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Kiss And Tell

8 min read

This is a story about hookups...

Flowers

I'm not really experienced in the world of dating. I've had plenty of long-term relationships. I've been a serial monogamist for most of my adult life. Dating is not really I thing that I do. I don't enjoy it. I find it an unpleasant prelude to the ultimate aim, which is to be in a committed relationship with somebody.

Friends who have been married for decades tell me that I should enjoy myself and revel in the opportunity to go on dates with lots of different potential love interests. They tell me that I should see the whole process as a great chance to test the water with a whole bunch of different prospective girlfriends. They are somewhat jealous of what they perceive to be a pleasurable and fun exercise.

I don't struggle to cope with situations outside of my comfort zone. I don't struggle with new people and places. I don't struggle with having an unsettled, insecure life, where people come and go and I'm continuously in new and unfamiliar situations. In fact, I'm probably one of the more resilient folks you might come across - you can plonk me just about anywhere, and I'll cope.

However, I have a choice.

I don't really want to be dating. I don't really want to be single. I don't really want the things that people who've been married for decades think would be really fun and cool.

I want familiarity, comfort, security, routine, stability, normality... I want the ordinary and the everyday.

I want to wake up next to my long-term partner. I want to say "have a good day honey" and "hi honey I'm home". I want 95% of my conversations to be about what we're going to eat for dinner and watch on TV. I want that comfortable loveliness which comes from being in a secure monogamous regular relationship.

Dating as a long protracted affair, consuming a great deal of time and energy, is an exhausting and pointless exercise to me. Why would I take a torturously circuitous route to achieving the end result when there is clearly a straight-line from A to B? I see no value in the whole dating and courtship business.

"It's better to be single than in a bad relationship" is something that people in bad relationships tell me all the time. It's idiotic, because I've almost made an artform out of putting up with bad relationships; making things work. If anybody can tell you about whether it's better to be single, or better to try and make something work which is deeply flawed, it's me who is the goddam expert.

I'm exhausted by loneliness and isolation, in a way that most people cannot understand. Most people have their families, their friends, their partner, their children. Most people live lives which have a minimum amount of social contact, to make their existence tolerable. A quick glance at my mobile phone would confirm that my life is very different from that of ordinary people: who would I phone and discuss my day with? Who would I contact to tell my plans? Who would message me to ask me to run the most ordinary everyday errands? None of that is included in my life. My life is atypical in the extreme.

Who are the significant people in an ordinary person's life? If it's not their mum, their partner, their siblings, their best friends, then it's often their doctor or some other person who's otherwise involved in a caring/therapeutic profession. Humans are social animals and it's highly distressing for us find ourselves cut adrift from family ties and romantic bonds.

The demands of my job and my recent house move have consumed the lion's share of my energy, and I feel unable to apportion enough of my time to the task of binding myself back to humanity. If I lost my job I'd be done for. I'm lucky enough to have friends all over the world, but we need to interact with people face-to-face every day. We need hugs. We need tactile contact. We need the reassurance of knowing that there are people nearby who care about us.

My efforts to date local singles have not gone unrewarded, and I have more options than I'm able to actively pursue - life has been generous towards me as always - but ironically I deeply detest dating and the entire rigmarole, despite results being forthcoming with relative ease. To me, it seems as though I am still a million miles away from what I really want - a committed loving relationship - but I suppose the speed at which I live my life vastly exceeds what is considered ordinary and average.

Of the relationships I've had in the last 3 years, two of those girlfriends were unquestionably amazing people who I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to share a period of my life with. Even the 'worst' relationship during the period in question was what I wanted at the time, and it served its purpose - I'm no fool and I got exactly what I wanted out of it, which was to have a period of settled, secure, loving companionship. I can't share any of the details with you - it would be disrespectful and inexcusable given my current mental stability - but I can tell you that the worst moments were worth putting up with, at the time. Sadly, I can also see that a couple of very lovely girlfriends were unreasonably treated by me, as casualties of my dreadfully unstable life and unreliable mood.

What do I have to offer today? Perhaps I should be single and learn how to be perfect?

What a load of bullshit.

I'm not an inexperienced kid. I'm not an idiot. I know what's good about relationships and I know what's bad. I know red flags when I see them, and I know what my weaknesses and insecurities are. I know what I want.

I know that I'm happier being single, with the possibility of meeting somebody amazing, versus the situation I was in before where I was working very hard to make a relationship work, because it had marginal benefits at the time. The value of potentially meeting another love of my life is not something that should be underestimated, but neither should the misery of loneliness, especially considering my life circumstances: estranged from my family and without a group of local friends; dangerously isolated and alone.

Of course it's easy to say that I should be fixing my social life and getting back into my hobbies before I think about offering myself up as a prospective partner, but the people who suggest that are absolute fucking idiots who know nothing about how lucky they are to have their families, friends and every other part of the fabric of their lives. They know nothing about what it's like to live in such torturous isolation. They can fuck right off.

My life's stability and routine has been dangerously damaged by my need to form human attachment, so fundamental to liveable existence. I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't, so of course I've ploughed time and energy into meeting somebody who might turn out to be a really great girlfriend. My life's experiences have taught me that having a partner has brought incredible joy in the past, and my behaviour is always driven by well-reasoned decisions which deliver the greatest possible return on investment.

I work hard, which brings me a great deal of financial income, and I am dating hard, which will hopefully bring me the emotional and otherwise intangible rewards of meeting a companion. It might sound like an all-or-nothing risky gamble, but you'd only think that if you enjoy the luxurious position of having a life filled with lots of things which I don't have. You are unable to empathise with the isolation of my situation.

It's late and I'm exhausted. My sleep routine is ruined. My stress levels are through the roof. The demands placed upon me are beyond sustainable limits, but I must plough onwards, because "if you're going through hell, keep going".

I have no idea how things are going to work out for me, given that I'm in a much more alien situation than I've been in previously, which undermines my confidence that "everything's going to work out just fine". I know that past experience has taught me that things always work out, but the unsettling and destabilising recent events, leaving me in strange and unfamiliar circumstances, cause me to redouble my efforts to seek the security I so desperately crave; the attachment that's so dangerously absent in my life.

It's a strange catch 22 situation. I need to invest energy to save myself, but by exhausting myself I put myself in great danger of reaching a limit which is not safe. I suppose I'm hoping for a well-timed lifeline, which life has often supplied, luckily.

I guess luck has always been in my favour, but I work very hard to manufacture that good luck.

 

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Blur

9 min read

This is a story about trying to do too much...

Ceiling fan

I think I have a pretty good idea of what I want and what I need. I think I've got enough experience to know what makes a happy, fulfilling, complete and stable life. I think I've been through plenty of difficult periods when my life has been incomplete, to know what was missing. I've been through very happy periods when I've been full of joy and contentment, and I know the things that created those delightful episodes.

There aren't any short cuts.

It's a strange situation, knowing what my life would contain if I could cherry-pick all the things I needed from all the years I've been alive. I'd choose the huge group of friends I met in the kitesurfing community, and the exotic travel locations we went to. I'd choose living in a city by the beach, where I could have barbecues and play volleyball on a random weekday evening after work. I'd choose garden parties, dinner parties, pool parties, eating out, board games nights and sitting around drinking wine, with a house full of great friends. I'd choose a stable long-term loving relationship with somebody kind and caring, with an incredible career and fascinating educated opinions, who dazzled me with their intellect. I'd choose to have loyal friends nearby, who'd do anything to help me, and I'd do anything for them. I'd be surrounded by people. I crave company and affection.

I hate being single. I hate that all my friends live far away. I hate that I don't have a pet.

I hate not feeling settled, secure, in love with my home city and in love with my house.

I think I'm going to love Cardiff. Soon enough I'll buy a place of my own. I'll make friends. I'll meet a special somebody. I'll probably get a cat. I'll get back into kitesurfing and wakeboarding. I'll build a social network around me, which will make me happy - my gregarious and extroverted side will come back again, and I'll feel like myself; I'll feel glad to be alive.

I don't tend to do things slowly and steadily.

I want everything immediately.

I've set about trying to have a lovely house in a lovely area, meet people, fall in love and meanwhile carry on with all of life's daily demands, such as working my job and paying my bills. It might sound like the regular stuff that we're all trying to do, but you have to understand that my life was profoundly dysfunctional. Every facet of my life was incredibly damaged in some way, and I have found myself starting from scratch, more-or-less.

Of course, there are people whose lives are decimated and they don't enjoy the many advantages which I do, such as being able to find well-paid employment anywhere in the world. My health is good enough that I can work with limited impairment. My experiences have prepared me, such that I'm able to deal with just about anything and everything that life throws at me. I live a very charmed existence.

As it stands, my life is very incomplete, but I'm no longer paralysed by depression, anxiety, indecision and hampered by financial problems. The feelings of unhappiness are prompting me to take action, and I'm pursuing every avenue simultaneously to fix-up my life.

One year ago, I had a very lovely girlfriend, a great home with gorgeous panoramic views of the sea, and a well-paid job which was a short drive away. I might sound like Goldilocks, but that city was not somewhere I could fall in love with. The friends I made there who had cared very much about me, and I adored, had vanished as quickly as they had arrived in my life - an argument which exploded, and ended the relationships I had with an entire family. My house of cards collapsed, and I was jobless, single and sick, in a place where I only had a couple of friends left... and neither were particularly well equipped to help me.

Today, I have a big empty house. I love my job and I love the people I work with. I'm becoming wealthy again. I'm in a city which I find jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Some parts of my life are absolutely perfect.

The parts of my life which are broken and dysfunctional are being fixed. I'm meeting people. I'm no longer trapped in depressed isolation.

Being single is particularly horrible. I haven't had a hug in far too long. I've had nobody to cuddle me when I've been feeling terrible. For a time, I felt like I had nobody in the world who I could phone in a crisis, but slowly my life improves: a friend from work has been in contact, for example, making me realise that I'm not completely invisible... there are people who care about me.

I know that there are people who care about me all around the world, but I promise you that it's pretty awful being in a city you've never visited before, where you don't know anybody, and you're living all alone in a house full of cardboard boxes and unassembled flat-pack furniture. My clothes are all still in suitcases, because I have no furniture to unpack into yet.

Of course, we must consider the great potential that my life holds. In a matter of months, the scary alien city where I'm completely unable to find my way around, will become my home and I will feel attached to the place. My empty house will be filled with my things and I will make it comfortable, and pleasant to live in. I'll make friends and my social life will no longer be something painfully absent. I'll meet somebody special and have a companion to share life with. All of these things will happen, at some point in the future.

Because I'm used to living life at breakneck pace, doing everything all at once, of course I want to do as much as humanly possible. My life is a blur. I'm not doing things in a methodical, measured and sustainable way - I'm charging headlong into every problem, attempting to get what I want overnight.

I should have been in bed a long time ago, getting as much sleep as possible before another punishing week at work on a highly stressful project where I'm under a great deal of pressure. I should be protecting the things which are the essential enablers for everything else: without a job and money, my life will collapse like a house of cards, again.

I almost skipped writing for two days running, because I'm spread so thin, but I'm forcing myself to write now because I don't want a single part of my life to be neglected and left to rot and wither on the vine. I have ploughed a significant amount of time and effort into this writing project, and I'm loath to lose something which is such a consistent and central part of my identity, especially when my embryonic new life is just a tiny seed - it hasn't even begun to sprout green shoots yet.

The problems I have are nice problems to have. I write to you, happy that things are clearly improving, even if I haven't yet claimed any triumphs since successfully moving to Cardiff. It's slightly more intangible to say that things are getting better, when the gains are so imperceptibly marginal; the changes are so slow and none of the major milestones have been achieved yet. However, I had a nice weekend.

As always, I'm very hard on myself and I feel like I should be succeeding in every area of my life, overnight, but things are taking time and effort, and I will have to sustain my efforts if I want to get the things I need. It sucks, but at least I'm starting to have yet another attempt at rebuilding my life. I've had setbacks, but on the whole I have to say that there's more positive progress to report than negative things which have happened.

I seem to be finding reserves of energy that I didn't think I had. I seem to be more capable than I thought I was. The amount that I've achieved in a single weekend seemed inconceivable to me, and was causing me some anxiety, but in fact everything went very well and I'm very pleased.

Of course, there is a great deal of peril and uncertainty in my life, which will remain for some time, while I cement my gains and secure my future, but I've done pretty damn well at coping with setbacks recently, and I hope that I'm able to continue without any major disasters. I hope that I can keep control of my own propensity to self-sabotage. I hope that I can subdue my underlying mood disorder, such that I can plough through the depressive episodes and suppress the manic episodes, and emulate the behaviour of those who are fortunate enough to be blessed with mental stability.

My life has been a blur. My frenetic activity is so fast that my movement is a blur. The amount that I'm trying to do all at once creates a blurry picture, as all the different activities all blend together and I find myself continuously in strange novel situations, attempting to make sense of what's going on: mostly a passenger on a rollercoaster ride.

Life is certainly interesting at the moment, although I am always afraid that I will burn out or break down at any moment. I'm probably over-investing in the wrong things, as always, but that's me: a blur of activity.

 

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700 Words or Fewer

4 min read

This is a story about attention spans...

Flip flop

Counterintuitive though it may sound, it's harder to write less than more. That's not to say that it's hard to write infrequently or not at all - it's actually very hard to have the discipline to write every day - but writing something more than a journal of the day's events, and keeping it short and sweet is surprisingly difficult.

I used to keep a list of writing prompts, should I ever be short of an idea for something to write about. Once I had established the habit of thinking "what am I going to write today?" I find myself planning my writing from the moment I wake up, until the moment I finally have chance to get in front of a keyboard in a suitable environment.

I'm self-conscious about writing on a train, where a passenger might be sitting next to me, reading my words as they are formed. I'm self-conscious about anybody watching me produce these little essays - it's a private process, even if the end result is published publicly. Nobody ever gets to see the words I delete, or the sentences I restructure. Nobody ever gets to witness the pauses as I consider how I'm going to phrase a particular passage. Nobody knows how many times I doubt myself, and scurry for the dictionary to check that a particular word definitely means what I think it means.

My meandering thoughts could easily become jumbled and rambling. Often I do ramble and wander off at tangents, but I try to stick to a certain theme. I try to write an introduction, then an exploratory part, then a conclusion, or at least a wrap-up of some kind. I try to end with some degree of satisfactory summing-up instead of just petering off.

From the very outset, I decided that I would treat my blog as an exercise in expressing myself in the most straightforward language I could muster. I loathe clumsy, lengthy sentences, which are hard to follow and must be re-read by somebody who's determined to decipher what I meant, as precisely as they are able to. I have succeeded when I put across my points in simple, concise and unambiguous terms, which does not necessarily preclude using a manner of communication which is verbose and littered with words not in common circulation. However, I would very much feel that I had failed if I send my readers reaching for a dictionary every few paragraphs.

Of course I'm now very well practiced at expressing my inner monologue, which makes me a bit of a one-trick pony, but I do wish to communicate and not only record my thoughts for posterity. I'm keen that as many people as possible understand what goes through my head, and feel as if they know me intimately.

The intimacy and the honesty are vitally important to me. It's incredibly rewarding to have opened myself up in this way and been received so positively. On the rare occasions when I do catch up with friends on the phone, I'm so pleased when they are aware of what's going on in my life and I don't ever find myself answering the usual range of clichéd questions about how my job is going etcetera etcetera. We can cut to the chase and talk about the things which really matter, which is vital when I spend a lot of time contemplating suicide.

Meaningful close friendships - good relationships - are grounded in emotional intelligence and the willingness to talk about our true feelings and our values, rather than having superficial conversations about trivial distractions. I'm sure there are people who've known each other for their whole lives who have rehearsed a kind of social interaction protocol, which enables them to speak to each other at length while never really scratching the surface. This is how people kill themselves and their friends are left with nothing but shock and bewilderment, because they never saw it coming - all that talk about football and soap operas was never going to provide the scope for somebody to announce that their life is misery and they'd rather be dead.

I have eight words left now.

The end.

 

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April Showers

5 min read

This is a story about not watching TV...

Log fire

As I drove home this evening, the heavens opened and Cardiff was pelted with bucketloads of rain and hail, which was a heavy enough downpour to completely drench anybody unfortunate enough to be caught outdoors. I drove past bus stops where people huddled for shelter. I saw cyclists who had decided to resort to pushing their bicycles, given the treacherous conditions on the roads.

It's very unusual for me to feel enthusiastic about doing anything which deviates from my strict routine, but the bad weather inspired me to re-stock on my supply of logs for the fire. The thought of warming my cockles in my cosy lounge, watching the flickering flames in the inglenook, was adequate inspiration for me to find the nearest petrol station selling firewood.

When I got home it was still raining very heavily, and as I reached the landing on the first floor a large droplet of water hit my head. I looked up and there was clearly a water leak. I climbed the second flight of stairs to the second floor, and there was a sizeable part of the ceiling destroyed by a leak in the roof - water is getting into my house, and trickling down through two floors, causing unsightly damage.

I suppose it doesn't bother me that much, given that the leak doesn't really affect any of the areas where I spend most of my time: the kitchen, bathroom, master bedroom and living room are all dry, and I never venture up to the top floor of my house anyway.

Nothing could derail my excitement about having a fire. It's not very cold, but there's nothing so nice as having the crackling of a log fire - and the pleasure of watching the flames - when it's miserable weather outside. Having fires is such a treat, having spent so many years living in modernised apartment in central London. There is nothing quite so homely and comforting as being curled up under a blanket on the sofa, being warmed by a fire.

My routine would bore most ordinary people. The life I'm trying to lead is pure simplicity. I have a chaise-longue sofa where I can recline, toasty warm under my fluffy woollen blanket, and with a roaring log fire at my feet. I can draw the curtains and turn on the lamps which give the room a cosy glow, and I cocooned into my home almost as nicely as being in bed under the duvet. It might seem as if I'm old before my time, but it's so deliciously lovely to be warm and cosy all the time.

I never seem to turn the TV on. Why would I bother? I have enough entertainment watching the flames lick around the logs, and I'm pretty content with a very mundane domesticated existence. I potter to the kitchen to prepare myself some food and I'm thrilled that I'm lucky enough to live somewhere which vastly exceeds my needs. The high ceilings and the sheer size of the rooms seems decadent, but I refuse to feel guilty about it. There's a great deal of pleasure I take every single morning and every single evening, when I step into my hallway which is flooded with light from the beautiful leaded-glass window panes. The architecture of the houses in Cardiff is delightful and it's a source of constant joy that I have the financial means to enjoy a large beautiful house all to myself.

It seems a little crazy to enjoy being at home so much. Perhaps I should be out trying to meet people, but it's taken a lot of hard work to restore stability to my life and to my living arrangements, and put myself into a position where I can see that I will be able to live, work, socialise, have a relationship, enjoy culture, eat good food and generally embed myself into this city which is still so new and alien to me, but is incredibly welcoming.

London might not have worked out for me in the end - I was forced to leave - but perhaps it's for the best. I never imagined that I'd be living in a giant house with two working fireplaces, near to a beautiful park and a lake. In London terms, it's equivalent to being able to live near the Serpentine and Hyde Park, in a grand town house, which is the exclusive preserve of multimillionaires. In some ways, I feel like a lottery winner, except I'm not able to quit my day job and escape the rat race, although I very much get to enjoy an exceptional standard of living.

I'm burning money - the waste is staggering - but it feels like it's worth it, because of the almost indescribable pleasure of coming home and lighting a fire, then spending the rest of my evening tending to it... tossing more logs on and keeping the flames flickering for my own entertainment. Honestly, it's better than TV.

 

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British Summer Time

4 min read

This is a story about the tyranny of alarm clocks...

Wristwatch

Before the clocks sprang forwards I had bludgeoned my body clock into co-operating with the social jetlag imposed upon me by society. Society is run in favour of "early birds" not "night owls" despite there being a 50/50 split between each different genetic variant. If you want to earn decent money for doing easy work, then you have to suffer the torture and torment of complying with hours of business which are incompatible with your body clock - it sucks.

Because I am unafraid to prescribe myself whatever medications I need, I have access to sleeping pills, which are a fantastic invention for "night owls" like myself, who are coerced into working office hours which are fundamentally incompatible with my DNA. It's as if I was a coeliac forced to eat exclusively gluten-containing foods, when there are plenty of other foods available but they're all prohibitively expensive. I could get a job which would better suit my body clock, but I would have to take an 80% pay cut, or maybe even more than that. Sleep medication has provided me with a solution to end the torture which I had to endure for the best part of 20 years.

The clock change - to British Summer Time - has been shockingly disruptive to my routine. Before the clocks changed I was waking up before my alarm clock and getting into work early, with great ease. Now my alarm clock jolts me out of my peaceful slumbers and I am immediately filled with dread at the prospect of having to leave my bed. One hour does not sound like a huge amount, but an extra hour in bed is hugely beneficial to my health, given that my body clock is not compatible with "early bird" office hours, at a fundamental physical genetic level.

To live in a perpetually jet-lagged state is torturous, and I am angry about capitalism's tyranny, in forcing me to comply with its schedule, rather than my own body's schedule. I'm handsomely financially rewarded for the suffering, but it often seems like inadequate recompense for the unpleasantness of every single morning, which I have to endure.

Further disruption to my schedule has been seen in my writing, where I completely forgot to write a blog post one day - it feels like I have less time in the evenings to do everything I need and want to do, after work. It feels like I have nowhere near enough time to deal with essential admin, do chores, write my blog, catch up with friends and get to bed early enough to avoid sleep deprivation.

I'm attempting to shift my body clock to the new schedule, but it's not a quick process.

I'm also attempting to reduce my dosage of sleeping tablets, which means it takes longer for me to fall asleep, and my sleep quality is much reduced. I was very late to work on Monday, Tuesday was a struggle, and today was OK but still not wonderful. I hope that by the beginning of next week my body clock will begin to comply with the new regime.

As far as having an "extra hour" of daylight after work, it is very nice to be driving home earlier, but it's still pretty chilly and the weather is changeable, so I don't yet feel enthusiastic about being outdoors in the evenings. It's going to be a while before the temperatures lift enough for me to think about making use of the local parks, or perhaps cycling somewhere. Given how little time I have for the essentials - such as meal preparation - I can't see that I'll be doing much with my evenings, while the start to my day is so painful: the alarm clock is such a rude intrusion on my sleep.

It might seem inconceivable that a single man with no children should complain about having no spare time, but my primary concern is getting enough sleep to make my 9 to 5 office job bearable enough that I don't lose my mind. It's essential that I keep in the routine of my job, because it provides the money which is digging me out of a hole, and it provides the stability which is useful for my health and wellbeing.

Ultimately, I still want to find a way to make life work for me, and no longer be tyrannised and coerced into the unpleasantness and boredom of the bullshit world of an office job, but a great deal of compromise is necessary for the foreseeable future, so I shall have to put up with it.

 

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Paper Trial

7 min read

This is a story about being swamped by bureaucracy...

Paperwork

Once my administrative affairs are in a neat and tidy state, it's not too hard to stay on top of things. As various demands for money with menaces arrive, I can deal with them more-or-less on the spot, and my life ticks over with only a small amount of time required each day to open mail and pay bills, or complete other bureaucratic tasks.

Moving house, especially as a business owner, is a seismic event.

The more frequently a person moves, the more the administrative burden grows, until it becomes almost unbearable. Each previous address requires a significant amount of effort, to convince the various suppliers of gas, electricity, council services, broadband, telephone, water, sewerage, home insurance and a billion other things, that you are no longer liable for the bills. Each new address immediately demands that some payment is made in advance, and it is a very manual process to automate the collection of future payments, such that bills don't become a monthly ordeal.

As a business owner, I have a responsibility to change the adress on no fewer than 5 different government services, which ensure that I am compliant with taxes and my duties to the public to be transparent as a director and shareholder.

As a car owner, I have a responsibility to ensure my drivers license has my current address, my car is also registered at the correct address and my insurance is updated to the current address.

All kinds of things like mobile phone contracts, bank accounts, life insurance policies, home insurance policies, subscriptions to various services and other similar stuff, all has to be changed to my new address.

If I want to visit a doctor or a dentist, I will have to register locally, and they will want to see some proof of address.

The administrative burden of being a British Citizen is bad enough, but the deeper into civilised society you get, the greater the amount of work is required to handle all the consequences of moving house. Failure to remember any one of the very many things - such as a TV license - can result in huge fines for non-compliance with the duty we have to keep our records up-to-date and stay on top of all the millions of letters which get sent every day, demanding money with menaces.

I accept that I receive a great deal of services in return for my money, but because my life is supported by a patchwork-quilt of organisations, each making their own unique demands to be dealt with and paid in different ways, the complexity and effort involved becomes quite staggering.

For some segments of society, they are paid in cash, they pre-pay their gas and electric by loading "credit" onto a key, which they slot into the meter in their house, they buy mobile phone credit in shops, and otherwise they're relatively free from the burden of the very many organisations which I regularly have to deal with. Moving house, for some people, is as simple as moving their stuff - nobody will be chasing them for money, simply because they forgot to tell anybody they were moving out.

When my life became chaotic, I got very badly behind on my administrative duties, but I did manage to avoid total disaster. My paperwork is a dreadful mess, but I can find the relevant pieces of paper that I need, eventually. The process of getting on top of things is extremely distressing, but I usually manage to make the effort required before I'm overwhelmed with punitive fines and costs added by organisations, who seek to profit from people who are swamped by the unfair burden placed on individuals.

Individually, the demands being made do not seem unreasonable, but cumulatively it becomes an absolute nightmare. I count 24 items on my todo list for today alone, all of which are urgent and essential, and delays would be very costly. If I was unwell for a month or two, I could easily be financially ruined by the bloodsucking parasites who hope to profit handsomely from a mental collapse; the circling vultures.

I opened two letters which recently arrived, and was gobsmacked to see demands for £3,000 worth of services I haven't even received yet plus I have decided to defer other costs which most people would consider essential, such as insuring the contents of my home. When I add up all the charges I'll have to pay, for example for getting a new driving license and for changing my car insurance address, it amounts to a sum of money which would be financially ruinous for most ordinary people. No wonder so many are in financially distressed situations, having to borrow from loan-shark payday lenders just to cover ordinary everyday household expenses.

I am fortunate that my dogged determination to protect my credit rating and persevere through a period of illness which would have seen me bankrupted, unemployable, unable to rent a home and unable to get gas & electric supplied - plus all the other unseen consequences of having a black mark against your name - has now seen me emerge from a very precarious period in a much more financially robust situation, where I won't be forced to borrow money to cover unexpected expenses, I hope.

It seems like a very rigged system. Those who are struggling are very harshly punished, further compounding their misery and stress, and destroying any hope they might have of escaping their predicament.

I don't understand why it's not possible for me to simply put a vast sum of money into a bucket and let the bloodsuckers and the vultures squabble over who has a valid claim for it. It upsets me that such a heavy burden falls on me to do the work of figuring out all this crap for these organisations, lest they inflate their demands for money so much that they'll ruin me, despite my ability to pay - I'm able and willing to pay, but for god's sake make it easy for me, can't you?

The pile of mail that's accumulated in my new house, even though I've not yet told anybody I've moved, is quite frightening. The complexity of running a modern life is too much, on top of the demands of commuting and working a full-time job. It's unfair to ask a single person with no support, to plough through the bureaucratic bullshit.

I can see why people kill themselves over seemingly trivial things. Life is pretty easy when you have a settled and secure home life and everything is set up so that it ticks over with almost zero intervention, but you must understand that life's not like that for me - I'm swamped with paperwork, and a single error can easily be compounded to result in a demand for life-destroying sum of money, once all the bloodsuckers and vultures have added their unreasonable fees.

It might seem silly to worry about "just a bit of admin" but in actual fact, it determines my entire life outcome. To ignore any one single thing could cause a cascading catastrophe, and see me destitute, homeless; ruined. Living with constant housing insecurity is unimaginably awful, compounded by the ridiculous situation of all the various organisations making competing demands all at once.

I'm in the depths of admin hell.

 

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After The Mania, Regret

8 min read

This is a story about the consequences of a mood disorder...

Bipolar memory

Having had a mood disorder - bipolar - all my life, with its symptoms perhaps becoming indisputably obvious from adolescence onwards, I've had a lot of time to reflect upon the regrettable consequences of things that I said and did when I was experiencing hypomania or mania.

As a child I had little opportunity to do anything which had any particularly negative consequences. I took risks I suppose and I established a pattern of frenzied activity followed by melancholic lethargy. The intensity of my early hypomania was triggered by the rare event of being able to spend time with friends, when so much of my childhood was spent bored while my parents took drugs and got drunk. The excitement of escaping the boredom and oppression of being trapped in a house or a car with drugged-up or drunk dribbling morons, was so great that I would talk rapidly, be unable to sleep and I exuded so much energy that my friends and their parents were alarmed by this behaviour, which was uncharacteristic of how I acted at school, for example.

School terms were long and they were unbearable. For whatever reason, I was bullied constantly. School was something to be endured and I treated it in very much the same way that I treated my parents' negligence - I lived inside my own head, bored but attempting to entertain myself with my own imagination. I was incredibly patient, given the unpleasantness of my school days and the time I was forced to spend with my parents, who were so incredibly selfish that they destroyed most chances I would've had to form meaningful long-lasting friendships. Every school holiday, and indeed many weeks and months of term-time, my parents would remove me from the company of my peers, because they wanted to get drunk and take drugs in an isolated rural location, where they thought they would be safe from the criticism which they would draw for the neglect they were showing me; they attempted to hide their disgusting disgraceful behaviour.

My parents' folie-a-deux, which I see now was a toxic co-dependency, motivated by their addiction to alcohol and drugs, was clearly very formative and shaped my character. I became a patient plotter, who could put myself into a trancelike disconnected state to endure the interminable boredom of being trapped with a pair of dribbling moronic drug addict drunks, with no friends to play with - deliberately isolated from my peers.

This is why I do not celebrate mothers' day - because my mother is nothing more than an alcoholic drug addict with bad taste in men, and I wish I had never been born.

Luckily, modern society reveres those who have bipolar tendencies. How would anybody be expected to pass their school examinations, university finals or write a dissertation, unless they were able to cram and work hard in short and intense periods, having the academic holidays to then collapse on the brink of a nervous breakdown, to recover? How would anybody be expected to undergo the the awfulness of attempting to get a foot on the first rung of the career ladder, and the dreadfulness of the 9 to 5 office grind, unless they could muster the manic energy to be enthusiastic in numerous interviews where you're expected to lie about how excited you'd be to join Acme Corporation and their widget manufacturing business? How can you get ahead in your career, when you are so thwarted by your colleagues and the dreadful bureaucratic nature of organisations - with their "can don't" attitude - except by having periods of intense focus and effort, which no stable level-headed person would ever undertake in their right mind? How could you quit your job, start a company and make it successful, unless you had some kind of screw loose, which drives you to work 100+ hours a week and not give up on something until the results are delivered?

Nobody much cares about the periods of depression that regularly occur in the life of a person with bipolar disorder, because we celebrate achievements and we hide our failures. We pretend that we never screwed up. We pretend that we never got sick. According to our CVs and our LinkedIn pages, we are perfect infallible human beings, who are completely flawless. Because people with bipolar disorder regularly have episodes of hypomania or mania which are full of boundless creative energy, they have an impressive list of achievements under their belt. Nobody ever lists their depressions on their CV or LinkedIn.

Moving house and breaking up with my last girlfriend has left me exhausted and all alone in a new city. I have a work colleague who is reasonably friendly, but a very busy family man, and I have met one new friend, although they don't live very nearby. It's hard to describe how lonely and isolated I am - physically - because few people ever reach this point in their life without taking some kind of evasive action. It's very unnatural for humans to go to strange places and leave themselves totally cut off from social contact, beyond the minimum necessary to get money and buy food.

The flurry of activity which pre-dated me moving house was prompted by stress, and it contributed to the exhaustion and depression I'm feeling now. Also, I feel embarrassed that my grand plans to work on projects presently lie abandoned and the people who I was in contact with have been neglected for quite some time. It's very damaging to my self-esteem to know that my behaviour is so conspicuously unpredictable and unreliable, which leads people to believe that there's little value in the investment of a deeper and more meaningful friendship. When I crash, I cannot face the pressure of maintaining contact, so I disappear and I'm overwhelmed with guilt over the people and projects which are being neglected.

Sometimes, mania prompts me to say regrettable things. I particularly use Facebook as a 'safe space' to rant when I'm struggling with my mental health, because at least it keeps my regrettable words contained in a place where they're not publicly accessible. My friends can respond and calm me down, and I'm not left scrabbling to delete things which were inadvisable to write and publish publicly. My friends - if they're real friends - would take my words with a pinch of salt and not unduly categorise me as a madman and a lost cause.

It's deeply worrisome, knowing that my mental health can collapse and I can act regrettably. It's an unsettling and insecure state of affairs, knowing that I could easily destroy the good reputation I have and the respect of my colleagues, if I was to show a little bit too much of my illness. I keep things relatively neatly partitioned: my blog is where I write honestly, but always mindful that my words are subject to public scrutiny. Facebook is where I write things which are almost always a cry for help, or in some way symptomatic of the very bad mental health problems I'm dealing with. Work is where I spend a great deal of effort "acting normal" and attempting to show a reliable consistent side of myself, despite dreadful inner turmoil and very difficult events in my personal life.

One might say that this entire blog is regrettable, given that it's easily discoverable by my work colleagues, but I do not speak ill of anybody or the organisations I'm involved with, and I do not bring my profession into disrepute - I think that my conduct is perfectly acceptable, and I'm prepared to defend it on the grounds that I find it immensely therapeutic to have this outlet, and the support of people who are kind enough to read my words and send me kind messages.

I have a lot of regret. I admit that I could have made much better choices in a lot of situations. I don't hide behind my mental illness as an excuse. I'm perfectly capable of accepting that my behaviour has been regrettable and that I should have handled things differently.

Why then continue to write like this? The answer is complicated: I have no idea what would happen if I didn't have this single thread of consistency in my life. Rightly or wrongly, I credit this blog with bringing me things which have saved my life: my guardian angel, the people who got the emergency services to save my life during my most recent suicide attempt, the family who looked after me when I was jobless and homeless, and some of the friends who I speak to on a regular basis, who all only know me because I put myself out into the public domain - they reached out to me and rescued me, in their own ways.

 

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God Bless The Police

5 min read

This is a story about law and order...

NYPD

My neighbour's burglar alarm has been going off continuously for over 24 hours. I spoke to my neighbour late last night who told me that she wasn't able to drive because she had drunk a bottle of wine. I said I would gladly pay her cab fare, but she refused to do anything about it last night. The alarm was still going off this evening, and I have been making attempts to contact my neighbour all day.

I phoned the police.

God bless the police.

They turned up less than an hour after I got off the phone to them. The police are very nice people. One policeman came in my house to hear how loud the alarm was and he said that he'd have broken into my neighbour's house and taken a hammer to the alarm, if it was him - he wasn't even joking.

In all seriousness, the police were pretty clear that I can't break into my neighbour's house - I would be arrested for breaking and entering. I can't afford to be arrested when my government security clearance is at stake, which is vital for the job I do - I can't afford to be on the wrong side of the law. My conduct has to be beyond reproach.

The police tried to contact my neighbour. Another neighbour tried to contact my neighbour. We managed to find my neighbour on Facebook, and the police managed to find an email address. We tried to figure out where she might be. My neighbours were out on the street, chatting to the police. It was all a bit embarrassing, but it's pretty awful being in my house with the burgular alarm blasting for over 24 hours.

I contacted the local council's noise pollution team and they told me that unfortunately the law changed, literally in the last week, such that the courts won't grant a warrant to break into a house and cut off the burglar alarm during "unsociable hours". Literally, if this had happened last week, the warrant could have been issued and the police could have gone in and cut the dratted alarm off. The lady I spoke to at the council was incredibly helpful and nice, and very apologetic about the fact that the law has changed so recently, so nothing can be done. Perhaps tomorrow I will have more luck with either my neighbour or the noise pollution team.

Meanwhile I found a better pair of earplugs which have rescued me from similar situations in the past, although they're so good that I could easily sleep through my own alarm clock and be late for work, if the alarm keeps ringing on Sunday night.

My neighbour's attitude sucks, but the response of the police and the local council has been great, and my other neighbours have been really great too.

It's really distressing to have this constant noise nuisance in my home, stopping me from peacefully enjoying my weekend, but I feel really glad that certain parts of civilised society are functioning so effectively. I would never have expected that dealing with the police and the local council would bring such swift action, and my admiration for the work of the police has only grown greater. I already held the police in very high esteem, given the difficult job that they do, and I felt bad to involve them in a matter which should have been quite easily resolved without their assistance, but I did try my best to handle the matter directly with my neighbour and the police agreed that the situation was intolerable, with the alarm going off for so long.

This whole episode has been rather tame and dull compared with other more colourful moments of police involvement in my life, but still, it's put rather a dampener on my weekend.

My new life in this new city is not taking shape as quickly as I hoped it would. My Saturday night has been a relatively dismal and disappointing affair. I was supposed to be going on a date with somebody who I really hit it off with last week, but she cancelled on me. I thought I would make the best of the weekend anyway, but instead I have been plunged into a terrible mood by this alarm situation and I was very nearly tempted to act in a very rash way which could have had dire consequences. I'm pleased I managed to remain patient and polite with my neighbour and I haven't let this relatively minor incident trigger me into doing something regrettable.

Not the most exciting story, but perhaps it's interesting in terms of how far I've come, dealing with things in an adult, mature, law-abiding and good-neighbourly way, when so often in the past I would have smashed things to pieces in moment of rage.

 

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Reading Newspapers Makes Me Depressed

8 min read

This is a story about correlation and causation...

Headline

I read with interest that the number of prescriptions for antidepressants had skyrocketed to an all-time high in the United Kingdom. 70 million prescriptions were written for 65 million people, meaning that for the first time, there were more packets of pills dished out than there are men, women and children in the entire nation. Unlike Sweden where national records are held, which allow statisticians to understand what percentage of the population are taking medications for anxiety and depression, the UK has to guess based on the number of prescriptions, but it would appear that it is undoubtably normal to be swallowing pills to correct for serious psychiatric conditions.

I read with dismay that doctors believe that the surge in prescriptions is believed to be due to bad things in the news. This is faulty thinking, because we are the news. It's impossible to separate ourselves from the events of the world - the media simply holds up a mirror. The media reflects what we can see around us with our own eyes: the destruction of the natural world, overcrowding and poverty. We know that we live in a very different world than the Baby Boomers grew up in. The many cushy things that previous generations took for granted - free university education, affordable housing, secure jobs - are now so hard to obtain that tiny children are coerced into studying hard from the moment that they can form words, in the hope that their sharp-elbowed parents can barge them to the front of the long queue.

If we look at suicide statistics, we can see that the "it's the news' fault" argument doesn't hold water. The number one cause of death of men age 20 to 40 is suicide, and those deaths are preventable, yet medicine's answer is to blame the newspapers. This is a scandalous situation, that those who are tasked with responsibility for public health would shrug their shoulders and point to the symptoms, not the cause of the disease.

To use myself as a case study, it seems unethical to start a family when the prospects for those children are so dire. What a dreadful thing to do - to bequeath a child a planet which has been irreparably wrecked; to so knowingly and wickedly create new life when the existing life is already having such a miserable existence and is so doomed to meet a horrible end. Life seems very pointless and purposeless, when there is very little hope of living a life which doesn't compound the errors of generations, and hasten the demise of the human race.

For many generations, they were content to build houses, grow crops, keep livestock and have food in their bellies. For many generations, it was a lifetime's work to meet your own basic human needs, and the needs of the children who were born in the absence of contraception and abortion. Today we have a virtually unlimited supply of high-calorie foods and almost none of us build our own homes, grow our own food, or have any dealings with farm animals. We do not know hunger, but we do know boredom, purposelessness, apathy, angst and learned helplessness.

I see people who become obsessed with fitness and toughening themselves up to seemingly cope with a disaster which never comes. Nobody is ever going to need to outrun a wild animal. Nobody is ever going to need to carry rocks or toil in the fields or forest to get enough food for their family. There are a huge number of people who are "prepping" for doomsday scenarios, even though their efforts are futile in the face of the enormously violent events which smite us.

It seems obvious that anxiety and depression are natural reactions to a world that is devoid of any opportunity to use our enormous brain for the ingenious problem-solving which would have been very useful 100,000 years ago, when humans had to continuously adapt to the ever-changing seasons.

I can think back to a time when I was obsessed with the wind and the waves, not in any negative way, but in fact I would relish the arrival of a large North Atlantic depression. I studied the weather forecast on an almost hourly basis and I would drive to parts of the country specifically to seek out storms which would cause trees to topple and buildings to be damaged. I had no control over these violent events of nature, but being part of the storm made me happy. I harnessed the wind - quite literally - and I revelled in the awesome power of nature.

Today, I have a ghoulish morbid obsession with the news, half-hoping that some catastrophe strikes and civilisation is plunged into chaos. I find the waiting to be quite intolerable. I find that my anxiety and depression levels are highly correlated to my boredom and lack of stimulation. My life is very stable and secure, but it's also unbearable. I yearn to be freed from the crowds of people who trudge co-operatively from place to place - why do they not scream and throw their briefcases away, and run off to live in the woods? Why does nobody flee from the concrete jungles and seek out a life which has more uncertainty, hunger and threat to life, but also provides some challenges and obstacles for the brain to tackle?

It strikes me that the source of my anxiety and depression is rooted in the restrictive nature of modern society, where I am unable to build anything or do anything, without considerable restrictions. My forebears were able to build their own houses, fence off some territory, cultivate their crops and rear their livestock - all of these things required a combination of physical and mental effort. For me to get a house and some food, I don't have to do anything - I'm just required to sit in a comfortable seat for a certain amount of hours every day, keeping my mouth shut.

Of course it's seemingly childish to romanticise simpler times, when disease and hunger were rife, but as anybody who's suffered anxiety and depression will tell you: these things are so bad that you want to kill yourself.

Living a life where you want to kill yourself is not great, and I don't think that refusing to read newspapers or watch TV is the answer, just as much as I think that pills are not the answer either. The solution lies in living a different kind of life altogether.

You tell me that I wouldn't be happy if I was cold and hungry, but you're wrong. I've been plenty cold and hungry, and I can tell you that I was vastly happier than I am today in a warm house with plenty of food in the fridge and cupboards. I was happy because I was free to do something about my situation. If I was cold, I could shelter. If I was hungry I could seek food. As I am presently, I can do nothing except sit at my desk, mute, waiting to die. I have no available options to improve my situation. I have nothing to challenge my brain and body. I have no purpose, except as a decorative lump of flesh and bone sat in an office chair.

Of course I follow the news avidly, but the news does not depress me or make me anxious. My lack of participation makes me depressed and anxious. Why am I just a spectator? Why am I passive in everything? If I was caught in a rainstorm I would look for some object to shelter beneath, but as a member of modern society I am expected to let everything lash down upon my head without flinching. The food and the housing which I enjoy are a byproduct of my inaction not my actions. If I was to act instinctively, I would only make things worse for myself and end up sleeping rough on the streets, hungry and cold. The situation is absurd.

Not taking antidepressants is a political statement, as much as anything. It's not me who needs to be adjusted to fit into society, but instead it is society which is unbearable to live within - there's not enough space for me to do anything other than keep my mouth shut in an attempt to fit in. I refuse to be medicated into a state of glassy-eyed passivity, like a cow chewing mindlessly on the cud.

Of course, if I spawned an infant by accident, then I woud surely be glad of every amenity available in modern society. I'd be cramming high-calorie foods into my child's face and indoctrinating them in the ways and means of staying in the top-half of humanity. However, as a thoughtful, considerate and ethical person who's considered the prospects for any theoretical child, I have decided that it would be cruel to the child and wickedly selfish to not avail myself of reproductive choices, choosing to avoid creating any more miserable mortal souls.

The stability and security of modern life are at the root of our unhappiness, not the state of utopia that we thought it would be. We are hard-wired for adverse conditions, and without that adversity we are nervous and twitchy. Without any route to gaining contentedness that is not morally wrong, we are depressed. The logical conclusion is that we should kill ourselves.

 

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Indoor Voice

6 min read

This is a story about shouting...

Dafodils

I find myself in the thick of the action at work and I'm failing to keep my head down and my mouth shut. It would be better if I gave my opinion quietly and infrequently, after much careful consideration, but instead I shoot from the hip and engage my mouth before my brain. Most of what I say has a solid basis and imparts some useful expertise, but it would be better if my voice wasn't so often ringing out loudly across the open-plan office.

I'm not sure how received I am. I'm loud, outspoken, quick to respond, decisive, but I'm also like a flame sucking all the oxygen out of the room. I wonder how little room I'm leaving for other people.

I know that I'm not a bad manager - I'm not prone to micromanaging people or being too fussy about the details, such that there's no room for my underlings to think for themselves - but I wonder if I'm a bad team member at times. I know that I'm patient and forgiving with junior members of the team and I invest a huge amount of time in knowledge sharing and training, to help them, but I'm pretty scathing with my words when I see bad quality work done by people who call themselves fully trained and experience professionals. I sometimes wonder what my colleagues do with all their time - how do they entertain themselves if they're not busy?

I often wonder who has the right approach: my colleagues who don't do much so that their projects are never completed, or me finishing projects early? My colleagues would argue that you can make yourself redundant if you do a good job and finish your project to a high standard, such that it doesn't need much more ongoing work to maintain it. I would argue that you're not a good engineer if you never finish a project.

I went home yesterday feeling as though I'd been too outspoken and that I should apologise to one of my colleagues. My brain was badly affected by anxiety and flooded with thoughts about myriad things which needed considering. I bombarded my colleagues with a whole host of things to consider, which probably overwhelmed them and I certainly didn't make a single clear and concise point - I simply couldn't stop words from spilling out of my mouth.

This week, some ideas that I've been nursing for 6 months are coming together. A piece of work that I did in a flurry of manic activity is taking shape as something tangible, just the way I had planned it would. It seems unusual that I should have done all the hard work so long ago and then rested on my laurels, but I needed to have a holiday and move house, which were a huge distraction. The festive season is a bad time to try and do anything important. As it happens, the timing has worked out perfectly, although I have been very bored at times this year.

Having sat quietly at my desk for a very long time, thinking, I now find that I struggle to regulate the volume of my voice. I struggle to hold back in meetings. I struggle to remain quiet for the benefit of the whole team. I'm struggling not to be loud and overbearing.

I would be well advised to put my headphones in and confine myself to my own thoughts for a few days, to give my colleagues a break from the sound of my voice. It would be a good idea to make a promise to myself to say nothing in meetings, except the very bare minimum required, to make a bit more space for my colleagues. I'm like a liquid poured into a mould, filling every square inch of space and leaving no air pockets.

Having unmedicated bipolar disorder in an office environment is problematic. I trample on toes and speak too much, too loudly. I must be very annoying.

I'm aware that I can get carried away with my productivity and ability to solve hard problems, and I can start to see other people as deadweight, which can lead me to saying unkind things and being very rude and dismissive. I forget that people take pride in their work - even if it's rubbish - and can be offended when I bulldoze my way straight through it inconsiderately, in pursuit of my goals. I'm aware that my future employment depends on playing nice with others, and I should calm myself down during these periods of mania-like frenetic activity.

I forget that I'm no longer managing huge teams all across the world. I forget that I'm no longer CEO of a startup that I founded. I forget that I'm no longer the boss, but in fact I'm a consultant who's been hired for my expertise and opinions, which need to be tactfully given to the client. I forget I'm not in charge of the project. Often, my loud authoritative voice can lead to people getting into the habit of looking to me for leadership, when I'm not in charge of anything, which is a mistake on my part, because my strength is in my knowledge and experience, and my ability to solve hard problems - it's not my job to lead the team, but I always find myself naturally providing some degree of leadership, although I don't actively seek to gain power and control.

It's strange. Sometimes people are very relieved to have me working on their project, because I always have a clear sense of direction and I provide a reassuring level of seniority - people trust that I know what I'm doing - but I continuously jeopardise my job by doing things which could very badly backfire if they didn't work.

I have a colleague who's close to retirement who's been hired to do pretty much the same job as me. We couldn't be more different. He spends his days listening to the radio and reading the news. I think there's a lot I could learn from him about plodding along as slow as possible, without getting sacked. Sometimes I find the attitude to be loathsome, but what's the real harm in it - isn't he getting a lot better deal out of life than I am? What use is all my hard work? What good will it do?

I need to calm down. Arrogance will flare up and I'll start being disrespectful to people, and that will be the beginning of the end.

 

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