kids

A room with a view

As Londoners we always get excited when an opportunity rises to visit one of its many monuments, however it is not every day that we get invited to visit the Mayor of London’s office…This was the 2nd time for us; the 1st time was in 2003, just a few months after it opened. This was a collaboration with a customer and we exhibited a large print showing an image of Tower Bridge.

This time it was a bit different. London’s Air Ambulance have invited us to take part in an event hosted by Caroline Pidgeon, member of the London Assembly and Deputy Chair of the Transport Committee and Joanne McCartney, Deputy Mayor. It was held at the London Living Room on the top floor and the 200 guests included donors, charity trustees, business and corporate partners, ex. patients, doctors, paramedics, pilots and consultants from the team.

June 19th was the hottest day of the year which meant the doors to the panoramic viewing balcony were kept open!

In the first image, if you look closely (click on the images to open them in a new window, then click again to zoom in), you can see the Royal London Hospital, to the Left of Tower Bridge. If you move a few cm to the Left again, yo can see the Red helicopter, just between the Hospital and a couple of big cranes. It took off and made a flyby along the river just above City Hall.

Jonathan Jenkins, the Charity’s new CEO, gave a fantastic, inspirational speech that was followed by Dr. Anne Weaver, Clinical Director of Trauma @ Royal London MTC & Barts Health NHS Trust (@AnnielondonAA) talking about the charity’s recent activities durning the terror attacks and the great Grenfel Tower fire, and also about the new initiative: The Institute Of Pre Hospital Care.

We then all watched a short video which was filmed a few weeks ago by the amazing Pro Create team (click on the link below the image to watch the video):

Needless to say that there were a few tears that were shed by more than a few people in the audience. We stayed there for a few hours, chatting to people, telling our story to donors and trustees, and sharing and exchanging experiences with fellow ex. patients and their families: A guy who lost his Left arm in the 2016 Croydon tram derailment, A guy who was involved in a motorbike vs brick wall accident less than a year ago, who suffered a severe head injury and was in a coma for a few days, A lady who had lost her leg in a car accident and young Victoria, who nearly lost her life at the end of 2014 when she was hit and run over by a lorry while riding her bike in London. She met “her” driver in court a year later and forgave him.

It was a very special night that we will remember for a long, long time. Being there with a group of people all joined by the same misfortune on one hand, but that are also fortunate to still be around and to be able to participate, support and enjoy being part of the Charity’s family.

In our continuous efforts to help the charity, we picked up a fun and an educational way to raise some funds. Our children have organised a couple of cake sales at their schools and between those two sales we have managed to collect just under £700. This sort of money covers the jet fuel costs of Two missions of the London’s Air Ambulance helicopter, so in a way we have helped saving two lives in London. Who knows, maybe one of those are the lives of a fellow cyclist?

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A reminder

I think this image tells a lot

This was 12 months ago. In the morning after seeing the doctors and hearing that they were ready to let us go home, Yael was on a mission to get us out of the hospital, not an easy task on the weekend when you need all the paperwork sorted, drugs supplied, follow-up appointments set up, arranging transport and of course preparing the house and the kids!

We eventually got on the ambulance at 9pm and had a very painful, rough & bumpy 1 hour journey through the streets of London.

The kids were at a friend’s house. The guys from the NHS transport service helped me transfer from the stretcher to the wheelchair and used the special ramp that Yael had someone make to wheel me into the house. They also helped Yael get our mattress down the stair and onto the sofa bed she had organised in the lounge.

I was completely drained when they parked me in the living room. All the emotions of being home again after a long, challenging month at the hospital, they all came out…we both sat there, laughing and crying at the same and I tried to get myself together and to put on a brave, happy face for the kids. They came in a few minutes later and we all hugged and cried together, they said goodnight and went to bed. Yael then helped me prepare for sleep, in what was going to be my bed for a long time…little did we know that that home visit was not going to last long and that we were going back to hospital less than 2 weeks later…

One year on

Woke up early last Friday and went to get some groceries. At 07:50 as I was pushing the trolly past the bread aisle I felt a sharp twitch in my right hip…these things have become almost normal in the last 12 months but this one was special.

12 months ago, on Thursday, April 7th at 07:50 that Blue Skoda had hit me.

How do you mark that moment? How do you process everything that had happened since that moment? How do you take all the bad and place it in a drawer, and how do you choose all the good, respect and cherish it?

What about the driver? He said sorry when he stood there next to me, but that was the last we’ve seen of him. The poor guy had 3 points added to his licence and had to spend a whole afternoon doing drivers awareness course. Is that enough? Will that make him more careful when he sits behind the wheel? Was he on the phone? Was he texting? Not enough coffee? Did he do something special on Friday? Does he know what happened to us since the accident?

Do we really care about him? Should we be angry with him? We all make mistakes and we all want to move on. Maybe he’s moved on and had chosen not to deal with the consequences.

What could have happened had I not decided to stop & turn Right at the junction? Maybe he would have caught with me 2 minutes later on Crew’s Hill and hit me from behind?

Would we be going on holiday during spring break as we were planning to? Would I be in Paris and Copenhagen for work on the following week, as I was supposed to? Would we all be having the Passover Seder with our friends like we always do? Would we be flying off to Florence to watch the MotoGP race? Would we be celebrating Alma’s 4th birthday in our garden? Would I be riding the #RideLondon 2016 for the BHF? Would we be going on our summer holiday? What about work? What about the most basic things such as going to the toilet or not having to rely on huge amounts of pain killers just to get through the day?

And how do we thank all the people who have supported us through this journey? Family, friends, colleagues, neighbours…what about the doctors and nurses? Where do we start?

In my dreams I saw myself celebrating that 1st anniversary on my bike, on a nice spring day ride. But as I realised this was not going to happen I came up with a different plan.

My brother-in-law, Doron, came over with two of his boys. Over the last year he has been a tremendous help and was here to support us in the worst moments.

They’ve made some very special t-shirts for all of us, with our names on the back. The weather was fantastic and we set off on a family walk from our home in Finchley the the junction on Theobalds Park Road in Enfield where the accident took place.

16km through the streets, parks and fields of North London.

A couple of ice cream stops, some snacks and sandwiches and we made it to the junction!

But the main event came on the following day. The London Air Ambulance has recently signed a 3- year partnership with the Saracens and to kick it off they’ve chosen #DerbyDay. We were invited to play an active role and to help raise funds and more importantly, awareness. Of course we had our own fan club who had joined us! 4 families who have all been there for us, visiting me at the hospital and helping Yael and the kids in maintaining their daily routines, cooking, babysitting and keeping Yael’s sanity as much as they could.

The charity had put a piece about the event on their Website with a cool short video on it.

For us and for me this is all about payback. I owe my life to them. Without them the kids would remember me only from photos!

This is Dr. Simon Walsh who treated me at the roadside. I’m one of hundreds who were saved by Simon. We want the charity to continue saving lives and keeping families together


These are some of the images that were displayed on the large screens at the stadium during Simon’ interview with me.

This week we had 12 months follow up appointment at the Royal London Hospital and we jumped on the opportunity to go up and visit the helipad one more time:

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Little Alma brought her class’s mascot, Lex, along. There’s a school tradition where every weekend and holiday another child takes Lex home and get his album updated with his adventures and pictures. We think that after this holiday they will have to look for a new challenge as he’s been on live TV and on a helicopter !!!

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As I wrote to the team after the game, we have never met a group of people who are so professional, so dedicated and passionate about what they do and who provide such an amazing support not only when they treat you, but also in the long months following that, when you and your family go through such tough times.

In the coming months, as part of my on-going physical and psychological rehabilitation I will be seeing patients who sustain injuries similar to mine, who are starting their journey to recovery and who can benefit from my advice on what to expect and how to cope with these difficult times.

After the accident, because we did not fully understood the situation and how long it was all going to take, I told the London Air Ambulance that I’ll join their #RideLondon 2017 team. As we now realise I will not be cycling on the road for a while, Michael Marks, my friend, has taken it up and will be riding and fundraising for the London Air Ambulance. It requires £7M each year to run their services, so every penny and every pound count!

Michael’s LAA fundraising page

3rd time lucky, or not so…

Summer. The nicest season on this island. We usually try to enjoy the long days and warmer weather and spend as much time as possible outdoors.

For me as a cyclist it allows getting the miles in early morning…I mean really early…or use the long evening to the same effect.

At the weekends we often load our bikes on the car (mind you there’s 5 of us so it is not so easy) and go somewhere where we can all explore the woods and trails.

But not in 2016…the summer of 2016 will always be remembered as the one we did very little in, if anything at all. To begin with I was on crutches and had a tube stuck in my belly, about 10cm bellow my bellybutton that was about 40cm in length and that had a flip-valve on it. Going to the toilet was very frequent and involved some gymnastics so if it was in a public place I had to use the disabled toilets.

I was supposed to be part of the British Heart Foundation’s team riding the Prudential RideLondon 100 mile at the end of July…sadly I had to call them up and to ask that they keep the place for me for 2017 and that they allow my friend Michael Marks to take it, which he did and raised more than £1,000. Unfortunately I will not be able to make it for this year’s ride but on that later…

Initially I was only able to walk around the house, then gradually extended it to short walks outside…we remember the first time when I came to collect the kids from school, which is only 600 metres from the house! Sitting upright was practically impossible so the sofa bed was permanently open in the living room where I was spending most of the time, lying on my back. Wearing normal clothes was another no no so the newly discovered fashion for me ended up being a mix of pyjamas and tracksuits.

I stayed on strong antibiotics for a few weeks after leaving the hospital and carried on taking strong painkillers and gradually reducing the dose. When I say song I mean bottles of Oramorph, a controlled opiate drug that is highly addictive and that has some strong side effects…it was later replaced with Tremadol and Codeine…just different names at lower doses. For weeks I was falling asleep a few times a day, but could not sleep at night because of pains and aches when trying to turn or move in bed. Common side effects like itchiness and constipation are something you just have to cope with…

It was only at the end of July when I was given a Green light to start physiotherapy and I only started driving in September but only on short journeys as the seatbelt and the bumps were causing great discomfort and my instincts were (and still are) rather slow.

Hopes that the urology side will resolve itself out with time were lost in August, when a fairly uncomfortable exam called Urethrogram showed that it will need to be repaired with an operation. Date was set for 2nd of November and my mission was to try and get as fit as possible, which would hopefully help coping with yet another trauma and support a speedy recovery…So that’s what I did: As my road bike was smashed by the Skoda I took one of our old mountain bike-come trainer, which I’ve built before the heart surgery in 2014, and rigged it up again on the turbo trainer, set it up for an upright position as I could not bend forward and placed a small stepladder next to it so that I can climb on/ off without falling over. It proved very difficult at the beginning but with painkillers and some persistency I was able to sit and pedal for 30-35 minutes at a time. I found it less painful than walking and it allowed for some decent cardiovascular work. As I was gradually weaning myself off of the stronger painkiller, I also gained back my appetite and had slowly put on some weight and muscle.

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One of the biggest moments of last summer was August 3rd. We had a follow up appointment at the Royal London hospital to see the surgeons and the guys from London Air Ambulance had invited us to visit the helipad and meet the team. For me this was another milestone…I grew up around planes and helicopters and the unique smells of jet fuel and oily bits are something I’m very familiar with, but there is something very special in that place. Sitting, or more like floating on top of the 17-story building, the helipad is a fenceless platform. You could walk over and step off the edge easily and it allows easier takeoff and landing approach for the choppers. It was a nice day and allowed for some amazing London cityscape views, but we were more interested in the team and their machine. The two images on the Right show the tiny safety label that is affixed above the patient’s head, which I remembered as being a massive sign that I was struggling to read when I was lying there.


Today we’re nearly in March 2017 and when I look back and as much as I try, there are many details that escape me but luckily we have pictures, piles of medical letters and trails of emails and WhatsApp messages to remind us of what was going on every single day. One of those moments was the day I got back to making pancakes…

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With all those drugs I’ve found myself spending days and weeks on the sofa watching reality shows with the favourites being American classic car restoration and hotrodding, and of course bike races…trying to concentrate on anything more involving or more challenging was very much impossible on most days.

In October, the London Air Ambulance Patient liaison nurse, Frank Chege, an incredible man, had organised for Yael and me to visit their headquarters in the city and to have a 2-hour talk with all the people who work behind the scenes at the charity, taking care of events, marketing activities, social media and fund raising. This was the first time this has been done and both of us shared our own experiences in the most open way. I swear I could see a few tears being shed 🙂

A few days before that, we had a bit of an emergency when one morning the suprapubic catheter had decided to come out. I thought I was going to explode as we rushed to A&E at the local hospital, and where lucky enough that there was a urologist on call there that was able

Later that month, a team, headed by Dr. Simon Walsh who saved London cyclists Victoria Lebrec’s life the year before, had won the Pride Of Britain Award and following that, I was invited, along with another 25 ex. patients, to a Parliamentary Reception at the House of Parliament, where politicians had gathered to pledge their support for the charity. It took place on the evening before my urology operation…I had to wear a suit…huh!!! I couldn’t remember when was the last time I wore a suite…could not even remember where my ONE suit was!!! This was an amazing and a very emotional experience but I had a very good time and it helped me get through the last few hours before I had to put on a hospital gown, say goodbye to Yael and go under the knife again. What was supposed to be a reasonably simple procedure that requires just a few days stay in hospital, had turned out to be yet another challenging, life threatening nightmare…I’ll discuss it in the next instalment.

Part III: Seriously? Again????

We were all so happy to be home again…we already figured that it was not a matter of days or weeks before I could be back on my feet, but we certainly did not expect what was coming next…

The week after we came home, we went to the hospital to meet the surgeons and review the wounds. When I say “went” I mean lied on a stretcher in an ambulance transport for an hour in London traffic…But a few days before that I started feeling feverish…temperature gone up and we had to get the GP to come and visit as I was not mobile. She prescribed some antibiotics and when the surgeons saw me and the state of the wound they’ve decided to double the dose and said let’s keep an eye on things.

AND this was the first time I stood up! Seven weeks after the accident, I pulled myself up onto a walking frame. It was exciting, scary and shocking all at the same time. I was able to stand but could not let go of the frame because my legs were so weak and were not used to bearing any weight!

Two days later we had to come in again, this time for a urology follow-up and I  was feeling worse…a lot worse! They took a urine sample which immediately showed that there was an infection. At that point the doctor that was there suggested that we re-admit and the quickest way in was trough A&E…later that Friday afternoon I was again on the 5th floor in ward 12c, with an IV antibiotics and with another operation booked for the next Tuesday. They could not operate me on the same day because I was not strong enough to withstand it.

So a long weekend and a bit, lots of blood tests, another night of fasting and there I was…on the trolley, being wheeled into theatre…bye bye to Yael, a couple of jokes with the anaesthetist and I was in dreamland. 3-4 hours later I woke up in ITU with some serious pain…again that sharp, pressing pain in the lower abdomen. They removed the fixation metal plate from the pelvic bone, which was infected, and performed a “washout”, scraping and removing tissue, blood collections and all sorts of gunk that filled up that area. This meant that I’m back to being “non weight-bearing” since the bone is not strong enough and has not healed yet, so I was again lying flat on my back, connected to a VAC machine and a huge dressing that was filling up with blood in a few hours…blood that then turned into a 20x10cm raw steak (or that’s what it looked like to me at least) and was removed after a few days, leaving a long stitched cut and a few suction holes.

The next 3 weeks were a bit of a rollercoaster for us…blood tests kept showing that the infection was not really going away and at some point the doctors thought they were going to operate again and do a 2nd washout!!! But we stayed positive and as soon as they gave us the ok to start mobilising again I jumped into the wheelchair and when they said it was safe to use my legs I asked the physiotherapists to help me get up. I tried the walking frame for a few minutes and felt it wasn’t right for me…I wanted more control and more freedom so they’ve let me try crutches. Initially I was hobbling around the room, then up and down the corridor and then I wanted OUT…that day was both one of the hardest and the happiest in my life!

They showed me how to climb up and down the stairs. This was hard, painful and with the catheter still in my tummy, very uncomfortable, but I was determined and it did not bother me wearing my pyjamas out in the street outside the hospital.

But the infection was still there and I still needed loads of antibiotics to be infused twice a day…the problem was that because I lost so much weight and because I’ve had so many needles put into me, my veins had started collapsing and it was not possible to use cannulas any longer. They’ve had to switch to oral antibiotics, which are less effective and can have negative effect on digestion etc.

However this also meant that I no longer had to stay at the hostiptal and 4 weeks after readmission, we were again making our way home, this time I was on my feet at last!!! No more sleeping in the living room, no more being locked inside, no more wheelchair…and it was SUMMERTIME!!!


I still had the catheter in my belly and there was the question of if/ when/ how I’ll be free of tubes again, but I didn’t have to carry the bag any more (instead there was a valve I could open at will) and while the pain & discomfort were very much still there, I had my family and friend to support me, I had free access to the strongest painkillers and I was looking forward to making the best use of the good weather and to continuing with recovery and rehabilitation.

I remember posting on Facebook “looking for the FFWD button”…well I’m still looking and the following months had loads happening in them…I will get to that in the next installment, but I wanted to share this:

Yesterday, Friday 13th of January (I know I know), we had an appointment with my cardiologist…basically we wanted to know how my heart had coped with the last 9 months…we will have to go through some tests but so far it seems like it had survived one of the toughest stress tests…

The hospital is only a few miles from that place…that junction…they say that every person has got to face their demons at some point. I faced them yesterday…Yael and I stood there for a few minutes. It was cold and it was snowing and we were looking at the cars going through, stopping, turning and suddenly it was totally clear…I walked across and stood exactly where I was standing, on my (now RIP) bike just over 9 month ago when that Blue Skoda driver made that horrible mistake.

I rode and drove through this junctions maybe a hundred times before and somehow, yesterday, it looked a lot, lot smaller than I remembered it.

Part Two: Somewhat unrealistic

Apparently, I woke up in the ITU (Intensive Therapy Unit) several hours after the operation, but I don’t remember anything from there. I do remember waking up in Ward 12D, on my back, with some tubes and lines stuck everywhere and with some intense pain in my lower abdomen. Yael was there and told me about the day’s events: The op took a few hours and they have managed to re-align the two sides of the pelvis, fit in those two big screws (can be seen in the x-ray at the bottom of the previous post, the top one is 18cm long!), fit a fairly large plate at the front of the pelvis that holds together the pelvis bone and the smaller bones next to it. I also had a Supra-pubic catheter – this is a tube that goes into your bladder through the wall of your tummy allowing for free drainage of urine and in my case, also blood. It also became my close friend for the next 8 months…we’ll get to that later. The other catheter was the more common one…

Then there was a line in my left arm for intravenous antibiotics, and in my Right arm I had another line with another, magical IV…I say magical because this was morphine and it came with a plunger-type remote control…basically this means that when you feel the pain you press the button and it just pushes another dose of that opiate drug straight into your blood stream. It takes some of the pain away and if you do it more than 2 or 3 times in a row it sends you to sleep. So you can imagine (can you?) that the next couple of days I was sort of playing with this wake-sleep-wake-sleep thing…

The following 10 days I wish I could forget, but I can’t. One side effect of taking opiates and being static is constipation. They want you to start eating so that your system can start working again and that you can gain some strength back. It is worth mentioning that due to the trauma and the lack of food, I had lost 13 kilogrammes in the first 4-5 days, that’s 29lb or 2 stone in British money…the view most of the time was of the Beige curtain surrounding you. Since you lie flat on your back the whole time, you basically loose any visual perspective…everybody look really tall.


Four badly injured men in one room, each cocooned in a curtained cube, busy dealing with their own suffering and trying not to hear and not to be affected by the others’ crying and screaming…it’s all about pain handling and management, or rather the lack of them. When pain kicks in you first try to analyse it and figure out where it’s coming from: is it the legs? The back? The backside? Constipation? Or is it the bladder that is going into spasm again? If you’ve never heard of bladder spasms I hope you’ll never, ever get any. They can last hours (or days in my case) and make you produce some impressively loud, high pitch groans and whines. Every now and again One or both of the catheters would block up with blood clots and would stop draining…It takes a few minutes to realise that this has actually happened and call the nurses. The way to “unblock” the tubes is quite simple: you (or the nurse) use a 50ml syringe full of saline water, connect it to the catheter and push the water through, then carefully start pulling. If the blockage is only caused by some small clots or “debris” then one pull might be enough but sometimes you can end up spending an hour pushing and puling and sometimes you do it on BOTH catheters, all while trying to battle or to just ignore the pain caused by the spasms…and ending up with these long, stretchy bits of clotted blood filling up the syringe. This is the kind of experience I would not wish even to the worst of my enemies!!!

Doing your “business” involves calling & asking someone to bring you a bedpan. They then help you roll over to one side and rolling back until your somehow positioned over it. When you’re done you call again and have your backside wiped. Later on when I gained a bit of strength it evolved into manoeuvring your body from being flat to somehow bridging over the bedpan. I keep telling people that when you go into hospital as a patient, at least as a trauma patient, you leave you dignity and any sense of privacy at the reception upon checking in. You find yourself lying on the bedpan, huffing and puffing and have your blood sample taken at the same time or even funnier, have a group of nurses and doctors doing their round or doing a handover. They all claim their not sensitive to the smells…I somehow doubt it!

There’s also the human side in all this…nurses, doctors, phlebotomists, pharmacists, cleaners, caterers…and they all have personalities, characters, hierarchy, politics…and you are right there in the middle, trying to figure out how to get the best “service”, how to get all the information you need, how to provide feedback and how to prevent mistakes from happening. And those DO happen because we’re all human and because a hospital is a large organisation and a very complicated one at that.

As a trauma patient you can find yourself in some rather awkward, intimate, embarrassing situations and some of these people can be absolute angels, giving so much support far and beyond what they are trained or paid for and still being humble and polite even when under a lot of pressure. As a patient you can be very sensitive, or abusive, or appreciative and they still have to do their job and take care of you.

However the biggest angel by far has been MY angel, otherwise known as my wife, Yael. She was there every single day,  from morning till night. Looking after me and doing the legwork to ask, beg, find, harass, cry, shout, argue, thank…whatever it took to keep me going. All that while managing a house with three young children, with their needs and she still had room left to care about my neighbouring patient, ask them how they do and call someone when they needed help.

We eventually went home after 4 weeks. I was in a wheelchair, equipped with a bag full of medications, a suprapubic catheter (the one stuck in your tummy), a care plan that meant a carer was coming in every day to help me wash myself, on a chair in the kitchen.

Here’s me being rolled into the house, the journey in the ambulance was knackering as the image tells…

We’ve set up the living room so that I can live downstairs and we had an appointment set for a week later were they were looking to see if I can stand up and start learning how to walk again.

Coming home for me was a happy yet difficult experience for me and perhaps more so for the family. At the hospital you feel “safe”…you have a button for everything and there’s always a team who can rescue you should bad things happen. You are in the centre. At home you are obviously a king but even as a king you have to fit into the house’s routines, you also try to be a part of it again. We soon realised that there are times when the Post Troumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) raises its ugly head and can make you burst into tears, or burst in anger, or just shrink into your own bag of self-pitty and not talk to anybody for hours and days.
The story did not end there, unfortunately.

I’m signing this part off on December 31st, the last day of 2016. I’m at home with my family and we’re looking to spend a quiet couple of days and to kick 2017 off with some good energy and big hopes. I’ll be back soon with the next hospital adventure. Happy new year everybody!

Recovery….

It is now 10 1/2 weeks since my surgery and recovery in general has been going well…there were a lot of ups and downs during the first few weeks (mostly downs) but as time passes I feel stronger with less pain (no more pain killers), Sleep (pr the lack of it) is something I will have to work on, long-term, as is getting used to the loud ticking noise coming from the mechanical aortic valve…

I am a lot more mobile (I can drive long distances!), taking daily exercise and all (or most) of the signs say that I am going to be OK…

And since I am still not allowed to fly and as I have to do regular blood tests etc., we had to settle for short local outings during the holiday season…so you are not going to see any wonderful, warm, sun-spelled photos but here is a small collection from a few trips to the RAF Museum in Hendon, to Trent Park and to the South coast; Milford On Sea and the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu. I was in a “One camera, One lens” mood so all these images were taken with the Mamiya 645DF+, Leaf Credo 50 Digital Back and a Mamiya 35mm/f3.5 D lens, a very versatile and capable combo that lets me shoot handheld at high iso and get some wonderful colours (yes also in B&W) and details. Images processed in Capture One Pro 8. Click on an image to view a larger version…Enjoy!

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                                 All images ©yair shahar and cannot be copied, printed or displayed without the author’s permission