Saturday, 30 December 2017

2017: A year on the blog.

Right, well this year has been considerably more 'turbulent' than last year. 2016, with all its natural disasters and celebrity deaths and poor political decisions has, at times, paled in comparison to 2017 with its terrorist attacks, Brexit rulings and celebrity sexual harassment spillages. I guess all we can do, as a nation and a planet, is to keep on and hope things get better. We do it all the time, don't we? Well, let's continue. Continue...continuing...




For me, 2017 was a bit of a shit storm at times. I found myself abruptly out of work in January - thank goodness, that job was killing my creativity - and after picking myself up and dusting myself off, getting into the interning scene at one of my favourite publishers in London...I fell ill. I was then on-and-off ill, in and out of hospital beds and the operating theatres; losing bits of my insides, a dozen kilos and what little mental health I'd managed to hold on to for the couple of years preceding this one. I let people down repeatedly; our family holiday plans were once again scuppered all thanks to me, friends' parties and book events in the city had to be missed and I couldn't even send anything their way to apologise or send belated congrats as I was a) ill, and b) piss poor (still am the latter, tbh), my writing powers dwindled for a while and that no doubt disappointed the lovely literary agents contacting me...

But then, in amongst the shitty stormy nonsense, there were good times. Yes, there were. I'll be devoting a whole post to the best memories of 2017 in the next few days, don't you worry. 

As usual this blog, forever my happy safe space, kept me going and let me vent, rage, release and let go. I know a lot of bloggers who have packed up and quit in the past year, but that will never happen here. I'll never be put off by the 'dramas' in the blogging community, nor the endless stream of 'deals' I'm offered - that when replied to with a 'sounds good, what's your budget?' are met with sudden silence - because this blog is, first and foremost, my place, my therapy, my outlet.

Now, let's look back at what's been happening on here this year...

(Spoiler: one of the best things to happen to me and to the blog this year was finally meeting Erin Veness IRL and having lots of photographic fun)


Thursday, 28 December 2017

A stranger, on the Sandringham line.

   "That's my cat," this older man - with a long, coarse ponytail - says as he suddenly reaches across and puts his phone in my face. 



   I look up from my book, and see a silky black cat staring back at me. I instinctively go "aww!"
   "Yeah, Priscilla, her name is," the man grins. "I had an Elvis once. Before her, y'know? Big guy, he was. Used to pull possums down from trees! Yeah, but after he died I got her, rescued. Named her after Priscilla Black, and well, Elvis' Priscilla. She guards me."
   I then unlock my phone and scroll through the camera roll, quick as I can as I've noticed he's starting to gather his belongings and is now glancing out the window. It'll be his stop, soon. "That's Harv," I say, showing him my best photo of the family cat; sat up, legs splayed, looking up mid-arse lick on the parents' bed. "My boy, back home."
   "Aww, wow. He's a beauty. Very distinguished, like?"
   "He's an aloof yet surprisingly sprightly old man," I nod.
   "Well, mind how you go. Have a great day!" My new friend and cat lover says, jumping up with his oversized sports bag and making for the train doors. I watch him step out onto the platform and tap his MyKi card on the reader, before returning to my book. Smiling, and thinking of home. 

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Grace's Great Voyage Down Under, Week 6: the very fun but un-festive run up to Christmas.

In case you missed my posts so far in this series, I'll reiterate the key point I cannot seem to say often enough: I am not a travel blogger. 

However, I really want to share some things about my recent travels. 

I’ve decided to write posts in the future about my trips to various Other Places – but not necessarily the way a seasoned traveller and blogger might. I’m going to write about specific things, moments; some will exist in a big compilation post while others may stand alone. For instance, if I had an especially magical dinner date, or discovered a secret spot nobody had told me about, or even just had a conversation with a native (of which I have already had many, in Australia!), then that might exist in its own post.


The sky seems bigger here; the stars are backwards, but brighter. The blues are definitely deeper. 
-

Friday, 22 December 2017

Melbourne; a tiny coffee tour.

Now, I'm sure you're all aware of what a major coffee addict/connoisseur/snob I am. No? Well, where have you been?!

To put it simply: I have grown up in a family of coffee lovers, in a house where there is almost an entire cupboard stuffed with canisters of different ground blends and several cafetieres in varying sizes, and mugs of every possible design. According to Mama - who is always keen to add this fun fact into conversation, often with complete strangers - my sister and I would accompany her to cafes most days in our prams, and she'd happily breast feed us between sips of her americanos. Wait, maybe that's why I'm so hooked on caffeine...?! Oh, god. 


*ahem*
Anyway, in my more recent years, I've been an award-winning barista in two of the UK's biggest chains. I never wanted to make a career of it, per se (I laughed in my manager's face when she suggested I progress to a Shift Leader role), but ever since I started making coffee behind the bar in the cinema where I worked at uni I became totally fascinated with the process - the art of it - as much as I was obsessed with the taste. 

I am meet up with friends all over the country in the quirkiest and best cafes - I can safely say I'd always rather meet for a coffee than a drink, or a meal. I'm always being tagged in Facebook posts about the deeply psychotic tendencies of coffee lovers, or tattoos of cups on Instagram. Coffee is my thing, and everyone knows it. 



So when I booked my flights to Melbourne, for one of my 9 weeks in Australia, suddenly all my friends and family are sending me links to specific cafes, recommending shops left right and centre - because Melbourne is a famously coffee-obsessed city...

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Grace's Great Voyage Down Under, Week 5: beach days, the move to Burleigh and the last, long-awaited arrival.

In case you missed my posts so far in this series, I'll reiterate the key point made in it: I am not a travel blogger. 

However, I really want to share some things about my recent travels. 

I’ve decided to write posts in the future about my trips to various Other Places – but not necessarily the way a seasoned traveller and blogger might. I’m going to write about specific things, moments; some will exist in a big compilation post while others may stand alone. For instance, if I had an especially magical dinner date, or discovered a secret spot nobody had told me about, or even just had a conversation with a native (of which I have already had many, in Australia!), then that might exist in its own post.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Who even *is* Winston Bishop?

I warn you now: this post may seem very niche to the majority of you readers. And well, perhaps a little too intense, at least for such a seemingly trivial subject. But guys, I'm really perplexed and passionate about this. Please humour me, and tell me I'm not the only one struggling with this. It's very important to me. 

Okay, here it is.


Who even IS Winston Bishop?!




Right, so, back when 'New Girl' first hit our screens in 2011, they hit a snag almost immediately. The pilot featured Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.), a straight-talking sport nut who just liked to get home after work and 'let his beans out'. He asked new roommate and effectively human plot point Jess (our girl Zooey) for help speaking to women as she curled/burned her hair, because he'd been told he was a little harsh (cut to him screaming at a weeping female personal training client 'I'M TRYING TO HELP YOU!'). He seemed like a strong character, a perfect complement to lazy Nick (Jake Johnson) and anal Schmidt (Max Greenfield). We, the audience, were all on board.

But then, he vanished! Coach had to abruptly depart, no doubt for sporty work commitments (and coincidentally actor Damon's series 'Happy Endings' was unexpectedly renewed for another season).

And swooping in to take his place...Winston Bishop.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Grace's Great Voyage Down Under, Week 4: Mama's here!

In case you missed my 3 posts so far in this series, I'll reiterate the key point made in it: I am not a travel blogger. 

However, I really want to share some things about my recent travels. 

I’ve decided to write posts in the future about my trips to various Other Places – but not necessarily the way a seasoned traveller and blogger might. I’m just going to write about specific things, moments, and some will exist in a big compilation post while others may stand alone. For instance, if I had an especially magical dinner date, or discovered a secret spot nobody had told me about, or even just had a conversation with a native (of which I have already had many, in Australia!), then that might exist in its own post.

Glad we got that out of the way...for the 4th time. Now, let's look back at my 4th week, out here in the land Down Under. (whoa, that's like, a month?! Mad.)


Monday, 11 December 2017

My *mostly* Sober October.

This year my month of September ended, and my October began, in Berlin. As we travelled back from the airport together, my gorgeous friend Maddie (who put me up and took care of me for the duration of my stay yet again but this time for 5 days, what a babe) and I talked about anything and everything – what my stay was going to be like, if there was anything in particular I wanted to do while I was there, the latest goss reported from our ex-workplace... Oh, and how did I feel about red wine, as there was some in the flat they weren’t going to have if I was interested?

This led to chat about drinking plans while I was there. I admitted that I can feel slightly self-conscious when visiting Germany as I am not a big fan of craft beer – or any kind of beer, really. My usual poisons are whisky, gin and the occasional red wine. I did go through a fruity cider phase at uni, but that ended after a few too many windy hangovers and a little too much bloat in the belly and chub in the face, to be honest. And anyway, my drinking preferences wouldn’t matter after a few days of this trip, because I’d decided to do the Sober October thing…


(I just love how ominous this image is?!!)

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Grace's Great Voyage Down Under, Week 3: mostly chilling, and some city time.

In case you missed my first post in this little series - and the second one - I'll reiterate the key point made in it: I am not a travel blogger. 

However, I really want to share some things about my recent travels. 
I’ve decided to write posts in the future about my trips to various Other Places – but not necessarily the way a seasoned traveller and blogger might. I’m just going to write about specific things, moments, and some will exist in a big compilation post while others may stand alone. For instance, if I had an especially magical dinner date, or discovered a secret spot nobody had told me about, or even just had a conversation with a native (of which I have already had many, in Australia!), then that might exist in its own post.

Right, now we're all caught up I'd say it's time to get into my third week out here, half a world away.


Saturday, 2 December 2017

Freaking talented arty people I love very much.

There are very few things I'll splash out on, online. I can honestly say I've never gone on an ASOS shopping spree; I don't habitually splurge in the LUSH Christmas sales after the 25th, nor do I fill up a digital basket with Shop Dixi jewellery...I mean, not that much...

However, I must admit nothing has me reaching for my card as quickly or as often as a gorgeous Etsy art page. 

I am fortunate enough to have found and followed some truly excellent artists on Instagram and Twitter. I've even befriended some of them, and they're all so angelic I could not be happier to have their work adorning my bedroom walls.  

This post is just going to be a shout-out to some of my favourites - and a feast for your eyes, no doubt! And of course if any of you readers want to recommend any artists you follow and love, please do comment or tweet me!
So here they are - in no particular order...


(Photo: my bedroom wall, taken by little sis Floop, on my request from the other side of the world.)

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Grace's Great Voyage Down Under, Week 2: coffee, cancellations, bubbles and Broadchurch.

In case you missed my first post in this little series, I'll reiterate the key point made in it: I am not a travel blogger. 

However, I really want to share some things about my recent travels. 
I’ve decided to write posts in the future about my trips to various Other Places – but not necessarily the way a seasoned traveller and blogger might. I’m just going to write about specific things, moments, and some will exist in a big compilation post while others may stand alone. For instance, if I had an especially magical dinner date, or discovered a secret spot nobody had told me about, or even just had a conversation with a native (of which I have already had many, in Australia!), then that might exist in its own post.

Right, now we're all caught up, let's look back at my second week...in my second home. 

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Sharenting...?

I have been bingeing on podcasts recently, especially those produced and hosted by badass and cool women. 

One of my recent favourites was 'Get It Off Your Breasts'; a 'female-led roundtable discussion with a difference', hosted by Emma Gannon and Lliana Bird. Guests literally are invited on to talk about pet hates and specific stresses they are baffled by and/or truly sick of. 

My favourite episodes of this series include those featuring Sara Pascoe, Dawn O'Porter and Konnie Huq. I'd often find myself nodding vigorously as I listened while walking into town with headphones in, or in my bedroom getting dressed and slapping on some extra face. 

But the 3rd episode, in which the angelic Emma and brilliant Lliana chatted with their excellent guest Shappi Khorsandi, was one that really got me thinking. 

The 3 ladies talked about the stigma of being single - and how Shappi is personally done with dating and is ready for a life very much by herself (with her kids). I found that pretty inspiring, as a twenty-something singleton who is often baffling others when she says 'I'm perfectly happy on my own, tbh'...

Then the discussion moved on to how affected we, the public, are and aren't when we hear about celebrity couples breaking up. They agreed (as did I) that while celebrity splits don't bother me, celeb deaths can really hurt. 

And then they touched on another hot topic that I have had a lot of feelings about recently: "sharenting"



Wednesday, 22 November 2017

It's a holiday, not a project.

*Below: the conversation I’ve been having for the past few months, awkwardly paraphrased*

   ‘So, what are your plans for Christmas this year?’
   ‘Oh, I’m actually spending it in Australia, with my family out there.  I’ll be flying out in November and coming back in January!’
   ‘Whoa, that’s a long time! What are your plans while you’re there?!’
   ‘Ermmm…’


I am completely aware of just how privileged I am to have the opportunity to travel out to the other side of the world. Not only do I have the financial means to do it, I also get a slight advantage as I am technically a citizen of Australia – *proudly brandishes navy blue passport* – and this means I can stay in the country indefinitely, and there’s no need to apply for a VISA!

Yes, I am very, very lucky. The thing is, with this luck comes pressure.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Grace's Great Voyage Down Under, Week 1: A mess of moments.

G’day. Please excuse the horrendously OTT title I conjured up for this…series? Yes, I am dubbing it a ‘series’, albeit very cautiously and optimistically.


I’m not a travel blogger. You guys know that. I have serious respect and adoration for those humans – the ones who brave the endless expenses and annoyances of journeying around the world and in doing so try new things, push their limits and explore new territories they may never have considered visiting before…and take plenty of photos and notes throughout these mad ventures, to then pour into their online platform for all to read. As if the act of travelling wasn’t busy and baffling enough, these guys actually write reviews, compile lists and recommend countries/cities/towns/hotels/restaurants and much more, all for their readers. So much love and respect for that, y’know?

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Recent Reads #7: the strongest voices.

Whoa, another Recent Reads within a month? Madness. As I said in the last post, I'm on a roll with reading at present, and coincidentally a lot of excellent books have been coming my way lately.

The books mentioned in this post are just a few of the ones I had sent to me recently, and I ran them through my usual 'test' of sorts (read the first couple dozen pages, wait to be hooked in by the story or the characters, or hopefully both), and while loads have been good, these few stories were told through the best voices. 


(Photo taken outside Camilla's Books, Eastbourne, by a very handsome bookworm.)

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Leaving on a jet plane...I think.

I’ve ruined a lot of things, for a lot of people, in the past few years. I’ve broken hearts by recommending devastating (‘in a good way’) books, I once hinted a little too heavily about the twist in a particular film, I told a few close friends the shocking secrets behind Starbucks’ coffee gleaning process…I’ve even done that glass-shattering ‘spoiler alert’ thing a few times when I’ve pointed out to others a person’s distinct quirks (e.g. ‘he talks with his hands’, ‘they say ‘totally’ a lot’).

However, I’d say the biggest and worst thing I’ve ruined, multiple times in recent years, has been my family’s holidays.

 (Photo: Erin Veness)

Friday, 3 November 2017

33.

Hi, my name's Grace. I also answer to Gracie.

'Sass' and 'savage' are two of my favourite words at the moment, nobody makes me laugh as much as I do, that pot of mango chia seed mix topped with coconut shavings you can get at EAT is my latest bizarrely specific foodie obsession, someday I want to live in a totally different European city, I've fancied Reggie Yates since his days on DIGGIT, I actually love travelling by train, I eat eggs almost every day and they're the only thing stopping me from being 'full vegan', I really appreciate a good pun, my new little convertible laptop is my baby and his name is Kirk, I passionately believe that American dramas and sitcoms should only be permitted to run for max 5 series, I'm having plastic surgery next year, I've realised I look better and feel sexier with this extra chub on my hips, crunchy peanut butter is the best kind, I used to do these posts once a month, then whenever I remembered to, now whenever I feel like it.  Today I am lecturing First Year Creative Writing students about blogging and in 8 days I'm flying away to the other side of the world, all by myself, for 8 weeks - it's actually happening, at last - and my 2018 is already looking pretty f*cking amazing. 

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Those I've lost.

I have lost a lot of things in my life.

I'm always losing jewellery because I fiddle with my rings in anxious absent moments (or when I'm focusing extra hard) and when I'm running late for something, I drop my mismatched earrings in pockets to put in later.

I've lost bigger things, too. Bits of my lower bowels, my appendix, most of the strength in my immune system and just my general sense of optimism about my general health. I tap wood now when someone asks me if I'm alright, and I only ever say 'everything seems fine', or 'all good...for now' before rapping the table my coffee sits on, making the black surface ripple and little spoon clatter against the plate.

(Photo: Erin Veness)

Monday, 23 October 2017

Recent Reads #6: Something a bit different.

I've had a whole lot of book mail in the last few weeks, guys. I've also gone a bit nuts spending in bookshops, after months of being so good and abstaining...oops.
And despite my reading schedule, which is still on the Harry Potter re-read (I'm up to 'Goblet of Fire' and the feels are intense), I've managed to deviate slightly and get some others in there recently...


'Undercover Princess', the first in 'The Rosewood Chronicles' series, is the kind of book I loved and yearned for as a teen – and yet I am also totally content now, reading it as an young adult. The writing style is so beautifully descriptive, and the characters are precious. Also, kind of irrelevant but I love Connie Glynn, aka Noodlerella's Instagram insane amounts.

2 girls are put together in a dorm room at the prestigious Rosewood Hall school; one is a princess yearning for an ordinary life, one is quite ordinary but dreams of being a princess. They soon swap identities, and that turns out to be a recipe for disaster...

Published 2nd November, with Penguin.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Strange bruise & sad feels. (unedited)

I don't know why I was so nervous to book the appointment. It definitely wasn't because I was booking using my GP surgery's new online service for the first time; I was actually stupidly excited to not have to communicate with the ever-chirpy but worringly nasal-sounding receptionists over the phone. Having said that, I managed to book 5 appointments instead of the 1...
They asked me to add a reason for the General Appointment. It was 'required'. I hesitantly typed 'strange bruise & sad feels'.

(Photo: Erin Veness)

Friday, 20 October 2017

No Virgin / No Shame, Anne Cassidy.

Oh hey, welcome to my stop on the blog tour for 'No Shame', the latest novel from Anne Cassidy published with Hot Key books! 

So, as you all know, I was recently galavanting around Europe (okay, just popping in and out of two particular cities) and so I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear (/read) that I did a lot of...reading!
Plane journeys are perfect for tackling the TBR pile, let me tell you. I kept on track with my current reading schedule (the bewitching re-read) and had the whole flight home from Berlin to dive into – and devour – this truly unique book. 


'No Shame' is the story of Stacey Woods (who we readers may have met in Anne's book 'No Virgin') and her fight for justice after being raped 9 months ago. This fight involves facing her attacker, and his family, in court before a judge and a jury. It's her word against his, and sadly that's not a good situation for a young woman to be in.

The story twists and turns, but the dark themes are constant and undeniable. The tension and hurt is intense. At times while reading, I found myself wobbling considerably and desperately turning the pages, hoping hard for Stacey.

I was so delighted to procure a fantastic piece from Anne Cassidy, about the importance of moral ambiguity in teenage and young adult fiction. 
Read on...


Sunday, 15 October 2017

'A Woman of No Importance', 11/10/2017: A Review.

On Wednesday 11th October, I went to see 'A Woman of No Importance' at the Vaudeville, performed by Classic Spring, a new theatre company founded by Dominic Dromgoole (former Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre) who also directed this production. 




The show is the first in the company's Oscar Wilde season, revolving around his four great Victorian plays which shocked and redefined British theatre, and still resonate and refresh today.

 (Photo: classicspring.co.uk)  

"An earnest young American woman, a louche English lord, and an innocent young chap join a house party of fin de siècle fools and grotesques. Nearby a woman lives, cradling a long buried secret. Wilde’s marriage of glittering wit and Ibsenite drama create a vivid new theatrical voice."
(source: From the Box Office.) 

Thursday, 12 October 2017

I love sex. And what?

If you follow me on social media, or read this blog regularly, or have ever got a coffee with me IRL, you'll know that I cannot not talk about sex. Why? Because I love it, quite a bit.

But when did I start loving it?
Well, to be honest, I think I always did. Even at a young age, even before I started having it, I loved the mere idea of it. That humans could do this amazing thing – they could strip down and cuddle up and make magic happen between them. At 13 years old, that seemed totally, like, mental to me... 

 
Photo: Erin Veness @ms_veness / erinveness.com.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Books Are My Bag 2017: #BookshopDay

Yesterday, Saturday the 7th of October, was the legendary Books Are My Bag's national holiday, Bookshop Day!



Book currently in your #BAMB bag?

Up until yesterday, it was 'It Only Happens in the Movies' by Holly Bourne. I finished it last night before bed! And now I'm dipping back into my Adrian Mole double feature, just for some light retro humour before I return to Hogwarts.


Favourite bookshop?

I will always love Waterstones in Brighton, and Tottenham Court Road. And of course there's no denying that Piccadilly is an institution – no, a city! 


My local indie shop is Hare & Hawthorn Bindery & Bookshop, in Hastings old town. I've only been in there a couple of times, but would definitely recommend it to any book-loving visitors to the Sussex seaside. 
Same with The Rye Bookshop; I bloody loved covering in there (and meeting the mad mix of customers) on a quiet Sunday morning when I was a bookseller. 

Friday, 6 October 2017

30 Days Grace; September.

September always feels strange, these days. I think because even after 3 years out of education, I still get that 'back to school' instinct when autumn kicks in and I have nowhere to put the feeling, nothing to satisfy the craving for newness...no leaves to turn over. 

Thursday, 28 September 2017

All About...Lisa! ; an interview with Lisa Williamson.

The beautiful Lisa Williamson is an astonishing UKYA author known for her debut 'The Art of Being Normal', and now her second novel, 'All About Mia'! 

This story is all about, well...Mia! The middle child in a pretty unique - and wildly successful - family. She has a big sis bound for the very best higher education, and a younger sister literally making waves as an athlete. What does she have, though? What does she do? She's not quite sure. 
Then one day, her academic superstar of a sister comes home with a surprise. One that might just change her perfect rep, and tip the scales in their home...


A post shared by Lisa Williamson (@lisawilliamsonauthor) on

Hi, lovely Lisa! Thanks for chatting with me about your excellent second book. Let's dive in and look at the characters first...

Mia worried she didn't have 'a thing'. That she didn't have a unique
talent at something, like her sisters did. What was *your* thing, growing
up?

I differ a bit from Mia in that I was into quite a few things growing up. I wanted to be an actor so naturally I was really into drama and performed with the school drama club and various local amateur dramatics companies. I also danced once per week (jazz, disco and tap!) and was really into History (it was my very favourite subject at school)
and watching old Hollywood musicals.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The Inkings.

If you'd told me a few years ago that I'd someday be sitting in an indie cafe with a tab set up behind the bar, writing blog posts and managing social media as a job and invoicing publishers for a week of events...well, that was my dream, actually. So I'd have been very happy. But then, if you'd added 'you have a sh*t ton of piercings, pockets full of crystals, and a whole lot of ink covering your skin'? I'd have snapped my fingers at you and said 'you almost had me!'


Photo: Erin Veness (erinveness.com)
Tattoos: both Ella Bell


I've written before about my body being a map of me. It's covered in marks and memories, both deliberate and unplanned. Scars and ink mingle on my surface, and while some scars go deeper, the latter is my way of redecorating and reclaiming. I've written about that before too; described each inking and their individual importance.


But that latter blog post actually was published in March 2016, when I had 7 tattoos and had booked 1 more in...I now have 12. 

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

What I'll be reading in September 2017...

The excellent Bex recently posted about reading schedules and their positive/negative effects on an individual.
I of course related to the post and each excellent point within it. I've never actually sat down and mapped out all my TBRs properly before 2017 began – and I only elected to do it really, just to see if I could. To see if it would help me sift through my piles of neglected reads as well as the ones I 'need' to look at for upcoming blog posts. Also a major plus about the prospect of a schedule was just the fact that I could say 'I can't read [book I don't fancy], I'm actually on a strict reading regime this month'! 

So far this year, making a list each month has really helped me and my reading. I mean yes, I have had a few moments when I've come round to the next in the list and thought 'aww, I don't wanna', but for the most part it's been really good having plans!
I kinda can't believe that I've managed to (mostly) stick to my schedule for 9 whole months now. Good work, me. Don't f*ck it up! 

On that note, let's look at my September reading plans, shall we...?

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