Hector’s Diary Bali Advertiser, Mar. 19, 2014

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Stop Being a Pain

BIMC Hospital at Nusa Dua is now offering a revolutionary treatment for chronic joint pain and muscle injuries. News of this beneficence has already piqued the interest of certain elderly diarists around town, whose bodies unaccountably will not conform to the desired 21-Forever Plan.

There seems to be an increasing frequency of events in our life that bring to mind the ultimate predicaments of Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn in the delightful 1992 American dark comedy Death Becomes Her. Apart from trying to avoid accidental upsets on slippery steps and imperfect pavements – and that’s a functional impossibility in Bali – there has lately seemed little to do other than to cleave to classical Stoic practice: Grimace and bear it.

A chat with BIMC Hospital executive chairman Craig Beveridge the other day was therefore interesting. The new Orthopaedic PRP treatment is a four-step process that involves drawing a small quantity of blood from the patient, separating it in a centrifuge to extract the platelets, extracting 3-6 millilitres of platelet-rich plasma (that’s the PRP bit) and injecting the concentrate directly into the injured area.

The technology is new in Bali and a prime example of how medical science can help keep you on the bike (for example) and otherwise mobile. Sports medicine has grown rapidly over recent decades. Many among us have a dickey knee or two from continuing or former affiliations with energetic things. Beveridge and the Diary compared notes on precisely that point during our chat.

We’ll certainly look at the new procedure. People have been telling us for years that we’re a pain in the neck. And these days we know exactly how they’ve always felt.

 

SEB Programme

Regular readers will now what we mean, especially those who live full time in Bali. It’s a great place to live but it’s somewhere you need to escape from now and then. Our escape interval is generally less than six months.

This SEB is highly marginal against that preferred timeframe. It commenced on Mar. 14 and will end (appropriately perhaps) on All Fools’ Day, Apr. 1. When we left for Australia it was just short of six months since the Diary was last somewhere where white lines on roads are not just artwork to be ignored if they are noticed at all; where you can generally count on people complying with give-way and stop signs; where traffic leaves a red-now-green light without delay; and where drivers don’t indulge in a chorus of tooting before they remember that it’s their own inane fixation with their horn that is holding up the traffic behind.

It’s a joy to drive in a place where people stay in lane; indicate turn intentions and know where they’re going; use turn lanes properly; keep left; merge seamlessly into traffic from side-roads; don’t have an unquenchable urge to overtake you so they can then crawl along in front of you; and never overtake on the left.

That’s to say nothing of the absence of undisciplined hordes of motorcyclists who have no idea of the road rules or (if they do have an inkling) show any willingness to accept that they actually apply to them as well; or possess any apparent interest in their own longevity.

So OK, it’s basically boring, far too regulated, and absolutely overrun by the smoking police and battalions of other do-gooders who insist that they have a role in your life and won’t go away even if you give them very explicit and highly detailed advice as to how they should do so, now. It’s true that after two weeks in Australia you feel as if you’ve never left (and wonder why you haven’t).

But it’s good to re-immerse yourself in something resembling order, briefly. Perhaps that’s why Jo Hocking returned to Perth without much notice lately, after a surprisingly short engagement as spruiker for Mozaic beach club at Batu Belig.

 

Micra to Go

We’re driving a Nissan Micra on our SEB. It’s a nice little car of the same type that we hired in the UK over Christmas 2008. That occasion proved its worth. We were driving to deepest Lincolnshire (it’s about two to three metres below sea level and the area is even called Holland).

It’s also deeply agricultural. There are fields with cabbages in them as far as the eye can see, and we could see at that time of day even in midwinter. It was in that strange environment that our little Micra proved her worth. We had been chugging along behind some giant motorized agricultural implement for some little time when a clear stretch of road appeared.

The chance was grabbed. The Diary, who was driving with the lights on, used the right-turn indicator to indicate intention to pass (strange how quickly you lose Indonesian driving practices when you’re away from home) and flashed the headlights on full beam to further alert the driver of the mobile obstruction.

We pulled out and were level with the cab and its headphone-equipped driver when the machine suddenly turned right. It was apparently going home up some farm track. We were on track to go under its giant wheels.

Instinct took over: We jumped on the footbrake, spun the steering wheel full lock right and wrenched the handbrake on. That saved us, turning us 90 degrees in an instant. Or the car did. It’s a beautifully engineered little vehicle.

We stopped just short of a roadside dike (in the Lincolnshire fens that’s a ditch) and spent a little moment recovering our composure. The Diary wondered out loud, assisted by several adjectives of a scatological and even coarser genre, whether he should pursue the heedless moron up the farm track to remonstrate with him. But there would have been no point. He was plainly as thick as a plank and quite possibly only spoke Mangel Wurzel.

Our West Australian travels, courtesy of the good folk at Aries Car Hire in Perth, are far tamer and much better mannered.

 

Well, Hello!

It has been an extraordinarily long time between drinks for the Diary and Distaff and two lovely friends whose fly-in-fly-out Bali visits from either Brisbane or Singapore have for years somehow failed to coincide with our own otherwise all but permanent presence.

But the drought has now been broken. We’re having dinner with them somewhere up Seminyak way just after we get back to Bali. It probably won’t be a riotous night. This isn’t because age has wearied us. It’s merely encouraged us to view moderation as a benefit rather than a bane.

But we’ve got a lot of catching up to do. There will be a few laughs. And that may be loud.

 

That’s the Spirit

Jade Richardson, who blogs evocatively as the Passionfruit Cowgirl, has been busy lately writing about ethereal and other things connected with the 2014 Bali Spirit Festival (Mar. 19-23). This is very clever of her (though this is no surprise; she is one of the brighter stars in the Bali firmament) since she’s in Ecuador. Still, these days you can sit anywhere, even on an ice floe if you want, and write about anywhere else. Unless you say, no one would know where your real as opposed to your virtual self was located.

The annual spirit festival, Meghan Pappenheim’s baby, is perfect for Bali and especially for Ubud, where if you ignore the big buses full of Chinese tourists seeking bric-a-brac you can still almost smell the ether.

Richardson’s offerings include a nice piece on a compilation titled “Music to Surf Clouds to”, that gathers favourites selected by those who will be providing the musical component of the festival. We’ve grabbed it for our music list. It will help us to be virtually present at the show this year.

 

Good Friends

A new Facebook group has caught our eye: Friends of BAWA. It’s good to see, because despite rumours to the contrary that are either scurrilous or misinformed, the Bali Animal Welfare Association is alive and well and (in the Shakespearean sense) still kicking against the pricks. It needs friends.

Animal welfare is a global concern. It’s not just about dogs, even here in Bali where the pathetic condition of many strays – “unhomed” seems to be the buzzword nowadays – and the treatment regularly meted out to them would bring a tear to the most flinty of eyes.

In Bali, there’s a lot of education still to be done about the duty of care humans have to the animal kingdom. This is not a wealthy western community. That’s something many wealthy westerners who come here and bitch about poor services and other demerits should think about, in a context far broader than animal welfare.

We need a full house of not-for-profit community based organizations that look out for the health and welfare of both humans and animals (and the environment) and getting that message out widely is important.

Hector is on Twitter @scratchings

 

HECTOR’S DIARY, Bali Advertiser, May 1, 2013

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

You’ve Got to Have Sole

We gate-crashed a good meeting recently at the immensely comfortable – for superannuated diarists it is also immensely unaffordable – Semara Luxury Villa Resort on the Ungasan cliffs. Well gate-crashed is perhaps too strong a term: Robert Epstone of SoleMen, the man who smiles so much you can’t say no, asked us along. And it’s fair to say, we think, that GM Mandy McDermid didn’t mind.

     Epstone and Bali-resident British nurse Sarah Chapman – she of Little Ani fame – were there to brief McDermid on funding programmes to help alleviate poverty in Bali. They were just back from the Bukit Walk, the annual tramp around the limestone blob – some people do it barefoot – that is also part of the fundraising process.

     There’s a really worthwhile programme in place through which guests at participating properties may opt to donate to aid schemes. Some places do it on a (voluntary) dollar a day basis; others leave it up to guests to decide. It holds huge promise for becoming a greatly growing revenue stream.

     Semara like many establishments is fully into the business of supporting the local community and spending money further afield. These things are not widely publicised. They come from the heart, not the PR budget. And along with many other things, they make you glad to you live in Bali and know so many nice people.

     This year’s SoleMen walk tied in with the ROLE foundation and with Earth Day (April 20). There was a lovely party at ROLE’s Island Sustainability Education Centre in Nusa Dua involving about 450 children from around the Bukit.

 

Back to the Warmth

Adelaide Worcester, who is well remembered here as Australian Vice Consul on her last overseas posting, tells us she’s set for another tropical adventure, this time in Vanuatu. She’s going to Port Vila as Consul and Senior Administrative Officer at the Australian High Commission there and is taking up her post on August 1. It will be a touch of warmth for her and husband Inoeg after a series of bleak winters in the Australian capital. Not quite as warm as Bali is, of course. We remember it being a tad cool on August evenings on Efate’s beautiful lagoons, when feeble vespers of winter far to the south can make a brief visitation and knock the temperature down to, oh, say 17C. But that still beats a frosty -3C Canberra winter morning any day.

     Vanuatu – like Australia a Commonwealth country (hence the delicious British imperial echo in the “high commission” rather than “embassy”) – has an eclectic history. It was once the New Hebrides and enjoyed, though perhaps that’s not quite the word, the uncertain status of being jointly ruled by the British and the French. It was officially a condominium. It was popularly known as the pandemonium. And this was not simply because while it drove on the right in Gallic fashion (in all senses) it applied drive-on-the-left British traffic rules.

     Worcester, Inoeg and Sebastian, now a sturdy toddler, are back in Bali briefly at the moment, with Inoeg’s mum who is visiting from Surabaya. Then it will be back to Canberra for more Bislama lessons and yet another winter chill-thrill until that welcome plane trip to Port Vila in three months’ time.

     The Diary was last in Vanuatu in 2004. It was a nearby place of favoured resort over many years living in Brisbane. We’ve threatened to stage a return during the Worcester years.

 

Off to the Chill

Speaking of tripping, Diary and Distaff are off to Scotland shortly – Hector needs to renew his genetic vows – for a week, followed by a month in Marseille in Provencal France. The city is this year’s EU’s “capital of culture”. There should be plenty to keep us occupied, beyond running on the spot to ward off the unspeakable chills of a Scottish spring and the less than tropical heat of the northern Mediterranean in May and June.

     A side trip to Venice is planned just ahead of the Biennale, to see some friends who live in the former Serenissima. And in Marseille, of course, there’s real bouillabaisse. It should be fun. Hector’s taking his trusty laptop computer along, so expect reports.

 

Scoop de Jour

 Tim Hannigan, whose new book Raffles and the British Invasion of Java is eminently readable for all sorts of reasons – not least in that it thoroughly upsets Victoria Glendinning, the doyenne of Rafflesian hagiography – tells us he had a lovely time at the West Country Writers’ Association’s awards held recently in Torquay (home of the famous but fortunately fictional Basil Fawlty). He won the inaugural biennial John Brooks award, named after a West Country chap who died and left a bequest for same to the WCWA.

     Hannigan, who is 32 and hails from Penzance, though not quite in pirate fashion, was in Nepal on a travel writing assignment when we last chatted with him. He was in Bali briefly earlier this year on his book launch tour. He used to live in Surabaya where he taught English and is no stranger to our island. It really would be nice to see him back. Around October would be good, when Janet DeNeefe is doing literary things with her writers’ festival in Ubud.

     He’s a great laugh. He gave us several in a private report on the awards lunch; sadly, discretion suggests we should not repeat them here. We can say this, however. It seems customary English provincial hotel cuisine may not have improved by any measurable value in the four decades since we threw up (our hands) in horror and left the country.

    The WCWA was founded in 1951 to foster the love of literature in England’s West Country. Eminent members have included Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier, E.V. Thompson, Henry Williamson, Christopher Fry and Victor Bonham-Carter.

    Raffles and the British Invasion of Java was published last year by Singapore’s Monsoon Books. Hannigan’s previous book, Murder in the Hindu Kush: George Hayward and the Great Game, about the life and foreshortened times of the 19th century British explorer, was published by The History Press.

 

Good Returns

Garuda Indonesia will make its long-awaited return to the prospectively lucrative Bali-Brisbane route from August, flying daily with 162-passenger Boeing 737-800NG aircraft. It dropped Australia’s third-largest city from its network in 2008 when its innovative scheme not to make lease payments on its aircraft unaccountably led to the planes’ owners taking their aircraft back.

     Still, that was then and this is now. The new service will fly Jakarta-Bali-Brisbane, neatly corralling both tourist and business traffic. The latter is by no means insubstantial, as Queensland’s state treasurer Tim Nicholls noted recently. “Last financial year, Indonesia was Queensland’s ninth largest merchandise export destination worth almost A$1.2 billion to the state’s economy. This figure has more than doubled in the past 10 years,” he said.

     Since Garuda’s 2008 pull-out Bali-Brisbane has only been possible non-stop on Virgin Australia. Qantas low-cost operator Jetstar flies via Darwin. There was a short-lived additional input from the now defunct Strategic/Air Australia airline.

     Speaking of Darwin, the closest Australian city to Indonesia and a place of growing importance to Bali, it’s good to see that Indonesia AirAsia is returning there soon. It took over the route after Garuda dropped its 18-year-old service during one of its notional airline hissy-fits, but then also pulled the pin. Thankfully the hiatus has proved short-lived.

 

It’s their Mantra

Michael Burchett and Alicia Budihardja – respectively former genial general manager and decorative chief spruiker at Conrad Bali – have both moved on. It seems to be the thing to do nowadays and may indeed possess benefits, provided you don’t fall into the trap of affecting complete amnesia about the past. We’ve never bought that Francis Fukuyama line about the end of history.

     The two Bs chose the relevancy option. Burchett, who moved into consultancy after clearing out his desk at Tanjung Benoa, got the job of managing the launch of The Mantra Nusa Dua, the first South-East Asian venture by the Queensland-based Mantra chain. And Budihardja got the gig of running its corporate and media promotion.

     It’s a welcome addition to the Geger Beach end of Nusa Dua for all sorts of reasons – affordable accommodation for the less than filthy rich being one – and is also a great example of how you can do things properly if you want to.

     Its official opening is on June 1.

     Elsewhere on the Bukit, the new Rima resort being built by the owners of AYANA is coming along. Expect an opening this year. Rima means forest, not that much actual forest exists on the Bukit given that the climate favours more your savannah-style vegetation and that people keep chopping it down anyway, to build more stuff. Still, if stuff’s got to be built – and we suppose it has – then rather AYANA’s environmentally aware operators than some others we could name.

 

Hector’s Diary appears in the Bali Advertiser newspaper,published fortnightly, and on the newspaper’s website http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets @scratchings and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky)