The Shed is a bit behind on its 100 days of politics and asks for the leeway to make it 100 posts over 100 days, and here is a bit of catch-up, from The Shed’s vaults – Jonathan Horn, Teleg 20.10.02, after the bombing of a tourist resort in Bali …
When I was last in Bali two years ago, there was a little Javanese man who used to herald my grinding hangover each morning with a toasted cheese sandwich. He was the hotel’s most junior porter and was lithe, moustached and blessed with a perennial grin. He also went by the strangely un-Balinese name of Reg.
As he changed my sheets, Reg would grill me about my life, where I lived, how big my house was, how much money I earned. When I told him I was studying journalism he beamed, dashed off and fetched a bulging folder of poems he had written. When he finished work at the hotel, he would rush off to his second job, selling farcically outdated copies of the Melbourne Herald Sun newspaper to drunken tourists.
Reg’s wife had left him. He had six children to feed, yet he was the happiest person I have ever met. His poems were full of joy, about the love of his God, the love of his children, the love of his landscape. Like most Javanese, he was very tactile and would grip and rub your arm to emphasise a point.
Only when we said we were off to the Sari Club would his smile fade. “Bad, bad place,” he would whisper. “Bad with me, bad with God.”
The Sari Club always meant trouble. On successive football trips we drank there every night and I still cringe at some of things I saw. Imagine Ibiza without the aggression-curbing drugs. A sweaty, heaving cesspool which seemed to resemble a crude Balinese version of an Outback barn. People vomiting, fornicating, fighting to the tunes of Lionel Ritchie. There was a staple drink known as Jungle Juice which could render you paralytic in a matter of minutes. The place was held together by thin bamboo and we often joked that one errant cigarette butt could raze the place in seconds.
Still, we didn’t mind it. The beer was cheap, the music deliciously cheesy and the chances of acquiring female company were high. Most of us had never ventured outside our native Melbourne. We were young, we were invincible and this was as big as it got.
If Osama bin Laden was behind the Kuta Beach bombing, then he is remarkably shrewd in his knowledge of Australian rules footballers. The first week of October is traditionally the time when amateur football clubs make their end-of-season trip. Bali is the pinnacle. Most have spent the last six months funding the trip with raffles, auctions, anything to raise the air fare. Bali in October always meant large groups of super-fit Australian sportsmen on the tear. Most were legless. Most were overseas for the first time.
Bali was full of grinning watch salesmen and manic moped riders. But there were others, usually working in security or for the police: thick-set Indonesians drafted in from Jakarta to deal with the debauchery that is Kuta.
As each drink was consumed and each girl groped, they would purse their lips, narrow their eyes and mutter. When we stumbled out at the end of the night they would stand in groups of four or five, eyeballing us. Australians being Australians would try to bring them out of their shells. Drunken footballers would offer them cigarettes, pour beer on their feet, give them bear-hugs. Girls would dance provocatively, stand on their toes and angle for a quick snog. But they wouldn’t budge; just stare unblinkingly with a mixture of contempt and bewilderment.
“One of these days, these guys are going to take us all out,” a friend of mine said. “They fucking hate us.”
The Sari Club bombing will mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To the Australian government the Sari Club bombing will be the realisation that Indonesia is 20 times the size of us, sloppily led, armed to the hilt and not too receptive to our culture. To Reg it may mean having to pack up his poems and move his children to the despised Muslim Indonesian mainland. To the average Australian, particularly those my age, it may represent the moment when we all finally grew up.