HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 20, 2016

by 8 Degrees of Latitude

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Modern Times

There’s been an outbreak of nostalgia for the “old Bali” recently, one of those periodic episodes where everyone puts on their rose-tinted glasses and peers back into the past, fondly recalling what they think they remember. Ah, the old days! Things were so much better then.

Fundamentally, that’s tosh. It’s certainly true that the economic value Bali has been able to add to itself and its people over the past 40 years has not been spread with anything like theoretical Marxist (or even Jesuit) perfection. To say nothing of the age-old Hindu culture that could sustain subsistence living for all, at a pinch, but is quite incapable of doing so in a modern monetary economy. It’s thoroughly arguable too that in the ambient social and cultural climate of Indonesia, wealth and its acquisitive benefits will never be universally available. The poor will always be with us. As will the robber baron plutocracy and grasping kleptomaniacs. The poor are nicer people.

The social welfare net that supports the mendicant classes in the western world won’t be replicated here, or anywhere in East Asia. And that’s not only because it’s plain that the overweening expectations about the immutability of that safety net will in the end cause the collapse of democratic capitalism and the western world with it. It’s chiefly because the Eastern ethos is different.

Progress is not always progressive or socially responsible. A 2014 book, by old Bali hand Phil Jarratt and called Bali: Heaven and Hell delineates the divide rather well. Fellow pioneer surfer Steve Palmer, a long-term fixture in Bali’s firmament when he’s not schussing the ski slopes of western Canada and the United States, has a word in it. He remembers the days when reaching the Uluwatu surf breaks meant trekking through miles of cactus-lined cliff paths and that this was something done by relatively few people. Sitting in a traffic jam for hours is certainly a less appealing prospect.

The old Bali is gone. Bits of it may still be seen, like sad little echoes of a past epoch, but we’ve all moved on. Unfortunately the landscape and the environment are less pleasant, both literally and figuratively. Gordon Gecko’s maxim holds sway here now. Greed is good. It’s the Balinese (and their fellow Indonesians who have made the island their home) who must deal with that.

Perhaps Governor Pastika recognizes this and will ditch his Old Curiosity Shopful of ideas that sound good at the time, but fail the test of sentience, like the round-island railway and filling in Benoa Bay for condominiums. He was reported as saying, after Travel + Leisure magazine named Bali as “one of the best islands in the world”, that this would simply ensure millions of tourists swarmed to Bali like ants. Um, a word in your ear, Guv.

Stardust to Stardust

It was very sad to hear on Jan. 10 that British rock singer David Bowie had died of liver cancer. His chameleon character and eclectic musical styles were an adornment to the otherwise frequently vacuous rock culture of his era and his way of handling celebrity was admirable. He declined a knighthood in 2003.

He recorded a last song only two days before his death. It’s a moving and extraordinarily symbolic monument to the place he knew he had in life. It followed release of his last album. These will surely be both his swansong and his epitaph. Perhaps his death and his final album are sad, in the saccharine way that western society seems to have made its leitmotif, but in fact his music and his manner are much better seen as an anthem to acceptance of inevitability. For that, too, he deserves high praise.

He was 69. That’s far too young to comfortably shuffle off this mortal coil. He will be missed, but his talent and music will never be forgotten.

Litter Louts

At Perth international airport there’s a quaintly named Smokers’ Refuge. It’s possibly not unlike a leper colony in its own way. It’s outside the terminal building, as it should be, and is basically in the car park across the road. But there are sun umbrellas to shade you and plenty of bins for your butts. As a place of exile for those among us who still use a usuriously taxed legal product and yet are frowned upon for doing so, it fits the bill quite nicely.

Most of the people who use it seem to be airport or airline staff, and some members of that recently inaugurated and nattily uniformed farce, the Australian Border Force. An occasional traveller drops by, either for a quick restorative draught after arrival or a last puff before having to submit to the artificial air inside the terminal and the long drag in the metal tube that follows.

Littering is a heinous offence in Australia, where in some places you can get stung the equivalent of between Rp5 million and Rp20 million for leaving a cigarette butt on the ground; and rightly so. But apparently this was of little moment to the three ladies in corporate uniforms we saw smoking there while they chatted in their break. They left an empty can of soft drink on a bench, right beside a bin, and the paving beneath them littered with butts. Shocking.

Home is Where the Art is

For reasons which are private and entirely peripheral to the point of this item, we recently had to remove from storage, re-pack and then re-store, numerous items of value, intrinsic and otherwise, which we keep in Australia because there’s no room at The Cage.

Among them are two lovely Made Kaek abstracts that caught our eye at an Ubud gallery in 2001 and which (of course) we promptly bought. They adorned our townhouse in Brisbane for four years, before – being greying nomads with absolutely no interest in buying a Winnebago – we moved to Bali. As the Distaff is a Westie (she’ll never be permitted to forget that, poor thing) that’s where we sent our memorabilia, our modest art collection, glassware, cutlery, sundry other household effects and a simply beautiful marble chess table and matching pieces. They were the collectibles of a life together that at that point had reached 26 years. You get less for murder these days, of course, but that too is peripheral to the point.

Both the Made Kaek works had latterly and briefly hung at the matriarchal McMansion, which made visits there even more pleasant than ever. But when we came to repack our stuff for future storage, one of the works had suffered seriously cracked glass. Naturally, Sod’s Law being what it is, this was discovered in the midst of Australia’s summer slumber and only two days before the truck was to come to take it and everything else away to Perth.

Happily, we found Sarah Bowes of Country Road Picture Framers in Busselton, to whose house – after a phone call – we repaired post-haste. She broke into her holiday downtime to replace the glass and re-back the frame.

We cannot thank her enough for her skill, her willingness to accommodate our urgent schedule, and the comfortable cost of the operation that she performed. Take that as a high recommendation.

And There’s the Rub

Getting home is always a blessing. Even if you discover on arrival that your internet isn’t functioning because your ISP has obviously sequestered the substantial megabytes of upload and download that you have paid for and that this requires four telephone calls to restore. Three of these calls mysteriously dropped out mid-conversation. Perhaps the unfortunate lackeys with whom we were conversing couldn’t find a handy friend who had done it.

Never mind. This indelicacy, along with others, was vitiated by a visit to our preferred local salon, Island Spa in Jimbaran, where restorative massages were enjoyed. Well, partly so. During his massage The Diary, perhaps incautiously, said when prompted by the therapist well into the 60-minute session that slightly stronger pressure might be in order. It was very good, since the seat pitch on Jetstar’s Airbus 320s is not septuagenarian friendly, but it cost Rp110K instead of the Rp80K that had been booked. The masseuse was commendably young and highly skilled, but an otherwise unmentioned 30 per cent rise in the tariff was perhaps a little stiff for the additional service rendered.

Still, best not to be churlish. Everyone needs to make a crust. There are significant pluses, also. We have our temporary resident permit process under way, albeit with added irritations, and have restored to working order the Distaff’s CIMB debit card that had very unkindly expired in her absence.

Hector tweets @ scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and on line editions of the Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.biz