Friday, August 24, 2018

chip and dale and dallas...



Over the past two weeks I’ve received “signs” of what this blog post should be about. The first sign was when I spotted a chap at the gym who I used to know from my youth. I had an almighty crush on him which was only made worse by the fact that he had a super cool name: James Dallas. When your name has “Dallas” in it, people immediately associate it with the word “Cowboy”. Needless to say, James Dallas wore his name very well and was very cowboyish in that hot-in-blue jeans kind of way. 

The second sign was when a Facebook friend posted a video of cowboys dancing in a field. The group of dancers are from a group called "Magic Men" and given the lil’ hip thrust they managed to sneak into their routine, I reckon they don’t generally dance in fields. 

Anyhow, both incidences reminded me of something that happened to me in the 80’s. 

I was all of 15 years old when we started seeing advertisements on the TV for a troupe of dancers from the USA. They were called The Chippendales and from what they showed us on the TV ad, they were an all-male group of dancers that toured the world. 

I need to back up a bit and remind you of where South Africa was historically with regards to “dancers”. The apartheid era was known for seriously cramping everyone’s style, not least of those who like to “dance” in public. Accordingly, if you wanted to see a “dancer”, you had to go to somewhere like the Wild Coast Sun, where “dancing” was allowed. Of course, there was tons of other things that weren’t allowed, but “dancing” was definitely one of them. Accordingly, the advertisements we saw only showed the Chippendales dancing, like for REAL, and not “dancing”.

To be honest, I’m not sure if my mum and older sister put two and two together, but if they did, they certainly didn’t let me in on it. Although I was curious to know why the chosen performance venue for the Chippendales was The Wild Coast Sun, I was not about to put up a fight when my mum (also known as The Queen) and my older sister (Liza Minelli) told me I could bunk school and join them to see one of the shows. They also booked a ticket for Exotica and before long our gaggle of girls was on their way to the Wild Coast. Exotica and I felt very grown up because we were the only teenagers included in the foray (which in retrospect should have been a red flag). 

We arrived hours before the show was due to start and The Queen let us mill around on our own with R20 in our pockets till the show kicked off. As Exotica and I strolled around, taking in the sights of gamblers, slot machines and card players, we stumbled upon a movie theatre which stated STRICKLY NO UNDER 18’s. Mystified as to what might lie within, we slowly got the gist as we saw man after man after man entering the theatre. As the realisation dawned on us, a discussion ensued between Exotica and I about the dynamics of watching a Blue Movie, and in the company of strangers to boot. Did they all wank off together? we wondered. Or, did they all rush to the loos immediately after the film to sort themselves out? Either way, we decided that it was a grubby, soggy business (“Ew, imagine the chairs!” we both exclaimed) and we wanted to get as far away from the theatre as what we could.

To ease our nerves, we decided to spend our R20 on a drink. I’d heard that Sambuca was a thing and had seen people in movies lighting their shot glasses and then downing it while it was still aflame. 

Eager to test whether this could actually be done, I assured Exotica that I’d done it many times and that she shouldn’t be nervous and should “just go for it”. The flame was hotter and bluer than I anticipated but by now there was no holding Exotica back. To this day I’m not really sure what she did wrong, but I think she went in for the kill a little too slowly. Once her drink was downed, she said “Your turn”. As I looked at her, something seemed different about her. Kind of odd. Off. Then I noticed. Where her eye lashes were supposed to be there were now little white balls of singed hair. I decided against lighting mine and downed it cold instead.

Even if Exotica and I had finished an entire bottle of Sambuca each, we would not have been prepared for what came next.

After being ushered into the theatre, we noticed a group of rather rowdy women in the front row, just a little along from where we ourselves were sitting. We weren’t sure what the reasons behind their rambunctious behaviour was, but we decided it wasn’t very orthodox to behave in such an uncouth way in a theatre. After all, the only other theatres we’d been in were The Playhouse in Durban and The Hexagon in Pietermaritzburg, and that was to watch ballet.

The music started. There was wild cheering and applause. Whistling even. A man, let’s call him “Chip”, sashayed onto the stage. He was wearing black trousers, a white collared shirt and a bow tie. Mmm. Smart, I thought, though a little impractical if you’re about to dance. Before long there was more sashaying, and hip wiggling and stroking of chests and flicking back of hair. Exotica and I sunk low into our chairs. 

After what seemed like a VERY long time, Chip started removing his clothing. I’m not sure who was in charge of garment construction but I confess, I did think it was a stroke of genius that both his trousers and shirt could be removed in one quick, snap-the-snappers move. The heat from both Exotica and my cheeks was radiant. There was nowhere to go. No way we could escape this nightmare. 

As number after number was performed, the rowdy ladies got rowdier, and Exotica and I started to look like we were actually grafted into the red velvet upholstery. To make matters worse, I was seated RIGHT NEXT TO THE QUEEN the entire time.

The pièce de résistance unfolded as follows. A man – let’s call him “Dale” – sauntered onto the stage wearing a beach towel and carrying a little basket of, well, we weren’t sure yet what was in it. As the music progressed, Dale removed his towel in a rather dramatic way and laid it on the stage floor in the manner that a gentleman might lay down his coat over a puddle. Standing in a speedo swimming costume, and despite there being no threat of sunburn, he took a bottle of suntan oil out of his little beach bag and rub it suggestively over his chest and thighs. 

 

To more cheering, whistling and applauding, he sashayed down the stairs and off the stage, and strolled slowly, in a very hips-forward kind of way, past the front row. By now my embarrassment had left me and I was left with a faint feeling of nausea. This only got worse as I saw Dale stop RIGHT IN FRONT of The Queen.  

 

Putting one foot and then the other on the armrest of The Queen’s chair, he proceeded to gyrate in The Queen’s face. It got worse. His Speedo was a snapper-Speedo and in one swift move, he whipped it off to reveal a very scanty G-string. My mum sat there, as a queen might, utterly unruffled. I’d been at the receiving end of one of her withering looks many times and I wished she’d shoot him one right now.  By now Exotica and I were utterly dead. We could not wait for this blasted “dance” show to end. 

 

It was a long, silent, awkward drive home and to this day I have never returned to the Wild Coast Sun. And neither shall I.



Wednesday, August 1, 2018

common species of the gym region...


So, due to holidays and then a bout of flu or a chest infection or who the hell knows what, I’ve been off gym for like…EVER. Anyway, I hit the gym this morning but managed to convince myself that, given my break, I shouldn’t work to my full capacity. Instead, I decided to document the different species one can typically spot at any gym.

The Grunter
This species makes Monika Seles look positively reticent. Typically occurring in males, this beast isn’t limited to any particular region and has been known to grunt loudly in the free weights, functional training AND weight machine sections of the gym. He normally has a grimace on his face that suggests the he is, without a doubt, busy with seriously heavy things that no other mere mortal could even contemplate.  He’s loud and can give you quite a fright if you’re not expecting a sudden SHOUT from the bench press you’re lying next to.

The Poser
Both males and females of this species are common in gyms. They may train hard or they may not, but the main identifying feature of this animal is that both before and after completing a “set”, they’ll look at themselves in the mirror, often plucking at their stomach area to check their body-fat percentage. They’ve been known to fuss with their hair and flex their arms in front of their reflection and generally behave as if they’re in the privacy of their own bedrooms rather than in a public space. They’ll often look like they’re “checking their form”, when in fact they’re just checking their form. If you watch them for any length of time, you’ll start to feel like a Peeping Tom – such is their deep relationship with themselves.

The Body Builder
It’s mostly only males of this species you’ll see. This block shit-house still fits into his cartoon- print baggy pants from the 80’s (think Mike Hammer). You’ll find him wearing a kind of shredded vest that looks like someone just tried to rip off his body (that could well be the impression he wants to create. Grrrrr…) and he’ll definitely be wearing a weight belt. He has a hairdo like Dolf Lundgren and will almost certainly be wearing black trainers.

The Rugby Guy
This species may not actually be that common. It might be a singular species that exists only in my gym. The Rugby Guy will do sprints, not really worried who he might plough down in the process (I once nearly saw a little old granny go flying. Frightening stuff.) He’s kind of a cross between a Grunter and Cross-fit junkie. He does lots of functional moves and has his stop-watch set up coz, you know, counting in your head can be tricky.  Oh yes, and of course, he’s wearing short rugby shorts and long socks. Killing it.

The Lipstick-wearer
This species occurs only as females.  You’ll generally spot her on the bicycle, often with a book in her hand. There will be absolutely NOT A DROP OF SWEAT on her. Not on her face. Not on her chest. Not on her anything. She will be wearing mascara too and no, miraculously it won’t be running. She will most likely NOT be smiling because, as you know, smiling causes wrinkles. After 20 minutes of peddling away as if she’s in the South of France, she’ll sail out of the gym, leaving a waft of Thierry Mugler’s Angelin the air.

The Black Guy
Typically only occurring as males, this species is secretly the envy of the whole gym. You’ll typically find him doing like a one-arm push up or tri-dips on the parallel bar thingy. His most identifying feature is that he makes it look REALLY EASY. He’s ripped AF and doesn’t need to wear that weird, suntan shit that all the white body builders rub on themselves when they do body building competitions. In fact, he wins all the body-building competitions, and probably has a sexy job as a fire fighter or something. He’s friendly and doesn’t grunt like the grunter. You’re not sure what his name is but you’ve been calling him “Rob” for years.

The Ukrainian pole dancer
This species is can sometimes be mistaken as the Lipstick-wearer but can be told apart by the hot-pants and long, hot-pink compression socks. She will never wear the same outfit two days in a row and has lots of gym tops that look like they could be in a bondage porno. She’ll be tanned all year round and, despite her skinny legs, can leg press double than the Grunter and Rugby Guy combined. All the other gym girls don’t really like her. But the men do. Ooooh yes.

The Towel Booker
This species is generally found in two sub-species: the ghost, and the Sargent Major (SM). If you make your way to a bench or a machine and you find a towel resting on it, you can be sure that there is a Ghost-Towel Booker in the area. They won’t really make an appearance but you’ll feel very uneasy about moving their towel, lest they suddenly swoop down on you and give you a tongue lashing. The SM-Towel Booker is much easier to spot. In fact, they’ll spot you. They’ll be busy using something like “cables” and you’ll innocently stroll up to, say, the upright rowing machine and sit down on it. Unbeknown to you, the towel that’s resting somewhere nearby, actually serves as a territorial marker. The minute your arse hits the bench, the SM will unleash their fury and shout that THEY’RE NOT DONE WITH THEIR SUPER-SET.

The Yoga One
This species occurs as both males and females. They generally arrive late for the real yoga class and then have to do their own little routine on the mat somewhere. They’re varied in what identifies them. Some of them could be mistaken as The Injured One, because they never really look like they’re doing anything but lying on the mat. Others, however, look like they just stepped off the bus from Cirque de Soleil, their backbends-into-aerial-splits giving them away. The females tend to have a pinched look and are often ex-ballet dancers who have “found themselves”. (Namaste). The males of the species mostly just fart a lot.

The MMA Guy
This species is very easy to spot because they’ll start kicking and punching RIGHT WHERE YOU’RE DOING SIT UPS! They train alone and almost certainly have EMINEM’s “Lose Yourself” playing in their ear-phones. Generally speaking, they’re barefoot, which is probably against gym regulations but is also probably why they do it. They’ll be wearing black, like a ninja, and the outfit is likely to include tights. This species only comes in a masculine version.

The Old Fuckers
This species occurs as both males and females and can be identified by an overall getting-in-the-wayness. Oblivious to any and every gym conventions, they’ll do the super circuit in any order they fancy and have an utter inability to anticipate what other gym members are doing (thus the nearly ploughed-down by The Rugby Guy incident.) They’re known to cause a bottle neck at the water machine – in fact at any machine - and are prone to long conversations with other Old Fucker gym members. You’ll often find them wearing inappropriate footwear, like crocs or sandals.

The Rolling-Stretcher
Found in both males and females, this species will leave you wondering WTF? They’re typically seen in the functional area and will be doing movements that can range from very small, Mr Beanish stretches, to full-on medieval torture shit on the foam rollers. It’s all very mysterious, because you never actually see them work out. 

The Machine
This species is generally only found in females. She’ll often be wearing a buff and can do hand-stand pushups. She puts The Grunter, The Rugby Guy and even The Black Guy to shame, but she still thinks she’s not good enough. She’ll have an impossibly good physique and will generally take up very little room in the Functional Training part of the gym. She might work out with the Cross-fit Junkie but she’s definitely not friends with the Lipstick-wearer or the Ukrainian Pole Dancer. She manages to train for 5 hours a day on a diet if quinoa and kale and she has a “cheat meal”, rather than a “cheat week” like the rest of us.

The Cross-fit Junkie
This species can mostly be found doing box jumps or waving those big, fat ropes around. They’re also fond of skipping and like to use the weighted barrel bags. They seem to do a lot of moves that either involve sliding things on the ground or lifting them up and carrying them. The females of the species are all under 35 years of age and the males are all over 35 years of age. I dunno, maybe. Hard to tell.

The Chunky Chick
Generally found as females only, this species is a constant gym-goer who, despite her dedication, seems to sort of be in a fitness holding-pattern. She often looks like she’s going to die from over-exertion and is mostly sweaty. She can be seen chatting to The Old Fuckers but tends to avoid contact with The Machine and The Cross-fit Junkie. She knows The Black Guy’s name is actually Simon.

The Hippie
The Hippie species looks like they just arrived back from a trance party. Mostly occuring as females, their workouts generally involve wafting and waving movements. She’s almost certainly wearing a tie-died something, her hair is unruly and hangs loose and she’s bare foot. Flared leggings are a constant identifying feature. She can sometimes be mistaken as The Lip-syncer, because she tends to mouth along to whatever is playing on her iPod. Given her tree-in-the-wind like movements, you can bet it’s either Jim Croce or Bob Dylan. Be warned, she WILL get in your way. She probably also does Nia and arrives late for yoga class.




Friday, July 20, 2018

postcards from G-land...

(Original unedited photo via: Fox Photos/Getty Images via http://theweek.com/captured/461586/6-vintage-surfing-photos) 



Day 1

Headcount: 
4 South Africans (that’s us)
An Australian family of 4 (mom, dad, 2 boys)
5 more Australians (unrelated, as far as I can tell)
1 Dane (who I keep mentally referring to as “The Norwegian”; he keeps gently correcting me when I ask him about fjords)
1 American (not sure if he’s shy, hungover, tired, feeling poorly, or is just a cool cat)

Total surf count: 
13 surfers, 1 sort of surfer, 1 absolute non-surfer (that would be me)

Total gender count:
13 males 
2 females

We arrive at G-land to an enthusiastic welcome by porters. I assume that they’re either well-trained in the art of welcomeness or are truly desperate to see some fresh faces. I could be wrong, but I swear that the people who are departing on the same boat on which we just arrived have a somewhat crazed look in their eyes. Yes, a definite eagerness to leave the remote, pristine paradise on which we now found ourselves. 

My dismount from the boat is about as graceful as when I first climbed on board. Which is to say -- I rocked the boat. The sand isn’t really sand but instead is a rather brutal mix of ground up coral and shards of broken shells. As I sink knee deep into the violent coral-sand, I make a mental note to start my diet immediately. Yup, nothing but fruit and water for me for at least the next six days (maybe for the rest of my life.)

But before I start my fruit and water diet, we are served a hearty, if somewhat boarding-schoolish breakfast. I’m not sure what the mealtime protocol is going to be looking forward, (this could be our “last supper”, so to speak) so I tuck into the omelettes and banana pancakes. 

Group by group we’re shown to our rooms. BK has booked us a VIP room. Phew, lucky me. While the sleeping area is sufficient in a functional, Bali-meets-SANPARKS-in-the-80’s kind of way, the bathroom is channelling prison chic. Still, I’m thankful that there is an actual loo (one up on Afrikaburn-which-I’m-never-going-to-I-don’t-care-how-lifechanging-it-is). After seeing what VIP rooms look like I’m curious to see what the less VIP rooms look like. I quickly established VIP simply means: more space, aircon and a bar-fridge. The Spartan furnishings and mould spores are constant design elements throughout all the rooms. 

After a flurry of fin keys, surfboard wax and sunscreen application: silence. The surfers exit the camp in search of waves and I’m left to my own lonely devices.

Milling around, I find myself on a scenic patch of grass that adjoins a coral crusted sea shore. A little hut – you know the Balinese kind that have red tiled rooves, a suspended wooden floor and no side walls – stands on the edge of the grass. I ensconce myself in its inviting shade.  I breathe in the glory of it all and think to myself…

Fuck, I’m bored.

Lucky for me, Gavin from Adelaide has flu and can’t go surfing. He joins me in the little hut and before long, we’re chatting away merrily. I’ve even started changing the way I speak? In that kind of Australian way? Where every sentence sounds like it’s a question?  I’m enjoying Gav-from-Adelaide’s company so much that I’m considering slipping him a salmonella snack just so that he can’t surf for the rest of the stay and I can have someone to chat to. I decide against it given, you know, salmonella and time spent alone in the bathroom.

Just when I think that we must have at least spent three or four hours chatting, an American fellow saunters down to the water with a Bintang. 

“Ha!” says Gavin “11 o’clock and you’re having a beer eh?”

11 O”CLOCK!!!! It can’t only be 11am, I think in horror. Have we actually gone back in time? Turns out we actuallyhave, though only by an hour because Java is an hour behind Bali. 

Shit. I feel like I’ve been caught up in some kind of surf-camp time warp. Is this how slowly time will drag on for the entire trip? I consider having a Bintang myself.

As I chat with Gav (I actually keep asking him questions so that he keeps talking), something magical happens:

Picture it. The sun shines on a seascape that has turned golden, pink and red. A young deer walks up to me and starts eating green string beans RIGHT OUT OF MY HAND. And just as I think to myself, Sigh. Everything is right in the world -I’m complete, Gav gets up and says,

“I think I’m going to lie down for a bit in my room.”

I shout out at the top of my voice, “No! Don’t leave me! I don’t want to be alone!” 

But I don’t say it for real. Just in my head.

Day 2

I wake to a smell that’s a mixture of oriental spices and sewage. 

BK has kindly rustled me out of bed with a cup of Bali coffee (which I like to call Sip-n-spit because the coffee grounds kind of come with the coffee.)  With sleep in my eyes, I stumble to yoga. 

I spotted the yoga instructor yesterday. Johnny, is his name. He looks around 50 or so, but in truth could be an old-looking 30-year-old or a young-looking 80-year-old. Hard to know for sure. He’s golden-brown, has piercing blue eyes and is lean in that surfing-yogi kind of way. Needless to say, I look EXACTLY the opposite. I’m terrified of attending the class because a) it’s too hot to keep a T-shirt on which means I’ll have to strip down to my jog top (which is truly a frightening sight), and b)because I’ll bet that Johnny can do all kinds of strong moves like headstands and those balancing-on-your-arms kind of poses (I think it’s called “The Scorpion”.)

As it turns out, Johnny is a good instructor. A kind instructor. And although he does a nifty little from-sitting-to-lying move, I try and beat him at flexibility. Sadly, I think I end up looking like a malleable Pillsbury muffin man: white and doughy with lots of soft corners.

Johnny does speed yoga. It’s like flow yoga but fast, and I assume he wants to get done and dusted with his chore for the day so that he can crack on with his surfing. This suits me fine, because even with my T-shirt off, I’m slick with sweat. So ja, a glistening, pale, doughy Pillsbury muffin man.

I spend the rest of the morning on the beach, hunting down one shady spot after another. Despite the beach being home to a selection of stray flip-flops, it’s tranquil and incredibly beautiful. I ignore the glass vial I find lying at my feet.

In the afternoon I get all brave (boredom-induced braveness, I like to call it), so I take a walk on the track that leads through the jungle to a surf break called “Kongs”.

Though the sun is still high in the sky, the canopy is dense, making the pathway dark and looming. It’s round about now that I recall a story that Dave, G-land’s surf guide told us. He explained how, a few years ago, a woman was walking on this very track. She saw a panther and realized it was stalking her. To avoid its glinting teeth and sharp claws, she took her chances instead with the shallows of the coral reef. Arriving pale and all scratched up at the camp later that day, she declared that she had narrowly avoided being eaten.

Torn between whistling a happy tune and trying to remain absolutely silent, I contemplate that my Pillsbury muffin man form must look utterly delectable to a panther. Indeed, it’s unlikely he would be able to finish me in one sitting, which would be a horrible, slow death.

What doesn’t help my already frayed nerves is that monkeys swing and rustle between the boughs of the trees. My heart jumps at each sound they make.

From ground level I hear a kind of guttural grunting noise that I convince myself is a very old monkey either clearing his throat or maybe getting out of his chair. I quicken my pace but then remember that if you run, the predator will just run too. Which in my case would be very foolish, given my last performance at the moms-race at school athletics day. Accordingly, I opt to alternate between a casual stroll, a near jog and big, lunging strides. The result is that I look rather like someone from a Monty Python skit.

By now I’m dripping with sweat and am rather out of breach. Just as I’m about to yell out “Just take me already! I can’t do this anymore!”, I arrive at a settlement of sorts.

Now, if any of you have watched documentaries like “Drugs Inc.”, “Meth Storm”, or “So You Think You Can Cook Meth”, the settlement I found would look familiar to you.  

Five or six shacks stand in a row. No-one is around and, in my mind, I can hear the banjo theme tune from Deliverance playing. At first glance, I’m utterly convinced that this is a meth-cooking outfit, so it’s with great relief that I spot a bunch of fishing nets hanging neatly from a line. My sigh of relief is followed by a new fear: are fishermen hungry like panthers? I wrack my brain and try to remember Java’s official policy on cannibalism.

I flee to the sea. It’s low tide and as I step out of the shade and into the sun I’m hit by a wave of heat. 

Of course, there’s nothing like crushing heat to convince you that, panthers and cannibal fishermen aren’t so bad after all.

Slick with sweat once again, (I’m thinking of making “slick with sweat” my slogan for the holiday) I make my way back into the jungle. Despite feeling slightly more chipper on my homeward journey, I deduce that I must appear somewhat stressed. Why else would no less than four women I pass on the track offer me a massage? Friendly folk, these Javanese.

With no small sense of relief, I arrive back at Joyo’s, the surf camp. I treat myself to no less than four Bintang beers and as I gaze at the setting sun, I think it myself, are cats really afraid of water?

Day 3

Yoga headcount:
2 South African’s, 5 Australians. 
That’s one South African and four Australian’s up from yesterday. 

A whole bunch of young, gorgeous women arrived in camp yesterday afternoon. (I noticed that most of the men suddenly started sucking in their bellies and walking with some extra surf-swag.) Sadly, I feel no kinship with these femme fatalesas not oncehave I heard them mention the poor state of the bathrooms. Just what kind of women are they?!

In order to get through the day, I’ve started compiling a list of suggestions of how to improve the surf camp:

1)    Bomb it.
2)    If no bomb available, knock it down some other way.
3)    If no way to knock it down, or of knocking down seems excessive, knock down bathrooms only.

All kidding aside, I really have started a list. These include things like removing the plastic packing from the bed bases, replacing the outdoor furniture cushions with mildew resistant fabric, re-grouting the floor tiles (daily), putting day-beds outside (so that we don’t have to sleep inside.)

Alas, the list goes on.

We interrupt this broadcast to discuss the saying “Rock out with your cock out”. I remembered it yesterday as I was putting on my crocs and thought yup, I’m gonna rock on with my crocs on.  I don’t think folk should rock out with their cocks out. Not even if they can do fancy moves.

Back to Joyo’s Surf Camp and G-land.

BK and TFTF come back from Kongs. BK has snapped his leash and TFTF found the swell too big and wants to go to Tiger Tracks (or Tiger Stripes, as I keep erroneously referring to it to the Norwegian…erm, the Dane.) As the jeep that normally carts us to and fro from Tiger Tracks is already in commission (those dang gorgeous girls are using it), the camp makes a plan and gets the baggage tractor to shuttle us to the surf break.

I can only deduce that the Javanese don’t feel the same as what we do about kidneys, which is to say that we like ours to stay in their rightful place. While the journey couldn’t be more than 6km or so, my kidney’s, who now found themselves relocated in my chest cavity, suggested that the trip took days, if not weeks. Gav laments his back, stating clearly that he’ll need a visit to the chiropractor on his return. I wish I’d brought along a Bintang or four. You know, for medical reasons.

Some of the svelte, young women are already out surfing when we arrive. Rotten show-offs with their surfing skills and flat stomachs. “Enjoy it while it lasts!” I shout out loudly to them. (But not for real. Only in my head.)

I look around and spot the same lonesome, lost flip-flops that dot the shoreline. The same glass vial still lies surprisingly unbroken and I can only hope that it was once filled with Vitamin B and not some deadly virus. I see what looks like a baby’s bootie, but I can’t be sure and don’t really want to fiddle with it. I feel a bit bad that I didn’t bring along a big bag to do a beach clean-up. But then I think, Screw that, these Javanese should be less coffee-coffee, ciggie-ciggie and be more cleany-uppy, scrub-the-mouldy.

As I sit on the beach, the bruise I got on my arse in Ubud still hurts. In fact, it’s positively resplendent and I hope no-one asks me how I got it because frankly, I feel a bit foolish about it all. *Despite the fiercely dangerous bathroom we had in our last lodgings, I find myself longing for its cleanness, air and light.

It’s overcast today and so is my mood. I googled “Hotels in Bali, Best bathrooms” this afternoon. Not only did it not yield any results, but I remember there’s no way off the island. Today’s boat has already sailed, and there’s not another boat for three more sleeps.

Bintang o’clock.



Day 4

I feel more and more imprisoned in this bloody island paradise. I feel like Tom Hanks in Castaway but with catering and more clothes.

“Prison” is the theme that keeps coming to mind and, much like a prisoner, I am living from mealtime to mealtime. The hours between are filled with making small talk with other travellers, but because I don’t speak surf, the conversation quickly runs dry. I’ve decided that surfers are total sluts for waves. They’ll sleep anywhere for a bit of wave action.

I’m so bored and lonely at times that I find myself searching for stray hairs on my chin, just so that I can savour the exciting activity of tweezing them out. I’m thinking of finding a coconut and calling it Wilson. I’ve also started running a one-man competition with myself to see how quickly I can pack and unpack my suitcase. My aim is to look like those military guys who time each other to see who wins at disassembling and then reassembling their rifles.

Just to break the monotony, I even toy with the idea of committing a crime but then I remember the state of prisons in Indonesia and reconsider. An evil thought crosses my mind… What if I “tell on” the young, svelte girls and get them arrested for the weed I smelt wafting from their cabins last night. Better not. We might all find ourselves in prison.

--- o OOO o ---

I have officially become a two-beers-at-lunch person. To be fair, I had planned on only having one, but when I noticed one of the models ordering a second beer I thought, Why not? It seems to be working for her.

Did I mention that the group of girls who arrived yesterday are here for a fashion shoot? Well of course they are, aren’t’ they. I want to hate them with their small bums and muscular arms but truth be told, they all seem so nice.

Fresh meat arrived on the boat this morning and a whole bunch of surfers left. (What!!? There’s another boat!?) As I stood on the shore, staring longingly at the boat, I yelled out “Take me with you! Don’t leave me on the island!” (But that was only in my head. Not for real.) 

Why oh why did I agree to a 6-night stay in a G-land surf camp? What was I thinking? Ah yes. I was trying to be cool and seem like a team player. Turns out I’m not. All the other surfers keep telling me “My wife would never come here.” I’m not sure if this makes me feel better or worse. 

Now that some of the old gang have gone, the group has shrunk, leaving us with Gav, the Australian family, and Rich and Radar. Thank fuck they’re all really nice.

Even “The Dane” and “The Cool American” (turns out his name is Will and he IS actually a very cool, nice guy) have left. The new crowd are totally amped for waves and shit. Just as well. I ran out of small talk this morning and haven’t been able to lay a hand on a Bintang to refuel. 

--- oOOOo ---

I found a really long hair on my leg this afternoon. They must’ve missed it when they waxed. I’m starting to look feral. The island is in me…

I wait till 4pm to wander down to the hut on the seafront and stare at the sea. (In other words, sink a beer.) I see some Javanese mafia types meeting with the camp manager. I assume they’re the owners and wonder if this is a good moment to bring up a few renovation ideas. 

Day 5

I’ve taken to wandering around the jungle calling out “Here kitty, kitty” in the hopes that the panther might find me and eat me. I’ve also started strolling slowly past Gav’s hut (like when you used to ride past your crush’s house on your bike in high school) in the hopes that he’ll come outside and I can corner him for some conversation. Yesterday I made him explain the term “periods” in surfing. I pretended I was slow on the uptake just so that he had to take longer to explain it. Good ole Gav. He’s really grown on me.

Another new pastime involves me naming the insects I find. But not like “bee”, “wasp”, “ant”, but rather “Simon”, Trevor, Sarah etc. (I did, I confess, name an ant “Anthony”. I would have been a lost opportunity not to.)

This morning I tried to French braid the hairs on my toes. 

Today I might be a two-beers-BEFORE-lunch person.

--- oOOOo ---

I have a confession to make: I AM A DISHONEST INSTAGRAMMER! I’ve only been posting photos of the awesome things in G-land. This is an outright lie and I feel like a fraud. While there have been moments of wonder, there have also been plenty of wondering WTF.

At this juncture, can we please take a moment to discuss the bathrooms. Again. We have a VIP room, which means we have air-conditioning and space. So, instead of having a small, mouldy, dark, dank bathroom, we have a big, mouldy, dark, dank bathroom. I can only assume that abluting must be a top-secret activity in Indonesia. So top-secret in fact, that all bathrooms need to be so dark that you can’t make out your small bits. Windows, and therefore ventilation, are a secondary consideration. Set mere centimetres from the ceiling, the windows are roughly the size of postage stamps and let through neither light nor fresh air. Accordingly, I’ve insisted that BK play slave-slave and hold my sarong for privacy while I shower outdoors. 

They changed our bed linen this morning and I was unreasonably excited. Sadly, they didn’t give us fresh towels – which is devastating considering the musty smell coming from the old ones. It’s all fun and games in the tropics until you have to dry your towels.

Oooh! I haven’t told you yet about the Swedes that arrived yesterday. Three of them, two chaps, one girl, all un-unnervingly good looking. A geologist, a holistic health practitioner and a physicist (or rocket scientist, can’t be sure). So ja, great looking, smart AND they can surf. Fuck. I think I’m winning them over with buffoonery and silly jokes though. It’s not really an area Swedes can compete in. (The girl is gorgeous and an utter anomaly. Incredibly, her legs are shapely and muscular but she still has a thigh gap. How is this achieved?)

I met Kylie from Kauai today. He’s crazy in that ADHD kind of way and has the zip code of his hometown tattooed on his belly. I only found that out because another old surfer in the camp told me so - because he comes from the same town. BK thought it was a stroke of genius because should Kylie’s body get washed up on the shore, they’d know exactly where to send his body home to.

When I asked Kylie was he does back home, he replied (rather cryptically, I thought) “I’m a pirate.” And although he added “I don’t steal or nuthin’, I find stuff to do”, I made a mental note to stash my phone and iPad. “You can never be too sure of pirates,” is what I always say.

--- oOOOo ---

4pm. Bintang o’clock. Thank fuck.

Day 6

I can’t tell a lie, I have a pronounced spring in my step this morning given that it’s our last day in G-land. Yeah baby! Strangely enough, I’ll realise that I’ll really miss seeing the people we’ve met here. We’ve become like a little family, though I’m sure that if resources were to run dry, we’d all turn “Lord of the Flies” in a heartbeat. It feels a little like the summer camp I never went on. 

I once knew a girl who spent lots of time sailing. When I asked her what spending extended time at sea is like, she said “Well, your world becomes very small and small news becomes big.” She said that as time goes on, people start making announcements like “I think I’ll wash my hair today”, which then sparks a protracted discussion about how best this should be done. And, when the act is complete, a fresh, protracted discussion generally ensues about how the hair-washing experience went.

This is how life on G-land is. I find myself making random conversation about topics I truly know nothing about. I’ve even started pretending to speak surf and throw in words like “solid”, “section”, and “closing out”. My life has been reduced to one long surf conversation. I continue to corner people and asking open-ended questions that I know will take an age to answer, just so I can chat with them a little longer.

However, I will NOT be asking Gareth-from-the-Gold-Coast any more questions, open-ended or not. Yesterday at breakfast, he volunteered that sugar and milk were evil (which made me double up on my servings of both.) He then lit up a cigarette. Que? 

Then, at breakfast this morning, he lamented the fact that though he’d love a pancake, he wouldn’t eat one because then he’d get fat and not be able to pull chicks. 

I kindly let on that he could take it from me, a legit authority on femaleness, that “chicks” would choose a dad-bod over a neurotic food Nazi any day.

“NO!” he told me. “It’s not like that on the Gold Coast. The chicks there are hot: long blonde hair, skinny, fake tits, very superficial.”

And then I said “Well, why would you want a superficial girlfriend?”

And then he said “Because they’re hot.”

I rolled my eyes. But for real-real this time. Not just in my head.

And then I added “Well then, I guess you get the chick you deserve”, which was supposed to sound deep and profound but he just looked rather pleased with himself. Fuckwit.

--- oOOOo ---

Ha! A stroke of luck! I went along with TFTF to Tiger Tracks this morning and was braced for a lonely swim and sit on the beach. Just as I was starting to sing 40 loud songs to myself, one of the Swedes came in. He was feeling unwell. Yay! Company! What can I say; his loss was my gain. Hurrah. 

--- oOOOo ---

Lunch is Singapore Lakse soup. When I see the mystery meat that it is served with, I’m gladder than ever to be a vegetarian.

I manage to persuade the family that they’re too tired to surf in the afternoon. I tell them that I think they might be coming down with a virus. Ha! They believe me. We all hang out together. On our iPads. 

At 3:30 sharp I take myself off for a shower and slowly ready myself for my favourite time of day: Bintang at Sunset! Like Linus with his comfort blanket, I always take my camera and notepad down to the beach as though I’m busy, busy, busy with important stuff. I hope to come across as very Hemingwayesque.

At dinner I couldn’t be jollier. I make jokes with this one and that one, slap surfers on the back and say things like “When in doubt, paddle out” and “Come and visit us in South Africa”. 

Just before I retire for bed, I jump up onto one of the tables and shout out “So long Suckers! I’m leaving tomorrow!” 

But not for real. Just in my head.



*The dangers of showering in Ubud

Picture it: Cute hippie bathroom with a built-in, polished concrete bath that’s shaped a little like a water-slide. Lots of round edges and organic angles. The bath doubles up as the shower and stands alongside a window that is simply a frame, with no pane. Though it has a bamboo blind, I don’t use it as we’re on the second floor, there’s lots of foliage obscuring the window, so no-one can see in. Wonderful, light and airy bathroom. Bliss.

I’m having a magnificent shower, watching people passing by on the path below on their way to breakfast. After soaping and shampooing myself thoroughly, I notice the gardener pottering around below. By chance (or by deliberate, who’s to know?) I see that if he continues pottering the way he is, I will soon be in his line of sight. He’s positioned in the one and only spot in the garden from where our bathroom window is visible. 

As I notice his head moving, time slows down and I’m so appalled at the thought that he might see me naked, that I crouch down very quickly. But what I learn is that if you’re soapy in a highly-polished concrete bath that is shaped like a water slide, you shouldn’t crouch down quickly. My feet slip out from under me, and I land hard and fast on the edge of the bath. As my head dips forward, I knock it on the tap mixer. I find myself in my final pose, which is very much like the child’s pose in yoga. White arse in the air, making groaning noises as I rub my head and butt cheek. 

And that’s why bathing in Ubud can be fiercely dangerous.




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