This blog has moved…

16 Apr

I have now moved this blog over to the official and oh-so-very semi-professional

Please keep following me there!


A Gili Air Share…

15 Apr

Thought I’d share a few piccies from today on Gili Air. The sky really was that blue!

I always love heading over to the second biggest Gili island as it’s so photogenic and definitely a lot more peaceful than Gili Trawangan. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Gii T, but it’s a bit noisy, and dare I say, a bit dirty in some parts, now.

Development is happening so quickly. There’s a spa here now, on the spot that used to be home to a flea-ridden cinema showing pirate movies. I watched movies (whilst scratching my bare legs) on that very spot only last September! There are foot-eating fish in tanks there now.

Anyway Gili Air is one of those rare places on planet earth that actually does look in reality, like it looks in everyone’s photos. In some places, it’s almost like an exterior designer has wandered round discussing with God where to place the palm trees and the corals.

Hard to imagine places like this are out there, glistening in shades of aqua-marine and sending rays of sunshine straight through to your soul… especially when you’re shivering through a dreary winter, swiveling in your office chair, dreading the walk home because it’s minus twelve outside. In the Gili’s the sun has always got his hat on and he’s always coming out to play.

I’m seriously thinking about doing a seven night/eight day diving trip in May from Gili Air to Komodo, to see the dragons! It’s just less than AU$1400 and includes all dives and all food on the liveaboard boat, with a company called Gili Air Divers, if anyone fancies coming along. The diving is supposed to be incredible. It’s not enough to just look at the ocean from the Gili’s you see. You’ve got to get in a little deeper.

Tsunami or not Tsunami, that is the question….

11 Apr

Just when you think you’re safe in your luxury villa with your swimming pool and your two wooden statues of cross-legged soldiers who don’t even look Indonesian, and your croaking geckos and your plans to go to the Gilis…

There has been another earthquake, which has shaken Sumatra and consequently lots of people I know.

This is not something to be taken lightly. As we all know, “Indonesia straddles a series of fault lines that makes the vast island nation prone to volcanic and seismic activity. A giant 9.1-magnitude quake off the country on Dec. 26, 2004, triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed 230,000 people in 13 Indian Ocean countries, including Thailand, Sri Lanka and India.” (The news)

We’re in Pemuteran, north of Bali, which is considerably less at risk than say, Kuta down south, which faces the Indian Ocean. Everything is normal here, like it was last October when the earth shook off the coast of Aceh; like it was  back in 2004 no doubt, before anyone saw it coming.

Just as you sigh that little sigh of relief that everything’s OK in your direct vicinity, you can’t help but swallow that sickening feeling that one day it’s gonna be you that’s swallowed whole in a ginormous wave that just appeared from nowhere. You’re probably going to be doing something like you’re doing now, when it strikes. Like, looking at a nice photo your mate has put on her blog of BEAUTIFUL, safe Bali, such as this. I took this three days ago on a hill in Munduk in the mountains, which would have been safer than where we are now, by the sea:

You might be laughing, or eating a sausage, or petting your dog or procrastinating about doing your laundry and scrubbing that sinful chocolate stain off your duvet which CLEARLY advertises the fact that you eat between the sheets, when it happens. You might be reading the live Twitter feed about tsunami warnings, thinking, fuck, I hope that never happens to me. Surely it won’t though, right? Things like that don’t happen to ME.

But you’ll be wrong, because you’ll already be slammed against the wall like a pancake tossed a little too hard by a child who has zero experience holding a frying pan, because sometimes things like that DO happen to you.

The Indonesian government has been known to play down the risk we’re at, here on the Island of the Gods. If they told us the truth, people might not come. We might not stay in all these lovely, posh villas. Scaremongering is pointless and no one wants to do that, but we are very much AT RISK from tsunamis and earthquakes in Bali… something I looked into for the upcoming Bali book. Not that I’m plugging it at a time like this, but it’s true. I did some research BECAUSE it’s a scary fact when you live here that you’re probably gonna have to deal with at least something like this, at some point. Anyway.

My friend who’s holidaying in Phuket has just been evacuated to a safe place on a hill. She says the airport is shut. My friend in Singapore felt her building shake. My ex is in Jakarta, where he felt nothing but the urgent desire to leave again, as soon as possible. It seems that no one can deny the wave of fear surging through them, even if the waters stay still.

Bali has been declared safe for now, and I’m glad to say all my friends in other places seem to be safe too, if a little scared. But it’s not very nice to think about what could happen. BE SAFE YA’LL!

Help! The Hunger Games have stolen my life…

3 Apr

You know you’re quite liking a book when you wake up at regular intervals in the middle of the night, reach for your iPhone, open the Kindle app in a panic and carry on where you left off an hour ago… before you mistakenly fell asleep at 3am with your phone on your face and a little bit of drool threatening to seep through the cracks of your only link to Panem and ruin it forever. Goddam FOOL. How could you be so careless?!?

My life has literally been put on hold for The Hunger Games over the last week or so, and I know I’m not alone. I’ve never before rooted for a place like I currently am for District 12, or Panem. Not even England, where I’m from. There were riots in London last year. I watched litter bins blazing from the TV screens in Bangkok, shrugged my shoulders, thought “frickin bunch of baffoons” and went back to my Magnum ice creams and five dollar massages… well, what can I do, all the way over here? Not my fault they’ve all gone mad.

With Panem though, holy shit. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. Entire mornings have gone by with my ass cheeks pressed into a hard wooden chair at my Ubud homestay and my eyeballs stuck on my phone screen. Cups of coffee have been poured and then gone cold. I’ve barely opened the lid of my laptop, even though I have the Kindle app on there too… there just hasn’t ever been a good moment. Even though it would make it easier. Even though the font would be bigger and I might save my eyesight, thus reducing the need for laser surgery and preventing miscalculated steps into walls and glass panels.

But what if I shut the Kindle app on the phone and it won’t open on the laptop, and I lose my place, and then a giant bird swoops down and steals my phone, and then shits on my laptop, so I can’t finish my book on either device?? What if they’ve run out of the actual books at all the book shops in all the world and I can’t ever get another copy? What if all the cinemas catch on fire at the same time and I can’t even watch a high-res movie version, instead of the one I just watched in Bali, which was clearly filmed on someone’s phone, from someone else’s phone, in a makeshift movie theatre on the moon. YOU JUST DON’T KNOW.

Writing deadlines have come and gone and prior to this I’ve never missed a deadline in my life. Not even when I was in Forks for over a month with Edward and Bella. I was able to tear myself away from them; especially in New Moon when there was hardly any Edward and lots of yawn-inspiring stories about wolf packs. But Katniss. I need to know how she is, I need to know if Peeta’s OK, and if Gale’s going to win her heart over the boy with the bread. I’m only up to the start of Mockingjay so far… so I literally do not know how this will end. I’m surprised I’m writing this blog actually. They’re still there, in my iPhone, on a tiny screen in a tiny font, walking the remains of District 12. I hope they’re alright.

This morning I woke up to a loud banging sound and for at least a minute I thought I was in The Hunger Games arena and one of my so-called-friends was trying to shoot me. I felt a mild pang of relief and then disappointment when I realized it was just a motorbike engine backfiring and that the world I live in doesn’t actually need my help in order to survive. I’ve never felt so useless in my life.

Right. Enough. I need to get back to the Capitol. It’s been at least 20 minutes. Hope the Kindle app still works…

Draw Something: the new addiction making tits of us all

26 Mar

Tell me I’m not alone here. It’s literally getting to the point now, where I’ll have reached the end of my Draw Something to-do-list and I’ll break out into a mild sweat; a tiny panic that THERE’S NO ONE LEFT TO F***ING DRAW FOR!!! WHO THE HELL AM I GONNA DRAW FOR NOW?? And then, (phew, thank God!) as if by magic, another friend on Facebook joins the scribbling circle and everything’s OK again.

My iPhone battery lasts on average three hours less than it used to, before I discovered this game (scientifically proven by myself).

Draw Something is addictive. I think they’ve put something into the programming, you know, the way they put something into McDonald’s cheeseburgers? I can’t think why else we’re all so hooked. I mean, I know some pretty awesome people. I know movie makers, make up artists, doctors, nurses, marketers, bankers, business owners, PR gurus, writers, publishers, photographers, radio presenters… but let me ask you this. Give em an iPhone and the ability to draw with their finger and can they do it? Can they FUCK. Everyone is making a tool of themselves, every day, because of this game. Including me.

Let’s take a look at this round for example. Here, I am attempting to draw a BUNKBED, which I think you’ll agree isn’t half bad.

My friend will probably guess that this is a BUNKBED. I’ll get some coins and wahey, I’ll feel great. I’ll feel like someone’s given me a real gold medal, a pat on the back. Someone could steal my parking space, spill red wine on my white shirt… hell, a gecko could even shit on my head but it would all be fine because hey, my friend will have guessed I drew a BUNKBED. Very soon, I will be WINNING.

So I get cocky. I think, fuck yeah, if I can draw a successful BUNK BED, I can draw anything. I can draw a PALACE. And then this happens.

Hang on a minute. That’s not how it looked in my head when my finger started working. That doesn’t look like a PALACE at all. It looks like a ghost wearing some yellow oven mitts, floating over a swamp. She’ll never guess that’s a PALACE. What was I thinking, believing I could earn three coins just like that? Idiot.

So the next time, I opt for something simpler. I choose to draw a CAPTAIN. Because how could that go wrong? You just draw a man in a hat and neck thingy, right? How hard can that be?

Well, very hard, actually.

 My CAPTAIN will never be guessed because he looks like a retarded boy scout. That’s a boat underneath him, on some water, but it’s so out of proportion he’d be the size of a skyscraper in real life. A retarded mutant boy scout skyscraper. Great. And my AIRBAG is not much better.

My AIRBAG looks quite stunning in my head. Like something from a Mercedes manual. I think I’ll draw an elaborate Mercedes car crash scene with some whizzing motion streaks shooting from the shattering glass windscreen… perhaps a body rocketing out of one window onto some grass and a weeping child on the side of the road. Yessssss. WINNING.

But no. NO. I can’t even draw proportionate wheels. And what’s a car without working wheels? Useless. About as useless as my AIRBAG, which looks like a three-year-old’s misshapen impression of the sun, drawn out of boredom and a total disrespect for keeping within the lines of a children’s colouring book.

I hate myself after these failed attempts. I feel like a loser. And yet, even now as I write, I’m wondering if my friend has managed to guess my drawing of the JOKER yet. I drew a round head with a mono fat lip and green hair next to a misshapen flying black object.

I’m sure those winning coins will be mine in minutes…

Musings of a Nyepi captive…

23 Mar

Today in Ubud, my parents, me and a group of strangers are imprisoned in a hotel, like contestants in a Balinese episode of Big Brother, doing things like this:

The outside world is a deathly quiet ghost town with nothing but the ring of the insects and the occasional bark of a dog to break the silence. It’s a bit odd. I keep expecting Davina McCall to pipe up from a speaker and announce that one of us is getting evicted.

The reason we’re all 24-hour captives in this gilded cage is because today is Nyepi, the Balinese day of Silence, when everyone must stay hidden from the dark forces that threaten to inhabit the island. Yes. There are monsters at large, and as long as we stay off the streets, sip ginger tea and read books on sun loungers, everything will be alright tomorrow.

Nyepi always follows the dark moon of the spring equinox, and opens a new year in the Balinese calendar. Last night Ubud came to life with all sorts of scary gargoyles in a show that put my dear home town’s annual festival, The Spalding Flower Parade, to shame.

Huge exorcisms are held before Nyepi, usually at a cross road, which is where demons like to hang out (don’t ask why, they just like them). The Ogoh Ogoh (massive demonic structures that disturbingly feature things like this dripping vagina here, and droopy nipples) symbolise the evil spirits we must seek to banish from our world. Loud banging, blazing torches and fireworks help to scare them off. They also scare the shit out of tourists. And small children. It’s pretty awesome.

Today,… as I write in secret from my padded chair by the pool, hiding from the monsters like Anne Frank in a penthouse, I can breathe easily knowing that at least the Pecalangs (traditional Balinese security men) are out there, patrolling the streets. They’re making sure that nothing and no one disturbs this day of silence, so there’s no gamelan, no whizzing motorbikes, no Legong dancing and no one… absolutely no one is having sex, because that’s not allowed either.

The Balinese, and everyone else in Bali today are keeping the lights low in their houses and meditating. And maybe updating Facebook. And maybe blogging. Either way, we are all maintaining this symbolic control over ourselves and the “force” of the demons that may otherwise try and take over. Even the airport is shut so as not to attract attention.

One has to wonder how the UK would deal with something like this…

“Excuse me sir, what are you doing on the street? There are monsters out here!!!”

“What? Don’t be so ridiculous. I’m off out to buy the Daily Mail,”

“But sir, I’m a special policeman trained for this very day. It’s my job to protect you from the demons. Please go back inside.”

“Are you one of those crack addicts from the derelict warehouse round the corner?”


“You are aren’t you. You’re a hopeless crack addict. I hope you get eaten by your own inner demons. God bless you though. I’m still off out to get the Daily Mail.”

I’m feeling rather glad to be in such a spiritually sensitive community today, where everyone is being very respectful and quiet. Just don’t tell anyone I’ve been on the Internet. Apparently demons can travel via WiFi.

Trinfinity8 and beyond: a lesson in healing by numbers

22 Mar

Now, hands up who hates math? I know I do. Even the word math conjures images of my scary school teacher, who upon giving up on me completely would send me next door to an empty classroom during long equations classes so I couldn’t distract anyone else with my ignorance. BUT, and I say this very loudly, my thoughts about math were changed quite dramatically this morning when I met the oh-so effervescent Kathy Forti, who’s bringing her life changing Trinfinity8 machine to the BaliSpirit Festival.

What’s the Trinifinity8 I hear you cry. Well my friends, it’s like no computer software system you’ve ever seen. It even better than Facebook (gasp). The Trinfinity8 represents a whole new quantum shift in bio-energetic technology that can quite literally turn back the clock on the aging process, increase awareness, restore vitality and assist your body in attaining that all-important sense of self balance, all by running special mathematical codes through your body. Hurrah! Finally. A reason to appreciate math.

Trinifinity8 (which looks like a clunky hard drive that plugs into your PC or Mac’s USB port), operates by allowing streams of coded data to be transmitted into your being.This healing energy buzzes through to you via hand-held quartz crystal transmitters and algorithms, which instruct the body to whisk you into a whole new dimension in healing, through numeric binary code.  Your DNA will soak this up like a sponge and respond, sometimes with miraculous results!

The most amazing thing of all perhaps, is how Kathy Forti came about inventing this machine. After a near-death experience, she started receiving messages from a series of spirit guides who over a period of time prepped her in such advanced technology and relayed the algorithms needed to bring this advanced form of healing to our world. Some have even compared the technology to “how things were in Atlantis,” when apparently, they’d do a lot of wacky things with crystals. We’ll never know for sure of course. It’s all a bit wet down there now.

There’s far more to Kathy’s fascinating story. I basically sat there gawping like a goldfish for two hours this morning trying to take it all in. If you’re interested, watch the videos on the Trinfinity8 website, and don’t forget to stop by for your own experience in healing with Kathy at the BaliSpirit Festival.

My pal Bob Supernant will also be there with his special energy pyramid. Here we are sitting in it.

It creates a vortex of energy that can be quite powerful. Hold tight to that seat. We know Ubud is all about finding yourself, but you wouldn’t want to find yourself and then get all lost again. In the void.

This morning in fact we all wondered what it would be like to combine the power of this pyramid with the wonders of the Trinfinity8 machine, but Kathy forgot the crystals, so we’re going to have to experiment properly on Saturday. I’ll let you know how it goes.

If you’re in Ubud, you’ll also have the chance to experience all this yourself at the BaliSpirit Festival. I’ll be blogging the awesomeness officially as it commences so if you’re into all this craziness, don’t forget to check out the official blog. Trinfinity and beyond!

Everything that’s wrong in the world, in one article…

20 Mar

I just love The Daily Mail. It’s my guilty pleasure. Especially the column on the right which is filled with mindless drivel, like chewing gum for the brain. Tasteless, dirty chewing gum you know you shouldn’t touch, like the stuff you might find stuck under a plastic seat on a bus.

THIS piece of nasty gum comes in the form of a story about a celebrity called Danielle Lloyd, who once had a boob job. I’m not entirely sure if she was a celebrity before she had a boob job, or whether she had a boob job in order to become a celebrity but either way, it’s tiresome to think about. I actually just felt a tiny piece of my lifespan and soul fall away just by typing that sentence. I can only imagine how the journalist must have felt after penning the entire story, particularly this part:

“Adjusting to her new size, Lloyd admitted she doesn’t want big breasts again, but is considering having reconstruction with a small implant to fill out the skin. She told Heat: ‘Having small breasts has shown me that I don’t need big ones.'”


Of course, it takes a pair of exploding implants to really see… really grasp the notion that natural boobs of all sizes might just be better than fake silicon mounds of alien matter pressed against your chest like ticking time bombs. She really is so wise.

We have Nelson Mandela:

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

We have Confucius:

“What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.”

And we have Danielle Lloyd:

“Having small breasts has shown me that I don’t need big ones.”

Nowhere in this excellent piece of prize-worthy journalism has anyone mentioned the poor child in the foreground of this photo, clearly distraught with the shame of having to float in a humiliating inflatable duck at close range to his mum’s not-so-inflatable boobs. They burst you see. Her fake boobs actually burst in a pool of blood, so she had to get them taken off. And now she’s on holiday in the Canary Islands getting over the whole (self-inflicted) ordeal in a $169 black Beach Bunny bikini with Moroccan gold coin details.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. WRONG.

Sigh. God, I love the Daily Mail.

Gecko ‘Mule Jewel’ now on my wrist…

20 Mar

LOOK! I finally got my bracelet back from Kerobokan Prison and the guys on the silversmith program did an awesome job! I asked them to make me a gecko like the one who used to live behind the painting in my old villa (more about him in the book 😉 and I think they captured him quite perfectly… although the real Monet didn’t have quite so many holes in him.

The Mule Jewels line of jewelry is all crafted inside Kerobokan Prison and the program currently gives eight prisoners the chance to work full time jobs and hone a whole new set of skills as they serve their sentences. I went along a while back with the lovely lady who runs the program, Joanna Witt, who started the venture in 2010. It’s really amazing what they do all day, and how much confidence they’re building from doing something so creative and constructive.

Si Yi (who’s in Kerobokan Prison because of his part in the Bali 9 drug ring) practices Taoism and as such, every piece he makes has a specific meaning. He wants to carry on working with silver when he gets out of prison, which I think you’d agree, having seen this bracelet, would be a brilliant move. He’d probably do very well.

If you’re coming to Bali you should definitely check out the Mule Jewels range in Ubud’s Studio Perak stores. There’s also one on Gili Trawangan. All proceeds go back into the program and thus help these guys to have a better time of things inside the prison. They use the money to buy nice food so they don’t have to eat the nasty stuff they’re served.

Oh and you can read more about my time in the prison and with the lovely Joanna and Si Yi (and Monet the gecko) in my book ‘There’s Something About Bali’, in October.

It’s my blog and I’ll plug if I want to.

Off out to show off Monet…


All bark and a bit of a bite…

19 Mar

So last night I was walking home from town, and admittedly I may have had one or three glasses of fine Hatten wine, but somewhere on Jl Sugriwa in Ubud I was bitten by a dog! HOLY SHIZ, it was scary. Jl Sugriwa is a very dark street at night because there are hardly any streetlights… there are a lot of streets like that in Ubud.

Thank God for the wonderful Nyoman at Sandat homestay, who upon seeing me crash back into the gardens at midnight with toothmarks in my right calf, promptly showered the wound in arak and some other other potent-smelling spirits, and squeezed the blood out from the surrounding area to stop any infection spreading (that’s what all that bruising is!)

First thing this morning Wayan, his son, took me to the local clinic, where I waited only 20 minutes before being given two injections. One was the first of three jabs in a course of treatment I’ll have to have over the next two weeks, and one was an imuneglubulin (umm, not really sure what that is).

Anyway I’m so grateful to these people, as well as the people who wrote to me on Facebook about the seriousness of getting a rabies jab. I was reluctant to go at first because I read online about some tourists having to pay $2500 for the treatment at other non-government-funded clinics. I only paid RP 150,000 (about $14), probably because I went with a local and he explained I didn’t have travel insurance (I know, stupid, it recently expired).

Obviously there are hundreds of dogs roaming the streets of Bali and they’re a different breed of beast altogether once night falls. By day they’re quite content to laze about snoozing, maybe raising the odd eyebrow as you pass like many of their owners, but once the moon comes out to play the streets are a battlefield between man (or tipsy tourist) and beast. I used to live on another street which was home to a pack of dogs that would chase me and bark, but I’ve never actually been bitten before. I’ve never met anyone who’s been bitten by a dog actually. A few monkeys maybe…

I’ve since moved.

Oh, and I’m really grateful to BAWA, (Bali Animal Welfare Association) who continue to do an amazing job in vaccinating stray dogs against rabies in Bali. Cases of the fatal disease in humans have reduced dramatically over the past year alone. Knowing about the work they’re doing made me a little less concerned about foaming at the mouth, keeling over and having to be put down myself.

Due to the rabies outbreak in late 2008, a law was put in place to state that all dogs in Bali must be chained, caged or killed. However, in spite of BAWA’s tireless efforts and the vaccination of more than 275,000 dogs, there has still been a disappointing lack of effort by the Balinese community or government to educate people in animal welfare or responsible pet ownership.Let the toothmarks in my right leg be a warning to everyone who visits Bali. Those dogs are just doing their job, but they’re not all bark and no bite. Get those jabs before you come!

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