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2007
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March 31st; Woken up in Robin's studio on sofa by early sunlight through the big windows. Today Zeno wears black shirt and curiously boy-scoutish green tie. Today mother on phone says she wants to leave nursing home she took the initiative to enter a couple of days ago.
March 30th; To Bekescsaba to meet Robin & archivist and Latin translator Zeno. As train trundles across Great Plain, eat omlette and play around with AutoCAD. As dusk falls, we roll slowly into Bekescsaba. A don't-throw-bottles-out-of-window sign has slid down between two panes of glass. The red ring of one stick-on plastic transfer lies to one side with the plastic transfer cartoon of an outline bottle and an outline window frame lies to the other side.
Spend hour and half unsuccessfully looking for callphone which will allow me to phone mother in Yorkshire nursing home. Back in Robin's kitchen after midnight, dapper Zeno in his suit & tie says that Richard's story is not so odd. This is the one about a kind of Norse Knights Templar occultist unit inside the World-War-One German army returning from an archeological dig in Bornholm with pre-Nazi Swastika flags to viciously put down the 1919 naval mutiny and form the core of the Black Rose group. Zeno adds we don't know for sure since most pre-Nazi occultist archives are now in Britain and were given a maximum secrecy rating by Churchill.

March 29th; Culinaris has no Marmite. Sleep cycle beginning to recover from going out late the other night to virtual rave in Second Life with some Rofettes. Visiting one talkboard with friends from another talkboard feels quite odd.
March 28th; On way to meet Tim in town, pass large van emblazoned all over with logo 'Fuky Csoki', a wholesaler of chocolates & sweets, apparently. Teach Attila, and hear about the rising fortunes of apparatchik Janos Koka. Mother sounds grateful to be in nursing home.

March 27th; Last night read screenplays of 'The French Connection' & 'Chinatown' for Marc-Henry. Today read 'Get Carter' & 'Basic Instinct'. Meet Kath. While with Kath find out by e-mail that mother is ill again and has been taken into a nursing home since I phoned her last night.
March 26th; Warm spring sunshine. Now a second volume of Istvan Vas's translation of 'Vanity Fair' has appeared on top of the washing machine in the bathroom. Both volumes, battered paperbacks, are on top of some Csikszentmihalyi book in English. Julia is reading them, I suppose. It's a mid-60s Hungarian edition, so both Vanity Fair books have ugly, pointless covers: scratchy black-line drawings of 19th-century scenes completely filled in with randomly-scribbled coloured crayon, predominantly red and orange.
Into town. Ginger ale with Muhammad. As I go for my tram at Oktogon, four men approach down the pavement. They all wear spotless black work overalls with horizontal stripes of fluorescent yellow-green around the knees and elbows and shins. All four are laughing and have six-foot-long boards mounted on their backs rising about two foot above their heads. Once behind them I see all four are different ads for some bank called Inter-Europa. Of course, as is the local custom, all four ads have too much text printed too small. I get on tram. As it slows down for the railway station one stop down the street, I see another four men walking in the same direction as the first four, with the same overalls and same boards. They are about five blocks behind the first set.

March 25th; Wake up and eat clementines. All the greengrocers' stalls in the Ujpalota market now have piles of clementines instead of mandarins, but labelled as mandarins, and all still identically priced at 398 forints a kilogram. Iced coffee in town with Terri, who tells me a great tale of Malev-airline customer-punishment from her cancelled Swiss trip. Seems my voice on the in-flight safety announcement doesn't quite make it worth enduring Hungarians' idea of customer service.
March 24th; Budapest lunch with Charlie, who shows me how to change am to pm on my new 2nd-hand mobile phone. Dinner with Franc, who tells me of scanning the strange drawings of a Serbian boy for Mr Spielberg.

March 23rd; Leave Nigel's soon-to-be-sold house, remembering only at last minute to leave him the spare spare key I cut in Catford. {This was key I had cut last week when the key-cutting man asked the woman in front of me giving him her shoes if she wanted the heels in "rubber or metal?" She said "Yeah." He carefully repeated "The heels. Do you want them tipped - with - rubber - or - metal?" She thought for a second and replied "Yeah, tomorrow."} Shutting Nigel of Darkness's door for probably the last time, today I make it to Catford Bridge station with quarter hour to spare. Man behind ticket window ponders over someone's complex ticket order as minutes tick by. This is the one Nigel calls "the ferrety-looking one". Today he only throws a small fit, shouting at the kind foreign girl before me in queue that she shouldn't have agreed to let me in front of her. He bitterly snaps I should have used ticket machine. I point out I have lost money in that ticket machine in the past and received no ticket, so am naturally unwilling to repeat this experience. This makes Mr Ferret angrier still. Only thanks to the kind foreign girl, I catch my train to Gatwick. Flight delayed. Feel oddly calm & peaceful as airport echoes with bossy announcements. Am made to take off my shoes at security, as if this is going to stop a ground-launched missile or a bomb in the hold. At least none of us will be able to toothpaste and shampoo the flight crew into submission. On plane meet a cheerful group of girls from a London examination-setting company hoping for a weekend of saunas, massage, healing spa water and having skin rubbed off by some worrying-sounding abrasive process: Manda, Kylie, Sree, & Rachel agree that London is a tiring city to live in. Arrive in Budapest, where it is grey & rainy.
March 22nd; Last night left Nigel of Darkness in south London, and caught train to north London for a lovely dinner at Nigel of Light. His daughter Maddy [a forceful character, oddly familiar somehow] having exclaimed in disappointment that this website is "just all about you", insisted she must feature in today's weblog entry. She mentioned lighting a stage play about a Surrealist, and described some Ecuadorean coming-of-age ritual a classmate will undergo. Once Nigel had prised his son William off the laptop, he, Maddy & I briefly played an anagram game online before my return to south London.
Today, cappuccino with Piera in cafe. We visit her studio & meet Andrew, her web-designer: then drink in nearby pub to talk about Rosicrucians. Later, Dan kindly invites me to a Lebanese meal off Oxford Street. Afterwards, we drink in a hotel bar pulsing with bebop and shady Continentals in sharp suits.

March 21st; Wake up again. I seem to still be in London. Tranquil. Buy new phone. My new number looks like it's 0044 7947926614.
March 20th; Wake at Nigel's on sofa. Catch train to Saffron Walden for consultation with wizard. He prescribes me two remarkable-sounding homeopathic concoctions: one supposedly prepared from positrons, the other from Essence of Snake. Return to London by train. At 6pm meet Marc-Henry & his film editor Kant in Notting Hill. During day finish book I gave Nigel last week: 'Conversations on Consciousness', edited by Susan Blackmore. She interviews lots of brain scientists and philosophers grappling with qualia, and how subjective experiences correlate with neurological events. She asks each of them if they believe in free will, ineffable subjective experience, and if studying consciousness has changed their lives. Very briefly, they say the following. Bernard Baars: author of Global Workspace Theory, denies his spotlight theory of consciousness amounts to the Cartesian Theatre that Dennett attacks, because there is no single spectator homunculus; Ned Block: creator of the China Brain thought experiment, distinguishes phenomenal consciousness from access consciousness; David Chalmers: responsible for dubbing consciousness the "hard problem", defends his frontal attack on defining subjective experience all in one go; Pat & Paul Churchland: a married couple both working in the field, dismiss anyone being able to characterise a problem as hard or easy in advance as presumptious; Francis Crick: suddenly attacks Blackmore for her interest in Buddhism; Daniel Dennett: says that in the early 1990s he predicted change-blindness before it was found experimentally; Susan Greenfield: says scientists should be open to all ideas; Richard Gregory: says that the role of consciousness is to mark experiences happening now with extra vividness, to distinguish them from memories and predictions; Stuart Hameroff: boldly says that consciousness is a quantum-physics phenomenon and is likely therefore to outlast death... "holographically"; Christof Koch: thinks consciousness is almost certainly prelinguistic; Stephen LaBerge: experiments with lucid dreaming, and, using pre-agreed rapid-eye movements [left-right-left-right], gets people who are asleep but aware they are dreaming to signal this state to experimenters; Thomas Matzinger: explains his Empty Self-Model theory, and is pessimistic about the effect of current insights in cognitive science on people who still believe in a unitary self; Kevin O'Regan: stresses that consciousness is an activity we do, and not an experience we have - using change-blindness he shows that people hold little visual in their consciousness, but build a semantic model of what they see and use the world as a memory store to update and refresh their bare-bones model of what is out there; Roger Penrose: Hameroff's collaborator stresses Goedel's limitation on computation as a problem for AI and computational models of consciousness, and also sees thought as unavoidably quantum in character; Vilayanur Ramachandran: interestingly suggests that animals might have consciousness but only humans have "meta-consciousness"; John Searle: describes his Chinese Room thought experiment and why he thinks computational models can only simulate thought, not actually think; Petra Stoerig: claims humans are jealous of animals, and some animals might have more consciousness than we do; Francisco Varela: describes his Buddhist-influenced phenomenology; Max Velmans: suggests that mind and brain collapse together like wave and particle; Daniel Wegner: suggests we sense our acts and our intentions, and mistakenly believe the second cause the first.

March 19th; Wake at 7.15 out of vivid dream about being at a raucous classical-music concert, a kind of staccato, syncopated crescendo, composed by someone called something like CMCKCY. People were passing round librettos and having hysterics. I was dressed only in a towel but no-one noticed. It was the climax of a difficult scene climbing up a twenty-foot high wall-mounted bookcase inside a big library to get to the concert room. Wake up, get up, pack, grill bacon sandwiches for breakfast for mother & me. On train to Leeds, two males in black, one with a tufty quiff hanging down over his forehead dyed blue, the other with his identical quiff dyed red. Catch train down to London and WiFi works this time, after a fashion.
March 18th; Picked up Judith's bouquet from the florists in next village yesterday while having a drink with John. Mother & I fussed around last night shortening the stems and decanting them into two jars of water. Today, Mothering Sunday. Trim ivy & clean windows. Bright sunshine, couple of short hailstorms, snow after dark.

March 17th; After Foucault, in small hours finish 'The Trial of Socrates' by I.F. Stone. Very persuasive and - judging by the few sources I've read - fair. Stone points out that our only accounts of the trial are both slanted, written by two of his most devoted students, Plato and Xenophon. Stone notices what first struck me about the argumentation of Socrates in the dialogues - that it's often evasive and not very good. Socrates' constant attacks on democracy can be construed as snobbery and covert support for the two dictatorships that briefly overthrew the democracy of Athens in the decade and a half before his trial, that of the Four Hundred and the Thirty - both led by former students of his. Stone also claims that Socrates could easily have asked for and won a not-guilty verdict, or at least a lighter punishment like exile, but wanted to die. Stone stops short of suggesting what occurs to me - that Socrates was shrewd enough to judge that a painless yet unjust death from hemlock surrounded by his heartbroken students might ensure his philosophical immortality rather better than the quality of his ideas or arguments.
Later in day, wake up and finish mother's intriguing book, 'How to Catch Fairies' by Gilly Sergiev. Tongue so firmly in cheek it must hurt, Sergiev tells us about all sorts of fairy creatures such as goblins, dwarves, sylphs, harpies, as well as less-well-known ones like wiskies, complete with spells for attracting each one. No entry under Lorelei, I notice. Further, she claims to have some in her bathroom. I like the sizes. For example sylphs are commonly 8 foot tall, while imps are typically an 1/8th of an inch in height. A mix of lovely Victorian illustrations - including several by Arthur Rackham - is a bit spoiled by being combined with her own slightly-too-slick drawings which have more than a touch of the Hanna Barbera about them. John gets train over: we meet for drink in Hebden.
March 16th; Odd day in Manchester. Woman at Chinese Internet cafe asks me if I would like a cup of tea, and I say yes, carefully explaining I would prefer it weak and without milk. She brings a cuppa with so much milk it disguises that she has also made it very strong. So I cannot get to sleep until 3am back in the village. That evening, struggle to the end of 'Surveillir et Punir' ['Discipline and Punish'] by Michel Foucault which I overambitiously tackled in French because I couldn't get an English or Hungarian library copy in Budapest. Quite a didactic read, and hedged with sneaky rhetorical tricks like those of other post-war French philosophers. These are the phrases like 'play of gazes', 'network of forces', 'economy of power' designed to imply that something is going on somewhere or everywhere, and therefore Foucault doesn't have to actually spell out who makes what happen how. What is especially clever is that Foucault is claiming that power is all around us and we all take part, so his very thesis perfectly suits the precise-looking-yet-actually-evasive language he keeps repeating until the reader starts to feel he's proved something. Foucault contrasts the use of judicial torture and public execution in the early eighteenth century with the closed, uniform, regulated sanctum of the prison in the late eighteenth century. His point is that the rise of the modern prison between 1790 and 1820 looks a more humane alternative to the grisly Ancien Regime ways of punishment, but in fact marks a new kind of state power extending throughout society, with the creepy Benthamite Panopticon as the model for hospitals, schools, factories, offices extending the gaze of power into the whole of our lives. Bentham's Panopticon, a kind of circular prison where guards in a central tower could watch inmates, but inmates could not see if they were being watched, is Foucault's central image for the way people and the state [or at least the French state] now experience each other. Along with this process is a claim that the state stopped punishing the criminal's body, so as to better interrogate and control his soul. Since this doesn't cut crime, Foucault's second line of argument is that the failure of prison to reduce crime proves that it serves some other purpose for each modern country's ruling class: such as isolating and controlling the most dynamic, potentially revolutionary, members of the lower classes. Since it's all a "network of gazes", however, it's hard to know how Foucault's claims could be tested. The fact that un-Enlightenment Tsarist Russia and its successor Soviet Russia both made extensive use of what Foucault calls old-fashioned punishments [public execution, chain gangs, exile, torture] alongside what Foucault calls new-fangled punishments [a vast prison system, use of doctors to control dissidents, keeping of files, highly politicised schools] rather suggests that a simpler explanation might work. For example, industrial societies became richer, therefore could afford to build bigger prisons to tackle the increased crime that bigger cities brought with them? And once their populations were hidden from the public, prison reformers became more concerned with what was going on inside them? Less exciting of course, and hardly likely to support a thrillingly controversial history like Foucault's. I'm reminded of Canetti's ludicrous claim that the prison cell is modelled on a predator's mouth and the bars on the window are like the teeth, when clearly a cell is a room designed to be hard to leave, and barred windows are only barred if you haven't yet invented glass bricks, or if you feel the need for windows at all.

March 15th; Again use Hebden WiFi bar. Bus back to Mytholmroyd looks clean, but has a mild, distinct aroma of vomit throughout. Once back in mother's village, a surprising sunset lights up a ceiling of cloud from behind a hill. What look like snow-covered ridges and uplands, bathed in pink, green, orange & yellow, like a vast other country upside down in the sky.
March 14th; Mother & I go to the refurbished village pub to check their WiFi reception. We have two rather pricey drinks on the edge of a big group of very cheerful people hearing about a Norwegian woman one of them knows who has cut her own hair since age 12, lives on only coffee, wine & steak, and buys ten or twenty sticks of lipsalve at a time. Later they introduce themselves to us as a support group, all with children or grandchildren born deaf. Wifi connection quite slow and iffy. By afternoon find better place in Hebden, with good food and the first half-reasonable @ pun I've seen: 'B@r Place'.

March 13th; Last night, finished book I bought mother: 'Born on a Blue Day'. The autobiography of Daniel Tammet, an autistic savant who is also a synaesthete, this is a fascinating insight into the mind of someone who can say "her father was very tall, and reminded me of the number 9" or "when my parents argued, their voices would turn dark blue". His plain, measured prose becomes refreshing after a few pages. Quite a few professional writers & editors could learn from his writing style. His successful struggle to understand feelings, his own and other people's, and become independent, is moving. He describes his discovery of his own homosexuality with dignity, and there is a wonderfully unselfconscious moment when he and his partner, Neil, both sob, heartbroken, at the death of their beloved cat. Particularly interesting is how he does his impressive trick of learning a language very fast. Londoner Tammet gets up to sufficient speed in Icelandic in one week, for a documentary about him called 'Brainman', that he can hold his own in an interview in Icelandic on Icelandic television. Only slightly reassuring that he admits to being very nervous. Obviously the automatic colour-coding of synaesthesia helps him rapidly memorise a big vocabulary, and he has the right attitude in practice, where he is not afraid of making mistakes in front of native speakers, but once corrected wants very much to not make that mistake a second time. Learning to switch on synaesthesia at will would be a handy trick. Inspiring, intriguing book.
Today, Hebden Bridge WiFi hotspot seems elusive. Return to Bradford to get my money back on unusable SIM card.
March 12th; Train to Bradford half an hour late. Two people waiting with me at Mytholmroyd are discussing critical theory, Laing, Derrida, and the Adam Curtis documentary about game-theory-influenced ideas of personal freedom that was on BBC2 last night. The woman relates how she invited Laing to speak at her university once and he turned up drunk, aggressive, & incoherent. I ask if Laing was not in fact a Glaswegian, and they gently chide me for cityism. Drop in at Bradford's Carphone Warehouse to buy a mobileworld SIM card. The assistant asks my opinion of his impending oil-block purchase in Kuwait, then tells a customer that she only got good service because he thought she was a mystery shopper. She becomes irate. I say that actually I am the mystery shopper, but by this point no-one is listening to me. Nigel of Darkness sends me smoke-&-mirrors video. Train back to Mytholmroyd 20 minutes late. On train I meet a cheerful Human-Relations consultant nostalgic for his oil-industry days in Lebanon and Azerbaijan.

March 11th; With mother in Yorkshire. I cook our dinner and finish Piera's book. 'The New Jerusalem' is an account of how Rosicrucians and Freemasons were heavily involved in the redesigning of the City after London's Great Fire in 1666. This involves a nice diagram of how one proposal superimposed the Kabbalistic Tree of Life on London's street plan, and some interesting background in the likelihood that the Knights Templar fled to Scotland, helped Bruce win at Bannockburn, and probably turned themselves into Scottish-Rite masons. However, there was nothing about Ackroyd's suggestion that the church architect Hawksmoor was a secret Manichaean, and a lot of the stuff about Wren, Nelson & others being masons is a bit conjectural, with phrases like "it is not hard to imagine" and "it is very likely that". On page 243 Wren's studies at Wadham college Oxford are described and on page 244 we read about Wren's studies "at Cambridge". Book padded out a little in places by repetition, and some worrying-looking sacred geometry supposedly encoding details of Cheops Pyramid in the exact height of the Monument and Nelson's Column. Still, some intriguing material on who met whom. The claims that Christianity was founded in England in AD 36, before the Church in Rome, and that London's importance as a trading centre substantially predated the Roman occupation were persuasive.
March 10th Pop over to Piera's to borrow book over a black tea. Make it to King's X in time. GNER promise WiFi on the train north to Leeds, but often it doesn't work very well - or, on this occasion, at all.

March 9th; Not much luck shopping for 2nd-hand books. Meet lots of charming people at Rof drinks on fleet Street, then dinner with some of them where we discuss the Foucault book, all but one of us rather shamefacedly admitting to having not quite finished it. General mood is moving towards Kuhn next as I rush off for a late drink with Angela.
March 8th; Full late English breakfast with Nigel of Darkness at the cafe where the Bulgarian girls work. Later he sits out on the pavement on his deckchair, sorting papers and receiving visitors in warm spring sunshine. I go into town at dusk and meet Piera at Charing Cross under the stone monument. She drives us to Gigi's gallery in Bethnal Green, where we eat Parma ham and drink beer in a packed back room. Piera suggests I need to release my inner emotions. Back at Charing Cross we sit in her car for a few minutes. She adds there is a demonic aspect to Turin, not just London.

March 7th; Wake up on Nigel's sofa. Juno sulking in her basket outside in hall. Nigel's phone rings in cupboard under stairs. I answer it. It is him. Two buyers are coming to view his house. They arrive, with cheerful South African estate agent. I show them round. They leave. I go out for fish & chips. Spend afternoon in library. After Chinese meal, Nigel shows me how to draw cube in AutoCAD.
March 6th; Fly from Budapest to London.

March 5th; Go out in warm spring weather looking for nearby fitness gym Julia suggested. Find it in a bleak one-storey cement block, next door to an Irish pub. A sign outside mentioning manicures alerts me to the chance it might be a women-only gym, but I pop inside just to check. A vaguely butch-looking woman inside is not just hostile - her hackles actually rise: from fifteen feet away I can see her shoulder & back muscles stiffen with hatred as I enter. She glares as I ask if it is a gym. She spits out that it is not a gym for men. I leave. An hour later I buy a chocolate bar from a small shop I visit daily. The woman is on the phone, and annoyed at my entrance. When it becomes clear that I need to ask her something, she apologises to the person on the phone for the irritating intrusion of a customer [rather than apologising to me for staying on the phone], interrupting her call to serve me with weary patience at my demanding rudeness. By evening, I treat myself to a pasta dish at the expensive Goa restaurant in the centre of town. I tip a little over ten per cent, and the waiter brings back my change having deducted slightly more than I agreed to tip. The way the numbers work out, it is clearly deliberate, and they shrewdly judge I will be too shy & tired to mention a couple of missing shillings. Last time I saw this behaviour was also at Goa. Knowing Hungarians, my interpretation of such strange, petty cheek is that I am being ticked off for not ordering a second dish and a more expensive drink. As it happens, the restaurant is near empty the whole time I am there. Probably all my fault.
March 4th; These people fear they're being wiped out.

March 3rd; Up late. Stroll out to find vitamins, and buy mandarins from a 5th greengrocer's stall for, naturally, 398 forints a kilogram. Market forces, innit?
Evening soup with Mariann & Phil & old friends. Gyuri describes Morocco as boring, ugly, expensive, dirty & irritating. We peer outside for lunar eclipse, then give up. I leave for 1am nightbus as Joszef is harvesting yellow snails from Mariann & Phil's aquarium.
March 2nd; The usual long Friday. Up at 6. Morning spent practising with bored class, who refuse to believe they will be nervous once on stage in front of hundreds. Performance arrives. My class suddenly find they are nervous once on stage in front of hundreds. Some classes' presentations are a bit mysterious. High point is a restaurant sketch in which a perky girl with blonde pigtails plays a talking dog on a leash. Farewells with Renata and other friendly teachers who sweetly present us with bottles of wine. Our journey across Austria begins. One Matzen teacher who lives in Vienna, Martina, kindly drives some of us into the city. She & I visit the Secession gallery, where we watch a film of Leopold Kessler punching holes in street signs around Vienna. One is outside the gallery, and we pop outside to check that this sign still has holes in it. Then, with Martina & her boyfriend Nicolas, I have a decaff coffee and an excellent plate of humus with fresh bread at a cafe in Naschmarkt. Unlike Budapest stallholders, the Austrians understand the idea of selling products at different prices from each other. I rejoin group and board train to Vienna. While eating an omlette, I hear a puzzled Dallan describing how Nick & Jeff took an earlier train, along with their joint ticket, somehow leaving Dallan behind to buy himself an extra ticket. Dallan briefly describes his art school and then the ex-convent 'English Girls' school in Saint Poelten his group were teaching at this week. Greg shows me his handsome Tarot pack. Teacher Neil plays guitar in the dining car and Elie sings. We reach Budapest. I switch on my phone and get a text from Politics Judit, suggesting drinks in a few minutes. I go there, and meet Judit and her adventurous friend Elisabeth from Austria. Elisabeth [Scorpio with Scorpio rising, like myself] is an independent woman doing business in Montenegro and falling in love with her new homeland. Isabel, also enchanted by her first trip to Montenegro, joins us. Judit & Elisabeth both firmly express the view that Journalist Neil is really a spy. Take bus out to suburb, partly unpack, and fall asleep at 3am.

March 1st; Last night the teachers kindly invited us to dinner in a local heuriger (apparently slightly different from the buschenschank concept) for cheese, cold meats and local wine. As usual, I went home early at 10pm to general surprise, and found this morning that my bother-avoiding radar is still working well. Everyone else left round midnight, and Andy at breakfast reports some worryingly advanced squiffiness among a couple in our team. Renata drives me to school alone, and the other five arrive a few minutes later just as the first lesson bell is going. In the early evening, we meet Renata for drinks at the Auersthal cafe. This time she is dressed elegantly in black and grey, after yesterday's autumnal browns and Tuesday's apple green. As I drink my beer, Andy tells me about his romantic life in Berlin, and introduces me to a German contractor working on seismic surveying and permit-clearing for OMV. This must have been the man Teacher Stephen met yesterday who he described as prospecting for oil. The cheerful German lives in our hotel, like the Major in Fawlty Towers. He tells us he has been living in Austrian hotels 48 weeks a year since the mid-1990s. He mentions a period of five and a half years he spent in one Austrian hotel near the Czech border. I leave at 11pm.

Mark Griffith, site administrator / contact@otherlanguages.org

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