Jade Richardson has written a lovely piece here. A must-read.


I’ve always had this intuitive feeling that ‘going back’ is a path fraught with disappointment, a sure way to lance the boil of regret that grows quietly on the under-side of nostalgia.

In love, in career and travel, ‘going back’ risks curdling all that warm milky romance that time so gently nurture us with – after the event.

Lovers of great tenderness and dreadsome mood swings are longed for with a ferocity far beyond their worth after a month (or a day) of separation. And places of enchantment, where younger dreams were conceived are likely to have fallen to the bulldozer, been riddled with billboards or standardised by the Sheraton.

Or fallen into the weird, desperate grip of ex-pats, like Vilcabamba.

Twenty years ago I stumbled across this tiny hamlet in the low eastern bosom of the Ecuadorian Andes in most unusual circumstances. I was 22. I was on the…

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HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Sept. 19, 2012

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Tugu Tripping

We had a pleasant outing recently, to Hotel Tugu at Batu Bolong where the Rotary Club of Canggu meets and which, on that occasion, was inducting SoleMan Robert Epstone, a fugitive from Seminyak, as a member.  It was a horrendous drive to get there from the Bukit (we saw a sign en route, near the eager burrowing going on at the underpass site at Simpang Siur, which proclaimed “Road Works Ahead” and thought, with a sigh, “We wish”) but it was worth it.

     The decorative Hellen Sjuhada, Tugu’s bespoke mouthpiece, wasn’t there for the meeting, which was understandable but a pity nonetheless. By way of excellent compensation we had a lovely chat with Epstone’s engaging wife Shelley about this and that, including a comfy little ongoing narrative she’s putting together on behalf of one of her little pet dogs.

     Epstone (Robert) is trudging around Bali at the moment on the annual SoleMen charity walk for Bali’s children living in poverty (hint: it’s a place just outside the tourist enclave) and SoleMen is in the running for Best Community Services in the annual Yak awards. We declare both an interest and a cast ballot. They deserve it, so does Epstone, we’ve voted thus, and we hope to see the gong go to them at the 2012 Yakkers. This year’s über bash for the incredibly dressed is on Sept. 28 at Mozaic Beach Club, Batu Belig.

Carve It! Carve It!

The Canggu Rotary meeting was the first the Diary’s been to in years: For all sorts of reasons we shan’t canvass here. But the evening was enlivened not only by the Pinning of Robert (happily the pinner missed the vital arteries) but also a lovely presentation by underwater sculptor Celia Gregory.

     Gregory’s interest lies in enhancing coral regeneration. She is involved in the ongoing Pemeruteran project in North Bali and also in Lombok’s fabulous Gilis, where the Biorock process is helping to rehabilitate and re-establish fringing reefs. She creates sculptures – not actually under water, which seems a shame since the very thought of such enterprise makes one want to learn scuba – that are then placed as coral growing agents.

      One such entity now sunk off the Gilis is a female Buddha. There’s also a motorbike.

      Gregory is now in the UK raising funds for a coral regeneration project at Amed in Bali’s north-east. We’ll keep an eye on that.

You Can’t Kick the Bukit

The delightful Gibson Saraji, whose Gorgonzola restaurant and wine bar on Jl Raya Uluwatu at Bukit Jimbaran is a big draw (you can’t miss it; it’s just across the road from the immigration detention centre) has added another string to his bow. He now operates Gorgonzola Gourmet from the same premises. It’s a handy fruit-and-veg shop, has all sorts of other goodies and is now offering his own smoked meats as an additional incentive to drop in and be tempted by the best espresso coffee on the Bukit.

    Saraji, who is originally from Sumatra and likes to give his special friends a playful frisson of faux-fear now and then by reminding them that he comes from a long line of cannibals, also offers all-day breakfasts – a favourite with the Distaff– and nurtures a lovely orchid-filled garden with lots of shade. There’s plenty to graze on (from the kitchen) and free WiFi.  And there’s live music on Saturday evenings too.

Chip In

A little further up the road, just beside the GWK entrance, is another establishment we’ve recently noticed: Anchor Fish & Chips. We kill for fish and chips! Owner Laura Lucas – she’s Bali born; her mother was originally Dutch and her father a sea captain – runs a nicely tight ship. Its entrance might challenge some, though not the Diary in search of fish and chips, since it involves several flights of stairs. But she’s placed inspirational notices on each set of stairs (“Come on Granddad”; “You’re Nearly There”; and “Don’t Give Up Now” are fixed in your diarist’s mind).

     From the terrace on top you get a wonderful sunset to complement your pre-dinner drinks. There’s free WiFi there as well. It is de rigueur nowadays, a fact some other Bali establishments should think about.

See You in Ubud

Janet DeNeefe’s fragrant annual rite, the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, this year from October 3-7, will be headlined by Australian author Anna Funder, winner of the 2012 Miles Franklin Award for her book All That I Am. Funder joins Australians John Pilger – the preferred worrywart-in-print of many media-watchers – and Nick Cave, who also sings and occasionally acts, and former Timor-Leste president Jose Ramos-Horta in a strong line-up.

     It’s been a good year for Funder, who also wrote Stasiland. She won the Independent Bookseller’s Award for best debut fiction, Indie Book of the Year 2012, the Australian Book Industry Awards’ Book of the Year and Literary Fiction Book of the Year, and the Barbara Jefferis Award 2012.

     The festival’s full programme includes supplementary events – they’re not “fringe events” as is the overworked custom at festivals everywhere nowadays: perhaps Ubud is regarded as fringe enough as it is – and has attracted a number of ancillary events that are swinging off the festival, so to speak.

     One lovely couplet in that line, that much attracts the Diary, is being staged by scribbler-guru Shelley Kenigsberg, who otherwise is found on the lovely Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia.  One is the Life Writing and Memoir course (a three-day residential affair at Taman Bebek in the Ubud environs from Sept.29-Oct. 1) and her latest Editing in Paradise retreat (Oct. 8-13) being held at her villa in Sanur.

     Kenigsberg, with whom we’ll definitely have a drink (or two) during the festival, has been a visitor to Bali for 25 years and says that she has finally found her dream island home, a place in Jl Mertasari in Sanur. She tells us:  “I found the place through a series of coincidences (I now know never to construe them as such) and I just love it. I’ve been wanting to spend more time in Bali in a place of my own…for… ooh, 15 or so years.  It is truly a little piece of paradise. And so that makes holding the retreats there even more special.”

     She adds, delightfully: “The retreats themselves … well, a privilege I reckon, to spend time with writers/creators who are so committed to their craft, their writing and their stories. We have a lot of intense discussions about all things words-like. But we have a lot of fun too. “

Still Barking Mad

It’s World Rabies Day on Sept. 28. Perhaps on that occasion Bali’s human and animal health authorities might pause to consider the deadly record lying at their door since the disease was belatedly identified as present in Bali in late 2008, following several unexplained deaths in the southern Bukit region.

      Four years later, and after a tragic comedy of errors and do panic/don’t panic orders and counter-orders, around 150 people are dead (among other things they don’t do well here is keep accurate numbers). Six people have died so far in 2012; the latest reported (in July) a 55-year old woman from Ketewel near Denpasar who had not sought protective vaccination after a stray dog bit her. Last year, 11 people died. Falling death rates are being touted as cause for congratulation.

     But any death from rabies is preventable. So sorry, fellows, six deaths this year is a deadly fail.

Take a Bow-Wow

We should remember that dogs don’t deserve to get rabies either – and that it’s not their fault they get the disease.  Bali’s street dogs live in appalling conditions for all sorts of reasons, chiefly because the Balinese themselves don’t give a fig about them.

     So measures to help alleviate their collective distress are always welcome. The Bali Street Dogs association’s Victorian branch runs annual Bali Nights in Melbourne. This year’s event is on October 19 at the city’s plush InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto.

     Organiser Sue Warren – Victorian coordinator of BSD – tells us the cocktail party is the key source of funding for the year. It will be hosted by TV network Channel Nine’s Pete Smith and David Graham, better known to many Aussies as Farmer Dave. “Bali Nights is run by volunteers and we are auctioning only donated goods, so every dollar you spend will go directly to fund de-sexing, emergency and education programmes,” Warren says.

     Bali’s street dogs – and stray cats, another problem – need help and Melbourne people have historically been generous in supporting the event. We should all say a big thank-you.

The Big Chill-Out

The energetic Lloyd Perry of The Chillout Lounge in Ubud – golly, we’re back up that hill again – reminded us a few days ago that his fine establishment is soon to celebrate its first anniversary. He actually wrote that it was “coming up on our 1st year anniversary” but in deference to the English language as it is meant to be written and spoken, we won’t go there. An anniversary is just that – it’s a word drawn from the Latin for year, der.

    Never mind. There’ll be a big party at Jl. Sandat No. 4, Ubud, on Sept. 22 – it’s a Saturday – even though Lloyd’s baby isn’t a year old until the next day. The fun starts at 7pm.

    We haven’t managed to sample Lloyd’s wares at The Chillout Lounge yet, but we’ll be in Ubud over the scribblers’ fest and may need to escape briefly from Ernest and Ernestine and all the other navel-gazers. Chilling out up the road might be just the ticket.

Hector’s Diary appears in the Bali Advertiser newspaper, published every second Wednesday. The newspaper’s website is http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector is on Twitter @scratchings and Facebook (Hector McSquawky).

WHIMSY Music to Drive By

Everyone knows I like a jam session. That is, I like it when it’s music that’s involved and it’s not just another Bali traffic snarl.

South Bali’s traffic is now legendary for all the wrong reasons. Anyone who doubts this from afar, not having actually experienced the joys of eight lanes of traffic in a two-lane space, should consult my Other Self – Hector, whose scratchy diaries are posted on this blog as well as meeting with actual printer’s ink – for the full briefing.

But anyway, just for fun I’ve created a “Music to Drive By” playlist on the iPod. It’s chiefly designed to create an atmosphere of inner calm in the cabin of the feisty little Suzuki SX4 we drive here – dear girl, she’d love to really vrooooommmm, but that’s difficult  here – while all around Manic Moments play loudly.


Here’s my list. It’s all classical music. (Though, OK, sometimes I’ll play Jimmy Barnes or Warren Zevon if there’s a real traffic snarl.)

  1.  Elgar’s Elegy, Op. 58
  2. The Planets, Op. 32. IV: Jupiter
  3. The Goldberg Variations BWV 998: Aria
  4. String Quartet No. 2 in D Major: III Notturno
  5. Turandot: Nessun Dorma
  6. The Four Seasons (Vivaldi): L’Inverno (Winter)
  7. The Four Seasons (Vivaldi): La primavera (Spring)
  8. Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major. K467: Andante
  9. The Valkyrie: Ride of the Valkyries
  10. Radetsky March: Op. 228
  11. Messiah. HWV 56: Hallelujah Chorus
  12. Gymnopedie No. 1
  13. Panis Angelicus
  14. Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 Op. 46: In the Hall of the Mountain King
  15. L’Arlesienne Suite No. 1: Prelude
  16. Boléro. M 81
  17. Concierto de Aranjuez for Guitar and Orchestra: II. Adagio
  18. Thaïs: Meditation
  19. Suite No. 1 in G Major for Solo Cello, BMV 1007 I. Prelude
  20. Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C-Sharp Minor. S. 244

 That’s nearly two hours of music, which should be just about enough to ride out the worst.

 Ride of the Valkyries is in the list just in case Suzy spots a gap in the traffic.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Sept. 5, 2012

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

It’s a Disgrace

One morning recently we ventured beyond our usual perambulatory perimeter and out onto the Balangan road. The Distaff, from an earlier vantage point, had spotted someone jogging down a track that leads up a hill on the other side of the road and suggested there might be land up there. We decided not to audibly note that there would certainly be land up there. It was for all sorts of reasons one of those risk-of-domestic-thunder mornings and we were not going to encourage an inclement occasion.

We haven’t walked down our little stretch of the Balangan road in years – literally – because it is the domain of scarred, ragged and diseased dogs of provenance unknown and, as everyone always knew would be the case, no one has yet been able to reduce rabies to a negligible risk. It’s much less of a problem to us than to the locals, since we have had the required full course of prophylactic vaccinations. But you’d still need to have the post-exposure needles if one of the dogs bit you, as a precaution, though not, thank goodness, the excessively expensive immunoglobulin.

It was an interesting stroll. In the wet season the roadsides look lush and green and the undergrowth is impenetrable to the passing eye. But it’s been dry for some months now – the odd overnight shower excepted – and the thinning vegetation reveals the real roadside in all its appalling horror. There is endless rubbish, thrown away on each side of the road carelessly or by design, but in either case criminally. The time has long gone where we can all simply say that the locals haven’t got used to plastic yet. The problem is two-fold (leaving aside education which is a very long-term process). First, the local authority – in this case Ungasan Village – does nothing effective about rubbish collection or disposal and clearly couldn’t care less. The second is that local people (along with Indonesians from other islands and some expatriates) can’t be bothered either. One day the tourists, or possibly even people with money to invest, are going to say they won’t be back.

(There was land at the top of the hill, incidentally, just as the Diary had quietly surmised. Nothing indicated that it might be for sale, but it did offer fine views of Tommy Town and Blot Beach. Oh, sorry. We meant to write Dreamland.)

Great News

Kathryn Bruce of Bali Pink Ribbon tells us that due to the overwhelming success of the Bali Pink Ribbon Walks and the encouraging support of many people, construction of the Bali Breast Cancer Support Centre is well under way.  It is being built in the grounds of Prima Medika Hospital in Denpasar and will provide a wide range of programmes, support services and information for all Balinese women living with breast cancer, and their families. The centre, Indonesia’s first, is expected to be operating in November.

Increased awareness of breast cancer among Balinese women has led to many women who suspect they have breast cancer now going to a doctor, where before it was often undiagnosed until very late in the progress of the disease. More than 200 are now diagnosed every year. Early detection and treatment is vital.

Kathryn notes, in an email to supporters: “Without your hard work, generous spirit and compassion for those with Breast Cancer, the vision to overcome the problems faced by women in Bali for breast screening, education and support would not have become a reality.”

It’s a privilege to help, Kathryn. We’ll even wear pink on your walks.

Lucky Dog

We know him as Mickey, though we’re not entirely sure that’s his name, especially since he never answers to it. He lives in the informal way pet dogs do here as part of our pembantu’s household and we see him every morning as we take our daily walk. He’s a quiet chap, and we like him a lot, because alone among all his local co-specifics he does not bark at us. In truth, he ignores us, affecting a distain that could easily injure one’s pride, if one let it.

But recently he was limping. We asked our lovely pembantu (she thinks we’re quite mad, by the way) why this was so. “Sepeda motor,” she told us, with what we thought might be a wan little smile.  So Mickey, in the words of the awful joke, has joined the ranks of the lucky dogs of Bali. They’re the ones that limp after an altercation with a motorised conveyance. The unlucky ones are dead.

Lately, he seems to have recovered, which is really good news. He is no longer limping, though he still ignores us in his own quiet way.

Annie Update

Little Annie, the eight-year-old from Sideman in Karangasem now being treated in Sanglah Hospital after being found disastrously malnourished and weighing under 7kg, is putting on weight and responding to proper care. That’s wonderful news. Robert Epstone of the charity SoleMen (and Rotary Canggu) told us late last month she is being fed porridge three times a day along with liquid food six times a day, as well as adequate drinking water, and at that time weighed just over 10kg. Annie is also severely challenged developmentally but is already responding positively to the nursing care and is developing trust with the nurses.

Jimbaran resident Sarah Chapman, who with her Balinese friend Yuni Putu found Annie after seeing a story in the local Bahasa press, has been her regular carer. The good chaps at SoleMen Indonesia paid upfront for 24-hour professional care for Annie’s first 15 days at Sanglah, with four shifts a day, and with private donor assistance have allocated an extra Rp11.4 million to cover the period up to October 4. If Annie needs to stay longer in Sanglah before moving to Anak Anak Bali, another Rp30 million may be needed. Here’s a case where some digging into pockets is merited.

Roué Remembered

A fondly recalled echo of the past re-entered the Diary’s life in mid-August, when an obituary in the London Daily Telegraph newspaper recorded the passing of Ian Dunlop, wit, charmer, chancer, fantasist and pretender to the much disputed title of “last of the old Soho characters.” Obituaries are required reading, for they remind or possibly apprise you of all sorts of interesting things.

In the 1960s London your diarist inhabited before sensibly sentencing himself to transportation for life to the antipodes (lest he find himself treading in similar tracks) Dunlop, then in his late thirties, was a growing institution in the low-life Soho of the day. Like many of his class, he had already been many things, including an officer in the Scots Guards, not something easily done.

He came from classic stock. His father served in the British invasion of Tibet in 1904 and his aunt, Marion Wallace-Dunlop, was the first British Suffragette to go on hunger strike after being arrested in July 1909

Dunlop effected a conversational rite that satirised and annoyed the pretentious, especially those of the Left. It was delightful to observe from the periphery of his circle. One sensed it was the last hurrah of an age long gone, but that only gave it added piquancy in a grey old town that sorely needed not only spicing up but also to hold on to its true patricians. He was a rogue, seeing himself as a ladies’ man. His particular interest was the ancient Ceremony of Lowering the Pants at Sunset, his own concoction, you might say, and it was performed upon whoever was his latest conquest in his portfolio of vulnerable ladies let down by feckless or faithless men. Preparations for the ceremony were fascinating rituals in themselves.

Later, in his fifties, Dunlop came to be known as “The Greying Mantis” since, in the best traditions of his kind, he did not call off the chase. But by that time your diarist had long since departed for the land of sheilas, where the ceremonials at first had seemed oddly different. Still, a result’s a result, as they say.

Dunlop lived an extraordinarily long life for someone whose scale of indulgence would have long since seen off a lesser man. He was 83 when he died in July. Perhaps he was indeed the last of the old Soho characters. He was certainly erudite – he wrote a book about an abstruse aspect of music that unfortunately remained unpublished – as well as reprobate in a deliciously old-world way. He never had money but he was much more interesting and challenging than the flashily inarticulate glottal-stop collectives that nowadays constitute celebrity in Britain and the new-age “English colonies” overseas.

One Small Misstep…

It was sad to learn of the death late in August of Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon. He was a modest character, not at all a self-publicist, yet (very literally) a high achiever. Armstrong played a minor part in your diarist’s early journalistic career. The job assigned to the young reporter on moon landing day in 1969 was to sit in front of a tiny black and white TV in the Press Association newsroom in London and take note of Armstrong’s first words. Sadly, they were as scripted. We had been hoping Armstrong would miss the last step on the Moon Lander’s ladder and say something unprintable.

Hector’s Diary appears in the Bali Advertiser newspaper, published every second Wednesday. The newspaper’s website is http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector is on Twitter @scratchings and Facebook (Hector McSquawky).

On Why Julian Assange is Just a Bloody Nuisance

The Julian Assange saga is a tiresome example of life in the cyber age. He has managed to capture the attention and – more crucially – the support of many in the chatterverse, by parlaying his expertise as a web-dredger into a self-appointed mission as global saviour. Doubtless this serves his ego. It is very doubtful that it serves any other real purpose or has intrinsic value, or in the end does any more than feed the voraciously misinformed appetites of serial America-haters and conspiracy theorists.

     According to this vast untutored rabble, Assange is a marked man. The United States is out to get him. People want him dead. He is at significant risk of being snatched from his bed – or, more likely, it seems, someone else’s – and spirited away to be water-boarded.

     His WikiLeaks organisation hacks into secure official websites and lifts material which it then dumps on the internet unchecked, unverified, absent validation, and – arguably in some circumstances – criminally. The convenient untruth widely accorded the status of received wisdom is that a clever little chap with no apparent conscience or obvious analytical skills has every right to raid any data base he chooses. To advance any argument for the contrary case is to ally oneself with the Great Satan.

     Assange’s star in his little three-ring circus – apart of course from himself – is a British-born US soldier – Bradley Manning – who is facing military justice for dumping highly embarrassing classified data on the WikiLeaks site, to which virtually anyone now has access. Manning knew what he was doing, though Assange didn’t at the time. Manning may be a hero, though disaffected geek seems a closer approximation on the facts.

     The entrepreneurial Assange has got a lot of mileage out of Manning’s action, and has spun a tale from it that he is now himself at risk.  That’s his spectacular skill: spinning a line and making himself a hero. His groupies love it. Perhaps it gives them vicarious endorsement as soldiers in the army of peace. Or any number of other vacuous collectives. He may have given himself nightmares about how the G-men are going to come and get him, but that’s his lookout; and, objectively, why they would bother doing so is problematical.  There is no evidence to suggest anyone else should have nightmares on his account, on that or any other ground.

      In fact, the central problem Assange faces is far more prosaic, not to say tedious. He fled an investigation in Sweden that resulted from his other claim to fame, that of being (again self-proclaimed) a world-champion bedroom mazurka performer. Sweden’s laws relating to unwanted sexual advances may be astonishing – no, they’re ridiculous – but that’s where he did the deeds (or didn’t, it seems) and that’s where he must answer for them. It is for that reason the UK High Court ordered his deportation to Sweden when he broke his bail order.

     Short of compelling actual evidence that he faces imminent legal action in a criminal case anywhere else – it’s such a shame you can’t charge people with being a bloody nuisance – we  must conclude that he invited himself into the Ecuadorian embassy in London to escape extradition to Sweden over alleged sexual offences. In short, to reprise a version of that lovely line from the hilarious movie Life of Brian: he’s not the Messiah; he’s just a naughty boy. Perhaps, though, we should make one script adjustment. Grub is a better description.

      The risible scenes we have seen since he threw himself upon the bemused Ecuadorians have ranged from Great Dictator-style theatre – his dramatically staged and assiduously pre-publicised appearance on the balcony of the embassy while a few British Bobbies stood around and looked embarrassed below – to astonishing farce.  In pursuit of self-promotion, or possibly because he is delusional, Assange has created an international imbroglio.

      (Ecuador’s appalling human rights record would actually be worthy of a WikiLeak or two if sentient, responsible, validation-focused organisations such as Amnesty International had not already revealed that can of worms.)

      In Australia, the country of which Assange is a departed resident and in which his fractious mother lives and mouths off on cue, Foreign Minister Bob Carr is besieged by misinformed advocates of direct action seeking his immediate attention to the apparent national duty of acting to “free Assange”. As is so often the case, the fact that in someone else’s country even little Aussie battlers and other “national heroes” are subject to the laws there is a concept apparently beyond the grasp of many Australians, even those who arguably should know better.

     On August 31 Austin Mackell, an Australian freelance journalist who had run into trouble with the authorities in (at least temporarily) dysfunctional Egypt,  took to the ABC blog site The Drum to argue it was shame Carr had not intervened on Assange’s behalf as he had done for him. Mackell noted that Egypt’s charges against him were dropped only after direct ministerial representations.

     But Mackell was in trouble because he had – apparently deliberately, in pursuit of his higher freelance objectives that naturally allowed him to ignore applicable laws and then bleat like billy-o when he was caught – breached the terms of his visa in a country where legal process is currently notional.

     Assange is not in that situation. The Swedish authorities require him to answer questions relating to an investigation into allegations of sexual offences. Sweden is a democratic state with a functioning and independent legal system and courts that do not take political direction. Assange has not been charged. If he has a satisfactory answer to the allegations against him, he won’t be charged. Even if he were, a court applying reasonable judicial assessment might well decide to simply fine him, or let him off with a warning and advise him to grow up and get a life.

     Neither is Sweden in any way likely to accede to any US request for extradition – which would surely eventuate only if everyone in the Justice Department in Washington suddenly went completely bonkers – since Assange has not committed any offence in Sweden that relates to American legal process against Bradley Manning.

     (On the sexual allegations against Assange that have surfaced in the public domain in Sweden, it’s unlikely that he would be required to answer any questions at all anywhere but in that fundamentally femocrat nation, but that’s beside the point.)