HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser Jun 11, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

No Place for Mugs

Airlines operate on razor-thin financial margins, the virtual space between the cost of operating a flight and the net revenue gained from it. That’s no bad thing, since it is evidence that competition benefits people who want to fly, which is the object of the exercise.

The days are long gone when airlines could afford to over-staff, or position crews on standby except under the most stringent of budgetary conditions. And sensible rules about the allowable working hours of flight and cabin crews proscribe extension of these under most circumstances. So interference with a flight is an extremely costly business.

The eruption of Mt Sangeang off Sumbawa caused an ash cloud that resulted in flights being cancelled between Australian cities and Bali and Lombok. That’s a natural hazard and it’s really not possible to be angry with a volcano anyway.

But when interference comes from disruptive passengers, as it did recently with the Australian airlines Jetstar and Virgin, it’s very galling. Jetstar’s experience with a drunken lout aboard one of its Melbourne-Bali services stranded more than 240 Brisbane-bound passengers. It cost the airline heaps in accommodating those travellers, whose Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight home was a temporary non-event.

Jetstar took firm action with its alcohol-fuelled defaulting passenger. He was handed over to authorities at Ngurah Rai, denied entry to Indonesia, and deported. He then became a person of interest to the Australian Federal Police. Good.

There used to be a view that Australian drunks were risible characters, larrikin types, just good blokes (plus the occasional sheila) who had had too much of a good thing. In a pub, within limits, that might still be the case. On an aircraft they’re a bloody nuisance as well as a hazard to themselves and everyone else. And more to the point, they’re breaking the law.

Perhaps if a few bloody nuisances found to their horror that their thoughtless misbehaviour led to them being sued in the civil courts for restitution (a substantial six-figure dollar sum) it would deter all but the most stupid among future offenders.

Just a thought.

 

Snatch and Grabbed

Good news to report, and plaudits to the police to hand out, over an alleged bag-snatching gang whose seven members are now in custody and under criminal investigation. According to the on-line Indonesian language newspaper Suluh Bali  (a great operation by the way) police were quick on the trail after an incident in Kuta on May 26.

They had a little help. The brace of bandits on a motorbike that snatched the handbag of another rider, a woman, lost their licence plate in the melee as they sped off. It lay upon the road begging for attention. It got it. The registration details led immediately to the owner of the bike and thereafter to the arrests of seven young men, all from Denpasar.

The two youths who committed the crime (they are aged 16 and 17) could face up to seven years in jail and their accomplices up to four. Publicizing crimes and reporting sentences handed down to perpetrators is a significant deterrent. So we’ll be watching this case with interest.

The woman who was robbed in this instance was an expatriate, one of a number recently. But local women are targeted by these low-life characters too. A dear friend of The Diary and Distaff was injured in a bag-snatch as she rode her bike in Jl Bali Cliff at Ungasan recently.

The Beat Daily, which provides a very useful English language digest of news, also reported the Kuta incident. The dyspepsia caused by the news was heightened by this line: “A police investigation into a bag snatching last Monday lead to police successfully catching two teenage boys and investigating five others.”

Um, fellas, try “led”. It’s in the English dictionary, past tense of “lead”. Not to be confused with the metal of course, which is pronounced “led”.

 

Getting Together

The good burghers of Ubud are getting together in a number of ways. The latest initiative is a monthly Ubud Village informal meeting, the first of which was held on Jun. 1 at Paula’s Rice Terrace Cafe in Jl Suweta, Ubud.

Organizer Douglas Snyder says the meetings, on the first Sunday of every month, are a chance to say hello and get to know people and make the village a little more personal. He hopes to create an environment in which people actually meet instead of just on Facebook. That sounds like a capital plan.

Crime of a petty or more serious nature is now part of the landscape in Ubud. This is a comparatively recent development and a very unwelcome one. The death of British resident Anne-Marie Drozdz apparently during a break-in at her rented villa is especially disturbing.

A candlelight vigil and a meeting of concerned residents followed her death. A man was arrested in Jakarta soon after the crime.

 

Have a Treat, Jump the Queue

The magnificent marketers at AYANA Resort and Spa and RIMBA at Jimbaran have found a way for non-resident guests to jump the queue to the Rock Bar, the destination of choice of many who wish to imbibe a cocktail or three at sunset at that iconic cliff-side watering hole perched 14 metres above the waves. It’s a must-do thing. You can watch the people or the waves.

The Rock Bar’s popularity is such that in high season the walk-in trade can sometimes find itself waiting 90 minutes for the glide down the inclinator to those glasses with little brollies in them. Not surprisingly, some among such putative patrons are disinclined to do so.

Priority access to the Rock Bar is reserved for guests staying at the hotels but now outside guests can get priority access too if they relax and take special spa packages (Rp480K plus tax). The deal runs until Sep. 30.

Two packages with one free Rock Bar cocktail are offered: the Perfectonic Package, which is a two-hour Aquatonic massage at Thermes Marins Bali Spa (in this process, we’re told, 60 therapeutic jet streams, micro-bubbles and geysers whack you around in seawater); and the Rock My Body Massage, a 75-minute deep relaxation experience available at both Thermes and RIMBA’s new Rooftop Spa.

Sounds cool! We might give up food for a month and drop in. We’d dress properly too, as per requirements. Well, we always do. We don’t wear singlets or board shorts and we don’t own anything that says Bintang.

Better leave the Wise Guy tee at home though. It comes from an up-market winery we favour at Cape Naturaliste in Western Australia. But it might not pass the no-alcohol-branding rule.

 

Can You Help?

Bali Pink Ribbon stalwarts Rrashida Abdulhusainn, Priya Bojwani and others were looking last week for donated material for a second-hand boutique stall at the Bali Pink Ribbon Bazaar at the FX Church, Kuta, this Sunday (Jun. 15).

New or second hand clothing, bags, shoes, sandals, jewellery, glasses, ceramics, painting, books, magazines, towels, napkins, pillow cases, bed sheets, bed covers, school bags, children’s clothing, scarves, home ware, glasses, cups, etc, were on their we’d-really-like-it list.

So if you’ve got anything that would look better making money for Pink Ribbon’s breast cancer awareness programs and seminars, get on to the Bali Pink Ribbon Centre in Jl Dewi Sri, Kuta. Email balipinkribbon@gmail.com or phone (0361) 83 52299.

 

Marathon Muddle

Pheidippedes the Diary is not; and certainly not a modern marathon runner either. A modest outing over 10km in boots and patrol order webbing, with rifle, in pursuit of an annual fitness rating in the military service of HM Queen Elizabeth II in two of her several symbolic crowns, was ever the best we could manage. And that was a few years ago.

Maybe that’s why, in the Diary of May 28, we mistook the Bali Marathon for the Bali Triathlon. Or perhaps it was just inexcusable inattention. Jack Daniels of Bali Discovery Tours and the invaluable Bali Update, and the triathlon, may have a view on that.

The 2014 Bali marathon is being held in Gianyar later this year. It involves no swimming. For its part, the 2014 Bali triathlon – in the inimitable style that Indonesia has made its own – has been postponed to 2015 so that presidential candidates can run around, splash out, and be told to get on their bikes instead.

The modern marathon dates from the 1896 Athens Olympics. It celebrates the myth of Pheidippedes’ 40-kilometre sprint from the 490BCE battle site of Marathon to Athens with the news that the Athenian lads had seen off those nasty Persians.

In the manner of such myths, the poor chap expired from his exertions immediately after giving the anxious archons this happy news. There’s a classically kitsch 1869 painting by Luc-Olivier Merson that depicts the heroic demise.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser May 28, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Bad Burghers

A new Facebook group has appeared in cyberspace, dedicated to curbing crime in Ubud. This is an unpleasant sign of the times. Ubud may be where everyone goes to commune with the fairies, go Vegan, try to find anything that remotely resembles the purported revelations in Elizabeth Gilbert’s bodice-ripper book Eat, Pray, Love, and get in touch with their inner Pilates, but it’s also catching up with the modern world.

Some of the good burghers of Ubud, local and foreign, are upset by the intrusion of street crime and motorbike bandits bent on petty theft. The sexual predator is also present. It excuses nothing, of course, but those who suggest foreign visitors in particular should comply with local custom and dress respectfully are on the mark.

We recently saw a female tourist – she seemed to be Russian from the Slavic, not to say irritably strident, language in which she was chivvying along her oppressed male companion who in the global custom was carrying the bags – out shopping in a brief yellow bikini that was struggling to contain her bosom. Further, it was failing to hide much of her bottom. Clearly she hadn’t read the brief.  Or perhaps she thought she was in Malibu on her way to a porn shoot.

There are two fundamental rules to apply when travelling. The first is don’t be gross. The second is do not display wealth or otherwise draw spectacular attention upon you or your person.

Tourist areas in Bali are as much at risk of experiencing crime, petty or otherwise, as any other pleasure resort around the world. Community based policing and common sense help reduce the incidence.

There are bad burghers everywhere these days. And they don’t only target tourists. Locals are also at risk.

(Post-script: The death by strangulation, apparently during a break-in, of British woman Anne-Marie Drozdz at her villa near Ubud on May 22, adds a horrific dimension to Ubud’s problems.)

Get Weaving

We got a lovely invitation from the ROLE Foundation to attend Bali Living Colour (they spell it color in the American fashion, but these days even ancient Oxford English scribblers can live with that) on Thursday, Jun 5. It’s an open house for the Southern Bali Women Weavers Association and Bali WISE women’s business development.

It’s one of a number of grass-roots organizations in Bali that benefits from small grants from the Australian Consulate-General and operates from premises at Sawangan, an area of the southern Bukit where despite otherwise rampant development (that among other things has shut many locals out of seaweed farming) deprivation is a common factor.

The function will also formally inaugurate the Southern Bali Women Weavers Association and officially open the new weavers’ building, the natural dyes plant nursery and the colour sample display.

Since they’ll be serving organic juices, teas and snacks and providing music, we plan to be there. Especially since the Australian Consul-General, Majell Hind, is also scheduled to be present. It’s always nice to catch up with a Townsville girl.

 

Be Gentile, Now

Sydney-resident historian, wry wit and novelist Ross Fitzgerald, who will be coming to see us in June on his annual Bali pilgrimage with his wife Lyndal Moor – Fitzgerald and the Diary are due at Sambo’s Sports Bar at Bukit Jimbaran on Sunday, Jun. 15, to watch the Collingwood-Bulldogs game since he barracks for Collingwood and the Diary is still neutral since we’re still waiting for the Saints to come marching in – has an interesting engagement in Melbourne prior to that date.

He tells us he’s one of only two Gentiles speaking at the Melbourne Jewish Writers Festival. He’s on the dais for a chat on Jun. 1 with Dave Bloustein, John Safran and Howard Nathan (chairing the session). The topic: It’s Funny ’cos It’s Us.

Another friend of the Diary won’t be at the festival at all, even though he qualifies, since he’s Jewish and he writes. Journalist-blogger and sometime Ubud Writers and Readers Festival luminary Antony Loewenstein has views on Israel’s Palestinian policies that are regarded as unorthodox within the Australian Diaspora.

 

Favourite Mermaid

Everyone should have a favourite mermaid. Well, it’s a thought, anyway. And Celia Gregory of the World Marine Foundation is ours. We met her ages ago at a Rotary evening at Tugu Hotel at Batu Bolong and we were instantly captivated. She sculpts things and places them under water as an aid to coral regeneration, which is surely a lot more useful than many things a girl could do.

Gregory was speaking today (May 28) at yoga-focused Desa Seni at Canggu, on Living Sculptures in the Sea. Her work is already encrusted with polyps at Pemeruteran in North Bali and now she’s planning to do the same at Amed, with a work named Apsara, after the beautiful supernatural females in yoga mythology.

The structure is designed to create new homes for fish and coral at Jemaluk Bay.

The Desa Seni program Gregory is leading as creative director and founder of the marine foundation includes a special workshop on Jun. 4 with Angela Perez exploring and honouring the Apsara deities.

It ties in with World Oceans Day on Jun. 8.

On Jun. 7 there’s a kids’ workshop for children under 12 at which Gregory and Bali fixture Kayti Denham will explore the myth of the mermaid and her dolphin protectors.

Gregory’s foundation offers a visionary approach to one of the most pressing problems confronting the tropical and sub-tropical oceans. Coral regeneration is essential to the health of reefs around the world.

 

On the Rocks

It’s a shame the Australian government has pulled the plug on Australia Network, the satellite TV service that has been taking Australian culture (no that’s not an oxymoron) to the region for years under a special funding program from the foreign affairs budget.

The announcement came in the federal budget handed down on May 13 but had been long forecast.

Under the previous government it had been proposed to give the Australia Network contract to a commercial operator. This plan was then reversed in the face of argument from many that showing endless reality TV programs and titbits of tabloid “news” wouldn’t really work if the aim was to advance Australia’s interests. You need a public broadcaster with a commitment to cerebral thought to do that.

The budget had to sharply reduce spending, particularly in the forward years. Many people understand that fully. But the Australia Network contract was only worth $20 million (Australian) a year which is a drop in the bucket in comparison with much that appears in budget line items. The ABC has been progressing very well with its symbiosis of Radio Australia, Australia Network, partnerships with foreign networks (including one in Indonesia) and on line platforms and social media.

While it isn’t true that under the Abbott government advancing Australia’s interests overseas will in future be confined to dishing out free budgie-smugglers on a limited annual giveaway plan, there are some curiosities in the broader foreign policy area that worry a few people.

Australia Network runs – ran – on the budgetary equivalent of the smell of an oily rag and with proper direction was beginning to get some good runs on the board. It had just done a deal to get its service broadcast in China, for example.

The view in Australia seems to be that it’s primarily for expatriate Australians. They may constitute a sizeable portion of the existing audience demographic. It is a way to stay in touch with home after all. But that’s not the point. Unless some rabbit is pulled from a hat, “engaging with the region” may suffer a potentially serious and unnecessary blow.

It’s not clear (at time of writing) when the network will cease operating. A call to the Australian foreign minister’s office in Canberra elicited (after a little while on hold trying not to listen to some fairly offensive “rock” music) advice that discussions were under way with the ABC about the closure date and a suggestion that we should check the ABC website.

We’d already done that. Um, that’s why we called.

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Marathon Event

This year’s Bali Marathon has deserted Jimbaran and its sheltered waters for Gianyar regency. It will be interesting to see where the organizers propose to stage the swimming part of the deal, given that the Gianyar coast is rather well known for having very dangerous beaches and offshore currents.

Registration for the Sep. 14 event opened on May 17. The marathon is sponsored by BII Maybank. Professional and amateur participants are expected from throughout Indonesia and overseas.

If you’re planning to stretch yourself, you can register on line at balimarathon.com.

 

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter