Monday, 24 December 2012

Seventy Eight Days later...

... 78 days since I sat in front of this computer, considering what I could write on my blog.

So what has been going on over the last 2-3 months?
In a word, WORK, full on, overwhelming, challenging, stretching, working late almost everyday.

On top of that home life has been pretty full on too.

Reviewing my blog I still have 22 posts in draft form and I haven't even being adding new ideas. So creativity is not the issue for me, rather it is the time and space to be able to share my thoughts and ideas.

The one thing I hope for from Christmas is a bit of space to finally be able to gather my thoughts and decide on the future of this blog do I have more to share or not...

I don't know what others may think but I think I may have more to offer.

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Sunday, 7 October 2012

Six Things - Julia Dennison

Julia Denisson is a wife, mother, crafter and serial volunteer. She has two amazing children and a fabulous husband. Living in the village of Garelochhead on the west coast of Scotland where when the sun shines it is beautiful and when it doesn’t shine it’s still amazing.

Most days when the children head off to school Julia heads down to Centre 81, a community and residential centre where she cleans, cooks, or runs a computer basics class. Once a fortnight she cooks for a well attended over 60’s lunch club. Julia also helps out at the weekly church coffee morning, bringing along the popular chilli and cheese scones.

Chairing the school PTA and helping organize fundraising and "fun"-raising events. If Julia has any time left after all that she tries to do a little crafting or sewing.
Check out Julia's crafty stuff at and

One thing that's always worth getting out of bed for
A cup of tea.
One thing about yourself that often obstructs me
My inability to focus on one thing at a time, always jumping from one idea to the next and not always finishing the last. I have numerous unfinished sewing projects, craft projects that I haven’t quite gotten round to and many more ideas floating around my head.
One thing I've learned the hard way
Seam rippers should be used with care, and shouldn’t be used when tired or frustrated!
One thing that gets under my skin
That it’s always the same few people who volunteer to help even when they have the busiest lives.
One thing I'd love to change
Patience.  With faster internet, faster travel, instant messaging, we want things now, not in 5 minutes. We need to learn/re-learn that some things take time and that some things are worth waiting for.
One thing I hope for
That my children will grow up happy, healthy and patient.

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Sunday, 9 September 2012

Paralympics Day 9 - buggies and a big win

Yesterday I was allocated Eton Manor gate and therefore I have collected the full set of team colurs/areas. I have now done blue, green, red, yellow, orange, pink and black - these comprise the four gates and the four pedestrian zones (the eagled eyed will have noticed 7 colours and 8 gates/areas, this is because victoria gate is staffed out of the world square pedestrian zone). I hope you are paying attention there will be a test.
Eton Manor is another really quiet gate apart from when coach parties arrive and then it can be quite manic. Today we had a party of 130 children arrive and then leader of the group presented us with a stack of 130 tickets in one stack! So we had to get the organised into form groups hand out the tickets then scan them all. They appeared to be a couple of tickets short but rather than hold them up for another 10 minutes we told them (we probably miscounted) and if so there might be someone who didn't get in to see an event but we didn't want to hold them up for that.
That was the extent of the rush and the gate then became very quiet once again. So it was time for some fun and games. We had a paper aeroplane competition which one of security guards easily won with a brilliant throwing technique. Then I persuaded the mobility guys to let me have a go on one of the scooters (picture left) which was great fun.
So the morning was almost over and the long slog through to the afternoon was ahead we the day became unforgetably brilliant. My name was chosen in the stay lottery and I was told I had won a ticket to the Olympic Stadium. So I ran almost all the way to the stadium (over 1.5 miles from Eaton Gate) to enjoy about an hour in the stadium - I'll write more about my stadium visit another time.
Coming out of the stadium I had some lunch then made it back to the gate just in time for the end of my shift. All in all a pretty good day.
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Saturday, 8 September 2012

Paralympics Day 8 - what a mans got do when a horse has a poo

Another day, another new area to be assigned to. This time it was Street Market, the area around the basketball arena and velodrome.

We were meeting and greeting again which consisted mainly of people going to see murderball (otherwise known as wheelchair rugby).

Up this part of the park is the Park Live venue, a large area of landscape gardens with a massive screen in the middle showing all the latest events from around the different venues. Up on the hill of this area are the three "agitos" (pictured left) which is the symbol of the Paralympics. Agito is latin for "I move" and the three curves represent the main colours of most nations of the world.
Several highlights today for me:
  • Going up the Orbit (more on this at the end of the week)
  • Getting to see inside the Basketball Arena for 15 minutes (see first picture)
  • Being swanked again (more on this at the end of the week)
  • Being on poo duty (more details below)

Poo duty consisted of standing astride any horse poo that had been deposited on the walkways so our lovely visitors don't get a nasty surprise! Suddenly I was surprisingly popular and a lightning conductor for all sorts of puns and comments -"was that you?", "could you not wait?", "that's a good job you've got there"

As you may be able to see in the picture (right) I was at the head of a long line of poo. This is an occupational hazard of having the mounted police on site and patrolling the Olympic Park.

It was yet another incredibly hot and draining day out in the sun and with what seemed like hundreds of schools visiting the park a really busy one. 

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Thursday, 6 September 2012

Paralympics Day 6 & 7 - Night & Day

So it was back to back shifts, last night and this morning and unbelieveably I am still awake!

My one and only night shift was last night (Wed) and I was once again on Stratford gate. Once I was on post there was a steady stream of punters slowly rising to the peak between 5-7pm for people arriving for the start of the swimming and athletics. After 7pm the numbers plummeted and in no time at all half of our lanes were closed and we were sent off for dinner. Upon my return at 8:30pm there remained one gate open on our half of the entrance which I manned for the final half hour.

This time scanning tickets I had several scans come up showing the ticket had been used before (the person had come into the park and then left and was attempting to return later which isn't allowed). For a few of these it was clear the people were just trying it on and they just slopped off. Some had either been told something incorrect or not listened to what they were told and we had to just get them escorted to the box office. A couple of them, just two cases, had geniune reasons for leaving the park and after checking their tickets and refering to the team leader we were able to sort these people out and let them through.

It can get quite heated trying to explain these rules and that we have to deny people access so I am glad I didn't have too many and that there was always professional backup (the paid, trained event stewards) available.

The fun part of the evening was saying goodbye to people at the end of the day and this eventually morphed into the Games Makers creating a 37 strong line of high-fivers for people to run along getting as many high-fives as they could. This was a great way to send people off home and everyone from 3 to 90 loved it.

So after a rubbish nights sleep I made my way back to the Olympic Park and onto to my next shift in Worlds Square next the worlds largest excuse for a restaurant (sorry I mean one of our proud Olympic sponsors - McDonalds).

Today was a mixture of access control (into the workforce area), meeting and greeting and crowd and queue control. World Square is one of those places that is quite quiet up to lunchtime and then crazy for the next couple of hours.

We had in Yasmin (aka Yasmagic) probably our best team leader to date. She had that great mixture of authority, fun, calm assurance, enthusiasm and care for the team. Oh and did I say she made me unofficial sub team assistant deputy leader!

So I am down to my final three days...   it'll soon be Christmas.

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Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Paralympics - Getting down with kids

Today as I am doing a late shift (1pm-12am) I had the opportunity to talk to my daughter's primary school class all about being a Games Maker.

About a third of the class had been to either the Olympics or Paralympics and like most schools they have been talking about the games and getting involved in many different ways.

It was great to be able to tell them a little bit about what it is like being one of the thousands of volunteers who makes the games happen and what was involved in becoming a Games Maker.

I told them I really enjoyed the experience and it has been really inspiring and every part of me, except my legs, knees and feet, is so pleased that I got involved in this once in a lifetime experience.

I hope that in some small, tiny way I will have encouraged them to volunteer to be part of something for the benefit of others.

I left the teacher with one of the Games Maker pins that we are given and she is going to award it to one of the children who shows courage in adversity which seems very fitting.

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Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Paralympics - Crowds, fine dining & crazy ladies

So today is a day off for me, a chance to give my knees and feet a rest, catch up with rest of the world and to reflect on the last five days at the Paralympics.

I've been on most of the teams now and done most of the jobs that the Event Services Team are in place to do. Generally I have loved everyday, with a few ups and downs as you would expect. So in a lot of ways the Paralympics has been everything I expected but there has been a few surprises

The Crowds - once the athletics events started in the Olympic Stadium the crowds in the park were incredible. With the Aquatic Centre, Velodrome and Stadium all sold out that meant well over 100,000 coming to these venues alone. Seeing the crowds streaming towards you is a site to behold.

The Food - everyday we get two meals for our 10 hours of serving and the revelation is that the meals are really rather good. I have eaten Moroccan lamb tangine, fish pie, lasagne, lancashire hotpot and pork and apple pasty for lunch and everyone of these was really good. Actually apart from the lasagne which was very nice everything else was superb and would have been acceptable fayre in any restaurant. Breakfast is perfect, bacon rolls or ham and cheese croisants.

Crazy Ladies - there are many entertainers around the Olympic Park - brass bands, morris dancers, circus style entertainers, hula hoop girls and then there is Miss Timed & Miss Judged (pictured). These two 'slimline ' ladies are international adjudicators that have been roaming the park awarding special gold medals to spectators who have those special talents that these ladies have a particular gift to spot. I met these lovely ladies in the canteen and they gave me my own gold medal so I feel proud they saw the talent hidden in me.

There is still so much I could write about but that's all for now folks. Tomorrow I have my first night shift 1pm-12am then straight into my next morning shift at 6:30am the next day.

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Monday, 3 September 2012

Paralympics Day 5 - if your names not down you're not coming in

Today I reached the halfway point at the Paralympics and so tomorrow I have a day off - I will be getting up at 6:45am, that's a two and quarter hour lie-in woo-hoo!
Back to today and it was a scorcher, the hottest day so far and for most of it I was out in the open sunshine, meeting and greeting folks in Britannia Row (just by the Copper Box venue were Handball was played in the Olympics and now Goalball is being played in the Paralympics).
There were many highlights today:
  • A ride on a mobility buggy - to get us to our area a bit quicker (4 mins on the buggy, 15 mins walking - see the video above)
  • Doing access control (see picture and details below)
  • Getting on the lifeguard/umpire chairs again this time with a megaphone (of sorts)
  • Meeting some crazy ladies in the canteen (more another day)

Access control was very quiet, serious and a little bit of fun (and a nice rest really).

I was posted to one of the behind the scenes areas so the traffic coming in and out of this back stage area was very light. Some of the areas, especially the check point into the workforce canteen area is super busy with probably hundreds if not thousands through there every hour.

In the hour and a half I was on duty there were probably about a hundred in total coming through the gate. If they didn't have ALL, HBA, OPK, GB or CDM on their accreditation pass they were not getting in.

The day ended with a stint back on the main walkway directing people to "Stay on the left please". After an hour of this my voice was a little hoarse but I think I made a difference to the traffic flow despite not having a megaphone this time.

Oh and by the way this was the pink team, just black and yellow for the full set!

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Paralympics Day 4 - back in Orbit

It's 4:58am as I write this and I have 15 minutes to get dressed and head off for my next shift having had a luxurious 5 hours sleep so I am looking forward to my day off tomorrow.

Yesterday I was back at Orbit Circus like on Day 1, the difference being their were five times the number of people so that meant hundreds (I think I counted around 120+) of family groups that I took photos of against the backdrop of the stadium. There were hi-fives a plenty and we even did a game of 'London Bridge is falling down' with a family!

I was paired up with another great person, Raisa (pictured below), who was great fun and had come down from Manchester to serve. To make the time more fun we had little competitions with each other like to see who could give away their Olympic Park maps the quickest - never have people been provided with maps so rapidly!

I also got to have a shift on one of the lifegaurd chairs which give you a great view of the crowds and is an excellent way to interact with people - waving at them, having a little chat, dancing to the music (I showed all my disco moves, oh yes).

So for those who were wondering what team Orbit Circus is it is Red. So no winners of the bonus points.

It is now 5:12 must get dressed and go so you tomorrow (or later today!)

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Saturday, 1 September 2012

Paralympics Day 3 - Here come the crowds!

Day 3 at the Paralympics was the busiest yet and probably the busiest of the whole games. All the activities are running, and we expected well over 100,000 in the park.

The perfect day then to be rostered onto the busiest entrance point, Stratford Gate. From opening time at 7:30am through to the end of my shift at 3pm there were people coming through. Sometimes it was only a slow stream of maybe 1 or 2 people a minute through to the peak periods when we had between 15-25 people a minute. In the first fifteen minutes I scanned more tickets than I did in three hours at Victoria Gate yesterday.

Because we were solidly working from 7:30-11:30am we missed out on breakfast, so when we got to eat lunch it was consumed in seconds!

The best part of today was being paired with Stuart the guy I met on the first morning. We have a similar sense of humour and we get on like a house on fire. As in all things in life people are what make things special and in this regard and in his own words Stuart is "awesome".

I did have one complaint today though. Occassionally people would come through the security check think they were done and start striding into the park. We would have to stop them and scan their tickets, usually this was all fine. On one occassion a couple of women were rushing past us and as well as saying "Excuse me" I, with one finger, touched one of the women on the arm to attract her attention. She duely gave me her tickets and then said that I didn't have to push her to get her attention! I did the right thing and apologised for my action, scanned her tickets and wished her a great day. I probably scanned 500+ tickets so having one tetchy person out of over 500 is a pretty good ratio.

So where to tomorrow? I have been on green, red, yellow and blue teams with black, pink and orange still to try (I could get red as it isn't marked on my card even though I have done it).
What colour do you think I will get? If you guess correctly then you will get big bonus points towards my paralympic souviner competition.

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Friday, 31 August 2012

Paralympics Day 2 - Victoria Gate (the secret entrance)

Today the weather turned to clear sky, sunshine and a light cooling breeze - which meant it was a freezing start to Day 2 at our 6:30am briefing under the wing of the Aquatic Centre.

Today I was sent to the Olympic Park's secret entrance, Victoria Gate. This gate is hidden away (OK its on the map but...) on the east side of the park (or the bottom of the maps as they are printed) and sees less than 1% percent of the visitors to the park use this entrance. Apparently there is plenty of parking in the side streets and you can cycle right up to the gate and lock your bikes and walk in. If you are attending the games its worth considering using it as an entrance.

So having a quiet entrance meant a quiet day standing in the sunshine with my fellow Gamesmakers. We had a small perfectly formed team with a great team leader by the name of Phil. Never short of stories and jokes Phil (pictured right) was great fun and a great team leader. 

Today I got to use the scanner that checks people's tickets as they enter the park. We also had stints outside the gate to do some 'soft' ticket checks and answer questions which were mostly about how they could get tickets.

The biggest excitement of the day came when I helped two families get reunited with their tickets. In both cases there were two groups of people one with the tickets and the others without them and unfortunately they had each turned up to different gates. So I gave directions to the people with tickets on how to get to Victoria Gate from within the park and then we got the tickets handed over. Problem solved and smiles all round.

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Thursday, 30 August 2012

Paralympics day 1 - check your photos!

So day one is done (and so are my knees, lordy!)

The first of my early starts saw me rise at 5am to journey to Stratford checking in just after 6am.

As expected there was a degree of confusion, mainly because the vast majority of new volunteers were asking each other the same questions expecting immediate answers. Fortunately most things were straightened out and the general positive atmosphere kept people moving along and going with the flow.

We soon got split into teams and I was off to our first posting. In this first team I met Stuart (pictured right) from Wiltshire who also served in the Olympics so he was able to give me a few insider tips which was an excellent start and he was great fun to be with so early in the morning.

Unfortunately this posting only lasted about 30 minutes then plans changed and after another trek I ended up in the area known as Orbit Circus (covering the Stratford Gate, Orbit and Olympic Stadium) meeting and greeting people as they came into the Olympic Park from the Stratford/Westfield shopping centre side.

Later in the day I spent a long time with Susan (pictured left) who strangely kept wandering off standing still looking into the distance and the returning. Curious I asked her what she was doing and she told me she was trying to get into the background of as many peoples photographs as she could. So the photograph on the right is of her at distance (she is circled). Susan will be in 100s of peoples photo albums, just over their shoulder!

So that was my first nine hour shift, there is more to talk about - music, signs, food, questions from the public - but those will be for another day.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The blog is back!

Tomorrow I start my Paralympic adventure as I don my Gamesmaker uniform and join with a team of thousands to help 'make the games'.

This challenge has inspired me to pick up my blog again and so I invite you to follow my journey along with me as I share the ups, down, inspiration, challenges, tears and joy of being part of the greatest show on earth.

I will be tracking every comment, share, like etc on facebook, twitter and this blog and the person who gets most involved I will give them a souvenir of my time at the games!
(Note - a comment on the blog is worth 3x one on facebook and 6x a fb like)

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Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The first day of the rest of my life

Today the past has gone
The cloud has parted
The way is open
The vista is clear
Don't look back
In anger?
In regret?
Bring to mind Lot's wife
And the ruin that befell her life
As she looked back
No don't look back
Keep your eyes forward
Look there are enough bumps ahead to avoid
But for now enjoy the freedom
Enjoy the new wine
Walk ahead
Remember who you are
Be aware of what has happened, of how you got here
Look left and right
See those who are with you
They are with you
They are for you
Enjoy their presence
Give them yours
This is life
The first day of the rest of mine

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Life is a rollercoaster

Free images from
The past few months life has been (and continues to be) a rollercoaster and this one has several loop the loops. It has one loop the loop called home, one called school, one called children, one called work, and several other mini twists and turns. And, to paraphrase Anthony Newley's musical.... "Stop the rollercoaster I want to get off!".

I am sure that what we are going through now will change us (it has already); it will bring us wisdom (to know ourselves more and to be more aware of what other want, do or need); and it will strengthen us (our current struggles help us prepare us for future trials).

Earlier this month I heard The Very Rev'd Dr Jeffrey John speak at St Michael's Church here in Bishops Stortford about the Resurrection. He compared Christ's resurrection to our own physical birth which is a form of death to our lives in the safety of the womb, indeed all through our lives there are times of death and acknowledgement of change. One might call the whole of our lives an ongoing resurrection, each little death brings life if we choose to see and live it. Or as Charlie Hall puts it in The Second Alive, "we come alive, when we lose our life".

If you are reading this - and know me and my family - the odds are that you are one of the many people that have encouraged, helped and supported me and my family through these last few difficult months and years. Thank you so much for your support, care, kind words and prayers.

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Saturday, 28 April 2012

Six Things - Carrie Mann

Carrie Mann is a one woman encouragement machine!
Always impeccably (if not glamorously) dressed and with more matching reading glasses than you can shake a stick at!

Carrie loves children, and even has five of her own with grandchildren being added now too! She enjoys dancing, singing and acting, and has enjoyed singing "Oom Pa Pa" to much aplomb. Carrie loves spending time with people and making people laugh. She tries to spend time cooking for the whole family (all 13 of them) usually a Sunday roast as she believes "a family that eats together stays together".

One thing that's always worth getting out of bed for
A cup of tea. I really can't function without one in the mornings. White and sweet!!

One thing about yourself that often obstructs you
Doubting my ability. I do have to remind myself that God does not make mistakes when designing people and I am exactly the person He intended me to be.

One thing I've learned the hard way
Gossip will always find you out, by that I mean people will find out if you have been gossipping, not a nice place to be.

One thing that gets under my skin
Poor time keeping. My Father bought me up to always be early, and so when people turn up late I find it irritating.

One thing I'd love to change
People making judgements on others. We should try to be accepting of others as we don't know what has gone before.

One thing I hope for
A cottage over looking the sea, it makes me feel peaceful and very relaxed.

Six Things is a series of micro-interviews with interesting and creative people
in which they’re asked to respond to a standard set of six prompts.

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Saturday, 21 April 2012

Serendipity Saturday - 21/04/12

So you need to cut down that tree in the garden, what are you going to do with the stump? Here's an idea that I  came across in a local garden.

As I walk around in the world (and cyberspace) I try to keep my eyes really open. Open to noticing new things, strange things, things that make me stop and think. I am sharing some of these serendipitous finds with you. Serendipity means a "happy accident" or "pleasant surprise"; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it. (and its one of my favourite words!)

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Friday, 20 April 2012

Four tricky questions - an olympic interview

Back in February I had my Gamesmaker interview, this was part of the selection process that whittled down the 250,000 people who applied to be a volunteer at the London 2012 Olympics. 100,000 people were being interviewed over 12 months with around 70,000 being needed to run the games.

I was delighted to be offered a place to serve at the Paralympics and I attend my first training session next week.

What stood out at the Gamesmaker interview was the four questions they asked:
1. What have you accomplished that you are proud of?
2. Describe a situation where you had to work together in a team situation?
3. What is your favourite Olympic sport and why?
4. Can you tell me about a time you have gone the extra mile?

Apart from olympic themed question 3, my answer to this is below, I think these are great questions that we should ask of ourselves every so often. So I'm asking you, what would your answers be?

My favourite Olympic sport is the middle to long distance and the greatest Olympian in my opinion is Emil Z├ítopek who at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, won gold in the 5 km, 10 km, and the marathon breaking the Olympic record in each of the three events! His final medal came when he decided at the last minute to compete in the marathon for the first time in his life, and won!

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Monday, 16 April 2012

Habits of a lifetime can be changed

Do you have bad habits, recurring failures, addictions? If not you are one in a million (or fooling yourself!).

The rest of us know we have stuff that keeps tripping us up again and again.

If you're like me this stuff has become almost second nature, part of who I am. Therefore, if I want to change any of these behaviours and actions it is actually painful because in a perverse way they have become a comfort blanket.

I am trying to change a couple of my worst traits and recently I was listening to a couple of preaches from Mars Hill that I found helpful.

Shane Hipps spoke about the hundreds and thousands of choices that lead to situations of personal pain, bad habits or even addictions. We have to admit that we did make those choices, albeit they became more and more automatic responses the more we let the bad habit form. It was one of those sermons when it seemed the preacher was talking just to me. He went on to say there is hope as we come to God and make the right choices. These boulders of bad behaviour/habits will be worn down by the constant flow of God's healing water. (click here to go and listen)

Kent Dobson talked from the story of Ruth of hopeless circumstances. Ruth did all she could in her situation of just taking one step at a time to walk towards hope. (click here to go and listen)

I am trying to take one step towards hope each day and I am thankful for the lovely people I have around me who guide me, encourage me and pull me up when I stumble and fall.

If you are stuck in whatever way I would recommend listening to one or both of these messages, I believe they may just speak to and encourage you where you are at.

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Saturday, 31 March 2012

Serendipity Saturday - 31/03/12

I came across these wonderful tape sculptures, made from clear sellotape and placed in ordinary spaces creating provoking and amusing works of art.

They are the work of Mark Jenkins. Do check his website which is wildly creative and slightly disturbing
(in a good way).

As I walk around in the world (and cyberspace) I try to keep my eyes really open. Open to noticing new things, strange things, things that make me stop and think. I am sharing some of these serendipitous finds with you. Serendipity means a "happy accident" or "pleasant surprise"; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it. (and its one of my favourite words!)

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