Posts Tagged ‘hedge’

I’ve always longed for a garden trug but new ones are really expensive and it’s something you can easily do without. After all, a cardboard box or a plastic basket of some kind work just as well for holding picked flowers until you bring them indoors. Also, until I came to Spring Cottage I didn’t really have any flowers to pick so a trug had to wait. P1010966 Now, however, Spring brings loads of daffodils and other narcissi, and I also plant all kinds of seeds in my cut flower beds specifically to grow things to bring inside. So I’m enjoying a clapped out old trug that I bought last summer at a car boot sale for three quid. It’s a bit brittle and won’t last for ever but I’ve waterproofed it a little by painting it with Danish oil and it now looks as thought it’s a family heirloom, which I much prefer to things being brand new. It kind of goes better with the ancient nature of the cottage, looks suitably rustic hanging in the woodshed, and I can spend the money saved on seeds instead.

The main flowerbeds here are in the front garden, which is at the side of the cottage, if that makes sense. Being at the side, at the gable end of the house, there is no window overlooking it. So I have to bring flowers in if I want to see them more than in passing on the way to the car. in hedge Many of the daffodils have also been planted under the various hedges. Well, they would have originally been under the hedges but now they are in the hedges, the hedges having grown widthways as well as in height over the years. So the daffs need rescuing before they are forced to bend over by the branches sprouting above them. daffodils on windowsill

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N2 When Nora arrived she was small enough to slip under the gate to the back garden from the little contained area immediately around the house. Fortunately, that didn’t last long and for a few months it was safe to let her out of the back door knowing that she wouldn’t be able to run off and get lost.

Then she became a teenage dog and discovered exploring. Through the hedge she would go, unerringly finding the one section where there was a break in the ancient wire netting embedded in it. Terrifyingly, she would run out into the lane and then stand stock still in the middle of the road ignoring all calls for her to return. Heart stopping, knowing that people bomb down here fairly fast, although it’s often quiet for hours, lulling you into a false sense of security. more fence Then she got even naughtier and started to jump over the ridiculously low back fence and go off foraging for things in the field behind the cottage. The fence was deliberately low, having been put up by my predecessor who favoured the view. Oddly, at that time the field was used for cattle grazing, which was brave or foolhardy of her, depending on your point of view, as she might have had a ton of cow land on her while she was sitting out in the sun. fence Worse than the possibility that Nora would leave an occasional poo among the growing crop was my fear that she would be seen. In the hills, you can see an animal from a long way off when it is the only moving object in a field, so I worried that the farmer would be annoyed that I’d let the dog loose on his land.

So, off I went to buy some wire fencing to temporarily (I hope) constrain her adventurousness until she is old enough to listen when she is told to wait and come down. It’s ugly, much harder to put up than I thought and knackered my hands completely, but it does the job and I hope to be able to take it down in about eighteen months or so.

I do feel rather sad at spoiling her fun as there are a lot of pheasants around at the moment and she’s very curious about them. Nora 1

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Usually, I’m pretty annoyed at hearing machinery on a beautiful morning. However, today the noise I’m listening to is a chap cutting my hedge.

I can’t quite express how happy this makes me after almost five years of cutting the rather long hedge myself, which has been exhausting and quite painful sometimes, as I have carpal tunnel syndrome and, frequently, tennis elbow – the latter most likely as a result of trimming the hedge. Afterwards, I always have a few days of numbness in my hands and pain in my forearms. I try to keep my strength up in the gym but wielding even a light trimmer at arm’s length for several hours takes its toll.

So after all this time the hedge was much taller than I wanted, as I couldn’t really give it the ferocious cuts it needed. And it became harder with each passing year as another couple of inches was added to its height, so Jay is taking a good eight inches off the top of the hedge today.

man cutting hedge

But it’s only waist height, you might be thinking. Indeed, on the garden side, it’s only that high but on the road side it’s probably about eight feet high, so no fear of anyone peering over the top. And that’s part of what’s made it so hard for me to cut, for, in places, it’s not reachable from the garden because of its width. Teetering on a ladder in the path of the traffic has been part of the fun of living here.

Man cutting garden hedge

Of course, Jay has the right equipment: a petrol-fuelled hedge trimmer far heavier than I could wield comfortably for any length of time. I’m rather envious of it though.

fuel for hedge trimmer

An added thrill is the fact that Jay’s parents used to live at Spring Cottage in the 1960s and 70s. They sold it to the woman from whom I bought five years ago. So he was interested to see inside and he was able to fill me in about which improvements his parents had made to the place (the addition of bathroom and kitchen extension, and the demolition of several layers of wall and fireplace to reveal the original inglenook).

hedge cutting

I wonder if it feels odd to Jay to be cutting hedge that was most likely growing here when his parents lived here almost 35 years ago. I’m hoping I can perhaps get to see some photos of the cottage in the old days when he next comes. I find this kind of thing endlessly fascinating.

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The other week I walked across from Manor Farm to the cottage and caught sight of this:

I had never seen anything quite a vibrant and somehow un-English with it’s bougainvillea-like colouring. As I didn’t know what this was, I took a few pictures, carried on my way, intending to find out more, and then… forgot all about it.

However, yesterday my last post was read by Bridget from Arignagardener, so I visited her blog and saw that she had written a post about what was blooming in her garden recently. She had posted some pictures of her spindle tree (Euonymus europaeae), which I’ve never heard of before or seen (despite the fact that I planted some other kind of euonymus in my garden about 20 years ago). Clearly, it’s the same thing. Apparently it’s a common hedging plant. I must have been going around with my eyes shut, or perhaps just never walking at quite the right time of year to see this brilliant display of colour in the hedgerow.

The hedgerow concerned was planted only fairly recently (within the last 10 years or so) by my neighbours as part of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. Sadly the scheme now seems to be rather falling to pieces, with the council having next to no money to spend on luxuries like making the local area more accessible to walkers. The scheme made the upkeep of the countryside in traditional ways affordable for farmers, who would otherwise have chosen cheaper methods. Isn’t this prettier than holey hedges, their gaps filled with barbed wire and old rusty junk?

Sadly my neighbours decided to close the scheme’s walks across their land recently because they couldn’t be sure of the insurance arrangements as the funding wasn’t likely to be forthcoming in the future. Lovely John said: “Of course, that doesn’t apply to you…” but it’s no good for others, who don’t know them personally, is it?  Thanks, bankers.

But on this case, it’s real thanks to Bridget for providing the clue to my mystery plant. Isn’t blogging great?

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I have just made some sloe gin with the sloes I picked on Saturday.

Sloes are the tiny plum-like fruits of the blackthorn, which is a common hedging plant in the UK.20110917-063440.jpg

A basic recipe is 450g of sloes, 225g of caster sugar and one litre of gin. Followed by about three to four months of patience while the gin absorbs the flavour in a dark place. Shake your bottles every now and again; more often at the beginning, to help it all along. Then enjoy. Should be perfect around Christmas-time.

The best thing was that it took about 15 minutes to make, as I discovered from Twitter that, if you freeze the sloes beforehand, you don’t need to spend an hour pricking the sloes all over to help them release of their flavour and colour.


Even in the three or four hours since I made it, it has started to take on some colour.

However, I’m going to stop photographing it now, as it’s not photogenic and I’m starting to feel like one of those people who keeps bottles of their own wee.

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I’m exhausted after a weekend of cutting the hedge and general garden clearing up, in fairly high winds and intermittent rain. I imagined I would do some lovely gardening this weekend – a bit of deadheading and weeding – ornamental kind of stuff. But I thought wouldn’t take too long to trim the hedge. It didn’t but, of course, I’d forgotten how I’d end up distracted by clearing scraping lichen off the bench and sweeping up all the remains of the hedge. My hands hurt, my back’s stiff and I’m fed up. This isn’t how it’s meant to be.

This summer has seen few visitors to the cottage. Most of my friends have already been here once, so the novelty’s gone and I find that I have few takers, when I offer an invitation. Then again, I’m not very good at remembering to invite people with enough notice. Most can’t drop what they’re doing at two days’ notice, just to nip off with me.

So, Spring Cottage is making me feel a bit fed up. I hope it will pass but I feel pretty negative about it at the moment. I’m wondering if it was all a big mistake. Just yet another thing to be responsible for and have to worry about. Has the novelty gone for me too? Have I travelled too much this year for a little place in England to seem interesting? Do I just need to settle in to my normal rhythms and calm down? I should remember that it’s easy for me to feel negative when I’m tired.

On the good side, I went to the Co-Op to get some supplies and was surprised to be greeted by name by a woman, who was obviously on her way to a glamorous night out. I must have looked completely blank as she immediately volunteered, “Riding…”, at which point I recognised her face (but still can’t recall her name). I don’t think I’d ever seen her without a riding hat on. Lovely to bump into someone relatively locally – I never do, unless I’m actually in the garden and someone I know goes past the house. I know so few people here that I’m usually pretty certain that I will be icognito wherever I am.

P.S. It’s interesting how choice of pictures can influence the tone of something. The weekend was really more like the first picture, but the second one makes it actually look quite picturesque. Even the faded plastic parts of the wheelbarrow look like they’re a lovely pink.

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hedge cutting

Spent the whole day in the garden on Sunday, desperately trying to beat the rain before it fell. I was lucky; the wind kept the clouds going over so quickly, that that it didn’t get a chance to stop overhead. So I finally managed to finish the hedge I started weeks ago.

While I was doing a bit of trimming on the road side, I was interrupted every five minutes by people towing 4x4s as it was one of those days where they have an off-roading event down the road. Up the ladder, down the ladder; up the ladder, down the ladder. The road is far lower than the garden, so what looks like four feet of hedge on my side is actually more like eight or nine feet on the other.

Then I did a lot of dead-heading, which is the kind of gardening I really enjoy – I think I just have a thing about tidying up – a kind of horticultural OCD.

pale pink rose

The garden’s looking lovely and I’m now really appreciating the colour schemes that Lady-Vendor put together. Pale pinks and creamy whites, purple climbing roses entwined with elderflower nigra, a wonderful dark clematis that lives alongside the dark branches of the vine and near the elderflower.

Sometimes, it feels like I have a pair of new eyes – I so enjoy looking at everything.

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Arriving late in silvery light, the wind is blowing fiercely. It’s just slightly too dark to see the garden well enough but I spot a few mildewy, overblown roses and wonder why Lady-Gardener (just realised what a stupid name I’ve given her) hasn’t dead-headed them. Then I understand that I can have that real pleasure tomorrow.

The flowers I lazily left last time are mysteriously still almost intact, as though shutting the front door on them had slowed the passage of time here.

night-time indoors
I still have the hedge cutting to finish, if the wind will let me. But for now, I sit in the stillness, listening to the trees outside rustling in their displacing gusts of wind, and think how lucky I am. Above all, I also left some cans of beer in the fridge.


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Those who follow me on Twitter may have got the gist of the fact that I have been hedge cutting this weekend. This is a job I should have long since found someone else to do, but for reasons to do with the length of time it takes to cut it, and needing to coordinate with whoever would do it, after two years, I am still doing it myself. This year, it’s been worse than usual because I hadn’t cut it for several months, when usually I try to keep on top of it a bit more than that, and I had about a foot of new growth to trim lane bounded by tall hedgerows

Here is a picture of the lane with the cottage on the left. Where the big pointy tree on the left is, is the end of the hedge. Where I am taking the photograph from is where it starts. It has two sides and a top, which takes about three days to cut completely, if I pace myself, although I have done it in two. I have a rather posh battery powered hedge trimmer, which runs out of power quite quickly but isn’t very heavy, and a pair of telescopic shears. I went for these quite lightweight options because I have carpal tunnel syndrome and am recovering from tennis elbow, and didn’t want to aggravate either with a heavy electric trimmer. So I end up doing it for days instead. Hmm.

a ladder, a hedge, a country lane

In case there’s any foreshortening in the first picture and it’s not completely clear how long this hedge is, here is a picture of the upper part. The neat bit by the ladder is the bit that I had done the top and road-side of when I took the picture. On either side of the ladder, I had only done the road side, so you can see how much there was to do. Am I labouring this point a little?

Anyhow, suffice to say that I’ve been doing it for two days now, and I’ve still about a third of it to do… I’m saving this post until tomorrow when I’ve finished so that I can add a picture of the completed thing. Assuming that it gets finished, of course.

Postscript: well, the heavens finally opened on Bank Holiday Monday, so not only could I not finish cutting the hedge but I also didn’t feel up to riding in the persistent, but extremely welcome, drizzle, which had been the plan. I think the rain was actually a blessing in disguise because I really wasn’t feeling great at all. I think, had it been fine, I would probably have started in on the hedge, gone riding, and then been totally the worse for wear and incapable. This way, I just feel fed up that I didn’t finish the job and that I baled out of the ride (and barbecue at the farm) which I’d been looking forward to, but at least my hands still vaguely work, although my forearms are sore despite extensive stretching. Really, who needs a gym?

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I got into a terrible mood today. Low in blood sugar probably and exhausted with all I was trying to achieve as I’m not going to be able to be here for a while and I only got down here yesterday morning, courtesy of a 24-hour gastro bug, the final straw was when the strimmer suddenly starting smoking and ground to a halt halfway through my work on the roadside banks.

I waited for it to cool, trying to weigh up the options: test fuse; rush into Bridgwater and buy a new strimmer as the productive part of the day waned; leave banks looking foolish; have a cup of tea and a hot bath. I went for the latter option but only just. Nearly pipped at the post by a very strong desire not to leave my banks looking foolish.

primroses in long grass with dewdropsThis probably sounds silly, but it’s really obvious where I’ve strimmed and where I haven’t. The grass has been left deliberately very long to protect the primroses in the last few weeks, consequently we’re also overwhelmed with dandelions. Why does this matter? Do the locals go past shaking their heads, saying: “That woman; hasn’t a clue how to strim a bank,” or “Place has gone roight down’ill in the laast couple of years, will you look at all those daandeloyons!”? I suspect not. Anyway, in case anyone should think the latter, I went round and pulled the heads off all the remaining ones before I had my meltdown bath. And, of course, also to stop them proliferating. (While I did so, I was also happy to note that some of my euphobias have headed out of the garden into the road – a kind of proliferation of which I approve.) I do love this place but sometimes I wish there wasn’t quite so much gardening.

So, to try to stay positive as I sit here on a beautiful day bathed in sunshine feeling a bit defeated. I have achieved the following Good Things this weekend:

  • I planted a little privet bush to fill in where some of the hedge died in the autumn. I’m going to cut back the old bush as the new one grows and hope not to have too much of a hole in the process. I’m not too sure if this will work.
  • I painted the hinges and bolts on the garage with Hammerite – very satisfying and looks very smart now.
  • nest in bush with birds' eggs in I found a robin’s nest at the end of the garden low in the branches of the holly bush where the compost goes. Couldn’t really photograph it well because of the lack of light and I didn’t want to frighten the sitter bird too much by staying there too long.
  • I did lots of weeding – two wheelbarrows full, fact, although you’d hardly notice it.
  • I had a riding lesson: I am less crap than I was but not by much. I can now go into a canter voluntarily sometimes without Sally having to use her whip. I’m going to need so much practice at this.
  • I did all the paperwork that I brought with me. Slightly scary now that the four day week started in February is beginning to make itself felt in the bank balance.

So all in all, it’s only in my stupid head that I have anything to feel fed up about. So I’m going to stop. Now.

Oh, and Postscript: I got a good bee picture:

bumble bee and flower

or two.

bumble bee face on in flower

I should also like to add that the German word ‘zwitschern’ sounds so much more like the noise I’m hearing the birds making outside, than ‘tweeting’.

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Last summer I thought I had a cobnut hedge at the back of the garden between the field and the lawned garden. There it is on the left.

back garden

Before that I thought it was beech (having not paid any attention to its lack of wintry leaf), now I’m not so sure that it’s not hazel, which is, of course, very similar to cobnut. At any rate, it looked like this on Saturday, which was very pretty. And that’s all I’m prepared to say about it!

hedge detail

Actually, what this post is all about is displacement activity, as the adoption of a dog has suddenly become something of a reality. After searching for many months, I’ve found a my ideal dog, a seven year-old West Highland White Terrier, in a rescue in North Yorkshire and now I’m tussling with the logistics of changing all my weekend plans, which include a friend’s birthday party, my own birthday and the Boy’s birthday, in order to drive up there to pick her up. It’s so exciting and at the same time a bit terrifying. Tomorrow, I have to decide.

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Made a quick getaway this morning before the house stirred. With the car finally being repaired after the accident on its inaugural journey in May, I did the trip in my old car borrowed back from my friend J, in a record two hours and 20 minutes, as, for once, there were no roadworks or massive caravan tailbacks anywhere en route. My excitement always mounts as I drive up the hill towards the cottage but, as ever, it is mixed with trepidation about what will greet me after a fortnight’s absence.

dying hedge

This time it is the moribund part of the hedge around the back garden, which has finally succumbed. I wish I had known what’s ailed it since Spring – it was obviously well established and old. Now I have holey hedge problems in several places and will have to find someone to come in, with a view to an almighty trim and to plant some relatively fast growing thing to replace what has been lost to nature and the vehemence of the council’s hedge manglers. The house too, is subtly changed; a little colder, a bit more damp – it has obviously been raining a lot during the last two weeks. I take time to adjust to what I find, as the changes make me anxious at first – more challenges to be faced and chores to be done – and then I remind myself of the luxury that is mine to have these things to worry about, and pull myself together.

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Beautiful here last night, which was so warm that I sat outside until 10pm when it finally got dark. Today was warm and bright. Spent the whole day cutting the hedge and strimming the banks and I’m still not finished. I worked for 6 1/2 hours, which is just too long and with my tennis elbow, not a lot of fun. Startlingly few people of interest passed by today – no-one local. I still have to finish tomorrow and mow the lawns. Although I might leave the big lawn. I rather like it being like a meadow.

There’s a blue tits’ nest in the roof just to the right of the spare room window at the front of the house. (While I watching them I realised that the front of the house must have once been painted, as some of the stone has paint on it – I’d not noticed that before.) I watched them going in and out via the gutter but the nest is totally out of sight inside somewhere in the eaves. There were also some birds that weren’t swifts because they landed on the telegraph wires, and weren’t swallows because their tails weren’t long enough. Could have been house martens but tail was too long, I think. Must have been one of those three. Perhaps they’ll be back tomorrow and I can have another look. The chaffinches are amazingly tame – you can just stand and watch them from five or six feet away and they won’t fly away.

Planning application from Great Holwell Farm for a monstrous, new cowshed – they now seem to be rearing calves as well as dairy cows.

After another four hours’ hedging today I am well and truly finished. I can hardly move let alone drive back to London. Slept for four hours in the hope of regaining some energy and then made some weird spaghetti concoction out of an aubergine and a spring onion. Hmm. This is the view from my bed. It looks like I’m missing a nice, if windy day. Sign of true exhaustion: managed to lock the house keys into the car inside the garage, which I then padlocked. The padlock key is on the house key ring.

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On days when work is just too much, it’s really nice to take a break at lunchtime and think about Spring Cottage. In future, it should be possible to work from there, as broadband is being installed this week. I hope I have the chance to spend a bit more time down there in the months to come. That should give me a bit of perspective.

But it is proving difficult to manage seeing friends in London as well and I am feeling a bit out of touch with people. The odd thing is that the pattern for the last 15 years or so has been that I was very static and people around me left London to live in other UK cities or abroad. Now I’m the one going away. It’s nice but strange to be the one with the activity in their life, when I’m so used to grinning and bearing it while sometimes feeling that I was watching life go by.

Going to the gym has become a thing of the past. Or almost so. But having said that the work on the house and garden is quite strenuous. One of my aims for next week is to get a gardener sorted out. Nothing grand, just someone to mow the lawn once a week would do the trick. Then I can get the hedges dealt with on a quarterly basis and then I can just do the nice bits: edging the flower beds, a bit of trimming here and there and weeding.

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This weekend was exhausting but somehow rather relaxing.

First leak

Left London early on Saturday morning and drove down, listening to my audio book on the way. Wonderful way to travel, or at least, if you have to drive, it’s a good way to do it. Arrived, longing for a cup of coffee and to stretch my legs, to find the wash house an inch under water. Washing machine was leaking since weekend before last. Spent the first half an hour mopping the floor. A little drip can do a lot of damage in 14 days.


Tried to put up the new slate sign I had had made. Hadn’t really thought it through, so ended up spending an hour and half in the drizzle, supporting the quite heavy sign, while people drove past me, wondering what this strange new, obviously not local, woman was doing. In the end, gave up. Now the wall has two extra holes and no sign and some messy patches of glue. I have to find some way of putting it up. I don’t know how. The wall is so lumpy, with its great stones sticking out, that I can’t see how to get the sign to stick, ever. And why the hell does it have to be fixed with glue anyway? If I’d known that, I would never have bought it. What’s wrong with screws?

It must be love, love, love

Ended up feeling so cold and tired, that I was sure that I would get ill. Remedy: drive to Bridgwater and buy the most expensive hedge trimmer in stock at B&Q. (I love B&Q – they have EVERYTHING! I could spend a week in there, just buying washers and looking at the 20 or so different varieties of watering can: pink, green, purple, black, different shade of green, galvanised, 12-litre, six-litre, swivel spout, straight spout, indoor, outdoor, etc.)

Early night, listening to more audio book. Woke up a couple of chapters further on, wondering what I’d missed but since I’ve already read the book, it doesn’t matter. First time I’ve gone to bed in the light for many months. Felt like a child. Curious feeling of the world going on around you.

Sunday, Sunday

Big gardening day. Up at 6.30 to do some quiet, manual hedge trimming an hour later, followed by strimming, mechanical hedge trimming and mowing. Seven and a half hours. Definitely need to get a gardener. I can’t be doing this every weekend, or else I’ll never get out of the house to see anything else locally (apart from B&Q.) Could hardly move by teatime, yet still had to rush to my new love object, B&Q before early Sunday closing, to get a new tap for the water butt. I’d managed to dislodge the old one in my enthusiastic ivy clearing and water was leaking out, threatening to flood the woodshed. Couldn’t quite cope with both outbuildings being flooded on the same weekend.

Some small success, one large slug

Back to Spring Cottage to wonderful sunshine and found that new tap unnecessary after all once contents drained out, as fixing bolt on inside just dislodged by largest slug in the world (4 x 1 inches – definitely an Imperial, not a metric slug, mercifully now deceased.) but washer component of wasteful new purchase was useful at least – hey ho. Replaced it, by dangling headfirst into the butt but have fixed the problem (I hope). Also fixed the leaking water inlet pipe on the washing machine, so felt quite pleased with practical side ofthings, despite the exhaustion, since they have outweighed yesterday’s total useless signhanging episode. Shame the locals didn’t see my success.


Andy’s decorating is great. He’s done lots of painting but lots more still to do. The overall effect is much lighter and the place actually felt much more like home. Well, not like home home, but like my Spring Cottage. Dispiriting though to find everything covered with dust and the place needing more work to make habitable after having just about got it quasi straight. It does feel never-ending. A couple of tiny quibbles which I’ll callhim about in the morning. Although I hate saying: “missed a bit…”.

On the road

Still haven’t been to say hello to the neighbours, although waved at lots of the cars going by while I was cutting the hedge out on the road. Perhaps one of them had the neighbours in. Spoke to a posh-sounding man, who said he’d lived in London for four years and didn’t recommend it. Lives in Spaxton somewhere.

Got back to London rather late in the day but having decideed that feeling guilty about Girl revising alone all weekend was pointless.

Earlyish to bed with some Nurofen. Realised that I hadn’t given work the slightest thought all weekend. That’s progress.

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