Author Archives: tomfooolery

About tomfooolery

Studying an Art Foundation at Manchester School of Art, I'm interested in many art forms such as Film, Performance and Fashion. I'm in the blog world to share ideas on art and culture and write about what interests me in my blog www.commentsonculture.wordpress.com

Ren Harvieu and her dazzling Jazz-Noir pop

Gliding out behind the curtain of backstage into the spotlight Ren Harvieu stirred a silence into the room of the rowdy crowd waiting for Benjamin Francis Leftwich at Manchester’s Academy. Her pale skin glowing under the light and her oil black hair slipping over her face carelessly, the songstress held a hand up to the mic and closed her eyes. A humble set up of drums, keyboards and guitars collided together to create a sweeping orchestration to accompany the Salford lasses voice.

Her smokey alto began to ooze over the crowd and her passionate crooning transformed the dingy Academy into a lonely midnight walk across the park, a lone moon staring blankly down from the night sky. Ren was a pained woman and a lingering soul caught in a perfect moment straight from a David Lynch film. The street light cast a shadow of unrequited love upon her and she sang her blues with a haunting sadness. When Ren speaks inbetween songs her wavering voice and strong Salford accent is timid and shy yet as soon as she sings her wounded cry filled with emotion is powerful and domineering, she may be singing of sadness but this girl isn’t one to stand down.

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This year Ren had recovered from a critical state of being bed ridden regaining use of her back and legs after a nasty drunken collision which involved people jumping over a fence at a party in a field. It has been a tough year but the glimmer of hope is her excellent new album being released. Miss Harvieu is still gathering fans and making a name for herself but with her striking image, voice and visuals such as the video for her debut single Through The Night with kaleidoscope colours refracting through chandelier droplets shadowing the starlets face and shots of the sun’s ray flaring the lens to create a dreamy 35mm haze, many will soon fall for her unique charm.

Performing at The Ruby Lounge the 23rd December Ren Harvieu is sure to put on a dazzling show to get everyone she serenades feeling festive. Next year will hopefully be another big one and I can’t wait to see what spectacular album, enchanting videos and gorgeous visuals Ren delivers in 2013.

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The First Cut at Manchester Art Gallery

Dozens of peculiar branches stand upright to greet you entering The First Cut exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery which exhibits 30 international artists all ingeniously working with the humble medium of paper. Colourful cobwebs of earthy greens and browns jaunt out from the stems with felt like texture and considerable size. Hanging down from the ceiling each unique tree slowly rotates creating a forest of barely there shapes, forming constantly moving patterns of oversized leaves swaying without a breeze. The large span imitates sizes seen in exotic rain forests but the colours are clearly from the emergence of autumn in Manchester, a marriage of familiar and foreign.

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Nature is a recurring theme at the exhibition, perhaps paper naturally lends itself to the familiar forms of foliage but that shouldn’t mean artists need to keep returning to roses. I enjoyed the alternatives to the usual vintage books cut up into quaint fantasies and fairy tales of shadow puppetry tradition. Instead what really interested me was the paper pieces with heavy statements lurking beneath the surface.

At first glance Tom Gallant’s contribution is a perfectly lovely investigation into the arts and crafts movement with emphasis on Morris inspired wallpaper and feathery birds. Another look, a look with your head pressed against the glass, you’ll begin to spot a hint of smoky glamour girl eyes or red glossy lips and appearing from the birds unsuspecting wing a mans hairy arm is fondling a woman’s breast or perhaps bum, it’s hard to tell. The provocative piece is deceptive and created by the scantily clad bodies of pornography being collaged digitally then textured by cutting to masquerade its real identity. Censorship immediately comes to mind with the revelation of sexual acts hidden behind the decorative facade, the erotic secrets of the 19th Century hidden behind a decorative front.

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Four framed images and text again by Gallant from a shady gentleman’s magazine cut out revealing nothing just the silhouettes of where bodies would be and empty shapes where the words were again examine censorship, or lack of censorship of pornography with it’s minimal appearance. Another politically motivated piece is by Justine Smith is a grenade and gun made from foreign notes, a striking and bold image. Surely the message is simple ‘What cost is War?’ the millions of pounds rather than pounds of flesh lost to war yet the motivation of the deaths are as clear as the dollars formed around the ring pull and trigger. It is simple and effective with the seemingly lightweight objects heavy with the questioning of global greed, conflict and corruption.

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Several stand out amongst the exhibition where many works remain paper thin in substance as well as form. Craftsmanship, patience and skill are in abundance but when it comes down to innovation of ideas and discussing politics through paper, a few really are a cut above.

Tracey Emin’s She Lay Down Deep Beneath The Sea at The Turner Contemporary in Margate

Walking into the Turner Contemporary, sheltering from the heavy rain covering Margate and colliding with the glass panes which cover the modern building, Rodin’s The Kiss instantly strikes you with its beauty.

Behind the stone sculpture of the two lovers embracing is the North Sea stretching out into the horizon. The rain shatters the surface of the water, soothing when the rain halts as it becomes calm. The sky echoes the water below it once the storm settles as the sky is cloudless and blue. This view plays a part as important as Rodin’s sculpture in creating the powerful environment. The absence of the sound outside is comforting transforming Turner into a silent womb blocking out the sea thrashing against the rocks outside. I stood for minutes captivated by the power and vast size of the sea against the stone lovers, captured in time, captured in their own moment of lust.

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Upstairs is Tracey Emin’s exhibition ‘She Lay Down Deep Beneath The Sea’ aptly named for the location. Margate is where Emin grew up and caused chaos during her youth before heading to London. The exhibition is a homecoming for the artist who has sought national acclaim. Walking up the white stairs the exhibition title glows in a striking blue as one of Emin’s neon signs. The darkness surrounding the stairwell where the sign is place sets the atmosphere for the under the sea. The feeling is heavy and the weight of the sea is pushing down on top of the viewer much in contrast to the ethereal vastness of the sea below us down the stairs.

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The collection of work uses the same tone of blue throughout the many drawings of the same pose of a womans body lying knees up on the floor. The recurrence of the blue body emphasises Emin’s admiration to the sea and lust for the form. Her drawings of the body have become notable and use of words in her work is evident in this collection with phrases such as ‘WHEN I WAS LAST IN LOVE’ wrote inside a love heart. A white sheet canvas has “I didn’t Say I couldn’t Love You’ scrawled above the now familiar image of a naked woman all in the favourable blue ink.

Emin’s stark contrast of black and blue upon the white gallery walls strikes a chord of peace and content. Not as audacious as her previous work she hints at her past but has a different outlook. Perhaps what was anger is now sadness, a melancholy air lingers, the blue is for blues yet the overwhelming light bathing the rooms is hope. The old erotic animalistic Emin has stood down for the rise of the elder, wiser, calmer Emin. She states going through the menopause has been hell “For women, it is the beginning of dying. It is a sign. I’ve got to start using my brain more – I’ve got to be more ethereal and more enlightened.” Her work embraces a new life and cries out for a new love to accompany her in the second half of her life.

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The three rooms feature a range of mediums from sculpture including a abstract clay mould painted white, a stained mattress with a single branch lay on it (Emin’s ‘My Bed’ 1998 infamously caused a stir during the rise of the Young British Artists), an old tin bath, four paint on canvas and a green neon sign which Emin has explored the use of through her work over the years, this time approaching the sign not with text but with abstract lines to form a jaunting landscape.

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Tracey Emin – Sex 1 25-11-07 Sydney – Turner Contemporary

Leaving down the stairs back past the blue sign in the dark reading ‘She Lay down Deep Beneath The Sea’ there is a clearer understanding of the weight. It may be guilt, regret, sadness or shame but it could be simply a hiding place, a way to retreat, under the sea, away from it all. When Emin returns to her roots she returns to the sea. The sea has significance with memories of her eventful youth but also has it’s own impression with it’s vast size and power. Seeing the sea again behind Rodin’s sculpture in the Turner, I thought of lying down deep beneath the sea and I thought what it might mean to Tracey Emin to return home and to begin a new part of her life. I thought of the overbearing weight of the sea, the solitude bliss of lying beneath it and the awe of being above it, looking out to the endless horizon stemming from the grounded shore of Emin’s old stomping ground, Margate.

HAIM at THE DEAF INSTITUTE, MANCHESTER – Three Sisters Taking the World by Storm

Lightning guitar shredding was received with a thunder of applause when Haim dived in to their first noisy number at the Deaf Institute. It was a Tuesday night and the already cosy venue was packed with a wide eyed audience eagerly awaiting to get a taste of the Haim experience. Cramming the small stage with instruments and bodies the three sisters hailed from sunny California had only themselves and a drummer to put on one hell of a show. Manchester was fully behind the girls roaring after every song, shouting out and whooping, the girls responded brilliantly laughing and jeering the crowd on themselves. The sisters’ stage presence and chemistry was as much fun to watch as them playing as they joked with each other in between songs. “Where can I go tonight to shake my ass?” asked Este the sassy middle sister on bass who flirted with several different boys in the audience. “Here!” someone in the crowd responded and Este announced she’d hang around on the condition that she could DJ.

It’s clear each member is extremely talented with their instrument they can thrash out in fan favourite Forever then pull it all back in for the seductive Go Slow. Front woman Danielle’s voice oozes sex appeal and gritty rawness having refined her skills touring with Julian Casablancas and Jenny Lewis. Alana the youngest packs a punch when it’s her time to shine belting out harmonies and ahh’s on the almighty groover The Wire. Fleetwood Mac are a big influence on the siblings who used to be in a band with their parents called ‘Rockinhaim’ covering the Mac, Beatles, Stone Roses and other classic rock favourites. Having ditched the ‘rents and the ‘Rockin’ prefix they are taking the world by storm inducing their powerful guitar driven songs with 90’s R&B sensibilities harking back to Destiny’s Child heaping on a ton of girl power to punch out their kick ass anthems.

Their EP Forever managed to, with just three songs, capture the attention of music lovers worldwide. Everyone is now waiting for Haim’s big debut release in the new year. They officially stormed the Deaf Institute leaving everyone astounded and craving for more of their delicious funk. Haim are surely ready to stand and deliver a firecracker release that will be as fiery as their brilliant explosive performances on stage. The girls have released a taster with the jerky ‘Don’t Save Me’, which has a new video of the band getting stuck into a  competitive game of basketball, and the epic ‘Send Me Down’ which parades through with rolling drums and billowing horn part. These two tracks are wetting the palettes of Haim fans for the time being but are making us crave the debut all the more. It’s official that the girls are up for BBC’s Sound of 2013 award who’s past winners such as Adele and Jessie J have gone on to be extremely successful, Haim truly deserve the award and I’m crossing my fingers they’re recognised for their musical excellence, rock and roll spirit and get-out-there-and-go-for-it attitude! You go girls!

SEXISM IN THE JUNGLE: a feminist analysis of this year’s I’m A Celebrity…

I’m A Celebrity this year has had all the typical drama of tears, fall outs and breakdowns. The women of camp have particularly been especially significant whether their job was at stake with their participation in the show or they were entering the jungle with a history of anxiety, from the very start the ladies have been at the forefront of the action.

It is interesting to see how the female camp mates have dealt with their own personal issues amongst the alienation of a new daunting lifestyle in the jungle. Mid-Bedfordshire MP Nadine Dorries controversially signed up for the show resulting in her suspension from the Conservative Party. Interestingly, Nadine was completely unaware of this fact since she was cut off from the outside world. She failed to make much of an impact despite claiming she wanted to change people’s attitude to voting and politics. Unfortunately Nadine didn’t manage to persuade the public to vote either in the general election or to save her from leaving. The furore centered around Nadine’s jungle vacation was fiery but dwindled as she plodded along the days in the jungle not making much of an impression. Chief Whip Sir George Young has said she will not be restored to the party’s ranks in the House of Commons until she has rebuilt her relationships with constituents and local activists.

Nadine Dorries enters the Jungle

Nadine Dorries enters the Jungle

Coronation star Helen Flanagan was spotted at an Australian airport in the run up to the show and newspapers immediately reported on her history of stress and anxiety, commenting how this might impact her during the show. Helen reportedly broke down on the plane flying over. Her time in the jungle was very eventful being nominated to face task after task by the general public. She broke down during many tasks, unsuccessful in winning any stars at all for camp. She even turned down attempting a task declaring she didn’t feel right about it. She left that task with her head held high, proud with her own assertion but after camp mates looked obviously disappointed with her decision she broke down crying.

Helen tears up during one of the first tasks in the jungle

Helen tears up during one of the first tasks in the jungle

After several tasks had got the better of Helen, she went and won 12 stars surprising all the delighted camp members and herself. Ant and Dec asked her, in response to the newspapers, whether this sudden turn of luck was part of a game plan. Helen answered that it definitely wasn’t and she’d much rather be the girl who can win them all to save herself the embarrassment. Is sceptic questioning of a highly emotional personality ignorant to the state of somebody’s mental health?

Former mental health professional J. Hurley makes a convincing case in the Independent that the high tension of reality TV gives a warped view of the reality of living with mental health problems.2 The 24 hour cameras, sleep deprivation, lack of food and complete change of lifestyle all grind on a healthy and stable person altering their moods, to someone dealing with anxiety this can be lethal and to the susceptible audience presents mental health as melodramatic and petty.

Helen breaks down during a bushtucker trial

Helen breaks down during a bushtucker trial

Helen herself spoke openly about how she has dealt with anxiety in the past and even stated she felt being the jungle on 24 hour surveillance has helped her become more comfortable with exposure to the public. Certain camp mates were largely unsympathetic to Helen’s personal struggles in camp.

Fellow camp mate Eric Bristow would jibe about her causing the camp to starve but when commenting on Helen’s appearance he stepped over the line. Helen replied to Eric in a comment over her ‘bad skin’ stating it was hereditary engaging him with a dignified answer. She soon became upset with this unexpected personal comment and cried in front of the other campmates. Seen as a weakness Helen’s volatile emotional state was amplified in the claustrophobic atmosphere of the show. It is true Reality Shows ‘reinforce this stereotypical image of the person with mental health issues, who is constantly only one upsetting moment away from transforming into an axe-wielding maniac’3. Very quickly the defining trait of Helen became her many breakdowns instead of her sense of fun or kind nature.

Eric Bristow refused to filter his thoughts to the other celebrities too giving him a reputation as someone who ‘says it like it is’. His no-nonsense personality was seen as funny but his comments soon became nastier as he addressed the female contestants. He picked on Helen as she was an easy target and vulnerable. Instead of watching what he said he pushed the boundaries with the ‘skin’ comment noted previously and other remarks claiming she lacked independence and couldn’t do anything for herself.

Eric Bristow in camp

Eric Bristow in camp

To Helen these remarks surely made a considerable dent in her already wavering confidence in herself. No doubt Bristow was already aware of her emotional state and would tease her probably not for any sick satisfaction but merely a lack of care. Interestingly Helen left the jungle with only nice things to say about Eric. She claimed he ‘just said it like it is’. The ‘straight talking’ label used on Eric by Ant and Dec and the other camp mates is surely an appalling excuse for his bully mentality and sexist attitude. Eric’s other target was Rosemary Shrager who entered the camp with her booming voice and exuberant personality. She made an impression on everyone including Eric. He constantly made jibes about Rosemary’s weight including a stupid joke about the machine Rosemary would like at Eric’s gym being a ‘vending machine’.

His comments with their incessant nature took a toll on Rosemary. She confessed to Helen that Eric’s comments were hurtful but she wanted to rise above it. Rosemary admitted that she was self-conscious about her weight and had dealt with these issues through her life. Eric didn’t care at all that Rosemary may find the comments hurtful.

Rosemary enjoys a soak in a hot bath during one of the tasks

Rosemary enjoys a soak in a hot bath during one of the tasks

After Rosemary had left the jungle, the remaining camp mates were told that either Colin Baker or Rosemary had lost two stone and three pounds, a staggering amount of weight to lose in the short time period of three weeks in the jungle. Eric immediately said it must be Colin who had lost the weight and was overjoyed with the supposed weight loss success of his new friend from the jungle. He carried on congratulating Colin until it was revealed that Rosemary had lost the record-breaking amount of weight lost for I’m A Celeb. Eric then turned nasty saying ‘Rosemary really must have been a pig then’ discounting the achievement now he found out the weight was lost by a woman. He was overly proud when he thought Colin had lost the weight but now he knew it was Rosemary he didn’t care, in fact he illustrated with his ‘pig’ comment that this showed just how fat Rosemary really was! This comparison in his attitude clearly shows sexism in action. The only response to this comment was Charlie speaking up to say ‘Credit where credit’s due Eric’. The tone was sharp and Charlie seemed angry but no one batted an eyelid, Eric merely shrugged this off by not responding.

Eric 'no filter' Bristow

Eric ‘no filter’ Bristow

Imagine that Eric Bristow’s personality, his unashamed physicality of being overweight and old combined with his proneness to dishing out cruel appearance based comments and his constant personal jibes aimed at the other campmates was embodied in a woman. Imagine him as a woman. This woman would be the epitome of evil, despised by all viewers and labelled a rude, judgemental bitch. Imagine a woman hearing that Colin had lost a huge amount of weight and then calling him a ‘pig’ on primetime tv. There would be outrage.

How is that a man can get away with veiling such comments as ‘saying it like it is’? Well, this is Eric Bristow. Five time Darts World Champion known as the Crafty Cockney. Maybe it’s his cockney accent which softens the malice in what he says? Surely he’s just old and havin’ a laugh? Surely just banter! Harmless as Eric may mean his words to be they do have an affect. The women themselves have admitted this to camera and to each other.

Helen and her much talked about fake tan

Helen and her much talked about fake tan

The reason his attitude has shocked me so much is that there has been no backlash. There has been no negative response. This is what led me to write this, to discuss my own opinions on what was aired. The likeability of Eric all played in his favour and he managed to win 4th place. All contestants including Rosemary and Helen who he was considerably nasty to admitted he had no filter in what he said but didn’t berate him at all for how he made them feel.

I believe his attitudes to stem from sexism due to one reason which considers specifically Rosemary and Helen as the two recipients of his harsh words. They’re both women of course but he didn’t pick on all women. Ashley, the beautiful ex-Pussy Cat Doll was an American beauty who is talented and confident. Charlie Brooks is well-spoken, a talented actress and most importantly a mother to a young child. Ashley’s appearance and Charlie being a mother meant that Eric didn’t say much if anything at all nasty to these women.

Charlie and Ashley celebrate getting to the final

Charlie and Ashley celebrate getting to the final

Rosemary was less attractive, old and overweight. She may have been a mother but she was a large personality that surely was asking to be brought down a peg in Eric’s eyes. Helen comes across as dumb, an air head, obsessed with herself and with her appearance. With her ‘bad skin’, orange fake tan and combined with her emotional breakdowns she was a perfect victim for Eric to dig his words into. He pointed out her dizziness and stated she couldn’t do anything for herself. He berated her appearance and was unsympathetic to her mental state.

Rosemary and Eric

Rosemary and Eric

Nearing the end of the competition girl power seemed to fight through with the two aforementioned celebs Ashley and Charlie being voted to be the final two winning out to Eric and David Haye. The two ladies were impressive in getting through the Bushtucker eating trial and showed determination to fight their fears. Ashley and Charlie both deserved their place in the final and it was refreshing to see the first all women final of the show. However I can’t help but think Eric’s attitude to Helen and Rosemary affected the publics voting. Charlie’s struggle with missing her daughter was emphasised during the show, she was put on a pedestal for being a mother and in result, won. She gained votes through her being shown as caring and motherly whilst Helen was deemed unstable and self obsessed resulting in her leaving early in the show despite having the most airtime.

Charlie is reunited with her daughter Kiki

Charlie is reunited with her daughter Kiki

If Eric had treated Rosemary and Helen different would they have stayed longer than Eric himself? If the campmates had treated Eric’s attitude different would he not have stayed as long? Young girls watching the show seeing Eric comment on Helen’s skin and Rosemary’s weight will feel insecure about their own bodies. Young boys, teenagers, even young adults watching the show will feel soak up his disgraceful attitude and feel they can belittle women in similar ways themselves. Not everyone is as beautiful and talented as Ashley and not everyone is the perfect mother like Charlie was made out to be. There needs to be more tolerance and acceptance of all types of women on the screen. All women, less intelligent, less put together, less beautiful should all be celebrated and allowed to be themselves unashamed without people like Eric Bristow bringing them down. Otherwise it’s as if society expects everyone to feel they have to live up to the examples created by TV which are highly exaggerated to begin with. This should never be the case and so when people like Eric, who are being broadcast on prime time TV to millions of people everyday for three weeks, begin to be disrespectful to women they should warned that their sexism is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.

NO DOUBT THAT’S RACIST – Cultural Appropriation of Native American Culture in No Doubt’s Looking Hot video

Note: I wrote this blog for my tumblr after watching the No Doubt Looking Hot video just hours after it was uploaded. Several hours later it was taken down. I have edited the post slightly for here.

It always amazes me how record companies, band managers and everyone else involved in the creative process of putting together a music video (especially for a well known international band) don’t realise the kind of criticism that goes on online about appropriation and racial profiling. I mean the first thing I thought of when watching this video is the Native American dress up and how it will be ripped to pieces on the internet, and I only think that because I’ve seen it happen many times before.

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Perhaps it is a publicity decision to do something that will have a backlash but it’s not outright offensive to people who wouldn’t consider cultural appropriation a negative thing or even a ‘thing’ which exists because it’s just not on many people’s radar of awareness. Watching stylised native american dress makes me uncomfortable because I think what will people say, is this offensive or not? am I allowed to enjoy it?

I love No Doubt and I also happen to like aspects of this video i.e. the sexy red dress she wears when she’s in the ‘shaman tent’ looks ace. Even the most likely offensive styling of Native American dress is that we’ve seen many times before has been stepped up a gear with feather headdress making an appearance in a mohawk style and beaded feather jewellery cascading around Gwen as she kicks up sand in the desert. Will cultural appropriation, specifically of Native Americans, ever be made clear that it’s not cool by someone or something that has a wider reach?

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A lot of people simply won’t find it offensive in any way as they have no reason to. It’s not each stand alone music video, photo shoot, runway show, magazine editorial which uses cultural appropriation that will do considerable damage but the collective stance they takes which make this type of racism appear ‘okay’. People may say it’s a ‘celebration’ of different cultures but who is that to decide?

How much does western society need to stylise and glamourise a topic as brutal as the Indian massacres to cause major controversy? I don’t know much about the history of North America but you can see clearly in this video Gwen and her bandmates as Indians throwing spears at a gang of cowboys in between lip synching and dancing around a campfire in some kind of party / spiritual ceremony. I assume there will be a lot of people offended by the trivialising of such massacres. I just wonder where all the discussion of appropriation is leading to and if and when it will really have an impact beyond blogs online.

A Blog is Born…

Welcome reader!

My name is Tom and I am an Art Foundation student at Manchester Met Uni. This is the beginnings of what I hope will be a big blog full of opinions, words, sass ect.

Having always had a presence on twitter and tumblr commenting on Feminism, fashion, Downton Abbey and god knows what else I feel like a proper place for my writing and musings is much needed. Statements become quite throwaway in the lightning speed refresh pace on twitter and having engaged in many interesting political conversations on there I didn’t want any future ideas and thoughts to be lost too quickly.

I have dozens of word documents in a file on my computer about cultural related topics being left unread. I thought I could post these to get them ‘out there’ and even if a handful of people stumble across them then it will all be worth sharing them. Posts will probably range from comments on television shows to contemporary art, feminism to recent gigs, film reviews to books I’m reading and so on.

I hope to add my viewpoint to the larger and varied conversation of these different topics and if there isn’t already a conversation, then I can try start one!

Watch this space for what I’m sure we all hope is juicy exposés and critical analysis into the depths of intriguing subjects that have yet to procure such shocking scandal!

Sincerely looking forward to future bloggins

Tom

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Me amidst the mud at Secret Garden Party