Sunday, August 29, 2010

THE BALI TIMES DIARY August 27, 2010

Shooting Them
Is Not a Good
Idea, if
the Aim is

We hold no brief for drug runners or the low-life scum who organise them; or for terrorists who avoid being blown away and are thus forced into a system of jurisprudence that really should have nothing to do with them. And we concede that the death penalty argument is a particularly fractious one in a society such as Indonesia’s, where religious figures apparently find it perfectly acceptable to assert that some classes of God’s human creation should be denied prayers for their souls after they die.
    But Indonesia is a signatory to a United Nations treaty that specifically outlaws judicial murder. National policy is thus at variance with the nation’s international undertaking. This does not make Indonesia unique. It simply makes it as impervious to obligation as many other states. The government may be happy with this position; but that doesn’t make it right.
    The issue is pertinent because three of the so-called Bali Nine drug criminals are appealing their death sentences in hearings now before the courts in Denpasar. Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran and – separately, since he was but a stupid dupe of a mule and not a ringleader – Scott Rush, have future but as yet undetermined dates with Indonesian firing squads. They wish to avoid this (and quite reasonably) for their own purposes. But the argument goes beyond that. It goes to the crucial question of whether – having accepted international law as the benchmark via accession to the UN treaty – it is lawful for Indonesia to execute people.
    The rejoinder (which we may expect) that it is in fact lawful, because death is prescribed in national law for criminals who commit specified offences, begs the question. There is – morally, legally, ethically – an unfathomable gulf between taking life in a military or police operation, or in self-defence, and cold-bloodedly ordering the extinction of it by judicial fiat months or even years later.

Lombok Beckons

This weekend The Diary is in Lombok. A trip eastwards across the Wallace Line has been long delayed – by all sort of things, including the fact that if you’re in Bali, you’ve already arrived at the best possible destination – but was made necessary by business, as well as a touch of nostalgia. It is a beautiful island and – on the west coast – one of the best places from which to see Bali. Gunung Agung, 70 kilometres away across the Lombok Strait, is a constant presence.
    It is an opportunity too to see old friends, though not all of them. One set has decamped for Ramadhan on a circular tour to the Philippines, Singapore-Malaysia and then Western Australia that will bring them back to Lombok long after the fast is finally over for another year.
    And it will be nice to say hello to the eucalypts that are a natural part of the ecology on our neighbouring island, though The Diary will while doing so also be missing the chirpy little squirrels that daily put on a floor show and trapeze act in the teak trees across the road from The Cage. We left them a note saying we’d be back soon.
    The Diary and Distaff chose to fly Garuda. We had to keep our infrequent flyer points alive. And anyway, it’s a much quicker flight. Garuda flies Boeing 737s on the route. They make the crossing in 15 minutes. The turboprops used by other airlines take 17.    

Nice Train Wreck

It’s not very often Australian politics gets interesting; even to Australians, far less to the rest of the world. But the election outcome (what outcome?) in Australia last weekend delivered drama by the spade-full.
    It produced the first “hung parliament” (where no single party has enough seats to guarantee a majority vote) since 1940. It proved that the Labor Party – now in power nationally only in caretaker mode pending negotiations between all parties on who can actually form a government – cannot take the electors for granted. It brought forth a surge in support for the Greens. This must surely silence the Greens’ continual bleating that the electoral system denies them lower house seats (they won the seat of Melbourne: all they have to do now is what the other parties do - persuade more voters, in other seats, to vote for them).
    Saturday’s election may have forever altered the face of Australian politics. It definitely produced a spectacular train wreck.

Harry’s a Crock

Well so much for saurian prescience. Harry the Croc, resident of a Darwin attraction that seeks to capitalise on the fascinated horror with which both Australians and international tourists view the salt-water crocodiles native to the country’s tropical north, picked Julia Gillard to win last Saturday’s national elections.
    She didn’t. The result (see above) was exactly what most observers who are not hungry crocodiles had been predicting for weeks. Gillard’s Liberal opponent Tony Abbott can take some comfort in the fact that his own chicken-on-a-string was passed over by Harry on Thursday last week in favour of the feast attached to a photo of Gillard.
    It was certainly made clear last Saturday that Australians do not like the concept of the midnight knock on the door, such as that in late June when Gillard deposed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at the behest of faceless Labor Party factional leaders who thought Rudd was going to cost them unfettered access to the gravy train.
    But we have a theory. It is that, being an adventurous type of a certain age (he’s an Over-40) Harry simply prefers redheads. Did anyone actually ask him why he picked the Ranga (Aussie slang for redhead) in his snap poll?

Go Away World

A curious little advisory note is nowadays popping up on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s website, for people outside Australia who might want to watch one of its programmes on line. Say something like The 7.30 Report, hosted by Kerry O’Brien, which is essential material for anyone interested in keeping fully abreast of Australian affairs, especially at times of high political drama.
    The note reads: “Due to copyright reasons this video programme is available for download by people located in Australia only. If you are not located in Australia, you are not authorised to view this video.”
    Ah well, Aunty (like other once genuinely, now notionally, public broadcasters around the world) is a very commercial old girl these days.
    But perhaps in the interests of the accuracy and objectivity it asserts is its constant aim, it should cease promoting itself quite so assiduously as a vehicle for carrying the voice of Australia around the globe; at least for the rapidly increasing audience out here beyond the migration exclusion zone who want – or need – their viewing on demand rather than on the not necessarily convenient schedule offered by Australia Network, Aunty’s cash-strapped overseas arm.

Write On

The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival – from October 6-10 this year – has a great deal for aspiring writers. The Kilat! Flash Fiction Challenge offers such scribblers an opportunity to post stories. People vote for them. It’s an engaging idea and thoroughly commendable. A delve into the site this week showed that entries thus far are eclectic – as they should be – and coming in a fast trot. That’s also good news. Visit if you’d like to read them, vote for them, or try your hand at writing one.
    Most of the material is in Indonesian. The festival has added Google Translate to the site so that “everyone can enjoy entries in English or Bahasa.” Good luck with that. Google Translate produces something called Googlish. Or Bahasa Buruk.      

Flying High

The Merah Putih has just returned to storage at The Cage, after its annual weeklong-plus flutter in honour of Independence Day. This year it remained aloft for the full period without the need for adjustment because the bamboo pole to which it is affixed as required is now housed in a length of PVC piping attached to the outside wall of the Bale by the handyman who looks after the pool and other things.
    It nearly didn’t. The gent, who has a day job elsewhere and is a very cheery and helpful fellow, was asked last year, straight after Independence Day, to add this essential piece of infrastructure to the domestic inventory, and hadn’t done so for 12 months. A gentle reminder three days before flag-raising – the last in a lengthy and regular series of such prompts – got the pole-holder in place in the nick of time.
    The Cage is also celebrating because this year its flag went up first in the neighbourhood, beating the patriotic local family compound across the gully by a clear two days and everyone else in the area by a country mile.

Hector's Blog is published as The Bali Times Diary in the print edition of The Bali Times, out Fridays. The newspaper is available worldwide via NewspaperDirect.

Friday, August 20, 2010

THE BALI TIMES DIARY August 20, 2010

Us All

The Diary spent last Friday night and much of last Saturday unplugged. The internet was inaccessible, as well as inexplicable when your high-priced provider only provides online support in business hours. It was all eventually sorted out – or it sorted itself out – but this process took place without benefit of explanation.
    But we blame Tifatul Sembiring, the minister for miscommunications and leading member of a political party that wants to jilbab the lot of us, whether we like it or not. The minister has been fulminating about the un-Islamic nature of porn on the web – and we agree that it is morally unsound and all sorts of things; plus it gums up Indonesia’s woefully undersized web for the rest of us, given the wall-to-wall virtual titillation that we are warned is going on – and has vowed to pull the plug on it.
    Unfortunately, as columnist Vyt Karazija points out on the Perspective page today, if you want to target specific websites to unplug you have to know what you’re doing. Tifatul clearly doesn’t, though this is not a surprise. However, the skill of being a minister and of implementing policy (even policy made on the run, which is the general way of affairs here) lies in finding the means to achieve the objective.
    Sending out a lot of dunderheads to unplug everything, willy-nilly, lest somewhere out there someone may be obtaining an un-Islamic jolly on the web, is not the way to do it.
    Web-based pornography may be distasteful and offensive to many people. It is not the sort of thing with which those among us who are religiously inclined should even contemplate dallying; or anyone with a mind, for that matter. But these are personal choices; and that goes to the very heart of a free and democratic society. The government of which Tifatul Sembiring is a part is committed – it says – to advancing freedom and democracy.
    Cutting off a lot of crass whackos from their fun time should not be done at the expense of internet access for people who have other reasons for being on line, or for trying to be.

So Excited

The funsters at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival keep giving us all a laugh. Last Friday they posted on their Facebook this engaging little come-on: “We have an excited announcement coming up very soon! Stay tuned!!”
    It must have been the three-year Citibank naming rights sponsor agreement that was announced shortly thereafter. There’s a report on it in this edition of The Bali Times. It was certainly good news for the festival, which has been trying to find a major commercial (as in, lotsa dosh) sponsor for a while.
    Perhaps the announcement was excited. But it’s more likely the post was worded as it was as the result of illiteracy on Wudbee Hill. The multiple exclamation marks were a dead giveaway.

Get Along

Australia votes this Saturday (August 21) and all good Aussies, everywhere, are waking from their customary slumber to trot along their local voting place to do the right thing: That’s as in vote, or be fined for not doing so.
    The Diary, having been one of the flock since 1972 (when separate citizenship of the Great South Land was acquired) and still registered to vote, has already done its duty. But lest there are any Australians about, resident here, who are eligible to tick the boxes but have not yet done so, we remind readers that the Australian Consulate General is a postal voting place. They’ll even be open on Saturday to permit this exercise in democracy to have its fullest expression.
    The election is about all sorts of serious things but, for those who might have difficulty choosing between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, some useful guidance emerged in the final stages of campaigning. A Sydney radio station quizzed both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott on their musical tastes.
    Gillard opted for Bruce Springsteen and Cold Chisel. Abbott, plainly an old-style conservative to his bootstraps (or possibly his Speedos) said he was a man of his generation and liked The Beach Boys, The Big O, Elvis and The Beatles. Gosh, he’s older than his years (he’ll be 53 in November). But he’d love Bali’s wandering minstrels.
    The radio station told him: “Even Obama is listening to Jay-Z.” Abbott replied: “Yeah, well, I probably wouldn't even know who that guy is.” We hope he meant Jay-Z.
    Disclosure: The Diary would vote for Bruce Springsteen and Cold Chisel if they were on the ballot paper.

Bon Chance

It’s not every day you run into a Canadian consul in these parts, since a treaty exists under which the Australians look after straying lumberjacks in this neck of the woods while the Canadians, ever the drawers of the short straw, get to pick up the debris of the Bintang singlet brigade in other remote parts of the globe. 
    So it was nice to meet Dana Lajoie, second secretary and vice consul at Canada’s Jakarta legation, who was in town on the sort of business visiting consuls do from time to time and popped up at the little soiree Australia’s departing consul-general, Lex Bartlem, put on last Tuesday week.
    She was able to give The Diary cheery news about the Canadian woman badly injured here in a motorbike accident a little while ago, an event that among other things brought The Bali Times Virtual Blood Bank into play. She’s back home and on the mend, we’re told.
    The Bali Times Virtual Blood Bank is a register of members’ blood types for matching with emergency requirements. It coordinates with the Red Cross Blood Bank at Sanglah Hospital in Denpasar. If you’d like to sign up, there’s a form on Pg 4.

Faux Pas

Lajoie was here with her husband Gilles. The Diary, being an inattentive oaf, immediately thought: Ah, Quebecois. Alas, the ultimate Canadian joke had been self-played. Gilles is from New Brunswick. It is Canada’s only officially bilingual province and it’s where they actually do speak French.
    Dana is from Saskatchewan, a different place altogether, famous in The Diary’s mind for two things: First, for being the destination of choice of Sitting Bull who, having assisted in the most significant US Army snafu of the Indian wars (the annihilation of the terminally incautious George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh Cavalry at the Little Big Horn in 1876) crossed the border and told the Mounties that since his Latoka Sioux cousins at Woods Mountain were subjects of HM Queen Victoria, he was too. And second, for being right next to Alberta, home of the world’s best fiddle music and the fabulous singer kd lang.
    In Quebec they still speak the sort of colonial pidgin thrown by the citoyens at poor General Wolfe who, being a bewigged and powdered English gentleman, was mortally offended by them on the Heights of Abraham outside Quebec City in 1759 as he wrested – posthumously as it turned out - what would become the Dominion of Canada from the failing grip of the Versailles mob to add to King George II’s imperial domains.

Hype Alert

It was nice the other day to pick up Sophie Digby’s fun little August-datelined MinYak – that’s the Yak magazine’s monthly get-it-on they pop into people’s inboxes to keep readers’ interest up between quarterly editions of the actual mag – and see Craig Seaward, boss of the oh-so-W property said to be soon coming your way if you’re at Seminyak and Susi Johnston hasn’t yet had cause to complain about another out-of-season biblical flood.
   The little Yak had a Q&A with him: the usual fluffy stuff you see in the glitter-box media these days. Goodness, the guy’s so hip he must be prosthetic. Still, it’s great that the Zip Generation, who can only manage 20 words at a pop, including adjectival overload, can get a brief on the real meaning of life, even if they’re really only channelling Julia Roberts.
   Those interested in reading longer sentences, written with some objective purpose, would have got a fuller (and much earlier) picture of the big W from reading our LIFE section feature on July 21. It was written by our Seminyak correspondent, Novar Caine, and included this memorable bit of what’s-that-you-say from Seaward:    
   “We flirt with guests’ senses – sexy with a touch of whimsy, seduce through individual attention through emotional connection in unleashing the spirit of fun. We welcome all that is ‘now’ by bringing guests behind invisible velvet ropes into the world of W, from discovery of Balinese customary ceremonies to VIP access to celebrated fashion showcases and music happenings.” Thanks, we’re quite clear now.
   No, seriously, we like the thought of outrĂ© hotels; and the Yak and its little offspring. And Sophie, as we have noted before, is a dear. Oh dear, it sounds as if we’re starting a zoo.

So There

In the letters page last week, feedback contributor S. McLean wrote that she or he – we’re guessing she: we did ask at the strange Yahoo email address from which the missive had issued, but we heard nothing, as you do – was upset that The Diary had seemingly (and apparently unbelievably) set out to discomfit some poor souls hereabouts who were only trying to keep their names in lights.
    Stripped of its hyperbole, it asked if we enjoy writing this sort of stuff. Well yes. That’s what diarists do.

Hector's Blog is published as The Bali Times Diary in the print edition of the newspaper, out Fridays. The Bali Times, Bali's only English language newspaper, is at Print editions are available worldwide through NewspaperDirect.  

Friday, August 13, 2010

THE BALI TIMES DIARY August 13, 2010

Sorry, But
We Really
Do Need to
Rage About

Rabies is a frightful disease best dealt with, should it appear, with draconian measures. Before the present outbreak caught everyone by surprise – including the local authorities and the first victims of it, who went to their graves never knowing what had killed them so horribly – Bali was officially a rabies-free area.
    Whether it was or not is moot. Like many of nature’s ways of committing indiscriminate mass murder, rabies can lie dormant, or at least quiescent and unnoticed, for lengthy periods before breaking out to cause misery and untimely death. There are very few places on the planet where it can be safely said that rabies is not present, or potentially so, or where continuous vigilance is an optional extra. Bali is not one of them.
    The fact that there have been no identified human cases for a statutory number of years neither confers protection nor indicates absence. Rabies manifests itself with readily identifiable symptoms – not for nothing is it known in French as La Rage and in the now disused English term as hydrophobia – and even if health post personnel are not educated to recognise them, any veterinarian or doctor worthy of a certificate to practice certainly should.
    Thus responses such as those of the authorities (run in circles, scream and shout), the animal welfare lobby (don’t be nasty to all those poor dogs), and now the Bali Hotels Association (apply World Health Organisation procedures and don’t scare the horses, aka international tourists) are foolish and intensely annoying.
    We can still stop rabies. If anyone had thought (in time) to establish an effective quarantine zone on the Bukit in 2008, enforced it, and destroyed all potential animal carriers of the virus in that area, we wouldn’t now have an island-wide problem. In that context, all we have to deal with is a far bigger problem than should have been the case.

Let’s Rock

It hardly seems possible that it’s a year since the Rock Bar at the Ayana started serving drinks on the cliff just above the waves at Jimbaran, and entertaining the crowd (and the crews of the Java boats at anchor just offshore) with loud live music.
    But it is. Proof of this passage of time was to hand last Thursday, when Rock Baristas were invited to a party. Ayana general manager Charles de Foucault made a short speech – they’re the best – in his delightfully accented English and pointed out that the success of the Rock Bar could be seen by the fact that they had already needed to extend it (it’s a sort of Rock Bar II a little further along).
    As on all such occasions, The Crowd was there. It included Cindy Wockner, who works out of Jakarta as the Sydney Daily Telegraph/News Limited’s Indonesia correspondent (Cindy is another former colleague so it was good to catch up), other journalists of importance, and a few hangers-on, such as The Diary.
    We still didn’t see the alphabet soup girl, Susi Johnston, however, even though she’d left us a note on Hector’s Blog, where The Bali Times Diary is posted. She said the reason we hadn’t managed to spot her at the Yakkers three weeks ago was that she had been wearing black eye makeup for the first time in 20 years, new specs, a multi-hued dress apparently of such effusion that even Jacob would have been jealous, and heels high enough to escape a Seminyak flood.
    We’d have looked for her at the Rock Bar, of course, armed with this intelligence, if we hadn’t been having too much fun. But of course we were having too much fun. The Rock Bar’s that sort of place. And the music’s good too – Third Eye Blind played at the party – even if those flashing strobe lights are a bit too much for people who would rather concentrate on the colour of the wine.      

A Fond Farewell

In the grand old days of the British Raj, for which it seems some Indonesians rather pine on a what-if basis - what if the British rather than the Dutch had been their late and unlamented colonial masters: might they now have a country that works? - it used to be said of Indian troops that they didn’t really care whether their (British) officers were good or bad. They just liked them to stay with them for a very long time.
    Expatriate communities feel something of the same imperative where the official local flag-carrier of their own country is concerned. That’s why the honorary consul is such a good idea, if the place is entirely peripheral to the core interests of the country concerned. The home government appoints one of its national flock resident there – or even a citizen of the country itself – to perform these duties and appear on the handshake circuit.
    Where Australia is concerned, as with other regional countries, Bali’s unique position within Indonesia and the international travel market makes fulltime official consular representation a must and a suitable appointment essential. This means a career foreign service officer and that means they come and go. Thus we are losing Lex Bartlem, Australia’s consul-general here since January 2009 and now, far ahead of the usual schedule, heading out to a new appointment.
    Bartlem made the announcement of his hitherto unscheduled departure - though he could not say where to because the appointment has yet to be announced by Canberra - at a soiree in honour of departing consul Sean Turner (he's been with us for three years and was in Jakarta for three before that) and to welcome new consul Annette Morris at the Consulate General on Tuesday night.
    An old friend of Bartlem's at the gathering, a long-term Bali resident who worked with him years ago when (surprise!) both were somewhat younger, said a few words of thanks to a modest chap who would never think to blow his own trumpet.     
Dry Run for Chaos

The unbelievable shemozzle that enveloped Sunset Road, the Ngurah Rai Bypass, and the circus that is Dewa Ruci in Kuta last Friday afternoon may have had some educational value. Those recovering from the ordeal might find that thought therapeutic.
    Police had closed off the through access from Sunset to the Bypass heading towards the airport and Nusa Dua, forcing all such traffic heading in that direction to go up the road towards Sanur before making a u-turn a kilometre along the way to head back in their necessary direction.
    It was brought about by an emergency – though people stuck in their vehicles for 45 minutes inching along towards Sanur and then forcing their way into the traffic trying to get from Sanur didn’t know this at the time – and may thus have been unavoidable. A fire at a spa in the mangrove swamp further south along the Bypass had resulted in the fire brigade being called from far and wide and their appliances required priority. It also brought flocks of gawkers who got in the way of everything and should have been moved on.
    But what was truly unbelievable was the response of the police, who showed devotion to stupidity far beyond their usual call. Dewa Ruci was overrun with them, though most seemed to be standing around. Up the road towards Sanur, where traffic - doubtless including tourists in transport that was never going to get them to the airport on time - was trying to make the u-turn, was one lonely motorcycle policeman, blowing his little whistle like mad and waving through the traffic that actually wanted to go that way.
    Well, that traffic was going that way whether he liked it or not, of course. That’s what road verges (and for motorbikes, shop forecourts) are for in Bali. The little chap needed help: a couple of his colleagues from back at Dewa Ruci would have done, provided they had their whistles with them, without which an Indonesian traffic cop is incapable of any activity.
    They could have formed a u-turn squad and organised a regulated reverse-direction point that would have worked. But evidently that would have been too hard. Or too much trouble. Or no one thought of it.
    The Diary - caught up in this fun show (a two-and-a-half-hour stop-start drive from Denpasar to Ungasan is a delight) – found it a useful dry run for the chaos Governor Pastika has promised us when they take away that big statue and start building that flyover.

Big Book Date

There's soon to be a really interesting panel discussion on the future of books. This is a seminal question for bibliophiles everywhere and eminently suitable fare for a literary festival. The panel will discuss the developments in electronic publishing that are revolutionising the way books are sold and read. After all, it is not since Gutenberg - half a millennium ago - that such a profound change in the dissemination of knowledge has occurred.
    Panellists will discuss what effect this is having on authors and how electronic publishing will alter the nature of fictional and non-fictional texts if (when) the physical book passes into history. It will try to answer how classics will be identified and reputations made in a radically fractured reading constituency. 
    The participants are two authors, a book publisher and the publisher and editor of a leading literary review (the London Review of Books).
    Not to be missed? You're right. Unfortunately the event is at the Edinburgh Book Festival (which is on this month) and is light years away from the land of fragrant rice.

Hector's Blog is published as The Bali Times Diary in the print edition of the newspaper, out Fridays. The Bali Times, Bali's only English language newspaper, is at Print editions are available worldwide through NewspaperDirect.

Friday, August 06, 2010

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for Aug. 6, 2010]

Don’t Babble,
Just Tell
Them to
Go and
Have Fun

It was amusing to read recently that the Krakatoa Festival in Lampung, Sumatra, had been less than a total success. Apparently, organisers forgot all about Krakatoa and instead focused on lots of singing and dancing; that was fine. And on heaps of boring speeches from local luminaries; which was not.
There are two lessons in this for such luminaries everywhere. The first is that the inspiration of an event (in this case the 1883 explosion of Krakatoa and the subsequent sulphurous arrival of Anak Krakatoa) should never be overlooked. The second is that luminaries need to be brief and to the point, and to focus on the event and not themselves or their political agendas.
In the West, which infiltrates Bali particularly, and particularly in the KLS super-precinct despite its tropical climate and torrential rains (see below), the aptly named era of the common man has devalued leaders. They are now almost universally seen – quite wrongly – as a succession of dissembling and flawed characters attempting to put something over the populace. Future historians will record that the decline of the West (though this is inevitable in the cyclical sequence of global affairs) was contributed to substantially by this pernicious misperception.
In the East, of which Indonesia is indelibly a part, the balance is still in place though – probably temporarily – at risk. Respect, a word much used in the West but thoroughly misunderstood and misapplied, is a formal commitment. In its own way it is reciprocal within cultural norms.
At the same time, this is the Dangdut era. A lengthy ramble about government policies and the speaker’s thoroughly enervating commitment to these is counterproductive.
It would have been far better for Lampung’s leaders just to get up on the podium and tell the crowd: This Krakatoa Festival is a blast. Have fun. And that’s something leaders everywhere – in Bali as well – need to accept.

A Proper Charlie

Prince Charles is an Egg Wetter. That alone makes it difficult for the poor chap to be taken seriously. The Diary was once – nowadays this is an embarrassment – of much the same linguistic ilk, but the Fates were kind and modified this with several decades’ exposure to Australia’s short vowels and swallowed consonants, though it did not (thankfully) result in conversion to the full-strength Bintang singlet variety.
Mystified? Well long ago an affable gaffer alliteratively known as Afferbeck Lauder wrote a primer on Aussie English, called Strine. It was useful, back in the sixties on Fleet Street, if one wished to communicate with the procession of itinerant antipodeans that passed through one’s newsroom. How else could you tell them, should they be thinking about taking a walk in the park (and how we all wished they would) that they should key poffer grass mite an doan pigger flares? (“Keep off the grass, mate, and don’t pick the flowers.”) Lauder followed this up with a little tome on upper-class English, called Fraffly Well Spoken. In it, the politely disengaged conversational rejoinder egg wetter gree is prominent.
But the heir to the British Throne (and at least for the moment those of Australia and New Zealand, Canada, Papua New Guinea and a few other places) is hard to look at or listen to without getting the giggles for quite different reasons. His activities have always been a cartoonist’s and photographer’s delight. “Will this make me a Proper Charlie?” ran the line on a 1969 cartoon when he was invested by his Mum (bless her) as Prince of Wales, with foolishly regal splendour. “A Loon Again” ran the headline over a newspaper picture, when he was in his marital difficulties phase and communing with nature, and looking like a Jessie, on some inhospitable stretch of Scottish heather. Not much gravitas evident there, regal or otherwise.
So it’s no news that he believes he is among us on a mission to save us from ourselves. The monarchy is doomed – ultimately: not this year – so a search for meaning is unsurprising. This quest takes him all over the globe. He talks to the trees in Indonesia, and lots of other places. He looks out for wild birds everywhere. He thinks deeply about orangutans (as we all should) and architecture. He is photographed with squirrels. We’re sure he OD’s on muesli. He even took an RIP (Regally Important Person) jet to the Copenhagen Comedy last year; that was curious, since it added massively to his personal carbon footprint.
Now, according to a new home movie, he’s decided he’s been purposely put on Earth to rescue the planet. That’s OK. He’ll give us a few more giggles along the way.

World View

The Diary is the pleased recipient of a globe. It is in the antique mode, though modern, and is the (very) early birthday gift of The Diary’s much loved mother-in-law, who lives in the place where you can buy quality globes readily and at a reasonable price.
It is also an object of wonder to the lovely pembantu who daily cleans and cooks at The Cage. She was observed the other day puzzling over the orange-shaped object. She was unable to find Indonesia, far less Bali, seeing only Australia and the East Asian mainland.
We put her right, with smiles all round. But the education authorities should seriously consider placing a globe in every school. Perhaps that’s an aid project worthy of thought.

Singapore Slink

Roy Morgan Polls, inveterate opinion samplers in Australia where public opinion sometimes matters, produced an interesting result in a recent poll of airline passengers who were asked to rate the performance of airlines they had used.
Singapore-owned low-cost carrier Tiger, which nowadays flies on domestic routes in Australia, came out very poorly. It scored only 51 percent satisfaction, well below competitors Virgin Blue (up in the 80 percent level with the full service airlines) and Jetstar.
Tiger is sometimes viewed – not least by Jetstar and Virgin Blue – as the unwanted third in the litter and its schedules, as a smaller player, are less accommodating.
The Diary likes Tiger – in Asia; its Australian operation has not been sampled – but there may be a lesson for the Singaporeans in the poll result. Aussies like to feel they’re being pampered: even the ones in the Bintang singlets.

On the Rocks?

Jack Daniels – the one that twitters, not the one you drink – has been off island again, apparently on private matters. This time in Bangkok, we saw from his Tweets. Not so long ago he was in Singapore on some other private swing.
So what’s wrong with Bali’s services? Perhaps he’ll update us on that.

In the Soup

Susi Johnson, who didn’t win woman of the year at the 2010 Yakkers (as reported in The Diary last week) dived back into the alphabet soup last weekend: it had rained in Seminyak, you see, and everything was wet.
Apparently this was less the fault of the rain (which was tropical and torrential if Susi is to be believed, but then that’s fairly common in tropical places where the climate produces torrential rain) than of the rampant development and inadequate infrastructure in that particular stretch of former ricefields.
And that’s a fair point. Susi says it’s those dreadful foreign developers who are to blame. Well, they build the stuff, that’s true. And they cut corners and ignore the rules (hah!) like everyone else. But, just like foreign purveyors of fine Balinese handcrafted artefacts, they’re in business to make a profit.
The real problem is the laissez-faire attitude of the Balinese (and Indonesian) authorities towards regulations. You can’t have them watertight, after all, because that might foreclose on all those lovely under-the-table sums that keep adding up.

Not Big Enough

The Diary had an unusual experience recently. On presenting at the Australian Consulate General for passport renewal and handing over two photos as required, along with the wheelbarrow-load of cash demanded for a coveted (not to mention essential) travel document, the following advice was offered by the pleasant Indonesian gentleman behind the big glass screen: “Your head’s not big enough.”
The Diary is actually a shy and retiring entity. And that head has served pretty well for several decades in the dimensions that nature dictated. Still, you can’t argue with someone who otherwise might not give you a passport. So – after a small delay, a manic drive in Denpasar’s delightful midday traffic, a light showering from that day’s collection of unseasonably passing clouds, and a worrisome sighting of a dog that did not look at all well – photographic evidence of a larger head was supplied.

Up the Poll

Some readers may have noticed that Australia is having a national election (it’s on August 21). We hear from sources in the Great South Land that even some Australians have heard about this: so something’s working down there.
Australians in Bali, if eligible to vote and on the electoral roll, can cast a postal vote at the Australian Consulate General in Renon. There’s an advertisement in this edition of the paper that gives details (it’s on Pg 5).
One of the curiosities of Australian democracy is that the Botherers insist that you vote and fine you if you don’t. If you’re outside the country you’re exempt from this irritatingly intrusive compulsion. But The Diary always goes up the poll on ballot day anyway.

Hector's Blog appears as The Diary in the weekly print edition of The Bali Times, Bali's only English language newspaper. The newspaper's print editions are available worldwide through NewspaperDirect.