Wednesday, August 24, 2011

HECTOR'S DIARY The Bali Advertiser (August 24, 2011)

A Temporary Sea Change

The Cage at Ungasan, from where the Diary is generally contributed, has a delightful sea view. It’s a panorama that is always missed when we are absent and gratefully enjoyed upon return. But this Diary is being written against the soothing backdrop of a very different sea view, equally delightful even though the water is frigid. It is Hector’s childhood summer holiday view, from the little bit of the Scottish borders that is as well the ancestral home. As we write, on a chill summer afternoon, the Fife coast 60 kilometres away across the Firth of Forth is clearly visible and beyond that, distantly blue, are the hills of Angus. And but for the beautiful folds of the Lammermuir Hills, we fancy, we might even have chanced a glimpse of the faraway Grampians.
     All this is of course peripheral to the Bali scene, to which – after a forthcoming sojourn in Budapest – we shall soon return refreshed, rested, made robust by a renewed stock of memories, and anxious to get back into the joys of living in Bali, our chosen home.
     It is 24 years since we were last here, 40 since we departed for a new life in Australia, and half a century since the last of the regular summer holidays spent fossicking about the stones and boulders of little windswept beaches, freezing in the North Sea breakers, mucking about in boats at our little harbour, and drinking in the rustling, rushing spirituality of the forested ravines of our local stream (a burn hereabouts, and utterly unpolluted) wherein lie occasional trout and the chance of an otter sighting. 
    It is peaceful, this little corner, and warms the heart. Lives long ago made new by emigration are generally better than those that might have been lived at home, but the migrant always feels some sense of loss in the leaving – it would be dull and wrong not to – and a rare return, while a joy, is also perversely, a renewal of sadness. You get on with life, of course, and are forever grateful for the opportunities presented by an adopted homeland. But it’s never the same and in gaining much you know in your heart that you have lost a lot.
Lives Celebrated

This visit to the old country was prompted by a family occasion, to which people – siblings and their spouses – came from places scattered around the globe to join their cousins and others in celebrating, with a surviving brother, the lives of another son of the Borders and his wife, our father and mother.
    There was a little ceremony, informal of course and not specifically religious but one with which a Balinese might find particular empathy, to scatter the ashes of father and mother in the sea. A cousin played a lovely lament among the rocks and a toast was drunk – in whisky for the father, champagne for the mother – and some little speeches made.
    Prior to this, a plaque was dedicated to their memory in the local kirk. Later that day a spirited cèilidh was held at which much food and drink was consumed and plenty of loud music played.
     The weekend by chance was that of the annual village flower show. The flowers were nice but the scones were even better. There was a full moon that night and a clear sky rewarded us with a silver pathway across the water from the headland far off to the east right into the wavelets rippling in to the shore beneath the cliff at the bottom of the garden. Nature came to the party too.

A Long Lunch
The celebratory weekend wound up with a long, late lunch at The Creel, a justifiably renowned restaurant in neighbouring Dunbar. It’s down near the harbour, set away in a sunny little side street, and is itself blessed by association with celebrity chef Rick Stein. That’s not why we were there. We went for the assiette of Inverlochy smoked salmon, local dressed white crab meat and prawns served with dressed baby potato salad, spicy tomato and red onion salad.
    Well, that wasn’t all. The main course offered braised belly of pork, iron skillet seared Gigot steak of Borders lamb and roasted breast of chicken served with creamy crushed potatoes, mélange of fresh vegetables, salsa verde and cranberry jus.
    If you had room afterwards (we did) you could choose between classic vanilla bean panna cotta with macerated raspberries and Creel marble slate duo of cheeses with homemade stem ginger and garden vegetable preserve.  Coffee and homemade chocolates followed. Yum!

Two Hectors
The family memorial weekend and several days following were spent at a cousin’s house (though we lodged for the week next door in a weekender rented at mate’s rates for the occasion) and were slightly confusing for two of those present – Hector the diarist and Hector the cat.
    Hector the cat is a fine tabby of considerable vintage. In cat years, senior even to superannuated diarists who hide behind sulphur crested cockatoo masks. An accommodation was attained, however.  Hector the diarist agreed not to spend his day dashing in and out of the cat doors. And Hector the cat (eventually) conceded there was little point in acting the scaredy-cat since Hector the diarist is a lifelong cat softie. 
    There remained a few confusions, however. It can get ugly when cat and cockatoo respond in synch to food calls and the like.
What a Pest

It is often said that every cloud has a silver lining. Unfortunately the reverse is also true. We made our way from Bali to Scotland via an overnight stop in Budapest, Hungary – to which we returned afterwards – but, clearly in error, chose to do so via Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. These are the people who hold world ranking as specialists in losing people’s luggage.
    One of our two cases managed to join us in Budapest. The other, at time of writing, was still AWOL. Fortunately none of the items on our Scottish schedule – which included a day in Edinburgh where the International Festival is in full swing and the book festival that runs with it was our primary interest – required anything like a full dress-up.
    Edinburgh’s annual festival is a fixture on the global calendar. It is tempting to consider making it such in our own. This year, aside from a programme of classical music performances that make you weep with delight just from thinking about them, Ravi Shankar was performing.  The book festival speaks for itself. And the concurrent Festival of Spirituality and Peace features two performance events it would have been good to see:
    Tenchi Shinmei: The Ocean, by Ensemble Rivelta, Japanese masters of the Shakuhachi (bamboo vertical flute) and Koto (Japanese lyre), which presented melodies from ancient Japanese to modern Spanish tango. Tenchi Shinmei: The Mountain featured Tokara, one of the most versatile taiko drumming groups to emerge from the mountains of Nagano, which presented powerful and jazzy rhythms and was headed by Art Lee, the only non-Japanese ever to win Grand Champion at the Tokyo International Okaido Championships.
    Still, back on the prosaic front, it would have been nice to have a change of shoes to hand, so to speak. Not to mention a wider selection of socks and underwear, or even a shirt. And we won’t even mention the matter of access to the minor compendium of medicines with which most modern post-middle-agers attempt to regulate, or at least to ward off, the ravages of time.
Shame to Miss It

Well, it is the Rock Bar, so it’s not surprising that music of that nowadays broad genre is frequently heard at that cliff-side location in Jimbaran along with the exquisite (and other) tweeting of the establishment’s well-heeled clientele.
     Nonetheless, and despite the fact that your diarist was enjoying badly behaved music long before punks were born, let alone imagined that they had invented musical invective, the soft punk performances of Superman is Dead are a favourite.
    It is therefore a pity that the only Indonesian band on American Billboard chose to have both its sixteenth birthday and a magical unplugged performance at the Rock Bar at Ayana in our absence.  Their scheduled ticket-only gig was on August 18, the day after Independence Day.

Hector's Diary appears in the Bali Advertiser, published every fortnight, and on the newspaper's website

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