Social conformity and the alcohol meme trap - March 1st, 2018

If you scroll through some of the glossy instagram feeds belonging to some of the most popular style/fashion or health/wellness accounts, it won’t take long to come across an alcohol meme like the one above. These alcohol posts are ‘like’ magnets; the meme above garnered 12,170 likes. So what is it that we actually like about these memes?

A simple explanation to account for all of these ‘likes’ is social conformity. The definition of social conformity is, “a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behaviour in order to fit in with a group”. Instagram accounts that amass a certain number of followers are dubbed ‘social influencers’, what they post is seen as the ‘group norm’; the common thoughts and behaviours of today.  So it follows that we like the posts to fit in but is there more to it than that?

Due to the common perception that abounds of being fun if you drink and boring if you don’t, liking alcohol memes may be a simple way of saying, “hey yes I like a drink, I know how to cut loose and have fun and I want to be part of this group”.  Most people would not like to be viewed as the uptight one, the stick in the mud, the worry wart. If having a few drinks means you’re able to move along the scale from ‘uptightness’ towards ‘able to let go/relax’ then why not, I know I’d rather have a night out with the people that can forget their worries and have fun. However if you keep moving on this scale from ‘uptight’ past ‘able to let go and relax’ you’ll eventually get to the other end of the scale which is ‘out of control’ and this is usually where people end up if they’ve had too much to drink. You all know the friend who’s full of wild abandon and good times until they start insulting everyone, behaving badly and have turned into a complete liability.

I think the alcohol memes are blurring the boundaries between ‘able to relax’ drinking and ‘out of control’ drinking and because they’re so prolific I imagine people are mindlessly liking them unaware of their own reasons or the impact this could have on others. Take the post above that promotes disordered eating in order to drink more, liking this post is not merely saying “hey yes I get you, I like to get tipsy too” it’s actively agreeing with the message that it’s okay to be out of control with  your diet and drinking behaviour. How about another post which shows an attractive women drinking straight from the wine bottle with the caption, “because yoga can’t solve everything”  or another beautiful women drinking with the caption, “wine is always the answer”, liking these posts is akin to saying you promote out of control coping mechanisms such as avoidance and escapism (which will undoubtedly lead to further trouble along the line).

What we do will always have an impact on others, so if you don’t have a drinking problem don’t pretend you do. If you don’t drink a bottle of wine every time you have a minor problem in life don’t like a post that promotes this. For people that do drink problematically seeing the popularity of wine memes can enable their habit, it normalises and marginalises what may be a very problematic behaviour for them. I remember once going to see the film Shame, entering the cinema all giddy with anticipation about watching Michael Fassbender in some ‘between the sheets’ action and leaving the cinema in a decidedly sombre mood. The film was about sex addiction and was depicted in all it’s dark, depressing, gritty reality and this is the thing, problematic drinking whether it be an addiction or a habit is never fun or lighthearted, it’s messy, complicated and causes trouble for the individual and those around them.

So maybe the next time you see an alcohol meme, pause and ask yourself if it’s promoting out of control drinking behaviour and consider your response.

 

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Dry January fuels negative thinking - January 11th, 2018

Are you one of the  3.1 million people (Yougov poll) people starting the new year partaking in Dry January? Are you  willingly undertaking a month long journey of restraint, deprivation and a whole lot of willpower? It sounds like a pretty rough way to start the new year so why do so many of us do it?  Well,  we use January as a conduit to rid the excess of December and reemerge in  February with more money in our pockets, less eye bags and renewed energy. The statistics show that Dry January results in  health benefits, such as improved sleep and weight loss (alcohol concern), so if that’s your thing go ahead and reap the rewards.

However, if you’re taking a break from booze for other reasons, for example you’ve overdone it to the extent that you’ve been losing your memory along with your dignity on one too many occasions then Dry January isn’t going to cut it. Quitting for a month will give you false confidence that you are in control and will lesson the real reasons you need to take a break (any shame-producing drinking mishaps will conveniently be a distant memory come February). It’s also likely to propel you into the next month with an alcohol fuelled vengeance, the act of denying your desires is like a coiled spring, heightening the “I deserve it” thinking pattern.

Taking a month off will not alter your relationship with alcohol. If you have a dysfunctional relationship with alcohol, Dry January will hide it for a month but it will not change it. Dry January is appealing as it’s a quick fix. When things in our lives are not clear cut or easily understood it causes discomfort and we naturally work to resolve this uneasiness as soon as possible. We do this by categorising things into good or bad, black or white. How simple to think that we were drinking too much (bad) so we resolve this by quitting for a month (good) and on we go with our day, our month, our year. By quitting for a month we eliminate our awareness of the drinking problem and continue on in the same on and off drinking cycle year after year feeling satisfied and perhaps self-righteous (on the surface at least).

How much more difficult and challenging it would be to go deeper and cut through the little lies we tell ourselves and face up to the possibility that the drinking that we so love on the one hand, the glass of red by the fire, the girly get togethers with prosecco, the champagne celebrations is also the very same thing that is causing ruptures in our relationships and is damaging our health and self-esteem. How much more complex and uncomfortable it is to acknowledge this and to know that there are no quick-fixes. What if  the realisation that we’d be better off not drinking ever again rears its ugly little head? I would ask you to try and sit with this uncomfortable feeling for as long as possible and if you do want to make changes, the good news is there is an alternative to Dry January:

1.Expand the non-drinking areas of your life.

Rather than focusing on what’s lacking when you’re not drinking try and change your mindset and look for things that will add value to your life. What could you do with all the time that you used to spend drinking or hungover? Focus your time and attention in as many areas of life as possible be it meeting new people, strengthening existing relationships, practising mindfulness, travelling or learning new skills.

2.Identify the emotions you feel when drinking.

Pause for a moment and notice what emotion you are experiencing before you decide to take a drink. Is it stress, boredom, excitement? Try to identify the emotion and then come up with  alternative behaviours that will relieve your stress/boredom or channel your excitement.

3.Try gradually altering your habits.

Switch it up a little bit, don’t do what you’ve always done; have a mocktail in between alcoholic drinks, drink reduced alcohol wine, try alcohol free beer. If you always go to the pub on a Sunday afternoon, go somewhere else that’s appealing to you but that doesn’t serve alcohol.

If you require additional support to work on your drinking behaviour and any related issues such as self esteem, managing emotions or changing habits, It’s quick and easy to get in touch via video call to talk to Gina, counsellor/psychotherapist at  www.hollaandheard.com

 

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3 reasons to try alcohol therapy - December 22nd, 2017

You don’t want to settle for a humdrum relationship with alcohol

There’s a misconception that anyone who seeks alcohol therapy is either an alcoholic or has a substantial drink problem. Women don’t always arrive in therapy after a major disaster such as a drink driving incident or the threat of their partner leaving them unless they quit the booze. Many times there’s nothing tangible that’s wrong with their drinking but there’s not much that’s right either; akin to settling in a romantic relationship which is comfortable but without spark or growth. Often the starting point for therapy is a feeling of malaise about doing what you’ve always done and getting what you’ve always got. An anxiety that arises when you have an emerging awareness that if you carry on drinking as you do then you may be missing out on opportunities to develop yourself and your relationships. It may be time to seek therapy if your relationship with alcohol is preventing you from making a good life great.

You want a different experience than talking to a friend

Talking with a friend who listens and engaging in professional psychotherapy are two distinct activities each with their own purposes and benefits; they are not comparable but each valuable in their own right. It can be extremely cathartic to speak with a good friend or family member and this connection is extremely comforting. Therapy on the other hand may be uncomfortable at times; a therapist does not offer advice or tell you what to do but encourages independent thinking and self-reflection.  This can be frustrating if you want someone to ‘fix you’ or wave a magic wand to make everything better however in the long run this works; the therapist’s aim is for you not to need them anymore and to equip you with the tools to solve any future issues. A therapist is unbiased and objective as they have no emotional attachment to you, you can explore areas of your self or life that you are unhappy with without fear of upsetting another. Conversely, friends often do or say things that you will like, whereas part of a therapist’s job is to challenge you and to help you uncover any blind spots, which may be a difficult process. Overall, in therapy you have the undivided attention of the therapist who is working to help you feel better and to move toward change.

You feel ready to make a change

You feel ready but you don’t know where to start or what to do. You may have tried to change before on your own but these changes were short-lived and you became disheartened. Working with a professional therapist can help to manage your expectations so you don’t become self critical if you aren’t seeing/feeling immediate results. Change happens at a different pace for everyone and one of the most important factors is that you don’t give up. For therapy to work you have to be an active participant as it is a two way process. The therapist cannot change you, only you can do that. The therapy room is a place to practice change prior to applying it to other areas of your life, for example if you feel socially anxious without a drink the therapy room can be a place to practice being assertive or if drink helps you relax, the therapy room can be a place to practice relaxation skills. Your readiness to change fluctuates and is impeded by life circumstances, don’t let the moment pass you by, if you’re ready to change, get in touch.

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3 reasons to join the Placebo Cocktail Phenomenon - December 13th, 2017

They’re basically a health drink and really good for you.

Gone  are the days of sickly sweet, sugar laden mocktails, the new breed of placebo  cocktails mean business. Developed by highly skilled bartenders that craft artisan recipes with a focus on herbs, roots and fresh produce. Often mixed with other health giving fermented drinks such as kombucha or kefir the overall result is a nutrient dense drink brimming with antioxidants in a low calorie format.  Quaffing one of these beauties supports your immunity and boosts your energy.

They nourish our often neglected fifth sense .

 Taste, our marginalised fifth sense needs a piece of the action; part of the experience of going to a bar is to focus on the drinks so a diet coke just isn’t going to cut it. Placebo cocktails offer new and exciting taste combinations, the experience is grown up and celebratory. There is no space for sensory deprivation only an opportunity for our taste buds to be stimulated into awakening.

The Placebo effect is pretty awesome.

These cocktails look, smell and taste as good as the real thing and that’s good enough for our brains! Psychological research has frequently shown that individuals drinking an alcohol placebo, act and feel as if they have drunk alcohol. It’s all in our expectations, if we expect the drink to make us more relaxed, flirtier or more talkative we will fulfil those expectations. The best part is that we get all the benefits with none of the drawbacks; finally a safe way to stay in the ‘tipsy zone’ no matter how much we continue to drink we’re not going to get drunk! Bottoms up, I’ll drink to that! My favourite drinks for the festive season:

Virgin Bloody Mary– an absolute classic

Seedlip Espresso MartiNO– Seedlip spice 94 & cold brew concentrate

Mulled Wine – not a cocktail but worth a shout, Holland & Barrett do a non-alcoholic version

Seedlip Garden Booch – Seedlip garden 108 & passionfruit kombucha

Seedlip Martini– Seedlip spice 94, olive brine & verjuice

 

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It wasn’t you, it was me - November 14th, 2017

Holla and Heard offer alcohol addiction counselling in Ilkley, Harrogate, Leeds, West Yorkshire.

The musings of a former drinker

I held you in such high esteem, I believed in you and I believed in the power you gave me.

You promised, you delivered and I ran with it; sky-rocket confidence, social prowess, the ability to charm the world and on-tap happiness.

I fell hook, line and sinker for your promises and you kept me hanging on for more. I was addicted to you and never wanted to let you go. Every time we met you took a little piece of me but in return you gave me so much more.

Trouble in paradise

I was destroyed the first time you let me down; you didn’t make me happy on that occasion, you made me mad, you made me scream and you ate away at my self-esteem.

Still, I gave you the benefit of the doubt, we were too enmeshed to not, our lives irrevocably entwined, I would have been lost without you.

After this you started giving me mixed messages and began to renege your promises. I was fragile now, you’d taken parts of me I could never get back and you weren’t what I thought you were.

It was downhill from here, you stopped delivering, you no longer took away my pain, you never did, you just hid it for a while and now I was being crushed under the weight. I was falling and when I reached out you no longer pulled me up, you pushed me further down.

Seeing the light

You hadn’t changed, you were and always had been exactly the same, you sometimes looked different on the outside but you were made of the same stuff. How could something so uniform be so changeable. Then I realised, it wasn’t you, it was me.

You hadn’t promised me anything, you were but a liquid drug, how could you? I had placed all my expectations upon you. I expected you to help me relax, to take away my stress and to enhance my personality. My expectations created a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I expected to have an exhilarating night out it often happened; if I expected the evening to be drab and the company dull, having you by my side didn’t change that.

It wasn’t you, it was me

It was me, all me, I had the power all along, not you. I freely gave my power to you and stopped believing in myself. What a feeling to get this back and to know that all along the strength was within me. I sometimes wonder, if I had the chance to go back in time to the day I met you, whether I would turn you down and walk away.

Holla and Heard offer alcohol addiction counselling in Ilkley, Harrogate, Leeds, West Yorkshire.

 

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Alcohol AKA The Memory Thief - November 5th, 2017

If you suffer from memory blackouts when drinking and you need to speak to someone confidentially, please contact Holla and Heard alcohol counselling services in Ilkley, Harrogate, Leeds, West Yorkshire.

Alcohol’s role in memory impairment is well documented, which could be seen as good or bad depending on the circumstances. To save the mortifying sting to the cheeks that happens each time an embarrassing fragment from the night before emerges, a memory impairment that left this in the ether would be warmly welcomed.

Alcohol and short term memory

However, if you’ve been operating in full on blackout mode during the night, your brain’s ability to make memories will have been short circuited, meaning you may have been walking (stumbling) and talking (slurring) and goodness knows what else but will have absolutely no recollection of this.

No memories will have been formed at this time and that’s pretty scary, to you it’s like it never happened but often there will be others around who will attest this (usually much to your shame).The more you drink, the less able your brain becomes at making long term memories.

Imagine a future where you only had vague recollections, if any, of special moments shared between you and your family. How disheartened your child would be when reminiscing about an important event to be met with a vacant, half-hearted  response. This future sounds pretty bleak.

Alcohol and long term memories

Previously formed long term memories are not affected by alcohol, this could also be seen as good or bad depending on the circumstances; there may be events and experiences that have happened in your life that you wish you could erase.  This is not possible, however painful memories are often repressed, and alcohol may have had a helping hand in  keeping them repressed by numbing the emotions attached to these memories.

Quitting drinking is not the end of the story

Why does this matter? Well, quitting drinking or cutting down is not the end of the story; changes will occur, and if anything this is just the beginning of a whole new chapter in your life. In my personal experience, the further away I got from my last drink the more frequently I became ambushed by buried memories, I say buried as I had not thought about any of these things for years and years. They kept popping up unexpectedly like long lost friends who had been missing for years. They were making themselves known, a little hello to let me know they were still alive and still around.

Less alcohol creates opportunity for growth

So not only do the emotional floodgates open, creating movement in your internal landscape there is also another factor at play to  account for these once buried memories reappearing. You have shown strength and courage in changing your relationship with alcohol, you’re living your life with nothing to take the edge off. This is life in the raw and this is gutsy.

These are all signs to your unconscious that you’re ready to deal with anything that has been too difficult thus far. You’re in a stronger, more stable position. Do yourself justice and if a long held memory is coming back, know that now you are strong enough to deal with it, to work through it and to finally release it.  

How to move forward without alcohol

Life is wonderfully complex and to work through the richness, including the pain, provides space for beautiful growth. What an amazing opportunity you have to get the work done and to move forwards in life with grace.

If you need help to move forwards in life and to stop drinking please contact Holla and Heard alcohol counselling services in Ilkley, Harrogate, Leeds, West Yorkshire.

 

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When thinking too much leads to drinking too much - October 30th, 2017

If any of the following resonates with you, Holla and Heard offer support for alcohol abuse in Ilkley, Harrogate, Leeds, Yorkshire.  

Alcohol in a balanced life

As a woman that likes balance, pieces fitting together and things making sense I spent a lot of time living a life where, in retrospect,  there was one aspect of my life that was completely out of sync. The funny thing is, with this particular anomaly,  I chose not to notice how the piece didn’t fit into the jigsaw of my life. I was conscious of healthy living throughout my 20’s and 30’s and wanted to look and feel good;  great effort was put into achieving this. The gym was akin to my second home and I had a cupboard full of spirulina, maca and baobab and a family that (somewhat unwillingly) were guinea pigs for my weekly recipes made with the aforementioned  green powders.

Making excuses for alcohol use

How then did I assimilate this healthy living life with the  fact that I had a blood type that was wine positive? Well, it was easy as I lived a lot in my head; I was a quick drinker and a fast thinker. I loved gaining knowledge, especially any snippets of evidence that promoted the benefits of drinking. These little golden nuggets of information would be immediately stored in the filing cabinet in my head marked ‘wine is awesome’. Some of my favourites in there were: “Two hours of exercise a week can offset the dangers of alcohol”; “beer boosts libido”; “spirits help weight loss” and “vodka and cranberry increases your creativity” By my rationale these benefits meant that I was in positive equity and, if anything, I had earned extra wine points. If ever there was a feeling emerging that perhaps things weren’t okay on the alcohol front I was ready (with my wine toolbox) to knock that feeling back down beneath the surface.

Lying to ourselves about alcohol consumption

This is the thing, if you live a lot in your head, you can intellectualise anything to work in your favour, if you want something to be true, you can make it true by telling  yourself these little lies. Not that we know they are lies at the time. To know that we are lying to ourselves would be too painful and to know the truth; that we are damaging our health and possibly our relationships through drink, would also be too painful.

Our minds like to protect us from pain and this is when our defence mechanisms kick in with full force. Rationalisation comes from the head, it is an emotion free zone and this, combined with alcohol’s ability to suppress our emotions and block presence to ourselves can keep us stuck in an unhealthy relationship with alcohol for longer than necessary (there is no need to delay, Holla and Heard offer support for alcohol abuse in Ilkley, Harrogate, Leeds, Yorkshire).

How to change your alcohol use

So if you have a niggling feeling that your relationship with alcohol is out of sync with the rest of your life, the trick is to get out  of your head and to feel. Connect back with your body and your emotions. Notice where in your body you locate the feeling and with this you will know, really know whether you need to call time with the wine. Our bodies don’t lie. Holla and Heard offer support for alcohol abuse in Ilkley, Harrogate, Leeds, Yorkshire.

 

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Blissfully Bored without Booze - October 22nd, 2017

If any of the following resonates with you, it is simple to contact Holla & Heard for alcohol help in Ilkley, Harrogate, Leeds, Yorkshire.

It’s not often you hear adults proclaim they’re bored, it’s more in the realm of the child’s world. In this era of gratitude and feeling blessed, for an adult to proclaim they are bored would mark them out as a social pariah. To declare boredom would be to cast disinterest on the wonders of being alive and making every moment count.

What is boredom?

‘Boredom’ is often neglected in the discourse of emotions. I know a lot about it, or rather I know a lot about getting rid of it. Boredom is an unpleasant feeling, a mix of being agitated, apathetic and empty. No fun there and not something I was ever inclined to welcome. Boredom used to rear it’s ugly head most often when the kids were little and tucked up safely in bed. I had no option of going out and I’d be too fatigued to do anything. No surprise here but what used to work for me was a large glass of wine, ‘mummy’s little helper’.  That niggling nervous feeling would be gone and the time would pass in a humdrum way until lights out. The sun would rise, the day would begin again and by evening time the pattern would be played out in repeat.

The connection between boredom and addiction

The boredom would be gone but the time was also gone, for years all that time spent uneventfully. What a waste, now let’s be clear, boredom and relaxation are completely different . Relaxation is the yin to works’ yang and I wasn’t relaxing, merely passing time with wine.

There’s a strong correlation between people who experience boredom frequently and people with addictive tendencies, including alcohol abuse. Turning to alcohol to alleviate boredom is a self destructive path which can become out of control and at best lead to a lacklustre lifestyle fuelled by booze.

The brilliant side of boredom

So after winging it on wine for so long did I then, without it, have to resign myself to struggling through a life filled with great chasms of boredom? Not so, I know that no good ever comes from blocking our emotions, they have a tendency to seep out in insidious ways and wreak havoc with our lives. So, what is the purpose of boredom?

  • Our emotions are there to tell us to take notice, they are saying something that we need to hear. It turns out that feeling bored is pretty damn useful and not that boring after all.
  • If we never felt bored we wouldn’t get the urge to ‘do’, to ‘make’, to ‘create’, we would be content to carry on in a ‘groundhog day’ kind of way.
  • Boredom is one of the most suppressed emotions we have but it’s actually the source of our creativity; it gives us time to connect with our feelings and work out how to have more meaning in our lives.
  • To drink away the boredom is to annihilate one of our precious human skills.

So banish the booze and bring on the boredom, I’m all on board for getting our creative powers working their magic!

Please contact Holla & Heard for alcohol help in Ilkley, Harrogate, Leeds, Yorkshire.

 

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The Hidden Truth - September 28th, 2017

If any of the following resonates with you please contact Holla and Heard for alcohol counselling in Leeds, West Yorkshire.

Alcohol and good times

Look around and that’s what you see; a christening, a wedding, a birth, a family get-together, a promotion, a new house, Christmas, new year or any other time of year for that matter, the list goes on. It’s a mainstay in any social get-together, be it a party for 2 or 100. The lifestyle that alcohol promises is fun-filled glamour. Clever marketing pulls us into the allure of the glitterati; the unquestioned message being it’s a necessary normal part of our society.

What if we choose not to accept this as the complete picture; the ubiquitous ‘two-sides to every story’ applies to alcohol, after all alcohol is a drug and there is no such thing as a harmless drug. If both sides of the story are openly presented it will give the younger generation more choice in their alcohol use, rather than being drip-fed and conditioned to believe that alcohol is the elixir of life (this is one of the myths we tackle in alcohol counselling in Leeds, West Yorkshire).

The downside of alcohol

For every up there’s a down, for every good-time benefit of alcohol there’s a cost. The risk with alcohol use is a bit like russian roulette; you may be the one that becomes controlled by alcohol and develop serious side effects. Unfortunately there’s no test that will reveal who this will be. It is a spider’s web of reasons such as: individual differences, biological factors and social factors (all inextricably linked). The negative physical effects of alcohol are publicly documented however there’s less awareness of the possible psychological and emotional damages. There’s no stark health warning on the bottle that says ‘use at your own peril, you may develop serious (possibly chronic) side effects such as:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • anti-social behaviour
  • memory loss
  • relationship difficulties
  • addiction

It’s never popular to shatter any illusion, we all remember the person that told us Santa wasn’t real and the ensuing horror and disappointment.

A problem with the person or the drug?

When alcohol problems do come to light they are splashed across the press but alcohol’s involvement is hush hushed and the women concerned are blamed and shamed. Middle-aged women are ‘outed’ in the press for drinking excessively at home alone (underlying message being they should know better) and younger women are shamed in the tabloids for binge drinking leading to ‘unacceptable’ behaviour.

These reports are a threat to alcohol’s good-time image so the attention is quickly and successfully diverted away from alcohol and onto the individuals. Common misconceptions abound, alluding to the fact that there’s something wrong with the person; they have no control and no will power.

Holla and Heard’s answer to the problem

It is hard to agree with the message that if an individual develops a problem with alcohol (the drug’s nature of which is to make people want more) that it is their fault; this separates it entirely from the social context. Shaming and blaming women will not make the problem go away but will push this very real issue underground; the best place for secrets and lies to grow is in the dark. A punitive society will lead to chronic hidden problems.

Bringing attention to the potential or current issues individuals may face with alcohol use is a huge step in prevention and intervention (it’s easy to access Holla and Heard alcohol counselling in Leeds, West Yorkshire). If we share our alcohol experiences without fear of personal reproach it will be easier to access early help, stopping problems in their tracks. If we’re open and honest about the dark side of alcohol, it makes sense to accept sobriety or mindful drinking as a positive lifestyle choice.

Let’s bring attention to the whole story of alcohol and make ourselves heard, in order to promote choice and acceptance. Contact Holla and Heard for alcohol counselling in Leeds, West Yorkshire.

 

Posted in AA, addiction, Alcohol, alcohol abuse, alcohol help, Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholism, counselling, Harrogate, Ilkley, Leeds, psychotherapy, recovery, women and alcohol, Yorkshire | 1 Comment »

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