Monday, August 14, 2006

when the heat gets so tropical / and the talk gets so topical

Just A few things that tick my box right now

  • Ice cream….some years ago, whilst in London town, a few English friends offered to drag me across the north of the city, to what I was told, was without question the best ice cream I would ever have, tasted. I don’t know why I bothered. As a New Zealander I should’ve instinctively known that nothing dairy, be it ice cream, or the most expensive cheese in the UK can hold torch to even the cheapest cheddar or Tip Top found in a New Zealand corner dairy. Apart, of course from butter, the NZ variety comparing very unfavourably with those almost white and far more subtle Danish and French varieties. I was happy in my belief in our dairy supremacy until I came to Bali and discovered the multitude of places that serve, on the street, magnificent Italian gelatos and sorbets that demolish anything else I’ve found anywhere in the world, even in New Zealand’s dairies. Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s the something else that Bali seems to put in virtually anything, but I’ve had to resort to an extra half an hour daily at the gym to counter cravings for a half and half Tim Tam / Bitter Yoghurt & Strawberry from the little taverna on the corner of Jalan Double Six and Jalan Blue Ocean. However, waving the patriotic banner (see below) just a tad, New Zealand still has, absolutely beyond any question, the finest fish and chips on the planet. In Kawhia actually, oh and the Herne Bay Fish Ship, and Ahipara, and about 400 other wonderfully unique little shops. And the scallops……damn I miss the scallops….All this brings me to…
  • Double Six Beach… about where Kuta Beach loses the Australian enforced ugliness of its better known southern strip and mutates firstly into the more graceful Pantai Legian, and thence into Pantai Seminyak, it briefly becomes the Sunday afternoon haven that is Pantai Blue Ocean, or, more commonly, after the legendary club at its northern end, Double Six Beach. After a set breakfast at Ku De Ta, a few hours on a hired lounger, under an umbrella, with the kids in the surf is the bomb. Followed of course, by an ice cream from that taverna. Decadent, hell yes, but do I bloody care…you’re just jealous. On the iPod I’ll likely this week have…
  • Booka ShadeMovements. I’ve been living with this for a month or two now, and, simply put, I love it big time. I’m sitting outside right now, as I write, in the office with the gorgeous Take A Ride slipping out of the laptop’s speakers. I love minimal German techno and I guess I have long before the twists of fashion bought it into our faces so completely in the past couple of years. There is so much understated, simple grace in a track like Body Language. There was a passage in a very funny late Victorian book, Three Men in A Boat, which described the German and French attitudes to streams (the water kind you find in forests and the like). The Frenchman will admire the beauty of the bouncing, uneven flow and enjoy its place in nature; whilst the German will think it’s offensively untidy and rebuild the sides to redirect it in a more orderly way. So it is with techno, the Germans extract beauty from the order of it, in a way that no-one else can. And it also sounds so perfect in our car, which is a new…
  • Toyota Avanza…whoa, oh dear, I never thought I’d say that. You see, I’ve driven a variety of German cars for over twenty years. They build cars as they make techno; elegantly, with supreme precision and extract a beauty from that precision that no-one else can approach. The BMW three series is still the finest production car bar none and a beautifully kept late eighties 325 is a thing of much wonder. It has an atheistic that something like a Lexus can’t ever aspire too. And so it is a very strange place to be in, in mid 2006, writing with joy about a cheap faceless Japanese box, with such pleasure. But, if being in Bali has done one thing, it’s removed the material urges a little and replaced them with a new sense of reality. And that reality is also reinforced by the fact that for the past twelve months I’ve been driving the Indonesian equivalent of the Ford Model T, the ubiquitous and necessarily rugged, Toyota Kijang. As I taught myself to drive all over again, as one needs to if you are to navigate the unregulated mayhem on the roads, I understood what it was like to exist on appalling roads in a car with at best rudimentary suspension. And no bloody sound system. No bloody sound system. I endured it because it made sense to do so. But no longer. I have suspension and a reasonably good car stereo and I’m happy, happy, happy and I love the soulless little beast, although, in a perverse way now I miss the blue Kijang. My bum had become so accustomed to the way it ricocheted off every corner of a pothole, it felt like family. I hope whoever has it now, gets the same education from it I did. As an aside this is also the first time I’ve experienced the decidedly un-western feeling of selling a car for the same as I paid for it a year earlier.
  • Kites….the last real drive I took DK1690XY (for that was the Kijang) on was down to the northern end of our rather beautiful Sanur Beach. Its a place I see far too rarely…is a funny thing, you move to paradise and yet sometimes you get so very complacent and let it slip right past you. But here we were, for the semi final of the annual kite completions. A defining feature of this island during the dry season are the literally hundreds of kites, from the small ones flown by local boys, to the massive, perhaps fifty metre long ones, flown by villages and banjars. These dominate our skies and they come together in July and August for a competition, the semi final of which was on our beach. There were, I was told, about 50,000 people present, but it felt like more, all gathered in community groups, complete with catering, taking turns to take their particular creation into the blue against others in their category. And there were flags and colour and banners and more flags and immense waving swathes of cloth in the wind. The Indonesians love flags….
  • Flags…and they have quite a good one too. The simple red and white one is such a recognisably strong banner, and right now its everywhere. I didn’t know (and why would I) until I came here that the flag was symbolically created as a defiant gesture of independence when someone tore the blue stripe off the oppressing Dutch flag in 1945. And so it is that on the anniversary of that hard won independence, every August 17, for a couple of weeks before, this country is almost literally covered in red and white fabric. Cars, buildings, trees, businesses and just about everything that moves or doesn’t gets the patriotic sash or flag. I’m a New Zealander, and try as we might, we don’t have a massive flag bound patriotic thing going on. Our flag is a nothing for a start, But we also don’t like the exhibitionism thing that such blatant national pride demands. And yet when I hear Andrew White’s quite dramatic and very moving That Lange Track, I get a patriotic shiver, I can’t help. But that said, I have a problem with patriotism. The line between it and nationalism is too thin to make me comfortable. However, there is something about the national pride that you see here in Indonesia that works. This isn’t the ugly patriotism of the USA, a pride that has long since passed its use by date and has a rotten aura about it. This instead is a pride, like that of the US a long, long time ago, about what the nation was created from and how that creation came about. It’s a benign patriotism, and I’m enjoying the fluttering everywhere, quite a lot.

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