QANTAS, First Class – Airbus A 380: Singapore to Sydney

Transfer in Changi

I step off the SWISS flight from Zürich at 17h20. Apparently, we are running fifteen minutes late. On the scale of events though, after a twelve hour flight that seems rather unimportant. My connection with QANTAS to Sydney will be departing from Terminal 1 at 19h30. There is a young lady holding up a sign with my name as I exit the airbridge. I approach her and she gives me instructions how to get to Terminal 1. She also tells me the gate will be D46.

So I catch the Skytrain from the station opposite my arrival gate. The journey only takes a few minutes.

Once I reach Terminal 1, I follow the signs for the QANTAS First Class lounge, which is separate from the Business Class lounge.

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The lounge is quite busy, so I do not have any good opportunities to take any photos. It is quite a spacious lounge, with a fairly large dining area.

There are also showers available in the lounge.

Just before 19h00 I decide to leave and make my way to D46. There is a queue forming outside the lounge as I leave, which I consider a good sign, because it means my aircraft has arrived as QF2 from Heathrow.

Boarding

The security check takes place at the gate and there is a separate queue for First and Business Class passengers. Our A 380 is in the process of being turned around for the onward journey to Sydney.

Boarding should have started at 19h00. However, 19h30 comes and goes and there are still no signs of activity. The ground crew make an announcement to inform passengers that boarding will not start until 20h30. By this time I urgently need to take a leak, so I decide to exit the gate area because there are no loos behind the security checkpoint.

I go for a walkabout and return at around 20h20, again going through security to enter the gate area. At 20h30, another announcement is made to inform us that one of the high loaders for the cargo accidentally drove into the aircraft when it arrived. The Singaporean civil aviation authorities and a team from Airbus support are trying to determine if the aircraft is still airworthy. So the departure time is moved back to 22h30, and passengers in First and Business Class are advised to return to their respective lounges.

By this time I am starting to feel hungry again, so I figure I might as well eat in the lounge and then skip the meal on the plane. I can highly recommend the shrimp wontons in chilli and ginger oil.

I return to the gate at 22h20 and go through security a third time. Just as I enter the gate area, the crew announce that the aircraft is finally ready for boarding. As it turns out, I am the first passenger in the First Class cabin to board, which gives me ample opportunity to take photos.

The seat & cabin

The QANTAS First Class seat is the strangest thing I have ever seen. I really do not get what they were trying to achieve with this seat. There are fourteen seats in a 1 + 1 + 1 configuration. In the take-off position, the seat faces forward. However, to recline or extend the seat into a bed, it turns about 45 degrees towards the windows. There just seems to be a lot of unnecessarily wasted space. And you sit far away from the windows.

There is no storage space for a larger item such as a laptop. There are two small drawers, but one of those is already being used to stow the earphones. The USB port is also located in a strange position.

You also feel quite exposed in the seat. There is a screen that can be raised for more privacy, but it is not really all that effective.

The First Class cabin is located on the lower level between the L1 and L2 doors. Behind it is the galley and then the Economy Class cabin.

The service

There are four crew working the First Class cabin. They are friendly and very Australian. Martin comes to introduce himself and wishes me a pleasant flight. He brings me a glass of sparkling water and a plate with a caviar canapé and a cracker with baba ghanoush, which seems like rather an odd combination.

Next his colleague brings me the vanity kit, slippers and pajamas.

And then the menu. Not a single refreshing towel is offered during the entire flight.

The meal

Catering on QANTAS is something that I have always found quite odd. I just do not get it. I am never quite sure what the concept for the meal service is supposed to be, which also makes it difficult to know exactly what and how to order. I am still full from the wontons anyway, so I tell the crew to make my bed up immediately after take-off. I will not be having dinner, but I want to be woken for breakfast.

In the middle of the night I wake up feeling a bit hungry. So I make my way to the galley and ask if there might be any snacks available, to which one of the female cabin crew suggests the chocolate cake with pears. I also check the inflight map, which shows that we are running four hours late.

The second service

Two hours out of Sydney, I ask for a coffee, apple juice and breakfast. Apparently you can order food à la carte. Nonetheless, it takes the crew a whole hour after bringing me the drinks to start laying the table for breakfast.

I order a Birchermüsli and toast. The first thing that strikes me is that for QANTAS a Birchermüsli means something very different to what it means in Switzerland. What I get is a bowl of dry müsli with a large dollop of yoghurt. The only problem is that the yoghurt hardly has enough liquid for the müsli to soak up, so it is rather a dry affair.

The other thing that strikes me is that the crew ask me what I would like with my toast. I say marmalade, and that is exactly what I get. On SWISS I got a whole dish with four different preserves to choose from.

At the suggestion of the crew I also decide to try the breakfast brioche. And what a mistake that turns out to be. It is basically a brioche bun with a hash brown, egg, tomato chutney and bacon in it. I can hear my arteries clogging up just looking at it…

Arrival

The weather in Sydney is dreadful. It is windy and raining. As a result, there is a bit of a delay for our arrival. By the time we touch down, we are already more than four hours behind schedule.

We pull up to our stand and the captain comes on the PA to ask all passengers to remain seated. Apparently, one of the passengers developed Covid symptoms during the flight, and now they need to be checked before anybody is allowed to disembark. Eventually we wait for forty minutes before we are allowed off the plane, by this time nearly five hours late.

The good news is that we are so late that the early morning queue at immigration has already died down. But that is about as far as my luck goes. For reasons that are not explained, it then takes another whole hour for the first suitcases to arrive on the belt, and another twenty minutes for my suitcase to arrive.

Conclusion

It really is difficult to know what to say about this flight. Sure, the delays were not really the fault of the airline, and I think all passengers appreciated that the crew wanted the damage checked before we got airborne. Other than that though, I found the whole First Class experience on QANTAS seriously underwhelming. Their only saving grace were the friendly crew. The seat was just plain weird and the food offerings were sparce and more like an average Business Class product you would get on other airlines.

Garuda Indonesia, Business Class – Airbus A 330-300: Melbourne to Jakarta

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Introduction

I’ve really enjoyed this holiday. I had a great time and I think Australia is just a brilliant visit. It has so much to offer and the people are really friendly. Just as long as you can ignore the fact that many of the world’s most dangerous animals live here…

I spend that last two days of my trip in St. Kilda, which is a suburb of Melbourne. I rather like the place. Parts of it are quite run down and overall it comes across as the Australian interpretation of the British seaside resort.

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Oh yeah, and the weather was just brilliant!

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Getting to the Airport

My flight will be departing at 07h45, which is too early for me to catch the Skybus. The first service from St. Kilda doesn’t depart until 06h30, which is too late. So it’ll have to be a taxi this time, which will set you back about AUD80. I think this is rather steep for a journey of not even thirty minutes. But then again, I find that generally speaking the cost of living is quite expensive in Australia.

Check-in

Garuda checks in on row F of the international terminal. There are two separate queues for Business Class and SkyPriority passengers.

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The QANTAS Business Class Lounge

In any case, passengers travelling in Garuda Business Class are entitled to use the priority lane for security. But that is hardly an issue this morning, given that the international terminal is really quiet.

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Once I’m airside, I’m hoping to find a shop that sells Tim Tams, which are, in my view, Australia’s best contribution to the world. Tim Tams are these chocolate covered biscuits that taste absolutely divine. Just a piece of advice though: if you’re thinking of taking some of these delectable goodies home with you from your trip to Oz, get them at Woolworths in the city, where a packet will cost you around AUD3.80. If you buy them at the airport, it’ll cost you AUD6.80 for one packet of AUD5.- if you’re getting four packets.

They call it a bargain, I call it a rip off!

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Garuda uses the Qantas Business Class lounge in Melbourne, which I already covered in a previous trip report pretty much a year ago when I flew Qatar Airways from Melbourne to Doha and then on to Frankfurt.

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Boarding

Apparently there was a delay on the inbound flight from Denpasar, so instead of 07h15, eventually boarding starts at 07h45. As a result, we depart thirty minutes late. However, the flight time is announced to be slightly over six hours, which is significantly less than the scheduled flight time, which is given as seven hours and five minutes.

There is a separate lane for SkyPriority passengers.

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The Cabin

Garuda operates the A 330-300 in two different cabin configurations. Version 1 has 215 seats in Economy and 42 seats in Business Class, while version 2 has 239 seats in Economy and only 24 in Business Class.

The Business Class seat in the version 1 configuration is similar to the one Air France has on some of its aircraft. The width is 20.8 inches, and the pitch is 60 inches. The seat is comfortable enough. Of course, it’s not as private at the resvers herring bone configuration, but given that this is a day flight of only six hourse, I think it’s perfectly fine. The seats are in a traditional 2 + 2 + 2 configuration.

One draw back though, is that there is next to no storage space on this seat. But at least the seat next to me stays empty on today’s flight, so I can park my things there.

And just one final rant: the armrest in the middle, so between my seat and the neighbouring one, is higher up than the one on the window side, which is just feels awkward.

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The Crew

But despite the seat, a good crew can go a long way to make up for all sorts of short comings. And this is where Garuda really shines, I think. No sooner have I taken my seat that a crew member approaches me, welcomes me by my name and takes my jacket to hang in the closet. She also brings me a cold, scented towel and a glass of orange juice.

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Amenities

There is a pillow and a blanket already at my seat. In addition, there are two English language newspapers, the amenity kit, the menus and a bottle of still water at the seat.

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The amenity kit includes slippers.

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The Meal

The breakfast service begins with another glass of orange juice and a bowl of cashew nuts.

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Then the tray arrives with the fruit, yoghurt and the pastries. I really like the presentation of the meal and the tray. The only things that is perhaps not so nice is that the yoghurt is still in its original plastic container.

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Once I finish with the fruit, the plate is removed and I am brought a new set of cutlery for the main course. I’ve decided to go with the Western breakfast, which includes scrambled eggs that are freshly prepared on board, a veal sausage, mushrooms, tomato, potatoes and the Australian interpretation of baked beans.

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The meal is good. Moreover, the portions are quite decent. The meal concludes with the coffee. And after that, I think I need to nap. It was an early start this morning.

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The Inflight Snack

About two hours later I wake up again feeling hungry, so I order the noodle soup from the snack menu.

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The Second Service

What I don’t realise, is that there is actually a second service on this flight, which is served about 90 minutes out of Jakarta. I go with the selection of satay, which tastes really good.

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Arrival

Eventually we start our descent. But the weather in the Jakarta is quite bad. And so we spend quite a while doing circuits in fairly rough conditions before eventually we are cleared for the approach. We land at 10h40, slightly behind schedule.

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As we taxi in, we pass quite a few derelict aircraft is varying stages of repair or decay. A Boeing 747 that is being scrapped very nearly breaks my little heart. How can people do this…?

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Transfer in Jakarta

The new terminal is a vast improvement over thew old one. I kind of get the feeling though, that’s it’s not entirely finished yet, and there are closed off areas everywhere.

If you’re travelling on an EU passport, you’re probably going to need a vist for Indonesia. This can be obtained on arrival. You have to have USD35 in cash on you. Fortunately, the terminal is very quiet when I arrive, and so the whole procedure is easy and painless.

Virgin Australia, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Brisbane to Melbourne

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Introduction

This ticket was purchased using Etihad Guest miles. In the original booking, I would have travelled on VA334, which departs from Brisbane at 14h55. Really quite by chance, I realise that I’ve been rebooked to VA332, which departs from Brisbane one hour earlier at 13h55.

According to the IATA rule, until departure the entity which made the original booking is responsible for the passenger – so in this case, Etihad Airways. Quite frankly, I think it’s a piss poor show that they can’t even be arsed to at least inform me that I’ve been put on a flight that leaves a whole hour earlier!

And so I leave the Spicers Balfour in New Market and make my way to the airport one hour earlier than expected. The journey by car takes about 25 minutes, depending on traffic. My first stop though, is the BNE Service Centre – as I have to return the rental car with a full tank.

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Once the car is returned, I take the elevated walkway that connects the car park and the airport’s railway station to the domestic terminal.

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Check-in

There is a dedicated Business Class check-in section for Virgin Australia passengers only.

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The Virgin Australia Lounge

Right next to the Business Class check-in counters is the priority line for security. In Australia, on domestic flights you only need to take out your laptop from the bag. Not liquids.

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The Virgin Australia lounge is opposite gate 41. To be honest, I was expecting this lounge to be a bit of an anti-climax after having experienced the lovely Qantas lounge in Perth.

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But much to my surprise, this is also a very nice lounge. I don’t think I could say if it’s better or worse than the Qantas lounge, because they’re just so different. While the Qantas lounge is elegant in a very grown-up kind of style, the Virgin lounge has a much fresher, more modern look that is also very attractive.

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Food and drink offerings are good and include a range of hot and cold snacks. Although where the lounge food is concerned, I think Qantas is ahead of Virgin Australia.

Boarding

The flight is departing from gate 43. There is a dedicated line for Business Class passengers and members of the frequent flyer programme.

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The Cabin

Virgin Australia has a dedicated Business Class cabin on the Boeing B 737-800, with eight seats in a 2 + 2 configuration on two rows. The seat pitch is 38 inches and the seat width is 19.5 inches.

The appearance of the cabin is sleek, with the seats in black leather and a purple, see-through cabin divider. The seat is certainly comfortable and beats the European interpretation of Business Class seating any day. The disadvantage with this seat however, is that while it has excellent recline, there is no foot rest to put your legs up. On a flight of only two hours this is hardly an issue, but I’m not sure what it would be like on a longer flight.

What I really like on Virgin Australia, is that once the fasten seatbelt sign goes off, the crew will cordon off the Business Class section from the rest of the aircraft, which significantly diminished the amount of foot traffic in the Business Class cabin.

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The Crew

There are three ladies and one gent working in the cabin on today’s flight. The Business Class section is being taken care of by the purser, Sarah. I think this young lady does a really outstanding job in the way she goes about her duties. She has excellent manners, she’s friendly and approachable and throughout the flight she goes out of her way to ensure that passengers have everything they need.

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There is a choice of orange juice or water as a welcome drink. There are no refreshing towels though.

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The Meal

The whole meal is served on one tray and consists of

  1. a small salad with parmigiano shavings and an excellent dressing,
  2. a small bun with butter,
  3. coconut and chocolate sweets for dessert, and for the main course
  4. a pork pie served hot,

or

  1. Baba Ghanoush, served cold with flat bread.

The salad is definitely much better and certainly larger than that miserable excuse for a side salad served on Qantas. For the main course I choose the Baba Ghanoush, which is really very tasty.

And the coconut chocolate sweet is lovely and goes well with a cup of coffee.

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Arrival

Eventually we land in Melbourne after a flight time of two hours and five minutes. As we taxi in, we pass a LAN Chile B 787, which seems awfully far away from home!

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Eventually our aircraft comes to a stop at Terminal 3.

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Getting into Town

In Melbourne I’ll be staying at the Novotel St. Kilda, which is right on the waterfront. To get to St. Kilda, your cheapest option is to take the red Skybus express shuttle which runs directly from Melbourne airport’s Terminal 4 to St. Kilda. The journey from the airport takes about 60 minutes, depending on traffic, and will cost you AUD19 one way. On weekdays the service runs every 30 minutes.

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Conclusion

So, Qantas or Virgin? It’s really quite hard to say. The food and the crew on the Virgin flight were definitely better. But the lounge and the level of comfort were better on Qantas. Although the latter point is not really quite fair, given that my Qantas flight was with a wide-body, whereas the Virgin Australia flight was with a narrow-body.

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Qantas, Business Class – Airbus A 330-200: Perth to Brisbane

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Introduction

At this point you’re probably wondering why the heck I didn’t just fly directly from Bangkok to Brisbane, instead of taking the detour through Perth. It’s a long story and I’m not even going to attempt to explain. It has something to do with a compulsion for flying, a fascination with aeroplanes and probably some deeply rooted neurosis a psychologist would likely have a field day with…

Getting to the Airport

To get to the airport, I take the bus line 935, which makes the journey in about 30 minutes. The fare is AUD4.70 and the bus stop is literally across the road from the hotel. In the photo below, my hotel is the tall building in the background.

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Check-in

I’ve checked in using the QANTAS app. If you’re checking in at the airport, QANTAS have these very funky self-service check-in machines at which you can check yourself in, issue the baggage tags and drop off your baggage. It nearly makes me wish I had more than just hand luggage!

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The Lounge

There is a separate queue for Business Class passengers for security. The process is swift and efficient. From security I head straight for the QANTAS lounge.

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I really do think QANTAS seriously has the best lounges of all airlines. Ever. In the world. And the lounge here in Perth is no exception. It’s beautifully appointed and offers a wide range of seating options. Even the loos have style!

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There is a large buffet with an extensive selection of hot and cold dishes. Apart from that, there is a coffee station where they make excellent coffee and a separate drinks bar. Oh yeah, and the apron views are pretty good too!

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Boarding

Boarding for my flight is from gate 14. Business Class passengers use the L1 door of the aircraft to board, while all others use the L2 door. From what I can tell, the flight is completely sold out in Business.

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The Cabin

Qantas operates the A 330-200 in two different configurations. There is one version with a seating capacity of 199 in Economy and 36 in Business Class and another with a seating capacity of 243 in Economy and 28 in Business Class. The lower-density configuration is used primarily on international services but is also deployed on domestic routes, while the higher density configuration is only used on domestic services and to New Zealand.

The international configuration has the Qantas Skybed, which is sufficiently comfortable but offers very little storage space and is really quite ugly to look at. This configuration has angled lie-flat seats that are 21.5 inches in width and have a pitch of 60 inches. The seats are in a 2 + 2 + 2 layout.

The domestic configuration is definitely much nicer and obviously newer. This is a completely lie-flat seat, width is also at 21.5 inches. Stretched out into the bed position, the seat is 78 inches long. The seats are laid out in a 1 + 2 + 1 configuration. On uneven numbered rows, the A, F and K seats are aisle seats. While on even numbered rows only the E seat is directly on the aisle.

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Apart from the fact that it looks much nicer, the domestic configuration also provides a lot more storage space. And fortunately for me, today’s flight is operated by an aircraft in the domestic configuration.

The Crew

There are four female cabin crew working the Business Class cabin. They’re friendly enough I guess, but their interaction comes across as being slightly put on. But at least they are very professional in the way they deal with the passengers. But I have to say, throughout the flight the crew come through the cabin repeatedly to make sure passenger are hydrated and have something to drink, which is something for example the Thai crews didn’t do.

While we’re still on the ground, welcome drinks are served. There is a choice between wine, water and some cranberry juice spritzer, the name of which I didn’t catch.

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The Meal

The meal service is something I never really quite get about QANTAS. I’m assuming they think is very stylish and sophisticated. I just think it’s weird and more than just a little pretentious. The menu has a choice of two starters, four main courses and two desserts, which is quite extensive I think, especially on a domestic flight. But the things they have on the menu are just slightly odd.

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First Course

For the starter I go with the mozzarella with grilled radicchio, green beans and crushed hazelnuts. This is rather unusual and quite good. So far so good. The dish is served with a minute side order of salad and two slices of sourdough bread.

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The Salad

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The Main Course

For the main course I have the chicken parmigiana, which is also quite good but just looks slightly forlorn, sitting on the plate with just a slice of lemon and nothing else. I mean, some sort of side dish might have been nice.

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Dessert

And then for dessert I have the cheesecake with berries.

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I spend the rest of the flight watching an Australian film called ‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert’, which I can highly recommend. The film is not that recent, but I thought it was hilariously funny in a tragic sort of way.

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Arrival

Eventually we land after a flight time of just over four hours. The approach is spectacular and brings us in right past the city of Brisbane on our left.

The temperature is more or less the same as in Perth, but it’s definitely more humid here.

Getting into Town

In Brisbane I’m picking up a rental car. My first stop is a small town on the Sunshine Coast that goes by the name of Mooloolaba and which has a lovely sandy beach. I have to say, it really does feel so nice to swim in the sea and feel the heat of the sun on my body again. With the rubbish weather we’ve had back home recently, I’d started to forget what the sun even looked like!

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