peter A cross

ramblings from a troubled mind

Archive for the ‘Sydney’ Category

Would Neighbourhood Watch Have Prevented Underbelly?

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I’ve been reluctant to post, review or even put finger to keyboard over the last few months for a variety of reasons – mainly I would say laziness but also I have been underwhelmed by so much of what I have seen that my enthusiasm for theatre has sadly been dissipated by the amount of schlock I have sat through.
I know I’ve said it before but Terminus has left me with such high expectations that most everything else has paled in comparison.
However Belvoir Street has gone a long way with its latest production Neighbourhood Watch’ in restoring my faith in new theatre and especially new Australian theatre.
Written by Lally Katz, directed by Simon Stone and starring Robyn Nevin, in what should go down as one of her best performances. ‘Neighbourhood Watch’, which is now deservedly sold out, is a simple story told quietly without all the flash and trappings that have marked some productions in Sydney.
There is a certain freedom in allowing the audience to ‘imagine’ scenarios and settings rather than feeling the need to cover weak narrative or shallow characterisations with flashy sets and expensive costumes. Of course I am referencing my BFF play ‘Terminus’ here but also giving more than a passing nod to ‘Wild Duck’ (also directed by Simon Stone) as examples of good, simple story telling – allowing actors to act with honesty and integrity.

Kris McQuade as Milova

Most of the other reviews I have read have said everything that needs to be said about this play if you want to read one of the better written reviews I would suggest    however I did want to make particular mention to an almost unrecognisable Kris McQuade as the thankless Milova.

After thought: I was reminded of the STC’s production of Thornton Wilder’s play ‘Our Town’.

So thank heavens for Belvoir Street, one for restoring my faith in Australian writing and two for getting my fingers twitching again.

“And now to the  movies Margaret”

“Thanks David”:  One of the great things about being a reviewer (yes you can argue the point) is that you get asked to many different types of  events.  In the last couple of weeks I have been privileged (and it is a privilege) to see screenings of two new movies – well they were new at the time – Green Lantern’ and ‘Horrible Bosses’,  one a big budget, CGI, 3D, blockbuster glam movie premiere and the other a character driven black comedy in the style of ‘The Hangover’.

‘Green Lantern’, forgetting Ryan Reynolds in body hugging, form-fitting tights, is an expensive attempt to jump on the current super hero band wagon that seems to be sweeping the celluloid universe. NO amount of smoke and mirrors can hide the fact that without a story and character that some movies should not be made. Thin plot, shallow characters and no emotional connection, this movie hits the trifecta.

‘Horrible Bosses’ starring Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and a potty mouthed Jennifer Anniston is a modern, darker version of ‘Nine to Five’. Now this movie doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is – a misogynistic, nudge nudge, wink wink, embarrassing pleasure. It’s a groan out loud and laugh – with some great cameos and some truly awful gags. I am embarrassed to admit just how much I enjoyed it.

(One movie to keep your eyes and ears peeled for is ‘The Staff’.)

Underbelly: Razor – Channel 9’s much hyped and heavily advertised reputation saving (hopefully) latest installment of the Australian crime franchise. As a longterm resident of Darlinghurst I’m always excited to see my ‘hood’ on the telly but really this sexed up version of Darlo in the twenties is one storyline too many. The first ‘Underbelly’ was groundbreaking, professional and passionate TV now it seems to be heading down that road to ‘period soap opera’. I have to admit I spent most of the time wondering why they were all smoking filter tipped cigarettes which didn’t really take off until the 1950s rather than rolling their own and pondering why the streets were so busy during the day rather than focusing on the plot. Engaged – no, entertained – no, will I watch the rest of the series – doubtful.
Such a shame, still it rated well when combined with The Block giving CH 9 an overall 46.9% of viewing public. A record audience.

However all is not lost in the wonderful glare of the cathode ray box that dominates every house in every street across this wide brown land of ours. I can highly recommend ‘Misfits’, a series about five British kids caught up in a freak weather event that gives them each a special power, ranging from invisibility to being able to wind back time. Good, strong characters with strong plot lines; it’s worth looking out for.


Written by peteracross

August 22, 2011 at 16:41

Give Me Chaos Give Me Joy

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A while ago I wrote a tongue in cheek piece for The Sydney Morning Herald called “I Hate Theatre”, which of course I clearly don’t. I love theatre; theatre at its very best can be the catalyst for great changes within our society. It can open up our minds, it can expand our consciousness and it can allow us to be transported away from our safe cosy world and explore other possibilities. Think of ‘Angels in America’ or ‘The Crucible’ or ‘Oh, What a Lovely War’. Even at its worst it will create discussion and provoke critical thought. All theatre will provoke some kind of emotive response.

Not all theatre needs to be a gut wrenching emotional roller coaster that leaves you an exhausted emotional basket case at the end of it. Some theatre can achieve it’s purpose in a much more gentle and surprising way. Theatre, today, is everywhere from proscenium arches to pubs, from stage to street and from arenas to alleyways. Theatre seems to be popping up in the most unusual places and when you least expect it.

As our lives become busier and more hectic we risk becoming more distant and isolated from each other, any sense of the ridiculousness of life and the things that once upon a time tickled our fancy until we cried tears of pure joy is removed and we become grim faced frowners who rush, head down, from home to office to gym to home. Every now and then we need to be taken out of the dull reality we surround ourselves with on a day to day basis. This is where this new version of spontaneous theatre has found a welcome niche and made us stop and smile, groups of actors, artists and everyday citizens are coming together to perform seemingly impromptu pieces in everyday situations.

In New York a group called ‘Improv Everywhere’ organise mini productions and places them in unusual and unexpected venues. They bring colour, light, comedy and spontaneity to alleviate the very humdrum day to day existence that so many of us fight through. Their reason for being is simple, they “cause chaos and joy in public places”. They have organised large groups of people to meet complete strangers at JFK Airport, performed musicals in a food court and in Grand Central Station, froze time for five minutes to the confusion of commuters.

The internet has spread these performance pieces across the globe and more groups have been formed in some of the strangest of places. In 2008, in Russia, ‘Improv Everywhere’ were invited to collaborate with a local group and organise a ‘Sleep In’ at a furniture shop. Their mission was to enter the shop, pick various pieces of furniture, a couch or a chair and sleep. This caused no end of consternation of the sales woman until finally she called the Police and the performers were moved on … after the organiser’s names and addresses were taken down. The Police didn’t charge them with any thing because they couldn’t clearly define what crime, if any, had taken place, which is just as well because I am sure that the Russian Police are not known for their sense of humour. It must have taken great courage for these people to do what they did.

Funnily enough when some of these events were tried in Sydney good old fashioned narrow mindedness raised its ugly head. A mass drawing of ‘Valentines Day Hearts’ at Taylor Square, Darlinghurst, where hundreds of people young and old, gay and straight, gathered on Valentines Day 2008 and with coloured chalk drew hearts and left messages of love on the pavement. In Sydney a city that prides itself on being progressive, enlightened and open to new things our city council responded promptly with street cleaners and hoses, within 12 hours they had erased all the evidence.

Don’t we all need a little chaos and joy in our life at some time … especially when we least expect it?

Written by peteracross

April 8, 2009 at 16:41

Boys and Their Dresses

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Drag has always been about beautiful costumes, colour and movement but recently there has been a tremor in the force. A new ingredient has been added to the mix. Drag is under going a revival. I’m amazed, and that’s no easy thing these days, by the number of boys who like to “frock” up. If I had been asked in the early 90’s did I think Drag would survive? I would have shaken my head and knowingly pontificated that, “The young ‘Gaylings’ have moved on and Drag has had its day, like the rotary dial telephone”.

How wrong I would have been.

A potted history – Drag came of age in Sydney in the 60’s and flourished through until the early 90’s. Most of the performers, especially in the 80’s were “professional” full time live in a frock and grow your hair long kind of DQ’s. When Drag moved off the revolve and out of the proscenium arch of Cap’s and onto the bar of The Albury I was convinced that this was the beginning of the end of “the Show”. The great production shows of Mitchell and Penfold that had theme and story were now replaced with a succession of spot numbers. Oh sure a few of the shows were still held together with a storyline, like The Priscilla Show, but mainly they became a pastiche of star turns.

With the closure of The Albury, Oxford Street lost some of its glitter and Drag seemed to disappear and for a while it went into a form of stasis, waiting for the next wave of gender bending, in-your face entertainers that we have today. Little did Miss 3D and Cindy Pastel know what they had begun or perhaps they did.

Drag is back, bigger and better than anything we’ve seen for a long time.

These days it seems as if every pretty and some not so pretty boy is tarting up his visage with taffeta, toile, mascara and makeup, then hitting the boards and the bars to dance, mime and even sing LIVE. The world has gone brilliantly mad.

Sequins and glamour are back and it’s wonderful to see. Choreography is queen and high heels are “strutting” their stuff up and down the tiles of a battered and bruised Oxford Street. Whether it is a career choice or a casual dalliance Drag is wowing them again in the bars of Sydney. Performers like Prada Clutch, Tora Hymenand Trevor Ashleyare the Aeysha, Rose and Michael Michelle of the new generation.

Heading this pantheon of impersonators is the wonderful and very talented Courtney Act, a former contestant on Australian Idol, who now also spruiks make up to a frightened and confused Larry Emdur on breakfast television. Courtney has made Drag fashionable, fantastic and feminine again. Courtney by night and Shane by day is leading a parade of “glamazons” who are proud to embrace the history of Drag gone by and create the myths of tomorrow.

As post party Sydney drags it’s aching head reluctantly into recession and winter, isn’t it great to see splashes of rainbow colour reflecting from the sequins and once again lighting up the pavement of Oxford Street.

The Golden Mile is getting a little of its glitter back.

The Queer Bill of Rights

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For thirty one years we’ve been marching. We’ve been marching against discrimination. We’ve been marching against a disease that everyday, still takes our brothers and sisters in ever increasing numbers. We’ve been marching against inaction, self interest, prejudice and greed.

We’ve won a few battles but our march continues.

Our warriors don’t have tanks and armour; our warriors wear overalls, suits and high heels. We don’t have weapons of mass destruction hidden in our borderless country; our weapons are humour, wit and strength of character. When we march we don’t march for conquest, we march for recognition, for understanding and for compassion. Our uniform is rainbow not khaki, we have no need of camouflage yet too many of us are forced to hide.

We count each small victory as a stepping stone. We don’t see defeats we see hurdles.
We see hope rather than despair; we feel elation rather than desperation.
Our troops live not only in Darlinghurst and Newtown but also in New York, London, Beijing, Harare and Tehran. We are not restricted to any one country or religion and no amount of denial by narrow minded bigots will ever change that.

We are a universal nation that is inclusive not exclusive. We welcome into our hearts all that seek healing and peace. We do not discriminate because of gender, race, sexuality or religion.

There are those who will persecute us, threaten us and in too many cases harm us. We will no longer simply lie quietly and die. We do not believe that we have any more of a right to exist than anyone else but neither will we accept that our right is any the less.

We know we have made mistakes but from each mistake we have learned and grown. We learn our lessons the hard way but we never have to learn them twice.

We will not stop and we will not be stopped.

Ahead of us there are the glimmers of hope that give us the strength and courage to continue this fight. Yet still we need new treatment regimes, greater accessibility to medication in developing countries and we need, now more than ever, to work together to bring about an end to the policy of greed, self interest and selfishness that keep medication from being made available to all those who are in need.

We need the help and support of ALL our elected leaders every day not just every three or five years when elections are due. We are not apart from society; we are a valuable and necessary part of it.

We’re here. Were queer get used to us.

Written by peteracross

March 24, 2009 at 16:41

Sex and the Sissies

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Sex, sex, sex is not just a phone number in New Zealand. Sex is a confusing, clumsy, enjoyable, frustrating, messy, irritating part of everyday life.

I just had sex, when will I next have sex, am I getting enough sex, why do I crave sex, am I any good at sex? Everywhere we turn sex is thrust down our throats.

Gaydar, Arq, Stonewall, Town Hall, it’s a non-stop barrage of sensuality and opportunity. We crave sexual satisfaction and, like Chinese food, once we’ve had it we want more, just from a different wok. At least that’s the theory.

But do we do more talking about sex than actual sexing? Night after night in the chat rooms of Australia cyber boys are pounding keyboards bemoaning the fact that no one is having sex, at least not with them.

All the bottoms are in Melbourne, all the tops are in Sydney, all the versatile guys are in Albury-Wodonga and the ones who are up for it — well, they’re just not up for it with me!
It’s as if we’ve made this subconscious pact to always want the person who wants someone else, the ass is always keener on the other side of the bar.

To paraphrase Marx, Groucho, not Karl, “I would never have sex with someone who would have sex with me”. I know exactly what he meant.

We’re told that we’re the great sexual hunter-gatherers of our time, rutting and sucking at the drop of a pair of aussieBums. Is it true? Maybe it’s all just a myth.

Do gay men have more sex than anyone else? According to the Penguin Atlas of Human Sexual Behaviour, on any given day intercourse (fucking), happens 120 million times. So that’s about 1 out of every 25 people in a population of 6.1 billion people.

Now if gays (male and female) are numbered as roughly ten percent of the population that means… you do the math, because I can’t. But it’s not a lot of us who are actually doing “it”.
As a sidebar, if you’re lucky enough to have sex, choose a Brazilian. According to the Atlas they can go for thirty minutes. The quickest are Russians — they only last for 12 minutes. Suddenly I’m feeling a little better about myself.

The upside is that there is great peace in knowing that we’re not the fucking machines that the writers of cheap porn novels and makers of those DVDs would have us believe. The relief of not having to live up to an expectation allows us to just enjoy the monthly shag and not feel as if we’ve failed the numbers game.

Don’t get me wrong. I know some people are keeping their end up and taking one for the team, but I reckon most of us just lead normal, lustful lives that are never sated.

We go out, we stand around, we perve, we flirt, we make out (pash and grope), but still end up collapsing into our double beds alone at the end of the night. The only happy ending we usually get is a good night’s sleep after a little self-pleasuring.

Thank God for IQ and those replays of Scrubs. And that’s not such a bad thing… is it?

Written by peteracross

March 3, 2009 at 16:41

How I Met My Boyfriend

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I met my partner; that’s what we have to call each other these days, once upon it time it was boyfriend but then that somehow didn’t define enough of the depth of the relationship that we had, so we had to change it to “partner” to please the political activists. I met my partner at a beat. He still refuses to acknowledge that he was doing a beat; he says he was just desperate to go to the toilet. For three hours he was desperate… please.

It was summer and for some reason I was out near Brighton-les-Sands. I think I had been taken to see Bernard King’s show at his theatre restaurant the night before; anyway, I got so drunk that I had to stay the night at the ex boyfriends. I think Judy Connelli was in the show but that’s by the by.

I woke up the next morning like Vera Charles, hung darling and not in a good way. (Once upon a time I never knew who Vera Charles was or Mame Dennis). I’m sure I was still drunk and I thought a swim would bring me back to life.

Brighton-les-Sands in summer, on a hot day and with a hangover is not a pleasant place to be. However there is a little amenities block down near the beach that had always been popular with some of the more “ethnic” queens. And god knows I do love a wog boy. So just after lunch, Devon, cheese and pickle on white flushed down with a can of Tab, I found myself in need of a little relief.

I had seen this one number, a rather rough looking piece of trade with a plumbers crack, scoping out the toilets and I thought to myself, “now that’s right up my boulevard”. I headed into the darkness and the smell of men. That’s a nice turn of phrase… the smell of men… men smell; even as I sit here I can still feel it wash over me, the aroma of men, a mixture of sweat, adrenalin, cum and with a hint of Old Spice. Where was I, oh yes … the darkness, the smell etc. Okay so there I am standing at the urinal pretending to pee and in he comes. His head nervously flicking from side to side, checking out the cubicles, scared his mother is hiding in there waiting to jump out and accuse him of crimes against her soul. Remember he’s a wog boy and they’re always so scared of what their Mummy will think. He sidles up to me and I can see that this one is a hairy number, black curls of coarse hair plastered to his stomach. A five o’clock shadow permanently darkening his chin. His breath is hot and hard in that close room. His trembling hand reaches out and snakes into my pants, he grabs me and I swear I can feel that sigh that rushes from his mouth, my body tensed with expectation. This is what I needed and desired, a real man someone who knew what they wanted and how to take it. No bullshit. Just a primeval grunt and I would be his.

So there we were just about to get really heavy when some queen rushes in screaming “run girls it’s the bashers”. We all button up and run for the door and this creates rather a log jam at the exit. I’m stuck, until I feel one hand on my shoulder push me through and I tumble out into the sun just in time to see ten big burly shire boys barrelling down on us.

I’m grabbed from behind and pushed to the car park, thrown into the front seat of a car and then as the wheels squeal (assonance in case you missed it), I’m driven off into the afternoon.

Like a real bloke I start to scream “let me out… Let me OUT… “I know people… whatever you do NOT the face”.

“Oh shoosh” he said. Shoosh is not something a basher usually says. “I’m not going to bash you, you big girl… I’m saving you”.

Sitting next to me, his face fixed firmly on the road ahead as we career along General Holmes Drive, is the little queen who had run or more correctly, swished into the toilets, hands flailing, screaming with a slight lisp, (not an easy thing to do) and warned us all of the impending attack of the barbarians. This little number, no bigger than an elf, a refugee from the Myers window dressing department, a hairdresser in search of a blow-dryer is the person we all owed our lives to. Can you believe it? Now I’m no ocker butch queen, I am what they now call a “straight acting gay”, a term I really dislike but that’s another thousand words. However sitting next to this little fem bot made me look like John Wayne or maybe even a Russel Crowe.

“Saving me … you… look at you… how could you save me?” I screamed, in my deepest butchest voice.

“I can always drop you back there if that’s what you want” he simpered.

He had me there. The last place I wanted to be was back at that beat. Maybe that’s why they call them beats – because eventually you will get beaten up.
“So just shoosh and say thank you. My names Leon, what’s yours?” My heart sunk. Of course his name would be Leon. He had Leon written all over his face.
“Tony” I mumbled. Oh the humiliation. Not ten minutes ago I had been about to do the “good deed” with the future Mr. Right and now here I am trapped in a mauve Toyota with a tiny mirror ball hanging from the rear vision mirror and some animal print fabric covering the seats.

I had gone from Old Spice to Opium in five fast minutes. From plumbers crack to… really there are no words to describe where I was now.

“Hello Tony. Well that was a close shave. Lucky I just happened to be passing by and saw those brutes. I thought that trouble was brewing.

Who says “trouble was brewing”, and what does he mean just passing by – I had seen him in the dunes about an hour before. Passing by, yeah right.

I found that I was getting more and more irritated by this little number as she prattled on about gossipy titbits and trivia from Broadway shows and then from out the blue she hit me with, “would you like to go out for a cheap eat with me? Not tonight but later in the week”.

“Sure” I said. WHAT. How did that happen, why did I say yes, I can’t still be drunk… no one can be that drunk. Before I have a chance to change my mind my phone number tumbled from my mouth. Maybe I was just rattled. I mean it’s not everyday that you are chased out of a public toilet block by a group of thirty, (its growing isn’t it), cricket bat wielding Neanderthals with the sent of blood in their nostrils.
“Drop me here” I blurted out, “there’s my car”.

I got out of the car confused by what was happening, not so much the riots, (thousands of them now), more the acceptance of a dinner date with this jockey. I leaned into the window to say thanks and as quick as a flash he leaned over gave me a peck on the cheek, flashed a smile, “toodles” he said and drove off.
Toodles! Oh god. Toodles.

I was left staring at the rear of his Toyota as he drove off into the sunset back to where ever he had come from.

Sure enough three days later I got the call. “Hello Tony it’s me, Leon… from the other day, I thought it might be nice to have dinner tomorrow night. I know this little place in Paddington behind the Unicorn we could get a bite to eat there and then see Kandy Johnson’s new show”.

“Okay Leon… hi… yeah about that…” I stammered, “You kind of got me unprepared the other day and I wasn’t really thinking straight. But I don’t think…”
“Oh shoosh you, you silly thing”, there was the shoosh again, “a dates a date. Now what’s your address and I can pick you up”.
“My address. Look what I am trying to say is… I don’t really think that we…”
“Darls let’s say about 7.30 for dinner, then you can have a beer after the meal while we wait for the show… now what was the address again?”
“Flat 5/78 Brougham St.” Jesus wept, what am I doing? It’s all that Opium he uses it’s seeping through the phone lines, drugging me.
“Lovely, see you later. Toodles” and then he was gone.

So we had dinner and then I had a beer, a few beers actually and then we watched Candy’s show. We were the odd couple, him with a scarf and me with a scowl. But you know what after thirty years I don’t notice the scarf so much anymore or the indecent amount of perfume that he insists on spraying before he leaves the house and I guess he has learned to put up with certain irritating habits of mine that some people say I have.

Every now and then as we drive down to Berry to our weekender we pass that little amenities block at Brighton-les-Sands and without fail every time we pass it by he says, “I was NOT doing the beat darls”. Yes dear and that’s still your natural hair colour.

I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if I had taken up with the “plumbers crack” that day. I suspect that I wouldn’t be driving to Berry for the weekend.


Ps. this is Leon now.

Tony tends to exaggerate, god love him; allow me to correct some factual errors.

I did meet him at Brighton-les-Sands but I have never done a beat in my life, I mean they’re just so dirty… and that smell. There was no riot, there may have been a cricket bat and yes there was a small group of about three boofheads who wanted to cause some trouble. And yes I did run into the toilet block and shout out a warning.

Yes I gave Tony a lift… no I did not ask him out, he asked me out… to thank me, he said. Well I thought that was a nice thing to do and being polite, I agreed. He kissed me. I gave him my number, he phoned me, (three times), he suggested we have dinner and then he wanted to see a drag show. Drag is not really my cup of espresso but I thought why not.

So we had dinner, I paid; we saw a drag show and then spent the next thirty years together.

I am five foot nine inches tall and I do NOT dye my hair.

Written by peteracross

February 18, 2009 at 16:41

My Man Crush

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I’ve got a “man crush”, well it’s really more of a “man/boy crush” but I’m proud of it. The only real problem I can see is the man/boy I have the crush on lives in New York, oh and one other small detail, he’s a little younger than me. I’m guessing he was born on or around the year 1988 – in that year Australia was celebrating its 200th birthday and I was celebrating my 31st. You see my dilemma – geographical distance and that other kind of distance.

Let me tell you how it all began.

About a year ago I became a huge fan of [title of show], the little show that could and did make it to Broadway. The way they did it was to set up a web site dedicated to raising awareness and creating a buzz for the show. They filmed “webisodes” for YouTube and used their friends who just happened to be Broadway celebs to help promote their push to get the show on to The Great White Way. All the usual suspects where there, “Broadway” Cheyenne Jackson, Bebe Neuwirth, Michael Arden, Nathan Lane – are you getting the idea. One of the NYC celebs they used was a fresh faced young chap by the name of Jeffery Self, cute as a button and funny to boot.

A couple of months later another friend in London, who was appearing in The Sound of Music, sent me a YouTube link for the “VGL (very good looking) Gay Boys”, starring the very same Jeffery Self and his perky but cheeky offsider Cole Escola. These boys have about twenty or so clips listed and between the two of them they manage to send up Broadway, the recession, flies, post coital chat and Bernadette Peters to name just a few. Their humour is gentle and not nasty and they have the good sense to send themselves up at the same time. There is nothing malicious or mean in their performance. They’re just funny.

I was trapped, I couldn’t stop watching and I became an addict demanding more and more from each clip that I saw. Never once have they let me down.

But getting back to my “man/boy crush” – those who know me would be forgiven for assuming that Jeffery would be the object of my rather scary cyber stalkering, (there you go a new word), but au contraire, it’s the delightful, discerning and I think slightly demented Cole Escola. The boy is a genius. There’s nothing he will not do for a laugh, not a wig or an accent that he will not wear out, no piece of scenery he will not chew to get that gag.

So yes I have unrequited “man/boy crush” on a performance artist who lives over 30 hours away by Qantas Airbus380.

And you thought you spent too much time in front of the laptop.

Written by peteracross

February 10, 2009 at 16:41