a trip to Wangaratta

I haven’t spent much time in regional Victoria, so it was lovely to escape to Wang (as it is affectionately known) to see my dear friend Bonnie for a couple of days. At Bonnie’s we made friends with a foal at the end of the garden:
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“Excuse me, I’ll take care of that”
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We also befriended two darling little dogs, Neddy (seen here in Polly’s lap) and Puppy.
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Sorry for the badly exposed picture, however it captures Neddy and Puppy’s personalities so well!
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Bonnie had to work, but kindly dropped us at the Milawa (which I kept accidentally calling Malawi, not quite the same thing) Cheese Company, where Polly and I devoured this platter of local produce and some Cabernet Sauvigon.
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Then we walked back to Milawa, enjoying the Australian landscape and bright skies. I was wearing SPF30 as always, but unfortunately I was a bad sister and didn’t check if Polly put sunscreen on… so here she is, pre-sunburn.
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We stopped to walk around the cemetery, which drew us in with its cheerful signage.
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Can you spot the mini-ponies?
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I was fascinated by these “tennis-ball trees” — the fruit are the exact same size and colour as tennis balls. I looked them up — they are Osage oranges, apparently.
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By this time Polly was really burnt — I feel terrible for her!
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We had a couple of drinks whilst waiting for Bonnie to come back from work…
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…and then another drink at a different pub, with Bonnie. Because that’s what one does in Australia!
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The pub Bonnie took us to had a little museum in its cellars.
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There’s a tunnel which Ned Kelly allegedly used:
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And a useful illustrated tale of Ned Kelly (yes, Wang is Ned Kelly Country!)
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This picture was my favourite: The North Wangaratta Picnic Committee, c.1910. A highly important organisation, I’m sure.
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I’m so grateful to Bonnie and her mum for having us stay — it was well worth the 3.5-hour train journey; it’s so weird to reflect on how vast Australia is, as 3.5 hours by train could take you to another country in Europe, and we didn’t even leave Victoria.


Christmas at the Zoo

Because people are lovely, everyone asked what Polly and I would be doing for Christmas and many invited us for Orphans’ Xmas or to join their family for Christmas Eve/Christmas Day.

I’m a bit of a grinch, personally, and have spent the majority of my last decade of Christmases in non-traditional places (last year was Kathmandu), but whether I’m in Melbourne or Taipei, I really just don’t feel like Christmas is really a thing anymore. Maybe it will be different when I have children… but for now, I’m happy to skip the traditions.

However we did enjoy going to Melbourne Zoo today — especially from 9am to 11am when there were relatively few people around. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we agreed that it was really very satisfying to have spent the early morning out and about, thus leaving the rest of the day free to laze around at home eating ALL THE THINGS.

Anyway, for our family! Pictures of our Christmas Zoo.

A snow leopard enjoying a chicken.
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A brown bear snuffling its breakfast.
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These froglets are tiny!
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Polly got attacked by a croc.
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Chubby lemurs
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A koala waving hi!
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Polly meets some lorikeets in the aviary.
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Up closer
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Mobile Australian coat of arms
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Just on the left, a kangaroo butt
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Christmas Giraffe
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This was my favourite bit — a mummy and baby elephant were having a bath and were just adorable.
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Then we went to the butterfly house, where butterflies tried to eat Polly’s tattoo-flowers
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Pause for Christmas noodles and beers
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And last stop at the orangutang sanctuary
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Then we headed home as the zoo was by now full of screaming children and we had a lot of chocolate and ice cream waiting for us. End!

Tasmania 2 – Mount Wellington (kunanyi)

We love climbing mountains. You may have noticed. The first morning of our trip, as we drove into Hobart, I saw what is locally referred to as the Organ Pipes on top of Mount Wellington and told James: I want to climb that one. He told me not to get my hopes up, but turns out, yes, I was going to climb it.

I am not sure how to document the experience! We have hundreds of photos and it was such an incredible experience. How can I possibly simmer it down to a blog post? Basically I am going to take you along the hike with me… there’s going to be A LOT of photos (it was 18km after all!).

Start of the hike. I am full of glee because I got to choose the first mountain we are climbing.

Waterfall crossing. Look right…

Look left…

First of two echidnas we saw!

Normally I don’t bother to make my pictures clickable. But I’m going to try and remember for most of these because everything soooo beautiful.

We met these gorgeous spiders (update: they are Nicodamus peregrinus). They have these fascinating abdomens that are like black-turquoise opals, and bright red legs. James got some great macro shots of them, I must eventually get them off him and insert here, mine will have to make do in the interim:

My head, with the Organ Pipes right up in the top right hand corner:

Sphinx Rock Lookout (with James, who due to walking faster than me, is determined to photobomb everything I try to photograph).

I loved these plants, similar to broom?

The view from the lookout (Organ Pipes to the left! yes, I’m going to climb up on top of them!)

As we reached closer to the Pinnacle track, it got a lot colder and started to rain.

Then the sun would come out intermittently. I was taking my rain jacket off and on again every other minute.

The landscape changed constantly too.

Target up ahead! (this also makes me realise how long this post is going to be… we still aren’t even half way there).

This picture may look like it was taken on an angle, but it was not.

Hazy view, not quite Hallasan levels but making me think we won’t see much from the top!

I’m aware I probably need to post fewer photos of these craggy mountains ahead of me, but I just… I just love them!

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Selfie time

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First crystal of snow…
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Suddenly a lot more snow…
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The Pinnacle!
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At this point the wind was gusting over 110kmph and the snow was stinging every exposed part of me — my face, but also my calves! I watched great big men struggle to stay upright! I squealed as the wind whipped snow into my eyes, and I hugged the rocks as we clambered up to the highest point.

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Like a boss despite the howling wind!
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Leaning back against the wind – you can see my boots lifting off!

Then minutes later — this is the view!

We were following a loop which meant we didn’t have to walk the same way back — more landscape changes.

You can’t tell in this picture but it’s now starting to snow again, and the wind was still whipping around us, hence the stylish condom effect.

Getting well snowy!

Ok! That’s enough snow, let’s switch to flooded rainy paths! Definitely reminded me of Hallashan, this one…

The sun is out again…

and I’m obsessing over the lichens everywhere:

Another path presents itself just as the clouds go in.

Waterfall crossing again

Some time after this point I realised I hadn’t seen James in ages. He’s normally way up ahead and I don’t necessarily have him within sight, but generally he stops every now and then for me to catch up. I feel first faint annoyance, then mild anxiety, which prompts me to call out for him, because I am feeling quite isolated all of a sudden. Calling does nothing and my thin reedy voice seems to carry about as far as the next tree. I should pause and mention that my feelings about Tasmania’s landscapes are marked by a film called Van Diemen’s Land, which is famous for its bleak, untouched landscapes, surrounding desperate convicts who are completely lost, and who hack each other to pieces and eat each other as they desperately try to find… I don’t even remember what they were trying to find. ANYWAY. Rosie anxiety begins to evolve into actual panic that I’ve lost James and maybe he’s hurt himself somewhere or I took the wrong path, hah, hah, irrational anxiety is so amusing. I had started crying and wailing Jaaaaaaames, before I finally caught up enough for him to hear me and coming running back, convinced I must be in grave danger given my blubbering wails. Thereafter we held hands until I had regained my cool and my independence. Also we are almost done!

Second echidna sighting!

This one was less blasé and hid from us (in plain sight) under some bark.

And that’s it! Congratulations, you just blog-walked 18km up Mount Wellington and back down again, in rain, wind, sun, and snow. To come still: Mount Amos and Wineglass Bay.

October things

The beginning of October was all uni. I am just finishing up my Analytical Chemistry subject, in fact this series of blog posts is the result of procrastination against my assignments. The object I’ve been researching is a bronze dagger from Palestine, from the Middle Bronze Age (2200-1500 BCE) and I used to love it, but now I hate its stupid face because I have to write so much about it.

Just kidding. I couldn’t hate this thing if I tried!

I don’t often share the pictures I take in class these days as they would be quite boring to just about anyone and are more for functional than entertainment purposes, but I do like this little series of my very first resin-embedded cross-section.

Embedded in this block of resin is a tiny fragment of a paint chip, from Melbourne’s historic Princes Bridge. The bridge was cleaned a few years ago, and our lecturers gathered up all the paint chips and use them for our practicals. We didn’t get to pour the resin ourselves, so I don’t have pictures of that.

(Sorry that my annotation is the wrong way round. I am not very smart and I only remembered I wanted to rotate the picture after I had edited it.)

Once the resin has set, you need to carefully place the block in a small vise and then saw as close as possible to the sample:

Sawed through one edge! it’s hard work.

After polishing completely smooth with sandpaper, you can now see the cross-section:

After sawing and polishing all the edges:

And then the final results underneath a compound microscope, magnified x100 (and photographed by moi, such an achievement)! Visible are all the layers of paint from decades and decades, all different colours:

Other October things — all entirely unrelated to each other:

Possum in my tree!

I went to an exhibition about Japanese earthquakes and I found this so poignant. Sisters are special.

My friends from way-back-when (“when” being Taiwan 2006!) Mélodie and Duncan paid a surprise visit, as is testified by this incredibly blurry photo — the only one we took, unfortunately. Oh well! it was fantastic to catch up with such lovely friends, and I hope they come back to Melbourne soon.

We moved all the furniture around in my house and now the sun hits my bookshelves as it sets. This makes me grin.

My manager had her baby and my ovaries kicked into overdrive:



A conspicuous absence of updates in the past few months. I am not a fan of winter and even less so in the Southern Hemisphere, because July and August should be full of long, glorious sunny warm days, and instead here in Melbourne it has been ridiculously cold.

This doesn’t mean I have not done anything, fortunately!

I’ve made this a photo-based update rather than the other way around. This tends to work better for summarising an entire month. But this makes it very photo-heavy, so brace yourselves. What am I saying! I am showing my age… Back in the day it was common courtesy to warn before dumping pictures but now… who’d even notice?

Sooo backing up a bit to July:

I went to see the last performance of Mikelangelo and the Tin Stars, aka the only band I’ve ever truly enjoyed watching live.
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I got a haircut, hoping my curls could be coaxed back, but they seem to have been the exclusive domaine of my twenties and I am resigning myself to not having curly hair anymore.
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I bought some expensive cycling shorts and before I’d even worn them once, managed to cut a hole in them whilst removing annoying tags:
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My cold morning runs were dark dark dark but I kept running until the sun came up:
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I invested in a lot of merino from Icebreaker — it keeps me warm as toast, and it’s like having a hug from James as he is the one who got me into Icebreaker in the first place.
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More love from James came in the form of 3 kilos of birthday Kitkats, delivered anonymously to my desk at work.
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I had a lovely night out catching up with my friends Magnus, Thomas and Alastair. This sculpture hangs in the kitchen of Tom’s warehouse.
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More pics taken when out running — I do so love living so close to Merri Creek. It may be less dark…
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…palm trees may sway against a backdrop of brilliant blue skies…
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…but trust me it’s just as cold as the pre-dawn runs.
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Preparing vast amounts of caramelised onion for my birthday high tea. In the end I made around 4 times too much and I’ve still got about a kilo of it in the fridge.
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I also roast my first chicken for said tea party (to make adorable mini-sandwiches). Fiona came home in time to egg me into eating roast chicken skin for the first and last time in years — I don’t think I’ve eaten it since I was a child! It tasted simultaneously delicious, decadent, and nauseatingly rich. No regrets.
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Making Pimm’s cake from Siobhan’s recipe!
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Here I am in my party frock, with friends in the background hard at work.
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The dress is a gorgeous brocade shot through with gold thread – hard to photograph, so you will have to trust me!
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My 30th birthday high tea was lovely, but I failed to take any proper pictures. Here are a few I salvaged off other people!

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Rebecca made these fabulous mini-pavlovas
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My actual 30th birthday was a Monday and the first day of school. I ate a delicious leftover cupcake for breakfast (actually I ate mostly cake for the entire week, as there were a lot of cupcakes and cake leftover).
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There were relatively few events during school that I could photograph, as it was Preventive Conservation (which I think is going to Be My Thing, career-wise) and so the exciting stuff was mostly confidential site visits. I took a lot of pictures anyway, and am sharing just a couple of tantalising shots below, but I can’t tell you where they are of course…

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We did a few interested lab sessions, one about salvaging paper after floods:
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Another was on cleaning mould:
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We had a go at preparing Oddy tests too (which were difficult to photograph as we were in a hurry, hence the blurriness and someone’s fluffy sleeve:
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Some fun times outside of school: finding the cat in my backpack…
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And being greeted with this fantastic scene on a morning run (it’s the Orthodox Greek Cathedral, which I often run past, but which really glows when the sun hits it right!):
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Running has unsurprisingly resulted in shin splints again, so I am taking a break and giving kinesiotherapy tape a go. I do feel like it works pretty well in relieving the pain, if not in solving the problem.
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I got an amazing book of bike rides around Melbourne from my beloved Rebecca as a birthday gift. I decided to go check out Port Phillip Bay.
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Brace yourselves for many pictures of the sea!
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This bit of road was flooding, which made riding through it extra fun!
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Picnic on the pier!
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On my way home I passed these lovely Scottish deerhounds which mummy will appreciate:
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Ok that’s all the photos I have! I have not been photodocumenting things much in the past week — I was too wrapped up in my work situation. But now we have waded through all of this: I have accepted a new job with a cultural study tour company, and will start in October. I will be researching and designing cultural tours all around the world, and I’m really excited and glad that I’ve made the leap. It was a big decision to quit my current job but now it’s finalised I realise it’s the best choice I could have made!

things I do when I’m not studying

Last week I was the lucky winner of a double pass to the Melbourne Museum SmartBar. I absolutely loved the event and I am so glad I won the tickets as I know I would have procrastinated and missed it otherwise. The theme was retro-futurism (by the way this isn’t a sponsored post or anything, just me fully nerding out about it):

  • The fourth computer in the world, CSIRAC: an international icon of the digital age designed and built in Australia. Hear CSIRAC’s story and meet the only intact first-generation computer surviving anywhere in the world.
  • Yesterday’s tomorrow… today! Retro Futurism explained.
  • The power behind machines and a glimpse into Museum Victoria’s machine collection
  • Electronic music and the sounds of CSIRAC.
  • The latest in 3D printing technology.
  • My housemate Jen and I had a great time, as it turns out getting drunk at the museum on a Thursday night is nothing short of fabulous. I’m supposed to be writing my essay on silk right now so I will be keeping this brief, but I enjoyed it so much I really wanted to share… Any pictures not taken on my iPhone are from the Melbourne Museum Facebook page.

    Lost in a sea of geeks… we were lucky enough to snag a couch so we relayed between it and the bar for the first 3 lectures we attended. If you have good eyes you can see me! (Pic Source)
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    …and this is what we were looking at! The lecturers stood on the little platform, surrounded by dinosaurs.
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    The Ghost of Computers Past and a curious dinosaur (Pic Source)…
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    Eventually we gave up our seats and wandered off for a stroll around the galleries. It had a strong “Night at the Museum” feel to it, especially in the taxidermy section.
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    We loved it there, as you can tell by the abundance of pictures. But how can you not love it, when you’re a bit squiffy and you come face-to-face with this?
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    Beautiful Jen finds a wee friend.
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    Redder than a Red Panda!
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    We also spent a fair amount of time checking out the 3D printing. I recognised the gentleman doing the demonstrations of 3D scanning and printing, as he happened to give a lecture on digital conservation at school just a couple of days earlier, so I asked more questions and oo-ed and aaah-ed at everything.

    A solution for Bamyan?
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    The inside of a 3D-printed object. So trippy.
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    I realised Jen was patiently waiting for me and was tearing myself away when one of the women doing the demonstrations made my night by calling me over and saying that as I was so interested I got to keep my very own 3D print of an ammonite. Double win! I am chuffed with it as to be honest the printing looks very basic and rough — in 50 years from now, it will be a fossil in its own right (yet another example of how conservation has warped my brain)! (Pic Source)
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    Before we left we had to go visit old CSIRAC… Australia’s first computer, the fourth in the world, and the first to play computer music! I had to pose showing off my binary tattoo, although CSIRAC ran on perforated paper tapes so it really is a dinosaur.
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    A few stats for you: CSIRAC’s entire memory was 2kb… spread over 25 square metres. And run by mice.
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    A big thank you to Joyce for the giveaway, and I already wrote Melbourne Museum a very gushy email about how much I enjoyed my night. I honestly felt it was the perfect night out — funny and entertaining lectures (none of them more than 15-20 minutes long), interesting activities (we didn’t go for the drum-making workshop in the end though) and best of all, the opportunity to ramble through some of the Museum’s galleries with an alcoholic beverage and without children underfoot! I hope there’s one on when James is next in town…

    kittens kilometres and cassis

    My mother has rescued three kittens. Our oversized deerhounds are mystified and occasionally terrified by them.

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    Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
    The kittens are named Archer (a very handsome black kitten, utterly fearless but rather stupid), Lana (a gorgeous tabby kitten, my favourite), and Cyril Figgis (a rather ugly, shy black kitten with a bald patch).
    Here they are investigating my brother’s bedroom (my bed).
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    Raphael threatened Archer, so Lana pissed on my duvet. Bitch.
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    Today Raph ran 3 km with me, then I followed another trail and ran another 7km by myself. The deerhounds, Bessie and Guiney, ran with me most of the way, but Bessie seems to have developed some sort of cancer in the last few weeks and is barely able to trot. She is swollen and looks more like a goat or a small cow, and I felt so sorry for her that I had to stop every kilometre or so and let her catch up with us. I dropped them off at the house at kilometre 7, and reached 10km sans dogs. I felt good when I got home, but tonight my shins are aching. I hope they feel better tomorrow.

    Mummy and I went to visit my sister Polly’s house, a teensy little railway shack she is now the proud owner of.
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    She’s right by the railway line, but there are only a couple of trains a day.
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    It’s a little run-down but we grew up in a similar environment so it’s not that daunting. At least she has an outhouse!
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    A few kilometres down the road is the beautiful Plan du Causse, a large lake that boasts plenty of summertime activities. We know that come winter it’s not so fun living out in the countryside, but still, nobody can complain about having a beautiful lake nearby.
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    Being obsessed with running at the moment, I kept wishing I could speed off down these paths…
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    And then as we drove back through Brive-la-Gaillarde (the nearest town), we stopped at the pet shop, as my mother cannot resist a pet shop. There was a puppy show on!
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    We also admired the Korean squirrels
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    And the bunnies.
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    I did take pictures yesterday of our eclectic collection of chickens, but I think that’s enough animals for today. We drove home discussing in depth what sort of dog I want, when I eventually get a dog, concluding that I wanted a short-haired, lean, medium-sized, not too skinny, non-purebreed dog, preferably adopted from a rescue shelter, who can run fast but isn’t a hunting dog. Easy! now all I need is to chose a country, career, house etc and I’m done.