Over the last four weeks, Harai has been very busy making little paper cranes. The bird kind, rather than the large metal construction kind.
He's been doing this because he has even less to do at school than I do; as my assistant, he doesn't even have to pretend to plan classes that are all essentially identical while everybody pretends they haven't noticed that I'm teaching the same thing over and over again. In fact, in more general terms, he doesn't actually have to assist me either: he just has to stare out of the window until I whistle at him from the front of the room to help me hold up some laminated pictures of farmyard animals. I like to think of him as the Debbie McGee to my Paul Daniels, except - thank God - wearing a suit over the top of his lycra.
When he reached origami crane number twenty seven, I asked him what the hell he was doing.
"They're very pretty," I added, "but what are you going to do with twenty seven small paper birds? Make a teeny tiny Hitchcock film?"
He looked affronted. "This is a very important part of the Japanese religion," he told me.
"Which one? Buddhism or Shintoism?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "Anyway, we make a hundred paper cranes, and then we string them all together. And then we hang them up in a shrine, and we make a....a..... how to say it --- wish."
"A wish? Like, for a new bike or something?"
Harai stared at me in horror. "This is religion, Holly, not Santa Claus. You wish for the health and happiness of a loved one. Or world peace."
"World peace? A hundred paper cranes for world peace?"
"Yes. So I am making a hundred cranes."
I looked at the desk, covered in origami. "Well, I'm very impressed," I told him, because I was very impressed. "You're just like a Japanese Miss World. Except short and male and wearing a tie."
"I'm not Miss World," he informed me soberly, and continued folding his paper.
He reached forty two today, during an origami session that I attempted to join in and failed horribly (origami requires skill, patience and attention to detail: three qualities I lack in abundance). I threw my scrumpled up bit of green paper on the desk.
"What's that?" Harai asked me.
"It's a frog." I bounced it up and down a few times. "See? It looks just like a frog. So how many have you got left?"
"And how's world peace looking?"
Harai folded the paper again. "I've decided I want a Playstation," he said after a short pause. "They have a new one. I don't want world peace. I want a new Playstation."
"You're going to take your cranes to a shrine and ask God for a new Playstation?"
"What about world peace?"
"The Japanese government can sort that out. I think that's their business. My business is getting a Playstation."
"Right. Well, for your sake, Harai - and for the sake of your eternal soul - I sincerely hope that the Japanese government are all making cranes for world peace as fast as they possibly can."
"It's all they do," he said. "Sit around and make hundreds of cranes and string them together. Nice government. Very nice government. Japan is safe. And now I can have my Playstation."
Harai won't be getting his Playstation, though. Not if the cranes have anything to do with it.
"Harai?" I said a couple of minutes later. "If I help you, can I have it?"
"You want my 100 cranes?"
"Why would I give you my 100 cranes?"
"Somebody I love is really sick, and I need to wish for them."
"Not because you want a Playstation too?"
"I promise I won't be wishing for a Playstation. Hand on my heart. Sick loved one only."
Harai looked at his little basket full of cranes and sighed. "Okay. Fine. I guess I don't need two Playstations." And then he looked at my origami attempt. "But I don't think God will be happy with your frog," he added. "You need to learn how to make cranes too. You give him that frog and he's going to take your Playstation away."
"I don't have a Playstation."
"Then he'll take mine, and that's worse."
Starting today, I'm making 100 cranes. Because - luckily for all of us - the Japanese government have already got world peace covered.
Which means that all of my wishes can go exactly where they're needed most: to my loved one.