Friday, March 26, 2010

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for Mar. 26, 2010]

You Like a
Good Farce?
Then Look
No Further
Than PLN

VETERAN observers of the idiocy that is PLN would not perhaps have been surprised to read last week’s lead story in The Bali Times. The state-owned (and massively subsidised) power utility was reported therein as saying it is unable to fix Bali’s electricity shortage. This is because Bali’s power plants are all so old that even regular maintenance (on the possibly unwise assumption that even this is actually done) cannot save them.
But hang on. Aren’t these plants PLN’s? Does PLN not have a nicely cosy little monopoly situation going here, where returns on its investments – in productive generating plants, not vacuous hot air, that is – can be guaranteed to flow into its needy pockets? From such an income stream they should be able to finance not only essential reinvestment but also PhD courses in mendacious assertion for their entire management team, and their inventive spokesmen, and still have enough left over to buy lots of lovely black-windowed executive limousines, as well as afternoon teas forever.
There are many bad jokes in public utilities, in Indonesia and everywhere. They all make the same sort of noises about being accountable to the people (hah!) and claim to be repositories of excellence and wisdom. Anyone who has had to deal with Britain’s National Health Service, or the Australian joke version of the same, can attest to the global sweep of this sad conundrum.
But PLN manages to take its skill in not doing its job to even greater heights. It has on its inventory power plants that it has (by its own admission) not maintained effectively; reinvestment demands that it has simply not considered, far less tried to meet; and a management that – on the evidence – neither knows what to do about this or even how to look as if it cares.
It says – apparently viewing this assertion as a key element in its own defence - that Bali should look after its own power needs. But Bali shouldn’t have to do this. And it wouldn’t need to consider any such idea if the nationally mandated public authority were doing its job or showed evidence of being even notionally capable of doing so.

The Big Switch

HOT on the heels of Nyepi, the annual Balinese Hindu day of silence that plunges Bali into darkness and – apparently – is observed in almost as many ways as there are ridiculous arguments about it (it’s a religious and cultural observance that deserves to be honoured, and not in the breach) the happy fictionalistas at the World Wildlife Fund (their latest scary movie: Cry, Fry, ’Bye) are busy trying to turn out the lights again. They are recruiting supporters in 110 countries around the world to voluntarily turn out their lights for one hour at 8.30pm (local time) tomorrow – Saturday, March 27 – to mark Earth Hour.
At least five major Indonesian cities, including Denpasar, are among the 1,882 worldwide that have said they’ll join the charge of the lights-out brigade. The programme is aimed at reminding everyone of the world’s diminishing natural resources and reinforcing fear about climate change.
Fitrian Ardiansta, of WWF Indonesia, says: “So many student groups and local communities in the cities of Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta, Surabaya and Denpasar have shown very high enthusiasm about Earth Hour. The mayor of Yogyakarta has expressed his support and is willing to turn off the lights at the city's iconic Tugu monument.”
We’re sure PLN could help. They’re good at giving electricity the flick. Someone would need to remind them what day of the week it is, though.

Sampai Jumpa

THERE was not much else to say really. (See you later.) Indonesia understands the reason for US President Barack Obama's last-minute cancellation of his visit to Jakarta and Bali, a spokesman for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said last Friday, the morning after the night before on which most observers had tipped precisely the sort of last-minute change of travel plans that resulted from Obama’s domestic political difficulties.
It is said he will reschedule the visit – which was also to include Australia, where the government of Kevin 24/7 was eagerly awaiting an opportunity to leverage some reflected glory – for June. Further domestic crises permitting, we presume.
Obama scrapped his plan to visit Indonesia and Australia on Thursday, days before the start of his Asia-Pacific trip, in order to stay in Washington and give a final push to his politically crucial overhaul of US healthcare. The visit has been officially postponed until June.
The president had planned to use the March 21-26 trip, his first foreign travel this year, to deepen US ties in the Asia-Pacific region in the face of rising Chinese influence; and, according to a series of White House statements, to find a really good nasi goreng.

L’Etat, C’est Elle

WE had a little mention of Janet DeNeefe in last week’s Diary and would not under normal circumstances permit the indiscretion of printing another for at least a little while. The Diary, in contrast to the firmly self-promotional bent of many on this island, does not favour over-exposure. However, a pleasant little dinner engagement at Massimo in Sanur last weekend (the joint was jumping) led The Diary, after refreshing the mind as to the detail of Signor Sacco’s great menu, to browse through the pages of La Gazette de Bali. It prompts an immediate return to Topic Central.
La Gazette is a fine monthly journal for the Francophone community produced by the Villa Coco man, Socrate Georgiades. It is always a good read and presents a focus on Bali different from that generally found in the lunar-cycle English-language media. Besides, it’s deliciously piquant to browse in French while contemplating eating Italian, Salu or otherwise.
The March edition of La Gazette carries an informative article on Museum Pasifika at Nusa Dua, the operation that was the brainchild of Frenchman Philippe Augier. It has some interesting statistics on resident expatriate numbers and nationalities here: there are more Japanese than Australians, for example, and the French are in third place.
But what really caught The Diary’s eye was the Entrepreneur feature. It was headlined: “Janet DeNeefe: Portrait d’Une Reine en son Royaume.” That would have pleased the queen of Ubud.

Sad Scene

THE Gazebo at Sanur – once a place of moderate comfort, some utility for those seeking to holiday here at less than usurious tariffs and home to a nice little bakery shop, among other things – has fallen on very sorry days.
A visit there the other day – The Diary was taking some former patrons back to the scene of their last Bali holiday seven years ago (too long guys, you’re missing out on too much) – found the place all but deserted and, frankly, in a state of decay. Our friends were dismayed. One felt they felt like the singer James Blunt, when he sings (in his soulful album opener, 1973)about the remembered glories of Simone. They’ve been and gone, too.
It’s not clear what the real problem is, typical Bali ennui excused. Someone there, at the near-deserted beach bar, did say that after a number of ownership revolving doors had been gone through, there was no agent. Hmm. They might try a little low-cost renovation, then, and revise the tariff.

Jimbaran Special

THE fish restaurants at the pink-dollar end of Jimbaran Bay – those iconic places that serve ah’souta fish to their smoked-out patrons – perform a pleasant daytime role for some people we know. They say they’re great places to drop into for a look at the beach, a beer and some chips (French fries).
The bay is magnificent (if you half close your eyes you can ignore the plastic flotsam and jetsam), especially when the surf is lazy and the sun is dropping languidly towards the ocean. It’s good to see that the café operators have apparently worked out that in these days of rabies it’s probably good PR, as well as medically advisable, to keep Bali’s beach mutts at bay.
The Diary’s friends favour Menega Café, for the quality of their chips (first rate, with plenty of salt). It also provides a chance to make silent obeisance to the 2005 “bomb tree”; and to repeat a quiet “up yours” to terrorists of all stripes.

High Tide

WE are grateful to the Jakarta Post, as a leading misinformation medium, for advising its readers that last Thursday a US cargo ship landed at Ngurah Rai Airport. Obviously our Jakarta friends believe Bali has some very high tides indeed.
The actuality was rather more prosaic. It was a US Air Force C-17 and it flew rather than floated in to deliver support equipment for President Barack Obama’s Bali visit. The equipment and accompanying personnel have now returned whence they came, mission unaccomplished.

HECTOR'S BLOG appears as The Bali Times Diary in the print edition of the newspaper, ot Fridays. The Bali Times is at and in available as a printed paper worldwide through Newspaper Direct. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for Mar. 19, 2010]

Coffee Must
Be Enjoyed;
But it Must
Not Break
The Bank

PEOPLE talk a lot of crap about coffee. It’s all over the Internet and elsewhere. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s gift of some fine Kopi Luwak on his Australian visit last week brought forth further alimentary ruminations on the qualities of the product and its production process. Because of its provenance, the gift was referred to the Australian quarantine authorities, which is no surprise – the Aussies, after all, look askance even at lollies brought into the special biosphere by unwary sweet-toothed visitors – although it was something of a diplomatic wince that, on better advice, might have been avoided.
Now there appear to be mutterings of impending discontent in that other special biosphere, Ubud, where an apparent proposal to establish another outpost of the Starbucks empire has the little town’s querulous expatriate community in a fever, at least according to leading luminary Janet DeNeefe, who even wrote about it in that other Jakarta newspaper (the one that’s not the Jakarta Globe). DeNeefe, who just happened to be patronising her own establishment in the little burg – where we presume her coffee comes free – and eavesdropping on some paying customers, which is something we might all do but would keep quiet about, is opposed to a Starbucks presence. It would destroy the ambience of Ubud, she asserts.
The Diary is a coffee freak: the more the merrier; or, at least, the more awake. There is nothing to beat a genuine espresso (preferred with an “s” rather than an “x”). Sometimes a cappuccino is nice – provided it is not crappuccino: those busy little civets should mind their own expensive business – and less frequently a latté. Most coffee is overpriced, but that’s the penalty of addiction. A Starbucks coffee is to be avoided on all grounds. A recent visit to their establishment at the Bali Collection at Nusa Dua – made only to avoid yet another embarrassing where-do-I-look tour of the ladies’ underwear department at the Sogo store there (but that’s another story) – confirmed the validity of this policy. The equivalent of US$10 a cup is beyond the pale; which not at all by the way was the beige-like tone and taste of the product purchased.

Called to Account

COLUMNIST Vyt Karazija reminds us this week – on Page 9 in the print edition of The Bali Times - that it’s often better to do nothing rather than to injure yourself in the process of taking action. And that’s sound advice, at least for those whose lives proceed at a slow and regulated pace; especially in Indonesia, where getting anything done at all is a major operation. Take the little business of banking as an example. Even “fee-free” accounts always seem to end up costing you money, because bankers are adepts when it comes to the special alchemy of managing (and mismanaging) other people’s money. Nonetheless, for the most part it is fairly plain sailing.
There is one bank here, however, which has irritated Diarist and Distaff into taking action, however injurious it might turn out to be. It is BII, lately (and perhaps appropriately) an acquisition of the Malaysian operator Maybank (may not?). It’s a long story and one that – we thought – was quietly approaching its inevitable conclusion when last week the last straw broke the camel’s back and we tried to close the account.
We did this because, in the process of depositing a very sizeable sum in cash, in foreign notes, the teller rejected one banknote as “broken.” Given the state of Indonesian banknotes that issue from tellers, of the human and artificial kind, this assertion was surprising. The offending note was undamaged in the critical area – the watermark – and, with one minimalist nick out of one edge, would be legal tender in its own land and in the hands of any moneychanger.
They wouldn’t shift. And because – for reasons that have forever remained both inexplicable and unexplained – the bank’s internet banking service had failed to recognise either login or password at least a year earlier, it was finally time to call it quits.
Ah yes, so sorry, but this is a special account. You cannot close it. What’s that? No reasonable explanation was forthcoming. It had, we think, something to do with the account having been opened in Lombok. We could go there to close it, they said. Yeah, right. Otherwise we could leave a token sum in the account and over three months the bank’s own fees would deprive us of that measly sum and automatically euthanize it.
The idea of starving bankers of oxygen has some appeal. A pillow or two, judiciously applied, could be a cathartic experience.

Five Years of News

OUR many readers – that legion here and overseas who buy the paper because they actually want to read it and not because it’s a free advertising sheet – will have noticed the banner above the masthead in last week’s edition. It recorded a milestone in Bali publishing: The Bali Times was five years old last week.
Over those years, since 2003, Bali has changed in many significant ways. These changes have been reported – and where appropriate, reflected on – in a measured manner in our pages. We are not a tabloid in any sense of the term. Neither does The Bali Times shrink from reporting the bad along with the good. If Bali is a paradise – and it is – then we all have to work to keep it so. This discomfits some, who are used to ruling their little roosts with zero accountability; and irritates others, who by default had been allowed to co-opt Bali as some sort of personal navel-gazing fief.
So here’s to the next five years of honest reporting – and all the others to follow.

Good Lord

IN many ways Britain’s House of Lords – the United Kingdom’s unelected upper chamber of parliament – has long resembled the sort of institution devised by Roman emperors to enforce their power. Caligula made his horse a consul (a sort of super-lord). And when so-called life peerages began to seep into the previously hereditary ranks of the Lords, long ago, it rapidly became a repository for deserving party hacks and contributory businessmen.
So in terms of use-by dates, the House of Lords has certainly had its day. Plans by the British government to abolish it entirely and replace it with an elected senate are therefore unsurprising and one would have thought unarguable. Who could, after all, argue for a wholly appointed upper house in a parliamentary democracy?
The beleaguered Labour government of Gordon Brown apparently plans to take the proposal to the electors in Britain’s general election expected to be held on May 6. The changes are being handled by the justice secretary, Jack Straw – he was foreign secretary under the late and increasingly unlamented Tony Blair regime – and were confirmed recently by the astonishingly named Lord Adonis, the transport secretary.

Writer’s Cramp

THERE’S a sad little post on the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival website, posted on February 22, and saying plaintively: “Dear webmaster, I’d like to find out how to join this coming event in October. My director, Derek Robertson is interested to be part of this October event. Please advise how to join!! His latest book titled the Story of Iguana Don which published last year in November. I’ve tried to contact Ms. Janet, but I have not received any respond.” It was signed “Ellis” and gave a phone number. Robertson is director of the Bayi Gemes Playgroup in Jakarta.
We don’t know whether poor Ellis and her query have been addressed as yet by the powers that be on Planet Gabble. But The Diary can attest to the fact that Ms Janet is very even-handed in her approach to queries from lower life forms: We never hear from her either.
This year’s festival is on from October 6-10, further details to be advised. UWRF is seeking support staff for the event by the way, if anyone’s interested. The details are on their website.

Good One, Squire!

OUR old friend MW2 (Michael Made White Wijaya) has notched up another triumph on the road to immortality. He has been written up by Esquire, the magazine for the nearly sentient. Well, the Indonesian version of it, at least. Still, you have to start somewhere.
The Bule With The Udeng, who also features from time to time in the jottings of visiting foreign media firepersons who have Googled “Bali” before leaving for the exotic East, does of course have an interesting life story (although it has now been retold many times). His unrivalled grasp of the Balinese language seems to be of greater utility than his appreciation of the syntax and grammar of his native tongue, in which, by repute, he remains colloquially fluent. And he owns a landscape gardening business.
There, now you have the full story.

Hector's Blog is published, as The Diary, in The Bali Times every week, out Fridays. The Bali Times is at and the print edition is also able through Newspaper Direct.

Friday, March 12, 2010

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for Mar.12, 2010]

Back Home
To Bali’s
Best Charms
And a Bit
Of Silence

HOME at last. A month away is a long time. You worry about what’s been happening. Such as whether the renovations next door have (a) finally finished; (b) changed tack again; or (c), caused your house to collapse. It would be just like someone to forget to mention that. You worry about other things too. For example, about whether the authorities have yet worked out that it’s rabies that is the problem rather than the dogs. And conversely whether the animal liberators who bark at the merest hint of self-protective common sense have yet managed to work out that actually very few people want to kill dogs, but that in an immediate threat environment (hint: we’re in it, folks) such draconian measures are not only inevitable from a public policy perspective but are actually sensible on a short-term basis. Stray dog numbers must be reduced.
But it’s good to be home. Bali’s clement climate – even in the annual rainy season – is a boon. The smiling people who are always happy to exchange cheery waves, or sell you something of questionable utility, make light work of every day. And the traffic is such fun.
And then, of course, there’s Nyepi. A day of silence is a great idea. Even if you’re not Hindu, the benefits of contemplation are immense.

Girt by Sea

WE all are, really. Girt by sea, that is. Humanity lives on islands. Even the great continents are surrounded by oceans. The smallest continent (or biggest island; take your pick), Australia, even sings about this. This would be a matter of no consequence if this was in some popular folk ditty, such as Waltzing Matilda. But it is not. The reference is contained within the country’s national anthem, Advance Australia Fair (it goes: “Our land is girt by sea”). As an assertion of fact it cannot be argued with. As a reference worth troubling with ... well, it sprang from the days when the British diaspora was busy colonising the Great Southern Land in full jingoistic flight; and came along with all the triumphalism that attends such movements, though this was tempered (in Australia) by an ennui-inducing confection of Welsh chapel, Irish rebellion, Scottish miserliness, insufferable English attitude, the stain of transportation, and the universal conviction among those who settled there – the original inhabitants sensibly had no such notion – that they were irrelevant or would shortly become so.
The Diary, being curmudgeonly, believes that national anthems are things that should be rendered in music only and – wherever possible – stopped after three bars. The modern practice of placing hand on heart (Is my heart aflutter? Oh dear, perhaps I should see a doctor) and singing along is profoundly ill-advised. Most people can’t sing, for one thing. This especially seems to be the case where entertainers are employed to sing whatever if the national anthem at big events. Further, most people simply don’t know the words of their anthems. It’s always fun to watch Australian sporting teams singing along: footballers especially seem to have trouble with Girt – was she that good sort at the club the other night and if so, what did I do to or with her?
Many anthems make astonishing claims. But Australia’s, written in full colonial cringe mode, recognises that such astonishment is unwise and prefers geography as its reference point. As well as noting that the land is girt by sea, it also points out that it is a land of drought and flooding rains. How much better is that than another straight pinch from their rich cousins across the Pacific? “Oh Give Me a Home Where the Kangaroos Roam” would certainly sound even dafter.
The Diary has long believed that Girt was in fact a model for one of Norman Lindsay’s more outré paintings. In the Australian diminutive form, it would be quite possible to make a Girt out of a Gertrude. And she were a certain sort of girl, she might even have opted for that implied masculinity. It’s certainly the in-thing nowadays.
But whatever her genesis, it was good to see recently that her fame – one assumes this is now posthumous – is spreading and her social appeal with it. Voyager Estate at Margaret River in Western Australia has a nice little light(er) red, a cabernet merlot, called Girt by Sea. We sampled some the other day. It’s a very nice drop. Good on yer, Girt.

Seeing Red?

AUSTRALIA can produce a laugh or two from time to time. We had one or two the other day in the Margaret River wine country of Western Australia. The Bussell Highway that runs all the way to the good stuff – and some of the Margaret River good stuff it is very good indeed – takes you past Tanah Marah Road. This was odd, because none of the traffic we saw appeared to be in any way angry and the landscape was profoundly peaceful.
Tanah Merah we could understand. There’s just such a place in Indonesian Papua, for example, and at least two other “Red Lands” in Southeast Asia which might have had some particular resonance in the Australia of the immediate post-war years. For that matter, there’s a Tanah Merah in Queensland. There’s also a Redlands, but that’s beside the point.
They were never were good spellers, the Aussies. But perhaps someone should award them an “A” in this instance. For “Affort.”

Just Deserts

DURING The Diary’s absence offshore we got a curious text message from the happy little chap who looks after the pool and does other odd jobs at The Cage. It said he had cleared up “the Tosiba” computer and put it in the filing cabinet. It was an LG, never mind, and had been left plugged in while The Diary was pondering what to do with it. It belongs to an absent neighbour who spilled coffee on the keyboard with the inevitable results. LG computer specialists are somewhat scarce in Bali.
The text message, however, came well into the last canter of the break, some three weeks after departure and mere days before the return. So did the message mean he had unplugged and stowed away the offending instrument, as in some little while ago, and was simply advising that he had done so, albeit well after the event? And if so, what had prompted this unusual outbreak of advisory behaviour? Or did it mean he had only just noticed it, or that someone else had; and that having done so, he had sought immediately to remedy this oversight? And, if so, why?
We shall inquire.

Down to Business

ONE of the joys of return – we speak allegorically – is all the catching up that has to be done, not to mention the unpacking. These are reasons to minimise travel. You arrive home tired and flustered, and flummoxed by the immutable law that states whatever fitted easily into your suitcase on the way out will not fit – in a fit – in the same container on the return journey. If you have flown “low cost” you have done so with your knees up around your ears and/or the knees of the clown behind you uncomfortably less than snug in the small of your back. You have endured the queues – at both ends of the return journey – and the shin-barking business of retrieving your luggage from the carousel before some bleary-eyed fellow traveller decides to mistake it for his own and make off with it. You may even have had a tiresome discussion with a customs official, or possibly a passport officer.
Possibly your transport, carefully arranged beforehand and reconfirmed by SMS mere hours before, has not quite managed to marry up with your actual arrival time. If it has, the queue to get out of the airport will be long and stalled. Once outside the airport you are immediately reintroduced to roundabout rules, Indonesian style – and this just as your mind has finally overcome ceased wonderment that elsewhere traffic on a roundabout has right of way (er, that’s what makes them work) and drivers actually abide by this rule, because they can see the common sense of doing so.
You have no local currency but hope your handiest ATM, on the way home through the manic midevening traffic, will actually have some notes to dispense. Quite possibly, PLN will have blacked out your neighbourhood for your arrival. The stairs from the garage to your house will then defeat attempts to carry the luggage upwards. It might be raining, just to add to the fun.
There will then be a great pile of stuff to go through: including all the newspapers because no Indonesian news – far less news from Bali – ever makes it into the print beyond the fluid frontiers of the archipelagic republic.
It’s great to be home.

THE DIARY appears weekly in The Bali Times, out Fridays, and on the newspaper's website at The Bali Times is available worldwide through Newspaper Direct.

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for Mar. 3, 2010]

Why the
Misty Isles
Are Still


A WEEK in Britain certainly reminds exiles why it was that they chose exile in the first place, even as long ago as 40 years in The Diary’s case. There’s the weather for one thing: it hovered in The Diary personal most-hated zone all week – around 5C and raining. It never seemed reasonable that anyone should have to put up with that sort of climate. This deduction was significantly vindicated over the week.
Then there are the herd instincts of the Brits. You have to find a way to get around them. Literally, it seems. Not only do they form queues to form queues, but they wander around like Brown’s cows, and at about the same pace and apparently an appropriately bovine level of sentience. This is not just the view of a churlishly antiquated cockatoo. It is widely shared, even by some Brits of The Diary’s acquaintance.
A series of train trips was instructive too. Standing for an hour-plus’s express journey into London after the business portion of the trip was over, among people who had clearly been in standing-room-only conditions since the train began its six-hour trip from faraway Scotland, was displeasure of the unalloyed variety: One for the record.
Nonetheless, it was nice – in a way – to confirm that the Misty Isles, off remote north-western Eurasia, continue to keep their heads above the allegedly rising waters.

Family Gathering

THE trip was remarkable for a number of things. Among them was that it marked the first time in 32 years that The Diary had seen all three of his siblings in the same place at the same time. That’s probably not a record, but it’s something that should perhaps be recorded.
The circumstances of this gathering were not of themselves jolly. But nonetheless time was found to catch up on a number of important events – in the family fold – and to compare notes on living where we all live. It is a widely scattered brood. Only one member remains resident in Britain.
Of the others, one lives in Bali (out of Australia in 2005 as a refugee from meddlesome regulatory overload Down Under); one in Australia; and one in the United States.
Perhaps that percentage of absconders (75 percent) from British care is unusual in a single family, but there were extenuating circumstances. The family was always peripatetic, a function of the employment enjoyed by the patriarch (whose final farewell was the reason for the trip); it was inevitable, probably, that foreign shores and more clement climates would claim a goodly proportion of that crop.
Of course, life’s real lesson is surely that, wherever you go, in whichever place you end up, you’re going to find some flies in the ointment. But it is interesting to have within the family a whole range of different flies, in very different ointments, to dissect or otherwise deal with on collegiate occasions.
Forensic examination of these diverse elements proved one thing: most of life’s little problems seem actually to be caused by those employed by the people we employ to minimise them. In other words, our politicians. While this is hardly a novel discovery, it was interesting to learn, over a lengthy succession of cups of tea and other beverages, that the inventiveness of the political class – in whatever polity – apparently knows no bounds when in pursuit of supposed improvements to the people’s condition (for which read: more rules to restrict you by) or their own benefit. Hrrmph.

Due Honour

CEREMONY is such an important part of life. It helps to mark events, to delineate epochs, and to honour those to whom recognition is due, or those we love. So it is with funerals. These are very much a part of life in Bali, in the Hindu tradition. The tourists who might see such ceremonies in Bali will not necessarily know that just as much sadness – the sadness of bereavement – exists among Bali’s Hindus as among others. Reincarnation might be the promise, and the expectation; but death severs a direct and warming link nonetheless.
Except in one sense. Those we love (or even like deeply or respect much) live in our minds as much as in the real world. Their absence from the real world, therefore, is not a final termination of their energy, or their extant status. Many of us live partly in our minds, on a separate plane if you like. This is the essence of meditation, after all. And this is where we can still meet and talk with those who are gone.
The materialist nature of modern Western life denies this, assisted by the nay-saying of the scientists who have elected themselves as deities and who think they can explain everything; and that everything they cannot explain but which from their inherent intellect they deduce cannot exist, does not exist. We rely far too much on science to tell us what is and what is not; and what can be and what cannot. It has become fashionable in Western society to decry or deny the validity of religious belief.
But it is not necessary to worship through a formal liturgy, to a defined version of God, to believe in the things that really matter. And whatever the scientists say, or the rationalists, belief is not deniable and it is undesirable to assert that denial is the only way.
The Diary looks forward to many more challenging conversations with the dearly departed.

Dear Friends

LEAVING Britain to return to the southern hemisphere – already long regarded as the better one; and not only because it points into the galaxy and not out of it – The Diary spent a night in London. This was a joyous occasion because it permitted reunion – far too briefly – with a very dear friend and former colleague, and offered the welcoming comforts of her bed. (She had removed herself to the couch for the night: one benefit of advancing age is that young women, when they notice you at all, immediately think you’re in need of special care.)
A lively dinner and one or two – oh all right then, several – good wines took up much of the evening. Reminiscence took place (such fun!). Personalities from our shared past were re-dissected and found wanting. Events from that history were reprised. It is true that you can neither change nor reinvent history – post-modern historians and vote-seeking politicians please note (again) – but it is still fun to examine the record in a revue format. Comedy is cathartic.
It had been several years since our contact had been more actual than virtual, and it was good to see that those years had been kind to The Diary’s companion. Your Diarist is a desiccated entity, ravaged by the effects of time, but those of a younger generation have yet to experience the decline brought on by that horrific historical period, the late Middle Ages.
In the circumstances, it seemed fair to leave most of a rather fine bottle of Jack Daniel’s 43 proof whiskey as a house present – it would probably only have been a subject of argument at the airport security check, since carry-on luggage was all that was aboard on this trip – and to pay for dinner.
It was rather odd, though, since these festivities took place in the very part of London once ravaged by the activities of a much younger Diarist. A strong sense of déjà vu permeated the atmosphere as a result. The street of former residence was passed on the brisk trot to the underground station to get a Piccadilly Line train to Heathrow.
And dining the previous evening had been at premises which, in The Diary’s younger days, were a rather well known watering place that, a little while after The Diary departed for more clement climes, became an attraction for those with – shall we say – an alternative life view.

Airport View

EN ROUTE to his temporary destination, Perth (home of the Bali Peace Park Association which, one hopes, is actually managing to raise the significant funds its plans for the Sari site demand), The Diary transited Kuala Lumpur’s new(ish) airport.
It runs well enough. The little train that runs you out to the satellite terminal is fun. The duty free shopping is broad-based (not to say ubiquitous). The many eateries seem to do a good trade. And the pay-to-use lounge, popular with travellers who see no need to pay whacking great premiums to fly business class or above but who nonetheless value basic comfort and fair facilities in transit, affords a good view of the airport’s operations (as well as a smoking room of modest dimension with the same view).
It was though rather a pity to see a collection of large blue rubbish bags blow away from the top of a stairway to an aerobridge – where someone must have left them inadvertently, or worse, dumped them – and scatter themselves around the immediate apron area.
And even more of a pity that they were determinedly ignored by several passing apron-employees whose job descriptions clearly do not include engaging the brain.

THE DIARY appears weekly in The Bali Times, out Fridays, and on the newspaper's website at The Bali Times is available worldwide through Newspaper Direct.