Tessa's Tête-à-Tête
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Recent Posts:
September 2005


Battle of Britain

Fertility Treatment

The Plumber's Tale of Woe

Learning to Read and Write

Bureaucracy Gone Mad

What is Really Happening in New Orleans

Hurricane Katrina

The Tooth Fairy Forgot to Come!!!

August 2005

More Surgery!"

How I Met Michael Rennie (1909-1971)

"The Sixth Lamentation" - An Excellent Book

French Onions

Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959)

I'm Recovering Well

Well, I'm Glad That's Over!

Just Me Prattling

The Russian Mini-Submarine

Amazing Animals: The Sturgeon

The Tower Subway

Surgical Pre-Assessment

July 2005

The Coal Delivery

Spyware and Anti-spyware"

Getting Enough Sleep?

An Insidious Cancer

Americans First on the Moon

"The Lion King"

Update on my Biopsy

Have I had my Head Buried in the Sand?


Animal Intelligence

Fl./Lt. Dennis G. Hornsey, D.F.C.

The English Language

London Bombs

Marriage Advice?

My Biopsy

A Message for the World's Leaders

June 2005


A 'Perfect' Day

Amazing Animals: The Emperor Penguin

Crowned on this Day in 1509

A Sweet for a Special Occasion

King Solomon's Mines

Father's Day

Tiger, Tiger....


Cockroaches and Human Fertility

World's Best Character Actor

Computer Decisions

Food for Thought


World Ocean Day

Daft as a Brush (or Two)

Douglas Jennings, RAF Evader During WW II

Lord of the Rings

Driving Me Mad

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Saturday, 29 January 2005
Problems with My "Feedback Form"
Mood:  blue
Topic: My Web Pages
After sorting out my GuestBook problems, I looked at the Feedback Form and yes, that is definitely malfunctioning too. The statistics at Gear Manager tell me I have had eleven messages. Nine of those are lost in limbo somewhere on the Tripod Servers! Probably all sent in the last nine months or so. I actually sent myself a test Feedback message last night and it has not arrived although Gear Manager now tells me I have had twelve messages. So, if you are reading this and you once sent me a Feedback, my sincere apologies for not replying. Your message was never passed on to me.

Of course, I have my email address on my website also - masked in various ways to try to beat the email harvesting machines the Spam senders use to scan websites. However, I thought that having the alternative of using a Feedback Form was a brilliant idea, as some people do not have access to email facilities. I have a 'Mail' link in my taskbar so I can call up Outlook Express whenever I want to but not everyone has an email program installed on his or her computer. Some people use a web based email service such as Yahoo. I know that I can open a second browser and go to Yahoo whilst keeping a web page open, but many people do not realise that they can do that - a Feedback Form means they don't have to leave my site. Also, they don't have to give me an email address if they don't want to.

A brilliant idea.... But only if it works!

I have written again to the Support Team at Lycos/Tripod. They must have been aware of this long-standing problem before I discovered it. I can only hope that they can cure the "misconfiguration" and retrieve my Feedback messages but I am not feeling very hopeful at present!

Posted by Noviomagus at 12:44 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Tuesday, 25 January 2005
The Saga of My Disappearing Guest Book
Mood:  irritated
Topic: My Web Pages

I first set up my Guest Book in September 2001 when my website was still in its birth throes and the first people to sign it were my nephew, my son and my evening class tutor followed about six weeks later by my cousin, Michel. I decided to submit my URL to the search engines in November 2001 and waited several months for my site to be indexed. Then two more signatures appeared in July 2002 and one of my Spanish nieces found me in September 2002 and signed it too. One more signature was added in November and this was the first time I realised that Tripod had failed to send me a notification email to say my book had been signed. By the time I discovered the entry, it seemed rather too late to send a `thank you for signing' email.

In 2003, I had 13 entries, including my son again, my daughter and one I put in myself to reply to someone who had left a private entry together with an email address which did not work! Of the rest, I had to delete one and I had to remove the homepage link plus a large picture link from another one inviting everyone to visit the owner's website. (I followed that link only to find myself looking at a ghastly photograph of the rear end of an unfortunate weightlifter who had suffered a severe rectal prolapse. Ugghh!) This unpleasant experience made me change my open format to a moderated one sometime in July 2003. One more signature appeared on 27th February 2004. After that, nothing....

I began to feel extremely depressed about my Guest Book. I must be doing something wrong or perhaps signing Guest Books was just going out of fashion? Certainly, leaving an email link* anywhere on the Internet could result in unwanted Spam flooding your inbox, as I had already found out! Perhaps I could change the format completely? I thought of changing it to a 'Sign for World Peace' Book but I would have liked to include a 'light a candle' feature and I had no idea how to do that. I wrote to my cousin at Christmas and told him I would probably remove the Guest Book as no one was signing it. In mid-January, I finally did just that and removed all the links to my Guest Book from several pages.

Then late last Sunday afternoon, I decided to see what changes could be made to the Tripod Guest Book format if I started again; and so I logged into Gear Manager. That's when I discovered that there were a large (for me!) number of entries all waiting to be approved for publication. I had not received any email notifications. I was furious with Tripod and I ranted and raged until I could see my husband wasn`t listening anymore. I was also very upset that people had not seen their entries appear and extremely mortified that I had not been able to thank anyone for their comments. I searched the Help pages at Lycos/Tripod to see if there were any alerts regarding technical problems with email notification. Finally, late Sunday evening, I filled in the form to report an error.

Monday afternoon, a reply arrives from Lycos Customer Support:

Dear Tessa,
The Tripod/HTML Gear Mail Servers are not functioning properly due to a misconfiguration error. Some members may receive delayed notification emails after their Guestbooks or Feedback forms were signed by visitors a while back. The error is not the result of an action on your part and all of the signed entries are kept in our database. We apologize for the inconvenience that may have caused you".

A misconfiguration error that is eleven months old! Tripod - that is just not good enough!

I will be reinstating my Guest Book links on my website as soon as possible and in the meantime, my sincere apologies to all those visitors who never saw their entries appear. I will alter the settings to "open" and I will have to check on a daily basis until Tripod resolves this technical mess or I find a more reliable Guest Book from somewhere else. In the meantime, I am still feeling extremely MIFFED! (Yes, I know, it's bad for my high blood pressure and I am trying to calm down).

Well, wouldn't you be annoyed? Also, I feel a complete Nerd for assuming my Guest Book was an utter failure and for not checking out Gear Manager on a regular basis - that was really stupid of me. Why didn't I think to look - anyone else would have checked it out except yours truly and ..... Arrghh... I must calm down, I must calm down, I must calm down...

* To mask your email address from the automatic Spam gatherers, write 'at' instead of using '@', which is one of the giveaways , and write 'dot' instead of a stop. Any human being can decipher that with no trouble.

Posted by Noviomagus at 17:54 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Thursday, 20 January 2005
Email Hijacking and Phishing Emails
Topic: Computer
I have had a tremendous amount of trouble with Spam recently. Twice, I have had a large number of emails I didn't send returned marked `undeliverable'. It seems my email address may have been hijacked. The first time this happened was at the end of November/beginning of December. I saw all these emails appearing on MailWasher. I immediately logged on to my Wanadoo Webmail Account and saw that another 260 or so had gone straight into the Junk Email Folder. Panic. I have Norton Anti-Virus (which automatically updates itself when I am on-line) and email protection from Wanadoo, as well, so I was sure it wasn't a virus email that had caused the problem. I did an immediate virus scan - everything was clean.

For a couple of weeks, I used my webmail account instead of Outlook Express. I downloaded additional programs such as SpywareBlaster and Ad-Aware. Eventually, I opened Outlook Express. Of course, all the mail I had read on Wanadoo downloaded as un-read. Then, it all happened again on dates between 30th December and 2nd January. I was worried that Wanadoo might close my account for sending out Spam so I wrote to them for advice. Their reply was vague, just telling me that some Internet users use spoof email addresses and that many viruses also take email addresses from the address books of infected computers. They also told me how to report Spam by copying the IP address from the email header.

In November 2001, I opened an attachment and got the Badtrans.B worm, which immediately emailed itself to everyone in my "cache" so I know about viruses using address books. This 'sporadic hijacking' is different so what is causing it and can I do anything about it other than changing my email address? Have I got something nasty on my computer or is it an external problem? My Outlook Express folders are now in a total mess and I still haven't got round to sorting and deleting all those `unread` emails!

Do you know anyone this has happened to? I would appreciate any advice!

Now, a warning: a few days ago, I received an email telling me that I had just received a virtual postcard from Aunt Edna. I don't have an Aunt Edna, so I was suspicious. BUT, could it be someone I know being facetious? The postcard came from 1001 Postcards so I did a Google search and found the site. A very nice postcard site, I thought, but my pickup code of "35-dodge-treads-aunt" didn't work and I got an "ooops" message. Sent myself a postcard. There were some slight discrepancies between the two emails notifying me of my postcards, not least of which was the address for making a donation at VERY suspicious by now. No way was I going to click on any of the links in the first email. I even went to the trouble of filling in the comment form at 1001 Postcards telling them that I suspected I had received a phishing email supposedly from them. Well, if it was your postcard website, you would want to know wouldn't you? They might want to put a warning somewhere on their pages.

I decided to do another google search and found confirmation. Yes, it is a phishing email. Clicking on any of the links sends you to a Trojan Site and opens a socks proxy on a random TCP port leaving you vulnerable to a particularly nasty trojan called CoolWebSearch. If you get a postcard notification from Aunt Edna, delete it immediately. If your name is Edna, don't send any postcards from 1001 Postcards to your nephews and nieces! They probably will bin them!

Posted by Noviomagus at 12:57 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Tuesday, 18 January 2005
Learning From Your Grandchilden
Topic: Grandchildren
Did you make any New Year resolutions? I have been feeling very guilty ever since Thursday, 6th January, when my six and a half-year-old twin grandchildren told me their resolutions. Stephanie said she had made two: to eat her meals nicely and not to `strop' so much! I certainly noticed the difference when she ate her supper up quickly - no playing with the food and letting it get cold. Elliot said he had made two resolutions as well: not to keep crying out when he was in bed and to eat all his vegetables! "Have you made any New Year Resolutions, Grandpa and Grandma?" Well, no, actually we hadn't. "Mummy has made two New Year resolutions, too!", he said. Does being a Senior Citizen absolve you from making resolutions? No, of course not! I am far from perfect. I have lots of bad habits I should be doing something about.

Last Friday evening; I finished the packet of chocolate biscuits I have been eating with my evening drink before I go to bed. I have turned into a secret biscuit eater! Sometimes, I even eat some with my afternoon coffee. Always, when my husband isn't looking - although I suspect he guesses! He comes shopping with me and must notice the biscuit packet falling into the trolley. Does that tell you something? Well, yes, I have been putting on weight steadily for some time. Too much to eat and not enough exercise. I see myself in the long mirror at the bottom of the stairs in my daughter's house. Ugghh! I look awful. My tummy is very obvious and I have a layer of fat just about everywhere. I can remember some years ago seeing a fat person in the street and saying to my husband, "I hope I don't become like that person!" Well, if I haven`t quite, I am well on the way!

So, time to do something. From last Saturday, I have resolved not to eat any more biscuits in secret with my afternoon and evening drinks. Well, it is a small start but at least it is something positive. Thank you, Stephanie and Elliot, for your good examples.

Posted by Noviomagus at 12:45 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Sunday, 16 January 2005
Some More Problems with the Language!
Topic: Humorous
Here are a few more mistranslations that may make you smile.

This first one happened to me in Spain in 1961 or 1962 when I was staying with my sister, Maud. I was having trouble with my foot - couldn't put my weight on it. It seemed to be a recurrence of my flat foot problem - probably due to the shoes I was wearing. Anyway, my sister decided I needed to see the doctor. Now, when I was sixteen, I had been prescribed some leather arch supports and had a course of treatment which entailed putting my feet into a bowl of water on top of two metal electrodes which alternatively contracted and relaxed the foot muscle (a very odd feeling!). So, naturally, I wanted to tell the Spanish doctor about it and that I had worn supports in my shoes. I looked up 'support' in my little pocket dictionary. The most suitable word was 'sostén'. Well, I made the error of pluralizing it and explained to the doctor that I had worn 'sostenes' in my shoes. Well, did my sister laugh when I came home. I had actually told the doctor that I had worn a bra in my shoes!

My eldest sister, Marie-Claire, who is a nun in the religious order of the Sisters of Marie Auxiliatrice, told us this story about the Papal Nuncio to Paris (I think it was Archbishop Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII]. He gave a speech to a group of Church Dignitaries on his arrival in France and inadvertently said "When I look at my behind..." [Quand je regarde mon derrière..."] when he meant to say, "When I look back on my past..."

There is another trap that English people abroad can fall into - using a foreign word that sounds like the English one you want to use. My sister made this bloomer when she first visited Spain. She is an inveterate chatterbox so, when she was introduced to a handsome young man at a party, she was not put off by her (at the time) limited ability with the language. She was recounting an embarrassing episode that had just happened to her so she said "Estoy muy embarazada". She didn't realise until later that what she had said was not, "I am very embarrassed", as she thought! What she actually told the young lad was, "I am very pregnant"!

Another extremely unfortunate incidence of this kind of mistranslation happened when an English speaking Army Chaplain wished to bless some French speaking soldiers on their way to the battle front. "Soyez blessé" he said. Whoops! Not "May you be blest" but much worse, "May you be wounded"!

Bonne nuit!

Posted by Noviomagus at 17:48 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Friday, 14 January 2005
Problems with the Language?
Topic: Humorous

To you go abroad for your holidays? Do you take a small dictionary with you to help with your smattering of the language? Well, take care and, if possible, use a language dictionary with two sections to double check words before you plunge in feet first. Why? Well, this is a true story of what happened to one poor French lady who went shopping in London in the 1920`s.

My father worked in the London branch of a French firm, Dormeuil Frères. One of his French colleagues, recently married, had brought his wife over from Paris. Her command of the English Language was rather inadequate and the poor lady was feeling very miserable away from all her friends and family with little to do except write letters home. So, to try to cheer her up, her husband managed to get some tickets for a performance of a very popular opera showing at Convent Garden Opera House the following evening. The only problem was that their seats were up in the Gallery.

"Eh, bien, mon petite chou. Tu crois que tu pourras aller a les boutiques demain pour acheter des jumelles de théâtre?" [Well, darling, do you think you could manage to go to the shops tomorrow to buy some opera glasses?]. Hours of work in those days were much longer and he had no chance of getting to the shops himself.

So, the next day, our French lady arrives in Oxford Street and goes to a big store which her husband had said would be sure to have just what she wanted. But, no luck. Frustrated, she was forced to give up. So, she went to meet her husband in the evening and told him she had gone to "----" shop but that they didn't have any opera glasses. "That's ridiculous", replied her husband. "They must stock them - I saw some in the window! ". The wife explained that she had spoken to a young assistant in the shop and asked if he could give her some opera glasses. But he had just stared at her as if she was mad and had stuttered, "No, I can't help you, Madam". She had tried to ask him if he was sure he couldn't help as she needed them that evening but the young man had appeared to be very embarrassed and had rushed off to get the manager. The Manager was very polite, she said, but had told her very firmly that he was very sorry but they were unable to help.

The problem was that she had looked in the dictionary to translate the word "jumelles". As often happens, the word had more than one possible translation and she had chosen the short, easy word instead of the longer "opera glasses". What had she asked for? Well, no wonder the young shop assistant was embarrassed. She had said: "I want some twins. Can you give me some?"

Posted by Noviomagus at 12:58 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Tuesday, 11 January 2005
What Happened to the Pure in Heart?
Topic: In the News
Early this evening, (I'm still up, so it still feels like Monday!), my husband switched on the radio as he was getting changed in the bedroom after doing his exercises. He listened to a report on the Business News about "unusual auctions" and repeated to me what he heard over supper. I couldn't believe what he was saying, at first. But, yes, it is true and it is all over the Internet.

Rosie Reid, an 18-year-old student at Bristol University and a self-proclaimed lesbian, auctioned her virginity on the Internet. An unnamed, 44 year old BT engineer and father of two was the 'lucky winner' - for the price of #8,400.

Oh, how the world has changed that anyone can even think of prostituting themselves in such a degrading fashion. Fifty years ago, she would have been expelled from her university and widely condemned for selling herself in such a public manner. It brings disrepute to her university and to her fellow female students, to her family and, also, to our country and to women worldwide.

She apparently wanted "to avoid graduating with excessive debt". What is wrong with doing some work during the summer holidays like my son did? He helped to support himself by working at a supermarket at weekends, then every summer break as well. He pursued every opportunity to earn extra cash and even got a job dealing with students' meal tickets at the Halls of Residence, which meant he couldn't eat his own meal until they had all passed through. I know student fees are much more expensive these days but there is also a fatuous culture of 'must have' amongst the young - 'must have holidays', 'must have designer clothes', 'must eat out', 'must enjoy social drinking and clubbing', 'must have a credit card'.

University students, in particular, are supposed to be the future elite of our society. Blessed with brains and fortunate enough to receive an education, which is the envy of many other countries, they are our country's investment in the future. It makes my stomach churn to think that a person totally without principles, with no concept of Christian morality as it was taught to me at school, could one day become one of our political leaders or, worse still, be involved in the education of others.

Will she ever regret doing it? Probably not - and that is the saddest thing of all.

Posted by Noviomagus at 00:34 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Friday, 7 January 2005
Doing The Laundry
Topic: Memories
Yesterday, we were looking after the grandchildren, as we do most Thursdays. When my daughter came home from work in the evening, she was telling me that her washing machine had broken down the day before. It is twelve years old so she had feared the worst and had visions of bringing all her washing round to my house until she could get a replacement. However, the mechanic had been round and, thankfully, the problem was not serious - and he had the correct spare replacement part, so all was well. The first thing she did was to fill the machine up as she had two loads to wash. That got me thinking. Nowadays a washing machine is an absolute essential in the modern home - could you do without one? Would you do your weekly wash in the sink? Even once? Is your sink even big enough? No - I didn't think so.

Things were very different in the past. As a very small child in the mid 1940`s, I have memories of my mother doing the weekly washing. A washboiler with mangleIt seemed to take her all day! I think that before World War II, Mum used to use a laundry service for linen double sheets and large tableclothes and things like the detachable stiff collars men had to wear. But when war broke out, this stopped. I remember she had a very ancient gas washboiler with a large folding mangle. It lived in the `scullery' (utility room) and she used it for washing sheets, towels, linen tablecloths, serviettes and such like. This machine had to be filled with water by hand and had a tap at the bottom for emptying the water when finished. I think it had a paddle or something to move the laundry around in the water (manually, of course). I can remember helping her to pass the washing through that mangle. Items were still quite damp, of course, but much better than if you tried wringing them by hand. In the winter, it was not unusual for washing to freeze on the line in the garden. Ever tried dealing with a frozen double sheet?

An oldfashioned WashboardFor all the other washing, there was the washboard - a long wooden frame with a corrugated front. The sink was enormous - at least as deep as your arms and probably three foot square. Mum had a large bar of white soap which she rubbed on the clothes and then she pummelled and pummelled them against the washboard and up and down in the water for ages! Sometimes, she needed a small brush for stubborn marks on collars and cuffs. Then, everything had to be rinsed several times before going through the mangle or, for very delicate items, being pressed gently between two towels. She also had one of those large ceiling racks (you can still buy these) to hang washing up indoors when it was raining. You lowered the rack with a rope, loaded it up, and pulled it up again. Ceilings were high, so the washing was out of the way.

In the early 1950's, Dad bought Mum an electric Thor Washing Machine. This was a state of the art, top-loading machine with agitator action. It also rinsed and spun dried! I know we were the first in our road to have an automatic washing machine! It was a real luxury then and I can remember my mother being slightly embarrassed when she described it to our neighbours! Well, she deserved it. My lovely mum had been severely handicapped since contacting Puerperal Fever in 1921 from the midwife who delivered my eldest sister. She was very ill for a whole year and nearly died. [See the page on my website about My Mum]. In those days, with a large family and myself (the afterthought!) still under five, she had a 'Charlady' twice a week to help with some of the housework but that still left a great deal for her to do.

When I was first married, I had a washboiler too. My wringer was my husband! How we coped with the huge number of terry towelling nappies, I don't know. It was several years before we could afford an automatic washing machine so I really appreciated it when we got one even if I had to drag it backwards and forwards to the sink to attach the pipes to the taps. I remember once forgetting to put the outflow pipe into the sink and the machine emptied itself at least three times onto the kitchen floor! That was fun! Well, the children, playing alone in the breakfast room certainly thought so. I was in the next room tending to my husband, who had just come home from hospital after his second hernia operation, and it was the children's hilarious laughter which alerted me to something unusual! I can certainly laugh about it now but at the time I wasn't too impressed over that episode. ('Why on earth didn't you call Mummy straight away?')!

Posted by Noviomagus at 18:00 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Wednesday, 5 January 2005
Andrew's First Birthday
Topic: Grandchildren
What's this new toy?I can't believe that a whole year has passed since Andrew was born on 1st January 2004! I wonder if he will remember his first Christmas Day and his first Birthday? Andrew actually had two "birthdays", one on Saturday for his Mummy's side of the family and one on Sunday for our side of the family. This worked well as my son realised after the Christening in October that his house was really much too small to have all the relatives around together. We would have been restricted to a buffet meal instead of a lovely roast dinner and, at this time of the year, it is much too cold to spill out into the garden.

Well, I must say that I am amazed at Andrew's steady progress! I know I am a biased Grandparent, but he has been walking since he was ten months old and I don't think it will be long before he is talking. He already communicates very well by pointing at things and trying to say 'that' and claps his hands when he is pleased about something. He has been drinking from his cup since he was about 6 months old and can feed himself even if he is a bit messy! Shelley is a trained Nursery School Assistant and spends a lot of time helping him and encouraging him, so perhaps that is why he is doing so well. He loved tearing the wrapping paper off his presents and he recognises anything to do with Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore. Not surprising because my son spent ages decorating the nursery a year ago and lovingly drew and painted these characters on the wall opposite Andrew's cot.

Stephanie with her favourite UnclePoor David looked exhausted at the end of the day. Shelley is also suffering from chronic tiredness as Andrew still wakes up in the early hours so David helps as much as he can. He did a lot of the cooking with Shelley, loaded up the dishwasher and emptied it twice, washed up the glasses and saucepans, made the coffee and entertained his nephew and niece by rolling on the floor with them and tossing them up to the ceiling! I got tired just watching! He was also up until the early hours on Friday evening/Saturday morning finishing Andrew's birthday cake, beautifully decorated with a big picture of Tigger's face! (Are you reading this, you Husbands and Dads out there?) When David was about 16, I showed him how to sew on a button, boil an egg, peel potatoes and cook a simple meal. It paid off when he left university and lived in a rented room for a while. He bought a combination microwave/convection cooker and cooked all his meals. He even tried his hand at making lemon meringue pie!

Thankfully, I saw my son-in-law, Adrian, taking lots of photographs. I shall look forward to seeing them when the film is developed as my digital ones aren't very good! I always seem to do something silly like accidentally moving the camera setting (usually on auto) and getting blurred pictures because the shutter speed is too slow! Then I had to use David's electricity to finish charging the camera when we arrived as I discovered in the morning that I had managed to leave it switched on and the battery had drained! It seems that 'Geri' is my middle name (Geri Atric!)

Posted by Noviomagus at 18:11 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 1 January 2005
My Wishes for the New Year
Now Playing: Auld Lang Syne
Topic: Special Days

Happy New Year Health and happiness is my wish for you all for this New Year and a life full of friendship, kindness and good cheer.

I wish also for peace on this wartorn planet we call the Earth. Peace for Palestine and Israel, peace for Iraq, peace for Sudan, peace for Afghanistan - all places where so many lives have been destroyed in recent months.

This little poem by Robert Brewster Beattie says it all! You may have heard it before but the words are timeless and reach out to all humanity.

A Way to a Happy New Year

To leave the old with a burst of song,
To recall the right and forgive the wrong;
To forget the things that bind you fast
to the vain regrets of the year that's past;
To have the strength to let go your hold
of the not worth while of the days grown old,
To dare go forth with a purpose true,
to the unknown task of the year that's new;
To help your brother along the road
to do his work and lift his load;
To add your gift to the world's good cheer,
is to have and to give a Happy New Year!

Posted by Noviomagus at 02:19 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

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