The last part of our holiday…

After leaving Roger & Mags, we headed up to the Gower peninsular for the day. it was rather windy, and not very warm, but still spectacularly beautiful! When we arrived, wepaused for a quick lunch of a sausage-and-bacon bap in a café, and then headed out along the peninsular.


The very end part is known as the Worm’s Head, I imagine because it looks a little like a reclining dragon. It is possible to walk out to the very tip, if the tides are right, and there were many people who had done so, but we decided not to. Instead Mr FD took lots of photos

both of the cliffs and along Rhossili beach

Doctor Who fans might recognise this as the beach where David Tennant’s Doctor left Rose


and the Worm’s Head was CGI-ed into a city at some time as well.


After this we headed to The Mumbles, a pretty little seaside town, where we admired the new Lifeboat Station. We were going to stop for an ice cream, but as it started (unexpectedly) to rain, and we didn’t have coats, and we suddenly felt too cold for an ice cream, wer decided to go on to Huw and Trish’s.

Huw was a good friend of Mr FD’s at Uni as well, so they talked a lot about those days, and music, and Tech as well!! I’d met them both for the first time a couple of years ago, when they called in on their way back from Corsica. Trish is really easy to get along with, as is Huw, and soon it was as though we’d known each other for years – as indeed, Mr FD & Huw have! We met their very enthusiastic dog, Dewi:

We were due to have dinner with another old Uni friend, but this had to be cancelled at the last minute, so we just had dinner à quatre eating a delicious lamb dish: Corsican Lamb(but I don’t think it had the artichokes or fennel in) and then chocolate mousse cake. More relaxed conversation, listening to Huw’s music, including his own band, and talking about everything and anything.

The following day we went out for breakfast – full English Welsh breakfast with black pudding, sausage, bacon, and all the trimmings! After that we headed out to Carreg Cenen Castle

Trish & I visited the Castle itself, while Mr FD and Huw walked around the castle hill, with Dewi, to give him a longer walk.

Looking through a hole designed for a musket

Looking down on part of the route of Dewi’s walk

Trish and I chatted like old friends, discussing life in Medieval times, gay rights, transgender issues (!) and food. A varied range of topics, one can’t help thinking!

We met up with the boys for a cup of tea/coffee and then went to a nearby village, Llandeilo, for lunch. I had roast beef and horseradish sandwiches, with a half of another tasty beer. We then wandered around the craft shops – there were some lovely things, including a couple of wonderful (but expensive) paintings. If I’d had £400 to spare I’d have bought one like a flash. Sadly, I forgot to note the artist’s name, so I shall just have to enjoy the memory of them, without any reference point!

When we got back to Huw and Trish’s house we sat outside, and played “fetch” with Dewi, and chatted again, until I felt very drowsy, so I went and had a “little lie down” before we went to an Indian restaurant where we treated them to a very pleasant Indian meal. I can’t remember the name of my chicken dish, but, while it was tasty, it was disappointingly mild. Mr FD’s chicken jalfrezi was rather spicier than he’d expected – so with a little judicious mixing of our meals, we both had a curry of a pleasing amount of heat!

The next day, Huw was working again, and we set off for Kent, where we were staying with MiL for a couple of nights before heading home. We arrived just before lunch, and then went to visit Mike, MiL’s partner, who is in a nursing home, due to a bad fall/ early dementia. It was lovely to see him, although he is looking much frailer than he used to.

When we arrived there was a musical afternoon going on, with an Elvis impersonator strutting his stuff, and flirting with the residents. He wasn’t a bad singer, so it wasn’t too painful to wait! Afterwards, we took Mike out in his wheelchair around the grounds, and then we were able to sit out in the sunshine.

Then it was shopping at Tesco, packing the cars, and off the next day for France. Home again by 6.00 pm.


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…and after Summer School, catching up with Old Friends.

So, Summer School ended. On the Friday night, most of the teachers who were left headed down to the pub. I went too, but didn’t stay for too long – being a bit of a boring old fart! – and knowing that I hadn’t packed yet! Mr FD was due to arrive by train at 12.00 but I’d promised to drive some of the teachers to the station by 9.00, so I didn’t want to be late to bed.

On Saturday morning, I fulfilled all my tasks and got to the station to meet Mr FD at the appointed time. He had left the car he’d driven over from France (& had hoped to sell, but was unable to) at his mum’s, & took the train to Newbury, where I met him.  We had planned to go to the Hawk Conservancy Trust but the weather was horrid, so instead we drove to a pub we used to go to occasionally when I was at college in Winchester: The Bush at Ovington

Being a little way outside Winchester, it depended on one of us having a car, but it was a lovely place to go. To be honest, it hadn’t changed that much in the 35 years, and sitting in the bar brought back so many memories: there was the big table next to the open fire that we liked to sit at, here was the River Itchen that was so lovely to sit by on summer evenings…. Today, we both had some good British beer, a chicken-and-watercress sandwich, and (for me) some delicious parsnip and ginger soup. Mr FD had chips. I was allowed one.

We were due to stay at a friend’s in Southampton, so we made our way to Southampton Town Quay for a walk (the weather had brightened up a little by then) and a sit, to watch the boats going up the Solent. Then we arrived at Norman’s. We have been friends since my days at college, when he was the College chaplain. We have always got on very well, and I often think I would have loved him to be my Parish Priest: he is so wise, and sensible, and Godly. But, I think, not comfortable. He would be challenging too. He was – as far as I can remember – when he was Chaplain.

Anyway, he had invited Ian (another friend from College – but not this Ian)and his partner for dinner, so we had a lovely time catching up and just chatting. Norman cooked us melon & proscuttio for starters, then salmon with hollandaise sauce, new potatoes and green beans, then a “fruit crunch” – basically fruit salad with lots of red fruit and a touch of rum, topped with crushed amaretto biscuits, and then a layer of whipped cream and greek yoghurt. With brown sugar sprinkled on top, then left in the fridge overnight, there is a delicious fudgey topping as the sugar melts. Yummy!

The following day, we set off for Frome to catch up with more friends from college. Mr FD has known them for almost as long as he has known me, and gets on very well with them. He and Kit like the same music, and can talk Tech for hours, while Alison (another one) and I just fall into chat-mode instantly. Their daughter Hann was there, as was my Godson, Joe – which was a surprise, but definitely a happy surprise. We had a bread-and-cheese lunch, then strolled into Frome town centre to look at the Independent market there – lots of lovely things. I was particularly taken by the idea of book gardens:

which I think are rather lovely! I might (only might, mind you!) try making some for presents if I can find any appropriate books. Emmaus would seem a good starting place. We had tea in a café – very hip and happening, but terrible service! – and then strolled home, Kit & Mr FD forging ahead while Alison,Hann and I chatted about everything and nothing. Joe had gone to meet friends in the pub.

Mr FD and I had visited Asda on the way and bought pizza and salad, so we had that for dinner, and basically spent the evening chatting, comparing Tech and watching Athletics on TV. Very chilled. Very pleasant.

In the morning Mr FD popped back into Frome to buy some medication, while the rest of us tried to choose names for the two kittens that A&K were going to collect that afternoon. I still don’t know what was finally chosen! Mr FD had bought himself a new phone, which meant that his old phone was passed onto me, so I was able to gift my old phone to Joe (who was using an i-phone-something with a broken screen). Godson was very happy.

After lunch, Mr FD & I headed in the direction of South Wales, where we were going to visit friends from his University days. First we were due at Roger & Mags. Mr FD & Roger had “got mildly drunk together on our first evening at Cardiff University” and they have been friends ever since.


This is a not-very good picture of Roger & Mags’ fluffy ginger cat, Oscar. I didn’t take any pictures of Roger & Mags!

When we arrived, Roger had taken the afternoon off work, so we sat and chatted about music (Mr FD & Roger definitely have the same taste in music!) and sport and Tech. When Mags got home, we then set out for a lovely little pub somewhere not very far from them, in Caerphilly, but, a little like The Bush, very olde worlde.

More good beer, and good food. I started with a goats’ cheese and black pudding salad, followed by a Welsh lamb burger, and fries. Mr FD had laver bread to start, in a type of croquettewith oatmeal and bacon, and then he went the whole hog and had a double burger – one Welsh lamb and the other Welsh beef!

The following day, Roger & Mags had both taken a day off work so we went for a lovely walk (a little too far for me, as I was struggling by the end, but still delightful) We started at Cyfarthfa Castle Museum and Art Gallery

and from there we followed part of the Taff Trail, above the River Taff. We made a detour to visit the site of an old Iron Foundry, that would have been active in the 19th century, but is now quite derelict.

Halfway round, we stopped at another pub for lunch. More good beer, and this time I had Welsh Cawlserved with bread and cheese. And sweet potato chips.

Mr FD and Roger had the most enormous ploughman’s lunch ever, served with 4 types of Welsh cheese, a thick slice of ham, a pork pie, pickled beetroot, pickled onion, salad and a bread roll.  Mr FD didn’t (quite) finish his – though I did note it was mostly the salad that he had left!

The second part of the walk was alongside the river and was really lovely. Incidentally, when we got back home to France there was a BBC 4 TV programme about the Taff, which showed parts of the walk we had done. Here is the link for anyone in the UK who might like to see it.

When we got back to Roger & Mags’ I’m afraid I fell asleep! But later that evening, Mags cooked us a delicious salmon-en-croute, and then we watched some Gavin and Stacey repeats – how appropriate for South Wales! – and a recording of Only Connect. Another chilled time, spent with old friends.

The next day, Roger & Mags had to go to work, and we were scheduled to go on to Neath, slightly further to the west, to call in on another frriend from Mr FD’s Uni days. But the telling of that part of our holiday will have to wait…

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Summer School Fun

And yes, it was mostly fun!!

The kids were great, although there was one rather spoiled little girl from Spain. She threw a wobbly everytime we asked her to do something she didn’t want to do, or told her she couldn’t do something she wanted to do. She was a bit sly too, blaming others for things she’d done, or telling tales – “Teacher, Kati speak Russian!” (when she herself had been speaking Spanish ten to the dozen with her classmate!)

Mind you, we had a taste of what her parents were like and thus why she might have been as she was, when, in the evening, Isabella (not her real name) was talking to her father, & the phone was on speaker mode. There was the Spanish group leader in her room, and Aoife, the housemother, came & told Isabella to finish her call, and go to bed. When Isa relayed this message to Papa, he replied – not realising the phone was on speaker mode, or there was a Spanish speaker in the room – that basically she could tell the teachers to f— off and he’d finish the call when he was ready to.  I think even the child was a bit embarrassed by this, and she quickly ended the conversation!

Most of the other children were fine, and, while they may not have learned that much English, we at least hope they had fun!

We went to lots of different places, and did lots of different things. We painted plates


We visited the Hawk Conservancy Trust, where we saw Barn Owls

and Bald Eagles

and Ryan, who flew the Bald Eagles

We went to Beale Park, where there were lots of animals, and to Bucklebury Farm Park where we fed the deer

We went to other animal parks, and had two trips to see musicals: The Lion King and Aladdin. I enjoyed both, but I think the children were a bit bored. Even though they knew the stories and the songs, it must be difficult to follow a play in a foreign language. The shows were spectacular, and colourful, but even that failed to completely hold their attention. Still, they enjoyed stopping for Burger King at Heston services on the way back. And the plastic Smurf toys in the Kids’ Meal seemed to give them as much pleasure as the musicals had!

I think the favourite excursion was to the Oracle shopping centre – the children had so much money to spend (one had come away with £500 spending money for 4 weeks. That’s just ridiculous for a 8 year old child!) and quite frankly went a bit mad, buying vast quantities of plastic tat. And sweets. And finger spinners. Boy, did they buy Finger Spinners! One child ended up with about 6 of the things!

We had planned to go to the park in the afternoon, but it piddled down with rain – so we went back to Downe House and let them play with their new acquisitions instead. I think they were just as happy with that!

In class we baked cakes, and made Barn Owls out of coffee cups and paper plates. We painted symmetrical butterflies and made hot air balloons. We spoke and wrote in English, we watched lots of Simon’s Cat (that was my bribe: “Finish your work and we can watch a Simon’s Cat video.” ) If you don’t know Simon’s Cat, here’s one that I used when teaching Prepositions of Place

Where is the cat? Under the box…In the box…etc etc.

All in all, it was a good time.

Because my computer didn’t connect to the Wi-Fi at Downe House (nobody, including the Tech Support Team, could work out why) I ended up being much more sociable. Instead of holing up in my room in the evening, watching Coronation Street and Long Lost Family, I sat in the Common Room and chatted with the other teachers. It meant I could be supportive as they bemoaned the DoS’s most recent demands (while secretly breathing a sigh of relief that my Head of Dept was much less demanding!) and help give some ideas towards their lesson planning. I got to watch some of the Harry Potter movies – some of the younger teachers were die-hard HP fans. They watched the entire series of movies, but they mostly started too late for me to stay up to watch them. There was some insistance to take the Sorting Hat test to discover which House I belong to:  I am, apparently, a Hufflepuff.

Although I’m not into HP I was a tad disappointed to be a Hufflepuff (such a bloody stupid name) but having discovered the house crest is a badger, I’m quite happy. I like badgers. Hufflepuffs are also Very Nice People So that’s okay then.

I’ll tell you about the other things I got up to another time.




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Hello! I’m back!!

Hello Dear Readers,

I’m home again, after 4 day’s travelling to the UK, 4 week’s work and a week visiting friends. Almost 6 weeks away from home. I have forgotten what little French I knew!!

I had signed up to do Bla-Bla Car, which is a kind of car sharing thing. I was taking three people from Clermont Ferrand up to Beauvais/Amiens. I’d been rather nervous about it, but it was okay. I’m not sure I’d do it again on such a long journey, but I might well do it on my trips to Clermont each week. We’ll see. Anyway, I reached the ferry with about an hour to spare, so sat in the queue and read. Then took the Club lounge (free glass of fizzies and peanuts) Then a 20 minute drive to M-i-L’s house.

I stayed with M-i-L the first day,and luckily I was able to help her out as her car wasn’t working. I drove her to T’ai Chi and had a little walk around the village while she was taking her class. Then I drove her over to the doctor’s. I was going to just sit in the waiting room, until I saw this appealing sign:

I couldn’t resist opening the gate and walking down the shaded track, which opened out into a delightful little orchard

with apples ripening on trees

and charming little viewpoints

and seats in sunny and shady places. It really was a lovely place to while away half an hour until MiL had finished and we went to have lunch in a little garden café not far away.

The following day I drove to Guildford, to meet up for lunch with an old school friend (I told you a little about her in this post )and then on to Southampton to stay with another friend, before heading to Newbury to start work at Lines Summer School.

It was a good time (generally) especially catching up with old friends both at the Summer School, and outside of that time. The time at Lines was hard work, and not quite as fun as last time; this was partly because there were only two of us in the Kids’ department, instead of the expected 3 teachers (though there cetainly weren’t the numbers to merit 3 teachers) and partly because other teachers were somewhat demoralised by a rather joyless Director of Studies, who had very unreasonable expectations. In the Kids’ dept we were a little more autonomous, and weren’t directed by this woman, so were able to duck out of a lot of what she demanded of the other departments. I would like to think that had I been elsewhere I might have stood up to her and refused some of the ridiculous things she asked, but I probably wouldn’t have done!

ANYWAY – whether I’ll return next year is a moot point. It was more difficult physically too, with my arthritis (and general lack of fitness!) getting worse. We shall see.

If I return next year I will have to do “my” walk. This ritual started by accident. The first year I’d flown across and taken a bus to Newbury. It had been a difficult year, and the next year I was rather regretting agreeing to return. That second year, we had been told to arrive mid-afternoon on Thursday. I had the car, and was driving over to Newbury from staying with a friend in Alresford, and because he’d gone to work, I left fairly early. Close to Newbury I left the A34 and drove fairly aimlessly, looking for somewhere to have a walk and a chat with God about what was ahead of me. I found somewhere to stop, and I walked up a track near the Highclere estate (Downton Abbey, for those who watched the series) until the north Hampshire downs opened up in front of me

With a game bird reserve to one side, it was a peaceful spot to sit and think. To enjoy the sunshine and talk to God. And just “be”

That year at Summer School started badly for the first couple of weeks, but got better, thank God. The following year, I drove again, and, just by chance, found myself driving the same lanes so I stopped again to do the same walk.

The wide open spaces reminding me of the vastness of our creator God, his goodness and mercy. Breathe in the air.

This year I conciously tried to find the walk, but came off the A34 too soon and couldn’t find the lanes I needed to take. Telling myself it didn’t matter and that I didn’t have to do the walk again (but knowing that somehow it actually was quite important to me!) I drove rather aimlessly for a bit, hoping to stumble on a place I recognised, and then decided I had to give up, and drive to Newbury. Whereupon I found the place! Joy!

Along the shaded track until the view opened up in front of me again

I sat in the sunshine once more and committed my time at Summer School to God. Enjoyed the wind blowing across the grasses, and the mewling of buzzards wheeling in the sky, the scents of wild flowers and the cheeping of the grouse/pheasants/guinea fowl.

Then I returned to the car, passing this rather impressive gamekeeper’s cottage on the way

Wouldn’t you love to live here?!

One last look in the other direction, and I was ready to face what 4 weeks atv Lines could throw at me!

So, if I go back again I will have to find time to do the same walk, even if it’s piddling with rain. It has become a ritual now, a concious pause before God to acknowledge his goodness and majesty and to ask for his support. I’m not a regular pray-er but this has become absurdly important to me!

Anyway, I’ll tell you about some of the things I got up to, both during and after Summer School another time. But it’s nice to be home – and to sleep well in my own bed after 6 weeks in beds that really weren’t that comfortable!


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Ready for the Off!

So, I’m off to the UK tomorrow. Leaving home at 8 am, my ferry is booked for 19.50 – leaving me lots of time to get lost in Paris. Eeep. I’m “doing” BlablaCar, which I’ve never done before. Picking up 3 women in Clermont Ferrand, taking one to Beauvais airport, where I’m picking up another passenger. She’s going to Calais, while the other two are being dropped off at Amiens. Hopefully, they’ll understand that I’m not very talkative in the car (marked myself as “Bla” in my profile) and that I’m actually very nervous about this drive. It’s the first time I’ve driven this route round/through Paris, so I’m worried about losing my way! Still, with GPS and Mr FD printing out all the instructions for the route I should probably be fine.

Then when I arrive in Calais I’ve booked a seat in the Club Lounge – which gives a complementary glass of wine & nibbles. No fighting the hoi polloi in the bar for me, thank you very much! I’m spending Monday & Tuesday nights at MiL’s (she lives near Dover), and then driving to Southampton, via Guildford, to meet a friend for lunch and then stay with another friend on Wednesday night. Then it’s off to Newbury!

Unfortunately, we’ve recently heard that numbers are way down – possibly to do with the recent terror attacks – so the “Dream Team” of 2015 will be reduced to two members instead of 3. Hawa will be teaching in Teens, and I’ve been asked to teach the low level Kids. Not at all my forte, nor what I’d done all my planning for, but needs must. David, the other teacher, is the Head of Kids, so he’ll have admin to do, as well as having other hats to wear, so I’ve got to be as flexible as possible. No whinging or whining. Hopefully Hawa will be able to advise, as she is the usual low level teacher, even though she’s not in Kids. Also, she will definitely be joining us for our Kids Dept Staff Meeting in the pub. It won’t be the same without her!!

Because of the low numbers, it may actually be that I won’t be employed for the whole 4 weeks. It’s not a huge problem if that’s the case – I’ll just go up and see mum, which I won’t otherwise have the opportunity to do.

So there you are! I think everything is packed (except my picnic for tomorrow) I just need to get it in the car now, & hope there’s room for my passengers’ bags too. I have pared down the teaching resources that I normally take – as most of them are for higher level students. I shall be searching t’internet frantically on Friday & Saturday planning for the week ahead!

I will try to pop in and post something at some time, but no promises are being made!

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SO sorry!!!

I have been AWOL for a few weeks – no excuses, really. My weekends seem to have been full of preparing for lessons the next week, going to church, or boring things like ironing and cleaning. Or just being too *hot* to do anything.

Last weekend though we were away with the Cyclos near Bedouin, Mont Ventoux. Mr FD didn’t cycle up Ventoux, but he did some other rides. I visited a lovely Abbey

and other things. Which I will tell you about.

BUT I’m working all this week, and leaving for 4 week’s work in the UK (back to Lines Summer School!) on Monday so I don’t know if I’ll have time to blog before then – washing, ironing, packing (I haven’t thought about what I’m taking!), route planning etc. So I may be absent for a while. It’s not that I don’t love you – it’s just that time may be short.

I hope everytone has a lovely summer, and I’ll be back at the end of August – but if I have time while I’m away, I might pop in to say hello!


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Pictures Round the House N°3 – Alton Abbey

Hello dear readers.

Back in February I started a little series “Pictures Round the House” showing you pictures in our house that are special, and telling you why they have a special place in my heart. Well,after a hiatus, here’s another in the series.

This is a drawing of Alton Abbey, in Hampshire:

This drawing dates back to my days at college in Winchester,when some of us from King Alfred’s College (as it was known then) would go, once a year, for a weekend’s silent retreat at this Benedictine abbey some 20 miles away from college.

This picture, from their website, shows this very view (although the tree has grown quite a bit in the 36 years since it was drawn!):

We would leave college on Friday, and join the monks for dinner. After the first talk, given by either Norman, the college chaplain, or someone else, we would take part in Compline, and then the Great Silence.

Generally, after that, we kept to the silence. There were talks to attend, but also lots of free time for reading, meditation, or other activities, such as drawing. I suspect I usually did some calligraphy or reading.

After lunch on Sunday, the silence was broken, and we went back to our everyday lives. But it was always a little difficult coming back to the “outside world”, as it were.

This picture was drawn for me by my at-the-time boyfriend. I have to say, I think I treated Ian very poorly – he was much more devoted to me than I was to him, I fear, and I would often refuse to hold his hand in public. I was a tad embarrassed by the fact he was a lot shorter than me – which is no excuse, really.

Taped to the back of the frame is a piece of paper with “The meaning of life is love. Only true love comes from God” written on it in Ian’s handwriting. I think I had the picture framed much later, so I imagine this came from something he gave me at another time.

In my old scrapbooks, I also have a pressed rose that he gave me, plus a card with an apple seed…This was at the end of our third year, when I was staying on for an Honours degree, but he was going to leave. In the card he wrote the words from a song in the play “Sergeant Musgrave’s Dance”

I plucked the blood red rose flower down, and gave it to my dear

I set my foot across the sea, but she never wept a tear.

One day I came home, as free as a bird, I sought her out and in

At last I found her in a little attic room, with a napkin round her chin.

“Are you eating meat?” I said. “No””Are you eating fish?”

“No I am eating an apple given me today, the sweetest I could wish”

The blood red rose has withered and gone, and fallen to the floor.

But he who brought the apple down shall be my darling dear.

For in that apple a seed shall grow, to raise a flourishing tree of fruit,

To live in love and lengthy joy forever and a day”

I don’t know the play, but from Wikipedia it seems to be a play about pacifism, about revenge and about violence…I’m not quite sure how this fitted with something that I imagine was showing love. I think Ian thought I was cleverer and more astute than I really am, as he also wrote a cryptic letter that includes the words “I know what your problem is, if not better than you do yourself. If you know what I am driving at, then so much the better. Please remember, if anyone can help you, it will be me”

I don’t think I realised then that I had a problem, and I had (or have!) no idea what he was driving at! And I’m not sure if he helped me with whatever was the problem!

Here’s a photo of the card that included the cryptic poem and message!

We lost touch, and I heard a while after that he had converted to Islam, and married a Muslim girl who had been one of his pupils at the school where he was teaching. It was after the 11th September attacks, that a mutual friend sent an article from the Church Times, written by an RE advisor (I think) who was, from the accompanying photo, clearly identifiable as our estwhile friend Ian. The article spoke about how the attacks were not representative of true Islam, and that Muslims and Christians needed to work together, for peace and reconciliation. I wrote to him and we corresponded briefly, but I didn’t really feel any real warmth in his reply, so I let the matter drop.

Still, I do feel a lot of affection for this man – even if we were never really compatible, he showed me a lot of love, and kindness, and he was a very good friend. I wish him well, and every time I look at the lovely picture of Alton Abbey that he drew for me, it reminds me of happy, contented times at college, and my good friends.

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