Tag Archives: sleep

My First “Airbnb” Experience

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For my birthday I was going to see Prodigy in London with a friend. I was delighted that my cousin had decided to join us.

It was the weekend before the event so there were hardly any places left in the bed and breakfast (bnb) houses we were looking at. Only the expensive or low-rated options were left and the nearest hotel was 5 miles away.

A “B ‘n B” breakthrough

“What can we do?” I asked my cousin “this place only has a single room left! and this one is a bit too expensive isn’t it.”

My cousin would know best as she was an experienced traveller. On a break in between her Masters degree she had gone to Spain spontaneously on her own. She is a student and I am saving for a big holiday (of course I will blog about it) so we are both skint. We had already shelled out £50 for the gig ticket.

“Well…” she replied “when I was in Madrid I stayed in a really nice air bnb place. It was really cheap and overlooking the main plaza! It would have been really expensive to stay at a hotel in that location.”

“What is air bnb?” I asked. I vaguely recollected an advert on it.

“Is it that one where you sleep on people’s sofas? cos I’m not doing that!”

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I had spent one night on a sofa and hadn’t slept a wink as I tried to find a way to get my long legs spread out without having the arm of the sofa digging in. There wasn’t enough width to curl up. It was a nightmare and there was no chance of it being a dream. I had emerged from that student house looking like I’d spent the night in a hedge, and that probably would have been more comfortable.

My cultured cousin laughed. “No it’s not that one! Though I think there is one like that. It’s called couch-surfing isn’t it? This is similar but you get a proper bed.”

“A proper bed? isn’t that the same as a proper bed and breakfast then?”

“It’s like that but it’s where someone rents out their spare room. You get to meet lots of different people doing it and the ones I’ve met have all been lovely. You don’t always get breakfast but they’re usually in good locations.”

I was intrigued. The other choices were pretty limited so I thought we should give it a try.

You just needed an email address and password to set up an account and it was free. You could search by country as well as by city.

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The places were advertised with a picture of the bedroom with the Google map location on the right. Perfect. We looked and most of the good places were taken but there was one that stood out.

London Luxury

The photograph that I liked featured a beautiful white “Victorian” bathroom with a vintage bath (a new bath in an old style, not a tin one). The house looked modern and spacious for London. Not only that but it was a 10 minute walk from the venue. There was a paragraph or two about the owner, a smiling middle-aged lady who had travelled around Ecuador and liked the theatre. There were good reviews and it wasn’t too expensive.

The house was close to the station and my cousin was already there.

As I walked up to the stained-glass front door I felt a bit nervous. It seemed odd to walk in to a stranger’s house and stay there like one of their friends or family. But my anxiety subsided when our host opened the door and greeted me, grinning from ear to ear.

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She was a warm, friendly lady with a healthy glow and a slight tan. She served us tea and sat with us in their airy conservatory with a view onto a verdant garden. There was a little shed at the end and a trellis with flowering plants.

My cousin looked relaxed and had enjoyed a pleasant chat. I had not expected such peace and quiet. But it was a privileged residential area and of course, only parts of (mostly inner) London are chaotic, dirty and noisy.

I felt that I needed a shower on arrival to the house, as I had been on the Tube and became conscious of the grimy soot sticking to me. I couldn’t see it but I could feel it. That and the gig atmosphere turned the bathwater grey the next day.

Double delight

We were amused that we were sharing a double bed. We had dark wooden drawers and a wardrobe to match, with a fluffy turquoise carpet and curtains tied back. I laid down some ground rules – no farting in bed and no trespassing over the middle line. My cousin broke both rules by the next morning.

We got glittered-up for the rave and headed out. We clip-clopped in our heels through the drizzle along rows of tall neat Victorian houses, shivering. Pretty soon we felt rather lost and decided that we would turn back after ten minutes.

“Did you see the pictures in the bathroom?” my cousin asked.

“Yes, interesting weren’t they!” I replied. There had been pictures of the couple in skimpy 1930s-style carbaret outfits with feathers and pearls.

“Do you think they’re swingers?” my cousin giggled.

“No it’s just fancy dress.”

“Yes but there was more than one of them like that.” We laughed.

Fortunately after a 20 minute totter we found the pub our host had directed us too. But as it was 9pm they had closed for food so we went to the takeaway opposite. It took ten minutes but the kofta kebab was well worth it. As we were late we had to eat waiting for a taxi, sheltering under a tree from the relentless rain.

ProdigyCard

The Gig – Prodigy the-prodigy

I enjoyed the band, especially the classics that reminded me of student days. Thousands filled the hall with a high ceiling and the lighting was great but unfortunately the sound at the gig was focussed at the front and there were no speakers further back. The sound system was clearly not built or configured for the electronic music either. One of the band did make an effort to remedy this by coming near us to sing (or rather shout, it is that kind of music) on a mini stage in the middle, dreadlocks swinging. Cheers erupted around us as people surged forward. Eyes bulged and hands shot up to follow the beat.

Sweaty beer cheer 89067_ORIG-pig_pen_smelly_kid_peanuts_charlie_brown

The hyperactive crowd fully compensated for the muffled performance when he went back, as they thrashed around with reckless abandon. Beer flew everywhere and drenched us. The air was thick with the smell of that and foul body odours. Every so often I had to move as I would end up in a cloud of it and I decided that I’d grown out of grunge.

Pint pouring

When my cousin had a pint poured down her she lost it, turning round and shouting at the miscreant. He apologised and moved away. She angrily said to the man behind him “I hope you’re not going to pour that down me too!”. This started a conversation which went very well and she ended up on the bearded bloke’s shoulders waving her arms around.

We rocked out until the early hours, leaving as the orange streetlight sky started to pale. It was about 4 when we finally went to sleep after a hushed chinwag.

Healthy host

Four hours later I was woken by the sound of the front door closing as our healthy host ran to the gym. As you do on a Saturday morning. I was impressed but seriously sleepy and dozed off until an hour before our checkout time. It was a quiet area and we were in a little guest room down our own hallway with our own bathroom at the other end.

After a bath I felt rejuvenated (and much cleaner). We had a nice chat with our host, who was back from her early morning workout, and her husband. They were a good-looking, kind and knowledgeable pair. I felt guilty when I asked her if I had woken her up and she said she had heard the door shut when we came in. She assured me that it was fine and we were very quiet. She said she was a light sleeper.

We left in search of the nearest pub breakfast. As we stumbled along I decided that although I would not be going to a Prodigy gig again, I would definitely be staying with airbnb for my next trip…

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Filed under Days out/nights out, Life of Lydia, Travel

A night in Essex

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Surprises always carry some element of risk. So when I headed off down to Essex I just had to cross my fingers and hope for the best. But that made it exciting.

It required careful planning and some subtle questions. I booked time off work and the ticket. Then I asked where to send a birthday card, and whether it would be ok if it arrived a day early. I was arriving then as I had plans on the Friday – my friend had booked time off work to visit me and as she lived in London had kindly agreed to make it a road trip. I knew which station was closest as I had visited my boyfriend before. Then I had to find out what sort of birthday cake he wanted. So I said I was going to buy him a cake slice after work, what sort did he want. He was home the weekend before, back from working down in Essex. We had a rather heated discussion with him saying he didn’t want me to buy anything and with me still trying to find out what he wanted. I probed further at Birmingham, when as chance would have it we walked past a Patisserie Valerie counter in the Bullring shopping mall. I had already decided this was the most suitable option. I had previously spotted the cafe whilst trying to locate Boots in both stations to get an urgent product for a friend. Instead of having a cake going off on the train journey down I could buy it fresh there. Perfect! I love Patisserie Valerie. It’s so pretty and tasty and the cakes are unlike anything else I have seen.

So once at St Pancras I walked over to Kings Cross as the cafe is larger there. I picked up the fruits of the forest tart which I had discovered was the ideal birthday dessert. I was a bit worried it would get squashed on the connecting tube journey but luckily it was fine and in good packaging. Five hours later I was at a station in the middle of nowhere. I tried to call my boyfriend and it went to voicemail. I paniced a little. Plan B had not been settled upon, as I knew where my boyfriend was staying and what time he finished work. So I text him and then read a book about walking through Istanbul. It recommended the Galeta Bridge for a view of the ancient buildings. I decided Plan B was waiting until 9pm when he would have finished work at the latest and then getting a £25 taxi. This would cost as much as the cheap advance fare down covering two trains and the tube, for what was a 40 minute bus journey.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I saw my boyfriend calling. He didn’t sound as delighted as I had hoped, but that was due to a 6am-6pm day. He assured me in the car that he was delighted and seemed surprised by the Patisserie Valerie bag. He said he had no idea what it was. He’d obviously forgotten our discussions on two occasions on the subject with the amount of 12 hour days he had worked.

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We checked in to his lovely four star hotel and had a family room with two double beds. I looked forward to a good night’s sleep without the covers being pulled off me or being rolled into or trying to fit around a sleeping starfish. Like the Marriott the bathroom was all marble, with gold taps. They could have been cleaned a little better but after 027reading a microbiologist’s recommendations on hotels I knew that didn’t really matter, walking round in my flip flops. I was annoyed I’d forgotten antibacterial wipes which the article had said should be used for wiping down door handles and remotes. I’d checked it when I last stayed at the hotel when wondering whether to use the bath, and in the absence of a “chlorine bleach wipe” decided not to.

We went out to a Chinese restaurant, as the hotel’s restaurant menu is a bit limited. It looked like a former pub and had the words “Chinese, Thai and English cuisine” plastered on the front. The decor was lovely, all red Chinese lanterns. I chose the Thai menu and had a lovely creamy coconut and green curry soup with prawns and some rather 042interesting meat that tasted a little too slimy to be chicken. It was delicious though. Then I ordered pork sweet and sour. I imagined thin beef sirloin strips but instead I got fatty deep fried pork. I struggled through it as I didn’t want to cause a scene for my boyfriend’s birthday meal. An hour or two later I felt quite queasy- as I have IBS my digestion doesn’t cope well with fatty food. I made myself try a bit of the birthday tart – I wanted to see whether it was value for money. However it was just a biscuit base, some cream and some fruit. I was a bit disappointed but it looked great and my boyfriend enjoyed it. He saved some for work in his hotel fridge.

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When I settled down onto the bed once again I was disappointed that it was a firm mattress. This meant I couldn’t sleep. My boyfriend can sleep whenever he wants to, as long as he’s not too hot or cold. But I woke up every hour or so and in the morning awoke after a fitful sleep with a sore back. A double-blind study has confirmed this link. Jonny rushed off in the dead of night taking the tart for his colleagues to enjoy.

I now had the mission of getting to Edgware station. I had to take a bus in the middle of nowhere. Google said it was opposite the hotel but after walking around for some time I couldn’t see a stop. So I waited on the grass verge with cars whizzing past, one honking its horn at me. I started to feel a bit silly and wished I could hitch a lift. But miraculously the bus appeared from nowhere. The first one had not been until 9am, so I had told my friend the earliest I could arrive was midday. This meant we had more motorway traffic. I was the only person on the bus and told the driver to tell me when we got to the destination. I got off on a narrow country lane and walked round the corner to the next stop. Thankfully this time there was a bus shelter. No information though and I was unsure if I was on the right side of the road to do the next leg of the journey.

Then some old ladies turned up, all made up with bouffant dyed hair, talking about how they were going on holiday and how one of them had been exploring the local area with her free bus pass. It was a small village and they clearly knew everyone. I relaxed a bit when I heard one of them say that she was going to the station I was going to.

After winding round country lanes I queasily arrived at the station and felt proud of myself for getting there and saving £23.50 in the process. I did miss a train due to a typically slow bus but luckily the next train was delayed by a minute, arriving just a couple of minutes after my scheduled one. Then I took two tubes to complete the three hour journey. It was wonderful to make it to Edgware solely on public transport and to be able to plan with accuracy using transportdirect –  I had reliable times, maps and plenty of details.

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My friend then drove us with her friend for five hours up to London. It was a Friday and traffic meant a stop-start 071ride. I ate chocolates as I watched the entertaining sight of a bus going backwards – it looked like it was being driven instead of towed. I also enjoyed a hot spiced apple drink with cinammon and star anise in Costa Coffee, my favourite drink.

I had a lovely time in Essex although next time I think I’ll order something different at the Chinese, or perhaps try pub food.

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Filed under Days out/nights out, Food, Life of Lydia

The Scourge of Sitting

Today at work I felt my legs buzzing after 11 hours of being sedentary. This is caused by electrical activity in the leg muscles shutting off, according to this worrying infographic.

A fellow blogger’s post gives tips on getting more exercise out of lazy habits such as watching TV.  The shocking statistics in the infographic revealed that sitting for 8 or more hours a day makes you more than 40% likely to die within 15 years compared to someone that sits less than three. There was also an alarming article on the subject in today’s Metro, which reported that earlier this year a study found sitting just four hours a day increases risk of heart disease and cancer, and this bore no relation to the amount of exercise done around this time. I always take the stairs at work but most people take the lift. I have managed to persuade some colleagues to follow me and when they struggle I remind them of the benefits. I make herbal tea instead of drinking from a bottle. It requires me to get up regularly and go to the kitchen. But I need to do more.gov worker

I want to cycle into work. I also enjoy going for a run afterwards, but research shows that exercise has no impact on the statistics, it is the reduced time sitting that will. I feel so much better after a workout. When I come home and do nothing my body is so sluggish, weak and achy. That is how I feel today, as I have done such long shifts this week that I do not have time to anything when I come home.

A picture at my favourite gym, PureGym! I will join once the weather gets worse.

A picture at my favourite gym, PureGym! I will join once the weather gets worse.

I try not to do cardio after 7, as studies have shown that exercising in the evening interferes with sleep due to the adrenaline, something I experienced lying awake with a pounding heart, 2 hours after returning from a 20 mile cycle.

For more tips on increasing activity in the workplace, check out this post.

Unfortunately the printer and floor’s lunch station are right next to my desk. Next week I’ll get the bike out…

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Selfishness

Last night...

Last night…

I was woken this morning by the sound of the toilet flushing, then a door banging. Just as I settled back to sleep the neighbour started up with his pneumatic drill of a water pump, hosing down his car and then presumably the drive for about half an hour. Even when both are clean he continues, enjoying the sense of power and the manly whirring noise as he revs it. Like a big boys’ version of a trial bike and he has a motorbike as well. Then mum rubbed it in about how she watched my friend and I waiting for a bus when she could see one waiting up the road. We waited for 15 minutes before we walked to the bus stop down the road and waited another half an hour until one finally came and this was with two services. It was 20 minutes late, no explanation given.

Apparently a bus driver actually said this on a forum! http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?p=80803098

We could make a real difference just by thinking of others more. Of course I am prone to selfishness too, it’s all too easy to be thoughtless and self-absorbed. But when I put myself in the other person’s shoes I find myself changing my behaviour for the better, becoming more thoughtful and sensitive.  I think the opposite of selfishness is generosity such as sharing, taking our focus off the “I”. Last night a guy gave my friend and I free drinks from his bucket for example. I’m a believer in the “pay it forward” movement – it’s the little things in life that make a big difference. Sometimes though, a grand gesture is much appreciated – I was so grateful to my boyfriend yesterday when he picked up ear plugs on his shopping trip and drove them round, I enjoyed a night out without whistling ears, and my friend selflessly sat with me every time I had sore feet at the rave. Judging is selfish. When we measure up others we compare them to ourselves. But we’re all unique, we all have individual stories and often, the person making assumptions knows little or nothing about that person. So next time you find yourself thinking you know a book by its cover think again. First impressions count for a lot but they are not everything. People have so many sides to their character that they can often surprise us.

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Bus-boosting immunity

Recently my parents have been virally infected by my student sister and have been quite ill. Surprisingly I was the only family member around to be unaffected.

As my parents cough, sneeze, splutter and weakly sink into bed or chairs I have wondered how on earth I have avoided this ninja virus. Now it may be that I spent less time with the infector, but there is also the fact that I imgHandSanitiserLargehave not had any colds or other illnesses this year. Partly it is due to lower stress levels – I feel in control with my new job and I am getting enough sleep. I also run at least once a week. Perhaps taking one multivitamin a day helped – although my doctor dad (retired) insists that double-blind studies have ruled that out. Or is it my regular use of hand sanitiser (followed by moisturiser, that step is important)?

But I have also been exposed to infection on a daily basis through public transport, along with 34.2 million others last year just on Stagecoach.

Everyone moans about the “service”. I once complained to my local providers after I was late for work every day for a week. I appreciated the letter back and the day’s free bus fare but I switched to a more reliable company. In general buses here are usually late, dirty and sometimes slower than walking. Recently I got a driver that seemed to enjoy braking hard and often. As we lurched to a halt after a short journey I felt as queasy as if I’d been hours in a car. Where I live, the time you arrive depends on which bus driver you get and how fond they are of having a break. This is understandable later in the day but I can’t understand why they need it in the morning rush hour. Time ticks by as the man or woman yawns and leafs through The Metro.

Although rare, the recent fatal stabbing on a bus at 7.30am in Birmingham reminds us that sometimes other passengers can be dangerous rather than simply irritating or smelly. However I think you have more chance of being killed as a pedestrian or cyclist.

The other day three people sneezed simultaneously around me and I have yet to feel any ill effects (though perhaps I speak too soon). So although it certainly has its faults it is fantastic for keeping your immune system virus-immunologyupdated like your computer’s antivirus. Twice a day you keep it alerted to current threats and if you do a bit of exercise and get enough sleep you’ll combat them and develop a great firewall to minimise sick days and save money.

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Liebster Blog Award Nomination

I have recently had pleasure in accepting a Liebster Blog Award. I couldn’t find anything official about it but nevertheless I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

I have found that inspiration has been squeezed out of me like an orange in the juicer since I started work. Training has reminded me of lectures at university. I was glad for the chance to write on this topic, as ideas have not come to me daily as when I was unemployed. After work all I have room for in my overloaded brain is the satisfaction that can be gained with food and sleep.

The award is for those with less than 200 followers and comes from the German for “beloved” and “favourite” – liebe is to like, if my beginners German is correct…I am glad to have the chance to advertise other blogs which I enjoy reading and which I hope you will.

Here are the rules to accepting the award:

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog and link back to the blogger who presented this award to you.
2. List 11 random facts about yourself.
3. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator.
4. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 11 blogs who you feel deserve to be noticed
5. Create 11 questions for your nominees.
6. Leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen.
7. Copy and Paste the blog award on your blog.

Facts about myself

1. I have blonde hair

2. I have blue eyes

3. I am badly long-sighted. The optician recommended thick lenses and I made a massive fuss so he gave me lenses that look thin at a discount!

3. The first picture of me reading is at 5 months. I was holding the book the right way up and it was a story about a kitten. cuteness

4. I wanted to be a clown when I was 5 – I wanted to make people laugh like they did at the parties I attended. I still make people laugh, but usually unintentionally.

5. I read the Famous Five Series by the time I was 6.

6. I started learning the piano when I was 7.

7. I wrote a trilogy when I was about 7 called Twinkleberry the Elf. Sadly it was lost when we gave it to a family friend as a present. I remember one chapter where Twinkleberry gets locked in a cage in a lion pit and has to magic his way out…

8. I read the Lord of the Rings when I was 11. My favourite bit was where Frodo got stabbed, I had adrenaline going! I didn’t understand most of it but liked the fantasy of it.

9. I watched my first horror film aged 14 and was scared of sleeping in the dark for a while after!

10. I was too scared to try snails in France – the black slug peeping out of the baguette was more than I could take and I started crying! I was about 11…

11. I have never had a TV, which explains most of the above…

Here are some of the blogs I follow. Apologies if I have missed you out or if you have more than 200 followers – as I’m new to the blogging game I haven’t been able to see the number of followers on some blogs, especially given it’s getting late and I’ve worked today…

I would like to present the Liebster Blog Award to (in no particular order)…

1. http://ladybuglizziegail.wordpress.com/ The lovely lady who nominated me – she blogs on a variety of topics from anime to vampires.

2. http://davidanaturephotography.wordpress.com/ A photographer with great perspective, focussing on still life and nature shots.

3. http://wtpho.com Amazing travel photos, the latest ones of Vancouver reminded me of my lovely trip last year…

4. http://itsaneuthing.wordpress.com/ Engaging opinions on EU news.

5. http://eyespeak4u.wordpress.com/ Interesting insights into daily life – I particularly liked it when she wrote a post showing the perspective of her child on an issue, it was refreshing. WordPress is full of dull diaries but this stands out, as does the following link:

6. http://missyhren.wordpress.com/engaging witty writing of an unemployed graduate.

7. http://lifeonabranch.wordpress.com/diary of a graduate on minimum wage, as I am! I like the latest post on how to spend in thrift stores.

8. http://happilyeversingle.wordpress.com/If any of my readers are unhappy about being single I refer them to this blog, this lady looks on the bright side of life.

9. http://theonlyenglishmaninthevillage.wordpress.com/ I once considered English language teaching abroad, here is someone’s experience of it.

10. http://eharmono.wordpress.com/A laugh-out-loud look at online dating.

11. http://chinupchesthigh.wordpress.com/ As described on his blog “a 30 something’s guide to self discovery” a bravely written psychological eye-opener.

Eleven Questions for Me

1. What superpower do you wish you had?

I wish I had the superpower that the main character of Limitless has and of course without the side effects. That is, to be able to understand everything and for all information to just sink into your spongey brain. Right now mine feels more akin to a brick.

2. Favorite television show?

As stated before, I’m not bothered about TV and I still don’t have one so I watch Iplayer occasionally. My guilty secret? I enjoy Don’t Tell the Bride! Entertaining programmes don’t have to be intellectual. I’m not someone that has dreamed about their wedding since they were little! I like the comedy of a hapless boy of a man being given £12 000 to spend on a wedding which he has no idea about. Oh the drama. Oh the dress disasters.

I’m looking forward to watching the one I have linked, about a guy who gambles on whether to do the wedding in Las Vegas. He wins and so the decision is made, but will his fiancee marry him in Vegas at a tacky ceremony?? or will he be down on his luck??

3. Cats or Dogs?

Neither, both seem a pain to look after although I don’t mind other people’s.

4. What was your favorite subject in elementary school?

English

5. Zombies or Vampires?

Neither, they’re both ridiculous.

6. What is one book you can not live without?

JK Rowling’s Harry Potter – any of them. She’s the most skilled writer ever.

7. Are you a morning or a night person?

Night owl!

8. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

I don’t think I’ve seen enough of the world to know. I liked New Zealand’s laid-back lifestyle though!

9. Superman or Batman

Superman, I prefer predictable hero to troubled tortured soul.

10. Android or Itunes

?? No technology at all preferably, it always breaks.

11. Who is your hero ??

My boyfriend 😀

My 11 questions to you, my esteemed bloggers (many of whom are also my followers, I salute you for that)

1. If you could be invisible what would you do?

2. If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and why?

3. What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you?

4. What’s a quirky fact about yourself?

5. What do you find most enjoyable? e.g. hobby

6. What does success mean to you?

7. How do you save money?

8. Do you live life for now or save for the future?

9. How did you meet your other half OR what’s the best thing about being single?

10. What makes you feel confident?

11. If you were Prime Minister what would be the first thing you’d do?

I also welcome answers to these questions from other readers.

Thank you again to LadyBugDreams who made my dream of winning a blogging award come true! Thank you also to all my followers who inspire me to keep writing. Now I must go, as my brain has returned to nudging me about sleep, now that the food part is content.

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