Mara Wolford, 1969-2020
Soon after the Distaff and I left Indonesia at the beginning of April this year, Mara Wolford sent me an SMS from Bali. It said, simply, “I’m glad you’re safe at home. That is all.”
I thought nothing of it at the time. Wolford had a penchant for oblique reference. It complemented rather than sat awkwardly with her astonishing directness, her take-no-prisoners approach to life and its issues. It was one among many things about her that I found attractive and intriguing.
Perhaps, in retrospect, I should have messaged back asking her to elucidate. She had a writer’s eye for an elegant word, something else I liked about her. When I got her message, I’d thought fleetingly about getting back to her, to ask her what she had meant, and what had lain behind her statement. But I didn’t – that phone was a Huawei and soon after surviving the strains of Covid-19 quarantine in Perth it fell over and all its workings with it; its successor is a Nokia – and now of course, I cannot get back to Mara.
We’d known each other for some years, though we only met in person a handful of times, such being the modern world of social media and information technology. Our last face-to-face comprised an interesting hour or two at our villa at Ungasan on the Bukit in Bali not long before we left the island. It was the usual wide-ranging discussion and it was much enjoyed by all four people present.
Wolford, as always, had plenty of plans. She was never a gal to sit in decorative idleness. She wasn’t outré, in the usual sense in which that word is understood, but she was certainly out there. A lot of people seem to have difficulty with others who, from their point of view, either won’t or can’t shut up. In that way, too, we were kindred spirits.
Our paths first crossed in 2016, when she was served a spiked drink in a dodgy bar that was later closed down by the authorities, and afterwards made a fuss about it all over Facebook. The seamier side of tourist and foreign resident entertainment in Bali has never liked to be outed by complainants who make a fuss and endanger profits.
Wolford’s was not the only incident of its sort, merely one of the most publicised.
Social media isn’t an environment where it is safe to assume that any of the formal rules of civility apply. It’s the ignorantly self-interested who rule and the loudly angry who raise lynch mobs against those who have offended them. (It’s interesting that lynching is a word of American origin, taking its name from one Captain William Lynch, head of an informally raised judicial tribunal in Virginia, circa 1780.)
A year after her seaside bar ordeal in far from gentle Canggu, Wolford reprised the matter on her Facebook page. We joined the fray (see Feisty Gal here). Among other things, it gave us an excuse to reprise a favourite line of our own, to the effect that it was a pity we’d ever given away our sjambok.
Wolford, who died far too young and unexpectedly, some days ago at Benoa, Bali, was a surfer, writer, muse and mother from Santa Cruz, California, among other claims to fame. She had a heart of gold and I will miss her.