The Last Supper

April 21st, 2014

Food, glorious food.

A meal at what was recently voted the best restaurant in Britain, with two Michelin stars, and a supremo described as the chef to look out for this year, is definitely a good basis for a blog.

And what a meal it was.

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We had been looking forward to l’enclume in anticipation for months and finally went on Thursday. Cartmel is a picturesque Lakes village and we still managed to get lost but arrived in time and were made to feel very welcome straight away.

We have been lucky enough to eat at the restaurants of St. John, l’Ortolan, Anthony Bourdain, Aiden Byrne and the Little Chef and what strikes you at all these places is the service. The waiting staff are probably as skilled as the guys in the kitchen and having done the job myself once upon a time, appreciate the efforts they go to and at l’enclume this was particularly apparent.

We were sat next to the titular anvil and the aperitifs of sparkling English wine and gin and tonic were being enjoyed when we were offered the menus. I had a rough idea of the price and a pre-parenthood me would have gone for the 21 course tasting menu but pragmaticism prevailed and the six course lunch was picked, the maitre’d duly reached into his pocket and picked out a sealed envelope with the dishes inside which was a lovely little touch. We opted for the matching wines too, something that makes me dream of being a sommelier- whenever we have taken this option, the perfect compliment of the drink to the food makes me marvel at the inteliigence and presumably symbiotic relationship between a chef and his wine man (or woman.)

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The restaurant filled with a variety of characters and what struck me was the relaxed nature of the dining room despite its class and reputation. I also saw several people taking photos of their food, not surprising given the intricate beauty of the dishes, but something I vowed this time not to do, so as to savour the experience and rely on taste and memory and make some art from the occasion.

Here then, is the first course: described simply as ‘Cod yolk with pea shoots, salt and vinegar’ which was a saffroned sphere of fish mousse on a delightful bed of salt and vinegar ash-like thing. It was perfectly accompanied by a Manzanilla sherry, the ’32 Equipo Navas’.

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Next up, a beautifully clear ‘Beetroot broth, Westcombe dumpling and shoots’ and he real jewel of this course were the cheese dumplings. Strangely, the wine for this and the next course was a smoky red ‘El Pais’ from Chile, which actually seemed to change taste depending on the food. This alchemy, recommended by our excellent sommelier, who we presumed was of Mediterranean heritage based on his accent but wasn’t.

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At this point we were given one of the standout parts of the meal – bread and butter. The rolls were hot from the oven and the butters just fantastic, one was pork fat with Granny Smith apple bits. This attention to minor details is, I know, what sets the Michelin starred gaffes from the rest but still, how impressive…

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Then came one of Simon Rogan’s signature dishes, ‘Valley venison with charcoal oil, mustard and fennel’ which was a tartare (one of my favourite things in the world) set on an onion jam:

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The main course, so to speak, was Lindale Mutton, my first taste of the meat I think, with a salt baked turnip (delightful) and a parsely jus plus nasturtium leaves which I am growing, absolutely amazing this was. It was paired with a fruity Italian from Sicily, Santa Cecilia.

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At this point we were offered cheeses for afterwards, and I was tempted having seen the cheese board on a portable sideboard upon which there were about twenty hunks of cheese to choose from. The desserts included an incredible ‘Yorkshire rhubarb, apple, sorrel and brown butter’ ice cream paired with a Hungarian dessert wine. I caved in at this point and took a photo of this dish, to the disgust of a fellow diner and his son who were West Brom fans and kept complaining about the choice of wines. I suppose his behaviour heightened my respect for the front of house staff who presumably have to cope with their ilk daily.

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Finally we enjoyed ‘Yoghurt, pear, walnuts and sweet cicely’ which was basically yoghurt ice cream, a perfect end to the meal especially given the drink to accompany it, a sparkling English Demi Sec from Sussex.

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I opted against the cheese, but plumped for a brandy and Mrs G a coffee which came with a Kendal Mint Cake petits fours which were pretty special too.

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Overall, I couldn’t fault the service food atmosphere or experience of l’enclume and would encourage anyone to go for it, yes there is a cost involved but it’s worth every penny and the empire Simon Rogan is building will become a bastion of British food for years to come, in the present author’s humble opinion.

It was funny that this was such an extravagant meal the day before Good Friday, given what happened all those years ago. Easter has come to be my favourite time of year. Memories of Easters past, new clothes, playing football at the Giant Axe, going to Italy in 1994 not to mention getting married on Maundy Thursday a couple of years ago: aside from chocolate eggs, there is much to enjoy at this time of year.

Easter 2014 offered a different proposition, Betsy’s first, including her first taste of chocolate:

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Also we were getting confirmed, and this was a similarly joyous occasion. Some people scoff at religion and others are intrigued, especially as we are getting back into something we spent a few years away from, but as I said in my testament in church, life got in the way but my faith never left me and in recent years I have been questioning beliefs and felt blessed so the time seems right.

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As if by magic, this weekend also offered the chance to finally watch Made of Stone by Shane Meadows, a documentary about the Stone Roses and their own reunion and I’ll leave the last word to them. They sang about the resurrection and their second album was entitled the Second Coming so they kind of fit.

All this talk of Moyes is irrelevant: in terms of our meal at l’enclume, that was the one.

The Cotton Club

April 6th, 2014

We married on a Thursday.

Two years on, we celebrated the cotton anniversary and it allowed a natural opportunity to reflect on the day itself plus how our marriage is going so far.

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Our wedding day itself was a Thursday, Maundy in fact, and the sun shone on the righteous as the chauffeur told me on the way to Rufford. I had not slept well – perhaps still recovering from the stag the weekend earlier, when I met Johan Cruyff and saw Iniesta and Messi score, the holy trinity… But certainly due to nerves that our months of intricate planning would go ok.

I woke early and went for a ‘proper’ shave, a great experience that I would like to have again when not so edgy. Walking back, I remember buying a paper and just being in a complete daze. A bottle of estrella with my best man and ushers sorted me out and when Elvis’s 1975 Fleetwood Cadillac turned up, I was good to go.

Despite being described as ‘puce’ before the ceremony, everything went as planned and it was as if in a dream dreamt by another. We were overjoyed to become betrothed and made our way to the Vincent Hotel.

Fast forward two years and we returned there yesterday. It’s in Southport, a lovely town that a Pop Artist would have loved given the Victorian elegance, kitsch glamour, multi millionaires and chav pov chic, high and low culture that are evident on every street, and to be honest, embodies its charm. England’s Classic Resort is either the most beautiful or most depressing place, depending on what time it is, and perhaps the only location where you might find an ashtray like this:

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Anyway, we love it, especially the hotel that the reception was held at. The venue and staff on the day were just perfect and yesterday the same, all of us including Betsy was made to feel special and they arranged some synchronicitous celebrity appearances for us too.

Suggs was playing at the Atkinson next door later that day, and skulked outside smoking a cigarette. We had of course seen him in concert at Aintree a few years back, the venue of that day’s Grand NAtional. Then, in walked Aiden McGeady, recent Everton signing who I wasn’t too sure about but is growing on me, especially after he walked past our table and I shook his hand. It had been his birthday the previous day, but the real coincidence was that our page boy on the big day and both our god sons, share his first name.

We were treated to some prosecco and talked about the day we had enjoyed in 2012: Anniversaries are something I have been thinking about a lot recently, that opportunity to reminisce and reflect, the commemoration of an important milestone good or bad. Obviously they are largely only important to the people directly involved, though their very recognition can then evoke sentiments amongst strangers, who develop an interest in the date and from then on will celebrate it in one form or another because they can’t ignore or forget what happened that day.

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Similarly, if a day becomes important, naturally one looks for significance throughout history, and again, coincidence became apparent for April 5th. Naturally for us we think about the year before the wedding, we were in Barcelona as a gift of Jay and contemplating what would be; last year, we were in Nice enjoying steak tartare and planning for the birth of our unborn.

But, going further back, on that day, Pocahontas married John Rolfe; Oscar wilde was arrested (I kissed his grave stone a few years back at Pere Lachaise cemetary in Paris)… Bomber Harris, whom I have been teaching about this year plus Howard Hughes, Tom Finney (a childhood hero who died recently) and Allen Ginsberg (quoter of the following:

“The weight of the world is love.
Under the burden of solitude,
under the burden of dissatisfaction
the weight,the weight we carry is love….”

““Everything is holy! everybody’s holy! everywhere is holy! everyday is in eternity! Everyman’s an angel!”

and

“I know too much and not enough”

All very apt. And also, on this day twenty years ago, Kurt Cobain ended his life and although he never really influenced me, he did my generation.

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Talking of influential musical genii, the new album from Mr Moz is on its way and I am slowly growing in excitement for it. Dermot O’Leary, when talking about his own marriage and honeymoon, might not be: “We walked into a hotel in Rome and we dumped our bags and we came downstairs to the courtyard and had the strangest situation – David Moyes, the Everton manager, was sat over there and Morrissey was sat over there.” He approached Morrissey, whom he had previously interviewed for his BBC Radio show: “I went over and I said, ‘It’s lovely to see you’, and he said these words: ‘Really? I’m sure you’d say the same thing to Barry Manilow or Gary Barlow’.

“I said, ‘No it is. Morrissey, I’m here on my honeymoon’, and he said, ‘It won’t last, these things never do’.”

Now Steven Patrick has been pretty outspoken about religion and Jesus in particular, now unfortunately for him we will be confirmed this holiday and perhaps will eat loads of meat, showing that when once I would have gone along with anything he said, marriage has changed things a little, and now I am confident enough to go against what he suggests.

especially when Andrew Warhola shares his own inimitable opinion:

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So thanks Lisa for an unforgettable two years and for Bets for enhancing the whole thing.

Next time: I am the resurrection.

Alpha Papa

March 9th, 2014

I spent some of this week showing the film Junior as part of the Year 10 Medical Ethics project.

If you haven’t watched it, it’s a must-see. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the world’s first pregnant man, twenty years before the strange case of Thomas Beattie lest we forget, and although it’s not the best film in the world it raises a lot of questions for my students about the morals of what Arnie & Danny Devito’s characters do and even more pertinently, what would happen if men got pregnant.

It got me thinking too, firstly of the past, because fourteen years ago, I was producing screen prints based on the famous Saatchi poster:

But also of the present: as this weekend, like Alex in Junior, I was both Mama and Papa.

Mrs G enjoying a well deserved weekend away with the girls, I was in sole position of Bets and we enjoyed ourselves. I decided to keep a diary of the twenty odd hours to document for the wife to see what went on and for B to read in the future.

SATURDAY

648 We get up and have a play, I watch some football highlights from the week and then Sooty.

c.900 We have a go in the Tigger bouncer, then get hooked on the film The Life of Pi which is pretty breathtaking Saturday morning viewing. Browsing the internet we are overjoyed that Morrissey has announced a new album to be released in the summer, presumably he has been inspired by my dressing up as him for World Book Day in school this week?

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How lucky I felt, arriving at school as my hero, daffodils in pocket. I spent the day explaining who he was, granted, but this meant showing vintage TOTP performances at least, and despite the rule of foctional characters only, I argued that this act was in his contrary nature, plus he wrote as if an alter ego.

938 Messy nappy

1020 I read an email off a friend to whose e-zine I contribute. His sage advice was perhaps the highlight of the weekend. It certainly helped me through the difficult moments.

1023 Whilst reading said e-zine, Betsy is sick.

1024 She then wees on her mat.

1043 Betsy scratches my gum.

1113 After seeing Mrs G off at the station, we see Jamie Carragher drive past and get a bad feeling about the day’s football.

1245 FA Cup quarter final kicks off, B is in high spirits, I am nervous. She is startled when Lukaku equalises but happy.

1334 Falls asleep, which is a good job as whilst she is down I am hanging the washing out and see an old man, stereotypical hobo with white beard long coat and carrier bag, has a wee in the park we look out on too.

c.1400 Bets wakes up crying just after Arteta scores, almost as if she knew…

1508 Everton are out of the FA Cup, embarrassed again at the quarter final stage. It being Crufts weekend, this image sums it up nicely.

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Disappointed but not surprised by the result, we get the train to the place that always makes me feel better, Waitrose in Formby. I spent a silly amount on my favourite Pastis, and 20p on a second hand glass in a charity shop that Mrs G hasn’t noticed yet, buy Bets a new giraffe, we see a purple car.

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1834 Wee on the mat again whilst dad reads recipes for baby food by Alain Ducasse. We are so close to crawling, though.

Saturday evening: More frustrating football as Barca lose. Not a great bath time but she settles nicely and I am able to finally get around to watching the Alan Partridge movie, he was a huge hero of mine (despite being a fictional character) and thoroughly enjoy it, as I do the Bayern Munich game.

SUNDAY

702 Dad wakes up

718 Hears crying from the bedroom

720 Sooty again! A vintage episode all about cleaning.

808 An enjoyable breakfast of half a Farley’s rusk, my own childhood favourite, whilst watching the recent Culture Show documentary on Matisse and his cut outs. I love that idea of him sat in bed with a pair of small scissors cutting out portraits of the doctor Picasso had sent for him.

1010 we go out to enjoy the sunshine, a long walk along the front, avoiding dangerous dogs at the coffee bar and contemplating what I will submit about #Northernness to Hannah festival.

the first is a project I did three years ago about St Swithins Day, it’s on my blog at http://www.jonathangreenbank.com/archives/date/2011/07 and involved me collecting the rain that fell outside my flat during the forty days and nights afterwards in forty plastic test tubes plus a load of photos of ice cream vans. So that might depend on space.

A work in progress is researching the story of John wilkinson from Morecambe who was given an ASBO and threatened with prison for feeding pigeons. I was following his story http://www.thevisitor.co.uk/news/asbo-for-pigeon-man-1-5236412 through my parents sending me the local paper and I think it sums up nicely Northernness because of his generosity and pigeon fancying, this would be a letter maybe some drawings etc and the news clippings.

The other suggestion is some small portraits of the cocklers who died in Morecambe Bay, it’s near where I am from originally and obviously this year is their ten year anniversary.

By strange and a bit dark coincidence, I go home for a lunch of Morecambe Bay Potted Shrimps.

1308 Mrs G arrives back home. Daddy’s little girl survived her ordeal: I am proud of myself and went back to not being a seahorse.

I really did have the time of my life and can’t complain, I loved every minute. I know other people might not get the opportunity or others have no choice so I really do treasure every moment. Having the time to plan work as well was an added bonus, we shall see how that develops.

Now I know what you are all thinking: what did the e-mail say that guided you through the weekend? I met the guy who wrote it, through Everton, and I suppose it could refer to my support, though it’s never easy.

But what he said about looking after Junior for the weekend really makes sense, and came true.

It’s a doddle. All you need to do is love them, everything else follows.

7 UP

February 23rd, 2014

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Betsy was six months this week, and the Smiths’ first album thirty years, so as we enter the seventh month, here are seven things that have been playing on my mind recently, accompanied by S & M greatest hits…

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Forgive a slightly different way of writing: we finally entered the twenty first century and bought an i-Pad. Nigel Slater claims to have written his last two books on said tablet device, so we will see how this goes…

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2.
We bought the i-Pad in Reading, a great city where my sister lives and I have always had a soft spot for the Biscuit boys since a childhood friend supported them. Whilst there, we celebrated Betsy’s actual six month birthday with a great meal at Jamie’s Italian.

Funnily enough it was seven years ago this week that I met him at a Healthy Schools reception Charles and Camilla held (she offered to send us some carrots) and after four glasses of red wine in an hour, plus a lovely lamb & orzo stew, I approached him with a rewards ribbon Lisa had made.

It was just after the school dinners revolution that he had instigated.

“The kids think you’re a nobhead but I think you deserve this” I told him.

He laughed, thankfully, and wore the ribbon with apparent pride.

I never really liked Jamie Oliver but now I really admire him, for a variety of reasons.

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3. HALF A PERSON

Talking of wine, this past month my old bete noire or getting ID’d has returned with it happening twice at Sainsbury’s I boycotted last year. The first time was with Lisa, she had her driving licence with her luckily, although this begs the questions why didn’t they insist I had proof of age too given that I was paying? The woman behind in the queue didn’t help when she said ‘oh you easily look over sixteen’ and the following week (having been served twice in between with no problems) it happened again.

Quite how many under eighteens or 25s buy a ten pound bottle of Duboeuf Brouilly Beaujolais I am not sure, this time was a classic though: I had bought some beers earlier in the day and not been questioned, so the assistant felt quite proud at having challenged me. I asked how old she thought I was; twenty four the reply.

I kind of want to do this:

4. I WILL SEE YOU (IN FAR OFF PLACES)

What was interesting was that this week I took to wearing glasses, after buying a pair of cosmetic specs on a whim whilst away. I reminisced to four years ago before the lasering and got used to the fake tortoiseshell frames partially blocking my view of the world, I suppose part of me thought they might make me look older (and strangely like Gareth Malone) rather than younger and more prone to being challenged at the checkout.

Bizarrely this week also, an artist from WASHINGTON UTAH has got in touch about using my eyes story in a project she is working on, crazy stuff.

5. I LIKE YOU

I went to Magic world at the world Museum Liverpool last week too.

Being half term it was extremely busy but well worth the trip, featuring as it did the notion of make believe and not just conjuring performers but also fairies and fairy tales. There’s a toy bear and his wand, which reminded me that the past few weekends, when me and Bets have sat watching Sooty at 7am, me marvelling at the nostalgia three puppets can inspire her not having a clue what was going on.

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The other show I had been keen to see I mentioned last time. ‘We two boys’ by Hockney, which features in the gallery, remains for me one of the best paintings I have ever seen, not just for its visual content but also the colours within, the subtext and the intirinsic coded messages I probably won’t ever understand.

We Two Boys Together Clinging, 1961, Oil on board

And, all this in the week it was announced 3.18 would be supporting Morrissey in America!

6. I LEFT THE NORTH, I TRAVELLED SOUTH

I was approached recently about contributing to a festival of Northernness during the summer. It is entitled Hannah and links back to the work I did for Northern Spirit / Wondrous Place, in which I championed elements of being from the north / not travelling south.

I have an idea of what I want my work to be based on, it involves a pigeon, but wondered if I might ask a little favour:

Can you let me know what you think is particularly northern and therefore worthy of entry? Use hashtag Northernness on Twitter or send me a message, please.

7. DON’T MAKE FUN OF DADDY’S VOICE

Parenthood has taken agrip of me for over a year now, indeed it was February half term 2013 that we had our first scan and everything became all the more real.

This week then saw the anniversary of that as well as half a year since betsy’s arrival, how time flies.

Alabaster crashes down. Six months is a long time! Try living in the real world, instead of a shell…

Well it hasn’t all been fun at the time but it has been the most incredible experience and every moment memorable. It feels like a new chapter, half a year, as clothes change and signs of development are ever more apparent.

She is definitely saying DADADADADA when she sees me and she is grabbing and biting everything she can. Church today was a nightmare, as she found her voice in the cavernous spaces of St. Nic’s. She is laughing and smiling as if there were no tomorrow and whilst those naughty pegs are causing her problems, generally she is happy as can be and that makes us all the more proud of what we have created.

She is now old enough to sit in a highchair: here she is.

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These moments have grown more significant since Lisa has to go back to school. She has done such a wonderful job looking after B and we are very lucky with the situation we are in, but know there are testing times ahead.

As we discussed with the vicar yesterday (S. P. was correct by the way) we are determined to give her the best possible grounding meaning we are going to be confirmed on Easter Sunday to prepare for our bringing her into the church, I know some people will scoff but it means a lot to have her grow up with faith and spirituality. We had a time when other things were going on but now are back with renewed belief and thanks.

I think we feel so blessed after praying for such luck and being rewarded that we want to pay it back, so to speak, and thank God for these first few months and for the future hundreds.

In the mean time, it is back to school, Morrissey’s favourite topic of conversation along with religion.

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I’ll leave the final words to Sooty’s various father figures.

Bye bye, everyone.

Bye Bye.

Kwinkydink

January 26th, 2014

This has been a weekend of strange coincidences.

It started yesterday morning, when getting in the shower, and a DJ on Magic Liverpool told a stupid joke about what is the difference between the Rolling Stones and a Scottish sheep farmer?

One says, “Hey, you, get off a my cloud”

The other says “Hey McCloud, get off a my ewe”.

Unimpressed, I turned over to Radio Merseyside and their DJ was introducing the next song.

It was:

Next thing, and I knew this was coming, was my best man and best mate for 23 years now in the Guardian. Planned and arranged the blind date was, the fact it was printed on his birthday brought an extra little twist.

Elsewhere in the newspaper there was also an in depth article on David Hockney with a focus on my favourite painting. I knew the background to We Two Boys Together Clinging but this writer went into detail about the influence of Walt Whitman plus the use of text within Hockney’s work, when in the week I had been recommended to visit his ongoing exhibition here that I had not yet had chance to see.

This morning we went to church again, a place we have been made to feel more than welcome, part of the family in fact, and given that St Nicholas is the patron saint of children, this is perhaps not a surprise. However, it is also partly because the first sermon we heard there was all about John the Baptist (a name a friend calls me) and the baptism of babies, all quite apt. Even last week when we transferred temporarily to a local church, one of the congregation giving communion was a well known author who has written the screenplays of Millions, a film I use as a resource in the classroom: Twenty Four Hour Party People, a seminal film from my early twenties, and of course the Olympics opening ceremony, which I taught about this week and today in church we sang Jerusalem – which until today, I didn’t know was actually entitled ‘and did those feet in ancient time’ after a poem by William Blake.

On the way home, today’s Observer is collected and it features a spread on Shelagh Delaney, such an influence on Morrissey and in turn my own topics of discussion.

The crescendo of all this is that today is exactly a year since we told our parents and in laws that we were expecting. A beautiful moment that we will never forget, followed by a meal at the aptly named Stork (would you expect anything less?) and today she wakes up with her first tooth! a sharp little growth that has caused her irritation, but not when we spend a wonderful afternoon at Isaac’s second birthday party and she visits a ball pool and soft play for the first time, a sign that she is growing up fast. A friend on facebook tonight said she was the image of my beautiful wife and I have to agree that I am lucky about that, on two counts.

Five months and a bit on, the eyes don’t stop welling up at important moments: the smiles, the laughs, the grabs, the sleepless nights or indeed sleepy ones. The fact that it is now exactly twelve months since dreams became a reality, suggest it won’t end any time soon, and that’s more than ok.

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