Saturday, July 23, 2011


From the Scribe’s desk, for the week ending Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Shocking Event

If the indolent avian who is supposed to scratch together this weekly blog had been doing his job, and had done it yesterday when he was supposed to instead of idling away the hours on all sorts of other eruditions, we would not be leading the column with an item on the Norwegian outrage. But he didn’t, and so we are.
    The events in Oslo and nearby on Friday prove yet again – tragically – that lone madmen, or small groups of the same homicidally dysfunctional people, are a great and potent danger to us all. This one, apparently a Norwegian, seemingly has links to the mad anti-immigration, anti-Muslim fringe of the Norwegian (and pan-European) far right.  A so-called jihadist group elsewhere claimed responsibility for the bombing of central Oslo, but madmen of that provenance customarily claim to have done things they haven’t, in order to boost their visibility and to fool themselves that they are relevant rather than pointless.
    It defies belief that anyone could perpetrate an outrage of the sort just visited on Oslo and the poor young people attending a political party youth camp on an island near the Norwegian capital, many of whom are now dead. The shame of it is that the perpetrator is not in the morgue or lying bloodied under a blanket in a paddock in the cruel pornography of violent death with which, via modern communications, we are these days constantly assailed. Instead, the man has been arrested and we shall now have to endure months – possibly years – of legal process and argument presented for and against him.
    He has no argument he can reasonably advance in his own defence.  There is nothing that can excuse, explain or justify homicidal mayhem. There is no social or political cause that justifies meting out vile, shocking, terrifying death to anyone, whether by terrorist bomb or by multiple gunshots. That is the only lesson we can try to draw from these events. It is a message those who advocate or perpetrate terrorist violence – everywhere, of every stripe and including in Indonesia – must learn if they wish to be regarded as members of the human race.
    It is said that to meet their actions with a reaction in kind is to be descend to their level. Rubbish. It is they who have put themselves beyond the Pale. We are not a deadly threat to our communities; they are.

Be a Dhal, Dear

On to happier things: there’s an active and very useful Facebook-based group here in Bali that promotes “Bali Clean and Green,” which is the mantra adopted by Governor Made Mangku Pastika in his quest to clean up the island.
    A lot of it concerns the plastic and other waste that overburdens Bali and, unlike banana leaves, won’t quietly and harmlessly biodegrade in the watercourses and the undergrowth, as in the old days. There is of course a raft of national laws that proscribes polluters, corporate and private citizen alike, and the practice of selfishly and illegally discarding pollutant products. These are not enforced because Indonesia – and Bali as part of it – is adept at passing laws and equally so at ignoring them afterwards.  Acquiring the energy and interest to actually implement and enforce laws, and to stamp out the venal low-level corruption that prevents this, is the real imperative.
    But life is always better when attended regularly by risibility. And so it is that we can advise – courtesy of our good friend Tricia Kim, jeweller of renown, party girl of fine repute and, like Hector, a member of the Facebook group – that we can all help save the planet by eating lentils instead of cows.
    Apparently lentils selflessly die to feed us at far less an impact on global warming than beef cattle. So there you go – be a dhal and save the planet.

Wuffled Feathers

The Empire must be dead! This week the British Prime Minister, a chap who was educated at Eton and Oxford and who, despite the politically driven desire to be viewed as untoffy by the common man, could never manage the swallowed vowels or glottal stops now favoured by the Pommy herd, stood up in the House of Commons and pronounced furore (fuh-rorh) as few-roar-ray.
    Still, poor David Cameron was under a bit of pressure, in the fallout from the Murdoch shambles and his astonishing decision when opposition leader to appoint former News of the World tabloid fixer  Andy Coulson as his spokesman and to take him with him when he moved into No 10. The News of the World is now defunct, as it should be. Rupert Murdoch has been revealed to be an 80-year-old man (surprise!). A grubby newspaper and its grubby practices have created a political crisis.
   Cameron is certainly at the centre of a furore. Political cupidity always – eventually – catches up with people. So it is no surprise that he has been discomfited. But few-roar-ray? Never!

Des Res Designs

Here at The Cage we are in the early stages of working up our next Des Res Acquisition Programme (DRAP). Well, we’ve been where we are for four years and we’re out of paperclips or something. Plus the present digs have a lot of steps. These are no problem at present but, with the passing of an unknown though implacably finite number of years to come, may be in the future. As well, apparently, we need one more room. The Distaff has explained why this particular specification is essential and Hector’s happy with this – anything for a quiet life. He’d settle for twin basins in the bathrooms, but he has always been accused of lacking domestic ambition.
     As part of the extensive “pre-decision to proceed” process – everything’s so codified nowadays – we have commenced examination of stock on the market. We have all but ruled out building a new place, since neither of us is sure our blood vessels could stand the strain. Thus we are seeking something with a view, in a quiet area, with proper plumbing and reasonable construction, at an affordable price.
    Early research indicates that the property we really need does not exist. Unless we're living in it. Just a thought. However, as with shoes in your size and preferred colour and design (“I really like these shoes. They’d be great in a different colour with smaller heels, an open toe and a thinner strap”) the search will go on.
    Phase II of DRAP involves selling the existing des res – which really is desirable and, after much work on our part, also a residence – to someone who wants something with a view, in a quiet area, with proper plumbing and reasonable construction, at a price we will feel disposed to accept.
    For Phase II we are staying out of the hands of realtors, some of whom seem only to be interested in stinging you for Rp2 million a month – OK, that’s only $227 Australian, but it’s still dosh down the gurgler – for “marketing” that may, or more likely may not, be visible.

Layer, Layer

Winter is upon us on the Bukit. Yes, we know this will surprise those of you who live in places where actual winter exists, or if in Australia, a pale facsimile of same, but our bit of Bali juts out into the Indian Ocean at the southern extremity of the island proper – we’re only joined by a mangrove sandbar for goodness sake – and in July and August the breezes can strike you as a tad on the cool side.
    We were out for dinner last night – just locally, at our favourite little spot, Gorgonzola on Jalan Raya Uluwatu, a mere 10-minute fright away, where the pizzas are so good that they attract taste sensationalists from Seminyak – and we had to put on something under the something we were wearing to keep out the night chills.
    It has nothing whatever to do with advancing years. Anyone who suggests it has will be sentenced to an indefinite term of helping us up our steps (see above).

Hector is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky) and Twitter (@Scratchings). He writes a diary in the fortnightly Bali Advertiser and the lovely people at The Yak magazine link this blog to their online site


Sunday, July 17, 2011


From the Scribe’s desk, for the week ending Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Rabid Enragement
It is widely known that we have rabies here in Bali. Even idiots who supply feedback to websites and who apparently think its rabbis we have here, and must in consequence be constantly on the look-out for seven-branched candelabras, would probably know that, if they thought about it. They just can’t spell, which would be a giggle were it not merely tedious.
   We’ve had the disease here – officially – since 2008 when officialdom officially woke from its customary torpor to discover several unexplained deaths of people in the southern Bukit area from symptoms that any properly instructed medical student – not to mention a vet – would instantly recognise. Unfortunately, as well as inevitably, the disease had by then become established in the island’s stray dog population. Upwards of 130 people are therefore dead when no one should be.
    It is a critical epidemiological emergency as well as a preventive health imperative. There are far too many malnourished and diseased stray dogs on the island and they are a pest. Their numbers must be controlled, wherever possible by humane means such as vaccination and sterilisation but if necessary by culling.
   This process is under way (or so they keep telling us) but in various places local authorities have been taking it upon themselves to cull the dog population, without official sanction. You can’t blame them, especially in the face of arguments from the Don’t be Nasty to the Nice Little Doggies Lobby that culling is bad and longer term veterinary management is better. No one wants a rabid dog in their street.
   But – and it is a very big but indeed, and uttered in incandescent rage – mass indiscriminate poisoning of beach dogs at Seminyak is beyond the Pale. It’s more moronic than anything else, given that promiscuous scattering of strychnine baits kills domestic pets – even some on leads we hear – and risks killing small children who might pick one up and put it in their mouth.
    Who is organising it – if we accept that “organising” and “Bali” are not mutually exclusive terms – is unclear, but it’s most likely the banjars, the community precincts that are the very heart and soul of Balinese society. Who is paying for this indiscriminate extermination campaign is similarly unclear – it certainly won’t be the banjars – but its location on the Lurex Coast, the emerging Wannabe strip north of the existing Plushopolis, points in a certain direction.
   Naturally enough, high tariff hotels and high price-low behaviour places of entertainment and other pastimes don’t want dirty, diseased and potentially rabid dogs on their doorsteps scaring away their beglittered trade. But there are better ways to achieve a desirable outcome than mandating murder.  

An Interlude
We’ve had a busy week, doing this and that. We even ventured into Kuta one afternoon (a long way from the Bukit now you measure road distances here in time spent travelling) to see some lovely friends – and some lovely friends of friends – who were sensibly sojourning in Bali during Western Australia’s school holidays. We dined later at Un’s, off Poppies Lane I at the Jl Legian end, always a favourite spot and not just for its gnocchi gorgonzola.
   It was a lively evening, spent in Hector’s case in engaging discussion about literature and politics. Such fare is not generally available, at least readily, in English, in Bali.  And afterwards, having collected the clothes donation that came along with the visitors for distribution to various people desirous of same, the Bukit was much nearer Kuta than on the inward trip, which had taken place at pique hour.

Pay Up, Stay Up
The handy beach warungs (little cafés) at Balangan Beach on the Bukit, one of the few remaining places in the playground not yet cordoned off for the over-moneyed crowd, have been ordered to be torn down by Regent AA Gede Agung, who has put his Public Order squad (Satpol) on the job. The ramshackle little hostelries are unlicensed, you see ... and that means Regent Agung isn’t getting any money out of them.
    That’s fair enough. If there are rules and regulations and licensing arrangements (and notionally there are) then obviously they should pay their whack. But there’s a little matter of mutual benefit that is forever overlooked here. Regulations are applied in Bali to acquire money for the authorities.  Precious little of it comes back, either in cash or in kind. And little beach warungs make scant profit anyway from the cool drinks and Bintang and sarong sales and massages that they offer to the budget crowd.
    It would be nice to get from Regent Agung (and all the other local government leaders) an actuarially sound accounting of where the revenue they scrounge actually goes, and what benefits flow back to the people.
   He might like to consider, too, how tearing down helpful and pleasant little budget tourist facilities, licensed or otherwise, benefits anyone other than Satpol heavies who fancy a themselves a chance for a morning of public ordering.

Bugger That
Here’s a little tale that demonstrates the delights of life in Bali. Residents of a village in Gianyar on the Sanur-Kusamba bypass (which is being given a dual carriageway with hefty Australian aid money) tore up the median strip and destroyed traffic signs the other day because the new arrangement meant they had to detour 200 metres up the road on their motorbikes to turn off to their local beach.
    Apparently, despite being “socialised” about the issue – as the term puts it here: it means they had the matter explained to them and agreed to it – they had a little paddy and ran amok. Such is life. Perhaps they’ll actually be penalised for disturbing the peace and destroying public property. But don’t hold your breath.

Monkey Business
Monkeys are an integral part of Bali’s traditional life and culture. They feature in dance, drama and folklore as well as in real life, and as long as they don’t pinch your lunch, your camera, your wallet or your sunglasses, they’re fun to see in the wild and semi-wild too.
    But not at one village near Amlapura in Karangasem recently. They’ve taken a leaf from the liberation liturgy of the Gianyar bypass villagers (or maybe it’s the other way round) and gone on the rampage. Village chief Wayan Yasa told the local press simian raiding parties have destroyed agricultural land and private gardens in the area.
    “Everything’s been eaten: pineapples, bananas ... basically anything that can be eaten,” he said, adding that because of this the village would be seeking tax relief from the local authorities.
    Teams sent into the bush to locate and exterminate the monkeys – in a fine example of the live and let live culture of Bali – came back disappointed. Their clever quarry made monkeys of the lot of them.

Chill Dinner
We saw some other friends one night this week at Gorgonzola, the Bukit Jimbaran bistro and wine bar where host Gibson Saraji lays on live music, tempts plenty of palates, and the beer is always cold. Our dinner friends that night are in Bali regularly, from Perth, and have a little house here that is their regular tropical holiday escape, especially from Perth’s rather chill and damp winters.
    It was nice to see them and we had a good chat. The evening was dry-season cool on the Bukit and the atmosphere was chill (it was not quite glacial) for a while. They arrived later than usual because the distaff part of the friendly couple is a West Coast Eagles fan and she had been watching the match on Australia Network TV.
    The Eagles had just been soundly beaten by St Kilda. Hector is a St Kilda fan.

Hector is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky) and Twitter (@Scratchings). He writes a diary in the fortnightly Bali Advertiser and the lovely people at The Yak magazine link this blog to their online site

Thursday, July 14, 2011

HECTOR’S DIARY For the Bali Advertiser, July 13, 2011

The Gripes of Roth and Better Fiction

We had a good laugh recently when that loud and verbose bore Philip Roth, the self-proclaimed king of American social critique, announced he had given up fiction as irrelevant. Many people we know gave up Roth years ago, citing much the same reason. But not your diarist, who believes the three best rules of life are read, read, read. Besides, it’s difficult to argue that someone’s writing is mind-blowing rubbish if you haven’t bored yourself rigid reading the stuff first – and we do like an argument.
    But never mind. The mewling of people uncertain about their place in the world is better left for history – in this case the history of literature – to adjudicate. For most of us, more practical and immediate matters are of greater concern.
    So, absence of Citybank cash notwithstanding – you’ll remember they had that little local difficulty over a defaulting credit card customer and one of the collateral damages of that little exercise in total idiocy was their three-year sponsorship of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival – the festival crowd up at Ubud are putting together a great programme.
    The Diary is particularly keen to meet the naked traveller, Trinity, who will be presenting a travel blogging workshop at the festival. We assume her tips will include advice to make sure you pack some clothes if you’re going off travel-blogging.
    Trinity is Indonesia's leading travel writer. In 2005, she started a travel blog at and in less than two years the blog was nominated as finalist in Indonesia's Best Blog Award. This led her to switch her corporate career to become full-time traveller and freelance travel writer.
    Her debut book The Naked Traveler (these American spellings are a nuisance but that's how she spells it) was a compilation of stories from her adventures around the world. The book inspired many Indonesians, especially young people, to travel. And that can only be good.
    The Naked Traveler has now been published in its third sequel and the book is Indonesia's best-selling travel book to date.
    UWRF’s Facebook is a good one to keep an eye on, by the way.

Strategic Glitch

A little while ago some friends we haven’t seen for years dropped us an e-line to say they were coming to Bali. They didn’t make it (they’ll try again later) because they were flying (well, meant to be flying) Brisbane-Bali with Strategic Airlines and its only available bus was stuck on the ground in Malaysia with a broken bit awaiting a replacement from somewhere or other.
    These things happen, and when you’re a small player like Strategic having one aircraft off line has a dramatic impact on your core business. You know what we mean: the bit in the business plan that says your business is all about flying fare-paying passengers on schedule and with minimal disruption.
    So we asked Strategic’s new corporate communicator, Heather Jeffrey, a refugee from Virgin Australia (and previously Air New Zealand), for an explanation of the service failure and specifically what the airline was doing for passengers stranded in Bali at the end of their holidays. Apart from anything else, it presented an opportunity for the airline to score a brownie point or two with a friendly reference to their great concern for the travelling public.
    Sadly, nothing was heard back from Ms Jeffrey, who must have decided that indiscretion is the better part of valour.  It’s a strange way to run a PR operation – and an airline, if you’re trying to drum up business, which Strategic is desperate to do.

Cliff-Top Sensation

We dropped in at Ayana Resort & Spa on Sunday, June 26, for the post-Bali Triathlon party, as the guests of Ayana spruiker and triathlon participant Marian Hinchliffe. She was looking remarkably spry for someone who had spent the day doing all sorts of things we’d never dream of – running, you know, and riding bikes and taking long swims – and we had a good chat. Which was very nice.
    Jack Daniels, whose Bali Discovery Tours had a hand in the event, this year sponsored in chief by local internet provider Biznet, was his usual ebullient self, and by all accounts – his included – the whole thing was a great success. That’s good to hear because Bali needs as wide a range of attractions as possible.

It’s a Breeze

Some other long-time friends from Australia were here recently, staying – as they generally do – at The Samaya at Seminyak. We dined with them one night, catered from Breezes, the plush resort’s signature beachside restaurant. But we dined in their villa, a pleasant ambience though on the other side of the road because the rest of Samaya has been demolished for extensive resurrection.
    The night started well. Our hostess – who may have been suffering shock, we heard a little later, since she had thought an earlier ring on the villa gate was her dear family returning from an outing but on opening the gate in a state of considerable dishabille found to her horror it was a work crew coming to fix something – offered us a beer and promptly (and spectacularly) dropped the bottle. A sprayful of large Bintang goes a long way.
    Things got rapidly better after that, though. So much better that the Distaff managed to leave her glasses, an apparently vital hair comb and certain other sundries concealed behind the cushion on the long couch upon which she had spent the evening wining, dining and gabbling.
    It was a difficult two days before we were able to retrieve the items. Life took on an altogether different and fierce aspect. They were her rose-coloured glasses, you see.

Smile, Please

One of Bali’s most deserving charity causes is epitomised in the Smile Foundation (Yayasan Senyum) whose leading light, Mary Northmore-Aziz, has just deservedly been in London to receive an MBE from the Queen.
    Smiles are worth paying for, the more so when they are smiles on the faces of children born with deformities that can be corrected by intricate and expensive cranio-facial surgery. So Adelaide (and Bali) identity Sally Black – with her son – are in the process of organising the Arafura Miles for Smiles. Sally and Arie – who is 14 – will bike it from Bali to West Timor to raise money for the charity.
    They are in Darwin at present – shame they had to be there in the tropical city’s coldest June on record, a function of global warming no doubt, but there you go – arranging necessary logistics. They have to get their motorbike from Kupang to Darwin at the end of their ride, for one thing, and are looking for a sponsor to fund this operation.
    Air North, which used to fly Darwin-Bali and may do so again, was on their list of possible sponsors to approach. It would be great if that came off.
    The Diary will follow the Ride for Smiles (well, figuratively speaking). So watch this space. And if you’re on Facebook (isn’t everyone?) check out theirs (Arafura Miles for Smiles). These two websites are worth a visit too: and

Silly Chump

Those who observe the Australian scene may have noticed that the miners there are up in arms over the government’s plans to introduce a carbon tax (in the odd belief that this will avert or at least ameliorate global warming). It’s probably a silly idea: it would far better to use the tax system to properly subsidise developments in and usage of renewable energy. But it’s not a killer blow to magnates domestic or foreign who earn their overly-thick crusts from ripping out the country’s minerals, including the coal now being demonised by the Greens for political purposes.
    So it was strange that Twiggy Forrest, a West Australian magnate, should foolishly raise recently the spectre of secession. The West Australians voted to secede in 1933, in a referendum, but it did not proceed then – and wouldn’t now – because, well, it was (and is) a ridiculous idea.
    WA makes a living out of complaining that Canberra takes all its money and doesn’t give enough back. It’s a familiar refrain in any federation and has its own small echoes here in Bali over much tinier revenue flows from visas on arrival.
    Most West Australians, properly informed, would understand that if WA was suddenly independent it might keep all its resource revenue but it would have to pay the full whack for education, health, infrastructure and social welfare – not to mention defence and security and all the other impedimenta that come along with independent nationhood.

The Bali Advertiser is online at Hector is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky) and Twitter (@ Scratchings)

Sunday, July 10, 2011


From the Scribe’s desk, for the week ended Saturday, July 9, 2011

It’s All Go Around Here

It’s been a strange sort of week at The Cage; and in the novelty of our first dry season in two years a little chilly overnight at that. Still, the frangipanis are out again and the twice-daily walk programme is well entrenched. So everything’s more or less as the forest nymphs would like it, excusing a walk cancelled by a rude shower of rain or an access of incohol the night before.  On that last point, we are currently engaged in an innovative programme aimed at assessing whether the makers of Aga Red can keep up their supply to match demand. We think we have them worried.
    Meanwhile the two chaps with the little hammer seem to have returned for further tapping experience at the monster villa next door that has now been “under renovation” for about three years and was, we hear, recently sold by its Jakarta owners to some poor mug from Singapore who is in consequence the new employer of the little chaps with the hammer. We suspect leaks, which may be connected with improper sealing (or ceilings) or possibly with the inability of water – even, amazingly, in Indonesia – to run uphill.
    Two canine occasions enlivened recent late afternoon walks, in the short gloaming that you get in the tropics. First Mr Grumpy – we don’t know his name but he’s an old dog no longer at his best (we know how he feels) – barked at us when we appeared from the top of the little gang (alley) from which we always emerge after the hill climb we’ve built into our fitness regime. He long ago gave up barking at us, since we embarrassed him into silence by ignoring his threats to rip us apart and then being nice to him. He only barked twice (and ran towards us) before he recognised that he’d been an absolute mutt. An elderly proto-wolf looking foolish is a sight worth seeing.
    Then, another evening, Cleo, who is a very large brown dog of some variety who has similarly (unless she forgets) given up barking at us, was outside her villa eating grass along the roadside. She is a very big dog and the local cows are very small. It was momentarily confusing. Then it became amusing, because – like Mr Grumpy up the hill – Cleo looks hilarious when she’s severely embarrassed.

Birthday Week

Two of Hector’s favourite local luminaries from the distaff side had birthdays this week – serial campaigner Susi Johnston and Ubud scribble-fiesta doyenne Janet DeNeefe.  Facebook’s birthday facility was called into play on each occasion.
    Susi’s Facebook said she was living in Brussels – she wasn’t and doesn’t, she was just visiting – so we said cheerio and have a waffle, she was allowed. She told us by return that she was definitely allowed but by that time was in Milano so she’d have a giant gelato instead. Good call!
   Janet’s big day was on Saturday. We expect it was a decorative affray.

Here be Dragons

Well, not exactly, except for a few in breeding programmes in local zoos. Bali is not the natural habitat of the famed Komodo dragon, the world’s largest monitor lizard. They hail from Komodo Island, neighbouring Rinca and – in slightly diminished stature – the western end of Flores, which is several hundred lizard-swims east of Bali.
    We do have our own large monitor lizards on Bali, some of them of impressive size and astonishing speed – one we met once raced us up a long driveway and won, and we were in a car – and to these we apply our Standard Reptilian Rule: you stay out of our way and we’ll stay out of yours.
    Nonetheless, the Komodo deserves protection as a small and unique part of Earth’s natural heritage and for this reason we can afford to give a cheer to a concert in their honour to be held on Kuta Beach on July 30
    The concert is an important part of the “Komodo: The Real Wonder of the World” campaign that was launched in Jakarta on July 1. The campaign is aimed to raise global public awareness and participation in the conservation and preservation of the Komodo dragon and its natural habitat.
    The Concert for Komodo will be highlighted by East Nusa Tenggara ethnic music and will feature some of Indonesia’s most well-known musicians, including Dwiki Dharmawan, Dira Sugandi, Mercy Dumais, Sandhy Sondoro, and others, who are part of the Friends of Komodo community.
    So let’s hear it for the Komodo.

What a Shemozzle

The strange (and strangely disturbing) case of Prita Mulyasari, a 34-year-old mother of three from Tangerang, part of the sprawl of Greater Jakarta, who in 2008 wrote some unfavourable emails about the Omni International Hospital there and has been vindictively pursued by that self-evidently  less than august facility ever since, had another outing this week.
    In a decision that defies even the tortured logic of Indonesian justice, the Supreme Court upheld a prosecution appeal against her acquittal in a separate but related trial for criminal libel brought after Omni’s initial civil suit was quashed by the same court.
    Initially she was thrown into jail in 2008 after Omni sued for defamation over 20 emails she had sent to friends criticising the hospital’s service. That’s the way here: in a crisis, brain is chiefly used to round up and direct brawn to batter your opponent (sometimes literally). But she won the case.
    After first being ordered to pay Omni Rp 312 million (around US$39,000 at present exchange rates) she won a cut on appeal to Rp 204 million ($25,500) and then the verdict was finally quashed.
    At the same time, however, Prita was tried in a criminal libel case brought by Omni. This time, the Tangerang court threw out prosecutors’ preliminary arguments and later acquitted her at trial. But prosecutors appealed this ruling and it was this appeal that the Supreme Court upheld on Friday.
    Throughout this ridiculous travesty Omni has failed to learn the lessons it needed to learn: make sure your services actually are user friendly, which means not necessarily believing your own bullshit; and if a problem nonetheless arises, manage that through a sensible corporate public relations and mediation process.
    If you don’t do that, the whole world learns that you’ve been a bit of dill, or worse. And anyway, whatever the merits or demerits involved in a corporate shemozzle, some mud always sticks.

Yak On!

We’re chuffed. Hector has been invited to join the list of Bali Blogs promoted on the great Yak Online site, where readers of Bali’s best magazine can now get an instant update on matters Yak. Do yourself a favour and bookmark
    That way, you won’t miss any of the bubbles Bali produces for the party crowd – or the great reading the print magazine and its feisty stable mate The Bud present for readers.

Hector is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky) and Twitter (@ Scratchings). He also writes Hector’s Diary for the fortnightly Bali Advertiser.

Friday, July 01, 2011

HECTOR'S DIARY Bali Advertiser, June 29, 2011

New Refuge is Just the Cat’s Whiskers

Bali’s dogs have a bad name, for all sorts of reasons, not least the woefully mismanaged rabies outbreak which since 2008 has killed upwards of 120 people.  But that’s unfair. The dogs are not to blame. It is the studied indifference that the Balinese affect in matters of animal welfare, and their still widespread refusal to accept responsibility for animals in their care, that lies at the root of the dog dilemma.
    It’s much the same with cats. They are less obviously a problem, being essentially solitary animals, but Bali’s stray felines lead sad and sorry lives. So it is cheering to hear that a new refuge is providing professional veterinary care for strays or otherwise unwanted cats lucky enough to get a berth at Villa Kitty Bali, at Lodtundah near Ubud.
    It was the idea of Elizabeth Grant Suttie (some may know her as Henzell) who in her other life is executive assistant to Janet DeNeefe, the fragrant rice activist who feeds and houses paying guests in Ubud and is the luminous presence behind the annual writers and readers festival.
    Villa Kitty Bali has four veterinarians and four veterinary nurses on staff, plus support personnel. It began life as the cat section at BAWA – the Bali Animal Welfare Association – but moved to its own purpose-built accommodation this year, with the help of substantial private donations.
    Many of the cats at the refuge are adopted by caring Balinese families.
    Villa Kitty Bali is in the process of registering as a charity. When this is complete, Yayasan Kucing Bali - Bali Cat Foundation will be able to receive donations officially. In the meantime, Villa Kitty Bali, which opened on March 17, is on Facebook and welcomes visitors. We gather proprietary cat food for kittens is in great demand so if anyone has friends coming from overseas who could bring in a tin or two that would be very welcome.
    Hector is planning a visit. Possibly with kitty food.

Days of the Triffids

The walking programme – jalan jalan olah raga, “sport walking”, around here – is well on track, so to speak, and aimed at achieving a level of fitness in Diary and Distaff that might make survival of cliff tracks in Scotland and treks to wine bars in Budapest – both these excursions are scheduled for August – less of an unlikely outcome than might otherwise have been the case.
    We go twice daily, most days: an early morning trot around the ridges of beautiful Banjar Bakung Sari at Ungasan to see which of the local dogs are awake and a late afternoon reprise to check whether they still are. Most have revived from their afternoon siestas by then, it seems. Mercifully, though, most now also seem inured to the fact that two of the local Bules choose to walk rather than drive, and no longer set up a furious round of serial barking on our approach.  Our method of movement is certainly a novelty to most of the locals, the beneficiaries of price controlled petrol at Rp 4,500 a litre, who invariably fire up their scooters to travel anything over 50 metres rather than saddling up Shanks’s pony.
    Lately, however, some of the scenery has been moving as well. It’s cut-and-cart time at the moment and we’re fortunate perhaps that, now equipped with electronic readers – Kindles – we haven’t yet acquired electronic copies of John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids with which to alarm ourselves.
    Cutting and carting hereabouts, where the leafy product of particular trees and shrubs is concerned, is done by the simple process of pruning the selected plant and placing the collected result upon one’s back, and then trotting home with it.
    This means that on your daily perambulations you’re apt to see, disquietingly, what appear to be small trees or big bushes crashing noisily out of the scrub along the track, or heading menacingly up the road towards you.

Top Gere

Tourists visiting Borobudur in Java towards the end of June may have been fortunate enough to see the sights without running into Hollywood actor Richard Gere and having the stunning vista blocked or interrupted by the obsequious mayhem that surrounds celebrity these days. Gere and Family – wife Carey Lowell and son Home James Jigme – were special guests at a performance of the Borobudur Masterpiece Ballet at the 8th century temple on June 27 and while in the environs on that and the two previous days took part in a sunrise peace walk and tree planting and enjoyed an elephant ride through Medut temple and Borobudur village. Elements of the affray were televised nationally.
     Gere, who is chiefly memorable for playing goofball opposite pretty women, also met national culture and tourism minister Jero Wacik and dined with Sultan Hamengku Buwono X at the Yogyakarta Royal Palace
     We’re pleased to note that despite all these excuses for taking executive action, the authorities did their best for ordinary mortals. Borobudur remained opened to the public.
     Gere, who as well as being a Celebrity is also a Buddhist Celebrity, apparently, whatever that functional oxymoron is, then brought the family on to Bali for a holiday. We don’t know where; or care. But we hope it was a pleasant stay for them.

Top Nosh

Top nosher: Ewald Jeske

We imagine it wasn’t the Westin Resort and Spa at Nusa Dua that the Geres got into after disturbing the peace in Borobudur, which might have been a mistake on their part since the property has just acquired the services of an excellent new executive chef. For this intelligence we are indebted to general manager Bipan Kapur, who via Titin Rohayati, who spruiks for the establishment, sent us a lovely email about the arrival of Ewald Jeske, pictured here, in that important office.
     Jeske comes to Bali from the Sheraton on the Park in Sydney, Australia, a Starwood property in which your diarist has actually stayed, though long before Jeske’s time we imagine.  Jeske is a master chef graduate of the Hotel School Heidelberg in Germany and promises guests creative cuisine that simultaneously tempts the palate and promotes healthy living.
    We might have to check that out soon. The sea breeze at Nusa Dua at this time of the year can help work up a healthy appetite.

Lock it In

This year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival is getting down to brass tacks. Everything’s coming together nicely, we hear from programme director Melissa Delaney, and there will be plenty of international talent on show for the October 5-9 event, the eighth.
    One great attraction for old rockers like Hector is Paul Kelly, the Australian singer-songwriter and out-of-the-closet anarchist. Not to be missed.
    Authors already in the line-up include American novelist Alice Sebold and Booker Prize winner DBC Pierre. This year’s theme – it’s the eighth UWRF – is Nandurin Karang Awak, Cultivate the Land Within, the heart of the epic poem Gaguritan Salampah Laku by Ida Pedanda Made Sideman.
    Says festival founder and director Janet DeNeefe, just back from a gig at the Makassar writers’ festival:  “Developing the self is in many ways similar to cultivating rice fields: sowing the seeds of truths, cropping the stems of desires, and carefully reaping a bountiful harvest for the finest grain. This is a fundamental philosophical concept in the spiritual landscape of Bali.”
    The full author list is scheduled for announcement in early July. It will include writers from Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, Russia, Denmark, Italy, France, Palestine, Hong Kong, Columbia, Japan, Samoa, Germany, Malta, Cuba, the United Kingdom, Egypt, India, Africa, Tunisia, New Zealand and Pakistan.

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