Moving house is a grand opportunity for sifting through the accumulation of obsessions, notions and  detritus of past years, in my case, 25 of them.

I have press cuttings and magazines relating the downfall of Suharto, photocopies of the snail mail missives I sent and replies received in pre-internet days, programmes from gigs, including among others, the first JakJazz festival in ’88 and Pat Metheny’s first gig here in ’95, and much more.

Books are now sorted by author, category and/or publisher, files are now orderly and I think I can now find what I’m looking for, but certain mysteries remain.

What follows is something I penned I know not when. I was probably sitting on the terrace one quiet evening, as the sun set. It’s my favourite time of the day; the evening prayers have been said and the street is quiet as all take refuge indoors from the prowling spirits.  And I enjoy a brief period of contemplation, preferably with a large cold Bintang, and let my mind wander as it will.

I have no idea what brought forth the following as it has absolutely no connection with anything I’d written before nor since. That it’s unfinished may be because the first motorbike had roared past, or perhaps a nasi goreng vendor clanging on his wok and interrupting my mental flow.


We took pity on Michael

He’s been with us a long time now, since he appeared out of the crags one dark moonlit night. He carried a canvas shoulderbag. In it, he said, were his flavours. His needs were small. Mother had told him when he was little that rice would suffice. That’s all. Rice. But what rice?

We knew from other rare travellers that there was rice to be found in Bismati, in Pilau, in Saffron and in Fried. These we could not, did not want to know. Why should we? We made bread.

From the earliest moment of conception at pre-dawn, we were surrounded by the early morning comforting, wafting, familiar smell of rising yeast, of browning crusts, of carbonising toast, of griddles, bread pudding laced with the fruits of the seasons, of croissants, cobs and cottages, of baguettes, bagels and buns.

Our folk heroes were gingerbread men living in gingerbread houses eating bread and honey. The wicked witch let them eat cake.

And Michael came looking for rice. Our rice.

It grew, he said, in dew ponds, could only be gathered by the light of the new moon and he would show us how to gather it, make sheaves, stack it, winnow it, dry it, clean it, sort it, store it, boil it, fry it, can it, sell it, worship it, make babies’ rattles, flour, drinks ……….

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