Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Ridiculous to the sublime

I guess you need the ridiculous to highlight the sublime. After last week’s threesome of the ridiculous, I now find myself sipping an icy Bintang after swimming under tropical skies.

How did I get here? I came via what I shall describe as a huge aerial arc which travelled over Melbourne and Adelaide, then up across the Western Australia interior over Broome before heading across either the Indian Ocean or Timor Sea [perhaps we were on the cusp] into Denpasar, Bali.

And, if I may digress for a moment, the Australians have got to do better at geographical nomenclature than The Great Sandy Desert, which amused me as I followed our route on the aircraft’s flight map. A country that can come up with Tittybong, Boing Boing and Quality Knob can do better than that.

It’s a little like naming Mt Taranaki Big Pointy Mountain.

On the first morning I was pleased to learn that I’m not stuck in my ways. I usually start my mornings with a string of very strong milky coffees. This time I started with a sunrise swim, then a string of very strong milky coffees. So please don’t point the creature-of-habit finger at me; I’ve proved I can mix things up.

I’m not grumbling here when I say that the accommodation staff could have thrown a few ice cubes into the pool for me. It’s just a polite suggestion for improvement. The next day a dip in the ocean confirmed this; not so warm it didn’t refresh, not so cold it shrivelled your bits. Just right.

I must add here, however, that I approved of our butler’s footwear choice. I don’t feel comfortable having a butler – I’m not really a guy who has staff – but I could relax my standards a little when I saw that this butler wore bare feet, a perfect fit for the ambience. You don’t see enough barefoot butlers.

Sturdy footwear certainly wasn’t needed for bringing us lashings of tropical fruits. Rambutan came in a Christmas decoration cluster of hedgehog-covered baubles hiding lychee-like interiors. We were offered snake fruit and dragon fruit, and I asked if they had any lizard fruit – sort of to complete the set – but there was no such thing. Oh well, mangosteen, papaya, watermelon and pineapple would have to do.

The local roads are plagued by swarms of motor scooters and they provide much of the ambience of the place. One day I started a tally of how many mopeds I could see in thirty minutes; I think I reached 97,462 before I lost count and had to start again. One, two, three …

On a particular stretch of road on the first day, I had to ask the taxi driver which side of the road one was supposed to drive on. The answer was the left. Mostly. Unless that was inconvenient.

The intersection turning rule seemed to be to stick your nose a bit in front of oncoming traffic and see if the others stopped. Often, they did.

Contrasting cultures enrich our lives; seeing another way of living will, in many ways, make us better appreciate our own way – road rules, infrastructure that often works, basic safety – but adopting those would wreck the other culture, contribute to a world of sameness, a little like hotel lobbies and airport terminals around the world.

So, my ridiculous week was followed by a completely different one, which is why I enjoyed it. Not that I want to return to another bout of ridiculousness.

I’ll close this account of life’s seesaw ride with words of a Tom Rush song from his newest album: “The only way from here is up, I’ve run clean out of down.”


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