Update and Comments: 14 April 2019

I loathe making excuses for not having done what I intended to do, but the past few weeks have been extremely challenging to say the least!

Just to start with the challenges, suffice to say that I had never dreamt that having a German Shepherd (highly pedigreed, may I add!) puppy, who is technically an only child, could take such gigantic chunks out of my always hectic day! It is 13 years since we last had a pup, and then there was an adult dog in the home who was there to shoulder the stresses and strains of nipping bad behaviour in the bud as well as providing playmate time. Now, muggins (aka myself) has been nominated playmate of the year (no bunny ears and skimpy outfit involved, by the way!).

It is taking up so much of my time, but what can one do when there is a constant bumping against one’s legs and the toy in the aforesaid pup’s mouth is there for playing throw and fetch or tug-a-war!  To look at her you would imagine she is full size, but actually will possibly almost double in the next year but already her bossy attitude is fully developed!  Then there are the Saturday morning training sessions – but the less said about them and the stress that dear Kelly causes, is best left alone right now!

We have had some incredibly harsh rain storms in the past week and, waiting for an insurance claim to be finalised, the roof still leaks. Buckets and towels up in the roof as well as strategically placed in the lounge all add to loss of working time! However, with a reputable handy man involved, all should be sorted out in the next week or so!

I am planning on giving a rundown on the day spent waiting on a wooden bench along with dozens of fellow countrymen and women waiting to renew my driver’s licence, but that is a story in itself. However, it compounded my situation of recently wasted time.

Every cloud has a silver lining, and as my update is so overdue, I am glad to have received the following heart-warming piece of information in time for me to include it today. I have mentioned that my husband and I owned and ran an Irish themed pub and restaurant several years ago and I was responsible for, among other things, hiring and training our staff of waiters. After several months of operation, we realised that our Black male staff were often the most reliable and dedicated, provided that they had the right attitude towards their job.  Due to certain criminal elements outside our control (namely a corrupt landlord as well as a crooked lawyer) we only ran the business for 5 years (during which time we had an excellent reputation for all round great quality. More to come in future regarding our experiences during those years.

To continue, yesterday our eldest son was staying at the Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg, one of the top hotels in the country, when a waiter approached him to ask if he was our son. He then said that it was due to the training which I had given him all those years ago which had enabled him to be working where he is today. Apparently he is very happy at his current place of work, and he said that he tells everyone that it was due to my emphasis on customer care, cleanliness in all areas of the job as well as the way he was always treated that has been the reason for him having improved his status over the years. I cannot tell you what a fantastic gift this has proved to be at a time when positive recognition can be a rare commodity.

This isn’t the first time that something like this has happened, as another of our very young waiter’s was spotted by a customer due to the quality of his service, and offered an office job. When he asked us whether he should take up the offer, we wholeheartedly encouraged him to do so, even though it meant us losing a valuable member of our staff. Imagine my delight when he connected with me via Facebook and also thanked us for our support all those years ago. He is now in a very senior position in a large government organisation and has children of his own. Feedback such as these make all the hard work and struggles one has to go through worthwhile when others absorb the knowledge which you are prepared to share, in order to help them grow. Information and experience is worth nothing at all if not shared.

Here’s facing another rather hectic week with Easter holidays in sight, so another post should be in the pipeline very soon! I am busy formulating training modules regarding direct selling, and later on there will be posts relating to the running of a popular restaurant. So in the meantime. Please continue to enjoy your ride on the Magic Roundabout.

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Homophobia

Just a while ago I heard on a news report that in Tanzania (as in many other parts of Africa), it is a criminal offence to be openly gay. This on a continent where those who have fat cat bank balances (often through foul means rather than fair)  tend to be ardent fans of designer clothes, accessories and top of the range motor vehicles. Perhaps those who advocate homophobia and wish to punish same sex couples should take the time to think about those items which they love to flout. It is a fact that many artists and designers are gay. It would appear that there is a strong correlation between right brain activity and, therefore, creativity, and homosexuality. Therefore, if you are obsessed with heterosexuality and are negatively disposed towards gays, lesbians, and transgender people, you should avoid purchasing anything which comes from the creative genius of someone who may fit into one of the aforementioned categories. Something to ponder perhaps.

What is it about being gay that offends homophobes? Is it perhaps that psychologically they are projecting their own unexpressed personal tendency to homosexuality onto those who are living a gay life? How on earth, in the age in which we are living, can people be prevented from being honest about who they are and who they wish to have as their partner? This is not about molestation, paedophilia or any of the other totally unacceptable behaviours which are just too prevalent in the world, but rather about freedom to be who you were meant to be.

 

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All foetuses begin life as female – hence the fact that both males and females have nipples. The gender of the foetus is only determined around six to eight weeks after conception. If the amount of male hormones called androgens which are needed to ensure that the developing foetus becomes a boy are out of sync, then the result could be a male child with a brain which is more feminine than masculine- a little boy who would become more and more gay in his behaviour as he reached puberty.  Another scenario is possibly a boy being born with a fully functioning female brain but having male genitalia. This child could become transgender –growing up always feeling that he is trapped in the wrong body. These are the people who often try to have the necessary, albeit radical, surgery in order to function more fully as their preferred gender. This subject is one which has been discussed and documented by many experts in the field of not only psychology, but physiology and no doubt gay rights organizations as well, so let me not gravitate too much away from the initial reason for this post.

Once people understand that homosexuality and same sex preference in choosing a partner possibly occurred in the womb, and is not a matter of choice, then surely there should be a total turn around in attitude towards homosexuality and transgenderism regardless of the country in which people happen to live? One can argue for hours about nature or nurture being the cause of someone being gay, but the fact of the matter is that many gay individuals were possibly the result of the incorrect amount of hormones at the time when the sex was being determined in the womb.

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An absolute travesty is that in Tanzania, and many other countries in Africa, as well as other parts of the globe including China, being gay is considered a crime. It seems crazy that, in ancient Greece, it was considered the norm for wealthy Greek men to have sex with good looking young men.  No-one was jailed for homosexual acts in those days! Religious beliefs have been instrumental in creating many evils in the world, as well as barbaric events, but it is unthinkable that people are being encouraged to report anyone suspected of being gay (in Tanzania) with the result that those being reported face being incarcerated. If one considers that being gay and living one’s life without interfering negatively with the well-being of other people then it just doesn’t make any sense to treat gay people as criminals. It is a fact that in many of the areas in Africa, where being gay is a crime, these same countries still advocate female circumcision. Potentially permanently damaging female bodies in the name of tradition surely constitutes a crime against humanity whereas being gay and choosing a partner of the same sex cannot in any thinking person’s mind be deemed to be a crime. Something just does not gel.

The more one ponders the many ridiculous laws as well as outdated, and more specifically, inhumane practices in many quarters of our complicated and diverse planet, the less one can understand the human race! As I mentioned above, there are little girls still being forced to undergo female genital mutilation in many non-Western countries. In years to come many of these girls become incontinent after giving birth due to the damage done when they were circumcised.  As these circumcisions are not being performed under hygienic hospital conditions, children can bleed to death during the process. There are lobbyists trying to have this barbaric practice outlawed, but it is no mean feat to change tradition especially when the mothers of these girls are in favour of the practice.

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As the saying goes: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change! Many countries on the African continent have no desire to change and that is why it is so unsettling to realise that one takes freedom of choice very much for granted. Thus the reason to be concerned when one considers those children born into oppressive, backward thinking societies who are very unlikely to ever be in a position to live their lives free of all the prohibitions which their forebears have accepted unquestioningly for centuries. So much to think about and to celebrate if you are someone who is free to make choices as long as those choices do not harm another individual.

“It is not for me to judge another person’s life. I must judge,
I must choose, I must spurn purely for myself alone
.” – Herman Hesse 

The Armchair Travelogue

Interesting places to visit.

It is a fact that if one is able to travel to other countries outside one’s own, the experiences gained  and the memories made often shape one’s attitude to the world at large. Depending on where one lives permanently it may be a stone’s throw to visit neighbouring countries at a fairly reasonable cost.  For others it could be that travelling overseas is a once in a lifetime occurrence and much planning may be needed to get the most out of the trip.

My plan for this segment of the blog is to whet the appetite of those fortunate enough to plan their next holiday or sightseeing trip as well as to entertain those  who are too busy to travel or who through their circumstances are avid armchair travellers. I sincerely hope that over the next few months you will find something of interest in at least one or two of the articles I plan to post. It could even be that you are tempted  to visit some of the places which I will be writing about in the future.

Ivrea – Northern Italy

The industrial city of Ivrea, the headquarters of Olivetti, known world-wide for being innovators in the past of typewriters, and later computers, situated in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, was declared a world heritage site in 2018. This came about due to the successful and unique design  of the area in order to develop the testing ground for the headquarters of Olivetti (incorporating the factory as well as accommodation) by leading urban planners between the 1930’s and 1960’s,to create a modern version of the relationship between industrial production and architecture.

Having once been fortunate enough to have lived in Ivrea, for several months, I remember how I faced the prospect of the move with a great deal of trepidation. I had a two year old child, and had visions of doing the daily washing down at a local stream with a load of unsophisticated local women. Oh boy, how wrong can one be – thankfully! All the mod cons were available and the furnished apartment we rented had a washing machine!! The local people were anything but unsophisticated and my husband and I both had Italian lessons with a lady from whom we learnt not only to speak the language, but also to appreciate some of the culinary delights.

Such an absolute privilege, looking back, to have had the many experiences we had during our sojourn in Ivrea, and later in Milano. Our time in Ivrea actually coincided with the traditional Carnevale d’Ivrea and the battle of the oranges, which takes place annually shortly before Lent. The only year it was cancelled was in 1960 due to the death of Adriano Olivetti. Watching the following video confirms that many traditions have stood the test of time and will no doubt continue to do so.

Firstly, a short description of the town of Ivrea. Steeped in history, there are still cobbled streets in some areas which are juxtaposed with modern shops and restaurants – old and new side by side.  Situated at the edge of the Aosta valley, Ivrea has the Alps on one side which, during winter months, are capped with snow. Close to ski resorts such as the town of Cervinia, which is located at the foot of Mt. Cervino (known world-wide as the Matterhorn) and a relatively short train journey to the Swiss border, it makes good sense for tourists to take the time to discover this mediaeval treasure.

If one is able to visit Ivrea at the time of the annual Carnival then it really is an amazing experience to be part of the festivities of the Battle of the Oranges. Dating back to around 1808 this battle commemorates the time when in medieval times  Violetta, the miller’s daughter, refused to be bedded by the local Duke who took it upon himself to sleep with all newly married women. She actually cut off his head, and the oranges which are thrown in their thousands during the battle are meant to depict his severed head. The teams of revellers are all dressed in ancient costumes and the ones on the horse drawn carts wear helmets whilst those on foot do not have this protection.

As visitors to this spectacle you are advised to purchase and wear a red hat which resembles an elf’s hat, as this is meant to protect you from being bombarded by oranges. It doesn’t always work though, and I remember being able to choose to view some of the battles being fought behind a wire fence erected for the purpose and still having to duck regularly to avoid being hit by a citric missile! The thousands of oranges used during the festival turn the entire town centre into something resembling a gigantic juice extraction plant. One can hardly bear to think about the huge amount of cleaning up which has to be undertaken once the festivities come to an end.  I think the consumption of oranges probably declines dramatically for quite a while after the Carnivale!

The carnival is not just about the orange fight though as there are stalls selling amazing sweet and savoury treats along the banks of the local canal. More information is freely available on Google and well worth the read.  All in all several days of merriment for both young and old to enjoy, despite the chilly weather.

 

 

Winds of Change?

Introduction

I made the statement when I first began blogging that I would avoid writing about politics and religion as both these subjects tend to be extremely controversial.  However, the fact that I am passionate about people per se necessitates my having a slight change of heart.  My wish is to be able to express some feelings as well as to share my many positive experiences regarding my dealings with people from all walks of life. Some comments will, of necessity, be viewed as negative, but by the same token, I am not writing a fairy story. So, to my readers, I want to ask you not to look on this or the one or two follow-up postings as a political commentary, as this is not my aim at all. Rather, I would like this to tie in with future socially themed postings.

The entire world seems to be in chaos at present, but then hasn’t it always been to some extent? The past conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, the situation regarding Basque Separatism in Spain, a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Germany, Trump and his attitude towards the Mexicans (building a wall to keep them out), towards China, as well as his own government, the UK debacle over Brexit and the antagonism this appears to have caused in many sectors, not only in the UK but other countries as well – the list goes on and on. The fact is that, wherever there are human beings, there will always be discrimination and conflict of one kind or another, and this is fostered more often than not by the mouthings and actions of politicians suffering from a dose of verbal diarrhoea, and hoping to enhance their own often dubious image.

In our age there is no such thing as “keeping out of politics”. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia – George Orwell

The current South African Situation

If one is living in South Africa then politics are part and parcel of every day life, and from the poorest to the wealthiest of people, everyone seems to be very quick to want to voice their own opinion.

The politicians are having an absolute field day in destroying the legacy left by Nelson Mandela. With Jacob Zuma in power for two terms, racial tensions became absolutely rampant. All the problem areas created by mismanagement of funds and blatant  corruption were blamed on the legacy of apartheid, and ultimately the fault of White people. The truth of the matter is that the majority of Black people have been neglected over the past 25 years since the new democracy came into being and have been denied even basic, never mind quality education, adequate health facilities and job opportunities. Billions of Rands which should have been allocated for all of these areas, have been stolen by thieving politicians and their lackeys. If one is unable to read or write, how easy is it then to be convinced by the rantings of politicians that all one’s woes are due to the greed of the White population.  Fostering this kind of attitude amongst the masses is frightening to say the least. By making false promises to illiterate people regarding job creation, improved health care and adequate housing is the way in which the ruling party manages to gain and retain the votes of the majority.

We are talking about mainly Black politicians, and those currently in power, actually not giving a damn about their own people. Millions of South Africans are frustrated as the realisation kicks in  that they have been given false hope regarding a higher standard of living and job opportunities. Schools and hospitals may have been inferior in the past and things were certainly not comfortable for the majority of South Africans   but many citizens did get educated and were able to read and write and had reasonable access to health facilities which is not the case in certain parts of the country these days. Keeping people ignorant and illiterate means that you can control them as they are totally reliant on the lies and garbage spewed out of the mouths of corrupt politicians. Blaming the Whites after all these years of independence just does not make sense any more and a large number of the population which includes many of the emerging black middle class would likely attest to this as well.

 

When skin colour is inconsequential

The truth of the matter is that, for many of us living in this country, the colour of one’s skin is actually irrelevant. It’s a fact of life that human beings choose to associate with others of similar belief systems, educational levels and, often, similar economic situations. Whether you live in Europe, Australia, America or Africa, people will always gravitate to groups within which they feel comfortable and at home.  Children are born not knowing prejudice and racism is something which is learnt and not inherent.  If youngsters are given the opportunity to make their own friends within a multicultural environment, they are likely to ignore the colour of the skin of their playmates, and start a friendship based on mutual attraction.

Since Nelson Mandela was released from jail, and became our first Black president, we have all been freed. (See my earlier posting dated 29 Nov 2018 and entitled “Those early days in South Africa”) Multi-racial marriages and relationships are evidenced in many areas and no-one bats an eyelid. Obviously there will always be those fringe bigots who, for whatever sick reason of their own, are disdainful of this integration, and have no intention of trying to change their unhealthy attitudes, but that’s life. Human beings are strange animals to say the least.

Nothing is more heartening than watching small children playing together, totally oblivious of any skin tone differences.  My own daughter was fortunate enough to have the advantage of being with children of other races for most of her school career – due to the change in policies in this country. She made friends with an African boy and they went through most of primary as well as high school together. After school they both pursued legal careers and their university years were spent at the same institution. When it came time to do their internship, both of them were handpicked by one of the most prestigious law firms in the country.  Despite her friend moving over to another company several years ago, they are still in touch with one another and their friendship has always been based on mutual respect and actually liking one another.

In politics stupidity is not a handicap – Napoleon Bonaparte

An experience of a lifetime

For many of us who remember the oppressive apartheid years, there were also many occasions where a person’s race was of no consequence. I would like to tell you about the following situation. My daughter wanted to do a speech about Nelson Mandela for a school project and had no idea how to get the relevant information. This was shortly after Nelson Mandela had been released from prison, so there was no googling to help her. When she told us about her choice of subject, her father actually suggested that we try phoning the ANC head office for help. She was only about 12 years old at the time, so I offered to do the phoning for her although I was very dubious about getting any help whatsoever.  Imagine my surprise when the phone was answered immediately and, when the person who answered heard what the call was about, gave me the home number of Walter Sisulu, who held the position of deputy president of the African National Congress.  I was flabbergasted as there is no way that during the years of the white Nationalist party being in power, anyone would have given out the home telephone number of any of the top dogs.

I rang the number and Mrs. Albertina Sisulu, his wife, herself answered. I explained about the speech and what my daughter needed to find out and I was told that she was busy cooking dinner for the family but if my little girl called at 7pm she would be able to help her.  True to her word, the conversation between the two of them carried on for about an hour and my daughter had the most incredible amount of information to put into her speech for which she got top marks. The point is this, that here was a woman who had fought for the rights of Black people her entire life, had been arrested on many occasions due to her political involvement  and had every right to be anti-establishment and perhaps even anti-white, prepared to help a young white girl with a school project. Colour was of no importance, it was about an adult with the necessary facts being prepared to help a child with a school project.  This is one of the many highlights of life spent  in South Africa over the years.

When Ma Sisulu (as she was affectionately known throughout most of her life, by many South Africans) died several years ago, there were many tributes to her being posted in the local newspapers. I felt that I had to add my bit, and wrote a short letter describing my experience, regarding the communication between me, the lady in question and my daughter. I was thrilled when I saw that my letter had been published but what happened next took me totally by surprise.  A day or two later I received a call from one of the top television studios in the country asking me to appear on a popular afternoon show in honour of Albertina Sisulu. The presenter had asked her production team to try to get hold of me and somehow they had managed to locate my contact details.  My daughter at the time was on secondment at a legal firm in London. It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I accepted the invitation and, through linking up via satellite with my daughter, she was able to recount her memories of her conversation with Ma Sisulu as well. What an absolute privilege that proved to be.

From the moment I arrived at the television studios, I was the only White person there.  From the young woman who met me, to the well-known presenter of the talk show, to the technicians – all were Black people.  I was looked after amazingly and the entire experience is one which I will never forget. The only fly in the ointment was my make-up for the programme. When I looked in the mirror, I was a bit disturbed to say the least, but who am I to know what makeup must be like for a live broadcast.  I realised later that it may have been the first time that the make-up artist had to sort out a white face. I looked horrendous, but for the partially sighted, my voice sounded great – and my daughter was live from London, so the make-up for her wasn’t an issue! All in all yet another situation where colour was totally irrelevant. A true feel good experience all round.

I have so many other incidents and anecdotes which I intend to add under this subject heading in the coming weeks, and hope they will be positively received by you, the reader.

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Adoption

In many ways, my mother has carried certain emotional scars with her throughout her life which are most certainly linked to her adoption at the age of 3 after her own mother died of toxaemia several days after giving birth to her second child, a baby boy. Due to financial difficulties my mother’s father asked his brother and his wife, who had no children of their own, to adopt my mother. The new baby was in turn adopted by his late wife’s family who never forgave themselves for not having adopted both children, but this was during the depression years in England and money was extremely scarce. For a little girl of 3 years old who was expecting her mummy to return from hospital with a new baby to suddenly never see her mother again, and having to go to live with an uncle and aunt, would more than likely necessitate the intervention of a child psychologist in today’s world.

Both her real and her adopted fathers died when my mother was 9 and 13 years old respectively. Her younger brother was more like a cousin than a sibling, and although they saw one another fairly regularly, they never lived together. In many ways over the years I have come to realise that my mother still carries the sadness and loss of not having her own mother around while she was growing up. She was made to feel that she had been given away like an unwanted possession, probably the words of an unthinking relative at the time.  The difference between this situation and other adoptions was that there was always contact with her extended family whilst she was growing up so she wasn’t left wondering who she was.

Having read many case studies, watched a lot of documentaries regarding adoption and knowing people who are adopted or who have adopted children, there appear to be some factors which are a common denominator in cases of adoption. Feelings of being unworthy and unwanted, as well as needing to know who one’s birth mother was seem to be the golden thread linking many adoption stories. It is a basic human need to know where we come from, and who we are and, if a child has been adopted and only finds out by chance that the people they know as their parents are in fact their adopted parents, the results can be devastating.

With changing attitudes nowadays, at least in Western societies, it is common to let a child know, as soon as they are old enough to understand, that they were “chosen” and therefore “special” and it was because the birth mother was not able to care for the baby herself that she had to make the extremely difficult decision to give the baby up for adoption.  Where a mother died in childbirth, and a father was unable to care for the baby, the emotions felt by the adoptee may be more feelings of sadness and loss and less of abandonment.  Sometimes it seems that this need to begin the search for the real parents raises its head, either during late adolescence or once the adoptees themselves become parents. It would appear that the desire to search for one’s birth mother is far more common than a need to know who one’s father is. Obviously this is a generalisation, but does seem very often to be the case.

The laws in many countries have been relaxed regarding adoption, and nowadays it seems to be quite common for adopted children to gain access to the names of their birth mother through the adoption agency in order to try to contact her. Many times the birth mother has had some contact with the adoptive parents, and has even received photos of the child she had to give up.  Years ago this was totally taboo and, in the case of single mothers, babies were literally wrenched out of their arms at around 6 weeks of age and handed over to the new parents. The heartbreak felt by the girl/woman having to give up her baby to strangers would seem to be a pain which often never heals. The memory of that day would be likely to stay with her for the rest of her life.

The adopted parents must go through really tough times when their child decides to investigate and find their blood relatives. It takes a very strong relationship to be able to face the fact that you may be losing your child to strangers who just happen to be linked by DNA. Counselling seems to be the way to go when an adopted child decides to contact a biological parent, as often there is a degree of disappointment, anger and distress once the meeting takes place.  Depending on the circumstances surrounding the adoption it may result in the biological mother refusing to meet her child. This could be due to the pregnancy having been the result of rape, or just the disgrace of an illegitimate birth and possibly never having revealed the fact to her current husband and other children.

I find adoption to be a very emotional and intense issue which cannot be taken lightly. For parents adopting a child of another culture, or ethnic group the issues are even more complicated.  There needs to be a lot of support all round and honesty and family discussions would appear to be a critical factor. Care and love are the basis of a happy childhood but we humans remain creatures who have a need to know who we are, where we came from and what characteristics and potential health issues we may have inherited from our parents.   When a baby or child is adopted by family or friends of the biological mother, there is likely to be adequate information available regarding her which could be a source of comfort as the child grows up and becomes curious about the family background.

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Update and Comments: December 28, 2018

I cannot believe that it is over two weeks since my last update and comment! These public holidays which are accompanied by frenetic activities such as cooking, baking, wrapping gifts and spending time with family and friends tend to result in my getting all mixed up regarding the days of the week. Anyway, another Christmas Day has come and gone and a great time was had by all and now it’s time for a quick update!

As promised, I have inserted a photograph in the about page, and I have also created the contact page. Furthermore, the “Guest Contributor” section has been started with a hobbyist chef and his recipes. I am planning that, over the next few days, I will be starting to publish the first of several articles on local South African artists highlighting some of their work. This is all thanks to the kind co-operation of the Staedtler Company in South Africa and their extremely informative magazine, “MARS arts crafts and design”.  More information will be given to you under the umbrella of “Artists”. Suffice to say that I hope you will find this section of great interest.

Since having to say goodbye to our dear Rudie, I have been in touch with the well respected breeder from whom we purchased him almost 13 years ago, and it seems very likely that soon we will be welcoming a new German Shepherd pup into our home. I will be giving you more info (for those of you who, like myself, are dog lovers) regular updates on this development.

Meantime, as we all recover from an overload of food, alcohol (if one does imbibe), people and end of year stress, I will just say that I truly hope that we can share a lot of thoughts, ideas and useful information in 2019.

Once again, that’s all for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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