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Feeling Giddy

2 Dec

//\\ (Photo credit: romana klee)

I have just had a call from Walthew House, booking me for a poetry reading in February, because the group had enjoyed my last visit so much.

#imreallyapoet  #mynewbestfriends #manglingsentencesinmyexcitement

Tell me, what hash tags describe your life today?


Another Poetry Reading

31 Oct
smiley face stickers

smiley face stickers (Photo credit: South Carolina’s Northern Kingdom)

You may remember the poetry reading I gave in September at Walthew House, which supports Stockport’s blind and deaf people.  I gave another this morning.  No microphone juggling today – we all sat around a table.

Last time, it was mostly doom and gloom about my years in South Africa; this time, I read lighthearted poems by other poets, and poems of my own along similar themes.

The group is delightful and kept me on my toes because some of them, as readers, are much more knowledgeable about poets than I am.

Despite the dry mouth and two full glasses of water – excuse me while I pop to the loo again – I really enjoyed myself.

And so did they: I’ve been invited to come back in the spring.

This year, I tell ya – I’m loving it.


It’s National Poetry Day

3 Oct

In protest OFC

As it’s National Poetry Day, I thought I’d share some news: I have another poem coming out in an anthology.

For me, this one is kind of a big deal, because I get to be an anthology buddy with Carol Ann Duffy, our Poet Laureate, and Ruth Padel, a big noise in the British poetry world.  You can’t see it, but I’m dancing a joyful jig right now – I’m an ’emerging poet’!

Contributors have been asked to publicise the event, so here goes:

Press Release

In Protest: new poetry anthology explores human rights and social justice

Poets from around the world explore themes of human rights and social justice in a unique collaboration between the Human Rights Consortium and the Institute of English Studies (both School of Advanced Study, University of London), and London-based poetry collective the Keats House Poets.

In Protest: 150 Poems for Human Rights is an ambitious new publication aiming to bring together the fields of human rights research and literature in an innovative way. Selected from over 600 poems submitted by established and emerging poetsit provides a rare international insight into issues ranging from the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the Hola massacre and indigenous peoples’ rights to the current war in Syria.

All the poems received were anonymised and the final 150 chosen include works from jailed Colombian human rights activist David Ravelo and acclaimed UK poets Carol Anne Duffy, Ruth Padel, Moniza Alvi and Douglas Dunn. Campaigner and philanthropist Sigrid Rausing, who wrote the afterword for the anthology, said:  ‘Poetry brings tiny details to life, and in a world where human rights is mostly about reports and abstractions, where real life and real details are lost, poetry can still make us see and feel.’

Co-edited by Helle Abelvik-Lawson (Human Rights Consortium), Laila Sumpton and Anthony Hett (both Keats House Poets), the 251 pages make up a body of contemporary works that is truly outstanding for its exploration of human rights. The poets come from a variety of backgrounds from more than 16 countries.

Divided into 13 themes – Expression, History, Land, Exile, War, Children, Sentenced, Slavery, Women, Regimes, Workers, Unequal, and Protest – the poems vary in style from compelling personal stories to reflections on contemporary events experienced via the evening news. With the forthcoming centenary of the First World War, this anthology also proves vital reading for an insight into contemporary war poetry, covering conflicts ranging from the Spanish Civil War to Syria.

‘This book has validated my suspicion that there is space and enthusiasm for literary creativity in human rights,’ said Helle Abelvik-Lawson. ‘Reading and writing poetry is a very therapeutic way to process some of the darker aspects of humanity. That said, it’s not all doom and gloom – there are some very empowering, fun and funny poems in this book. The feeling of solidarity is palpable, and I feel very privileged to have been able to read so many incredible poems. Like any good anthology, each poem offers something unique, telling a different story about the human experience.’

The editors, together with a number of poets, will speak at an event marking the UK launch of In Protest: 150 Poems for Human Rights (paperback) at the Bloomsbury Festival finale in Senate House, University of London on 20 October at 18:00. Discounted copies will be available. A series of events connected to the anthology are planned throughout 2013-14.


Surprise, Surprise!

23 Sep

A parcel arrived in the post from Australia:


The parcel was expected; the contents were not.  

That’s not as daft as it sounds – the lovely Blubee read my South African poetry collection via email; and was kind enough to print it out and send it back to me in the UK, with her annotations.  She also sent Maltesers, poetry, dogs, pens, napkins, Earl Grey, notebooks…she is clearly an avid reader/stalker.  She knows me well.  

I confess, I wouldn’t have opened the parcel until next week if I had known it was for my birthday; but I’m not sorry.

If you would like to learn more about Blubee, you can find her here.

As delighted as I was with everything, however (especially the book of poems written by dogs; so close to the truth, I suspect my own dogs may have submitted to publishers and not told me because they have greater success than I do), as lovely as it all was, what really touched me was the beautiful note Blubee wrote about my poetry and how it affected her.

Thank you so much, Blubee; you made my year.

I’m Nervous

2 Sep
English: South Africa (orthographic projection)

South Africa (orthographic projection) (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Graph representing how many poems I have in relation to how much time I have to fill…

I had intended to post about London today but I have spent most of it preparing for tomorrow: I am due to give a poetry reading to a lunch club group.

After some discussion with the group leader, I opted for a selection of my South African poems (remember them?) and anecdotes.

What has me nervous is the time I have to take – they want me to entertain them for a whole hour.


Wish me luck!


A Veneer Of Respectability

27 Jun
Lovely eggs

Lovely eggs (Photo credit: zhouxuan12345678)

So I was eating a soft-boiled egg yesterday when I felt a tooth fall off. I’ve eaten nothing but soft food for 48 hours, in a bid to keep the tooth in place.  That worked.  Not.

It wasn’t a tooth, thankfully; it was the veneer of the tooth which snapped off on Monday.  The new cement the dentist used has kept the actual tooth in place.  

The veneer must have been a little loose: it has a mind of its own and has made a bid for freedom at least three times before.  The veneer on the right front tooth is more of a homebody and likes to stay stuck to my inside.  Like my children, one gives me many problems; one none at all (they’re going to read this and assume the good one is the reader and the troubled one is the other; my boys will probably do the same).

Do yourself a favour – never get veneers.  Looking back on it, shaving off half my tooth to make it look better is probably not a great idea.  I suspect that has contributed to the whole tooth-snapping-off-in-a-corn-on-the-cob thing.

My dentist’s receptionist squeezed me in again and my dentist used the new cement which has kept the tooth in place to fix the veneer; and promised to squeeze me in once more if she gets a cancellation before my crown appointment.  My dentist and her staff are great.

I wrote a poem for them, a fluffy Thank You.  I did think about taking them some chocolates but that’s what got me into trouble in the first place.  Here’s the poem:


Corn On The Cob

For Alison & Stephanie

Corn on the cob
attacked me gob

Me tooth snapped off
which made me sob

No duck apple
for me to bob

Me mouth was robbed
by corn on the cob



It had its first airing on Tuesday, at the poetry reading.  Socially Yours is a group which meets every Tuesday in our church, though it is run by an outside agency. It’s a chance to chat, play quizzes and bingo, socialise.  Sometimes they have a guest to entertain them…that was me.

I read in two halves: first, from ancient to modern, like the hymns; and then some of my own poems.  I had fun, though I couldn’t feel my tongue by the time I had finished, my mouth was so dry from nerves: fidgety old ladies are a tough audience.

Talking of poems, here’s something to really make me smile: I’ve just had an email to say that one of my South African poems has been accepted for an anthology by the University of London, on human rights.

Here’s their blurb: 

We are looking for poems that focus on any human rights or social justice issue, national or international, current or historical.  Poems could explore refugee rights, freedom of speech, indigenous peoples’ rights, LGBTI rights, economic rights or environmental justice – the opportunities are endless! 

The Human Rights Consortium is a multidisciplinary collaborative centre for research into human rights and social justice issues. For inspiration, please visit our current project pages (see sidebar). You can follow the Human Rights Consortium on Twitter or like us on Facebook to receive project-related news and updates about human rights. 

The Human Rights Poetry Anthology will be selected, compiled and edited by academics with expertise in human rights and English studies from the School of Advanced Study (University of London); and the Keats House Poets, a collective of young poets supported by the Keats House Museum who actively write and perform poems about human rights issues.

They sound like a barrel of tooth veneers, don’t they? 

We will stick tog...

We will stick together… (Photo credit: Thai Jasmine (…Smile..))

Free Download Of Me

13 Jun
Cartoon Superman

Cartoon Superman (Photo credit: ssoosay) He’s pretty dumb – he still uses a phone box…

English Pen ran a competition: make up a word; use it as a title in a poem or piece of flash fiction.  I did; I didn’t win; but I was a runner-up – one of thirty, from over 400 entries.

That was some weeks ago.  I received an email with the news; then another, telling me where to access a free download of the anthology e-book, The Dictionary Of Made-Up Words.

Cue weeks of frustration.  I could NOT download that damn thing.  I can’t tell you how I struggled, trying to access it.  I have no idea how I ended up with seventeen downloads of the same document on several computers (I thought it might be something to do with the Windows package), but so it was.  It appears I could download it; I just couldn’t read it.

The email offered me a MOBI version for Kindle.  I was told I needed to download a MOBI package to access the e-book.  I was too scared to do that – I’ve heard about these exploding viruses that wipe your hard drive.  The Hub has warned me ever since I learned to switch on a computer by myself: NEVER click ‘Yes’ on an executable file if you don’t know the source.  I don’t know if it was an executable file; I don’t know who this MOBI is, but I suspect he’s a bit of a dick, so I played it safe and that is possibly why I have seventeen downloads of a file I can not access on all computers in the house and even one in Peterborough with Tory Boy.

English Pen asked us to publicise the e-book, but how could I ask you to face the same trials I was facing?

I could not.  I like you all too much to want you to stand beating your heads against a brick wall (or tin wall, for those of you who live in less traditional structures; but it’s still got to hurt).

Ma.ture Technology

Ma.ture Technology (Photo credit: ncomment). I think I know why this is funny but I don’t understand most of the language.  Rather like my relationship with computers, actually.

Round about the time I was ready to take a screwdriver to my laptop to see if the book was lurking about in its entrails, the Hub stepped in.

Much shouting ensued, because I was telling him how to do the thing he was doing because I didn’t know how to do it (c’mon ladies…we’ve all done it).  Here’s the gist of it:

HUB (in capitals because he’s yelling): It’s not for your computer, it’s for your Kindle!  All you’ve got to do is transfer it from your laptop to your Kindle!

ME (in capitals because I’m yelling because I’m wrong): Oohhhhhhh….

Me (in lower case because I’m an idiot): And how do I do that?


You know what the irony of this story is?

My poem is about my inability to use technology. 😀


piano hazard

piano hazard (Photo credit: Zemlinki!)

You can download the whole book for free (if you need a Hub to hurl abuse at you while that’s happening, mine’s available), for your Kindle, Nook or something else, here.  

They will send you an email with a couple of links.  Don’t ask me for help.

Take some time to read the comments about the winning poem.  They make the Hub and I look like we’re blissfully in love.

For those of you who don’t have an e-reader (or the technology gene), here’s my poem:


The science 
of misunderstanding an appliance.
The groan 
accompanying a new phone.
The cry
as an elderly computer dies.
The ache
for a simpler age,
when a book had a page.
Techneptitude –
technological stupidity
with a hint of decrepitude.


Best Of Manchester Poets 3

27 Mar

I forgot to mention – I had a poem accepted for the latest Best Of Manchester Poets anthology.  That means I’ve had a poem in each collection.   Poems are judged anonymously.  

This year’s poem is called Tsetse Rat.  It’s one of my favourites of all I have written: it was inspired by the sight of a dead rat at the bus stop.

If  you happen to be in and around Manchester tomorrow night, the book’s launch is taking place at a free event at the Eighth Day Cafe, Oxford Road, M1 7DU, 7:30-10.  Poets in the book will be reading from the collection and it is hosted by Dominic Berry.


Find Dominic Berry on Book A Poet

I can’t make it, unfortunately, because I’m feeling a little slimsy at the moment; but I was at the launch of the first anthology and it was great fun.

The book is available to buy on Amazon or from the publisher, Puppywolf, but you can read one poem for free:


Tsetse Rat 

Poor rat and your pedestrian end:
was it death by cat?
I hope it was old age; you fell asleep.
Dark comfort in your long rest.

Dangerous praise to resent your passing,
forlorn corpse; scorned by
heels and prams and bicycle wheels.

Sleep peacefully, rat, on your dull part
of the dirty path; curled like an idle moon.



The previous word was ‘rutilant’: Glowing or glittering with ruddy or golden light – what I do each time I have a poem accepted.  It never gets old.


The Next Big Thing? I Wish!

7 Jan
south africa

south africa (Photo credit: rafiq s)

Regular readers know that, while I am always grateful to receive awards, appreciating the compliment and the kind thought, I never act on them.  I consider them well-intentioned chain letters – without the threat of death and disaster if they are not forwarded, but chain letters all the same.

‘You’ve been tagged’ posts are just as bad, as a rule, but I have decided to play along with the latest because it’s about self-promotion, and you all know I’m in favour of that.

Robin Coyle tagged me.  You should visit her blog to read about her book; it sounds fascinating, though she is a little too ready to give away the plot.  We have had words about it.  

The premise is simple: write a blog interview about your book, using the following questions:


What is the title of your book?

Apartheid’s All Right If You’re White


Where did the idea come from for your book?

I lived in South Africa during and after Apartheid.  It took fifteen years to get the experience out of my system.  I had a lot of poems that I first posted on a now-defunct blog.  Viv nagged me to do something with them.


What genre does your book fall under?


I make no apologies.*

Brad Pitt in 2007.

Brad Pitt in 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Which actors would you choose to play in your movie rendition?

Me: Sandra Bullock (I wish) or Julie Walters (realistically)

The Hub: Brad Pitt 

Nelson Mandela: Morgan Freeman (obviously)

Maid: Eve Sisulu (a joke for Madam & Eve readers)

Violent Policeman: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Terrorists: The IRA

Madam & Eve

Madam & Eve (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A book of poetry like South Africa itself: colourful, violent and a little bit crazy.


Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I will be sending it to several publishers but I will self-publish if necessary.  So yes, it will be self-published.


How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Twenty-two years.



PHILIP LARKIN (Photo credit: summonedbyfells)

What other books would you compare this story to?

I don’t know of any.  Unless you count any poem Philip Larkin wrote about his parents.


Who or what inspired you to write the book?

My sanity.



What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s not really poetry.


The rules of the tag require me to name five more people who might be The Next Big Thing.  I have opted for bloggers who have or should have a book in the works.

Please feel free to ignore the tag; I won’t be offended.


A Labled Easy To Follow Leg

1 Nov

It’s that time of the month – here are the searches that found my blog in October:


Searches are the only times I love grammar (grammatical?) and spelling errors

Grammar police

Grammar police (Photo credit: the_munificent_sasquatch)

  • tour the france accidents
  • why dont americans like electic kettles
  • plumber onliners

I’d like one of those

  • bearhug in sweden
  • dobermans backside

I know that feeling

  • my butt is big

We’re better behaved than that

  • yorkies eating poo

It’s all about the emphasis

  • fat moped girl

I despair of education today

  • what sounds does owl makes
Yorkie puppy

Yorkie puppy (Photo credit:

An impossibility

  • ugly yorkie puppies
  • im still mad at you wife


That’s a strange place to get one

  • man with bump in head


The weirdos are back

  • i saw the ghost of gloria gaynor standing at the foot of my bed
  • australian and nudist and tumblr
  • poo humour poems
  • male stripper running credit card thru butt
  • vamps by love in deaths arms

I thought I had a morbid sense of humour

  • funny heart attack cartoons
  • cartoon cooking children and parents
  • a labled easy to follow leg

    You put your left leg in, you put your left le...

    You put your left leg in, you put your left leg out…. (Photo credit: foxypar4)


The pickings are feeble so it’s time for a poem.

Last month, Bluebee invited her readers to make poems from searches.  She posted my first attempt here.  Be warned: there’s a lot of hair.

I enjoyed the exercise so much, I’ve had another go.  You should try it!  

Here is today’s poem:


why dont americans like electic kettles

i saw the ghost of gloria gaynor standing at the foot of my bed
a labled easy to follow leg
fat moped girl my butt is big
bearhug in sweden man with bump in head


I Feel Like Dancing

18 Oct

The first rule of self-promotion is to keep your audience in the loop, so here’s me being loopy:

The first edit of Apartheid’s All Right If You’re White is finished!

You know, my book of poetry memoir about my time in South Africa during and after Apartheid.  Pay attention, people.  How can I self-promote if you’re not listening?

I say ‘first edit’ but it has been edited to the nth degree.  The first poem was probably written about 1992.  My skills have improved a little since then and the poem is probably quite different to how it started life.  Poems are never finished; they are simply polished to the level of my ability.

The poems first appeared in public on a short-lived blog dedicated to them.  I added the memoir for context.  That would have been that but Viv nagged me to gather and edit them for publication.  Her reward is to critique the finished product.  Pseu is also being punished.  Thank you, ladies.

I feel like dancing because it has taken about six months (and twenty years) to get this far.  Summer interrupted; visitors interrupted; new sheds interrupted; illness interrupted…i.e. I did anything but work on it.  

I write, therefore I procrastinate.

My intention was to self-publish, as you know, but Viv insists that I first try submitting the collection to unwary publishers.  Look out for a slew of despairing posts on yet another rejection.  

I write, therefore editors assassinate.

Once Viv and Pseu have done their evil but essential work, I will re-edit and begin submitting.  Look out for my next post on the subject in 2014.


I might as well get all the poetry stuff out of the way in one post:

You may remember in the summer I had three poems displayed on the Bolton Arts Trail.  All of the poems on the trail have been gathered together into one anthology.  Look:

I was excited to find one of my poems was first in the anthology – that’s never happened before.  It was dumb luck, of course: the poems are arranged alphabetically, according to the name of the shop in which they were displayed.  

I’m a writer; I need dumb luck.  And a little dancing.

In fact, that’s what I did when my edit was done: I put on some Mango Groove and gave it some wellly around the living room.  And I’m going to do that every time I complete a book stage.

Poeming Bliss

9 Oct

What a great weekend for me (though possibly not for poetry):

Friday Afternoon:

Poetry reading by Suzanne Batty, followed by a Q&A session and workshop, at Stockport Central Library.

Suzanne Batty

Suzanne read some of her poems (not enough; I could have stood to hear more) and members of the audience (not me) asked intelligent questions (I rest my case).  Then she had the group analyse a couple of poems by other poets, based on National Poetry Day’s [4 October] theme, Stars.  It was like being back with the Open University.  Better than eating Maltesers.

Finally, we had to use the theme to write our own poem.  Ten people produced ten very different poems.  Mine was a complaint about the retirement of the space shuttles.  I’m not talking to NASA at the moment.

The high point of the whole afternoon was wholly unexpected.  A middle-aged man next to me had come along to the reading to experience something new.  He was taken aback to find himself part of a workshop.  He has never written anything in his life, and was embarrassed to admit he only managed three lines. Three lines that proved to be a beautiful haiku.  I was thrilled for him.

I took some pictures of Suzanne but my camera and I disagree about the use of lighting, so they didn’t turn out.  The camera always wins.  Fortunately, Suzanne had given me permission to lift her photo from her Facebook page.  She really is as nice as she looks.

Saturday Morning:

Poetry workshop at St Peter’s Church Burley Memorial Hall in Waverton, Chester.

Not as grand as it sounds – we drove past it seven times and only found it by accident: stopping to ask directions, I looked out of the window to find we had parked in front of a sign saying, St Peter’s Church Burley Memorial Hall.  A squat but pleasant building.  The vicarage was a manor house and looked bigger than the church.

We had thirty minutes to kill so we popped into the beautiful church to look around.  It is 900 years old, we were told; and we got to touch stone that still has the chisel marks from when it was quarried almost a millennium ago.  A brilliant feeling. I enjoyed it so much, I forgot to take a photograph.

The workshop was fantastic.  Offered by the Church of England and run by the rather sweet Julia McGuiness, it introduced us to ways of writing our faith, using our faith to write (not the same thing), and cinquains.

I think I’m in love.  Cinquains are such fun!  I can’t believe I’ve never written one until the four I now have in my notebook.

Monday Evening:

Write Out Loud at Stockport Art Gallery, while it’s still open.  Poems for the reading of.

Stop the Closure of Stockport Art Gallery and War Memorial during the Week

Part of the Write Out Loud network, we meet on the second Monday in the month to read our poems aloud and sort world affairs.  Not every WOL group is like ours: many of them are proper open mic events.  Our group is small and everybody knows everybody else and it has simply fallen into this particular pattern.

We might not be around much longer.  Stockport Council wants to close the art gallery Monday-to-Friday, including our indoor War Memorial, and install just the permanent collection and nothing else.

I intend to write a poem in protest.

If you think stabbing a knife into the heart of the arts in Stockport is outrageous; and closing a War Memorial five days a week is a slight to those who fought and died in several war, then please sign this e-petition:

The Council’s perfidy aside, I had a lovely weekend.  

Net Result:

  • 4 Days
  • 3 Events
  • 13 Poems (unlucky for some)
  • 1 Happy Tilly
  • 1 Gushing Post

Weekly Photo Challenge: Happy

6 Oct


[Writing a renga with Viv]

Six Word Saturday

(also includes Friday)

in which Tilly

thinks she’s died and gone heavenwards

[Poetry reading at Bramhall Hall]

Yesterday afternoon I was at a poetry reading by Suzanne Batty, in Stockport Central Library, which was followed by a workshop.

This morning I am at a different poetry workshop.

What a great week I’m having!

Details to follow.

I am never happier than when I’m writing or doing writing-related activities.

[Promoting my writing group]

This week’s response to the photo challenge is supposed to include a new gallery feature that WordPress have introduced – they are as happy with that as I am with my workshops – but I only have 11% space left and all of these pictures have been on my blog before, so I have copied and pasted these photos instead of uploading.

To compensate, and to keep to the spirit of the exercise – which I am happy to do – here is a photo of me, happy (ecstatic, actually) in a gallery:

[Standing with a piece of art work inspired by a poem of mine]

For more Six Word Saturdays, go here.


Poo Picks

15 Sep


Time to vote:

pick a title

If you have arrived here from Six Word Saturday, here’s a quick catch-up: I intend to publish a book of poems about poo and I need a good title.

Thank you to everyone who left wonderful and funny and wonderfully funny suggestions.  I had intended to include them all in the poll, but I was showered with names and the poll would have been too long, like those cold calls you get that swear it will only take five minutes and by the time you get off the phone your children have grown up and left home.

I had to make an arbitrary selection and this judge’s decision is absolutely final. Unless you want to take a look at the original post, see what I’ve left out, and make a formal request to have your favourite included.



On Poo

13 Sep
Cow Pat

Cow Pat (Photo credit: b3ardman)

I wouldn’t say the tone is particularly high around here, but I’m going to lower it to about as low as I can go without swearing, nudity or hairy armpits.

You know I am currently editing my South Africa poetry collection and I intend to publish it as an ebook.  The editing is going well and I will soon have to start thinking about the technical aspect of the operation.

No, that’s not where the poo comes in, but I am sweating at the thought of it.

Actually, that is where the poo comes in: as I am a complete novice at epublishing and will have to learn from the bottom up, I thought it might be a good idea to have a trial run with a small collection of poems that I wrote for fun and don’t mind giving away for free because I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind would pay for them.

I may have mentioned that I have written a collection of poems about poo (you see, dear readers: a literature degree is never wasted); the collection is small and manageable, unlike the South Africa poems, and I think people might enjoy the lighter side of excrement.

I have the following titles in mind:

  • On Poo
  • Feces Theses
  • NO.2 Cycle
  • The Lighter Side of Excrement (that one came to me when I typed the previous paragraph)
  • Turd Words
  • On Poo Corner
  • Crap Poems
  • The Allure of Ordure
  • Poop Poems
  • Manure Musings

I would like – with some trepidation, I must confess – to invite you to suggest further titles: vulgarity is acceptable; levity is encouraged; rudeness is not.

Please leave your suggestions in the comment box.  Once I have a few, I will put a poll in the field (watch where you step…).

An interesting aside:

While researching the correct spelling of faeces (the English, naturally; but I went with the American for the visual rhyme), I came across a fascinating site which tells you how things should look; and why they look like they look if they don’t look good:

Wrinkle your nose all you want – like death and gaining weight, we all think about it.

Or is that just me?

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