I’m on a Qantas flight from Darwin to Perth, sitting comfortably in the aisle seat. The middle seat is vacant and there is a copy of Bill Bryson’s latest travel book about Australia sitting there. The owner is an English girl about twenty-eight or thirty, a lawyer she tells me. She’s on holidays and meeting her brother, who is backpacking around Australia. She wants to know what I’m doing in Perth. “I have no idea,” I tell her. “I’m going to hole up in a motel for a day or two then catch up with a friend, Tim. I know…

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