Welcome to my Blog - Ruud Leeuw

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Welcome to my Blog!The lion roars!!!
I hope to share here my irrepressible thoughts on news, music, books, arts and such like. In general these will be items, events and issues which I feel have no place on my website (which focusses on aviation history and my travel photography).

The item immediately below this would be the latest posting.

Anybody, providing he knows how to be amusing, has the right to talk about himself. - Charles Baudelaire
Esse est percipi (To be is to be perceived) ¬Bishop George Berkeley

Not even I understand everything I am ¬Aurelius Augustinus of Hippo

In 2013 I started a series of photo albums on Blurb.com, named '36Exp' (a subject adressed in 36 exposures, a reference to the exposures on most common rolls of 35 mm film: 12, 24 & 36.).
The books can be ordered directly from the Blurb.com website or Amazon.




Collapse by Jared Diamond - how societies choose to fail or survive
'How Societies Choose To Fail Or Survive'

Every other year or so I come across a non-fiction book that has a huge impact on me, for the subject(s) adressed and/or the way it was written. 'Collapse' is such a book, both for the subject as well as the clear style of writing.

In Collapse, Jared Diamond first defines collapse: "a drastic decrease in human population size and/or political/economic/social complexity, over a considerable area, for an extended time."
He then reviews the causes of historical and pre-historical instances of societal collapse—particularly those involving significant influences from environmental changes, the effects of climate change, hostile neighbors, trade partners, and the society's response to the foregoing four challenges—and considers the success or failure different societies have had in coping with such threats.
'Choose' should be read here as countries / societies haven taken the wrong options or chosen to ignore changes and taking appropriate measures.

Considering the astonishing cavalcade of different peoples and cultures from across the planet adressed here, I was constantly amazed by the clarity of the author.

Soo what caused some of these societies (such as the Mayan civilisation or the people of Easter Island) to collapse, while others facing similar challenges managed to survive? And what can we learn from history here?
Was it simply a straightforward abuse of their physical environment that precipitated their demise?
Gradually we see to be a lot more complex, with several equally influential factors involved. Not surprisingly we see climate change as a severe contributing factor but also the presence of hostile neighbours, any involvement in trade, and a host of different response mechanisms on the part of those facing potential collapse.
Each collapse or near-collapse throws up a different balance of those key factors. Jared Diamond slowly unravels the knots and manages to paint a clear picture.

Diamond is at pains to stress the objectivity he has brought to bear on a sequence of collapse scenarios that often continue to generate serious controversy.
This pursuit of objectivity drives him into a depth of detail, and sometimes repetition, that at times the reader may find disrupting the narrative but for me, much less of an expert nor of an academic background, that same repetition helped me to keep the narrative.

The diversity of the case studies he uses (both past and present) is extraordinary.
Ranging from the highlands of New Guinea to the Pitcairn and Henderson Islands, from Greenland and Iceland to Rwanda and the Maya, from Haiti and the Dominican Republic to the US southwest and China - with many an additional stop-off in between.
His starting point is close to home: Montana. Also for me, having done some holiday travelling there.
While not yet collapsed the telling warning signs are there and Jared Diamond himself witnessed the changes over decennia; we see gloomy clouds gathering, over the farming community, the environment. Causes and concerns are elaborated on.

The next chapter is more exotic and drastic: Easter Island ("the clearest example of a society that destroyed itself by overexploiting its own resources"), which he invites the reader to see as a "metaphor,
a worst-case scenario for what may lie ahead of us in our own future".
The ways and amount of research the author quotes from is truly astounding and he breaks it down to layman terms of understanding without being patronizing.

For those interested in the role of big business, Diamond devotes a whole chapter to examining the behaviour of oil, mining and forestry companies around the world. Again he steers well away from an accusatory tone, mentions 'sinners' and ' saints', expands on his own experiences in Papua New Guinea for both the good and the bad.
He is also realistic about consumer's behaviour and interest.
My favourite chapters were about Montana, Iceland and Greenland, the Anasazi, Dominican Republic versus Haiti, Chnia and 'Mining' Australia. But also the pages he wrote about the Puffins, smaller 'fun facts' relating to the subject (a.o. I have visited Farne Islands a.k.a. 'Puffin Island').

Diamond reserves his most insightful analysis for the more 'irrational' reasons why we are not as yet responding to the scale and urgency of today's converging environmental problems.
While the book dates from 2005 it even has greater actuality and urgency today.

There is the pursuit of short-term gratification and the defence of future generations' long-term interests.
He reminds people that we are already witnessing the conditions for collapse in a number of different countries: "Just as in the past, countries that are environmentally stressed, overpopulated, or both, become at risk of getting politically stressed, and of their governments collapsing.
When people are desperate, undernourished and without hope, they blame their governments, which they see as responsible for or unable to solve their problems. They try to emigrate at any cost.
Note the USA versus immigrants today as well as Europe dealing with the flow of immigrants crossing the Mediterranean.
We may see further escalations, displaced or stricken people fighting each other over land, they start
civil wars. They figure that they have nothing to lose, so they become terrorists, or they support or tolerate terrorism.

Interestingly, however, Diamond chooses not to conclude his arguments on that apocalyptic note. Reverting to the inference of his subtitle ("how societies choose to fail or survive"), he briefly reviews the intriguing history of the Netherlands, the country with the highest level of environmental awareness and membership of environmental organisations anywhere in the world.
One-fifth of the total land mass of the Netherlands is below sea level, reclaimed from the sea over centuries, and protected by a complex system of dykes and pumping operations. These reclaimed lands are called 'polders' and the Dutch have a clear sense of themselves as "all down in the polders together - we've learned throughout history that we're all living in the same polder, and that our survival depends on each other's survival".
This is a country that has chosen to avoid collapse through a combination of solidarity and smart engineering.




Never too many books



Below The Surface (series 1)

'Below the Surface' (Danish: Gidseltagningen) is a Danish action hostage thriller drama tv-series.
The 8 episodes focuses on an act of terrorism committed on the Copenhagen Metro, where 15 people are taken hostage.
Former soldier Philip Nørgaard (Johannes Lassen), who is head of the PET Terror Task Force, tries to save the hostages with help from members of his elite team.
The basis for the series was adapted from a series of conversations between Barfoed and Danish photographer Daniel Rye, who lived as a hostage within the terrorist organisation of Islamic State in Syria for more than a year.

Philip still suffers from a trauma caused by the 6 months he was held hostage in Afghanistan; gradually we learn about the circumstances. He thinks he recognizes one of the hostage takers by an expression,
but officials insist his Afghan torturer died in a drone attack.
While the three terrorists have demanded a ransom for the release, other reasons seem to exist too. Their deed is connected to events in the Helmand province. All three show military skills and are well armed; their preparations are impeccable. Also, they have accomplices above ground..
Naja Toft (Parika Steen) is a blogging journalist and the terrorists do their communications through her. They know the government don't pay ransom to terrorists, but through the journalist a crowdfunding is started to meet the demands in order to free the hostages.
We learn about several hostages, not all survive. The ending has, true to form, an unexpected twist.
Each episode shows unexpected plot changes and often end in a cliffhanger... It is hard to stop watching, each ending compelling to watch another episode!
Top quality 'scandi-noir'!

The second season premiered on 26Mar19 in Denmark.




Bulletproof, crime fiction tv-series

Bulletproof, crime fiction tv-series

Bulletproof is a British television drama series, created by and starring Noel Clarke and Ashley Walters, that was first broadcast on Sky One, on 15May2018.
The series follows National Crime Agency (NCA) detectives, and best friends, Aaron Bishop (Clarke) and Ronnie Pike Jr. (Walters). They investigate some of the country's most dangerous criminals, including traffickers, drug dealers and armed robbers, whilst being overseen by their boss Sarah Tanner (Lindsey Coulson).
Walters and Clarke commented to Deadline Hollywood that the series was inspired by films such as Lethal Weapon and Bad Boys, quoting that "the humour and funny moments come from the relationships between the characters."
The series opening theme, "All Goes Wrong", was also personally chosen by Clarke and Walters.

The series is fast-paced and much more focussed on entertainment (fast cars, explosions, raids with guns drawn) than an attempt on being realistic or even an interesting mystery plot.
I would say too American rather than British. Barely entertaining to my taste, perhaps 2 stars out of five.




'Bedrieglijke Zaken'

Commissario Guido Brunetti dredges up dark secrets from Italy's anti-Semitic past in his captivating eleventh case.
As usual the location is Venice, Italy and the tone very critical if not condemning of certain aspects of Italy's society: government, burocracy and corruption.

The murder of a young woman draws Commissario Brunetti into buried secrets dating back to WW2.
When one of his wife Paola's students comes to visit him, with a strange and vague interest in investigating the possibility of a pardon for a crime committed by her grandfather many years ago, Commissario Brunetti thinks little of it, beyond being attracted and intrigued by the girl's intelligence
and moral seriousness. But when she is found dead, Claudia Leonardo is suddenly no longer simply Paola's student, but Brunetti's case...
Claudia seems to have no discernible living family - her only familial relationship is with an elderly Austrian woman, who was the lover of her grandfather, but was not herself Claudia's grandmother. Brunetti is both intrigued and stunned by the extraordinary art collection the old woman keeps in her small, unprepossessing flat. When she in turn is found dead, the case seems to be about to open up long buried secrets of collaboration and the exploitation of Italian Jews during the war, secrets few in Italy are happy to explore.

Other titles by Donna Leon are discussed on (a.o.) MyBlog 2015Q1, 2018Q2, 2019Q1, 2019q2.




Deventer Boekenmarkt





Pleasant & rewarding visit to the 'Deventer Boekenmarkt' yesterday!
The annual bookmarket is the largest of Europe, thousands of books for sale at some 850 stalls.
Endless browsing and always good for a few interesting titles.

Most people look for books, others take in the event from one of the many terraces having a drink or snack, a few people take photos. I do all of the above!

My Flickr.com



ENGLAND by Don McCullin
I am so fond of that photo on the left!

ENGLAND by Don McCullin

ENGLAND by Don McCullin

ENGLAND by Don McCullin

ENGLAND by Don McCullin

ENGLAND by Don McCullin

ENGLAND by Don McCullin

ENGLAND by Don McCullin

ENGLAND by Don McCullin
A hidden selfie

Sir Don McCullin's view of England is rooted in his wartime childhood and growing up around Finsbury Park in the 1950s.

'In England' has McCullin combining some of his greatest work with a selection of new photographs.
He continues in the same black and white tradition as he did between foreign assignments for the Sunday Times in the 1960s and 1970s, when his view of a deprived Britain seemed as dark as the conflict zones from which he'd just escaped.
This book marks his return to the cities and landscape he knew as a young photographer.

I shied away from his work for many years, knowing very little of his work beyond his war photography. But since I read his biography Unreasonable Behaviour (MyBlog 2018Q2) and recently acquired his 'Retrospective' (MyBlog 2019Q2) I have become an enthusiastic collector of his work!

Published by Jonathan Cape, Random House UK (2009?)

MyBlog2018Q2 on Unreasonable Behaviour
www.youtube.com - Don McCullin - Looking for England (2019)



Riviera, tv-series
Christos (oldest son), Georgina (2nd wife), Adam (son) and Irina (1st wife)

Riviera, tv-series
Georgina with Robert Carter, Georgina, Constantine and daughter Ada

Riviera is a television drama which premiered on Sky Atlantic on 15June 2017.
Sky Atlantic is a British pay television channel owned by Sky Limited. The channel is primarily dedicated to imported programmes from the United States and holds the domestic rights to HBO and Showtime programming, along with other original series. This series has a distinct American flavor: glamorous women, fast cars, explosions, violence.
Riviera features an international cast: Julia Stiles (Nicky in the Bourne film series), Lena Olin (wonderfully Machiavellian), Adrian Lester, Iwan Rheon, Dimitri Leonidas and Roxane Duran.
The plot, I thought, was good and full of unexpected twists and turns. Unamerican: good guys get hurt
too and no rosy ending, though there is that bit of sailing into the setting sun.

This 1st series (there seems to be a 2nd and 3rd series already) is set in the French Riviera.
Georgina Clios, an American art curator whose life is turned upside down after the death of her billionaire husband Constantine Clios when a big yacht is blown up and all occupants perish.
Constantine with his privately-owned Clios Bank was involved in shady art deals, of which Georgina (Julia) was not aware. His ex wife Irina (Lena) was more aware of how Constantine had acquired his wealth. The 3 children were all raised 'with a silver spoon' while Georgina comes from a modest background; differences show and relations get heated at times.
After Constantine's death the Clios bank sees important clients vanish and she turns to a local godfather of crime and casino owner, whom she knows well, and invites his account to the Clios bank, knowing full well his money is tainted with blood and crime.
There is a Russian twist when it becomes apparent that a computer disk, codenamed Elena, exists with incriminating evidence of an international criminal network with strong Russian connections. It was thought to have gone down with the ship but reappears.
Georgina becomes immersed in a world of lies, double-dealing and crime, as she seeks to uncover the truth about her husband's death.




Informer - BBC crime drama series

Informer - BBC crime drama series

'Informer' is a British television drama series, created for the BBC in 2018.
The six-part (I watched it in 3 parts) series stars Nabhaan Rizwan and Paddy Considine.

Raza (Nabhaan Rizwan) is a young second-generation British Pakistani man from London who is
coerced into informing by Gabe (Paddy Considine), a counterterrorism officer for the fictional Counter-Terrorism Special Unit (CTSU).
Gabriel or 'Gabe' is haunted by his past undercover work for the Met's Special Branch, he struggles to balance his workload with time for his wife and daughter and is not doing too good, esspecially when his past is catching up with his alter ego: Charlie Goodwood.
DS Gabe waters is assisted by DC Holly Morten (Bel Powley); the latter has difficulty dealing with Gabe's attitudes which seems to have a Jekyll and Hyde momentum.
Parallel to the inquiry of a bomb plot there is this inquiry into a coffeeshop shooting, the backflashes we are treated with create a secondary thrilling plot and gradually the drama deepens. While the how and why remains unclear for a very long time, it is clear that Gabe's wife Emily Waters (by Jessica Raine) is
at the scene.
Excellent suspense!




New York - Amsterdam, Retour (Sacha de Boer)

New York - Amsterdam, Retour (Sacha de Boer)

New York - Amsterdam, Retour (Sacha de Boer)

New York - Amsterdam, Retour (Sacha de Boer)

New York - Amsterdam, Retour (Sacha de Boer)

’Retour New York-Amsterdam’ is a book by photographer Sacha de Boer, published in 2009.
A book about Dutch artists in New York and American artists in Amsterdam.
Based on an idea by Sandi Gehring, a fascinating concept.

Amsterdam has a real pull for American artists: various painters, sculptors, photographers and other visual artists call the Dutch capital home.
At the same time, many Dutch artists are drawn to New York.
In this book of photographs and interviews, Sacha de Boer examines 16 expatriate artists and their studios on both sides of the Atlantic. Why did these artists choose to live and work in New York or Amsterdam? What is the special appeal of their adopted cities?
How do these very different cities inspire these foreign artists?
The book includes interviews with Charlotte Dumas, David Lindbergh, Heather Jeltes-Davis, Liselot van der Heijden, Leo de Goede, Sebastiaan Bremer, Karen Birnholz, Betsy Green, Hans Broek and Helen Verhoeven.
The text is both in Dutch as well as in English. English translation is by Jane Hedley-Prole.

Sacha de Boer is a photographer, journalist and former news anchor for the Dutch broadcaster NOS.




Blood Hunt by Ian Rankin - crime fiction novel

This is not an Inspector Rebus novel, but a stand alone thriller novel by Ian Rankin. Originally published under pseudonym Jack Harvey, I believe). In my mind a rather 'run of the mill' novel but even for Mr Rankin it is hard to compete with the police scoundrel Rebus.
I would label it 'average', but the detailed and distinct atmospheric descriptions of the Scottish landscape (and weather!) has Ian Rankin's signature all over it and as an overall story the book is sufficiently entertaining.

We have here Gordon Reeve, ex-SAS soldier, now operating a survival course for weekend warriors on Skivald, a small island off South Uist, Scotland. He lives there with his wife and son Allan. The marriage seems to be progressing so-so but we have to make our own guesses as to why this is. Most likely because Gordon still struggles with PTSD ('red mist') from an assignment in the Falklands War and is less communicative than he should be.
When he receives word that his brother Jim, a freelance journalist in California, has committed suicide, Gordon flies off to San Diego to claim his body. Despite the assurances of local cop Mike McCluskey that Jim did indeed kill himself, Gordon finds too many facts contradictory or down right suspicious and strongly suspects it was murder.
When he follows up on Jim's last assignment he notices he's soon being tailed, hassled and shot at... Also a talk to a driver/fixer temporary assistent of Jim makes his suspicions stronger.
But there is no clear motive for a murder as there is no trace of Jim's research or findings.
While 'Blood Hunt' was published in 1995, the story is very actual because at the core is a global pesticide conspiracy and influence on our food chain.
Thus we get to Co-World Chemicals and its head honch Mr. Kosigin, described as a business man with a very common appearance. And we come the Machiavellian Jeffrey Allerdyce of D.C.'s Alliance Investigation.
Kosigin sends his enforcer to deal with Gordon Reeve and as it turns out he is Gordon's Falklands campaign nemesis, the mercenary Jay.
Outnumbered and hunted Gordon manages to draw Jay and his party of blood hounds back to the Scotish wildlands he knows so well and prepares for the show down. Of course Gordon and Jay are the last men standing and a score can be settled.

Gordon Reeve is a bit too much of an invincible character to my taste, with his SAS military background, secretive friends, truth drug and secret bank stash. Neverthless, an entertaining reading of fiction.




The Flatey Enigma - Icelandic tv crime drama

The Flatey Enigma - Icelandic tv crime drama

The Flatey Enigma - Icelandic tv crime drama

The Flatey Enigma - Icelandic tv crime drama

The Flatey Enigma - Icelandic tv crime drama

The Flatey Enigma - Icelandic tv crime drama
From: online trailer www.mysterytribune.com

Set in 1971, the series follows Jóhanna, a professor of Nordic Studies, returns to an island community from her home in France to bury her father and deal with his estate. She travels with her nine years old son Snorri but is known in the community as an unmarried mother: a taboo in those days.

Her father was retired but worked obsessively on solving a mystery: a medieval manuscript 'Flateyjargátuthe' containing a 600 year old mystery of the last Norse King's grave hidden on one of the many islands, important in Icelandic culture and folklore.
Jóanna is promised a publishing deal if she will share her father's documents who claimed to have solved the mystery.
Except he hasn't!
Jóanna takes it upon herself to resolve this to safeguard her publication.

But then a visiting Danish scientist is murdered on one of the neighbouring islands; he had stolen a document, a map, from Joanna's father upon his visit to the wake, believing it could be where the warlord's grave is. 

The police officer Brynjar is sent from Reykjavik to solve this murder.
Ten years prior to current affairs Brynjar and Jóhanna had been in a relation; he abused her and she left, returning home, fleeing the bullying Brynjar.
When she found out she was pregnant and told her father, he was more concerned with his reputation and sent her back to Brynjar. Instead she ended up in France and never told him he'd become a father of a son.

When Brynjar meets Jóhanna and finds out he (himself from an unloving foster upbringing and craving a family) was unknowingly a father for 10 years, he tries desperately to implicate Jóhanna for the murder and thus claim her son. His unsympathetic character becomes apparent.

The murder seems to be related to the Flateyjargát and Jóhanna makes every effort to find the solution.
It does not help her situation that she is in a relationship with a young photographer, Kjartan; she's labelled a woman with loose morals, an unfit mother and Brynjar becomes very jealous. Stubbornly she refuses to make amend to Brynjar nor the community, but Jóhanna has to face her deepest fear: the man she ran away from ten years ago and his ability to take her son Snorri away from her.

Based on a bestseller by Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson.
Viktor Arnar has twice been the Icelandic nominee for the Glass Key award, which is awarded by Skandinaviska Kriminalselskapet (Crime Writers of Scandinavia). Three of his five novels have been translated into German, and 'Flateyjargáta' was published in English as 'The Flatey Enigma' in February 2012.

Margrét Örnólfsdóttir wrote the scenario of the 4-episode mini-series based on the book; she was also involved in the other Icelandic series 'Prisoners' (Fangar), 'Trapped' and 'Case'. The first two were discussed elsewhere on my blog, including other Icelandic crime series.
First broadcasted in 2018 on Icelandic tv RUV.

Cast (a.o.): Lára Jóhanna Jónsdóttir (Jóhanna), Stefán Hallur Stefánsson (Brynjar), Hilmir Jensson (Kjartan), Sigurður Sigurjónsson (Grímur Hreppstjóri).

www.mijnserie.nl/the-flatey-enigma/  (NL)



Follow the Money, season 3

Follow the Money, season 3

'Follow the Money' (Danish: Bedrag, 'Fraud') is a Danish financial crime thriller that has now run for three seasons.
The original series, set in the renewable energy business in Denmark, was first broadcast in Denmark in January 2016 with 10 episodes; the 2nd series was broadcast in October-November 2016, which continues the stories of most of the characters from the first series, but the main focus on a bank practising P2P lending and their attempted takeover by a bank whose chair, Knud Christensen, was behind the fraud case investigated in the 1st season.
This 3rd series was first aired in January 2019; it focuses on two of the main characters from the previous series: Alf Rybjerg on the law enforcement side and Nicky Rasmussen on the criminal side of
the fence.
It was (a.o.) broadcasted on BBC Four in the UK from 06Apr2019.

Alf heads a task force to find the kingpin of large illegal hash imports; he suffers from insomnia and resorts to illegal drugs, causing (emotional) side effects. Alf is also in a relationship with the District Attorney, who is married.
Nicky has spent 2 years in Spain and exploits his contacts in Spain to distribute hash in Denmark. He thought he left his wife and baby well provided for, with a stash of drug money, but now finds she has handed over the money to the police, collapsed mentally and taken into care while their son went to relatives for foster care.
Nicky is determined to become a proper father for his son Milas, but his business keeps getting in the way.

There is a 3rd important character at play here: bank clerk Anna Hansen is asked by her husband Soren to release a loan which is blocked for suspected money laundering. She gets passed by promotion to branch manager after 24 years of faithful work and is bitter; she approves the loan and this leads to more money laundering deals and she finds she is good at it. She also likes the rewards.

Alf is contacted bij the Chief of Police, who helps him when Alf needs to bypass his superior. But the Chief has an agenda of his own and Alf finds the special (secret) relationship has strings attached.
Nicky gets into a relationship with Sahar, who is good with his son Milas, but she does not approve of Nicky's business (they follow the same business course).

For some reason it was Nicky that I had the most sympathy with.
Ten episodes of conflict, personal dramas, a flood of crime and hardened criminals, an innocent victim, corruption in the police: this is top quality scandi noir so don't expect too much happy endings!




Foto Festival Naarden 2019
Photos by Koos Breugel en Eddy van Wessel on display while entering Naarden-Vesting

Foto Festival Naarden 2019
The displays have a unique setting, both inside and outside the defense works

Foto Festival Naarden 2019
Stephan Vanfleteren

Foto Festival Naarden 2019
Ernst Coppejans - 'Sold' (about human trafficking)

Foto Festival Naarden 2019
Robin de Puy - 'Randy'

Foto Festival Naarden 2019

Foto Festival Naarden 2019
Otto Snoek - Rotterdam captured in panorama format

Foto Festival Naarden 2019
Eddy van Wessel - The Road to the Caliphate (Syria)

Theme of 2019: Dutch Masters & Marvelous Misfits
The 2019 event of FFN has been made with the intention to honour and include the misfit.
The misfits presented at the FotoFestival are greater masters than they are given credit for – they are marvelous misfits.
Curators of the FotoFestival Naarden 2019 were Koos Breukel and Hedy van Erp.

It struck me that as a photo manifestation it had less presence in the streets of Naarden-Vesting than on previous editions. I came away somewhat less in awe. Still, I found very interesting photography on display, with work by Stephan Vanfleteren and Eddy van Wessel for me as the most impressive.
But 'misfits' does narrow the choice of subjects down, I hope next time the theme will allow more variation in photography than people and portraits.

I overheard two volunteers talking, one of whom said 'there will be another edition, inspite of the losses incurred' (in Dutch of course).
It was my impression that the ticket fee was higher that previously and more photography was behind a steward checking the tickets, taken photos out off the public domain, probably in an effort to balance the books. I hope they work it out, it is a fantastic event.

As in previous editions there is also a series of exhibitions organised as 'Festival OFF', free of charge and on display in stores. But I found these much less accessable, often inside small establishments instead of in windows and I saw very little of the 26 allegedly on display.
The setting in Naarden-Vesting as the location of FFN is truly unique, both inside the defense works as well as outside. And on any day Naarden-Vesting is a nice place to visit.

More photos on Flickr.com




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Created: 01-APR-2019