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).

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