29 July 2006

Burned in Bali

I did it again. I thought I'd learned my lesson from last summer and put sunblock on my back, chest, arms and face so I wouldn't get burned. It worked because I feel fine in all those places but I forgot my legs. Legs! I didn't even know you could get sunburn on your legs. I assumed that my legs were hairy enough to protect my skin from the sun. Oh the folly of an amateur sunbather.

Oh well, you can't come back from a beach holiday without bringing back a little bit of redness and stinging as a souvenir. Bali was very relaxed as usual. No tsunamis, no bombs and no one planting drugs in our luggage at the airport so all in all it was a good holiday. I'm not being fair to the place by saying all those things. The island's had so many bad things happen to it in the last four years but you can't take away from how beautiful it is and how welcoming its people are. I love it and have no hesitation to say that it's one of my favourite places in the world.

It didn't stop Afandy making his bag look like a wrapped up lunch-sandwhich so no one could get him in to some
Schapelle Corby-style mess though:

Then again this shouldn't have surprised me as it is the same guy who decided to make friends with a starfish on the beach:

There are few better feelings than having nothing to do apart from watching the sun, the sand and the sea stretching far in front of you...even if your legs get burned.

I'm always amazed by the sea and the sky. They are both so vast, so deep, so powerful and so eternal. At the beach they meet and form a magnificent blue, which makes me remember how big the world is and how small a part of it I am. In that sense it is a much needed ego buster!

Armand and Alina. So small amid the magnificent blue.

Time now for summer dreamin'.

23 July 2006

Sand and sea

The sandals, shades, bucket and spade have been packed and we're off to Bali for five days tomorrow. The belly is probably not yet beach-worthy (I should have gone to sexyology class) but who cares, I'm going to whip it out anyway.

I better remember the sun-block as well in that case. As I am brown-skinned I used to think I was immune from sun burn but I was proved seriously wrong last year. I lied on the beach in St Ives without block for only four hours but turned in to a proper lobster and couldn't wear a shirt without stinging for about three days. Then came the peeling. It was as if my whole body was falling off. My white genes were kicking me in the ass with a vengeance.

There's been a bit of a worry about going to the beach because of the recent tsunamis here and the terrorist attacks. I won't lie and say it hasn't bothered me either but maybe it's not worth worrying about. It's a harsh truth but the fact is that we could die at anytime and anywhere. If I chose to avoid all of life's risks I would just stay at home but then even there I could slip in the bath and die there or something. Maybe if it's our time to go then it's just our time to go no matter what we're doing so it's probably best just to get on with our normal lives...although to be honest I know I won't be lying on the beach for as long as I might have been. Hopefully we'll be alright.

Anyway, Balinese ladies watch out - me and my belly are on the way.

19 July 2006


Went to a new gym today. You'd expect most gyms to offer a variety of excercise services like aerobis classes, yoga, boxercise, circuit training and the like. This gym has gone one, two or maybe three hundred steps further though. They are offering a 'sexyology' event.

Sexyology. What on earth is sexyology? The picture on the advert didn't make it totally clear but you can sort of guess what it might involve. It's probably something about exercising to enhance your attractiveness. Either that or the 'gym' I'd stepped in to was actually a brothel. This is clearly a highly advanced sporting facility.

Whatever it was, the people there took a good look at me and asked me if I wouldn't mind teaching the sexyology class. And after that a pig flew over my head.

16 July 2006

Out of bed

Apologies for the absence. After my throat decided to give up on me, the rest of my body decided to follow suit so I've spent the last week in bed hugging my pillow and hot tea. At one point I thought my illness had fallen in love with me because it had stayed for longer than the normal four days. It was almost like a marriage proposal or something. However, after upping the dosage of anti-biotics I think it understood I wasn't interested in anything long term, packed its bags and left. Getting out of bed never felt so good!

Don't know how much sleep I'll be getting once I get back in bed though. It's wedding season in Jakarta at the moment, which means lots of wedding parties in the kampung (village) around my house, which in turn means loud dangdut until the wee hours of the morning. Great. If you're wondering why I'm so 'happy' about it, just watch the clip below. It's Kopi Dangdut, the seminal piece of popular music of the 90s in Indonesia. Think about what Wonderwall was to Britain and you've got the same thing with Kopi Dangdut here.

Actually, I'll admit it. I do secretly like Dangdut. After all, it is the music of my country...just not at 3am.

10 July 2006

Speechless (literally)

I arrived in Indonesia hoping to meet the mother of all summer holidays. However, this hasn't happened yet because the mother, father and angry brother of all throat infections turned up instead. I've lost my voice, which means that I am unable to express my anguish through the beauty of song. Blogging and handwritten notes are going to have to do for now.

Anguish is probably the wrong word. Just 'pain' is more appropriate here. Anguish is what the French are going through after losing the World Cup Final to Italy last night. Zinedine Zidane, what on earth were you thinking? A moment of genius with the penalty (which, by the way, would have gone down as a moment of idiocy had it not gone in) followed by a moment of inexplicable madness in extra-time. What a way to end the best playing career in the last twenty years.

It would be a shame for the match to be remembered for the head-butt but it unfortunately probably will be. It would be better to focus on the fact that it was one of the best World Cup Final matches there has ever been. It's certainly the best I've witnessed. Both Italy and France played the game in the spirit of true champions, that is to say, with the full desire to win the match. Occassions as big as these are normally spoilt by teams being too afraid to lose but neither side seemed to have those fears last night. Both went at it positively and it made for a brilliant match befitting of what has been a tremendous tournament. I can't wait until 2010. I would never have guessed it at the start of the competition but Italy are World Champions. Congratulations to them.

Right, off to gargle some salt water. Mmmm....

06 July 2006

Indonesia in the final

Sometimes the truth is stranger than friction. Indonesia have been in the World Cup Final. I joke not. In an article about Jack Taylor, the Englishman who refereed the 1974 World Cup Final between West Germany v Holland, there is a picture of one of the souvenirs he has kept from the day. It is none other than the coin that was used for the toss-up before the game.

So my (rhetorical) question is: Did you know that the coin used for the toss-up in the 1974 World Cup Final was an Indonesian rupiah coin? That is the truth, knowledge is the bomb and I thank you.

Never mind the shoddy exchange rates we have at the moment (to buy US$1 today you will need a whopping Rp.9,400), this gives Indonesia's currency and mintage a bit of credence. Without that coin, the game would never have kicked off. For those few seconds it took for the referee to ask the captains to choose heads or tails and spin it in the air, Indonesia was the origin of the most important coin in the world.

I don't know how much that coin could have bought you at the time. It was probably Rp 500 at the most, which is a bit of a joke these days. If you go to the shops and they don't have enough coins to give you your change, they give you sweets instead and everyone walks off happy. To be honest, I sometimes ask for the sweets instead. I bet that coin is worth a bit more than one or two haribos now though. Maybe it's more like a Mars Bar or something now. Or Ferrerro Rocher. Ooh, Ferrero Rocher. We would have hit the big time then.

03 July 2006


It's official - we have a heatwave! In fact, I'm going to Indonesia at the end of the week to escape Britain's soaring temperatures. The plus is that there's more tanning opportunities here. I am naturally brown anyway but whenever I return to Jakarta I am ridiculed and ostracised for looking pale and albino compared to my brethren. Can't be letting that happen again.

Hot weather is great unless, like I did on Friday, you spend 3 hours stuck in the M25 rush in a car without air-conditioning. In that event you need a CD to remind you that summer is supposed to be a happy time. So get that top pulled down and radio on baby with a bit of summer on your stereo:

1) Stereophonics –
Have A Nice Day
2) Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Universally Speaking
3) Don Henley – Boys of Summer
4) The Who – My Generation
5) Bryan Adams – Summer of ‘69
6) Feeder – Buck Rogers
7) Anchorman – Afternoon Delight
8) Mungo Jerry – In the Summertime
9) Rolling Stones – Start Me Up
10) Los Lobos – La Bamba
11) Will Smith – Summertime
12) Lighthouse Family – Ocean Drive
13) Jack Johnson – Better Together
14) The Beatles – Here Comes the Sun
15) Van Morrison – Brown Eyed Girl
16) Len – Steal My Sunshine
17) B52s – Love Shack
18) New Radicals – Just Can't Get Enough
19) Young Rascals – Groovin’
20) Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World
21) Ottis Redding – Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay
22) Third Eye Blind – Semi-Charmed Life
23) Orson – No Tomorrow
24) Shaggy – Boombastic
25) Anything by The Beach Boys

I have blatantly forgotten some quality summer tunes. Leave a comment if you reckon I've had a stinker and left out a classic.

02 July 2006

The morning after

I can't believe it but I don't want to watch football anymore. I just can't hack it after yesterday. It's too difficult. Of course this feeling won't last forever and it's just the depression talking. I know I'll be watching again by...well, I'd say this afternoon.

Watching Sven say farewell (he wasn't as bad as everyone says he was) and David Beckham
tearfully announce his resignation as England captain this morning didn't help much either. Your mood is (obviously) all in the mind though and it's easy to lift yourself out of these feelings. I mean, whisper it quietly but football is ultimately just a game. It's all a matter of perspective. There's always another way of seeing things.

For example, this is Sven looking upset during his final press conference this morning:

Now come on Sven, let's turn that frown upside down. Think of your whopper wages and
that song Spurling and Bradshaw wrote about you in 2002:

See, I bet you feel much better already don't you?

01 July 2006


England went out. On penalties. Again.

I feel ill.

In truth, England have not been good enough this tournament and did not deserve to be called World Champions this time around. However, they did not deserve to go out today. They fought manfully after Rooney was sent off. Owen Hargreaves was a giant. He was too good to be a loser this afternoon. Even the likes of Steven Gerrard and John Terry crying at the end. If it's any consolation, every England fan in the world was going through the same thing. We went from hope to anxiety to fear, back to hope and then down to utter despair all in the space of two and a half crazy hours. That is how it is to watch England in the World Cup. That is how it is how it can be to be human.

Showing grit and determination then losing on penalties. It is ever the way with England. Watching the shoot-out was unbearable and I was only watching at home! If the Guiness Book of Records needs an entry for the fastest heartrate reached while watching television, they could probably enter mine from today.

At least England went out with a bang. The way we'd played before today made me worry that if we got knocked out it would be in a way that would have left Germany 06 a memoryless tournament for us. Today means that won't be the way. Just as we remember Italia 90 for Gazza's tears and Chris Waddle's penalty; France 98 for Beckham's petulant kick-out, Michael Owen's wonder goal and the shoot-out; and just as Korea-Japan 02 will bring back visions of Beckham sticking it to Argentina and Ronaldinho's free-kick sailing over David Seaman's pony-tailed head, we will leave Germany 06 with the memory of Rooney's red card, a damn good fightback but, ultimately, three missed penalties.

The World Cup might be over for England but it's not for Portugal, France, Germany and Italy. It's been an awesome tournament so far and I can't wait for the final matches and to find out who will eventually be crowned Champions of the World.