A Guide to Free Birthday Stuff

In the grand scheme of things, I’m not overly fond of my birthday. Which is a story for another time, it really is.
But there is something I love about my birthday, and that is the free stuff, I love the birthday freebies, and thankfully I have signed up to get a lot. So please let me educate you, on how you can get such lovely things.

Aveda Oil
I’m not sure if this is cheating or not, but for this, I had to sign up for the Aveda Pure Privilege scheme, which is £10.00, but that is a one-off fee, and you get a gift each year. The gift itself is worth £24.00, so in the long run, you are defiantly saving money.
Each time, there are three composition oils you can choose from. There is Shampure oil, which to me smelt like baby powder, beautifying oil, which I already own. So, I choose the Stress-fix composition oil, because it smells absolutely amazing, will last ages and I use the moisturiser from the stress fix range, and I know in advance that it works.
Incidentally, it’s best to contact them directly nearer to your birthday, since they send the vouchers from the USA, instead of emailing them to you, if the vouchers do not arrive. Like I had too.
https://www.aveda.co.uk/pure-privilege-rewards-program

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Aveda Composition Oil

Barburrito
I signed up to this last year, but by then it was too late to use it for my birthday, so this was my first ever burrito, made in Paddington Station. Give it respect that the place was packed but the staff were friendly, and it was a free burrito. I choose the chicken, and had to leave half of it, it was delicious, but too much of it, so next year…leave out the rice. But it was excellent and free. I was delighted, and it saved me £6.95
https://barburrito.co.uk/

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Free Burrito

Bodyshop
This is now the only time I go into the Bodyshop, once upon a time it was more affordable, and I do feel the original vegan message it used to possess has now slipped from public consciousness. But as it was my birthday, and they do a very generous £5.00 voucher as part of the Beauty Club. I just had to get the Vanilla Marshmallow Softening Body Lotion, which is just amazing and smells marvellous, and only cost me £3.50 courtesy of the scheme. https://www.thebodyshop.com/en-gb/love-your-body-club

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Free £5.00 Voucher, got me this reduced

Boost Free Drink
Now for something very healthy on the list, also the first time I’ve ever been in Boost, got this by downloading the app, and went to the store in Oxford Street. I went for the Berry Crush, under 300 calories, vegan, gluten-free, and divine. Also saved me £5.15, and now I am a fan.
Get it off Appstore or in-store card.

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Healthy, delicious and Free

Crepe Affair Free Crepe
For this, I had to go down to Wimbledon, because I was determined to finish the list, and this was the last thing on the list, and the one in Westfield is shut at the moment. But Wimbledon is pretty good, some nice shops even on a miserable day, and the Crepe I had by the fantastic staff was worth it. As per the app download, I get a free crepe on my birthday. And for this, I treated myself to, the most expensive crepe on the menu “I’ll Have What She’s Having”, priced at £6.95 and a mocha (I paid for that). And it was delicious.
https://www.crepeaffaire.com/menu

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It’s called “I’ll Have What She’s Having”. Oh, go on then!

Debenhams Elizabeth Arden Oxygen Blast Facial
This is worth £15.00, and I got mine in Debenhams Uxbridge, by the lovely Teresa, who assessed my skin, and am pleased to report that it is in excellent condition for someone of my age. There she massaged, toned and blasted my skin, making it look plumper and fresh. These are the products she used.
1. Replenishing Cleansing Oil
2. Ceramide Purifying Toner
3. Superstart Skin Renewal Booster
4. Ceramide Lift and Firm Eye Cream
5. Flawless Future Caplet Serum
6. Flawless Future Moisture Cream
Book in advance, directly from the store.

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Me post facial, I feel amazing

 

Debenhams Eye Wax
This was done, in Debenhams Oxford Street, via Benefit by the fantastic Kim, who complimented the shape of my eyebrows, and all I needed was a little tidy up. Very nicely done and I think I look pretty.
I didn’t book an appointment, but recommend you do so and was seen immediately. Price of Eyebrow wax, usually £16.50.
Get a Debenhams Beauty Card, and book via the Benefit website for an eyebrow wax, for the facial check on the website for participating Debenhams.
https://www.debenhams.com/
https://www.benefitcosmetics.com/uk/en-gb/beauty-services/brow-wax

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They did a fantastic job on my eyebrows

Tipping for Debenhams.
Now, we are fortunate enough to get this lovely service for free, and a such tipping is in order. However, Debenhams do not accept tips as per company policy, which I do respect. Instead of this, please donate to charities they support. There is a collection box at almost every till, and I got this pretty bracelet for donating.
https://www.debenhams.com/content/debenhams-supports

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Buy this in leiu of a tip, please

Ed’s Easy Diner Free Milkshake.
There is always something surreal about Ed’s, a 1950s very tiny restaurant, in the heart of theatreland, in Moor Street, Soho. I do like the place, but it was the time of day it was impossible to sit down and have a meal, so thankfully they do to go. So, I ordered the Nutella large milkshake, worth £5.25, and happily walked down Soho drinking it. It was delicious and to get it, you have to sign up with them. Quickly done and so worth it, calorific but so worth it.
https://edseasydiner.com/join

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From Ed’s, calorific and amazing

Greggs Sweet Treat.
Got this by downloading the app, since I am a sucker for Greggs, on your birthday, you get any sweet treat of your choice. Had to go for the muffin, because…well, look at it. Sweet, but the cherry gave it a strong filling taste. Also paired with a mocha, because of tradition.
Get it off Appstore.

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Cheery Muffin, it was amazing

Hobbs Candle
Hobbs is the kind of place I dream of shopping from all the time, their clothes are just amazing. If I wore their clothes instead of my work uniform, I would sashay in like Wilhelmina Slater in Ugly Betty. But sadly, that’s unlikely for the foreseeable future, but a girl can dream. However, by signing up to the Hobbs website, for my birthday, they sent me a voucher for a candle. This Candle, worth £20.00, is an exclusive gift scented with Wisteria and is just amazing. Even currently unlit, the candle still manages to fragrance the air.
https://www.hobbs.co.uk/account/create-account

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Best Candle Ever

Hotel Chocolat Free Gift
I have been a lover of Hotel Chocolat, for years but I thank my lucky stars there isn’t one local to me for that reason. But I love the tasting club, the selections and of course the sales. Now they have recently launched the VIPME Scheme, where you get 15% off your first order with them, and a free gift which I’ve learned is a box of chocolates for your birthday. And I found this out, the day after my birthday. To say I wasn’t happy was an understatement. Since I have no shame, I contacted them explaining the situation hoping that they would take pity on me. I really have no shame and they did.
They sent me a £5 voucher, and I was spoiled for choice for all the lovely things they had in stock. But since it’s Christmas, and I have no intention of sharing. I treated myself to The Christmas Goodie Bag, consisting of the Cinnamon Bun Selector, Coconut & Macadamia Snowballs, Penguin Snowed Under Slab, Cookie & Caramel Wreath, Christmas Mess and Ultimate Milk Duo. The RRP is £18.00, and I paid £13.00. Winning.
https://www.hotelchocolat.com/uk/about-rewards.html

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Hotel Chocolat took pity on me, I love them for it

Krispy Kreme Donut
By random happenstance, on the day I got the birthday voucher, also got one for a free doughnut, since I haven’t been there in ages. So, I got two, for nothing. Oh, happy days.
Went for the Berry White and Stardust, because it was seasonal, and they were both fantastic, but overall, I recommend Berry White over the two.
https://www.krispykreme.co.uk/

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I love you Krispy Kreme x

Paperchase
I love Paperchase, as someone who writes, I am a sucker for their stationery and notebooks, even though, I feel that the ones I buy are too pretty to write with and also taking a pen to paper will ruin them somehow. Am I the only one who this happens too? Please let me know.
But I fell in love with this notebook, which is strange because Butterflies are not usually my thing, but I love the metallic detail on this. And can’t wait to use it.
With the Paperchase Treat Me card, easily picked up in store or register online. I got £5.00 off the retail price, so it cost me £5.00 instead of £10.00. So, a very happy me.
https://www.paperchase.com/en_gb/treat-me/activate/card/

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Almost too pretty to use

Patisserie Valerie Cake
Even though Patisserie Valerie has been through some drama this year, it’s good that they haven’t done away with this. By joining their mailing list, on my birthday they sent me a voucher for a free cupcake, which I acquired with coffee in Covent Garden. It was delicious, that is all I can say.
https://www.patisserie-valerie.co.uk/

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Patisserie Valerie, thank you so much.

Rituals. Travel Perfume
I’ve been a member of Rituals for ages, but this is the first time they have sent me a birthday gift. It was a tiny travel sample of Fleurs de l’Himalaya. Which was a sweet gift, and it does smell amazing. It also retails for £9.50. They also do a travel sample for men, and I have no idea what that smells like.
But it’s always nice getting something from Rituals, I do like that place.
https://www.rituals.com/en-gb/home

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Something amazing from Rituals

Space NK Apothecary
Just by creating an account, and they send you the membership card. During your birthday month, they send you an email reminding you of the little goody bag. The store in London is very chic and welcoming, and the gift changes every few months. For the month of November, I got a Dr Dennis Gross Exfoliating Moisturiser, an Aurelia Hand Cream and a Darphin Essential Oil Elixir. I also got a voucher for a complimentary skin care and makeup consultation with a glass of champagne.
https://www.spacenk.com/uk/en_GB/home-uk

 


I also got
Superdrug: Double points on the Beauty card for a week.
Boots. Just by having an advantage card, I got Double Points for the month

Things I signed up for but got (almost) nothing
All Bar One
I signed up to the app because I was informed that you get a free bottle of prosecco on your birthday. Apparently, that’s only when you book a table with the app, I know this because when I mentioned on my birthday when I was in All Bar One in Windsor, all I got was a blank stare. However, just by signing up with the app, I got a free glass of Prosecco, which was nice.

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Thank you All Bar One, for my lovely glass of prosecco

Marks and Spenser Card
I signed up with this, because I was under the impression, that I would be gifted with a £5.00 voucher, alas I got nothing. I think it may have worked for others in the past, but not me. However, I never knew the great discounts you can get with the Sparks Card. Recommended.
https://www.marksandspencer.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/MSSparksLandingPage?storeId=10151&langId=-24&catalogId=10051

Ikea
Once again, by signing up with the Family Program, it was suggested that I would be gifted with a £5.00 voucher. Since the nearest one to me is Wembley, but I got nothing back. However, Ikea really have excellent customer service, may not have gained anything from them, but I can’t fault them for that.
https://www.ikea.com/gb/en/ikea-family/

A Freebie, I am not taking up from Swarovski
A while ago, I sighed up for the Be Swarovski Loyalty Scheme and was assured that I would get a crystal bottle stopper if I brought anything. I looked over the website and saw nothing I can afford
That being said there is a zodiac pendant which would look amazing around my neck, but still out of my price range. The cheapest thing there is a pen, and though beautiful, it’s just a pen. So, I could get a pen to get the crystal bottle stopper, but I won’t. I could change my mind before the month is out, as you have a month to claim the gift, but no, just letting this one go. However, I would love to know, who got this as a wedding present, I really would.
https://www.swarovski.com/en_GB-GB/s-beswarovski/beSwarovski/

eicrystel

Nice, but i don’t want it

So, as you can see, these are the free, reduced and beautiful things you can get for your birthday. Please let me know, if you hear of any more, and in advance. Have a Happy Birthday.
20 Companies that need to do Birthday Incentives. But don’t.
But should, really should. May I iterate, this is a suggestion, not a fact.
Caffé Concerto. Free cake, with purchase of a drink. Just because both are magical.
Caffe Nero. Free coffee and cake if you have the app
Costa. Free Coffee and Cake if you have the app or loyalty card.
Crabtree & Evelyn. Free body cream
Disney Store. £5.00 voucher
Five Guys. Free milkshake, when you buy a burger
Forbidden Planet. £5.00 voucher.
Godiva. £5.00 voucher
HMV. £5.00 voucher
Kiehl’s. Free hand cream.
Liberty. £10.00 voucher
L’Occitane en Provence. £10.00 voucher to spend in store if you sign up.
Lola’s Cupcakes. Free cupcake
Lush, by signing up to the website, you get a £5.00 voucher
Molton Brown. Free shower gel
Pandora. Sigh up the loyalty program as a one-off for £20.00, and get a free charm from a selection each year. Naturally older stock, they want to get rid of. A great idea, you’ll agree.
Superdry. £25.00 off £50.00 spend. Really wishful thinking.
Waterstones. £10.00 for being on the loyalty program or free book.
White Company. Free candle
Yours Clothing. £10.00 voucher

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The Debenhams Ultimate Beauty Advent Calendar. Is Not Worth It

Before I begin tearing this apart, I love Debenhams and have for years. They are the only place I can get decent and affordable bras. The customer service is impressive, I got a facial and eyebrow wax for my birthday from them. I have nothing against Debenhams, just this Advent Calendar.

Oh yeah, SPOILERS for the Advent Calendar, quick disclaimer.

In the past few years, Advent Calendars, once the domain of children everywhere has become a fully-fledged industry, of treats and goodies, typically 12 or 24 days before Christmas.

https://www.debenhams.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/prod_10701_10001_154330900099_-1

There are Advent Calendars for Gin, the Body Shop. For cheese, and wine and everything else under the Sun.

My mum, even made me a personal one last year, 24 little presents for her youngest. She did one for the grandchildren and didn’t want me to miss out. I could have pointed out that I was an adult, but the gift of Jaffa Cakes, notepads and vodka, was enough to make me very happy.

On the high street, I’m usually a bit wary of Advent Calendars, since few can live up to the promise, and I’d rather not spend money on disappointments. I did receive one from Marks and Spenser two years ago, which was amazing and which really set the standard for Advent Calendars.

I was going to forgo a calendar this year, but Debenhams was the exception, since it was £35, and I saved £5 off that by virtue of my beauty card points.

This Calendar was advertised as worth £150, even if the price of it fluctuates, and I was looking forward to the long cardboard boxes full of designer items which would last me through the long winter months of the approaching 2019.

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At least it looks pretty

Naturally, I decided not to wait and looked through them and was slightly disappointed by it, so I created this post.

I think just by writing this shows my naivety about the Advent Calendar Business, but I trusted Debenhams. I thought I was getting value for money since Debenhams houses some of my favourite brands.

I’m also mindful that I could have paid the £70 for this, something I was pleased that I didn’t. Anyone reading this could wonder what I am bothered about since I did get my money back from the contents…at a stretch.

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This is the list, which I unashamedly pulled from the Debenhams website.

Advent Calendar contains

Glamglow Youth Mud 15g
Kat Von D Tattoo Liner in Black 0.2ml
NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Antwerp 8ml
bareMinerals Skinlongevity Vital Power Serum 7.5ml
L’Occitane En Provence Shea Butter Hand Cream 10ml
Elemis Pro-Radiance Cream Cleanser 30ml
MAC Prep + Prime Natural Radiance Primer in Radiant Yellow 5ml                                Touch In Sol No Poreblem Primer 3ml
Nails Inc Nail Polish in Collingham Place 10ml
INC.redible Glazin Over Lip Glaze (colours may vary) 3.4ml
Filorga Lift Structure Cream 7ml
Ouai Leave-In Conditioner 25ml
Laura Geller Lash Boss Mascara in Black 4ml
Paco Rabanne Lady Million Eau de Parfum 5ml
Too Faced Hangover Replenishing Face Primer 5ml
The Handmade Soap Company Lemongrass and Cedarwood Hand Cream 30ml
Oh K! Gold Dust Under Eye Mask 2×1.5g
Lancôme Advanced Génifique Youth Activating Serum 5ml
Ciate Nail Polish in Dangerous Affair 5ml
Parks Candles Vanilla Scented Candle 30cL
Benefit BADgal BANG! Mascara in Black 3g
Make Up Forever Artist Crème Rouge Lipstick in Shade C211 1.4g
Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser 30ml
Debenhams Beauty £5 Gift Card

Out of these items, there were only five things which stood out as worth it were as such.

Based on Internet searches.
The Parks Candles Vanilla Scented Candle 30cL is worth approximately £9.00
Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser 30ml is £10.00
Elemis Pro-Radiance Cream Cleanser 30ml is £7.50
The Handmade Soap Company Lemongrass and Cedarwood Hand Cream 30ml is £9.95
Benefit – Black ‘BADgal Bang’ volumizing mini mascara 4g £9.45

Everything else is a sample, the long-detailed boxes contain tiny little samples, which makes me sincerely hope that everyone who buys this, does recycle. But it’s all samples, I could go to any Debenhams Beauty counter and just ask for almost all of this, with no cost to anyone.

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This is everything from the Advent Calendar

The thing is, I love samples. On my adventuring, I travel light, and use samples because it’s easier. But I expected better than this.

The other issue is diversity or lack of it. In 2016, I was gifted (Sister Kay, brought it for mum, mum gave it to me) the Marks and Spenser’s Summer Beauty Box, and that was more diverse than this. It took ages to work my way through that and that only cost £10 (with £40 spend, but I didn’t spend any money, all good)

The Debenhams Calendar has two mascaras, two hand creams, two nail varnishes, and almost none of it is that interesting.

The big black boxes are deceptive. The boxes are a pack of lies, and as I was going through them, I was disappointed because I expected better from Debenhams.

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Lies, All Lies!

What would have been better was more diversity, some eyeshadow, some more perfume in a larger size. I would have preferred an actual lipstick, not a lip glaze from a company I’ve have never heard of.

That’s another thing too, almost everything apart from a few brands are not as well known, so perhaps this box is there to entice new customers since it could have had an item from every department.

A larger mascara from Benefit would have been nice, a cleanser from Elizabeth Arden, something from Tiffany & Co (wishful thinking I know). Just by looking at Debenhams own website, they stock approximately 170 different beauty brands, and we’ve got this in an Advent Calendar.

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Please recycle the boxes

Debenhams so far has managed to escape the purge of the high streets and have always been a store to rely on. Am I the only one who felt they could and should have done better than this?

Of course, you may feel differently. All opinions are my own, you may be delighted with this.

But I for one as a loyal customer of Debenhams is genuinely disappointed and hope if they do this next year to put a little bit more thought into it. Having a full-size box for a sample size product is just deceptive.

In advance Merry Christmas x

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Building a Beauty Bank Box

In the grand scheme of things, I am privileged. University educated twice, by working my ass off and living off coffee. I was brought up in a stable home, with parents who installed a proud working-class ethic.

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However, being working class, you’re always aware of how easy it is to lose it all, and how struggling to survive is almost second nature. As I said before, going to University, made me the exception and not the norm, and I still had to work 40 hours a week to be able to support myself.

However, I am still fortunate compared to some, and I always try to support those less fortunate, I’m a blood donor, I buy the Big Issue, and I give and buy my books from charity shops. But this year and especially at this time, I made the decision following an article in Glamour Magazine by Sali Hughes, to make a box for the Beauty Bank for those in less fortunate positions.

Speaking of Glamour, it now comes out twice a year, it’s more of a Beauty Bible, and it’s done away with the taking a picture of Glamour in an exotic location. I even took a picture of myself in Budapest with an issue on the off chance they still did. Alas no.

glamour

Oh well at least i had fun in Budapest.

But the second relaunched issue informed me of the Beauty Bank and courtesy of the website. It emphasised the most desired things needed. These are the items I collected to show how easy it is, and how affordable it is to put a box together for those less fortunate.

Nappies. It is a sad fact that they need donated nappies, isn’t it? That there i20181106_140643s a poor struggling mother out there trying to scrape the money together to protect their babe. I had to get Pampers, for this, but the new-born ones. Just because I thought that most people would get them for the older baby and I know a lot of new parents need extra protection. And whoever gets them, I really hope you get back on your feet soon.

 

Soap. For sensitive skins, I’ve always used Imperial Leather and Dove, so both got 20181106_140604thrown in, also both of them last ages and can also be used as a body wash with a bit of lather. I wanted to put in something which would last, and these  do.

 

Deodorant. Vaseline Aloe Sensitive, just because I use it, it’s gentle on the skin and does provide protection. Trust me on this20181106_140625

 

 

 

Face flannels, ok self-evident really. Brought in Wilkinson, but I also threw in Boots No7 Face Wipes, since they are a little bit of luxury. I use them, and I have sensitive skin, and they do remove every bit of dirt from your face.20181106_14034520181106_135959

Face wash. For this, I decided to forgo that and got the Vitamin E Skin Care, Gentle Oatmeal Exfoliator from Superdrug, all tried, tested, and fantastic.

 

Head lice combs. Just a Superdrug version.

Sanitary Products. Once again, a sigh that I am fortunate, I’ve never experienced 20181106_140329“period poverty” never missed a day of school because of it, and I do wish since I know how expensive they were growing up, that more could be done to help women and teenagers who need towels and tampons. These are not luxuries, these are essential. Was happy to throw in a pack of Always Ultra and some Tampax Pearl’s.

Shampoo and Conditioner. One thing I learned from working in a psychiatric unit 20181106_140203and seeing the mentally ill who have struggled and have been homeless is that it ages you. It ages your face and hair and makes it brittle with the amount of stress which occurs. Dove Pro-age, is fantastic for this, I know from experience, and the recipient of this, this will help, no matter what your age.

Shaving gel/Cream. I specifically chose Gillette Satin Care for Dry Skin, because when20181106_140538 we are stressed hormones are released which cause patches on the skin, and can cause dryness. By selecting one aimed explicitly at dry skin, perhaps on a desperate bid to replace the lost oils. There really was a method to my choosing. The disposable razors are Wilkinson Sword, pretty much self-evident, I’ve used them on my travel, and they are outstanding and lasts ages. Very easy to clean, more economical.

20181106_140511Toothpaste & toothbrushes. I refuse to buy any cheap toothpaste, but I’m a devotee for Colgate, it’s not called the “World’s Biggest Smile” for nothing. But I am mindful that a deeper clean may be in order, and this toothpaste works. I also got Pearl Drops Smokers toothpaste for the same reason.  The toothbrush was Aquafresh, it’s a generic toothbrush, but does the trick.

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Bodywash/Shower Gel. Sucker here for the classics and tried and tested, once again my skin is sensitive. Johnson’s Soft and Pamper Bodywash, and Nivea Wild Blossom, both smell gorgeous, can be used on all skin types, and for those who want decent brands, are the best I have used. They are amazing, and both last ages.

 

 

Body Cream. Superdrug Vitamin E. I will spend the rest of my life crowing about this cream, it’s affordable, absorbing and makes my own skin feel amazing, it’s light through the summer and thick enough for winter, it will moisturise the skin for hours, and also cruelty-free. It’s a godsend for those who want luxury but not paying a hefty price for it.20181106_140249

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gift Set. L’Oréal Vitamino Colour Radiance Set. I’ve had this set for a while, and I know it’s something I will never use. Consisting of a 100ml Colour Shampoo and 75ml Hair Masque.20181106_135913

 

 

 

Facemasks. I’m fully admitting here, that these don’t work for me, tried them and didn’t like them, but everyone I know who has tried them loves them and swears by them. As they don’t work for me, I am happy to send them to a more deserving home. And Garnier has always been a brand, you can rely on.20181106_140043

 

 

 

Personal hygiene & essential beauty items. This one I found a bit problematic, based on what I consider everything else on the list already is a “personal hygiene and essential beauty item” So what else does that mean?

One thing that struck me about the articles I read about Beauty Boxes and the Beauty Bank is that they appear to ignore men. Only two articles, directly mention men, or boys, which is admittedly surprising.

Currently, 85% of the individuals on the street, or struggling with homelessness are men. Yet they ask for “Essential beauty items”, and that is what exactly? Perhaps, this goes into my working-class mentality, but personal hygiene is soap, shampoo and sanitary products.

The articles that inspired this box’s creation mentions a letter being received stating that the “body gel was the best she ever used”. Followed by “a teacher told us his colleagues no longer had to loan deodorant to pupils”. So, the latter is suggested that deodorant is given to boys, but never stated. It isn’t meant to come across like this, but it really does.

Instead as a tribute to the men who need our help. I got personal hygiene products for them instead. Incidentally, the Australian version of the Beauty Bank does indicate their desire for male products. So perhaps we should take the lead from them. Especially with International Men’s Day on November 19th, and I did check, and there was no mention of this on any social media. In fact all pictures on social media I searched, I found a total lack of male-specific products.20181106_140436

Since I had nothing to base my experience on, I spoke to Ben in Superdrug and got the items he felt would be the most appropriate.

Shaving Gel. Superdrug Men’s Grooming, Sensitive, with soothing Aloe Vera. Apparently great on the skin.

Deodorant. Right Guard Xtream Heat Control. 150 mils. Had to get the larger size, felt fairer that way.

Shower Gel. Radox Men Detox Crisp Apple Scent & Clay. I decided to get a 2 in 1, Shower Gel and Shampoo. Just for the versatility for whoever receives it.

Cleansing Gel. B.Men Volcanic Cleansing 4 in 1 Wash, once again for the versatility, this does Face, Beard, Hair and Body. So, a single bottle really goes a long way.

Razor. Wilkinson Sword Hydro5. Because it’s designed to protect from irritation.

Gift Set. Lynx Dark Temptation Gift Box. Consider this an early Christmas Present consisting of Lynx Body spray and Bodywash.

So, this is my Box for the Beauty Bank, providing good things for people who need it and good Karma for myself hopefully.

And this is what it cost me overall.

Men’s Specific Products
B.Men Volcanic Cleansing £1.95 (Superdrug)
Superdrug Men’s Grooming £1.45 (Superdrug)
Radox Men Detox 98p (Superdrug)
Lynx Dark Temptation Duo Gift Set £2.49 (Superdrug)
Right Guard Deodorant. £1.00 (Poundland)
Wilkinson Sword Hydro 5 Men’s Razor. £4.50 (Boots)

List Desired Products
Johnson’s Soft and Pamper Bodywash £1.00 (Poundland)
Dove Soap x 2 £1.00) Poundland
Nivea Wild Blossom £1.00 (Superdrug)
Vitamin E Skin Care Exfoliator £2.99 (Superdrug).
Superdrug Vitamin E Cream £1.50 (Superdrug) As part of a promotion, I got the items for buy one get one for half price.
Always Sanitary Towels £2.50. (Superdrug)
Tampax Pearl Tampons Super £1.00 (Poundland)
Wilko Functional Face Cloth x 3 £1.05 (Wilkinson)
Headlice Comb £3.89 (Superdrug)
Vaseline Aloe Sensitive Deodorant. £1.00 (Poundland)
L’Oréal Vitamino Colour Radiance Set. Price Unknown.
Face Masks £1.99 x6 (Superdrug) 11.94
Pearl Drops Smokers Whitening Gel £1.00 (Poundland)
Aquafresh Toothbrush £1.00 (Poundland)
Wilkinson Sword Essential 2 Razor Blades Pack of 5 £1.00 (Poundland)
Boots No7 Revitalising Cleansing Wipes £2.50 (Originally £7.50, discounted with Boots voucher)

Total Cost. £46.74

Donation day.

On the 20th November on a very rainy day, and even though I could have arranged for the items to be delivered, I live in London, and it just made sense. So, after the Hayes-Paddington-District Line, I arrived in Kensington.

I love Kensington, sadly the miserable weather didn’t make the experience enjoyable, but the Drop Point was very easy to get too. I envisioned the Drop Point would be more like a Post Office and I would get a Costa afterwards. At least I was right about the last one.

Instead, I found my way into an alcove, was buzzed into a building, and after explaining the reason I was there, and trying not to drip water on the floor, I was directed into a lift and straight into the office of the Beauty Bank. Surreal is the word you are looking for.

There I was immediately approached by Jo, the co-founder of Beauty Bank, who thanked me for the items and I posed for a picture on Instagram (am not on Instagram) have no idea how it turned out. While I was holding the Lynx gift set, since the lovely Jo, reiterated precisely what I have been writing about. They have a lack of male-specific goods and desperately need donations. Please help with that.

Beauty Bank Headquarters itself, existed in a world of organised chaos, with such an energetic vibe in the room, surrounded by black boxes where the donations would be sent. Seriously I had no idea when I put the box together, I would wind up meeting the founder. A lovely surprise, and overall hope this leads to some good karma for me.

Details and directions of the Beauty Bank and how you can donate

https://droppoint.org/beauty-banks

https://www.the-pool.com/beauty/beauty-honestly/2018/7/Sali-Hughes-and-Jo-Jones-launch-Beauty-Banks

Final Thoughts.

Sali Hughes and Jo Jones, the creators of Beauty Bank are truly amazing women. They saw the need for this charity, they saw how families had to choose between food or products and had the initiative to do something to change it. And as you can see how easy is to help. At this time of year, most of us will get gift sets for Christmas, and it’s so easy to donate the items you would never use. It’s so easy to take advantage of buy one get one free promotion and donate one. This is truly a marvellous thing to do, and just a few items can change someone’s day.

Hygiene Poverty is a terrible thing, and I honestly do admire and respect everyone who donates and helps lift someone’s spirits.

To everyone who reads this, please donate what you can.

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Swarovski x CoppaFeel! The Importance of Checking Your Breasts.

So on the 17th October, I braved the two hours it took me to get to Stratford, Westfield for an event with Coppafeel! and Swarovski. Fully admitting right here it was the lure of the goody bag which enticed me more at the time.

A few months ago, I went to a Swarovski Event in Oxford Street and met Katie Piper who as of writing this has sadly left Strictly Come Dancing. For that, I got a signed book, and a pair of fabulous earrings. I love Swarovski even if it is out of my price range, I love the classical pieces and how everything is a statement without being obtuse.

While I was in Westfield, I also signed up for the be Swarovski loyalty programme enticed by the words “Free gift on birthday” with purchase, since mine’s in November and I was envisioning something shiny and pretty. Turns out it’s a crystal bottle stopper so someone in the future may get this as a wedding/birthday/anniversary present. Always nice to get something for free, but I lean more towards something pendent shaped if you understand!

With regards to Westfield Stratford, since I live close to the one in Shepard’s Bush, this perhaps being the second time I’ve ever been to this location, and I’m pleased to report it exists in the same world of organised chaos as the other one.

When it came to Swarovski on the top floor and the event itself, full of wonderful people sipping a lovely prosecco and enjoying the cupcakes. Yet, due to the reason we were all there, it caused an air of surrealism to the entire event.

 

I’ve been to a lot of these events, we discuss new trends and fashion, but we were here for an honest talk about checking our breasts. Something which directly affected me four years ago, now being a member of the “scarred breasts club”. Before we were introduced to the “Boobette”, who as of writing this I do believe her name was Laura, though I could be wrong on this, who spoke brilliantly.

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She was concise, eloquent, and informative, as she highlighted the excellent work that Coppafeel! do, yet her presentation was playfull. Coppafeel’s mantra is early detection, they run free text alerts as reminders, raise awareness and even go into schools to discuss it with teenagers, of both genders the importance of checking your breast and glands while destroying the myths that perpetuate about Breast Cancer.

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Here are some of the ones I’ve heard over the years.

  1. I can’t get a lump in my breasts if I’m breastfeeding. Wrong.
  2. I’ve got small breasts, I can’t get breast cancer. Wrong
  3. Men can’t get Breast Cancer. Oh, so wrong on this, men do, and their statistics are worse than women’s because of this belief.

As previously mentioned, I had my own lump removed four years ago and was taught as a teenager how to check my breasts. I know I got lucky in comparison to the next speaker Coppafeel! founder Kristin Hallenga. Who was diagnosed at only 23, a decade ago with her breast cancer after being fobbed off for months that it was hormonal!

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Kris, the founder of Coppafeel!

Diagnosed at stage four, which means there is no cure, only trying to live for as long as possible and battling cancer which spread to her liver, bones and dealing with a lesion on her brain. Kris was meant to live five years, then managed to beat that for five more. Those are impossible odds, and she beat them.

Sadly, I didn’t know much about this beautiful, articulate woman, who according to her wiki page is a columnist with “The Sun Newspaper”. Which I’ve never read out of solidarity with my Liverpudlian side of the family, but who won a Pride of Britain Award in 2009. But to see the work Coppafeel! have done in the last decade is extraordinary, with Kris determined that no one should go through what she has.

Coppafeel! now go into schools to educate the younger generation of the risks of cancer, due to Kris being diagnosed so young. Looking back over my school years, they tried to teach us about various social issues and always use contraception.  Sage advice indeed.

Yet looking back there was never a moment of someone coming into the school and telling us “Cancer is a ticking time bomb and this is a way of detecting it early”. And this is from a woman who went to an all-girls school!

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What makes Kris’s story more tragical at least to me, since I have a good relationship with my sisters Kay and Anna, is that Kris has an older sister Maike and an identical sister. All her family, including her twin Maren, now devote their lives to educating others, but the last ten years for the whole family must have been highs, lows and heartbreak.

With Kris ploughing her energies into festivals, schools, universities and companies who want to know more an get involved. Coppafeel! have just finished a concert this month at House of Vans in Lambeth, and now I know about it, I’ll be coming next year. People have even done the London Marathon dressed up as a massive boob!

What it’s also done is make the idea of checking your breasts, not just a necessity, but also fun. Give your breasts names and embrace them. Mine are called Victor and Hugo, yep named for the author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and my love of French literature.

If Coppafeel! encourages us to talk about our breasts, then let’s take a moment to talk about mine. Mine are fabulous. Of course, they sweat like a bitch in summer, and I can only wear one type of bra, so if Debenhams ever went into administration, I am screwed. I can’t wear halter neck dresses or go strapless, but they’re mine, and I love them.

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They are fabulous, aren’t they?

I was fortunate, I was raised knowing the chances of getting cancer within my family.  I’ve learned to say “Well that’s shit”, instead of “I’m sorry”, in that cloying sympathetic voice which annoyed me to no end, when my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed away two years ago.

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It’s so rampant that four years ago when I was in the shower and found my lump, in an area between the breast and the armpit, it took a single call, I was seen the next day and within a month after a mammogram, and assessment. I was in surgery having a forty-five-minute operation to have the damn thing which thankfully turned out to be benign removed. My GP took me and my family history seriously, which was a courtesy they didn’t afford to Kris.

So many women would be angry about this, but I suspect that time had passed for Kris, and now her focus in her education for women and men who are not taken seriously. We grow up knowing our bodies and know when something’s wrong, and the fact that no one took Kris seriously until eight months after she first went to her GP and was dismissed could have changed everything.

Since walking away, from Swarovski, I’ve now signed up for the monthy text alerts, I’m now a part of this. I only went to the event for curiosity and met one of the bravest women I have ever encountered.

The evening did end on a pleasant note, since all the attendees were signed up for a raffle to win a bag of Swarovski prizes. For the woman who never wins anything, I have to admit it was a nice moment when they read out my name.

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Kris is awesome xx

So, winning the lovely prizes was wonderful, but meeting such an inspiring woman, the rest of the Boobettes and of course Swarovski itself for ensuring that all the money for the event went to the charity.

Here are the links for Coppafeel! please consider joining x

https://coppafeel.org/

 

And this was the contents of the goody bag.

 

 

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Breaking up with Sherlock Holmes

Having watched the trailer for Holmes & Watson, based on, well gee let me think. I’ve come to a conclusion, which is perhaps treason from a literary loving Londoner

I’ve come to dislike Sherlock Holmes. I tried to use the word “hate”, but that’s too strong. I’m not a philistine!

Sherlock Holmes is everywhere, he’s a global phenomenon. The story of an eccentric junkie consultant and his Doctor friend, who is not as inept as he’s typically portrayed.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle cared so little about him that his wife Mary called John Watson “James”, it could be a term of endearment, or Conan Doyle didn’t care about continuity since Watson got shot in the shoulder and leg. His first wife Mary died at some point, from…something, second wife never got a name and Watson moved back in with Holmes again to fight crime.

Sherlock Holmes is a genius, and no one is better than him. Not even Inspector Lestrade and Holmes’s brother Mycroft, and you better never forget it. The stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have captivated the world for over 130 years.

Incidentally, there are four novels and fifty-six books in the “canon”, and I’ve read them all. Favourites are “The Final Problem” and “The Adventure of the Yellow Face” since being biracial at a time in the UK wasn’t illegal, but props to Conan Doyle for showing it in a sympathetic light.

Here is a short list of some of the Sherlock Holmes media, I’ve seen since the year of my birth onwards. I’m not counting anything that came out before I was born or I’ll be here forever.

The Great Mouse Detective/Basil of Baker Street. Disney animated, worth a watch. Vincent Price as Ratigan, the mouse version of Moriarty. And he’s having the time of his life.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett. Fantastic and worth seeing.

Without a Clue, starring Ben Kingsley as John Watson who writes the stories for the Strand who hires Michael Caine to pretend to be Holmes…just roll with it.

Young Sherlock Holmes. Holmes and Watson meet as children, and it involves cults, sacrifices, Egypt and a CGI Stained glass window which was really impressive back then.

Moriarty even appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Data the android had to go up against Moriarty, whose manages to seize control of the Starship Enterprise. Beige walls, a councillor on the Bridge, a Shakespearian actor pretending he’s French and Moriarty!

Maybe it was just me, but I always thought there was something about the Jeremy Brett Holmes in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s, Odo. From the sarcasm and indifference to the hair, undoubtedly based on Holmes.

Incidentally not the weirdest versions I’ve seen. That has to be Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century. Inspector Beth Lestrade cannot kill a cloned Moriarty. So, she seeks and finds the original Sherlock Holmes’s corpse, after he died in old age, preserved in honey.

No mention if that was his plan all along or some really crazy fan did that. Holmes is revived, gets over the fact that he’s been snatched back from the afterlife pretty well. Now the famous Detective, and robot Watson fight crime together.

Conan Doyle himself is now a character, for example, Shanghai Knights, in which he helps Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson and ends with “You know I think I should write this down” before the actors leave with a child Charlie Chaplin hiding in a box! Those films are weird.

Everyone I mention had one thing in common, they’re all different media, but all feature Holmes. How many times can they tell the same story about the same person? Holmes and Watson solve crimes, get involved with Irene, has an antagonist called Moriarty or Moran? Holmes falls to his death, Holmes fakes his death. Over and over again for a century.

So, these brief mentions as well as the Sherlock Holmes books by Andrew Lane, Anthony Horowitz and Michelle Birkby. Holmes is a fictional character who has been granted immortality. I even read a book ages ago putting a very compelling case to why he could be Jack the Ripper!

Holmes is considered real enough, there is a blue plaque in Eastbourne where he resided in the last years of his life. There are also plaques in Baker Street and other places trying to lay claim that in this city established and named by the Romans, a fictional character once stood! There is also a museum in Switzerland near the Reichenbach Falls where he faked his death.

I’m Sherlocked out, I think the BBC version a few years ago was the end game for me. A 21st Century version of Holmes using modern technology and the world around him to solve crimes.

The first two series were excellent, with enough sexual tension to fuel the fanfics that Holmes and Watson were a couple. God bless those writers! Neither of them indeed denies this, and that’s been going back to the original stories anyway. Between the seasons I devoured those fics and loved all of them. Yep, I’m a shipper and proud of it. Also, the pairing for Mycroft and Lestrade are works of art.

So, the story of the “high-functioning sociopath and his boyfriend” broke records, everyone loved it. Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman were fantastic, and finally, Freeman got the recognition which was long overdue as a jobbing actor.

And then it was spoiled by the titular character coming back after faking his death, with no resolution to what happened, unless the Darren Brown theory was correct. The stories went nowhere, the cases were almost non-existent apart from Mary being a spy and shooting Sherlock. Even though there are other ways to get rid of an ex!

Then everything turned out to be the machinations of the Holmes family secret sister Eurus, who assisted Moriarty and was behind the scenes for everything. That show lost the plot, and not even the acting abilities of Cumberbatch and Freeman could save it.

Since my childhood, I’ve been saturated by the stories, the adaptions, and everything else in between. Every generation seems to have their own Sherlock, be it Rathbone, Jeremy Brett or Cumberbatch

It never was like this, at least not for me. I was the ultimate Sherlockian. Years ago, I went with my college to a studio in Manchester, and there were those who were giddy at seeing the cobbles of Coronation Street. I was clueless about their excitement because I don’t watch it. Until I found out the next set was the location for Baker Street in Brett’s Sherlock. And oh, happy day.

Baker Street Tube Station has his silhouette on the tiles wall, 221b Baker Street never existed until it did and it was a Nationwide, and now it’s the Museum of Sherlock Holmes. He has his own museum and is a figment of the imagination.

It is telling that Conan Doyle himself got sick of his own creation and killed him off in “The Final Problem”, only to receive hate mail about it. Which makes me wonder what Victorian hate mail looks like.

“Dear Mr Conan Doyle, (he got his Knighthood in 1902, and “The Final Problem” came out in 1893), please recommit to your tales about the Detective in Baker Street, or I shall place excrement in your letterbox, immediately”.

According to conandoyleinfo.com. “over twenty thousand people cancelled their subscriptions to the Strand Magazine”. Because overkill is underrated, even back then.

Sherlock Holmes entered the zeitgeist, became more popular than his creator. He’s as real as all of us, and I’m sick of him.

The latest film Holmes and Watson, looks like shit, even with Pam Ferris as Queen Victoria, and starring Hugh Laurie as Mycroft Holmes, whose acting partner Stephen Fry played the same character in the Downey Jr films. Laurie also played the lead in House M.D. Which was a retelling of sorts of Holmes. The connections in this film will leave you cross-eyed!

One of the things about being in the public domain, (sort of, I’ll explain at the end), there are so many stories, why not have a crack at them.

Sherlock Holmes is as real as you or I, he never said “Elementary, my Dear Watson” or even wore a deerstalker hat, but he’s considered real. Especially around Baker Street, since there really is nothing special about the place, but thanks to him it is. Unless you’re going to Madam Tussauds, and don’t bother going to Madam Tussauds. Just don’t.

Outside of film and the few people I know have ever read the books canon or otherwise. Holmes is a global icon, and that’s the “Final Problem”

Let me go through the list of the versions in the past decade and a few others because why not.

Sherlock (2010) with Benedict Cumberbatch.

Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) featuring Robert Downey Jr. Which were ok, the sequel wasn’t as good at the first, but Downey Jr had some cracking lines and was enjoying himself. It had loads of continuity location errors and Irene Adler is a hell of a woman, being able to jump from Parliament into a very clean River Thames and emerge at Tower Bridge, which is almost three miles away. However, I do respect, any Sherlock adaptation that gets rid of subtext.

Elementary (2012) with Jonny Lee Miller, and though I haven’t seen this one in a while, and to be honest I preferred my Jonny Lee Miller Sherlock Holmes when he looked like he’d just walked off Trainspotting, going through withdrawal being a complete bastard and solving crimes. A clean and sober Holmes is a boring Holmes indeed

Mr. Holmes (2015) featuring Sir Ian McKellen. Pretty good, stellar performance, strange to see Ian McKellen play Holmes as old and decrepit, and quite sad really. I enjoyed it but can remember nothing about it.

Psych, (2006 to 2014, film came out in 2018) ok this one’s a stretch, Shawn is a fake psychic, he scans people because he’s really a genius and loves to mess with everyone. Yeah, I loved it.

Sherlock Gnomes (2018) thankfully I didn’t see this, but my niece did. She said it was ok, Mackenzie is 8, let’s leave it there. Having Watson be the villain would have been a nice touch instead of misdirection. No, it was Moriarty after all. Missed opportunity right there.

Yes, I just spoiled Sherlock Gnomes for you all…I don’t care.

I may have missed some, probably have. You get the point.

And now, Holmes & Watson, an upcoming film written and directed by Etan Cohen. The film stars Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, two great actors but after seeing the trailer, I knew it was the end game.

From the first moment when they’re lusting over Queen Victoria, inventing the selfie and are just inept. It’s like they heard of the source material but were like “Ah Victorian Detectives, we can play those”. Though one of the Baker Street Irregulars saying “No shit, Sherlock”. That was funny.

I want a break from Sherlock Holmes, I want to go five years at least with no adaptation or retellings or inspired by. I want Holmes to take a break.

Overall, I’m just tired of the adaptions, there are so many books in the public domain, just pick one and go crazy to it. I just wish Hollywood would just stop making these films because like Conan Doyle, when Holmes goes over The Reichenbach Falls. He just better bloody stay there.

However, I want a break until 2023, then I want everything and for good reason. This I didn’t know until I was looking at the Star Trek episodes and Paramount had to pay the Conan Doyle Estate to use Holmes and Moriarty, but in the UK Sherlock went into the Public Domain in 2000. In the USA, that doesn’t expire until 2022-23, however that only covers the final ten stories as listed below from “The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes”

“The Adventure of the Creeping Man” (1923)
“The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire” (1924)
“The Adventure of the Three Garridebs” (1924)
“The Adventure of the Illustrious Client” (1924)
“The Adventure of the Three Gables” (1926)
“The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier” (1926)
“The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane” (1926)
“The Adventure of the Retired Colourman” (1926)
“The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger” (1927)
“The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place” (1927)

Due to enter the Public Domain in 2023. After long and lengthy battles at who owns Sherlock Holmes. Links below, which are more in detail. I want every version you can get of these final ten stories. Give Watson’s second wife a spin off and even a name! Because even Mr Holmes, the film ran into trouble because of this.

So, I want film versions, tv shows, even a dramatic reading with sock puppets. Because in five years’ time, I’ll be ready to love Sherlock Holmes again. Because there is a lot to love about the world of Holmes, Watson, Lestrade and of course Moriarty. But if anyone cares, my favourite one is still Jeremy Brett. Nothing will ever change that.

Links

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/may/26/mr-holmes-and-the-strange-case-of-the-alleged-copyright-infringement

http://www.ihearofsherlock.com/2015/07/the-scandalous-sherlock-holmes.html#.W76TaGhKjIU

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/27/sherlock-holmes-copyright-ruling-public-domain

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/sherlock-holmes-now-officially-copyright-and-open-business-180951794/

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/mr-holmes/sherlock-copyright/

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20150524/17521431095/sherlock-holmes-case-never-ending-copyright-dispute.shtml

https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2014/01/02/sherlock-holmes-case-missing-copyright/

https://the-digital-reader.com/2015/08/07/buck-rogers-sherlock-holmes-and-how-trademark-can-trump-copyright/

https://iplegalfreebies.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/are-sherlock-holmes-characters-and-story-elements-copyrighted/

http://lesliesklinger.com/2016/12/shameless-website-conan-doyle-estate-limited/

https://free-sherlock.com/

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/01/great-news-now-anyone-can-write-and-publish-a-sherlock-holmes-story/282897/

https://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/19/books/19sherlock.html

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Portugal. The Man at the O2 Kentish Town

This review is late coming because life gets in the way, but last week I saw Portugal. The Man, at the O2 Kentish Town on the 24th July.

I was joined in this little misadventure, but my niece Summer who just celebrated her 13th birthday, and this was her present from me, because I knew she loved the band, and I and wanted a partner in crime.

I have loved PTM for years but didn’t get her into it. I found out she was a fan when we were in a restaurant, and “Feel it Still” came on over the airways, and we both started to sing it.

This sadly meant I had to be a responsible adult, and couldn’t go on the floor, which I hoped to do, and since seats were non-allocation, I was determined to get there early and get good ones. Your first rock gig, I wanted it to be special for her.

Incidentally, Summer doesn’t appear in any of these pictures, due to her parent’s refusal to let her appear in any type of media which does include her aunt’s own blog!

My Londoner niece is being brought up in Hemal Hempstead, so while I see London as just a place where I live, she’s a bit more of a tourist about it. I was taking her to Camden for the first time, yes, I showed her all the proper places, like the Markets, and Camden Lock, just to see the artisans, diversity and street food. She loved it, great place to go. Before we headed down to Kentish Town.

Now I’m a dork, self-admitting all the way dork. But it is telling that we got there early to miss rush hour and get good seats, but we wound up being first in the queue.

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This is what being first looks like!

Due to my somewhat unique name, that is dorkish, bordering on cliché. I didn’t go out of my way to be first in the queue, and Summer didn’t want to go for a wander, so we just waited

But we were first in line, and it was nice, I was talking to a nice guy called Arron, it was all well and good when he pointed out that Zoe Manville, the backup singer and wife of John Gourley was standing twenty feet away.

Ok. Here’s a quagmire, so do I go up to Zoe and tell her I love her vocals on “Noise Pollution”, or do I just play it cool. I go for the latter, besides if I went up to her for an autograph, there was always the possibility of her asking me my whole name…it could happen!

My last name is the name of the band she was in, which is not common in Portugal, Brazil or the UK. She could have thought I was lying or just taking the piss! Even though I’ve explained to people more than once that my last name is not the reason I love the band, it’s just the reason I found the band!

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Best seats ever

Finally, we were in, we got the seats we wanted, front row balcony, on the aisle because of my foot, and an hour later the supporting act came on.

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Benin City, they were really good

 

It was the Benin City Band, admittedly I’ve never heard of them, but they would good, a combination of rock and soul and one thing I loved was they seemed chilled about being there. They were able to get the crowd in the right mood since by this time it was “sold out” as they claimed.

Looking down on the crowd of people, I was struck by how far they’ve come since I first saw them at the Lexington several years back. Since they existed for years as hovering just below the mainstream, now they really have broken through.

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SOLD OUT

And finally, Portugal. The Man was on. Opening with Beavis and Butthead, dissecting the band as only they could and full respect to Mike Judge for doing this, and once again a reminder of the genius of Beavis And Butthead.

But it takes some serious balls to drop this line “They are better than the Beatles, better than the Rolling Stones, better than Silverchair, and almost as good as Pantera” for someone with parents from Liverpool and London, that’s some fighting words right there!

It opened with a Metallica/ Pink Floyd medley intro moving effortlessly to Purple Yellow Red and Blue, and from there it was a mixture of their own songs, and a combination of classic rock.

From my vantage point, I never saw John on stage, he was forward in comparison to the rest of the band and looked like he was a dark figure on the stage.

I guess I could be a pretentious wanker and say “It could be symbolic of the idea of Portugal. The Man, being a darker aspect of John’s own personality, hence is surrounded in shadow”. Not saying I was disappointed by that, I wasn’t, it was something I noticed.

With less forces on the band, apart from Zoe since she was dead centre, and always drew the gaze, along with the brilliant visuals behind her, once again her vocals are astounding, and though she sang backup on every song, I still love “Noise Pollution” the most. It was more of a visual assault in the background, with fantastic CGI.

As bands go, they didn’t interact with the crowd, instead let the words on the screen do the talking, and I give full respect to any band who can take the piss out of themselves and their mainstream success.

The thing is, is that they were considerate enough to give us a show we would never forget, it was a CGI spectacle, but it wasn’t ostentatious, proving that they really are the same guys from Portland/Alaska.

What I loved about the most, was that they didn’t get involved with banter with the crowd, it could be to John’s stage fright, (link below discussing this) and one of the reasons he’s in total darkness for most of the evening, but they didn’t need to talk to us. We love them, we know why we’re there, that said watching “All Your Light” further on, by a guy standing in darkness, the irony wasn’t lost on me.

Since “Feel it Still” is their biggest hit, so many bands would have whored it out and played it every few songs, but these guys didn’t, it was almost unassuming. Placing it between “Number One”, and a glorious mash up of “Creep in a T-Shirt” and “Children of the Revolution”. Pretty much making it clear, that this song, even though it is fantastic will not be their defining hit, and there is more to come.

With the visuals and the music what PTM was giving us, was “Woodstock” for those who never experienced it. John has said in an interview that the latest album was inspired by a ticket from Woodstock in 1969, which his father attended.

With the combination of music and vocals, it was a psychedelic trip of music stretching back 50 Years, finishing the night, with a blinding rendition of “Sleep Forever” and “Hey Jude”. Acknowledging the music of the past, and the path it took over fifteen years for these guys to get mainstream success. And their still self-depreciating about it, since they still use their own instruments and everything is real.

But overall it was a fantastic night, PTM, grabbed the crowd, who sang along, enjoyed the experience and walked out of the O2 feeling elated by this.

Sadly, this is the kicker, I was at a concert with a teenager, it was as hot as the fires of hell in there, even with the water the Forum was providing, and she was starting to flag. Once again being a responsible adult time, which truly sucks sometimes.

Yes, we had to leave, even though she’s only two inches shorter than me, I could have blagged to get her on the standing floor, but I’m surprised that no one fainted from the heat.

I was disappointed that I missed “People Say” since it is my favourite song and the first song I ever heard from the band. Consoled myself, by remembering that I saw them at the Lexington years back.

I found the ticket in a box a few days ago, the poster they just gave me.

But even with the mainstream success, they are the same guys I saw back then, just there to entertain, and bring us fantastic music. 15 years and 8 albums later. Portugal. The Man is still the same and we love them for it.

Merch wise, I finally got a band shirt but was miffed that they didn’t have the “I liked Portugal. The Man. Before They Sold Out”. Always liked that T-Shirt because it’s true. But Summer my 13-year-old niece loved her first rock gig, so I did my job as a responsible aunt.

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Finally got a tour t-shirt

Incidentally, shameless plug time, but I live in the hope the band will see this, and grant me a miracle. When I had to learn to walk again, I created a list of things I wanted to do.

PTM if you see this, can you make number 2 on the impossible part happen, please. https://jvoportugal.wordpress.com/2015/06/16/the-geek-list-amended/

https://thetruthdontstop.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/seven-takeaways-from-john-gourleys-reddit-ama/comment-page-1/

This was the setlist for the night from https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/portugal-the-man/2018/o2-forum-kentish-town-london-england-73eb2efd.html
For Whom the Bell Tolls
(Metallica cover)
Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 / Purple Yellow Red and Blue
Number One
Live in the Moment
Feel It Still
Creep in a T-Shirt / Children Of The Revolution
(T. Rex cover)
Atomic Man / Gimme Shelter
Modern Jesus
All Your Light (Times Like These) / A Kilo / The Home / I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
Play Video
So Young
Noise Pollution
Hip Hop Kids
Holy Roller (Hallelujah)
Sleep Forever / Smile / Hey Jude
Encore:
Evil Friends / Day Man
So American
People Say

 

 

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Is the Budapest Card Worth It?

The Solo Traveller in me has just come back from Budapest, Hungary. For a holiday, I really couldn’t afford but really needed. No really needed, and since my firm was kind enough to give me the time off. I picked Budapest because it contains history, culture and cheap cigarettes. All the things I love.

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So, when It came to saving money, I found the Budapest card, which gave me free museums, free transport, and discounts on many things. I had already decided that I wouldn’t be doing any of the spas, even if one came free with the card.

As a Solo Traveller, there are some experiences I want to do with people. Hence the reason I haven’t visited Austria yet because I can’t do the Salzburg trip aka ‘The Sound of Music Tour’ without my sisters Kay and Anna. When it came to the spa’s, it would have been a wonderful experience, but it’s an experience I wanted to share. And because I’m so short-sighted, both my sisters have perfected the art of grabbing me, so I don’t walk into anything over the years.

My mentality is when it comes to discount cards if I do at least five on the list. Then it’s paid for itself, and it’s all good. I did a little bit more than that, however.

So, no spa’s so what was left.

The Budapest Card for 72 hours cost me £38.30 and once brought online can be picked up easily at the Airport, and I got 10% off because I Googled and found a discount code, for 10% off, which sadly has expired. So, costing me £35.00 and links to all locations will be at the end of this blog, and all prices will be translated into Sterling because I am British.  Also depending on the season, all prices were correct in May 2018. And on most, there are discounts for students with ISIC. Also, this blog is in three parts, due to word length.

But was it worth it?

I brought it for 72 hours, starting on Monday 14th May, even though I didn’t realise that the museums I wanted to see were closed on the day. Ok that’s typical

However, on Sunday, I did go to St Stephens Basilica which saves 10% off the concert fees, which as of writing this is performing Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” According to their website, the total cost is £33.66 or 12111 Forint.  Hungarian currency takes a while to get your head around.

Entry, however, is 500 HUF and so worth it, there are 364 steps to the tower, but I got halfway up and got the lift the rest of the way. The views are incredible from the top, and this is so recommended.  It’s a stunning view in a stunning location.

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St. Stephen’s Basilica

Day One of the Budapest Card.

On the Budapest Card, the first official thing I did was check, the direction for Memento Park-Statue Park which is about half an hour by bus, however out of the centre going from urban to the more rural aspect of Budapest is interesting, it’s more of a sharp transition.

Since most of them got destroyed, after the fall of Communism to make a point. I do give the full respect that they kept them and made something out of them, just as a visual reminder of the history of Hungary.

These statues are a reminder of the human suffering of the people, which should never be forgotten. In the museum, there were displays which tried to explain it to me, and wiki filled in the rest.  After WWII, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin agreed to give Hungary to the Soviets, like a demented Christmas present.

When I was growing up, I understood the basics of communism and learned more about Hungary’s Communist period of 1949 to 1989.

I remember when the Berlin Wall Fell and Chernobyl had its meltdown, and soon the world was drastically different.  But I admire anyone who stands up to oppression, and the people of the Revolutions did in droves.

Overall the museum is a bit dry, but the fact that these statues exist is important, and that the past is not forgotten is commendable. Since the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 led to thousands dead, but it is the statues which could do with a bit more context.

However, it does raise the question of at what point does the oppressive history of your Country become a tourist attraction? In the well-stocked gift shop, you can buy replica medals given to Generals and novelty passports. The things that once oppressed your people can be brought for fun. Hypocrite I may be, but I also brought postcards written in the 1980’s, written by real people in a language I can’t speak. Now I’m curious about these people, so if anyone can translate them for me, I really would be grateful.

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After this I went back to the Danube and took a river cruise with Duna Corso Sightseeing Boat with the Card, you can only go with one company, it is 40% off, and overall it was about an hour long.

Sadly, I tried to time the trip so I could get the sun setting and the lights of Budapest coming to life. Yes, of course, I got my timings wrong! But the Danube itself is just stunning. However, wine in a plastic cup does spoil the ambiance of the trip, but it was good wine, just more of it would have been nice.

Overall, seeing the Parliament and the Castle, and how it was built up over time was interesting. But a bit more of it would have been nice, but for the price I paid, you can’t go wrong. It was a good discount and an excellent way to end the day.

 

Day Two of the Budapest Card

Palvolgyi Caves

Getting there was a bit of a nightmare since at this point I wasn’t used to Budapest’s Transport system, but the trip was worth it. Even though it was still in the city, it felt like I was in a more remote location.

Of course I was the only British person there, with a group of about thirty school children, so I stood at the back, since being metal footed I didn’t want to slow anyone down. Since the tour was in Hungarian, they were considerate enough to give me a print out in English and I had a lovely latte and petted the cave site cat while I waited for the tour to start.

The area was well lit, though there was an amusing moment when the lights cut out, but everything here was just incredible. Just for the stunning stalactite and fossils and to a place of tranquil beauty in a busy city like Budapest, this is recommended.

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There is something about immersing yourself underground that brings the Jules Verne out in everyone, and even though there was a translation barrier the school kids in the vicinity were impressed into silence. There was also Sea urchin fossils, showing that the caves date back to 40 million years, which was one of the highlights of the trip.

This place is not recommended by those with claustrophobia and a fear of heights, there is a few massive ladders you have to climb, and narrow paths to get through. Even though we didn’t go far into the caves, I was told it was only about 500 metres, it felt like we walked a greater distance.

After this I headed to the Castle District, which was just a simple bus away, and everything here is within walking distance of each other.

Budaatower. The Mary Magdelene Tower.

Because I was the only one in the building at the time the views are standout, and once again even with Budapest’s turbulent history this building had been standing for 600 years. Please to say, since I bailed on St Stephen’s total steps. I made it up right here. All 172 steps and the view was worth it.

Additionally I was the only one there at the time, so it was nice as a tourist to enjoy something in solitude. Also, which made it more poignant is that so much has happened to Budapest not too far where I was standing, but this building even though it’s lesser than what it once was. Is still standing, and that’s important. Even if it is a victim of cultural genocide.

Hungarian National Gallery.

Here’s a confession. I love art, not pretentious modern art, but the classics and even after the National Gallery in London, the art of Hungary is a sight to behold. The building itself gives it a timeless feel since being built into a castle will do that for you. The paintings inside are just extraordinary.

33522933_10155245042331906_1494019608162598912_nToo many to count, but I fell in love with the sculptures of Miklós Izsó and the paintings of Pál Szinyei Merse, just for the ‘Lady in Violet’.   But once again too many to count, this isn’t a Gallery, it’s a moment of cultural enrichment. Well maintained, organised and the staff I spoke to, the pride in Hungarian art is beyond compare.

33524361_10155245041146906_2981941406441930752_nI had a lovely conversation with the staff about the comparisons and difference between the French Masters and the Hungarians. The views out of the windows over looking the River, are amazing. Get a chance to see this, please.20180801_235021

Hungarian History 3D Show inside 700 year old Chapel.

This one has no disabled access, but it was a hot day and this is a cold place so a welcome respite from the heat. Overall, it’s pretty basic, just a row of chairs and supplied 3D glasses, with headphones in several languages. The film is about 15 minutes so it’s not an in-depth look into Hungarian history, covering over a 1000’s years but provides some nice bullet points, and I really had no idea that Hungary had such a bloody history. Also having the show inside an underground chapel gives it a certain atmosphere, which you don’t often get in shows like this. Once again, the Hungarian tenacity to make things come alive again.

Next one up was Budapest History Museum, this one located within the castle, is a bit of an oddity and felt more like organised chaos, which concentrated more on the medieval objects, and an original chapel from the time, up to the fall of Communism.

It was a bit disorganised, and not really disabled friendly, but a pleasing diversion, and it’s interesting to see how the three cities become Budapest and how the castle was restored, but the layout is confusing and I just breezed through it.

 

So, a day full of cultural enrichment, so close together. And it really was worth it.

But here are some random pictures of the day so you can all see how stunning Budapest is.

 

Day Three  and Four of the Budapest Card

The Dohány Street Synagogue

This is one thing which isn’t free, but it is heavily discounted as is listed below.

This was the one thing I couldn’t miss on my trip, the famous Synagogue, the largest in Europe, and sadly not too far from the shoes on the river Danube, where thousands were killed during the occupation.

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The sad thing is that due to the WWII and then the Iron Curtain, the building wasn’t restored until the 1980’s. But what a restoration from the moment I walked in, the sheer detail was extraordinary.

Incidentally, modest dress for women and men, no shorts, shoulders covered up, you know you’re in a place of reverence and respect.  This is a moment where the world stops, and you are captivated by the history.

There is a tour guide, in every language, sectioned off into pews which was very informative, as we were taken through the Synagogue, and saw the famous tree, created by Imre Vargas, where each leaf contains the name of a Jewish victim. In all 40’000 Hungarians died during the occupation. Budapest may be a city of peace, but its tragic history is more than evident on these walls.

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Pictures do not do this place justice, from the organ to the ark. It also has its own graveyard in the courtyard sealed off from the public since it’s not the norm for Synagogues, but this location was a place for the Budapest Jewish Ghetto during the war, and this was a necessity.

The Hungarian Jewish Museum which is in the same building, as the Synagogue on the top floors, and has disabled access which is much appreciated. It contains crucial items from Jewish history past and present. Very well maintained and a beautiful companion piece to the Synagogue since it explains the nuances and history of the Jewish people. Including a third century tombstone.

In Budapest over the millennia, Jews had always had the struggle to survive even before WWII, yet this building exists. Only a small percentage of the population who identify as Jewish live in the country, but they are determined not to let their history be forgotten.

Urban Betyár restaurant & visitor centre

According to the website and my tour guidebook, it states.

“Our mission is to become one of the highlights for locals and travellers in the Hungarian capital city, near the St. Stephen’s Basilica and to offer an extraordinary gastronomic and ethnographical experience that is one of a kind in Hungary.”

I only went to it, because it’s opposite St Stephen’s, it’s located in the lower ground of a restaurant, those dining in on restaurant get in free. So, while your dinner cooks, it’s an interesting thing to explore.

It’s well designed, with some lovely artefact’s and information on Budapest history, but overall, I got no new information from it, which I hadn’t already learned from other free museums in Budapest.  However, it is one of a kind, and I’ll give it that.

Hungarian National Museum was next, and it had such beautiful architecture, and the Roman Lapidary section on the ground floor was a treat since I love Roman history, it gives off the impression of a church, mainly since it was a quiet time of day.

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Comparand to the other museums on the list, it’s more of a nice connection to the rest. Budapest has such a rich history, but I enjoyed the focus on the medieval society and loved that they carried actual clothing from that time. Also, you have to pay 500 HUF to take pictures in most exhibitions, I found that out afterwards, they didn’t tell me that when I got my ticket. Sorry.

 

Day Four of the Budapest Card overall 72 hours starting at Midday.

Budapest Cog-wheel Railway and Zugliget Chairlift

I decided to spend the day in Buda Hills and get back to nature and got the chairlift up. Incidentally, it never states that that is free with the Budapest Card in the book and I paid for it, but it was only a few HUF, so it was ok.

However, the Zugliget Chairlift was amazing, since I am not scared of heights, and it was a particular type of wonder leaving the city behind me and getting back to nature for a while. After exploring the area, I caught the Children’s Train, A train staffed by teenagers, and then went and caught the Cog-wheel Railway also known as Tram line number 60 and caught it back down. I was the only person in my carriage, and it was nice to see Budapest in another way. Much recommended.

Overall Public Transport.

With the Budapest card, you get unlimited travel, which covers everything, even though Budapest is a city which can be discovered on foot, it’s good to have. And Budapest’s Transport is well organised and well maintained, even if the Trams had a certain air of organised chaos about them and the bus drivers, maybe it’s just me, but each one could have been a bit more helpful. According to the BKK website, https://bkk.hu/en/budapest-72-hour-travel-card/

Budapest 72-hour travelcard is HUF 4,150 or £11.53, so getting the Budapest card is worth it.

So, it is worth it.

Total

The Budapest Card. https://citypasses.eu/en/budapest-cards/budapest-card/

St. Stephen’s Basilica https://concert-vienna.com/collections/st-stephens-cathedral-vienna-concerts/products/vivaldi-concerts-in-st-stephens-cathedral.

Memento Park – Statue Park
http://www.mementopark.hu/?lang=en
Price 4,900 HUF
Sterling £4.17

Buda tower. The Mary Magdelene Tower
http://www.budatower.hu/en/info-en/#tickets
Price 4,900 HUF
Sterling £4.17

Hungarian National Gallery
http://visitbudapest.travel/arts-entertainment/budapest-museums/hungarian-national-gallery/
Price. 1,000 HUF
Sterling: 2.78

Palvolgyi Caves
http://www.dunaipoly.hu/hu/helyek/bemutatohelyek/pal-volgyi-barlang
Price. 1,400 HUF
Sterling. £3.89

Hungarian National Museum
https://mnm.hu/
Price. 1,600 HUF
Sterling. £4.45

Urban Betyár Restaurant & visitor centre
https://www.urbanbetyar.com/en/
Price not listed on the website. Museum free if dining, also free with Budapest Card.

Public Transport
https://bkk.hu/en/budapest-72-hour-travel-card/
Budapest 72-hour travelcard is HUF 4,150 or £11.53

Budapest History Museum.
http://www.btm.hu/
Price. 2000 HUF
Sterling. £5.56

Dohány Street Synagogue.
http://www.greatsynagogue.hu/gallery_syn.html
Full price: 4 000 HUF or £11.11
Budapest Card Price. 10% off Costing 3600 HUF total £10.00
Saving: £1.11

Hungarian 3D History Show.
http://www.3dpast.com/index.php?lang=gb&bg=1&site=default
Price. 1500 HUF
Sterling. £4.17

Duna Corso Budapest Sightseeing Boat
http://www.mahartpassnave.hu/en/timetable/budapest-sightseeing-cruises/duna-corso-1-hour-sightseeing-cruise/
Price. 2’990 or £8.34 HUF Budapest Card Price. 40% off. 1’794 HUF
Sterling: £4.99

 

Cost of Budapest Card £35.00

Events cost in total overall. £42.93 or 48.18 Euro

So, after a week of exploring, I saved the grand total of, under a tenner. Wow, am surprised by this, but then again Budapest is a cheap country in comparison to others in the European Union.  Overall, I didn’t need to get the Budapest card, but I’m glad I did it. Would I have gone to the caves or the art gallery? Unlikely, so in retrospect, I’m happy I did it and had the opportunity to explore Budapest. It really is a one of a kind city.

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