Keeping On Keeping On

I’m fully aware that it’s been way too long since I wrote last.  I am guilty of that thing called ‘taking too much on’ and had to have a swift talking to myself in which I clearly pointed out this was not why I moved to Melbourne.

And now I have so much I need to fill you in on!

Jean Paul Gaultier

Foxy Fi was in town so we took in a bit of culture at the NGV visiting the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition.  Some amazing pieces of work, some taking over 300 hours to produce!  And some displayed by freaky mannequins with real life faces displayed on them.  Were they real?  I don’t know, but I’m sure their eyes were following me and one tutted at me too.  Jugs of Pimms at the tram bar followed.

We also got to see the amazingly talented Ben folds.

Adalita & J Mascis

It was a rainy miserable night when I headed out to see two of the alternative music scene’s long running stars.  It wasn’t going to be a night of much chatter, which suited me fine, because thanks to some loser who ran across the rainsoaked road, and landed in a puddle that soaked my legs up to the knee, I wasn’t in the mood for chatter.  But chatter or no, both stars were in fine form.  Adalita played her new solo stuff, J some old favourites as well as a few covers.  Being around such awesome music all the time does wonders for the soul.

Jen & Lola’s Visit

In January, I had my first visit from my sister Jen and niece Lola.  We hit the ground running with a performance of Horrible Histories at the Playhouse, a mini tour of the city with a stop at the Immigration Museum and a day trip out to Werribee Open Range Zoo.  It was an awesome experience, and I think Lola loved it.

Hip Hop Othello

What goes perfectly with a bit of Shakespeare?  Hip Hop of course.  An awesome show at Hamer Hall.

Hip Hop Othello

Leigh & Mike’s Visit (& Soundwave)

Next up was what I would have to call the event of the year – Soundwave.  My sister Leigh and brother in law Mike made it over from Perth to join me for this mega weekend of absolutely awesomely amazing music – all our favourites – Soundgarden, Faith No More, Incubus, Slash, Fear Factory, God Smack, plus some new favourites like Steel Panther, One OK Rock and Cold Rain.  I could not have been more in heaven.

We were joined by some of Leigh and Mike’s friends from Perth, including the lovely Steve King, who was a regular at our house growing up, plus his lovely wife Grace.  It was nice to head out and about with a crew for a few days (so to speak).

We also managed to get into the Cherry Bar – no mean feat during this period seeing as this is where some the Soundwave crew and bands were hanging out.  We saw The Treatment, who were indeed a treat because they were great, and let’s not kid – we were there for star spotting.  And I’m pretty sure we were in the company of Incubus’s DJ Kilmore.  Just saying…

The fun didn’t stop there cause I had sideshows to attend, including my first visit to the Forum, which I’d been eyeing off.  I got to see the incredible Incubus here again, along with a spectacular show by La Butcherettes.

Chinese New Year

You all know it’s my favourite time of the year, so it was incredible to be in Melbourne where it is celebrated big time.  I spent the day down at Federation Square watching the lion dances, martial arts exhibitions and special dances.  Cong He Fat Choi!

Cocktails & Tapas

Grace was back in town this week, so it was lovely to catch up for an afternoon of cocktails and tapas.  We tried Transport Bar, Arboury (the new bar behind Flinders Train Station), and Ponyfish Island.  We found a great new place in Lonsdale Street called Bomba, and true to its name, it was the bomb.

Shifting Gear

The Grand Prix came to town, and whilst I didn’t get tickets, I decided to pay homage to the humble vehicle by attending the NGV’s Shifting Gear exhibition.  Held at the Ian Potter Centre (and my first visit to this branch of the NGV), I spent the morning ogling a number of sexy vehicles and remembering fondly our dark green Kingswood.  Cars are sexy.

Yarra Valley

I felt the need to get our of the city to explore so I booked a day tour to the Yarra Valley with Go West.  We had an awesome group of people and it was just a wonderful day.  We visited Yarra Farm fresh, Coldstream Dairy, a couple of wineries and a chocolate factory.  Now I know where to go to stock up on some nice fresh local produce!

Silent Disco

I had seen Guru Dudu’s silent disco prancing the streets back in December and had put it on my list of things to do, so when one of the girls at work said she was keen, off we went.  Once you were over the initial embarrassment of the Guru showing you his ‘assana’ and some rather awkward warm up moves, the headphones went on and just like Cliff Richard, we were wired for sound.  We took to the streets with our grooves, giving rather a lot of pleasure to those out and about in the city and not expecting to see a mob of people dancing to the music in their heads.

And the Melbourne International Comedy Festival has started this week.  I’ve already got tickets lined up for Noel Fielding and Akmal Sali, but I’m having a hell of a time trying to choose who else to go and see!

But that’s enough for now, I’m boarding a plane on Thursday…

Working it Out

I’m sure I won’t be alone when I say that trying to find a job in a new city can be tough.

Unless you are lucky enough to know someone, your usual support networks which you’ve usually spent years building up, are suddenly gone.  Sure, you’ve got great references and you know you can do anything you put your mind to, but how do you translate that to a prospective employer when you can’t even get past the first goal post – getting a call back on your resume?

Watching resume after resume go unanswered, wondering just what it is (or rather isn’t) that attracts bevvies of recruitment agents to call begging you to take their advertised jobs, can be rather disheartening.  What is it they are looking for that I don’t have?  Is there something they are seeing in my resume that they don’t like?  Is my cover letter too boring?  What am I doing wrong?

Having worked in the mining/construction project work field for the last decade, I’ve had the luxury of being able to rely on my work ethic ensuring that those who have worked with me in the past, have re-employed me on subsequent projects.  I haven’t had to submit a proper cover letter and resume since that time and, let me tell you, in the meantime things have changed.  These days you need to ‘sell yourself’, written references and certificates of achievement mean nothing, you need to have a resume that’s no longer than 2 pages but also fully comprehensive, write an attention grabbing cover letter – oh, and you need to be on LinkedIn.  Everything’s emailed and there are KPI’s and things that you have to address into even the simplest of job applications – you think it’s easy to apply for gift wrap volunteering roles at Christmas?   Think again.

Admittedly I didn’t start the great job hunt as soon as I arrived because I wanted to ease into the city and find a job which I had some level of interest in doing.  I’ve heard many people say that if you love your job you’ll never have to work a day in your life.  But I had never experienced that and, well, everything else in my life changed last year, so why not that.  So, I also admit that I was being a little picky about the jobs I was applying for in the beginning.

But then the weeks pass and you still don’t hear anything – anything at all – and you start to panic a little, and apply for all sorts of crazy jobs that you wouldn’t otherwise apply for.

And then sometimes, a miracle will happen in the middle of that frenzy.  Just when you have a zillion job roles open on seek, and seven hundred application letters in process, the one job you should have applied for in the beginning, just appears on your screen.

Out of nowhere.

I was actually quite despondent when the ad for Flight Centre appeared on my screen.  I thought, well, I’ve applied for everything else, why not this too.  Why do you want to be a travel agent?  Cause I haven’t come across a great one.  Yes, I actually wrote that in my application.  As you can imagine I was a little taken aback when I got an email saying they were impressed with my application and could I undertake a phone interview.  An online personality assessment followed the phone interview, and a Careers & Assessment Session after that.  I managed to survive all of that despite my total lack of any sales training, and be offered a position at a store just a five minute walk from home (stroke of luck or what?).  Then I just had to survive three weeks of training with another assessment to ensure I would actually be employed by Flight Centre.

The good news is I passed.  But as I’ve been told, I have a tough year ahead of me, with yet more training and most likely a baptism of fire in many cases (though accompanied by a “Wolf of Wall Street” cult-like environment, complete with parties of the like which I’ve probably never seen before, hopefully minus the dwarf throwing).  If I make it through though, I think I’ll have one of the best jobs in the world – making people’s holiday travel dreams come true.

I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Between some Rock and a Harsh Place

On average, one woman is killed every week as a result of intimate partner violence.

And not only is domestic violence the principal cause of homelessness for women and children, but 1 in 3 women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence by someone known to them.

To put that in perspective, that’s 20 out of every 60 of your Facebook friends.

Staggering, huh.

The White Ribbon Organisation is a male-led movement created to end men’s violence against women and it began in 2003.  It aims to bring awareness to the positive role men can play in ending this senseless violence.  It’s about saying ‘ hey mate, that’s not ok’.

White Ribbon Day, which is today (November 25), plays host to a number of events, but last Friday saw the Cherry Bar host the Man-Up Festival in support of this incredibly important cause.  The line up of bands which included Redro Redriquez, The Surefire Midnights, Don Fernando and, my favourites – the RedCoats, turned up to rock our worlds in support of those who tragically have a rocky path in life.  It was great that music, which plays such an important part of a lot of our lives, could be used to support such an important cause – kudos to Cherry Bar for getting behind it.

This violence, which may not only be physical, but emotional – which in ways can be even more devastating – has a terrible impact on not only the poor victims, but their children and those who love them most.  It’s a undescribeable feeling, and one of total helplessness, to watch this happen to someone you love.  So, please, if there’s a White Ribbon event on in your hometown this week, go and support it.

Oodles of Noodles

Ok, so gotta get out of the house and I remember that the Good Food Month Nightly Noodle Markets are on down at Birrarung Marr, just a stone’s throw away (of course!).  Opened in 2002, Birrarung Marr plays host to all sorts of festivals and events such as this, and a quick walk from Federation Square, it’s easy to get to and the perfect spot for an after work meal, while the good weather is on display.  It’s only quite early, the market having been open only an hour or so, but you know instantly where the markets are by following the crowds streaming there.

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An oversized inflatable neko greats you at the entrance to the markets and from there, it’s a total feast for your senses in every direction you look.  Incredible smells and people carrying boxes of incredible looking food, it’s all you can do to stop yourself from asking everyone you see ‘what is that, and where did you get it?’ while mopping the drool from your face.

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Where do you start?  Japanese, Indian, Indonesian or Korean?  Korean.  Fred loves Korean.  And so do I.  So I line up for one of their pork bau.  Grabbing a beer, I head up over the pedestrian bridge to grab me a spot of grass.  There are chairs everywhere, but there are also people filling them.  This appears to be a popular spot.  The salad, a mix of spring onion, carrot and cabbage is fantastic.  And so is the bau.  Nice doughy bau filled with gorgeously cooked pork, coriander, crushed peanuts and refreshing cucumber.  And a hint of something that tastes a lot like aniseed.  Yep, this is good.

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I also take this opportunity to crack open my fortune cookie.  Proceeds from the sale of these $2 fortune cookies goes to support charity, so just buy one – OK!

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I purposely tried to ignore ChinChin and Kong this time, because they are some of the biggest names in town and, aside from having eaten at ChinChin just last week anyway, there are so many other good little places to try, that I feel they deserve pride of place on my menu tonight.  So I head back over the bridge and check out another section.

There’s so much food it’s really, really hard to make a choice about what to try next.  But hey, I haven’t had Lao before, so that’s where I’ll go next.  Lao Lao is selling three kinds of tacos at its stall tonight, so I decide to try the whisky beef taco.  Finding myself a table, a lucky spot and a bit of a jog to grab a vacating table, tricky task with a camera, beer and food tray in my hand.  Unfortunately this dish isn’t anything to write home about.  It’s just really some beef, not really marinaded that well, surrounded by rice noodles and veg.  A bit bland, but I think that entitles me to try another dish (just as well it was also on the small side).

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 Ok, so the yakisoba is looking good, but so are the beef roti rolls at Lankan Tucker, so only because the queue is small at Lankan, I grab a roti roll.  Biting into it, I can already tell it’s a winner.  A nice amount of spice and vegetables mixed with beef in a nicely crisp roti sleeping bag.  It’s wrong to eat this much, but I keep telling myself, it’s for the blog.  And as I mentioned, thank goodness these are tasting sized portions (at most stalls anyway), so I reckon I can do one more – just for you, of course.

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It’s only the second year this event is being run.  Last year it was such a success that it was fairly under catered for, with people reportedly queuing for up to an hour to sample some Asian delights.  This year, they have tried to make up for last year’s lack of seating (although clearly there’s still not enough) by hiring every available type of chair in Melbourne and inviting more vendors.  There’s also bars for wine, beer and iced tea, toilets and ATM’s.  I love how it’s set up in different sections across the park – it makes for an interesting evening browsing around, and gives you a bit of exercise to try and walk off some of the food in between courses.  Or you can choose to stick to one area – so will it be Lucky Cat Corner or Tiger Kingdom?  Plus there’s a host of entertainment for the evening as well.  Tonight were three gorgeous (and gutsy, if you ask me) oriental ladies floating through the air on bendy poles.  Absolutely fascinating and a good distraction from the world of food for a few moments.

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As mentioned, there’s room for just one more thing.  Well actually, there’s not.  But we all know sweets is digested by a different stomach, so when I spied Shimbashi’s stall selling Sake Pudding, my hand was in my pocket for a fiver, quicker than you could say, well ‘sake’.  I could only imagine how jealous my brother-in-law would be right now – so this one’s for you Mike.

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Light and custardy with a dried citrus layer on top, it really was the perfect way to end the evening.  Almost like a crème caramel, but drenched in sake.  The only thing that would make it better, would be… a shot of sake.

There was no way I could try any more food tonight, even though there were so many vendors and wonderful looking foods that I wanted to try.  It’s just as well the markets are running every night until the 30th of November.  That’s dinner sorted for the next week then!

I can see why the locals love this event.  With the sun setting on the city and a warm evening in the air, where else would you possibly want to be?

Having a Whine

The hardest part of moving to a new city for me so far is Friday afternoons.

Or maybe more precisely, it’s that I have no job and no friends to share those Friday afternoons with yet.

Sure, back in Perth it was such a hard slog to get through every week, but Friday afternoons presented that glorious few hours where you could have a glass of wine or a beer with your work mates and talk it all out.  Forget the stresses.  Look forward to a couple of days of your own agenda to refresh yourself and begin again.

In this city, I can hear all the noises of people doing just that, and I can see them making their way from office to bar and I want to be one of those people again.

In a last ditch attempt to be one of those people this afternoon, I signed up to one of those meet up groups.  They were meeting down at Southbank for drinks and I could really have used that.  I guess it was a little unrealistic to join the group two hours before the event.

So, like the recruiters I’ve been chasing for a job, they are yet to ‘approve’ me.  And for this Friday, I’m watching from the balcony with my glass of wine.

Mope

I’ve just hit the third week mark of my move to a new city.

And I think I’ve woken up with a cold.

All I want is a hot bubble bath – I don’t have a bath anymore.

And to curl up on the couch in my dressing gown – neither of which have arrived yet.

And bangers and mash for dinner.  No Mum here.

Mope.

Living on Flinders

You know Flinders right?  Famous for the quote ‘Hey diddly ho neighbourino!’

Oh wait, that’s Ned Flanders.  Hang on, Flinders, Flinders, ok here we go…

Born in 1774, he is the man who gave Australia her name.  Matthew Flinders was an English naval captain and hydrographer who detailed charts of much of the Australian coastline.  Entering the navy partly after developing a longing to go to sea inspired by Robinson Crusoe, Flinders undertook many journeys to the shores of the land he would eventually name Terra Australis and was the first to circumnavigate it.  After spending many years charting the coastline, he endeavoured to return to England, but was shipwrecked off the Great Barrier Reef and then later taken prisoner off Mauritius by the French, who confiscated (and copied) many of his maps and drawings, branding him a spy.

‘Had I permitted myself any innovation of the original term, it would have been to convert it into Australia; as being more agreeable on the ear.’  Matthew Flinders 

He eventually arrived in London in 1810 and was greatly celebrated.  He was encouraged to detail his journeys, which he did in a volume very originally named “A Voyage to Terra Australis’.

He is remembered in the naming of many places here in Melbourne including Flinders Street – the exactly one mile long street in which I am now living, and Flinders Station.

Flinders Station

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Flinders Plaque

Earlier this year, it was discovered that his skeleton was potentially lying in the path of the new high speed rail link from London to the Midlands.  I’m not sure how it appears that no-one can be exactly sure where he is buried, but it is assumed that it was somewhere underneath Platform 15 at Euston Station.  Whilst a life-size bronze station has been erected on the new concourse at Euston, no one is sure what happened to Flinders remains, if they were indeed discovered during the excavations.

Electric

You may recall me recently mentioning that I had fallen in love with a painting that I had seen in the Convent Gallery in Daylesford.

You may recall I waxed lyrical about the artist and how the work pulled me in straight away and how I loved the vibrancy of the piece.

Well, I bought that painting.  And I love it.  I think it’s absolutely fabulous.  I plan for it to be the centrepiece of my home, tying everything together, and most importantly, setting my soul at ease in my new city.  It says everything I want it to and it makes me feel exactly how I feel every time I listen to music – electric.

But it may surprise you to know that other people don’t feel that way!  Fun has been poked at my incredible painting.

And it started to make me think it wasn’t so incredible after all.

That painting that I loved, could I have got it so wrong that it is not to be adored by anyone other than me?  Do I really have no taste?  Did I make a mistake?  Are people laughing at me behind my back, thinking I am so uncultured as to buy a piece that hideous?

What is it that makes one person love Dali and another love Monet?  Or why is it some people thing of street art as pure graffiti, seeing no value in its social comment?  Why do some of us love sculpture, and others paintings, whilst others still love ceramics and textiles?

It’s because we are all different.  Different things call to our souls.  And there’s everything right with that.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  And you should let it remain there.

Goodness Mi!

Last month when I was in Melbourne to set up my apartment, on one of my city outings I happened to walk past a shop named Ba’get.  I’m not 100% sure why it caught my eye, maybe it was because my sister had recently travelled to Vietnam, but I put it on my radar for a future visit and a couple of days later by chance I came across an advertisement for a cooking class they were running.  Having eaten there in the meantime, you didn’t have to ask me twice to sign up.

So first up – báhn mi is what Ba’get are well known for.  And what is báhn mi?  Well it was the Vietnamese word coined for the baguette which was introduced by the French in the colonial era.  The art in the báhn mi is the crispiness of the bread and the balance of the flavours inside and good báhn mi should never be overfilled.

The class is run by Ba’get owner Duh Huynh, who comes from a long line of traditional báhn mi vendors and you can tell he is excited to share his craft and business with you.  It’s Ba’get’s goal to make true-to-form báhn mi and stick to what they do best, which is basically the báhn mi and vermicelli bowls.  Recently praised for their báhn mi in the Herald Sun’s Best of Melbourne:  Vietnamese Joints Redefine Lunch Fare column, and having been awarded the title of best place for báhn mi in the city by The Urban List, all only having opened their second store a matter of weeks ago, it seems they are on the right track.

Aproned and hatted up, we take our seats and are quickly handed a Mekong Breeze cocktail.  It looks like a Mojito, but is rather infused with Vietnamese mint and coriander.  I needn’t worry about trying to figure out what’s in it though, cause we get this and other recipes later on.

Then it’s onto a snack before we start, as little plates of lettuce, pickled carrot, pork and taro spring rolls and lovely little meatballs, are passed around to each of us.  Duy concurrently runs through the history of the báhn mi and starts off by teaching us how to knead and roll our ready made dough.

Dough

Once our mostly misshapen lumps of dough are in the oven, we move onto making the grilled lemongrass pork and Vietnamese pickles which will form part of the filling of our báhn mi.  Unlike some classes, this one is very hands on.  Everyone gets their own ingredients, and everyone gets the chance to learn what and how much of each ingredient should go into the báhn mi.  Waiting for our meats and breads to cook, it’s time for another cocktail – this one lovingly called the Peaceful Dragon.  A gin cocktail filled with lychees and lemongrass, it’s the kick of hot chili that puts the dragon in the name.

Sadly, as you can see, I didn’t quite get the knack of rolling the dough out – I’ll let you guess which is mine, but I can at least say I have a nice stock of fresh bread for the next couple of days.  And my jar of pickles.

Pick the Professional

Clearly the only recipe we don’t get to take home tonight is the one for the báhn mi, but given it’s a traditional recipe, you can forgive them that.  The night ends with everyone chowing down on their goods and sipping away at a Vietnamese coffee.  It was great fun and certainly fantastic value and I can only hope they run a class for the vermicelli soup bowls too.

And while it’s safe to say Ba’get won’t be hiring me any time soon, they can definitely expect to see me back in their store (there are two – one on the corner of Elizabeth & La Trobe Streets, and the other nice and close to me on Russell Street) frequently.

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In Remembrance

Before I moved to Melbourne, I was working for a well-known mining company, and one of the things that really annoyed me was the lack of the pointed mark of respect that we give to those fallen soldiers of our Nation, during one minute of silence each year.  Of course I did my own personal minute of silence and bought my poppy each year, but I don’t think it forgives this major player for it’s neglect of this important occasion which means so much to so many.  So it felt good to be in Melbourne for Remembrance Day this year.

The brave but unfortunate Australian soldiers who gave their lives in the battles of World War I (about 20,000 out of 90,000), were buried in graves near their battlefields, far from home.  And being a time when travel abroad was not commonplace, Victorians rightfully wanted a place they could grieve for their loved ones.  The fathers, sons, brothers and uncles, the mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts, that never returned.  And to mark the courage of those that stayed behind.

This is how the Shrine of Remembrance, despite controversy over it’s design (like any good public construction), was born.

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The forecourt of the Shrine plays host to the eternal flame.  Inspired by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Belgium, the flame, despite its purpose, has actually been extinguished on a number of occasions, once when someone doused it with beer and another with a fire extinguisher.  It is a crime to douse the flame.
In the sanctuary floor is the Stone of Remembrance inscribed with the words “Greater love hath no man”.  Designed so that a natural ray of sunlight would fall on the word “love” on the stone at 11am, this feature worked perfectly until Melbourne adopted daylight savings in 1971/72, which now meant that the light hit the stone at midday.  To rectify the problem, two mirrors – one inclined and one horizontal – were installed to bend the beam of sunlight to achieve the desired light at the right time.  These mirrors are set in their respective positions before the service each year.
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2014 marks the 80th anniversary of the Shrine of Remembrance and the 100th anniversary of World War I and to mark the occasion a $45 million project to construct Galleries of Remembrance commenced in 2013.  And it was then they discovered something curious.  Two blocks of concrete on the foundation columns underneath the Shrine were tagged.  One with a date and the other with a picture of a face inscribed with the name ‘Lewis’.  Most likely to have been left by builders of the Shrine, the identity of the ‘artists’ was never discovered.   The original graffiti can still be seen in the WWII Gallery of the Shrine.  The Galleries of Remembrance will play host to permanent and temporary exhibitions illustrating the experiences of Australians at war and in peacekeeping operations, from Pre-Federation to the present day.

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Masses of people, young and old, from all walks of life and all nationalities come to observe the nearly two hour ceremony.  Attended by the Premier and Governor of Victoria, wreaths were placed and respects paid to those who laid their lives on the line for the freedom of this country.  A flypast by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) marked the beginning and conclusion of the one minute silence (usually observed country-wide) along with the reading of traditional poems “In Flanders Fields” and “For the Fallen”.  The finale is an invitation to attendees to visit the sanctuary to view the Ray of Light.

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And the significance of the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month?  Although the armistice that ended World War I was signed at 5am on November 11, 1918, the formal agreement did not take effect until six hours later.  The fighting officially stopped along the Western Front at 11am.

“They shall grow not old

as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them,

nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun

and in the morning,

We will remember them.

Lest we forget.”

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