A CIRCLE IS NOT PEAR SHAPED

 

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A silver anklet encircles a woman’s ankle, Kerala, India

WHEN SOMETHING GOES WRONG, the Brits call it “going pear-shaped.” I don’t know the origin of that idiom, but I’m guessing that if everything is going fine, it’s shaped like a circle or round. When things go awry, maybe things get loopy and elongate into a pear shape. That’s my American take on the British vernacular. I could be way off on this.

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Breakfast at Ootupura Indian Vegetarian Restaurant

This pilgrimage—we’ll call it a pilgrimage if only to discover who I’ve become—was actually designed as a pear-shaped loop: Abu Dhabi—Maldives—India—Abu Dhabi. I left Abu Dhabi and flew to the Maldives. Languished about a bit in the sun on the sugar-white sandy beaches. OK, OK…mostly, I hung out on the deck and in the Jacuzzi of my over-water bungalow and dealt with snot and a hacking cough. I did look at that sand a lot, though.

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A worthless Jacuzzi in over-priced, over-water bungalow

“Travail” is a relative term. I have very little appreciation for most Jacuzzis. If the nozzles don’t hit the spine and neck and shoulders, or some part of the body, for a deep massage, it’s a worthless endeavor. What’s the use of sitting in a hot tub of bubbles. What’s that about? Well, wait. I suppose if you’re on your honeymoon, or with a lover, fine: then, it’s more about sensation and romance than medicine. A hot tub of bubbles in your over-water (and highly over-priced, yet romantic) bungalow while sipping a flute of Australian Yellow Tail champagne will make a fine memory for a couple. If you’re a lone curmudgeon and reluctant sojourner with a headful of snot…maybe not so romantic.

The next phase of this pear-shaped circuit begins to loop us north of the Maldives to South India, to the state of Kerala at the southern-most tip of India. It’s a one and half hour flight from the Maldives but seems longer because Kerala lies in a time zone that’s ½ hour ahead of the Maldives, so you lose a half hour of your day during that short flight. And really? A half hour? Just who thought that was a good idea?

The plan was to fly into Trivandrum, check out the beach at Kovalam, one of India’s newest hot-spot tourist destinations. But remember, this is India, and also remember that not only is travail a relative term, but so is “tourist destination.” If you’re thinking Atlantic City or Las Vegas or Hawaii, your thinking is… well… going a tad pear shaped, or maybe closer to banana shaped. Think more like, say, Cuba. Or Puerto Vallarta. And you’re closer to apple-shaped thinking. The natural beauty is there to enjoy. However, the ability to enhance the natural beauty does not exist. So what begins to spring up is a mish-mash fusion of stalls and ugly buildings. “Clutter” is a word that comes to mind, right along with “trash.”

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Coconut vendor on the beach at Kovalam

 

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A local cotton and silk vendor

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Many local people enter the water fully dressed

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Many locals won’t enter the water, but may pose at the lighthouse

From Kovalam, the sojourn cycles up to another beach town, Varkala, which has become, perhaps, the “Goa of Kerala.” The place where the backpacker crowd now hangs their hats, and shawls. Here, you can find a good breakfast for 100 rupees ($1.50) and a dang good cappuccino—for 150 rupees ($2.25). You can find fairly nice and cheap digs to sleep, or you can spend quite a bit more (nothing’s really expensive yet) if you want a place on “the cliff” with A/C and a view of the waves breaking along the shore, and sunsets off at the horizon.

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The Cliff at Varkala Beach

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Spiritual centers, yoga shalas, and ayurvedic centers abound, Varkala

This morning, I’m sitting in my second-story room in a new and fairly nice B&B, The Lily Pad. One reason I chose it is because it has its own generator, and India is notorious for electricity black outs. The Lily Pad sits a few-minute walk into the jungle just beyond the cliff above Varkala’s seashore. I have a huge balcony with a view of the pool below and the jungle beyond. I will not use the pool. Kids pee in there, and in Hindi, there is no word for sanitation. I have A/C, but only use it at night to sleep. Right now, the balcony door and windows are open and fresh air breezes in; a rooster crows; large black crows caw (is that the word?); various song birds call from the dense foliage. That’s the good part of the jungle. The bad part of the jungle is this: hump nose vipers, scorpions, and the poisonous hammerhead worm, which doesn’t bite, but whose poison lies in the mucous trail it leaves behind.

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Taking a selfie during beach celebrations (not really)

Next, I will continue the sojourn north to Kollam, a drowsy, little non-touristy town where you can rent a houseboat to sleep on and cruise Kerala’s famous backwater canals of Munroe Island and sail across Ashtamudi Lake. Along the way, you may visit local villages. This sounds fairly cool, but I’m assuming by now—curmudgeony cynic that I have become—that the “local village” will have turned itself into a song-and-dance-for-tourists type place: selling cheap trinkets and I-Heart-Kerala T-shirts, and performing drum dances for tips. From Varkala, budget travelers can take a local bus for pennies to Kollam. Or you can hire a taxi with A/C or without A/C for the one-hour ride. I will be taking the taxi with A/C because like the skin cream (or is it hair shampoo?) advertisement says: “I’m worth it.”

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Getting on or off a bus is quite an ordeal, Varkala Town

From the houseboat in Kollam, the pilgrimage takes us to Amritapuri, the ashram of the famous female guru, Amritanandamayi, known as the hugging guru. Even curmudgeons need a hug every once in a while, eh? And if you get enlightened along with it, bring on the hugs is what I say. From there, we take a ferry along the backwater routes up to Alleppey, a city with canals that someone has called ‘The Venice of the East.” The Kerala guidebook says that’s a bit of an overstatement, but does state that Alleppey is “graceful and greenery-fringed, disappearing into a watery world of villages, canoes, toddy shops.” So, it looks like it’s warm hugs, water, and toddy shops in my near future.

The trip after Alleppy is rather hazy at this point. I will ultimately fly home out of Cochin a bit farther north, which will bring me full circle back to Abu Dhabi. What happens before I reach Cochin is up in the air. I may head off into a wildlife sanctuary. I may head off into the hills to watch tea grow on a plantation. I may hang out at Fort Cochin, a Portuguese fort from 1503. I had a plan, a real good plan, for this part of the trip (is that cheers I hear from the peanut gallery?). But something happened, or rather, didn’t happen, and the plan just sort of went pear shaped. This is always what happens to me when I plan. Always. But then something else always saunters onto my path. Always. I’m expecting those travel angels to sprinkle some fairy dust on the road ahead.

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I know, I know–you thought I forgot to post a photo of thongs

Have you made any circular (or pear-shaped) journeys in your travels?

 

You can find more entries in the DP Photo Challenge here:     Circle

You can find more entries in Lucile’s Photo Rehab here:  Photo Rehab

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

121 thoughts on “A CIRCLE IS NOT PEAR SHAPED

  1. I don’t think I’ve made any pear-shaped journeys before, but my tummy is going increasingly pear-shaped, with a bit of a bulge beginning to develop around my middle. Luckily, my New Year’s resolution to lay off the doughnuts for a while went pretty well this year, though. I kept to it for almost half a day, which is a new personal best. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Love this, BF. Lots of circles hidden in each photo. Sorry you are snotty. That makes any sojourn a little less fun. I think not planning is definitely your MO. If you can do that, it makes for a much more interesting and involved experience. I admire the unplanned adventure. I usually have a plan, but don’t necessarily stick to it. I didn’t used to , but now I kind of need to know I have a place to sleep.
    Happy Travels
    Mary

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    • I know what you mean…I used to not even want a plan, or know what I was going to do, or where I might go. Now, I like a bit of information. And a hotel at least the first couple nights.

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  3. James and I find Kerala very different from what has been advertised. Sure the backwaters were nice, but overall Kerala was not a place for us to chill and relax. Quite the contrary. Maybe we met the wrong people, maybe the wrong people somehow always managed to find their ways around us, especially in Kochi. But I would like to explore more of India in the future, especially Odisha, Maharashtra, and the Northeastern states. Speaking of the shape of our journey, I would say it looks like a smashed pineapple. 🙂

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    • BAma, somehow in my haste and hustle of traveling, I missed your comment!! But yeah, I agree 100%…Kerala is not exactly what you’d expect from all the hype. However, I was able to settle in and relax…so maybe you did happen across some high-strung travel buddies. I’ve been to India numerous times over the years, and loved Kashmir. Haven’t seen the Taj, nor anything in the east. Good luck in your travels. Where are you now?

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      • No worries. Actually I told James that I would go back to India — but not too soon. Speaking of the east, I really want to go to Unakoti in Tripura. I don’t know how hard it is to get there, though. I’ve been staying in Semarang, in my parents’ house, for two weeks now. Still looking for a new job in Jakarta, but we’ll see. Who knows there will be another chance to travel. 🙂

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  4. Both my hubby and I are wound tight and type A, so when we travel, everything is planned to the hour. Things have gone pear-shaped when we’ve planned too much in too little time. We end up fighting. a. lot. So, we’re learning to chill out a bit and take things as they come. Great shots, but the red lighthouse shot is a “wow”

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  5. My dear friend, Karuna, is at the “hugging guru” ashram right now! She makes that pilgrimage every year (for many, many years) and right now her blog is all about this year’s trip. Fascinating stuff.

    https://livinglearningandlettinggo.wordpress.com/

    Her son and daughter both live there and submitting something to her son’s amazing blog is what got me started.
    http://theseekersdungeon.com/2015/11/20/walking-with-intention-day-20-by-kathie-arcide/

    Uh oh, I think I’m not supposed to promote my own writing in someone else’s blog. I think I’m an unplanned blogger. Wait, what is that smell?

    Oh, it’s pears……

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  6. If you’re a lone curmudgeon and reluctant sojourner sadly stuck at home and not somewhere out on the road seeing the big Bad Fish World with a head full of snot, and with only a hermit crab for a nurse, then your circumstances would be traviliously pear shaped (hey, lookee me! I made up a word!)
    BTW…your “American” take on pear shape is spot-on, as the Brits say. Well done, you (I watch/listen to too much PBS/BBC).
    BTW2…I really like your shot of the Buddha head. A lot.
    Have a Happy New Year of Travails Travels!

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      • LRose…Debbie just informed me that I did not respond to your word, “traveliously” and I have to admit…a grievous oversight!!! THAT is a cool word, and it’s not everyone who can make up a word that actually looks and acts like a word…so COOL on you (belatedly).

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  7. I envy your travels . . . except, you know, the poisonous slime and stuff.

    Well, OK, I don’t . . . I give keeping a non-pear-shaped life a pretty good effort. I can handle it when it goes off-track, but not particular to it.

    That said, it’a nice reading about it.

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    • Well, I’m glad you like reading about it. Sometimes, it is just not fun. Not fun having problems, not fun dealing with issues, not fun losing things, not fun worrying about theft or muggings. But afterwards, yeah, you can laugh.

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  8. I will add another pear to your travels. It was amazing to read that you were already in India, and then read you had been to Trivandrum, Kovalam and Varkala and had plans to go to Kollam. My eyes were getting bigger and bigger, and then you said you were coming to the ashram! Well the pear is that tonight is the last public program for some time because Amma’s North Kerala tour starts this week. She will leave the ashram by Tuesday morning at the latest. She could even leave tomorrow.

    So you are very welcome to come to the ashram but it is unlikely you would see her. I don’t know if you will be going that far north but here is the tour schedule if you are interested: http://www.amritapuri.org/50715/16-bhyatra.aum.

    I enjoyed reading your post and will look forward reading the next one.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Hope you’re over the snottiness by now. Don and I have both got the snot grot courtesy of family in Montreal – it went through the entire house. One good part of our visit there was my sister (sometime pro photographer) taught me a whole lot more about post editing and Lightroom. Fun! We’re now back in Vancouver, and go to Mexico in 4 days. Our journey from Bangkok thru Cambodia, Laos, into northern Thailand and back to BKK was kind of an oval I guess. The selfie photo is fabulous, also the posing guys on the lighthouse, and my favourite the coconuts and umbrellas – love the colours and the light. This post makes me want to explore India more. Talk to Don willya?
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know…I’m not sure I want to talk anybody into going to India. I like some things about it. I used to LOVE it there, used to love everything about, all the third-world stuff. But now I think a person has to want to be there to enjoy the place. I don’t really need to go back, seen enough. However, I may go to Calcutta in March. This is how my mind works.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh, I do like those thongs. Did you take that photo just for me?

    We’re holidaying in Hawaii with American friends and it’s been our job to supply the wine for our evening meals. We found a supply of Yellow Tail Pinot Grigio at the supermarket, which has gone down very well, along with a bottle of Lindemans Cabernet Sauvignon.

    I hope the rest of your holiday goes well.

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  11. Are you home yet? Sorry to hear you were sick. But planning might do that to a non-planner. I see you’re looking at these words askance. I will just smile, knowingly. Sometimes, when another’s footsteps seem tempting, this might be a good memory to have… maybe?

    Did you, at any point wonder if you might have faired better back in a rice paddy? Did you yearn for your last sojourn? Still, there could be something said for the adventure of going pear shaped. Lessons learned and all that.

    You as if we’ve every found a pear-shaped bent to our journeys? Life, I feel, if fairly pear shaped. But I’ve almost, maybe never really planned. I just did. It wasn’t always the wisest move, at times. But if planning happened, I believe it may well have been in the pre-birth sessions.

    I have to say, regardless of anything, it’s great to see you back here, and read your words and love your pictures. My favorite was “Breakfast at Ootupura Indian Vegetarian Restaurant” It looks good. What was it?

    Happy New Year sent with a hug – you said you liked them. 🙂

    Peace out
    Fim

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    • I wasn’t home when you wrote this, but I am now home. All is well, low levels of bodily fluids. And right…planning may have been the whole reason for that illness.

      And funny you should ask. I did feel like I might have preferred going to Bali. I feel totally at home there, totally at peace. Totally vibrant. I don’t feel like that everywhere I go.

      I too don’t plan…most things in life. Pear is what you get. thanks for the hug!!!! What’s up with you?

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  12. You gotta love British sayings and humor. I have a crush on all Brits. I would add pear-shaped to my vocabulary, but no one would know what that means. I’ll use it with you.

    I like that you can get breakfast for less than a cappuccino. What a world we live in.

    I really liked your people photos. Those are great.

    I sort of made a pear shaped trip once. I started in Delhi, ended in Trivandrum, and stopped over in Dubai on the way back to the states. Actually, that was a huge-ass banana now that I think about it.

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    • Jeff, for some strange reason, I like most things British, too. And right…breakfast for less than a coffee!! Whew? I’m practicing my Jeff technique for photographing people! You know, of all the times I’ve been to India (quite a few), I’ve never seen the Taj!!

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      • Never seen the Taj? Some people say it is overrated (like my wife) but I was blown away. To me, it is one of the most iconic sites on Earth. I wish I’d have gone behind it where you can get photos of people bathing in the river and stuff. That would be cool.

        We probably like the Brits for their dry sense of humor.Or Humour. They are by far my favorite nationality.

        I’ll be excited to see your people photos. India is a great place for it, if not the best anywhere. There are so many cool looking dudes and women in bright saris.

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        • I know…never seen the Taj. The photo of you in front of it is not over rated. I’m sure it would blow me away. And yeah, I’d want to go to the rear side of it. How come you didn’t? Were you on a tour?
          REally…the Brits are your favorite nationality? I do like listening to them butcher the language, but not sure they’re my fav nationality…though now I don’t know which it would be?

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          • On a tour? No. That make me sad that you might think that of me. No, we just didn’t take the time for it. We stayed two nights (one day really) in Agra. Agra is a total shithole.

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          • No offense intended. I just thought it may have been easier to take a short tour. I was actually going to do that in India last month, but it fell through. I’m not a tour guy either, but when time is limited, sometimes it’s a good way to see more.

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          • I don’t like them because I want to go at my own pace, and stop when I want to stop. And I don’t like being herded. And of course, I don’t like paying bigtime for something I can see for free.

            Liked by 1 person

  13. Peanut gallery cheering for the plans. A few pear shapes are more manageable with a crate of planning to at least hold the fruit. 🙂
    I really enjoyed the hot tub, not quite as keen on that selfie. Just saying.

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        • 1. It’s WAY over priced, nice but too much is too much. A salad wasn’t much less than the $42 burger. And breakfast was about half that price on special!
          2. It’s a long way from everywhere except India.
          3. There is NOTHING to do there. Which was fine for me…but you guys would go berzerk with all that beauty and no bikes, nothing to climb or cause you bodily harm.
          4. Those over-water bungalows cost way less in Bora Bora.

          Liked by 1 person

  14. The Jacuzzi overlooking the ocean is beautiful. I haven’t done any real, significant traveling in quite some time. Your blog posts, complete with pictures, certainly make the prospect sound appealing.

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  15. Not up to snuff yet, eh?
    I agree, the tub would not have cut the muster for me either, not alone anyway.
    It must be the time of year, because I’m picking up a lot of blahs in everyone’s communique’s. Perhaps it will pick up as time goes on.
    Take care of yourself and hope to hear more soon!

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    • Finally around to replying. I’m better now, but still a bit of that stuff hanging on. What do they make the flu with these days, it just keeps on keeping on.

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      • That’s part of why I do flu shots. There is no way to isolate any one strain because it re-emerges through adaptation and splits off into stronger variations. Flu is just one of those bugs.

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  16. See, when I first heard of something going pear-shaped, I assumed it was a good thing because clearly I’m going the same way. Alas. Anyway, I’m very glad to hear of your journey, let alone worthless jacuzzis, wrong kind of thongs and nasty worms. Lest not forget, we even get legs on the house.

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  17. Glad to see you are back to the land of the living. Sorry you were sick during your trip to the Maldives. Since you didn’t write about much other than your hot tub I take that to mean you didn’t really enjoy it that much. Either that or your cold hampered your fun.

    Great photos of the next leg of your trip. I need to see a photo of that snake though! Although I am hoping you didn’t actually see one.

    As for pear shaped trips, I have had many. Many many. It’s part of the fun and charm of traveling I guess though. All the wrong turns often get you somewhere more interesting than where the circle would have taken you.

    Happy new year fishy.

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    • I’m just getting around to replying (after weeks!!…I’m such a bad blogfish). Lesson learned: don’t go to the Maldives alone (and definitely not with the flu)!! I didn’t even get the photo with the Mexican beer!!!

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  18. What a journey, snot filled or not, planned or not, you certainly got around. Loved the smiling??? selfie of you??? but where is the sunglasses and goatee??? I think I will join you for that breakfast it looks delicious.

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  19. Very fun adventure, thanks for taking us along. Your photos are incredible, narrative funny, and I really like the photo of the locals fully dressed in the water.

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    • Thanks for coming along for the ride, Jet! Glad you like the post. And yeah, bathing fully dressed. I hate the way wet clothes feel on my body. Can’t imagine going into the ocean with clothes on!!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Congratulations. I’m new here and like your blog very much. It’s is always filled with warmth, love and honesty and nothing short of inspiration. Keep it up. Thank you so much.

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  21. Your post brought back good memories of our trip to Southern India a year ago, Cochin we loved…do check out the cultural center for performances of classical dance and theater. Wonderful!

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  22. just now getting to read this….and cant believe you didn’t send me a full photo of the lighthouse with name….where it’s located, some history, etc. Lovely photos of circles, lil bro. Happy New Year….plans? Of course, not….LOL

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  23. Pear-shaped has entered the hip lexicon here too, by now. I first heard it when I was in England a few years ago visiting relatives.

    These are amazing photographs. btw, I never go into any public water receptacle for the reasons you state and especially not in India, for your same reasons.

    You certainly have a wonderful travel playground at your feet there. I assume you missed the fire?

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  24. Baddie

    1. we say ‘going pear-shaped’ in Aus too. ( you’ll just have to get used to Vegemite)

    2. As an official Chip monitor, I must question the Cafe proprietor as to why he did not comment upon LRose’s wonderfully invented new word “traviliously” ?

    3. We’ve seen your saucer eyes in Bali, now we see the wild hair that goes with the saucer eyes when said eyes are not tripping out so much, thanks for that, great selfie

    4. Baddie! Really!!! we’ve seen your feet in Bali, then we got shots of your ankles in Bali….you even dared to show us your shins – but you’ve gone too far in this post Baddie. Really. You’ve shown us your knees. STOP RIGHT THERE!!!! enough!

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    • CHIP Monitor #1: thanks but no thanks on the Vegemite! And…I just replied to LRose, so thank you for the reminder to keep up with the good stuff!!
      As for the selfies: actually there is nothing above my knees. It’s leg and knees all the way up. So no worries, lady!!

      Like

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