Visiting the Countryside

Good day, my dear readers!

Last weekend I went on a trip to a small village in the area of Wiltshire. It was part of the HOST program, which gives international students the chance to spend a weekend with a host family in different parts of England – sort of as an opportunity to get out of London and experience the countryside.

My host family was very lovely and they took me to see Salisbury Cathedral on Saturday. For those of you who don’t know, Salisbury Cathedral was used as a filming location in the mini series Pillars of the Earth (after the novel by Ken Follett). Because of that I always wanted to go and see the Cathedral for myself but had never gotten around to do it. How excited was I that I spontaneously got to visit this beautiful work of art!

In pillars of the Earth they have a lovely little model of the Cathedral before they built it:

In the actual Cathedral, they also have a model of how it could have looked like back in the days when it was built:

Salisbury

I thought that was a great way of showing the building process, giving us a glimpse into the past. Apparently, Salisbury Cathedralw as built in only 38 years – a very short time for such an enourmous monument, considering that it was built in the 13th century. In comparison, the Cologne Cathedral took rougly 600 years longer to construct, even though they started around the same time…

I find Salisbury Cathedral a very beautiful work of architecture and I tried to take a few more artistic pictures. Here’s what came out of that endeavor:

Salisbury Windows DSC02976 DSC02977

Currently, the Magna Carta is on display at Salisbury Cathedral. Of course I had to see that one, too! But to be honest, it is “just” a piece of parchment with incredibly tiny letters on it. It is written in Old English AND with abbreviations, so there was absolutely no way I could decipher even a single word. But you can go ahead and try it, I took a picture of it! (Excuse the reflections, of course the document was well protected under glass.)

magna carta

Apart from that trip to Salisbury, the rest of the weekend was also great. My host family showed me their village and we talked about god and the world – quite literally. I also got to watch a match of Cricket – not the most exciting sport in terms of rapid movement and such, but it was more fascinating when I finally started to grasp the concepts and strategies of the game. Am I now officially British? :D

Needless to say I enjoyed my countryside exchange very much and I am very glad I had the chance to go. If you, dear reader, are an international student in London, you might want to apply for a HOST stay yourself!

I am now revising for the upcoming exams – I can’t believe this will be my last exams in quite possibly ever! I’ll do my best to get through them and then run down the home stretch called “writing the master thesis”. Well, let’s hope for the best!

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Coming out of hibernation

Dear readers,

I am aware that I was woefully absent in the past few months. I was wrapped up in some form of numbing coldness, winter depression, hibernation mode, whatever you want to call it. Fact is, I had absolutely no motivation to write about things I have done, I didn’t even have much motivation to do anything at all.

But now finally spring has announced its arrival and with the returning sun, my energy is also starting to come back. I have quit my part-time job as zombie and since then I feel so much better! Instead, I am now walking my neighbour’s dog a few times a week – I am happy to get active again and having a young, energetic, and curious dog with you is bound to lighten your mood.

My days of being a postgrad student are coming to an end. Two days ago I had my final lecture at uni – I still cannot believe that it was my last lecture in possibly ever – unless I decide to pursue another degree in god knows what. Photography or stage design or something like that :D But let’s face it, it is unlikely. Soon, the “real world” will embrace me as a contributing part of the workforce.

The past weeks have been very stressful. Not only did I have some assignments to hand in, I am also preparing my master thesis and simultaneously applying for jobs, both in London and back home in Germany.

I am hoping to have a little more time around May to catch up on my blog and write about past events. There have been a few: Museums, city tours, choir events etc. But I am sure you all understand that after writing 3000-word essays, I don’t necessarily feel like writing another few hundred words about those adventures. I actually have a few drafts sitting in my blog profile… So stay tuned for those to be posted online.

For now, I wish everyone a Happy Easter and joyful spring break. We all deserve a little sunshine in our lives after the rather bleak winter.

After rain there will be sunshine by LinaDesigns

by LinaDesigns

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Off into a new year!

Hi everyone and very belated Happy New Year.

I was busy with exams the past weeks and thus didn’t have time to write anything here. But now I’m back!

Semester two has started yesterday and I’m excited to see how that will go. I’m planning lots of awesome things, like theatre visits, trips to other cities, pub quizzes, karaoke, going dancing etc. And I’ll let you take part in it whenever I can via this blog.^^

I’t amazing to think that I’ve been here for two years now – doesn’t feel that long at all! So I’d like to thank all those readers who have been with me from the beginning and wish all of you a great Charlotte New Years Eve 2015

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Merry Christmas

My dear readers,

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

https://i0.wp.com/covershub.net/uploads/covmg/joy-to-the-world-christmas-quotes.jpg

Enjoy your time with your family, loved ones, friends or whoever else you spend your holidays with. Let it be a time of joy, peace and happy thoughts! May it be a time where you give some extra time to someone who didn’t get enough of it before, where you make others happy and are showered with happiness in return. After all, “Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.” (Washington Irving).

My personal christmas song this year is “That’s Christmas to me” by Pentatonix. They sing “The only gift I’ll ever need is the joy of family” and I believe that is absolutely true. So again, I wish everyone happy holidays and also a Happy New Year.

Here’s the Pentatonix song for you to enjoy, too!

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The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies – A Review

Last Thursday, The Hobbit: Battle of the five armies premiered in the UK – and I went to the midnight screening!
Hobbit Poster
If you have not yet had the chance to watch this movie, go do it now – for this review will contain spoilers (you can read them if you hover over the underlined words).
With this movie, a very long journey comes to an end. Not just the three-year journey of the Hobbit (for me it was three years, at least, from when I first heard they would bring it to the screen to this day), but also the 15-year long journey to Middle-earth on which Peter Jackson and his team embarked when they first started filming the Lord of the Rings in 1999. As far as we know today, there will be no further Tolkien movies.
So, I walked into the cinema with a mixture of anticipation, excitement, but also sadness – similar to the very last Harry Potter movie a few years ago. I have to say, the Hobbit did not disappoint. Lots and lots of action sequences that were absolutely breath-taking – Smaug, the elves, the dwarves. I watched it in 3D, which made it even better! In some movies the 3D effects seem forced and unnatural, but in this one, it all morphed together perfectly. Maybe it is because of the different filming technique?
However, there are also a lot of quiet moments. Moments of friendship, of sadness, of despair and decision making. For me, it was beautiful to watch how Bilbo transformed from the frightened and sort of clueless hobbit to a fiercely loyal defender of his friends, taking matters into his own hands . I also enjoyed Legolas’ development, understanding his motivation for breaking with his father. I always wondered in the Lord of the Rings, why he was on his own. Not it has become a lot more clear.
As with all the previous movies, this one also has some comedy aspects – some more subtle than others. Martin Freeman as Bilbo portrays most of these moments, e.g. facing Thranduil, but the character of Alfrid (counsellor of the Master of Laketown) also adds to the comical relief in the otherwise rather dark movie.
It is always a difficult task to tie in new movies with old movies, when the old movies are the new ones, story wise. One of the most prominent other franchise I can think of is Star Wars – and unfortunately, I know many fans who were not happy with the binding element, Episode III (actually, me included). Because if this, I was somehow cautious about how the last Hobbit would tie in with the Lord of the Rings, but I needn’t have worried. The love for detail and the filming team’s vast knowledge about the stories resulted in a lovely solution (in my opinion). There were hints about Lord of the Rings throughout the trilogy, e.g. Gimli as a drawing in Gloins amulet, and the very beginning where Frodo appears), and in the last movie, the hints were slightly more pronounced.. I especially loved one of the last scenes, where they took footage from LotR to link it with the Hobbit. I admit, I was in tears.
There was one thing I was rather confused about though, but some research cleared it all up.
In summary, this movie is a beautiful piece of art with lots of little details that I cannot wait to see when I rewatch it time and time again in the future. You can really feel the attention and love the team put into this. And the farewell song in the credits? Show me one fan that will not have some moisture in their eyes when listening to Billy Boyd (Pippin) saying goodbye to middle-earth.
One more thing that makes the new trilogy so fantastic: I am currently rewatching Lord of the Rings for a university assignment and while I was a bit bored the last time I watched the movies (because I had seen them so many times), this time I can actually see some little details and snippets that didn’t make sense before or I simply didn’t notice. So by knowing the Hobbit trilogy, it makes LotR worth watching again and I see it with different eyes.
I believe I have rambled on long enough. While I am sad that there will be no new movies, the fact that the old ones are now even more connected makes it all worth it. So all of you who are reading this, take some time off to travel to middle-earth. I shall do the same by watching the Two Towers while on the plane towards home for Christmas.
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time given to us” – Gandalf

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Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – A Review

Here comes a brand-new movie review! Beware of spoilers (seriously)!

I had anticipated the new Hunger Games instalment for ages and yesterday it finally premiered in the UK. Mockingjay Part 1 has quite a different tonality than the previous two films – most significantly, it is no longer about the Hunger Games but about the revolution and rising civil war against the Capitol. The focus is on Katniss as a character (played by Jennifer Lawrence), illustrating how drastically the games and especially the loss of Peeta changed her. She struggles with nightmares and often questions her ability to keep fighting and to do what is necessary.

Her sister, Prim, gets some more attention in this movie, too. She has grown from being a helpless child to being a strong young woman training to become a doctor. I sometimes had the feeling that the relationship between the two sisters has become a lot more balanced. While in the first movie Katniss had to protect Prim from harm, they now protect each other – Prim is invaluable emotional support for Katniss in Mockingjay Part 1.

I loved the portrayal of Effie Trinket (mainly because Elizabeth Banks is just amazing). She sees herself as a prisoner of war and seems to have lost her spirit. But she gradually adapts to her new lifestyle, as can be seen through her increasingly more bold and fashionable outfits (though not colourful anymore, she wears a headband in various styles, using what she can to maintain her individuality). She becomes Katniss’s prep team, taking over Cinna’s job.

Finnick has also impressed me. He forms a bond with Katniss sharing the pain of losing a loved one to the Capitol and they help each other stay sane. I really enjoyed their friendship growing stronger and look forward to what comes next (I know of course, but I’m not gonna spoil this).

Peeta mostly appeared in television scenes, and although he didn’t have as much screen time, I felt he was always present and his deterioration was quite frightening. I personally felt that the connection he and Katniss have was stronger over the distance than the connection between Gale and Katniss, even though they are in the same place (I’m obviously on Team Peeta, but I heard there are some people out there on Team Gale ;) ).

Some new characters have been introduced as well, President Coin for one and the camera team with Castor, Pollux, Messalla and Cressida (played by the lovely Natalie Dormer!) . I hope they will become even more important in the next movie.

The special effects and action scenes were well executed and thankfully not too pronounced in the movie. The focus was more on the propaganda and revolution and less on the action. While the overall tone was quite grim and emotionally draining, there were some sparks of humour, mostly coming from Effie Trinket.

In conclusion, this movie kept me perched on the edge of my seat, anticipating what would happen and being emotionally swept away – even though I already knew the story, it was still very exciting. I personally try to keep the novels and the movies apart from each other – since the movie version is completely different from my own imagined visions. My pictured version of the story is weirdly enough a lot lighter than the movies.

Anyways, I recommend the movie to everyone who has read the books because it gives a different view on things and of course also to people who enjoy dystopian, war, fantasy or sci-fi settings. The movie is rated as suitable for 12 years and older. I personally do not agree and would not let anybody younger than 14 see this. Not so much because of the action scenes but more because of the emotional trauma portrayed in most characters – Katniss, Finnick and Peeta especially. It takes a certain level of emotional maturity to understand everything that is going on in that story.

Also, as a side remark, I was very sad to hear that Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away during the filming. He played Plutarch Heavensbee – a relevant character whose story will have to change now. He was an amazing actor and will be remembered.

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A Trip to Hell on Halloween and other fun activities of the past weeks

Hello everyone!

Apologies for not posting anything lately, but I have to write so many essays for uni that I don’t really have any energy left to write my blog.

Anyhow, lots of stuff happened since the movie review. I went to Berlin to attend a conference, saw fireworks in London and finally registered with a GP. I had planned to write a huge post about Berlin on itself, but since that is already over two weeks ago, I’ll just summarize that trip for you.

I travelled with my friend (and former study colleague) R. and we started out from my place on a nice Wednesday afternoon, not thinking about anything that could go wrong. However, when we arrived at the Coach station to catch a bus to the airport, I knew this trip would not go quite as smoothly as we thought. There were many people waiting and apparently had been waiting there for quite some time already. The coaches were all delayed and everybody was wondering whether they would make it in time for their flight. We managed to miraculously get on a coach only about 15 minutes later and started to relax a little. But oh no, more trouble was to come. We were unlucky enough to get stuck in a traffic jam because there had been an accident on the road ahead. We had been in the coach for an hour already and technically should arrive in about twenty minutes when I looked at my google maps app to check where we were. I was shocked. The app told me, we were still an hour from the airport!

I shouldn’t have looked. From that moment on I was convinced we would miss the flight. Of course we had calculated a bit of puffer time, but an hour delay? Nah, we didn’t have that big of a time cushion. So when we finally arrived at the airport at 6:12 (technically, the gate should close at 6:10) we ran to the check-in counter to get them to call at the gate and wait for us. The staff told us that we were too late and had missed the flight and that we could purchase new tickets for the next day.

But we thought “Hell, no!” and ran for security check anyways. No harm in trying, eh? Of course, I had to go through a very thorough security check, beeping all over and taking off shoes and belt. Duh. My friend got through without beeping and started running for the gate, me following on her heels as soon as I was properly clothed again. When we arrived at the gate (which said final call, not closed, btw!) we were completely winded and ready to drop dead. There was quite a long queue, so we asked the people which flight they were waiting for. Guess what – IT WAS OURS! IT HAD DELAY!

We were quite glad and happy and smug that we had actually made it and NOT believed the staff at check-in. However, the happiness quickly diminished when the flight departed with over an hour of delay. When we arrived in Berlin it was only about 35 minutes delay, so we must have flown very quickly, but it still meant that we had missed two of the three train options we had selected to get to our hotel. Then we had to wait for our little suitcase, which technically is hand luggage but was taken from us anyway.

I went ahead to get the tickets for the train, but unfortunately there was a French couple in front of me, unable to properly use the ticket automaton. If my French would have been good enough to help, I would have done so, but Je ne parle plus le francais. My friend ran past me to stop the train from leaving, but even though we STILL missed it!

At that point, as you all can well imagine, we were furious, exhausted and depressed and just wanted to get to that hotel. So in the end, we took a taxi (we were internally crying about the amount of money that cost us and debating whether we should have just travelled without tickets) which then finally brought us to our destination.

The hotel was very nice, we got our room cards and then – oh glory! – we were able to sleep in very comfortable beds. It was after midnight at that point. We had started in London at 3pm. We had anticipated this trip to take us about 5 hours – not almost 9.

The next day however was quite positive, the conference was interesting, the people friendly and our presentation went well. In the evening we enjoyed a gala event with champagne and butter-filled Brezeln. On Friday, we headed home again and this time everything went well – almost too well, since we had allowed enough time for anything to go wrong and we ended up having to wait at the gate quite a while because we were so early. But we didn’t mind.

Yep, so that was our little horrifying trip to Berlin. It’s not my favourite city in the world and I was happy to be back in London again. It was Halloween that day, by the way and I had planned to go to a party, but I was too exhausted so I ended up doing a Halloween movie night with my friend (watching Scary Movie and Twilight. Both horror movies, yep! ;) ).

Then Saturday evening, I went to see fireworks at Alexandra Palace with the au pairs from my neighbourhood. One of them had her birthday on Sunday and we were celebrating into that by watching the fireworks. It was quite lovely. Unfortunately, I had to work on Sunday so we didn’t stay out long afterwards.

I also went to see a movie last weekend at the International Student House. They regularly show movies for free, though nothing that is currently showing in the cinema. I went with my friend R. and the Norwegian girl (H.) I have mentioned before to see Pompeji (also known as Pompe II ;) ). Not because we liked the movie but because of Kit Harrington who also plays Jon Snow in Game of Thrones. If you have never heard about Pompeji, the story and especially the ending might come as a shock to you. But I remember reading quite a lot about Pompeji when I was younger so I knew what would happen and could simply enjoy the Hollywood story they made out of it.

I guess this is all for now, I’ll have to tackle the next essay now. And what a choice I have: Taylorism, a case study about Luton Airport or comparing income inequality in Germany and the UK. Yay!

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – A Review

Hi folks!

After a few month, here comes another movie review! Last Thursday I went (rather spontaneously) to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and here’s what I think of it. BEWARE of Spoilers, there are some in there. So if you haven’t seen the movie and care about finding stuff out for yourself, don’t read this.

It is a ridiculously hilarious (or hilariously ridiculous) movie if you keep in mind that it is aimed at children/teenagers. The story itself is not that imaginative – young journalist whose father died in a science lab experiementing on turtles finds mutated vigilante turtles and teams up with them to save the world from a chemical contamination plotted by the bad guys who want to gain world domination. And obviously, they succeed.

While the main character April (played by Megan Fox) was not really impressive – and badly phone addicted yet incapable of taking good pictures of anything* – the turtles were awesome. Great animations, each character was well defined and distinctive. There’s the geek with all the technical know-how (Donnie), the two brooding warriors who both want to be the leader (Leo and Raphael), and the funny guy who always falls flat on his face and makes bad jokes (Michelangelo). Most of the humourous stuff came from “MC Mikey” which is probably why I liked him best.

* She tried to take a picture of a symbol on a wall, but you could clearly see the front camera turned on. So she basically took a selfie, yet the next day she has the symbol printed out. They must have tired of filming her taking pictures until she got it right…

The turtles have been trained by a mutated rat with rather dubious methods (and yes, that’s a slice of pizza!):

Anyhow. In this movie, they face the ultimate evil adversary – the Shredder. *drumroll*

The Shredder has a rather unfortunate ancestry. Imagine an ancient japanese warrior, like so. Then add the handy hands of Edward Scissorhands and put the whole thing into an Iron Man suit. What will you get?

THIS:

Yes, it’s a completely overpowered super evil robot that wants to destroy the Ninja turtles and is controlled by the bad guys. In terms of weapons, this is possibly the most efficient and bad-ass one. Emphasis on the bad. A bit less could have worked just as well…

And then there’s Mr. Sacks. He’s the bad guy (which will be found out later in the movie. At the beginning, April believes he is a friend and tells him all about the mutated turtles). I don’t have anything against the character (played by William Fichtner) – it’s just the name! Couldn’t they have picked something like Smith, Brown or ANYthing but the one name that sounds like sex? There’s this part in the movie where he talks about his company and its success – saying something along the lines of “sex chemicals, sex industry, sex robotics and sex construction”. My friend and I were dying of laughter at that point. Unfortunately, there was a young boy sitting in front of us and his mom turned around and asked us to shut up. I’m sure she wasn’t that amused, either.

So really, this name is just wrong. My friend and I thought about changing the vocal, but neither sicks nor secks, let alone socks and sucks would have been more appropriate. Oh Well.

In summary, I think the movie is a nice one to watch if there’s nothing else on – especially if you’re under 18. Or drunk. Or with friends. Or if you’re a die-hard fan of the ninja turtles. It is not a movie to go to if you expect a great film with amazing actors and a deep story and character development. I did enjoy watching it, especially since it has some pretty badass action scenes and the special effects aren’t bad, either. Bonus for the snow chase! Minus for the geeky bike helmet.

I apologize if this review sounds a bit insincere and sarcastic. Although, on second thought – nope, not apologizing for that.

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Help! I’m a part-time zombie!

Just a quick update today, I’m a super busy person currently. :D

About two weeks ago, I had a interview for a part-time job at The London Bridge Experience and guess what – I got the job! So now I am part of the promotion team at TLBE and get to dress up as a zombie for work.Zombie Maid by x-a-eOriginal

Pretty cool, huh? But I have to say that the job is pretty tough, too. Especially next week, since that is Halloween and naturally, a very scary attraction in the heart of London will be busy.

That’s the most exciting news, I guess. Other than that, I’ve been trying to keep up with the massive reading for uni, had a few workshops and went shopping yesterday. I also went to the cinema, but that is for another post, as I will write a review of the movie.

So keep your eyes open for the upcoming posts (and the occasional zombie looking for brain food.)

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Choir, karaoke and zumba

Good morning everyone!

It is a lovely Sunday morning and thus time for a new post. I’ve been quite busy the past weeks, trying to get into the rhythm of uni again. But today’s post will be about all things BUT uni.

I have joined the university choir and we had two rehearsals so far. I am very happy to finally be in a choir again. For those who don’t know, I had solo voice lessons for the past two years or so – which is great and helped me a lot, but try as I may, I’ll never be able to sing a harmony with myself. So being in a choir is really making me happy.

We have worked on a different song each week, learning it during rehearsal and then going out on and doing a street performance. How awesome is that? I’ve always wanted to do something like that! It is tremendous fun and most people in the choir are very talented. There will be a Christmas concert on the 12th of December, maybe I’ll tell you guys the details of that later on, if there are some who might be interested in coming.

After rehearsal and street performance, we all head to a nearby pub to just hang out, get to know one another. It’s not mandatory of course, but I think it is a great way to integrate and get to know the others, especially if you’re new. I went both weeks, but only for about an hour – I do have classes the next morning, unfortunately. I don’t know if I’ll go every week (after all, going to a pub can be expensive), but it sure is a lovely idea and I’m very glad to have this new group now.

The other thing I did last week was going to karaoke. We had guest staying at our house that week and we all headed out together on Thursday. I haven’t been to karaoke in a long time and it sure was fun! It was at a smaller bar, not the venue where I used to go last year. I liked the bar and they have a broad repertoire of music, but the DJ wasn’t so good. For some reason, he didn’t turn the volume of the mics up enough and you mostly didn’t hear the people singing very well.

Do you guys know the cup song from the movie Pitch Perfect? (If not, google it!) I know that it is probably not so cool anymore, but I’ve always wanted to learn it but never got anybody to show me. So while we were at the karaoke bar, I found out that the Norwegian girl I had met the very first day at uni (who was with us at karaoke as well) knows it. So we asked for plastic cups at the bar and I finally got to learn that thing! Now I’m practicing regularly to make it perfect and to be able to sing the whole song while doing the cup thingy. If I manage that, I might shoot a video and post it…

Anyways, karaoke was good fun and I am planning to go another time. It is unfortunate that it is only Thursdays, for on Thursdays, there is also zumba.

My neighbour told me about the zumba classes here and I decided to join her and another au pair to try it out. I have zumba for the Wii back in Germany and I like it, so I figured – why not do some excercise. This was last Thursday. The class lasts one hour and god, it is intense! I was completely fix and foxy afterwards, feeling like jelly and desperately needing a shower (which I got of course, since it’s only a ten minute walk home). But it was also fun, I liked the different routines they were doing and apparently they do the same ones each week, so I might at some point actually know them and not stumble around doing everything a beat too late (it wasn’t that bad, but you get the idea). I didn’t even get sore muscles the next day. Yay! I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do this every week, but I’ll try to do it as regularly as I can.

Over the week, I also applied for a few part-time jobs. Got to earn some money if I want to enjoy life here to the fullest! And one of the advertisers already replied and now I have an interview this week! Hopefully it will work out – I don’t really know what they pay or how many hours they’d expect me to do, but I’m sure I’ll find that out. Wish me luck!

Last Friday (which was the Day of German Unity by the way), I went out with some of the au pairs to go clubbing in Camden. It was the first time going to a club since I came here and it was a great night out! (I always love it when you don’t have to pay for getting into the club.) I think it was around 3 a.m. when I got home and went to sleep. We had started with a group of around 20 girls, but in the end we split up anyway, it’s just too much girl power there. :D The club we went to is called Ice Wharf, you should check it out if you’re in the area.

Well, I guess that’s it, folks! I’ll now enjoy my sunday watching series and listening to music and all that jazz. Hopefully, you’ll have an equally lovely day and stay tuned for the next post (which will probably come by the end of the week).

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