From the Scribe's desk, for the week ending Saturday, June 25, 2011
Just So Sarky
When you’re not having a sybaritic six-hand massage within sight and sound of the waves at Bingin beach – which is what one of our favourite Jimbaran resort flacks reported on her Facebook one weekend recently that she had been doing – or slaving over a hot computer, and if there’s nothing on television (there never is) then reading is the way to go.The Diary has just reacquired several of Saki’s little tales and placed them in the Kindle . It’s great to have him back in the library. We grew up on Saki, whose outré and often macabre satires demolishing the idiocies and faux grandeur of the Edwardian age were (and are) deliciously consumable. Some unkind souls have remarked in the past that this is probably why we’re so sarky ourselves.
The other day, in an idyll moment, we delved into his little tale entitled Reginald in Russia. It has always been a favourite for its first paragraph:
“Reginald sat in a corner of the Princess’s salon and tried to forgive the furniture, which started out with an obvious intention of being Louis Quinze, but relapsed at frequent intervals into Wilhelm II.”
Another favourite is The Open Window, for its delectable last line: “Romance at short notice was her speciality.” The full horror of another Saki tale, Esmé, makes it perhaps the best of them all.
In the very late 1950s and early 1960s, when the adolescent Hector found his eponymous muse Hector Hugh Munro, one read him with a delicious sense of rebellion. It was never a misguided quest for the past – a different (and unreachable) country in those days, just as it is these, and will always be – but for the elegance of simple English developing complex themes with an arch wit and eclectic knowledge of many things: of antique furniture; of Greek mythology; of social mores; and so much more.
Munro, journalist, author and playwright, was born in Burma on December 18, 1870, the son of a British officer in the Indian imperial police, and died in the impromptu (and as it turned out inadequate) shelter of a shell hole at Beaumont-Hamel on the Western Front on November 16, 1916, the victim of a German sniper. It is said, according to several sources, that his last words – directed at an incautious defaulter among the squad of men he was leading – had been “Put that damned cigarette out.”
Munro enlisted as an infantry soldier in the Royal Fusiliers in 1914 on the outbreak of World War I, over age at 43, refusing a commission because, he said, he shouldn’t lead soldiers if he had not experienced their privations. By 1916 he was a lance-serjeant (corporal). He several times returned to his unit on the battlefield when sick or otherwise medically unfit for duty. He was homosexual.
This has been quite a week. We’ve been back into Denpasar – an unremitting joy on every occasion – and had a round of significant visitors. Tonight we dine en famille at The Cage with our good friends Nyoman and Made and their children Jordan and Cynthia. Nyoman is the Banjar (local community) chief in his precinct in Nusa Dua and a businessman of local repute. We’ve known them for years and they’re great fun. He also very kindly pays our mobile phone bills whenever we are absent from Bali at paying time, something that must be done at an ATM (see below).Tomorrow we go to the Rock Bar at the Ayana Resort and Spa for the after-triathlon party. We can run that course, but not the one that precedes it.
Never let it be said that life in Bali is in any way dull.
It’s a Buzz
Speaking of life never being dull, and mobile phones, a further trip into Denpasar appears to be in the offing. The ATM of our deficient bank (it’s BCA) that we customarily use to make online payments – you cannot pay your mobile phone bills over the internet, at least not with BCA, which may soon be sacked in favour of a branch of the global banking industry that actually offers functional banking services – has been unable to issue receipts for several days. It must have run out of paper and no one’s thought to put a new roll in the silly thing. And of course without paper it (reasonably) won’t process transactions that require proof of payment receipts. Sod and his Law are alive and well.So today, on the day before final payment date and while on a mission elsewhere, we dropped into another ATM point. The much feared message “your transaction could not be processed” flashed up on the screen. This is Telkomsel code for “you didn’t pay in time and now we’re going to make your life a misery.”
Unless a new and largish office brightly emblazoned with the Telkomsel corporate logo that we’ve seen somewhere on the by-pass – we can’t remember if it’s towards Nusa Dua or towards Kuta – takes money, and it may or may not, Francesca will be taking us for another three-hour round trip into the very middle of the Pusat Kota (CBD) on Monday. This time for an enervating round of How to Pay Your Phone Account and insisting that they verify that your global roaming facility has not been cancelled because of delinquency.
This involves taking a number and sitting and waiting – a long time – to see which of the otherwise comely customer service operatives makes a face when she sees her next customer is one of those dreadful Bules who are such a nuisance because you either have to try to speak English to them, or speak v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y in Indonesian.
Yes, yes. We know these things are relative. But today’s minimum (outside) at The Cage, here on the uplands of the Bukit, was probably just below 20C (68F). And when you live most of your year in the complaisant comfort of a temperature range of 24-30C (75-86F) you’re entitled to feel a little chilly, especially if you suspect an unconscionable 1 might have briefly prefixed your double-digit minimum.Still, mustn’t complain. We’ve been bleating for 18 months about how it never stops raining, and now it has and – no surprise – the “cool” dry season has arrived. It is the time of year when the doona (or duvet) really earns its keep.
Our hearts were gladdened, however, later in the morning, when the mercury had climbed to a far more acceptable 25C (77F) and we got a plaintive little Skype message from an old friend marooned by caravan brake failure in Clermont (it’s in wintry inland Queensland). He told us it had been 1C (34F) there that early morning. Choice!
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