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I was terrified of dogs until I was hypnotised – I’m now a proud and loving owner

Being scared of dogs had been a huge thread of my personality for almost my entire life, but now, after 37 years, I was becoming an owner.

My younger sister had always been desperate for a dog. One afternoon when I was about eight, we’d bundled in the car to go to Wood Green Animal Shelter.

As we wandered around the kennels, I clung to my mum’s arm. My sister fell in love with a retriever mix named Barbara – looking back, she was sort of like Lucy.

‘I’ll run away,’ I sobbed. It’s one of those memories that’s been woven into our family history, the kind that gets recounted at dinners and get-togethers.

I’ll never forget how I felt at that moment, the all-consuming anxiety. I didn’t ‘get’ dogs because they couldn’t talk, they just bounded over and licked you like something out of a nightmare. My mum says I was a worried child – it’s a trait that’s followed me into adulthood.

On our first date 12 years ago, as we sipped beers and chatted about the lives we imagined for ourselves, my now-husband said he’d always wanted a dog.

It wasn’t just dogs, it was all animals, wild unpredictable creatures that I didn’t understand.

People asked if I was bitten, whether there was a particular catalyst for my terror, but there’s no defining moment that built a fear into the core of my being.

But something must have stirred in me after that first date with my husband. A seed planted. Perhaps my fear of dogs was something I could change?

And it became a recurring topic of conversation. I was so in love with my husband, could I do it for him? I didn’t want to be a static person incapable of growth.

It’s how I found myself in a clinical white box of a room on Harley Street, sat opposite a guy who called himself a ‘breakthrough’ hypnotherapist. He shone a light back and forth and as I fell into a hazy sleep, I visited my childhood self to tell her not to be afraid. My fears weren’t rational. Something in me flicked.

I remember spending a weekend at my friend’s house after the session. She had a French bulldog called Alvin and I’d been petrified of him when he was a boisterous pup and had asked her to keep him away from me.

The fear started to feel different. I hardly recognised myself.

Two and a half years in, and I’ve cracked open a new part of myself. I’m now a dog person. When I’m not with her, I miss her. Coming home to her wiggling bum is my most favourite thing. I bury my face into her fur and breathe in her smell and know that this is the great love story of my life. I can’t believe I got here.

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Emmy Griffiths – Hello Magazine

I have never liked flying much, but after an especially bumpy journey last year my usual discomfort developed into a full-blown phobia. Although my rational mind knew I was completely safe, the anxiety I felt as I sat on the aircraft was a feeling I never wanted to experience again. As such, even the shortest flight became a deeply unpleasant experience for me as I anticipated that terror hitting me, a feeling I am certain many others who feel uncomfortable flying are very familiar with. As such, ahead of a 12-hour flight, I booked myself to have a two-hour session with celebrated fear coach Christopher Paul Jones, the Breakthrough Expert, in the hope that he could help me out. This is what I learned, and how it can also help you learn to control your fear on flights ahead of the holidays….

Just four days after my session with Christopher, I boarded a 12-hour flight to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The flight would include two hours gliding over the Atlantic Ocean, before flying over Canada and the whole east coast of the US before eventually landing at my destination for my week-long trip. In the days leading up to the flight, I will admit I let my head get the better of me. What if it didn’t work? What if I totally fell to pieces on the flight? The next morning at the airport though, I felt an unusual sense of calm going through customs, took my seat quite happily and chatted away with my friends as the flight took off (which I didn’t give a second thought about).

During the journey, I watched films without pausing them (something I usually do so I can listen intently to anything going wrong), didn’t freeze while turbulence bumped us as I usually did, and didn’t have to try not to think about what could go wrong as I usually did, because I simply wasn’t thinking about it at all. In fact, I met the whole journey with a state of calm that I wouldn’t have been able to manage on a one-hour flight three months ago. There was one bit of a bumpy ride when a slight dash of panic washed over me – but it was tame, so tame compared to what I used to be like that I couldn’t recommend reaching out for help with your fears more!

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Can hypnotherapy cure anxiety and panic attacks on the Tube?

Liz Connor – London Evening Standard

Two years ago, when I boarded a Piccadilly Line train from Earls Court to Leicester Square at rush hour, half way between Knightsbridge and Green Park, the packed tube train pulled to a standstill in a section of the tunnel.

As we patiently waited for the train to move along, the driver announced that a passenger had been taken ill on the train in front of us, explaining that we may be stuck in the tunnel for some time while the paramedics dealt with the situation.

It was only a minute later when I felt the train switch off around me, and I became acutely aware of the fact that we were underground with very little space to move.

Before I could register my own thoughts, I felt a sudden surge of panic swell through my body as I became all too aware of the fact I was trapped underground, in a busy crowd of strangers.

I struggled to breathe, my hands started shaking and it felt as though the train was closing in around me. In one minute I’d gone from calm to having an uncontrollable panic attack.

I had lived in London for nine years and been on countless trains that had pulled to a standstill with no problem, so as you can imagine, this overwhelming loss of control came as a distressing surprise to me.

If you’ve experienced Tube panic before, it can feel like you’re the only person that’s suffering and even worse, like you’re going crazy. With the additional fear of panic, the basic act of journeying to and from work can be an exhausting and unbearable ordeal.

Unwilling to be deterred by this debilitating new development, I decided to see if Hypnotherapy could help.

I’d read that Christopher Paul Jones, a Harley Street Hypnotherapist, had positive results working with people who had a fear of travelling Underground, and could relieve my anxiety in just one or two sessions.

I had no idea what to expect and if, like me, you’re a newbie, you’re probably imagining swinging pocket watches and being put into a deep sleep. Neither of these things happened.

What Chris does is scramble the brain’s thoughts using a combination of CBT, EMDR, clinical Hypnotherapy and NLP practices. Doing so he creates new, healthy patterns of thinking that stop anxious thoughts from taking over.

The sessions themselves last around an hour, starting with a brief chat with Chris about my fear and where it might have begun. The process of mental training that follows is bizarre, confusing and strangely calming – almost like being in a trance.

As we move through the exercises, Chris asks me to rate my fear on a scale of 1 to 10 and each time I revisited the scenario, the fear surprisingly becomes less palpable.

I’ll admit, I was sceptical at first, but hypnotherapy seems to have agreed with me. I can take the train every day now and no longer feel like I have to avoid the Underground.

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How I Overcame My Fear of Needles Without Having to Go Near One

Morgane Le Caer – PopSugar Magazine

I have had a phobia of needles ever since I was a little girl. The mere thought of them would make my heart rate increase, give me panic attacks, and make me faint. Over the years, I’ve been told countless times to stop “acting like a baby” and “toughen up,” but the truth is, getting over a phobia simply doesn’t happen overnight — and being shouted at and mocked definitely doesn’t help either.

I’ve thought numerous times about going to see someone to help me “cure” it, but I never really knew where to start. Was it even possible? When I was approached by Christopher Paul Jones about the possibility of curing my phobia, although I was sceptical and cynical, I was also incredibly curious.

All I knew about him and his technique was that he wouldn’t be forcing me to be exposed to needles, and that was enough for me to agree to a meeting. After all, I had nothing to lose.

With his method, Christopher helped me pinpoint where my phobia was coming from and gave me tools to help reduce my anxiety levels.

I was relieved to see that his office didn’t look anything like a doctor’s surgery. During our two-hour appointment, Christopher used a combination of advanced skills from a number of methods of coaching, therapy, and change work. He helped me pinpoint where my phobia was coming from (which he calls a trigger point), and he also gave me tools to help reduce my anxiety levels. But what perhaps struck me the most was that Christopher never made me feel like a fool for being scared of needles.

While I didn’t have to actually come face to face with needles, the session brought back painful childhood memories, which is something that I hadn’t anticipated. I cried a lot, but Christopher was very patient, and finally addressing those feelings was absolutely worthwhile.

Needles don’t seem to paralyse me the way they used to, however, I still feel uncomfortable at the idea of going for a blood test.

The whole process was eye opening, and finally understanding where my phobia comes from has been a huge help in trying to control it. I was also able to leave with some great tools that have come in handy whenever I start to panic, and although the process was emotionally draining, I wouldn’t think twice about doing it again.

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Tried and Tested

Liz Parry – Your Health Living

Our tester visited Christopher Paul Jones, also known as The Breakthrough Expert, to seek some help with her anxiety. Here’s how she got on.

As someone who struggles with anxiety, I jumped at the chance to try out a sample session with Christopher. Having seen a video of him curing a woman’s flying phobia in just seven minutes I had high hopes when I met with him at his Harley Street office.

Christopher put me at ease straight away as we chatted about my anxiety and how it affects my everyday life. During our two-hour consultation he used a mixture of different techniques to get to the root of my issues and his approach was professional yet fun. I often found myself giggling at the strangeness of some of his methods but afterwards they made a lot of sense.

Using hypnotherapy, Christopher guided me into a light trance and asked me to recall my earliest experience of anxiety. A memory from my childhood immediately popped up. He then encouraged me to relive the experience in full detail, recalling the emotions and feelings it triggered. Then, using different techniques such as Neuro Linguistic Programming and Emotional Freedom Technique, he worked at removing the emotional stressors that trigger my anxiety. When I was asked to relive the experience again I was fascinated to realize that I felt none of the original fear and panic.

After bringing me back from the trance, Christopher explained that his approach is to identify the body and brain “wiring” that leads to the creation of negative or unhelpful thinking patterns. It’s these negative patterns that reinforce real or imagined threats in our neurology. Once the emotional stressors have been altered, the body no longer reacts the way it used to, effectively removing the stress or anxiety.

Travelling home after our consultation I felt notably relaxed and calm. Christopher had given me a whole range of techniques to use if I felt myself getting anxious again and I now feel a lot more confident and prepared to deal with life’s challenges.

Read the full article here (page 50)

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What happened when I tried to cure my haemophobia

Sarah Williams – Netdoctor

I had a phobia of blood. As a vegetarian since the age of six, a rare steak and talk of raw meat at the dinner table had been enough to do it, but so had simply being told a gruesome story.

In between those moments are shades of fear; apprehension that kept me from attending certain events, the near misses and daily flinches at stimuli as small as walking past a butcher’s or reading a blood-filled paragraph – the anxiety manifesting as physical pain in my body.

Technical terms aside, sitting in Chris’s office is a mental whirlwind. It’s intense – but at the end of the session I feel lighter. Layers of physical tension have peeled away, and the heavy memories that had lurked just below my vision seemed somehow dispersed. The tears too were gone. While at the start I was choked with emotion just describing my fears, afterwards I found myself talking calmly about the potential stimuli I could encounter, which no longer seemed to frighten me.

For me, the greatest realisation was accepting that my phobia stemmed from a real, very scary encounter as a child, but that my response back then need not govern my reactions today. I left Chris’s office I felt bolstered. So am I cured? I think I might well be.

The sting has been removed from many scenarios that would have scared me. That doesn’t mean I now love the sight of blood, and I’ll not be visiting an abattoir any time soon. But now when I stare that steak squarely in the rib eye, it doesn’t hurt me. I’m safe. And it feels great.

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Can you cure a lifelong phobia?

Nikki Garnett – Midlife Chic

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For as long as I can remember I have been afraid of birds. Even if I am in an open space, my heart pounds, I go hot and my hands tingle. If I am in a more enclosed space such as an alleyway, I have a complete adrenalin reaction which is usually flight (ironic) rather than fight. It causes endless embarrassment to whoever is walking with me and great entertainment to passers-by.

The idea of being in a completely enclosed space with a bird is unthinkable. Each Spring, nesting jackdaws come down our chimneys and luckily, I have never been in the room. If I had been, I truly believe that my heart would have stopped. It is something I start to worry about from February onwards. However, the most limiting part of my phobia has always been the fact that it extends to eating birds. I don’t eat chicken, turkey or anything else that was originally feathered.

That session with Christopher took about 2 hours and at the end of it we went into the square across the road to test my progress. I managed to walk through the pigeons without flinching. It was very odd. Later that evening I noticed that I didn’t even react when a pigeon flew up in front of me in the enclosed space of Paddington Station.

… and yes – I did eat chicken, here’s the proof!

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Do I recommend the experience?

Yes I do wholeheartedly. As you have seen from my experience, you need to be open to uncovering memories and feelings that have been buried for a long time. Like me, you may even find that you actually have two phobias that are connected but need to be treated separately.

The whole experience has been really interesting and taught me a lot about myself. It has made me think a lot about how busy I always am and the impact it might have on my own family. I’m vowing to be more ‘present’ even when I have a lot on.

Read the full article here

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Yours Magazine

Gabrielle Albert

I’d always had a fear of wasps ever since my early childhood. Knowing deep down that my fear was somewhat irrational, I wanted to overcome it for good, but was initially sceptical at how effective ICS really was.
I would often avoid large outdoor spaces, especially parks, in fear of coming into contact with a wasp and getting chased and/or stung. If I’d hear a wasp-like noise, I’d instantly feel nervous and would react as though I was in real danger – which would be highly embarrassing when in the company of acquaintances or strangers.

After one session with Christopher, I felt my anxiety disappear. Now, when I think about wasps, I no longer feel ‘on edge’ or find myself looking for the nearest escape route.
I found it very insightful to be able to get to the root of my phobia and develop an understanding of those childhood experiences which had caused it to intensify over the years.
If you find that your phobia is preventing you from living life to the fullest, I’d highly recommend visiting Christopher to regain your freedom!

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Talking Through Therapies

Jackie John – Mum’s and Dad’s Magazine

When a quarter of all people seem to have anxiety, a whole culture of services and personnel appear, who want to rush to the rescue of us poor sufferers. It becomes impossible to distinguish between the genuine professionals and the charlatans, which is a source of worry in itself.

The waiting lists for CBT which is available on the NHS, have become so long that you’re likely to have died of natural causes before you can even have an initial consultation. Of course, even if you are one of the lucky few who finally manages to tear their way through and gain access to an NHS-provided or private ‘talking therapy’, (an umbrella term which covers methods such as CBT and mindfulness), the therapy you receive is likely to be delivered by an exhausted or indifferent counsellor, who presumes you will fit ideally into their mould of a mental health patient, and fires their own ideas at you until you wearily concede that you feel much better.

That was always my experience anyway, and after spending several years on the Mental Health Hamster Wheel of strictly followed protocols, generic platitudes and ‘one-size-fits-all’ treatments, I decided to try something a little different. So, I found myself on the first sunny morning of February navigating my way to Harley Street, historic home of medical excellence.

I was on my way to see Christopher Paul Jones.

I settled myself into a Freudian-style armchair, and prepared to be unimpressed, as I usually am. I had come, ostensibly, to have my fear of flying cured.

The Breakthrough Expert is well known for providing almost impossibly fast relief from specific phobias such as flying, spiders, and lifts. I had decided to let this be the focus of our session, not wanting to throw my whole cocktail of phobias and anxieties all over someone who only had an hour to work with me.

It was clear to me that, whatever else he might be, Christopher was a supremely intuitive people-reader, something which I had felt was severely lacking in any other therapist or doctor I had seen.

As anyone who’s ever sat in that slightly uncomfortable position opposite a therapist, counsellor, GP, psychiatrist or other breed of ‘curer’ will tell you – the first step towards building any kind of confidence in the person whom you hope will provide you with a magic cure to your problems, is simply believing that they understand what on earth the problem is. Christopher was the first person to really fill me with this confidence. After that first ‘eureka’ moment, I decided to trust whatever obscure treatment he thought fit to thrust at me.
Christopher’s methods are as unconventional as the man himself. Curled over in a chair which feels much too small for his larger-than-life personality, he eschews the more traditional protocol of CBT in favour of a whole cocktail of techniques, which lead to the name of his method – The Integrated Change System. Of course, there are still elements of CBT there, but there is also clinical hypnotherapy, eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (which involves blending the emotional and logical halves of your brain until they essentially get confused and let go of the worry), timeline techniques, and positive associations.

Every session is uniquely tailored to the person on the metaphorical couch (it’s actually a particularly cosy recliner) – and if a particular method seems to be working well, then more time is spent on that, and if something clearly doesn’t work it is quickly ditched.

I had never expected to be told to imagine my ‘anxiety voice’ as that of Donald Duck – and I absolutely loved it. I agree wholeheartedly with Chris’s notion that you can’t be afraid of the ridiculous. Making your fears ludicrous and laughable really does help to get rid of them. In fact, the whole approach of throwing humour at a problem to make it go away was one which hugely appealed to me, and I was overjoyed to find a professional who supported and embraced my own way of looking at my anxieties with an element of entertainment.
About halfway through our time, the idea of yoga was mentioned. Of course, it was. Involuntarily, I executed my well-practised eye roll which I always whip out at the barest mention of third wave coping strategies.

“I didn’t think you’d like that,” came the genial guffaw, “You’re a bit of a cynic, aren’t you?” said Christopher.

Not any more, Christopher, not any more…

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How I Conquered my Fear of Flying

Bazaar’s deputy editor Lydia Slater tackles her phobia head on.

For my daughters, our forthcoming trip to Botswana was a source of such excitement, they could barely sleep for weeks. I was unable to sleep either; but from terror rather than anticipation. The possible joys of seeing lions and leopards in their natural habitat paled in comparison with my dread of flying overnight in economy on a notoriously turbulent route.

My nightly fits of panic became so bad that my husband urged me to cancel the trip. I used to be an intrepid traveller who relished long-haul journeys; but ever since having children, my fear of flying had grown steadily worse. I sought professional help with hypnotherapy sessions and even went on BA’s flying course. Both times, my symptoms receded, only to reassert themselves with even greater force.

Any flight would be preceded by weeks of worrying; I obsessed about travelling on unlucky dates or sitting in the wrong seat. As I boarded, my palms would be sweating, and the slightest jolt would have me weeping in terror, or self-medicating from the flight trolley. I never slept on an overnight flight in case me shutting my eyes would be the cue for the pilot to do the same. And I could feel my world shrinking around me, as I obstinately opted for staycations and turned down work opportunities because they involved international travel.

I was determined not to waste the thousands of pounds we had spent on our flights to Africa, so as a last resort, I turned to Christopher Paul Jones (aka the Breakthrough Expert) who has a Harley Street-based practice, where he uses a combination of techniques to tackle persistent phobias.

By this stage, my fear had become so acute that I didn’t even want to discuss it and put off the sessions several times. When I did finally make it, I found myself crying as I described my problem. Part of what made it so distressing for me is that I was fully aware, thanks to the BA course, of how statistically safe flying is, so consequently, as well as being terrified, I also felt stupid.

Chris asked me to think about a bumpy flight while looking from left to right and back again, following the motion of a pen he was holding. The oddest, and most effective intervention, however, was when he asked me to stand up and allow my subconscious to indicate to him that it was listening – I was not to do anything consciously. I stood there, feeling rather silly, but gradually felt my body swaying forwards to indicate ‘yes’, and back for ‘no’. He then asked me to re-live a flight from Russia, taken when I was seven years old, that I had previously never thought of as particularly traumatic. However, the holiday itself, in pre-glastnost Moscow, had been highly stressful and Chris believed that this might be the source of my phobia. Once again, as I imagined the events as if from above and behind, he attempted to persuade my childhood self that the plane was a refuge, rather than a source of peril, and that it would be taking me back home to a place of safety.

Had it worked? My body swayed forwards. Were there other flights we needed to think about? I felt myself leaning backwards. I wanted to giggle, but my subconscious self had spoken, so who was I to argue? I left feeling euphoric about the prospect of seeing big cats in the wild. The next day, we all flew to Botswana. The flight was pretty bumpy. In fact, the plane ran into three storms on the way; but I wasn’t aware of them, as I slept through the night. No big deal for most people; but for me, it was a minor miracle, and it’s still working.

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Oh Comely Magazine

By Alice Snape

Working Christopher Paul Jones

Fear, pigeons and letting go; could hypnotherapy really cure a life-long fear of birds?

I am the girl who is scared of pigeons. I have always been that girl, as far back as I can remember. Who would I be without I be without that fear? My fear of pigeons is so ingrained in my being, that without it I could stumble across all sorts of trouble. My fear keeps me safe. It envelops me, it helps me negotiate my world.

All these thoughts are rushing thoughts my mind as I sit down in the hypnotherapist’s chair in a simple white room. Just me and him, and the two chairs. You know the kind that look like they are made for a therapist’s room.

That morning, I was tired and reluctant to go – even though I’d been thinking about hypnotherapy for years. Now it was about to happen, I just wasn’t sure I could deal with the consequences.

“What is the best possible outcome of this session?” he asks me. His tone is soothing, I instantly feel calm – I am okay.

“I want to be able to walk down the street without having to cross the road, or else embarrassing the people I am with by screaming. I live in London; they’re unavoidable – those rats with wings – and I’d love to be able to sit calmly in a park and eat my lunch, not cower indoors. But I don’t – under any circumstances – want to be a bird lady. I don’t want to seek them out,” I tell him. “That person, that is not me.”

I tell him about my earliest memories of being terrified of pigeons and when I start recounting a moment when my best friend Danielle pushed me into her aviary and locked me in, (I was about six years old) – my hand unintentionally lifts up to my face. “Is that the bird?” he asks. “I think so,” I tell him. I hadn’t even realized my hand was aggressively hovering by my face. My whole body is tense, rigid.

The light of his pen starts moving back and forth. My eyes try to keep up. I struggle to keep
that tired feeling away. “Don’t fight it,” he tells me. I briefly panic about losing control, but
then my eyes flick shut and my head flops on to the back of the chair.

I’m in a strange semi-awake state. I know where I am, yet, as he tells me to go back to that moment, I am also my six-year-old self standing in that aviary. I am terrified. He asks me to float above myself, and talk to my child self. I can feel the words coming out of my mouth; they flow out and I can’t stop them. I am in some strange dreamlike trance: “There’s nothing to be scared of, nothing’s going to happen. There’s nothing to be scared of, nothing’s going to happen.”

The therapist made me realize that what I had felt back then was fight or flight panic. As a six year old, I thought I was in real danger and my body reacted as such. And that’s when all the so-called truths of my life slowly started to unravel, realized that most of my fears and anxieties have been based on that one moment in my life, when I thought I was in danger. How absurd it seems to base all of your truths around what you believed to be true when you were just six years old. Fear, for the most part, isn’t based on reality. A moment that I’ve never really thought about properly has shaped the person I have become.

The whole session lasted around two hours, and my memories of it are hazy. I revisited many different moments from my life when my fear has taken over my rational mind, and re-assessed, rising above myself and telling myself that it would all be okay. I left that room without my fear. I’ve had Cognitive Behavioral Therapy before, but what Hypnotherapy made me realize is that my anxieties are not based on logic. Being formed in my irrational mind, to rid myself of them, I needed to travel to a different part of my brain. It revealed so much about me and all my past experiences. It was really such a liberating experience.

After the session I sat on a park bench, not truly believing that I could share a space with those birds. But I could. I heard a pigeon flap by. That wing flap and coo that used to fill me with dread now takes me to a happier place. I even smile as a bird flies over my head.

Now – weeks later – my indifference is a relief. My dread has been replaced by hope. Hope that my path will cross a pigeon to test my new self. Will I scream, shout and cross the road? No! I can now sit on a bench as one scuttles by my feet. I can watch it fly overhead without ducking. I can eat my lunch in the park.

Yesterday, I felt sympathy towards a bird trying to eat something off the floor in the station – I can’t believe I am inside with a bird and I am fine. I even saw fear in its little eyes, a poor small pigeon who just wanted its lunch. And, dare I say it, his face looked rather sweet. Removing my own fear has made me see theirs – they’re scared of us, and those birds are not out to get me as I used to believe.

Now, I am still not saying that I want to be the lady in the park covered in birds, I don’t think I want one eating out of my hands, but strangely I enjoy their company.

Alice Snape was hypnotized by Christopher Paul Jones in his Harley Street clinic.

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