Csíkszereda Musings

My life in and around Csíkszereda, also known as Miercurea Ciuc.

Archive for September, 2004

Oh and one more thing

Posted by Andy Hockley on 25 September, 2004

I just wanted to get this off my chest before I left (I think I will have well and truly exhausted Krakow’s comic potential by then – and I have to spend a whole month here in October/November, so as you can imagine anything that gets blogged during that time will truly be scraping the bottom of the barrel)

Krakow old town is policed by a private security firm. Now I know that after 40 years of a failing command economy the Poles wil have been anxious to jump on the free market bandwagon, but a private police force? They don’t even do that in the US. Every store has the sign up in the window, indicating presumably that they have contributed to paying. The cynical side of me (and having spent most of my life in a capitalist society, I have a fairly well-developed cynical side when it comes to privatisation) wonders what happens to the places which refuse to pay. Do they get visits by baseball bat wielding “advisers” who suggest that they join in? Do they get robbed with impunity while these mercenary policemen stand around watching and sniggering? I’m a bit stunned. It seems to only be the old touristy bit of Krakow, as I’ve seen regular police elsewhere. This security firm is named “Justus”, which is presumably derived from the same route as “justice”, but obviously sounds slightlky more comical to an English speaker. When they kick your door down in the middle of the night for non payment of protection monies, oh sorry I mean security tax, do they say “It’s just us!”

Oh, and Sheffield Wednesday just won 3-0 at Wrexham in their first match under Paul Sturrock, you’ll all be glad to hear.

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Oh and one more thing

Posted by Andy Hockley on 25 September, 2004

I just wanted to get this off my chest before I left (I think I will have well and truly exhausted Krakow’s comic potential by then – and I have to spend a whole month here in October/November, so as you can imagine anything that gets blogged during that time will truly be scraping the bottom of the barrel)

Krakow old town is policed by a private security firm. Now I know that after 40 years of a failing command economy the Poles wil have been anxious to jump on the free market bandwagon, but a private police force? They don’t even do that in the US. Every store has the sign up in the window, indicating presumably that they have contributed to paying. The cynical side of me (and having spent most of my life in a capitalist society, I have a fairly well-developed cynical side when it comes to privatisation) wonders what happens to the places which refuse to pay. Do they get visits by baseball bat wielding “advisers” who suggest that they join in? Do they get robbed with impunity while these mercenary policemen stand around watching and sniggering? I’m a bit stunned. It seems to only be the old touristy bit of Krakow, as I’ve seen regular police elsewhere. This security firm is named “Justus”, which is presumably derived from the same route as “justice”, but obviously sounds slightlky more comical to an English speaker. When they kick your door down in the middle of the night for non payment of protection monies, oh sorry I mean security tax, do they say “It’s just us!”

Oh, and Sheffield Wednesday just won 3-0 at Wrexham in their first match under Paul Sturrock, you’ll all be glad to hear.

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Poland continued (and a clarification)

Posted by Andy Hockley on 25 September, 2004

Firstly to clarify something. The Polish big nose syndrome identified yesterday is of a specific variety. I realise that you may be picturing Poles with noses like those that members of the House of Lords sport. Huge gin and port fuelled monstrosities with prominent veins. Not so. Nor is the Polish nose reminsiscent of the large alien looking protruberance worn by celebrities like Barbara Streisand or Celine Dion, the effect of which is to make the wearer look like their face has been occupied by an invading power. No, the Polish nose is a long and slender affair. protruding proudly from the face in a haughty yet almost elegant way. A nose you could do things with – pointing, turning on the TV, dialling on your mobile, that kind of thing.

There is a chain of newspaper shops and kiosks here called “Kolporter”. There is also a regional confectioners called “Jawjgerschwin” and a fast food franchise named “Bertbakarak”. I may have made two of those three up.

[The next section may be of no interest or even understandable to many of you. I apologise and ask that you skip to the next paragraph – if I end up writing one].

Chris Turner was sacked by Sheffield Wednesday this week. Personally I think it’s a great shame. I think he made a lot of good changes to the club and was moving things in the right direction. Once again, we have had to hire a new manager in the period between September and December, and once again no doubt, nothing fundamental will change. The real problems affecting the club seems to exist in the boardroom and not in the dugout (I’m getting into this cliche stuff). The chairman is a complete tosser who only looks good in comparison with Ken Bates who wants to wrest control of the club (the comparison I could make here is Tony Blair/Michael Howard – it’s clear that Blair is a total and utter bastard who has been a complete disaster for Britain, yet who stays in power merely because next to Michael Howard he looks like a paragon of virtue and good sense). We have had a succession of terrible chairmen, either by virtue of them being self-interested wankers and not in the least interested in Sheffield Wednesday (Dave Richards, and the Dave Allen the current incumbent), or by virtue of them being ineffectual nobodies (all the others- whose names I forget, but that always seemed to rhyme with gully). So now we have Paul Sturrock who has the advantage of having failed at his last club. Normally we get managers who have been a great success and then they proceed to fail at Wednesday before being fired and going on to much better things elsewhere – Paul Jewell is the prime example. This time we’ve picked up someone who has already been through phases 1 and 2 of this process and could possibly be ready for phase 3 – the second successful bit. Under this wildly optimistic theory, Southampton become the new Wednesday and we become, erm, the new Wigan. Clearly, in reality, Sturrock will be sacked at around about November 12th 2005 with Wednesday just above the third division relegation zone (and in the case by third division I mean the third division, the third level, the division that contains the 45th – 68th best teams in the country. Just so you know.)

[You can all come back now]

I feel like I ought to offer another paragraph here for readers who were forced away but by wilful insertion of a Sheffield Wednesday paragraph, but I’m really not sure what to write about. I leave Poland tomorrow and return home via Budapest (by the way I have noticed that most excitingly Hungarians speak Hungarian! On the train out there I was greeted by the passport control man with a cheery “Jo Reget!” – good morning- and so staggered was I to see an official in uniform speaking Hungarian, that I almost failed to respond. Luckily I pulled myself together and managed it in the end.) One thing that I can tell you about Budapest is that it contains an astonishingly high number of lingerie shops. Every second shop seems to be offering sexy underwear. What’s that about? Are Hungarian women the most erotically clad under their clothes? Or are there some kind of special tax breaks for purveyors of scanty feminine undergarments? I think we ought to know.

Ok that’s your lot. I’m off to enjoy the sights and sounds of Krakow – the old town which is where I’m staying; Kazimierz – which is a basically Jewish quarter and also the first name of a Mr Deyna, famous footballer of the 1970s; and Podgorze – another poorer Jewish quarter where the ghetto was under Nazi occupation and the site of Schindler’s factory (and where much of Speilberg’s film was made). Quick quiz for you. Name off the top of your head 5 famous Poles.

(I just did it and came up with Lech Walesa, Deyna, Boniek, Lato and the Pope. Which I think shows that my obsession with football is unhealthy)

Until whenever.

Posted in football, travel | 2 Comments »

Poland continued (and a clarification)

Posted by Andy Hockley on 25 September, 2004

Firstly to clarify something. The Polish big nose syndrome identified yesterday is of a specific variety. I realise that you may be picturing Poles with noses like those that members of the House of Lords sport. Huge gin and port fuelled monstrosities with prominent veins. Not so. Nor is the Polish nose reminsiscent of the large alien looking protruberance worn by celebrities like Barbara Streisand or Celine Dion, the effect of which is to make the wearer look like their face has been occupied by an invading power. No, the Polish nose is a long and slender affair. protruding proudly from the face in a haughty yet almost elegant way. A nose you could do things with – pointing, turning on the TV, dialling on your mobile, that kind of thing.

There is a chain of newspaper shops and kiosks here called “Kolporter”. There is also a regional confectioners called “Jawjgerschwin” and a fast food franchise named “Bertbakarak”. I may have made two of those three up.

[The next section may be of no interest or even understandable to many of you. I apologise and ask that you skip to the next paragraph – if I end up writing one].

Chris Turner was sacked by Sheffield Wednesday this week. Personally I think it’s a great shame. I think he made a lot of good changes to the club and was moving things in the right direction. Once again, we have had to hire a new manager in the period between September and December, and once again no doubt, nothing fundamental will change. The real problems affecting the club seems to exist in the boardroom and not in the dugout (I’m getting into this cliche stuff). The chairman is a complete tosser who only looks good in comparison with Ken Bates who wants to wrest control of the club (the comparison I could make here is Tony Blair/Michael Howard – it’s clear that Blair is a total and utter bastard who has been a complete disaster for Britain, yet who stays in power merely because next to Michael Howard he looks like a paragon of virtue and good sense). We have had a succession of terrible chairmen, either by virtue of them being self-interested wankers and not in the least interested in Sheffield Wednesday (Dave Richards, and the Dave Allen the current incumbent), or by virtue of them being ineffectual nobodies (all the others- whose names I forget, but that always seemed to rhyme with gully). So now we have Paul Sturrock who has the advantage of having failed at his last club. Normally we get managers who have been a great success and then they proceed to fail at Wednesday before being fired and going on to much better things elsewhere – Paul Jewell is the prime example. This time we’ve picked up someone who has already been through phases 1 and 2 of this process and could possibly be ready for phase 3 – the second successful bit. Under this wildly optimistic theory, Southampton become the new Wednesday and we become, erm, the new Wigan. Clearly, in reality, Sturrock will be sacked at around about November 12th 2005 with Wednesday just above the third division relegation zone (and in the case by third division I mean the third division, the third level, the division that contains the 45th – 68th best teams in the country. Just so you know.)

[You can all come back now]

I feel like I ought to offer another paragraph here for readers who were forced away but by wilful insertion of a Sheffield Wednesday paragraph, but I’m really not sure what to write about. I leave Poland tomorrow and return home via Budapest (by the way I have noticed that most excitingly Hungarians speak Hungarian! On the train out there I was greeted by the passport control man with a cheery “Jo Reget!” – good morning- and so staggered was I to see an official in uniform speaking Hungarian, that I almost failed to respond. Luckily I pulled myself together and managed it in the end.) One thing that I can tell you about Budapest is that it contains an astonishingly high number of lingerie shops. Every second shop seems to be offering sexy underwear. What’s that about? Are Hungarian women the most erotically clad under their clothes? Or are there some kind of special tax breaks for purveyors of scanty feminine undergarments? I think we ought to know.

Ok that’s your lot. I’m off to enjoy the sights and sounds of Krakow – the old town which is where I’m staying; Kazimierz – which is a basically Jewish quarter and also the first name of a Mr Deyna, famous footballer of the 1970s; and Podgorze – another poorer Jewish quarter where the ghetto was under Nazi occupation and the site of Schindler’s factory (and where much of Speilberg’s film was made). Quick quiz for you. Name off the top of your head 5 famous Poles.

(I just did it and came up with Lech Walesa, Deyna, Boniek, Lato and the Pope. Which I think shows that my obsession with football is unhealthy)

Until whenever.

Posted in football, travel | 2 Comments »

More things about Poland

Posted by Andy Hockley on 24 September, 2004

Polish TV dubs stuff in a very odd way. They have the original soundtrack and then some bloke speaks over the top of it like in a simultaneous translation. He does all the voices – men, women, children. It seems to be the same bloke every time. It seems very cheap, and comes across as very cheap too.

The word “pub” in Poland seems to refer to a bar which is underground in a kind of cave or cellar. If it’s on the ground floor it’s simply a bar, underground and it’s a pub. I have no idea whether this is a universal rule, or whether it’s just the places I have been to so far. I could ask someone, but the research is rewarding in it’s own way, so I won’t bother.

Krakow is obsessed with the Pope. I don;’ know if he is from here, or just because he is Polish. But the airport is named “John Paul II” and you can get a map from the tourist office which directs you around the city in a walking tour in which you can “follow in the footsteps” of his Holiness. Surprisingly this is not merely a ten yard zimmerframe track from the cathedral to the parking space reserved for the popemobile, but in fact a quite extensive tour of the old city. He must have been here a good few years ago, or else the “following in the footsteps” is poetic licence for “walking along the route which the motorcade took”

Polish pronunciation is dead hard. Those of you who, like me, enjoy the early rounds of the UEFA cup so that you can follow the progress of Excelsior Mouscron and Odd Grenland, are alomst certainly familiar with the team Widsew Lodz. It may be that you mentally prononce this name “Vidsev Lods” or something similar. But in fact Lodz is pronounced more like Wooj. I have no idea how Widsew is pronounced. Vidsev, Vidshev, Vidshoe are all possibilities that I can imagine. But it’s probably more like “Throatwobbler” or something.

Polish people have big noses. This of course is an insane generalisation, but I’ve seen more massive conks here in the space of the last couple of days than in the rest of my life combined. It must be a slavic/germanic/jewish combination gene which extends the nose to a large degree. I am reluctant to ask, in case people are offended by my observation. Or else just tell me to “fuck off you small nosed bastard”.

I am trying to develop a post-dictatorship theory. What makes a country succeed or fail, or move or progress following the ending of dictatorship? In the last few weeks I have been in four countries (well 5 if you count the few hours I spent in Budapest on Tuesday) in which a dictator has been ousted in the last 30 years. Spain, Romania, Serbia, Poland. And they’re all in different stages of development. This was primarily brought on by the fact that Serbia is about as developed as Romania despite being bombed by NATO only 5 years ago, and overthrowing its dictator a year or so later. Is it cultural? Is it related to the extent of the dictator’s reign and madness? I can only conclude that Ceasescu was particularly backward and it’s taking Romania that much longer to pull out. Or that since those that took power after his overthrow were basically the same people who were in power before he got the chop. I’ll keep working on it and come back to you when I have a theory worth analysing. Right now, you’ll notice it’s a work in progress. And not much progress either.

Posted in travel | Leave a Comment »

More things about Poland

Posted by Andy Hockley on 24 September, 2004

Polish TV dubs stuff in a very odd way. They have the original soundtrack and then some bloke speaks over the top of it like in a simultaneous translation. He does all the voices – men, women, children. It seems to be the same bloke every time. It seems very cheap, and comes across as very cheap too.

The word “pub” in Poland seems to refer to a bar which is underground in a kind of cave or cellar. If it’s on the ground floor it’s simply a bar, underground and it’s a pub. I have no idea whether this is a universal rule, or whether it’s just the places I have been to so far. I could ask someone, but the research is rewarding in it’s own way, so I won’t bother.

Krakow is obsessed with the Pope. I don;’ know if he is from here, or just because he is Polish. But the airport is named “John Paul II” and you can get a map from the tourist office which directs you around the city in a walking tour in which you can “follow in the footsteps” of his Holiness. Surprisingly this is not merely a ten yard zimmerframe track from the cathedral to the parking space reserved for the popemobile, but in fact a quite extensive tour of the old city. He must have been here a good few years ago, or else the “following in the footsteps” is poetic licence for “walking along the route which the motorcade took”

Polish pronunciation is dead hard. Those of you who, like me, enjoy the early rounds of the UEFA cup so that you can follow the progress of Excelsior Mouscron and Odd Grenland, are alomst certainly familiar with the team Widsew Lodz. It may be that you mentally prononce this name “Vidsev Lods” or something similar. But in fact Lodz is pronounced more like Wooj. I have no idea how Widsew is pronounced. Vidsev, Vidshev, Vidshoe are all possibilities that I can imagine. But it’s probably more like “Throatwobbler” or something.

Polish people have big noses. This of course is an insane generalisation, but I’ve seen more massive conks here in the space of the last couple of days than in the rest of my life combined. It must be a slavic/germanic/jewish combination gene which extends the nose to a large degree. I am reluctant to ask, in case people are offended by my observation. Or else just tell me to “fuck off you small nosed bastard”.

I am trying to develop a post-dictatorship theory. What makes a country succeed or fail, or move or progress following the ending of dictatorship? In the last few weeks I have been in four countries (well 5 if you count the few hours I spent in Budapest on Tuesday) in which a dictator has been ousted in the last 30 years. Spain, Romania, Serbia, Poland. And they’re all in different stages of development. This was primarily brought on by the fact that Serbia is about as developed as Romania despite being bombed by NATO only 5 years ago, and overthrowing its dictator a year or so later. Is it cultural? Is it related to the extent of the dictator’s reign and madness? I can only conclude that Ceasescu was particularly backward and it’s taking Romania that much longer to pull out. Or that since those that took power after his overthrow were basically the same people who were in power before he got the chop. I’ll keep working on it and come back to you when I have a theory worth analysing. Right now, you’ll notice it’s a work in progress. And not much progress either.

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Poland

Posted by Andy Hockley on 23 September, 2004

I have just 5 minutes left on my internet cafe thing, so thought I’d just pop off a little note about Poland. Hopefully I’ll be able to add more tomorrow. I spent yesterday in Katowice and will be in Krakow until the weekend. The difference between Katowice and Krakow is like the difference between Sheffield and Cambridge. One an industrial town in a coal mining region, the other an airy-fairy, artsy fartsy twee tourist destination.

Some points about Poland> There is a band here called “Pink Freud”. I can’t decied if this is crap or inspired. If they are a covers band doing little twiddly versions of “Money”, the it’s crap. Although actually given the name I’d quite like to hear them doing that one that goes “Come on here dear boy, have a cigar”

Shit time’s up. More tomorrow

Posted in travel | Leave a Comment »

Poland

Posted by Andy Hockley on 23 September, 2004

I have just 5 minutes left on my internet cafe thing, so thought I’d just pop off a little note about Poland. Hopefully I’ll be able to add more tomorrow. I spent yesterday in Katowice and will be in Krakow until the weekend. The difference between Katowice and Krakow is like the difference between Sheffield and Cambridge. One an industrial town in a coal mining region, the other an airy-fairy, artsy fartsy twee tourist destination.

Some points about Poland> There is a band here called “Pink Freud”. I can’t decied if this is crap or inspired. If they are a covers band doing little twiddly versions of “Money”, the it’s crap. Although actually given the name I’d quite like to hear them doing that one that goes “Come on here dear boy, have a cigar”

Shit time’s up. More tomorrow

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Some bits just so you know I’m still alive

Posted by Andy Hockley on 17 September, 2004

I left Csikszereda on Saturday for Serbia. This involved a long involved train journey the likes of which I hadn’t done since I was a young and dirty interrailer. First to Brasov by “Accelerat”. Accelerat is a category of fast train in Romania which is not as good as an Inter City or a Rapid, but is still much faster than a “Personal”. Yes, the slow trains in Romania are known as “Personal”s, possibly in relation to them stopping for everyone. Shepherd’s hut next to an empty field? Probably we ought to have a station there. After that an Inter City to Bucharest (which in fact although newer and fancier was much less comfortable than the Accelerat). Then I had 5 or 6 hours to kill in Bucharest so I wandered round looking at the city. Can’t say I was tremendously impressed, although I did quite like it after dark. One day I’ll spend longer and enjoy it as a city rather than as a tourist destination.

From there it was off to Belgrade on a 13 hour “rapid” international train. Most of the journey actually takes place in Romania, and we only got to Serbia & Montenegro at about 7 or 8 the next morning. I had a “couchette” to reflect my enhanced status since my inter-rail days when I would sleep on one of those benches that kind of pulled across and hoped all night that no-one else would want to come into the compartment. (That was on good trips. Once I slept in the corridor near the toilets. Not one of the most amazing experiences of my life, I have to confess).

Things you notice when travelling by train in Romania: 1. Most people don’t bother to buy a ticket, and instead bribe the ticket collector. This is done in a comically “discreet” manner, which I noticed on the very first trip and then subsequently with 75% of the other people around me on all the trains. I guess this makes train travel much cheaper, and helps the ticket collectors out no end. I have no idea how you’d go about stopping such a practice. 2. Kids by the side of the tracks give the train the famous one-finger salute. What happened to those far off innocent days when children would happily wave to the train as it rattled by? 3. Despite the bribery practice, the trains still seem to run on a classlike basis. On the personals you get drunk guys and farmers who smell strongly (and y’know ordinary normal people too). On the Accelerats you get fewer of the Chavs as I believe they’re now called in England. Maybe there’s a sliding scale of bribery and you’re expected to cough up more on the higher speed trains. Who knows?

Once we had gone “south of Brasov” (see earlier post for more details) I found myself pathetically happy whenever I got sniffs of “home”. I heard someone speaking Hungarian on one train, and on another I saw someone reading the local Csikszereda paper (Harghita Nepe). Then after leaving Bucharest for the west of the country we passed a goods train each wagon of which was stamped (something like) Statia de Domiciliul: and the name of a town. I’m sure I’ve spelt that wrong, but it means something like “home station”. This in itself is fascinating enough, that goods wagons have “home stations” and are not itinerant wanderers, the hobos of the rolling stock world. At the end of the year do they all have to go home for Christmas so that they can be counted up and checked that one of them didn’t make a break for Bulgaria or somewhere? Anyway, we passed endless wagons that had made their home in Cluj Napoca, and then, suddenly, there it was- Statia de Domiciliul:Miercurea Ciuc. It was from my town! One of my homeys. I was so excited. It was somehow better than the standard Cluj wagons. More proud and resolute. Even it’s rust seemed more earned, more real, than the University-town over-educated foppish wagons from Cluj.

Anyway, I’ll tell you all about S&M when I get around to it. And I might cover Serbia and Montenegro too. Ho ho.

Posted in romania, travel | Leave a Comment »

Some bits just so you know I’m still alive

Posted by Andy Hockley on 17 September, 2004

I left Csikszereda on Saturday for Serbia. This involved a long involved train journey the likes of which I hadn’t done since I was a young and dirty interrailer. First to Brasov by “Accelerat”. Accelerat is a category of fast train in Romania which is not as good as an Inter City or a Rapid, but is still much faster than a “Personal”. Yes, the slow trains in Romania are known as “Personal”s, possibly in relation to them stopping for everyone. Shepherd’s hut next to an empty field? Probably we ought to have a station there. After that an Inter City to Bucharest (which in fact although newer and fancier was much less comfortable than the Accelerat). Then I had 5 or 6 hours to kill in Bucharest so I wandered round looking at the city. Can’t say I was tremendously impressed, although I did quite like it after dark. One day I’ll spend longer and enjoy it as a city rather than as a tourist destination.

From there it was off to Belgrade on a 13 hour “rapid” international train. Most of the journey actually takes place in Romania, and we only got to Serbia & Montenegro at about 7 or 8 the next morning. I had a “couchette” to reflect my enhanced status since my inter-rail days when I would sleep on one of those benches that kind of pulled across and hoped all night that no-one else would want to come into the compartment. (That was on good trips. Once I slept in the corridor near the toilets. Not one of the most amazing experiences of my life, I have to confess).

Things you notice when travelling by train in Romania: 1. Most people don’t bother to buy a ticket, and instead bribe the ticket collector. This is done in a comically “discreet” manner, which I noticed on the very first trip and then subsequently with 75% of the other people around me on all the trains. I guess this makes train travel much cheaper, and helps the ticket collectors out no end. I have no idea how you’d go about stopping such a practice. 2. Kids by the side of the tracks give the train the famous one-finger salute. What happened to those far off innocent days when children would happily wave to the train as it rattled by? 3. Despite the bribery practice, the trains still seem to run on a classlike basis. On the personals you get drunk guys and farmers who smell strongly (and y’know ordinary normal people too). On the Accelerats you get fewer of the Chavs as I believe they’re now called in England. Maybe there’s a sliding scale of bribery and you’re expected to cough up more on the higher speed trains. Who knows?

Once we had gone “south of Brasov” (see earlier post for more details) I found myself pathetically happy whenever I got sniffs of “home”. I heard someone speaking Hungarian on one train, and on another I saw someone reading the local Csikszereda paper (Harghita Nepe). Then after leaving Bucharest for the west of the country we passed a goods train each wagon of which was stamped (something like) Statia de Domiciliul: and the name of a town. I’m sure I’ve spelt that wrong, but it means something like “home station”. This in itself is fascinating enough, that goods wagons have “home stations” and are not itinerant wanderers, the hobos of the rolling stock world. At the end of the year do they all have to go home for Christmas so that they can be counted up and checked that one of them didn’t make a break for Bulgaria or somewhere? Anyway, we passed endless wagons that had made their home in Cluj Napoca, and then, suddenly, there it was- Statia de Domiciliul:Miercurea Ciuc. It was from my town! One of my homeys. I was so excited. It was somehow better than the standard Cluj wagons. More proud and resolute. Even it’s rust seemed more earned, more real, than the University-town over-educated foppish wagons from Cluj.

Anyway, I’ll tell you all about S&M when I get around to it. And I might cover Serbia and Montenegro too. Ho ho.

Posted in romania, travel | Leave a Comment »