A few days ago, arriving at a local community space for a tribal bellydance class (which had me afterwards ruminating about my oft-visited idea of teaching it as a side project, though I later wonder if what I mean is that I would love to simply perform more; of all the dances I’ve danced over a dance-filled life so far, it is by far the most intricate and the most sensual; the most hypnotic and precise), I bumped into a man I’d met here a year ago (we played scrabble together when the whole island shut down over Nyepi; he beat me to a pulp with his easy familiarity with two-letter bizarrities of the English language, only later letting me know that he’d competed successfully for years, by which time I was pretty sulky on the inside). He is an interesting and energetic fellow – speaks Indonesian fluently (I’d forgotten this; it was a surprise when we were ordering our juices together the next day at a secret hideaway warung I’d never been to before) and attends a multitude of AA meetings, dipping in and out of the UK doing short stints of social work to fund his spins on his bike around Bali. Anyway. He introduced me to the local library, which is just inches from my homestay but so tucked away I would never have known about it. Outside, the corridor of approach is lined with what appears to be an installation of giant water bottles; anyone can refill their own bottles for a fee. You have to crouch to hold your bottle neck under the giant bottle as though receiving a blessing.
As I entered the library, I felt like I was walking into a wonderland; Continue reading
Further to this post (‘Why you don’t like papaya?’) last year…
…This morning’s conversation with Ketut, the perpetually yawning, hand-shaking, backward-cap-wearing, eye-rolling, giggling, 24-year-old chatterbox (when not just woken up) and pillar of this Balinese homestay:
Me (stoicially eating papaya on the terrace outside my room after breakfast was delivered, total paradise and luxury but quite standard for low-cost accommodation here in Ubud, and something achieved either immediately upon waking or after a series of small coughs aimed to invite the offer of a fruit salad; there is no restaurant area; a tray comes when you have shown sign of life; in fact I have no need of a morning alarm, since part one of the morning ritual, at roughly 7am, involves tiny footsteps padding barefoot past my first-floor room and the slight music of a cup and saucer making contact on the wood-carved table outside; a huge flask of hot water and a tea bag is left for me to enjoy until I make myself known to the garden below by way of movement; wearing bright colours aids one’s ability to be noticed, which is fine by me, since I have a near pathological addiction to bohemian dresses in all colours of the rainbow): Good morning. Continue reading
It’s Nyepi Day here in Bali; day of silence (we are not allowed to go out onto the streets among other rules; patrol men say so!) after the night of monster spirits, the Ogoh Ogohs, being paraded through streets across the country and ending in fire. Today is a new year, day one, blank slate, day of reflection (from 6am this morning until 6am tomorrow morning) and, in my case, laundry day.
Yesterday, the supermarket (to which I was kindly driven by the homestay family member, Made, with some friends I’d acquired within hours of arriving here and invited along for the group outing, much to his enthusiasm), was absolutely packed with a long line of kitchen-less tourists stocking up on storecupboard essentials as if an apocalypse was nigh. If apocalypse just means ‘new beginning’, ‘revelation’ or ‘uncovering’ (from the Greek apokálypsis), it’s kind of true, of course, according to the Balinese. A box of walnuts cost nearly a fiver, and some heartily healthy granola (coconut, banana, rosella, red rice, oats, cassava…) cost about the same. I stocked up frivolously (peanut butter, juice, a peach, that kind of thing), and took great refuge in the fact that spending in a different currency doesn’t always feel like spending real money.
I write this on a terrace, eating some unidentified green substance with a spoon Continue reading
The day I first arrived in Delhi over a decade ago, the rickshaw my friend and I were in tipped over and landed both of us on the floor. It still bothers me slightly that I can’t remember whether or not we paid the man for our few successful metres before running away; it wasn’t his fault he lives in a mad, mad country of unstable vehicular reality and impressionistic trajectories; he would have preferred to have remained upright, too.
Walkies is always intoned as a question (walking around a field or two is a collaborative endeavour, after all – a joint decision even if a predictable one); the response comes always via immediately expressive eyeballs (she would fold her arms at a policeman if she could, to show willingness) and, today, came accompanied by a sneeze and a lightning-quick circle on the spot. I needed a walk as much as she did; if indoors is deadlines and computers, stress and anxiety, outdoors is space and wind, trees and open sky. So off we went. I carried her over the initial muddy bit (she is too small, too pristine and too fair to want to wade through it, though she probably would have, with raised eyebrows as a challenge [it’s I who’d have had to bathe her], if I’d not intervened) and plonked her down again for her parade.
Walking my dog is often a sort of parade; she is a bit of a princess, even while sniffing and widdling all over the place, and is met with admiration and ecstasy wherever she goes, mostly because she looks like a cross between a small piglet and a fairy. She is a long-haired chihuahua, built for seasonal jumpers and a penchant for puppy food (by which I mean she refuses all else). When I occasionally mention her on dates (looking after her is an excellent excuse for leaving one early, if necessary), I am on the alert for any judgement; it is an interesting thing that dog breeds can be gendered (as baffling, really, as the fact that colours so often are); I admire a man who can admire a chihuahua and not have to check he’s still got a willy. Continue reading
We were backpacking. Always backpacking – or often. We had no bags with us but were in transit; I know this. Sometimes I wake up remembering how we were, him sitting behind me in a bus, not quite there, not quite not there; me unwinding earphones. This time, we were moving through some station or other, bagless again, not noticeably so, just factually so; except the station wasn’t making much sense – there were trains, I was certain, but also planes and buses and, perhaps, boats. And the central part of it was sunken like the centre of an amphitheatre, its low, vast base a stage, covered with bright green lawn and families picnic-ing. It was some kind of open-air stadium; some foreign, metropolitan quirk; amusing to us that that a station would be so multi-purpose like this; so shaped like a giant amphitheatre; like some great festival we were swinging our way around in this country I don’t know what. We were in the thick of the space, wandering, moving, winding between, wasting time in the midst of dotted groups and families. He was behind me, dawdling, pointing things out and I turned to smile, to say something, or to hear him say something, perhaps wondering if we should find which train or a boat or a plane to catch; perhaps about to suggest we go up the steps to the real part of the station, when, 100 metres behind his shoulders I saw a thing (some temporary thing; maybe a food van) explode. Bang, and the world was a heady, cosmic mess. Continue reading
While developing the first products for my natural skincare range, Leafology, I learned that, here in the EU, we are not technically allowed to label our cosmetic products as being ‘not tested on animals’. Unofficially, it’s because we ought not imply that other products are testing on animals, since to do so is illegal; officially, we can’t cite that claim with ultimate confidence since, sadly, the reality is that most if not all of the component parts of a lip balm, cream, gel or lotion will have been tested on animals at some point in history. Therefore, to say that a product has not been tested on animals is misleading in the sense that it can’t always be entirely true, or at least, not if a product is considered the sum of its parts. However, it is at least true that the final product will not have been tested on animals and this can be claimed (thankfully) with absolute certainty; no one will have smeared my body balm behind the ears of a rabbit before it was approved for the market. Sadly, in some countries (notably China), the opposite is true; a product not only can be tested on animals before it ends up in the shops; it must be.
We can allude on our packaging that we are against animal testing (and I allude to such with the use of my hand-drawn effort, below).
The notion of testing on animals is representative of a wide beam of ludicrosity which spans the repulsively cruel (I won’t go into this here because I think it’s needless, and horrific, and obvious) to the plain daft. Daft because the effect of certain cosmetic ingredients on the skin or hair of an animal simply doesn’t enlighten us much about the possible effect on the human equivalent (since they are just so different). The acceptable levels of allergens and sensitisers can’t necessarily be assumed as equal; our human skin varies even between sex (men’s skin is thicker than women’s; the composition of products must be assessed under separate guidelines because of this), so imagine how much it can differ between species. Testing shampoo (etc.) on animals is pure nonsense both practically and poetically. Continue reading