Flamingo files 2014 style

bird Mary & Dove, Paris 1957

When do we start talking about weather, or even notching the weather? As a teenager I know that I never paid the weather one moment of thoughts, except for rainy days when I would really want to skip school to stay home and read books in bed. I have numerous memories of going out on a winter’s evening  wearing  a feeling light and flimsy blouse or dress. No matter that my teeth might chatter, my skin turn blue and pneumonia would set in by morning, if I had a new outfit without sleeves, and meant for 30C days, and it was 9C outside, I was going to wear it – I had to dress to suit the me I was that night -young and sexy, of course!

I looked in my car’s rear view mirror to see a 1970s model Ford Falcon painted a faded orange colour following me. Inside the orange car was a man, well someone had to drive it, at least for the moment! The man was wearing a faded orange safety vest. All I could think of for the rest of the journey, much of which the orange safety man in his orange vehicle followed me was, why?Does he suffer an anxiety issue, so won’t leave home without all safety elements intact? Has he been involved in one car accident too many (is there ever a suitable number of car accidents to suffer though?) and now wants to warn everyone that he is coming? Does his wife not want surprise returns to home and so makes him wear orange, drive orange? Is he colour blind and thinks he is wearing green? Important need to knows.

The birds around The Village are getting traffic savvy. I noticed a  car approaching a bird pecking in the middle of the road, and when the bird failed to fly away as the car neared I expected a splatter of bird body and feathers to ensure. Nearing the last moment of escape the bird merely moved to the centre road line of the two lane road.

It stepped back to eat its minuscule road meal as I approached. I slowed expecting it to make flight this time, but it merely did the same, stepping to stand on the centre road line as I drew level. Obviously it has learnt it is just a step to the right!

Don’t you think it is a worry though, that our birds have more street smarts than some of our children who have to be escorted across the road after school even as teenagers?

I find my daily road trip a fountain of interest some days. On my way to a doctor’s appointment, I changed lanes on the highway and fell behind a hearse with the words “legend funerals” emblazoned across the back of the car. Legend funerals, doesn’t it just make your imagination race? Visions of Rocky type music blaring as your casket is jettisoned from the rear of the church, paparazzi flashing as your remains roll by. Then I started to wonder about the language itself. Was it really funerals for legends, or was it legendary funerals? Either way I tried not to think of it as an omen as I drove into the car park at my doctor’s office – I am a legend and oh so legendary after all!

 

Australia Day

Today is Australia Day, and I guess I should write something about that.

Today is Australia Day. On Friday night, someone graffitied Captain Cook’s cottage that has been so painstakingly taken apart and transported from its original Yorkshire site in England to the city of Melbourne.  Saturday morning I woke to read a text message from a colleague that referred to Muslims. It linked Australia Day, Muslims, naked Australian women and beer drinking Australian males in a manner that was racist towards Muslims, but also, and perhaps this did not occur to my colleague, beautifully illustrated the “ugly” Australian image that so brings on more than just my cultural cringe.

Cooks' Cottage graffitied

I am not sure what either action means ultimately, but at the very least it shows that there is a lot of anger out there. Australia Day seems to bring that out in our hordes.

Australia Day when I was a child was largely ignored, except for a few communities where, if they had access to a beach, or a creek bank would dress up in replica British uniforms and before 1967 when we started thinking that hey, the indigenous actually do have some rights,  force some unlucky local indigenous to play startled and welcoming conscripts to the British Empire as Governor Phillip claimed the east coast of Australia for King and Country.

For a while after that, during the seventies and the division caused by the Vietnam War, I think we tried to forget Australia Day, except for the holiday part. Don’t ever try to part an Australian from their right to a public holiday. Not if you don’t want your kangaroo tied down, mate!

Then we wrestled the America’s Cup (yachting) from the Americans and somehow there was a gradual revival in the big day.

Every year, we are reminded by actions such as the graffiti that many indigenous people call our national day, a day of mourning, or for mourning. Who could blame them? The wide open country is yours, your culture is flourishing, your civilisation quite sophisticated, and along sails a flotilla of boats stacked with smelly, criminals, the great unwanted of the British elites, and illiterate soldiers to take away your world as you know it.  Disfranchised is the new black.

A couple of years ago, there were race riots, but not between white and indigenous, but with some of our more recently arrived immigrants, the newly disfranchised.  The news showed bare chested Aussie males wearing rubber thongs on tanned feet, Australian flags draped over their shoulders having a stoush with various ethnic groups on a city beach.  Add alcohol as it always is, and violence erupted.

What I remember most is feeling intensely ashamed of who and what, we as a nation are. We brand ourselves as multicultural, one of the “best experiments” in multicultural; as if we could return to “before” if the lab results weren’t favourable .  Or better still, develop one multicoloured pill and accept each other in the morning.

So, this Australia Day, as I wait to watch the evening news to see how it unfolded. I can only hope that this year the ugly Australian will not dominate. This year, I hope that we can progress in accepting each other, tolerating each other, learning about each other, and being a true multicultural nation. Though with Indonesia lining war ships up along their sovereign ocean borders to fend off those refugee boats that we Australians voted to turn back to Indonesia, where they also do not belong, I doubt that much will change.

And my colleague’s email? I would have hoped that they knew me well enough to know that I wouldn’t find that so humorous. Obviously, they don’t, or they didn’t read the hate and the harm in the context.  My action has been to ignore it. No LOLs.  It is a response that ever since has left me feeling less like the good guy. Does my not saying something actually seem like a form of acceptance, or agreement? But then again, if I say something, I could harm a very important work relationship. It is like that story that goes something like, “they came for the village next to mine, and I did nothing, they came for my neighbour and I did nothing, and then they came for me…” Where do I draw my line – for me or the other guy?

Am I nothing but an ugly, or at the very least, a weak, Australian as well?

Up close and personal with the “culture change” genre.

Our House is Not in Paris

I am reading a biography that I really looked forward to starting, after reading a couple of very excited reviews. The book is “Our House is Not in Paris” by Australian, Susan Cutsforth. It follows the tale of Susan and her husband buying a “unique fixer-upper” in the French countryside, while keeping their day jobs in Australia. Susan is a teacher librarian so it added an extra dimension for me, being a TL myself.

Sadly, I have been very disappointed by the book. 77 pages in and I am quite certain that the rapturous reviews can only have been supplied by close friends of the author. It is written with beautiful language, and a smattering of French words in the hope of giving it some French essence, but it is filled with repetition and little story. This is frustrating, I mean just 77 pages and I have lost count of the number of times I as the reader have been informed of the French ritual of a two hour lunch, how most French people are hostile to strangers, but everyone and their dog opened their very sophisticated houses to them, and how she ran around using mime to replace her knowledge of French. What passes for chapters are down to a page and a half of what I would guesstimate as a size 14 font style, and that is irritating the teacher within me. I feel that the short chapters are often repeating what we were told only a chapter page and a half ago, also. The book is 256 pages long so maybe my opinion will improve…

I adore this genre of biography, the “culture change” as I title it, slightly different to the sea change, or the tree change that Mr FD and I have embarked upon, alas not in France, but in our dear Australia. My disappointment and frustration with this particular example led me to lying wide awake last night and analysing the genre of the “culture change” biography, or memoir.

1.The protagonist, usually a woman, buys a rundown house/villa/farm on a whim in a foreign country/or the protagonist returns from a foreign country to buy said house/villa/farm in their homeland.

2. Having too much money and no common sense they do not get a builder’s inspection, even after being told the house stood abandoned for 75 years, and so shortly afterwards discover that they have major structural problems on their hands. Sacre bleu!

3. The real estate agent, who fobbed the ruin on them in the first place, stays in close contact, offering “help” by pointing the way to local tradespeople to assist in resurrecting the ruin. The cynic within of course suspects that a. the agent will be receiving a kick back from the tradespeople, or they are family; and b. they hang on just in case the crazy newbie puts it back on the market and they can get another round of commission selling it again. The newbie declares them wonderful and they get a free plug.

4. Lo and behold, a friendly older couple, though sometimes just an older man, takes the floundering newbie under their/his wing and starts to sort out all manner of problems from plumbing to goats in the garden for the newbie who has just spent an entire chapter informing the reader of all the reasons why they had decided to put it all down to “it was a good idea at the time” and sell the place to return to sanity.

5. This couple, or person, then become a conduit to local antique stores where everything is more than the budget which we are repeatedly told is miniscule, but the proprietor shows the newbie, ( who can’t speak the local language except to ask for wine, and say “yummy” when they are given local delicacies at cafes and restaurants in hidden alleys that only “real” locals frequent, thus signifying that the newbie is accepted by all and sundry), their secret antique horde which they allow newbie to buy at prices way below what they would have paid in the swanky antique stores they frequented “back home”. Thus explaining how farm machinery ends up decorating the walls of their “villa”

6. The newbie either hires, borrows or buys a car with the same sound common sense that they used to purchase their ruin, and then hurtles around narrow mountain roads, barely staying on the road while goats and shepherds head for the cliff edge. Oh what a lark! A car means visits to more antique stores, cheese shops, and vine yards, and a visit or two to exciting arty types who also bought ruins but had the sense to hire an architect and decorator to make it “just darling” for them.

7. About this time, when life is all sunny and they have just got the roof off the house, the first cold snap arrives so that newbie wakes under a layer of frost on her bed, and the antique water heater that she has named Horrid Horace, and needs a kick and a whack to start each day, packs it in. No water, no heat! A day and a half of freezing and wearing three layers follows before one of her new sophisticated friends (did I mention that all locals are given pseudonyms, while the arty, cultured rich and famous that apparently live on every rue or above narrow picturesque alley are named in full, often and with full Debretts’ bio and title? Well, they are).

8. The tradesmen either go slow until they are aware she is about to go bankrupt then finish the house overnight, or down tools until the spring when they return, nail in a coat hook and voilà the house is completed just as her best friend from that oh so now strange previous life arrives to stand in awe at polished wooden floors and the obligatory long wooden trestle kitchen table. Oh the fun!

9. This friend, who just happens to be an editor, suggests the newbie write a book of her trials and tribulations, as well as of the budding romance with a handsome local man who just happens to be either an up and coming artist, writer, or entrepreneur who has banked his millions and now spurns the plebs to bake bread while trading sweet almond oil futures.

10. This leads us to book 2; which will include details of how crazy life was during her book tour for book 1 and how she fell into her rustic pallet bed with its French linens exhausted at the end of a long flight from New York after an appearance on Good Morning America.

And I am a sucker for book 2 every time.

the post that you really MUST read (but only if you want to)

soapbox

Every time I click onto online media, or look at a magazine these days I seem to be confronted by declarations that I “must”, “should”, “need to” read these books, visit these places, eat these foods, look at these pictures, view these videos, before my life comes to an abrupt end and I turn to instant dust.

Also an instant guilt trip. A little like those obnoxious chain letters and now chain emails that declare that all the fires of hell will descend if you don’t pass on to your nearest and dearest within minutes, the must/should/need declarations always leave me feeling the faintest bit anxious that maybe I really am missing out on something when I skip passed them

Lingering doubt, that maybe my life would be complete if I went back and viewed it, read it, pinned it. As if my life needs more anxiety crammed into it!

And who are these so called experts who declare that my life will be incomplete, I will be a social outcast and unable to hold me own at the next dinner party if I don’t do as I am instructed by them?

As a mother I fell into the habit of telling my children what they “should do” until one of my daughters asked me not to say should to her anymore as it stressed her out. She was right. She was grown and no longer needed Mummy telling her how to live her life. I have tried very hard not to “should” (except for Mr FD, who desperately needs my constant direction) ever since.

I have always been one of those who hated people telling me what I “should” do and have always, always pulled against that as hard as I can. So why do it to others?

So I am starting a movement – the LET’S SAY NO TO LISTS THAT DEMAND SHOULD/MUST/NEED. You supply the acronym (not that you need too!) and I will bring the soap box (not because I should)!

tell me why

curious b 1926 costume.

Daughter is in the running to star in the sequel to 27 Dresses as she prepares to be bridesmaid yet again. It is a little difficult as she is on the opposite side of the country to the rest of the wedding party. Today she took delivery of her dress and has found that the side zip won’t close, and it is too big in the bust and shoulder areas, so off to have it altered, if possible.

Why does the tradition of inappropriate dresses continue in weddings? There is always one girl, usually suffering from an eating disorder who wants something slinky and barely there. Often in a bright colour that suits no one too!

Daughter is a tall and slender size 10 (AUS) so it is not like she is difficult to accommodate. As well, the brides are often very sophisticated dressers and yet, when it comes to bridesmaids dresses their dress sense seems to go out the door along with all common sense. We’ve seen it happen several times now.

Is it a plot to sabotage the maids, to ensure the bride feels good about herself on the day? Is it that those with the worst taste have the loudest voices and run over the more polite? We are speaking of women in the early thirties, not teenagers.

It is such a waste to be asked to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on dresses that no one, not even the girls who suggest them, ever wear again. It might be an accepted convention that women get forced to wear outrageous bridesmaids dresses, but what possible justification can a bride have for treating her friends in that manner?

My year of lalalala bliss.

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At one stage there was a plethora of blogs along the theme of my year… my year cooking with Julia Childs, my year not buying anything, my year of being Martha Stewart (obviously not the year she was in jail); my year of following Oprah’s advice. I think you get my drift.

Australia is in an election year, and the idea of doing a year without watching Australian news is becoming a very attractive idea. The tradition for Australian elections is that we all have an idea of when the latest date for the election can be, so we can expect it anytime before that date. It can even be years early if certain conditions prevail, such as when an easily persuaded, alcohol loving, needy Govenor General is involved. So, with a vague idea of when the election will be, one day we wake to the news that the Prime Minister has called on the Govenor General and the government has gone into caretaker mode. The big day is set. On average we have about 6 weeks of media saturated electioneering.

Except this year. This year our Prime Minister has already nominated the date – a Saturday in September, conveniently between a couple of different football grand finals. So instead of a few weeks of torture, this election is streching over months. Perhaps Julia Gillard saw how Obama turned the election around by having a long run at the voters and hopes it will work a miracle for her. We do like to minic the Americans after all. Hence my consideration of a year, well at least several months, without participation in the political discourse.

I have already made up my mind about which team gets my vote, not so much because I think my choice actually deserves my vote, but this time around, more that I detest the idea of a sneaky little two faced bigot being our Prime Minister. I don’t think my vote will stop that happening though, but at least I will have the right to moan about the lttle git when he is elected.

The negativity, the lying, the betrayal of social justice, on both sides is more than my delicate nature can take. Then there is the lack of critical thinking of the great unwashed, who particiapte in their own subjugation.

Not that I want to avoid world news, or what in happening in my local area. I think my choice is to sit on the couch, fingers in my ears, eye shut and lalalalalaling whenever a politician appears on the television screen. Otherwise I might just pop a pooffoo valve and that would not be very lady like for a goddess.

I just wish they would stop playing the politician and discuss the real issues. Not the issues they manipulate for their own agenda, nor the issues the media beats up to fill the 24 hour news cycle, but the issues that mean something to we, the people. Education, health, job … not politican’s expense accounts, or who has done more 3 minute sound bites for the six o’clock news over the last year. I don’t think I will miss seeing them in a variety of yellow safety jackets and hard hards, or white coats and hair nets, or sitting in mining trucks.

Whatever the outcome I know I am going to be disappointed. Long may we debate the behaviour of the politicians, but you know what, we, the people, are the ones who elect them. We send them off to be narrow minded and bipartisan on our behalf. If we enable them to behave like badly behaved children then what more can we expect?

Perhaps not watching, listening or reading about their performances won’t change history, but it will lower my blood pressure and maybe even lengthen my life span. For once ignorance may well be bliss!

disturbing act of persuasion

I am Australian and I struggle to understand why Americans feel the compulsion to hunt each other with guns.

Today I also feel the need to comment on the NRA ad that is currently airing in the USA commenting on the security arrangements for the President’s daughters.

The ad asks why the President’s daughters have armed guards in their school and other children don’t.

Simple.

Does your Dad have a job that makes you a target for every crazy, or fanatic in the world?

Oh and Dear NRA, thanks for making two little girls even more of a target now. Remember how Gabby Gifford complained about the ad showing gun sights over her district and not long afterwards she was shot?

Pathetic and selfish individuals.

time waits for no one

old age 2

Australia has recently introduced plain packaging with very graphic images of the consequences of smoking in an endeavour to dissuade people from smoking. Perhaps we should introduce tours to care facilities for seniors as a deterrent in the same manner for those in the middle age category who refuse to take care of their health.

We received a call that Mum had taken another fall. It is as if her brain and feet no longer work in tandem, and even when we instruct her step by step it is a long and arduous task. I remember our Dad had the same difficulties towards the end of his life. One day he and I ended in quite a tangle when I could neither get him to sit nor stand, as he hovered between until we were rescued by nursing staff.

Nothing can stop the erosion of age, but in many ways my mother is responsible for some of what is happening to her. She was always resistant to going to the doctor for regular check-ups, was frequently difficult about, and in fact could not be trusted to take medication when she required it, and hid the true state of her physical and mental decline from the family. Before her collapse last year her doctor had asked her to return for a follow up and she did nothing about it.

She did tell one of her sisters, but swore her to secrecy  Her sisters are just as resistant to maintaining their health, but if that sister had just phoned one of us, maybe our mother would not have become so ill, collapsed, or had the heart attack that followed. The sister she told has experienced two bouts of cancer; one breast, the other bowel cancer, and so surely she knows the value of medical help. Then again, she refused follow up treatment after surgery for the bowel cancer. It is if they would rather die than trust medical treatment.

A visit to a seniors’ care facility shows not only that the old become invisible and neglected by the government they supported all their lives, but is also a sharp and painful reminder that age comes to everyone, and not always pleasantly. We can’t stop getting older, however we can do a lot about how we age. Keeping our minds occupied, our bodies moving, maintaining relationships with family, friends and the community, assessing support and medical treatment and being honest with yourself and others, in my opinion will go a long way to improving the quality of an old age.

Well may my mother have argued that it was her life and she would do as she wished, but the truth is, her life wasn’t her own. She was dependent on my sister for so many things in the last few years, and was only able to live alone in the family home because of my sister’s diligent care; her sacrifices. Yet so many times my sister’s efforts were met with anger and hurtful words.

No on has the right to expect another person to give up their lives for them. Parenthood is not a reason to expect children to exhaust themselves caring for parents who don’t play fair by doing their best to maintain their own health and independence.

Most children, especially daughters, do the caring though. Year in and year out they worry, and feel guilt because they can never do enough to hold back time. They carry the burden of walking behind and taking care of the details when plans and decisions are neglected until it becomes an emergency. They go home and weep for what has been lost, and for what is approaching.

The cycle of life goes around, but we need to take responsibility and plan to have an old age of quality and one that not only we, but our families may enjoy too. Plan for it now, no matter your age for it comes tapping on the shoulder in the blink of time.

The monk and the Flamingo Dancer

Perth Jan5 2013 101For days Daughter2 and I talked of driving out to New Norcia and touring the historical Benedictine settlement that is situated there. The thought of sighting a monk in his natural habit and habitat was exciting in a strange sort of way.

So two hours drive out of Perth, on a 40C day we started our pilgrimage. Now, I thought that the monks would be as excited that I was coming to visit them, as I was to be viewing them. It appears not. In fact it seems that of the 8 monks still in residence, 6 were away on holiday. Monks on holiday. Geeze, what happened to the old days when you forsake/forsoke?  all others and kept youself only unto the Big Whatever. Home for Christmas! Isn’t that like their busy season?

So I felt a bit jibbed to be told only 2 monks were in residence and they had the Do Not Disturb sign out.

I was so distressed that I made my first stop the New Norcia Hotel, where I partook of a glass of the monk’s finest Chardonnay, and D2 tried the Abbey’s ale. I even ordered a ploughman’s lunch to harden the resolve to face heat, dust and flies on the 90 minute tour.

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The hotel apparently was built in anticipation of Queen Isabella II of Spain coming to visit, but she was rude enough to die before she could make the journey, so the monks turned it over to visitors to use (parents visiting their children at the boarding school) and then to a hotel. I think they were under the impression that Bella would bring some of those Spanish pesetas with her, and so toiled in the heat and dust to make the bricks to make a palace fit for a Queen, and then when she was a no show, and even more so her money, promptly did nothing to maintain the place ever again.

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Leading to the ladies rest room - monk chic.

Leading to the ladies rest room – monk chic.

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Over lunch I started me repartee of monks and little boy jokes (I am a lapsed Catholic, I have every right to use sarcasm and truth against my own religion). D2 was a little worried about how Mama was going to conduct herself on the tour, but I told her as long as I didn’t have a second glass of wine I would manage to keep my mouth closed and inside words, well inside. I did reserve the right to roll my eyes/eye in disbelief though.

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The lunch view - real West Australia and did I mention 40C?

The lunch view – real West Australia and did I mention 40C?

The disbelief came pretty thick and fast, especially when we were told that they converted the Aboriginals over a cup of sweet tea.And apparently it was a mild inconvenience when the Aboriginal Post Mistress and her replacement died in a measles epidemic that killed 85 percent of the indigenous population at New Norcia.

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There was both a boarding school and “orphanage” at New Norcia. The joke is that the orphanage wasn’t filled with orphans at all,  but “indigenous children whose parents sent them for a better education”. Reading between the lines one can only read STOLEN GENERATION. 

I know those letters are really monkish for Do Not Disturb

I know those letters are really monkish for Do Not Disturb

The Monks hang out here

The Monks hang out here, this was taken through the railings of a locked gate.

The race/gender WALL

The race/gender WALL

Better still, there was this big brick wall, or walls, that separated the “European boys” from the “Aboriginal boys”. At one stage the school went co-ed with nuns running the place, so not only were the walls there to separate race but also gender.

New Norcia is known for the bread it makes, and we toured the old flour meal which was shut down due to those pesky work place health and safety laws and the fact that they didn’t have a ready supply of boys to work there instead of being in school. I think by now you all have a pretty strong grip on how I feel about the subject.

By the end of the tour, we had been through three chapels, all very beautifully crafted by the monks, but were not shown any reality. All I could think of was the utter misery that those children must have experienced there. I felt as though every brick was crying.

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Head Monk's tomb

Head Monk’s tomb

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The organ

The organ

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Confessional used by the monks to hear the children’s confessions.

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The dead centre

The dead centre

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On the lighter side, may I mention again that is was 40C and we went on a 90 minute walking tour. I had a water bottle with me, and I tried to be nice and share the dregs with D2 but in the last chapel I barely had the strength nor the will to life my camera. I was ready to cut and run when the guide announced the end of the tour. D2 and I were off like gazelles to our car and down the road to the service station where I bought a lemonade ice block, and orange drink and a bottle of water which I guzzled down while sitting in a cafe that seemed to be filled with the cast off furniture from the monk’s own dining room; except for the pew near the door, which naturally would have come from one of the three churches.

Rogues gallery of monks in the road house cafe. Monk 4th from right was "the bookbinder and the gatekeeper".  The GATEKEEPER!

Rogues gallery of monks in the road house cafe. Monk 4th from right was “the bookbinder and the gatekeeper”. The GATEKEEPER!

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So perhaps it was better that I didn’t come across one of the monk’s because it may have been more than my control could have taken. We also have to face that with only 8 in residence, well 2 and the 6 at the beach, my mere presence may have caused the end of the order, because obviously being monks they aren’t used to a women of my calibre, so by not crossing paths they get to pray another day.

On the drive back to Perth we stopped at a bakery for tea and pastry and my heart jumped for joy, as the deck ceiling sported a water spray system that misted the area every few seconds with a very fine mist that instantly evaporated but managed to cool the area a little. If anyone gets a sainthood it should be the owner of that bakery, bless them. In case you didn’t read my words – it was 40 DEGREES CELCIUS, people. DAMN HOT.

Sometimes the simple things in life are often the best - in this case ceiling water spray system

Sometimes the simple things in life are often the best – in this case ceiling water spray system