June 2017

Airline move

T3 forecourt
London Heathrow Airport, Terminal 3 Plaza:  my son walked across this plaza and, in doing so, breathed his last outside air in England before boarding a flight to Japan on 20 November 2011

Events that, in the ordinary course of life, would pass by unnoticed and unremarked upon, can come to assume solemn, if pitiful, reminders of the absence of (in my case) a child. You notice lots of things that you would not otherwise notice or pay the remotest bit of attention to.

My son was taken to Japan 941 days ago today – the 1,000 days anniversary will be upon me the month after next, another date that, but for the loss of my son, would pass unnoticed. The last time I saw him was at the security gate at Heathrow’s Terminal 3. I go back to the spot from time to time to retrace some of my son’s last steps on British soil. The airline that flew him one-way to Japan relocates today to the (newly rebuilt) Terminal 2; I wish it wasn’t moving as there goes another link with my son. The plans to redevelop that terminal pre-date my son’s birth. It is another of those sad reminders of not only what has happened but that life goes on and things change all around me – even though my life itself has stood resolutely still, frozen in time as at 20 November 2011.

Further Reading:

ANA:  http://www.ana.co.jp/topics/notice140523_airport/index_e.html

BBC News:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-27691651

Update (26 June 2014): Daily Mail article (23 June 2014) of The Queen Opening the Queen’s Terminal: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2665916/Ready-The-Queen-elegant-kingfisher-blue-officially-opens-new-Queens-Terminal-Heathrow.html

Consular visit in Hiroshima – Saturday 16th March 2013, 10 am

Since the last post on 24 February 2013, there have been a series of developments; indeed, I have received, albeit indirectly, the first news about Hugo since he left the UK in 2011.

I first made contact with the Child Abduction Section at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London in January 2012, shortly after Hugo was taken away.  They made it clear from the outset that there was not an awful lot that they could do, all the more as the country concerned was Japan.  One option that I did have was to ask them to arrange for a consular visit on Hugo to take place.  It was made clear that, in general, only one such visit could take place.  Given this and given Hugo’s young age, I decided not to request such a visit right away but rather wait for a period of time.

Almost exactly a year later, there having been no sort of contact, direct or indirect, from my son or anyone in his Japanese family, I decided to ask the Child Abduction Section to try and organise a visit.  I gave them the landline number for Hugo’s mother’s parents’ home.

At 4.16 pm on 28 February 2013, the very day that Hugo turned 4 1/4, I received an email from a caseworker at the Child Abduction Section stating that Hugo’s mother had agreed to the visit taking place.  On that day, I had been representing a client at a Tribunal centre very near to Heathrow Airport and had to take the underground back into town afterwards from one of the airport terminals. Ironically, I had gone into the terminal to buy something and it was at that time, perhaps only about 100 metres from where I last saw Hugo, that I received the news that a consular visit would take place, the first such news about Hugo for about 14 months.

I emailed the caseworker back with some questions about whether photographs would be taken, what information would be elicited about Hugo and whether the mother’s actions would be challenged.  The reply was that photographs could be taken with the mother’s consent, her actions could not be challenged as this is not a matter for civil servants (even though Hugo is half-British and even though the UK has obligations in international law as regards the best interests of children) and, in terms of the information-gathering exercise, the following information was provided in the reply:

Remit of the Visit

Consular officers are not able to assess a child’s language skills.  Nor are they able to conduct a ‘welfare assessment’ of a child.  We are not trained social workers/welfare workers.  The main objective of the consular visit is to check on the child’s general well-being.  What consular officers will look at in general terms is:


·         The appearance of Hugo (does he look healthy; clean; appropriately dressed for the climate; does he talk unprompted; is he registered with a local doctor & dentist)

·         Hugo’s home environment – if the visit is at the family home (is it comfortable, clean; evidence of toys/books)

·         Some social/general areas ( favourite TV programmes; friends; who looks after him during the day)


I’m not sure if the consular officers who will conduct the visit have undertaken Consular Visits before.  However, they will be acting under firm guidance on how to conduct the visit and will have received a written briefing from me on the physical handling of it.  Please bear in mind that the visit is to check on Hugo’s general well-being.  We cannot conduct professional assessments so officers will apply our guidance and common sense.

A further email, received this week, indicated that Hugo’s mother would not agree to the taking of photographs.  I emailed the caseworker back and asked whether this request could be made again at the actual meeting and he said that it could be.  Her refusal to consent to the taking of photographs brought home the absurdity of the situation:  that she and her family can see Hugo all of the time, that two consular officers can see him but that my family and I cannot even see a photograph of him.  In my email back to the caseworker following the news that a visit would take place, I had pointed out that some people in my family are old – my father will be 85 this year and two members of my family have died since Hugo left the UK (one just a week ago) – and could not travel to Japan even if there was the opportunity for them to see Hugo (which there is not).  None of this, if communicated on to Hugo’s mother, made any difference.  In my latest email, I have had to ask whether she might agree to just one photograph being taken.  Failing that, I have asked that the consular staff instead take a photograph of the area where the visit takes place so at least I might be able to see that.

Subject to Hugo being well – he is said to have only just recovered from the flu (again, this is the first news that I have had relating to him specifically) – the visit will take place at a shopping mall in Hiroshima at 10.30 am on Saturday 16th March. Although I have been able to use this indirect contact to try and resolve some practical issues through the Foreign Office and Embassy in Japan – I have received an assurance, for example, that anything I post to Hugo’s grandparents’ address in Hiroshima does get passed on to him – I doubt whether this exercise will produce anything other than a report detailing those matters referred to above.  As indicated above, in general, only one such visit can take place.  I have not yet asked what, if anything, the Child Abduction Section can do to assist after the visit is concluded, and in what circumstances a further visit could, exceptionally, take place, but will do so and will update this blog about that in due course.  Given Hugo’s mother’s position on the photographs, I do not now expect much to be achieved by this visit other than a reassurance that Hugo is safe, well and hopefully happy.