Aum Swastyastu ... Welcome to the Stranger in Paradise

(Published in the NOW! Bali Magazine, November 2009)



John Hardy at his Green School.

King of Bamboo John Hardy


CynthiaHardy.

In the early 1970s my old chum John Darling and I would frequently end up at John and Penny Hardy’s house, in Adurs Losmen near Ubud.
John and Penny made jewellery and I wasn’t really interested: I was a beefy redhead with ugly ear lobes, and sun-damaged hands.
Over the decades—as we all got busy—I lost touch with John and Penny and, decades later, did not quite acknowledge the emergence of John and Cynthia as a force to be reckoned with in the international jewellery world! To me it was just the same old John with a new vivacious blonde and lots of money, which made us all envious and suspicious.
In the 1990s I sort of knew that John was thick with the Giant Egg Woman (Bali’s legendary Herbal Suffragette and Queen of Bamboo); and that his manager was a bit of a wooss. He had rented my old Sayan home and gutted the Haute Bohemian Shabby Chic interiors in favour of the orange and grey KLM fertility clinic look and I also noticed that John and Cynthia were getting a lot of press.
Suddenly they, not us, were the most famous expats on the island—according to The New York Times, and well-heeled matrons in Fart Louderdale and Gstaad. The Hardy’s house—a master piece of rustic elegance by Cheong Yew Kuan—was featured in Architectural Digest (photographed by Tim Street-Porter, no less) and there were lavish candle shops and copyright battles playing out on the front pages of the Bali Post. Soon I heard that they had sold the business and were very, very rich.
Shortly after that I registered that a huge ad for their Green School had appeared at the entry to the Immigration Hall at Denpasar Airport; to my delicate sensibilities the very stylish ad screamed white supremacist hill tribe-expat.
In fact the ad was harmless enough—blonde kiddies on a magnificent bamboo bridge suspended over an idyllic river valley—but to me it seemed to represent the thin end of the wedge: Madison Avenue-style marketing campaigns for luxury expat lifestyles were impacting on arrivees to the island of the gods!
I seem to recall that I wrote something about my feelings at the time, in this diary, and then bumped into John and the ever-radiant Cynthia at a wedding some weeks later.
I told them that the children of many friends of mine were going to the Green School and were loving it.
John was genuinely thrilled and asked me to come and see the result of his labours, the Green School,  which I did last month. The visit was a revelation.

•     •     •

He was waiting for me at the PT. Bamboo gates like a Labrador puppy: my strassen panzer limo—recently reinforced to contain my expanding ego—was allowed park in the hallowed ground between the Bromide soaking pits and the architects’ studio.
I got the full tour of P.T. Bamboo which was just the back of the house, and I was already gob-smacked: it was as if everything we, as young idealistic architecture students at Sydney University, had dreamed of in the late 1960s, but were too stoned to do, was realized here, fully developed and refined.
There were spirally structures made of bamboo and ingenious sliced bamboo balustrade sections and intricate models for projects in the Seychelles, Sumatra and Seattle.
From the vast buzzing P.T. Bamboo compound I was led through the 30 hectares of organic gardens, bamboo marvels, staff compounds, whirlpool generators, classrooms, cricket pitches and nurseries with imported bamboos.
There was even a bamboo bust shrine to the project’s original architect Aldo Peter Landwehr who died tragically in a road accident in Bali earlier this year.
Amongst Hardy’s brilliant ideas: recycling car windshields as skylights for thatched roofs; donating ‘saplings’ of super-strains of South American bamboo to 1000 local farmers; harnessing the river to generate enough power for the school; making air-conditioned ‘pods’ within the otherwise open pavilion classrooms, for humid days; putting security in colourful Jurassic Park-style uniforms; having Cynthia frolic and gambol on the sprout patch at sunset.

6th September 2009: “LITTLE PERTH”, South of the Hard Rock Hotel on Kuta Beach
The shady grove of Ketapang trees which fronts the beach , near the Kuta Cremation Ground, south of the Hard Rock Hotel and Surf Life Saving Club has grown, over the last decade of Ozzie Oik tourist expansion, into a Mecca for the mani-pedi-challenged, beer-swilling, chain-smoking, sun-baking Tasmanian and Perth elite. I discovered there yesterday such gatherings of my countrymen and women in their sensual beachwear, in such magnitudes, that the entire beach massage stand-over lady, souvenir hawker and pizza deliver Delta Force diaspora of South Kuta had to be mobilized to meet their every need. Each had his/her own folding beach chair plastic drink crate coffee table and bamboo ashtray; stubby-holders came with the beers, delivered by hefty manicurist-extortionists with healthy real estate portfolios and cased of repro sunglasses. The food stalls nearby sold the best ‘Satay Madura’ and ‘Be Tutu Ayam’ etc. on simple tables in the sand.
Heaven and Bliss.
For supply meets demand it beats every Galleria, six-star hotel or Culture Park hands down.

7th September 2009: Obituary for Hugo Jereissati who died today
“Do you know Huginho” was the mating call of the true Eurotrash during the three decades since Brazilian aesthete Hugo Jereissati moved to Bali in 1979. But he was so much more than the “point man for the jetsetters.” He loved the Balinese with a passion and was a great supporter of Balinese dance and the arts. His various Balinese homes in Sanur and Iseh were always temples of high Balinese-Colonial style. He was as interested in securing good wives for his Balinese houseboys as he was in finding good husbands for the Miller girls; he was as kind and courteous to my mother, Mavis, over the years, as he was to the real princesses he collected. In the 1980s he hosted and organized the best Silly Season parties ever, and it must be said that August in fashionable Batujimbar is just not the same since Hugo went into semi-retirement, with health problems, five years ago.
He invented the John Lobb tartan shoe bag as gentleman’s kit pouch, the magic mushroom birthday cake surprise, the west Batujimbar tradition of having ancient Javanese retainers slip on ones’ bedroom slippers at ‘reveller’. (Sir Henry Rawlinson would have blushed); he decreed  that Bombay (Mumbai) bloomers with  Sumba blanket sash were de rigueur as ceremonial dress for male Batujimbarites and wannabes at Balinese adat functions; he was a special adviser to Adrian Zecha on matters Almanac de Gotha; he owned Sanur Beach between Donald Friend’s house and the Tanjung Sari hotel, between 17.30 hrs and sunset; he made Café Batujimbar the in spot in its early days; he went only once to Graham Robertson’s museum after the coal baron ruined the Donald Friend Estate; he coined the phrase “Pop Ibunda” for Jakarta socialite Cecile Papadimitriou; he launched Linda Garland and Amir Rabik’s boys, Karim and Arief, in Venice, Havana, Rio, Rome, Paris, London, New York (not that they needed any more launching); he once went to East Java on the antiquities trail with this writer and Stephen Little and never once lost his block.


Tatie Waworuntu and bodyguard at Maria Grazia’s legendary Roman Holiday Party, Batujimbar, 1980

Actress Jennifer Claire makes an offering to Hugo’s coffin

Arief Rabik lead’s Hugo’s coffin to the waiting hearse.

His mother and his best friend Julio Santo Domingo both died last year and his delicate heart took two blows that one imagines lead to his early demise. He died young but has inspired—with his wit and his enthusiasm for life—so many people younger than himself that his memory will live on in the hearts of his followers for a long, long time.

8th September 2009: To Puri Mandala Palace, Peliatan for the royal cremation of A.A. Niang Nodya, wife of the late great ‘Gung Kak’, and mother of famed dancer Gung Bagus
The Mandala Palace—famous for its legong dance troupes which have toured abroad since 1930s—is today holding a royal cremation for the palace matriarch who died peacefully some months ago.


Superstar ‘Agung Bagus’ and the famous Puri Mandala bleganjur marching band on the street, in the procession, on the day of his mother’s funeral.

At this morning’s pre-cremation gathering, old friend Ibu Siti is very much front and centre, with other Ex-Diva-Legong Grannies.
Gung Bagus, the Beau Brummel of Balinese menswear, looks splendid today, with a white gardenia in his turban, ala Billy Holiday.  The cremation procession is a gorgeous, intimate, musical affair (costumes by Adrian) with a loving re-union atmosphere.

9th September 2009: The mass for Hugo Jerressiati at his cremation at Mumbul Cemetery is very well-attended
The saddest and most moving moment at dear Hugo’s cremation is when his number one boy, Dewa, felt the face of his corpse, for ages, as it lay in state at the altar.
At the oven doors—after the corpse had been consigned and the white rose cross leant against the oven doors—all of Hugo’s elite Balinese men-at-arms prayed, most devoutly, for the swift passage of his soul to the other side.
Selamat Jalan, Beli Bagus!

10th September 2009: Celebrity offspring wedding in the peninsula: Arif Rabik marries Jo Bovill in a cliff-side ceremony
Many many years ago an Irish wonder-woman decanter-armed in Bali and was soon on the back of the motor-bike of famed Legian Lothario, Autralian painter Ian Van Wieringen.
I met her on Van’s bike, on that big turn half way down Jalan Oberoi, once a rice padi respite ten miles from anywhere now the centre of Bali’s answer to Ibiza. We became fast friends as we were both fiery redheads with decorator pretensions.
Over the years Linda invented the bamboo sofa, the carved fruit bread board, the beaded poove and became Queen of Bamboo, Giant Egg Woman (for services to single motherhood) and Herbal Suffragette. Together we did the David Bowie house in Mustique ……and I even held her 40th birthday party a few short years ago, at my little hotel in Sayan—the Taman Bebek.


Bride Jo Bovill and her father

Groom Arief Rabik and his best men

Murni lights up the bukit.

But for most of the last ten years we have enjoyed a playful feud in the pages of this column (it happens with big egos on small islands).
Her first husband, Amir Rabik—father of her children, Karim and Arif—is also an old and dear friend whose present wife Murni is a firebrand Batak (Sumatran) singer. Today Arif is to be married to his childhood sweetheart, a day after the funeral of his godfather Hugo Jereissati. The sorrow of the past few days is neatly swept away by the joyousness of the Cliffside assembly. All manner of axes are buried!


Parents of the groom Linda Garland and Amir Rabik, Hon. Spanish Consul (Inset: Linda and Amir in 1979)

•     •     •

After the exchanging of vows—Linda’s Medical Evacuation Consultant officiating—the band kicks into action and Murni lights up the bukit peninsula with her amazing voice and personality.


21st September 2009:
Mighty Brahman Bash in Sanur. Ordination (padiksaan) of Ida Bagus Tjethana Putra & A. A. A. Rai Roosiawati at Geria Gede Keniten, Banjar Pekandelan, Sanur Kaja includes an exquisite medley of purification rites and processions.



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