Lifestyle

    When did being busy become a measure of success?

    For one reason or another there’s one thing I can’t get off my mind. I’ve been thinking about it for a while now but not yet been able to translate my thoughts into a coherent blog post on the topic. Today I decided to let the keyboard do the talking and see where my thoughts took me when left to just type. 

    The work day has come to a close and I’ve been sat on my bed for the last hour watching fitness videos on YouTube, adding fitness YouTubers on snapchat and thinking about when I should next go to the gym. While I’ve ticked off all of the work related things that needed done, there are still at least three more tasks on my life admin and blog work list that need done before I can afford some real down time. Therefore, now is not the time to be binge watching YouTube. 

    The list contains editing something I put into motion last week. No, it’s not a YouTube video and no, I’m not going to tell you what it is just yet - although if you stick around until the weekend I just might spill the beans. It also contains writing a blog post, contacting and pitching to several people to bring a new project to life, re-arranging a meeting and prepping for a meeting tomorrow. Things that haven’t been completed today have already been shifted into tomorrow’s task list and before I know it, a previously empty weekend has turned into one filled with more to-do lists which as an introvert, isn’t the best news as I need my own space to recharge - something I try to leave weekends free to do. 

    See, usually I revel in free time at the weekend. I’m not someone who likes to go out and party the weekend away. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely enjoy a good night out and having a laugh with friends but don’t enjoy hangovers (lol who does) - both the kind induced by alcohol consumption and the hangover like experience I have when I’ve spent too much time with other people - I promise I’m not a COMPLETE weirdo, I just know my boundaries. These boundaries mean that yes, I definitely like to have socialising factored into my free time but I also like to have some me time slotted in there too otherwise I feel exhausted and the grumpiness that ensues just isn't worth it for anyone. Even if it’s just a few hours in the evening where I can read a book, binge watch some netflix, catch up on the latest magazine I’ve been hoarding or scroll through my Instagram until I’ve completely lost track of time and forgotten the reason I lifted my phone in the first place. 

    However......

    While I’m aware that these are the kind of boundaries I need in my life and the kind of lifestyle that brings me the most happiness, I can’t help but feel embarrassed when someone asks me my weekend plans, my Friday night plans and somedays even my plans for the rest of that day. I remember while interning lunch time felt so sacred. I’d been sat in an office all morning, surrounded by people and chatter and while I enjoyed the company of my employees, lunch time was my time. It was my time to escape and disappear into the pages of my book, scroll through social media and catch up with friends at home or just go for a walk and clear my head. I needed that time to recharge alone in order to remain productive for the rest of the day. Once a week the other interns and I would go for lunch together. It was a definite highlight of my week and I miss those lunches together all of the time but as far as I could tell, they got it that we all needed time away from being on our best behaviour (as interns are expected to be) and needed time alone most days. On the days we weren’t spending lunch together I used to dread any one else asking about my lunch plans. I also dreaded bumping into anyone on my lunch plans. The thought of telling someone I was spending my lunch alone by choice felt embarrassing and shameful. 

    When I moved back home and tried to settle back into a routine I also had to adapt to the already established routines of my friends and family. I was the one who had left and returned while they had new friends, new circles, new routines and new hobbies. Initially, in my usual state of panic upon an internship finishing up and not knowing my next move, I felt the need to have everyday planned out and filled to the brim with activities. So that’s what I did. I tried to make as many plans as possible with friends, probably tortured them beyond belief and when I was met with their intensely busy schedules in response I felt like the world’s biggest loser. Why was I the only one without a life? Why did everyone else have so much to do? How come they were so busy and had so many friends to hang out with and I didn’t? 

    This thought process continued for quite a while as I settled back into life at home, began working with freelance clients and then landed my current job. As working life got busier and weekends became a time of recuperation, I somehow forgot to worry about my lack of social life in comparison to others. I started spending Saturday nights with my sister watching Strictly and honestly, those Saturday nights spent together were and still are a massive highlight of my week and whether she likes it or not she's probably one of my most favourite people to spend time with. I spent time with my boyfriend, I spent more time with my best friends and those whose company built me up, made me laugh and helped me out when times seemed tough. They listened to my rants. They answered silly questions I was too embarrassed to ask anyone else. They let me dream. They called me out when I was being stupid or cruel. They made me see that having a fully booked social life doesn’t equate to being successful, kinder or happier. They taught me that I would much rather spend time with the people that make me happiest once a month thAn spend my weekends with others for the sake of seeming busy. 

    Less obvious characters taught me a lot too, even if they didn’t realise it. I’m very lucky to have the flexibility to work from home. I work where I want and to an extent when I want so long as I get the work done. It definitely has it’s difficulties and takes a lot of discipline but one way or another, I always get the work done and so far have never missed a deadline. Sometimes my work is really creative and fun, other times it’s more sales driven - an area that doesn’t come naturally to me and so takes much more concentration and dedication to hours. When we get a new client, there’s a lot of organising and launching to do. These launches mean putting in the hours when others may not have to. But it’s part of the job. There are pros and cons. I manage my time in a way that means I don’t have to work late every night when it isn’t necessary. The nature of my job allows me to do this and while I appreciate that not everyone is in this position, no job should equate to working late every single night. This ties in with the idea of being busy making you more successful. There’s a common misconception that working late every night is impressive. You know what’s not impressive? Letting your own health suffer as a result. Letting your business suffer. Not spending enough time with your family. Not spending any time with friends. Not giving yourself a break. Driving yourself nuts for the sake of meeting a deadline and letting the quality of your work suffer. Sorry, I'm not buying it. 

    Serious question. When did being insanely busy become so cool? 

    What’s cool about spending your life rushing around from appointment to appointment, the occasional social gathering that’s then spent totally rushed and had any enjoyment sucked out of it because surprise, surprise, you have another appointment to get to? Why do people get such a kick out of complaining about how busy they are? I mean, I only asked you for a coffee to catch up because I haven’t seen you for months, I didn’t ask for a run down of your entire week’s agenda. Yeah, ok it’s pretty cool that you have so many meetings to attend and organise because you’re just so in demand and yeah I’m happy for you that your career is taking off, your social life is through the roof because people can’t get enough of you and you’ve been so busy you cant remember the last time you logged on to Netflix (something I do on the reg) but I only asked if you were free for lunch this weekend. While I’m gutted you can’t make it, a date with my dog, sofa and Netflix is a fairly appealing back up plan. 

    Once I got over the envy/self-doubt/massively self-absorbed comparison game it got me thinking on a more logistic level, how the hell do these people fit everything in? That’s when I realised they don’t. Did they tell you that they’re working late because they spent most of day procrastinating before realising just how quickly their deadline was approaching? Did they tell you that they spent Monday morning regretting how much time they’d spent their days off rushing around? Did they tell you that of the list of 20 things they told you they had on they ended up bailing on about 50% of them? Probably not. People like to seem busy. They like to seem in demand. We’re insecure by nature and if appearing busy makes someone feel better, who am I to judge. After all I know the guilt all too well when someone asks me how I spent my weekend and my answer was “at home.” The thing is, for the most part none of us care. Yeah we might be momentarily impressed by your work ethic, extensive circle of friends and your commitment to volunteering during your every spare moment but for the most part, we’ll have forgotten about the conversation within 5 minutes of settling down into our comfortable, back up plan. Meanwhile, you’ll be stressed to the max keeping up appearances and attending every commitment you slotted in for yourself in one day. 

    Maybe it’s just me. Maybe you can think of nothing better than being flat out busy all of the time and because of my introverted, quieter ways I just don’t get it and therefore, can think of nothing worse. If that's the case for you, feel free to tell me where to go.

    You do you, boo and next time you feel guilty about having no plans other than with yourself, just remember how much joy those plans brought you.

    Photos by Lucy Curran
    Check out her fabulous photography on her Facebook and Instagram

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    Niamh ♥

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    Operation Transformation: The One Thing I'm Giving Up This January

    It 2nd January 2017. 

    You've just spent yet another day slobbing on the sofa, scrolling through Instagram, promising yourself that tomorrow will be different. SPOILER: It won't. 

    At one point you managed to psych yourself up, peel yourself from the sofa and embark on the journey upstairs. You told yourself it was because you were finally going to get dressed (at 16:04 you're prouder of this than you should be) yet you've found yourself lounging on your bed, scrolling through Instagram yet again with next to no recollection of how you got there. 

    You've pretty much exhausted every Instastory on your feed and as for those 2017 recaps that are still lingering, they've left you feeling pretty deflated, not to mention inadequate. 

    Just as you feel yourself falling deeper and deeper into the pity party slump the door bell rings. 

    Your heart momentarily stops. 

    No one ever uses the door bell. 

    Nobody but one. 

    You grab your dressing gown, racing to get the door before anyone else sees what you've done...again. 

    After last month's incident you swore it was the last time. But alas, you caved. You caved because you're weak. A weak, silly little girl who likes sparkly pink things. 

    You can feel their eyes on you through the window of the door but you can't bring yourself to look at them as you slowly unlock the door, release the chain and sign for yet another package. 

    You know you shouldn't but once the door is firmly closed again you sneak a little happy dance before returning to your room, ripping open the box and staring lovingly at its glorious contents. 

    Four accessories.
    Three jumpers.
    Two pairs of shoes.
    One B-E-A-U-tiful coat. 

    You've done it again. You've blown your wages on yet another ASOS spending spree. The guilt forms a ball of anxious fire in your belly and you know what you've got to do. 

    It's time to cut yourself off. 

    Face your biggest fears, embark on your toughest challenge yet and go on a shopping ban. 

    DUN DUN DUN.

    Yep, you heard it here first. Technically second if you follow me on Instagram where I first declared my self-inflicted shopping ban - an announcement ironically followed by my top boxing day sales picks. They feature as a highlighted story feature on my profile if you're one of the lucky ones who have escaped a Topshop induced shopping addiction and need some inspiration. 

    Most people go with dry January as their not so grand entrance to the New Year but given how fond I am of a Saturday night in, giving up alcohol would have been a little too easy. Others opt to give up chocolate or crisps or all other sh*tty foods but given I've already had to cut out dairy and gluten in the last two years, taking any other food group from me right now would be too cruel. Shopping on the other hand, that's where the real challenge lies for me. 

    For the last three months I've made excuse after excuse to justify my never-ending shopping sprees. Interning in the fashion industry for most of 2016 and 2017 unsurprisingly left me with a shopping wish list the length of my arm so when I got my first job and as a result, first salary in August, how could I resist catching up on all of the shopping I had missed out on over the last few years? But when you've got to the stage where you're checking the ASOS new in section at least twice a week and consider clearing out your 'saved items' as necessary life admin, it's maybe time to reign it in. 

    I've finally caught a little bit of the travelling bug this year and have entered 2018 dreaming of trips to European cities, a return to my beloved New York and a few further afield adventures with friends. I've also got goals that although will take a lot of determination and hard work, aren't going to get anywhere without some savings behind them. None of these goals are going to get any further than my imagination if I don't start putting away some money. Ultimately this means cutting out the shopping sprees and while a sparkly new pair of shoes might up my Instagram game and bring me some momentary joy, memories created travelling and pursuing other dreams will last so much longer. Besides, fashion is an art and working with the many clothes I already have will challenge my creativity. At least that's what I'm telling myself. Plus I didn't start the ban until January which means I was still able to grab a few steals in the sales pre-January 1st, enough to shoot some January content without feeling guilty about shopping.

    The plan is to hand my card over to my Mum (yes I'm a child who can't be trusted) for the month of January, only to be returned once a week in order to take out my weekly allowance in cash. Said allowance should cover me for petrol, parking and socialising but definitely not for spending on clothes. 

    While the ban is only temporary and come my birthday next month I'll definitely be treating myself to a little something, it's a start and hopefully seeing my savings pile up will be motivation to maintain the spending cuts. 

    Talk about a first world problem, 'ey?

    Wish me luck because as ashamed as I am to admit it, I'm going to need it. 

     

    Shop My Sales Picks

     

    Photos by Lucy Curran
    Check out her fabulous photographer on her Facebook and Instagram

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    Niamh ♥

     

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    Another World: The Christmas Gift That Keeps Giving

     

    Every so often in life you come across an absolute gem of a human being. They're a very rare kind of person but as soon as they enter your life, however fleeting it may be, their impact is unforgettable. Something clicks and they open your eyes to an entirely different world. 

    In this case that person was Connor Kerr and the world he was opening my eyes to was appropriately named, Another World. 

    When Connor first reached out to me I was instantly intrigued. First of all, he went to the effort of referencing some of my previous blog posts which, regardless of whether he actually read it, showed he had done his research - something that always bodes well for PRs/brands when contacting a blogger. 

    Then there was actual cause that he was reaching out to me about. 

     

    "Creative non-profit projects"

    "Hair and beauty salon with a humanitarian mission"

    "Entirely volunteer led initiative"

     

    He had me hook, line and sinker and a few emails later I found myself in the styling chair of Another World's HQ and pop up salon on 42a University Street, desperate to hear his story and of course, the story behind Another World. 

    He told me heartbreaking stories from his travels around the world, his extensive volunteering and the inspiration and emotional impact he'd experienced during his time volunteering in aid settings. He also told me the heartwarming stories about the incredible people he met along the way - a lot of whom chipped in to bring Another World's mission to life. 

    With a background in fashion, events  and hairstyling, Connor has combined his skills, contacts and a cause he's incredibly passionate about to bring together a series of events and projects that will not only benefit us as a consumers but as an entirely donation based initiative, will help Belfast's less privileged through The Rainbow Project, the Homeless Period and several Belfast based homeless organisations.

    As I sat chatting and listening to Connor, it got me thinking about my Christmas content for this blog. 

    I could sit here and pull together the most wonderfully luxurious gift guide. I could produce a very frivolous pay day wishlist (both of which I've been guilty of doing in the past). Or we could talk about the more important issues going on. We could put our love of wanting to look our very best to better use. We could treat ourselves to an hour of self-care while showing others we care. We could shake off the superficial shackles associated with the world of beauty and fashion and pay attention to those who need our love, support and resources most this Christmas and for the foreseeable future. The reality is that while we may be fussing over what to wear on Christmas Day, what to buy for our Secret Santa or stressing over how we're going to cram the mass amount of social events into our already overwhelming calendar, there are others out there who don't have a home to go to or a chance to experience the festive season as we do. Many can't go home because for whatever reason, they no longer have a home to go to. Suddenly our stresses seem much more insignificant. 

    I know that charity can be a controversial topic for some, particularly at this time of year. I also know that many will argue that charity starts at home but the beauty of what Connor has created with his Another World events and projects is that it's an entirely donation based initiative that benefits all involved. 

    Believe me when I say that I left that salon desperate to get involved in any way I could and I guarantee five minutes in Connor's company will make you feel the same. 

    So whether you're in need of a helping hand to get dolled up for party season, an hour's escape from the madness of Christmas or whether you would like to get involved in the physical donation of items to Another World's projects, here's what you can do to help. 

    Hair with a Humanitarian Mission

    It wouldn't be Christmas without an endless amount of social events to attend. Social events that involve the need to get your pamper on. Blowdries, up styles and make up appointments all add up. Thankfully Connor and his Another World elves are here to help. 

    The Hair with a Humanitarian Mission is a non-profit, pop-up salon found in Botanic. All services are offered in exchange of a donation of whatever you can afford with all donations going to The Rainbow Project. 

    With sponsors such as Hedonist hair providing premium salon space for hair and make up appointments, Paul Meekin, an ambassador for cosmetics giant Revlon, supplying the global brand's Style Masters rand, Another World have everything you need to get party ready this Christmas. 

    Appointments can be made here.

     

    Strong for the Week

    I've been talking about starting yoga classes for the best part of the last six months. I'm so glad I bit the bullet and made Another World's Strong For The Week yoga class my first ever session last Monday. 

    (Shout out to instructor Scott Connor for keeping things simple to understand and easy to follow for this little yoga first timer.)

    Strong for the Week yoga and meditation events take place on Monday evenings in the Hedonist salon, Botanic. Unlike the salon there's no need to book a place in advance. Yoga mats are provided and the events operate on a drop in basis. Simply pay what you can afford in support of Belfast's less privileged. 

     

    The Love Box

    If you would rather get involved by donating items to the projects you can get involved with The Love Box, building care packages for Belfast's homeless community ahead of the cold winter. 

    Donations may consist of hats, scarves and gloves, female sanitary products and/or treats with all contents going towards those spending the festive period on the streets. 

    If you would like to make a donation, all products can be taken to In Car Safety Centre, Boucher Road or Another World salon. 

    For further information about any of the above visit www.anotherworldbelfast.co.uk. 

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    Niamh ♥

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    Why I Will Never Go Blonde Again

    I remember the first time I dyed my hair. I was 16, it was the day I had finished my GCSEs, the first day of summer and boy, did I create a monster. 

    My best friend at the time and I thought now would be the perfect time to embrace the infamous dip dye trend. I went for pink. She went for purple. It was infamous for a reason. 

    We both had naturally very dark hair, my friend’s verging on jet black. Now obviously adding any colour to dark hair isn’t going to work without bleaching it first. Our solution? Cheap, shitty, drug store bleach. Of course. That’s exactly how you should treat your hair…

    It stank. It stung our eyes and it seriously destroyed those 2-4 inches of our hair. 

    I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think I wasn’t the coolest 16 year old at the time. Of course I did. But by the time August came around the cheap pink dye had turned a delightful (read: horrific) shade of peachy, orange with unwanted, unintended hints of green. 

    Off to the hairdressers. Time for chop. 

    After a summer of bedraggled curls with a texture I can only compare to straw and colour that looked like a Halloween costume gone wrong, did I learn anything about looking after my hair? Nope. Big. Fat. Nope. 

    Six months later I was back at the hairdressers. This time I had graduated from dip dye and was buying into the ombre trend all while desperately trying to convince anyone who would listen that this was a great idea. It was not. 

    This continued up until I was about 19 or 20. So really only within the last year or so. I went for ombre then balayage then highlights - all of which are pretty much variations of each other. Every single time I went back, I asked for more. I was stuck in a cycle of constantly getting bored of my hair. At this point it was clear I wouldn’t be happy until I was totally blonde. 

    It was February 2016 when I finally took the plunge. I walked in just about still brunette and walked out a full on blonde. My poor hairdresser dedicated the majority of her day to transforming my mass amount of hair (that was quickly thinning) into Barbie’s twin. 

    The drive home was an interesting one as I kept catching my reflection in the mirror and not recognising myself. The weeks that followed were equally as interesting as I bumped into people and dealt with mixed reactions.

    My mum hated it.

    Some of my friends liked it.

    Others, not so much.

    Backhanded compliments became the norm from those who didn’t know what to say about my new look. 

    I was just so excited by such a big change that i wasn’t able to register whether or not I actually liked this new hair.

    I had to adjust my makeup and wardrobe. Looks that once really complimented my dark features suddenly washed out the new blonde me. Every time I looked in the mirror, it felt like something was missing. I tried for weeks to get used to the new look, telling myself that any day now it wouldn’t feel like such a ‘new look’, it would just feel like me. Finally, I admitted defeat. 

    Four months later I was back in the hot seat. Four months. That’s all I lasted. I was ready to go back to my roots (pun intended) and was practically begging to be accepted back into my beloved brunette club. 

    Confession: I changed hairdressers for my big brunette comeback. (Shout out to Bill Harris Hairdressing.) I just didn’t have the heart to go back to the same place where they had slaved over making my blonde dreams a reality. 

    Once the appointment was made, the day honestly couldn’t come any quicker. The second it was over with I couldn’t have been more relieved to see my old, slightly glossier, brunette self staring back at me. 

    I knew I was in for a long road of hair recovery with regular appointments to touch up the colour and a lot of bad hair days while my poor curls recovered but it was worth every moment but it's been worth every second. 

    Now 18 months later my hair finally feels healthy again. I’ve found that the products that work best for me and I’ve honestly never appreciated my natural curls and colour more.

    Lesson learned. Never will I ever go blonde again. And PLEASE quote me on that. 

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    Niamh ♥

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    Could You All Maybe Stop Growing Up For A Sec?

    I'm not sure where to start with this one. I'm not even entirely sure what it is I want to say but I felt compelled to write. Good idea or bad idea, I'm going to allow my thoughts to roam free, write what first comes to mind on the topic and go from there.

    You see, I've been feeling very nostalgic over the last few weeks. Particularly since September hit. Something about the end of this summer forced me to look around myself and acknowledge (if not accept) that things have changed and that everyone around me suddenly seems grown up. I mean, obviously I'm aware that ageing is a natural process but I'm talking about grown up in the sense of the life changes that those around me are experiencing and new chapters everyone seems to be embarking on. Engagements, graduations, new jobs, starting university. When did everyone start being so adult?

    Coincidentally, I was reading Sophie Milner's post about growing up earlier today. The difference was that she was looking at things from the opposite end. While I'm 21, she's just celebrated her 26th birthday and with that came celebration of growing up, shaking off the negative connotations of growing up and acknowledging how far she and her friends have come. I, on the other hand am still adjusting to how quickly it seems to be happening and trying desperately to cling on to those that are busy doing the growing up.

    But see, that's where my feelings on the whole thing start to get a bit confused. I couldn't be happier for my friends and family and sometimes I feel as though I could burst with pride at what they've achieved but also could they maybe slow down a little? It's all getting a bit much for the girl who is usually so desperately impatient.

    Let's take my friends as Exhibit A. SOOOOOOO many people I know got engaged this summer. Yep, ENGAGED. Some older than others but either way, where has the time gone that that they've reached that stage in life? It's so exciting and I'm over the moon for them but (to sound a lot like my granny) it feels like only yesterday that we were sat in a classroom together, giggling away and being told to keep quiet or (sounding a lot less like my granny) sneaking into clubs underage, fretting over fake ID and thinking we were the shit when we actually got past the bouncers.

    Those that weren't busy getting engaged were busy graduating, taking on their masters degrees, moving in with boyfriends or starting their first jobs - all of which once seemed so far off in a grown up future but like some twisted dream, have suddenly become a reality. It's like we all blinked and missed a few years.

    As the end of summer was suddenly upon us, my group of school friends and I all suddenly realised just how little we had seen each other because of our now busy schedules. As a group we're notorious for our inability to make plans that suit everyone but judging by this summer, that's something that's only going to get more complicated as the years go on. We've all built our own little lives now. Lives that involve living in different countries, working different hours and committing to career defining exams.

    Next up, the family. They too are guilty of all of this growing up business. On the one hand there's my younger brother - 'little' brother would be the wrong term considering he towers over me these days. He's taken on a fairly big life change, just started uni and is living on the outskirts of London - a move I haven't been ballsy enough to make yet. I don't think I had fully grasped just how grown up he's become until he came home last weekend. After meeting up for a family brunch it was definitely weird that we didn't all go back home together. Instead he headed off to the airport to fly back to his new life.

    Then there's my little sister (not quite towering over me but getting there) who will 16 next week. 16. I'm waiting for someone to turn up with cameras and tell me I'm being pranked. She'll probably always be 12 in my head, even at that I'm being generous. She's reached the age where she's discovered that my clothes and shoes fit her - an interesting experience in itself as I regularly find things missing. She's also reached the age where - and not to embarrass her too much - we engage in a lot more girl talk that previously she was too young to understand. I love that she's able to come to me about these things and it's interested watching as she discovers her own style and establishes her own beliefs and values but it's also terrifying. This time next year she will be learning to drive my car - a fact that will continue to shock me no matter how many times I say it out loud. I remember the day she was born for flip sake, how did she grow up so fast????????

    As I said at the beginning of the post, I'm not entirely sure how to feel about this all. It's all very weird. I don't feel sad but I don't exactly feel happy either. I feel proud of my friends and family and I'd go as far as to say excited at times. But mostly I'm just in awe of how time truly does fly. I'm only 21 so by no means old but as I sit back and watch all of the changes going on around me, I finally understand why people keep telling me to slow down, I'm only 21.

    This is only just the beginning, kids. We're growing up whether we like it or not. Let's make the most of it.

    Photos by Kellie Scott

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    Niamh ♥

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