Walked Up Shooting in the UK with Spaniels, by Nick Ridley

Watch: Walked Up Shooting in the UK with Spaniels, by Nick Ridley — Featuring Ted, his 4-legged dynamo of a cocker spaniel

I’ve always wanted to shoot in the UK — but not for driven birds. Instead, I want to go rough shooting, which is what you see in this video.

Nick Ridley is the U.K.’s leading dog photographer. He’s also bird hunter, dog trainer, and a lover of cocker spaniels.

For years now, he and his Circle of Trust Rough Shooting Syndicate have been making videos of their shooting adventures throughout the UK. The one above shows them in Bedfordshire hunting pheasants and chukars in terrain that looks a lot like the northeastern US. As always, Nick shoots well and his cocker spaniel Ted does a great job.

Nick Ridley and The Circle of Trust Rough Shooting Syndicate
Nick Ridley and The Circle of Trust Rough Shooting Syndicate

Auction alert: Real nice 12g W & C Scott hammer shotgun …

W&C Scott Best Sidelock Double; 1878 Birmingham Production/London Retailed; 12 Bore; 30" Damascus Steel Barrels; Choked: Modified & Improved Cylinder; LOP: 14 1/8" ; Cast: Noticeably Off
W&C Scott Best Sidelock Double; 1878 Birmingham Production/London Retailed; 12 Bore; 30″ Damascus Steel Barrels; Choked: Modified & Improved Cylinder; LOP: 14 1/8″ ; Cast: Noticeably Off

Back in the ’90s, most hammer guns were curiosities few people were interested in. But thanks to magazines like The Doublegun Journal and organizations like The Vintagers, these old SxSs became the must-have doubles everyone wanted. Old ones that wouldn’t have brought $500 in 1995 were selling for $2,500 by 2005.

As a result, gun dealers grabbed every hammer gun they could find, slapped a high price on it, and made money. So today harder than ever to find nice, original hammer guns at decent prices. That being said, the W & C Scott sidelock SxS hammergun you see here appears to just that – nice, original and, because it’s a no-reserve auction, fairly priced.

W&C Scott Best Sidelock Double; 1878 Birmingham Production/London Retailed; 12 Bore; 30" Damascus Steel Barrels; Choked: Modified & Improved Cylinder; LOP: 14 1/8" ; Cast: Noticeably Off
W&C Scott Best Sidelock Double; 1878 Birmingham Production/London Retailed; 12 Bore; 30″ Damascus Steel Barrels; Choked: Modified & Improved Cylinder; LOP: 14 1/8″ ; Cast: Noticeably Off

When this gun was made, W & C Scott’s best-quality gun was The Premier Gun. This isn’t a Premier. Instead, it’s a high-quality, hand built, medium-grade gun. It’s on Gunbroker.com now and the listing ends on 8/30/2018 @ 9:31 PM, EST.

W&C Scott Best Sidelock Double; 1878 Birmingham Production/London Retailed; 12 Bore; 30″ Damascus Steel Barrels; Choked: Modified & Improved Cylinder; LOP: 14 1/8″ ; Cast: Noticeably Off

Beautiful W&C Scott Sidelock Double that was was manufactured at the Birmingham works in 1878 for retail through Scott’s London storefront. A bespoke piece with features, dimensions and appointments tailored to order, the gun features 30″, twin-beaded, browned Damascus barrels joined by a solid rib, manual extractor, wonderfully figured English Walnut pistol grip stock capped with a checkered buttplate of horn, and embellishment in the form of 70% engraving coverage. Brilliantly performed by one of the era’s finest artists, the engraving consists of classic, English vine-and-scroll highlighted by a Spaniel and Setter on either flank, each dog chasing an egret and a pheasant, respectively. The engraving extends to both the barrel and bolsters, while the blued trigger guard is adorned with a matching game bird. Wonderfully finished and in a remarkable state of preservation, the gun has seen no restoration, refinish or refreshing, with unfaded engraving, vivid Damascus star patterns on the barrel, while the receiver is awash in original case color. A wonderful find for the discriminating enthusiast, this Scott undoubtedly saw regular use followed by intervals of maintenance, likely by the original maker. Appearing ready for the field for decades to come, the gun locks up tightly, exhibits

W&C Scott Best Sidelock Double; 1878 Birmingham Production/London Retailed; 12 Bore; 30" Damascus Steel Barrels; Choked: Modified & Improved Cylinder; LOP: 14 1/8" ; Cast: Noticeably Off
Scott Best Sidelock Double; 1878 Birmingham Production/London Retailed; 12 Bore; 30″ Damascus Steel Barrels; Choked: Modified & Improved Cylinder; LOP: 14 1/8″ ; Cast: Noticeably Off

bits superior balance and both bores are pristine. A true classic from a British icon, this all-original early W&C Scott Sidelock would be an outstanding addition to any advanced collection.

 

Condition

Very fine, the gun has seen no refinish, and retains better than 70% naturally softening case color on the frame and hammers, with the areas of selected bluing displaying almost no finish loss apart from subtle fading. The barrels have largely turned to a brown-tinged steel patina with 70% Damascus pattern. There is light oxidation along the outside of the barrels with rubbing around the muzzle-no rust or pitting is present on any metal surface. The markings are correct, with matching numbers on all components and no fading of the engraving. No import or export mark is present and the gun has not been reproved. The furniture shows light, consistent wear to the checkering and no cracks, chips, sanding or refreshing. Mechanically excellent, both bores are on the face, lockup is tight and the action is impressive. The bores are outstanding-clean and bright with no rust, pitting or oxidation.

W&C Scott Best Sidelock Double; 1878 Birmingham Production/London Retailed; 12 Bore; 30" Damascus Steel Barrels; Choked: Modified & Improved Cylinder; LOP: 14 1/8" ; Cast: Noticeably Off
W&C Scott Best Sidelock Double; 1878 Birmingham Production/London Retailed; 12 Bore; 30″ Damascus Steel Barrels; Choked: Modified & Improved Cylinder; LOP: 14 1/8″ ; Cast: Noticeably Off

Get a great deal on driven shooting in the UK…

Make some memories at Delaney & Sons 2017 Beacons Shoot
Make some memories at Delaney & Sons 2017 Beacons Shoot

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Opportunity – specifically the opportunity to get $1000 off on a dream trip to shoot in the UK.

For several years now, Delaney and Sons has given American hunters the chance to experience some of the finest driven shooting in the UK at very reasonable prices. Due to client conflict, a spot just opened up on their famed Beacons Shoot, scheduled for the end of the November, this year. Here are the details from Delaney and Sons:

“Sometimes life interferes with the best laid plans. Our friend and past shooter, pictured above, unfortunately has been forced to cancel his trip with us next month due to an illness. He has asked us to try to sell his peg for $7,700, a discount of $1,000.

If you are adventurous and have been wanting to come with us, now is the time. The 2018 price is $9,200 (there are only 4 spots left by the way.)

Amazingly, flights are still a decent price depending on the airport. We will be picking up our team at London Heathrow on the morning of Sunday 26 November at 9:30am. Everyone will be taken back to Heathrow late in the morning on Saturday 2 December. So please keep that in mind when looking at flights. Some shooters stay at the Marriott Renaissance Heathrow the night before pick up. We will pick you up in the lobby at 10:00am.

Make some memories at Delaney & Sons 2017 Beacons Shoot
Make some memories at Delaney & Sons 2017 Beacons Shoot

Please let us know if you might have interest, and feel free to give us a call as soon as possible at 717-919-5317.

The price for friend or spouse traveling with you is $1,600.

Click here to link to the relevant page on our website (about 2018 though).”

See how they prove inside the Birmingham Proof House…

On the face? Birmingham Proof House series, Matthew Brown Photography
On the face? Birmingham Proof House series, Matthew Brown Photography

If you spend any time looking at old English and European guns, “proof” is something you’ll hear about.

In Great Britain and throughout the continent, state-recognized “proof houses” test every new firearm built in, or imported into, that country. Basically, they do this by trying to blow the gun up. If it survives. this process “proves” the shotgun, pistol, or rifle is safe to shoot.

The UK has two proof house: The London Proof House, founded in 1637, and the Birmingham Proof House, founded in 1813. Both are still proofing guns today.

With this series of pics, photographer Matthew Brown takes viewers into the inner workings of the Birmingham house and give us a rare look at one goes on throughout the proofing process.

The Untold Story – Grouse Counting

Grouse counting is a game-management technique used on grouse moors across the UK. This beautiful video explains how it works. But the best part of seeing how the dogs point and work the field.

The Untold Story – Grouse Counting

The Untold Story - Grouse Counting
The Untold Story – Grouse Counting

7 reasons you’ll kick yourself if you miss this shoot …

“The memories will last a lifetime!” – David J.

Wales awaits! If you’ve ever dreamt of shooting in the UK, you’re in luck: The Harding Shoot has a few spots left. It runs from November 15, 2015, to November 21, 2015. .Here are 7 reasons you have to go:

1) Superb Birds. High and fast, with great presentations for shooters.

2) Visit five different estates over five days. With shoots in England & Wales

3) Be challenged by a variety of driven birds. Pheasants, partridge, ducks, and woodcock – far more variety than most shoots offer.

4) Shoot more. This shoot present you with more birds and drives than shoots costing much more.

5) Wonderful accommodations. Including great Welsh food and hospitality.

6) Experience the camaraderie of the entire team: shooters, keepers, beaters, pickers-up, and dog handlers.

7) Best of all: it’s a superb value. $8500 for an all-inclusive week.

To learn more, visit The Harding Shoot now, or call 717-919-5317 to speak with the shoot’s organizers right away.

The Harding Shoot is as good as it gets! I have gone for 14 years. I have great memories of outstanding drives. If one wants to experience true British Driven Shooting on beautiful Estates at a reasonable price, I highly recommend the Harding Shoot.” -Tod D.

The Harding Shoot – A Driven Bird Hunt in Wales from Sean Delaney on Vimeo.

“The experience was truly unique. Staying in a classic 16th Century hotel in the charming rural village of Crickhowell, shooting a mixed bag (pheasant, partridge, ducks, and woodcock) on a new estate daily were just some of the highlights. What I thought to be a one time experience turned into me returning for the next five years. The memories and, more importantly, the friendships developed during those years, will last a lifetime.” – David J.

You can read more about everything that makes the Harding Shoot a great time in this post which I put up a few months ago.

A day later, but still glorious …

A friend of Dogs & Doubles sent me these pics. They were taken yesterday, August 13, in Yorkshire, UK. Our friend is experiencing some driven grouse shooting for the very first time. He said he’s having a fantastic trip. On one drive, he dropped 15 birds. Not bad…not bad at all.

Grouse shooting, August 13, Yorkshire, UK
Grouse shooting, August 13, Yorkshire, UK
Grouse shooting, August 13, Yorkshire, UK
Grouse shooting, August 13, Yorkshire, UK

What hunting is really about …

I used to make it out to South Dakota for the pheasant opener each year. While we always shot a lot of birds, the experience was about a lot more than the birds we brought home. This video from Team Wild TV reminds me of what I loved so much about it. While my crowd carried autoloaders and dressed in Carhartts instead of tweeds, we shared many of the same sentiments.

Driven Pheasant Shooting: The Wolseley Park Shoot, Team Wild TV
Driven Pheasant Shooting: The Wolseley Park Shoot, Team Wild TV

Take a dream trip to Wales with Delaney & Sons …

The Harding Shoot with Delaney & Sons, traditional shooting in Wales, tailored for Americans
The Harding Shoot with Delaney & Sons, traditional shooting in Wales, tailored for Americans

Being a sucker for history, double barrel shotguns, and all things tweedy, I’ve always wanted to shoot in the UK. If I had the time, I would definitely join Delaney & Sons this fall in Wales for their 2015 Harding Shoot.

Established in 1999, The Harding Shoot runs from November 15th to November 21st. It is based in the majestic hills of the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales, and guests stay in the quaint town of Crickhowell, Wales, at the historic Dragon Inn.

Last fall, Sean Delaney and his wife, Liz, took over the shoot from its originator. Their goal “… is to provide like minded American hunters with hassle-free access to traditional, high quality driven  shooting — without pretense —  for a reasonable price.”

The 2015 Harding Shoot is an all-inclusive affair and accommodations, ground transport, gun hire, ammunition, visitor’s permits, and food are all included. The price: $8,500.

To join the 2015 Harding Shoot, call 717-919-5317 for more info.

Here’s more about the Harding Shoot, from Sean Delaney:

“For our trip, all you need to do is show up at Heathrow on Sunday, and the rest is sorted from there.  We provide nice vintage boxlocks, with the odd sidelock thrown in, as well as modern over unders if that is someone’s preference. If someone wants to bring their own guns, that is fine as well.  Cartridges, food, lodging, etc. are all included. Tips to the individual estate keeper and alcohol at night are not included. The food is great, but there are no black tie dinners at castles.

The locals in the town we stay in, Crickhowell, know that we are coming and stop in throughout the week to say hello. If you go in a shop, the proprietor will likely say, “I heard the Americans were coming this week, how’s the sport been?”.

As far as the hunting is concerned, we are trying to drive home the point that driven shooting is a team endeavor, and a lot of people work very hard to present high birds to the guns. The head keeper, beaters, dog handlers and pickers up act in coordination with the guns to bring the bag home to be processed and sent to market. On many estates, the shoot lunch is a lavish affair held in a shoot lodge, but the beaters, handlers, and pickers up eat a boxed lunch in the parking lot. We have a much more egalitarian (American?) set up, inasmuch as well all eat together in a barn or an outbuilding. I think that this is a great way to really immerse the hunters in the tradition of the sport.

The other thing that we provide is hunting diversity. First, we hunt five estates over five days.  The larger estates could entertain a team for a whole week, but ours are generally smaller.  One of the shoots is almost entirely private; they only let one day a year, to us.  We get to see different terrain and meet different people every day. Second, we provide diversity of species. Every shoot in the UK has pheasants, and many have partridge as well.  But we add duck and woodcock to the bag, which is fairly unique.”

The gundogs of Downton Abbey…did the producers make a mistake?

Highclere Castle, where parts of Downton Abbey are filmed
Highclere Castle, the real Downton Abbey

Fans of the TV show Downton Abbey, you know that attention to detail is one of the things that makes this period drama so much fun. From the tea set used on Lady Mary’s breakfast table to the cut of Lord Grantham’s suit, Downton Abbey gets things right — most of the time, anyway.

In a passed episode, Lord Grantham was shown shooting with a yellow Labrador Retriever at his side. While most of went on in the scene was correct, the Lords loyal companion was not. According to this article in The Field, there’s almost no way the Lord Grantham would have had a yellow lab — or any lab– at his side. Why? And which breed of dog did most posh people in the UK favor around WW1? Click through and read The Downton Abbey Gundog to find out.

Flat Coated Retriever
Flat-Coated Retriever, once the breed of choice for shooters in the UK

A great look at pheasant shooting in North Yorkshire, UK….

Good friends, good dogs, plenty of birds. That’s all it takes for a nice day in the field – in the UK or over here.

This is one of the best produced shooting videos I’ve seen on Youtube. It was shot by Jonathan M McGee, a man who knows shooting as well as he knows cameras.

Pheasant Hunting in North Yorkshire, UK.
Pheasant Hunting in North Yorkshire, UK. Image from Jonathan M McGee Photography.

The best of the British gunmakers, by Douglas Tate…

Here’s a bit from an interesting article I found online. This piece ran in The Field and was written by Doug Tate, author of several great books on gunmakers and gunmaking.

Westley Richards Boxlock with Detachable Locks (Droplocks)
Westley Richards Boxlock with Detachable Locks (Droplocks)

British Gunmakers

The Field, Tuesday, 03 April 2012

British gunmakers are the blue bloods of the industry. Douglas Tate picks the best of British gunmakers

The beginning of the British gunmaker Westley Richards & Co story belongs to that classic British equation – a combination of skill and enterprise that characterises so much of the British Industrial Revolution. The early 19th century was a period of ferment when rank individualism, competition and disciplined industrial method all met together…

Read the entire piece now. Learn more about the history of British gunmaking, and find out which makers are Mr Tate’s favorite.

Springer Spaniel + Cocker Spaniel = ….?

A Sprocker Spaniel, from SprockerSpaniel.co.uk
A Sprocker Spaniel, from SprockerSpaniel.co.uk

Here’s a dog I haven’t heard of before: The Sprocker. It’s a cross between a Springer Spaniel and a Cocker Spaniel.

According to SprockerSpaniel.co.uk, Sprockers have been around for over 2o years, and there are between 5,000 – 10,000 of them in the UK, making one of the most popular spaniel breeds there.

Other than color variations, I’m not sure what advantages a Sprocker offers, and I don’t understand what niche they fill in the gundog world. Is it a leggy, rangier Cocker? A stockier, close-hunting Springer? If you have one, please let me know. I would love to learn more.

A Sprocker Spaniel, from SprockerSpaniel.co.uk
A Sprocker Spaniel, from SprockerSpaniel.co.uk

On Ebay now: Three great leather gun cases…

Leather Von Lengerke & Detmold Deluxe Leather Side-by-Side Shotgun Case
Leather Von Lengerke & Detmold Deluxe Leather Side-by-Side Shotgun Case

A great shotgun deserves great gun case. Here are three great gun cases on Ebay now. If you’re looking for the perfect vintage case for your favorite double, one of these may be it. All three were made in the UK for American sporting good companies.

This leather Von Lengerke & Detmold Deluxe Leather Side-by-Side Shotgun Case is from around World War 1. Back then and through the 1920s, Von Lengerke & Detmold was one of the top sporting goods store in NYC. They would have supplied leather cases like this with best fine shotguns like a Charles Daly Diamond or Regent Diamond or a J.P. Sauer Deluxe.

12 gauge Abercrombie & Fitch Leather Side-by-Side Shotgun Case + Original Accessories
12 gauge Abercrombie & Fitch Leather Side-by-Side Shotgun Case + Original Accessories
12 gauge Abercrombie & Fitch Leather Side-by-Side Shotgun Case + Original Accessories
12 gauge Abercrombie & Fitch Leather Side-by-Side Shotgun Case + Original Accessories
20 gauge Abercrombie & Fitch Leather Side-by-Side Shotgun Case + Original Accessories
20 gauge Abercrombie & Fitch Leather Side-by-Side Shotgun Case + Original Accessories
20 gauge Abercrombie & Fitch Leather Side-by-Side Shotgun Case + Original Accessories
20 gauge Abercrombie & Fitch Leather Side-by-Side Shotgun Case + Original Accessories

Abercrombie & Fitch bought V, L & D in 1929, and then went on to be one of the world’s most famous outdoors store until they closed in 1976.

-12 gauge Abercrombie & Fitch Leather Side-by-Side Shotgun Case + Accessories

-20 gauge Abercrombie & Fitch Leather Side-by-Side Shotgun Case + Accessories

These Abercrombie & Fitch cases are from the 1950s, and they were best-quality lightweight leather models in their day. These two are especially nice because they come with their original A & F snaps caps, two-piece cleaning rods and cleaning accessories.

Old England vs. New England…they sure look a lot alike…

Puck and I are back from hunting. We had a great time. While I download some pics and pull together my thoughts, check out this great video of rough shooting in the UK.

Rough shooting is a lot like the kind of upland hunting we do here in the US. Check out the video to see what I mean, and to see how similar the countryside in Old England is to the stuff we see in New England.

The Driven Pheasant Shoot – an introduction from the BASC…

In the UK, bird hunting is called shooting, and much of this “shooting” is done driven style. Take a look at this quick video from the British Association for Shooting and Conservation to see how driven pheasant shooting is done…

Gundogs: is a spaniel or lab from the UK really any better?

English Springer Spaniel
English Springer Spaniel

For some folks, British is always better – from shotguns to gundogs. While I’m a nut for British doubles, I’ve always had my doubts about spaniels and labs imported from the UK. Like our language, the way we hunt differs just enough to make the transition from one side of the Atlantic to the other a bit bumpy.

In this post from Sporting Classic, trainer Todd Agnew points out some of these bumps and explains why you may be better off American-bred dogs when you’re searching for your next hunting companion.

Expectations for a “British” Dog, by Todd Agnew of Craney Hill Kennel

“We all have expectations to different degrees, and at Craney Hill Kennel, they are extremely high for our dogs. The theory is that if we set our standards to an almost unattainable level, when we fall short, our dogs will still be very talented animals. It is hard to keep such a high standard when the public’s is so low that it becomes difficult to continually explain why you can or cannot do something.

Many people have a predisposed opinion of English dogs. This could be body structure, personality or training method. Regarding structure, I think it’s a mistake to think that an English dog looks like this or that. There may be certain tendencies, but the English dogs come in all shapes and sizes just like their American cousins. If you buy a puppy from England, you may get a 60-pound male with no legs or a 60-pound male with long legs. Or, you may get the same legs but the dog is 80 pounds!….

Read the entire piece here

Gunmaking & gundog training in the UK…

Here’s a nice video showing a bit about gunmakers Dickson & McNaughton and UK gundog training. It’s well produced and definitely worth a watch. Check it out now.

Gun Dog from Ella Nodwell on Vimeo.

Rare and beautiful. A double barrel 12 gauge by William Donn / Thomas Kilby…

12 gauge Thomas Kilby Side-by-Side Double Barrel Shotgun
12 gauge Thomas Kilby Side-by-Side Double Barrel Shotgun

The title “gunmaker” has always had always had a broad definition, especially here in America. Some of our gunmakers did make shotguns and rifles from scratch (or mostly from scratch). But others bought parts from overseas and then assembled, stocked, and finished off the firearm over here.

Many more American “gunmakers” were retailers who had their firearms built in their name by real gunmakers in the UK and Europe. Charles Daly is the most famous of these gunmaker-retailers, and until around World War II, side-by-sides carrying his name were made in Germany. From the looks of the shotgun you see here, William Donn was following a similar business model.

12 gauge Thomas Kilby Side-by-Side Double Barrel Shotgun
12 gauge Thomas Kilby Side-by-Side Double Barrel Shotgun

William Donn was gunsmith/gunmaker who worked in the Peoria to Chicago area from around 1870-1910. For while he has was partners with his brother, John. Later in his career he was on his own. Sometimes during in this second phase he imported this shotgun from the UK.

This side-by-side was made by Thomas Kilby of Thomas Kilby & Son, Steelhouse Lane, Birmingham, England, Kilby was a famous British barrel maker, and it looks like he also supplied finished SxS shotguns to retailers in the United States. While most ofhte work looks British, I’m not sure if Kilby also had the stock carved. He may have, or Donn may have had it done over here. Regardless, it’s a beautiful shotgun, and one I would love to call my own.

12 gauge Thomas Kilby Side-by-Side Double Barrel Shotgun
12 gauge Thomas Kilby Side-by-Side Double Barrel Shotgun
12 gauge Thomas Kilby Side-by-Side Double Barrel Shotgun
12 gauge Thomas Kilby Side-by-Side Double Barrel Shotgun
12 gauge Thomas Kilby Side-by-Side Double Barrel Shotgun
12 gauge Thomas Kilby Side-by-Side Double Barrel Shotgun
12 gauge Thomas Kilby Side-by-Side Double Barrel Shotgun
12 gauge Thomas Kilby Side-by-Side Double Barrel Shotgun
12 gauge Thomas Kilby Side-by-Side Double Barrel Shotgun
12 gauge Thomas Kilby Side-by-Side Double Barrel Shotgun
12 gauge Thomas Kilby Side-by-Side Double Barrel Shotgun
12 gauge Thomas Kilby Side-by-Side Double Barrel Shotgun

Are you getting it wrong? Five myths and misconceptions about shooting…

Orvis Shooting School, Millbrook, NY. A great place to become a better shot.
Orvis Shooting School, Millbrook, NY. A great place to become a better shot.

There are lot of superstitions, fairy tales and just plain non-sense in the world of shotgun shooting. If you spend any time on a skeet field or a clays course, you’ll heard plenty of it.

Writer Laurie Hart has heard plenty of it, too. In the piece excerpted below, she calls a few of them out. Click through and read the entire piece for her explanation of why each myth and misconception is pure BS.

Five Myths and Misconceptions About Shooting, by Laurie Hart, from the UK’s FieldSports magazine.

1: The tighter the choke the longer the shot string.

2: A longer shot string makes it easier to hit the target.

3: The more open the choke the bigger the pattern.

4: Shooting across and into water enables you to see the shot string.

5: Swinging very rapidly can spread the shot across the sky.

In her article, Laurie explains each of these myths and misconceptions in greater detail, and I suggest you check the whole thing out now.

The do’s and dont’s of shooting driven grouse…

Check out this good introduction to the sport of shooting driven grouse. A lot goes into making it happen: time, effort, and especially money. About 2/3rds of the way through there’s a guy named Simon Ward using an O/U that looks like a Perazzi. He guy can shoot — and I love how he uses his loader. So much for tradition.

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