February 14th 1984

posted in: The way back | 0

Once again we delayed our departure, partly influenced by G+H’s hospitality.  George told us that on Sunday, after Ian had not taken up his broad hint to invite us to stay, he had told Ian in private that he hoped we weren’t Joseph + Mary.  This barb had apparently pricked the conscience, prompting the subsequent invitation.  And when that had been turned down, Ian was none too pleased – apparently George was now being ostracised by the small devout community, something which did not bother him in the slightest, he told us.

In the morning, Helga drove us into town to visit the museum.  It has received some slamming indictments in the books we have read, but actually I thought it was quite good.  Not on a par with Kuching perhaps, + a little bit too empty… but then I think that’s preferable to being a little bit too full.  The display in oil was excellent.  Not my scene, but excellent all the same.  Sponsored + designed by Shell, of course.  Some places are company towns.  Brunei is a company country.  But they do much better out of it than places like Indonesia or Mexico, which try to run their own oil companies, + usually fail.

We also enjoyed the section on native handicrafts, especially since we had seen so many of them being made or in use, the ones on display being almost identical to the ones up the Baram.  The museum itself is housed in an attractive, modern, specially-built building (of course) up on a hill above the city.  This means it is difficult to get to, but has a fine view, + is away from the hustle + bustle.  One exhibit which did not please any of us was out in the grounds, where they had some wild animals of the region penned up in old + rickety but totally inadequate cages – the people of Borneo are not particularly kind to animals.  I had forgotten to mention one member of G + H’s family: Terry, a young gibbon that George had rescued from death or worse in a Bruneian longhouse.  He really was a member of the family too – more like a human than an animal, he was devoted to Helga, + spent much of his time wrapped around her leg.  So she had even more reason for disliking seeing these animals – for there were gibbons among them – mistreated in this way.

Helga and Terry

Afterwards, she dropped us off in town.  We checked out the buses, to make sure we could get back to the barracks on our own, + she left us to it.  Better that than keep her hanging round, + worse, have us rush thro’ our business because we were worried about her hanging around.  Not, in fact, that we had much to do.  We made some tentative enquiries in the shipping agents’ offices about boats to the mainland but, pretty much as expected, there was nothing doing on that score.  Our only hope, + it’s a long shot at that, would be to contact some friendly captain direct.

The other thing we wanted to do was take some photos around the city.  The ones we had had back from the developers had been splendid, apart from the fact that we discovered we needed a new battery, so, having bought that, + loaded up with a new film, we were ready to try + capture the Disneyland that is BSB.  By the time we’d wandered around town doing that, it was just about time to catch the bus back.  So we went to the brand new bus station (surprise, surprise) + were pleasantly surprised when the bus rolled in right on time. 

Helga was pretty surprised when we walked in on our own too, which shows her opinion of Bruneian public transport.  Val set to work immediately we returned, for we had promised (or I had promised on her behalf) to bake some pasties, continuing the great tradition of pasties around the world.  Unfortunately, they weren’t as tasty as some she has made (the fault of the ingredients, I’d say) but the salad was good, + we had apple crumble + custard for dessert, + that was wonderful.

In the evening we watched “Clash of the Titans” on video.  Which would have been alright (although it’s a fairly appalling film) except that I’d already watched it this afternoon with the kids.

Another pleasant but undemanding day, taking in the sights of a very strange city, as well as their museum.

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