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Own your destiny

So another new year dawned and is already whizzing by.  I can hardly believe we have already had pancake day and Valentines day for another year!  I’m sure the older we get, the faster time passes.  Mum turned 70 in January which was a big wake up call of how fast the years pass, with the realisation that I am now half way there myself!  I still feel the same as I did at 18 but the reflection in the mirror tells me otherwise!  After all, you know you are getting old when Radio 2 plays your era music in the afternoon!

This year, I made some of the usual and most popular resolutions such as to lose weight which I have so far showed little commitment and therefore little success at.  I guess I’m not alone with that, given only 8% of people stick to their new years resolutions.

It’s funny, growing up, we think that once we are an adult we will be able to do whatever we want, but that doesn’t always bring you happiness.  Life is full of boundaries and consequences; yes you can eat that extra slice of cake, but you won’t be slim.  Everything is a choice and a new year is the perfect time to reflect on our choices and make positive changes.  You only get one life so you need to take charge of it.

I did for the first time do Dry January.  Dry January is a recent term which came into existence after Alcohol Concern’s first Dry January in 2013 and became a public health campaign in 2015.  I must admit I have always thought of January as a depressing month, so why make it any worse by not drinking?!  However this year I decided to do it and raise money for the National Autistic Society.  It is a wonderful cause and particularly close to my heart, being that my nephew suffers from it.  As much as I love a drink, I felt a month’s abstinence would be a minor sacrifice compared to the difficulties that he overcomes everyday.  I managed to raise an incredible £377.50 which far surpassed my expectations so a big thank you to everyone who supported me!  It might not have turned me off the booze for life but has definitely made me review the quantities I was putting away.  Statistics show that 64% of people who do Dry January are drinking less, even six months after it’s finished.

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New Year can be a good time to clear out your past that has perhaps been weighing you down.  Too often we live in the past and look back through rose-coloured glasses.  It’s human nature to reflect on the paths you have chosen and how different things could have been if you had only picked another.  Essentially though, you can’t change the past but you can change the future.

A spring clean can be a good way to de-clutter your mind and set you on a path of change by letting go of the past.  I felt throughly cleansed after clearing out the cupboards and also spent time down memory lane while going through my parents loft where, amongst other things, I found my old diaries and also my first shoes!

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Reflecting on new starts, I revisited a great book – The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.  I first read this in 2007, when I was going through a relationship break up and felt I had reached a crossroads in my life.  It talks about the power of positive energy and attracting things to you and advocates creating a vision board.  A vision board is like a collage of our dreams and helps to inspire and motivate as well as attract these things to you.  I made one back then and when I revisited it recently, I noticed that at least 75% of it had come true.  So I decided to make a new one, some ten years after first reading the book.  I bought a lovely board from Maison du monde and some affirmation cards from Kikki K.  I’m looking forward to finding images of what I want to bring into my life as well as reminders of places that have made me feel happy and content in order that I continue to attract those emotions.

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Hopefully 2018 will see me achieve some of my dreams and I will end the year a better person than I started it.

I’d love to hear what resolutions you made and if you are still sticking to them.  Remember, we are all in charge of our own destiny’s and life really is what you make it.

 

 

 

A magical time of year

When it comes to Christmas, I am like a kid in a sweet shop! Every December I am counting down the days and itching to put the decorations up.  Putting up the decorations this year was extra special as it was snowing outside.  We followed our usual tradition of enjoying a different kind of snowball as well!  Throughout the year I have collected some great new tree decorations including a golden Paddington bear and a glittering cinderella carriage.  We couldn’t leave Rufus out either and decorated his hutch with paper chains, as well as getting him to wear his Santa hat!

Every December I also like to do something special to get in the Christmas spirit.  Previous years have seen us going to Winter Wonderland, but we decided to give that a miss this year, in favour of a festive meal on a Pullman carriage, hauled by a steam engine on the Bluebell railway.

The Golden Arrow dining train as it is known, is a cheaper version of the Orient Express but just as special.  For the evening I wore a royal blue maxi dress from Coast along with my Zara, tile pattern coat, which was a cult buy last year, that I snapped up as a sale bargain this year.  In keeping with the time of year, I wore silver glitter sandals from New Look and finished the look with a silver scalloped clutch from Asos.

There really was a hint of magic in the air when we arrived at Sheffield Park station.  Christmas lights lit the way to the booking hall and there was a marquee, decorated with fake snow, Christmas trees and lit reindeer that led out on to the platform where our train awaited its passengers.

We were given mulled wine, which was very welcome on such a cold December evening and then boarded our carriage, Fingal.  Each carriage had the luggage racks decorated with Christmas foliage and the perfectly set tables were complete with crackers.

We ordered a bottle of Bluebell Prosecco which was delicious and then the attentive staff proceeded to serve a delicious 4 course meal to us.  I started with a smoked fish medley tartlet followed by a traditional Christmas dinner, the most ornate peach bellini cheesecake you have ever seen and finished off with cheese, coffee, mince pies and a Baileys.

During the journey we stopped for carol singers which further added to the festive mood – you could even join in if you felt so inclined!

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It was a wonderful evening and certainly put me in the Christmas spirit.

The day before Christmas eve was spent with my brother and his family and in the evening my two best friends, their partners and us went for a meal.  Christmas eve we had my parents and my in-laws over for tea.  I wore my Christmas jumper from Oasis.  We opened each others presents.  Rufus is now inside and while we were busy unwrapping we suddenly heard him trying to join in and unwrapping presents under the Christmas tree!  That evening we went for prosecco at a neighbour’s before going to midnight mass.

This year, we decided to spend Christmas day just the two of us which was lovely.  We started with a smoked salmon and scrambled egg breakfast, washed down with bucks fizz.  We opened each others presents, cooked Christmas dinner and enjoyed Christmas TV.  For the day, I wore a grey jumper from Oasis and a cord pinafore dress from Topshop.  Rufus also enjoyed his own Christmas dinner and present!

Boxing day was spent in Norfolk with my Mum’s brothers and their families which was most enjoyable.  We were truly stuffed after a fantastic lunch there and I was delighted that they set light to the Christmas pudding, as I had never seen it done before.  For this day, I wore a dress from Zara with knee-high black boots from New Look and accessorised with my Stella&Dot clutch.  We saw my husband’s family a few days later.

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One of my most treasured presents this year was a Kikki K leather, monogrammed notebook that I had been lusting over for some time.  That will come in very handy for my blog notes.

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All too soon, New Years Eve came around.  We went to my husband’s friends house for curry and prosecco.  I wore a glitter, navy knitted dress from Warehouse.  As midnight struck, that marked the end to my drinking alcohol, for I had put myself up for dry January.

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2017 certainly had its ups and downs, with one of the main downs being nearly losing our beloved Rufus – luckily though the emergency vet saved him and we might be over £300 lighter but it was worth every penny to see him pull through.  As for the highs, I end the year in a job far more suited to me than anything previously, in internal communications.  Other highlights include visiting the Manolo Blahnik exhibition in Milan, our wedding anniversary in Scotland, visiting Kefalonia, seeing Stereophonics in Margate, a friend’s wedding and a number of friends having babies, a visit to Newcastle, my husband’s surprise 40th bash and many more.  Here’s to a great 2018!

Flying through the months

Can you believe we are already in March? I can’t believe how fast the last few months have gone, it doesn’t seem five minutes ago that we had Christmas to look forward to and now we are faced with lots of cold weather and a long wait until Summer.

Christmas countdown traditionally begins on 1st December with an advent calendar. Advent calendars were first used by German Lutherans in the 19th and 20th Century. Advent calendars have moved on a lot in recent years, with children no longer content with opening a door to reveal a Christmas picture or poem. At the very least they expect a chocolate now and some calendars give toys such as the Lego calendar. Being a big kid, I have never tired of an advent calendar and thankfully I am clearly not alone as there is now a large market in adult advent calendars offering candles or beauty products. This Christmas I decided to try a beauty advent calendar. These range quite a bit in price with the Liberty one costing £250! After some research I settled on the reasonably priced House of Fraser one at £25 as this also had all 24 doors, rather than the 12 some calendars offer – presumably to represent the 12 days of Christmas. It was quite exciting to see what beauty product you would get each day and by far my favourites were a glitter eyeliner, a blusher and one of the lipsticks, all of which I have been using regularly.

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What really got me in the festive mood was the Dickensian Christmas celebrations in Rochester on 3rd December. For this I wore skinny jeans from Oasis with a white pussy bow blouse from Oasis and my trusty New Look faux leather biker jacket. I accessorised with the gorgeous blue velvet flats and handbag which are also from New Look and my subtle take on the velvet trend for Autumn/Winter 2016.

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Rochester as I have mentioned many times before in my blog is one of my favourite places. It was also a favourite spot for Charles Dickens and the cobbled streets and old style lampposts make you feel you have truly been transported back in time as you watch the costume parade. We took the opportunity to watch a street performance of Miss Havisham’s story before warming up in the pub over lunch.

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Santa’s reindeer even popped down!

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There was a photo opportunity with Fagin.

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We then made our way to the Christmas market and fun fair. The market was a bit of a let-down if I am honest as I had been expecting the Bavarian style wooden huts you see in London when instead the stalls were in marques and a lot of the items for sale were quite tacky. The funfair was good though and forever the kid I had to have a ride on the carousel.

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I have wanted another piercing ever since I had to let my nose piercing close up earlier this year after an infection so I went and got my rook pierced – part of the ear. It was quite painful after so I went and recovered with a latte and a large piece of cake in Fleur de the.

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Number 12 or 13 is the rook

We ventured out into the cold and darkness just in time for the evening costume parade with lanterns. The snow machines were on and we all walked up to the castle where the carol service was held.  It was a magical evening and totally set me up for the festive period.  We warmed up and lubricated our tired voices with mulled wine in a local pub before heading off home.

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The following weekend, my husband and I took our niece and nephew to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. This year marks ten years of Winter Wonderland and each year it seems to get bigger and bigger. It was another cold day and unfortunately turned into quite a wet day too. I had bought a new hat, gloves and scarf set from Oasis and wore a long padded coat from New Look which although less than flattering, is extremely warm – it gives you the feeling of being wrapped up in a duvet!

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We visited the magical ice kingdom which this year had the theme of an Arctic Adventure. This is an awe inspiring sight whether it is your first visit or not, with incredible detail on each of the ice sculptures. There is also a slide made of ice which once again brought the kid out in me and ice thrones which of course kids love due to the connotations with Disney’s Frozen.

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The boys enjoyed the bumper cars whilst my niece and I went on the swings. Later my niece wanted to go on a roller coaster. There was an extremely long queue but the wait was made slightly more entertaining by a kind of fun house along the way. The ride was a disaster as she was so scared and I felt so helpless when she asked me to make it stop. You would have thought that would have put her off rides but she still wanted another go on the swings before we left!

Putting up the  Christmas decorations is always for me traditionally accompanied by listening to Now that’s what I call Christmas and sipping on snowballs.  This year I finally persuaded my husband to put lights outside – something I have always wanted.

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We hosted Christmas day this year for the first time and had my parents and my husband’s parents over. I wore a black lace dress from Oasis and sparkle tights also from Oasis and accessorised my hair with a flower band which I got at London Fashion week and is by Her Curious Nature.

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We had a really nice day. I really enjoyed setting out the Christmas table. Dinner was lovely and I got some wonderful presents – my favourite being a shoe design course! Look out for a blog on that in the next month or so. We played Cranium which was a laugh and watched the Christmas tele and before you knew it, it was all over for another year!

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Boxing day was spent at Mum’s with my brother and his family.  For this day I wore an Oasis jumper with a basic black mini skirt from Asos and purple Uggs that I got in New Zealand a few years back.

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Between Christmas and New Year my husband and I visited Scotney Castle and decided to become National Trust Members.

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New Year was spent with friends. I always find New Year rather depressing as it is another reminder of what you have not achieved and a time to set resolutions that you invariable break way before the end of January! I guess I can at least remember 2016 as the year I finally got promoted to a PA.  We also finally finished decorating our bedroom.  It was so nice to get rid of the grey striped wallpaper that was there when we moved in.

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As with every other new year, I once again set my usual resolution to lose weight and decided to try the milk diet which was the diet of choice for 2017. The full diet suggested you eat nothing and just drink 4 pints of full fat milk a day. That seemed rather extreme so I went for the modified version where you drink a glass of milk before each meal with the aim of then eating less. I did see some positive effect from this, loosing 3lbs in the first week but as per usual it was the same as most fad diets and I had given up within 3 weeks.

January always seems to drag so I was glad when we got to the end. The final weekend in January; Saturday evening was spent at a Fawlty Towers evening which was a great laugh. For this I wore a black pleated skirt from Asos, a gold stripped crop top from Kiss Kiss Heart in Rochester and accessorised with shoes I purchased at London Fashion Week by Alexander White and an Aldo clutch.

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That Sunday we had a trip to London to see the Play that Goes Wrong. The end of January of course marks the start of the new year for the Chinese and this year is the year of the Rooster!

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February saw a return to my early twenties with a night out at a club on Tottenham Court Road for a friend’s birthday.  I must be getting old as I was quite taken aback that they wanted to scan our ID before letting us in and by the fact there are now bouncers on McDonald’s on the Strand!  I am also way too old for the torturous 2 hour journey home on the night bus!  Having said all that though it was a fun night.  I reworked the outfit I wore to  the Fawlty Towers evening this time accessorising with gold Oasis t-bar shoes and a gold clutch.

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So now 2017 is well underway and we have certainly seen some cold weather. Easter is late this year meaning that Summer feels even further away but there are some exciting things coming up so keep looking out for future blogs.

Walking a different Street

The onset of December found my emotions in turmoil as I had somewhat of a midlife crisis. The phrase ‘midlife crisis’ was the brainchild of Elliott Jaques and states it is ‘referring to a critical phase in human development during the forties to early sixties, based on the character of change points, or periods of transition’.

My so called crisis might be occurring in my early thirties but it certainly was during a period of transition. Perhaps it’s a late quarter life crisis. Suddenly I am questioning all my past choices, pondering my future options and wondering if I am missing out on things. I think half the problem is I want it all and unless you are a millionaire, it’s just not possible to have it all. The snag is that by taking one road in life, the others are left untrodden; you will never know what would have happened if you had taken one of the other roads – every action has a reaction. Life is short, often too short and death eventually comes to us all; David Bowie being a case in point. What matters though is that we enjoy the time we have and experience as many things as possible. We can hope that we leave a lasting impression on the world which there is no doubt Bowie did. I would like my writing to be my legacy and hence I have toyed with the idea of writing full time.

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Flowers for Bowie outside Zizzi’s in Beckenham which used to be the Three Tuns pub where he played

My husband and I have just bought our first home together see previous blog and despite me paying towards the last one; this one feels like it is both of ours as we chose it together and my name is officially on the mortgage, so I feel like I now have responsibilities. The baby question is asked constantly as is the case as soon as you get married but as I wrote previously I flit between two camps on this decision.  Marriage is something I have always wanted but I sometimes wonder if I focused too much on this when I was younger, rather than embracing dating, the single life and my ambitions more.

The lead up to Christmas was fairly busy. At the beginning of December I got one of my Christmas presents early which was a trip to the Coronation Street set. As sad as it may be, I have been watching Corrie for about the last 20 years and it’s one of the few programmes I never miss. Coronation Street first aired on 9th December 1960 and is the world’s longest running soap opera still in production. The set moved location from central Manchester, Quay Street to Media City in Trafford in December 2013 and following the move, the Coronation Street Tour was set up at the old site. The tour was originally due to close October 2014 but was extended until 31st December 2015 so this was my last chance to go. Despite the abysmal weather it was lovely to walk the famous cobbles and see some of the interior sets and costumes. The wardrobe department buys items in shops it believes the character would typical shop.  In a month the make up department gets through 6 eyeshadows and eyeliners, 15 bases, 4 blushers and 10 lipsticks!  We got to have a photo behind the bar at the Rovers and being the rebellious one of the tour group, I had to ring the bell for last orders!

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Sometimes my life feels a bit like a soap opera, in that I feel what I do will be watched and judged by others. I guess the modern social media culture has only enhanced our knowledge of other peoples lives and to some extent is the only way I get to unleash my writing on the world.

We combined this trip North with seeing my oldest friend from school who had her baby at the end of October. My outfit for this occasion was a denim pinafore dress with a white pussy bow blouse underneath, both from Oasis and some snakeskin black ankle boots from New Look. The pinafore was a big trend for autumn 2015 and the trend looks set to continue into early 16 with a 60’s revival going on. The key to the look is layering and on Boxing Day, I wore it again with another season must have, the polo neck.

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Early December I was suffering some kind of chest infection so finally got to meet my best friend’s baby boy on 16th Dec when he was almost a month old. All these babies coming on to the scene this year within my friendship group have probably been one of the catalysts for this early mid-life crisis. I realised that the dynamics of our group had drastically changed. No longer are we the care free twenty somethings, who’s biggest worry was what bar to go to on a Saturday night; we all have responsibilities now and are perhaps what you might term as ‘fully grown up’.

The week before Christmas I went to see my favourite band, Stereophonics at the O2. I have lost count how many times I have seen them and usually they don’t disappoint, however as much as I still enjoyed this gig – it wasn’t as good as all their previous ones. I looked around the arena and everyone looked to be in their 30’s or 40’s and there was even a pensioner there. This was the other catalyst for the mid-life crisis. I suddenly realised these people were my age and how long I had been supporting the Stereophonics. Kelly, the lead singer even brought on his two daughters which finally shattered my hopes of ever going out with him (joke!).

Christmas was a family affair and spending time with my nieces and nephews again makes me question if and when I want to have children myself. My present to myself was a pair of New Look black suede, fringed heels which I wore Christmas day and Boxing Day, as well as to a gathering at one of the new neighbour’s. These sorts of treats would of course become a distant memory if I were to have children or become a full time struggling writer.

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One of my nieces we treated to a fashion design tool as when I was clearing out, I found designs I had done with my fashion wheel. Unfortunately they don’t sell the fashion wheel anymore and I have to say that this is a time where the new toy is not an improvement. Instead of rubbing over the plates to get an outline and then colouring it in, you now have to trace the outline which requires much more patience.

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A sign of the times was the same niece telling me that when she grows up she wants to win X Factor and her brother wants to be a You Tuber. I must be old as she then had to go on and explain to me what a You Tuber was. What happened to ambitions like being a nurse or a vet? I question whether I made the most of the opportunities I had when I was younger. I never saw myself as working as a PA as I do and whilst I did at one point fancy being a vet; my most enduring ambition was to be an air hostess. Despite once getting through the interview for British Midland, it never quite fitted in financially or relationship wise.

There’s no point ruminating over the past, it cannot be changed but the future can and that brings me on to New Year’s Eve. New Year is a chance to start afresh on a new road and reach out for what is truly important to you.

This year for the first time in ages I was invited to 3 parties! Like buses they all come at once. We went to a friend in Bromley’s house party which was enjoyable despite only knowing the hosts. I wore a gold sparkle dress from Oasis with leggings and some gorgeous suede red sandals I got in Marks and Spencer especially for the occasion.

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After a quiz which my team won, they got out the game of 2015 – ‘Pie Face’. For anyone who has missed this phenomenon, you essentially put your face down on a rest and have to twist according to the number you get on the spinner. Eventually a hand is released which throws cream in your face!

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There was no way I was going to have a go after the time I had spent on my makeup! It’s not often I really make an effort now but for this party I went all out. Here are the products I used to achieve my look.

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Benefit Boi-ing concealer, SJP NYC Perfume, Magnifibres, Max Factor lipgloss, Max Factor Skin Luminizer foundation, No7 Pop and Glow, No7 Dramatic lift mascara, Benefit That Gal primer, OPI couture de minnie mouse nailvarnish in ministyle, Bibbidi Bobbidi blueberry lip shimmer, GHD straightners, Model Co eyeliner pencil, Max Factor creme puff and Urban Decay Naked 2 palette

After we toasted in 2016 at midnight we set off Sky Lanterns or Chinese lanterns as they are often referred to. The idea is to make a wish before you let the kind of mini hot air balloon fly away. They are not illegal in Britain but have been banned in many other countries despite them having been used for centuries. This is because there is a danger when they come down that they might cause fires or harm animals. Ours never took off which I don’t know what that says about our wish for the New Year.

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So the time has come once again for resolutions. Inevitably we all make them and then promptly break them by February. I saw an interesting post on Facebook with a lady sipping a cocktail on a weight machine that said ‘I said I’d give up alcohol and go to the gym; I made it to the gym!’ One thing I am determined to do is lose weight. I’m not going to do a Bridget Jones and let on to you how much I weigh, along with an analysis of each day’s calories, but suffice to say I am heavier than ever and wearing the biggest size clothes I ever have. I need to lose around 3.5 stones and I am really serious about it this time. No more fad diets, I am just slowly going to reduce my intake of food (not alcohol – that would be an empty promise!) and try and get back into walking regularly. I love my fashion and it just doesn’t look right on me anymore. My thirties should be a time of being comfortable in my body before old age sets in and I really am not comfortable at this weight. Yes you can be confident at any weight but I am not and the time has come to really take action.

I suppose I am seeking excitement and change – perhaps like Madonna I need to reinvent myself every decade. Further hinting at the diagnosis of a mid-life crisis I am considering on one end of the scale a change of hairstyle to the other end of the scale with a tattoo and in between somewhere comes the idea of another piercing. We will just have to see what the year brings; you never know, I may even learn to be content; I wouldn’t hold your breath though!

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