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You've Been Cancelled
Sort Yourself Out eBayers
The Art of Not Writing
Give Me Your Voice
Not Another Virtual Choir
Demented Reality
My Way of Losing My Mind is Quite Constructive
I'm A Cilla Black Fan On Bike
It's Stupid, Yet Still I Do It
Idea to YouTube in Two Hours

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Sunday, September 13

You've Been Cancelled

Cancel culture - what a modern classic this is proving to be. The straw man against it goes something like this. 

A temporary argument against...

The hyper sensitive online activist types, censure people for minor thought crimes, piling on to try to do damage, while ACTUAL NAZIS get into power in government.

There's a lot about the above which is not true, but there's an element of truth in it.

At its worst, stirring up an outrage for what amounts to passing expressions of opinion by individuals is not particularly constructive, especially when it involves mining their timeline for that particular tweet in which they were a dick. When that outrage is then turned into a public humiliation, or an attack on their livelihood, to which the particular tweet or similar was not directly connected, then it seems like a form of bullying. People are going to have different opinions, and pile-ons are not society at its best.

For a better perspective on this, read So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. In fact read all of his books, he's great.

But I've come to agree with it...

Earlier in this blog post... like a couple of sentences ago, I spoke up against cancel culture, and now I'll speak in favour of it. I hope I won't be taken out of context.

My own view about cancel culture is something like this.

If you're publicly being a dick, then the public may choose to filter out your dickishness.

Where this applies to someone's job is where this gets tricky. Anyone whose job involved NOT being a dick, may lose their job over actually being a dick, and that's harsh, but probably fair.

A good example of this is the firing of Rebecca Long Bailey over a tweet that seemed to some to be anti-semitic. While it's arguable whether she had anti-semitic feelings, or even biases when she tweeted, the fact that she is a politician in a party under fire for this sort of thing, meant she should have known better and was acting recklessly

The free speechers...

There are those who argue for free speech, in a situation where it's not freedom of the individual to campaign to make life better, or freedom to criticise the government, but more freedom to be generally harsh or nasty to people. The argument goes something like "I can't be put in prison for what I say". This is true up to the point where your verbal actions are themselves used as assault on an individual or protected group, and you can be punished for that.

The next argument goes, "Don't have a go at me for what I'm saying, if you don't like it, it's your problem - you could not listen".

In fairness, the second half of that is not really being debated. Those who speak up against someone else's freedom of speech being used by them to be a dick, are generally not so much saying that they don't have the freedom to speak so much as saying that they're being a dick. When I use my freedom of speech to criticise what you're saying, then if YOU don't like it, you can not listen to it.

Free speechers hate being cancelled...

I have the right to say what I like. If you don't like it, then don't listen. What do you mean you've blocked me? How dare you react to what I'm saying by deciding not to listen to me...

It all comes down to Rule 1

Wil Wheaton is right yet again. Rule 1 is "don't be a dick".

When I look at the examples I've seen of cancelling, the majority of them come down to someone who's acting in an increasingly unlikeable way being asked to go and do it away from our nice people.

But cancelling doesn't make it better

Tiring though it is, having belligerent arsehole cluttering up our timelines and news feeds, none of them choose to change their ways when cancelled. They essentially double-down, taking their followers with them to new heights of arse-mongery.

That said, I've been heartily blocking people whose output is disgusting, rather than engaging with them.

You can't fix these problems online. As the world becomes more connected via non-human online channels, we're perhaps doomed to become more entrenched in the most stupid of our opinions and least able to rationalise our way to some middle ground.

Hoo-fuckin-ray! 


Tuesday, September 8

Sort Yourself Out eBayers

 I've spent some of the last few months gently upgrading things. The only major outlay was a new MacBook, for which half-measures seemed like a false economy. Given I hammered the new machine's CPU and graphics capability, creating a video that took nearly an hour to render, that was probably a good decision.

Point is, I've generally bought a new item on Amazon or eBay and then sold the one we had, thus upgrading, but only at part of the cost. I've also sold off things I wasn't using to fund things I wanted to buy.

I'm sure it cost me more than I raised to do this, but my general costs have gone down, so why not, eh?

In general, it means I've had a little more exposure to eBay than normal, and people seriously need to get a grip there.

Ashley's first rule of eBay (and this applies to other online purchase sites too). If someone asks questions about an item, they're probably not going to be the eventual purchaser.

I don't think I've seen it happen. The time you spend answering the questions from some over cautious tosspot who can't read the description is essentially a waste. Someone else always either beats them to the final bid, or simply bids more boldly knocking the questioner out earlier. I'm not even sure that answering questions from eBay sellers even results in them bidding.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think the question facility is a bad thing. I just think it's largely used by people who haven't the gumption to use eBay. I recently asked a question of a seller and, based on their answer, offered them a price. I now have the item... No idea what I'm going to do with it, but fortune favours the bold.

Don't go early you pillock. I am not a fan of being prepared early for things. I don't turn up early for stuff if I can avoid it. I don't pre-book things. I occasionally miss out, but most often I don't, and I find I haven't wasted my energies and prolonged the whole experience in so doing.

In eBay, though, it's critical that you don't jump the gun. Put stuff on your watch list, but don't bid on the damned thing unless it's within 5 minutes of the item ending. Maybe put on a 1st bid, in the hope that it's the only bid and you'll win by default... but trying to bid halfway through an auction is simply a way to put the price up.

Fucking pay for the items you win you pricks. I bought a new Kindle before the summer holidays. It's had a lot of use, and I was interested in it as I felt my existing one was starting to run a bit more slowly. While I could probably have reset it and gone back to some sort of improved performance, I liked the idea of a more up to date model, with a longer overall life. I reckon a Kindle has about 5 good years in it. I'm now on my third. My wife is on her 4th (possibly 3rd).

I've put the old kindle up for sale. It works. I've reset it. It's in decent condition. I just fancied a nice newer one.

It's sold twice so far.

Twice.

Then the tosspot who's bid on it and won doesn't bother paying. Then eBay chases them... then cancels the sale... then back to square one.

Someone bid on it tonight. Idiots... they've raised the price by £7, but the item still has the rest of the week to go. What they've done is make it overall more expensive. Worse than that, someone else is going to win it, then not pay for it... then... the circle of bloody life.

Tonight I bought the sheet music for The Wall - I've half an idea that I may already own this... but I was too lazy to double check. I don't think I do. It turns out I've been bending guitar strings incorrectly all this time, and it's much easier when you do it properly. Lots to learn!


Monday, August 31

The Art of Not Writing

Watch out, this one's going to get weird.

In personal blog posts, now largely replaced by social media whingeing, as with columns in newspapers, sometimes the very point of the writing is to write in your own florid voice. You can construct complex sentences, try to broaden the use of vocabulary, talk around the subject, and even introduce your own delightful rhythms into the composition.

This is because personality writing begets readers who don't really care what you're saying, so long as it's you saying it.

Columnists like Charlie Brooker, David Mitchell, Mark Steel, and Stewart Lee, can all publish collections of their columns if they so desire, because it's their tone of voice and mood which readers are there for. How current a Charlie Booker column from 2006 is is immaterial. It's his voice.

Conversely, a lot of content on the internet is intended to convey information. I work as an editor on a technology website where the aim is to efficiently deliver the ideas for an international audience. That's not to say that such sites don't have a voice. They generally adopt an attitude to the subject and the reader. However, such sites actually require the writer NOT to write.

Writing is a spectrum. It runs from one end - putting data into structured grammar - through to the aforementioned other end, where you let your personality and voice play out on the page.

In this world of scrolling, the most generous writers will use the simplest language to convey the message with a minimum of their own wibbling on. However, ungenerous writers will either:

  • Waste your time with wibble
  • Provoke you with illogical invective
  • Try to hook you into virtually empty pages of non-content with a provocative title
Talking of which, I must go and read a list of 100 well-time photographs which may or may not include a boob-slip.


Monday, July 20

Give Me Your Voice

When I set out to construct a virtual choir with the local children, I made a few incorrect assumptions. I incorrectly estimated the extent to which young children might have a singing range, but in some ways that was the least of my mistakes.

I got a few things right. I produced an arrangement for Mr Blue Sky (and It Must Be Love) that had both harmonies and enough tune to be singable, even if singing a harmony part. I was wary of big non-melodic jumps in the parts, and tried to make each part a singable tune. I'm pretty happy with the results. I could have done more, I could have made some bits easier, but on the whole, the balance between scale and difficulty is about right.

I incorrectly assumed that notebashing videos would help, but we pulled those before they saw the light of day. I spent many hours demonstrating how to take the lines apart and sing them in bits, and only I ever saw those videos. For young people, learning by rote as a whole is perhaps easier than having it taken apart and shown to you a bit at a time, while you can't quite follow because even if you have the sheet music, you can't read along.

Who knows, maybe the notebashing would have helped some people, but less is more. People don't follow instructions at the best of times, so reducing the amount they can fail to follow is probably the right thing to do.

The biggest thing I failed to grasp, though, was how intimate a request it was, and how insecure it would make people feel when we asked them to record themselves singing and send it in. There's no hiding from the glare of the camera lens, and people have a very intimate relationship with their singing.

  • People need to be able to sing as it frees them and allows them to express themselves
  • Many are afraid of how others will judge their singing, so don't want to sing
  • They want to believe their singing is amazing
  • They fear their singing is not
It's quite a big deal. You can deny someone the confidence of their own voice by giving them the wrong sort of feedback on their musicality at a young age. It's such an important part of who we are, the ability to sing, and yet it's so fragile.

Asking the children to give me their singing voice - in fact even asking the adults to do so - was a much larger request than I figured it would be, and I quickly realised the extent to which I needed to treat what they sent me with the utmost respect. While it's easy to criticise singing we might not like or might consider technically flawed, such criticism should only be reserved for those who are presenting themselves as professionals in their craft.

For everyone else, singing is a special thing that everyone should get to do, regardless.

That's not always been my opinion.

Wednesday, July 15

Not Another Virtual Choir


Be careful what you wish for.

Around about a month ago, I wished that I could replace the missing end-of-year school show at my children's primary school with a virtual choir... so I worked out how to make that happen, asked for the right help and involvement, and here we are with not one, but two virtual choir recordings complete and a whole lot of exhaustion to boot.

I think it was worth it. I think we made something special that the people involved love and that captured a defiant spirit of a community.

I think we drove ourselves nuts making it, and put in more work than we expected to, having overcommitted to an over ambitious project.

But I like a challenge.

I learned a lot about how vulnerable singing can make people feel. Oddly, singing is something that nearly everyone loves to do. It's something you can hurt people by criticising, and it's something that makes people feel good and free... but so insecure. People are both frightened of singing up, and need to do so.

Seeing all the performances we wove together, along with the moments before where people were worriedly psyching themselves up to do it, was a hugely humbling experience. It was a privilege to be allowed access to everyone's voices, and I treated these recordings with a huge amount of respect. I had some recordings that I simply could not fix for technical reasons, and one or two acts of utter disrespect to the efforts of the project came through from participants I shall not name.

We tried to provide all the instructions, but instructions + common sense does not always add up to the right results... luckily there were a lot of ways to undo mistakes in post-production, and I tried to restore people's efforts to the level they would have been had there been more time to learn, record, and respond to the sound coming from everyone else.

In the next post, I'll offer some thoughts on how this project succeeded.





Thursday, July 2

Demented Reality

Lockdown for Covid-19 started late March 2020. We entered lockdown earlier, around 12th March... since that time I've not performed at any gigs, bar three online ones which were not quite the same as in person ones.

When I don't gig, I go a bit crazy.

Here's a brief diary of the results of insanity, as I've tried to create a new creative world for myself, outside of my normal way of doing things.

(approx) 11th April - did an online gig, decided to write a new song for it - released that song on YouTube
12th April - having decided to "get into Garageband" I bought some video editing software and created and released "Only One Song" a musical parody of La La Land

around this point, I also recorded some music with the children, which I didn't release publicly

18th April - having had the "basic necessities" idea lodged in my head, I released "Covid 19 Lockdown Shopping Song" - a musical parody of The Bare Necessities
2nd May - two weeks after my second parody song, a third emerged - my grand opus - "Lockdown" a Downtown parody

around this point I decided to buy more recording gear - a new microphone especially

26th May - released "Working from Home" a daft original song about remote working
26th May - also launched a new Funny's Funny website - a site about comedy by comedians
2nd June - "Every Day It's Getting Closer" based on me suddenly hearing how the lyric could be subverted while in the car - a music editing video, more than anything else
3rd June - after a LOT of editing, I managed to recapture the Skype/Cher experience in a daft video

3rd June - started writing a book on how to prepare for a cancelled Edinburgh Fringe...

14th June - I tried out my new microphone in a three person video shoot - the idea being to get ready to record a montage video with the children - it turned out I needed a new Mac to do that!

16th June - sent out a training video to 10 children to create "It must be love" video virtual choir
17th June - launched the book

21st June - released the "It must be love" video and then immediately suggested a much larger virtual choir video with the school - a 4 week project, still ongoing!


So, a bunch of videos, a website, a book, two virtual choir projects... a new computer, two kittens (somewhere along the way) lost a stone or so... 

When I take the video material I get for the virtual choir, I tweak it so it looks a little better than it did in the room on the day - mainly to fit it in with the project. This is what lockdown is. Reality, but not quite... more so... and yet less so.

I'm quite tired. I enjoyed the brief period in May when I just ate a lot of toast!

Thursday, June 18

My Way of Losing My Mind is Quite Constructive

A lot has happened over the last 2 weeks.

I Wrote a (short) Book
In the spirit of taking a joke too far, I wrote a parody of the How To Produce, Perform and Write an Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Show book. In the form of How to Write, Perform and Produce a Cancelled Edinburgh Fringe Show. I was lucky to have its original author, Ian Fox, on board. We worked hard on what is essentially a long daft chapter with swearing in it.

We Got Kittens
Bill and Ted.

We're still slightly guessing their genders. They came from a socially distanced trip to a corner of Birmingham where they were born to a mummy cat that really needs spaying. Her offspring will be looked after by our family and slightly spat at by our other cat.

My New Microphone Arrived
After a lot of tightening of the budgets at the start of lockdown, the arrival of an Amazon voucher led to the purchase of some audio kit. Especially useful given the amount of music stuff I've been doing. The new microphone was a great price, but a long time coming.

It's very nice.

I Created A Trio With Myself
To road test the microphone and to try out some new video editing software I wanted to use, I made Fugue for Tin Horns from Guys and Dolls:


The video software crashed, so I used my old software.

I Decided to Start A Virtual Choir With Children
Not content with a choir of mini-me's, I decided to create a virtual choir with the local school children. More on that when it happens. But it really needs better video editing software and my 2012 Mac just isn't up to the job.

I Decided to Buy a New Laptop
So much for tightening the belt during lockdown. After a lot of searching for laptop and computer options, my brain became numb to the worrying price of a new MacBook Pro... so I found a "bargain" one... and I'm now a proud MacBook daddy.

So My Office Got a Spruce Up
I didn't want the most expensive computer I've ever owned to be offended by a dirty desk, so I did a bit of a clear up - it smells fresh in here now. Good times. It's still too full, but the desk was always the biggest issue.

I Arrange Music, Apparently
I've learned how to use MuseScore and produced sheet music. I'm working on some musical arrangements... In fairness, I've been writing a few musical arrangements during lockdown, though they never amounted to much. The virtual choir project requires me to masquerade as musical director, film director and editor... and I'm going to do a lot of autotuning!

I imagine being able to sleep again sometime in August!

Tuesday, June 9

I'm A Cilla Black Fan On Bike

Strange, with my sore knee, that I should decide to go on a medium-sized bike ride this evening.

But I did. And it was great.

I didn't push myself too hard, had a lot of problem with accumulating flies, but on the whole came out of it feeling positive and refreshed. What's come over me.

Flies.

In other news we have kittens at home now.

The rest of this blog will be about kittens.

Sunday, June 7

It's Stupid, Yet Still I Do It

On the whole, it's probably not possible to change someone's opinion in an online discussion, be it on Facebook or Twitter, or anywhere. There are a lot of ways this this is pointless, and a lot of common traits to these discussions. I suppose it probably feels like this, whichever way you're arguing, whether you go into a right-leaning/leaver-leaning discussion with the opposite view, or vice versa. It's not quite that clear-cut, of course since Brexit is an intersectional problem. However, it's probably fair to say that a huge amount of Brexit support is also right-leaning, or anti-liberal left.

Here are a bunch of pointless things that I'll have thrown at me, regardless of any tone I take in a debate:
  • It's not racist because I (a white man, usually) don't think it is
  • You're virtue signalling - i.e. you're expressing something from your conscience and by doing that it's invalid because you're just showing off
  • You're just offended - i.e. you have a feeling, not any valid thought
  • What about my freedom? - from someone who is not, on the whole oppressed by anything
  • You're a snowflake - from someone who is overreacting to criticism
  • Well you're not funny - from anyone who is losing any argument, picking at anything subjective they can latch onto
  • "Your <X>" - any accusation of anything from someone too stupid to write "you're" - this winds me up the most, because it grates through my brain like nails down a blackboard, and you can't correct them because that only makes them act more stupid
  • Boiling the question down to a false dichotomy - clever trick, make the whole discussion pivot on a relatively uninteresting black or white question which totally misses the point - the problem with oversimplifications being that you can then argue the toss on the tip of a big fucking iceberg
  • "I want to join in this pile-on" - any insult, or participation from people who have nothing to contribute to the conversation, but identify with the subject matter
It's a real shame.

Fuck the lot of them.

Tuesday, May 26

Idea to YouTube in Two Hours

It's odd that I posted the writing process for a song on here and then had the impetus to go away and write a new song.


The process for this video was similar to the one I used for "Tax That", a song I challenged myself to make in the time it took my daughter to have a nap.

It was similar, in that I didn't give myself a long deadline, and aimed to get something done within a short timeframe. I'm not a huge fan of the Tax That song, and I don't like the video, which was just a montage of pictures of Gary Barlow. What was I thinking. It's no longer publicly listed on YouTube, but you can see it from the above link.

In this case, I wrote a page of observations on the daft things that I've seen happen with home workers, or have suspected home workers from doing. Then I started a verse to lead me into the song... then I realised it had a calypso vibe, so write a chorus that fell into that sort of rhythm - this allowed me to rhyme my observations or put setups in for observations. The setups themselves were brought out of my head, prompted by the rhyme I was aiming at.

I put in a nice trick rhyme to bridge chorus 1 with verse 2, which was cute... then I had to start writing verse 2 on the right hand of a double page as I wanted to make it easy to flip back to the left hand page where I'd written by list of observations.

Once we got near the end of the song, it was a matter of trying to put some cherry-on-the-top observations on.

Up comes the guitar, play with the chords, try to avoid the obvious ones. Learn the song a bit... tune the guitar a bit...

Then out comes the phone - point it at my face, record a few terrible takes... get one that's basically ok.

Into the video editor to add subtitles and a final titles card.

Upload.

Share.

Done.

Couple of hours, easy mate...



It is worth a whole new site?

I discovered some comedy notes and thought I'd share them here. Then I thought I'd share them on a whole new site about stand-up comedy... that's going to take a while, so they're coming here first.

I like old notebooks. Specifically, I like finding in old notebooks half-finished versions of something that later did get finished. It's interesting to see how something evolved. That applies more to the work of others than myself. I'm fascinated to see how musicals get adapted from original works, or how the later familiar version of a show is different from some earlier incarnation.

In today's installment of my braindumping, here are some evolutionary steps of the Where's Wally song that's available on my Discograffiti album. It wasn't intended to be in the Discograffiti show, but ended up replacing a song about Roget's Thesaurus that was ultimately less enjoyable. The Where's Wally song was originally written for a one-off show called "Not Now, Bernard". I say it was a one-off. It was for me. It was a run of shows where people were invited to bring along material about favourite works of fiction.

I think I ended up doing 4 pieces in the show, one of which was never seen again, and two which ended up in the Discograffiti Album, and one of which ended up in The Seven Deadly Sings. As I recall, I did an ill-conceived version of Anne Frank's Diary as a Ladybird book, where it had a happy engine with a rescue by Space Badgers. Not a zinger.

Then I did The Gruffalo, reimagined as a musical theatre song of self-doubt. That's on my album. I did a break-down of Doe A Deer from The Sound of Music, and then Where's Wally. Not necessarily in that order.

I used my piano and everything.

So, the main driver was to write a song about a childhood hero character, and Where's Wally is, of course, a blank slate as far as this is concern, not having a personality as such, just surface features.

Version 1

Wally, where are you?
You're really quite elusive
It's totally confusing
That you wear a woolly hat whatever the season
Wally where are you?
For crying out loud
You ask me to meet you in the middle of a Crowd
Then you don't seem to stand out, there's got to be a reason.

What are you hiding from?
Is it love? your sexuality? or debt collectors?
What lies behind your fixed smile and dead eyes?
Did you lose your mind in Vietname?
Did you only ever buy one set of clothes?
Or did someone lose the others in a laundry incident?
Have you ever been somewhere that's not very busy?
Are you a secret agoraphobic?

Wally, where are you?
You're hiding like a chimp [possibly wimp - can't quite read it]
Are you a drug dealer or pimp?
I've wasted hours trying to find you
Wally, I'm leaving!
I've waited long enough
Spotting you's quite tough.
Oh.... you were behind me.

What the hell was that?

I don't think that was quite intended to be the song. It looks more like a deliberate attempt to force ideas out into the open. On it, I've gone and marked certain lines with dots to show how powerful I must have thought they were when I read them back. This is a good trick I've used before with written material. Write the expected reaction type on the page and then review the density/quality from your own point of view. Then edit.

Version 2 (incomplete)

Wally where are you?
You're impossible to find
I've wasted a whole lunchbreak
Trying to meet you for coffee
Wally, what's with you?
Suggesting we meet in crowded places
Everyone has red shaped clothes and similar faces
and no matter the season you're in winter clothes

What are you hiding from?
Is it love, your sexuality, or debt collectors
What lies behind your square jaws, enigmatic smile, and haunted eyes
Did you lose your mind in vietnam?

Version 2 thoughts

It was more structured, but it died on the page. Perhaps at this stage, the lack of structure wasn't helping it. There are a couple of lines starting to take shape, but still it's relatively weak.

Version 3 (of 4)

Wally where are you?
You're so difficult to find
You ask to meet at lunch
When when I finally spot you it's teatime
Your suggest the meeting spot
Where everyone's in red and white
You're proof that the best hiding places are in plain sight

What are you hiding from?
Is it loneliness, debt, or your sexuality?
What's behind your fixed smile and dead eyes?
Did you lose your mind in vietnam?

What's with those winter clothes?
You're in a woolly hat come spring and summer
Have you considered a change in style
Might help you out of your obvious case of depression

Wally, where are you?
Are you even real?
Or are you a hallucination, brought on by eating too much yoghurt...

Close but not quite

This is very close to the final version. It runs out of steam, but it has a lightness of touch in between the darker punchlines. It reads familiarly, but hasn't been finessed in terms of some of the choice of language.

The problem was that it didn't really know how to end. In the end finding an ending involves a visit to Wikipedia as you'll see from this last draft.

Final Draft

Wally where are you?
You're so difficult to find
We arrange to meet at lunch
But when I finally locate you it's tea time
You suggest a meeting spot
Where everyone's in red and white
You're proof that the best hiding places, are in plain sight

What are you hiding from?
Is it loneliness or debt or your sexuality?
What lies behind that fixed smile and dead eyes?
Did you lose your mind in vietnam?
What's with those winter clothes?
You're in a woolly hat come spring and summer
Have you considered a change in style might snap you out of your obvious case of depresssion?

Wally, where are you?
Are you even real?
Or are you an hallucination?
Brought on by eating too much veal... I should say cheese, but that doesn't rhyme
I hear you change your name
When going abroad

In the U.S. you're Waldo
In France you are Charlie
Estonia Volli
In Iceland you're Valli
In Israel Effi
In Sweden, you're Hugo.... HUGO!?

Where did you go Wally?
Are you Jura, Willy, Holda, or Worri
Or Weili or Walter, I'm sorry
I cannot find you in a hurry

What happened?

Some of the above happened when the song was sung through with a tune and better lyrics suggested themselves.

Some of this is applying the usual musical comedy cliches of awkward rhymes, either a good rhyme that doesn't make sense, or a shoehorned half rhyme (sorry/hurry).

There's even a structural decision that a rapid-fire laundry list at the end of the song, taken from the aforementioned Where's Wally Wikipedia entry, and full of probably lesser-known facts about the character, would bring the song to a crescendo in terms of interest and density of material.

It's not stand-up club funny this one. It's amusing. I think it's written ok.

You can hear it here - https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B008U8XRIG/ref=dm_ws_tlw_trk10 as well as your favourite streaming services.

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