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Review: My stomach ached from laughing at Jimmy Carr

article-1340548093969-13bb9319000005dc-33928_466x310Sorry guys, this review is a bit late, but I’m sure you will have seen there have been lots of important topics to blog on this week and I wanted time to do this review justice. I’ll start by holding my hands up and admitting – I WAS WRONG! Last week I wrote a preview of Jimmy Carr’s upcoming show at Lynn’s Corn Exchange, and to say the least I was a little unsure of what to expect. I love comedians and I love seeing them live – they are sarcastic, bitter, light-hearted and scathing all at the same time and I love this. But I’ll be honest, with Jimmy Carr, having only seen him as a presenter and never performing stand-up, I didn’t have high expectations. In fact, I half expected to hate his show and to dislike him even more. I’m not sure why exactly I disliked him before, I guess it is because he does go so close to the knuckle and perhaps in panels shows it is difficult to find this as funny because it just comes across as unnecessarily nasty.

Actually I’m quite glad to have completely lowered my expectations because I think it made the night even more hilarious by the end. We were seeing the late show, which I’m glad of because I think it gave everyone a chance to really warm up, the audience was a little drunk and the comedian was ready for action after a hilarious earlier show by all accounts. We popped in a nearby restaurant for dessert and wine as we watched the crowds leaving the theatre from the earlier show. We found ourselves laughing at the 18-year-olds who were tarted up to the nines (and I swear to God I actually saw a girl wearing a crop top and knickers for a night out) staggering into the pub nearby. Dead on 10pm we walked over and found our seats, which were amazing by the way! We were sitting up on the side balconies, first time, and we loved it! We had a fantastic view, we had plenty of space, and it was a heck of a lot cooler up there than it is sitting up at the back.

When we arrived, Jimmy had a notice up on the screen with a phone number, and he was asking for people to text it with comments, feedback and heckles, so obviously we were all getting involved! He came bouncing on stage and launched straight into his act. Now I’m not giving away any spoilers or any of the jokes, because it will only ruin it for you. But I was crying with laughter from the start. It was a fantastic show and it was refreshing to see a comedian who is halfway between the storytellers like Michael Mcintyre and the one-liners like Milton Jones and Stuart Francis. Jimmy’s short and snappy jokes gave you just enough time to recover between bouts of laughter and each joke was on point. I think it was the first time I have seen a comedian and genuinely laughed my head off at every single joke. Normally I, and most others I have asked, have those lulls where they are getting almost bored of laughing, but this never once happened during the two hours.

I was also incredibly impressed that he had successfully mocked and made jokes about the Norfolk and King’s Lynn people, bringing up the webbed feet, the fact that no-one ever leaves and the incest but in fresh new ways and completely unexpectedly. I have seen a lot of comedians in Lynn and Norwich and yet have never seen another comedian do this with such ease, they normally stumble across this part and walk into jokes that the audience makes. This impressed me because he has clearly remembered things from the earlier show, from previous performances and just does his research. He didn’t seem to treat the Lynn gigs like they were just a warm-up for his larger venues, this was clearly a top notch show and he was giving us his best material. A couple of highlights for me have to be the use of two words that are most definitely wheedling their way into my vocabulary – “cunt-grunt” and “twinkle-cave”. The second half certainly was a lot ruder, but we didn’t go there for a PG-13 performance and it was exactly what the audience were after.

If you ever get a chance to see Jimmy Carr live, whether you think you like him or not, snap it up. Trust me, you may well change your mind like I did. He was most definitely the best comedian I have seen live and I have no doubt you would enjoy his stuff too. Have you seen Jimmy Carr live, or did you catch him in King’s Lynn? What do you think of his material?

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*Review: Mr Nutcase customised phone cases

photo 2 (1)I was so pleased to receive an email from the team at Mr Nutcase asking me to review their customised phone cases just days after I had decided to replace my current one. I previously had a customised photo case from Photobox, which I loved, but after having it for a very long time I felt the pictures were no longer in date. I wanted new faces, sharper pictures and less scratches over my new phone case and this was a perfect opportunity to replace it. Everyone has always loved my personalised cases because they are just so unique and my friends just love that their faces are all over my phone!

I was pretty impressed by the simplicity of the website, which allows you to create a customised phone case where you can upload your own images from your computer to make a phone case personal to you. I have found other websites that are a lot more complicated when trying to customise items, but this let you pick out your favourite pictures with ease. Photos of special people and places, words that mean something important to you, or even your beloved pet can be among the images you select – the world is your oyster! There are only four easy steps between you and your custom phone cases – choosing a layout, designing your case and adding photos, paying and having it delivered to your door. Easy right?

photo 3I was so impressed with the speed of service and the quality of the design, which you really notice when comparing it to my previous Photobox case is far clearer with much sharper images. The colour was far better and there were a great range of options available to add words, change the layout of the photos or even add cartoon elements. It was brilliant and there were so many options available to make it a truly unique design to you – in a world full of the same rubbish and cheap-looking designs, isn’t that what we all want? The cases are available for a whole range of brands and not just for phones, but a whole range of tablets as well and in a particularly lightweight plastic. At £14.95, they are a touch more expensive than any old case, but for the quality, I would be happy to pay that and am considering getting myself a new case for my iPad Mini as well.

Like the look of these cases and in the market for a new one? Why not take advantage of a special 10% off your order by entering the code ‘Thanku10’

Review: Getting a little scent-imental

photo_2 (1)Today, a little something new for the blog, just to keep you all on your toes. I adore scented candles, as I know many of my friends do, and knowing how difficult it is to find one with a delicious scent that isn’t too sickly or bitter, I wanted to share some of my recommendations with you guys. I stocked up last week after spotting Primark had a load of new candles for sale and in a range of gorgeous new scents. I’ve been waiting ages for them to restock these massive candles that take ages to burn away, and was so pleased to see a range of new fruity smells including red berries and orchid. I made sure to grab a large candle in this gorgeous scent and then stocked up on tea lights in all of the different options which included white jasmine and lily, and white vanilla and coconut.

photo_5I have always loved scented candles and the way they can take an ordinary bedroom and make it seem cosy and pretty. They are perfect after a long day at work, when you just fancy a chilled out evening and I often find that they help me to sleep, especially when they contain lavender. I always make sure I have a nice big candle on the go and already had a lovely one from Sainsbury’s in a glass jar that smelled of apple blossom and lotus – another combination of some of my favourite scents.

All of us have our favourite scents and whether you prefer something zingy and fresh, something flowery or something musky, there is a candle out there for all of us. For those who prefer something heavy, perfumed and musky, I can recommend the Jo Malone candles, which are gorgeous and lovely as a present, but I find them very overpriced for what they are. I do use my scented candles very often and find that the more expensive ones tend to burn down too quickly making them very bad value for money. Also lovely, and somewhat better priced, although still expensive, are the lovely Cowshed candles which are very luxurious with 100% natural wax made from organic, vegan ingredients. The scents are gorgeous and are lovely when you’ve slathered yourself with their body lotions as well. They are also rather lighter and more floral and natural than the Jo Malone ones.

photo_4 (1)I would actually recommend against spending the money on candles by Sanctuary Spa and Champneys, although their products are all gorgeous and such wonderful treats for your skin (always my favourites for presents) the candles didn’t actually smell very nice to me. Now I know that everyone will have differing tastes in candles and scents, and that some of you guys may really like these, but I was rather disappointed in the scents and was pleased I sniffed before I bought on this occasion, because they are rather expensive if you turn out to not really like them!

I would say that in my experience with various brands, Primark does seem to offer the best scented candles I have found. They are amazing value for money considering the rate at which they burn and they still have lovely aromas with a range of options so you are sure to find the perfect scent and type of candle for you. They offer them in large tinned candles, tea lights and glass jar candles which are perfect options for all the rooms in the house. I personally love the mini-scented tea lights because they are a perfect fit for all the tea light candle holders I have accumulated over the years. I have all shapes, sizes and designs thanks to mine and my mum’s obsession with them – the twinklier and the prettier the better!

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Is there a brand you would recommend for scented candles? What is your favourite scent?

School killings: We Need To Talk About Kevin

We-Need-to-Talk-about-Kev-007No-one could have missed the news reports on the stabbing of teacher Ann Maguire as she taught a class, with a 15-year-old pupil charged for her murder. Such a horrifying and devastating thing to have happened, but in a world that is becoming more and more violent we can hardly be surprised that this would happen eventually. Throughout my time as a student a high school, I saw a pupil lose it with a teacher and hurl a table across the room at her, I saw teachers lose it with pupils and throw things at them. When at university I even heard about stabbings and twice was unable to get on or leave my campus because police were having a stand-off. I’m sure this is no different to many other schools and universities, in fact in many places I know it is far worse. What concerns me is why so many are turning immediately to violence to deal with their frustrations.

All this press brought a book and film back into my mind, one I read a few years ago but which still haunts me now. We Need To Talk About Kevin is a chilling tale of murder and love entwined, striking at the heart of parenthood by offering up the greatest test of unconditional love. It raises questions that no parent should ever have to ask themselves – such as whether the age of a child prevents them from blame over the seriousness of their crime, and whether in fact the parents are to blame. Lionel Shriver’s prizewinning 2003 novel is written in a series of letters from Eva, to her estranged husband, Franklin, in the wake of their son, Kevin’s disgusting crime. She looks at her son and writes about his childhood and her memories of him, trying desperately to see if there were things she should have noticed. If she could have prevented his later actions.

I watched the film after reading the book, and I was so glad to have done both. The film too is brilliant, but completely different to the book. It has been completely reworked by British director Lynne Ramsey who focuses on the question of what happens if bad children are born to good parents? And does this mean that the parents themselves are inherently bad and they just fail to realise it? Ramsey too follows Kevin’s short life up to the climax, showing some scenes of a disturbing nature but actually it is the acting and portrayal of Kevin by Ezra Miller that really haunts you. Tilda Swinton does an amazing job of exploring the internal and external struggles experienced by a parent whose child has committed murder as she comes to terms with what her own life, and Kevin’s has become. You see her struggles to realise that actually the son she had unconditional love for was an extremely rose-tinted view of reality, and her shock and fear as she realises that Kevin was not injured by the shooter, that he was the shooter.

It is also interesting to see her connection throughout both the book and the film with her baby – the relationship between her and Kevin is tested and difficult throughout with the clear understanding that she does not like her baby. It suggests she was suffering from post-natal depression and makes you wonder if this, which clearly sets the tone for their life-long relationship, was in fact the effect of her treatment and resentment for her baby in the first instance. Could she have influenced his behaviour by rejecting him so early? It does make you wonder if her understanding of his goading her and playing up as a child is in fact her own depression painting the way she views it. Could it be that in fact Kevin was just an innocent baby at birth and that his mother’s hatred of him caused him to turn into a monster? If not, does that mean he was a monster from birth?

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Such an interesting story because it raises all those big questions about good and evil, nature vs nurture. The questions we squirm over answering because we don’t want to believe that someone could be born evil, but at the same time, society doesn’t ever want to believe in people reaching breaking point or parents being unable to cope. Although the telling of a fictional event, some have said it was based on real events such as the Columbine High School killings which makes it ever more terrifying, to know that this has really happened, and now just a few hours from where we all live in the UK.

The vicious nature of the crime is scary enough, but actually what scares me more in the film and book is the fact that Kevin is so calculating and clever. He is not that kid that is just pushed a bit too far by the bullies or doesn’t get on with his teacher, he is a cold-blooded psycho killer who plans the whole thing. I have a slight admission that I have always found the psychology of killers absolutely fascinating and love programmes like CSI and Luthor and films like Seven that delve into the killer psyche. I’m just so curious to know how some people can be wired so differently, or whether in fact this lurks in all of us, it just takes the right circumstance and experiences to bring it out and let it loose. I would really recommend this book because it is one of the best I have read of its type and despite reading it years ago, it has stayed with me ever since. The film is also worth a watch, but after reading the book because it does change the way you view the story significantly and actually I think there are parts of the film that didn’t quite make sense without the book to explain them.

 What did you think of We Need To Talk About Kevin and have you got any others like this you could recommend? Where do you stand on the nature vs nurture debate when it comes to evil acts like this?

Restaurant review: Rediscovering a taste of Italy

IMG_4959As with every visit to New York, this holiday was not complete without a return trip to Little Italy and another attempt to find the gorgeous little family-run restaurant we stumbled into one time to get out of the rain. Years ago, when we made our first visit to The Big Apple, we headed down to Chinatown, Soho and Little Italy for a wander around, unfortunately on the wettest day. It was raining so hard that it seemed like droplets were rising from the pavement to hit me in the face. Despite umbrellas, raincoats and boots, we were soaked to the skin and couldn’t seem to get out of the storm. Eventually, tired, soggy and after getting very lost, we stumbled into Little Italy and into one of the first restaurants we spotted – Amici II.

IMG_4788This cute little restaurant was only small and run by a family who serve the finest foods from their home of Napoli. The restaurant itself was simple, clean and let the walls do the talking – packed with pictures, messages and memorabilia from customers of years gone by, right up the the present. The photos were of families, couples and groups of friends with the owners who had clearly created a legacy among friends that had customers returning for all their special occasions, family meals or just a light lunch.

IMG_4958As a family, ever since that first meal we have made it our business to return to the restaurant. The second time it was again sheer luck that we stumbled across it although we had hoped to find it again – we couldn’t remember the street so it was a lot of guess-work! Since, I have refused to remember the street address, instead preferring to follow my instincts and have always managed to find it, despite entering Little Italy from various directions. I reckon it was just meant to be! The first time we were there, my dad and I kept it simple with a spaghetti with garlic, chilli and oil. Simple proved effective and it was a delicious meal that warmed us up nicely after the wet walk there. My mum had a seafood pasta dish that she said was also amazing, while my sister went for a lasagne which she loved. Sadly I can’t remember what we had the other times, but I know that we absolutely loved it and that it was one of the best Italian meals any of us has ever had – including those in Italy!

IMG_4955This visit was extra special because it was our proper celebration meal for my mum’s 50th birthday which had been a few days earlier. She was adamant that she wanted to spend her birthday meal at this lovely restaurant with a glass of red wine in hand and a plate of delicious pasta in front of her. She was determined on this visit that her dish of choice would be carbonara.

IMG_4956My sister Laura, left, and I were dying to try the food again, Laura was craving pizza while I had a fancy for some seafood and spice. We were all thrilled to be back and couldn’t wait to try out the menu, which is made up of all the classic Italian dishes with a Napoli twist and some special dishes unique to the area. All brimming with flavour and freshly cooked.

IMG_4793I was also loving the wine – house white so I’m not sure of a name, but it was delicious and from the Napoli area. Gorgeous and in a half carafe for myself, served in the lovely big glasses – the only way wine should be served! It was the perfect way to relax after a lot of walking around the shops in Soho. The restaurant was nicely busy, but not packed as it has been when we went later in the day before. There was a group who were going for several courses, and a few pairs just popping in for lunch.

IMG_4794We started with a shared platter of fried zucchinni with a spicy tomato sauce – perfect for sharing, freshly made in the tiny kitchen and so tasty. We’ve had these before in other restaurants, but never quite as crispy or delicious. When we had them before they were served as fried disks which stayed a little soggy as the vegetables (courgettes) are quite wet naturally. The crispier the better in the case of fried anything, but as someone who doesn’t usually like fried food, I found these light and non-greasy. Just full of flavour.

IMG_4957Words cannot describe my main meal – it was beyond anything I could have hoped for and had my taste buds firing on all cylinders. I went for a special dish of black linguine with shrimps after making a hard decision between several dishes including lobster ravioli. I chose this in the end because I had not yet tried black linguine and because the dish just combined all of my favourite flavours in the king prawns and garlic. The decision paid off and it really was exquisite – the best meal I have had there yet. I would really recommend you try this dish if you visit, but whatever you choose will be fantastic. Laura went for the pizza and said it was also really yummy.

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The noises of contentment and mouth-watering dishes continued across the table where my mum was tucking into the spaghetti carbonara she had been waiting for  all those months – she couldn’t stop raving about it! I tried a mouthful and it was definitely the best carbonara I have ever tasted – so creamy and the bacon really gave it some flavour. Dad was also loving his chicken parmagiana with pasta which really says something because he makes an amazing version of the same dish! The chicken was tasty and crispy and, of course, the pasta was perfectly cooked. Happy faces and empty dishes surrounded the table – can anything show a top restaurant any better than that? If you go to Little Italy – I’m sure there are many amazing restaurants lining the streets, but I would seriously recommend Amici II if you want wholesome, good quality food that is full of Napoli flavour from a staff that will do anything to make your meal perfect. A true expression of Little Italy.

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Have you got a restaurant you always return to for the amazing food and staff? What’s your favourite pasta dish?

Restaurant review: Fear and food – a lethal combination

edit 4With the constant opening of new restaurants across the city, New York foodies and tourists are always looking for the latest flavours, the place that pushes the boundaries of everyday grub and something with just a little more wow-factor. As a result, loads of entertainment-related restaurants have opened up with cabarets, live music, comedy and all sorts of entertainment. Some do it well, others less so. The problem is that so many restaurants, both in NYC and over here in the UK, put either full emphasis on the food, or the entertainment and the other is done rather half-heartedly, or, worse, they are both done badly. So when we spotted the Jekyll & Hyde Club, just off Times Square, we couldn’t resist finding out if it really was all that – or just a bit of fun.

edit 1The outside of the restaurant was what caught our eye when on the way back to our hotel one night and we had to stop and chat with the scary looking chap outside in his top hat and tails. We checked whether we would need to book for one of the following nights and were told just to turn up and prepare to be scared.

After having been to Disney in both Paris and Florida, plus theme parks like Alton Towers when they have had special events, I’ll be honest and say that we were expecting it to either be really good entertainment with average food, or really cheesy entertainment with average food. We didn’t go there expecting a gourmet meal and we weren’t even convinced the entertainment would be that amazing. How wrong we were!

edit 2Don’t worry, I won’t be giving all the shocks and surprises away. But here I just want to give you a taste of this incredible restaurant – the decor alone speaks for itself! We were led into the building – with a choice between the scary or the regular entrance – of course we chose the scary one and make sure you do as well! After being led through a series of small rooms – all of which came alive in unique ways – we were a bit giggly by the time we reached the restaurant and didn’t know where the next surprise would come from.

IMG_4933A walk round the restaurant showed us the whole room was filled with unusual items hanging from the walls, spooky portraits with eyes that followed you, crazy Siamese twins, huge elephant or mummy heads, skeletons and much more. It was an astonishing sight and there was so much to take in. In front of us, as you can see from the top picture, was the main stage where the mad scientist brought Frankenstein’s monster back to life before our very eyes in one of the many dinner shows.

IMG_4934Throughout our meal, and the evening, the walls and statues around us would unexpectedly come to life to talk to the customers, play music, as spiders scuttled across the paintings or blood dripped down the walls. There was even a robot behind my dad who nearly made him choke on his dinner when it started doing “The Robot” dance! So funny! It was just spectacular and so well done, plus all of the staff were thoroughly involved and in character the whole time which made it all the more spooky and magical.

edit 3Now for the food – the bit you’ve all been waiting for! We all dug into the best burgers that I think we have ever had in the city throughout our four trips over there. We didn’t expect to be overwhelmed by the food at all, but these gorgeous hunks of juicy meat smelt divine and the flavours were just perfectly combined. The quality of the meat made them all the more delicious, which always seems to be of such a better standard everywhere than it is in the UK.

 

I went for the barbecue burger – with a delicious bourbon barbecue sauce, plenty of cheddar, bacon, grilled red onions and salad. Wow – I normally wouldn’t go for a barbecue burger because I often find the sauce overpowering, but this bourbon sauce sounded so tasty I couldn’t resist. It was so tasty it is making my mouth water to even write about it, and served with these home cut French fries – just perfect. My mum went for the steakhouse burger to get her fix of the blue cheese crumbles after a burger she ordered elsewhere with them turned up without. She said it was worth the wait and she reckoned it was one of the best burgers she had ever had and the home-made steak sauce tied it all together. My dad went for the California burger which came with avocado and cilantro mayonnaise – it smelt lush and he certainly enjoyed it. The food was just perfection and washed down with delicious wine and local beers – all the other customers seemed to be enjoying their meals just as much. I think if I went back, I could definitely have to try a steak – I’m sure they would have been just as juicy and delicious!IMG_4926We all left with a big smile on our faces and we knew it was well worth the trip in. The night was made all the better thanks to the amazing staff and our lovely server (whose name I sadly have forgotten but I remember she was from Alaska!) who kept us entertained and well stocked with food and drinks all night. She was so lovely and friendly, chatting to us about what we had been doing on holiday and about her plans to visit London. Service like that really makes a meal out and we all really appreciated it – plus the amazing outfits they were wearing and all those involved in the shows. All of the staff worked hard to keep up the spooky atmosphere and you could tell how much they enjoyed their jobs.IMG_4935A truly awesome restaurant, not at all cheesy, and definitely one to make sure you visit when you next go to New York. It’s also great for birthdays or parties – if I ever spend a birthday in the city, I will be sure to head back!

Have you ever been to the Jekyll & Hyde Club? What did you think?

Film review – Frozen

fwb_frozen_20131127As a huge and lifelong Disney fan, there was a lot of pressure on to like their latest offering of Frozen after hearing all the hype about it. It’s all I’ve heard about on TV and in adverts at the cinema, on blogs and over the radio for weeks, and with Let It Go becoming an anthem, nobody has been safe from that famous chorus. The world of Disney on film seems to have become split over the years into two main types of story – there are the love stories, the tales of princesses and princes, of rescues from lonely towers from scary dragons or witches in Aladdin and Sleeping Beauty. Then there are those beloved stories that tell tales of friendship, loyalty, family and love but in the form of animals or creatures – The Lion King or The Fox and the Hound. I was expecting Frozen to fall in the former category, not knowing much about the story but knowing there was a princess involved along the way, but was surprised to see that it actually seems to fall into a new class that is forming within the collection and following on from the release of Brave.

brave_disneyBoth films focus on familial relationships and the importance of the mother-daughter relationship or sisterhood and how these bonds are so much more important and powerful than any magic, whether good or evil. Possibly the beginning or a trend, this could be the dawn of a new era of Disney film which will take characters to new levels as different themes and stories are explored. It’s quite exciting when you think about it like this – we’ve gone from helpless princesses who need princes to rescue them to stories about strong female characters who have big attitudes and personalities, and who go on a journey to save another rather than just to find the man of their dreams. I know that there are still certain characters who are desperate to find love and that there are obvious gender stereotypes, but this shift in focus might be a step towards the future of Disney. Tangled is another great example of this trend.

I loved the soundtrack for the film, it really impressed me by being really easy to sing along with and remember, while in some of the more recent Disney films, like The Princess and the Frog, the tunes are funny, lively and catchy, but certainly less memorable. The story itself was very simple and predictable, which is just what you want with a Disney story but felt a little unfinished – there was never any explanation for why Elsa had this power but Anna had none. I think they could have gone into this a little bit more and cut back on some of the action, but the snow scenes and the section at Elsa’s Ice Palace are absolutely beautiful. It is such a novelty to watch a Disney film that is set in a snowy land after all of those set in lush woodland, the Arabian desert or under the sea.

Frozen_Olaf_EW_A.JPGAnother big love of mine in the film had to be the character of Olaf – he is just so sweet and loveable, you can’t help but laugh. It’s so nice to see that Disney have managed to live up to the other great supporting characters from over the years – often more memorable than the main characters. Think Timon & Pumba, Sebastian the crab of Mushu! But he keeps to the quirky, funny and cute requirements and plays a vital part in the story – you have to smile when his wish finally comes true thanks to Elsa. Between the sisters, I have to be honest and say I don’t hold much feeling for Anna – despite being a bit of a hero towards the end, her motivations early on in the film of being desperate to find love that she jumps into the arms of the first man who comes along make me rather sceptical of her character – I think perhaps she was a rather lazy characterisation and I don’t like that she is used to represent one half of the female characters. Elsa on the other hand is a strong character, stubborn and determined, she gives up her life to save her sister and family from her powers. She is likeable because she has experienced a real life, pain and struggle while Anna appears to flit around with no real clue about the world around her. After writing this, I came across a blog that the sisters, from a Freudian perspective, could be viewed as two fundamental aspects of the human psyche – such a interesting concept and well worth a read. Overall, Frozen is another cracker from Disney and I’m looking forward to the next one!