Or administrative assistants, or whatever you want to call them.
The good news is, I haven't really composed an ode, so I won't be inflicting any bad poetry on the world (today).
But really, they do make the world go round. In fact, they rule it. They have the power to make your life much easier in the face of admistrative formality -- or to make it absolute hell.
I've just had a brief and incredibly productive telephone conversation with a secretary at the FNRS (the people who pay me my fellowship salary out of the Belgian taxpayer's pocket) and I have to say, while email exchanges with the FNRS are often fraught with frustrations and delays, on the phone they're absolutely stellar.
In short, I'm all set (administratively speaking at least) for my Great Austral Trip starting tomorrow. About which more details will be posted as the situation develops. As they say in the catastrophe-reporting media.