Monthly Archives: September 2012

Black Knight

Black Knight

Copyright © Robert L J Borg 2012

 

A small dust cloud forms as the horse’s hoof paws the ground in anxiousness; its rider sits rigidly in his saddle patiently awaiting his page to pass up a shield and lance. The sun glints on the immaculately polished armour; a blinding light in the eyes of the knight’s opponent. The latter sits equally still on the opposite side of the field; his armour painted black; his visor closed revealing nothing. A small slit for a pair of eyes not seen in the gloom within; calculating eyes, which if could be seen, reveal no emotion: no love nor hate, just an unsettling coldness to make one shiver for no explained reason.

The crowd holds its breath in anticipation. Murmurs only in mere whispers may have filtered in the air; no more sound than a butterfly’s wing fluttering in the early morning amongst snowdrops on a meadow.

Shields in place on each of the knights’ arms and lances firmly held they await their monarch’s pleasure. The drop of a piece of pure white silk cloth lightly falls and the lances are lowered to a horizontal position. The crowd erupts into a raucous chorus of supportive cheering for their chosen favourite, as the men on horseback charge at each other in the early morning heat. Within seconds they meet in the middle of the field; the impact of lances against metal, a thunderous noise as wood shatters. The men rock in their saddles; horses neigh in protest, but both survive for a second charge. Quickly furnished with a new lance, they turn as one and ride with fury as their guide.

The ground is churned once more and dust clouds their vision. Again their marks are found, this time with more success as the black knight deposes his opponent from the saddle. The unfortunate individual unceremoniously crashes heavily onto the dirt; his polished armour no more looks radiant. With difficulty the man crawls to his feet; the heavy armour weighing his progress.

As the black knight thunders towards him mace in hand, his opponent barely has time to raise his shield in defence. The crowd is beside itself; cries of anguish, cries of joy, as man, beast and weapons do battle. A final almighty swing of the mace destroys the defender’s shield; the man staggers backwards, but does not fall. Clumsily he draws his sword as the black knight remarkably dismounts with apparent lack of effort. Sword, dark as death itself, is drawn from its scabbard as its wielder strides purposely towards his opponent. The blade raised in the position of the falcon is lowered quickly and efficiently in a downward swing before the silver knight has time to anticipate. Metal, razor-sharp and powerfully handled, slices through at the nape of the neck drawing blood and dealing death in one swift blow.

The crowd is instantly silenced; their breath held for a further time. Their monarch stands, a satisfied grin indicates approval. Those for the black knight cheer the victory; for others the celebrations will be limited to a burial service.

Immediately the ground is cleared of debris and corpse. The black knight, now remounted, patiently awaits the next challenger.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Saint-Paul de Vence – Côte d’Azur : Travel Log 9

One of the nicest things in this part of our delightful world is the numerous medieval fortified towns which are dotted about, usually perched high on the hill tops of the Southern Alps. Saint-Paul de Vence is one such place.

We travelled east from Golfe-Juan on the main road to Nice (Route Nationale 6007) until we arrived at Cagnes-sur-Mer following the signs for St. Paul taking us inland along the Avenue des Alpes (D336). On arrival access into the town is barred to unauthorized traffic, but there are several car parks available on the outskirts.

As you approach the walled town you are confronted with a large area of compounded earth making up a terrace for petang players. This is edged by a large café on one side and a road on the other.

You enter the town through an archway and are delightfully confronted with a network of tiny laneways and passages whose pathways and steps are all cobblestoned. Its numerous shops, boutiques and galleries are a tourists’ heaven, and you find yourself uncontrollably photographing almost everything in sight. On occasions you may also come across one or two artists capturing some aspect of the town on his canvas using rich oils or subtle water colours.

   

As we walked passed the Atelier Galerie D’Art I found myself drawn by a spectacular life-like oil painting of a couple of racing sailing yachts. Stepping into the gallery all the paintings facing me were absolutely breathtaking. The richness of the colours and subjects were wonderful. The artist, Michel Degav, was on hand to talk about his works and as much as I would have loved to have purchased the painting which had captured me, the 850€ price tag made me settle for a signed print* copy of the same, even though Michel had offered to sell me the painting for 150€ less. I told him I may consider it at some later date – perhaps when I manage to sell enough copies of my novels. His website is http://www.degav.com or should you ever visit Saint-Paul des Vence make sure to call into his gallery.

* The print is a limited edition # 9 of 25. I’ve had it framed [by In The Picture located in Hornsby, NSW – they always do a great job] and is now on the wall in the study.

From the gallery we carried on with our slow walk up to the summit of the town where the Mairie (Town Hall) was no more than a doll’s house of Lilliput proportions across the street from the church with its impressive bell tower. Inside, the church was dark despite the large stained glass windows behind and above the altar and one felt compelled to kneel at a pew and offer a small prayer.

 

On the south side of the town a small cemetery and the chapel of Saint Michel overlook some spectacular views over the countryside. From here we walked in a westerly direction around the perimeter of the town and at one point we could see the Bay of Angels in the distance; the glittering sea beckoning us to return home.

There’s not much more that can be said about this town as words cannot really do it justice; seeing it with one’s own eyes is the best way to appreciate this beautiful little ancient settlement.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Golfe-Juan – Côte d’Azur : Travel Log 8

Situated on the Côte d’Azur and tucked in between the towns of Juan-les-Pins and Cannes lies the small town of Golfe-Juan which is located 25 kilometres east of Nice airport. From the airport take the number 250 bus, which is an express service stopping only at Antibes and Juan-les-Pins before arriving at Golfe-Juan. The fare is a mere 8€.

You can also get to the town by train and of course by car either using the Auto-routes (A6, A7 and A8) or the National routes 6007 and 6098 (previously the 7 and 98) depending from which direction you are arriving from.

Accommodation varies from rental apartments to hotels depending on your preference; there are several available in Golfe-Juan and in nearby Vallauris. Please see the following website link for assistance: http://www.vallauris-golfe-juan.fr/-Hebergement-.html

Golfe-Juan started life as a small fishing village and only came of note on Wednesday 1st March 1815 when, having escaped the island of Elba in a flotilla of seven ships loaded with around 100 horses, arms and a few cannon, Napoleon Bonaparte together with some 1,100 loyal soldiers, landed at this insignificant piece of French soil. Once on the shore he gave a solemn speech to his followers and local fishermen. From here began his march to Paris, which although had been wrought with difficulties and setbacks, due to the loyalty of his officers and his exceptional strategies, these were overcome resulting in his successful re-entry into the capital on 20th March 1815.

 

A re-enactment of the Napoleon landing in full period costume takes place annually on the 5th March at the old port at Golfe-Juan. From there ‘Napoleon’ on horseback followed by his soldiers march along the ‘Route Napoleon’ all the way to the town of Grasse. The latter is re-known today for the creation of essences for the perfume industry.

Only after Napoleon’s landing did Golfe-Juan begin to flourish. In 1862 the first train arrived at the railway station at Golfe-Juan linking it to Cannes and the rest of France. Small industries started to become attracted into the area mostly pottery and ceramics.

In 1896 saw the construction of a port, which is known today as Quai Saint Pierre. Almost one hundred years later, in 1989, the Port Camille Rayon was constructed together with the creation of the Plage Du Midi, and in between the two is an open air theatre, the Théâtre de la Mer.

  New Port

Today Golfe-Juan is a thriving port and holiday destination to foreigners and French alike.

At the Port Camille Rayon and all along the Avenue des Frères Roustand is dotted with numerous cafés and restaurants catering for all tastes – including traditional French, Vietnamese, Italian, and Lebanese. I can personally recommend La Stella di Gigi and La Fourmigue;both have exceptional cuisine, great service and are reasonably priced. And for entertainment why not join some of the British ex-pats for quiz night from 7pm on Wednesdays at the Rio’s Banana Café and at the same time enjoy a cool refreshing drink.

La Stella  La Fournigue

During the first week of July is La fête de la Saint-Pierre, who is the patron saint of fishermen and of Golfe-Juan. At this time the local fishermen offer to all residents of the town a banquet of grilled sardines and wine. Tables are placed along the entire quay and music is provided by local musicians.

For me Golfe-Juan is a home from home as my mother and elder sister reside here so, when I can (usually every two years) I journey from Sydney to spend some time with them, and to catch up with the many friends I have made at the Rio’s Banana Café and the Hôtel le Provence.

Rio Banana Cafe & Bar  Hotel La Provence

RLB – Tomewriter

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Île Sainte-Marguerite – Côte d’Azur : Travel Log 7

From the Quai Saint Pierre, Golfe-Juan, catch a Riviera Lines ferry to the island of Sainte-Marguerite at a cost of 16.50€ for a return ticket. There are several departure times from each destination but these vary throughout the year. Check the following website link for specific times: http://www.riviera-lines.com/1/2/7/ile_sainte_marguerite_.html

The cruise to the island is extremely pleasant and starts via Juan-Les-Pins and then it’s a forty minute trip on one of their comfortable boats. The one we caught yesterday was named the Azuréene which was built in 1971 and holds up to 166 passengers. It has a mix of indoor and outdoor seating to satisfy all.

The boat powers along at a fair speed with the coastlines of Golfe-Juan, Cannes Californie, and Cannes on its starboard side. The views of the many apartment blocks and spectacular houses take your breath away.

Quay at Juan-Les-Pins

On the approach of the island you feel as though you are stepping back into history as the Fort Royal looms into view. It stands at the top of a sheer cliff face; at its base the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean lap idly against the rock walls. The boat’s skipper advises passengers of the legend of the man in the iron mask and points out the cell window appertaining to the unfortunate individual.

Fort Royale

Upon docking at the designated quay you disembark and make your way to one of the many sites available. Having taken the boat from Golfe-Juan at 10am we arrived at 11am (there was a slight delay leaving Golfe-Juan as a large yacht was trying to exit the port before us). As the museum on the island closes at noon we opted to view it before lunch. Walking amongst the ruins of the ramparts the views of the Esterel Mountains of south-east France in the distance behind the city of Cannes and beyond are magnificent. The entry into the Museum of the Sea is 6€ for an adult. To the left of the main entrance are several prison cells as well as the figurehead of an ancient Italian merchant vessel. To the right of the main entrance is the actual museum which features items recovered from ancient Roman and Saracen shipwrecks, and contains artifacts, such as floor mosaics and pottery suggesting the island was once occupied by the Romans.

 

There are two restaurants on the island and a couple of kiosks for snacks. The restaurant La Guerite is accessible by some numerous steep uneven steps which are located on the left hand side of the fort looking at it from the sea. It has a beautiful ambiance and is very secluded. The staff are well dressed in uniforms of the matelot style: striped shirts and white pants. The site also boasts a private beach where for 20€ per day you can hire a sun-lounger and a towel. The menu is quite varied and prices are slightly on the high side, but keeps with the prestigious feel of the location. The L’Escale restaurant is to be found near the quay and is far easier to access. The food here is excellent but more reasonably priced. I would recommend either the grilled sardines or the moules marinières (mussels in a creamy onion broth), and as dessert the café gourmand.

Restaurant

After lunch why not walk off the meal with a small trek around the island or at least part of it – depending on how much time you have before the ferries stop running (the last ferry leaves the island at 6pm). There is a wonderful nature reserve with lagoon and countless migratory water birds. Alternatively sit by the water’s edge and admire the beautiful vista of Cannes in the distance or go for a swim.

When the day is over unwind on yet another relaxing cruise returning once again to Golfe-Juan or Juan-les-Pins aboard the ferry.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Cannes – Côte d’Azur : Travel Log 6

From Golfe Juan take the number 200 bus at the Square Nabonnand; it will cost one Euro for the trip into Cannes. Ensure you get off at the top of Rue Meynadier just as the bus enters it from the Place du 18 Juin.

If you are travelling in on a Sunday note the buses run 30 minutes apart on the hour and half hour. Also most shops in Cannes are closed and only a few gift shops, cafés and restaurants are open. However, on Saturday’s and Sunday’s there is a craft market at the Allées de la Liberté which runs from early morning to early afternoon.

Cannes Market

During the week most shops are open and for shop-a-holics the Rue D’Antibes is a ‘must’ as is a healthy bank balance and credit card.

Caveau 30 is a restaurant located at 45 Rue Félix Fauré, and their menu and service is excellent. Their Menu à 25.50 € is exceptional and comprehensive with a vast choice of Entrée, main course, and dessert. You can also opt out to have a 2 course menu of either entrée and main, or main and dessert for 17.50 €. Note this offer is not available on Sundays and bank holidays.

Cannes is a town re-known for its prestigious hotels such as the Carlton, Martinez, and the Grand all of which have their own private beaches. Also for its apartment blocks, superb restaurants, excellent beaches and numerous year-long festivals, congress meetings and musical performances. Visit the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès de Cannes website for up to date details of events:   http://en.palaisdesfestivals.com

For the sightseers, a visit to the Suquet historical district is a worthwhile trip. It is quite a steep climb up the Rue du Mont Chevalier beginning from the Place Bernard Cornut Gentille near the police station. At the summit visit the Musée de la Castre and the church of Notre-Dame de L’Esperance. The view from here is spectacular. Nearby is a memorial to the heroics of the resistance fighters during World War II.

Cannes - view from Suquet  Memorial to Resistence

Descending from the Suquet using the back streets you come out at the Boulevard Jean Herbert and the Plages du Midi. The Italian Caffé has a cozy ambiance and a traditional Italian menu. I can highly recommend the Salade du Chef.

Nearby there are ferries available to take you to the islands of Saint-Honorat and Sainte-Marguerite. The latter was made famous by the legend of the man in the iron mask being held at the fort – now a museum.

Gamblers will be delighted to know there are three casinos in the town. The Casino Croisette is located at the old port (Vieux Port) next door to the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. The second one is to be found on the eastern end of the town at Palm Beach close to the yacht club. The third, Le Prince, is located at the hotel Raddison at the Croisette.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Promises

Those of you who are aware, I am in the south of France at the moment – at least until the end of the month. I am visiting my elder sister and our old mum who will be 88 years old next January. My mum is also slowly losing her sight due to macular degeneration – pretty sad as her passion was reading, playing bridge and beating me at scrabble. As I have also mentioned in a previous blog, she is also a published author in her own right.

In 2002 she wrote a second book which never got published and has been sitting in a drawer all this time. I am currently reading the manuscript and it is a pretty good story (I’m not just saying so, because of any bias). I have therefore promised her that I will re-edit and re-format it for publication through Smashwords as an e-book asap. This means I will be putting my own second novel, The Sword and the Rose, on hold until I can finish with her book – A Tangled Web.

I have created a new page for this book and have added the story synopsis for your perusal. As soon as I return to Australia I will seriously start working on it, and ask Judy Bullard to create a cover for the book to do it justice.

Mum has also made me promise to re-write her first book When the Wind Blows under a new title using the characters’ real names rather than the fictitious ones she originally used. Afterall, the story she told was her true story, so why not tell it as it was. This re-write however may have to wait a while, though not too long I hope.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Round Robin 41 – An Alternate History: Fiesta Time

Fiesta Time

(An Alternate History)

 Copyright (c) Robert L J Borg 2011

Miguel loved Fiesta Time. The sounds from hundreds; no, thousands of people laughing, singing, talking all at once, filled his ears. Also from the raucous music heard from all the various musical groups which were scattered around the City. Some statically placed in cafes and bars, others moving around from street to street. He loved the colourful floats each representing a certain theme from their past – each theme representing a specific historical event per hundred years to their present day. Also around the City, buildings were adorned with banners, flags and flowers – a mix of yellow and red to honour the glory of their country’s greatest achievements. These were achievements which made their country the best, strongest and most dominant in the entire world. This Fiesta was one of many throughout the year. There were always the religious Fiesta’s which celebrated the patron saints of each of the City’s numerous suburbs. There was, for instance the Carnaval held forty days before Easter in Aguilas, which was reputed of being the wildest in the country after Tenerife and Cadiz. Holy Week the lead up to Easter and Easter Sunday itself were celebrated as enthusiastically. And the Fiesta for Christmas, which perhaps was the most joyful of all. At a time when winter usually dampens everyone’s spirits because of the cold, miserable weather, the Fiesta which reminds the people of the birth of Jesus Christ brings warmth into their hearts and homes. Today however the celebration of Peace on Earth day is being held in every major City throughout Spain and its Dominions throughout the World.

Of course Miguel, like most of his countrymen (and women) knew the histories by heart. It had been drummed into them at school; and reminders of their greatness was scattered throughout all Dominions in the form of posters and monuments. In all fairness, Miguel preferred simplicity of life. For him politics was for other people, some of his own children counted amongst those. For Miguel his preference was the land. He liked being a farmer. He adored tending his fields and caring for his animals. He was blessed with a wife who loved life; was caring, house-proud, and the most wonderful of mothers anyone could possibly ask for. They had, had five children during their life together as husband and wife. He was extremely proud for all of them, and grateful to God that each of them had made his or her mark in the annuals of their country’s greatness.

Miguel and his wife stood on their favourite street corner to watch the colourful floats drive past. The first showed the most recent achievement celebrating the first half-century of the colonisation of the Moon. People had been living there for thirty years now. The previous twenty years being taken up in exploration and construction of the settlement under a dome of transparent aluminium.

No sooner had the first float passed that the second appeared celebrating the 20th century. Although there had been a great deal of unrest, with many provinces wanting independence, as there had been in the previous century, the strength of government,  which had been moulded over time, secured that peace should prevail. And one by one the disharmony amongst those rebellious Peoples soon subsided once their leaders had been publicly executed. A lesson learnt from their Gallic neighbours.

The third float represented the 19th Century. An era where conflict was prominent in the Americas and Caribbean islands; so the float was multi-coloured with a vast array of wild and exotic flowers and Peoples from those lands. The revolutions in the provinces of Bolivia, Cuba, Venezuela and New Granada were easily crushed. It was not surprising as Spanish naval and military forces had dominated world powers for centuries.

The 17th and 18th Centuries were, as always, combined on one float. This was due to the two hundred years of uninterrupted peace. It was a time of exploration, colonisation and trade. It was an era of immense acquisition of wealth which stretched the globe from the silver mines of the Americas, to the trade with the Chin people in the east by the renowned merchant mariners from the province of Portugal, to the discovery of a large southern continent named after the celestial constellation – Terra Australis.

The loudest cheer of all accompanied the fifth float. It celebrated the Golden Age of Spain. It reminded everyone throughout the world why the Spanish Empire prevailed over all other nations. At a time when the heretics in northern Europe, particularly in England, were trying to detach themselves from the Holy Father in Rome, Spain was to remind them how to behave before the eyes of God. The Enterprise of England sailed on 28th May 1588. 151 vessels made their way to Gravelines in Flanders to rendezvous with the Duke of Parma’s army of 30,000 men. The English attempt to disrupt this by loosing fire ships on them failed, when a change of tide and wind sent the fire ships back out to sea, destroying the enemy’s ships. Without a navy England was lost. Spanish troops successfully landed on English shores and within days all resistance was utterly destroyed. Their heretic queen and supporters who would not swear allegiance to Spain were quickly dispatched by axe or hangman’s noose. It was an event which ensured Spanish dominance forever.

The last floats all captured more exciting periods in history. The discovery of America, the conquests of the Aztec nations, and the conquering of Valencia by El Cid, were all magnificent.

By the end of the day both Miguel and his wife were in high spirits. They had enjoyed the atmosphere of happiness and joy. They had eaten the food and drunk the wine they had brought with them, and now they were looking forward to returning to their little farm. Both remarked it had been the best Fiesta time ever.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Nice, Côte d’Azur – Travel Log 5

Rather than driving all the way into Nice, we left the car at CAP3000 which is a huge shopping centre just outside Nice, near the airport. The parking here being free was a bonus. We then took the number 52 bus at the reasonable cost of just one euro for the trip into Nice. We descended on the Promenade des Anglais which runs the entire length of the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels) and walked leisurely until we found a café which took our fancy. Here we sat enjoying a coffee overlooking the Mediterranean.

Promenade des Anglais, Nice

 

 

 

We continued our slow walk into the heart of the city, passing numerous boutiques, restaurants, and gift shops in tiny laneways which eventually spilled out onto the Place Massena. The latter was a massive square edged by high impressive buildings and traversed by tram lines. At the far end of the square a formidable fountain adorned with spectacular statues of people and animals surrounded the base of an impressive monument of King Neptune.

 

Neptune's Fountain, NicePlace Messena

We descended some steps behind the fountain and found ourselves walking along a narrow street which exited at the Palace of Justice. This too was an impressive building. Walking further along we found ourselves at the fruit and flower market where the freshness and abundance of the various traders’ products was a delight to see, smell and sample. As it was now midday it seemed only apt that we should find a suitable establishment to feed and refresh ourselves. We chose a pizzeria, Gustoso in the Place Charles Felix on the Cours Saleya, which was at the top end of the market, and sat down to a glass of Rosé and a pizza each.

Flower & Fruit Market, NiceMarket - Nice

Having well eaten we continued our slow walk back along the Promenade des Anglais until we once again found ourselves at our starting point. Here we caught a number 52 bus back to CAP3000 and our car for the return home.

It was a long and wonderful day; however to fully appreciate it one would need to spend a few days at least to see all the sights this city has to offer.

The only down side which could be critical of Nice is its proximity to the airport as the flight path of landing aircraft takes the planes low over the city and beaches; and the latter being of pebbles rather than sand.

RLB – Tomewriter

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The Orange Tree, Totteridge, London – Travel Log 4

How times change? What ever happened to the good old-fashioned English pub? Now say “Hello” to the Gastropub – why not just call it a restaurant and be done with it!

My friends and I have known “The Orange Tree” in Totteridge located in North London since we were legally able to drink – some 40 years ago, so it seemed apt that on a visit to London last weekend [Friday 7th September, 2012] I should organise a reunion with my friends at this location. As my younger sister lives near by I asked her to make a reservation of a table for 12. She was told in no uncertain terms that reservations of tables could only be made for dinner guests; and as my friends would be arriving at different times as some were coming in from great distances outside London, giving an actual time was impossible. The alternative was to sit outside in the garden. Thank goodness it wasn’t raining; but due to a moonless night it was pretty dark after sunset. Despite several lanterns being lit, one still needed a miner’s lamp to read the menu – fortunately some had torches built into their mobile phones so we could at least see!!

Despite the lack of illumination [and heaters – it was quite chilly due to the cloudless sky] we had, had a wonderful evening catching up on old times and new.

On a positive note the food and drink was good and reasonably priced. The staff however were rushed off their feet as the place was quite packed and they were obviously understaffed for such a popular venue.

I would highly recommend you to arrive early or book a table so as not to be disappointed. Fortunately we did arrive early [7pm] so were able to grab a couple of tables outside in the garden and hog them until all friends had arrived. It was a fantastic night.

Thanks to all my friends who turned up. Tony, we missed you, but hope you had a great weekend with your sons at Monza.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Egypt from 40,000 feet

On an Emirates A340 from Dubai to Nice in the early hours of yesterday seeing Egypt from the air was incredible. Viewing from a tiny porthole window in the door at the back of the plane though tricky was worth it. Flying over the ruggedness of the Sinai Peninsular as it approached the Red Sea – a deep blue (why is it called “Red”). Moments later the town of Suez came into view; it’s size was bigger than I had expected. The desert soon gave way to vegetation and the grey/green of fields on the banks of the life-giving Nile. Cairo was massive. The city sprawled for miles around; regrettably I was unable to spot the pyramids, although one of the air hostesses had a great view of them from the cockpit – shame the pilot didn’t think of switching on the nose cone camera to treat us all of this rare and wonderful vista? I was delighted to see Alexandria (the city of my birth) come into view; the Mediterranean lapping at it’s coastline. The Nile estuary wide and green; the blueness of the sea welcoming the Nile waters into it’s mass, absorbing it to become one with itself. To me it was a magical moment and one which I will cherish.

RLB – Tomewriter

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