Posts Tagged ‘Childhood’

“I was a victim of bullying back in school. My advice is to always tell someone straight away and ask for help. Keeping it to yourself will only be more damaging in the long run.” Liam Payne, One Direction.

Louis Evans was picked on and taunted throughout his schooldays for his bright ginger hair has beaten the bullies by creating a successful modelling career for himself. Louis has appeared on the catwalks of London Fashion Week and in the pages of British Vogue.

And it was his ginger hair, which was the reason he was bullied for years, that has made him so popular!


Louis Evans As A Schoolkid And Today

Whilst growing up he was targeted for the way he looked. ‘It was quite difficult growing up in a small town. People are very close-minded. Back at home there were stereotypes about gingers.  I didn’t let it affect me though and I tried not to let it affect my confidence.’

Some Tips On How To Deal With Bullying

If you or a friend are being bullied, it can sometimes feel like nothing can make it stop, especially if it has been happening for a long time.

Here are some practical tips, phone numbers and websites you can use for dealing with bullying.

If you are being bullied always remember – you are not alone and there is always someone willing to listen and help.

What is bullying?

Bullying can be physical, verbal or psychological. It includes name calling, spreading hurtful rumours, excluding someone from groups, taking possessions or money, hitting, pushing or kicking and unwanted sexual touch. Cyberbullying has the same effect as face to face bullying but takes place over the internet or through phones.

Bullying is often driven by prejudice and can be targeted at someone’s gender, culture, religion or perceived sexuality. Children and young people may also find themselves a target because of a disability, disfigurement, illness or hair colour.

What can I do if I’m being bullied?

  • Firstly it is not your fault! Whatever the person, or people bullying you have said, this is everything to do with their negative thoughts and behaviour, and nothing to do with you. Believe that you deserve better and seek help.
  • Talk to someone. Problems rarely get better by keeping them inside. If you can, talk to an adult that you trust – like your parent or a teacher.
  • Talk to friends that you trust. Or contact Childline (see details below).
  • Protect yourself – if you can, avoid situations where you are likely to be bullied. Never retaliate with violent actions such as hitting or punching – this can lead to you being seriously hurt or getting in trouble yourself. If the bullying is online, block or unfriend contacts that are being abusive. Make sure you have the highest privacy settings.If you are not sure how to do this then ask for help.
  • Take part in activities outside of school – or wherever the bullying is taking place, that help to raise your confidence and make you feel good about yourself. Some ideas could include Guides and Scouts, cadets, drama and dance classes, art classes, exercise classes and swimming. Remember that you deserve the very best in life.
  • If the bullying is making you feel very desperate and scared then don’t take it out on yourself – get immediate help. You can contact Childline any time, night or day for support and advice.

If you need help or advice about bullying there are helplines and websites that can provide you with information and support:


ChildLine – ChildLine is the UK’s free, confidential helpline for children and young people. They offer advice and support, by phone and online, 24 hours a day. Whenever and wherever you need them, they’ll be there. Call 0800 1111.

Cybermentors – CyberMentors is a safe social networking site providing information and support for young people affected by bullying.

EACH  – EACH has a freephone Actionline for children experiencing homophobic bullying: 0808 1000 143. It’s open Monday to Friday 10am-5.00pm.


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There were tears in his Mum’s eyes as he kissed her and promised to phone when he arrived home. Sally would stay with her tonight, she was much better at family stuff than him. He had to get back to Claire. The pregnancy was proving difficult and he didn’t like leaving her. Mum said she understood. But she looked disappointed all the same. Truth be told he was glad to get away.

The Hammersmith and City train remained oblivious to Matthew’s silent promptings as it ambled towards Kings Cross via lengthy halts in tunnels and stations. The Tube offers no succour to the grieving and he cursed himself for staying longer at Gran’s than he had planned. For a moment these frustrations cleared his mind of the day’s emotional unease and he focussed on avoiding eye contact by gazing at other passengers footwear. He studied his own sturdy brogues and bridled at the sight of the oil stain on his left trouser leg.

Finally, the train shuffled into Kings Cross. Matthew pressed against the tide of boarding passengers and was further hampered by queues of suitcase laden travellers struggling to squeeze through the ticket barriers. He felt guilty for leaving an elderly woman to carry her luggage unaided up a flight of stairs as he dashed to Platform 3 to make the train. Which he made. Just. After boarding, he had to walk several carriage lengths to find an empty seat.

Seated, he reached in his jacket pocket and pulled out the faded manila envelope Mum had handed to him at the wake. Gran had insisted he should have it.

Inscribed on the top left hand corner of the envelope was the phrase “Isle Of Man TT 1955”. Matthew opened the envelope and ran a finger over a paper clip that held together a number of aged black and white photographs and newspaper cuttings before retrieving them.

The first photo showed a man riding a motorcycle. He was sheathed in black racing leathers, his chin on the petrol tank as he sped along. The face of the rider was frozen in concentration, eyes fixed upon the road. The silver petrol tank was emblazoned with the name Norton. It was clear that the bike was travelling fast. Very fast.

In the background, people were sitting on a dry stone wall watching on. Matthew’s attention was drawn to a young boy wearing a mackintosh and school cap. The boy’s features were frozen with catatonic excitement.

He undid the paperclip and studied the second image; a man in racing leathers sitting astride a motorbike. Another Norton. Possibly the same one as in the first photo. The man had his arms crossed and held a cigarette in his right hand and cradled a helmet in his left arm. It was Granddad.


Three men stood either side of the bike, each man wearing collar and tie. Two of them were holding cigarettes and smiling, whilst the other man, older and holding a clipboard appeared to be scrutinising the bike. The boy wearing the mackintosh and school cap from the first photo, stared into the camera with the bland look of strangers caught unawares in other people’s photographs.

The third picture was older still. A group of six men and three women, all in military uniform. One of the girls sat on the lap of one of the soldiers, her arm draped self-consciously around the soldier’s neck as they smiled into the camera. Gran and Granddad. Granddad’s jacket bore the rank of Corporal.

Matthew had been shocked when Sally had rung to tell him Gran had died. He had never attached the notion of mortality to Gran. Her smile, hugs and joy at the smallest pleasures in life set her apart from anyone he had ever met. Many childhood memories had been forged when Mum took Matthew and Sally to spend a week with Gran in London during the school summer holidays, sadly decades ago now.

He knew he should have made more of an effort to see her these past few years. Mum had nagged him about. He was in London often enough with work after all. But it was easy to make excuses. Truth be told he didn’t have anything to say to her.

He ate a sandwich and stared out of the carriage window, occasionally catching his reflection in the glass or that of another passenger walking passed. The train rode over a set of points causing the heads of passengers to bob involuntarily as did the pages of the newspapers and magazines they were reading. Several middle aged men, suited but with scuffed shoes were studying laptops. He wondered how many on the train were grieving.

Gran’s funeral had been at nine o’clock in the morning. Manor House Crematorium. The Vicar, a youngish man already jowly and with thinning hair used the metaphor of life as a train journey. It felt clumsy, forced and failed to mention Gran’s sheer passion for life. He counted only twelve people there, excluding the undertakers who stood outside the Chapel smoking roll ups. An extraordinary life reduced to a dozen mourners, two of whom were early for a later funeral and only sat in the Chapel to keep out of the rain. The success of old age.

Mum had held his hand throughout the service. He felt guilty for being curt with her on the phone whenever she rang, annoyed with her rambling conversations and pointless questions about the minutiae of his life. He felt guilty for the increasingly rare visits home and his inability to have a conversation of any meaning with her. He knew she was lonely but found the boiling tedium of conversation with her an impenetrable barrier. He had promised himself after Dad’s death eight years ago that he would be a more attentive son. He knew that he had failed her. When she needed him most. He took after Dad in that respect.

During the service, he found himself thinking about Helen. She was now living with a doctor in Edinburgh. He wondered if she was happy. He hoped she was. He wondered why he never told her how much he loved her. Beyond all measure. Wondered why he had not fought to keep her. Wondered why they had allowed themselves to drift apart so easily. He wondered why he thought these things at a funeral. He thought himself a fool. Gran had told him as much when he told her that they had split up. “You let a good one go there Matthew,” she had said.

He knew Gran was right. Perhaps that is the purpose of funerals, to allow the living to judge their own lives against the finality of death and the missed opportunities caused by fearfulness.

He thought about Claire. He wondered if he would make the same mistakes as he did with Helen. He hoped not. There was the baby to consider.

The wake was held at Gran’s house in Clapton. A house full of familiar scents and artefacts. Fry ups, bone handled knives, the Sunday roast, the crumpled Daily Mirror still in her chair, the authoritative sound of the carriage clock in the living room, the smell of moth balls and wood polish. Inexplicably his mind was crowded with a memory of watching the wrestling on television on Saturday afternoon, before the football results and checking the pools coupon.

He studied photographs of previous generations that rested on the sideboard with the broken handle and the sticky drawers. There was Gran and Granddad in their wedding photo and another of them about to set off on an excursion on Granddad’s BSA. Gran holding on for dear life. Another photo, colour this time, was of Mum and Dad cutting their wedding cake. They were both smiling. Their future looked so appetising back then.

Matthew dried the plates as Mum washed up. His tea towel had a print of the Tower of London on it. It was a present to Gran from her sister Ethel, who had bought it on a trip to the Tower in 1978. Ethel broke her ankle gawking at the crown jewels and two Beefeaters’ had to carry her to the first aid room. Clumsy girl Ethel, “big boned” as Gran described her. She was the last of Gran’s siblings to die. That was the last time he had set foot in the house. It appeared as though nothing had changed in that time. Except for Gran’s absence.

The nice Asian family who lived next door and kept an eye on Gran brought cake and lemonade as a gift. The young couple who lived the other side popped in and offered their sympathies. Mum spoke to Mrs Davis, an old neighbour who had retired to Southend nearly twenty years ago and had made the journey down to pay her respects. Mum introduced Mathew to her, he didn’t recognise her, even when prompted about the fight that Matthew and Mrs Davis’ grandson, Andy had in the summer of 1982 over a game of British Bulldog. Andy lived in Spain now. Managed a bar. Matthew feigned interest as he dried the last plate.

After drying up, he nipped out to the garden to have a cigarette. He walked to the shed. The padlock that was never locked, hung limply from its hook and Matthew pulled on the door handle. The hinges had perished so the door proved difficult to open. With it ajar, he peered into the gloomy interior. The tarpaulin was still there. It was still there.

Once he had finished eating the sandwich, he turned his attention to the newspaper cuttings, yellowed with age, their folds, deep and indelible. The headlines read, “Guthrie Victorious at Oulton Park Invitation Race”, “Guthrie: Star of the Future?”, “Guthrie heads to Isle of Man in search of first TT Victory.” There was one more article, “Guthrie perishes in Tourist Trophy accident”.

Matthew continued reading, ”Sid Guthrie, the up and coming Norton works rider from Clapton, east London was killed yesterday in a tragic accident on the Tourist course at the renowned TT races on the Isle of Man. The intrepid racer, nicknamed “Carrot Guthrie” because of his ginger hair was thrown from his Norton 500 as it rounded the famous Goose Neck corner of the course some fifteen miles from the Island’s principal town of Douglas. Eye witnesses informed the local constabulary, who quickly attended the scene. Race authorities suspended racing for over an hour yesterday as ambulance crews hurried to the scene and gave immediate treatment to Guthrie who was moved to Douglas Infirmary. He was pronounced dead on arrival.

The likely cause of the accident was an oil spill from the motorcycle preceding Guthrie, the privately entered Triumph of local rider Reg Ash on the entrance to the corner which is taken at over eighty-five miles per hour on the leading machines.

Racing resumed at 11.48 am and the race was eventually won by Sam Bartram on a BSA Gold Star.” Associated Press

Gran had insisted the wrecked bike be returned to her. Odd was the consensus of opinion about her decision. It was only shipped back by the Isle of Man TT organisers after a protracted correspondence and Gran’s agreement to meet the shipping costs.

“It is how I remember him,” she told Matthew on one of his summer visits, “He was always tinkering with it, tightening nuts, loosening nuts, talking to me about chains – what do I know about split links? – “Got to make her go faster Lil, I got to make her go faster.” – Damn thing. Kept him near to me though. Like his heart beat it was.

To the eleven year old Matthew, the shed was a treasure trove of manly pursuits. Shelves sagged under the weight of long forgotten tins of screws, rusty spanners and wrenches. There was a musty metallic smell of mechanical decay and idleness as if the machine parts were waiting for their day to come again and resented being idle.

Under a damp, oil stained tarpaulin the old Norton had lain undisturbed, a cloaked relic of a long dead man’s life, for over thirty years until Matthew had press ganged Sally that summer into helping him move the engine cylinders and wheels that held the tarpaulin in place. Despite Sally’s protestations and the spoiling of her new dress with an unseen can of Castrol Racing grade engine oil, they disinterred the bike.

“Is that all it is?” Sally had said unimpressed that her labours had yielded such a paltry harvest. The front wheel was buckled and the front forks badly twisted. The cylinder head was shorn of its fins on its left hand side and the left side of the petrol tank was so crumpled that only the first three letters NOR were visible.

But Matthew never saw the wrecked machine for what it was. What he saw was a battered expression of speed and the cherished freedoms adulthood promised. Visiting Gran for the next two or three summers now took on a new purpose and excitement. To reconnect with the crippled bike and the promises it offered his imagination.

During those visits, after the comments on his growth spurt and how he would, “Break the girls’ hearts!” had been completed, he would spend hours sitting on the bike, imagining himself leaning into corners, accelerating down straights and overtaking rivals, head crouched on the tank, feet unable to reach the footrests, holding on to the dilapidated handlebars whilst commentating on another miraculous last gasp victory.

His clothes would smell of oil and desiccated rubber, whilst on his hands the tangy taste of rust permeated the pores of his skin. Mum had never been keen on him playing on it, but Gran said, “At least you know something of your Granddad. He died young, too young for your Mum and me, made my life a lot harder than it needed to be, but he died doing what he loved. Even though that is no compensation for the living.”

He felt that excitement when he entered the shed today, pulling back the tarpaulin and sitting on the bike. He fitted it now, feet reaching the floor. He leant forward and gripped the dilapidated handlebars. Yet those boyish imaginings of glory did not return. They had perished as the reality and rigid obligations of adulthood set in.

The bike had foretold of so much. Yet those tales had never materialised. Worse still there was now an oil stain on the left leg of his trousers.

Once more he read, “Guthrie Perishes…”. He looked around the carriage, at the bobbing heads and the laptop scrutineers. His phone buzzed. It was Claire.


“Hello. How was it? I’ve been trying to call you all day.”

“Sorry. I forgot to take the phone off silent. It was fine. Sad but fine. I’m going to miss her. How are you? The bump?”

“We’re fine. I managed to get some sleep. Looking forward to seeing you.”

“Me too. Been a long day.”

“I bet it has.”

“I think we should invite Mum up for a few days. It’ll do her good.”


“OK. Love you.”

“Love you too.”

He turned the phone off. Tears began to roll down his cheeks. Who was he crying for? Why? For Gran? Mum? Dad? Granddad? Helen? Claire? Himself? The Baby? He didn’t like confusion. Was very poor at it. Avoided it if he could. He silently urged the train to take him home.


He is on the Norton, sheathed in black leathers, head flat on the silver petrol tank. The bike spits its power onto the road. He has become fused with it, ennobled by speed, clipping straw bales, scraping walls, skirting kerbs and rounding corners.

Accelerate. Second gear. Third. Fourth. Fifth, throttle fully open. Down to fourth, third, second, brake, lean hard, round the corner, find the apex. Accelerate; harder this time, again through the gears, throttle wide open. Eyes only on the road ahead; the world exterior to this a blur of trees, dappled shadows, walls, cottages and people.

Corner, downshift, once, twice, accelerate through the apex, hit the straight; throttle fully open, the great four-stroke engine beating to its own cadence now. Goose Neck approaches. Oil? Will there be oil? The boy. In the mackintosh and the cap. He is standing in the road. He cannot stop in time….the boy is speaking….

He woke with a start. It had been a bad dream. Claire lay next to him fast asleep. The annoying light from the street lamp outside the bedroom window, something he wished he had thought about before buying the house, seeped through a slight crack in the curtains.

He thought about the Norton and then thought about the oil stain on his trousers. He felt a life pass by and didn’t know how to claim it.

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This week’s request comes from the Debra Fetterly and her wonderful Breathe Lighter site which you can find here!

Chim, chimerney, chim chimerney, chim chim cheroo…….

Here is fabled Nanny, Mary Poppins arriving in her unique way. As the song goes “Superbanger……etc…etc” (Couldn’t think of anything to be honest).

mary_poppins copy



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I do a regular post (you can read it here) to help red headed kids who contact Gingerfightback about being bullied. The advice aims to help kids understand that they are not alone and the importance of talking to someone about what they are experiencing.

A friend informed me about an article that has appeared in the Press – “National Kick A Ginger Day”.  The article can be read here Basically, Ginger kids in a Yorkshire school were set upon by other pupils.

This story got me thinking.

When I was at school I was teased (or bullied – call it what you will) for having the glory that is ginger hair. As this was a few years ago, my response was usually a flailing right hook or a kick in the knackers to the perpetrator.

“Standing Up” to bullies is often the advice that you hear today.

However, when every ginger kid in a school is targeted by other pupils, the idea of standing up for yourself becomes tricky. The impact of a group dynamic and a systemic approach to abuse is not only macabre but also sinister. When the accelerants of Twitter, Facebook etc are added to this mix, the methods behind “National Kick A Ginger Day” will soon become custom and practice. Violence will accompany verbal abuse.

I worry that in the weeks, months and years to come we will hear how this concoction of physical and cyber bullying will lead to serious injury to an innocent kid who happens to be Ginger – but it is OK  – it was only done “for a laugh” and “no harm was meant.”

If kids were singled out and attacked because they were Jewish or Muslim or Catholic or Pakistani or Bengali, we would be talking hate crime.  If this took place in a school (presumably the Nick Griffin Free School – lavishly funded by that gleaming turd Michael Gove) – all hell would break loose and well-meaning intellectual fops would be decrying the death of childhood in modern-day Britain.

But it is happening and I fear the cat is out of the bag. Like a modern-day cyber version of Lord Of The Flies. Jolly japes that will be constantly ratcheted up.

So, as I would probably pull a hamstring trying to kick these perpetrators and their parents in the knackers I have;

  • Written to the school asking them to outline what punishment has been handed out to the kids involved and what steps they are taking to prevent this recurring.
  • Asked Facebook to close down “Kick A Ginger Day” pages and sites.

If you can spare the time to contact Facebook about this issue – I would be very grateful. Ironically Facebook has nominated October as bullying prevention month!

It is only a hair colour after all.



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As you know Gfb prides itself on making stories up.

Well, for a change here is a true story about a likkle ikkle Baby Seal you may have heard of. We’ve christened him Sam. Sam is having a tough time of it.


You see Sam the pup is ginger and has been abandoned by his mum, who we will call Cecilia. Admittedly he’s no oil painting and in all honesty scares the bejesus out of us but the poor little mite deserves better.


Born with rare brownish-red fur and almost completely blind he was rescued from a beach on an island off Russia, the name of which we have trouble spelling.  The pup’s colour is the result of an accumulation of iron in its fur.


“He was hiding and waiting for his mother to come and feed him,” Said the nice man who found him and took him to a dolphinarium where he is being cared for.

On a brighter note, here are some Ginger Sheep.

ginger sheep

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The Despatcher manoeuvred the wheelchair into the Carriage’s disabled bay. “Many thanks,” said the chair’s occupant, an elderly woman. Another woman in early middle age, fussed around her.

“All part of the service!” replied the Despatcher, “Enjoy your trip to the seaside.”

“He was a bit rough,” the old woman said to her companion, “Nearly had my eye out with his whistle.”

The companion said nothing. She took off her wire framed glasses and wiped the lenses on the dark grey fleece she was wearing. She looked tired and in all honesty fed up.

The Despatcher took several minutes to free the chair ramp. Once he had released it, he let out a pert peep on his whistle and the train pulled away.

The old woman carried a small potted plant in her liver spotted hands. I could not tell you what type of plant it was. It was colourful. She stroked the plant and said, “Like the view Arthur? I told you we would make one more train journey together.”

My daughter Millie looked up from her colouring book and tugged at the cuff of my shirt.



“That old woman. Is she going to die?”

“No. Not yet darling. But it won’t be long by the look of things.”

“Thought so. Can I have some more chocolate?”

I handed Millie her third segment of Chocolate Orange. My wife had forbade chocolate on our excursion to the Zoo, but we don’t often go on trips together and why can’t a Dad spoil his little Princess? Besides, who doesn’t like to tap and unwrap?

The old woman looked at me and said, “That child will be sick if you keep giving her chocolate.”


A smile spread across the old woman’s craggy features. The top set of her bleached dentures rattled slightly as she spoke to Millie, “Hello my dear. Where are you going? “

“Zoo. To see the Penguins,” Millie replied.

“I think you are the prettiest child I have ever seen!” Said the old woman, “But if you keep eating all that chocolate you may develop chronic diabetes and become morbidly obese. Not to mention lose your teeth!”

She smiled broadly. Her left hand fell off.

“Bloody Germans.”

I gasped and broke wind. I hoped nobody noticed. Millie laughed.

Her flushed companion reattached the prosthetic and said to me, “Sorry about that, it’s a bit worn and loose.”

“That’s OK,” I replied, unsure what to say.

The old woman, checking the quality of the reattachment, asked Millie what her name was, “Millie? That’s a lovely name. My name is Mary and this is my daughter Eileen.”

“You’re old. Are you going to die soon? My Dad thinks you are.”

Mary laughed “Death comes to us all Millie my dear. I am prepared, but hopefully not for a day or two. We have a trip to the seaside first! Do you like the seaside?”

“Yes!” replied Millie, “Sandcastles!”

“North Cornwall usually,” I said. I lied, normally it is Devon.

“Your Daddy is a bit fat isn’t he Millie? Does he smoke? The stains on his teeth tell me he does.”

“No,” I replied, before Millie could say anything. I had given up for New Year. I was pleased with my willpower, apart from when I had a crafty one.

Mary turned to her daughter, “Any news about Betty?”

“Lot better.”

“Did she find her eye?”

“In the freezer.”

“She’s so careless that girl.”

Mary looked down at the plant, “How are you Arthur?”

I swear the plant shook gently in response.

“That’s good.” Mary shaded the plant with her hand. A flapping tongue of handkerchief protruded from the sleeve of the white cardigan she wore. I shuddered at the thought of mucus on my wrist.

“Is Dad OK?” Eileen asked. Mary looked wistful, “Grand. He’s excited about being on a train again. He loved his trains. The hours he spent in the loft with his train set. ……What he couldn’t recreate in Papier Mache……….. Do you remember that time he got his head stuck in his replica Channel Tunnel!”

“How could we forget!” Eileen appeared to relax in her mother’s company.

“Never liked the Sun much though.Brought him out in hives.”

“I know Mum.”

“I’m glad I could bring him. He loved the seaside. Hated the water, the sand and the Sun of course, but loved everything else. And he didn’t need a ticket, him being a pot plant now. Loved Violets he did. I think he needs a drop of Baby Bio by the looks of things. I do miss him Eileen.”

“I know Mum. We all do.”

Mary stroked the petals of the pot plant or Arthur as I now thought of it. She appeared deep in thought, “Yes love. He certainly loved his train set. And having his way with me. He was insatiable. Right up to his Seventieth. No wonder I ended up in this Chair!”


Mary pulled the handkerchief from her cardigan sleeve, wiped a tear and blew her nose before rehousing it. Again I shuddered at the thought of damp mucus on my skin.

“Daddy,” Millie asked,

“Yes?” I dreaded the question.

“How long will it be before I am old?”

“A long time yet.”

I was relieved. She hadn’t asked that question.



“I think I’m going to be sick.”

It was by the Lion’s den that Millie asked me what insatiable meant. I bought her an ice cream. She forgot to ask again.

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Hi Everyone!

Been a while!

Two Words!

Erectile Dysfunction!

About as likely as raising the Titanic!

Too much fish in the diet!

Then it all changed yesterday!

Who’d have thought that a glimpse of Imelda Marcos would cause such hasty blood flow “downstairs”!

But I am one happy zygote!

Just gotta find that egg!

Right……Ready Or Not…..Here I Come!


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