On bellydance, warungs & beautiful armour

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

How to break up with a book (and other stories)

Finding a book you can be happy with is exactly the same as finding a lover.

First, you assume there will be serendipity. You go to all the right places; you see what covers take your fancy. The lighting is all wrong in a supermarket (and you are not swayed by ‘3 for 2’) and it’s hard to read in a club; you hope, then, for recommendation by a mutual friend. Your friends think very hard for you (they are happily committed to their books; they can’t wait to meet the book you eventually decide upon), perhaps even suggest a name or two, but the hope is short lived and your friends find your taste unpredictable.

You sift through memories, then, of all the books you’ve read in the past (some will multiply this number by seven, some will divide; there is a certain pride reserved for those who have taken years to read one single book), and think about what exactly you would like to be different (or the same), this time. Some people slip up here, and re-read previous tomes; this never ends well and if you once were together and then decided to part, each shrinking backward, then warning horns should be blaring; the readerly experience cannot un-yellow in absence alone. That is basic fact. Continue reading

On Japan, Magic & Pillow Breath

Japan has been high on my travel lust-list for well over a decade; I even had flights booked to go there on my way back from Australia (via Bali) three years ago, but ended up forgoing them both to stay longer in Oz. Ever since, I have considered it, with yearning, each spring and each autumn (do I want the cherry blossom or the autumn leaves?) and have repeatedly had to cast the country aside for other ventures. I know I’ll go sometime and it will be magical; I think I want it to be a trip in itself – not just a stop on the way to or from somewhere else.

In the meantime, two of Japan’s most unrelated outputs (though halfway through this blog post I promise you a tenuous link) have shown up in my life recently.

Firstly (and I don’t want this to turn into a book review, but…), I have been caught in the avalanche of magnetising media surrounding The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, a recent, clutter-toppling phenomenon written by Marie Kondo and published nearly two years ago. Continue reading