Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Haddock's et al.



It's a start.

The first lot of Tomatoes are in, the red Onions are looking good, and I have planted out those long thin peppers that I love so much.

We still have a copious supply of perpetual Spinach, which I am loth to grub-up, and another row has already been sown. Everyone should grow this stuff; wonderful!

The Cauli' and Calabrese plants haven't grown much (probably because it's so dry), but they'll romp once we have some rain.

The Tayberries are looking very good, and all of my 'scrumped' soft fruit suckers seem to have taken.


There are plenty of flowers about. This mix of Wisteria and Clematis is on the 'tower'.

All in all, I'm happy with the state of play. A lot more still to do, but everything from now on is pure pleasure!




Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Lizzie.



We found this gal in the water on top of the pool cover; poor thing, she'd got in, but couldn't get out.


I scooped her out with the net, and put her to warm-up on a pile of old tiles. She soon went home, no doubt telling her friends all about her adventure.

She's a European Green Lizard, and isn't she beautiful (the males have much brighter blue under their chins). Including her tail, she was about 14 ins long. They are to found to the south of the Seine, but not in Corsica. Lovely creature.



Monday, 23 April 2018

Almost an Art School project.



Ms Wylie's photo (above) appeared in a recent copy of The Sunday Times, and I found it quite enticing.

I decided to study the picture closely, then attempt to draw it simply from memory.

OK, my effort is a bit rustic, probably because I'm out of practice.

Try it yourself!






Sunday, 22 April 2018

Cycling, but not as we know it.


Look what I encountered on the way back from market yesterday.


You know it's the Silly Season here, when the over-60's three-wheeler Cycle Club are in town, there must have been 30 of them. Lying down on the job, whilst cycling; it almost looked appealing.


This latter-day red Sinclair C5 looks fun; probably room inside, too, for his sandwiches, flask of Lucozade, and industrial tub of Bed-Sore lotion. 


These two-wheelers looked the least inviting. Lose concentration, and bang; you're on the Tarmac.

All very 'Look at me, look at me'. They were all wearing pukka expensive cycling kit, and, frankly, most of them looked pretty miserable. Give me my old discreet unremarkable push-bike any day!


Saturday, 21 April 2018

Teach them Origami.


Pupils and parents at a particular school in Hertfordshire UK have been complaining that during the recent heat wave, the pupils were charged 5p for a plastic cup, in order to get themselves a drink of water.

Parents have been rightly outraged, as not only is the world trying to use less plastic, but it is also the 'human right' of every school child to have a ready supply of drinking water.

The solution is, of course, very simple. Show your children the short video below, and make sure they take careful note.

The best paper to use, is that page from their History Textbooks that contains the dates of all the British Kings and Queens (that you're supposed to learn). Alternatively (if that page has already been used), equally good are any pages from the Algebra section in your Maths book.





Friday, 20 April 2018

Those holiday souvenirs.



Lady Magnon is never allowed abroad without taking a list of goodies to bring back. Her recent trip to Blighty was no exception.

The French had no real colonial presence in India (other than Pondicherry), so Indian foods are not common here; certain spices (although available in tiny quantities) are always on my list. A large bag of crushed chillies, another of cumin seeds, and some good hot curry powder, were all needed. 

Certain veg'  seeds I can't buy here (I can't think why); perpetual Spinach, Cavolo Nero, and curly Kale, are still not grown in the French potager, so the seeds have to be imported.

Also on the list were small 75mg aspirins, some kitchen hooks, Polo mints for the car, and some really good mature Cheddar cheese.  

A copy of  Private Eye is always brought back, as well as the most recent Sunday Times with all its supplements.

I'm not sure if I should mention this, but she also brought back a dozen pairs of pants for me! I am very particular about my underwear, and my favourites come from Marks and Spencers. The cheap rubbish that one buys here is banned from the Magnon 'smalls' drawer. The last lot will now all be rounded-up, and thrown away.

My goodies were very much appreciated; thank you m'dear!


Thursday, 19 April 2018

The preservation of Mushrooms.


                            

I make three types of preserved mushrooms (exclusively Cepes, Boletus edulis). I bottle, I dry, and I freeze.

                             

The bottled Cepes (above, and below right) are blanched, cooled, and bottled in water; then sterilised for two hours. They need to be well fried before use, otherwise they can be a bit 'gooey'.


Drying (above, bottom) is very simple, but does require two or three consecutive hot sunny days. They are sliced thinly, then laid out on racks to dry. I usually give them a final blast of heat from whatever oven had been used, before being put away. These are mostly used for risottos.

Freezing (above, left), I have come to think, is my preferred method. They are roughly cut into cubes, lightly fried in olive oil and butter with garlic and parsley, then, when cool, frozen in cheap plastic cups (hence the shape of the block). These give the best flavour for omelets; one small pot, with two eggs, is enough for two!.

All three methods have their advantages, but freezing (from cooked) gives the 'freshest' taste. I recommend.


Wednesday, 18 April 2018

A Pleasant Surprise.



Yesterday, before heading off to collect Lady Magnon's London shopping from the airport (plus Lady Magnon, of course), I made myself a simple salad for lunch.

Imagine my delight when I found that my hard-boiled-egg was a double yolker; the first of 2018.

Last year my egg man supplied double yolkers for well over a month; every single one was a double.

I do hope he repeats the favour; there's something really nice about double yolkers!


Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Peter the Con and The China Shop.


                               Résultat de recherche d'images pour "chinese bronze vessels"
               A genuine Chinese antique bronze ceremonial bowl.


You meet all sorts of rogues in the Antiques business. Resting actors, small-time crooks, lost souls; any old wide-boy can turn-up under the guise of an 'antique dealer'.

In my own case I'd been managing a small West End art gallery, and was invited to join Justin de V in his antiques/interiors Co. I was brought into the fold as the 'Art Expert' (ahem). Justin soon went off to manage young Twiggy, so I then set-up on my own.

There were some wonderful people around in mid-60's Chelsea, one of whom was a rather murky character known as 'Peter the Con'. His 'girlfriend' was a chunky, very well known, 50-something, resting TV actress, who used to knock him about; he seemed to like it.

Anyway, dear Peter came under the 'lost soul' category, and seemed to have no ambition or goal in life; he just 'lived'.

His claim to fame was that he bought very convincing bits of brand-new 'antique style' Chinese bronzes from The China Shop (that used to be up by Marble Arch), and expelled his copious daily intake of beer over them each evening when he returned home (there were usually a dozen or so bronzes, all lined-up outside his back door).

After a few months they changed from looking brand new to looking several hundred years old, and were sold on as such; gaining a considerable mark-up. It made him a meagre living, and no doubt many Peter the Con antique Chinese bronzes are still around in treasured collections.

I wonder what happened to him? Maybe some disgruntled client pissed on him from a great height, and he died of his own verdigris poisoning; or maybe his pugilistic girlfriend finished him off!


Bok and Friend.



Our next door neighbour at my first house here was a champion breeder of Alsatians. They were trained for a particular type of competition, and were taught the art of arm biting, attacking pistol firing baddies, etc. They were not the sort of dogs you petted, and were kept locked-up.

However I've always liked Alsatians. When properly cared for they are very affectionate and friendly. It's only when they are trained to be guard dogs, etc, that they are aggressive.

Bok's friend Marley is a stunningly beautiful boy. He pops round to see Bok quite regularly. They exchange news, play a bit, then off he goes. His visits tend to last about 30 mins, unless we are off for a walk. 

I think you can see by his photo why I like him so much. Handsome just isn't the word for him; he's simply GORGEOUS.

This was him yesterday.




Monday, 16 April 2018

Inglenook.



Many of you may remember my outrage at the misuse of the word 'Vaulted' in certain TV 'country homes' programmes; well I become equally annoyed by the throw-away use of the word 'Inglenook'.

Nowadays any fireplace wider than about three feet, and with a wooden lintel, is called an 'Inglenook' by the TV presenting ignorati; and it really makes me angry.

Basically, an Inglenook is a kitchen, where the cooking was done over an open central fire. It often contained a small bread oven built into the back wall. They were tall and wide, so as to accommodate people, wood, and cooking equipment. 

Our own example (above) once had two small benches either side (as below), for the residents to benefit from the warmth, as well as for stirring the pot.

                             Résultat de recherche d'images pour "inglenook fireplace"

This small version (above) is almost NOT an Inglenook; it is quite small, but it gives an idea of how they were used.

Every time I hear some TV presenter calling a small fireplace an 'Inglenook' (and it happens frequently), I feel like stringing him up from his non-existent bloody vaulted ceiling.


Sunday, 15 April 2018

Proof, if needed!



Sunday April 15th; and out come my shorts.

OK, I am a good contestant for a knobbly knees competition, but I couldn't give a fig. I love wearing shorts, and hopefully will be wearing them for at least the next week or so.

We are expecting temps up to about 25 C (my favourite temperature), so they will be worn from morning to night.

But Mother Nature has a way of laughing at us in late April/early May, she bestows fine weather upon us giving us false hopes, then throws pestilence at us for several weeks before Summer sets in for good.

Anyway, I shall enjoy the sun upon my knees whilst the going is good!


The future of Magnon.



In these times of trouble and uncertainty, I look at the picture of my boys (grandsons), and they give me hope.

The world is theirs, and they should grasp every opportunity. I don't expect any of them to search-out fame or great wealth, just a good life with a family, and a healthy bank balance at the end of each year. I hope they will simply become good citizens, and pleasant people.

I don't know where this photo was taken (other than it was in Oz); but it's missing the two smaller cousins Boo Boo and Micha. All the boys are good friends, and the bigger ones look after the smaller; just as it should be.

Seeing as the above are all roughly 10 years old, it will be at least another 10 years before their lives show definitive directions. I do hope I'm still around to see what happens, but who knows!




Saturday, 14 April 2018

In Flar.



All areas now require regular mowing. Most flowers have a nectar searching insect buzzing around them. Lizards are rushing around on warmed south facing stone walls. Hummingbird Hawk Moths are here again. Cuckoos are calling. I saw a pair of Hen Harriers yesterday. The fields are filled with Buttercups, wild Orchids, and Daisies. Temperatures have finally reached above the 20 C mark. 

The first of the fruit trees are now sprouting leaves and are in blossom; above is our Greengage. 


Looking out from the house, there is white blossom everywhere, mostly Wild Cherry like above. There are also flowering Sloe bushes in all the hedgerows.


Most of the fruit trees are now in flower (Pear above), at Haddock's my Red Onion sets have 2 inch shoots, and I have planted out my Cauliflower and Calabrese plants.

I am mowing like crazy, trying to calm the growth. Everything smells of Spring; it's wonderful. However, as I was atop my mower 'Rory' yesterday afternoon, French air force jets flew overhead so low that they almost knocked me off my seat. I can but wonder if they were on their way to Syria.

And finally; one of my neighbours passed by this afternoon wearing SHORTS!



Friday, 13 April 2018

A lesson in charity economics.


One comes across some wonderful things in the newspapers. This one really appealed!

It seems as if the UK TV channel ITV recently had several terribly well known Z-List celebs strip off, in Full Monty fashion, for the entertainment of whoever watches such tripe.


This very sexy striptease (ahem) was for the benefit of a Breast Cancer charity; all very noble.

Well it might have been, other than they raised just a measly £4,000, whereas each famous celeb stripper was paid £10,000. I count EIGHT celebs, so that makes a spending of £80,000, just to raise £4,000. Not good economics in my book!

Might I suggest to ITV that the next time they wish to organise any charity event; just close down the channel for the evening, and simply give away all the money you save!

p.s. I think the large lady, bottom left, is a 'Nolan', otherwise their fame eludes me!




Thursday, 12 April 2018

Preparing baby Artichokes.... My way!


For a long time I used to look at Globe Artichokes whilst my mind boggled; in a restaurant when presented with a whole large uncooked Artichoke on a plate, I was even more boggled. If you still feel that way, here's an easy guide.


First, acquire your bunch of small fresh new-season Artichokes. 


Select the little darling to be prepared.


Remove the lower part of the stem, and any large or small leaves along the remaining length. 


Cut off, and throw away, the upper half of the flower, and remove lower leaves all the way round, until the interior becomes paler.


Plunge immediately into a mix of water and Lemon juice, to deter oxidising; then boil for about 20/30 mins.


Leave to cool, then serve with vinaigrette. Almost all of your Artichokes will now be edible; any bits that are not can go to the compost along with all those trimmings!

N.B.The preparation, and eating, of LARGE fully-grown Artichokes is quite different. Maybe another day....



Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Fill the bubble competition!



My offering "Oh, lucky Ivana; it must have been wonderful to be the first Mrs Trump".

I'm sure YOU can do better than that..... No prizes; just kudos!





Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Danger Mouse.


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With the very welcome news of a new 'Centrist Party' being founded in the UK, it looks as if  the hard left could soon be sidelined. 

The Russian KGB called Corbyn's hero, Anthony Wedgwood-Benn, 'the most dangerous man in Europe' and an 'unnecessary simpleton', and Lord Sugar has now described Corbyn himself as 'Absolutely dangerous'. Even dear Boris has recently called him 'The Kremlin's useful idiot'. Sugar has advised the Labour Party to be rid of Jeremy 'as soon as possible'.

Personally I'm not as worried about him as I was. I'm pretty sure he's a spent force. The only people who could tip the balance to have him elected as PM, are those gullible students who previously believed all his tripe about no university fees, and a return to grants; but I don't think they'll be as easily taken-in the next time around!

However, he mustn't be ignored; Corbyn has presented an extremely serious threat to UK Plc. He has taken the usual Socialist 'Tax and Spend' policies way too far, and a return to a Bankrupt Britain would certainly have been on the cards. I shall heave a huge sigh of relief when he returns to the back benches, where his peculiar version of Marxism really belongs.

I wonder who'll replace him? The most important thing will be for the Socialists to distance themselves from the 'Momentum' group of hard left loonies; as well as making a really serious shake-up of their front bench.

Maybe Anthony Wedgwood-Benn's son Hilary could be called upon; I can assure you he's nowhere near as extreme as his late Dad. But who knows, maybe Hilary will jump ship, and join the no-hope Centrists; in which case they could 'almost' stand a chance!



Monday, 9 April 2018

The way of the world.



In America they are concentrating on the bedroom antics of some insignificant porn star, and her relationship with a squillionaire. 

In the UK they're trying to understand why so many 'ethnic minority' people are killing each other. 

Whilst over in Turkey three powerful unpredictables (Rouhani, Erdogan, and Putin) are deciding who'll get what when Syria is eventually divided-up.

Eeee, it's a grand old world!


Sunday, 8 April 2018

The Sunday Smile: Jaques Tati.


I know you've probably all seen this a hundred times before, but Tati is good therapy.

Here he is, once again, going home.





Saturday, 7 April 2018

Spot the difference!



Roy Lichtenstein is alive and well, and living in Fumel; Lot et Garonne.

Having been trained in such things, had I been working on a similar scale I would have squared it on paper, then squared it onto the wall. However, doing it freehand does have it's qualities, and it makes me smile every time I go past.

Below is Roy's version.

                                           Résultat de recherche d'images pour "roy lichtenstein"



Friday, 6 April 2018

The new 'foodie' season begins.



When I saw these at market; I almost swooned. I could hardly wait to dig-in!

Soon there will be Asparagus, then Cherries, then in May we should have some Girolles. 

I adore the round of seasons, and the gifts they bring. How lucky we all are.


N.B. If you are lucky enough to find young Artichokes like the ones above; don't cut off the stems and throw them away. Take off the bottom few centimetres only; when cooked, the stems are perfectly edible and delicious.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

What a shame.



I recently found this little guy floating on the water on top of our pool cover. 

As far as I can see, I think it's a Brown long-eared Bat (Plecotus auritus). I'm used to seeing our little Pipistrelle Bats, but I've never seen one of these before.

According to my book, they are not uncommon across Europe, but are not found in Greece or Southern Italy.

What a shame that it had to end up drowned on the pool cover.

Those ears are amazing. Do you have these where you live?



Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Roof Tiles.



This very picturesque village, St Cirq Lapopie, is not too far from where we live. It's a classic of its type, and probably hasn't changed too much over the past few hundred years.

A major part of it's charm are its muted colours. The colour of the stone, and that of its roofs, are totally harmonious. Thank goodness that the local authorities have not allowed any of the dreadful modern industrial tiling that one now sees so often.

Nothing ruins the beauty of an ancient village, more than inappropriate use of industrial tiles. 

The blame must be placed, firstly, at the industries that manufacture such tiles. It is no more complicated to create a discreet tobacco-coloured tile, than it is to make those pale-coloured, artificially-aged tiles that always look so very very wrong. Secondly one has to blame the builders who choose such tiles when working on ancient buildings; they are nothing but assassins of the vernacular.

Sadly we are now seeing more and more inappropriate roofing in amongst old and weathered buildings. When others take time and money to source the correct tiling, it is pure arrogance to use some of the rubbish one sees.

I do wish people would take just a few minutes more before opting for the cheapest tiles possible. Look around you; see what is authentic. Tiles last an awful long time.



Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Summer visitors.



This summer's social calendar is slowly filling, but, sadly, it'll be lacking two small boys.

It now looks as if my youngest, Wills, will be heading for Europe alone.

He will come here of course, he has builders to organise; but it'll be a short visit. He needs to visit Zurich to look at property, so his time will be limited.

I was looking forward to having little Boo Boo and his new brother Micha here to play with, but it looks like I'll have to wait a while.

Occasionally life's a bugger, but I suppose one has to accept that other people's schedules cannot always be organised simply to suit our convenience.

Meanwhile I chat to Boo Boo by Skype. Roll on 2019.



Monday, 2 April 2018

Post-Bloody-Brexit Trade (yet again.... yawn).


                             Image associée

The UK recently celebrated 'Commonwealth Day', where The Queen and her family are subjected to 'entertainment' from all corners of the earth; some of them more tuneful or watchable than others.

On the same day, the EU (Junker) enjoyed spreading horror stories of how the UK will be left friendless after we quit their political clutches, so let's have a look at some Commonwealth stats.

It comprises of 53 Countries. The EU boasts just 28.

It has an area of 30 Million square Kms. The EU has just 4.5 Million.

It also has a population of 2.5 Billion. The EU has just 511 Million... I could go on.

The Commonwealth will be just one part of our post-Brexit trading partnerships. We will also have The Americas, Asia, and Africa to trade with.

And if the EU decides that it wishes to continue trading with a post-Brexit UK, then we will have the whole of Europe to trade with too; such things are reciprocal. I really don't see this as anything to be feared!

Hard-drinking Junker may like to insist that the UK will regret Brexit, but, frankly, I think the EU (and Junker) will regret not having our annual £20 Billion membership fee, far more than we will regret their unnecessary rules and regs.

Be optimistic; things can only get better!



Sunday, 1 April 2018

Frank Vignola and Bucky Pizzarelli perform Moonglow


I love to see true craftsmanship in whatever arena. Here are Bucky P and Frank Vignola showing their undoubted musical talents (Bucky is the older one!).

They make it look so easy. Happy Easter.





Saturday, 31 March 2018

Fred the Cat.



Cats are strange beasts. They are basically wild animals, but like to think that they belong in a human world. They are all too happy to accept our food and water, but they generally wish to stay aloof.

Freddie has always been relatively 'unfriendly'; he's not a lap-cat. However he regularly sleeps tucked under my chin at nights, and his resulting purr could rival Stentor.

Like all Cats he changes his mind quite often. One day he will sleep in the hand basin, the next in the oven (not literally). Recently he has taken to joining me on the dining table when I come downstairs in the mornings.

I rather like him sitting in front of me (although Lady M doesn't). To me, a cat should have just three basic qualities. They should look decorative, be good mousers, and show at least a tiny bit of affection.

I think Freddie just about qualifies.




Friday, 30 March 2018

Farage on Fishing.



Nigel Farage came into some criticism recently from certain fair-weather urban 'environmentalists' after his Thames fish-dumping spectacle. They should, in fact, have thanked him profusely for raising the issue; after all, it is what they claim to expound!

His recent Westminster high-jinx was highlighting that an estimated one whole trawl of fish is thrown back into the water for every three that are kept. i.e. 25% of all fish caught are thrown back into the sea; DEAD.

This isn't because the fish are not wanted. When sorted, certain fish are designated slightly 'too small', and must be discarded. But if they've been caught anyway, and are already dead, then why not eat what is perfectly good food rather than throwing it away. Go to any fish restaurant in mainland Europe, and you will find undersize fish on the menu; why is it that only the UK follows EU rules to the letter?

Farage is right to highlight this stupidity (he's right about many things), I hope that when we quit the EU that this fishing nonsense will be rectified. Even if the 25% was used as fish-meal, it would be better than the current irresponsible waste.

Three trawls where everything is used, must surely be far better for fish stocks than four trawls with a quarter thrown back dead.



Thursday, 29 March 2018

Man has sex; Corbyn is anti-semitic.

                             
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Sometimes one really has to wonder about the suitability of certain UK newspaper editors.

There have been two stunning revelations from our national newspaper hacks recently, concerning Trump and Jezza.

Do they think we don't already know about what's going on? Do they think we will all gasp in horror at their shocking revelations?

Regardless of searching-out billionaires, it is not uncommon for certain types of women to throw themselves at rich men. It must also be said that certain very rich men throw themselves (wrapped in their oodles of banknotes) at certain types of women. Take a quasi-attractive porn star, and a squillionaire with loose trousers, and the result is pretty darn obvious. This is not 'news'; just a Stormy in a teacup.

And, surprise surprise, a senior Marxist politician who cosies-up to his 'friends' Hezbollah and Hamas, is hardly going to buy his new suit from Solly Rothschild's tailor shop in Golders Green. He's been making his thoughts clear for decades.

For goodness sake; tell us something new!



Battling the Blizzards (not that we've had any).


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My hatred of winter and cold weather has calmed recently; I suddenly find myself much more tolerant. Maybe I'm better equipped than I was previously.

I now own thick long-sleeved thermal vests, very warm thermal jackets, and very cosy thick woolen socks for my gumboots. I also have really warm gloves, and one of those Russian style furry hats that is kept for the very worst of the cold. The only bit of me that now actually feels any cold, is my face; maybe I should also buy a Thug-U-Like black balaclava.

This winter (17/18) we have suffered temperatures as low as -7 C, but even in such arctic conditions I haven't really felt particularly cold. Normally I would have been complaining loudly.

We're now into a period of fog, wet, and cold, yuckiness. Maybe it's all a question of age; I seem to be grateful for every new day, however nasty it may be.


Wednesday, 28 March 2018

The Fruits of his Labour.


                                 

One or two readers may remember this row of exceptional Soft Fruit bushes that a 'neighbour' was growing on the edge of his borrowed veg' patch. They were all very fancy new hybrid varieties, and the fruits were amazing.

The man in question was later 'rather rude' (appallingly so) to the person who had kindly allowed him the FREE use of her land, and he has now departed; tail between legs. A very stupid man indeed; good riddance.

He had all sorts of hardy-perrenial plants on his plot. There were fancy varieties of Blackberries and Raspberries (above), as well as Rhubarb, Strawberries, and an ornamental crab apple tree. Before quitting his plot for the final time, he stripped everything of interest and gave them to another neighbour.

I was hoping to have rescued a few plants following his departure; but to no avail. He left nothing behind.


However, I walk past the spot where they were growing on most mornings, and I noticed that a few remaining stems, in amongst all the detritus, had started to sprout leaves. Of course there's no way of knowing what varieties they are, but I've pulled a few, and now await to see what's what. Seeing as they were all very special varieties, I'm sure there'll be something amongst them worth keeping.

One is always happy to see the back of uncouth neighbours. His unpleasant memory will live on in the soft fruits that I hope we shall harvest in the future; we may even drink a toast to his very welcomed departure, as we eat our winter Blackberry, or Raspberry and Apple Crumbles.



Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Stone walling.



My next door neighbour is having some stone walls built, and their man (who I think is either Spanish or Portuguese) is a real craftsman.

He is slow, very slow; but every stone is studied and perfectly placed. He even manages to get the composition of colours right.


Nowadays, when building in stone, it is usually only the facade that is actual stone. A concrete block interior wall is built, then the stones laid in front. The space between blocks and stones is filled with whatever is to hand, mixed with concrete. You'd never know the difference.


I'm not sure yet what they're building, but as long as they're not in a hurry I reckon it'll look very good indeed. It's just a matter of getting 'Pedro' to turn up!

The above is about 6 months (occasional) work; or even more.




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