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The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

I HAVE been clean­ing my of­fice in prepa­ra­tion for a move and con­sign­ing books to a char­ity sale. Muchloved guides are go­ing to good new homes, luscious tomes filled with de­lec­ta­ble pic­tures of Tus­can vil­las and French chateaux and rangy cats roam­ing white­washed walls in Greece will take pride of place on un­known cof­fee-ta­bles. I am mourn­ing their loss.

The books I refuse to part with are well-read nar­ra­tives by the likes of Paul Th­er­oux, Pico Iyer, Marta Gell­horn, Jan Mor­ris, Colin Thubron, Colm Toibin and, es­pe­cially, the madly funny Tahir Shah. I would like to be buried with a book by Shah be­cause I reckon I will re­ally be in need of a laugh by then.

A col­league told me re­cently my snug lit­tle of­fice looks like an ori­en­tal bazaar and all I would need to com­plete the im­age are price-tags on my in­ter­na­tional or­na­ments and a dis­creet cash reg­is­ter. She was be­ing a smarty trousers but I don’t care — like all com­mit­ted trav­ellers, I love be­ing sur­rounded by tro­phies of my trips. Ev­ery odd lit­tle thing on my desk, atop the cab­i­nets and along the win­dow sill is a spe­cial re­minder.

I have a strange pa­pier-mache lady with a wob­bling head from Colombo next to my com­puter and when I look at her I see the so-called gang of five — Terri, Helen, Chris­tine, Stephen and me— har­ing around Colombo in auto-rick­shaws on ‘‘drive-by shop­ping’’ mis­sions, laugh­ing like loons, bags fly­ing, hav­ing the best time ever on our most re­cent of an­nual jaunts.

We five were in Kenya once as well, which is why I can’t cast aside my Swahili phrase­book. Helen and I prac­tised for days be­fore we could de­mand, quite un­flinch­ingly, ‘‘Nataka kuweka katika gareji usiku.’’ Which means we need to garage our car for the night — al­ways a wise move in Nairobi. Helen, be­ing the most dili­gent of our team, learnt other phrases as well and we had to rely on her to ask if our car could be lu­bri­cated be­fore sun­set or if we could bor­row a jack and, hor­ri­fy­ingly, dig a ditch.

At ran­dom, other or­na­ments of note in­clude a dainty wooden bird carved and painted by Sepik River vil­lagers and a Mu­rano glass tum­bler pat­terned with Miro-style swirls that my friend Laura gave to me in Venice one sum­mer — filled with Cam­pari and ice at the time, but it must be ad­mit­ted not for long.

I will be mov­ing to share an of­fice space with The Aus­tralian’s con­ge­nial arts edi­tor Ashleigh Wil­son and re­straint will be re­quired lest I swamp him with my bric a brac. I have worked out where to hang the framed Mark Rothko print and my col­lec­tion of Berthe Morisot post­cards from Musee Mar­mot­tan in Paris and in which po­si­tion to drape my NRL and AFL team scarves (red-and­green and navy-and-white re­spec­tively, since of course you’d want to know) and or­gan­ise suit­able seat­ing for the de­murely kneel­ing Ja­vanese wed­ding dolls.

Hey, Helen, what’s Swahili for ‘‘space in­vader’’? Check The Aus­tralian to­day for de­tails of our Ques­tions of Per­cep­tion travel and life­style give­aways, in­clud­ing an over­seas hol­i­day for two.

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