Discovering the Landscape: Book now for a place on FOLAR’s Landscape Education study day

Landscape Architecture and Management Education in the UK: past present and future

Delegates at the 2016 FOLAR study day browsing a pop-up exhibition of landscape library and archive material in the MERL Reading Room

Delegates at the 2016 FOLAR study day browsing a pop-up exhibition of landscape library and archive material in the MERL Reading Room

What?

This year’s FOLAR (Friends of the Landscape Library and Archive at Reading) Seminar deals with the origins and history of landscape architecture and management education in the UK, past, present and the future.

Who?

Speakers will include Guy Baxter, the University of Reading Archivist, on the history of the first landscape architecture course in the UK, that at Reading (1930-1959). Then Jan Woudstra will survey the origins and growth of landscape courses nationally. Richard Bisgrove will outline the story of the BSc Landscape Management at Reading (1986-2010). Finally Robert Holden (formerly University of Greenwich) will review current trends, speculate about the future and in particular look to the past to see lessons that can be applied today. The chair will be John Stuart-Murray of the University of Edinburgh.

The FOLAR AGM is from 10.30am-12.00pm, and all (members and non members) are welcome from 10am onwards, lunch will 12-12.30pm and the afternoon seminar will run from 12.30pm-4pm. Duplicate books from the LI collection will be on sale.

When?

Saturday 1 April 2017

10.30-4

Where?

MERL (Museum of English Rural Life), Redlands Road, Reading, RG1 5EX

Booking?

Please complete this FOLAR booking form and return it by email to info@folar.uk or by post to the address on the form.

Cost: for FOLAR members £15 incl. lunch (a £35 payment on the day would include FOLAR membership renewal).

For non members the cost of the seminar incl. lunch is £25.

PLEASE BOOK EARLY FOR THIS EVENT as we have a limit on numbers – 50 maximum.

We look forward to seeing you there!

War Child

The MERL is very excited to announce the publication of War Child, an online ‘mixed-media book’ which explores our Evacuee Archive from a fascinating new angle.  In this visually stunning work, Teresa Murjas, Associate Professor in the Department of Film, Theatre & Television at the University of Reading, and alumnus and film-maker James Rattee have woven together an intricate tapestry of content focusing on the story of how the archive came into being and how it continues to shape the life of its creator, Martin Parsons.

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The inspiration for this unique project came from Teresa’s initial meeting with Martin in 2013 when he was speaking about the Evacuee Archive at a meeting for scholars interested in the University’s Collection Based Research programme:

 I became particularly curious about the Evacuee Archive through my meetings with Martin. His willingness to talk to me lies at the centre of the project. My interest about how the archive came into being was generated in discussion with him. The project attempts to tell a story of the archive’s growth through focusing on a series of edited audio fragments from our dialogue and on imagery that investigates and reflects on a small collection of significant objects. These key elements act as ‘guides’ on a sometimes light-hearted journey of exploration into a few of the possible reasons why this archive exists, and the relationships and attachments associated with it. This is why the title of the project incorporates the phrase ‘meditating on an archive’. It might also be possible to argue that the new material we have collected and drawn together as part of the project is an extension of the archive held at MERL, or perhaps that it creates a new gateway to it.

warchild-boatsmThe British Government scheme to evacuate children from cities during the Second World War began in September 1939. Children, usually without their parents, were sent to areas of Britain that were considered safer from bombing and the effects of war, these were often rural areas.  Our collection contains written memoirs, oral history interviews and research material relating to former evacuees and war-children.

In his career as a historian of Second World War child evacuation and lecturer at the University of Reading, Martin accumulated a wealth of research materials and documents which he generously donated to the Museum helping to make our Evacuee Archive the largest resource of its kind outside London’s Imperial War Museum.  While ‘War Child’ displays many of these records and artefacts in an accessible and unique format, the real power of the project is combining the materials collected with audio files, which exhibit its creator’s extensive knowledge of the collection and its origins.  As Martin’s daughter, Hannah, explains in an audio clip from ‘Meeting Five’ of War Child, her father is the archive and it is a rare treat for this kind of memory to be captured alongside the physical collection.

Understanding and exploring this aspect of our archive was however, a natural process for the creators of War Child:

A lot of my research and teaching focuses on the work of arts practitioners whose interests lie in communicating the experiences, memories and stories of children affected by war. ‘War war child - masksmchild’ builds on that research and teaching, in that it seeks to both point towards and respond to, what is a very important conflict-related resource for researchers, whatever their age and background – namely the Evacuee Archive. Seeking to understand and explain how war continues to affect children remains an ongoing and urgent necessity. Consulting and contributing to this ever-expanding archive can form part of that process.

When exploring the War Child site, I personally found Martin’s discussion of the evacuee luggage label of particular interest.  Not only does Martin describe how these labels were a symbol of the immense logistical feat achieved during the War, he also emphasises the dehumanising effect they had on the evacuated children.  Significantly, these labels were often kept as prized possessions and have become an evacuee’s own version of a military medal, with people proudly displaying their labels on Remembrance Day for the march past at the cenotaph.  Meanwhile, for Teresa, one of the most interesting artefacts from the collection is actually one that is missing:

 war child- dollsmI am really interested in the section about the doll. Arguably, I got disproportionately excited about the doll in the archive that cannot be found! No one really knows where it has gone, or when it went. Working through our disappointment, but also our, in retrospect, persistent questions about what it was like, what it would be like to find it and so on, could probably be a bit wearing for Martin at times, I think, and he was extremely patient. Nevertheless, those discussions feel very rich and complex now, because there was this strong sense of investigation about them, on everyone’s part. For me, that section feels in some important way as though it is at the centre of the work.

While War Child is a fantastic companion piece to our Evacuee Archive, it is also an illuminating archive in and of itself; a significant chapter of the story, containing records and memories of the experiences of those most closely involved in developing the collection and bringing it to MERL where it can be preserved for and shared with generations to come.

It would be great if people felt motivated to re-visit War Child over time. It contains a lot of material, and coming back to that in stages, as we have, can shed new light.

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

Discovering the Landscape: Preparation, progress and preservation – 3 years on

Plans, papers, press cuttings and publications…. we have spent a busy three years working on the Landscape Institute collections here at MERL.

Alongside continuing to work on the collections to make them available, we are now looking to encourage use, awareness and engagement with our rich and varied landscape heritage collections.

What have we achieved?

Our progress from unpacking, to processing, cataloguing and display

Our progress from unpacking, to processing, cataloguing and display

Archives

Over 200m linear metres of archive material have been sorted and made available for researchers.  This vast amount of invaluable material includes press cuttings, minutes, membership lists, financial papers, Institute publications, a slide library and an album containing the Institute’s royal seal, logo and name badge (now on display at the LI’s headquarters).  The associated archive collections include the business records of significant landscape architects including founder member of the Institute Geoffrey Jellicoe.

Peter Shepheard sketchbook on display in 'Discovering the Landscape' exhibition at the University Library

This Peter Shepheard sketchbook was on display in our ‘Discovering the Landscape’ exhibition (Jan-June 2016)

Library

Thousands of books have been processed with 2500 so far added to stock and available to readers on site at MERL.  A selection of rare books have been added to collections held in our stores.  All of the journal titles received have now been sorted and listed.  Very soon we will be working to fully integrate the LI books into the MERL Library.

Selection of Shell Guide's received from the LI which have been added to our existing collection

Selection of Shell Guide’s received from the LI which have been added to our existing collection

Volunteers

Volunteers: thank you – we couldn’t have done it without you!

In the period 2013-2016 volunteers working on LI collections have contributed an impressive 10,000 hours to the project.  This includes tasks such as: book bib checking, book labelling, listing, indexing and digitising slides.

Volunteers Ron and Jan have been working on digitising slides and were featured on our Tumblr

Volunteers Ron and Jan have been working on digitising slides and were featured on our Tumblr

Events and engagement

Events that showcased out LI collections have included a seminar series (Spring 2015), a joint MERL and LI Annual Lecture with James Corner (October 2015) and a treasures exhibition (Jan-June 2016).  Throughout the project we have been sharing highlights and news from the collections with you via our social media channels, twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest and this blog.

We also work closely with FOLAR (the Friends of the Landscape Library & Archive at Reading) and have hosted their study days, such as about Brenda Colvin and New Towns and Gordon Patterson.

James Corner speaking at MERL and Landscape Institute Annual Lecture, University of Reading's Great Hall, 22 October 2015

James Corner speaking at MERL and Landscape Institute Annual Lecture, University of Reading’s Great Hall, 22 October 2015

For more information about our LI collections you can visit this dedicated webpage or contact us via our Reading Room service on merl@reading.ac.uk.

Claire Wooldridge, Project Librarian

 

Discovering the Landscape: landscape research bursaries available

This year, thanks to generous funding from the Landscape Institute, we are pleased to offer bursaries to encourage use and engagement with our varied and fascinating landscape collections.  Read more about our Landscape Institute collection here, including the collections of Geoffrey Jellicoe, Sylvia Crowe and Brenda Colvin.  See a full list of our collections here.

Details below, please apply by email to merl@reading.ac.uk

From AR COL A/6/5, Folder relating to Little Peacocks Garden, Filkins [Brenda Colvin's home from 1960s]

From AR COL A/6/5, Folder relating to Little Peacocks Garden, Filkins [Brenda Colvin’s home from 1960s]

Student travel bursaries

The purpose of the student travel bursaries is to enable students to access collections held at Reading related to landscape, including landscape design, management and architecture.

We are offering 2 bursaries of £150 each.

Applications will be by email to merl@reading.ac.uk (please put “Landscape Bursary” in the subject line) will be invited from any student in part or full-time higher education.

Interested applicants should submit a CV, and a short statement (max 400 words) outlining their interest in and current work on landscape, stating how the bursary would be spent and how it would be beneficial to their studies.  Applicants should identify those materials in the archive that would be of most benefit to them.

Plate from 'The art and practice of landscape gardening', by Henry Ernest Milner, MERL LIBRARY RESERVE FOLIO--4756-MIL

Plate from ‘The art and practice of landscape gardening’, by Henry Ernest Milner, MERL LIBRARY RESERVE FOLIO–4756-MIL

Academic engagement bursary

The purpose of this award is to encourage academic engagement with collections held at Reading related to landscape, including landscape design, management and architecture.

Successful proposals will attract a stipend of £1,000. The funding can be used to offset teaching and administration costs, travel and other research-related expenses. Appropriate facilities are provided and the successful applicant will be encouraged to participate in the academic programmes of the Museum.

The intention for this award is to create an opportunity for a researcher to develop and disseminate new work in the broad arena of landscape.

Applications will be by email to merl@reading.ac.uk  (please put “Landscape Bursary” in the subject line).  Interested applicants should submit a CV and a statement (max 800 words) outlining their interest in, and current work on, landscape.

AR JEL DO1 S2/20

Geoffrey Jellicoe collection, AR JEL DO1 S2/20

Timetable

Academic engagement bursary:

1 September 2016 – applications open

31 October 2016 – applications close

30 November 2016 – successful candidates announced

Any work will need to be carried out and monies claimed by 31 July 2017.

Student travel bursaries:

1 September 2016 – applications open

28 February 2017 – applications close

31 March 2017 – successful candidates announced

Any work will need to be carried out and monies claimed by 31 July 2017.

 

For informal enquiries please email c.l.wooldridge@reading.ac.uk

We look forward to receiving your applications!

Discovering the Landscape: From London traffic to an Italian Prisoner of War camp

Book Production War Economy Standard stamp

Book Production War Economy Standard stamp

Over the course of a large scale cataloguing project, many hundreds of items pass through your hands.  Since acquiring the library and archive of the Landscape Institute in late 2013, we have made nearly 2500 books available to readers here at MERL.  Added to this figure are metres of journals and pamphlets – and this is to say nothing of the huge amount of varied and fascinating archival material that has been catalogued and made to available to readers so far (more on this next time).

Town Planning and Road Traffic by H. Alker Tripp (London, Edward Arnold & Co.,1942)

Within this wealth of material it is inevitable that some items catch your eye or stick in your memory more than others.  Striking cover designs, exquisitely illustrated plates, or an unexpected personal relevance are often those that stay with you.

Surprises keep things interesting!  Sometimes that faded cover, with its generic title, gives way to a book with a fascinating story or provenance – often raising more questions than you can answer – which transform the item you hold in your hands from every day to truly unique.

 

 

Town planning and road traffic, by H. Alker Tripp.

London: Edward Arnold & Co., 1942.

Title page with inscriptions in pencil relating to a prisoner of war camp

Title page with inscriptions in pencil relating to a prisoner of war camp

Sir Herbert Alker Tripp (1883-1954) was a senior English police official, who for much of his career, worked to find ways to address London traffic problems.  Blackouts and the blitz following the outbreak of WWII led to an even more complicated traffic situation in London.  In 1942 Tripp’s Town Planning and Road Traffic was published.  Tripp looked ahead to post-war reconstruction of urban areas and made pioneering suggestions about big new roads that could connect towns: motorways.

As with all of our LI books, Town Planning has an LI book plate pasted down on the inside cover.  It also has a small label which tells us that the book was donated to the LI library by Maria Shephard.

Bookplate showing previous life of the book as part of the LI library, donated to them by Maria Shephard (Tripp, Town Planning, 1942)

Bookplate showing previous life of the book as part of the LI library, donated to them by Maria Shephard (Tripp, Town Planning, 1942)

Maria Teresa Parpagliolo Shephard (1903-1974) was an Italian landscape and garden designer.  A member of the Landscape Institute (frequently contributing to their journal) and involved in the setting up of IFLA, Parpagliolo worked and travelled across Europe as a pioneer of European landscape design.  Parpagliolo trained with Percy Cane in the early 1930s and worked on a string of high profile projects including the Regatta Restaurant Garden at the Festival of Britain in 1951.

In 1946, Parpagliolo married Ronald Shephard, the “‘town major’ of the British military in Rome, whom she met during Rome’s liberation by the Allied Forces. She followed him back to England in 1946” (Dümpelmann, 2010).

Landscape architects gifting their books to the LI library after their deaths is not unusual in itself.

Pencil inscriptions and an ink stamp on the title page relating to a ‘Camp Leader’ at a ‘Campo Concentramento 82’ – however – are not something I have seen before.

Curiouser and curiouser.  Pasted on to the back of the title page is a label confirming that the book was sent to ‘The Camp Leader’ via the ‘Prisoner of War Post’.  According to the I Campi Fascisti project, Campo Concentramento 82 was a prisoner of war camp in Laterina, near Arrezzo, where the Italian fascist state held thousands of British, Greek, New Zealander, South African and Greek prisoners of war during WWII.

Prisoner of War Post label

Prisoner of War Post label

A further notable feature of the title is the ‘Book Production War Economy Standard’ stamp printed onto the back of the title page (you can see this at the top of the post).  We have a small number of other books within our collections which also feature this intriguing marking.

The book production war economy agreement the schedule with an introduction and notes on interpretation. 1942. MARK LONGMAN LIBRARY--070.5-PUB

The book production war economy agreement the schedule with an introduction and notes on interpretation. 1942. MARK LONGMAN LIBRARY–070.5-PUB

 

 

We have all heard of rationing during WWII, but did you know that even paper was rationed?  From 1940-49 paper was rationed, with publishing companies having to cut back on their use of paper by 60%.  In 1942 ‘The Book Production War Economy Agreement’ between the Ministry of Supply and the Publishers Association introduced strict guidelines which covered, for example, print size, words per page and blank pages.  Published in 1942, Tripp’s Town Planning could have been one of the first titles to published under this scheme.  It does contain one large fold out plate.  Despite these restrictions, demand for books grew during WWII.

 

 

Why was this title sent to a prisoner of war camp leader via the prisoner of war post?  Perhaps in the context of needing to rebuild urban areas after the war.  How did Maria Parpagliolo have this book?  Could a member of her family, or her husband, have been connected with the camp?  Perhaps she purchased it as a reference book and the provenance is incidental.  This fascinating book gives us a tantalising insight into this historical period – but raises more questions than answers!

Fold out plan at the back of Tripp, Town Planning, 1942

Fold out plan at the back of Tripp, Town Planning, 1942

Please contact us (using the form below or at merl@reading.ac.uk) if you have any further information.

For more on Maria Parpagliolo, Sonja Dümpelmann has published several articles and a book (such as Dümpelmann, S. (2010). The landscape architect Maria Teresa Parpagliolo Shephard in Britain: her international career 1946–1974, Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes, 30:1, 94-113, DOI: 10.1080/14601170903217045).

For more on publishing in war time, Valerie Holman’s Print for Victory is a great start.

Claire Wooldridge, Project Librarian

Reading Readers – Felicity McWilliams

For this month’s Reading Readers blog, PhD student Felicity McWilliams (a familiar face at MERL) gives us an insight into how the MERL collections are playing a part in her research of draught power technology in the 20th century.

An image from Farmers Weekly showing horses and a combine harvester at work together on a farm near Durham in 1961. The farmer also used tractors but on this day they were busy on another task (MERL P FW PH2/C107/76).

An image from Farmers Weekly showing horses and a combine harvester at work together on a farm near Durham in 1961. The farmer also used tractors but on this day they were busy on another task (MERL P FW PH2/C107/76).

Last September, I left my post as Project Officer at the Museum to embark upon an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award PhD, based jointly at King’s College London and here at MERL. I’m researching the history of draught power technology on British farms c.1920–1970. Draught power is essentially anything used to pull a load, from carts and wagons to ploughs and harvesters. I’ll admit I often get a blank look back when saying that, though, so I revert to telling people I’m doing a PhD on tractors.

It’s not just tractors though; the technological landscape of twentieth-century British farms included steam engines, horses, oxen, home-made tractors, cars, lorries, jeeps, motorcycles and even military-surplus tanks. Histories of agricultural technology (and of technology in general) have tended to focus on new machinery and innovation. Which is fine, but it means that they look mostly at manufacturers, economics and government policy and rarely at the people actually using the technology – the farmers, horsemen, tractor drivers and farm mechanics. The aim of my project is to research the wide variety of draught power sources that farmers were using and the factors that influenced their decision-making. What they could afford to buy is always important, but I’m also interested to find out how their technological skills, working relationships, values and attitudes might also have had an impact on the animals and/or machines they chose to work with.

Back issues of The Farmers Weekly in the museum's library.

Back issues of The Farmers Weekly in the museum’s library.

I’ve started by looking at the Second World War period, and over the past few months have spent a lot of time in the MERL archives reading 1940s issues of Farmers Weekly magazine. There are so many features in the magazine which help to show what farmers were thinking, discussing and buying, from adverts and articles to letters and photographs. In fact, there are so many amazing sources in the MERL archives, from films to farm diaries, that it’s a little daunting wondering how I’m ever going to find time to see everything. You can find out more about what’s in the collection here.

We’ll certainly keep up to date with Felicity’s progress and hopefully share some of the interesting things she discovers in her research.

Focus on Collections: Dragons

To celebrate St George’s Day we decided to delve into the object collection for dragons.

IMG_8820Dragons are normally something you would keep well away from Museum stores. Messy eaters, far too large and prone to setting things on fire, they are possibly the least ideal animal to have in a storehouse full of dry baskets, wooden tools and straw samples.

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And yet, some curator long ago saw fit to let at least a few dragons in. Our first three are fairly manageable, being altogether about ten centimetres long, made of corn and being – on closer inspection – actually quite cute. Modelled on the fierce beasts of mythology, these corn dolly dragons made by Doris Johnson appear to be aquatic rather than airborne, with only two legs, a spiral tail and no real wings to speak of.

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Our next dragons are similarly flammable but, since they were made in 1787, have managed to survive. They are known as Housen, and are pieces of decoration meant to be attached to a horse’s collar. They both depict a pair of dragons in the centre, mouths set against a globe. The style of both pieces is very reminiscent of Nordic designs, and yet these two pieces were collected from Twyford. Their origin is obscure, but they may have developed from the guard attached to the front of the saddle to protect the groins of a knight in armour, which at least gives them a flavour of St George.

The lack of wings, however, make us wonder if these even do depict dragons. Are they in fact heavily stylised lions?

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Research post: X marks the spot

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We’ve all been very busy researching nine new galleries for the Our Country Lives redevelopment, covering everything from wagon construction to rural fashion. What caught our eye recently, however, was a one-way, horse-drawn Butterfly plough.

While delving into our accession files for its measurements we found this interesting little map tucked into a sheaf of correspondence (below). It depicts a working farm in Polventon, Cornwall where our plough came from. It shows a house, barn, stables, a waggon and cart hovel, a ‘new building’ and a chapel. It also has some queries – such as one building labelled ‘bullock house? Pigs?’. I doubt we’ll ever know which.

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The correspondence also revealed that the farmer used this horse-drawn plough to fill in the gaps which his tractor-drawn plough could not reach, such as by the hedges, showing the perseverance of old technology where practical. The curator has marked two X’s on the map where two ploughs were found in hedges (including the one in our collection). Not exactly buried treasure to most people, but valuable to us nonetheless.

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What is also particularly interesting for us is the inclusion of a floor-plan of the farmhouse (below), labeling familiar objects in our collection such as settles. Considering our plans for the redeveloped galleries include a focus on ‘Hearth and Home’, exploring both the romanticised view of the cottage and the too-often grim reality, these plans may well shape our interpretation and object layout.

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The farmhouse still exists in the exact same shape, although the ‘waggon hovel’ has since been converted into a garage. No longer used as part of a farm, you can rent out the house for a self-catering holiday, which is itself an interesting comment on the changes in farming and rural real estate over the past fifty years.

Hopefully we’ll have more interesting things crop up as we research over the next few weeks!

What have we been up to? An Our Country Lives update

This gallery contains 9 photos.

A common reaction from people when we tell them that our galleries are closed is ‘Does that mean you’re all on holiday?’ Well, we’ve actually been intensely busy behind the scenes since November creating the new MERL! Here’s a round-up of some of the things we’ve been doing:   1. While the galleries have been closed, […]

Dog Carts: Travel in style

Written by Adam Koszary, Project Officer.

In my mind the idea of a dog cart is fairly funny. The idea of, say, a Pug or a French Bulldog pulling along bespoke, miniature carts is absurd, endearing and yet a little unsettling, like performing animals at the zoo.

They are also some of my favourite objects at MERL. Nothing else has confronted me so immediately with its oddity: when did we use dogs as draught animals? Why was that okay? Who made these carts, and who used them?

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Vincent de Vos – The Dog Cart – Williamson art gallery and museum

It is the ethical issues, however, that I enjoy the most. Why is it one rule for one animal and a different one for another? Docking dog tails is restricted or banned in most countries, but it’s fine for sheep. Is it hypocritical to think of dog carts as cruelty to animals when we still use horses and oxen to pull carts?

 L.M. Frobisher - Belgian Dog Cart - Bushley Museum and Art Gallery

L.M. Frobisher – Belgian Dog Cart – Bushley Museum and Art Gallery

The Victorians were the first to take issue with it, originally banning it in 1839 through the Metropolitan Police Act, which forbade the use of dog carts within fifteen miles of Charing Cross. As well as being thought of as cruel to animals it was thought that overworked dogs were more susceptible to rabies, cases of which did indeed drop by 1841. It was also in that year that dog-carts were banned across the United Kingdom. It did not pass unopposed, although most arguments against it were concerned with the effect it would have on small traders, who used dog carts as a cheaper way of transporting goods. Indeed, some of the opposition ridiculed the ‘trivial’ bill, saying that if small animals should not draw carts then Shetland ponies should also be banned. (And considering that 1841 was the same year in which the Abolition of Slavery Act was passed, they may have had a point.)

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MERL/63/231

The Act for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals has since been updated without mention of using dogs for draught purposes so I’m not sure if it even is illegal anymore. Perhaps it’s simply because it would be such a rare occurrence for someone in the modern age to construct a cart and conscript a canine that it is pointless to legislate against.

A google, however, reveals that dog carts are still sold in the USA. So if you want to be driven around by a dog for some reason, try there. Just don’t use ours.

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MERL/63/101 – This one is actually French, so it’s a little strange that we have it..