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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #038

Editorial

One reason we chucked everything in and hit the road was that we were sick of dealing with dogma and bureaucracy, and, for the last three years we've largely avoided the day-to-day BS that most people have to endure.

That was until my Dad died, and we were dragged kicking and screaming back into that world, a world of paper work and forms.

In fact it's three worlds because everything has to be in triplicate. Not just the forms, everything. It took three trips into the motor registry to change Dad's car into our name, three trips into the bank to close his account, etc. etc. etc.

It's just so bloody frustrating dealing with institutions and people who really don't give a rodent's posterior. There have been exceptions, but not many.

As I write this editorial we have just about got everything sorted and are relaxing on our new acquisition, 25 acres of near-virgin bush.

It's been very traumatic, and all I can ask is, "Dad, please don't do that again"

 

Fri 28 Oct 2005

One of my cousins has invited me to stay for a while. We haven't seen each other for forty-something years, so it seems like a good idea to catch up some. Besides, I need a change of location, I've been staying with Margaret, my Dad's friend, and she has been fantastic, feeding me, washing my socks, and generally being supportive at a time when I didn't want to deal with such matters.

She has been great, but I'm sleeping in the same room that my Dad occupied until a few days ago, I need to get away.

I spend a few hours sitting down on the bay, thinking about my Dad, then drive around to Robyn and Rob's. There's a family get together tomorrow, I hope I don't have any other cousins answering to the name Rob, it may get confusing.

Sun 30 Oct

I'll move house again today, this time to stay with Tony, an old friend and workmate of mine from the 80's. Tony picks me up from my cousin's at around 10, and we head south to Frankston in his flash Holden Calais.

His house isn't quiet as flash, but then Tony makes part of his income from buying the worst house in the street and renovating it, and this place is a recent acquisition.

Mon 31 Oct

After spending the day reminiscing about previous workplaces and workmates, it's finally time to fly, literally.

Tony drives me to the airport, the traffic is better than expected and we arrive much earlier than required, so I sit in the departure lounge with my thoughts.

I wonder where my Dad is now, not physically of course, I know where his body lies, but what of his "spirit" if there is such a thing. Does he know the answer to that question we all ask? Or was there just nothing?

Flight 653 is boarding and I take my place in the queue. Hopefully my next visit to Melbourne will be a happier one.

Tue 1 Nov

We arrived back at the farm at around 2AM and so don't rise until late in the morning.

We have to drive down to Bundaberg to sort out my Dad's affairs, but originally planned to have a rest day first. However we have both pretty much had it with being here, so we decide to head off today, even if we only get a few kilometres down the road.

After some shopping in Mareeba we drive to Rocky Creek just outside Atherton. It's not far, about 70 kilometres, but at least we've moved.

At around beer o'clock I get talking to some other campers. They are espousing the virtues of travelling slow and, when they learn that I camped here last April, they ask where I've been in the intervening six months.

"Just to Dimbulah and back" I answer.

Wed 2 Nov

We make a late start and by five have only done about 250k. We pull over onto a flat area beside the road near the locality known as The Lynd Junction. There's nothing here, just the road and the bush.

Fantastic.

Thu 3 Nov

While driving I notice an interesting river bed and bookmark it as a potential photo spot. Just a couple of kilometres further down the road we come across the campground at Fletcher Creek, it's a great looking campsite that we noticed six months ago on our northbound trip.

Next time we will stay here, and for at least a week I think.

Today however we just continue. The road is terrible, but I remembered a gravel pit near a river about 90k south of the Towers (Charters Towers), the pit also marks the end of the bad road. Chris is driving ahead and pulls into the very spot, just next to Cape River.

We'll stay here tonight.

About a week or so ago I noticed a gecko in the truck, they're harmless little things and, as they eat bugs and are fun to watch, they are normally welcome in a house.

Well tonight the gecko reappeared, he walked right passed me on the fly screen. He's a cute little fellow and I've decided to name him, henceforth he shall be known as Graham.

I hope Graham is happy to head south for the summer.

Fri 4 Nov

We drive all day through Belyando Crossing, Clermont, Emerald and Blackwater, putting in 470k, nearly the longest day we've ever done, finally stopping just outside the town of Bluff.

With the highway on one side, croaking frogs on another, and a railway on the third, it's pretty noisy. I suspect we'll have an early start tomorrow.

Sat 5 Nov

I was right, at 5:30 Chris is up and about, and she makes sure I'm not far behind.

We hit the road at about six and drive all day, finally pulling into the rest area at Gin Gin.

Sun 6 Nov

We finally arrive at Bargara. The house is just as my Dad left it, spare reading glasses on an open magazine, the dustpan and brush on the kitchen bench, still laden with dirt as though the taxi arrived before he had time to finish cleaning. A bottle of ginger beer in the fridge, he did enjoy a quiet ginger beer before tea. A CD lying near the computer, "backup Oct 05" reads the label, there will be no more.

It's all here, waiting for him to come back.

Tue 8 Nov

Today we start sorting and cleaning up. I couldn't face it yesterday, but we have to start sometime I guess.

Wed 9 Nov

Still sorting out stuff. It's quite a daunting task, even though my parents didn't have that much. They moved 22 times during their 50-odd years of marriage (I wonder where I got the travel bug from?), and each time they threw out a lot of stuff. So there's not much left really, but still a lot by our standards.

Of course some of it is ours, here because there's no room in the truck. What are we going to do with it?

Thu 10 Nov

I always knew we could trace the Gray family back a ways, but today I find some documentation from the Elgin district in Scotland that mentions a Robert Gray in 1291. That's over 700 years ago.

I've been to Elgin, it was strange to find that half the headstones in the grounds of the ruined cathedral have the name Gray chiseled deeply into the stone. The other have a surname of Allan, another branch of our family.

Most of these headstones were documented by my parents in the 70's. There's also supposed to be a family home called Bishopmill still in existence.

I believe it's now a pub, how nice.

Fri 11 Nov

We found a very old book about Greyfriars Bobby today. Greyfriars Bobby was a famous dog that refused to leave his master's side, even after the man died. The little terrier lived on, and near, his master's grave in Edinburgh from 1858 until he also died in 1872. It's a touching story, and the subject of at least one movie.

So what? you ask.

Well the book had a newspaper clipping in it with another account of the story. And guess what? The owner of the dog was one John Gray.

I don't know if he was related to our family or not, but why then is the clipping here?

I must admit I'm getting more than a little interested in this family history stuff.

I took yet another load to the tip today. As I pour out the things that made up my father's life I nearly weaken and retrieve some items. But there's no point, we have nowhere to put them, and anyway, that was my Dad's life, not mine. I'll remember him without a car full of trinkets.

I'm finding it easier being in the house now, as we clear out and tidy up, the place is looking less like my Dad's home, and more like just another house.

And I'm not interested in houses.

Mon 14 Nov

I used to think that the English had the worst-ever system of measurements. Let's take the yard for example. At some point in antiquity it was determined that a measure was needed that was longer than a foot (don't ask) and shorter than a mile. Presumably someone said something like...

"I know, let's get the king to hold out one arm and point over there, then we'll use the distance between his index finger and his nose as this new measurement"

"Righto, that's a good idea, but what will we call this new length?"

Everyone thought for a minute, then, as one, their gaze followed the king's outstretched arm, across the patio, and into the backyard.

"Let's call it a yard" they all chorused.

And then there's the currency, you start with a penny, nothing wrong with that I guess. But there's 12 of them to a shilling (hands up all those with 12 fingers), 2 shillings to a florin, 5 shillings to a crown, 20 shillings to a pound, or 21 to a guinea.

The mind boggles.

The reason for this pontification is that I think I've just found a worse system.

While trying to determine the age of a book, I see the date MDCCLXXXVI on the half-title page. My Roman numeral skills aren't what they used to be, so I do a quick web search.

MDCCLXXXVI = 1786

Of course, don't know why I didn't get that one. To be fair it's not too bad when you break it up.

M = 1000
D = 500
C = 100, therefore DCC = 500 + 100 + 100 = 700
L = 50
XXX = 30, therefore LXXX = 50 + 10 + 10 + 10 = 80
V = 5
I = 1, therefore VI = 5 + 1 = 6

Kind of rolls off the tongue doesn't it?

Can you just imaging buying a new chariot in ancient Rome...

"How much for the convertible over there mate, the one with the chrome scimitars on the hubs?"

"That one's em dee cee cee ell ecks ecks ecks vee eye, plus on-road costs of about ell ecks ecks"

"What! they're only em dee cee cee ell ecks ecks vee eye down at Centurion Motors"

"We can match them, and throw in a set of reigns valued at cee ecks ecks ecks vee eye eye"

"Is that the best you can do?"

"Wait a minute, I'll look at the list price" ... "OK, we can do the chariot for em dee cee cee ell ecks ecks vee eye, we'll pay the on-road costs, we'll throw in the reigns AND a helmet. Remember, this chariot is locally made, none of that cheap imported crap from Gaul, or my name ain't Maximus Supercilious".

While clearing some pot plants form the veranda I disturb a colony of ants. There are thousands of larvae, and the grown-ups immediately begin to pick them up and carry them to safety. I get a few quick shots then return to work.


Worker ants try to pick up a soldier larvae that's already twice their size

Mon 21 Nov

For some time now we've had half an eye out for a block of land, nothing too flash mind, just somewhere we could leave some stuff in a shed or something.

We've done nothing serious about it for two reasons, firstly we haven't had enough spare money, and secondly, some friends, and then my Dad, have been able to store some of the things we don't need at the moment, or that won't fit in the motorhome.

With the death of my father the problem has come to a head. We have to sell Dad's house, but really don't want to impose on our friends again.

Fortunately the problem is also the solution. We can use some of my inheritance to buy a block of land.

So today we set out to find a suitable block. We like the area around here, the climate is great, and of course this is where we happen to be right now, which makes it easy to look. We search the web and do find a promising block up near Darwin, but the logistics of going there to view it, then getting all our gear up there, is too difficult.

So we drive into town and do the rounds of the real estate agents.

The first agent we speak to has something he feels might be suitable. On looking at the contours on the map, and discussing some other features, I get a good feeling about it, so we drive out to have a look.

The block is about 25 acres (10 hectares) in size. It's hilly, but fortunately the access track runs along a ridge line and only has a moderate incline. At the top of the track is a clear and flat section. The rest of the block is heavily timbered, and quite steep with deep gullies.


Looking down the 400-metre "driveway".


Looking along one of the ridges. The track goes along here then gets extremely steep as it climbs "our" hill.


Most of the block is steep and wooded

We do like the block but don't want to buy the first thing we see, so we plan to drive around and look at some more properties the agent had told us about. However we run out of time, so that will have to wait until tomorrow.

On our return to town I spot an ACCO on the side of the road. It belongs to the Bingera sugar mill.


A motorhome in waiting?

When we get home I ring about the truck. It's not for sale right now, but the owner reckons "If it gives us any trouble next rego it will be". I just may keep in touch, you never know when you may want to build another motorhome.

Tue 22 Nov

Before leaving town we check out some shipping containers, with a view to dropping one on whichever block we buy. We can get a good one in Brisbane for about $2700, but the trouble is they are in Brisbane. Add $800 to ship it up here.

Locally you pay about $3300, a bit pricey, but at least it's not far to move it.

Having satisfied ourselves that a container is a viable option, we head back out to Gin Gin to look at the blocks we didn't have time for yesterday.

About 30k out of Bundaberg we're cruising along the highway when our feet are simultaneously drenched by water coming through the air vents. At the same time I smell radiator water.

I pull over as fast as possible and investigate.

A piece of steel pipe that forms part of the cooling system has rusted through and the end has disintegrated, leaving the attached hose swinging in the breeze and spewing water.

No problem, I have some spare hose, I can clean up the end of the steel pipe and attach a new length of hose.

I'll just get some tools out and make a start.

No tools!

That's right, I remember now, I put them all back in the truck a couple of weeks ago just before we started to head south. I reasoned that the two vehicles would be travelling together, and therefore the Cruiser didn't really need to carry any tools.

Wrong.

Fortunately we are fully equipped for a picnic. You can do a lot with a sharp fruit knife and a bottle opener.

In about ten minutes we are back on the road, but I don't feel comfortable driving on some of the semi-remote roads until I do the repairs properly.

We turn around and head back to Bundy. Chris thinks it's an omen, we are not supposed to see any other blocks.

Wed 23 Nov

We're out block hunting again. We'll try to view the blocks to the south of Gin Gin for the third time, hopefully we'll have a bit more luck today.

After hours of driving around, climbing fences, and walking through the bush we arrive back at the first one we looked at two days ago.

I liked it from the start, and have really just being looking at other properties in an attempt to prove to myself that it was the best.

Chris liked it as well, but wasn't as immediately "sold" on it as I was.

This time however we realise that the block's boundary is a bit further to the east than we originally thought. This means that it incorporates nice flat spot with good views over the hills.

Chris is now convinced we should buy this block.

We have lunch while admiring the view and pretending that the land is ours, then drive into town to see the agent.


We park on the spot with the best views.


The view from that spot

Thu 24 Nov

We put money down on the block. All going well with title searches etc. it will be ours on the 16th of December.

Sun 27 Nov

We go up to the block to have a good look around. There's a storm on the horizon when we arrive, but we go for a walk anyway. By the time we're about half way around the property the storm is on top of us, and we leg it back to the car.


Sitting out the storm

It's quite pleasant sitting here listening to the rain on the roof.

We return to town just in time to see a fantastic sky, the aftermath of the storm.


One of the street lights in the retirement village

Thu 1 Dec

Another frustrating day dealing with financial institutions. Every time we ring someone we get a different person and a different answer. In the past we have used this phenomenon to get the answer we wanted, ie. just keep ringing until they say what we want to hear.

It's a double-edged sword though. When you get the right answer first off it pays to ring again anyway and speak to another call-centre crony. If the second answer is different then you have to find out which one is right, and invariably discover that there is a third possibility.

It's unbelievably frustrating, and something that most people encounter all the time I suppose. Is it any wonder we're all dying from stress-related illness.

Fri 2 Dec

It looks like the block purchase is going through so we drive out to the local hire company to pick a container. The ones we looked at the other day have all been hired out or sold, so we have to choose again.

It's absolutely bucketing down and we're well and truly wet after crossing the few metres of open space to the office. The rain increases so we run back to the first container, fortunately the doors are open so we can go straight inside. At least this is a good day to check if they leak.

I'm so wet now that it doesn't matter, so I just walk to the second container.

We choose one and will pay for it at the shop front on Monday, as they don't take cards here at the depot.

We have another storm this afternoon, and another great sky.


The Lodge, incorporating the office and central meeting and activities areas for the village.


My Dad's house

Sun 4 Dec

Today I have Stephen, Shane and Phillip (some local photographer types) come around to chat. I really enjoy talking photography and seldom have the chance, so I'm looking forward to their arrival.

While talking we notice the lorikeets in the bushes, Stephen and I take a few shots.


A cheeky-looking lorikeet in the bushes near our back veranda

Mon 5 Dec

We paid for the container this morning, the plan is to have it delivered to the block on Thursday.

Tue 6 Dec

After getting different answers from everyone about the requirement for probate we finally decide that we cannot get around it, so we're seeing a solicitor.

Most institutions are happy with copies of wills and death certificates, some just want a signed indemnity form, and others will accept an indemnity bond, while others (read "banks") require probate.

NOTE: Explanations of some relevant terms at the bottom if this diary.

We explain to the solicitor why we need probate, that is, that we will be receiving cheques made out to "The estate of J D Gray" and the bank will not allow us access to the funds without probate.

"You can just endorse them to a solicitor's trust account" he says, "Then the solicitor can write you a cheque for the same amount...it's called..." he pauses searching for the correct term, but I interject,

"Money laundering"

He laughs, and decides that's a good enough expression.

It makes a mockery of the bank's process, they will not clear any funds made out to "The estate of..." without probate. But any solicitor can just give you the money.

The bank will not even reimburse us out of my Dad's account for the funeral expenses. We're pretty pissed off with this particular bank, none of the money we get from the estate will be passing through their doors that's for sure.

Which bank? Westpac.

Wed 7 Dec

Tom (a neighbour) came around this morning to ask my advice on photocopying death certificates. I am able to set him straight, never thought I'd be the local death certificate expert. A distinction I could do without.

Thu 8 Dec

The container is being delivered today. We have arranged for it to be delivered at 10:30, this will give us some time to scout the area for the best place to drop it. We leave with a view to arriving at 9:30, thus giving us an hour before he arrives.

At about 9:10, while we are on the road, we get a call. The truck driver is already there.

I should have done my nut, but I'm normally too easy going for that. I just don't understand the attitude of most people though, and I'm not just talking tradesmen. If you say you will be somewhere at X o'clock then that's when you should turn up. Not 10 to X, not 10 past X, X. Early is just as bad as late, often it's even worse. Even for a dinner with friends, your hosts may need the extra ten minutes to clean up, or have a shower, there's all sorts of reasons why you should be on time.

If I'm early I sit around the corner until the exact time.

Anyway we just make him wait until we decide where it will go. Fortunately we have half an idea already, based on our memory of the block, and just need to have a look to make sure the position is OK. But we really wanted an hour to think about other possibilities.


The container gets dropped onto its new resting place

The ground is sloping so I have brought out some concrete blocks to level the container. Unfortunately it slides too quickly from the truck and falls off the blocks. I'll have to jack it up later and rearrange things.

As we drive back to town we see a newly-moved house, sitting in the middle of a field. It used to be pretty common to buy, or even be given, an old house and move it somewhere else. Apparently though this practice has declined due to the increasingly strict regulations regarding moving such large objects on the roads. Complying with stricter rules increases the cost, so it's not as good a way of getting a cheap house as it used to be.


Newly transported house, sitting on blocks of wood while waiting to be stumped

And now on another subject, heat waves. There's been a lot of talk on the news these past few days about the "heat wave" conditions, and it's only been about 33 degrees. If these conditions were in Europe I would understand the air time devoted to it, but this is Queensland, that's what happens up here.

Sun 11 Dec

This morning I discovered a lot of bees entering the roof space of my Dad's house via some ventilation holes in the eaves. It looks like they are making a little home in there. I suppose I'll tell management, but I really don't care if we have bees in the roof, as long as they stay there.

The trouble is, once inside the roof space the brightest thing they can see is the skylight above the toilet, so, when the time comes to leave the hive and forage, they make a bee-line (sorry) for the skylight.

The skylight is sealed to the sky, but quite open to the toilet, therefore the loo is swarming with bees. Well a few at least. Most of the time we ignore our guests, but Chris draws the line at sitting on them, so I take action when there are some in the bowl.

Tonight I notice that there a several on the floor in the hall, I'll have to be careful if I go for a midnight wee, don't want to stand on the little fellows, they might get angry.

Mon 12 Dec

We're moving our stuff out to the block today. To that end we've hired a small (3-tonne) truck from Avis, and by around 11 it's loaded. We have a lot of gear in the Cruiser as well, and Chris will follow me in the that.

But not before she buys something for lunch, I'm already peckish, and by the time I get there I'll be starving.

About 30k from town my phone rings. Chris can't get the Cruiser into gear. She nearly got stuck at the lights, and just managed to limp into the shopping centre car park.

"Sounds like clutch fluid" I say, "top it up, there's some in the back".

Five minutes later I get another call, it's all systems go. But that won't be the end of it.

We spend the next few hours packing the container, then head back home.

Tue 13 Dec

The men from a local second-hand store come this morning, they have already quoted to take everything, and today they are picking up.

This is a good deal as far as we are concerned, they pay bugger all, but even that was roughly what we estimated we would get at a garage sale. And this way we don't have to advertise, hang around for days, haggle, and still take most of it to the tip or the Salvos.

These people take everything, what they don't want to place in their shop will go to the local charities.

It's a win win deal as far as I'm concerned.

Chris goes into town and has clutch trouble again.

Wed 14 Dec

I go into town and have clutch trouble, having to stop twice and refill the fluid. On my return I get underneath the car and get Chris to pump the clutch pedal. One push tells me all I need to know, the slave cylinder is knackered.

A quick ring-around finds a replacement part (new) for $20, I'll get it tomorrow.

Meanwhile there's some more packing to do, plus I want to research the price of a flight to Tasmania, I may be flying down there to photograph some of the wilderness areas.

While sitting at the computer the power fails. I'm getting pretty sick of the unreliable power in this area, that's the fourth time in as many weeks.

Chris suggests that I check the circuit breakers, and on opening the power box I see that the main breaker is indeed in the off position. I also see a card from Ergon Energy, the local electricity provider.

That's right, I remember now, we organised for the power to be cut off today.

I turn the power back on and return to the computer, turning on the air conditioner as I walk passed. Now that they've taken a final reading we can use all the power we like :-)

Soon after I need to make a phone call. I pick up the handset and start to dial. Immediately I get a message "This line has been disconnected, to have it re connected please contact..."

Bugger, I also thought that disconnecting the phone on the 14th would be a good idea. I don't know why, we are supposed to vacate the house tomorrow, so the 15th would have been a more appropriate date.

At around sunset we see the blackest cloud imaginable heading our way. Our neighbours, Ken and Helen, see it too, and, given the recent severe hail storms south east Queensland has been getting, they decide to cover their car.

They're both elderly and are having trouble handling the tarp in the wind. So we run across the road to help.

We almost get it tied down when Chris has a brain wave, our garage is empty (the Cruiser doesn't fit), why not just put their car in there. Helen drives the car across the road and parks it in our garage. I guess we've built up some good Karma there.

Thu 15 Dec

We have to go into town today to get the slave cylinder, I can't trust the Cruiser, so I get the motorbike out.

Ken sees the bike and asks why we are using it. On hearing of our clutch problem he promptly offers the use of his car, I accept, and thereby equalise my Karma.

The car in question is actually my Dad's. When Ken heard that we intended to sell it he made an offer. He's a nice old fella, and selling to him meant we didn't have to advertise, so the deal was done.

Apparently Ken had the same clutch problem in his previous car, he paid $500 to have it fixed. I like the sound of $20 plus an hour of my time better.

On our return the Cruiser cannot be put into gear with the engine running. I have to move it over to the truck because that's where all the tools are, and to do so requires a couple of reverse/forward moves, so a few key starts are in order.

Soon after the new slave cylinder is in place and we're back on the road.

Fri 16 Dec

We mean to leave today but won't be ready in time. Even though we are nearly packed, it's not quite nearly enough. Also I have to go into town to pick up two solar panels from the FWD shop.

We plan to add the panels to the roof of the Cruiser where they will charge the second battery when we are out and about away from the truck, and augment the truck's solar system when we're at home.

We could leave tomorrow or on Sunday, but I want to run the truck by the mechanic at a local spring shop, and they aren't open on the weekend. So we decide to leave on Monday.

The purchase of the block settled today, we are now land owners again.

Previous Issue :: Next Issue

 

 

Probate
A a supreme court ruling that the will is valid. It's a relatively complicated process that involves submitting forms to the court and advertising in newspapers and a legal journal to see if anyone disputes your claim to the will. It takes about six weeks (if it goes smoothly).

Depending on the institution you are dealing with, and the state you are in, you may not need probate. We managed to do everything without it.

Indemnity form
A form where you give indemnity to the institution for any future claims against the estate. In other words, you are saying that the will is legal and that you are the person that should get the money. No self-interest there, how that can be valid I have no idea.

Indemnity bond
To have shares transferred to your name the company may accept an indemnity bond in place of probate. Depending on the size of the share holding the bond will cost you as much as probate, and it's only good for one holding, multiple holdings, multiple bonds. However, it is quick, and can be organized in a few days.

Estate of...
Any cheques you get will be made out to "The estate of..." so you can't just bank them into your account. You can however endorse them to a solicitor's trust account and he can give you the money. But you can't just endorse them to your own account. Go figure.

Tips:

Disbursements
The bank will pay for reasonable disbursements out of the deceased account, for example they will pay for the funeral.

BUT

They will only pay directly to, for example, the funeral parlor. You cannot pay yourself and then get reimbursed without getting a letter from the parlor to the affect that you are the one that paid the costs. The fact that you have a receipt made out to you is irrelevant. (Duh!)

Try to think of everything because the idiots on the phone don't care. For example, we asked several times if we needed probate to close my Dad's account and take the money. On every occasion the answer was "No".

However when we asked there was only a few thousand in the account. Then we got to thinking, "What if there was more money in that account?"

We rang again and asked, sure enough, if there is more than $30,000 you need probate. If we put a cheque into that account, and the balance goes above $30,000, we can no longer get ANY of the money out without probate.

Copies of death certificates and wills
You will need a lot of these and they will have to be notarised by a JP (or Commissioner of Oaths/Declarations). The poor JP has to write on the back of each one, so we ran them all through a printer and printed "I certify that I have seen the original..." on the back of every copy. (get the exact phrase from your JP)

Then the JP only has to sign and stamp them.

 

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