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Good on You, Renae



His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences


Dec.7, 2016


THE indomitable Lizzie Love, who we’ve always thought would have made a first-rate Flapper if she’d been around in the Roaring Twenties last century, is a very fine friend to many in Bali. In particular her interest in prisoners in Bali’s jails marks her as someone very special indeed. She’ll probably cringe when she reads this, because another of her attributes is discretion that often borders on invisibility.

We saw a note from her the other day pointing us to the Australian magazine New Idea. It’s not our usual reading, except perhaps in back copy form in doctors’ waiting rooms. But its latest issue features Renae Lawrence, the Bali Nine drug mule, and her remarkable rehabilitation in the drug offenders prison at Bangli.

Lizzie wrote: “Well done Renae. You have come a long way – no turning back now. I am so proud of you. Fair-minded people will not define you by your past and they will support your efforts and success in turning your life around.”

To which we can only add: Amen.

At Bangli, where the lush surroundings and the prison staff encourage rehab, Lawrence is busy teaching dance fitness classes and training her pet rescue puppy.

The former catering worker has converted to Hinduism and discovered her softer side.  New Idea quotes one long-term prison visitor thus:

“Renae has changed a lot since her arrest and the years she spent in Kerobokan. She has become calmer, healthier and happier, and just dotes on her little dog Ozzi, who’s been with her since he was only two weeks old. He was the runt of a litter brought into the jail so Renae feels he was a bit of a reject, like her.”

There is one other thing to add. Congratulations to the jail authorities, who have made Bangli a model prison.

He’s a Headache

Perhaps Jamie Murphy, the 18-year-old Australian pipsqueak who bought a bag of crushed headache pills from a man in the street who told him it was something that would make him feel good, has by now had an opportunity to reflect on the consequences of crass stupidity.

He spent two days in police custody after being found with the powder at a security check at Sky Garden, a Kuta nightspot. His parents flew from Perth in Western Australia to collect him from his dramatically curtailed “schoolies’ week” trip to Bali.

Everyone is aware that law enforcement here is random and malleable. Even the police ride around without helmets when they’re not on duty. That’s stupid too, but it’s something for another time.

Indonesia’s drug laws are harsh. Everyone knows that too, or should. The Australian government specifically warns travellers of the potentially deadly risk of using drugs and getting caught. The Australian media is full of reports of what happens to drug-using and trafficking miscreants. Even an 18-year-old untutored in life skills and who in the fashion of the young probably thinks he’ll live forever and is excused the need to heed restrictions, should be aware of that.

Murphy wasn’t, and Murphy’s Law caught up with him. Fortunately for him in this instance, he was dumb as well as stupid.

He caused everyone a headache. Silly boy. He should come back and see us when he grows up.

Diva Doings

Christina Iskandar tells us the Bali Divas & Dudes Christmas lunch on Nov. 25, at Merah Putih, Kerobokan, was a grand success. We never doubted for an instant that it would be, despite our enforced non-appearance, or perhaps because of this.

The Divas’ Facebook has some lovely snaps from the occasion, which was sponsored by Chandon and benefited the Refugee Learning Nest and Bali Children Foundation.

The Divas were nominated for best event in this year’s Yak awards, announced on Dec. 2 (they won!). That affray was themed British Invasion. They meant the music. Which is the best. One intending reveller noted that he might go as Keith Richards, since he wouldn’t need to dress up for the role. Chief Yakker Sophie Digby asked us if we might go as Freddie Mercury. We’re not mercurial enough was our modest response. Though perhaps someone from The Zombies might have been a fit.

The Yak party was at Vue Beach Club, LV8 Hotel & Resorts, at Canggu.

Pizza Special

Joy and Greg Hamlyn, proprietors of the Mudstone Spa Retreat at Yeagarup in the karri forests near Pemberton, Western Australia, are exemplary hosts. We were at the property one evening on our recent WA trip. We weren’t paying guests – though we’d very willingly be such – but present because they are connections of our connections. It’s a sort of 1.5 degrees of separation thing.

It was chilly the evening we were there, unseasonably so according to the locals and certainly a tad on the frigid side for thin-bloods from Bali. But the pizza feast they put on was magic. So was the wine. The additional presence of a young couple whose lack of job prospects had forced them to flee economically comatose Venice in Italy enlivened conversation even further.

It was far from our only culinary delight. In Perth we returned to Clancy’s Fish Bar at City Beach for fish and chips and a very nice pinot noir. We dined on gourmet burgers at Jus Burgers in Subiaco and sampled Papagallo at Leederville, with melt-in-the-mouth pasta and in fine company. Later in the trip we dined at Phoever, also in Subiaco, one of a chain of restaurants serving pan-Asian soups, curries and stir-fries, plus café fare. The beef meatball pho was to die for, as was the tofu stir-fry we had afterwards.

There were chopsticks on the table, since Australia’s addiction to exotic cuisine has substantially eliminated fear of these implements. The presence also of standard western cutlery did though remind us of an incident long ago, in a Japanese restaurant in Paddington in Brisbane. There, the waitress looked at us doubtfully and asked: “Would you like two fork?”

On that now distant occasion the Distaff kicked the Diary sharply under the table and managed to reply in the negative before the waitress went away and she allowed herself a smile and a fit of the giggles.


Well, the Diary’s back in Bali, which is lovely. A two-week break in Australia is good, but there’s no place like home. We arrived on schedule, on Jetstar, unlike a friend, Clare Srdarov, who that day was flying Air Asia and finally left Perth seven hours late. We chatted briefly in the departure hall and left her contemplating a rather nice Merlot that she thought might ease her pain.

Our return was not without incident, however. Jetstar views cigarette lighters as incendiary devices (Australian ones work more than once, just by the by) and won’t carry them. And on arrival at Ngurah Rai Officer Jeffry of Customs put on a politely official scowl and relieved us of an opened and partially consumed bottle of Jack Daniel’s finest, which he found in our checked-in baggage and deemed excess to the authorised allowance.

He insisted that we watch him pouring it down the drain they have in the customs area for such ceremonies. We’re not quite sure what he made of the smile and the thumbs-up we gave him when he demonstrated how gravity deals with bourbon from an opened upturned bottle. But we hope that it helped make his day.

Must Improve

We wrote ourselves a stiff note the other day, just after our return from that big island away to the south. It went like this:

The Cage, Nov. 30, 2016. The garrison will have to improve. The morning patrol today took 33 minutes. This is fully five minutes longer than the acceptable standard. Clearly, two weeks of flat terrain and formed footpaths and roadways in Another Place have reduced performance. On the plus side, the local dogs seem to have remembered us; they didn’t bark, but then they do swing between fury and languor, so perhaps they’re just having a dolorous day.

Calendar Date

It’s Pearl Harbour Day. Dec. 7, 2016, is the diamond jubilee of the mistimed event by which the Japanese started the Pacific element of World War II, an imperial adventure which, in due course, they discovered had not gone entirely to their preferred plan.

The international dateline seems to have been the trouble, not the surprise attack, which whatever one’s other views on the matter may be, was less an act of infamy than of legitimate war.

It was Dec. 8 in Tokyo, the date the Japanese government had set for its declaration of war. Unfortunately it was still Dec. 7 in Hawaii.


Hector also writes a diary which appears in the Bali Advertiser.

Art Australia Bali Indonesia Lombok Singapore Writing

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Nov. 26, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Singapore Sling-off

It’s been a while since we were in Singapore so we had been quite looking forward to getting back there this month. We had been amusing ourselves with thoughts about minding the platform gap again, but the MRT was full of very pushy people on our two train rides and the whole experience was one of rather less than unalloyed delight.

Traffic also seemed to be much less well behaved than hitherto. The unnecessary and noisy practice of sounding your car horn – for any reason, or none – is gaining a growing toehold in the previously well-mannered and equable city state. Worse, “big car” syndrome is more and more obvious. It is familiar to anyone in Indonesia and many other places where capitalism, bureaucracy and fat-wallet-lawyer are synonyms for bad-mannered. The bumptious practice of the cashed-up mob in such environments is to assume droit de seigneur and to believe it is immutable fact that if you’re in a BMW or a Mercedes and are therefore visibly rich and powerful, lesser mortals have only two options: to swoon at your feet or get run over.

Of course, democracy has never had much of a place in Singapore, what with Raffles being an English provincial imperialist, his successors being chiefly British and (briefly) Japanese officer bureaucrats, and their successors being Lee Kwan Yew, etc. We should not be surprised. Singapore seems, in so many ways not discounting the Gilbert & Sullivan, to be the very model of a modern Venetian republic. The Serenissima was the most successful city state of its thousand-year era, after the nabobs of the day demoted democracy to historical theory, until its last supine grandees capitulated to that well-born Corsican brigand Napoleone Buonaparte in 1797.

Great Australian Bite

We had dinner one evening with an old chum, Ian Mackie of Lasalle Investment Management. He’s a 20-year veteran of Singapore whose interests are many and among which is a chain of coffee-culture shops named Dimbulah. We were at the one at CHIJMES, a cloistered former convent, which  offers an evening dining experience as well. It has just added a burger that is out of this world. The menu is complemented by a nice range of Australian and New Zealand wines. The NZ pinot noir we had was first rate. It came from Central Otago. The burger came from the kitchen and was better than the best.

The coffee comes from Dimbulah Mountain Estate in North Queensland. Dimbulah is a little place on the Atherton Tableland behind Cairns where the altitude knocks a point or two off the tropical temperatures and Arabica coffee trees thrive. It is not to be confused with Dimboola in Victoria, in Australia’s far chillier south. Dimboola grows wheat and its chief claim to fame is the play of the same name written by Jack Hibberd.

Incorrigible Indeed

The Singapore trip – an occasion forced upon us by reason of the visa run you have to do if your KITAS expires while you’ve been away in Australia trying not to – did create one other opportunity. We’ve been trying to get a start on reading an English translation of Jean-Michel Guenassia’s 2011 debut novel The Incorrigible Optimists Club. It is at last available in paperback (Atlantic Books) and the translation by Euan Cameron is very good.

It’s certainly best in many circumstances to be an incorrigible optimist. For example, we are optimistic that we won’t have to miss the 2015 Yak Awards. This year’s otherwise not-to-be-missed and exotically eclectic bash was held on Nov. 14, the very day the bureaucrats had set for our temporary exile from the Island of the Bumf Shufflers.

It was such a shame. Not to be counted among 600 partygoers is bad enough. But to miss yet another chance to see the sibilantly sassy Sydney songbird Edwina Blush in action is surely a sin.

And So to Lombok

We’re not gluttons for punishment, really. But we did have some things to do in Lombok after the visa trip (and Visa trip) to Singapore, so we went straight there. Well, we tried to. We’d booked AirAsia Singapore-Bali with enough time if things had run to schedule to make a change to the domestic terminal at Ngurah Rai and get on a Garuda flight to Praya.

Things didn’t run to schedule. You can never afford to discount the intervention of Murphy’s (or Sodd’s) Laws. We missed our connection and had to get a later flight and pay an additional fee for doing so.

Never mind. It was good to see Lombok again; and some old friends and a patch of weeds we once thought seriously about turning into our Des Res. This trip we stayed at Kebun Villas – just across the road from the Sheraton in Senggigi – which we eventually reached after an interminable taxi ride from the airport.

Still, the glacially-paced taxi ride was a pointed example of the benefits of different styles. The cabbie who took us from the Copthorne King’s in Singapore to Changi Airport that morning had obviously been taught at taxi-driver school that whatever Gweilo passengers might say (“Slow down you idiot!” “Hey! That was a red light!”) if they’re going to the airport they’re always running late.

Resolve to Devolve, Properly

It’s interesting to hear reports – as the Jokowi presidency gets into gear and begins its promised shift towards more meaningful consultation than has been the case before – that Balinese delegates to the Regional Representative Council (DPD) are seeking greater autonomy for the island.

Real provincial powers are no bad thing, in a country of many ethnicities and significant, difficult differences and distances. That is, if they are managed properly; if they codified so that there is a clear division between central government and provincial powers; if they are understood by all parties as subordinate to national policy and judicial check; and if local-level governments understand their own place is at the bottom of the structure rather than the top and that the Great Panjandrum, if he exists at all, resides somewhere other than in a district council office.

Provincial autonomy until now has been a response to separatist pressures, notably in Aceh and Papua. It should instead be a political arrangement, a compact, designed to enhance the national entity. It would among other things do away with the need for a Regional Representative Council, which in Bali’s case is an invidious arrangement since it administratively groups Bali and both West and East Nusa Tenggara. Achieving this would require courage, open minds, and a true commitment to democracy.

Methanol Methodology

There’s a very useful initiative under way in Bali, the Methanol Poisoning Awareness (MPA) campaign. It’s being run by the British Consulate and was launched in October by Governor Made Mangku Pastika and the acting British Ambassador, Rebecca Razavi.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the danger of methanol in counterfeit alcoholic drinks, and reduce the number of deaths and injuries suffered by foreign and domestic tourists in Indonesia, as a result.

Razavi said at the launch that the campaign underlines the importance of British tourists being aware of the health risks of counterfeit alcohol. In 2013 counterfeit alcohol caused more than 51 deaths and 52 hospital admissions in Indonesia.

The campaign materials are being distributed throughout Bali.

UK visitor arrivals to Indonesia have risen sharply in recent years. In the first quarter of 2014 a total of 48,871 British tourists travelled to Indonesia. In April alone, 19,809 British nationals visited, up 18.2 percent on April 2013. British authorities expect numbers to continue to increase now Garuda is flying to London.

It’s pleasing to report some British-sourced news. Though in this case there is also an Australian connection, albeit at one remove. Razavi was born in Tasmania.

Home Is Where the Art Is

It may pass almost unnoticed by many, but the growing collaboration between the national galleries of Indonesia and Australia is paying huge dividends in terms of sharing artistic expression and exposing art lovers in both countries to new experiences.

The Masters of Modern Indonesian Portraiture exhibition, which has recently had a month-long season at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, was a major National Gallery of Indonesia initiative. It was one of three art expositions this year that have demonstrated how diversity can foster unity.

The exhibition showed 35 significant Indonesian art works and offered insight into the rich portrait practice of Indonesia, showcasing key modernist works (1930-1980s) drawn from the National Gallery of Indonesia’s collection along with a selection of works by leading contemporary artists.

It was the first time works from the National Gallery of Indonesia had been shown in Australia. There are plans to ensure it is not the last. It was certainly a rare opportunity for Australian audiences to view the work of eminent modern artists from Indonesia, including masters S. Sudjojono, Hendra Gunawan and Affandi.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the Bali Advertiser