Thursday, March 30, 2006
  The Cold Light of Day

This is the time for a hangover which, by rights, I should have. But don't. The quiz didn't happen because there were few expat blokes about last night, it being the start of a long weekend. Jakartass spent much of the evening with the Reveller who will, no doubt, dwell on the few events of the evening in his next dispatch.

I left him after a while to visit my favourite haunt, D's Place, where I was pleased to meet several long-term friends. This town can be strange for those of us who become home bodies. We don't exactly lose touch because there is a strong gossip grapevine. It's just that after we get past the Hey, long time, no see opening gambit we may well realise that it's not just months but, in the case of a friend and ex-colleague I met last night, several years.

The evening had started early with a haircut. Yep, I was re-introduced, by a colleague, to the delights of the barbershop: Pax Wijaya has proper adjustable chairs, towels tucked into collars, electric and cut-throat razors, and a crew of thoroughly professional gentlemen. Mine left me feeling less violated than usual, which is 'Er Indoors nagging me in to the alright, anything for a bit of peace torture of awaiting the ouch, you nicked a piece out of my ear, again moment.

After and as it was still early, we strolled through the leafy suburbs of Kebayoran Baru, wondering why, as usual, it was impossible to use the pavements (sidewalks to Carl and my other American readers). Eventually we reached the Pasaraya Big and Beautiful in Blok M and made our way down to the basement which is a massive food court selling everything that an Asian food court sells, including beer.

And so a small group of us settled down to some gossip and catching up on our respective ailments. This is, incidentally, a fairly regular post office hours gathering. Just look for us by the kiosk selling Chinese cuisine including Pecking Duck (sic).

An interesting anecdote was told of Jim Bob Moffett by a friend who had spent a couple of years at the Freeport site teaching English, possibly to the American and Indonesian staff alike.

Apparently Jim Bob was fond of jetting in by his private Boeing and heading down to the Barracks bar for the local staff where he would go through his Elvis impersonation routine. We weren't told if anyone actually applauded his antics.

If he still condescends to his staff like this, then he's either a fool or the malignant force, he is generally portrayed as in the media.

Certainly he's used to confrontation, having had to deal with vociferous environmental and social activists who in years past have carried picket signs proclaiming JIM-BOB MOFFETT KILLS FOR PROFIT.

Talk turned to the current visit of Tony Blair and his real purpose in being here. Surely it's not, as stated, because he has an interest in discussing the matter of the development of Islam in Indonesia and besides that, he is also interested in understanding Islam more.

Which version of Islam do we have here, Tone, which you don't have back in the UK?

Perhaps his real purpose is to boost trade ties. This has decreased from $2.05 billion in 2000 to US$1.99 billion in 2004, and it's some years since British arms were used in Aceh and East Timor.

However, as an article in yesterday's Jakarta Post pointed out, Tony will not be Prime Minister for much longer.

When he met with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Wednesday, the President may have whispered to Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda, "Do you know how long this gentleman (the PM) can maintain power?"

The President needed to know that beforehand, because it would be disastrous if he made any major agreements with Blair only to find out later the agreements were soon to be annulled by the Prime Minister's successor.

Tony's wife, Cherie, had her own agenda. How that worked would be interesting to know. Apparently, she wanted to meet 20 representatives of women's groups. The British Council couldn't find that many.

Ho hum.

Thinking of Blighty, I've just been informed by the Jakarta Embassy of a new comprehensive document from our Consular Department in London outlining what can and what can't been done by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for British Nationals abroad. It states that the document is printed on recycled paper containing a minimum of 75% post consumer waste and 25% ECF pulp, whatever that is.

That it's actually a .pdf file composed of hyperspace bytes is, I suppose, beside the point, especially as even the FCO doubts its value.

Neither the Government nor the relevant British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate can make any guarantee in relation to the professional ability or character of any person or company on the list, nor can they be held responsible in any way for you relying on any advice you are given.

Presumably they have the website of the British Embassy here in Jakarta which offers emergency advice for families bereaved by the tsunami in December 2004.

Our man in Jakarta before the current one was Richard Gozney who was highly respected by all and sundry here. The word since he left has been that he had fallen from grace due to the slow response from Her Majesty's representatives after the first Bali bombings in October 2001.

I assume that this piece of gossip is untrue as he is currently the British High Commissioner in "the new Nigeria: democratic, undergoing reforms in order to raise living standards, and playing a leading role in the continent."

However, with the downsizing of the British Council here and the inability of the British Embassy to update their website, Tony Teflon is going to have to be some kind of magician to get anything useful from his stay in a very quiet Jakarta - today is a public holiday, Hari Nyepi - the Day of Silence for Balinese Hindus.

I'd better shut up then.


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