Monday, January 31, 2011

Moooo - or possibly baaaa. Same difference.

I'm beginning to loathe Melbourne airport. I've been through here six times in the last few months and every time there have been long, long queues for everything. (Nothing, by the way, fosters xenophobia like having the 'Australian/NZ passports only' queue invaded by hordes of jet-lagged, befuddled people from China and Indonesia.)

Immigration, baggage claim, customs - shuffle, shuffle, yawn. And the same the other way: check-in, security, passport control, with the added spice of passenger anxiety and staff indifference. The airlines fuss over their onboard experience down to the tiniest detail - if only the airport authorities would try to do the same.

In the meantime, there's plenty of opportunity to wish yet again that I had invented - no, patented - this ubiquitous barrier system. I'd be able to afford my own plane then and bypass the whole tedious business.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Y'know that hill, Trev?

No, it wasn't Mt Arthur that I climbed today, it was Ben Lomond, at 1572m Tasmania's second-highest peak. But fortunately we started from well up, so in our 2 1/2 hour walk we climbed about 180 metres, Janine from Pepper Bush Adventures naming all the parts for me. At the top, the ascent was wind-assisted: blustery and billowing, exciting stuff.

It was a really good walk with terrific dolerite rocks in pencil-shaped columns above tumbles of boulders, neat marsupial lawns scattered with cubic wombat poo, alpine meadows bright with white and yellow flowers against the vivid green moss, and long blue views over the Northwest's mountains and hidden valleys.

Then it was white-knuckle time: onto the mountain bike with Ian and off with little ado to descend Jacobs Ladder: 7 switchbacks down about 250 vertical metres of gravel road with sheer drop-offs. I came down very tamely, gripping the handlebars and brakes so hard that my fingers had seized up by the bottom. Ian's young sons shamed me, pedalling at great speed, skidding round the corners and coming back up for a second go in the time it took me to teeter down. What a wuss.

Then Craig took over, taking me for a drive through the bush and explaining some of its secrets while we looked for echidna (elusive), ending up at a pretty little lake to spot platypus (private) and have a BBQ. It was a lovely end to the day and I didn't really mind that the platypus were a no-show. Poor Craig and Janine were so sorry to disappoint me, but I felt very special to be the first person in three years to have been taken there and not see one. See, a week in this beautiful place and I turn into Pollyanna.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Full of colour and interest

What a lovely day today! A blue and green and gold and lavender day. But not just pretty - interesting too.

First off, Brickendon Farm Village, freshly World Heritage listed because of its convict association: they were assigned to the landowner as free labour in exchange for their keep until their penal period was up. Poor John Welch from Fiddington in Gloucestershire was there for life, however, thanks to his liking for cheese and bacon. I was very taken myself by all the hens wandering around with their chicks, and all the other animals, including a friendly cat that fell asleep in the chapel, his whiskers painted purple by the sun through the stained glass.

Then yummy scallops and sparkling rose at Josef Chromy's vineyard with swans and ducks on the lake and happy hen parties at the tables under the trees.

And finally Bridestowe Lavender Farm, where the bees were busy and the oil is second to none. The rows of plants curved off towards Mt Arthur. I wonder if that's the one I'm climbing and then biking back down tomorrow?

Friday, January 28, 2011

From this side now

Who knew the Tasman could look like this? Blue, yes, sparkling, even occasionally calm (so I'm told) - but TURQUOISE? I've never seen the like, not on our side, anyway. And certainly never swum in it before, in my life.

If the rocks were limestone instead of granite, this could be Phang Nga Bay in Thailand, easily. (Maybe add a few coconut palms. And some sea gypsies selling shell elephants. But otherwise, just the same.)

We had fabulous weather for our 4-day walk along the squeaky(-clean) white quartz sand of the Bay of Fires in north-east Tasmania. That was lucky: it isn't always so, despite what the guides say. (They also said "Will at the Lodge does foot massages!" and got me out of a sound sleep with "Breakfast! And dolphins!" All bare-faced cheerful lies.)

It wasn't an epic walk: 9km then 14km then a bit of a kayak and maybe 5km, and some other bits and pieces, mostly flat, some of it on soft sand but mostly easy-walking hard, quite a bit barefoot. Nothing nearly strenuous enough to earn the food they kept giving us. Presenting us with, rather - it's the first time I've been tramping and sat down to vertical dinners. "BoF belly" is a hazard of the walk, we discovered.

And now I'm in Launceston, back in civilisation with email and TV and flushing loos. Sigh. It's always a disappointment.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Can't be blowed

It always amuses me to see these signs here on the fences where vast fields of opium poppies are growing. It's a big crop: Tassie supplies about 40% of the world's morphine.

It's not easy to extract the opium from the seed-heads, which is what they mainly rely on to protect the crop, I'm guessing: that the people who'd be interested in using it are just too laid back, man, to be bothered. It's kind of a neat little cause-and-effect thing going on.

What the Dickens?

Now I'm in Tasmania, just an hour's flight from Melbourne, and it's warm and dry and sunny, and I'm in the country staying tonight at Quamby Estate in relaxed and historic luxury.

Quamby, though. Doesn't it sound like a Dickens character? Mr Quamby, perhaps: an elderly gent with a crooked eye and a dodgy past. Or Quamby the groom with bandy legs and a heart of gold. But it's an Aboriginal word meaning a place to camp and rest.

Anyway, it's lovely here, pushing 200 years old, white-painted brick with shady verandas, a walled rose garden, surrounded by huge old oaks and elms, and lawns rolling away towards the surrounding fields. And all the rooms are different, some with sloping ceilings or stand-alone baths or french doors, and all inviting. Mine has sunshine and a view of the rose garden. Nice. I don't mind that it was built by convicts.

Sparing alms

These huge glass globes at Auckland Airport fascinate me, especially since I read recently in the paper that last year departing passengers dropped $140,000 into them, which was distributed to a variety of local charities. Great stuff.

But look! There are $20 notes in there! Coins yes, even $5 notes - but $10 and $20 notes? Who are these people, who can almost literally throw away enough money to buy a ... magazine, bag of crisps, kiwi sticker? Yes, I see, not much available airside that's very tempting. But still. Sheer profligacy!

Or generosity, of course.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sleepless and Seattle

Lying awake and idly Googling through the stilly watches of the night, I was minded to check up on Professor William R. Catton. Of course I knew he was American, but out of all the universities in all the states in that great Union, where do you think he was from?

The University of Washington in Seattle. That would be the very U-Dub I kayaked past on my afternoon of full-body work-out with Evergreen Escapes, after the three-hour bike-ride around the city. Another coincidence - or is it? No, honestly - is it? My grasp of the coincidence theory that he demonstrated to us in that lecture was sufficiently co-disciplined with mathematics that it slid through my meninges like mercury through my fingers, back in the days when broken thermometers were given to me as a child to keep me amused, with who knows what consequences for my future, ie present, health.

So I don't know whether I've just proved or disproved what he was talking to us about. But it's a connection, and that'll do for me - between, this time, poor rattled Christchurch (still getting big aftershocks: 5.1 the other day) and the sunny day I spent in Seattle with Eric pedalling along the waterfront and through its quirky suburbs past ships and statues, a lock and a troll, and then kayaking with him past gently swaying houseboats including the one from Sleepless in Seattle, under bridges high and low, and past the university's stadium to Washington Lake where I might have caught a glimpse of Bill Gates's house on the far shore. Or possibly not.

There were lots of rowers out, sweating away, making a mockery of our watery ramble: obviously taking to heart the sanctioned annual row-team graffiti on the concrete banks. We got back to the landing place just as the sun was setting, spotlighting the city skyscrapers and the Space Needle. Excellent day out.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Star-tling!

Now see, if I were one of those super-well-prepared travellers, like the one who lives not a million miles from this house, who swots up all the travel books before a trip and assembles a labelled loose-leaf folder with dividers with notes and addresses and opening times all printed out in colour and punched and filed, I wouldn't have had the fun of today's surprise to enliven my work.

No deadlines at the moment, so I'm flitting on sheer whim from country to country writing stories, and today it was Queensland again, specifically Charleville. That's a little town 760km inland from Brisbane in the south-west (that I hope escaped the floods this time) where there's a surprising amount to see and do. One of the major attractions is the Cosmos Centre where we went to see the stars in the inky Outback sky, natch, but also, astonishingly, the surface of the sun next day through the telescope. Heavily filtered, of course, but scarily orange and shimmering in the solar wind. Amazing. And they had ancient meteorites there from China and more recent local ones, prettily known as 'sky stones' by the Aboriginals. And I found out my age on Venus (83!) and on Jupiter (4!); and my weight on the moon (10kg!); and I ate star-shaped biscuits.

But that's not the surprise. We went to a park and looked at tall funnel-shaped things that we were told were Vortex Guns: invented in Italy to disperse hailstorms over vineyards. A self-taught meteorologist called Clement L. Wragge thought they would be the answer to the long and disastrous 1902 drought, and got backing to have some made and fire them into a likely-looking cloud. It didn't really work, and the second time they tried, two of them blew up and nearly took out a couple of spectators, so Wragge slunk away in disgrace (the drought broke a couple of weeks later all by itself).

But Wragge (who, incidentally invented long-range weather forecasts and first thought of naming cyclones after people - actually politicians, ha ha - so he wasn't really a failure) left Australia and ended up in Auckland some years later, supplying the NZ Herald (for which I was writing that particular story) with forecasts. And, even more surprising, he lived in a suburb not far at all from where I live in this very spread-out city, and is buried there.

So that was all fun to find out about today, instead of just churning out a dutiful story of known facts. Moral: leave yourself stuff to discover later.
PS One of the few things I remember from my mid-seventies trendy but useless sociology paper at Canterbury University was that coincidence is much more common than people think, and the prof demonstrated it by finding several sets of birthday twins in the lecture hall before he'd even got halfway up the side section. That lecture hall? Shown on the TV news last night as an example of earthquake damage in the city, its turret dangling from a crane. That turret? This one. Explain that away, Prof Catton!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Not my fault

I would like to make it clear that I take no responsibility whatsoever for the terrible floods in Brazil. I have never been to Brazil. The nearest I ever got was eating a fresh Brazil nut in the Amazon jungle in Peru; but the young people flaunting their perfect bodies in front of us last Sunday at Palm Beach were, I thought, Brazilian (on the basis that I couldn't understand what they were saying so obviously it couldn't have been Spanish) - does that count?
Seriously, tragic stories from Brazil. And seriously bad ones still from Australia, as mop-ups uncover bodies in Queensland, flooding spreads in NSW and Victoria is badly affected. Also, Tasmania, where I'm going in just over a week (calamity, worryingly, now preceding me as well as following on my heels): two teenagers airlifted to safety after being swept along Cascade Gorge, which was on my itinerary, and where I have been previously. It's a huge, er, gorge between rocky cliffs, very spectacular, especially when viewed from the ski lift arrangement that spans it, on which you're suspended below a cable and move very slowly across the surging waters.
Near Heathcote, in Victoria, we went up to look at Lake Eppalock, to see the phenomenon of the spillway not just wet but actually foaming with water: the first time it had been put to use since it was built in the 1990s. Our host was still taken with the novelty of it all, that the lake was 107% full so soon after a time when "We thought we were going to lose the lake". It'll be a lot more impressive right now, I bet.
And back in Queensland, in Charleville, our guide there was still astonished by the floods they'd had just 4 weeks earlier, when Bradley's Gully overflowed and swept through the town from behind while everyone was watching the stopbanks on the Warrego River out front: half a metre of muddy water right through the town, including the bottom floor of the historic Corones Hotel, scene of high society in the first half of last century but the elegance now faded, and many treasured items spoiled by floodwater. Poor Jane, the tourism lady, found herself playing lady's maid, hand-washing gowns over and over, flushing the fine dirt out of seams and hems.
Australia's fine red dust is probably the most-cursed dirt on the planet: up in Broome, the pearl-masters deliberately chose to wear white linen suits to show how rich they were, able to afford not just lots of sets of clothes, but also the laundry maids to wash out the pindan dust every day, in water that had to be filtered over and over before it could be used.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A full day

What better way to spend a sunny summer Saturday than out with old friends nosing around Matakana Farmer's Market (fresh pastries, hot HOT Jamaican beef pasty, crowds of relaxed people and interesting shops full of pretty stuff that I have no temptation to buy any more - what a lot of money saved!) And then to Morris & James pottery to admire colour and form, art and craft, and eat a healthy salad.
Followed by sinful creamy gelato from Charlie's for some, but virtuous zingy blackcurrant sorbetto for me. Then Brick Bay Winery and Sculpture Trail for a pre-tipple wander through sun-soaked vineyards and cool shady bush scoffing at the art-speak in the guide, but admiring the creativity, both abstract and concrete, that led to such delights as this:
And enabled a bit of fun like this:
Then a trip back in time for one of us, but for the rest to Martin's Bay for a classic Kiwi camp-site and beach, to paddle in warm water, walk on soft sand and watch little kids with fat tummies and bucket hats chasing seagulls, and old-fashioned tractors pulling flash new boats out of the sea.
And finally snapper and spuds on the beach at Orewa with more little kids playing and discovering that scooters on concrete ramps stop pretty quickly when they reach the deep sand at the bottom. Always good to see children learning useful lessons.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Calamity Pam

Sometimes it might be better not to have travelled quite so much. Today's news was pretty uniformly bad, and having connections with the places where it was happening made it seem that much worse.

Even though Brisbane's flood levels didn't reach the high predicted, it was quite bad enough, with 26,000 houses drenched, huge damage everywhere including to the lovely places we walked so recently, and so much debris washing down the river that there are fears the Great Barrier Reef will cop some of it. And of course, the deaths, the featured stories just heartbreaking; and so many more people still missing.

Then down in Greymouth the police announced tonight that they are calling a halt to the recovery attempt and sealing the mine with the 29 men's bodies, what remains of them, still inside. The mine is so volatile even now, two months later, that it's just too dangerous to think about entering: 4 explosions and a fire so far. The families, and everyone else on the Coast, will be downcast, having clung to hope for so long. It's been raining there today, the hills hidden in low cloud, the sea grey, the bush a dull green.

And then, different but disturbing, there's the report of the murder of an Irish woman honeymooning in Mauritius, who disturbed hotel staff thieving in her room when she went into it, and was strangled, while her husband of two weeks sat in the dining room waiting for her return. And that was at Legends hotel in the north, where I stayed last year: where Matthew Flinders' cat came visiting, where my bed was covered in an intricate pattern of bougainvillea blooms, where a friendly attendant came to my door in the evening to shave jasmine-scented soap for my bath. Awful.

I was asked today if I'd like to go to Malaysia, to the east coast islands, for a bit of snorkelling and scoffing of seafood, and beach-side massage. Maybe it would work out better for Malaysia though if I stayed at home.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Water, water everywhere...

Hard to say anything more meaningful about the Queensland floods other than "Wow". Australia doesn't mess about when it comes to disasters: the sheer force, volume and spread of the floodwaters is just astonishing. To see footage of cars being flipped about, forced under bridges and left in piles by what is normally an inoffensive little creek in Toowoomba is simply breath-taking.

And now it's Brisbane's turn. As if there's not enough water in their river already, serpentining through the city and bringing, usually, a breath of cool freshness to what can be a chokingly hot and sweaty place. When we were there last April, we had a day free in the city, and it was really pleasant to spend it alongside the river at the South Bank Park, where there's a popular little beach area in the gardens and lots of open space for things like, that weekend, a festival to celebrate Buddha's birthday.

We went up in the big Ferris wheel, then crossed the bridge into the CBD to nose round the shops and be nosy about these people in their very odd dress - advertising something? Who knows.
And then we took a ferry along the river and looked at all the lovely houses and converted warehouses where right now everybody must be looking through their windows at the river and wondering where it's all going to stop.

This guy is the only one guaranteed to keep his feet dry.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Back to work

Yesterday was pretty much the official start of work again here after the holidays, even though the weather continues hot and muggy, school's out for another 3 weeks yet and lots of people are still away. But I'm not and it was time to hit the keyboard.

Working from home is a hard discipline: there are so many worthy distractions all around, jobs that need doing, that don't individually take so much time that it's unreasonable to consider leaving the computer to do them, but taken together eat up an entire morning. Or afternoon. Or both, even. Sigh.

And then there's the focus required to stick with something that doesn't have a deadline. Tch. So it was a triumph today to finish a story about Jaipur, even if I started out by writing about Washington. I'm not quite sure how that happened. But anyway, it was good to look back at the photos and remember the mad chaos of India, the colour, the press of people, the animals - everywhere, animals: cows, chickens, goats, dogs, monkeys, camels, horses, elephants - and the faded incredible opulence of the buildings. So much gold and silver, delicate hand-painted murals, fabrics embroidered in gold thread and decorated with thousands of tiny seed-pearls, each one drilled by hand. It's a tired cliche, of course, but the contrasts there are phenomenal.

A friend of mine has just gone to India for her umpteenth trip, salwar kameez at the ready, eager for the photo opportunities as in no other country. I've been twice now, both times to the same cities. There's so much contrast just within one city - how much different would it be to go to another area altogether?*
*To go to another area. Sorry you're gone, Leslie Nielsen.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Scorchio!

Another sunny Sunday, hooray, so I had a second go at having my first swim of the year - much more successfully this time. And it was easy: ferry to Waiheke Island, bus to Palm Beach, bake in the sun for a bit and then straight into the sea - past the oh!-zone and flop ahh! into the water. Perfect. Lots of warm bits to find, floating, only the occasional big wave, and all around blue sky, white boats, green hills and biscuity beach.

Waiheke's such a lovely place, and not just because it's been our family summer holiday place for years: it's so quick to get to, only 45 minutes with the detour to Devonport, and yet it feels miles away from the city. The sign above, at the car ferry jetty, sums it up: Waiheke is all about winding down, looking around and enjoying the moment.

And there are few moments better than hot, crisp salty chips with marty sauce and a cold beer, seagulls swooping overhead, kids busy digging holes in the sand, teenagers being self-consciously laid-back, old people titupping over the hot sand with bare feet, and nothing to do all afternoon except get hot again and go for another cooling dip. I could perhaps have done without the group of gorgeous Latinos parading their perfect young bodies in front of us, but that's just being picky.

And then afterwards, bus and ferry and car home again with salty skin, sandy feet, stiff tousled hair and a faint glow of sunburn, and total relaxation. All that was missing was the orcas.

Friday, January 7, 2011

That extra inch makes all the difference

Story in the news today about a man in the Nelson area who last night set about a campervan with a machete, and then tried to set fire to it, to the horror of the couple cowering inside it. It was, even making allowances for its battered and blackened condition in the report, a particularly ugly home-made campervan - but all the same, that was rather an OTT reaction on the part of the attacker. (Apparently it was blocking his view, and the recent criticisms of freedom campers by the general public were just grist to his mill.)

Campervans get an unfair press. They do look dorky, it can't be denied, especially the pop-top ones when their tops are, er, popped: it totally destroys the proportions. They're like those frogs that can inflate their throat pouches to huge balloons. Or frigate birds, ditto. And it is highly irritating to get stuck behind one on a winding road, as it grinds along so slowly.

But when you're in one, they can be kind of fun, especially when you take it off road, lock the hubs and do a bit of 4WDing through creeks where the water comes up to the top of the wheel arches and where, if you did get stuck, you'd have to risk a croc encounter if you got out and waded.

We spent a week trundling through the Northern Territory in our own little convoy, and it was an unexpected pleasure, even if we did once get a flattie. Pete and James came over all macho and lay in the dust to change the wheel, scraping away the soil when the jack wasn't cranked high enough. "I need another inch," Pete said to James. "I've been told that before," James replied.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Natural balance

The floodwaters in Rockhampton are currently hovering just below the 9.4m that's been predicted, which would put 400 houses under water. The Fitzroy River was very well-behaved when we were there in April, gliding smoothly between its green and shady banks.

We walked along Quay Street under palm trees crowded with rowdy roosting birds, past pretty painted 1890s buildings including the grand Customs House with its pillars and dome: a mini cathedral. At the Heritage Hotel, a fine 3-storey building, its layers of intricate wrought-iron along the verandas making it look like a wedding cake, we sighed over super-tender wagyu beef on a truffle potato mash. The food was so good we happily tolerated the four - count them, four - separate hen parties in the restaurant. Shrill, shrieking, baring startling expanses of ample flesh: these girls could take on their equivalents in Essex or Glasgow and hold their own, no problem.

They were each celebrating the lassooing of another of Rocky's cowboys: this is Queensland's cattle capital, and around the town are six life-sized statues of the favoured breeds — Brahman, Droughtmaster, Santa Gertrudis and others — but even if you miss the concrete cows, the hats, boots and belt-buckles of the locals are a dead giveaway.

All of that will be underwater now, apart from the cattle statues. They'll be standing above the water, much as the real thing will be in the back country, marooned on shrinking islands and surrounded without doubt by marauding crocodiles eyeing up an easy meal.


Croc-hunting was banned 30 years ago when numbers shrank to near-extinction levels, but now there are so many there are calls to introduce it again. I was walking along the Katherine River in the NT one night after a croc-spotting picnic when the guide darted to the water's edge and kicked a cane toad away from a freshie that was just about to snaffle it. "Poisonous: it would have killed the croc," he said. Shame they can't keep each other in check, eh?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Eight legs bad, no legs worse

It must be impossible for Central Queenslanders to imagine playing with water at the moment. When we were there in April, it was hot and dry and their earlier heavy rains were forgotten as they settled in to enjoy their sweltering summer. At the Caves A&P show along the road from Rockhampton, there were camel rides, Brahman cattle dozing in their pens in the shade, horses shiny with grooming and sweat zipping round the jumping course in the main ring, and lots of people cheerful and chattering in the bar.

Now, Rocky has - just - been cut off by the floodwaters that have been working their way down the Fitzroy River from inland where they've had quite incredibly massive flooding: an area larger than the UK and France put together. Of course, Queensland is such a huge state that there are still plenty of people with dry feet - but for the areas concerned, it's literally a disaster. More than 200,000 people are affected and 20 towns inundated, and the bad news is that there's more heavy rain on the way.

Apart from the heartbreaking destruction and damage to homes and infrastructure, the prospect for some of months away from their houses, and for others the certainty of weeks and weeks of hard work to clean theirs, in Queensland they have the extra unwelcome consideration of the likelihood of unwanted visitors moving in to escape the water: spiders and nasties with six legs and, worse, those with none at all. Imagine how fraught it's going to be when people are eventually allowed to move back home to deal with the mud and smell and dampness, all the while looking out for venomous snakes that might have tucked themselves away anywhere in the house.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Doggone it!

Another scorcher today, so off forthwith to the beach with picnic and dog. Except that it turns out that dogs are PNG (that would be persona non grata, not Papua New Guinea) on East Coast beaches in the middle of the day - ie just when fur coats are at their most unbearable - so we had to drive past miles of sparkling sea, wide sandy expanses and shady green reserves and end up, still illegally, at a muddy river mouth.

We thought we could get away with our inoffensive old Labrador and boxed-up leftovers as it was deserted when we got there: tide out, so the boaties gone for the duration, and no-one else around except for a couple of depressed-looking blue herons by the water's edge. That was before the procession began of lovely horses squelching down to the water to splash through to the other side and a bouncy canter along to the point; and the trail bikes that did a few messy donuts before, thankfully, departing again; and the walkers manfully wading through the river; and the helicopter clattering over...

But it was still very pleasant to sit in the shade of a pohutukawa and look out to sea (even if the foreground was mudflats and mangroves) and eat our nice food and tut over how sedate the old dog is these days. I would have liked to swim, though - or, even better, go for a ride myself. I hope there'll be more horses for me this year: that's something to work on.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Calendar

I've just put together the photos for this year's calendar, and though I've done a lot of tutting over the ones that didn't come out as they should have, it's been lovely to revisit some of last year's destinations.

I'm looking forward to what this year will bring: first off will be Tasmania, for the third time. That's where I went on my first ever assignment, which would make me look on it fondly even if it weren't such an interesting and beautiful place. People always say, "But isn't it very like NZ?" - and in places it is, but there are plenty of differences, too: the violent and dramatic history, the fabulous stonework in the towns and bridges, and most of all the swarming wildlife. Wombats, devils, quolls, bettongs... brilliant.

Then there'll be Great Barrier Island, which I can see from here (well, from up on the top road) but have never visited before. And then the UK again, with the whole family this time: that'll be an event. And hopefully Western Australia for the whale sharks; and who knows what else may come my way - or that I'll think to ask for? I love this job.

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