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Thousands of buildings open during the next two weekends 11 September 2015

We are approaching the time of year when thousands of buildings in England open to the public over two weekends, entirely free of charge.  Some of these are normally not open at all, while others normally charge but visiting will be free on these days.

First of all, this weekend (12/13 September 2015) will be Heritage Open Days around the whole of England, with the exception of London.  On Saturday, to take just one example near where I live, you can visit the elegant Woking railway control room, constructed in the 1930s when the railway was electrified.  It is no longer used but has been beautifully preserved, with all its art deco features intact.  There are several thousand other places to choose from, and a brilliant interactive map on the website to help you decide where to go.

And next weekend (20/21 September 2015) is Open House London.  As usual, I will be acting as a volunteer guide at one of the buildings on the Sunday.  This year it is the office of the London Mathematical Society, at 57/58 Russell Square, London WC2.

Click through to the respective websites and plan your visits now !  May the sun shine for us all.


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Uncommonly British days out 9 August 2015

I am off to a wedding in South Wales in a couple of weeks’ time, so I popped into the City of London library in Shoe Lane to pick up a couple of Ordnance Survey maps of the area (I can’t visit without thinking of Lord Denning’s trenchant comment in relation to exclusion clauses in Thornton v Shoe Lane Parking Ltd**).

And there, on the “You might be interested in these summer holiday books” display by the entrance was “Far from the s*dd*ng crowd – More uncommonly British days out“, which I picked up with alacrity.  I am a great fan of the original “B*ll*cks to Alton Towers” by the same authors, but I did not know that they had produced a sequel.  (It seems that there are only two books – the paperback version of this book was published under the title of “More b*ll*cks to Alton Towers“.)

Both books highlight curious museums, collections, landmarks and follies that are an antidote to the overcrowded and overpriced amusement parks and seaside resorts that are more typical destinations in the UK for modern holidaymakers.

This follow-up book features gems such as the Bubblecar Museum in Lincolnshire, Edward I’s uncompleted Beaumaris Castle on Anglesey, the Fan Museum in Greenwich, Port Logan Fish Pond in Galloway and the Bakelite Museum near Taunton.  I want to visit every one of them.

The books’ attraction is not just the attractions that readers are exhorted to visit, but also the writing.  It’s clever and humorous – but never patronising.  Writing a patronising review of any of these places would have been a great deal easier than what the authors have actually done.

So I encourage you to acquire these books, and then support the astonishing attractions featured within them.

** “In order to give sufficient notice, [the exempting condition] would need to be printed in red ink with a red hand pointing to it – or something equally startling



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Punny you should mention that 15 February 2015

It’s time for another round-up of appalling puns in the headings of law firms’ articles.

The recent case in which “celebrity chef and restaurateur” Gordon Ramsay claimed that he was not bound by a guarantee in a lease of one of his restaurants (which I wrote about under the snappy title “Gordon Ramsay’s case turns on whether his CEO had authority to apply a signature” on 26 January 2015) deserves our attention.  Some of the headings are actually quite imaginative.

Please can I have your autograph Mr Ramsay! (Reed Smith)

Gordon Ramsay’s court room nightmare (Kingsley Napley)

A case to digest (Penningtons Manches)

Gordon Ramsay case a sign of the times? (Hogan Lovells)

Hell’s Courtroom (BHW Solicitors)

Gordon Ramsay’s signature dish is rejected by the court (Clarke Willmott)

Gordon Ramsay – Out of the frying pan and into the court (Brabners)

and my favourite (which I have to admit I toyed with before abandoning the idea, because it makes no sense at all in the context – but that didn’t worry this firm):

No such thing as a free lunch (Collyer Bristow)


The other case that I think ought to have attracted a lot of attention pun-wise, but strangely didn’t, is the one in which the court held that being a squatter in a residential property (now a criminal offence) does not prevent the acquisition of title by adverse possession (ie being in the property for a sufficiently long period – the origin of the phrase “possession is nine-tenths of the law”, I suspect).  The squatter’s name was Mr Best.  In spite of all the opportunities, we were able to enjoy such headings as:

Criminal trespass and adverse possession (Dentons) – a tad disappointing, I feel

It was the best of times (which no-one actually used, sadly)

Best foot forward (ditto)

Obtaining title by criminal adverse possession (Lamb Chambers)

Court of Appeal clarifies law on adverse possession of residential buildings (Nabarro) – accurate but a bit lengthy

Effect of criminal trespass on claim for adverse possession (Practical Law)

Adverse possession through criminal squatting (Pennington Manches)

and my favourite (which you might think shows undue favouritism):

Adverse possession of residential property: all for the best (Falco Legal Training)

I really think this showed a serious lack of imagination on the writers’ part.  Too much emphasis on the criminal aspect and not enough on the need for a pun.  Must try harder.


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London’s Centre Point – first hated but now listed 15 November 2014

A fascinating article in the Evening Standard on Tuesday 11 November – What makes one tower worth saving and another wrecking? – celebrates (if that is the right word) the effect that architect Richard Seifert had on the London skyline.  The NatWest Tower (I still can’t get used to calling it Tower 42), Centre Point, the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington and the iconic but outrageously out-of-scale Tolworth Tower, as well as the redevelopment of Euston station (involving the destruction of the Euston Arch) are all examples of his work.  Few people have a good word for him nowadays although of course he was not working alone.  The modern planning legislation was already in force and he would not have been able to do it without the support of the local authorities.  But in the 1960s and 1970s Georgian terraces were out and concrete skyscrapers were most definitely in, the taller the better.

The author of the Evening Standard article, Robert Bevan, writes that Seifert “did more to alter the London skyline than any architect since Sir Christopher Wren”.  The reason for focusing on Seifert at this time is that one of his buildings, Copyright House in Berners Street, is about to be demolished.  It failed to win listing status from English Heritage.  Others of his buildings have similarly been rejected – including Tower 42 – but the article says that Space House, off Kingsway (the home of the Civil Aviation Authority), is likely to be listed shortly.

One building that is already listed (as long ago as 1995) is Centre Point, above Tottenham Court Road station.  This is already a busy place, and once Crossrail opens in a few years’ time it will be even busier.  The history of Centre Point is interesting: its developer, Harry Hyams, initially refused to let the building in parts, insisting on waiting for a tenant of the whole building to come forward.  As a result, the building sat empty for years.  According to the Wikipedia entry on Centre Point, Hyams eventually relented but the tower remained a symbol of the brutalism of the property development industry in the 1960s for years.

Centre Point was the subject of a recent court case, triggered by the new owner’s wish to repair the concrete exterior of the building using scaffolding for access.  In Century Projects Ltd v Almacantar (Centre Point) [2014] EWHC 394 (Ch), the tenant of the Paramount restaurant on the 33rd floor of the tower was seeking an injunction to prevent the landlord carrying out the repair works in this way, since the scaffolding would obstruct the “spectacular views across the West End and City of London” from the restaurant described by Mr Condou, the tenant’s director, in his witness statement.  The tenant wanted the landlord to carry out the works using cradles suspended from the roof of the tower.  The respective experts disagreed as to the wisdom and practicality of the different approaches.

Ultimately the court refused to grant the tenant an injunction, leaving it (if it believes it has a case) to bring a claim for damages against the landlord for breach of quiet enjoyment.  One of the key reasons for the decision was, as the judge explained, “it is a surprising submission that the tenant can tell the landlord how the landlord is to carry out works for which the landlord is responsible. This would cut across what I regard as the prima facie right of a landlord to choose for itself how to carry out works of repair.”

A sheath of scaffolding

The scaffolding that the tenant was trying to stave off is now up, as part of the new owner’s project to convert the tower from offices to flats.  As the Evening Standard article says, rather poetically:

“… the tower is now strapped into a sheath of scaffolding and a veil of green netting as repairs are made to its facade, a honeycomb screen of concrete made with crushed Portland stone.”

And once the scaffolding is down, I hope to be paying a visit, perhaps with my new food-loving blogger friend The Food Judge and and my non-blogging friend B, to the Paramount restaurant on the 33rd floor.  The restaurant claims to offer “the highest afternoon tea in London” – but I hope that we will be visiting for something more robust than tea.


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London Open House weekend – 20/21 September 2014 6 September 2014

This year’s London Open House weekend takes place in two weeks’ time, on Saturday
20 September and Sunday 21 September.

Here is the text of an e-mail that I have just received, with details of particularly tall buildings:

Plan your weekend …

This is your opportunity to visit over 800 buildings in London – both in the centre and in the surrounding boroughs.  Many are not normally open.  Some charge for entry during the rest of the year but are free this weekend.

Some buildings are ridiculously popular.  In the past I have walked along the length of a queue outside the Gherkin that stretched for about three-quarters of a mile.  The Government’s buildings in Whitehall are deservedly very popular.  For others there are no queues at all.  Especially in the suburbs.

All the buildings are listed on the London Open House website, listed in the Guide (available for purchase) and also now available on an app (available from app stores).  Some buildings require advance booking – and you might be too late for this year.  But most buildings are “first come, first served”.


London Open House relies on volunteers to assist the building owners to manage the crowds.  My friend Chris and I have been volunteering for London Open House for about 15 years.  Acting as a volunteer steward or (even more fun) guide gives you a badge that allows you to jump the queues at virtually all of the buildings (although you need to overcome a very British aversion to queue-jumping to make use of it).  So we visit buildings on Saturdays and volunteer on Sundays.  We have probably visited more than 60 buildings over the past 15 years.

This year Chris is a volunteer guide at Finsbury Town Hall.  I am helping out as a steward at the Pimlico District Heating Undertaking.  In the past I have worked as a volunteer at (among many other places) Harmondsworth Great Barn (near Heathrow), University College London (with the weird auto-icon of Jeremy Bentham on display), the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe (for several years) and the Garden Museum in Lambeth.  I cannot recommend volunteering strongly enough.  It is great fun meeting (and trying to arrange into queues) the Great British Public, and a good number of tourists as well.

To join in the excitement in two weeks’ time, get hold of a copy of the Guide and start making your plans (volunteers are given a free copy of the guide as well as a queue-jumping badge).

To volunteer as a guide or steward next year, visit this “How to volunteer” web page on the London Open House website.


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Help fishing boats to catch fish, not albatrosses 16 August 2014

Something entirely different in this “Weekend Musings” article, following a trip yesterday to the annual Bird Fair at Rutland Water.


Courting Southern Royal Albatross on Campbell I lsland

Over 100,000 albatrosses are killed annually when they swallow bait on longline fishing lines, after the lines are dropped over the boat but before the hooks sink into the sea.  An organisation called Hookpod has designed a clever gadget that encloses the hook until it reaches a safe depth, out of the reach of albatrosses.

Hookpod needs to raise £100,000 by 25 August via crowd-funding to fund the first production batch.  It has raised two-thirds of this but is still seeking some £35,000.  Please help by visiting this crowd-funding website

Hookpod – Saving the albatross from extinction

The photograph shows a pair of Southern Royal Albatrosses at their breeding ground on Campbell Island, part of an archipelago some 400 miles south of New Zealand.  Royal albatrosses have a wingspan of almost twelve feet and can live for over fifty years.  We were lucky enough to be able to land on this remote windswept island during our trip to the Sub-Antarctic Islands in 2011.


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Law, but not as we know it 5 July 2014

I found myself transported back to my law course at the University of Birmingham last week.  (Actually it was not last week, it was virtually 37 years ago, but you know what I mean.)

Not all the readers of my blog articles are property lawyers.  Indeed, not all are lawyers of any sort, and sometimes one forgets how much lawyers take for granted that is, to lay people, utterly mysterious.

For example, in my article “Why are we waiting?” on 4 June 2014, about the considerable delay in the long-expected MEPS consultation, I wrote:

“… although the requirement on the Government to introduce MEPS is contained in the Energy Act 2011, it is not yet in force.

One of my readers asked me how that could be.  Surely an Act is an Act?  Alas, it is not so simple.

Enactment is only the beginning

Parliament passes legislation.  An Act goes onto the statute book when it has been approved by the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Queen (although the Queen’s consent is merely formal – by convention she cannot refuse to approve it).

Every statute has this formal wording at the beginning:

“BE IT ENACTED by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:— “

However, just because something is in an Act of Parliament does not mean that it has immediate effect.  Every Act has a provision in it that says when it comes into force.  Some say that it comes into force immediately.  Others have a specific date in them.  A third possibility is that a provision comes into force when a commencement order is made by a Government Minister.

The MEPS legislation contains provisions of all three kinds.  Section 121 Energy Act 2011 is the commencement section.  It is too long to set out here, but you can look at by clicking on this link:


As you will see, it is extremely tedious.  We are concerned with section 49 (among others).  So you have to look at the various provisions of section 121 to see whether section 49 is mentioned as coming into force when Scottish Ministers appoint (as in sub-section (2)) – obviously inapplicable in our case.

Nor is in sub-section (3) – two months after the Act was passed.

Nor in sub-section (4) – the day the Act was passed.

Nor in sub-section (5) – which refers only to Schedule 1, which contains amendments to other statutes.

So you end up with the basic rule, which is in sub-s(1):

“The provisions of this Act come into force on such day as the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint.”

And to date the Secretary of State (ie the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in this instance – Ed Davey) has not appointed any date for section 49 (among other sections) to come into force.  So although section 49 is on the statute book, it is not yet in force.  Which means that the Secretary of State is not (yet) under any duty to do the things that section 49 says he is required to do.   Such as, for example, to 

“… make regulations for the purpose of securing that a landlord of a non-domestic PR [private rented] property—

(a)  which is of such description of non-domestic PR property as is provided for by the regulations,

(b)  in relation to which there is an energy performance certificate, and

(c)  which falls below such level of energy efficiency (as demonstrated by the energy performance certificate) as is provided for by the regulations,

may not let the property until the landlord has complied with the obligation mentioned in subsection (2) [ie to make to the property such relevant energy efficiency improvements as are provided for by the regulations].”

(So you can see how complex the regulations will need to be – which is why I ventured in my early article that I will not be surprised if MEPS, as originally envisaged, never makes it to the starting post.  I fear that it is just too complicated to be capable of delivery.)

So the message of this article is that just because something is in an Act of Parliament does not meant that it is in force.  It may not yet be in force, or (another complication) it may have been repealed by later legislation.  At least with the Internet it is relatively easy to find out the status of individual sections in, and schedules to, an Act.  Before the coming of the web, it was much more difficult.


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Popular legal Latin (part two) 20 April 2014

What could be better for a Weekend Musings article than a four-day weekend over Easter?  Ideal, perhaps, for musing how popular the previous article on legal Latin proved to be, as I had anticipated (see my article “Latin lives on in the law” published on 12 April 2014). 

Here are some of the suggestions I have received from you, the readers of this blog, for more much-loved Latin phrases that continue to be used by lawyers, and in particular by property lawyers.

In no particular order:

ab initio – from the beginning, or from the start.  Particularly popular in the phrase “Void ab initio (void from the start).

res ipsa loquitur – the matter speaks for itself.  I feel a bit awkward having missed this stalwart out of the original article, so thank you for suggesting it.

ex turpi causa non oritur actio – no action may be brought that is based on illegal or immoral conduct.  One correspondent expressed himself “rather surprised” that this one (his favourite) had been missed out.  I agree it is pleasant, but it is far from being my favourite.

audi alteram partem – hear the other party.  One of the two key rules of natural justice to ensure a fair hearing (the other being nemo iudex in causa sua – no-one may be a judge in his own case).

bona fide – in good faith.  How could we overlook this one, particular in the context of Equity’s darling, the bona fide purchaser of a legal estate for value without notice.  That topic deserves its own article sometime.

bona vacantia – unowned goods, following (typically) the dissolution of a company.

omnia praesumuntor rite esse acta – everything shall be presumed to have been done correctly.  This applies to acts of an official or judicial character and is sometimes termed “the presumption of regularity”.

usque ad medium filum (viae) – up to the middle of the way (or roadway).  A vital aid to ascertaining which landowners are presumed to own the land beneath a public highway following its closure.

in rem and in personam – respectively relating to property and persons (the distinction typically being between a remedy that binds anyone who happens to acquire the property, as against only one person who happens to own it now).

eiusdem generis – of the same kind.  Used to indicate that general words are interpreted in the same manner as specific words that precede them.

alibi – elsewhere.  Much misunderstood, but used properly only in the sense of an accused person claiming to have been elsewhere at the key moment.

verbatim – word for word.

That will do for this weekend.  I am pretty confident that correspondents will supply sufficient material for a third article to be published sometime in the future.  Remember that what we are looking for are concepts related to property law that are easier to express in Latin than in English.



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Weekend musings: Latin lives on in the law 12 April 2014

The use of Latin phrases in the law used to be the norm, but it is seen much less frequently nowadays.  Every so often, however, one (if a lawyer, at least) comes across a concept that is much easier to express (if not to say) in Latin than in English.  Some examples that have occurred to me are set out below.

Note that it is not the purpose of this article to discuss the relevant law.  Refer to a legal textbook such as Megarry & Wade, or hire me to run a training session for you.

caveat emptor – let the buyer beware.  Met every week on the BBC’s radio programme “Moneybox”.

cuius est solum, eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos – the owner of the soil owns it up to the heavens and down to the centre of the earth (technically “the underworld”).  

mutatis mutandis – with suitable changes made.  Saves having to work out what those changes are.

obiter dictum – a comment from a judge that is not necessary to reach the decision in the case and therefore not binding in future cases; sometimes of assistance in the future but more often tends to muddy the legal waters.

quicquid planatur solo cedit – whatever is attached to land becomes part of the land.  If I build a house in your garden, it becomes your house and there is nothing we can do to prevent that happening.

per incuriam – a view from a judge expressed without considering precedent (and on occasions apparently without fully considering the consequences)

ratio decidendi (or often just ratio) – the reason for a court’s decision

versus (always abbreviated to v) – against (as in A v B)

and perhaps my favourite

nemo dat quod non habet – one cannot pass ownership to another person of something that one does not own.  Particular relevant to those tempted to buy stolen goods.  The thief has no title, and you will not obtain any title, to stolen goods.  I found a magnificent use of this phrase this week in the House of Lords judgment in Fairweather v St Marylebone Property Co Ltd [1962] UKHL 1 where, in a stunning display of bilingualism, Lord Radcliffe wrote:

“I conclude, therefore, that the effect of the “extinguishment” sections of the Limitation Acts is not to destroy the lessee’s estate as between himself and the lessor; and that it would be incorrect to say that if he offers a surrender to the lessor he has nothing to surrender to him in respect of the land in the possession of the squatter.  Nemo dat quod non habet, and I dare say that he does not, …”

Readers will no doubt have their own favourite Latin phrases (indeed I can think of several of my followers (you know who you are) who could write books on the subject).  Details please to latinphrases@nullfalcolegaltraining.co.uk, and we will revisit the topic when we have sufficient material.  Which I reckon is likely to be sometime around 11.15 am on Monday. 



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The name of the Game 8 March 2014

Puns, said Sigmund Freud (or, reportedly, various other writers), are generally counted as the lowest form of wit.

Don’t tell the sub-editors of Estates Gazette. Last week they presented us with:

Pegasus slots in retirement village (about redevelopment of a vending machine factory)

Roxhill and Hampton cook up Brioche plan (referring to French baking giant Brioche)

Delancey plugs in for South Bank resi tower (plans for a tower on the site of the former National Grid offices in Southwark)

Ticketmaster queues for new Manchester HQ (no explanation necessary)

Guardian makes headlines in King’s Cross (ditto)

Law firms are no better.  One of the biggest stories of the last fortnight has been the Court of Appeal’s decision in Jervis v Pillar Denton Ltd [2014] EWCA Civ 180, also known as Re Game Station Limited, about administrators’ (and liquidators’) obligations to pay rent when occupying leasehold property for the purpose of keeping a business operating.  So we have had (in no particular order):

Fair game: law overturned on rent payable during administrations (Hogan Lovells)

Game over?  Court of Appeal has a kick-about with Game administration (Dentons)

Game changer: the Court of Appeal overturns the Goldacre and Luminar decisions (A&L Goodbody)

Rent and company administrations: game over (Burges Salmon)

Game over? Court of Appeal confirms rent is an administration expense (Shepherd & Wedderburn)

Game over for Goldacre and Luminar (Clifford Chance, who should know better)

Game changer: it’s all about pay as you go (Bond Dickinson)

Fair game! (Herbert Smith Freehills.  That ! really rankles)

Game over: landlords score major victory in Court of Appeal (Squire Sanders)

Administrators and rent – Game Changer? (Bircham Dyson Bell)

Rent a higher priority in insolvency (Eversheds, clearly not understanding the rules.  To be fair, they were not the only ones)

Landlords win the Game (oops that was my blog article on this website on 24 February)

That’s enough about puns then.  I won’t hear a word against them.

PS  If you want to remove every last ounce of amusement from the idea of puns, read this Wikipedia article about them.  You’ll have forgotten how to laugh by the end.

PPS  I think this must be one of the best puns: “When my granddad was ill, we smeared goose fat on his back.  He went downhill quickly after that!”  (Thank you to MC for locating that one for me.)

PPPS  This isn’t a pun but I found it in my research for this article and liked it a lot and so would like to share it with you.  “I kept on getting into trouble at school for handing my homework in late, so I bought a book of excuses.  Unfortunately, the dog ate it.”

That’s all folks.


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Don’t rock me Amadeus 22 February 2014

“Why Falco Legal Training?” is a question that gets asked pretty frequently.  I wanted a name that was memorable, was available as a website and as a limited company, and that wouldn’t be confused with anything else.

We support the Hawk Conservancy Trust near Andover, so I started to think about names of raptors.  The best names in English were already taken so I looked at Latin names. I tried red kite (but milvus didn’t sound very appealing) and owls (same with tyto and strix).

But falco seemed much more promising, especially as we sponsor a peregrine falcon named Usain [Bolt] at the Hawk Conservancy. Falco is also the Latin word for sickle, which led to thoughts of “cutting-edge training” – fortunately dropped at an early stage. So Falco Legal Training it was.

What it isn’t

Falco means different things to some of you. Here are some people and organisations after whom/which Falco Legal Training is not named:

Mark Peter Falco, the former professional footballer with a number of clubs including Tottenham Hotspur, Watford, Rangers and Queens Park Rangers. Just a couple of years younger than me, but a lot taller.

Falco, the Austrian pop and rock musician (real name Johann (Hans) Hölzel). Born a year before me, and died in 1998. Had a worldwide hit with Rock Me Amadeus in 1985-6.

Edith “Edie” Falco, an American television, film and stage actress.  I had never heard of her and I imagine it’s mutual.

Falco UK Limited, the manufacturer of an innovative range of high quality street furniture, cycle shelters, smoking shelters and bike storage systems.

Le Falco, a cafe in Montreal, Canada.  “Sunny warehouse space with communal tables for fair-trade coffee, sandwiches & Japanese rice bowls.”

Marcus Didius Falco, the laid-back Roman ‘informer’ who investigates crimes and acts as an often reluctant imperial agent. Features in books by Lindsey Davis.

Falco, the Estonian manufacturer of Olympic bows.

Falco Construction Limited, based in Caterham in Surrey, a multi-disciplinary civil engineering services company covering utilities, building, rail, RC concrete, ground works and labour hire.

The resort of Cala di Falco in Sardinia, Italy.

Falco Engineering Limited in Sheffield.

Falco Bikes, a cycle manufacturer established in Southern China in 2011 and also named after the peregrine falcon. Falco’s latest triathlon bike launched at the 2013 Interbike, the Falco V, has received much attention by cycling and triathlon media, according to the company’s website.

Falco Lombardi, an anthropomorphic falcon character from the Star Fox series of video games.

Torre del Falco Nero di Troia, a delicious Italian red wine made from the indigenous grape variety Nero di Troia grown on the hills of Puglia. Currently £7.99 per bottle from Waitrose.

Falco SK sro, the Slovakian manufacturer of gun holsters and accessories.

Cala Falco, a very pretty, small and quiet beach situated to the south of Magaluf in the south west of Majorca.

Falco, a state-of-the-art medium-altitude endurance and tactical unmanned air vehicle (UAV) manufactured by the Italian sensors developer Selex Galileo.

Felco SA, the world-leading manufacturer of professional pruning tools.

It’s fortunate that I didn’t choose a common name, otherwise this article would be a great deal longer!


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