Many moons ago, when I was a wee nipper running around the playground in shorts annoying the hell out of people (not much has changed, the playground has just got bigger…) we used to have a game of ‘tick’ that involved giving people THE MANGE. The rules were simple: you ticked somebody, thus giving them THE MANGE, and then they had to tick someone else to get rid of it. You see, marvellously enough, like something out of an episode of The Outer Limits, the ‘mange’ only infected one person at a time, so by giving your best friend THE MANGE, you were miraculously cured from it.
I think it’s the way most African leaders believe HIV works.
This game is nothing new, in America they call it Cooties, and, according to Wikipedia:
For ages 5 onwards, Cooties are known in Denmark as “fnat,” or “pigelus” (literally “girl lice”) and “drengelus” (“boy lice”), and in Norway “jentelus” (“girl lice”) and “guttelus” (“boy lice”). In Sweden and Finland it usually refers to girls, where they are known as tjejbaciller” (literally “girl bacillus”) and “tyttöbakteeri” (“girl bacteria”) respectively.
Anyway, there was one way to insure yourself against THE MANGE in my Liverpool school folklore; and that was by crossing your fingers and declaring yourself to be “on Barley”. I was never made clear weather this meant you had stacked up an invisible mound of barley and were standing on it, or did it mean you were metaphorically on an island immune from THE MANGE that happened to be called Barley?
Well, whatever it meant, I was now ON BALI, so there’s absolutely no chance of me catching THE MANGE. However, with all these mangy dogs running about the island, there was a good chance of catching Rabies, which I hear you can’t get rid of by ticking the person next to you and hoping they haven’t got their fingers crossed.
A short coach journey later I was in Denpasar, the capital city of Bali. Then it was a short taxi trip to the town Sanur and the Watering Hole hotel to meet the delectable Anna, my good friend from Liverpool who runs the biggest pole and aerial dance studio in the north west (and possibly the UK – I’ll have to check on that). She’s been in Indonesia for a week now, pottering about in Java and Borneo, but now our plans converge on the little Hindu island of Bali – an island whose reputation precedes her.
After a marvellously tasty breakle-fast, we headed over to Seminyak, just up the coast from Kuta beach. Anna checked into a backpackers hotel there, but I had somewhere else to stay – at a friend of my mum’s friend’s gaff. His name was Neil – a hilarious and good-natured ex-pat hailing from Port Glasgow. With several years working on and with superyachts under his belt, he would be my unofficial CouchSurf host for the next week or so.
You see, I was planning to leave on Friday (November the 5th) on the monthly Pelni ferry to Kupang in West Timor (East Timor being the 183rd nation of The Odyssey Expedition). But my laptop (Sony Jim) had other ideas. Yes, it was a few months ago when I cracked the screen, but the creeping darkness spreading itself like Venom over my liquid crystal display wasn’t too much of a mare until I got to Bali. Something about the climate, maybe, but the percentage of viewable screen reduced itself from (let’s say) 85% to less than 10% overnight. This meant I had to get it fixed asap. But first I had 25 hours worth of footage from Shanghai to Bali to upload onto the damn thing. Lucky that Neil had a spare stand-alone screen for me to abuse.
Thanks to a combination of lousy batteries and lousier advice from the fix-it people, it would be Thursday before I took the laptop to get fixed. They told me that they would order the part and that I should come back the next day with the laptop. I told them I was getting the ferry to Kupang tomorrow and it needed to be done today. But it was no way – I could either press on and hope to get my laptop fixed for a reasonable price in East Timor or Papua New Guinea (good luck with that!) or I could miss the boat (literally) and get it done here. No fear, I thought – with a bit of luck I could island hop down to Timor the conventional way using local ferries and it may only cost me a week.
Then again, what might happen is… oh, I’ll get to that later…
Anyway, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum; that afternoon, Anna and I went for a amble along Kuta beach and after beating off the advances of hundreds of old massage and bead-hawking women, eventually found ourselves enjoying a drink at the little bar at the base of the AJ Hackett Bungy (yes, that’s how they spell it) jump platform at the northern end of the beach.
Now the day before, Neil had been at a comedy night, and there he had got chatting with Paul, a young scouse guy who had been living in Bali for a few years now. Neil told him that he had the mad ging off that Nat Geo telly show staying with him, and Paul asked if we could meet up after work tomorrow.
So I called this Paul fella and told him we were at the AJ Hackett Bungy jump place and we waited for him to show up, which he duly did (eventually!), but while we were waiting I explained to the nice girl behind the bar that there really should be a dedicated AJ Hackett bungy jump place in the UK – specifically in Liverpool. Anyone with half a brain could scan the scouse skyline and hazard a guess where I’ve got in mind. She then dropped a piece of information that may (you never know!) make this pipe-dream a reality – Mr. AJ Hackett himself was here, in Bali, on a surfing holiday.
Could I meet up with him?
The girl humoured me, but I took it as a no. When this Paul chap arrived I told him the mad plan – and as if the planets aligned at that very moment, he explained that his mate Justin – who we were going out for drinkies with later – used to be the manager of the Double-Six club, part of the AJ Hackett Bungy complex.
Mr. Burns; Fingers tapping together; Ex-cellent…
Later that night, we met up with Justin. A real top bloke, he knew AJ personally and would have no problem arranging a meeting. Better still, he had a spare complimentary bungy jump (worth $100!!) that was up for grabs to anyone nutty enough to go for it.
I know someone!
That night descended (like pretty much every night I spent in Bali) into chaos, with Anna doing an incredible routine on the nightclub poles (the official dancers just had to wait their turn) and much utter jibber-jabberish being bandied about back and forth. It was lucky that Anna was with me, because otherwise I would have never found my way home.
On the Friday, it was Anna’s last day, so I asked Neil’s driver Madi to drop my laptop off at the fix-it place – I really didn’t want to have to waste half of my last day with Anna doing it myself (the congestion in Bali is epic). I thought that the screen would be sorted for the next day, I could do the bungee and meet AJ on Sunday and leave this burg next Monday.
Ha! That didn’t happen.
It was with a heavy heart that I said my fond farewells to Anna, but I was happy that over the last few months I’ve seen Hugh, Chris, Debbie, Stan, Helen, Thro and now Anna along the way: I just wish Mand had been able to meet me at some point too, but the fates… aye, the fates…
On the Saturday I fought through the traffic to the fix-it place, only for them to tell me that they couldn’t fix the laptop, so Neil’s driver Madi had kept hold of it. Would have been nice for him to tell us, nicer still if he had let us know that this weekend was some kind of Balinese festival which meant he would be unreachable until Monday. No laptop, no ferry, no escape, no fat cigar. What a frickin’ nightmare.
But this was only the start of my trauma. That night, I went out on the lash with Neil and we met with an Aussie called Ian who I (foolishly) tried to impress with my card tricks with the old Bicycle Deck. Turns out he’s a professional card magician and he saw right through my amateurish fumbles, but did give me one or two pointers as to how to up my game. By the witching hour, Neil was knackered and elected to return home. I stayed out with Ian and we headed into Kuta looking for Bintang and hilarity.
At around godknow o’clock I set off back to Neil’s gaff on the back of one of Bali’s ubiquitous motorbikes.
Only my hat didn’t.
My. Hat. Didn’t.
We went back, I searched and I search, but to no avail: Hat 5 was gone. Gone to join his brothers in the great milliners in the sky.
Hat 1: Lost at The V Festival in August 2003 after Ana Matronic from The Scissor Sisters got me so drunk that I passed out during The Pixies set.
Hat 2: Lost in February 2006 during the Half Moon Party in the jungle of Ko Pha Ngan thanks to Stan and copious amounts of beer and buckets of joy.
Hat 3: Disappeared in time and space some time between 2007 and 2008. May well have been destroyed by Mandy in a fit of peak (she no love Mr. Hat).
Hat 4: Retired in Feb 2010 after having shrunk in the wash. Kudos for having survived 142 countries on my bonze.
Hat 5: Lost in Bali, Nov 2010, after night out on the lash.
Without my hat I feel like half a man, the sun will bake my face and my ears will glow red like the Ready-Brek man. People won’t recognise me, I won’t be able to cover my bad hair days (which is pretty much every day – I’m a GING for Christ’s sake) I will have to dig out my sunglasses even though I think they make me look like a proper weirdo, I will have to invest in some sunscreen even though I HATE sunscreen with a passion. I will have nothing to use as a pillow against the window of the bus, nothing to cover my face when I sleep under the glare of the tropical sun, nothing to keep my hair dry when it rains and nothing to use as a fan on a dog day afternoon.
Without my hat, the expedition will go on, but with a heavy heart. I’ve lost my daemon. Hat 5, from country 143 (Libya) to country 182 (Indonesia): you may be gone, but you’ll never be forgotten.
But let’s look on the Mr. Brightside: the girls in the Champagne Bar here dress like THIS:
WOO WOO WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!