Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Nice name check

This is a shot I gave away on the free stock site. This guy has used it on a website he's done for friends who farm, if that's the right term, honey.
Not a perfect shot, but it works well on the web. If you look at the gallery page it's listed again.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Just beautiful

I can't find a youspace version of Kate Rusby singing No Names, which I'm currently hammering on my i-pod, but this is lovely too, especially on a cold, wet February night when if you can't be with the one you love hug the one you will.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Eye Right!

More good news on the home/family front, I took my son to Out Patients today for a check-up on his eye and it is now back to the same normal pressure as his other one. They also took out the microscopic stitch from the surgery, so he can gradually ease back in to wearing his contacts again. And they discharged him, with the recommendation that we get his optician to test his eye pressure every year as part of his usual eye check.

So no lasting damage from the accident, and he can start playing contect sports again - he's really been missing his football/soccer, so I'm glad he'll be able to play again, and we'll try not to think about the risks.

And I thought I'd mention that there was a lovely sung version of Keats' The Lake Isle of Innisfree by Anuna on Something Understood this week, hear it here (You might need to try twice for it to load)It's also available on i-tunes.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

The full programme, which examines the notion of "home" and the listen again option are here

I'm hoping for a little peace for a bit. An evening full of linnet's wings would be plain bloody lovely right now.

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I heard this remark on the radio about how nobody has ever died of embarrassment, and I've been wanting to try and write a villanelle so I decided that the remark might be a good theme for such a poem.

I now realise just how difficult the form is, but here's my attempt, which I'll probably redraft forever.

(In Scotland having a beamer means you're blushing/very embarrassed)


“Embarrassment doesn’t kill, no-one’s ever died!”
At fifteen I believe absolutely that it can.
“You take life way too seriously”, she chides.

She confesses to shop girls, where's her pride?
Old sods from the pub appear for Christmas dinner.
“Embarrassment doesn’t kill, no-one’s ever died!”

“I’ve got great pins!” she roars and away he runs, wide-eyed.
Another boy I'll never see again.
“You take life way too seriously”, she chides.

Clothes can make you disappear; I use mine to hide.
Why can't she tone it down - act her age?
“Embarrassment doesn’t kill, no-one’s ever died!”

“I didn’t kiss the man next door!” - she lies.
Funny how everyone at school says differently.
“You take life way too seriously”, she chides.

“I just held his hand and listened while he cried.”
In a car park, in daylight, in full view?
“Embarrassment doesn’t kill, no-one’s ever died!
You take life way too seriously”, she chides.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Meditation time

Visited a meditation centre today. I liked the light on these plastic garden chairs.

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The wean is looking to earn some cash from us, so I've delegated my least favourite job, which I only do on a demand-led basis anyway, the ironing! As I type he's hauling out the pile from the cupboard under the stairs annd sorting it into separate piles, of his, his Dad's and mine.

I won't let him loose on my stuff, but he can do tee shirts and jeans and such.

How should I pay, flat rate or piece-work? I better not fall into the trap of creating my own wee sweatshop...hmmmmm....

Maybe he'll go on to greater things, like the guy in this picture.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Page Turners

The British Library in association with Hewlett Packard has put some of it's most memorable manuscripts on line. Do you want to see Blake's notebook, read Jane Austen's early work, see the first published map of Europe or the oldest book in the world?

Then look here

Personally I loved the Lewis Carrol and the Herbal. The early atlas of Europe is interesting too as countries of the Med are well drawn, but Scotland and Ireland are pretty sketchy. Nothing changed there then, given the weatherman pointed to the Western Isles at the weekend and said "there'll be rain up there in nowhereland" !

Also do a wee search of their images library. Just enter a random word and see what comes up, they have some facinating things.

Talking of the islands, they now hold their own international games competition. The last one was in Shetland in 2005, the next one is in Rhodes - bit of a difference there guys! See here for the medals table. They're obviously not big on photographs. Here's their population stats


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

OK some good news, well great news really!!

First Gus' tumour was benign, it is some sort of strange cell mutation thing that is common on dogs' legs and it was confined to the skin, so complete excision should be an end to it. We're all so relieved as we really love the bumptious wee bugger.

Second good news is I picked up my prize tonight for winning the landscape section of this competition
And the best bit of my prize is that in March I'll get to spend two hours out on the Bass Rock with Laurie Campbell who is one of Scotland's leading wildlife photographers.

This is some info on the Bass Rock, which is a world renowned site of special scientific interest.

I really can't believe that I won, there were some amazing shots, but I'm just really pleased that someone local won, with a local landscape - my misty trees shot.

You can't believe how good it feels to have made this level of progress from picking up a point and click camera to take out with me as I worked to get fit again after chemo. I used to tell myself I had to get a least one worthwhile shot each day from a different part of the river walk near my home and every day I'd walk a bit further.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Good breast cancer article

This is a good piece. I e-mailed the woman and wished her luck with her health and the sky dive her friend is doing in order to show solidarity.

Not sure about their logo,it seems a wee bit crass to me, but their hearts seem to be in the right place.

If you get the chance please also visit my friend Joanne's blog. We met on-line at a cancer support site when we were both first diagnosed. Joanne's breast cancer is different from mine in that it is not hormone receptive, so her treatment options are fewer, basically just chemo and radio-therapy. She's had two recurrences since her first diagnosis, and the last one included spread to her lungs. Anyway she's giving it all she has, and is currently being a snow bird in Arizona, escaping the worst of the Canadian winter.

We're hoping she can come and visit us this summer, if she's well enough to fly.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Monday, Monday

Well S's funeral went well. The service was lovely, and hopefully everything she hoped it would be.

On a happier note I helped M, my music teacher, to plant trees this morning. She's turning her back garden into a mini orchard. We've now planted 6 espalier trees round the fences. Four went in last year, and are now bursting with fruiting spurs, and we planted two more today, a plum and a peach. M's Dad came down from the islands to build up the fence to a height to take them, and he's put in training wires. When the blossom breaks it's all going to look amazing. I'm trying to persuade her to terrace the rest of the garden, as she'd be able to grow so much more as it falls away by about four feet.

And I'm washing my greenhouse, a boring job, but it's wonderful to see it starting to gleam again, with all the winter grim and glup washed off. I even clean between the sheets of glass to get all the algae out. The grape vine, which runs along the roof, is looking good after a severe pruning during the winter, and I have a passion flower and a tender clematis growing through it to add interest. These are my home grown grapes.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Indigo a blue to dye for

A fantastic exhibition on indigo is on at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester, and will then tour the UK. Did you know woad and indigo are one in the same thing? That indigo is the only true blue dye? That it has to ferment to be released from the plant, and that ancient people used to use post menopausal women to work the dye vats, as they feared fertile women soured the process?
And then there's jeans,jeans,jeans, Thank God for denim and Mr Levi Strauss. They changed post war Britain that's for sure.

And blow me the Indigo Girls on are tour here too. I didn't know and so I haven't got a ticket. They have a new album out called "Despite our Differences"
It includes as song called Little Perennials so as a gardener I've got to love it.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

The art of balance

I heard a great piece on the radio this morning about stone balancing. I'd love to give it a try, and some of our local beaches would be a good place to start as there's an abundance of fatastic rocks. A good idea to file away for a nice summer's day, picnic lunch, camera and trying something new.

Also a fantastic piece in the Glasgow Herald on a Scots couple, from the Isle of Lewis, working in Zambia, who have adopted two street children, and now foster 38 others. Most are orphans from Aids, and most are boys, as surviving girls get married off. The couple's own wee girl of six just thought that girls came in white and boys in black.

Life expectancy in Zambia is now 37!! It is 78 in Scotland.

My son is still sleeping. He had a wild night last night. He was at his friend's grandad's 80th birthday party. And no it wasn't in old folks home, it was in the pub and he got home at 2.00am!

I'm off to work in the garden again, cutting back things like peonies etc. The strange season continues as I have cowslips well in flower, but the forsythia isn't out yet. Euphorbia robbiae is in flower along the fence, I love the lime green flowers, but it does need space.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007


Our wee dog has a lump on his leg, with luck it will be scarring from a tick bite. But he's gone off the vet's today to have it excised and sent for biopsy. He'll also getting his nashers cleaned and polished, which will hopefully improve his dog breath!

He's eleven, with a trace of a heart murmur so general anesthetic will be a bit risky, but I just want to give him a bit of chance in case this leg thing is something nasty. He's a cross between a mongrel from Oman, that my friend brought back through quarantine after her kids bought it in the market there, and a Jack Russell. I love him dearly as he's a great character and was my constant companion when I was ill.

So please cross everything for Gus! This is him surveying the street outside, he patrols this pew every day spotting arrivals and rivals.

We get him back at 3.30 pm.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Strangely N is also helping a friend whose just been diagnosed with very late stage cancer. I sometimes think people believe that we both hold the manual on how to do this disease, but sadly with cancer every manual is unique to the owner.

N visited her friend in hospital today and the woman told her that N was the only vistor who had actually met her eye. So perhaps we do have a skills to offer, and that is to still see the person rather than the disease or death.

Anyway to happier things. Denise Levertov is a favourite poet of mine, On the Ache of Marriage is my favourite poem of hers, but it's too heavy for Valentines's Day, so here is a honey scented one instead. I reminds me of Cat Stevens songs for some reason. (Oh and the picture is an old isolation shot I did of a love heart, which I made into a Photoshop stamp.)

An Embroidery

Rose Red's hair is brown as fur
and shines in firelight as she prepares
supper of honey and apples, curds and whey,
for the bear, and leaves it ready
on the hearth-stone.

Rose White's grey eyes
look into the dark forest.

Rose Red's cheeks are burning,
sign of her ardent, joyful
compassionate heart.
Rose White is pale,
turning away when she hears
the bear's paw on the latch.

When he enters, there is
frost on his fur,
he draws near to the fire
giving off sparks.

Rose Red catches the scent of the forest,
of mushrooms, of rosin.

Together Rose Red and Rose White
sing to the bear;
it is a cradle song, a loom song,
a song about marriage, about
a pilgrimage to the mountains
long ago.
Raised on an elbow,
the bear stretched on the hearth
nods and hums; soon he sighs
and puts down his head.

He sleeps; the Roses
bank the fire.
Sunk in the clouds of their feather bed
they prepare to dream.

Rose Red in a cave that smells of honey
dreams she is combing the fur of her cubs
with a golden comb.
Rose White is lying awake.

Rose White shall marry the bear's brother.
Shall he too
when the time is ripe,
step from the bear's hide?
Is that other, her bridegroom,
here in the room?


Monday, February 12, 2007


S died this afternoon at home. They were on the point of transferring her to hospital, so I'm glad her wish to pass away in her own house was met.
I spoke to her daughter this evening and put her in touch with the Minister who has agreed to us having the memorial service in her church. S asked me to see if I could arrange the use of the church without the preacher. She said she liked churches, but not religion!

So the service will hopefully be next Monday and we'll be reading Emily D, Roethke, Shelley, Shakespeare and Burns.

S. taught a class on Shakespeare and this is the sonnet we'll read:

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unus'd to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long-since cancell'd woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish'd sight.
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor'd, and sorrows end.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Who are we?

I spotted this on Barbara's Bleeugh. It's from an idea by Skint Writer's to sum up " who we are", we being a couple, in 21 words or less. This is my attempt, hardly romantic, but honest:

Reason left long since,
but we remain partners
in rhyme, sharing a child,
a dog, a home,a slice
of time.

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Paul Abbot

Kirsty Young's castaway this week is the playwright Paul Abbot, he's responsible for some of the UK's best television drama of the last few years, and he has achieved this from the double disadvantage of being bi-polar, with several suicide attempts behind him, and coming from a poor, parentless family of eight.

Refreshing to hear his views rather than people who have one eye on posterity and are often so up themselves they're almost inside out.
Details of his choices here.

He has some wonderful things to say about worrying about becoming a parent when you've no blue print to fall back on.

Also watched the BBC 2 Scotland Celtic Connections programme last night. See the whole thing here .It was wonderful, especially Dick Gaughan singing Now Westlin winds and the Asturian band Tejedor, the young lead singer is so like a younger version of my Basque friend N. We're really looking forward to N's sister coming over this month, she's a well-known musician in Spain, she's currently working on a film score.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Words as colour

Yesterday I wrote, "I wish words were colours and then shades of meaning etc would be so much easier to spot and alter."

And then I remembered hearing about a condition called synesthesia.

"The phenomenon--its name derives from the Greek, meaning "to perceive together"--comes in many varieties. Some synesthetes hear, smell, taste or feel pain in color. Others taste shapes, and still others perceive written digits, letters and words in color. Some, who possess what researchers call "conceptual synesthesia," see abstract concepts, such as units of time or mathematical operations, as shapes projected either internally or in the space around them. And many synesthetes experience more than one form of the condition."

When asked if they would like to live without the condition most "suffers" say no, that it would be like living without an extra sense. I wish I could try it for a few minutes.


Friday, February 09, 2007

It's only words

I laughed last night as I lay in bed trying to get to sleep while listening to the BBC's "Today in Parliament" programme. Normally it gets me off to sleep a treat, but last night the commentator kept speaking about Shaun of the Remaining Peers (SoTRM). Now I've heard about Shaun of the Dead, so is SoTRPs a close relative?

Alright I know he was really saying "shorn", but did gave me a laugh.

I've been typing up an order of service for my dying friend. I went round to see her with another member of our group and it was so heartbreaking to see such a decline in her in such a short time, and to see how frustrated she is with the way the morphine is affecting her ability to think (hopefully they'll get the dose sorted out, as this doesn't need to be the way of things). We agreed to help by typing up the readings and poems that she's selected so she can see them all of a piece. I must admit that I shed a few tears doing it.

We all love language, but the real power of words only truly comes through at times like this. Her two favourite poems are both by American poets, Emily Dickinson and Theodore Roethke. Somehow it feels fitting that Spring has stalled and we have snow on the ground today.

I'm still ploughing through my next photographic submission. I wish I had a more powerful pc so I could write a batch instruction for the file interpolation, it takes forever for my pc to crank out one file. And I reappraise every shot, checking there's absolutely no colour cast etc, etc.

I find it easier to operate in colours, I wish words were colours and then shades of meaning etc would be so much easier to spot and alter. I think I have always had a mild form of dyslexia, in that I taught myself to spell by memorising the shape and pattern of words on the page - but I've a problem in getting the sound of a word off the page if I don't already know what it should sound like. With plants I've also had to teach myself the shape and pattern of the Latin names, but again I can rarely make sense of how they should sound, unless I listen in to a programme like Gardener's World. Add to that my chemobrain problems, which get worse when I'm tired and words can feel pretty challenging at times.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Here in the UK we're in the middle of our first industrial farm based outbreak of bird flu. This morning I was amazed to learn that local power stations near this farm normally burn the turkey waste from several of these farms to generate electricity, and they are therefore missing the output from this particular plant, as it's being taken elsewhere to be specially incinerated.

It got me thinking about where such a means of generating electricity leaves vegetarians and Buddhists? To me it seems like they are in a similar position to pacifists who object to seeing their share of general taxation going towards the purchase of arms and weapons.

And it also seems more than a little sick that one turkey is helping to roast another.

This world never fails to surprise me. When does I suppose it will be time for me to checkout. And then I'll maybe volunteer myself so that I too can add a few more Watts to the National Grid - better than than just going up in smoke at the crem!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Space Rage?

Read here about a mad and sad story of space age jealousy

Monday, February 05, 2007

Super Bowl Ads

A friend in the US sent me the link for them all. I like the Blockbuster one the best. You'll need a pretty quick puter to view these .

Sunday, February 04, 2007


I must admit to loving these. If I get to StAnza I really want to try and see
Alan Spence as I really admire his work and for what it's worth he inspired me to find a way to write about my cancer.

Anyway this weekend Colin Will kindly looked at a few haiku I'd attempted and gave me some great pointers. (Funnily enough he's just blogged about writing haiku.)
So I think I'll keep trying to write them, as something about the form appeals to my eye as much as my ear.

The ones I shared with him were written last autumn and this is one of the ones he helped me polish up:

another year reaped
and gathered in

and this is a new one that I'm still thinking through:

February -

a torn plastic prayer bag

in every tree

View from an Edinburgh University Building

I took this for a friend who works at the University to use on some promotional material.

Saturday, February 03, 2007


Originally uploaded by gapyearwoman.
fungi and leaves

Friday, February 02, 2007

I deserve an exhibition ;)

I deserve an exhibition ;)
Originally uploaded by gapyearwoman.
This site is

You can add your own pictures to museum shots


Originally uploaded by gapyearwoman.
moorland fence posts with loch behind

Now that the light is so good I can't stay in. Today I went up into the hills and played with the new lens. Although this stakes shot is an old one in the same area.
I love it up there, just me and the sheep and the occasional grouse. On the way home three partridges flew out of the verge, and then flew just ahead of me down a hill, I was keeping up with them and they were backlight by the setting sun - it was fabulous.


Originally uploaded by gapyearwoman.
stone sheep circle shot with lensbaby


Originally uploaded by gapyearwoman.
lensbaby shot of moorland road

StAnza launch

Some friends and I went to the StAnza launch last night. The event's aim was to give a flavour of the things that will be on this year. It is a densely pack programme of goodies, so the taster proved to be a wee bit indigestible in parts as the readers wanted to do justice to the full range of events.

This was the blurb for the night:

"Bernard MacLaverty speaks on the place of poetry in his life and work as a writer.

Plus: StAnza Directors Brian Johnstone & Eleanor Livingstone read selections from festival headline poets Mark Strand, Jorie Graham, Gwyneth Lewis, George Szirtes, Jackie Kay, Ruth Padel, Roy Fisher, Sean O’Brien, Alastair Reid and Mimi Khalvati. StAnza Chairman Colin Will flags up the festival themes Homelands & Exile and Poetry & the Moving Image and highlights the main events of the 10th StAnza Festival. Come and celebrate 10 years of StAnza."

Colin Will did a good job in setting out the themes for the festival and I really liked Bernard MacLaverty's piece, which was witty and engaging. I also liked his daughter's poem, which was written about the view from her bed. She suffers from poor health and the poem was all about seeing the man across the road in his window, but only in winter as they were cut off by the trees in the summer.
We met him in a pizza place afterwards, and he told us that the piece of his own prose that he read had the same theme as the Edwin Morgan poem Trio.

Coming up Buchanan Street, quickly, on a sharp winter evening

a young man and two girls, under the Christmas lights -

The young man carries a new guitar in his arms,

the girl on the inside carries a very young baby,

and the girl on the outside carries a chihuahua.

And the three of them are laughing, their breath rises

in a cloud of happiness, and as they pass

the boy says, "Wait till he sees this but!"

The chihuahua has a tiny Royal Stewart tartan coat like a teapot-


the baby in its white shawl is all bright eyes and mouth like

favours in a fresh sweet cake,

the guitar swells out under its milky plastic cover, tied at the neck

with silver tinsel tape and a brisk sprig of mistletoe.

Orphean sprig! Melting baby! Warm chihuahua!

The vale of tears is powerless before you.

Whether Christ is born, or is not born, you

put paid to fate, it abdicates

under the Christmas lights.

Monsters of the year

go blank, are scattered back,

can't bear this march of three.

And the three have passed, vanished in the crowd

(yet not vanished, for in their arms they wind

the life of men and beasts, and music,

laughter ringing them round like a guard)

at the end of this winter's day

Morgan seems to be everywhere just now, and justifiably so.

We've also learned that our other writing friend has been told that she only has weeks to live. She's asked for each of us to call round in turn and we're going to set up a wee roster to sit with her. She has family around until midweek, and then they have to go home for a bit. She's anxious about her funeral, so maybe we can help her to get a hold of any readings that she'd like.

She says it all feels rather surreal, and I can completely understand that feeling.
It's hard to believe that we were all working together to produce our First Aid Kit show only last October.


Thursday, February 01, 2007


Well feeling better. I did a three mile hike on Tuesday with all my gear, including a heavy tripod, as I was taking shots of wild snowdrops. I really enjoyed it at the time, but was exhausted afterward. The chemo I got for the first 4 cycles can affect the heart and I had half of a life time dose, and I think it has had an effect, I just don't have the stamina that I used to have, plus I can only use one shoulder to lug stuff as the other arm swells up if I put too much weight on it. It is not old age! ;)

Anyway it was worth it to be out in the wilds with only the birds for company, there were pheasants in the woods, it's a shoot, and swans and geese on the loch. The biggest fright I got was from a woodpecker drilling directly over my head, he made such a noise I thought that the branch was going to come down and scone me.

I'm really enjoying the Idlewild track on the freebie CD I mentioned, it's called The Weight of Years and it comes from a collaboration with the poet Edwin Morgan. It is part of the Ballads and the Book project that has combined Scots musicians and writers. For more info see here

The thing I like most about it is that young musicians are working with older writers, that something you don't hear or see too often these days.

Here's what on the album:

Mike Heron & John Burnside - 'Song For Irena'
De Rosa & Michel Faber - 'Steam Comes Off Our House'
James Yorkston & Bill Duncan - 'A Calvinist Narrowly Avoids Pleasure'
Foxface & Rody Gorman - 'Dreamcatcher'
Lord Cut-Glass & Alasdair Gray - 'A Sentimental Song'
Aidan Moffat And The Best Ofs & Ian Rankin - 'The Sixth Stone'
Norman Blake & John Burnside - 'Girl'
Karine Polwart & Edwin Morgan - 'The Good Years'
Sons And Daughters & A L Kennedy - 'The War On Love Song'
Alasdair Roberts & Robin Robertson - 'The Leaving'
Strike The Colours & Rody Gorman - 'Message In A Bottle'
Aereogramme & Hal Duncan - 'If You Love Me You'd Destroy Me'
Malcolm Middleton & Alan Bissett - 'The Rebel On His Own Tonight'
Trashcan Sinatras & Ali Smith - 'Half An Apple'
Vashti Bunyan & Rodge Glass - 'The Fire'
King Creosote & Laura Hird - 'Where And When'
Emma Pollock & Louise Welsh - 'Jesus On The Cross'
Idlewild & Edwin Morgan - 'The Weight Of Years'

I've been busy with photographs, but I wrote this very short wee poem to say something about how I felt about my son's accident.

Sylvia Plath


"Your clear eye is the one absolutely beautiful thing.
I want to fill it with color and ducks,
The zoo of the new"

Clear Eye

I filled that one absolutely beautiful thing
with ducks and shells,penguins and panto.
I kept you whole, intact, all of a piece.

Your clear eye was my pride and my joy.
But look what happens, look what you do,
just when I hand you over to you!

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