Monday, June 6, 2011

Queen's weather - not

Happy Birthday, Your Majesty, and thanks for the day off. Except it's not, for me, despite the unseasonably mild and sunny weather this weekend (it's winter and I have daffodils in my garden! What's going on?) which you wouldn't expect either, Ma'am, since it rains wherever you go.

No, today I have to do my tax return. It's going to be the very next thing that I do. I will be going through my shoebox of fading thermal receipts, the file of household bills, the notebook of expenses that I forgot about keeping by last June, all my travel 3B1s with their final page recording expenditure on trips - when I remembered to write it down. And then, maths not being my thing, I'm going to bundle it all up and pass it on to the accountant who will work his magic and persuade the IRD to give me back some of my money.

It's become a bit of a mission for me to spend as little as possible while away. The (very) nice thing about being a travel writer is that accommodation, transport and activity fees are taken care of, and usually most food too, so with some dedicated chowing down at the breakfast buffet plus carefully-judged sleight of hand with toast and paper serviettes to take care of lunch, there's no need to buy anything during the day (no souvenirs, natch).

My record so far is $19 for 10 days in the Northern Territory in '06 - even better would have been last year's trip there when I spent the grand sum of $5, but then I splurged $65 on a second massage by the fabulous Julienne at the Red Ochre Spa at Alice Springs. She was so good - a proper masseuse, rather than someone delivering little more than a scented moisturising session - and just what I needed, days after having fallen off the roof back home: so it was medical really, and not discretional spending at all.

Even so, it's hard to make much of a living from travel writing: here in NZ we're lucky these days to get even the 40c per word that's been standard for about the last 25 years. More and more editors just pay round-sum amounts for a word and photo package - if they pay anything at all, that is. Totting it all up takes every bit of fun out of preparing the tax return, I can tell you.

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