Peak Effort



Titbits from his regular diet of worms

The Cage, Bali | Saturday, Apr. 28, 2018


DIAN Cahyadi, with whom we had the pleasure of working in Lombok more than decade ago, on a little and now extinct monthly newspaper called the Lombok Times, has achieved a new personal best for 2018. Actually, it’s a double triumph.

He scaled Mt. Rinjani, a feat in itself. We’ve seen photographic evidence. It wasn’t photo-shopped. It did look a tad chilly up there at 3,726m, where if the air is dry – and it is at the moment, now the dry season has properly kicked in – the lapse rate can easily take 25 degrees Celsius off the sea-level equivalent temperature.

Lombok’s Sasak people are not necessarily built for chill. This is a property they share with most Indonesians whose good fortune it is to live in an equatorial archipelago. His wife Barbara, who with Dian produces the useful Lombok Guide monthly, tells us the air temperature was zero Celsius when hubby and party left their long-way-up-the-mountain base camp at 2am to trek to the summit for sunrise. Brr-risk.

He’s a glutton for punishment, too. He’s done the climb four times now, an annual treat at the start of the climbing season. He and his mates clean up rubbish left on the mountain and take time out to educate porters and local communities about the importance of the environment.

(This item has been edited subsequent to its original publication, to reflect information later made available.)

Plumb Line

THE Governor of Jakarta says he’d like to see all the boats that service the Thousand Islands off the city operate safely. That’s an eminently reasonable position to take. It follows a report by the national maritime transportation safety agency to the effect that most of the boats are unsafe and poorly crewed.

There’s an easy solution. It is to ensure that boats are well built, adequately maintained and their crews competent, that navigation is conducted by the rules and not by whim, that boats are not overloaded, that weather conditions are taken into account, that harbourmasters work as harbourmasters instead of collectors of additional fees, and that the waters are effectively and not just ephemerally patrolled by enforcement agencies.

In short, the trick is to run things as they should be run and not as an informal and frequently manic circus. We made that point publicly. Someone came back immediately and said, well, that’s where the grand plan fails, then.

It’s hard to argue to the contrary, though we wish this were not so.

What Refugees?

THERE’s an interesting article in the Jakarta Post today – the newspaper is celebrating 35 years of telling it like is, give or take a line or two, by the way – that points out the refugee problem Indonesia faces. There are 14,000 such people, that we know of, who have arrived in Indonesia for a variety of reasons. One of these is that Australia remains a preferred destination for people seeking a new life, or any sort of life at all.

The Australian drawbridge was pulled up sharply some years ago, of course, assisted by a policy of employing the country’s navy to turn back unauthorised vessels. Australian policy is to deny entry to anyone claiming refugee status and specifically to keep such people out of Australian waters where, should they reach them, the courts might take a less political and more humane view of the country’s responsibilities.

It’s a policy that has worked, in terms of reducing basically to zero the number of people who are able to place their lives in the hands of rapacious people smugglers and get on leaky boats that might sink and drown them. Stop the boats was the Australian government’s mantra. It was a constant refrain.

It has left Indonesia with a problem, however, though that’s not Australia’s fault. These people – refugees, economic migrants, potential pogrom victims, whatever – are in Indonesia after unauthorised arrival and are therefore Indonesia’s responsibility. None will be going on to Australia, short of a change of conceivable government and a Damascene conversion among the electors. That won’t happen. So they’re stuck.

Kuta Crawl

WE’VE just had the considerable pleasure of a visit from an old friend of the Companion, and of the Diary’s by natural association. She’s a journalist who lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland – and who had a lengthy spell in Hong Kong too, long before its reacquisition by China – and whom we had been trying for ages to get to come and see us.

She and the Companion go back a long way, more than three decades, in fact, via various adventures and misadventures, and she’s a lively sort. So we all had fun. Ubud and Candi Dasa were on the expeditionary schedule, in pleasant accommodations (Tegal Sari in Ubud and Bayshore Villas in Candi Dasa) and plenty of activity (Venezia Day Spa in Ubud and Vincent’s – for the Thursday evening live jazz – in Candi Dasa) plus time at The Cage with its cooling Bukit breezes, ocean glimpses and chance of chainsaws. On the latter, it did seem that the gods had smiled upon us and declared a moratorium on borrowed buzzing for the duration. Or perhaps it all took place while we were away.

On her last evening we went into Kuta, toured the shops, bought some things, and dined at Un’s, a favourite spot of ours. Their frozen margaritas were declared a thing. The traffic afterwards, in contrast, was declared an unimaginable thing. And so it was, but then it almost always is. The more bucolic lifestyle of the western Bukit is much better, especially if you want to take photos of pretty little cows.

Handbag Parade

THE Kuta outing provided another chance for the Diary to prove his credentials as Handbag to the Companion. This is something we’ve done, in various places and forms, over rather more years than it is now comfortable to recall.

These days, it’s not corporate hand bagging. We are no longer required to stand around, consort-like, and engage with small talk persons who are unknown to us and whom we might otherwise wish to keep in that state of dimensional offset. It’s actual, physical, handbag carrying that’s now all the go. This is a duty we perform with serious intent, since a woman’s handbag is like one of those black holes in space. Things go in them that are apt never to be seen again, but it wouldn’t do to be the duty handbag holder if something were to be required from within and could not be found. Not finding things in her handbag is a job reserved for the lady who owns it.

In Jl. Legian in Kuta this week, while the distaff detail was in a shop looking for things with bling on them, we stood sentry outside, toting the handbag and trying to ignore the importuning of the massage ladies across the street. Sometimes it’s good to have reached an age where, like other things among life’s former functions, blushing is no longer feasible.

Whine o’Clock


This is a very good point. More information please.




The Elegant Stomping Dance


Veteran ABC journalist, former Kumuls captain, and all-round good bloke

“Roast” Dinner, Brisbane, Feb. 24, 2018. I wrote these words for the occasion and hope someone got a giggle out of them. By all accounts, it was a rollicking night.

180224 SEAN and PAULINE

Sean and Pauline, early arrivals (as is only proper for the guests of honour) at Saturday’s Brisbane bash. ~ Photo courtesy of Sue Ahearn


Lea Crombie and I have known Sean and Pauline Dorney for nearly forty years. They were at our wedding in Port Moresby in 1982.

Sean recently told me, when he’d seen a reference to this event, “Who could forget that wedding?”

It was quite an occasion, naturally. Lea and I sometimes remember it ourselves, when we’re in “those were the days” mode.

Among other memorable moments from the wedding, was Sean’s fine performance of his Elegant Stomping Dance. He did this after we had relieved him of the military sword with which the wedding cake had been symbolically severed. Sean’s a lovely fellow, but we didn’t think that his attachment to a sword was necessarily consistent with even the rudimentary health and safety standards of the day, or indeed the welfare of our other guests.

Those of you who have not seen Sean’s Elegant Stomping Dance have missed out on one of life’s great pleasures. It’s up there for thrills and dangers of spills with his other practice of freefalling from balconies.

If you imagine a sort of manic cross between the Jumping Jews of Jerusalem – also a fine dance, and one appropriately constructed by John Cleese and the other clowns of Monty Python fame – and Irish dancing, with perhaps a bit of Manus heritage thrown in, you’ll get the picture. He performed it at our house a number of times, on those occasions on which Pauline had brought along the buai, but his wedding rendition was the killer.

This was literally so. The Dorney “Elegance” had been demonstrated over wide sections of the grass matting that served as carpet in the dining and living area. Several guests, and from memory also the bride and groom, had had to exercise nimble steps themselves, to avoid the dervish who had appeared in their midst.

Some days later, the fresh Coral Sea breezes that aired our house with ocean ozone acquired another distinctive aroma, one that was rather less pleasant. Eventually we felt compelled to ask Segive, our houseboy, to lift up the matting during his next cleaning round, and investigate.

Segive met Lea a little later, as she returned home, dangling a small, flattened, and possibly mummified corpse from one hand. “Poor mousey,” he intoned, with due Protestant solemnity.

It had apparently been unable to escape one elegant stomp too far.

So Sean, you can be sure your presence at our unforgettable wedding was also, in its own way, unforgettable too.

Lea and I are sorry we couldn’t be here tonight. But not too far away we are raising our glasses to toast a great friend, a fine journalist, and an excellent elegant stomping dancer.

Cheers, mate!

Sean was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease a little while ago.