December 9th 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

We decided to walk north from Ubud this morning, to the small villages up there.  It was quiet + peaceful, but we didn’t really enjoy it, mainly because Val was now feeling very unwell.  Yesterday she had bad back pains, today she has got the runs as well.  The villages around here are all very strange, almost like wide alleys, with steps running up to the gateways of houses, + most buildings having an imposing concrete wall, for privacy, security, reasons of custom, I don’t know.  2 communities seem to go absolutely barmy whenever white people enter the village.  The first are the children, who scream “ello, ello, ello” over + over again, a simple greeting isn’t enough for them, nor is a single acknowledgement.  Sometimes, especially if they spot a camera, they will want their photo taken.  And, more rarely, they will ask for money.  We rarely give in to the first demand, + never to the second.

But worse by far than the children are the dogs, noisy aggressive beasts.  As soon as one spots you, he growls + barks with all his might, + doesn’t desist until you’re well out of his territory, sometimes accompanying you to his invisible border to make sure you go.  Worse, tho’, his racket alerts all the other brutes further down the street, who promptly lend their voices to the cacophony – it makes a hell of a row.  The dogs don’t attack – at least, they haven’t done yet – but still we’re only too pleased to leave them behind.  When one occasionally comes across a non-barker – a rebel, or dumb, or stuffed – one could pat it.  Let sleeping dogs lie is right.

We returned to Ubud by a different route, one which seemed massively longer, even tho’ it wasn’t.  And for lunch we had a banana + pineapple drink at a small warung, recommended by a fellow traveller.  I could see why, since it was quite magnificent – we had 2 each.  And then cut across to our losmen by a back way, across the rice paddies.  It was more tortuous than we had expected, but we made it.  Val then dived for the toilet, then her bed, while I put pen to paper, + rushed out an idea I had for a short story/poem, a slight piece based around a meeting of a Magritte Englishman with Don Quixote.  It was for the benefit of Sr Blanco, so I wrote it out properly, + popped into town to give it to him.  He seemed pleased to receive it, + was complimentary enough, tho’ without going overboard, + we chatted a little.  He told me about a couple of Chekhov’s short stories, illustrating them theatrically – he is a very theatrical man, + I was not at all surprised to learn that he had been in the habit of producing + appearing in theatre revues. 

During the course of our conversation yesterday, he had learnt that I had once studied mime, + now, for the second time, I was pressed to show him something.  On this occasion, I agreed, but was  more than a little disconcerted when 3 other visitors to the gallery were invited to watch.  Still, I was committed now, so performed a small piece, an old thing (which I got from Steve Buckley, + he from somewhere else) about a blind man + a guy desperate for attention.  It was not a brilliant performance – my mime is too rusty to be sharp – but the story was strong enough to carry it off, + the audience were polite enough.  I have known 2 artists of… genius is too strong, ability too weak… renown, Adam Darius + Sr Blanco, + they strike me as similar, tho. Different in most essentials, religion, art form, sexual orientation.  I’ve decided that the common factor is ego, which in both cases is huge, tho’ adequately concealed for most of the time beneath a polite + considerate veneer.  Sr Blanco showed me a letter he had written to Koo Stark in which he mentioned “thousands of followers”.  But I suppose ego must be a vital ingredient – if you don’t have complete + absolute belief in yourself + the work you’re doing, how could anybody else have?  A point to ponder, especially in view of my own all-consuming modesty – ha!

On the way home, I stopped off to buy a batik tablecloth, beating the lady down to Rp6,500 – haggling is a game here.  If you start to take it too seriously, you go mad.  Val was still feeling pretty rough, but we went out in the evening.  Stopped off for quite a while at Harry Chew’s place, for soup + conversation.  Harry is an old Chinaman, but kind + willing to talk about most things.  He’ll tell you of his experiences at the drop of a hat, + tho’ he rambles a little, he’s an informative, knowledgeable and basically wise man.  After a while we moved on to town to two different restaurants – Lotus’s for dessert, expensive but good, Ari’s for coffee, cheap but good.  And then home again.

Not quite so successful a day, partly because of Val’s illness, partly because the places we saw were less spectacular.  But we have enjoyed staying up at Ubud, far more than the commercial wasteland that was Kuta.

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