June 19-25, 2009


SIGNS OF OUR TIMES: So that’s why the traffic’s snarled.

On Being Alert But Not
(Necessarily) Alarmed

IT can have escaped few regular readers of The Diary that we are from time to time a tad antsy – such a lovely word, and it sounds so much more polite than “pissed off” – over the rigour with which the Australians insist on insisting that in Bali we live in a danger zone.

(Although of course we do if, as visitors, we don’t have travel insurance or foolishly do things that, if they injure us, are excluded from our cover. Doh!)

But back to Fave Topic No 1: These feelings are not vitiated in any discernible measure by the mellowing over time of the language Canberra’s alert-and-alarmists use in their advisories. Actually, to the contrary: changing the tone from mummy knows best to maiden aunt advises is irritating in itself.

Laughter remains the best medicine. As a prophylactic against gloom it is unbeatable. And it is for this reason that this week we break all sorts of confidences and embargoes to reveal the real, top-secret, alarm ratings from around the world:

BRITAIN: The British have recently raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.” It may soon be raised yet again, to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.” Brits have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940, when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorised from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued an alert at “A Bloody Nuisance” level was during the Great Fire of London in 1666.

FRANCE: Its alert level has been raised from “Run” to “Hide.” There are two higher levels: “Collaborate” and “Surrender.” The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed the national white flag factory, effectively paralysing the country’s military capability.

ITALY: Their alert level has also recently been raised – from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing.” Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides.”

GERMANY: Also up – from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs.” They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbour” and “Lose.”

NEW ZEALAND: The Kiwis have raised their alert level from “baaa” to “BAAAA!” Only one higher level of alert is available: “Shut, I hope Austrulia will come end riscue us.” Because New Zealand’s air force consists of paper planes played with by spotty boys and its navy is a plastic duck or two in the prime minister’s bath, an evacuation plan is also in place. If implemented, New Zealanders will be asked to gather in a strategic defensive position called “Bondi.” (Bondi is a suburb in Sydney, Australia, where according to popular legend more New Zealanders live than in New Zealand itself.)

AUSTRALIA: The Aussies have also raised their alert status. It has gone up from “No worries” to “She’ll be right, mate.” Three more escalation levels remain: “Crikey!”; “I think we’ll need to cancel the barbie this weekend”; and “The barbie is cancelled.” There has never yet been a situation that has warranted use of the final escalation level.

Ce N’est Jamais le Bon Moment

BE prepared. It’s not only good scouts who should be. Sunday strollers also need to be alert to the unknown possibilities of fate. Hec (and Mrs Hec) were enjoying a Sunday stroll on Nusa Dua Beach last Sunday. It was a magnificently clear morning, with all of Bali’s mountains out to play and even Lombok’s lofty Rinjani visible, a very unusual bonus – and seated briefly at one of those handy little out-on-the-water bales, for their mid-walk rest break, were approached by a gentleman who inquired: “Parlez-vous Anglais?”

Well, yes, was the answer. So off he went – in French. Hec and the Missus, minds firmly switched off and in both Sunday morning walk and English-language mode, worked out what he was asking: was that a mountain out there that he could see? They managed to transmit – they think – sufficient information (in Anglais and Franglais) to satisfy his curiosity.

It was only later, on the return half of the walk, that Hec muttered “Merde!” and remembered what he should have said, if only he had remembered his schoolboy French:

« Oui. C’est la montagne la plus sacrée au Bali, plus de trois mille mètres, le volcan Agung. »

As the headline notes, it’s never the right time: In any language.

Down Under for a Dekco

THREE young Muslim leaders from Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Kupang are in Australia on a two-week visit to explore its dynamic Islamic community – 400,000 people from more than 120 countries, around 2 percent of the nation’s population – and seek mutual understanding and cooperation among young leaders in both countries. They will be in Australia for about two weeks.

They are travelling under a government-sponsored bilateral exchange programme organised by the Australia-Indonesia Institute. It has run the exchanges (a young Australian Muslim delegation has just been here) every year since 2002. The present Australian visit is the third in this year’s series.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

WHEN Kantor Kita – the business-advisory outfit whose principal, Esti Yuliani, also known as Julie Edmond, apparently forgot her principles and is now having a spell learning her principals from her principles in police custody pending court proceedings – announced a link-up a little while back with a Luxembourg “bespoke financing” outfit called SFM Group, a nice new sign was erected in honour of this nice little arrangement outside Kantor Kita’s offices on the By-Pass at Sanur.

Being a newspaper (rather than an advertising sheet), we thought we should take a photo of this new accoutrement for the files. You just never know when a photo might come in handy. For occasions, say, such as the principal grabbing the loot and doing a runner.

Alas. The sign appears to have disappeared. So does the office; at least as far as telephoning it is concerned. The phone rings, but no one answers. Are the lights on, we wonder? Is anyone home? Oh dear. Can the new partnership be in some difficulty? It was announced, as we recall, as having taken effect on April 1. Perhaps All Fool’s Day was apposite.

Incidentally, the giggle-a-minute Yahoo Questions website had one begging an answer for several days last week: Where is Julie Edmond of Kantor Kita? It was apparently posted by a plaintive (as opposed to plaintiff) seeker after this fundamental truth, on behalf of a client whose documents are (well, we hope) in Kantor Kita’s hands.

A Good Drop

IT’S not very often the less than excessively well-heeled here get the opportunity to taste some quality wine. That sorry circumstance is a function of the usurious level of duty the government insists is payable on infidel alcohol and – to put it politely – the astonishing level of uncertainty that surrounds the simple matter of supply.

So it was nice one evening this week to sample some lovely wines from Salitage, a vineyard in the Pemberton district of Western Australia (Hector has connections in the area; unfortunately not ones that actually produce wine) that has parlayed global experience and the benefits of microclimate into very drinkable products indeed.

This quality quaffing was provided by Salitage and Indowines – we had a pleasant chat with Juan Diaz of Indowines, assisted by a sampling of the cabernet blend, one of four premium wine styles produced – at a soiree held at the Australian Consulate-General. Consul-General Lex Bartlem, who in another life could surely have been a sommelier, played host. Among the guests were legal eagle Peter Johnson of Austrindo (don’t think his phone rang once during the evening) and Ubud luminary Janet DeNeefe, wearing, we think, her Writers and Readers Festival hat.

There may soon be some good news on the supply side, we hear. Don’t expect any drop in retail prices, however. The government likes the revenue too much to let that drop.

Fame Spreads

READERS who frequent Jl. Raya Uluwatu between GWK and Ungasan Simpang on the Bukit may have noticed a new establishment that has a famous name. It’s on the left as you struggle up the hill behind the undisciplined nose-to-tail convoys of dangerously overloaded yellow trucks that are always trying and invariably failing to make it to the top without stalling.

Hector’s is a Tex-Mex eatery and takeaway. Not tried yet by our Hec. He says he’s highly suspicious of jumping beans (you just never know which way they’ll jump, he points out) and that the worm thingy in tequila is a total turn-off. But we expect it will attract the surfer crowd. They can take a break while all those defective little trucks hold up the traffic.

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