echoes of the past, roaring in our ears

You’re obliged to pretend respect for people and institutions you think absurd. You live attached in a cowardly fashion to moral and social conventions you despise, condemn and know lack all foundation.

It is that permanent contradiction between your ideas and desires and all the dead formalities and vain pretenses of your civilization which makes you sad, troubled and unbalanced. In that intolerable conflict you lose all joy of life and all feeling of personality, because at every moment they suppress and restrain and check the free play of your powers.

That’s the poisoned and mortal wound of the civilized world.”

Octave Mirbeau, Garden of Tortures.

Every day I take the bus.  From Tottenham Hale, up through  Edmonton.  To Enfield.  I travel in that way to attend the college, at Capel Manor.  And this means I hear a lot from 17 year olds.  Young London so savvy and nonchalant.  The radio, on the journey there and back, plays a constant song.

Calvin Harris told me that radio has never sounded so good.  I must dispute this.

We have just heard Chase and Status’s new tune ‘Count on Me‘.  It sounds to me like a beautiful facsimile of any given output of pop/dance records  from around the year of 1992.  And I wonder how this must sound to the 17 year old, sat across from me on the bus.

Ghost Box. Victorian postcards, Edwardian mannerisms. An art nouveau poster advertising Parisian tobacco.  Play out to someone who is 17 years of age.  Where does this nostalgic radio production sound for the kids of today?  All I can hear is a rushing noise; faint aural traces of some aspecific mid-1990s history playing at low-level ambiance in the background of my mornings.  Good Pop Music.  Musical immediacy only valuable in terms of what it sounds like, reminder or stand-in for a lost period of time.  A culture that is no longer with us?  

But what is?  Because when the music I hear, today, attempts to present some rousing definition of what the present is actually about, there’s a worrying and bland resignation underlining the tune.  This morning we heard Ellie Golding with her new single ‘Burn‘.  In the chorus of ‘Burn’, here, Ellie implores us to “Burn it up, up, up so they can put it out, out, out.”  And I am irked by the ‘so’, the idea that we might only burn something in order for them to put it out.  Equally, the award-winning combination of Ne-Yo, Akon and David Guetta coming together for a hit pop tune where the collected chorus boasts of how these superstars “Work hard, Play hard.”

Again, “Work hard, Play hard.”

As if working hard is part of it now.  The call centre.  The security on the door at Primark.  The night shift on reception at a Travel Lodge in a deserted night time business park.  Was pop music not meant to inspire the escape?  Rather than reify and shore up the monotony and drudgery of life.  (“O Life… with all its thistles and thorns,” the Reverend Macleod of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the Zoan Chapel, Whitechapel, recently).  The chorus to ‘Play Hard’ rides out over Mr Guetta’s remix of Alice Deejay’s ‘Do You Think You’re Better Off Alone?‘.

I drift off into a reverie, imagining a vision of the future as a happy, well-fed inter-generational community of mixed-race and mix-cultured Londoners working hard on some outdoor task.  Their cheaply printed tools assist with the work, rather than dominating or demeaning it.  To make their labour more palatable, they are singing communally.  To the unaccustomed ear, they sing what sounds like a layered but contemporary Gregorian Chant.  It is actually an intricate vocal rendition of Alice Deejay’s ‘Do You Think You’re Better Off Alone?’

The Sounds of the Summer.  Another song which gets played on almost every single bus journey is ‘Wake me Up!‘ by the Swedish producer Avicii.  The fucking faux-folk songwriter/singer, tells us that because he’s “caught up in a dream.” He thinks ” life will pass me by if I don’t open up my eyes.  Well that’s fine by me.

Why is it fine if life passes one by?  I look at the posture of these kids and they’ve got no energy.  A nation of sloths, rising.

What do any of us gain from a popular culture except a grim resignation to the stale aesthetics of mainstream-sanctioned rappers boasting over bland euro-house synth noises?  They’ve just offered us the chance to win tickets to meet Taylor Swift in person.

Maybe I’m listening too hard.  The echoes of the past sound convincing to me.  I feel like I don’t understand anymore.  Suddenly, I’m almost 30.  Maybe I’m not supposed to.

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St Peter’s Seminary


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Whitechapel Anarchy, magpies and the blood outside my door

After a week of hot sun and dappled light, dancing through the leaves and blossoms, Whitechapel just got colder.  A stern wind picked up last night, and I woke to a dustbin lid clattering around Jubilee Street.

Bleak Housing

A funny day for a conspiracy, granted, but nine of us met yesterday, whilst the weather was still pleasant.  We climbed the stair to an attic room, of a property on Back Church Lane.  And the agenda set before us laid out our business – the state of the world before us, our politics and the suitable adequate response to the changing conditions.

Bleak reflections on Death

All were affirmed: a successful meeting was had by all.  And it was agreed that we nine will meet again, informally, for curry.  I enjoyed myself, for it is hard to be conspiratorial upon such a lovely day…

deep-pression - the critical state of loneliness

Today, magpies bounce around as a wet rain soaks everything.  It really has been raining hard but this is good news for my candytuft, aquilegia and a small shrub of marjoram I planted this week-end.  My mouth was dry from black licorice as I paced to the local banks along the High Street.  I am constantly irked by those in this parish, who, with money and influence, insist on removing all traces of history from the streets.  They seem to have it in for the cracks in the pavement and so whole tracts of the pedestrian passageway are forever being wrenched up to make way for cleaner, shinier pavement.

malcuidant - l'hymne de la ghilde

On my return, a street urchin followed me from Cavell Street; a sickly looking child, his eyes rheumy with some infection or pest.  And though I neither encouraged nor discouraged him to follow, something about his wide-eyed manner spooked me rather.  At the turn of my road, I asked “where are you going to?” to which he gave a moan, turned on his heel and fled, stubbing his toe horribly.  And the weirdest thing: the pavement near to my doorway was pocked with spots of bright red blood.  It was as if he had got there before me.  I don’t know.  Maybe I shall look out for him in future.

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Life on the Farm

Tempora batter.  I’ve never spent more time on Broadwater Farm.  Twice a day, 4 times a week.  I’ve got to know what the front line looks like.  Dead chickens, no carcass.  Just feathers.  Justine by Lawrence Durrell, lost in transit, somewhere between here and France.  Naomi is in Paris going to a 24 hour rave, advising me from there.  In two days time, I escape to Dunfermline.

Bad Church

I’m panicking somewhat.  It’s never felt like this.

June 2013.  Today I followed the flow of the Moselle.  What a lovely park.

Good golly - what a shit park!

I take it we can all expect delays.

Expect Delayz

Cigarette in hand.  Life breathes walking calmy beside the expensive game.

improvement works

They’re re-paving everywhere.

industrial neglect

Welfare loses sight of itself on an industrial scale

17.05.2013 014

a monument   Elephant and Castle   inside a crisp packet

Portmanteau   Note     24.05.2013 007


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Last month I said goodbye to my baby.  Last night I said goodbye to my Shifu.

Mizong Quan.  Igwe banter.  Lu Jun Hai.  I bought him scotch whiskey.  I travelled to Great Portland Street tube ever Wedesday.  Half past six until 8 o’clock.  Others in the class stayed behind to learn Shifu’s family Taiji style.  He wrote the manual on the Qing Ping system of Daoist swordfighting.


I’ve grown up a bit over the 4 years I’ve studied under him.  Almost 7 under and on top of her.

Park Crescent, John Nash

We practiced kung fu in the rooms of John Nash’s regency circus overlooking Regents Park.  Sometimes on Summers evenings, we would be moved from our regular haunts of the Portland Room or the Theatre, upstairs, to the grand Gulbenkian Room.  Huge ceilings.  Floor to ceiling windows.

Here is my Shifu demonstrating the Qing Ping swordstyle in village hall in Essex.  Thanks to Sinkpoint.  I support his conclusion.  

Lu Jun Hai

Even now, a month on and my toes are gripping the carpet through woollen socks.


I’m dropping mizong poses, questions about the hips.  I don’t know how low should they go?  My Shifu is 76 and he can drop his to the floor.   I am unsure as to what should I practice.  I’ve just heard the most horrendous screaming outside the Omega Works on Hermitage Road.  Literally a terrifying wail was happening for a couple of minutes.  It didn’t sound human but it definitely came from a large creature that was in great pain.  And it floated around and moved off, into the night.  I hope someone else heard it.  It has left me quite terrified.  It’s 01.44am.

My sword looms large in the shadows at the edge of my bedroom.

Qing Ping.  Qing Ping.

Black Swallow Skims the Sea.  The Barbarian Offers a Gift.  The Purple Swallow Flies on its Side.  Scoop the Seabed to find Pearls 🙂 🙂

boo yaa ghost

Lu Jun Hai with Jian

Black + Decker

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A Mad Day Out

Paul and John, sparring

1968, The Beatles, doing martial arts on top of the roundabout at Old Street.  

Today, London still waits for the light of Spring to emerge through the gloom.  Waiting for someone, my brother I think it was.  Off the train at the station, we wandered over to the Cock Tavern in Somers Town.  Only had enough for a half pint each.  Previously, I had found myself in the Old Church Gardens of St Pancras…

The Gardens of the Old Church

Mental States reflected in Mad Mosaics.  In my life’s practice, I’m trying to open the gates.  In the Gardens that day, I found a gate already open.  Fingertips getting freezing, pushing palms in fingerless gloves.

The Gate, already open

Mad Mosaics

Concentric octagons.  A random memorial set in church gardens.

Mosaics, in context

Memorial in St. Pancras Gardens

The Beatles, sat in the Old Churchyard

I happened across a plaque which revealed a great deal.  I hadn’t heard of the Beatles’ Mad Day Out.  Of course, it was in ’68.  Look at Paul’s suit.  Of course they were in London, able to lark around the Old Church Gardens of St Pancras.

Plaque on the Bench

The Beatles at the Old Church Yard

Another image from the Church Yard

See, as the decades lapse and wane, how gardens here bordered in Hollyhock are replaced by easy-to-maintain drab shrubbery.  What would John and George make of the scene now?

Lovecraft Administrative

The Beatles keep off the grass

The band, accompanied by a coterie of photographers and their team, moved on from the Gardens and frollicked around London.  Paul is fairly flexible.  Look at his out-turned foot, he could aim a nasty kick to the groin.

Paul executes a decent kick

I want to pare these images, of fun and leisure with more from today.  Below is the skeleton of the new Sainsburys development which is currently being constructed on Northumberland Park, in Tottenham.

The new Sainsburys development in Northumberland Park

Light industrial units make way for a major sports-led regeneration project.  I don’t recognise White Hart Lane.  They have scraped away the ground, cutting in to the planet to raise monoliths to progress and comfort graven with corporate CGI images of happy customers, a happy Tottenham.

bleak landscape of un-regeneration

I don’t meet people who find the cutting edge of today, this moment right now, so upsetting.  These images make me angry.  They don’t speak of a world I want to live in.  They represent major investment, technological expertise, partnership working, health and safety policies.  Things I am not part of, despite them being visited upon my community, my Tottenham.  I don’t like them because they are ugly and I don’t want to live in an ugly world.

new architecture of the Zeitgeist i.

I want Mad Days Out

new architecture of the Zeitgeist ii.

new architecture of the Zeitgeist iii.

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from the brick dust2012, a pattern emerges

Over the Christmas period, I found out that LimaZulu occupies the site of the Challen piano factory where the world’s largest piano was built.  Here it is…

The Largest Grand Piano in the World

Billy Mayerl playing the Challen in 1935

Mike says that at quiet moments, you can still hear the moans of a child who was killed in the factory when trying to play a piano, got their hand caught and died that night.


5 days of it.  London, warm and grey.  I have just returned from the first Page Green Residents’ Association meeting to be held in 2013.  And very nice it was too.

N.I.M.B.Y, Reece Jones

Sometime after midnight on New Year’s Eve, we found ourselves at Highbury Corner.  We’d just lost half our crowd.  They exited in a black cab: pained extortionately NYE priced exhorbitantly.  So Jim called Ski and Ski picked us up in his black cab.  We crossed the intersection of Canonbury Square (Orwell at No. 27b, Waugh at 17a) and headed for Hackney.

At this point in the morning, the tallow was already guttering…  World Unknown.  Autumn Road.  We entered and found ourselves amongst hordes of hip young things, their minds deadened by drugs.  Ears deafen’d by feedback.  There was nothing for it but to immerse oneself.  But what in?  And at what cost?  I’ve never seen Cava for sale at a warehouse rave…

Cava £3 per glass

Cava £3 per glass

The Bar that night, at World Unknown

The Bar that night

And I would never have imagined I’d see anyone celebrating Fairport’s Cropredy in the midst of a techno party…  The mind reeled as people around me got off.

Who would wear this?

Who would wear this?

Sometimes I feel that I’m beginning to loose track of London and its youth.

Hum, Reece Jones

And then something strange happened.  It started to snow.  And Tin Can Dan arrived.  Things fairly quickly orientated themselves towards Alcohol + Death.  We drank at the Kings College Students Union bar overlooking the Thames, then encountered ghastly manifestations of death and dying at the Wellcome collection’s rather brilliant exhibition.  Death at the Wellcome

When Shall We Meet Again

This photograph does pose a good question.  When shall we meet again?  Death so hidden, tucked away in the elderly wards and disinfected hospital rooms.  Death hyped by headlines in the Metro, sensational news coverage.  But it quietly stalks us all.  Some of us try and outrun it.  But it’s there, waiting just around the corner.

Later, we found ourselves stoned and cold at Abney Park Cemetry…

The Graves at Abney Park

the ruined chapel

Graves in Snow

My!  Look at how even the cemetry authorities are obsessed with the prospect of a death on their premises…

The Warning is to Keep Out

The Chapel, wreathed in a protective fence painted gun-metal grey.

The Temporary Fence, for our safety


... make his songs... of their tongues

…Make his songs… of their tongues.  What does it mean?

A black rag, blowing from a high window

The Man at Hamilton Hall

I hadn't seen this guy for so long...

The City... it was so cold

The Cranes will never leave the skyline

The Plough

obtuse angles on a freezing death-themed walk

London Wall

the final resting place of Joseph Creasey and William Joseph Creasey

A context

We were looking for Postman’s Park,

What are they doing in there?

City Offices, lit up yellow

a small green in the depths of the Square Mile, which houses the Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice, created by George Frederic Watt in 1900.

Photograph of George Frederic Watts, Ogden's Guinea Gold Cigarettes trade card No.74

The gate was locked and we had to clamber over the wrought iron fence.  Centuries of surface burials and bodies piled high into the English soil have raised the level of the park so that it now stands feet above street level.  Rows of ceramic tiles, listing the grim deaths of ordinary passers-by and family members, who put their own life on the line to save that of another and ended up losing.

Some memorials

More Memorials

Even More Memorials

A Carved Wooden Figurine

We exited the park, only to be addressed by the driver of a black cab: a Scot who almost immediately told us of burying his brother before Christmas.  The man had drunk a full bottle of whiskey and walked to the end of a nearby pier and waited for the sea to claim him.  This, the cabbie explained, was the second brother had had buried from drowning.  He went on, that his solace in the following weeks had come from God – he interjected, “No’ the kind of theological thing, I’m no’ preaching at yees, ahm jis’ talkin’ aboot the different dimension, the higher realms, ken?” – and Chris Martin.  This man understood that Chris Martin was trying to teach the youth how to live a better and true life.  We were taken aback, none of us being massive Coldplay fans.  In due course, we asked him where the nearest Wetherspoons was and secured directions – he obviously has The Knowledge.  He sent us off into the city.  But on our walk there, we were availed by the noise of car horn and the cabbie had followed us!  The doors unlocked.  “Do yees want a lift boys?” – we did.  Once safely inside the warmth, we sped off and the man asked if we wanted to listen to the song which had helped him through the dark days.  He turned the stereo up as loud as it could go…

The Taxi Driver

… and played Major Minus by Coldplay.  We sat in silence, none of us could understand the reverence this man had for it.  But as we arrived, we agreed how great the song was, thanked him profusely and got into the pub.
Dan and Al

The Tower of London lit up in the background.  A Hundred Men held hostage in an oil refinery in the middle of the Algerian desert.   Breaking News...

Dan left.  Went back to the South Coast leaving Al and I to carry on.  Homerton, lit up by the snow.  More drinks at the Elderfield and an uncomfortable discussion outside with the young barman about gentrification.

As I walked home, I came across a row of neatly parked and preserved Citroën Deux Chevaux

Homerton, snowbound

the bonnet

The 2 C.V.

Citroens in Homerton

The Full Menagerie

I particularly like the vans.

And lastly, an apposite image of the digger, claw raised aloft full of broken bricks of a demolished building just down from Manor House.

The Brick Dust Settles


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Archimedes found in the Shadows

This is a story of the the Archimedes Palimpsest.


A tale which I believe reveals much about how ancient wisdoms are still being found, earthed for the first time in modernity’s 24-hour white light gaze.  This is the stuff of ripping yarns, of details which bedazzle – this could be W.H.Smith pulp thriller fiction content.

Archimedes lived in the 3rd century, B.C. and is considered one of the greatest mathematicians of all time.  In his lifetime, he invented many incredible mechanical devices.  Archimedes proved that the volume and surface area of a sphere are two thirds that of the cylinder including its bases.


During his lifetime, he produced two works – the “Method” and “Stomachion” which until recently, were almost completely unknown.  However, copies were made in medieval times and one of this copies is at the centre of this post.  At the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, you can now see a 10th century copy of Archimedes’ original writings.

An exhibition about the work begins with a fragment of ruined and charred manuscript.  Scholars have found that three centuries after the copies were originally made, Archimedes’ work was scraped away from the parchment so it could be re-used: in this case, to inscribe prayer.  When the original text on parchment or papyrus has been removed or scraped away, the new work is referred to as a Palimpsest.  The damp and crumpled New York Times article which I found and make much use of in this post, talks of the “ghost of a diagram, a spiral” still visible, in reddish ink, beneath the more contemporary inscriptions of prayer.  See here, the blue shows through because of the Ultra-Violet they use to see the original copy.



The photograph above gives a clearer indication of the original work, underneath the more recent book of prayer.

Astoundingly, this book of prayer is believed to have been used for centuries at the Monastery of St. Sabbas, a Greek Orthodox Monastery east of Bethlehem shown here in 1900 and again more recently.



In the next instant, in this account of the ancient parchment’s brief chronology, was its discovery by a biblical scholar in 1844, at the Metochion of the Holy Sepulcher in Istanbul.  This is the only image I can find of the Sepulchre but do imagine its travels and in whose possession it was moved.


Then in 1906, when a Danish scholar and expert on Archimedes called Johan Ludvig Heiburg, saw the book in Istanbul and recognised the treaties by Archimedes underneath the prayer.


It was only then that the full significance of this particular palimpsest was realised.  Here was the oldest sources of Archimedes’ writings and the Palimpsest was understood to contain documents, foundational to Western science.  The Greek communities in Istanbul suffered greatly during the First World War, and many of the artifacts in possession were lost or ruined.  But in 1932, the Palimpsest had turned up in Paris and was being offered for sale by a Jewish dealer called Salomon Guerson.  He recognised its importance but no buyer was found.  Guerson lived until 1970 and it was 28 years before his daughter was able to sell the work.

So it was in 1998, an anonymous buyer bought the Palimpsest for $2 million at a Christie’s auction.  It was then the role of William Noel, the Curator of Manuscripts at the Walters Art Museum to convince the buyer to display the artifact at the museum where it was displayed between October 16th, 2011 until January 1st, 2012.


The buyer, in turn, agreed and continued to to fund the restoration and research into the book which enables us to see the whole picture today.

Rothstein, in the New York Times article I happened across, believed Archimedes “knew that the ideal world of straight lines and regular objects was only an approximation of of the real world’s curves and complexities“.  I relay all of this because I find this particular story, the geography and the centuries it encompasses, to my mind a thrilling prospect .  Consider Thomas Chatterton as a young man, searching the oaken chests in the muniment room of St Mary Redcliffe’s, Bristol, and finding forgotten documents some 300 years old.  So often are mystery and intrigue severed from our waking like, this story of the Palimpsest serves to reminds us of relics and artifacts.  Tablets of knowledge dating back to the worlds of antiquity might still be nestled in the dust and shadows of some obscure and far-flung architecture today.


Both quotes from Finding Archimedes in the Shadows.  Edward Rothstein.  The New York Times supplement. 30.10.2011.  

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28, 1968, institutional decomposition and the LimaZulu Haircut

I broke my tooth last night.  Now my tongue runs along a jagged edge and it just doesn’t feel right.  Afterwards, my concentration was lost and I burned my arm against a scalding hot pan.  The burn overlaps a previous scar, from a previous accident.  I am thinking a lot about the marks the body acquires as it passes through time and space.  28 looms large.  I still have 4 limbs and am able to practice for hours a time.  Escaping serious injury, I have survived my time in London remarkably unscathed.

Maybe this due to my superior sword skills.  I am currently studying the Qing Ping system of swordspersonship.  LimaZulu scents the air with a heady but necessary dose of political correctness.   The tassel arrived for my sword today, it is Sky Blue.  A Sky Blue Life by Maxim Gorky still on the shelf.  Tomorrow, a pair of Vanilla Black-Outs will arrive for Onyeka.  They should enhance her game.  I use the tassel to wipe away the blood of my enemies.  Crimson blood and sky blue silk will make a suitably elegant and fitting end to life…

And so I notice a dark London shadow stalking my every footfall.  I spend a lot of time over on Northumberland Park.

Ricky Villa & Ossie Ardiles Parading Out Spurs Ground 1978

White Hart Lane, architects drawing 1934

Northumberland Park, Tyneside

Northumberland Northumberland, Morpeth, Postcard

You can see the tip of the Shard from Tottenham.  An altercation, he unsheaths his sword.  I grab the shard from the distance and ward off my detractor.

Increasingly, the residents of LimaZulu are being given the same haircut.  It is known as the LimaZulu Cut.  A likeness of outputs, I suppose is to be expected.  Into the mix we go and arrive out on Hermitage Road, fresh-faced and content but still angry with the world.   I wonder where the aforementioned hermitage was.  Certainly, I have been reading about the history of The Sheikh Nazim Al-Haqqani Sufi Mosque on St Ann’s Road, which was used as a training space for some serious Seni Silat Haqq Melayu back in the 1990s.  The other public spaces where this Silat was taught were Tottenham Green Leisure Centre and Palmers Green Park.  All of this from Douglas S. Farrar’s gorgeous Shadows of the Prophet: Martial Arts and Sufi Mysticism.  The building here became a traveller’s lodge (Zawiya) where a man called Pa’ Ariffin began teaching Silat.  From Farrar’s book: “Advertising was condemned as a ploy used by those who commoditised martial arts to make money.  There was an implicit critique of capitalism in the creation of a boundary between the alienated realms of commercial activity and the sacred realm of silat training,” (page 210).   Farrar describes the old convent as “a large Victorian building with dirty red brick walls… [a] maze of cold stone and hard wood, with multiple staircases and dozens of corridors giving access to halls, offices, apartments, and classrooms…” (page 200).  

I remember the old St Ann’s Convent in Stoke Newington, just over the road from the primary mystical experience…  This structure didn’t fare so well.

Though Chartered Town Planning and Development Consultants Brooke Smith Planning note that the “scheme required careful negotiations with English Heritage but has resulted in a stunning new flagship property…”  So that’s alright then.

I talked at Re-Drawing the Maps.  A presentation on Bagua Armswings on the Friday night.  I think that all who attended had a good time.

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The Ghost Orchid Declaration

I visited Glasgow in Scotland.

the boy was building a Scottish Zen Garden on the land outside the tenement

the plot was stripped








Where does a wren go in Glasgow?

off Sauchiehall Street, Keppie Henderson & Partners, 1970.

Scottish summertime ketamine grid-system topography breath…


Ross Brown concrete note Scottish modernism

Keeling House.

 tendrils of plant growing woven into the designs of the turn-of-the-century zeitgeist.

Glasgow Kelvingrove weight of British imperial upon British backs blackened buildings and lungs

restored Kibble Palace

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