One of the most remote places we are visiting around Australia is called Kangaroo Island – the country’s third largest island off a remote peninsula in South Australia.
This island was once attached to the Australian mainland until the thaw following the last ice age created a sea passage between the island and Australia.
It has a chequered history.It’s first inhabitants were from Stone Age but never developed further after being isolated. It was the subject of Aboriginal stories and myths including one that the sea passage was created after a group of rebellious women fled a tyrannical leader who caused the sea to rise up and drown them.
At one time the island was deserted leaving its unique animals and birds to have no fear of humans. But then in the early nineteenth century a group of settlers and ex convicts moved in and there followed a massacre of its animals and birds for food and profits.
One species a dwarf emu became extinct just like the more famous Dodo as settlers ate them all. They then turned on the huge kangaroo population and decimated them. They also killed off most of the seals for their skins but ignored their valuable oil which meant eventually their community collapsed . ASA last gasp they started to kill off the whales of the coast but this was only seasonal.
But it has a well stocked supermarket, petrol station,post office, cafes,a cricket pitch and a craft market and a number of tourist attractions. Also a number of new species have been introduced including koala bears and bees. Indeed the Ligurian bees on the island produce a unique honey as the population is isolated from any other bees.
Today’s island has recovered and many of its unique mammals are flourishing again.The main threat to them are wildfires which have destroyed a lot of the vegetation not people as the population is very small. Penneshaw the port where ferries link to the mainland has just 300 people.
There is a splendid open air sculpture trail on the island where hidden in the dense bush you can find wallabies and kangaroos if they don’t run off to hide. I have put up pictures of the trail below.
When I was there the bush was tinder dry with a few flowers in blossom.Here is one below.
Queensland’s Art Gallery is well known for its collection of Aboriginal art. But when we visited it on a day stop in Brisbane what attracted us was a special free exhibition of contemporary Papua New Guinea artists called Kin, reflecting the close relationships among the country’s painters.
It celebrated the work of Mathias Kauage and more recent painters and was a riot of vibrant colours and political messages touching on issues like refugees now right at the heart of debate in Britain. It included a remarkable painting of Captain Cook looking down on residents of Papua New Guinea – see above.
The paintings don’t shy away from tackling political issues particularly on the red hot issue in the UK and Australia on asylum seekers and refugees. A particular striking picture praises Jacinda Arden accepting and helping refugees.
One wonders how the painters would portray Suella Braverman and Rishi Sunak -both brown British politicians deporting largely brown and black asylum seekers from the shores of the UK. Perhaps the UK’s leading art gallery Tate Britain should commission them to paint a series to counteract the baleful influence of Right wing Aussie politician Tony Abbott on stirring up hate and resentment in this country.
Two other striking paintings by the group stand out. One is a painting of the Left v Right Australian general election where the combatants are portrayed as Aboriginal chiefs.
Another is of refugees kept in a holding camp in Papua New Guinea similar to the UK plan for one in France.
Two other striking exhibits in-the exhibition including a remarkable sculpture representing people literally getting under other peoples skins and an amazing collage by an Iranian born artist now living in America using decorative images used by Pakistani lorry drivers to beautify their vehicles .
Ho Chi Minh City is famous for a number of tourist sites including its Post Office,Notre Dame Cathedral and its Harrowing Vietnam War Museum.What is not so well known is the city’s history museum telling the story of the country for the last 30,000 years.
Tucked away in a side street off a main road next to the city’s botanical gardens this gem of a museum includes numerous artifacts dating from the Stone Age to the present day.
When you get there you are greeted by a large Buddha in a room full of Buddhas from different Asian countries.
The Buddha here is a reproduction of the oldest known Buddha in Vietnam dating back to the eleventh century
The museum had some fine costumes and an interesting exhibit showing how ethically diverse the South Vietnamese with no fewer than 34 different indigenous groups in the country .
The sad thing is that we weren’t able to see the whole museum including more modern exhibits.officially designated as disabled friendly some of the rooms were inaccessible to wheelchairs because you had to go up a flight of steps.Also the ramp to the entrance was so steep that I needed the assistance of some fit young Vietnamese lads to get to the top.
Our taxi driver also helped Margaret get up the stairs to the museum’s cafe. On the plus side it had a very good accessible disabled toilet.
Finally since we were last in Vietnam the number of scooter boys and girls has grown on the roads. See a previous blog. So much so the latest new expressway has a a segregated lane for the daredevil scooter drivers Even there they move faster than some motor vehicles weaving around to overtake each other – just like in Ho Chi Minh City.
On the edge of the centre of Kuala Lumpur – a city dominated by huge skyscrapers and apartment blocks – near the greenery of Lakeside Gardens is a modern museum dedicated to Islamic Art.
The Islamic Arts Museum opened as recently as 1998 is not on Cunard’s shore experience programme and consequently has few Western visitors.But this is not a local or even a Malaysian national museum but an important international one.
It has over 12000 artefacts, a large reference library and tells the story of the spread of Islam from the Middle East across Asia and China through Islamic Art.Missing are artefacts from Spain after it was occupied by the Moors.
The collection is impressive. It covers metalwork,ceramics,textiles,jewellery,weaponry, manuscripts, China and furniture.
With 12 galleries it is almost too much to take in but it also a very cool Restuarant and Cafe to have lunch and a break. What is fascinating is how Islamic art adapted from Turkish carpets to delicate China through a rather extravagant costumes in India.
There was also an interesting collection of weaponry including heavily decorated rifles as illustrated below.
Textiles and ceramics were well represented.
The light and airy building makes the museum pleasant visit especially as Kuala Lumpur has very high humidity and temperatures often top 33C.
My first visit to the Gulf states of Oman and Dubai has been an eye opener and shows how two relatively poor Arab Nations have been transformed by the rise of petrodollar. Both are effective absolute monarchies that still have authoritarian rulers. Yet both have used their new found wealth to benefit their indigenous people.
This may explain why both are stable states and largely popular with the Emirates and Omani population. In Oman the 50 year reign of the late Sultan saw his people benefit from the wealth provided by oil. In 1970 Oman had only three schools now it has nearly 1100. Education and healthcare is free for the 1.5 million Omanis and when they start a family they are given a free plot of land to build a house. The younger generation are bilingual as all pupils learn Arabic and English and all signs are in both languages.
Strict regulations lay down how each house in Oman should be built on a 650 square metre plot.It should be no more than two stories high and occupy a third of the plot with a high wall enclosing a garden and garage .
In Dubai the government also give a contribution to building costs. The main city is ultra modern and full of skyscrapers and modern apartments. In this heavily trafficked city of five lane roads parking is also free – there were some limited parking charges in Oman in Muscat.
What is really jaw dropping in Dubai despite its authoritarian stance on alcohol, gay rights and on insisting how modestly Muslim women should dress is how cosmopolitan it is. The Dubai Mall said to be largest shopping complex in the world with 1600 shops is a complete mixture of people with women in Western Style dress walking among Arab women covered from head to toe. While young men in shorts walk among young Arab men wearing full robes.
Of course expats don’t benefit from the largesse the Emirs show to their own people But professional Westerners benefit from high tax free salaries, cheap petrol and low utilities bills that are becoming more of a rarity in the UK as the wealth gap grows.
As an example my daughter who is a Dubai state school science teacher earns a tax free salary just short of £50 000 a year plus free and efficient healthcare and fuel bills of just £20 a month. Here in the UK the government is boasting that teachers will soon get £30,000 a year before tax and will have huge fuel bills and petrol costs. There is no comparison.
I noticed that Emirates airlines are now targeting Brits in the hospitality sector to work as cabin crew. They are offering tax free salaries,free training,free accommodation and healthcare as part of the package . In the UK the same person will be lucky to get just above the minimum wage working for Wetherspoon.
The situation is not the same for workers from India,Pakistan, and the Philippines who take more menial jobs in construction or as maids to wealthy Arab families. They miss out big time and are on low wages and/or work long hours for little money.
One last interesting point.What happens if you have a car accident with a camel in Oman? According to our guide if it happens in the day the owner will claim it is his most valuable animal and you will have to compensate him handsomely. If it is after dark the camel owner will have to pay for all the damage to your vehicle. The trouble is that owners don’t always admit that is their camel and can be difficult to trace.
This modern museum is a joy to visit and also for my disabled wife Margaret as it is easily accessible and staff extremely helpful.
These artefacts are part of a huge collection of thousands discovered in Crete dating back to 6900 BC of both the early Minoan civilisation and later palace societies housed at Heraklion’s Archaeological Museum.
The wonder of these exhibits is that they were created by people who couldn’t read or write yet perfected some of the most exquisite jewellery and crafted pottery. Most of them were discovered in early tombs because our ancestors believed they would be needed in the afterlife.
The sport section had a dangerous sport that that has died out involving bulls that has died out in ansoort that hasdangerous sport involving
The fertility symbol of a child bearing woman is almost universal to early civilisations.We saw a similar statute in Lima in Peru dating back thousands of years to the civilisation that precede the better known Incas.
The murals come from the Knossos Palace as most of the original ones have been removed or tarted up.The figure was thought to be a prince – originally known as Prince of the Lilies – but now thought to be more likely to be an athlete or a boxer – a sporting hero years before Christ.
Bull leaping as a sport
For a civilisation associated with the Minotaur the sport section had-a fascinating game which has died out. Known as Bull Leaping or Bull Vaulting intrepid athletes would have to grab the horns of a charging bull and leap over it. This rather dangerous sport was open to men and women, showing that sports equality is not a new phenomenon. It existed centuries ago long before the recent prominence given to women’s football and rugby.
Manifesto is a new film out this week that explores in depth local Labour Party activists and their fight to get a Labour government elected in the December 2019 general election.
It is an unusual film as it covers a constituency – Liverpool, Walton – ignored by the national media -concentrating on the passion of grass roots activists in one of the poorest parts in Britain. It is also Labour’s safest seat.
The film conveys the idealism of the campaigners and how the last Labour manifesto under Jeremy Corbyn would have meant real change for the people of Walton – many relying on free school meals and food banks – by providing better schools, a better NHS, more worker’s rights and better wages. But it was not to be. Instead Labour lost the general election in the fog of the Brexit row where unknown bureaucrats in Brussels were scapegoated as holding the working class back and depriving them of their ” freedoms”.
The prism the director Daniel Draper ( who was born and grew up in Walton) uses is to tell the tale through the eyes and voices of local activists -a group that are normally completely ignored.
He intersperses their views with quotes from Robert Tressell’s work The Ragged -Trousered Philanthropists – regarded by George Orwell as a ” book everyone should read”. This tells a semi autobiographical story of a house painter’s struggle to get work in Edwardian England. He died from TB in Liverpool Royal Infirmary and was buried in a pauper’s grave in the city. The link between today’s activists and his legacy is vividly portrayed in one scene in the film.
He also intersperses the dialogue with stills of part of the constituency showing the poverty and both neat and neglected streets.
The result is a bitter sweet documentary. The campaigning in Liverpool was a great success – with both Parliamentary candidates who are on the left of the party, Dan Carden ( Liverpool Walton) and Ian Byrne (Liverpool West Derby) returned with thumping majorities.
But in the rest of the country Labour lost badly -including two seats Walton activists were sent to help the party in Blackpool and Crewe.
Since then internal struggles in the Labour Party -including in Liverpool – have divided Labour activists and I am pretty certain Liverpool Walton is not a priority for the new leader Sir Keir Starmer – precisely because it is such a safe seat where Labour voters are taken for granted.
But in my view this would be a mistake. Labour has always been a broad church and the hopes, aspirations and frankly, eternal optimism to create a better society from the people portrayed in this film should not be ignored or squandered by party bosses in London.. The present mess and chaos we are in under this Tory government is too bitter a pill to swallow not only for the voters of Liverpool Walton but for everyone else. As Dan Carden, the MP for Walton said on the film before the result: “We can’t afford another five years of Tory government.”
16 June: Picturehouse At FACT, Liverpool (Q&A: MP Ian Byrne, activist Alan Gibbons, director Daniel Draper, hosted by Ross Quinn)
16 June: Glasgow Film Theatre (Q&A: MSP Paul Sweeney & former MSP Neil Findlay, hosted by Ruth Gilbert)
17 June: Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle (Q&A: MP Ian Lavery, Laura Pidcock from People’s Assembly, activist Ben Sellers, director Daniel Draper)
30 June: Hyde Park Picture House, Leeds (Q&A: MP Richard Burgon & director Daniel Draper)
DATE TBC: Savoy Cinema, Nottingham (Q&A: MP Nadia Whittome & director Daniel Draper)
3 August: Duke’s At Komedia, Brighton (Q&A: MP Lloyd Russell Moyle & director Daniel Draper)
Powerful book is a timely reminder of the trauma of the present day Ukrainian invasion could affect generations to come
By a curious freak of timing as millions flee the horrors of the Russian invasion of Ukraine a remarkable memoir of earlier horrors of the last century – the rise of the Nazis and Stalinists and their effect on the refugees who fled Germany and Russia – has just been published.
The author Merilyn Moos is the daughter of two refugees who fled the Nazis in Germany to live in the UK and this short book describes in a thematic way her childhood here and how extraordinarily she only found out the full story about her parents’ past after they died.
Her father, Siegi ,was a lapsed Jewish Communist theoretician and director of an agit-prop theatre group performing plays by Brecht and a workers opera in Berlin. He went underground on the night of the Reichstag fire and fled Berlin minutes before the Gestapo raided his flat and walked over 1000 kilometres from Berlin to the Saarland to escape, only catching a train to cross the French border at Saarbrucken.
Lotte , her mother, met Siegi in Berlin and also escaped to the UK. But in 1936 she decided to go alone to Russia to visit a lover and friend , Brian Gould-Verschoyle, just at the time Stalin ordered show trials of Trotskyists. Both were put under house arrest and Brian was sent to Spain to work as an engineer to help the Spanish Communist Party. They were supposed never to communicate again but Lotte ignored this sending him a postcard praising a political group to the left of the Communist Party. This was intercepted by Stalin’s agents, he was kidnapped and put on trial as a Trotskyist and sent to a gulag where he died. She blamed herself for his death, fled the USSR coming back thoroughly disillusioned to the UK only to arrested as a suspected spy.
A rich history denied to their daughter
You would think with such a rich history her parents would tell Merilyn about their past. But as the main point of this memoir reveals, the opposite was true. So traumatic was their past they pretended to her that it never happened. Her parents were overprotective of her and paranoid. She never knew that she was from Jewish heritage until she was a young adult. Her father denied he was a Communist and pretended his family was Swiss. His mother never discussed her relationship with Brian.
As Merilyn says in the book: ” No family photos adorned our walls or mantelpieces. It was as if the three of us had been dropped onto earth by a stork, unencumbered by the ties and rituals of family life.”
She had an unhappy childhood, going to bed early until she was a teen and hardly ever allowed out alone from the house except to go to school. Her parents also did not want to her to become involved with boys and effectively pressurised her to break up up her first serious relationship with a boy after she got to Oxford University. No wonder she hardly spoke or visited them for 20 years.
The fascinating part of this book is that despite all of this Merilyn rebelled and followed in her parents footsteps becoming an active trade unionist campaigner and supporter of left wing causes. She is obviously now proud of their hidden past. She also is an accomplished sculptor and I have included one of them in this blog. Her son Josh, is a campaigner on climate change.
She and her son have been moved by the discovery of her parents real past. One of the most poignant moments in her memoir is how she and Josh traced their history back to Berlin and smuggled their ashes into Germany finding the apartment blocks where they had lived together and scattering the ashes around flower beds and bushes in the courtyard. As she said ” I had brought my parents home.”
This book has real insight into the trials and tribulations of refugees driven out of their country by hostile regimes and the dilemmas they face. Published at the same time as Europe faces its biggest war since the time the Nazis invaded the rest of mainland Europe, one wonders how many Ukrainians feel about their lives as they are driven from their homeland. It is also an intensely personal and honest account of a child of a refugee’s life in the UK and all the better for it.
Living with Shadows by Merilyn Moos. Available from Amazon £8.25
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I am not a competent authority on using social media. I am no gamer. Indeed I haven’t played a computer game in my life. Yet I do worry as a journalist about the effect of social media on our lives. How it created a super rich elite, how people’s personal data can be manipulated for huge financial gain, how ” fake news” can spread in an instant and how democracy can be destroyed by dark forces on line.
This is a remarkable, well written first book. Its author, Rory Wilmer, is an insider who has made money from digital marketing and advertising for big companies. As he says himself: “I have got to a moral crossroads within myself… I too, have been part of – making a living and a career on the back of surveillance capitalism, data mining and the exploitation of people’s addiction to social media”.
He points out how we, the avid consumers of social media, who never read the terms and conditions of the websites we sign up to – submit to exploitation by allowing companies to make huge profits by “leeching your data and selling it to the highest bidder”. They do this by using clauses allowing them to change the terms and conditions without” even informing you of why and how.”
How an atheist takes a Biblical script
The book is cleverly constructed taking, as an atheist, a Biblical script of the Seven Deadly Sins and dividing the faults of social media between them.
His chapter on lust – reveals the scale of a male dominated internet – and how pornography and sexual titualation. is rife. Put one search for girls on Instagram – and you will find 8 million images of girls. Put one for boys – and you get 2 million images. Everyday 95 million images are loaded onto Instagram – that is 4 million an hour.
He cites Twitter as a site that allows pornography and sexual exploitation of children and is scathing of some of activities of dating sites in protecting data.
His gluttony chapter covers everything from celebrity chefs, promoting diets to wanting the perfect body. His chapter on greed looks at our appetite for viral blogs and clicks while sloth looks at our laziness in discerning the truth -leaving us to believe fake news and be prey to ideas that the earth is still flat and covidiocy. It also deals with sinister Q-Anon movement and interference in elections, topically including Russia.
Making money out of wrath
This book challenges us to look behind what we click and also not to fall for provocations. The chapter on wrath looks at trolls and the nasty Incels movement – the misogynist white supremacists who use the internet to rage that they have not been laid by women and act out fantasies on the internet of raping and dominating women.
This is a thought provoking book. There is of course another side of the internet – its virtues in bringing people together, making people aware, revealing the truth about disastrous situations like the current invasion of the Ukraine and allowing ordinary people the freedom to develop their own ideas and publish them without having to get approval from officialdom. The author is promising a sequel- the seven virtues of social media. I await this with interest.
Social Media & The Seven Deadly Sins by Rory Wilmer. Available from Amazon £14.99 hardback, £8.99 paperback and free with Kindle Unlimited
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New book published today reveals child sex scandals dating back to the 1980s and a thwarted Met Police investigation that wasn’t the discredited Operation Midland
An amazing new book today reveals the notorious history of one of London’s iconic block of flats – the 1930s built Dolphin Square overlooking the Thames- home over the last nine decades to the rich and famous, spies, Fascists, entertainers and glitzy film stars and even the unofficial home of the Free French army during World War II.
The authors chronicle the lives of about 300 people who lived there from Oswald and Diana Mosley who were interned in World War Two, the Vassall Russian spy and Profumo sex scandals of the 1960s to murders down to an amazingly discreet character, Major Monty Chidson, who smuggled diamonds out of Amsterdam in a daring do operation during the German invasion of Holland. It kept them out of Nazi hands in the Second World War.
This book has been well covered by the Daily Telegraph magazine and other national media with one extraordinary exception. Not a single word has been written about the groups of men who used Dolphin Square for child sex abuse despite two chapters in the book devoted to their alleged crimes.
I am going to concentrate on these stories because you won’t read them anywhere else – I suspect because both the police and the media have been bruised by the activities of Carl Beech, a paedophile who posed as a survivor and fed elaborate and detailed stories of the rich and powerful abusing children and is now in jail for perverting the course of justice.
The terrible heart rending tale of David Ingle
The first story dates from 1982 is of David Ingle, described as an articulate and handsome youth from Lincolnshire, who was taken to Dolphin Square by a Lincolnshire farmer, Gordon Dawson,, after being repeatedly raped by him.
The authors write “According to David, he suffered abuse in three locales: in Lincolnshire, at Dolphin Square and in guesthouses close to the spectacular Blickling Estate in Norfolk. All the while, David’s life away from Dawson was unravelling. He became withdrawn and his previously high performance at school dipped steeply. His only real peace came in the company of the horses he loved to ride”
Dawson took him to London while on church business where he sub leased a flat in Dolphin Square. He took him to dinner with “important people” from the Church of England and MPs. Later he was taken back to the flat. The authors write: “He does have memories of waking up in the flat the next morning, sometimes hearing the voices of men milling about the apartment. He frequently experienced pain in his body that he knew did not correspond to the physical effects of the rapes that Dawson had perpetrated. In other words, he was assaulted by some person or persons other than (or in addition to) Dawson on these weekends. Unable to recall the specifics of the attacks, he would feel ashamed, stripping the bed of soiled sheets, removing the very evidence of his abuse in his anxiousness that no one should know what had been done to him.”
It took him to 2007 to go to Lincolnshire Police to complain about Dawson. The police told him that he was not the first to complain about him. They went to arrest Dawson but once he knew about David’s complaint he went into the woods and was found dead with a bullet to the head.. An inquest gave an open verdict.
The case was raised again in 2015 under the Met Police’s Operation Fairbank but because he couldn’t name anyone it was dropped. Lincolnshire Police also re-opened their inquiry but could not progress the case further.
“It felt to David as if he would only be listened to if he could come up with the name of a ‘big-hitter’ to investigate, or else he would need to produce a signed confession from one of his abusers, or perhaps a videotape.”
William van Straubenzee
The second story comes from the late David Weeks, Tory leader of Westminster about the role William van Straubenzee, a Tory minister who was solicitor to the Dolphin Square Trust and also a paedophile. Weeks said van Straubenzee was a gatekeeper to getting a flat in Dolphin Square. Straubenzee himself lived in a grace and favour flat in Lambeth Palace. The authors write, using evidence given to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse:
‘In 1982, MI5 received information that suggested that William van Straubenzee engaged in sexual activities with young boys whilst in Northern Ireland [he had been Northern Ireland minister between 1972 and 1974]. This information was shared with the Cabinet Office, who shared it with the Prime Minister (Margaret Thatcher).’ MI5 confirmed that if this intelligence had been received today, under current policy it would be passed to the police.”
The third story is the most dramatic. The authors write:
“Among the most incendiary evidence of wrongdoing at Dolphin Square came in a statement taken from a former police officer identified only as GB. It was entered into evidence only at the end of the last day of hearings in IICSA’s Westminster investigation and the witness did not appear in person to give evidence, nor were they seemingly provided with questions by the inquiry to which GB would have been legally obligated to give answers. The statement adduced in evidence dated from 20 December 2016 and was given as part of Operation Winter Key, the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into allegations of non-recent abuse.”
He revealed another investigation called Operation Mileshogue.
“GB’s statement was wide ranging. It included allusions to surveillance of a London MP who was suspected of hosting young people overnight in his constituency office. But it also included significant detail of police operations concerning Dolphin Square in the 1990s.”
“MH was … an intelligence gathering operation revolved around a guy called [NAME REDACTED] … He had been a rent boy himself, living in Greenwich at that time. He had a series of young boys. One was [WM-A118] another was (WM-A119] and another 5 or 6. Those boys I interviewed on tape several times. suggested that these children were thirteen or fourteen when they were speaking to them but that their abuses had started when they were as young as 8.] “They claimed one another had been abused by other people, were taken to parties and things by [NAME REDACTED] himself he was like a modern day Fagan [sic]. He also had them doing robberies and burglaries but he was also an informant for the police, inform on them and then turn up as their appropriate adult. These were kids all from local Children’s Home”.
GB then referred to the ‘Fagin-figure’, saying: ‘He also mentioned Dolphin Square he had been there as a child himself, been abused.’ GB discussed how they had made requests for additional investigative resources to senior officers but their requests were repeatedly refused or bounced back as it was ‘too difficult to do at this time’ and ‘we weren’t regarded as a priority of the Paedophile Unit at that time, GB said: ‘They didn’t want to know about a mass operation with loads of kids to interview. They didn’t know how to deal with it.’ I asked the child sex abuse inquiry their reaction to this. A spokesman denied the inquiry had not weighed up GB’s evidence and pointed instead to an inquiry by the Independent Office for Police Conduct into GB’s allegations. and evidence from Met Police Commander Catherine Roper about the operation. She gave evidence on a number of child sex abuse investigations in London to the inquiry.
Whatever the disclosures both the inquiry and the book conclude there was never a specific VIP paedophile ring.
But they do say: “it is fair to conclude from a wealth of evidence, powerful individuals who did abuse children in Dolphin Square and who got away with it because of who they were and who they knew: in other words, they abused because they knew they could.”
Scandal at Dolphin Square: A notorious history . History Press £20
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