three pairs of lovers with space

THE DIARIES OF DONALD FRIEND, IV

 

Donald Friend (6 February 1914 – 17 August 1989) was an Australian artist and diarist. He travelled widely, living for a time in Britain, Italy, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Bali. Over the course of his life he produced 47 diaries, most of which were illustrated. These were published by the National Library of Australia as The Diaries of Donald Friend in four volumes between 2001 and 2006.

The following extracts are taken from the fourth and final volume, edited by Paul Hetherington (Canberra 2006), the most notable from a Greek love perspective, as it included the years 1966 to 1980, during which he first visited and soon afterwards settled in Bali, where he lived with boys, some his lovers and others not. The reader had better be warned that new characters are often introduced in the diaries abruptly and without explanation.

If Friend’s sexuality is to be understood, it is unfortunately not enough to leave him speaking for himself through the diaries here drawn on. Although all the people in whom he expressed sexual interest were “boys” in his view, their ages were not usually given. The only exceptions were youths aged 17 to 20.

The confusion has been severely compounded in the media due to a documentary about Friend, caustically called A Loving Friend (Negara Film and Television, 2013), and made with the express hostile purpose of shaming the Australian artistic community into posthumous abandonment of Friend as a “paedophile”. Two things are alleged in support of this. First, Friend is quoted as calling himself “a sentimental pederast”, as he had indeed in a 1950 diary.[1] It is conveniently omitted that he said this with reference to his affair with a youth of 18 and left to popular ignorance to conflate “pederast” with “paedophile”. Secondly, it is claimed that the boy Dolog was 10 when he began a liaison with Friend. No sources of information are cited for this much-repeated claim. The only evidence for Dolog’s age in the public domain is Friend’s own drawings of him shown on this webpage. The reader seeking to guess from these whether he was 10 or around 13 should bear in mind the considerable relative physical immaturity of poor South-East Asian boys in 1967.  If we add to this that he described a boy of 12 as “of incredible dreamy beauty” and “I’d guess, very, very sexy” (16 January 1967), then 12-20 seems the fairest statement of the age range that attracted him, and his self-description as a pederast was just.

The extracts include every passage concerning anyone’s amorous interest in boys or the particular boys in whom Friend had such interest. They also include everything about the houseboys living with him who cannot be firmly ruled out as his lovers, on the grounds that this is often ambiguous, and the lives of boys living with a boy-lover anyway have some Greek love interest.  Excluded are most of the later references to the Balinese boy Madja, introduced as “very ugly” in the entry of 29 May 1970 (qv.), whom he had grown to “truly love in a completely objective unsensual way” (17 December 1974, qv.) and who became, as an adult, the “mainstay of my life”(10 January 1979). Madja is merely the foremost illustration of the fact that Friend’s love was no guide to which boys he liked sexually. Similarly left out are some of the references to Friend’s former Italian lover Attilio, now in his thirties to forties, who had long since married and evolved into being his close, life-long friend.

The Editor's Note at the conclusion of this volume of Friend's diaries states: "Overall, this volume reproduces 293 000 words of Friend's diary text, selected from a total of 527 000 words that Friend wrote during the last 22 years of his life." The reasons given for cuts made are: "A small proportion of material has been omitted because it may be defamatory... Friend frequently mentioned matters relating to his property investment, building activities and related financial concerns. While such entries are of some interest, they have been significantly reduced in this volume, as have his more mundane comments about domestic matters."

All the illustrations reproduced here are by Friend himself. Most accompanied the original diaries, but the "Carved Mirror, Self-Portrait, Bali", "Balinese youth", "Boy and mask" and "Galungan" are from other sources.

 

VOLUME IV

 

24 December, 1966 ...

Having just arrived in Bali for the first time and settled into a bungalow at the Tandjung Sari Hotel, Donald Friend is approached by a young man...

Carved Mirror, Self-Portrait, Bali

"I am a very poor boy, Tuan. No mother, my father very poor too. I cannot continue my schooling, so I listen to the Radio Australia to learn English. Very hard to buy a dictionary. I am married. I have a son born this year. Life is hard. Few tourists come. Sometimes I am a guide for them. If Tuan would like it I will bring a very pretty Balinese girl to your room tonight. The night-guard is my friend. I must wear nice very clean shirts every day so tourists will like me. I am very good sir."

"Well, actually," I said, "my problem is of a different nature. I should much prefer a boy."

He laughed in astonishment and put his arm affectionately and familiarly around my shoulder. "O sir, what you say surprises me. Surely Tuan is married."

"Married three times" I replied firmly. "I have five children. But tonight's problems revolve around the subject of personal tastes and preferences. It is not a question of marriage."

But nothing doing, I think. ...

 

29 December ...

On the beach in the afternoon.

"Tuan, are you going to swim. Come and I will show you a very good place."

We wandered around a little point -- Tandjung Sari itself -- which cut us off completely from observation, there being no houses on the beach at that point.

"Tuan, you will teach me how to float?" -- I obligingly supported the boy in the small of the back while he lay in the water, then he rolled over and embraced me. "Tuan will you come to my house in the village. I live alone with my father. I am sleeping alone all the time. Come with me to my room and we will sleep until I go to work at five this evening."

We went. A simple clean little house, and no one at all there.

My name is Kantra. My mother is dead. I have no brother. You will be my brother. I love you." A very sweet, passionate boy.

"I don't go with any boys. I am always sleeping alone. Tomorrow night I will meet you on the beach after dinner."

Before we walked home, he made me a present of a little carving of a deer. "You will always remember me." A dreadful carving. The warmth and charm of this incident filled my blood with energy. I must whatever happens remember the loveliness and generosity of this Balinese, and the small neat whitewashed room in his house, and the bed on which we lay (it was desperately hot, I was perspiring pints, he warm, brown and dry and smooth skinned as silk) and how he kept whispering -- through the little high-up window came the village sounds of ducks and dogs and chickens and the afternoon calling and chatting of the villagers.

At my age [fifty-one] one is more used to demands, so I was very touched.

At dinner, to honour the visiting heavy brass, two unbelievably beautiful girls danced to an orchestra of drum, bamboos and flute. The sound of these now still floats over the garden to my bungalow where I lie abed, clad in a sarong, my skin tingling with sunburn and grateful for caresses.

 

31 December ...

At night, after dinner at Tandjung Sari, I put on a sarong to keep a rendezvous with Kantra. Very romantic. The poor boy is excessively sentimental, and after a while I found myself growing impatient of the sighs and moans and melancholy languishing.

On parting I made him a gift -- a silk shirt in the pocket of which I'd put a photograph of myself. He'd asked for one, and because I'm not very keen on photographs myself I had only one of the truly nauseating passport and visa horrors I'd had taken in Cooma. ...

 

6 January, 1967 ...

I was very irritated when returning to the hotel at about 5.30 in the evening, tired, sweaty and dirty, to find Kantra waiting there for me.

"All day since morning I have been waiting for you brother," he said reproachfully. There was no getting rid of him. All the buses to Denpasar had gone, so, very grumpily, I put up with the sentimental mooing, and later the lovemaking of this poor pathetic boy who clings like a bloody limpet. Kantra, coming directly after a night with the lively, brisk good-hearted eye-on-the-main-chance Bagus [tourist guide] and his quietly smiling brother, was welcome as a plague of grasshoppers. ...

 

Dolog and Sudijah, January 1967

8 January

I've settled in to idling away most of the day chattering and swimming with Dolog and Sudijah on the beach, or on the verandah of my bungalow, where I make drawings of them. They attempt to teach me Balinese and Indonesian. Sudijah has produced a brother about a year or two older than he, however, seniority gets him nowhere with the fiercely jealous and possessive Sudijah. If he so much as tries to hand me my cigarettes it is regarded as an infringement of prior rights...

And durians are in season. I feasted on these miraculously aphrodisiac, delicious and outrageously smelly fruit.

After dinner Kantra nervously smirked on my verandah. I gave him a lecture on following me about. And then under the stars on the beach -- it must be the effect of the durians. ...

 

12 January

Now my breakfast sessions, with Sudijah and Dolog in conversational attendance have developed into a sort of antique collector's mart. They don't trouble me with merchandise until I have taken coffee. Until then the talk is small jokes and early morning politenesses. After the fried-egg on toast, halfway through the second cup of coffee, comes a slight change in the tone of voice: it is lowered a little, becomes huskier, more persuasive. The lid of a basket is opened to reveal, beneath necklaces of shells, amongst some rubbishy cutters and crude kris handles, the star piece, something old and interesting. When the bargaining starts, we are no longer friends: the children are serious professionals, they languish, they look sad, a flash of an indignant eye at my counter-price -- they look hungry -- no money for food. The father is poor -- they smile enchantingly, or frown. Brilliant, exquisitely expressive actors. Then tucked away. The atmosphere lightens, we are friends again with nothing to gain but the pleasure of being together. The conversation becomes ribald. What shall we do on such a morning? -- swim, or as an especial treat, for them full of the delicious fear of waves and the surf on the reef, go out in a prahu [sailing vessel] to the edge of the lagoon?

This is a place to be happy in. ...

 

Sudijah and Pudjan, 1967

16 January

Now in addition to Sudijah (the polite husky-voiced extrovert, full of jokes and action, already an adroit merchant) and Dolog (thoughtful and sweet and quietly happy) there is Pudjan -- Ida Bagus Rata Pudjan to give his full name, of a priestly Brahmin family, about 12 years old, of incredible dreamy beauty, of a withdrawn and contemplative nature, and yet, I'd guess, very very sexy. A silent child who smiles only if smiled at, and speaks only to answer. My sketchbook is filling up with drawings of these three. Sudijah and Dolog have switched from selling shell necklaces and terrible coconuts, carved to represent hairy monkeys, to "barag kuno" -- "old things", under my tuition, so now there is always some small old object of good workmanship to look at with my morning coffee. That, and the sight of their brown faces and their chatter put me in a good temper to start the day. Or just to let the day get itself started without any active help from me. ...

 

20 January

With Beri, alert and smiling, in his fishing prahu, Dolog and Sudijah and Pudjan and I paddled and sailed a few miles down the coast to have a look at a small island called Sakenan -- where a very simple fishing community live in tiny houses huddled together, walled with coral, about a bay where the thatched roof bamboo palisades stand in the shallows... It was a pleasant way to spend a morning, with the chattering children laughing and shouting at the waves. We swam and picnicked. Dolog kept giving me secret smiles and languid glances. I am understood to be his property now. Last night he quietly arrived and stayed again, and to my slightly horrified delight made passionate and expert love. Sudijah obviously knows all about this and amuses himself singing songs about me, lying in the water at the beaches edge, grinning with bawdy amusement. ...

 

8 February ...

Sometimes in the morning Wija, Tatie and Jimmy Pandy[2] and I sit on the high terrace with its thatched roof, overlooking the beach, trying to catch a little of the intermittent sea breeze, chatting and playing scrabble. In the water, towards lunchtime, Dolog and Sudijah appear, splashing about in the water, making secret signals to me. ...

Dolog

Dolog spent the night with me. I hope life will continue forever to offer me delicious surprises like Dolog, and that I will always be delighted and surprised. He goes about the act of love with a charmingly self-possessed grace -- gaily, affectionately and enthusiastically; and in these matters he is very inventive and not at all sentimental, for all the caresses. I have a very small transistor radio -- a silly toy, with so short a range that it can only pick up a few whispers late at night -- but this instrument is the darling of his heart which he woos as assiduously as he applies himself to amorous dalliances. In fact, clinging and squirming in an embrace he sometimes seizes the radio and holds it to his ear, listening ecstatically to the bat-like squeaks of faint far foreign voices, or to jazz and more static, whispering and crooning to the radio and to me turn by turn. Now I have given the instrument to him and Sudijah to share equally. ...

 

On February 17, Friend embarks on an overseas art tour, taking in various countries including India, Iran, Turkey, Greece and Rome.

15 February ...

Two days before his planned overseas trip...

Already before I've left Bali I begin to miss it, especially the boisterous and often (when being a pressure salesman for something one doesn't want) infuriating, sweet and comical Sudijah and the pensive, sensual and altogether seductive Dolog, who greet me each morning, even if they've spent the night turn by turn with me[3], by taking a tally of how many days and nights we have left. But now I mind less the parting since I've made some insurance of returning. ...

 

31 March

In Athens:

The days have turned brilliantly clear and warm. The weather has brought the tourists in swarms, like a plague of cabbage moths. A distant view shows the battlements of the Acropolis black with them. Their arrival in its turn conjured up the hordes of pimps and street boys, one of whom got into the hotel the other night and solicited me at the door of my room. When I closed the door (the key was on the outside) he locked it and made off, hiding as he went the key under a mat. You can imagine what a rumpus this caused, with me demanding to be released and the Greeks all shouting. Calm was restored only when a maid discovered the hidden key. ...

 

3 August ...

Boy with Mask

Now back in Tandjung Sari, Bali...

This morning I moved from Pandy's back into my old bungalow at Tandjung Sari... Now I feel independent, though really I am a puppet in the hands of Dolog and Sudijah in many ways. I feed and clothe them, but their demands are incessant. Nevertheless, well worth it for the entertainment I get and also flashes of insight into the lives and thoughts and some of the hidden realities of Balinese life. ...

 

13 August ...

Sudijah and Dolog, delicious irritants, spend a lot of the day amusing and infuriating me...

Wija and I drove about looking for a dance performance and found, at last, in Denpasar a gathering to judge a contest between two gamelan gongs, from Badung and Gianyar. The Badung one was far the best -- brilliant, brittle, with tremendous contrasts of sound. The gongs would take it in turn to play the same pieces. The interpretations of this ancient music were surprisingly different. And I was ready to fall in love with one of the musicians, a beautiful boy who played a set of little cymbals set in a carved turtle -- he performed with a vivid dramatic sense, moving his eyes, head and body in such a way it was almost a dance in itself as he clanged and chimed the instrument. ...

 

28 September ...

Having, with Wija's help, purchased some land at Batujimbar, a short way north of Tandjung Sari, Friend is building a house and studio for what he hopes will be an extended stay in Bali.

Dolog and Sudijah, the delightful, entertaining and very often irritating companions of my mornings (and Dolog frequently companion of embraces which still astound me in the night) share my breakfast after awakening me, and while I draw, make themselves wayang kulit puppets for their play. We swim, we visit the land at Batujimba to watch the workers clearing the scrub, planing planks and pillars. If they don't come I miss them, when they're here they drive me mad...

Balinese Carving

I wonder what I'll remember best and with most pleasure of this period -- driving to little villages with Wija to watch potters at work or in crowded kampongs surrounded by gaping children inspecting a piece of old carving, or with him and Jimmy  in a bronze-age foundry seeing the molten bronze being cast into gamelan gongs -- or Dolog's spontaneous and wittily innocent lovemaking, or any of the many hours with the children, laughing, swimming, our idiotically amusing meals together at night, the long walks along the beach and to the village through unlit and empty lanes barked at by hysterical skulking dogs as I accompany them home in night populated in their minds with witches and demons -- or the awakenings in the very early morning by a brown angel who carefully has crept naked into my bed and shaking with laughter fondles me sexually from the consciousness of dreams into the consciousness of awakened sensuality.

"Tuan has a big cock! -- Selamat pagi, Tuan. [Good morning, Sir.]" ...

 

6 October

A lazy day: I painted a little in the morning... and swam for an hour, which is to say, lay about in the balmy blue water of the sea, feeling languid from a night of Dolog's embraces. Lovers here exhaust one only on the physical plane. They give one an emotional holiday from tension. Sex becomes a truce instead of, as in the West, a war of attrition fought on three fronts (the neurotic, the psychotic and the economic). ...

 

17 October

Galungan, the great festival which has been in all minds for about a month, will be here in about eight days. This is a time when all sorts of bargains are to be found, for people sell their old treasures to raise money for a dozen expensive things. One of them is that everyone must have fine new clothes, and it is the duty of masters to reclothe their whole households.

Batiks and sarongs for various Balinese boys who have been helpful and amiable have been distributed already. Sudijah and Dolog are especially resplendent in saffron sarongs and headcloths glittering with silver thread, and lonteks (a sort of wide brocade sash) of vermilion and dark green. This is Temple wear, for great feasts of offerings, but they delight in dressing up in these rich robes, borrowing my krises to play the parts of favourite princes and courtiers, the dramatis personae of Derama -- the Balinese history-based melodramas which are the present craze of the Balinese. ...

 

7 December ...

Work on the new house has speeded up a bit again. Pits are being dug in the poor sandy soil, filled with basketfuls of rich earth, and planted with trees, the carpenters have started on a new stage, having completed the studio floor. I go down now twice a day to see what is being done. Dolog and Sudijah have become elusive. Not too keen on work, so are inclined to time their arrivals at Tandjung Sari for the evening meal. ...

 

8 March, 1968 ...

After spending three months in Sydney, Friend is relieved to be back at Tandjung Sari, his new house near completion.

Mitty [close friend] and I have been here for about a fortnight -- of ecstasy and unease for me, driving back into all the happiness I find in this place, seeing so many friends, and the ever-entrancing Dolog and Sudijah, and Wija and Tatie -- too much. ...

 

28 March ...

Dolog and Sudijah, companions always in favour or disgrace, come with me along the beach each morning on the way to oversee work at the house. As we go they continue the serial dramatisation of our lives, declaiming with boisterous rhetoric mad speeches from melodrama, defying as an army, bounding out to kneel at my feet and implore me as a raja to join in their wars with the foaming sea, ranting against my indolence -- "Tuanku Raja knows nothing, nothing. His head sleeps as he walks in the sun. Without us to help him rule the land, the earth would sleep a thousand years" -- and  so on. ...

 

10 April ...

The children [Dolog and Sudijah] have recruited two more, even smaller imps to my retinue to carry water and attend the garden. I don't know their names yet, but Dolog assured me that they are especially adept in bringing trays of coffee, which will be a useful talent. ...

 

On May 1, Friend moves into his new house at Batujimbar.

9 May

I am now living at Batujimbar in the new house, and have been since the tremendous day of offerings and housewarming. ...

Boys Playing Bamboo Music

The whole morning the gongs and drums dinned away. Shrines had been set up in a dozen places in the garden and numbers of separate offering ceremonies were going on on all sides, whilst on a raised roofed platform an anciently benevolent priest sat amongst the ritual furniture of his ceremonies -- flasks of holy water, flowers, incense. ...

The servants are headed by Jasa, a boy from the nearby village who worked for Wija and begged him to release him to me. Quiet, shy. Next comes Njoman, whom I thought very little of at first as being far too handsome. However he's settled well into his work of doing the laundry and odd jobs. Then there are the gardeners: Dewa, a laughing lazy oaf, Tjoklat (Chocolate) a sad orphaned hardworking oaf, Deger, who seems fairly bright (all these are about 14-16 years old) and the four children.

Here I can awaken as I like to at sunrise without inconveniencing anyone, since that is when they all awaken. By six Jasa goes off to market, and Dolog is making my coffee, which I take with some papaya on the terrace in the already too-brilliant sunshine.

At night the house glows very softly -- dimly, I should truly say -- with lamplight and candles. There are huge pumpkin-shaped lamps of yellow paper on a basket frame of bamboo, that glow on the painted figures of demons and gods and phantasmagoria on the walls. At that time the boys sit on the terrace, and sometimes sing, and sometimes listen to the tape. ...

 

12 May ...

God, the bloody rain's still pouring down. It seems fair set for the night. The tide thunders on the reef. The boys have solemn superstitious faces. They've calmed down since the excitement of a few hours ago, when they lightened the work with buckets and mops by doing it in mad animal masks -- monkeys and pigs. It looked like a scene from a ballet about Noah's ark. ...

 

22 May

Galungan -- they all look forward to this damned inconvenient time when everyone expects presents, all shops and banks are closed, and somebody always gets forgotten. ...

Sudijah chose this time to irritate me into sending him home for three days, and now I learn with relief, he won't come back to work. He was beginning to make himself a centre of dispute. ...

 

18 June ...

The Australian Prime Minister, John Gorton, and his wife Betty, on a tour of Malaysia and Indonesia, pay a visit to Friend's house in Batujimbar.

Gauguinesque

The servants were all asleep, but leapt into action and in a moment drinks were produced and lamps appeared and everyone seemed gay and relaxed. Betty Gorton bought a drawing and offered to take the remaining ones back to Australia for me.

After they left I felt, aside from having drunk too much, restless and elated -- or perhaps just pleased with myself and the world more than usual -- and quite unable to face going to bed in a routine way: so I had them [the servants] take sleeping-mats and cloths out to the balé [pavilion] on the sea wall, and there Dolog and I settled in cosily with Sado who, lying beside us in the moonlight played his flute until I slept. ...

 

20 July

Then, there were a few days in which the whole household lapsed, as Balinese are apt to do, into a sort of anarchy. One would call for one of the servants to find that he'd left for a few days visit to his village. All sorts of work was neglected -- they'd secretly go off at night leaving the house unguarded to see "drama" performances in distant villages. Dolog asked and was granted leave for a few days to go to Ubud to his family temple festival, and I was content to see him go, as he'd become of late lazy and, it seemed to me, in need of the "recharging" that Balinese get from periodic immersion in the refreshing rituals and association of their community.

But it was the aftermath of that that most upset me -- cast me, in fact, into a ridiculous and painful gloom. He simply did not come back. Then after a day or two Jasa saw him a mile from here, playing on the beach with Sudijah. I was disturbed to learn he had said he was not returning, had gone back to the old life of his earlier childhood of hunger and freedom. Something enviable and admirable about that, but it is no good really. I miss him appallingly.

 

23 July ...

I learned last night that Dolog, according to Jasa, wanted to come back here, was afraid to because I would be angry. But he wanted to come back in four days time, which seemed odd. I relayed a message back I'd be glad to see him here. Then this morning I learned a little more. Some tourist staying at Sindhu Beach Hotel had given Sudijah a bicycle and a scarlet shirt to procure little boys, so Sudijah had got hold of Dolog. This tale utterly sickened me.

Upstairs Front Room

And in a year, there will be hundreds coming every week -- thousands...

All the time like a toothache the thought of Dolog -- the sweet cheat gone -- and that whoreson whoremongering pied piper of a tourist.

The Balinese will drop anyone for a novelty or money. They are quite enviably without sentiment. I am positively viciously sentimental.

"The sentimentalist is one who would enjoy without incurring the immense debt for a thing done." Meredith I think -- Is it true of me?

My sentiments about this current adventure of Dolog's are of a sort outside the sphere of Balinese emotions -- a sort of harrowed and horrified angry pity coupled with a strong frustrated desire for revenge on the boy-stealer. And nasty speculations as to whether, if Dolog returns, that enchanting wayward lover will have graduated halfway to prostitution.

Such ideas I am unwise to confess, even here in this book. I write late in the sleepless night. The high wind has risen again from the south-east and the waves of the tide make loud their restlessness on the shore, so close to my pillow: that and the rushing rustle of leaves, and again, more evocative of fear and power, a wild surf crashing distantly on the reef, embody somewhere inside themselves an alarming hidden sound of, it seems, voices raised in woe and alarm. Distress. The dead no doubt. Whatever, it is these sorrowing sounds enmeshed in the gnashing of the sea's teeth terrify the natives: and to me they inspire further uneasy apprehensions of ill.

 

25 July

Three of the boys off sick today. I sent them off for injections. And at noon Jasa, distressed, came for permission to go home (close by) because his grandfather had dropped dead.

I painted all day: my magical ritual to ward off further evil at those times when I seem to see it as a force attacking first one and then another of my household. Superstition I suppose. Such things nevertheless come in series. Useless to rush back and forth within the fortifications one has raised, plugging up the cracks and crevices through which the evil forces may enter.

Then when night falls there is really nothing at such times. I bathe, drink a few gins by lamplight: the house is silent but for flapping wind and the shut-away murmur of the boys. Melancholy makes a pariah out of one. I need the cheerful sound of my own language to get me out of the dumps. Sado and Tjoklat come in and quietly play the gamelan. I read a little, and wish for visitors.

The boys play desultorily on the gamelan. I have eaten my usual meal of a bowl of fruit. The wind blows, the lamp flickers madly. Jasa comes to squat within the dimmish amber circle of its light to read and learn a few words from a squat little dictionary, to practise his English on me. We thwart one another really, each intent on the other's tongue.

Boy with Goat

Still I suspect he keeps me company tonight because he sees how miserable I am and misses, himself, the blithe child. So we talk a little, learn words.

I have omitted to set down here an incident which has been recurring as a brilliant picture held behind the eyes during these few miserable days, my last sight of Dolog. This was after he had run away, but before? I knew about the Pied Piper.

A prahu was passing, so close inshore that it was the sail I saw, a white crescent moving above the sea wall, with it the sound of children's voices uttering staccato cries. I went up to the vantage point of the studio to see what was going on. In the prahu Dolog, Sudijah and his younger brother, led by Sudijah as a sort of pirate chief were shouting defiance at the walls of Crusaders Castle. They were all dressed in new scarlet shirts and had on their heads some sort of scarlet spaceman helmets. With them was a plump blonde foreigner in sunglasses. It was somehow a very funny sight, the production of wicked Sudijah's incredible comic imagination. I leaned and watched them sail shouting by making no sign of recognition. It was a sight of singular brilliance, a riotous instant of comedy and a bitter mockery -- Sudijah triumphantly displaying the success of his plot; for the whole thing was stage-managed by him to revenge himself on me for not taking him back into the house. Dolog is no more than the means he used. ...

 

2 September ...

I shall set about reorganising my household a bit. For one thing I'm going to put Sado in charge in place of Jasa.

Also my household has suddenly grown larger, for no real reason. Tjoklat has presented me with his youngest brother -- a tiny, plump, incredibly strong and sweet character of about five years old -- Madé Berata. And another garden boy, Madé Katjong, whom I'm not very sure about. He simply wandered in, hung about, and asked for work. Now we have 10 boys. ...

 

13 September ...

A Life magazine photographer, "Co", insisted on purchasing Friend's "damn fine drawing of Dolog"...

I wish Co had not pressed me so hard for that drawing of Dolog, or had set his heart on another. I have kept for myself in (what seems to me now) a very long life as a painter, very few of the pictures that meant a great deal to me, and this alas was one. Somehow it summed up my sentiments about that enchanting lost child. ...

 

15 September ...

Thatching the Guest Balé

Things go well. I am full of wellbeing, and faint fears simply because things go well. And full of impatient charities and reluctant compassions -- as a result my household now numbers 11. The newest addition a poor orphan boy (the 6th orphan!) who cast himself at my feet in a fountain of tears, poor wretch, getting his knees wet. Sad, dumb, hardworking, thrown out of his job because a dog broke the plates in a kitchen, and he was blamed. He is a gentle stupid ugly fellow, humble. He appears to believe I am either God, or their father. He trembles.

His name is Battery -- or I suppose Batrik. Now I have Chocolate (Tjoklat) and Battery -- and Katjang (Peanuts) -- and Dewa (God) among the crazy Balinese names to which answer white smiles of brown men and children. ...

 

29 September ...

I've not painted at all. I lie with a book in the sea-wall pavilion, directing the gardening and sporadically commanding all to leap naked in the sea. ...

 

30 October

Golden days, a little work, a lot of gardening and a lot of scolding the boys, who have to be told all over again each day what must be done. In the evening, drinks -- Wija and Tati spend hours every day now laying lawns and garden beds. Tatie is inclined to sneer at the efforts of my boys learning gamelan, but they enjoy it, and I do. ...

 

20 November

Crisis. Having decided irrevocably, firmly and self-righteously to get rid of the twins Battery and Battene from Ubud after a good deal of misbehaviour on their part, I called them to pay them off and pack them off to Ubud. Whereupon Battery said he was sick and could not go home.

A little later -- all this occurred before 8 am -- police came and took them both away to be questioned.

What about? -- I don't yet know, but most likely about the confused events of last night.

Another incomprehensible story, shot through with peril and folly.

Last night I drank rather too much gin... Later, when I was in bed half-asleep (the small boy asleep on the mat beside my bed) someone -- maybe two or three -- came into the house, and called "Tuan, Tuan". A strange voice. I got out of bed. Hearing me move whoever it was ran away. Like a bloody fool I grabbed a kris and set off in pursuit. On the way through the compound I looked into the servants' quarters -- only Tjoklat there asleep. Halfway up the drive I heard a group whispering among themselves, who, hearing me retreated towards the village. I followed, keeping well in the shadows. Then saw torchlights -- someone (in a moment I recognised Sado's footsteps) ran very fast past me towards the house. Then I stood up and faced the other group, who ran away. So I returned to the house, was challenged by Sado. We went in and I told him what I could of what -- if anything at all -- had happened.

So back to sleep.

That is the outward show of my stupid inability to recognise an emergency. I should have called Wija then: or sent for the police. Or raised a great alarm of gongs.

When I did send him a note this morning developments had overtaken all possible logic.

At this moment it seems, unless my prestige and goodwill with a perbekel and the police, and the pouring of oil, and Wija's persuasions prevail, I will be expelled -- very quickly -- from this country.

Despair sent me to bed with (the only unread book in the house) Simone de Beauvoir's claustrophobically boring memoirs.

After lunch the Ubud twins turned up.

"We want to go home."

I gave them a month's wages. They departed smiling, and I waited news from Wija, eaten up with suspense, wondering whether their departure signified that the $100 in travellers cheques I'd signed for general distribution had been effective. ...

 

Balinese Boy

23 November

Indonesian officialdom is notoriously said to be corrupt, but my own experience has been that it is the most difficult of all things to find a compliable official.

The complaint against me still stands. I have not learned the exact charge yet, and simply wait in suspense the outcome. We have had various talks with members of the banjar.

My own household servants go on much as before, about their own concerns, but have come to express their loyalty to me, their dismay at the possibility of my having to leave.

But then they spoil it all by asking to whom will I give my batiks, my wrist watch, etc. Very Balinese. I avoid apportioning these treasures, in case they might come to constitute a motive to betray me -- a sort of bonus associated with my departure.

Inertia overcomes me. I am more bored than frightened by now with the suspense of awaiting the denouement of my predicament. ...

 

26 November ...

A crow is flapping and cawing atop the house-shrine. It comes there daily to rob the offerings: like most crows about here, its headquarters are the cemetery.

The little boy, Madé Berata, asks in his solemn courteous way, "Does Tuan know the voice of that bird?"

"Does Tuan know what the bird says?"

"No."

"An old man told me the bird says, 'If you are sick, come to me, and I will take you home'."

I am startled at the simple symbolism of this sinister invitation.

"Old men know that bird," Berata went on, like a wise old man himself. "When they are dying it sits on the rooftop. Then it follows them to the graveyard."

 

28 November

The crisis has now changed its spots, or evolved into an elaborate intrigue.

Negotiations are now continuing with the police, though one jolly contractor, who has more influence there (we hope) than the perbekel, who has tried hard in my interest but not achieved any results. ...

And so now (I am writing very much later, in bed by dim lamplight, and feeling quite happy, being half-sunk in gin) the jolly contractor from whom no news has come since sundown, has been busy trying to oil an obdurate cop with $50.

Madé Lambon

Before I went to bed, I made them sing to me for half-an-hour -- pantuns, which are a form of song often used for comments on the day's situations. Lambon has a beautiful voice, but his songs are stingily brief. Tjoklat's nature is honest, simple and respectful; his voice is pretty rough, but if one asks to be pleased or amused, the direct generosity of his nature is one of giving with a full heart. So they sang in turns -- first ancient pantuns -- charming love songs, work songs, songs of complaint about the hardness of life, the inevitability of fated events.

Thank goodness I was just at that perfectly receptive stage of fatigue, self-confidence and semi-intoxication when one takes in quite clearly the meaning of a language which at sober and self-conscious times is only understood in fragments through a fog of strained unknowing.

Because as a sort of experimental impertinence, in low Balinese, Lambon sang the village's newest aria, which to my astonishment I found I understood perfectly well; and insisted forthwith that the two of them (Tjoklat at first unwillingly) should sing it as it should be, as a duet, sometimes singing together, sometimes in couplets one answering the other.

Perhaps I understood it wrong, but I put it down now before I forget --

"They woke him and said the Tuan had gone mad.

They ran away. He sought friends to find his little brother.

They went to the big house. 'Please don't be angry.' Out came his

Lordship with a kris

And chased them all up the road."

Obviously there are a dozen more verses, but they wouldn't sing them. So to bed.

 

30 November

Battery and Battene have been hanging about the servants' quarters for two days now, casting glances up to the studio. I told the servants to feed them. ...

Wija...told me all was now well. He could not say more, so I look forward to hearing details tomorrow.

So things look less awful. Enough to make me ebullient.

 

3 December ...

And my poor boys, to whom I cannot tell too much, simmer uneasily. Is the master fleeing the country -- by midnight, by moonlight?

They have packed his bags. Significantly, a number of favourite shirts are not to be packed. Half his jewellery is locked away in the house -- arrangements have been made for pay and food.

Confidence is half-restored, but the smarter ones have hedged the gamble by asking for substantial loans in advance of wages: Jasa (the opportunist ass).

This allows me to see quite clearly who believes, who likes me. ...

 

16 December

Friend travels to other parts of Indonesia for a couple of weeks before returning home...

To be back is a tremendous joy: the people all smiling, singing at their work, the garden green and growing, everyone looking so beautiful, effervescing with excitement as the bags of huge parcels were unpacked, bulging with presents for Galungan in a few days from now. All quiet and cheerful.

And the clouds from Ubud, Battery and Battene have simply gone away with nothing resolved one way or another. ...

 

18 December

Galungan

Galungan.

Yesterday, after disbursing presents and batik to all the servants, I held the Watch Lottery -- the Djam Lot as the boys call it, and so that none would be disappointed added to the famous watch a number of other prizes -- sandals, tunik, a torch, etc., all from Java. The drawing was done by little Berata, Tjoklat won the watch! -- and danced singing all around the house.

 

24 December

The rains have come! -- the garden looks superbly like a Douanier Rousseau, the whole household's work is being reshuffled and organised now Tatie's Javanese cook has taken over my kitchen, and all the Wawo-Runtus are swarming in their house. Batujimbar has become quite a community, with between us 20 servants and much coming and going. ...

 

15 January 1969 ...

We have started enlarging the kitchen and servants quarters, Chris Carlisle's house is going ahead, old Ida Bagus Rai [local artist working in Friend's studio] works, snoozes and giggles at his paintings each day, and all my boys now don't have to be dragooned to play the gamelan but go to it as the most pleasurable part of the day's routine. ...

After our return, after lunch, noticing I had negligently left unlocked the chest containing my jewellery, I checked to see if anything was missing.

Alas! -- the fabulous ring setting a deep blue sapphire (I'd bought it for $500 a few months ago) had gone. There was great upset and search. Rundu administered some suspect workers with a binding fee-fi-fo-fum oath, my boys scurried about wide-eyed with fear and alarm.

Later, Sado and Jasa, who had gone off to Sanur, returned to tell me they had gone to the head guru of Sanur, a Brahmana, famous as a seer. He had told them the ring was not stolen, merely lost, and would turn up in a few days. "The Tuan" he said, "is a man who thinks a lot, and is absent-minded".

 

8 February ...

Little Madé Berata is my great delight, the youngest of the household, who goes seriously about his work, imbues all his acts with an old-fashioned courtesy.

Unconscious that I am observing him, he brings in a terracotta brazier of charcoal, adds to it a few grains of incense, notes in what direction the smoke bends, moves the brazier so that it will waft toward me. Then he adds a few more grains of the fine Javanese resin, and as the plume of smoke ascends, with a beautiful very Balinese gesture inbred with absorbed gravity, fills his cupped hands with the smoke and washes his face in its sacred perfume. ...

 

6 March ...

For days I have been painting, a very difficult big work: constant interruptions, many of them nice enough -- an afternoon exploring archaeological sites at Pedjeng with Bob [Hargrove, owner of a restaurant at Bedulu] who is being tormented somewhat by his Balinese lover. As we scrambled sweating up steep slopes, or nearly killed ourselves descending ravines on slippery mossy rocks...the Balinese lover was putting on a performance of sulks and "being difficult" that called to mind all of the lovers on all of the islands of all of the world. Something the Greeks complained of, made fun of -- that Cavafy celebrated, that caused Shakespeare to flow with sonnets, that made me compassionate for Bob, and want to say to the pouting brown beauty, as any impatient old man would, "You're most unattractive when acting like a peevish chorus-girl." But I held my tongue, knowing too well the bad effects of bitchy good advice.

 

26 March ...

Boy and mask

...Bob told me of a curious conversation with the Tjokorda Agung [a prince]. Bob's Balinese boyfriend told him that Battery and Battene, the twins from Ubad who erstwhile caused so much trouble to me, had been down here to Sanur to ask the perbekel for permission to murder me.

"Ah yes," said the prince, "Bad boys, but attractive. I had to send them away from here. Rascals. If it is necessary to Tuan Donald I can send six men and have them killed."

"For God's sake," I protested, "That wouldn't please me at all, the poor bloody wretches. It is better that the whole affair be forgotten." ...

 

5 April ...

Later, as usual, I sat out on the terrace under floating clouds, faint stirring air and a thousand stars appeared in their time as darkness fell, and the two little boys mixed me iced drinks -- Madé Berata who had accompanied me to the aerodrome to see for the first time the great mechanical loud metal-winged insects come in to land and discharge like myriad eggs the batch of incoming tourists -- and poor hard-working humourless ugly Tame, so thin and stupid and sick-looking I keep him on for pity's sake, and fear he'd die if he went home to his village. ...

 

26 April

Too many things happening again to put down what interests me in detail. Both Wij's household and mine (to a lesser extent) once more stirred up by theft. Jati (Tati's sister) found $50 had been stolen from her room: Tati missed two valuable batiks, Wija some dollars and another member of their household some more money, from my own house batiks and shirts. From this starting point we plunged into the world of magic.

Jati, taking little Madé Berata and Sado, went to the dukun, the clairvoyant at Sanur village: Madé Berata being a child and obviously blameless was hypnotised or sent into a trance gazing into the jewel of the dukun's ring whilst the dukun, in trance himself, described the visions passing through the child's mind, described the thief, the direction of the thief's village, and finally several versions of the thief's name -- "Santa, Sinta, Sonta".

Senta, Madé Berata's half-brother, who is one of Wija's houseboys, who confessed to all and fled to his village, where he has been building a new house, apparently on the proceeds of depredations over some months. My boy Tjoklat is involved somehow in all this, so he too has gone to Ketewel to join his half-brother. ...

 

29 April

Some of the unpleasant consequences of the sacking of Tjoklat are developing -- all of the other boys from the same village are leaving, but I refuse to let little Madé Berata go and fear they will put some pressures on him, or even kidnap him. ...

 

10 May ...

I've taken on three extra servants, and in the evenings have them again practising the gamelan. They're very bad: but young (10 to 12 years) and keen to learn, and it makes for happiness in the house. So it's cheerful, and I love to see their brown faces in the lamplight at night, though the sounds they extract from the instruments are often excruciating. ...

 

13 May ...

I have hopes as always of seeing things completed -- pictures begun and finished, fair landscapes planted where now are dunes and weeds. Here and there are discernible hints of promise. Madé Berata trains the other little boys, imparting something of his gentle courtesy and grace. He solemnly teaches them how I like a drink mixed, and how the glass must be handed to me: he is their captain. It is he who sits them in a row in the evening, changes the gramophone records so charmingly, allowing me my ration of Mozart, Vivaldi and Bach before the gamelan discs are played, who comes to sit companionably near me when I am alone. Invaluable and intelligent child! -- the rest lack his imagination, but have settled into their roles comfortably at last now former mischief-makers have been eliminated. ...

 

17 August ...

Attilio

Attilio Guarracino, a close friend, arrives for a short visit. Attilio, at 18 years of age, was Friend's lover; he is now married to Ailsa and working as Friend's agent in Australia.

Attilio unloaded bottles of whiskey, paintbrushes, shirts for the children and a host of presents from his bags whilst pouring out a spate of gossip about Ischia [where Attilio was born], about Sweden where to my vast amusement the Swedish women had shocked him with their liberties. ...

My boys are thrilled that Attilio is here again -- "the Tuan's son" they say, smiling on him delightedly.

 

13 September ...

Madé Berata and Letong have sneaked away to their village without asking permission, and I'll have to deal firmly when they return, since only a few days ago they had a three-day holiday there for temple festivals.

 

16 September

The house is fairly dull without Madé Berata, who turned up with Letong, whom I sacked. But Madé Berata I sent back to his village with his wages for a fortnight. He wept. I felt awful about it, but of late he's been getting spoiled and lazy under Letong's influence, and it has come to a point that I must risk his deciding not to come back. He probably suffered also from teasing and jealousy of the other boys, for all visitors to the house were inclined to fall for his charm.

I should hate to lose the child.

Now on top of this tonight Sado came in only a few minutes ago, to say Jasa would be away for three days.

"But I only saw Jasa half-an-hour ago."

"He gets married tonight."

It is one of these -- the usual thing in villages -- abduction marriages.

Very secret. ...

 

22 September

Early this morning I sent Sado to Ketewel to bring back the exiled Madé Berata, who looked very subdued when he arrived: but determined to be a garden boy, not a houseboy. So I let him have his way. ...

 

31 October

A week after Friend had a kris-handle stolen from his home -- "a very fine old one of gold set with rubies, sapphires and diamonds",

An Anak Agung came this evening, drew out of his pocket a cloth wrapped packet.

"I have a gold kris for sale."

It was the missing one. A woman from Renon had brought it to him. The boys all gathered round in great excitement. Kadir, the new garden boy looked very strange. After a minute asked permission to get something from the village. A moment or so later, as I was still talking with the boys and Wija, who had arrived in a twinkling with a policeman, I saw him haring off through the coconuts with the other boy from Renon, one of Wija's gardeners. I said nothing. Let them go. ...

Later guest came. We all had drinks on my terrace. When they went, Sado and the night watchman came to tell me the thief had been caught. It was Kadir, my Renon gardener. He had run straight to the house of the woman from whom the Agung's wife had received it. ...

 

Around 10 November Friend travels to Singapore for visa business and a medical check-up where he finds he has tuberculosis. As always, he's very glad to return to Bali...

 

20 November

My heart grew lighter as I came nearer to Bali, until, on the way from Tuban to Sanur I could have wept for joy. Everything was so green, the people so handsome. They all looked so gay and smiling and irresponsible that I was a little surprised to find that the servants hadn't all rushed off to make merry in my absence -- most of them anyway made me a great welcome at the house, though I was not yet expected for a few days. So there was a great clustering about to unpack and see what presents I'd brought them, and a great lot of laughter and exclaiming over various novelties unheard of in Bali. ...

 

12 December ...

Nothing of note has happened in the house except that Madé Berata announced that he now wants to be a "polisher" in the house, specialising in polishing the antiques. Actually I suppose often, so stubbornly insisting on being a gardener, he now finds it amusing; which I do too, and welcome his attractive personality and incredible charm. We have our little chats and gossip again as before. ...

 

19 January, 1970

Friend has been admitted to St. Vincent's Private Hospital, Sydney, Australia, for further medical tests and treatment.

At night, a sleeping pill, and I slept really deeply for the first time in several years: but a sleep haunted with dreams of Bali, and dreams of the houseboys, and somehow Madé Berata and Tama being here in the city with me, and I helpless and they frightened and I was scolding them unfairly as often I do for not being able to do something I wouldn't manage myself. I remember from the dream the unfailing politeness they countered to my unreasonableness, and was ashamed. ...

 

Friend arrives back in Bali on 20 March ...

23 March ...

As we approached Tandjung Sari's drive, suddenly, with gongs, umbrellas and flags the hotel staff all grinning and holding up a notice saying "Welcome back Tuan Donald!" But the main surprise was brilliantly arranged at Batujimbar -- all the houses dressed with banners and umbrellas. As we got out of the car the gamelan exploded showers of music, and all the houseboys dressed for celebration welcomed us: Drinks were already set out ready. The house and its garden looked glorious. This was a wonderful homecoming. ...

 

7 April ...

This is the beginning of the feast of Melis: processions of people with gongs and drums, gilded umbrellas, wend their way from remote communities to the shore. They are carrying on their heads, in little carved thrones or litters, their gods, who at this time pay their respects to the sea. Wherever one goes there is the splendid sight of a number of these processions: the people seem tireless, dressed in their finest clothes.

Madé Berata

I ordered a taxi for early in the morning to take Madé Berata and Budal to their village, Ketewel. They usually walk the 15 miles or so along the beach, so they were delighted to be going in style. ...

The instant of turning off the main road onto a dirt track we entered, with ruts and bumps and huge potholes, into the old Bali. After a mile we came into the village, at a moment when suddenly the dusty space before the Pura Agung erupted into a tremendous explosion of sound and colour as a joyously loud processional gamelan welcomed a procession of gods and offerings with exulting music that broke into new vigour as each subsequent procession came in blazes of colour. The people of this village are very poor, of a remarkable standard of beauty. They honoured the deities by wearing their richest clothes. In the temple in the different courts they were preparing still decorations and food and the priests were busy chanting and muttering at the altars. Hundreds of children followed us as we went from shrine to shrine admiring the fine carvings, which are exceptionally good.

Madé Berata did the honours of host for his village with the self-assurance and courtesy that pleases me so often in his behaviour, showing us what he thought would most interest us, proud and pleased with us before his village, and conversely proud of the village before us, and delighted with the pleasure we took in it. He ignored the scampering crew of urchins, his contemporaries, except to keep them from crowding too close. Observing our amusement, gave a glance and smile of complicity as if to remark "Really, my lords, the mystics cannot be denied a certain simple charm". ...

 

4 May

Madé Berata has been sick for several days: sakit panasi -- "hot sickness". God knows what it is, flu, malaria. The house seems half-dead without him (he has gone to stay in Sado's house, where the women can look after him) and I miss him badly, quiet presence that always moves me somehow. I'd been sending over medicines, and today went to see him myself. Very feverish. There are a lot of children in the kampongs around here sick with flu, and many die. He received me quietly with the self-assurance and adult courtesy that is his way. He is an extraordinary child. ...

 

8 May ...

We -- Wija, Tatie and I -- are going off to have a free weekend at, of all places, the Bali Beach Hotel. This is our reward for having, at a dinner party there months ago, invented the name of their new sea pavilion bar. A name so corny, invented as a joke, I am shy to record it here. ...

 

10 May

The Bali Beach weekend was a great success. As Wija said it was a brief visit to a foreign country, and the utter contrast to how we live in medieval state became a matter of many odd pleasures -- air-conditioning (which I loathe, but it's a change) in the bedroom, the anonymous mass-produced furniture, the dozens of painted cards announcing various services (with the compliments of the management) and "Intercontinental Hotels welcome you with the suggestion..." and a telephone!! Room service, steam bath, massage, etc. We were given the Presidential Suite with fabulous bathrooms and a sitting room that looked like the site of unhistoric conspiracies. ...

Madé Berata, Tama and Budal

Then I'd sent for Madé Berata, Tama and Budal, my three little houseboys, to treat them. They were utterly thrilled with their first entry into the horrors of the 20th century, terrified of the lift, fascinated to look down from the height of 10 storeys to the swimmers in the pool. And the bathroom with hot water! But most impressive of all, when I lifted the telephone and ordered them three of the most elaborate ice-creams on the menu.

And with it all, their astonishment and delight, one had to admire the unflappable balance of Balinese manners, for they knew exactly how to behave with all of the accustomed grace and dignity, taking all this pleasure with a charming acceptance. And when I took them over the hotel to see its marvels, they did me honour by their gravity and dignity. ...

 

29 May

But really, with all the delightful monotony of these pleasant days now, when I am happy leading, I thank God, a life without much excitement, working on paintings in the bright mornings, seeing occasionally a few agreeable people and not too many, having a drink or two before luncheon, sleeping, working towards sundown to sip tea -- well, it's all more than I deserve. What is really so good is that these days can repeat and repeat without boredom, and with a fresh renewal of pleasure: I am still moved almost to tears by a glance or a gesture, or phrases the children use, or to see them playing music or talking amongst themselves with half an eye on me to see if I need something. Now there is a new one, a very ugly little hare-lipped garden boy [Madja], to take the place of three I sacked. ...

 

11 June

Painting steadily, very pleased with myself. Today we had a doctor down to give all the houseboys and gardeners and cooks a cholera injection. There are 25 of them in all. There is a little cholera in Djakarta, Bandung and Surabaya, but none in Bali. ...

 

9 July

The "change" -- that is to say, change for the worse, is becoming apparent in Bali. Javanese thieves are setting up a thief's organisation in Denpasar, temples are robbed -- three in the past month. Police patrol the beach at night now, and several houses at Sindhu have been burgled. Very oily pimps hang about offering boys and girls. At night now my house is in a state of defence.

I have received a copy of Present Day Art in Australia (Vol.111). I had reluctantly allowed Mervyn to use a block from my book of a painting done some years ago.

Reading Daniel Thomas' foreword I was absolutely enraged to see my whole painting life dismissed in a word or two about charm, wit and pretty boys.[4] ...

 

3 February, 1971

The time draws close for the great two days of offerings and exorcism. It coincides with my birthday. I shall be glad when it's over because it is bound up with the loss of two rings. The servants will all have to swear before the priest. My situation in this is bad. I'm sure I would not be at all happy to know who the thief is. I suspect Tama, the hardest working of the house. I think he was put up to it by his father, a villager from Semawang.

 

7 February ...

Tama came and said his father wanted to take him to the doctor for an injection. Poor wretched boy, ever since yesterday he suddenly looked as though he'd lost a lot of weight. His face was skull-like. ...

 

18 February ...

Since yesterday Madé Berata has had a fever: either malaria, dengue or flu. It strikes at my heart. He came in and sat on the floor beside me, silent -- tears flowing in rivers but completely silent. I felt his hot forehead and gave him some of the pills I'd been taking. I put him to bed in my room. He makes no sound, no complaint.

I went out to dinner. On my return he was asleep, a tear or two still on his cheek.

No sign yet of the doctor. ...

It was after dark when the doctor came -- bristling, pink old Dr Stahlhache, who is rather like one of Snow White's dwarfs. He is German, and has lived 20 years in Java. In addition to Madé Berata one of the gardeners, Ktut Daro was sick. The Balinese are apt to turn an ailment into a trance drama. So it was with Ktut, who, it turned out was suffering from some form of hysteria. Weeping hopelessly he was borne by six of his fellow gardeners. The lamplight, the grouping of brown bodies and glint of skins catching vagrant light was very Rembrandtian. ...

 

20 February ...

Friend discovers some money missing from his wallet...

We searched everywhere. Only the houseboys -- Tama, Madé Berata, Budal and Rodo had been in and out of my room fetching things.

Tama was nowhere about when the theft was discovered. I had a council with all of my boys. Tama they all say is the one. He pleads weakness from his bout of fever, but is every day seen here and there when he should be at work, and spends his nights at the drama or whatever is going. So I'll have to sack him. I only pray that puts a stop to the inside thieving.

 

21 February

It is a thing I cannot do well, even in my heart. So at breakfast I called Tama, handed him a month's wages and said, "you cease work here".

I was too cowardly to say more.

I shall probably never be sure he was the thief. And even if I was I would regret a very good servant who went wrong.

He was not liked by the others, and bullied them, when he thought I would not find out. So the general feeling in the house is relief among the Balinese. Still there is my own uneasiness about possible injustice, and suspicions too fantastic to record.

To make things worse he came back in an hour to plead with me to tell him what his mistake, his fault was, so that he had some reason to tell his friends and parents.

I said, "I cannot tell you the real reason. Tell them it is because you are not strong enough for the work," and a further pleading I answered, "I think a god is angry with you".

I can't have the police in beating up everyone young and old. The only other person I suspect could not possibly be touched by them, ever, in a word.

The rest of the morning was more cheering. After doling out anti-malaria pills to the boys, told them I was off to Djakarta in two days for a week, and that in these changing times they must keep a sharp eye on the place and not run away and play. ...

 

23 February

Friend has today arrived in Djakarta...

Last night just when I was feeling a sort of emotional let down, Sado wandered in to get instructions about when I am away. That done, he produced his little bamboo flute and played for about an hour. It was enchanting -- more than enchanting, since it was done for this purpose, because I was going away, because it must be a year or more since I've heard him play, and he knows how much I love these wandering melancholy cadences. It was a delicate and gentle farewell present. ...

 

4 March

Back in Bali...

Waking in the morning after our return I was almost immediately burdened with a  number of Balinese problems. The worst and most complicated was another theft -- of a very fine carving from my bedroom.

Houseboys Reading

Sado, in a state of fear and emotion, told an extraordinary tale accusing Tatie Wawo-Runtu, who had made herself very unpopular coming often to the house and slave-driving the servants, who have always hated and feared her.

It took courage to tell Wija who could not believe it. ...

 

1 May ...

Friend returns after a three to four week stay in Sydney, Australia.

[After a lengthy ordeal getting through customs...] At last it was over and I was greeting Wija, who had some of his children with him as well as Sado, Budal and Madé Berata, all very splendid in brocades and batik, whipped the luggage into a splendid brand new utility truck.

The new car!! -- which Wija drove down from Java two days ago.

My boys had made the house gay with flowers, and the entrance splendid with gilt and scarlet umbrellas, where they had also placed a group of carvings of courtiers at the terrace where one goes in. I was delighted, for the group was so arranged as to make one of those curious Balinese witticisms, both affectionate and mocking. The courtiers welcoming the raja. ...

Still -- the fresh early sunlight quivering on leaves, the pearly lagoon, the garden boys sweeping the paths. And last night all of them sitting quietly waiting for Wija and Chris to go, so they could talk and give me the pleasure of the sight of them about me again, all looking so happy.

 

9 June

At night the children "tell me the news" -- actually, they really tell me nothing unless they know I already know it. Then one will go and start on a gamelan instrument: they all follow in a moment, like a flock of starlings. Or sit near me on the floor looking at art books. Hieronymus Bosch finds great favour -- "Bweh! -- a fish flying in the sky ridden by a guru! -- Beh! Apa itu, mulutnya yang gede!" -- (Tch, what is that with a huge nose?) much laughter and discussion. The Garden of Earthly Delights provides matter for lengthy speculations. ...

 

13 October ...

Another element may have entered my life when I least expected it. A new servant, three days ago employed as a night watchman, whose alert smiling air of friendly expectancy has for the first time in -- how long? -- stirred up feelings. His name is Kompijar: About 17 or 18 years old, from Keseman village. He stays always near me, keeps his eye on me.

This to date has been a business of the eyes and the desires of the eye, but this morning he said "Tuan, may I bring my sleeping mat to your room and sleep beside your bed?" an astonishingly direct advance from a Balinese. Or was it an advance? -- I am a fat creaking old pantaloon, astonished, timid, hopeful: sighting from a distance the promise of the possibility of love. Not daring to suppose it is more than a mirage.

Life is seen in a madder light. Damn having to go to bloody Paris [to attend an exhibition of his work]. Here everything is very lively. I gave a party -- drinks and small food for about 15 guests last night. This was to amuse the Duke and Duchess of Bedford. Our music was superb, set in different parts of the garden, playing turn about, a wayang gender orchestra and a blind flautist, the best in Bali. The garden had been converted by the boys into a glowing fantasy with acres of young palm leaf, gilded umbrellas and hundreds of candle-lamps that gently glowed, picking out the eerie faces of a hundred or so topeng masks tied among the leaves and branches.

Everyone seemed to enjoy it. Mitty was here! (on a visit from Hong Kong), Wija and Tatie of course, and various people -- Bob Hargrove who is staying with me for a few days. My pleasure was much enhanced by Kompijar's presence, always hovering near. In fact I am in a daze about the boy. Dismayed because it comes at the wrong time, hating more than ever the prospect of going away even for a short time.

Meanwhile he looks to his work with cheerful attention, does not at all confine himself to night-watching -- in fact is about morning, noon and night.

It is high time I loved again. If I am capable of it. ...

 

15 October

My fears and hesitations were well justified. Once the lid was removed for an instant all sorts of problems were revealed boiling within. I'll have to get rid of Kompijar very quickly.

I waited for some time patiently reading in bed for the bright-eyed one until it was borne on me that perhaps he was too diligent at his job of night watchman. So I rose, taking a torch with me which I did not turn on, though the young moon had not risen. I followed the beach down to the new bungalows, dark and empty.

There was no one there.

I was about to return when I heard a motorbike approaching. It stopped near. Two people got off and the machine was driven on through the park to my house.

Very interested now I quietly approached close to the newcomers. Whoever they might be had no right there. I turned the torch on. It was Wajan Rudig, a servant of Wija's who has charge of the keys of the bungalows. The girl he was with, painted like a sunset and dressed in a mini-skirt was obviously a whore.

"Who is that?"

"My sister."

"Who drove the Honda?"

"Kompijar."

He was still gunning the motor when I caught up with him. Took him by the ear. And so to bed. Where, after five minutes, he asked me to buy him a Honda.

Next day I called Wajan. As though it had no relation to recent events I said, "The villagers at Tandjung Bongka last week burned down a brothel of Javanese whores opposite the temple. Our new bungalows have two temples within their gardens. You have a very good job with Tuan Wawo-Runtu. These bungalows are his and mine. But I will burn them down if they are used for whores." ...

 

23 April, 1972 ...

Just now in Bali the advent of modern times, changes undigested by the government, their inept and inexperienced attempts to control, have given rise to silly laws and regulations and unpleasant undercurrents.

My own prestige remains high at all levels, but any man in my position is a target for envy and intrigues, and all Balinese, above all my own household, regard me as an orchard to be robbed of its fruit as frequently as possible.

This has probably always been so wherever I've lived. My disgust is only aroused when I find that those on whom I have bestowed gifts freely and generously, improved their condition as individuals, think I am a fool to be cheated, preferring to try to drag me down and strip me bare than to receive what is in my nature to give wisely, not wastefully. ...

 

24 April ...

It would be the sensible thing to lay off half the staff -- there are 18 boys now -- while I'm away, since there's barely enough in the bank to meet wages and the cost of their Galungan presents. But though they're lazy and incompetent while I'm here, and worse when I'm out of sight, I've not yet the heart to do it. ...

 

1 October ...

Today was a lucky day -- I called all the boys together for the drawing of the famous Djam Lot -- the "Watch Lottery" -- It was done very ceremoniously: the prizes all laid out -- the watch, the radio (from Mrs Scheinberg) electric torches, shirts, cloth lengths. The names written on slips of paper screwed into balls, shaken up with growing suspense in a bronze zodiac beaker. I had to draw the names out blindfold. ...

 

17 February, 1973 ...

Friend stays with Bob Hargrove at Bedulu for a few days...

A fellow-guest at Bob's was an Australian woman, wife of some man who has leased a hotel in Ubud. She was one of those bright brave fading women, very willing to make themselves useful.

"I don't know why," she laughingly commented -- "but things, the maddest things always happen to me. I certainly don't do anything to deserve it -- but wherever I go houses catch fire, or people fall out of windows, or maniacs get loose. I'm such a quiet person really."

"We have been warned," I commented ironically. Later that night -- we had all retired an hour or so previously, she came to the house and woke Bob.

Etching of Two Males

A man, a Balinese, stark naked, had tried to get into bed with her. When she told him to, he went away without further trouble. In the darkness she had not been able to see his face, etc.

Bob told me about it in the morning.

"Do you suppose she dreamed it?"

We looked at one another and began laughing, for in the same instant we both guessed who it must be: an amorous village youth who frequently visits Bob's bed at midnight.

Back at Batujimbar...my newly-employed night watchman looking very beautiful in his dramatic dark clothes saw me home after the party. Sat on the bed and massaged me. After a while "For fifty thousand rupees you can."

I laughed. "One thousand." After an hour's haggling it was two thousand.

"You will like it so much next time you will pay me," I said.

A very unimaginative boy, exquisitely built. Someone must have put him up to all this. I was much amused, but his interest was strictly humourless. So much the more surprising, then, the wild abandonment of his actions when he lay naked in my arms. ...

 

14 March ...

This "season of change" does not change much: the expected trade wind blows a gust or two and veers to the opposite point of the compass, bringing showers of warm rain. The nights are very warm. But the night watchman has, after several pleasant interludes, become cool: I am content to let things be for the time being. He is a youth who puts a high value on his favours, and I appreciate them greatly. But wooing bores me. ...

 

18 March ...

It is hard to believe life can be so pleasant. Today being Sunday I had the big gongs rung to call together all of the old men, the young men, the children who work for me, and doled out (this happens over a week) an anti-malaria pill each, and then -- the older ones (except for Mendre who has turned out to be a splendid head-boy) all ran away as they usually, prudishly do, had them come with me to the sea-wall pavilion where the houseboys brought a bucket of water and a bottle of shampoo where I officiated while they -- stripped naked -- washed their hair, and then one by one ran whooping with laughter to the beach and plunged into the sea. ...

 

31 March ...

This morning that curious young prince, Anak Agung Gde Oka of Pedjeng came again. As before, his mission was to ask for money and tell me he wanted to live with me, to be close to me. He sits very close, caressing my leg, talking in a low voice. He encloses one with a sort of hypnotic embrace of animal magnetism. He murmurs, pleading, purring? He is feline and, fascinated, I feel very dangerous. He somehow contrived always to maintain actual physical contact, he stood so near, or sat so close, pouring out a current of sex.

This was in the bright morning heat at 9 am. I took him up to the studio and made some sketches of his head. Very fine -- elongated eyes. In the act of drawing a person one finds out a great deal about them, even in the time taken for a 30-minute sketch. This magnetic impoverished princeling is, for a prince, a very unpolished primitive product. Some of the reason for this quite unusual confidence he had in his, one could call it psychic attack on my will, became evident when I was quite firm about making him take his shirt off (I was determined to see at least a sample of his body) -- he was wearing several powerful charms, the strongest being an ancient Ardjuna coin strung on plaited string of three colours (red, white, black) which is the most potent Balinese amulet for sexual conquests -- or to make someone fall for them.

Interesting. Unfortunately, perhaps, the houseboys were all over the place polishing floors and cleaning the rooms. Otherwise, Ardjuna or not, I'd have had him then and there. ...

 

26 May ...

 

Mendre is in command. In him at last I have a very responsible head boy: and all the others seem to know exactly what to do, and go about their work, hardly needing direction. ...

 

27 May ...

This morning I watched with a slight hangover while the boys dismantled the decorations, and presently a rather charming Balinese student turned up, a boy from Gianyar called Murt, who had come and posed for drawing last Sunday. So I painted him for most of the morning. As usual at evening the boys sat with me and discussed yesterday's events. Mendre insisted on retelling the entire plot of the wayang kulit play which was complicated beyond belief and to me quite incomprehensible because the characters act from the impulse of character instead of from motives deriving from circumstances. Thus the noble ones -- Ardjuna etc. -- do noble things simply because they are noble and not for any reason; it is the same with the demons -- they cannot but be demonic all the time, else they'd be unemployed. ...

 

7 June ...

I have been having trouble with Djueni, the glamourous, but very stupid, night watchman. He came to me the other day and asked for a week's leave, and to borrow money. I told him no to both. Then he said that he wanted the leave and the loan to get married. He is 17 years old. I replied saying that he could not work as a night watchman if he got married. He would have to find a job elsewhere.

He answered then that he would not get married but only "a little bit married (sedikit kawin)".

So he simply went off and didn't turn up to work.

Actually I'm very glad, because I'm quite certain he has been responsible for petty thefts on the place and I have of late been uneasy about him.

The pity of it is that, divorced from consideration of my own inconvenience, I have a strong sympathy for his predicament: A stupid, stubborn rather vain boy, lazy in his work. Fatherless. His family is a landless decrepit mother and several younger brothers and sisters. He comes from his remote village in search of work, probably with the intention solely of raising a bride-price, for in his part the boys marry as young as 14 years. There is also the custom there of set cash prices for brides -- according to looks and quality you can get one for as little as Rs20 000, (about $50) -- so it is apparent that his interest in marriage is predominantly a matter of custom. In any case, not a romantic attachment. ...

 

30 June ...

This morning I paid wages, gave all the boys a talk about being virtuous in my absence and then, with much jocund ritual and suspenseful ceremony, we had Batujimbar's famous lottery -- the Djam Lot. The first prize was a radio, won by little Budi, a gardener. Everyone else got shirt material and batiks, and they all looked very happy about it. It is foolish how fond I am of these people. Now I must look to their future with the development of Batujimbar. Perhaps the extended garden of this house and the museum will absorb some of them, as the other gardens pass into other hands. ...

 

27 July

The most irritating, disillusioning thing about the Balinese is their incapacity for friendship. They have no trust in one another as individuals and as for me, as a foreigner, they trust me by now and like me well enough because I am a source of money. Not one of them comes to this house for any purpose but to sell things or to try and get money out of me. It is really boring to feel that their visit is not complete until they've been paid for it. It makes one feel so dreary. Retun, the little antique seller from Taro is an exception, and often visits for the fun of it. My conversation amuses him. Of my own household I believe Madja is the only one with any love for me. I do not deny that the islanders have many excellent and admirable qualities, but incapacity for friendship makes a terrible hole in the character of a man.

 

31 July

For the last three mornings I have been drawing from the nude, much to the resentment -- judging by their anguished looks -- of my boys: but damn their Balinese prudery. I am firm, dictatorial: reluctantly they divest themselves of sarongs, and more reluctantly of the several layers of underpants beneath. They look martyred, I look thunderous and take up the pen. It's a great strain for all of us, but art must be served. ...

 

18 August

A few days ago, one couple among the visitors who keep me from painting was a man who introduced himself as Russell, a magazine publisher, and his nephew Mike -- the latter a clean fresh healthy youth of 17, who had not much to say and seemed to be a quiet unassuming pleasant-mannered creature. Russell was fairly fast-talking -- a very commercial sort of person.

An Echo of Youth

"We come for your help and advice," he said. "I published Australian Golden Boys magazine. Have you seen it? -- it's absolutely swept Australia. Male nudes in colour, done with exquisite taste. We're in Bali for three days to do an Asian Nudes number and would like if you are agreeable to use some of your boys" -- as he was saying this he produced a copy of his magazine from a briefcase. I must admit it was rather riveting: the cover showed golden Mike in a setting of rocks and trees displaying a dazzling array of anatomical charms. Inside were many more of Mike and other youths capering on lonely beaches, laughing under waterfalls, half-aroused and narcissistic.

"So what about it?" said Russell. It was hard to keep one's eyes off Mike, comparing the modest youth before me, casually and decently clad, with the sun-dappled animal whose rosy pink-tipped penis waves among the photographs like a magic wand about to turn golden coaches into pumpkins.

"You'll have a hard job getting a Balinese to take off his sarong," I said. "I have the greatest difficulty in getting anyone to pose nude. I think the best person to help you would be Bob Hargrove." So I sent them with an introduction to Puri Suling.

Later a boy turned up wanting work. I took him up to the studio and gave him Golden Boys. He was fascinated. That book really absorbed him.

He made no demur about undressing and I drew nudes for the rest of the day. It was evident he found the experience extremely exciting, for all his fears that "someone would see." ...

 

11 November ...

Morris Graves drops in occasionally. Grey-bearded now, and handsomely bearded, he seems to be a lot less than his legend. I wish he had brought photographs of his paintings, but all he could show were views of the beautiful lake from his house in California. Morris' companion (soi-disant nephew) does not accompany him, stays at Kuta with the younger generation. A handsome puppyish boy.

Well, there they all are, these distinguished old things with their desirable ingle-boys. I do not really envy them, nor pretend to know why such associations are not possible for me -- I am not attractive enough to attract, nor lustful enough to go to the trouble nowadays, nor willing to put my heart and mind to the service of the heartless and the mindless. It is not sour grapes. The grapes are sickeningly sweet, bursting with juice for all eager harvesters. ...

 

13 November ...

I wish to God there were someone within range for whom I had unreserved affection and admiration.

Well, there is little Madja, with the remains of his harelip and bright gentle eyes, who likes his life, likes his work and has a good heart full of gaiety and, when he needs it, courage. ...

 

1 February 1974 ...

But today ... I was entirely taken up with a youth called Johnny Antonis, with the face of a debauched angel who came to chisel me for money and stayed to pose. A sort of filleted pre-Raphaelite figure which I managed to overlook since he was willing to pose in the nude: and so worked very hard on drawings, which was a great relief to me. However, the "trimmings" that followed were accompanied by wearisome Indonesian haggling. Serve me right for being an old lecher. Really, life is sometimes quite disgusting, and one is not the least disgusting part of it.

He will come to pose tomorrow. ...

 

10 February ...

I'm back to painting again, thank God. I've had to sack Mendre, who for months and months has been staying away, neglecting his work. So for good measure I gave one of the other lazy ones (Jaso) two month's "holiday" -- which is  leave without pay to teach him to appreciate this place more when he returns. It always upsets me a lot to take stern measures. It was probably that which sent me back to painting again. ...

 

12 March ...

Some things go fairly continuously well: Madja, now growing tall, is bright, devoted and light-hearted. It is really he who runs the house. Gdé the dramatic night watchman is also an important part of the household and Rodu the driver. ...

 

20 March

Gdé, my night watchman who has really been organising the running of the household, now wants to get married. I am much against it because he has not been working long enough for me to be given the sums of money that he is now scheming to get from me. ...

 

19 May

Kris

Something upsetting. Madja reported one of my kris missing from my bedroom. A very rare and valuable one of great age. The theft is bad enough, but much worse the obvious fact that one of my own household has taken it. My guess is that -- a typical Balinese ploy -- it was stolen to lay blame on someone else. The obvious target is Gdé, the splendid, flute-playing night watchman who has little by little been taking over the general organisation of the house and garden.

This sort of thing has already happened so many times before that now one recognises the force of jealousy, of which they themselves are so aware and so afraid. Even one half expects it when one personality begins to rise above the egalitarian norm and demands recognition -- and gets it from his comrades in the form of some envy-inspired intrigue aimed at toppling him. God knows how to put a stop to except by magic, or by sacking everyone in sight. ...

 

3 June

The business of the stolen kris progresses -- or at least still continues -- turgidly getting bogged down in a morass composed of folklore, magic and intrigue. The kris itself is a unique one, very ancient...

A lot of my time every day goes with the boys working in the garden. Gdé the night watchman works all day, takes charge, seems to have boundless energy. He is not, I'm sure, very popular with the others because of it, yet they need and accept his leadership. He works as hard or harder than any of them. Lord knows when he sleeps: not at night I know. He is a romantic character, with his dramatic good looks, his taste for clothes that mark him out as a personality. A superb musician when he plays the flute in the evening. His conception of society is purely feudal. He casts me clearly in the front of an eccentric raja to whom he is attached in the role of pati -- chief minister -- Minister for War, since he comes from the warrior caste. His code of behaviour, dramatically unswervingly loyal, fierce, passionately involved in his situation, follows closely the characterisation of the wayang kulit theatre. He jealously exalts my status, for he has nothing of his own, no land nor family and his personal sense of glory and importance as my pati is tied to my own prestige. He is vain as an actor, jealous as a fighting cock, extravagant as Ardjuna, on whom he models himself.

Here are most of the boys and myself at the sea-wall pavilion: Gdé beside me, Madja to the left peering out by the leaves. Madja is growing very tall. He is the Balinese nearest my heart, for the extreme sweetness of his nature, his thoughtfulness, cleverness, humour, whenever I catch his eye it is brimming with laughter and affection. ...

 

7 July ...

The family at Taro (Retun, Retato, Madé Muliata have sent me a new houseboy, to be trained to look after the guest balé. He is called Madé Mijasa: eight or nine years old: thin, shy, an exquisite child, wide-eyed with astonishment at the wonders of the seashore and the eccentric splendours of this house. ...

 

23 July

At long long last have a model for the nude, the little boy Mijasa from Taro. A very beautiful and biddable child, though I don't think he much likes posing. However my need is callous to his reluctance. Every day adds a drawing or two to those put aside for the Australian Galleries. And slighter studies I sometimes sell to callers, and that pays for the running of the house and innumerable extra expenses.

A letter from Jeff Smart, lonely now on his farmhouse near Arezzo, now that Ian Bent (Baby Jane) has left him. Old friends visiting Italy stay with him, and that cheers him up. It is the problem of ageing homosexual artists that they have a compulsion to settle with a lover in some remote Arcadian spot -- perhaps with the undeclared motive of getting the young lover out of temptation's way. And then after a while they are abandoned at a time of life when no one attractive is attracted to them. What desirable youth nowadays would consider attaching himself to an egocentric old curmudgeon in the backwoods! Even when one was comparatively young, as I painfully experienced, it just didn't work. ...

 

5 September ...

Also, most heartening of all, I think I have made a new friend -- and Australian boy of about 20, handsome, and with the most endearing manners. Most flatteringly he has conceived an admiration for me, even a sort of hero worship. He is on holiday, staying at Juta, in love with Bali. A chance visit to my house resulted in other visits. I find him delightfully refreshing, someone worthy of all the glow and enthusiasm and happiness of youth. His name is Michael Komendi.

I had forgotten quite what it feels like to be regarded in this way. "I have not been able to sleep at nights" he said, "lying awake and thinking about the way you live and the things you say, and then thinking about some of your drawings."

 

17 December ...

Of all the phrases by-passing the actuality (the words, "he died") the one that nearest touches my own stance is "He hopped the twig".

Hopped -- whence? Where to? Eternity perhaps. Or back on to the wheel of repeated lives. ...

But ah! -- my old wizened friend, whom I see each morning in the shaving mirror at 6 am. What if it is you, the chosen one? Where will all your fine philosophy be when the first pang of pain strikes. What cries of anguish will you muffle if you have the fortitude?

Will you sack the cheating night watch flute player? -- or double his wages? -- what will you do about those you love here on Bali (not that the flute player is any part of my affections. I ought have sacked him when there was good thieving reason). But the others to whom I am still nice, and give work, and clothes and wages. Who look to me. I am after all something, their lord and master. And more than that, their grumpy unpredictable source of jokes and legends.

My real concern in my own house in Batujimbar is now and would be in dying, Madé Madja, the little hare-lipped boy whom I truly love in a completely objective unsensual way: His quaint devoted trustful sweetness, his sharp bright sparrow's eyes, his swift observation of what is needed. Ah, it is all only the outward signs of an affectionate and devoted heart. When I die the others will be jobless -- glad of the gifts (money) I  have willed them. But Madja will surely be desolated unless Attilio and Ailsa look after him. ...

 

3 February, 1975 ...

The only light in my gloom is the pleasure I take in the Balinese working in the house and garden. The ebullient pleasure they take, their excitement and laughter when I call them together to make a small gift. The pleasure they take in playing the gamelan in the evenings -- and Madja, who knows how I like to hear village talk and happenings, conscientiously regales me with local news as I drink the first of many whiskies at sundown. ...

 

Friend has travelled to Melbourne, Australia, staying with Attilio.

1 March ...

Went to see [Australian painter] Michael Shannon... Michael is still hopeful but modest about his pictures. He does not defend them; nor, thank God, demand one's opinion. So they hang about on the walls rather like anaemic kept boys who've been told to make themselves unobtrusive but remain within call in case they were needed to hand around the savouries. ...

 

26 March

Back in Bali, Friend again finds it "a blessed relief to be home".

I'm beginning to feel well again. Lighter, more active. I'm proud to say I spent this morning drawing -- from the nude. How the Balinese hate posing nude! The boy, Madé Asawa, stood two hours of it with a scowl on his face. ...

 

25 April ...

In the afternoon I was really overjoyed when that young man came, whose looks and grace and sweetness had made such an impression on his former visit to Bali a few months ago -- Michael Komendi. And he too seemed overjoyed to see me, and bubbling with life, and bearing a gift of gin and a payment for a picture he bought before.

 

27 April

I have no intention of allowing myself to fall in love. At this time of life it would be a grotesquery: however, there is no doubt I enjoy pleasurable stirrings and questionable emotions that hover on the verge of becoming something stronger and yet more unstable when I contemplate Michael Komendi.

Lizards

And toward me he beams waves of affection. Listens to my old man's babble, demands more, and thinks me wise when I am merely entertaining. I wish my spirit could release itself from this battered obese old body and enter some lithe and vigorous form -- take on a shape companion to his uncalculating grace.

Coming home late after dining out he stayed overnight with me: In that enormous ancient pavilion of a bed, all carved and painted, we lay side by side talking for long before sleeping. But I lay long wakeful thinking things over to myself. And imagined a mere touch would bring him to me all warm and fresh as new baked bread. The desire was certainly there to embrace the generous affections of youth. It probably would have needed no more than a gesture to stir up a fire such as I could not cope with, but I was afraid to start anything that might disillusion or disgust him. It is easy to believe that he would remain happier in his affection and admiration, drawing from me stories and poetry and words of wisdom and humour: which are what he already loves me for, and which are such as may be lost during interludes of sensuality. Youth is easily disgusted by passion. It revolts even against its own passion -- how much more against the sweaty transports of an old satyr in the tropic night?

These cogitations thankfully float about a situation that as yet demands no solution or decision at all, because tonight he returns to Australia. He has just learned his father is ill, probably with cancer. ...

 

17 December ...

Indeed I've been once more seized with painting ideas -- the "Erotica" and some decorative pieces and nudes of three youths from the hills who, unknown to one another (they are from different villages) come to me as a guru and a lover. Surprising and gratifying after all these years. They have in common great beauty and charm. Each arrives shyly of his own accord, and behaves affectionately and with marvellous politeness. And with much hypocritical shame about posing in the nude. And with even greater displays of reluctance for fun and games until I pretend indifference, whereupon I am charmingly wooed, but it must be stated that in the matter of dalliance they are quite without humour or imagination. It is no more than a function. ...

 

18 January, 1976 ...

I guard against being robbed of everything by giving away excess money to enrich those I can trust. Madja and Attilio (whom today I gave another US$8000).

We made the transaction at the bank, changed the money into travellers cheques in his name and took from the strongbox a lot (50 or 60 rings, chains and antique gold artefacts) of the old Balinese jewellery for him to take home.

And Attilio, out hours a day fishing on the reef with Rodu, Budal and Madja -- and the fantastic rapport he has with them, their jokes, their affection, their interest. They love everything he does, what he likes they like. He talks to them about Ming porcelain, discussing a plate with them or a bowl, comparing it with another. And they absorbed, entranced. So good. ...

 

27 February

I've been working almost every day on nude pen drawings on tinted paper, and am much pleased with them -- full sheets of Ingres paper I crumpled, soaked in a water and dyed, giving a sort of "mural" texture, and had the boys flatten them with a laundry iron before drawing on them. Two figures to a sheet usually, or a series of heads. Gdé is the model in most cases. A beautiful figure: firm, well-muscled and flowing. Lovely cock and a bum like twin aubergines. ...

 

2 March

Yesterday Tony sent a note. "Come for drinks. Michael has arrived, beautiful as ever." this was Michael Komendi. I was really not much pleased to see him at all, knowing that the drawings I inscribed and gave to him, as well as others he bought but didn't pay for were for sale at Bonython's Gallery.

Reg and Sheila were there -- she is not without malice and had been fooled by Michael on his former visit, and so was now throwing spanners in the works while Michael did his angelic-little-boy act. But I felt sick and feverish, and left early, glad to get away from what seemed a press of people (although there could not have been more than a dozen) and from that blonde blue-eyed young man's over-saccharine caressiveness. To be fair, he brought a gift of whiskey. And commencement of the Parasite season. I can congratulate myself therefore that since the beginning of this year I have given away A33 000 of my ill-gotten gains to those I want to prosper. So much less for the bloodsuckers. ...

 

4 March

Poor Michael! -- I rather misjudged him. He is one of those people who involve themselves in complications that involve other people, that end up in everyone becoming annoyed with him. ...

 

16 August ...

Attilio and I (with Rodu and Madja) went to Pedjeng. I wanted to see if Madé Berata was happy in his new job there in a restaurant owned by Pacto (Indonesia's travel firm) and Anak Agung Raka. The place was very pretty and well run, and Madé Berata very proud of his job and delighted to see us and do the honours of the house. ...

 

11 February, 1977 ...

Budal. He is strikingly good-looking, an unusually silent boy and (strange in a Balinese) sad and unsmiling, and like Madja, a good musician. The two of them always play the gamelan for me in the evenings. For each of them it is apparent the music is not merely a pleasant time-filler as for the others, but an outlet for their inner feelings. I am not romanticising: I've long known a good deal about Madja from his trusting confidences to me.

Last night I learned something from Budal which was a revelation. Madja was sick with a cold, so Budal alone saw to my drinks, at sundown. For several years now, I'll admit, I'd been often exasperated by his unsmiling uncommunicativeness. In fact I thought him glum and stupid, and put up with his inattention to his work for the sake only of his music.

I called him. He came and squatted near my chair.

"Tell me, have your family got rice fields at your village?"

"My village is Ketewel, Tuan. My brothers and sister have married and gone away. In the house there is only my mother and grandfather. They are poor. They have no sawa (rice land). They work in other people's fields."

"They have a house?"

He smiled. "A poor house, on three acres of land. The land is no bigger than a room in your house."

"Is rice land expensive in Ketewel?"

"Cheap. About one fourth the cost of it here. People call the land at Batujimbar tanah mas. Earth made of gold."

"Do you like your life working at Batujimbar?"

"It is my life, since I was a child."

Budal was about 10 years old when he came here. Now he is about 17.

He continued. "I have nothing else. I will work for you until I die."

"I will probably die first," I said. "That is what I want to talk about now. Soon some money will come. I want to make sure that when I am no longer here you boys who have been with me for years will not suffer. I will buy you a rice field so that when you marry you will have something to keep your family. If I give you 400 000 rupiahs, that should be sufficient."

He sat silent, thinking it over, and then said,

"I would rather use it to build a pura -- a temple."

This took me quite aback. A temple! -- I did not say "a temple will not feed you," but I thought it. As a matter of fact a temple is a source of constant expense for offerings and ceremonies.

Budal went on to explain.

"There is no temple, no shrines, at my house. We are poorer than anyone in Ketewel. Everyone else has a temple. I have none. I never go to my village now. I am ashamed. At Galungan I go to pray at the temple near here. My mother is angry. She came and struck me in front of all the people because I cannot build a temple, so offerings are made to the spirits of my family. So I fell. Now I am nothing."

Balinese youth

It goes very deep with the Balinese. The temple he speaks of constitutes the four shrines and a small pavilion, for offerings to the gods and, more essentially, to the ancestors, who cease to exist -- or float in limbo -- if offerings are not made to them. So a man without a temple is nothing -- a lost soul like his forefathers.

From Budal's point of view there is no point in owning a Sawa unless he has a house-temple.

"Very well then," I told him. "When money comes you shall have your temple. And if there's enough, rice and land also. But you must not sell the land again to buy anything else. I say this because Balinese lose their land in exchange for foolishness. And you will continue to work for me. Your people can work the land, and live off it."

"I will work for you until I die," he repeated, looking dark and solemn. ...

 

18 February

It makes me feel good, getting those who have looked after me for seven years or more settled one by one. And all done in such a way they get the gift I give -- with no governments or other sharks biting lumps out of it.

Of them all it's Madja who is the jewel, closest to me, cleverest, who foresees my needs and attends to them; who in the evening sits to tell me all the news, and his dreams and explains the complications of village customs, and gives shrewd assessments of characters and personalities, and advises how I should act in certain circumstances. ...

 

7 April

Days have passed uneventfully -- empty of anything but industrious if uninspired painting, except I drove (by taxi) to Bedulu to see how Madé Berata was at his job at Samuan Tiga. I'd had him on my mind, and worried that he might not be happy. It was not possible to talk privately with him when I got there. I realised then what he'd meant when he'd said "there were many eyes". Ears also. Once again I sensed that uneasy atmosphere of spies and palace intrigue that clings to some Indonesians: in this case to Anak Agung Raka, the charming princeling who manages the business. I've known three or four of the servants there since they were hardly more than children, working for Bob Hargrove at Pur Suling. They all made murmured pleas (with a backward glance for eavesdroppers) for me to find them other work. Madé Berata said he'd try to visit me at Batujimbar on his next day off. ...

 

3 June

The boys are busy cutting bamboo poles, erecting temporary altars, hanging the eaves of the pavilions with long cloths printed with Hindu legends, fringing them with tassels of pale young palm leaf: this is all in preparation for the great annual obatjara for the house tomorrow. This sort of activity, carried out with such skill and devotion, makes them especially happy. Madja is much in his element. ...

 

7 August ...

Gusti, the boy from Samuan Tiga came and posed for me -- very good to paint, and affectionate. ...

 

27 August

Attilio is a great boon. There is no other friendship in my life to be compared with his. We are very much in harmony these days, most of which I spend writing ("Rouseabout") and making one or two head studies of the boys every morning, and reading. Attilio has been cleaning and polishing the carvings in the museum which badly needed attention -- and teaching gentle Adjung and one of the others how to carry on the good work. ...

 

26 September

A busy morning it turned out to be... Next came the charming (and surprisingly amorous) Gusti from Ubud who posed for nude drawing and stayed most of the day. ...

 

5 October

With Budal on Madja's motorcycle, Attilio, Rodu and I in the jeep, we went to Ketewel. The first visit in years. There is a tarmac road through the village now, and in a few years there'll be a dozen rubbishy art shops: but just now it's still very lovely and off the main road. We didn't see a white face all morning, which was refreshing. We were welcomed very honourably to the temple by the pemangku, who had the coverings removed from the superb doors I wanted to see -- among the finest in Bali -- which ordinarily are kept hidden. There are many fine ancient carvings, and all the balés are of great elegance. We drank tea in the pemangku's house and then went to see Madé Berata's house. He was away, but there were a few members of the family. It is small, and poor: just the same it is beautiful, and has five shrines and all the simple building were quite lovely though dilapidated. Then to Budal's house, which is certainly not as poor as he told me it was. In fact it seemed pretty prosperous. ...

 

18 October

Village talk -- the Earth has become too hot. Small earth tremors are fairly frequent. They think there's a big one coming up.

Also precautionary offerings are being made to appease a malevolent animist deity who periodically visits Bali to "drink blood" -- this is Dewa Ratu Gdé from Nusa Penida, who has been terrorising people at Buleleng, Negara and Jimbaran. At night the victim hears a bird cry out three times; then a voice calls him by name to go outside. If he does, no one is to be seen. He sickens and dies next day.

With all of this, the island seems still the loveliest place to live. Drought, devils, earthquakes and even a government by stupid Muslims weigh little against the Balinese of a simple sort. My gardeners murmuring and laughing at their work, the loveliness of this garden, the house, the sparkling sea -- the whole lot of it. I ought not be old, sick and worried, but happy to be able to look for a while longer at everything I'm bound to lose anyway. ...

 

1 November

I plunged into painting with tremendous relief -- this long, long time -- it must be a month or two months during which anxieties made work impossible although I need to try. Once or twice (or thrice) in that time Gusti, the young artist from Bedulu had arrived unannounced. And I made him take off all his clothes while I painted him -- although I only did head studies. This seemed to excite him tremendously, and when the sketch was done he'd stand there nude, laughing and make a comic gesture of apology for his body's arousal. Of course I loved that. And without another word we'd make love. He has dispensed now with the bashful delays and coy ploys that used exasperate me. They were pardonable -- one could hardly expect amorous enthusiasm between a youth of 19 for a man of 62, pot-bellied and in poor physical condition. But Balinese attitudes to sex are conditioned by their own values and beliefs. ...

 

1 February, 1978 ...

And as for me, I will go to Australia with Attilio in about 10 days. I'm very ill actually. Or sick. Anyway not too good, and surely headed for the grave and quickly unless I get treatment.

Except for Madja, Adjung and the gardeners my servants have been awful shits -- lazy callous lot -- during these last sick months. I told them so when I paid wages this morning and told them if I never saw them again I would not complain. Having said that, put them on subsistence pay. ...

 

26 March ...

Friend returns from his trip to Australia...

So back to Bali, determined to economise until I can make some money. All was well at the house, but I've begun getting rid of the less useful and industrious members  of the staff. ...

 

6 August

Returning to Bali after another trip to Australia...

Madja met me at the airport with a loving welcome.

All was well at home, everything kept up properly in my absence. Rodu was away getting married! And Budal at his village having his teeth filed. ...

 

Melbourne landscape

Having been in Melbourne since 17 August...

28 November, 1979

Atillio is home again from Bali, bringing a lot of stuff from my collection. I've got to sack three of the boys who simply are not there when I'm away -- Njoman Gendre and Sudija and I regret Budal, the lazy wretch. I wrote off to each of them today, and also to Madja, sent a cheque for wages for the rest.

I find myself a little homesick for the island and some of its charming damned untrustworthy people. But no, I'll live there no more. Merely visit. ...

 

13 March, 1980 ...

A bundle of mail from Bali included this letter from my boys --

Greetings. Herein Tuan's children of Batujimbar are all in good health. Tuan, do not thus believe the words of other people lest Tuan becomes heart sick thinking about us. If Tuan can quickly return then he can see for himself the house and garden which Tuan's children have looked after. Send soon a letter and return quickly and recover health quickly.

from Tuan's children in Bali, Madja, Adjung, Sumitra and Puji. ...

 

6 April

It now seems probably we won't go to Bali until about the 27th April. I'm glad of the delay because it means I'll miss the biannual house-offering ceremony which somehow always disturbs me to the point of becoming ill.

Anyway I dread the whole visit -- the haggling with Wija, the distressing final pay-off and goodbye to the boys who've grown into men in my service. ...

 

Self Portrait

7 May ...

Friend now returns permanently to Australia after a final farewell visit to Bali...

The dreaded visit went off surprisingly pleasantly in all aspects, although an underlying melancholy pervaded.

Madja and Adjung awaited us at the airport -- Wija sent my old Chevrolet car (now superbly restored) to take us to Batujimbar, so our progress was distinguished by saluting policemen and waving populace and much laughter.

From the time I entered the house began a series of visits from Balinese friends, old servants etc. came to welcome and farewell me with affection and regrets -- for the news had gone all over the island that I was coming back before departing for good. ...

 

26 August, 1981

I've acquired a model, who poses for an hour four mornings of the week: an hour is the limit of my patience -- he fidgets, complains, whines and tries to haggle for more than the five dollars I pay him. He -- his odd name is Trent Megdal -- is from New Zealand.

His angelic elfin features are the mask of a restless infantile fiend. He is the newspaper boy from whom I occasionally bought a paper, and one day we got talking. He can be amusing with his urchin's wit when one is in the mood to receive impressions of the nightmarish poverty, self-reliance and opportunism of an existence trailing along in the wake of his mother who, it seems, takes him to New Zealand occasionally, and to Singapore and India. He proudly showed me secret pockets in his jacket, so I suppose she uses him to get little hidden packets through Customs on their trips. ...

 

7 October ...

I'm working on drawings from the model who can't stand still. After he's gone I work on, altering and correcting. And completely changing some of them into half-naked Commedia dell 'Arte characters -- a vagabond troupe rehearsing, masked, the parts of Harlequin, the Captain, the Doctor etc. ...

 

The title page of the diary beginning in 1982

28 March, 1982

Christopher Wee [aspiring artist who has been corresponding with Friend] has arrived! This very morning we spent talking: tall for a Chinese, not bad looking, and I suspect rather mad. He spent several hours talking rather wildly about himself, his differences with his father, who is a chain saw magnate, about student politics at Adelaide University, about his search for a woman suitable to be his bride to carry on the Dynasty of Wee, although he prefers young Malay boys, and has actually been celibate for three years. He brought me a present -- a heavy metal statue by a Singapore sculpture -- a doorstopper. ...

 

22 April, 1983 ...

Then, surprise, Michael White (Madé Wijaya) from Bali came, bringing a letter from Budal, a long and rather stylish letter, which pleased me tremendously.

I have so nearly forgotten that language I had Michael translate for me.

This letter of Budal's is the longest I've ever received from any of my Balinese -- a very complete expression of affection, gratitude and that deep respect for an ancestor -- for to them I was very truly a Tuan.

A lord, and more than that -- a father as well as a sort of benevolent demon -- demigod. The absurdity is not my own self-praise. It is what I was, what I remain in their memory. A strange letter. The words are certainly Budal's -- the writings someone else's: I don't think he could write. It makes me happy to read his understanding that I provided a very good life from childhood to young manhood, and gave him affection, sympathy and understanding in these years.

Budal who so seldom spoke, who would occasionally come long after midnight and sit waiting in the dark on the tiles by my bedside -- waiting for me to awake, and then murmuring the problems on his mind. He was one of the really beautiful ones, but thought the darkness of his skin was a curse. ...

 

2 March, 1987 ...

Friend's health continues to decline but he continues to work and socialise. He now meets with Robert Hughes, Australian art critic and writer, who is enjoying success with the recent publication of The Fatal Shore, a history of Australia's convict beginnings.

He [Robert Hughes] has of course been snowed under with journalists and interviews, and was amusingly vitriolic about some of them. It seems that on an ABC broadcast about his book he'd said something to the effect that during the convict period the shortage of women in this country had led the shockable English to deplore the morality of a British colony largely devoted to buggering bum-boys. This remark had brought to him a very young reporter from a Melbourne homosexual magazine who proceeded to question Bob under the impression that Norfolk Island and other hell holes had been very "gay" retreats. ...

 

14 October, 1988 ...

The Grim Reaper

Best of all, out of the blue Steven Little has produced a delightful 14-year-old model so once again I've been drawing from the nudes and drawing quite well -- allowing for my clumsy right hand [due to two mild strokes]. ...

 

19 December, 1988

Donald Friend's final diary entry. He "hopped the twig" on 17 August, 1989.

Soon, soon I must die ere my mind gets crooked as this handwriting. ...

Goodbye world of lovely colours and amiable nudes.

 

 

[1] The Diaries of Donald Friend III p. 70.

[2] Friends of Donald Friend. Wija Wawo-Runtu owned the Tandjung Sari Hotel, and developed land with him. Tatie was Wija's wife. Jimmy Pandy owned the Bali Beach Hotel.

[3] Note the sexual ambiguity here as an example of the recurrent uncertainty as to which boys were Friend’s lovers. In the entry of 13 October 1971, a boy’s suggestion of sleeping on a mat beside Friend’s bed was taken as a probable sexual advance.

[4] [Footnote by the editor of The Diaries:] Daniel Rhys Thomas (b.1931), Australian art curator, critic, writer and Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia (1984-90). Thomas wrote in the Introduction to Present Day Art in Australia, Mervyn Horton (ed.), Sydney: Ure Smith 1969, p. 10: "Dobell and Drysdale and Donald Friend were the best-known and most admired artists in the forties ... Friend was the wit, and the charmer. Beautiful drawing caressed pretty boys and girls, Australian history was affectionately satirized. He is a king of what later generations called the Charm School".