Friday, 30 July 2010

"Salad Days"

I seem to have found yet another thing to fail spectacularly at.  Managing staff.  Clearly I'm not cut out for a life of luxury  - which the husband thinks is a good thing...given that he has no intention of providing me with such.

We currently have three staff.  The gardener is a lovely boy who speaks barely a word of English but can often be found procuring 'life savers' for Dumps (ie. long thin sticks masquerading as Star Wars weapons).  He and I have little to do with each other except when I accidentally catch him in his underpants having a shower in the garden shed. 

Kadek our pembantu is still with us, and looks as though she will be for the duration, for the simple reason that we appear unable to let her go.  The husband won't do the dirty deed and nor will I, so despite being overstaffed, we continue to have her come everyday, make french toast, and play 'monster' with the Dumps.  With not a whole lot else for her to do, she is at least not afraid of getting her hands dirty (quite literally) and thus I suppose is useful to have around when Dumps decides he can't be bothered to use the lavatory. 

Nyoman the full-time cook and cleaner who came with this place is a force to be reckoned with.  She is one clever lady and having worked here for three years, this is clearly her turf and we are mere interlopers.  She is nice enough but not exactly the 'mucking in' sort. As far as I can tell, she's rather handy with a broom, makes our beds and transports giant water refill containers for us back here on her scooter...but sweet little else.  Sorry, that's not true.  She makes killer salads.  

But honestly, sometimes the husband and I feel swamped by staff. When the monsters are at school there are sometimes three workers here, stumbling about, in the way, keeping this place from feeling like our own private hideaway.  

I've fallen into the trap of doing everything myself - simply because I have exacting high standards.  Which means that I'm often in the uncomfortable position of having to sneak around and 're-do' things so as not to offend.  That is for example how I found myself creeping back into the kitchen this afternoon and remaking a coffee which Kadek had earlier prepared for me.  She had put what tasted like 17 teaspoons of sugar in it,  and had delivered this sickly sweet beverage lukewarm on account of all the excessive milk.  Oh well, suppose it's a step up from last weeks coffee which was made by adding warm tap water to our expensive coffee grinds while I looked on in astonishment.

But nothing has been quite as amusing as watching the husband play at being Jamie Oliver, chattering his way through an impromptu lesson with Nyoman the other day, on how to make a sandwich.  Trapped in the kitchen, she politely looked on as he assembled a rather decent cheese, onion and arugula sarnie for himself, no doubt hoping she'd pick up the skills to do it herself next time.  Despite him gamely keeping up a rather amusing commentary, mumbling on about the 'Earl of Sandwich' and other such nonsense, Nyoman remained unimpressed.  When the demonstration finished, she promptly turned her back to him and went back to making her salad.  I can almost guarantee that we shan't be seeing any sandwich making action pouring forth from our most reluctant of cooks.  Her only words were, 'Alan no eat sandwich'.  Okay then, that's us told.

So to those of you who might envy my life of pseudo luxury...believe me it's not all it's cut out to be.  Sure I get my  laundry done, but at the cost of losing treasured clothes each week and having other items replaced with inferior ones from anonymous strangers also unfortunate enough to be at the mercy of the same incompetent laundry service.  

And yes, I have a full-time pembantu to care for the children.  But the children want to hang with me, and more often than not Kadek can be found idly playing with her mobile phone down in the garden while the monsters run circles around me here upstairs, fighting over the remote control and clamouring to watch more Cartoon Network.

And I have a cleaner who cleans at a snails pace and not terribly thoroughly, so that her presence is required for eight painstaking hours each day, rendering privacy an impossible luxury.  As for the cooking part, thus far she has only proved herself capable (or should I say willing?) of preparing salads...and at my current ingestion rate of one huge salad a day I reckon I'm going to hit my threshold rather soon.

Be careful what you wish for they say. Well once upon a time I wished for help.  I fantasised about not having to lift a finger to clean, cook or do childcare.  Lo and behold I got what I wished for and now I wish I could be more of a commanding presence.  Someone who inspires hard work and respect in their employees.  Someone like 'Sir Alan' on The Apprentice who has the courage to say, "It is with deep regret that I must inform you...YOU ARE FIRED."

Yeah right.  I'll just go slink off and eat my salad.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

"Pull My Teeth Out Then Run Me Over...See If I Care"

This morning on my run I got knocked down by an old man on a scooter.  What the _____?!

Once again, is this divine intervention?...a warning that I should put down the Adidas trainers, retire the running bra top (it is SO ready for retirement....barely hanging together by threads), and lie back and assume the bon-bon eating position?

If it's not dogs it's OAP's on two-wheelers.  And it wasn't like I was on top form this morning.  Yesterday I endured 2.5 hours of dental surgery (don't ask - these things ALWAYS happen to me) that went horribly wrong halfway through.

The first sign was when the dentist jumped up swearing in Bahasa and the assistants all started fretting and gathering around wringing their hands.

Turns out she inserted my crown with permanent cement, on the wrong angle.  What ensued was straight out of a horror flick, with her climbing up on my seat for leverage and whacking my jaw repeatedly with a big steel instrument in an attempt to dislodge it.

Then of course, when miraculously she managed, she spent the next half hour trying to get bits of the cement remains out of my live head reeling in horror with each traumatic twinge.  I wanted to die it hurt so badly, and I begged her for more needles as I could feel everything.

A dozen injections later, i kid you not, the procedure was finished.  Well sort of.  I need to go back in a few days for damage maintenance.  Great.

So you see, in light of yesterdays dental trauma, I suppose getting run over by a scooter doesn't really rate so highly.

But it's still a damn rotten way to start the day (sigh).

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

"Oh Sod It...It's Raining Again"

One of the drawbacks of living in an 'inside-out jungle penthouse' (as I've come to think of our newest abode) is that when it's raining, you have to brave torrential showers to use the toilet or brush your teeth.  In theory, the idea of an open-ceiling bathroom is divine (hey no smells!), but the reality, during rainy season, is not so great.

It's been raining almost solidly for three straight days now.  Don't get me wrong - I adore the rain - especially when I'm tucked up somewhere cozy and warm.

Last night falling asleep it was so cozy to lie in bed, listening to the rain pouring down outside, and know that we were all safe and cozy and warm.  Until Dumps got up in the middle of the night and said, "I have to go pee pee!"

Urgh.  Nightmare.  Bless the husband, he took care of that one.  But I'll tell you what - it makes me yearn for our en suite.

Still, things ticking along nicely here.  Saying that, as the husband reminded me today, we do have almost a 1:1 ratio of guests to staff here, so we should bloody well be enjoying things.  You see we've decided to keep Kadek our Pembantu...despite the fact that she'd rather work for our friend.  But given that our friend is leaving the country tomorrow that's so not going to happen, so perhaps Kadek's just resigned to her fate and decided that she'd rather chase after Egg and Dumpie everyday, than be at her mother-in-law's beck and call back at home.

She's got her hands full with Eggie too, as he's now obsessed with spiders, and here in the tropics they are big hairy-legged things - not just your average garden variety English ones.  She is forever having to pick them up and toss them out after Eggie accidentally suffocates them in one of my Tupperware containers - and if not that then she's being dispatched to spider hunt for him.

So the rain continues to pour, and I've got the children running excitedly around the place with Ritz crackers clutched in their little hands.  The cook/cleaner and Pembantu have all left for the day, so I have two hours of proper hardcore 'mothering' to do until bedtime.  The thing is, having so much 'help' has rendered the husband and somewhat useless as of late.  Our pavlovian response to nearly any scream or  child emergency is, "Go ask Kadek".  What's going to happen when there is no more Kadek??

Oh well, there's always the Cartoon Network.  

Friday, 23 July 2010

"Back On Track...Life In A Jungle Penthouse"

Just when you think things aren’t going your way, you run into a bit of luck and it puts a whole new shiny perspective on what was formerly a weary worldview.

Take our new digs for instance.  There we were, glumly on display 24/7 through our all-window house, dodging nasty looks from Ms. Putu, dealing with Yoga Lady and her mad construction project, and trying to keep the monsters from snapping anymore orchids or whipping anymore objects into the pool.  We felt hounded, exposed, and summarily pissed off at the way we’d been unceremoniously made homeless.

So when we fortuitously happened upon an ad on a notice board outside a popular cafĂ©, who was to know that it would signal an about face in our recent bad luck stakes…?  For soon afterwards, we found ourselves being ‘interviewed’ (I kid you not) by an older gay man, an artiste, who spent an hour or so mentally measuring us on the damage limitation scale in order to ascertain just how detrimental it would be to allow us to sublet his beloved home for the next few months.

So dazzled must he have been by the husbands good looks and personable charm (my man, a gay-magnet if ever there was one) that he must have mentally blocked out the fact that we come complete with two monsters, of the male variety, ages 3 and 6. 

So no one was more surprised than we, to be sent a text message a few days later, informing us that we’d been successful in beating out the competition to secure a new, drop dead gorgeous home.  And now two days in, here we are, swanning about the place, still not entirely sure that it all – at least for the next while – belongs to us.

It’s a gorgeous, sprawling property set riverside, with loads of trees, the soothing sound of running water, and lots of grass and places for the boys to run and play.  Huge stone steps wind down on opposite sides toward the house, making one feel a bit like they’re in a remake of ‘Gone With The Wind’. 

There’s a large kitchen, two outside dining areas, a fish pond, a separate artists studio with paints, easels and an extra daybed, and of course the main house with its spacious double-level ‘jungle penthouse’ vibe.

Our bed is honeymoon-esque, has a fabulous mattress and is make from antique wood.  We have satellite television, a huge wooden desk, tons of original artwork and a gigantic indoor/outdoor bathroom.  There’s even four giant stone columns with overhanging greenery and wrought iron chairs for when you feel a bit of the poet thing coming on and want an exquisite setting from which to write love sonnets or whatever.

This place is so achingly pretty, private and serene, that the husband and I are already hatching plans to stay here as long as we possibly can.  Why would we leave?  This is easily the nicest place we’ve ever lived in, and did I mention it comes complete with a gardener, full-time cook and cleaner? 

This morning as I sat perched upstairs on a huge sofa looking out through the treetops and having a Mary Poppins moment as the birds chirped and sang sweetly around me, I marvelled at how one minute you can be totally nonplussed about life, and then the next, be feeling utterly blessed and grateful.

Then of course Dumpie started wailing and came running upstairs naked, having undressed himself because he didn’t like his outfit and wanted me to choose a new one.

And Egg came upstairs whining that he didn’t like chocolate wafers anymore and insisted I remake him a better snack for school or he’d refuse to eat it.

So I sighed, got up and headed downstairs, happily cushioned from the cacophony of disgruntled little people.

I am in heaven…and here I’m going to stay…for at least a little while – or until we get kicked out again.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

"Driving Miss the Mall"

I am so shallow.  

Here I am in paradise, with the most beautiful scenery you can imagine, and a million and one outdoor pursuits.  But when my English girlfriend mentioned the other day that she and her husband and little girl were planning a shopping trip to a mall down south, I started mentally hyperventilating.

A mall!  Shopping!  Places that take credit cards and sell proper clothes!

Bring.  It.  On.

And when she mentioned that rumour had it that there was a Topshop AND a Marks & Spencers – well, nothing short of death was going to keep me from securing a place in that jeep.

Can you tell I’ve been fashion deprived for many months?  As for M&S, I was prematurely salivating over the Percy Pigs and Chocolate Jaffa Cakes I was going to buy, until I found out that it was sans food court.  Oh well.  (Afraid I have to give M&S a big miss on the fashion stakes…a bit too ‘office-blockish’ for me – though they are the undisputed Knicker Kings of the high street)

One could see that the husband was visibly disgusted with the level of glee on display, and as I roared off in my friends jeep, I could see him shaking his head in puzzlement, wondering how on earth he managed to hook up with a chick who would choose to go to a mall of all places, in a tropical paradise.   I know he wonders why I can’t muster up as much enthusiasm for cycling.

Three reasons: 

1.  cycling shorts (vile, vile and vile)

2.  crotch debilitating bike seats (no one has a bum that small - not even Kate Moss)

3.  hills (nuff said)

But I digress.  Once inside the mall, with a quick double scoop of mint choc chip and cookies ‘n cream ice-cream for fortification (hey, a gal needs energy for a proper mall blitz) my friend and I took off like racehorses – armed only with credit cards and huge grins - oh, and there was of course the small matter of her little three year old girl.

As it turns out the little girl came in handy.  At one point she pointed out the ridiculousness of a top I was contemplating, saying “I don’t think you should buy that – it hangs funny.”  And you know what?  She was right!

Having left around midday, you could tell the husband was none too impressed when he rang around 6:30pm, catching me half naked in a La Senza fitting room.  He wanted to know what he should do for the monsters dinner.

“Umm...just feed them?” I said, ringing off abruptly as I had far more pressing things on my mind – like trying to wrestle myself out of a too tiny pair of bikini bottoms.

Several purchases later (hey – it was all on sale!  Okay, well mostly…) we all returned to the car, tired out in the most delicious way that only several carrier bags can attest to.

Driving home I marvelled at how my friends' husband not only didn’t mind the five hours spent at the mall – but actually seemed to enjoy himself.  I was green with envy.

The husband hates malls.  He hates shopping.  He hates ME when I go shopping.  We can never go out shopping together.  Every time I foolishly bully him into it, we end up in huge rows forcing me to try and sneak off on my own so that I don’t have to suffer the embarrassment of a pissy man snarling “Hurry up let’s go!” outside the changing room.

No wonder that in recent years I’ve turned to online shopping as a more practical way to indulge.  You still get the high but you use the money you save on ‘Relate’ for even more pairs of skinny jeans you don’t need.

At any rate, what did my sojourn to the Bali Mall teach me?

Well, mostly it confirmed that although I can totally ‘do’ island life…living simply in the same clothes for days on end, grow nasty accidental dreads and play at being Robinson Crusoe...

The simple fact of the matter is that you can take the girl out of the mall…but you simply can’t take the mall out of the girl.

Monday, 19 July 2010

"Open Wide and Say...Ouch!"

Both Eggie and I have had the (dis)pleasure of a recent dental visit here in Bali:

Egg because his tooth started hurting and needed a filling - and me because a piece of my back tooth recently broke off when biting into a delicious (tasty that is) apple.

Asking around it appeared we had two options.

Option 1:  'Doctor Gigi'...a little white sign on a tiny dirt road up a dark alleyway indicates that if one were to follow the dubious looking path, one might very well reach some sort of dental 'surgery' (and i use that term losely) at the end of it.  What bothers me is its' proximity to the big dirty livestock market and the fact that such an establishment may well cater for pigs as well as people, so I cannot take the risk - even if it were to cost pennies.

Option 2:  "The Sayan Aesthetic Institute"...attached to an uber-posh hotel (so far so good) this place boasts cosmetic dentistry, liposuction and botox as one of the many treats on offer.  So after a routine dental visit one could presumably lose ones muffin top, decrease their facial wrinkle to smile ratio AND get a full new set of pearly whites...if one so desired.

There was no hesitation.  Off to the 'Institute' Egg and I went.

The first difference I noted (from a typical London practice that is), was the absence of any muttering old ladies with loose dentures taking up the best seats in the waiting room.  Also, I wasn't made to wait for nearly an hour because the dentist was running late.

Instead, I was ushered in to a lovely waiting area, where three helpful staff were on hand to answer all my questions (in a courteous fashion I might add) - which made a welcome change from the typical insolent chewing-gum-smacking-school-leaver glued to the phone, who often doubles as a 'receptionist' in the more unfortunate dental practices I've had the displeasure to visit in London.

The dentist herself was lovely, soft spoken and oh so gentle.  When I say gentle, I mean the kind of kid glove handling that you'd have to pay thousands for in London.  It was the first injection I've ever had where I could barely feel it.  You know why?  Because instead of jabbing the needle into someones mouth and shooting the painful medicine straight in while the patient tears out a piece of the armrest in agony, the dentist took her sweet old time - and what a difference!

Seriously.  It wasn't pleasant, but nor did it hurt.  She first numbed the area with gel, then slowly, slowly injected me with such skill and finesse that I barely noticed what was going on (to be fair, I had my eyes squeezed shut and was listening to 'The Big Pink' on full volume...but still)

All this to say, I could get used to this level of service.  I really could. And to top it all off, the cost of treatment is roughly half of what you'd pay in Europe.

Hmmm.....kind of makes the whole idea of getting a superstar smile rather tempting.

And hey - while I'm at it I suppose I could go for a whole face and body overhaul.

Then I could look like one of those queer specimens with slightly too-white tombstone teeth, a frozen grin and a suspiciously lithe bikini body where previously there lived some extraneous flesh.

Though who am I kidding?  Being a hardcore needle phobic, the chances of me altering myself medically (unless it were to be the installation of an under-the-skin cappuccino patch) are nil.

The husband need not worry.  No chance that I'll drain our savings account by 'getting a little work' done on the off chance he's late to pick me up after my appointment.

Which happened today incidentally.  Except the husband was in a soundproofed music studio with a few mates, making like Jimmy Hendrix on drums and bass, while I stood tragically at the reception desk afterward, mouth numbed and slobbering like idiot, trying to get them to ring a taxi for me.

Only thing was, I couldn't explain where I lived (I possess very little sense of direction) and couldn't recall our exact address.  Add to this the physical limitations of having both sides of your mouth AND your tongue frozen, and the resulting inability to form any vowels whatsoever, and you have a pretty good picture of the level of tragi-comedy which ensued.

The attentive staff were arguing amongst themselves in local dialect about which of them would have to put the slobbering 'Bule' (Westerner) on the back of their scooter and attempt a hopeless exercise in navigation with a girl who clearly had no clue, when I suddenly remembered that my girlfriend was meant to be driving around in the area.

The palpable sighs of relief when I explained that I would no longer need a ride, made me love them all over again.

Now imagine that sort of service in London...

Saturday, 17 July 2010

"The Frocky Horror Picture Show"

It's amazing what an extra strength latte, a few hours away from everyone, and some retail therapy can do to calm the nerves and alleviate a vile mood.

This morning I woke up to rain.  That's okay.  I love to run in light rain. It's invigorating. It means the hot sun is not beating down on me in a debilitating fashion, and as a bonus I can pretend that I'm a super athlete who simply 'must run' regardless of the weather.

After my run I had a swim. This was also good.  Considering that we're moving in less than a week (where to - is anyones guess) I am savouring every last bit of swimming pool action.

However, as I sat down in front of my laptop, a bowl of contraband granola cereal on my lap (more on that later), ready to properly begin my day, the most godawful banging began directly beside us.

Turns out Yoga Lady does not want to live in a hovel for the next five months, so she has press ganged the evil landlady Ms. Putu into refurbishing her little villa.  Given that hired help can be had for as little as $3/day, it is no wonder Ms. Putu has acquiesed - if merely to appease the only person crazy enough to rent her former digs for a long lease in its current downtrodden state.

Given that Yoga Lady claims Interior Design credentials and Feng Shui expertise,  Ms. Putu no doubt assumes she's coming out on top here, and she may well be, as long as she makes allowance for the fact that Yoga Lady is stark bonkers raving mad.  Should be interesting.  Might be worth a pop round in a few weeks to see the state of play - strictly for entertainment value mind.

At any rate, workmen spent most of the day today knocking down the interior walls.  After one minute the husband got up and started pacing in an agitated fashion.  After two minutes he suggested we move out early.  After five minutes I began to construct mental fantasies whereby I was stringing up Yoga Lady by her neon pink tights over a swarming mass of giant rats, trying to gnaw at her idiotic wide brimmed Alice In Wonderland straw hat as she grinned manically saying, "This will be just perfect for my chapter on Rodents!"

Anyway, with the husband and I seconds away from losing the plot, we did what any self-respecting parents would do and left the monsters in Kadek's care with a box of oreos, instructions to swim, and took off on the scooter to our favourite cafe where we consoled ourselves with overpriced but delicious fresh mango juice and some desperately needed peace and quiet.

Later I slipped away, taking a stroll down some pretty lanes, tried on some pretty dresses, bought one of them, and continued on to another cafe where I whiled away a good hour playing around with new song lyrics, sipping a latte and people watching.  It was wonderful.

When the husband picked me up on the way back, he was also in a stellar mood, and this continued until we got home and realised we'd neglected to get the children any treats.

All they wanted was granola.  The husband has outlawed granola on account of the severe addiction they have for it.  And on account of it costing a wallet numbing $7 a bag.  Last week when we caved in and bought some, they each had six bowls in a row, polishing off the entire packet in one go.  So the other day I sneakily bought myself some and have now resorted to hiding it in my big wardrobe where they will hopefully not find it.  The husband gets a little bowl now and then when he's nice to me.

At any rate, the lesson I learned today is that there is nothing that a pretty, perfectly fitting frock can't do to restore sanity to a rat-addled, hammered-to-distress mind.

Friday, 16 July 2010

"Nothing Like A Bit Of A Shop To Put Things Right..."

I wonder if the universe is trying to tell me something....something like,

"Ok, you've had a great time here in Paradise, now bugger off and let someone else have a go."

I say this because this morning on my run, I was chased and almost attacked by a whole coterie of dogs.  I noticed three other runners on the road, none of whom were so much as sniffed at, but when I passed...MENTAL!

Luckily there was a machete-clad villager on hand to take pity on me and call the pack off, but still...why me?  Why do dogs in every single country I visit feel the innate urge to tear a chunk out of me?  I don't get it...

Perhaps it's time I turned my attention away from the pursuit of 'perfect pins' to something more dunno...single-handedly supporting the local tailors by commissioning a load of new clothes which in principle will be amazing, but in reality leave me looking like I've been in a charity shop massacre.

It's been awhile since I terrorised any local tailors - the most recent in memory being back in Goa when I almost made a grown man cry over the prolonged and seemingly endless alterations required to outfit me successfully in a black leather mini skirt.   (Long-standing blog devotees will recall this incident from a few years back...)

('Black leather mini skirt?!' I hear you cry...'What the ____?!'  Yeah, fair enough...don't know what I was thinking, but I still have it and damnit I'm going to wear it one day - no really I am.)

Anyway, the other day while the husband ducked into a used bookshop, I took a helmet-clad Dumps into a little store selling silk tops and dresses.  He immediately made himself at home, sitting cross-legged by my pile of bags on the floor, liberally helping himself to great chunks of banana bread whilst I attempted to fit tiny little silk things over my rather bulky outfit, thereby getting hopelessly stuck and requiring the assistance of the unimpressed sales girl to forcibly remove me from said fabric.

All the while Dumpie sat, instructing me through a mouth full of bread, to keep trying on more things, while he either approved or vetoed the various garments.  It was was like that scene in the Sex In The City Movie (the first one - the latest is vile), except instead of three fashionable friends, I had a 'mini-mate' egging me on.

In the end he forbade me from getting a bright blue minidress (he's right - what business have I in a bright blue minidress??), but implored me to purchase a lovely blue silk kimono top instead.  He clearly has refined taste - or maybe he just prefers his mother looking more like an elegant cocktail-toting glamazon as opposed to a crisp-scoffing slapper.  Fair enough.

At any rate, the real omen for me today was the traffic-dissected rat, innards splattered everywhere, which I had to avoid stepping on during my run.  I have Lady Gaga to thank for that, because if I hadn't been scowling at the stupid lyrics and daydreaming of how I would do it better, I might have been too caught up in my running music to notice, and would have likely had a Grade A Conniption - right there on the road - had my foot accidentally made contact with the bludgeoned and bloated body.

Oh, and did I mention that yesterday morning a rat nearly fell onto my head?  As the husband and I sat typing at the kitchen table, we heard the unmistakable sound of scuffling and I looked up just in time to see a giant rat scrambling for a beam, hanging on for dear life before righting itself and disappearing under the eaves.  I went offline for the rest of the morning due to shock.

Anyway, right now the universe seems to be telling me to shut the heck up, stop bothering poor readers with the trite annoyances that clutter up my everyday, and go find that chocolate I stashed the other day.

Eeew...chocolate and dead rat...'Fruit 'n Rat' Cadbury's...coming soon to a Sainsbury's near you...?

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

"The Yoga Lady, Mexican 'Kitty-Cats', and a Very Bad Viewing"

Last night Yoga Lady from next door wandered in and had a little chat before helping herself to some more movies from what is apparently a free dvd lending library I have, unbeknownst to myself, set up here in our front room.  My girlfriend who was over at the time was doing her best to maintain a serious expression whilst conversing with Yoga Lady, but almost lost it when she heard her describe herself as 'physically challenged'.

(Yoga Lady is challenged alright, but it would appear to be more in the mental and emotional realm, as opposed to whatever 'Chi'-depletion concerns she feels are at work...)

Kadek our pembantu was awfully glad to see my girlfriend, as she used to work for her and clearly prefers her old boss to her current one.  This was made infinitely clear when Kadek began an impromptu massage on my girlfriend here at the table.  When finished, as Kadek walked around the table towards me, I helpfully moved my hair aside so she could have a go on my neck.  Kadek just kept walking...towards the kitchen.

Oh well.

Any thoughts of having a disconsolate employee on our hands were soon tossed aside at dinner, where we had joined our friends at a nearby Mexican eatery.  Ordering was a quick and easy affair, once we ascertained that they were without any corn tortilla's - a mainstay of Mexican cuisine - thereby rendering three quarters of the menu redundant.

Two quesadillas and bean burritos later, we found ourselves the objects of scorn and derision from pretty much the entire restaurant, as Dumpie and the other three year old, got on their hands and knees and spent the next half hour making screeching cat noises and crawling frantically under and around the big wooden tables.

We took turns trying to catch them, but they were bloody fast and squirmy, and just as one was caught the other would break free with cries of delight and hurl themselves back onto the floor to begin the manic chasing game again, scraping their filthy knees in delight as we all eventually conceded defeat and pretended to studiously ignore our embarrassingly ill-mannered offspring.

At any rate, the highlight of our day had to be when an acquaintance of ours showed up to view our 'soon to be vacant' property.  Informing him that we were to be evicted, it was several minutes of cringeworthy fantastic-ness as we invited him to have a look around the place regardless, while he stood awkwardly at the door, shamefaced, not knowing how to proceed.  Like clockwork, the buzz of construction started up again, and over the noise, as he departed, we mouthed the words, "Rats" and his eyes widened as he waved hesitantly goodbye.  I don't think he'll be taking the place.

Funnily enough Yoga Lady doesn't mind the rats.  She told us that the current rat infestation has in fact inspired a chapter in her 'book' she's writing, called, originally, 'Rodent's'.  I've asked if I can read it when she's done.

Perhaps I can get a free copy of the book in exchange for a lifetime dvd rental membership...

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

"Chug-Chug-Chugging Along"

Last night after trying to squeeze myself into toothpick-like proportions in order to accommodate the current four-in-a-bed family sleeping scene, I awoke feeling none too rested.

The husband stared up glumly as I emerged from the bedroom, eyes pasted shut from the overzealous use of medicated eye-drops I'd made him squirt perhaps a touch too liberally into my aching eyes last night at bedtime.

I imagine I looked quite a picture - clad in my oversized neon pink t-shirt and a frown.

"Sleep well?" he asked out of habit, barely glancing up (who can blame him) as I shuffled past, in the direction of the stove and the espresso machine.

"Urghh" I muttered, same as I do everyday.

Egg bounded out past me, happy as always, looking like nothing so much as an oversized pretty bunny.  He needs a haircut.

A few moments later, Dumpie streaked past, naked as the day he was born, and flew into the other bedroom, slamming the door as he went.  Unlike Egg, he has clearly inherited the husbands' and my morning disposition.

When, a little while later, the husband reached for his bike pedometer about the same time as I made a lunge for my very worn running top, we realised we had a conundrum on our hands.

We both wanted to get in a bit of exercise before the school run - and even the previous night's indulgence in a Root Beer Float was not enough to sway things my way.

"Fine" I said, "Let's 'paper-scissor-stone'  for it" I gamely suggested.   When in doubt, this archaic symbol throwing hand game usually serves to help us decide on such issues as childcare, who has to clean Dumpie's dirty behind, who has to accompany one of the monsters to the toilet during a meal, etc.

We did.  He won.  Damn.

However when Egg got on his little trainers and stood bouncing up and down in excitement beside me, begging to go on a run with me, the husband gave in, and said I could go for my run if I took Egg.

Thirty minutes later Egg and I returned.  My heart rate stayed at pretty much resting rate throughout, as I'd not wanted to stretch Egg too much.  To that end, I'd done my usual circuit in such a ridiculously slow fashion as to have appeared a rather comical figure I imagine - bouncing vertically in a exaggerated up and down motion, tiny-stepping my way so as to let the little fella keep up (both physically and spirit-wise).

Nonetheless, it was not all in vain.  Egg has notified me of his plans to one day compete in the Olympics, and has declared his love for long distance running.  And this despite being forced for a few kilometres or so, to fall in directly behind a chug-chug-chugging 'Mama-Bear', on a narrow village road,  past rice paddies and barking dogs in the hot morning sun.  All in the name of parental bonding.

Ah...brings tears to the eye...almost.

Monday, 12 July 2010

"Down and Out in Bali"

They say that when life hands you lemons, you should make lemonade.  Well that's all good and well, but currently, we find ourselves being stretched to the limits of optimism and good humour.  

Turns out that we are soon to be homeless and unemployed.  Okay, to be fair, we've been unemployed for several months now - nothing new there.  But the homeless element lends our situation a somewhat tragic air, as our potential new place just fell through - oops.

So now with just eleven days and counting, we have had to consider the possibility that we have used up all the magic that Bali had allotted for our motley crue.

Here's the evidence:

1.  Our super-friendly, 'you're like my family' landlord Ms. Putu, has lied to us, spread rumours about why she's 'evicting us' prematurely to other residents of the compound, and is making the vibes round here tense and unsavoury to say the least.  Teetering past in her usual high heel/tight skirt combo several times a day, she actively ignores us and we she...

2. My former eye infection has returned with a vengeance, and has now spread to both eyes, causing serious discomfort - not to mention cloudy vision - not advisable when trying to dodge fresh doggie doo-doo, splattered frogs or tiny flower and incense offerings on my morning run.  A sidelong glance in the mirror reveals that I look like a crystal meth addict.  Not a good look.

3. My baby toe on the left foot remains severely sprained thanks to Dumpies outburst last week,  making walking difficult and painful.  I can now be recognised a street away by the old lady shuffle and gait thing i have going on.

4. A totally bonkers grey-haired yoga devotee has moved in next door with a burly balding German lad she met in a local cafe.  She is old enough to be his mother, hails from California and decided on Bali as a permanent home 'until cremation' (her exact words) even before she had ever set foot on the island.  She is a strong believer in 'Chi' and believes this place - despite its rat problem - will not only help 'heal' her but build up her dwindling reserves of 'Chi'.  She now feels comfortable enough to wander into our place when we're not here and avail herself of our dvds - a level of familiarity which both confounds and mildly distresses me.

5. We're continuing to lose a ridiculous amount of clothing from the local laundry.  My knicker supply has now dwindled to half of what it was, and poor Dumps has lost not one but both of his swimsuits.  He's taken to floating around in the pool in his tiny underpants and adidas shorts.

Anyway, the sun is shining, i've had the good fortune to be able to indulge in double my usual latte quota this morning, and however short the proverbial stick we seem to be drawing these days, our luck is bound to change...eventually.  And even if it doesn't, Bali is a sure sight better than monsoon-ridden Goa at the moment.

And hey - we have that crrrrrrazy road trip to Lombok to look forward to in a few weeks.  Sick bags aside, should be fun (I hope).

Friday, 9 July 2010

"Bunnies Beware-y"

I had to miss my morning run today on account of having a sprained toe.  How did I get this sprained toe you ask?  No, it wasn't a dark curse put on me by our increasingly antagonistic landlady, Ms. Putu...rather it was Dumpie, mid-temper tantrum, smashing a huge bottle of apple juice onto my unsuspecting toe beneath the table.

I screamed.  Kadek came running, assuming that 'Miss Natasha' had lost the plot and was going to go on a killing rampage (I might have - I certainly got close enough considering the pain of it).

Dumpie was put in a 'time out' in his bedroom, from which he kept escaping, and I sat at the dining table, wincing in pain and feeling sorry for myself.

Luckily, the day didn't shape up to be all bad.  We at least found somewhere to move to after we get turfed out of here two weeks today.  Handily, it's just up the road and is a lovely open-air jungle type house overlooking a ravine.  We shall literally feel like we're living in the tree tops.

The place comes complete with two adorable tiny bunny rabbits which are allowed to roam free during the day.  The boys will love them, and they are just enough chromosomes away from resembling rats or mice, so no problem there (unlike gerbils, guinea pigs or hamsters).

True, the husband and I are mildly concerned about the bunnies welfare at the hand of the monsters, but that's not going to stop us from taking the place.  Aside from being accidentally stepped on, tossed over the side of the open air lounge into the ravine below during an improvised and unsupervised ballgame , or meeting their misfortune in some other way (which only parents of little boys might be privy to), there's not a lot that could go wrong....right?

Thursday, 8 July 2010

"Two is Trouble...Four is More"

Our Australian friends left us to fly back to Sydney.  Egg is most unhappy about this.  It appears that he has developed his first proper 'girl crush' on his little Aussie friend - who is all long blond hair and infectious giggles.

The two of them spent the fortnight cuddled up together, whispering, swimming, hatching plans and watching movies together.  Inseparable they were...even insisting on 'sleep-overs' most nights.  (Dumps was incredibly lenient about the whole 'three in a bed' thing - perhaps too much so - but won't dwell on that at the minute.)

The three year old little boy who by all accounts should have gotten on like a house of fire with Dumps...spent more time in back seat shenanigans, fighting for seat space and defending himself against the established hierarchy he unwittingly walked into.

As far as Dumpie is concerned, he is ruler over all.  Mostly this is because Egg could care less about status and lets Dumpie have his way.  This other little boy did not share the same opinion.

Thus most of the trip was spent running to and fro at the first sign of a wail, and trying to ascertain who was at fault (usually Dumps), what had happened (a shove?  a pinch?  biscuit theft?) and what was to be done about it (usually very little but a good telling off, given that there were often no witnesses save a slyly grinning Dumps proclaiming his innocence, and a very angry red-faced three year old pointing fingers across the room in anger).

Despite all this, the three adults present (myself included) managed to prevail upon a lovely local girl to babysit for us on two separate occasions - giving us ample opportunity to sample the local cocktails and fine cuisine in restaurants which don't cater to spontaneous food fights, mid-meal tantrums and cushion throwing.

A fine holiday was had by all.  They shall be sorely missed, and we don't know when we'll next see each other could be a few years (sigh).

So Egg continues to pine for his new 'best friend' and bemoan her absence...Dumpie continues to, in copycat fashion (and not entirely believable given his behaviour), 'pine' for the little boy, and the husband and I come away from the experience with renewed respect for those who choose to continue procreating up to the tidy sum of four.

Two kiddies is full on.  Four is just...well...mental.  Unless one is possessed of the patience of a saint, has enough money to afford full-time LIVE IN help (we had two Balinese ladies on the go and still!), and has GIRLS...I just don't know how one is to survive the experience with nerves and other relevant mental faculties intact.

As parents to four headstrong, close-in-age daughters, it is nothing short of a miracle that my own parents are still sane, functioning human beings, living outside of an institute for the mentally and emotionally challenged.

Hats off to you did you do it?!

Respect :)

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

"It's All Going A Bit Hmmmmmm-Shaped"

You know how people sometimes begin to resemble their pets?

Well I have been beset with another eye infection, and with my squinty right eye all red and almost swollen shut, I now resemble a RAT.  Great.

Furthermore, Dumps wet the bed last night...our bed.  But according to Dumps, that's not such a big problem, as he nonchalantly explained during our pillow talk this morning.

"Mama, just get that woman to change the sheets.  Or Kadek can do it.  It's no problem, they do it."

I'm a bit worried with the speedy rate by which the monsters have adapted to having 'help'.  With one, and sometimes two Balinese women helping out on a daily basis, they have come to expect pancakes on tap, their dirty laundry whisked away and returned spotless, and have compliant playmates in the form of Wayan and Kedak - who are always hovering nearby for an impromptu game of 'hit the Putu's orchid'.  What's going to happen when I am back to being the only 'help' round here?

Still, I guess we have bigger problems at hand.  We need to find somewhere to move in two weeks, and are still not having any luck on that front.  Moreover, the husband wants to do a two week 'road trip' through Lombok after that - the prospect of which I'm finding a bit daunting.

For starters, both our children get car sick.  Moreover, I'm not sure it's advisable that our little crew be cooped up in a vehicle for that long - not unless we bring our very own 'Relate Counselor' along for the ride.  I don't think even the combined mightiness of our respective ipods and the in-car speakers will keep us from losing the plot.

Friday, 2 July 2010

"Chucked Out Of Paradise"

Life in Paradise has taken a wrong turn somewhere.

Yesterday afternoon, we were unceremoniously asked to leave our current digs by our landlady Mrs. Putu.

She began the conversation by asking us to pay her some money for the local village as a 'tax' or some such.  I reminded her that several weeks ago she had explained to us that she is responsible for paying this unofficial tax for any tenants in her holiday homes.

But worse was to come.

"You are leaving on July 23rd?" she said, phrasing it like a query but also a comment.

The husband looked up from his computer, a worried and confused expression on his face.

"Um, no.  We hadn't decided to leave" the husband said.

"Somebody is taking this place on 23rd July" she stated, this time more firmly.

"What?" the husband exclaimed, rising from the table and staring at her in shock.

"That's three weeks away!" he said, motioning for me to come over and get involved.

"But we reserved this place for three months" I tried to reason.  "When were you going to tell us?"

"Just a minute" the husband interjected, "Are you saying you want us out of here?  You want us to leave?"

Mrs. Putu put her head down briefly then looked up, an unreadable expression on her face.

"Yes.  Yes I do."

A most uncomfortable exchange of information followed, wherein the husband and I stared with dismay at our soon to be 'former' landlady, disappointment written all over our faces.

It turns out that Mrs. Putu has apparently been shedding crocodile tears, covertly in her home, over the demise of her precious orchids, her precious flowers which the monsters have supposedly been damaging - unbeknownst to us.

Then she tried to say how she liked our children but...

The husband pointed out that for several weeks now we've been graciously putting up with the huge construction job going on around us, and have been very understanding about the constant stream of workers filing past with cement on their heads - the ongoing circular saws shattering any semblance of peace.

Then I brought up the rats.

That did it.  She got tears in her eyes and stormed out, clearly offended, whether true or not, that I had insinuated that her former home was rat-infested.

The husband and I were left starting at each other in shock, distinctly pissed off and not a little hurt.  What happened to Mrs. Putu's insistence that we were like 'family' to her, and our belief that we'd made a friend for life?  Heck, we'd even paid good money to watch her play Gamalan in her local dance and music troupe a few weeks back - proudly beaming at her onstage and posing for pictures afterwards.

Of course, we're not convinced that it's simply a case of broken orchids...or mischievous monsters.

No, we suspect it's a little more along the lines of now that construction has finished on her new outbuildings, and this place no longer resembles a giant building site, she knows that she can charge a heck of a lot more for our digs and is going to turf us out in the name of the almighty Rupiyah.

And did I mention that it's high season?  And everywhere is booked up?

We've been totally Putu'ed.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

"There's A Rat In Da Kitchen What I'm A Gonna Do"

There's a rat in our kitchen.  Really.  The husband spotted it the other morning while he was making tea and took the (wise) decision not to alert me to this fact, knowing full well that within minutes of hearing the news I'd have our bags packed, belongings stashed in the boot, deposit be damned.

The other morning, our friend, who is staying in the tiny villa beside us, told us that a little kitten jumped in her path as she strolled the few metres home the night before.  The husband and I raised eyebrows...was there a little kitten on the premises?

And two nights ago, sitting by the pool enjoying the sultry evening air, my friend and I shrieked with alarm as we spotted a giant rat running around inside our villa, climbing the glass walls and looking for all intents and purposes, very much at home.

I begged my friend to step inside the villa first, make sure the coast was clear, then shut the door behind her as I cowardly made a mad dash to our bedroom, slamming the door and executing a rather ungraceful, flying leap into the marital bed, clutching onto the back of my snoring husband for dear life.

"A rat!  A rat!  There's a RAT in our HOUSE!"

Distinctly nonplussed, he mumbled something which sounded suspiciously like "You imagined it", then drifted back into heavy slumber.

Ha!  If I were to imagine such a thing, my brain surely couldn't have come up with the gargantuan measurements of said rodent in question.  It shed some light on the 'little kitten' theory to be sure.

When I informed our landlady, the illustrious Mrs. Putu, she, to her credit, feigned horror - her tatooed-on eyebrows raised into identical arches of shock, informing me that tomorrow she was having a special ceremony to bless and protect her newly erected buildings.  She assured me that the priest or whatever would say a special prayer to get rid of the rats.

So that's sorted then.