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Ah, weekends! I like driving a cab around Canberra's parks, monuments and wide roads, especially on these crisp autumn days with the leaves gold and amber under a clear blue sky. But a week of twelve or thirteen hour shifts and I'm needing a bit of relax.

We get two lovely thick Saturday papers, full of news and opinions, features and reviews, travel sections and lifestyle extras, magazine inserts and classifieds. There's enough to keep me grazing the hectares of printed word for the whole two days. No Kindle or iPad can ever match the cheerful feeling of a coffee table covered in half-read newspapers, half-done sudokus, half-drunk coffee mugs. And maybe under the television guide, half a square of chocolate (bliss) or half a slice of pizza (oops!).

Weekend words

Then Sunday's paper arrives, full of disaster on the front page and "prepared-earlier" features inside with the funnies.

Breakfast today, and I'm reading a political opinion piece on the Prime Minister. It's so right. Rudd, who glows in the sunshine of friendly journalists, is a sorry sight when he's on the slide. It's a vicious circle, and when he snarls at the princes of the press gallery, the sharks move in to savage him.

I read out a paragraph to Kerri:
The sense that Rudd is over has permeated the corridors. The macaques aren't quite jumping up and down on his body yet, but the sense is that it's not far off.

Who wrote these wonderful words, I wondered? Chris Wallace is a Canberra Press Gallery member and publisher of it said.

That name rang a bell. Could this be Christine Wallace, nightclub-owner, political journalist, mother, biographer, quirkily smiling television panellist? Someone who once employed me for a few minutes to tweak her fax settings?

I clicked the link, and there she is, tough-looking political blogger serving up headlines for breakfast. There's a list of "BP Extras", and I was immediately attracted to a post on lying, called "On Lying".

All politicians lie. Some for small reasons, some for large, and some because they can't help it. It's one reason I got out of politics. If you didn't outright lie, you told untruths that were cleverly shaded, or could be denied, or seemed to be someone else's lies. It sickened me.

Christine pointed the finger at two politicians she had caught out in lies, and I nodded my head in agreement. Both of the men she named had outraged me in the past with their smarmy dishonesty.

I signed up for her breakfast politics newsletter. I can't say I care much for politics nowadays, but I do like her wicked way with words.

"Ooh, look at this!" Kerri laid a page of the Sunday paper before me. It had a picture of a tiny book. A book with a BookCrossing sticker. A book I recognised, because I had last seen it at an airline lounge in Japan, where I had tucked it away from the ever-tidying hands of the lounge attendants in a window niche. My jaw fell open.

Apparently it had been found by a journalist who needed a book to read on his flight home. A Canberra journalist who did some research on, was charmed by the quirky idea, signed up, made a journal entry, and sent the book travelling on to Seattle.

I'd read the initial journal entry, saying the book had been found, and had been chuffed immensely. Releasing books in airports is a chancey business, and I've yet to hear from the book I released in The Wing at Hong Kong International that same trip. I set it free in the lounge's library, increasing the number of books in that plush library from eight to nine.

But I had not expected to find Doctor Johnson the centrepiece of a newspaper article, smiling up at me between the coffee and cornpone.

Yes, cornpone. Kerri experiments with odd foods on the weekend, and this was breakfast. Warm, a hint of spice, sour cream. The last cornpone I had was in Missouri, and it wasn't half as nice as this!

Now, if you'll excuse me, there's more paper to be devoured.
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The plane landed, the kids were there to pick us up, we came home, did a few chores and fell into bed. Some hours later, a BookCrossing meeting to attend, I woke up.

And I had not the foggiest notion of where I was. In bed, obviously. Time, date, continent, all a total blank. Was there a plane to catch? Could I roll over and go back to sleep?

Eventually my foggy brain analysed the geography of the room. By some miracle I was in my own bed, in my own home, my comfortable possessions - 90% books, 5% electronics, the rest bills of some sort - all around me in cheerful disorder.

It was a marvellous trip. I love making Kerri happy, and with three weeks of blossoms, parks, art and architecture, great meals and scenery, fine friends and shared adventures, she had a marvellous time.

Breakfast was often the best meal of the day. No mucking about with menus, just grab a plate, load it up, hop into the coffee and enjoy the moment.

Japan was weirdest and best. Our hotel had a range of fascinating dishes. Nothing jumped up and said "breakfast", except maybe the coffee and the yoghurt. The rest was unfamiliar vegetables, meats, fruit and grains. Even some sort of eggy thing. All eaten with chopsticks, except for the soup. Soup for brekky.

Europe was yoghurt and croissants, juice and jam, cereal and scrambled eggs, coffee and toast. Occasionally, there might be some small sausages and once there was bacon.

Switzerland was a struggle. The lady in her pyjamas gave us directions - in German - the night before, but the reality reminded me of one of those rats in a maze, being rewarded with a food pellet at the end. It was all twists and turns, fake rooms, lounges, smoking areas, a close passage past the kitchen and finally a bright open room full of breakfast smells. But definitely a challenge to find the place. Luckily it was all on the one level - if we had to deal with another floor we might still be wondering around calling out for coffee. Somewhere I've got a video of the route.

Switzerland was interesting. By this stage I was beginning to be able to understand reasonable amounts of German. Like one word in four.* But here there could be three or four languages in the one sentence.

There was some sort of spread available. Breakfast came with bowls of little plastic tubs of jam or honey or butter or milk. Often a challenge to work out what was inside without a reasonable picture on the lid.

We had some small triangular packages labelled Frühstücks Happen. I picked one up and showed it around. We had, after a few days, worked out that Frühstücks meant breakfast.

Melydia, bless her quirky heart, translated it for me.

"Meh," she said. "Magic happens, breakfast happens."

Fruhstucks Happen

*German. Sometimes there might be four words in one. Klemmerfahrtkrankenzeitungkinderslautern. Sometimes they manage to stuff a whole sentence in there.


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September 2010

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