Back to school is always a big change.

A shift of gears.

A call to change.

It's exhausting and exhilirating and new.

And when you're marching down the hill from tutoring to the classroom, a pale wan sun peeking through the clouds and a breeze ruffling your hair, there are few songs as great as this for your iPod to pop on:


I wanna be better than oxygen
So you can breathe when you're drowning and weak in the knees
I wanna speak louder than Ritalin
For all the children who think that they've got a disease
I wanna be cooler than t.v.
For all the kids that are wondering what they are going to be
We can be stronger than bombs
If you're singing along and you know that you really believe
We can be richer than industry
As long as we know that there's things that we don't really need
We can speak louder than ignorance
Cause we speak in silence every time our eyes meet.

On and on, and on, and on it goes
The world it just keeps spinning
Until i'm dizzy, time to breathe
So close my eyes and start again anew.

I wanna see through all the lies of society
To the reality, happiness is at stake
I wanna hold up my head with dignity
Proud of a life where to give means more than to take
I wan't to live beyond the modern mentality
Where paper is all that you're really taught to create
Do you remember the forgotten America?
Justice, equality, freedom to every race?
Just need to get past all the lies and hypocrisy
Make up and hair to the truth behind every face
That look around to all the people you see,
How many of them are happy and free?
I know it sounds like a dream
But it's the only thing that can get me to sleep at night
I know it's hard to believe
But it's easy to see that something here isn't right
I know the future looks dark
But it's there that the kids of today must carry the light.

On and on, and on, and on it goes
The world it just keeps spinning
Until i'm dizzy, time to breathe
So close my eyes and start again anew.

If i'm afraid to catch a dream
I weave your baskets and I'll float them down the river stream
Each one i weave with words i speak to carry love to your relief.

I wanna be better than oxygen
So you can breathe when you're drowning and weak in the knees
I wanna speak louder than Ritalin
For all the children who think that they've got a disease
I wanna be cooler than t.v.
For all the kids that are wondering what they are going to be
We can be stronger than bombs
If you're singing along and you know that you really believe
We can be richer than industry
As long as we know that there's things that we don't really need
We can speak louder than ignorance
Cause we speak in silence every time our eyes meet.

On and on, and on, and on it goes
The world it just keeps spinning
Until i'm dizzy, time to breathe
So close my eyes and start again anew


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Book Review: Amish Values For Your Family

I've always found the Amish fascinating.

I really think that there's a lot we can learn from different faiths, cultures, and ways of life; and I definitely think there are elements of the Amish way of life which bear further scrutiny to see if there are ideas and habits which might work when applied to our busy, first-world life.

So imagine my joy when I found out there was a book being released called 'Amish Values for Your Family'...and even better, I was offered a copy to review! 'Amish Values for Your Family' is written by Suzanne Woods Fisher, an author who is no stranger to the ways of the Amish, and in the book she weaves together anecdotes and stories quite beautifully. She then offers a 'road map' of how we might adopt some of the ideas which the Amish embrace into our own lives.

I really enjoyed this book. At first I was a little afraid that it might be a little heavy or difficult to read, but the very opposite is true! Fisher blends stories, advice and letters with ease, splitting the book into many small chapters which are easy to digest and full of interesting points. I particulary enjoyed the chapters exploring Amish teaching and will certainly be calling some of these ideas to mind when I return to school in September!

As part of the review process, we were asked to take on a principle of Amish life and apply it to our own. After some reflection, I decided to focus on the ideas put forward in the chapter 'Too Much Money'. The Amish are famously frugal, but I enjoyed the way this chapter explored how they organise their spending and finances. Fisher concludes that for the Amish, so much of the choice is down to prioritising what they hold most dear and spending their money on this. I took on this advice and have changed my finances quite drastically, as well as finding a newfound passion for bargains and 'making do'. In these trying economic times, there is much to be learned from a slower, more considered approach to things....money included.

I also enjoyed the Amish focus on home. I think that sometimes, living in London, I feel a pull to be out and about and spending money, when really there is so much I enjoy doing at home, or with friends, that is cheap and fun and cherishable. I think this school year I'll be spending more time at home or with dear friends, and this book gave me plenty of food for thought on this point too.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this book and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in the Amish, looking for a new perspective on their family or school life, or who would just like to read something a bit different. Enjoy!

To learn more about the book and what other reviewers have to say about it, and to enter a giveaway for a Kindle, please click here.

Mandatory disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book to review. All opinions expressed here are my own!

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PS This review has also been posted on my new book review blog, here. From now on I'll be posting book reviews, book blog hops, and reading lists over there too.

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This week

As back to school approaches, it definitely felt like time to get back into this....

Feeling: A little overwhelmed, really. The shift in gears from summer laziness to schooltime frenzy is always a little bit of a shock to the system.

Thinking: about classroom displays and meal plans and rehearsals and thank you notes...

Making: plans to get an awful lot done.

Doing: plenty!

Reading: A Clash of Kings, the second in the Game of Thrones series. It's long, but blooming engrossing!

Writing: lesson plans and to do lists.

Watching: Totally bizarrely, I found myself watching Fox News at several points over the weekend. Odd. But I was fascinated watching Hurricane Irene unfold. Hope everyone in the East Coast is holding up well - thinking of and praying for you guys.

Eating: pretty healthily - lots and lots of veggies!

Drinking: decaf tea like it's going out of fashion.

Listening: to an awful lot of Radio 2 as I sort my classroom out!

Working: oh yeah.

Wishing: oooh, for all sorts of loveliness. And comfortable heels.

Looking forward to: Matthew getting back from his travels later today. I've missed my boy!

Have a great week, all!

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So the two weeks up in Scotland were wonderful, truly replenishing....

I got to spend time with friends, family, Matthew, and had a chunk of time in both Forres and Edinburgh as well as trips to Oban, Aberdeen and Glasgow. It was grand. I even remembered to take a few pictures!

My sister Sian and her fiancé Chris, with their (loopy) dogs Sutherland and Daniels.

It was *so* great to be driving again (hence the cheesey grin!).

Gorgeous Scottish summer weather...

With Peter and Sian in Oban - first pic of the three of us in a while!

Just before the jaunt(s) to Scotland, Matthew and I were in Newcastle for the beautiful wedding of Nick (Matthew's brother) and the lovely Elly. Such a gorgeous ceremony, as befits such a great couple. Congratulations once more, you guys!

I took Matthew up to Califer viewpoint, one of my favourite places on earth. Here's Moray stretching down to Nairn, Inverness, and the Black Isle.

The Moray Firth.

Another Califer shot. *Sigh*

Matthew and I at Califer.

Nick and Elly using my camera to take a typical facebook/myspace shot. Too funny!

Lots of fun memories from a great trip.

Oh, and I also got to see 12 comedy shows in Edinburgh and watch Dolly Parton kick it live in Glasgow....

...I'm a lucky girl!

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Quote of the day

"Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal."

~ Henry Ford

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Well hello there, blogaroonies!
It's been a while since I checked in properly, mainly because I've spent most of the past fortnight up in Scotland, holidaying hard (TM Christy) and generally having a ball.

This week, things return somewhat to normal.

School's still out for another fortnight, but I am going in each day to work on schemes of work, tidy, organise and get things sorted. As I type I am sat in my classroom, listening to the rain throwing it down (it's very autumnal today - love the temperature....hate the wet feet!) and some 70s cheese on the radio, chomping on an apple and zipping this off in a break from piles and paperwork.

It's nice to be back and I'm excited for the new school year - my third year was great at my last place, and the point where I really felt like I had a handle on how things operated - I hope it's the same here.

I'm doing all the other organisey things too - buying notebooks, getting cute shoes, having my haircut.

But the main focus is school - I'm in all this week, then enjoying the three day weekend. I think on one of the days I may spend the whole day in my PJs - a Claire favourite - and just mooch around all day eating grapes, reading books and watching movies. Always replenishing! Next week I'll be in Tuesday to Friday, and then on the 5th it's two days of meetings before...the boys arrive!

More posts soon with pics from the Scottish adventures, but I wanted to give you all a quick wave and say hello!

Have a marvellous Tuesday, my dears!

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Quote of the day

"If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call 'failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down. "

~ Mary Pickford

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Pictures that make me smile...14

Sian and I, goofing off before church.

I loved this navy velvet dress.

You see, I was very much a tomboy, but every time my father went away on detachment, when he returned he'd bring these pink frilly frothy dresses for us girlies.


Finally, mum bought me a plain, comfy, blue dress for church. Much better. :)

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Five Minute Friday: Beauty

Once more, it's time for Five Minute Friday, Lisa-Jo's wonderful blog carnival. Lazy and detached as I have been here at my parents' house, as soon as I realised it was Friday, I scooted straight over to her blog to find out what we'e writing about today.

The usual rules apply. 5 minutes to write. No overthinking, no editing, just words on a page.

This week's word? Beauty.


For as long as I can remember , I've been good at finding beauty. In the faces of friends, the smiles of strangers, the laughter of children, the crisp cold calm of a winter's morning, the intimacy of a shared in-joke, the view of the Firth from Califer, a meal made with love, a secondhand bookshop full of treasures to be discovered...I have long rejoiced in my ability to see the beauty and wonder in the world around me.

It's when I turn my gaze on myself that the trouble comes.

All through my childhood, teens and early twenties, I was convinced that I was ugly. Really, properly, repellently ugly. And very rarely did someone send me the message that this was not the case. Bullies, the media, "friends"...they all had something to contribute. So I hid. Beneath baggy clothes, behind a book or computer screen, under layers of fat. And the more I heard I was ugly, the more I believed it.

When I look at pictures of myself from those times, I'm amazed that I felt so horrible. I see a girl who may not be conventionally beautiful, sure, but whose smile is warm, hair is glossy, eyes are bright. I want to call her and tell her she's pretty.

It took a fight with a friend in fourth year of uni to change the way I thought. Getting back from a rehearsal, I threw myself onto the couch and exclaimed "Ugh! I am just so fat and ugly!". My housemate got very angry and told me off in no uncertain terms and responded with "Claire! First things first, you are NOT ugly. Secondly, if you think you're fat, then change, or shut up about it!". For the first time someone had been straight down the line with me. And for the first time in my head, 'fat' and 'ugly' stopped meaning the same thing....

I should send him a thank you card.

Do I think I'm a beauty now? Um....I don't think I'd ever describe myself that way (hee, British reticence), but I can certainly now appreciate the things I do like about myself (decent teeth, nice eyes, defined ankles, tendency to smell pretty good), and have learned to like, or accept, the other parts. Or to try to change them.

It's an ongoing journey.


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Quote of the day

"When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something has suffered damage and has a history, it becomes more beautiful."

- Barbara Bloom

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Oh, London

I love London.

First things first, this is just a braindump. After watching the events of the last seventy-two hours unfold I needed to write *something*. This is my point-of-view, flawed as it may be.

I'm writing this at two in the afternoon, in my bedroom at my parents' house in Forres.

It's quiet, the only noise the tapping of keys, the occasional ripple of laughter from downstairs where my brother watches TV, a seagull cawing overhead or a car pulling into our cul de sac. It's bizarre to contrast this rural serenity with what's been unfolding in London, my other hometown, over the last few days.

The potted version, for those of you not already glued to twitter and the news outlets: Last week, police in Tottenham, an area in North London, apprehended a man called Mark Duggan, looking to arrest him. This whole encounter is currently being investigated, but the situation sadly ended with Mr Duggan being shot.

Fast-forward to Saturday, where a concerned group of people met in Tottenham to protest the shooting of Mark Duggan. Within hours, this protest had morphed into a full scale riot, with police being assaulted, cars being torched, shops being looted, fires being set.

This spread further on Sunday night, to Hackney, to Enfield.

And last night to Croydon, Ealing, Camden, Lewisham, Clapham, Chalk Farm and elsewhere. It's terrifying watching the news being broadcast from places you know and seeing smashed glass and destruction and damage. I can only imagine how scary it is for my friends and loved ones down there. It makes me so sad to see what is being done to our city. The violence has also spread to Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool...
Tonight there are rumours of more unrest, but with up to an extra 10,000 police promised, hopefully less damage will be inflicted. I sincerely hope the influx helps to bring peace to the city, and will be keeping the brave people of our emergency services in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you for all that you do.

I'm also thinking of my friends down there in London and hoping they stay safe and well - one of the most shocking parts of these riots for me has been the indiscriminate violence. I hope by early evening all my friends are safely home and that the evening passes without incident.

My heart breaks for a city where so many have lost homes and businesses...I watch the news unfold and want to cry seeing familiar places as the backdrops to violence, destruction, and horror.

I've been amazed at the slowness of the Government to react, I must say - there was serious rioting on Saturday, and yet both David Cameron (our PM) and Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) only made the call to return on Monday afternoon. Who knows what this delay will mean for the people of London and for both of their political careers...

I have been shocked by what some Londoners have chosen to do to our city, but also heartened by the community and pulling together that is happening - cleanup operations, people making tea for police who've been hard at work, support for businesses that have been looted. I hope that once the riots have dissipated and the dust has settled we can use these events as a catalyst to move on together and to make London a safer, happier place.

Stay safe, London lovelies.

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Some links on this:

The Guardian's (excellent) live feed.

Caring costs: but so do riots

Britishness = tea.

Injured boy robbed (NB not my title on the Youtube vid)

Hurrah for all the clean up teams!

Looters on the World Service

Police overrun in Woolwich

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Pictures that make me smile...13

My first (and so far, only) visit to Canada. The lovely Christy and the wonderful Miss Ash were gracious tour guides throughout and I had a blast over the pond! Here I am working the giant yellow rain poncho at Niagara falls - too funny!

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Two days in beautiful Amsterdam this week, and I even managed to remember to take some photos! I would thoroughly recommend the city for a break and I loved our modern, sleek hotel too (the Mint).

I love city sunsets.
This is the Anne Frank Huis - such an amazing place. I found it so moving and learned a whole bunch.
Wine at the Skybar, looking out over the city. Lovely.

One of the views from the Skybar.
The choir screen inside the Nuiewekirk - it's very plain inside for the most part as it was stripped by iconoclasts in the 16th and 17th centuries, but this ornate screen is beautiful, and all the more so because of the spareness of much of its surroundings.
Hannah in Dam square,
Love the Dutch style houses (in this case, a bank headquarters!)
Side street snap.

In Dam Square, outside the Palais.

A great trip where I learned lots about the history and culture of the Netherlands. Would love to go back before too long! Dank u wel, Amsterdam! Tot ziens!

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90s, baby (part 4)

More music from the decade that held my formative years....

1. Paranoid Android - Radiohead

I told ya I could get angsty. Great song.

2. I'll Be There For You - The Rembrandts

Do you remember how we'd all join in on the handclaps?

Go on...you know you want to:

3. Smooth - Santana ft. Rob Thomas

A stone dead tune.

4. Say It Ain't So - Weezer

One of my favourite Weezer songs (love the whole album in fact).

While researching this, I learned that Adele borrowed the same chord progression for her song 'Chasing Pavements'. Every day really is a school day.

5. Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) - The Offspring

This song was everywhere.

Gaining maximum geek/nerd points, I once did a talent show with my guy friends involving a lip-synched routine to this.

My goodness.

6. Basketcase - Green Day

This could fill the floor at Mudd Club quicker than anything I know...

7. Head Over Feet - Alanis Morrisette

I *love* this song.

All my geeky teen heart was to feel like this about someone.

And now I do.

#winning /soppy

8. No Scrubs - TLC

The other side of the coin ;)

Seriously though, how badass were TLC? Makes me sad when I think of some of the current pop-tarts. Hurrah for the sassy ones, say I!

9. Everybody Hurts - REM

When we lost A, listening to this song over and over and over was one of the things that kept me sane.

Utter beauty. And total sadness. And hope.

In one song.


10. Stay - Eternal

Finishing on a less pensive note...a proper British girlgroup. Nice.

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SUYL: Blogging tips

The lovely Kelly has started another round of 'Show Us Your Life' posts. I love this series, being both chatty and inquisitive in nature and naturally wanting to see how people do things in their corner of the world. Through this particular blog link up I've gained countless hours of joy, as well as lots of ideas for decorating my home, helping my class to learn and so many party ideas. Thanks as ever for co-ordinating this, Kelly!

This week this theme is "share tips on blogging." Now, I do not profess to knowmuch about blogging, but after five years, the nuggets I will share are....

1. Blog what you know. Write about the things that interest you, the things that inspire you. I know that's a creative writing 101 tip, but it's true!

2. Be honest and real. By all means, use pseudonyms where you like or omit whole sections of your life where you like to, but when you do share, be real. Your readers will be just as pleased to read an honest post about a disappointment or a blue day as they will looking through another set of photos from a party / blessing list (both of which appear frequently here, ha!).

3. Get out there and visit other blogs. There is some wonderful writing and some wonderful people. One of my dearest friends, Christy, I met through blogging, and there are countless others whose wit, humour and take on life I enjoy. You can find many of them in the sidebar to the left. :-)

4. Think before you post. As much as I stand by point two, do make sure that your words won't unnecessarily upset or offend - unless that's your aim, naturally.

5. Don't get too hung up on followers/page views/google position. As nice as it is to be read, to feel heard (I love comments. follows etc as much as the next girl), your blog needs to be authentic and you.

6. Join in. I regularly join in with 'Show Us Your Life', as well as 'Five Minute Friday' and 'Project Life Tuesday', because they help my writing, inspire me, and introduce me to other bloggers. There are so many bloghops and carnivals - I would say find one, two, or three to join and enjoy them! Comment on the blogs of others, email, engage!

7. Learn to enjoy the scheduled post function! Don't overuse or abuse it, but embrace it when necessary!

So those are my magnificent seven....how about you?

If you're new to my blog and would like to read a range of posts, here are some clickys (oh, and pleased to meet you, by the way :-)). I hope they amuse / move you, or at least provide a welcome diversion!

On being called fat (among other things).

Have a wonderful Friday, all!

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Home (part 2)

As promised, part 2.

Warning: Badger Heavy!

After all, I love our Badger Sett.

1. Mr Hedge-Badge, a gift from one of my Year 4s.

2. Badger coaster on my dresser.

3. I love my cheerful Kindle cover - chosen by my lovely.

4. It is so much friendlier with two!

1. Mini badger and Lionel badger.

2. Fingal & Florence

3. Badger plate

4. Badger Gang!

(I told you there were lots of badgers!)

1. Bathroom duck

2. Mr Penguin the radio

3. Bathroom badger

4. A bevvy o' ducks!

1. My bouquet from Jenna's wedding

2. Comfy cushions & a zebra print throw. Aw yeah.

1. Beautiful vase

2. Lantern

3. Bobbity!

4. I love initials and monograms. It's becoming a running joke that if and when we have kids they'll have to have the initial 'C' or 'M' so I can re-use the letters!

1. Tom badger (complete with raincoat and medal)

2. Welcome badgers! (From the Christmas shop in Stratford)

3. Another gift from a student.

1. Badger soap

2. Friendly clock that always lets me know when I'm running late for school!

3. Woof!

4. Kwak glass, lovingly brought all the way from Belgium. Thank you, Rory and Eileen!

I really do love our silly little home.

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Quote of the day

"To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art."

- La Rochefoucauld

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I wrote the below quite late at night, after a good long Claire think.

After reading it back, I wasn't sure whether to go ahead and publish, or instead to delete it, to squirrel it away. I've decided to publish, because this blog, this little record, is about my life, my whole life. And just as I share about my joys, what I'm happy with, what I'm trying to achieve, I think it's important to be real too. Sometimes.

First things first - I'm good. Things are good.

But all this free time over summer gives me time to think. To ponder.

And lately I've been thinking about my flaws.

The things that bug me about me.

The things I'm trying to change. Or, in some cases, accept.

1. I'm impatient. Sometimes I feel like I'm going to burst, like I just can't wait for the next adventure, the next event, the thing just around the corner.

2. I feel like I'm never going to be good enough. Like I'll never be worthy or something.

3. I don't sing enough. I feel like I'm hiding. I feel more like me when I sing....but I'm not singing enough. I need to fix this.

4. I eat way too much. Not as much as I used to, but still too much. And it's making me get gradually fatter and fatter. I feel like I'm trapped a little. I hope I make it out. I'm trying.*

5. I start things and don't finish them. Not all the time, and it's getting better, but I need to continue to work on the follow through.

As it were.


6. I'm terrified of people leaving me. I think sometimes that's why I keep some people at a distance.

If they're not close....it won't hurt so much when they leave.

7. I swear too much. I never swear in front of kids or elders or whatnot, but all too often among my peers an f-bomb or seven escapes. I'm still trying to figure out what I make of that.

8. I'm great at beating myself up.

9. I'm secretive.

10. I want to be more. I'm not sure that's necessarily a flaw, but feel I needed to add it.

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* post on this soon!

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To the north, to the north...

A lovely weekend, up in the Yorkshire Dales, celebrating the marriage of two good friends, enjoying the sunshine, touring a castle and supping some good ale. Pleasant.

On Friday we caught the (hugely warm - no aircon!) train up to Leeds then went onto Skipton, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Once settled in we went for a walk around the town, sampled a few local ales, then headed back to our B&B.

On Saturday the wedding wasn't until late afternoon, so we took the chance to go and look around Skipton Castle in the morning. Such an impressive building and a fine way to spend a morning. Then we got our gladrags on and headed over to Bolton Abbey for the wedding of Stuart and Emma. And what a beautiful wedding it was - love, laughter, tears, family, friends and dancing. So glad to be there!

Sunday, we arose early and skipped over to Guiseley to catch up with Keir and Hannah. Keir is a good friend of Matthew's from uni, and I had heard SO much about the lovely Hannah. It was wonderful to visit with them and catch up. Then, train home, ready for a busy week!

Pictures in no particular order, for it is late and I am keen to get a good night's sleep ahead of the Amsterdam adventure to come!

At Skipton Castle there were re-enactors in Civil War garb - fabulous. The muskets were SO loud!

The Civil War folk at camp (and a couple in M&S!)

Love windows like these!

The happy couple - such a gorgeous wedding!

Matthew and I decided we'd quite like to live in the house, with its view of the river and Skipton Castle!

Me, goofing around in a giant fireplace?



With Emma, wearing my silly hat. She looked stunning!

The backdrop for the wedding photos. Just breathtaking! The Devonshire Arms did such a wonderful job with the whole day.

The castle was much repaired in 1659....I love a good bit of history.

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