Back in BaliWith a Bag
It has, as the old saying puts it, been a little while between drinks. The interregnum was brought about through the intervention of a SEB, a Short Essential Break. Bali regulars will understand the need for such escapes. This one took your diarist away from The Cage (and Bali’s several clemencies) and deposited him in Western Australia, where Odd Zone ennui, a fearful and unavoidable condition, immediately set in. Well, that and the absence of handy internet connections.We returned to The Cage, with a fresh supply of Oz newsprint to line it, last Sunday night, with new supplies of liquor that here would break the bank, and cheese and sultanas ... the latter an essential but sadly deficient in supply on the Island of the Dogs, possibly because certain ill-tutored individuals assume raisins are a substitute, though more likely a result of Indonesian stock-control practice (What? We’re out of [fill in your product of choice]? Well, I didn’t know! Sigh. Better see if we can get some more, I suppose.)
It’s good to be back, though. We needed to return to ensure The Cage is prepared for the next landing parties of visitors, who are completely convinced that we live in Paradise.
We picked up a vehicle in Perth on arrival – a kind niece lent her car to us for the duration – and buzzed off southwards, towards the ancestral lands of the Distaff. These lie 300 kilometres away. That distance would be a three-day ordeal around here, but there it’s a doddle. Just over three hours including a coffee stop to make the trip, and not even one vehicle tried to “merge” into the traffic in front of us while maintaining an unsteady 20 km/h or bothering to notice that this would cause people already on the highway to slow down to a crawl to accommodate them.We did run into the smoking police. It was at the coffee stop, a little roadhouse-cum-petrol station at about midpoint on our pre-dawn-to-blinding-sunrise trip. We had lit up a smoke (we don’t do that in OP cars) after getting a cuppa and taking it back outside when something hugely censorious (and also huge, plainly unfriendly and wearing an I Eat Nails for Breakfast mine-site working uniform) leaned out of its hefty utility vehicle and growled “Carnt ya see the signs?”
We hadn’t. But since our informant was as described (very big, of uncertain temper, and most likely impervious to the arguments of others) your Diarist forwent the pleasure of responding “Bugger off” and instead said “Thank you.”
The south of Western Australia features lovely trees (among them the luxuriant karri on which the area’s former timber industry was based) and like trees everywhere, these are a delight to the senses. Some of them are exotics – northern hemisphere deciduous trees which in autumn blaze with colour ranging from the palest yellows through to the deepest reds and tug heavily on the heartstrings of people whose genes hale from the bit of the globe that points out of the galaxy – but most are native eucalypts, banksias, wattles and others with names impossible to spell.The Diary’s favourite is the peppermint, a finely-leafed eucalypt that flies don’t like (a definite bonus in Western Australia). We sat on several afternoons at a beachside pub with the chill breeze blowing in from Geographe Bay and the sunlight dappling through the canopy of tall trees. The Hahn Super-Dry may have helped (it’s nearly as good as Bintang) but the effect, particularly as the afternoons wore on and the skies assumed the orange-purple hues of an approaching Australian dusk, was like a Chinese painting. And just as good for the soul.
Big Day In
The WA trip was caused by a big event, an annual celebration known as Birthday of the Distaff’s Mum. We shan’t be indecorous and mention the age attained in this year of grace, but it was a Significant Marker on life’s path. And anyway, we love a good party.Our arrival was a big secret, and praise is due to all the blabbermouths who this time managed to keep quiet about it. The surprise was complete, and a delight to see. There was a big cake too, which went surprisingly far given the attendance of the Birthday Girl and partner, all of the Three Sisters (and their spouses), an eclectic collection of grandchildren and attachments, an Hon Daughter, and some very old friends including a fine lady who was matron of honour at the Diary and Distaff’s wedding in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 29 years ago.
Several drinks were taken.
Some people say it’s strange that a cockatoo should be a cat person. But this assumption springs from a fundamental misunderstanding about what drives cat-bird relations. Finely plumed cockatoos (or if older, formerly finely plumed) and decorous felines in fact have a lot in common. We both rule the roost, for one thing.Hector has many feline friends. Locally he’s a Facebook friend of El Tigron, who allows Ric Shreves and Nalisa Sitabut to live in his house and do all the grunt work down at Water&Stone. And on his recent Perth weekend – a reward for spending nearly a week in country WA – Hector made friends with three very fine felines.
Reggie is a venerable Siamese who lives in a nice pad at Claremont with Balinese touches. He is a chocolate point and 18 years old and reminded Hector of his long-gone companion, Jasper, who enlivened the post-war UK experience by bailing up the gas meter man (“Madam, please call your cat off,” the poor chap said to Hec’s mum when we found him cornered in the scullery) and bringing home a hefty two-pound prime steak from the nearby (rationed) butcher. He also took us all for walks on his pale blue lead, which matched his eyes. Like Reggie, he favoured sunny spots on sofas.
Sundae is a tortoiseshell, also of elegant vintage. Her favourite pursuits are climbing onto the roof of her house in leafy Wembley and pinching stools and other seating appliances from humans silly enough to vacate them.
And Mya (for Myanmar) is a young Burmese whose energetic focus on catching and terrorising a mock mouse on a string was quite exhausting to watch.
While in country WA, we paid our respects to another long-time feline friend, Thomas, who has been sleeping beneath a shady conifer in the garden for some time now. We probably won’t be there again, so a last goodbye needed to be said.
The Diary will be back in full Bali mode next week. But just for the record there’s an interesting an enterprising event on this weekend – it started today – called the Bali Emerging Writers Festival. It’s a spin-off from the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, an innovation that is very welcome. We’ll be checking with Janet De Neefe and Melissa Delaney afterwards, to see how it went.
Hector tweets @Scratchings and join him on Facebook: Hector McSquawky