Street Sights

1 December 2017 – Well, there’s the pavement, of course.

But the pavement has plenty of companions, to keep it from feeling all lonely & dull.

Ground-hugging toadstools (genus Ventilationii), for example ..

and up-thrust daisies (same genus) …

crows on wires (real & faux) …

and leapin’ lemurs …

a kaleidoscope moose …

and a high-flying toro …

a beating heart …

a cryptic message from the heavens …

and the gentle protection, we hope …

of a guiding spirit right here in the neighbourhood.

 

Just Listen

22 November 2017 – I don’t often obey a wall, but this one is unusually authoritative.

I am walking along E 8th Avenue, approaching Ontario Street, minding my own business … and, there it is. A very busy wall.

Very busy, and very bossy as well.

Jeez, okay, I’m listening.

And reading. Lots to read.

Including one rather dire poem/prediction …

along with lots of upbeat proclamations as well.

In a scientific/metaphysical sort of way.

(Though perhaps not expanding for people who want to park their cars on this congested street…)

Enough about the universe. What about Precious Me?

And not only with each other. My cells are also in agreement with your cells and those of some unknown, but presumably welcome, third party.

But wait! We are more than a bunch of cells in agreement!

Goodness. The only suitable response would seem to be …

I walk on, thinking I have perhaps been underestimating the inventiveness & sheer fun of Vancouver street art.

 

 

“It’s Only Rain…”

18 November 2017 – I was every so slightly whimpering, kinda/sorta suggesting that we might take transit to the art gallery, because … look at the weather.

To which my born-&-bred Vancouver friend replied: “It’s only rain.”

So we walked. Of course we did. I am leaning to be a Vancouver Weather Warrior.

And, to that end, I walked to & from another appointment a few days later. In mostly-rain, with shafts of sunlight in between. I am beginning to understand that, along with the right clothing, you need the right attitude.

As in: it’s only rain.

If you take the rain as a given and focus on everything else instead, there is lots to enjoy.

For example, the rusty fall tones of the Hakonechloa macra “Aureola” (Golden Variegated Hakone, to its friends).

I can toss off this astounding bit of scientific knowledge only because I bought one of these plants for my own balcony, and therefore have the label.

After that, as I prance along through the Fairview neighbourhood just south of False Creek, I am woefully vague about what I am seeing — though fully appreciative of all the tones & textures on offer.

Birch against cedar hedge (I can get at least that far!) …

and 3 types of hedge playing against each other, horizontal & vertical …

and that pretty bush whose leaves start pink & turn green (Japanese pieris? have I got that right?) …

and holly & vivid red stuff …

and a nose-poke into those holly berries, in one of the sunshine moments …

and some floppy contrast, once again in gentle rain …

and more floppy contrast, this time some of it variegated …

and rain drops perched high & round on glossy leaves …

and — FINALLY — something I recognize.

An Orca whale. In an alley. On a garage.

I knew that. I really did. He didn’t have to tell me.

“The Owl and the Pussy-Cat…”

9 November 2017 – Chant along with me:

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea

In a beautiful pea green boat…”

I am not in a pea green boat.

I am in the former mattress factory at 1000 Parker Street, but I am as deliriously enchanted with my surroundings as any fan of Edward Lear could ever hope to be with his nonsense verse.

And, right here at 1000 Parker, there is an owl.

We are on the Surrey Art Gallery bus tour I mentioned last post, the day-long visit to clusters of artists’ studios in two Vancouver locations.

1000 Parker Street, I learn, is a Vancouver treasure, one of those rare examples of a major property developer/manager — in this case, the Beedie Development Group — that decides to dedicate one of its properties to the needs of its city’s artists.

Result: some 110 studios & 227 artists over four floors of a rambling wooden structure that began life in 1896 as the Restmore Manufacturing Company (and has been a few other things along the way).

I begin to think the hallways house almost as many artistic delights as the studios. There was that owl and, look, here’s a painted piano. With fall pumpkins.

The artists we visit speak coherently and engagingly about their lives, their preoccupations, their creative explorations. We’re a sort of dress rehearsal for the 20th annual Eastside Culture Crawl  (November 16-19), when this building, and its residents, will be a key attraction.

As always — at least, for me — it’s the asides, the little sidebars to the main story, that bring the artists most compellingly to life.

Visual artist Tiko Kerr, for example, works in the studio space once occupied by Jack Shadbolt (1909-1998). Assorted materials belonging to that renowned painter had been left behind, including a whole array of paint brushes. Kerr grouped some together, prepped them, and repurposed them as his “canvas” for a tribute painting that now hangs on a studio wall.

Later, when Judson Beaumont, woodworker/founder of Straight Line Designs (“We make quirk work”), explains that an early influence was the 1988 film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit

his beautifully executed, totally functional — and entirely loopy — designs make perfect sense.

His studio is on the top floor. He leads us out a doorway onto a little deck, talking about the work they do, answering questions, out there in the fresh air.

I sight down the old wooden walls to the railway tracks below,  a reminder of this building’s — this whole area’s — industrial/manufacturing past.

Frances nudges me, points straight down between two arms of the building. “Ooooooo,” I breathe. A continuous frieze of street art.

I want to see it! Inside is fine, it’s informative & stimulating … but I want to go outside, circle the building, see everything up close.

And I get to do just that.

Most tour members climb back in the bus for the return trip to Surrey; one other woman & I are staying in town. Jud Beaumont offers us the circle tour of the walls.

He laughs when I read out the company name lined up with his over a doorway. “Survival kits,” he repeats. “But they’re gone.”

I stare down a long building wall, realize I am as taken by the lines, colours & textures of the old building itself, as I am by the new — and ephemeral — artwork that is now part of it.

It becomes one stunning package, a dialogue of component parts that gives energy to the whole.

“The fire department inspector must have hysterics every time he visits,” I say. Beaumont is suddenly serious. “We are completely up to code. In everything.”

Then he breaks out in more laughter. “But I tend not to show potential clients any shots of the outside of the building,” he adds. “It might worry them.”

I’m not worried, I am having the time of my life, scooting from one visual treat to the next. Look at this doorway!

And this gold-sprayed mannequin tucked in a niche!

And Mr. Periscope Rabbit!

And the austere beauty of precisely aligned windows.

I am swept by sudden memory of the wall of north-facing windows on the Group of 7 Studio in the Rosedale Valley Ravine, in Toronto.

Except that Group of 7 building does not have any backchat from a line-up of chartreuse what-nots.

Or the scrutiny of laser-beam eyes in a smirking white face.

Well, it had to turn up, didn’t it?

We started with an owl. Of course there’ll be a pussy-cat.

I prance down the cul-de-sac, for a closer look.

Then I thank Beaumont for his street-art tour, say good-bye to my tour companion, and walk the 8 kilometres home, west through Strathcona, across Main Street, along False Creek, and up the hill.

So much fun.

 

 

 

Loose Behaviour

29 October 2017 – No no, not that kind of loose behaviour.

This kind.

Frances & I are also “on the loose,” no door between us and our freedom to zigzag our way from Commercial Drive (“The Drive”)  & E. Broadway all the way north through East Van up to CRAB Park on Burrard Inlet.

One tempting shop after another, on The Drive. Greengrocers for example, their goods piled high in sidewalk bins.

Another puppy, a different puppy, & not on the loose. He sits politely in his owner’s bike basket, eyeing the plum tomatoes…

while construction workers juggle coffee mugs, consider the acorn squash. Verdict still out.

Grouchy Guy doesn’t like cauliflower…

and the café next door hopes to fatten the tip jar with a seasonal pun.

You do see strange things, along with the more or less expected. But, yes, upon reflection, the back end of a car is a perfectly reasonable shape for an awning…

though perhaps it’d do better if not so tattered.

And look, a giraffe!

No explanation on the billboard. He’s just there. But he does remind us that we’ll see more giraffes later on. (As indeed we do.)

Who cares about giraffes? Here’s Jimi Hendrix.

“He used to live here,” says native Vancouverite Frances. She’s right, and her comment reminds me that our mutual great friend Sally was high school best-friends with Jimi’s cousin Diane.

They were teens when he returned one last time in 1968, for the only live performance by the Jimi Hendrix Experience in this city. Sally was one of the group of friends and family who went back to his Aunt Pearl’s place afterwards for a long night of talking and visiting.

(I search online later, of course I do, and discover there is a Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley Shrine, yes with a capital “S”, at 432 Homer St. There is also an account of that 1968 performance, including an — shall we say, unofficial? — recording.)

On we go.

Languid eyes on this storage yard mural turn northward toward the mountains …

while more eyes on another mural follow street traffic instead. They don’t notice — or perhaps just aren’t impressed by — the  very odd shape poking out at the far right end of their building.

But we notice. And discover a Beetle-beetle.

Then a bumper-sticker catches my eye, mostly because I have yet to visit this city, and really want to get there some day.

I invite all Portlanders, or anyone with an opinion, to provide editorial comment.

And then, here we are at Burrard Inlet. And here are the giraffes. Long orange necks stretched over shipping containers in the marine terminal right next to CRAB Park.

We swivel our heads from giraffes (on the right) to the sweeping curve of CRAB Park (on the left). One man basks in the warm sunshine, happy on his rock…

Another, equally happy, choses to bask on a log closer to the water, while his dog narrows his eyes and calculates the molecular structure of sand crystals.

We watch one more ‘copter descend to the busy helipad …

and split up to head for home.

 

Stone Another Crow!

Some of you commented on my fascination with crows (see previous post); Guernseyman Chris went you all one better, sending me — all the way from Guernsey, mind — this image of the island’s very own contribution to the lore.

I did ask, is “Croze” island slang for somebody/something? Nope. Just the sheer fun of phonetic spelling.

Stone the Crows!

26 October 2017 – It’s an old folk-expression of dismay or surprise, say somewhat vague online sources, but I’ll go with it.

Since moving to Vancouver I have been surprised by the number of crows in the city, and by the number of crow references in signage and artwork.

 

I spotted this one a few days ago while out walking with Frances in the city’s downtown East Side. The sign points the way to a drop-in treatment clinic for drug addicts. To my mind, it positions the crow as a symbol of strength and hope.

But then, I’ve fallen in love with the crow (genus Corvus, of the Passerine family). I love their spirit, their energy, their sleek minimalist beauty.

Imagine my delight when dear friends offered me this plate, purchased on their recent Alaskan cruise.

 

It depicts a raven, not a crow, but the raven is a larger member of the same genus, and I love them both. (Memories of my years travelling Arctic hamlets, and the whopping huge ravens I’d see up there.)

No wonder I purchased a crow fridge magnet at the Vancouver Art Gallery!

It makes number three in a trio that speaks to my heart — the other two being artist Michael Snow’s Walking Woman figure, and an Icelandic stamp. First I walked myself to an Icelandic adventure; now I have walked myself to Vancouver.

Hello, Mr. Crow.

I see them just like this, on utility wires.

And I see crow imagery all over town. I thought the references benign — affectionate, even. I thought Vancouver loved its crows.

Then I entered “crows vancouver” in a search engine, and …

Well, stone the crows! I was surprised by what I found.

Headlines shouted at me:

  • Murder mystery: the reason 6,000 crows flock to Burnaby [adjacent municipality] every night” …
  • Stalked and dive-bombed: Increase in Vancouver crow attacks” … “
  • Vancouver, beware” …
  • Spike in crow attacks in Vancouver’s west end” …
  • Crow attack season in Vancouver” …

Ahhhh, you get the idea.

I discover there is an interactive website, Crowtrax, where you can post an attack to the area map. In early spring 2017, it looked like this, with grey flags marking 2016 attacks and red flags for the first few months of 2017.

Good grief.

I learn that the crow/raven place in mythology goes back millennia, and is largely negative. I find two versions of an old folk rhyme, each building to the same dire final line.

Here’s the longer version, with thanks to Mind Space Apocalypse, right here on Word Press.

“One Crow for sorrow,
Two Crows for mirth;
Three Crows for a wedding,
Four Crows for a birth;
Five Crows for silver,
Six Crows for gold;
Seven Crows for a secret, not to be told;
Eight Crows for heaven,
Nine Crows for hell;
And ten Crows for the devils own self.”

But crow/raven have their defenders. That Mind Space Apocalypse post includes their position in First Nations mythology as the Trickster, with all it implies of intelligence and ingenuity.

An article on native-languages.com says crows are often viewed as omens of good luck in First Nations cultures, and are a clan animal for some as well.

Thoughtco.com writes about “The magic of crows and ravens.”

And Derek Matthews (chair, Vancouver Avian Research Centre), interviewed by dailyhive.com on 16 April 2017, says: “Crows have very human like personalities and just like us, they protect their young. If we protect our kids, we’re called heroes, and if they do it, they are called villains.”

Bottom line: in the spring nesting season, leave crows alone.

Enjoy their images in artwork instead.

For example, cuddling up to a clown, in this wall mural detail near Commercial Drive and East 1st Avenue.

Or these crows dancing with butterflies, on Hawks Avenue near Powell Street.

Or these crows guarding the doorway in an exuberant mural on Commercial Drive north of East 1st.

I like to think of crows guarding that doorway — intelligent, inquisitive, alert, curious and fearless.

Hurray for crows!

 

R is for Rust

28 September 2017 – Rust is on my mind, as I angle north/east-ish toward Dance House , this bright fall day, to discuss the volunteer communications project I’m about to begin.

Rust, a signature colour in nature each fall — and rust, a signature colour in metal, by time or design.

I see both, abundantly, in my zigzag travels along False Creek and then farther east to the trendifying old industrial area now home to Dance House, other creative organizations and, just this month, Emily Carr University as well.

First, as I hit 1st Avenue just west of Hinge Park, an example of rust-by-time.

I love the transformation of south-east False Creek from brownfield to green space — but I also love this battered survivor of the area’s industrial past. Toxic as it surely all was, it met the standards of the day and helped meet needs of the day.

And while that building has wrecking-ball written all over it, sections of old railway track right next door in Hinge Park will survive.

Rusty by time, but preserved by design, and rightly so. We need to honour the past.

Note, too, some companion rust-by-nature in the shrubbery, and just a glimpse, there in the middle-back, of my beloved “Rusty Sub.”

I round a corner.

More rusty leaves, to keep the sub company, and rushes turning tawny in the meandering little stream.

Then I’m down at Creek-side, right where Habitat Island juts into the water, and I start to laugh.

Looks like “R” has to slip-slide its way back up the dictionary from Rust, to Repose!

Goodness, he is so peaceful, chest rising/falling gently, relaxed in the still-warm afternoon sun. And, all around him, rust-by-nature in the shrubbery.

Lots more rust, all over the tree leaves that still half-obscure the Green Path signage. (Pedestrians this side; cyclists that.)

I’m almost at the end of False Creek now, right by The Village ferry dock, with its view of BC Place sports stadium on the north side and, to its left, a distinctly rusty-coloured building façade.

No ferry in sight at the moment, but I console myself with that bright red tug boat. I do love tug boats!

Still on 1st Avenue, just west of Main, and some more rust-by-design in the courtyard of a spiffy new condo complex.

Very minimalist, very appealing: the rich tones of the metal, the burble of the falling water, and sunshine & breeze teaming up to dance shadows on the wall.

On east I go, and I’m early for my appointment.

I wander on down to the cul-de-sac where East 1st Ave. does a dog-leg into a chain-metal fence along the cross-town train tracks.

Boxcars! Lovely rust-coloured boxcars!

With graffiti! (Bonus points)

See the young women sketching away down there, next to the inner fence right at the tracks? Students from Emily Carr next door, out on assignment. There are a dozen or more in the immediate vicinity, under the watchful eye of their man-bunn’d instructor, who circulates from one to the next, commenting as he deems appropriate.

And then I go meet Charlotte at Dance House, and we chat on the building green roof with its 180-degree view of the mountains, and we stroke a very insistent white cat as we talk — who assumes our adoration and so receives it, but that is another story — and finally I head south/west-ish back home.

Where, in an alley just east of Main, the letter “R” does another slip-slide and lands on the word “Retro.”

A wonderfully retro design, complete with the words “Todos borrachos aquí,” and … and don’t bother asking, I can’t explain it. No sign of a cantina, just an autobody shop.

But it’s fun.

 

The Crab & the Golf Ball

15 September 2017 – For just one giddy moment, I want you to imagine a crab playing golf.

Now you must relinquish that image.

There is no golf ball in today’s adventure. Even though Frances instructs me to meet her “in front of the golf ball.”

She means this.

So I take myself off to the front doors of the building that punctuates the east end of False Creek, and faces Main Street, just beyond — the Telus World of Science, known locally as “the golf ball.” (And how chuffed am I, to learn this bit of slang!)

Not only am I denying you a real golf ball, I’m copping out on any real crabs as well. We are now going to march right up Main Street — up-up-up, northward through Chinatown, Gastown, the downtown Eastside — to tiny Crab Park, smack at the end of the road, on Burrard Inlet.

 

As consolation, let me offer you a lion and some giraffes, enroute.

The lion is one of several on the overpass over the railway tracks and Waterfront Rd., which curls us down into the park. He, and the rest of his stone pride, are a 1995 gift from the Shanghai Port Authority, to mark the sister-port relationship between these two cities.

The giraffes … What, you don’t see the giraffes? Look just left of the lion’s head.

More slang, this time perhaps unique to my friends Jai and Guninder, whom I visited recently in North Van. We were at Lonsdale Quay at one point, looking south to downtown, with Jai pointing out some of the buildings — along with the orange “giraffes,” i.e. the cranes that lift containers on and off the cargo ships.

I teach “giraffe” to Frances. It is the least I can do, in return for the gift of “golf ball” and a first trip to this magic little park. Just 2.5 hectares, caught between the tracks and the harbour, relatively unvisited, and so a peaceful spot from which to observe a busy harbour and North Vancouver just across the way.

Later, I learn that I am piling not-real upon not-real.

The real name of Crab Park is Portside Park, and even at that, it is not really a park (says Scout Magazine), it is green space on long-term loan from the Port Authority. And… and … the “crab” is no reference to crustaceans, it is an acronym honouring the Create a Real Available Beach committee that hounded the city into creating this little oasis, back in the early 1980s.

We don’t know all this at the time, Frances & I, we just enjoy the peace & the beauty, this sparkling fall day. Looking back west on the downtown side, for example, with the “sails” of Canada Place anchoring the view.

Right in front of us, all those busy little boats; beyond them, the orange giraffes and the containers, stacked up like LEGO in this container terminal. One giraffe full upright; two with long necks bent to the task at hand.

I stare at the containers. As once I trekked across the highlands of Iceland, agreeing with the colleague who murmured, “We’re walking through a Lauren Harris painting,” now I murmur: “That’s an Edward Burtynsky photograph.”

And that, immediately above, really is a Burtynsky photograph — an example of one theme this renowned large-format Canadian photographer has pursued in his continuing exploration of human activity and its consequences for the land itself.

We head back across the overpass, with one last look at the terminal …

a look at the railway tracks below …

and a sudden halt. To read, and respect, what happened right here, on 3 June 1935.

All peaceful now.

Gentrifying, in fact, rather like Toronto’s Port Lands. Where once those desperate young men milled about, grabbing at boxcars, we now see tiny verdant oases, their green curtains climbing high on adjacent walls.

Frances peels off that way; I carry on this way, somewhat at random, but overall zigzagging myself south and slightly west-ish. My route brings me to Cathedral Square, opposite Holy Rosary Cathedral at Richards & Dunsmuir.

And … to another piano!

Two young women playing this one, to a backdrop of café tables with human bottoms in almost every chair. (“Enjoy the sun,” I overhear one doleful soul tell his companion. “It’s gonna rain for seven months.”)

I do enjoy the sun. I turn from the piano/tables south end of the Square, and sit on a bench facing north. I blink lazily, the way my beloved Racket-cat would blink when particularly pleased with life, taking in the sight of the water, the sound of the water, and the dramatic shadows cast by that soon-to-disappear sunshine.

It is all very nice indeed.

Bonus! 

Your philosophic thought for the day, courtesy of this mural at Manitoba & West 3rd, which I discovered while heading for the golf ball.

The last few words are obscured by shadow. It says:

Every exit

is an entry

somewhere else

Not-Toronto Alley

31 August 2017 – No, no! You do not go looking for one city in another, judging the latter by how much it does, or doesn’t, resemble the former.

So I am slightly embarrassed to confess that this alley immediately reminds me of Toronto alleys that I have walked & loved.

But it is not Toronto.

It is Vancouver. Lower east side Vancouver (between W. Cordova & W. Hastings, and Richards & Homer).

Still, it is very reminiscent, is it not?

I am a tad nostalgic, as I watch this old fellow pause to light his cigarette and then slowly wander on his way.

A whole lotta paint on this walls. No wonder this aerosol can is lying flat, exhausted.

(The cat, of course, would not dream of slumping in exhaustion.)

Even a bare pole isn’t quite bare.

I haven’t seen this little red Angry-Mask before, but suspect it has been pinned to many other surfaces as well.

On the pavement beneath my feet, more art work.

 

Then there’s Peek-a-Boo, with Dumpster. (Vincent Van Gogh Division.)

And Peek-a-Boo, with Truck.

And Peek-a-Boo, with Shoulder.

I emerge.

And pretty soon, on the edge of Gastown, I’m enjoying a different vista entirely.

On the right, the 1910 Dominion Building, Vancouver’s first steel-framed high-rise (once the British Empire’s tallest building); on the left, and wonderfully sympathetic in its architecture, a market-price residential tower in the redeveloped Woodward’s complex.

Definitely not Toronto! Definitely Vancouver.

 

Gallery Lane

18 August 2017 – Not named on any City-issued map of Vancouver, but right there on the Muralfest map: “Gallery Lane.” I’m back, the day after the big party, to explore what I missed the first time around. Judging by all the bright red dots on the map, I missed a whole lot, up and down the Lane.

So in I slide, dropping north from East Broadway into the alley between Quebec Street & Main. Right away I love it, it’s all grungy and eye-popping at the same time. A poster for the Mural Festival, its backdrop a tired old fire escape on the corner building…

Two more steps into the alley, and paff! A dumpster. A dumpster as set upon by Oksana Gaidasheva and Emily Gray, leaping with colour and life.

I practically fall into that corner owl, as mesmerized as any unlucky field mouse by those glaring eyes.

This starts well! I am happy.

On down the alley I go, prowling, pausing, cocking a head & a hip, again  & again.

Side trip just north of East 8th, to the Wrkless face at the end of a short cul-de-sac.

Look how it’s framed! Every element just right, stairs & security lights & wheelies & litter & windows & walls. The perfect streetscape art installation.

And now, just for the next few images, I want you to flip between this post and its predecessor, Main-ly Murals. ‘Cause we’re now in the East 7th & Main parking lot — bounded on the west by Gallery Lane — where, on Saturday, I showed you all those parking slots being turned into works of art.

Yes, cars are back in the lot, but the art still dances.

And yes, the women I photographed lifting the stencil off their car-slot left behind something terrific.

And yes! It turns out those kids creating the text mural knew all about apostrophes after all.

I fussed away, in the previous post, at their initial “Its” instead of “It’s.”

Well.

I am happy to show the world that I misjudged them.

A short conversation with a woman who carefully parks in a non-decorated slot & wields her own camera, and then on I go, north again in Gallery Lane.

I stand at East 4th, look back south, and have to stretch wide my eyes.

Behind the parking lot on the right, Andy Dixon’s big mural. Wrapped all around the building on the left, mural work by a team: Bronwyn Schuster, Lani Imre, Tia Rambaran, Amanda Smart.

One of the things I like best is that all this art becomes part of the working city. The alley is purely functional: vehicles block your view, mural segments painted across doorways disappear every time a truck has to drive into the garage.

And, all around, City workers are collecting trash, and pruning trees — here at the Main St. corner of that blue mural-wrapped building shown above.

I spin on my heel, head north again, bounded on my left by Jane Cheng’s blue-&-white fence work.

Across East 3rd, and I’m in Bunny & Bear territory.Thank you Carson Ting.

Also — did you notice? — another ripped T-shirt hanging on a utility pole.

I’ve noticed 4 or 5 by now, so it wasn’t the one-off that I thought on Saturday when I saw, literally, only one.

And the T-shirts are not all pure white, the art limited to careful rips & tears.

Which reminds me: I am hungry.

I head home.

  • WALKING… & SEEING

    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

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