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Some Junket?

December 8th, 2010 by the_lifer

Willow, a laptop tucked under her arm, is  traversing more rarefied environs of the University of Victoria. Finally, she comes to a room full of people wearing rumpled shirts and eyeglasses that, one way or another, are straight from the 1950s.  This, she thinks, has to be the place.  She’s right.

To freshen up her curriculum vitae, Willow is speaking at a small academic conference. She slips among her colleagues for lunch and starts chatting. There is a friend from university; there is another work acquaintance; there is her old lab supervisor. They make a little cluster as they go listen to a dull keynote speaker.

In the auditorium, Willow clocks up the bums in seats against the speakers in the program. Sure enough, most of the attendees are speaking. At afternoon tea (just as lavish as lunch) several people confide in her that their own universities or employers, often amazingly far away, have paid for the conference. “I did want to see Wellington,” they admit, comfortably.  Willow nods, enviously. Of course the best way to see a new city is on someone else’s credit card. But her Ministry is being very tight at the moment, and she knows she only wrangled the day and a half off and the registration fee out of expenses because it was local.

She only has a moment’s wistfulness for the full junkets of yore before a happy distraction arrives: a tray of hot sausage rolls. Immediately, the crowd divides into suddenly-intent Kiwis and bewildered overseas visitors. They’re even the good kind, crisp pastry and little flecks of herbal green in the probably-identifiable meat. Willow tells the visitors what they are, but she doesn’t surrender any of her own handful, dunked in tomato sauce.

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