I kept saying to myself, when I get to Singapore, I’ll be able to settle down to some writing. I’m a week in and it hasn’t happened yet. I know that at some point I have to start writing, anything, just exploring a character or something and eventually a way in will emerge. The muse appears while we’re in the process of writing. I know this. Yet I can’t summon the will, the energy, the inspiration, or whatever the hell it is I’m waiting for.
Today I have an excuse. I’m in Jakarta with Rob, who’s here on business. I’m just tagging along. Perhaps I should have stayed in the room if I wanted to write but the hotel room is pretty soulless. So I ventured to the pool on the 5th floor. Very nice, exactly what you would expect – pool, loungers, shades, tropical greenery, bar. Perhaps the muse requires a piña colada? You can see where this is going, right? Bet you can’t.
I lay back and wonder what the hell the rumpus is all about. There is incongruous music playing. It sounds like a Eurovision entry. Not so much Humper as Oompah. It really does sound Alpine, but we’re in Indonesia. I guess there’s a kind of music that sounds the same the world over. There is also a man on a loud hailer making what sounds like a political speech. I look over the railings to find a demonstration going on below. Not your usual poolside entertainment. But fascinating and a sure-fire way of keeping me from writing. I might gain inspiration from it, says the professional procrastinator on my shoulder. And I have to agree. This is what writers do, drink in what’s happening in around them, along with the piña colada. It worked for Hemingway, although I guess he was more a whiskey man.
Below, flags of the opposition party – green with a white smiley crescent and a white star above it – are being waved along with black flags with white writing, a mass of people wearing red t-shirts are circling the roundabout with the fountain in the centre. Perhaps more than one party is represented here. One of the bar staff joins me and tells me they are protesting because the government is removing petrol subsidies. At the moment it’s about 50 cents a litre but it will go up to 62 cents.
I try to stop my jaw from falling open. Fifty cents a litre! No wonder this city is choked with traffic and pollution. But an increase in fuel prices also means an increase in food prices and Indonesia has a lot of poverty. Nevertheless, the Green in me says Indonesia has got to get with the programme on this one. It has been used to being oil rich and oil dependent, even cooking with kerosene rather than gas. Change never happens easily but change it must. Besides, I’m told the protesters are paid to turn up by the opposition party, which makes it kind of hollow.
There is increasingly frenzied rhetoric coming from one of three loud hailers, followed by a roar of assent. There’s chanting from another loudhailer and tuneless singing from the third. The Indonesians do love karaoke. I don’t think the protest can turn into the riot that government fears while they’re singing. Unless it’s Englebert Humperdinck’s latest, in which case I will personally revolt.