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Reaching for Messiaen’s Dream: Et Exspecto on La Meije – Nigel Simeone

Posted by Luana Life, Marketing Co-ordinator

Nigel Simeone is an independent writer and musicologist, a regular broadcaster guest lecturer, and teacher. He is co-editor of Messiaen: Music, Art and Literature and co-author of Olivier Messiaen: Oiseaux exotiques (both published by Ashgate). Nigel is also the co-author (with Peter Hill) of an acclaimed biography of Messiaen, the French edition of which was awarded the Prix René Dumesnil by the Académie française in 2008. Since 2005, Nigel has been invited annually to lecture (in French) at the Festival Messiaen au Pays de la Meije, held in the village of La Grave (Hautes-Alpes). This post is an account of his most recent visit.


In 1963, André Malraux gave Messiaen a commission from the French government for a work to commemorate the dead of the two World Wars. According to a note the composer made after their meeting, Malraux asked for ‘a work that was simple and solemn’ (‘une œuvre simple, solenelle’), with powerful sonorities. After initially contemplating a piece with large chorus, Messiaen finally settled on an unusual formation of woodwind, brass and metallic percussion. The result was Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum (‘And I await the resurrection of the dead’), first performed for an invited audience at the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris on 7 May 1965, and given on 20 June 1965 in Chartres Cathedral with General de Gaulle in attendance.

In the preface to the published score (Leduc, 1967), Messiaen wrote that he conceived the work for performance ‘in vast spaces: churches, cathedrals and even in the open air and on mountain tops’, adding that he had composed Et exspecto ‘in the Hautes-Alpes, in front of the solemn and powerful landscapes which are my true home.’ When Jacques Longchampt reviewed the Chartres performance of Et exspecto for Le Monde (24 June 1965), he was more specific, revealing that ‘Messiaen hoped that it could be heard in front of the mountain of La Meije, in the Alps’; the composer repeated the same wish in conversation with Claude Samuel, declaring that his wanted to hear it ‘at La Grave, facing the glacier of La Meije’.

La Meije, overlooking the village of La Grave in the Hautes-Alpes, stands at 3,983 metres (over 13,000 feet), and its most prominent feature is the magnificent glacier mentioned by Messiaen. He visited La Grave on many occasions, including a trip on 2 August 1964, while he was hard at work on Et exspecto. Since 1998, this village has been home to the annual Festival Messiaen au Pays de la Meije, the brainchild of Gaëtan Puaud, planned by him each year with vision and daring to focus on different facets of Messiaen’s music. I’m very fortunate to have been back every year since 2005, invited by Gaëtan to talk about an aspect of Messiaen’s life and work that reflected the festival programme.

01 Arrival at glacier2015 is the 50th anniversary of Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum; in January, Gaëtan Puaud asked if I’d be willing to give a talk on its genesis and early performance history. I was delighted to accept, particularly as he told me that he planned an open-air performance of Et exspecto on the large plateau at the téléphérique station situated at 2,400 metres, with the glacier as a stupendous backdrop: a vast and savage space. It was a bold and grandiose celebration of the half-century of Et exspecto. The performers were the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, Les Percussions de Strasbourg (whose original members had played in the 1965 première), and the Slovenian conductor Marko Letonja, the orchestra’s Music Director since 2012.

The morning of 18 July 2015 was overcast but pleasant in La Grave, and by the time I started my pre-concert talk on Et exspecto at 11 a.m. in the village’s Salle des fêtes, the sun was starting to break through. Afterwards, I sat outside the Hotel Castillan (which faces the glacier), talking to French and Belgian friends, and the mood was one of the keenest anticipation for what was to come later in the day: even the most jaded concert-goer could hardly fail to be excited by the prospect of hearing one of Messiaen’s greatest works performed in such a fabulous setting. Our lunch was also enlivened by the unusual spectacle of very large instrument flight cases being airlifted up to the venue by helicopter. Except for experienced mountain walkers, the only realistic way to the glacier is by téléphérique, and the small cabins of the cable cars are not up to moving the vast array of percussion – including three very large tam-tams, a whole family of gongs and three large sets of cencerros (cowbells), all of which play an essential part in Et exspecto. The orchestral players made their way up the mountain soon afterwards to rehearse, and to film a complete cover performance of Et exspecto for Arte TV, which was there to record the concert for later broadcast.

Rehearsal on glacier

Rehearsal on glacier

The concert was due to start at 5:00 p.m., and at 3:45, I set off in one of the cable cars with my wife Jasmine, and three friends who were also in La Grave for the performance: Tom Owen and Jess Jevon from England, and Lucie Kayas from the Paris Conservatoire – the leading authority on the music of Jolivet and a treasured friend who made the French translation of the Messiaen biography I co-authored. By the time we reached the station at 2,400 metres, the sky was slate-grey, and the clouds were looking ominous. But what we saw and heard – with the audience finding places to sit on the grass, and the glacier as a breathtaking natural stage-set behind the orchestra – was both elemental and extremely moving. The orchestra was rehearsing the third movement, and it was a wonderful experience to hear Messiaen’s sets of giant cowbells played on a mountain in the Alps – an artistic, gamelan-inspired reimagining of something that has always been such an essential part of the Alpine soundscape. After the third movement, we heard a complete run-through of the fifth and final movement, inspired by a verse from the Apocalypse: ‘Et j’entendis la voix d’une foule immense…’ (‘And I heard the voice of a great multitude’). Messiaen’s scoring here is brilliantly effective for the outdoors: the incessant beats of the tuned gongs, punctuated by tubular bells and tam-tams, combined with the splendid austerity of the broad theme announced by bass saxhorn, tuba, trombones and horns. It was a mighty and imposing sound that became still more electrifying when the woodwind and trilling cencerros added their jubilant descants. The final, heaven-storming resolution seemed to mirror the sublime grandeur of the landscape itself.

Rained off

Rained off

All this was an enticing avant-goût of what should have followed. With about 15 minutes to go, the orchestra cleared the stage and all seemed set for a memorable occasion. But five minutes later a light drizzle began to fall; as a precaution, the librarian collected the orchestral parts off the stands, and the instruments still on the stage were covered. Before long, the drizzle turned into a sustained downpour, and by the scheduled start time of 5:00 p.m., thunder could be heard rumbling in the mountains, quickly followed by flashes of lightning. There was some uncertainty about what was going to happen, but by about 5:15 it was clear that the concert couldn’t take place (not least because there was no covering for the orchestra), so the players packed up their instruments, and the large audience (my ticket was No. 564) either headed straight for the téléphérique, or took refuge in a mountain barn. With heavy hearts, we finally joined the long queue to go back down the mountain once the concert had been definitively abandoned. 04 Helicopter transportWe reached the foot of the mountain at about 7:00 p.m., by which time the helicopter had already airlifted most the large instruments back down, their flight cases swaying at the end of a long cable. The weather is notoriously capricious in the Alps, with sudden and completely unpredictable changes, and nobody would have foreseen what happened next: within half and hour the sun was shining in La Grave and on the glacier, and it continued to do so for the rest of the evening. By then, players and audience could only watch the virtually cloudless sky with poignant regret for what might have been. But it was too late: the treacherous Alpine weather had won, and Messiaen’s dream remained unrealized, at least for the time being.

La Grave, 7.30pm

La Grave, 7.30pm

There had always been an alternative plan: to give the work indoors at the splendid Collégiale Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Nicolas in Briançon.

Ticket for the concert and téléphérique

Ticket for the concert and téléphérique

Had the weather been bad the day before (in fact it was perfect), or had there been a seriously threatening forecast, no doubt it would have been relocated there. But the concert could not be moved anywhere once the orchestra was already installed on the mountain. While that turned out to be a risky decision, nobody I spoke to at lunchtime thought there was a serious threat of rain: on the contrary, the consensus among experienced alpinistes was that the omens were good. The timing could not have been more unlucky: had the concert been scheduled for an hour earlier – or two hours later – it would have taken place. My fervent hope is that Arte’s film is sufficiently complete for them to be able to broadcast the performance recorded at the rehearsal earlier in the afternoon: it should be an unforgettable communion of Messiaen’s music with nature at its most majestic.

Nigel Simeone, 20 July 2015

Alice’s Adventures in Brewing Land – a guest post from Zoe Jaques and Eugene Giddens

Posted by Beth Whalley, Marketing Executive

Zoe Jaques and Eugene Giddens are co-authors of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass: A Publishing History.


Research towards the book led us to seek reappropriations of Alice in the UK and abroad, especially the US and Japan. We took a particular interest in Carroll’s effect on culinary history. The real-life Charles Dodgson was fastidious about his diet, and his books reflect a similar obsession with consumption.[1] As we discuss in chapter two, Carroll was shocked that the Looking-Glass biscuit tins he had informally licenced were being sold with biscuits inside, and he insisted that his share of the tins be delivered empty.

Modern culinary responses to Alice, some no doubt that would perplex Carroll, are discussed in the fifth chapter of our book.

Dish from the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo

Dish from the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo

Space constraints meant that we could not pursue our food-related research, in writing at least, as fully as we wished, but we did gather material on recipes ranging from Victorian mock-turtle soup to Heston Blumenthal’s Alice banquet. We also encountered a number of Wonderland-themed alcoholic drinks being brewed around the world. Alice in modern times is strongly linked to cultures of intoxication. [2] Guinness, for instance, frequently used Alice in its marketing campaigns, and the British Library currently sells a ‘Drink Me’ sparkling wine.

Beer-makers have also taken up this association through a variety of Alice-inspired brews. Arguably the ‘drink me’ flavours of ‘cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast’ are best found in malt and hops, perhaps in a red Rodenbach or a vintage J. W. Lees Harvest Ale. In the hopes of discovering some of these flavours, we have opened three beers with an Alice connection

Alice beers and books

Alice beers and books

Mad Hatter Down the Rabbit Hole – 8.1%

The cherry tart is certainly present in this sour beer. It’s fizzy and lemony with tropical fruit and elements of pine, biscuit, flowers, and grapefruit. Plenty of hoppy complexity.

Humpty Dumpty Bad Egg – 4.1%

A ruby ale with plums and hints of banana, packed with berries. A light, malty beer that starts out dry and turns creamy (perhaps we’re imagining the custard).

BrewDog Alice Porter – 5.2%

Although not explicitly named after Carroll’s Alice, it’s hard to believe that the canny marketers at BrewDog were unaware of the association. Indeed, the Alice Porter comes closest of our trio to embracing the ‘drink me’ tastes. Cherry, toffee, and burnt toast are strongly in evidence, as is a meaty flavour akin to roasted turkey skin.

This missing element here is pineapple, which we hope to find in other (sadly yet-untasted) Alice beers:

New Holland Brewing’s Mad Hatter Midwest IPA

Rabbit Hole Brewing’s Off with Your Red and Tweedleyum

Wonderland Brewing Company’s Alice Blonde

Weetwood Ale’s Cheshire Cat and Mad Hatter

[1] See, most recently, Michael Parrish Lee, ‘Eating Things: Food, Animals, and Other Life Forms in Lewis Carroll’s Alice Books’, Nineteenth-Century Literature 68 (2014), 484-512.

[2] See Thomas Fensch, Alice in Acidland (Woodlands, TX: New Century Books, 1970).

Zoe Jaques and Eugene Giddens

Erika Gaffney Honored at the Attending to Early Modern Women Conference

Erika Gaffney award Early Modern WomenWe are exceedingly pleased and proud to share the news that Ashgate’s Publishing Manager for Literary & Visual Studies, Erika Gaffney, was honored at this year’s Attending to Early Modern Women conference. The Society feted her not only with an impressive cake but also with a most beautiful gift: an etching after Rembrandt by Master Engraver Amand Durand presented by Merry Wiesner-Hanks, editor of the Sixteenth-Century Journal and the Journal of World History.

Professor Wiesner-Hanks writes,

“The Attending to Early Modern Women conference and the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women were pleased to present a small token of our thanks to Erika Gaffney for her inspirational and tireless work at Ashgate Press at a book launch of Mapping Gendered Routes and Spaces in the Early Modern World at the ATW conference in Milwaukee in June. Her sponsorship of the series Women and Gender in the Early Modern World, and other books on topics dear to our hearts, has allowed exciting multidisciplinary scholarship to flourish and scores of able young scholars to advance in their careers. When members of the audience at the launch were asked to stand if they had been published by Ashgate, nearly half did, and when asked to stand if they WISHED to be published by Ashgate, all did. To a woman (and a few men), they told stories about how wonderful it has been to work with Erika, and the way she has helped the field to remain dynamic and growing at a time when other publishers are slashing their lists. We truly could not have come as far as we have without her.”

We congratulate Erika on receiving this well-deserved acknowledgment of her outstanding service to the profession.

A guest blog post from Francis Lyall and Paul B. Larsen, authors of Space Law: A Treatise

Posted by Luana Life, Marketing Coordinator

Space LawFrancis Lyall and Paul B. Larsen, authors of Space Law: A Treatise, contribute their brilliance to our blog today. Space Law is an Editor’s Choice title in our Law list.


Lyall and Larsen, Space Law: A Treatise, 2009

On 4 October 1957 – that’s nearly sixty years ago – the world was startled by Sputnik I. Since then space has transformed modern life. We watch satellite tv. Email, data and other Internet communications go through orbiting relay points. Global positioning systems let us find our way on unfamiliar routes or to roam the countryside in relative safety. We can even track and find wandering Alzheimer sufferers using that technology and terrestrial telephony. Aircraft, ships and motor vehicles can now know exactly where they are. Weather is monitored and increasingly accurate predictions made. Ships and planes avoid storms. Potential disasters, volcanic and otherwise, are predictable, and we react to dire events using satellite technology to inform our actions. We monitor land use, farming, vegetation coverage, and aridity. Guano deposits allow the detection from space of otherwise inaccessible penguin colonies. We track fisheries, ocean health and climatic events such as El Niño and its cognate La Niña.

Such benefits apart, space has also allowed major developments in our understanding of the universe. We have been to the Moon and will go again. Our robotic rovers explore Mars and report their findings. The Hubble Space Telescope and its successors have shown something of the beauty and complexity of our Universe and given our astronomers much to work on. While this blog was being written the New Horizons probe was transmitting fascinating views of the dwarf planet Pluto and its moon Charon. Having scrutinised some of the outer planets the Voyager probes and Pioneers 10 and 11 have left the solar system and are now in interstellar space. Their radio-isotopic batteries may keep them in touch with Earth for a little while yet.

Space Law undergirds all these developments. One fundamental is that all satellite use requires good radio communication between space and ground stations. The mechanisms of the International Telecommunication Union, based in Geneva since 1865, provide these, allocating appropriate radio frequencies for space purposes from 1959. The other fundamental is that there should be international agreement as to the ground-rules for the use of space. This was achieved initially through the United Nations, and implemented in national legislation. In 1963 the UN adopted a declaration of general principles to govern the activities of states in space and between 1967 and 1979 adopted five international treaties to flesh out these principles. Importantly the 1967 Outer Space Treaty provided that there is no national sovereignty in space. Space is free for all to use, but not to the exclusion of others. Treaties cover such matters as state duties to license and supervise their own activities in space and those of their nationals, state responsibility for these activities, the rescue and return of astronauts, the registration of satellites, the consequences of accidents, and (less successfully) how the Moon and other natural space objects are explored and (perhaps later) exploited. Later UN Resolutions and recommendations have dealt with matters including how states permit remote sensing, use nuclear power sources on spacecraft, register space objects, disseminate the benefits of space and mitigate space debris. Within the UN the Office for Outer Space Affairs has been helpful in developing good practice and the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) continues to discuss and debate.

There is much still to be done. How can financial loans be secured over satellites in orbit? Can asteroids be mined and what rules should apply? Should the crewing of long-range explorations be organised on military or civilian lines? Who should cope with an asteroid on collision course with Earth, and how? What if extraterrestrials are detected?

We were there at the beginning. We met in 1963 as part of the intake that year to the Institute of Air and Space Law at McGill University in Montreal. Thereafter FL went into academe at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and PBL into government service in the US Department of Transportation while also teaching as an Adjunct Professor in Georgetown University, Washington, DC, where his duties included acting as lawyer for the team that prepared the US global positioning system for civilian use. He has also been involved in negotiations about security interests in space objects. And so our interest in space continued. We both published articles, and FL a book.

By the mid-2000s Space Law had become a wide field, difficult for a single individual adequately to encompass, so, pooling our knowledge, we came together to produce our Treatise on Space Law. Our aim was – and is – readably to inform, sharing the scope and potential of this vibrant emergent field of law to benefit both practitioners and students.

Our understanding is that our aim has been met, thanks to Ashgate. A second edition is under way.

Francis Lyall and Paul B. Larsen

Celebrating 150 years of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Posted by Beth Whalley, Marketing Executive

It’s been 153 years since Charles Lutwidge Dodgson rowed up the River Isis with Lorina, Alice and Edith Liddell, entertaining his young companions with a story of a girl named Alice who goes off in search of an adventure. Three years later, in 1865, Dodgson’s tale (much elaborated and revised) was published as Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with illustrations by the political cartoonist John Tenniel.

Fast forward 150 years, and the boat trip on the Isis has given birth to a multi-million pound industry, and a multiplicity of different versions of Alice across time and space. The parodies, theme park rides, computer games, exhibitions and film, television and theatre adaptations of the tale right up until the present day stand testament to Alice’s longstanding ability to capture the imagination of children and adults alike. ‘Like Shakespearean drama or Dickensian novels’, Zoe Jaques and Eugene Giddens write in their publishing history, ‘the Alice books, and the myths surrounding them, have become a part of our literary and cultural imagination, and as such have an influence and reach that is difficult to isolate or delimit’ (Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass: A Publishing History, 2013, p. 156).

As Alice’s imaginary universe continues to expand and diversify, so too does scholarly interest in Alice Liddell’s alter ego and her fictional Wonderland. Carroll’s creation has given rise to academic studies on the work’s relationship with material culture, gender, theatre, adaptation, science, philosophy, politics, religion – even intellectual property, mathematics and psychoanalysis.

To celebrate its own place in the rabbit-warren of Alice’s 150-year history, Ashgate has brought together a selection of books that probe features of Carroll’s pioneering works – you can browse it for a limited time here.

The first title in our Universal Reform series is just published

Posted by Hattie Wilson, Senior Marketing Executive

Transnational Networks and Cross-Religious Exchange in the Seventeenth-Century Mediterranean and Atlantic WorldsWe are delighted to announce that our new series, Universal Reform: Studies in Intellectual History, 1550-1700 has just published its first title. Transnational Networks and Cross-Religious Exchange in Seventeenth-Century Mediterranean and Atlantic Worlds by Brandon Marriott examines the claim by Antonio de Montezinos in 1644 that he had discovered the Lost Tribes of Israel in the jungles of South America, and how this news spread across Europe and the Ottoman Empire. Marriott reveals the importance of early-modern crises, diasporas and newsgathering networks in generating eschatological constructs and transforming them through a process of intercultural dissemination into complex new hybrid religious conceptions and identities.

The Universal Reform series, edited by Howard Hotson and Vladimír Urbánek, examines the attempts by a wide variety of Post-Reformation intellectuals to extend the reforming impulse from the spheres of church and theology to many different areas of life and thought.

Within these ambitious reforming projects, impulses originating in the Reformation mixed inextricably with projects emerging from the late-Renaissance and with the ongoing transformations of communications, education, art, literature, science, medicine, and philosophy.  Although specialised literatures exist to study these individual developments, they do not comfortably accommodate studies of how these components were sometimes brought together in the service of wider reforms. By providing a natural home for fresh research uncomfortably accommodated within Renaissance studies, Reformation studies, and the histories of science, medicine, philosophy, and education, Universal Reform pursues a more synoptic understanding of individuals, movements, and networks pursuing further and more general reform by bringing together studies rooted in all of these sub-disciplinary historiographies.

If you are interested in submitting a proposal for the Universal Reform series, please contact the publisher, Thomas Gray

Guest Post from Roger Cotterrell

Posted by Luana Life, Marketing Coordinator

Roger CotterrellRoger Cotterrell, Professor of Legal Theory at Queen Mary, University of London, UK, provides today’s guest blog. He is the author of Law, Culture and Society: Legal Ideas in the Mirror of Social Theory — an Editor’s Choice title in our Law list. The following post includes background information about the book and his research motivations, thoughts, and experiences that helped shape the volume’s success and contribution to the field.


Law culture and societyLaw, Culture and Society originated in a series of essays written over an eight year period. But it was intended as far more than just a collection of linked papers. I saw all of the studies that contributed to it as part of a single, tightly integrated project, even if one with several branches. I wanted to show through this book what I had come to see as a necessary new perspective on the study of law in society. Since I had long been interested in legal theory and committed to studying law from a sociological perspective, the book was a kind of first summation of what I had gradually worked out as the most productive way to apply this sociological outlook in a theoretically consistent way in interpreting legal ideas. So, it was subtitled ‘legal ideas in the mirror of social theory’. As in much of my work, a guiding motivation was to show the relevance of sociological insights for juristic, doctrinal studies of law – the kinds of studies with which lawyers and law students are most familiar.

Looking back now, a decade after the book’s original publication, I can see two factors as especially important in determining the form that Law, Culture and Society took. The first was that in the years leading up to its publication I had become increasingly interested in comparative legal studies – an area of legal scholarship that throughout its development has been more open than most to making alliances with the social sciences. The strong links I had developed with comparative lawyers encouraged me to consider more carefully how sociological perspectives could aid them, and to ask how the whole enterprise of comparative law could acquire more solid theoretical foundations by drawing on ideas from social theory. So, the book was written partly to address students of comparative law.

It seemed obvious that comparative legal studies would become more important in a globalising world. Pressures to harmonise law across national boundaries were becoming more intense. But at the same time ‘local’ cultures – often reflecting particular traditions, values and allegiances – clearly sought to resist some of these harmonising pressures and called on law to express their distinctiveness. There seemed to be a dual movement focused on law: it must seek the efficiency of similarity produced through harmonisation but it must also appreciate cultural difference. As a consequence, ‘culture’ would have to become a very important focus of attention for legal scholars.

Sociology and anthropology had already developed many ideas about the nature of culture that deserved attention. However, when I came to examine carefully the ideas about ‘legal culture’ that were current in socio-legal studies I felt they lacked rigour. So an important part of my project, reflected in Law, Culture and Society, was to find a way of thinking about culture that could be conceptually defensible, consistent and systematic, and practically relevant for legal analysis as well as for social scientific inquiries about law.

A second main factor also shaped the book’s form. I had come to feel that the old agenda of socio-legal studies – to study the interaction between ‘law’ and ‘society’ – was becoming exhausted. Socio-legal scholars had tended to treat ‘society’ as referring to national societies and ‘law’ as the law of nation states. But social research showed that social and economic relationships were increasingly transnational and international, and law in practice was less and less confined to national law. Law, Culture and Society introduces and develops the idea of communal networks that can cross nation state boundaries, and it suggests that different kinds of communal relationship typically pose different legal problems and present different regulatory needs. Equally, the diversity of communal networks within national societies is a matter of great juristic relevance. So, the book tries to displace the old fixation with national societies as law’s sole concern in favour of a much more open view of communal networks – national, intra-national and transnational.

I had not been thinking of culture when I first wrote about communal networks. However, I came to think that culture could be best understood in terms of them. It could be seen as the bonds that allow these various networks to exist. So, the book’s approach was intended to suggest new agendas for social study of law. I used it to reconsider the possibilities for ‘transplanting’ law from one cultural environment to another, as well as the nature of authority in comparative law, and the multifaceted character of culture as a concern for law. More broadly, I claimed that the law-and-community approach could help to clarify one of the most basic foci of legal analysis – the idea of responsibility.

Since the book appeared I have further developed its approach, which has also been used by other scholars working in diverse fields. Today we can at least see clearly that social studies of law are becoming ever more important and that their character is changing as law becomes more transnational and international, and as networks of socio-economic relations become ever more varied, diverse and intricate within and across national boundaries. Socio-legal researchers and socially-aware lawyers surely have plenty of work to do and I hope that Law, Culture and Society can still prove helpful.

Roger Cotterrell

June 22nd 2015


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