Dance me to the end of love

Get a tissue before you read this. But read it.

No Place For Sheep



Some months ago I wrote here about going to my husband, from whom I’d been separated for some time, after he’d suffered a massive stroke.

With a bizarre assortment of clothes flung distractedly into a bag and no toothbrush, I took the train because all the flights from my part of the world were full.

I had no idea what to expect. He won’t know you, they told me. He doesn’t know anybody. He can’t speak. His right side is paralysed. I’ll come with you, a friend offered, so you don’t have to deal with the shock by yourself.

I accepted her offer. Once I never accepted anybody’s offers of help. I had no idea how to. I knew from early in life how to get through things on my own when there wasn’t any choice. I knew how to trust me, when I couldn’t trust anybody else.

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Why waste so much if we love food?

Conspicuous consumption

Tom Benner Reports

Op-ed published in the Sunday Straits Times, March 24, 2013

By Tom Benner

Singaporeans tossed out some 675 million kilos of food in 2011, according to the National Environment Agency, a vast amount that exposes the casual attitudes and habits of living in a food paradise and land of plenty.

This may seem surprising for Singapore, a small island that imports most of what is consumed. Singaporeans are second to none in their love of food, yet one routinely sees unfinished plates getting scraped into rubbish bins, from hawker centres to high-end restaurants and catered affairs.

It is not just a Singapore problem; it is a part of a global problem of growing proportions.

Food loss and food waste occur at alarming rates – about one-third of all the food produced for human consumption, some 1.3 billion tonnes of food worth around US$1 trillion (S$1.25 trillion) – is lost…

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Fabulous photos

Lottie Nevin - The Red House Diaries

I arrived in Bali at 9am this morning after an early start. It’s now the afternoon, Buddha Bar is playing on the iPod, the smell of Nag Champa incense is filling the air, and until just a minute ago, I had a very handsome cricket sitting next to me on the sofa.

Irishman, at this very moment is on a plane wending his way over to Germany so for the first time in ages I’m alone. Left to my own devices, and not having to think about anyone else, I’m having an indulgent day, lazing about and taking some photographs. This is what I’ve been up to so far….







I love watching the sun move around the garden – the bright colours of the exterior walls make a perfect backdrop for the flowers and plants. The huge pots form Jogja have now arrived and one of my jobs next week…

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HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Mar. 20, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

Parodi or Parody: You Choose

Anyone expecting considered application of justice – as in court decisions based on fair assessments and police arresting people on the basis of tip-offs rather than because of tips – would be well advised to forgo the dubious delights of attempting resolution in Indonesia.

Spiritual guru Anand Krishna was arrested in 2010 and charged with sexual harassment on the basis of a complaint from one of his former students. He was first convicted in the South Jakarta Supreme Court and was then, after one of the original trial judges was removed for inappropriate contact with the prosecution, exonerated and freed by a bench headed by another judge. She subsequently found herself transferred to Bangka Island, by the way.

The prosecutors then contrived to get Krishna retried via one of the convenient cart-and-horse-size loopholes that pepper Indonesia’s criminal code for the benefit of prosecutors whose premier skills lie in own-goals. He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years’ jail.  He was arrested at his Ubud ashram amid a near riot on February 13.

Krishna’s Hindu-based teachings are very liberal about the essential freedoms of life.

Another curious incident that relates to the law and its stewardship has recently come to notice. It involves Susi Johnston, an American who has lived here for years, is a true friend of the Balinese people, is a lovely person, and is relatively recently widowed. She is also in trouble, and prima facie this seems to be for highly questionable reasons.

Eighteen months ago she lost her Italian husband, Bruno Piazza, to cancer. She believed that on his death continued occupancy of their villa at Mengwi would pass to her in his will and that it would remain her home as he would have wished and under the nominee he had assigned. Unfortunately it seems the nominee – as the legal title holder – had other ideas. Equally unfortunately for Johnston she appears to have what might euphemistically be called very powerful connections. That’s the way things work here.

We do not know the full facts of the property issue. But we do know that the nominee system, farce though it may be, is not directly designed to facilitate avaricious property acquisition by a nominee who has been paid to lend his name to a legal fiction, or to facilitate its profitable transfer to others of his acquaintance.

The full circumstances of Johnston’s situation are not clear either. It does appear she was advised to reach some compromise in regard to her villa but chose not to do so. As a result she has been monstered – there’s really no other word for it – by hired thugs and others.

Earlier this month Johnston posted her version of the story of three home invasions she suffered in February. It appeared on a Facebook group page engagingly called Mugged in Bali. It quickly disappeared, though not before The Diary took the precaution of cutting and pasting a copy. A few days later she was arrested when police found drugs in her car.  It is remarkably easy to find drugs in someone’s possession if they’ve been planted. We know this happens. Everyone knows this happens. Fortunately, she was released after only a few days of detention for investigation – and we heard shortly afterwards that the police were now interested in talking to the perpetrators of the plot to incarcerate her. Some clouds do have silver linings, then.

But the essential lesson remains: In both the Krishna and Johnston cases the word “travesty” comes to mind. In Bahasa Indonesia travesty is “parodi”. How apt!

Something smells. And it’s not the roses.

Ah, rack off

Hector’s helper had a robust exchange with an Ubud bien-pensant the other day over the little matter of adulteration of drinks (including arak) for sale in bars in Bali and Lombok. It arose because said helper had posted a comment about criminality. In response, Nyoman Wen scribbled to the effect that Hector’s helper was unread and ignorant.

The Good Wen is another former Sydney personage who has transmigrated, apparently in almost every sense. He acquired the essence of guruhood on Mangrove Mt, New South Wales, and these days dispenses advice and does not take kindly to the bleeding obvious disturbing his personal karma.

So for the record: Whatever foolish village youths do in the matter of adulterating the arak they get drunk on, people who sell drinks over the counter anywhere are engaged in commercial practices that are – or would be if anyone bothered – licensed, regulated and subject to excise and tax laws. Bar owners who doctor drinks know what they’re doing and that what they’re doing is wrong: Especially when it kills people, which far too often it does.


8 Million’s a Crowd

According to figures recently released by the government, 8,044,462 tourists visited Indonesia last year, around 5 percent more than in 2011. And according to Retno Sulistyaningsih, director of tourism development at the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, the increase is due to the better quality and variety of tourism products offered in Indonesia.

He cited in particular one of the ministry’s flagship programmes, the Destination Management Organization (DMO), which manages sustainable tourism destinations in 15 locations around Indonesia, including “regional Bali”.

We don’t know whether to be happy or sad about this news. We thought there were more tourists about, possibly even 8 million of them. But it seemed to us that they’d all come to Bali and hired cars so they could relax in paradise by crawling up and down the Ngurah Rai Bypass.

English as she is Broke

The English language is under pressure everywhere: Even the dullest amongst us would have realised this by now. Its functional demise is being hastened by the internet and the illiterate clowns who inhabit it. (We saw something recently in which some cyber-world lunatic wrote that emails would be better restricted to 50 words or less. Unfortunately it didn’t say these should be correctly spelt and rendered in something resembling a grammatical structure.)

One would not, of course, expect Tolstoy to produce War and Peace for Twitter. Though it is amusing to speculate on what he might suggest as an alternative use for his quill to anyone who put such a proposal to him. Nowadays we are not believed likely to read much beyond a beer coaster, either in word count or cerebral content. Instead we are considered to have the attention spans of dead ants.

All sorts of people want to blog nowadays. One popped up the other day saying he (or possibly she) would really like to get into travel blogging and adding: “Been blogging about life and travel in SE Asia fir a few years now but really don’t know anything about blogging per say.”

Sadly this indicates that the writer actually knows very little about anything much at all, per se.

It’s a Breeze

How nice it was to see The Samaya Seminyak coming in at No. 3 on the Trip Advisor top 10 list of the most luxurious hotels in Asia, released recently. We’ve always had a soft spot for the property, and especially for its lovely beachside bar and restaurant (Breeze, named for its prevailing ambience). We go there occasionally to remember when we were to be counted among the spending classes.

It really is a great spot, the more so for having Ray Clark as general manager; and for being the place of favourite resort of some lovely Sydney friends.

The property has recently been remodelled and is now even better than ever. No. 1 next year, guys!

Two other Bali properties made it into the top 10: The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah at Ubud came in at No. 4 and The Samaya Ubud was in seventh spot. A third Ubud property, Komaneka at Monkey Forest, was 13th.

Full House

Australian wellness person Hayley Lawrence, who operates the Radiant Being centre at Albany on the bracing southernmost coast of Western Australia is – understandably, given that our breezes are generally balmy – something of a Bali fan. She reports almost a full house for her next “follow your bliss retreat” involving yoga and other delights at Batu Karang Resort and Spa on Nusa Lembongan on April 15-20. One held last year attracted very favourable comment from participants. There’s a second retreat planned for October this year.

There is still (just, be quick) space to get on the programme if you’re interested. Full details are at or you can email  And Lawrence says you can have 10 percent off if you read about it here and mention that fact when you book.

It’s good to see the deepening development of mutually profitable West Australian-Bali business relations. And a bit of pampering never goes astray.

Hector’s Diary is published in the Bali Advertiser, out fortnightly in print, and on the newspaper’s website Hector tweets @scratchings and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky)

Ice Hole

Add this blog to your reading list. He really good on penguins 🙂

All downhill from here

Now then, Gingold Minor, stop laughing at the back of class. I said Ice Hole.



You see Mrs. Ha and I have been trying to agree on a hotel for Macau and the stumbling block is my refusal to pay HK$160 per day for wifi. It seems all the hotels have introduced this iniquitous charge and it strikes me simply as a way of extracting more from the customer in harder times. We certainly didn’t pay for wifi last year. So we have called ‘time out’ and I have retreated to my study to play with the Antarctic trip pics. So here is a chance to show a few more and I’d thought I’d start with an ice hole.

And next up is the rather flirtatious Leonard Seal (the well-known typing error). Go on, give us a kiss. I don’t bite. Well maybe I do but just a little…

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“…there are no votes in decency.”

Some cogent thought here that deserves a reading.

No Place For Sheep

The full quote comes from Federal Liberal MP Russell Broadbent, in reference to fallen Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu, and reads:  “This is a man of great decency but obviously there are no votes in decency.”

I don’t have enough knowledge about Mr Baillieu and his situation to comment on his decency, and it is the observation “there are no votes in decency” that captured my attention.

It seems to me to sum up our current federal politics in relation to asylum seeker policies promoted by both major parties. I understand Pauline Hanson is looking to join them yet again, but as the ALP & LNP have stolen her thunder and more, it’s difficult to see why anybody needs her voice as they did back then, before John Howard plagiarised her instruction manual for xenophobes and racists and she found herself in gaol.

But that’s another story.

There is nothing even…

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HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Mar. 6, 2013


His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences


Wrinkle Wars

Bali’s latest entrant in the medical tourism sector is set, says principal Louise Cogan, to catch the next big wave in the industry that will propel the island to equal rank with Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Cocoon Medical Spa at Legian – it’s on Sunset Road – opened in February with discount specials. And Cogan tells us that while we’re five to seven years behind Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Phuket, we should be up there with them by the end of the decade.

       Says Cogan, who has spent the past 10 years in medical tourism in Asia and who also says Cocoon Medical Spa offers treatments, products, technology and training that are the best in the world: “The development of world class centres like BIMC and Siloam Hospital will increase patients’ perceptions of medical quality which will see a boom in medical tourism.”

      According to Cogan perceptions of Bali as a medical tourism destination are growing and the local industry will grow with it as people see that they can now get quality medical care here. “This will see both an enormous influx of tourists who would normally have gone to KL or Singapore, and secondly keep residents in Indonesia, rather than them going abroad for medical treatments,” she tells us.

  Cocoon Medical Spa is very different to any other clinic or hospital in Asia, says Cogan. It offers non-invasive cosmetic, anti-ageing and wellness treatments in “a beautiful haven” of Balinese calm. “My initial aim was to have a beautiful international standard cosmetic centre that offers comprehensive treatments at Bali prices,” she says

     Like any industry, the skin-fix sector regularly needs a facelift. What Cogan is promising is more of a total (non-invasive) makeover. It mightn’t do much for superannuated diarists, but we know a lot of people who will be very keen to try a bit of comfy cocooning.

I Say, Old Fruit!

There’s an election on, for Governor that is, and as anyone knows, at election time a candidate is likely to say all sorts of things. Governor Pastika, who is running for a second term with a different set of political collaborators (the fluidity of Indonesian politics is a joy to behold) now says he’d like us all to eat local fruit. Now that’s a good idea. We eat it all the time here at The Cage.

      But it needs to be leavened with fruit from elsewhere; it’s a foreigner kind of thing. And, you know, foreigners are the ones in the big hotels who will be forced to select from Pastika’s table d’hôte. This seems not to have occurred to The Guv, who predictably has turned to regulation as his mechanism of choice. According to reports, new rules are to be brought in to compel hotels to use local fruit and to ban imports.

       The a la carte, as usual, has been placed before the horse. Foreign tourists might like to come here and eat local fruit – in fact they’d be mad to miss out on that opportunity – but they want quality. Small brown shrivelled things that might once have been some other colour, and blobs blotted with spots and blemishes that are possibly harmless but you wouldn’t know until you found they weren’t, are not an attractive component of an expensive five-star breakfast buffet.

       It would be really good if local growers could benefit economically from becoming trusted suppliers to the food supply chain. That means consistent quality. It means certainty of supply. These are but two among the multitude of things that overcrowd the too-hard basket in Bali.

Spectators All

There has been a measure of jollity at The Cage recently that exceeded even our usual high-laugh diet. (We do a great maniacal guffaw; it is, or it should be, admired by all who have to deal with the daily nonsense of life in these parts.) Its cause was not the surprisingly active monsoon, which this year has apparently been intent on drowning you or blowing you away every time you set foot outside. The reason was the gathering together of three old media types from Queensland under two neighbouring roofs, ours and the villa next door.

      Two of us are resident – though one only temporarily, working on a project at the Institute for Peace and Democracy just a manic 15-minute drive away – and one flew in from the Sunshine State for a 10-day break. It was raining when he left there and raining when he got back, so he felt remarkably at home here.

       He brought with him a copy of the latest Spectator, the Australian edition, which was instantly devoured by your diarist, starved as he is of stuff to read that’s on an actual printed page. What a delight! English prose of English rose standard; grammatical construction; piquancy in every piece; and a finely honed non-PC view of Australian politics – though that’s not surprising given its Australian editor Tom Switzer, also known to The Diary, is a gentleman who might in some circumstances advance the theory that the world is flat and then invite you to a Tea Party.

      Speaking of The Spectator, which has been the Diary’s weekly rant of choice since Noah was last to be heard complaining about the mess the animals had made of the ark, its English edition retains the services of a delightful antediluvian called Taki. He is a columnist who is so non-PC that even his laptop won’t talk to him.

      He recently found cause to complain about a further disastrous lapse in standards. He wrote: “Travel is now an exercise in being among slobs. Tracksuits, trainers, loud dirty children, fat people drinking out of bottles with wires hanging from their ears, they are the best excuse I know for paying through the nose and flying private.”

      We sympathise. Nowadays, sadly, it’s even worse up the pointy end of the plane.

Inside Job

Among the reading material that is de rigueur at The Cage is the online journal Inside Indonesia. It is 30 years old this year, a milestone which it recently noted was probably unforeseen by founders Pat Walsh and John Waddingham when they published its first edition in November 1983, with Max Lane in the editor’s chair. Since then 111 quarterly editions of Inside Indonesia have been published and, since going completely online in 2007, new articles also appear weekly.

     Its mission remains the same as always: a commitment to raising awareness about the diversity of Indonesian society and the struggles of Indonesians who wish to achieve greater democracy, human rights, gender and racial equality, tolerance and environmental sustainability. Inside Indonesia may sometimes not be comfortable browsing material, but that’s OK – there’s more than enough PR pap around to satisfy the needs of those who prefer to Mogadon themselves – because it runs high-quality articles by experts, researchers and practitioners in the field that are always worth reading.

     Indonesia is vastly different today from 30 years ago. In 1983 the autocratic New Order was at its height. Today, albeit in a flawed fashion, democracy has taken root and Indonesians are benefiting from greater freedom, higher disposable incomes, and an expanding service sector. Once, Inside Indonesia arrived at a subscriber’s Indonesian address in an unmarked brown envelope. Today it drops into inboxes everywhere, free from the malicious attentions of any thought police.

Go Green and Clean Up

The Irish lobby, the global collective that seems to imagine it’s still digging spuds in the Emerald Isle – or feels it should be and we’d all be the better for it if it was – has staged another coup. Fortunately it’s yet another forgettable one. On March 17, in honour of Ireland’s chief patron saint, St Patrick, the Pyramids of Giza outside Cairo and the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, will “go green.”

    Patrick, actually Patricius since he was a Latin-speaking Romano-Briton and if indeed Patricius was his name, first went to Ireland as a boy sometime in the fifth century CE when pagan pirates captured him and took him there as a slave. He later escaped, went back to Blighty, became a Christian missionary and returned to Ireland as a bishop many years later. Legend credits him with banishing snakes from Ireland and promoting the shamrock (a clover) as a public emblem.

     His saint’s day is an honoured occasion in Ireland and beyond, and quite properly so. Though why we should all be enjoined to drink green beer on the day and why various global landmarks should be temporarily turned a similarly bilious shade, is a separate and quite impenetrable issue. The Irish tourism board gets a kick out of it. But Bloomsday – a literary, secular and profoundly profane celebration on June 16 each year – is far better entertainment.

     Wonder if Bali will go green – or even clean and green – for St Pat’s Day this year? It’s only five days after Nyepi.

Hello? Hello?

The Red Cross Blood Donation Centre at Sanglah Hospital in Denpasar wants foreigners living here or visiting to donate blood, especially the rare rhesus negative type. Rh negative is rare anyway and all but exclusively found in Europeans. But it is in demand from hospitals throughout Indonesia which face a chronic shortage of the type for emergency use and of ready sources of it.

The director of the Red Cross Blood Donor Unit at Sanglah (PMI – Palang Merah Indonesia), Dr AAG Sudewa, says foreigners in Bali who have this rare blood type should donate whenever possible. Well, Dr Sudewa, The Diary is O Rh neg and has tried to do just that. Alas, it was to no avail since first we failed the Indonesian donor age test (it’s 60 and we negotiated a dispensation validating the western standard, 70) and a trip to the middle of Denpasar from the Bukit would drive up the blood pressure of a saint, or possibly a cadaver.

We’ll try again, though. We do like to be helpful.

Hector’s Diary is published in the Bali Advertiser in print and online at Hector tweets @scratchings and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky)