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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary’s visit to Kew Gardens.  The sedentary minded can view the gardens from this land train.

Kew Gardens 6 May 2018 006

We had a fair day here today with very occasional sun, a good breeze and some late rain.  It meant that Mrs Tootlepedal could garden until she was exhausted and I could do some lawn care and go for a walk.

I had hoped to have my new bicycle by now but an enquiry to the bike shop revealed that it might not even be ready for tomorrow.  I hope that it will be but I have steeled myself for more delay.

Anyway, in the absence of cycling, I scarified the front lawn and collected up huge quantities of moss to the great interest of our resident blackbird who followed behind me pecking up food for his family.

baby blackbirds

I got a better picture of one of the youngsters later in the morning.

baby blackbird

They seem to be bigger than their parents so it is no wonder that the parents have to keep busy to feed them.

The dead heading of daffodils goes on (Mrs Tootlepedal must have hundreds of daffs in the garden) and the dead heading of the tulips has just started (she has hundreds of these too)  I counted over eighty of the red tulips in the narrow bed at the end of the drive and as Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that she only planted twenty, they have done remarkably well.

There is other colour about.

lithodora and primula

But still some daffodils and lots of tulips….

daff and cowslips

…and the long lasting cowslips too.

tulips

I sieved a little compost which Mrs Tootlepedal promptly used for planting out a recent purchase and then it seemed to be lunchtime.  Time flies when you are having fun.

After lunch, I went for a walk in the hope of seeing bluebells.

I saw fine blossom in the park as I walked though…

park shrub

…and many unfolding ferns along the way…

fern unfolding

…but best all, I saw the bluebells.

bluebells

I had time on my hands so I followed a track that the local mountain cyclists use through the woods.  At times it looked very inviting…

cycle track through wood

…and at times it looked truly terrifying.  I wouldn’t be able to tackle a track over bumpy roots and  fallen trees, through small streams and up and down steep banks so I take my hat off to those who do.

I am more interested in looking at things as I walk along.

There was a lot to look at.  As I took too many pictures, I am going to add only the barest number of words.

ajuga

Ajuga

larch cones

Larch keeping its cones over the winter.

view

A view at the end of the track down the hill

lichen

Lichen on a wall

blossom

Blossom

blossom

And more blossom

bluebells

I went to another bluebell wood but it wasn’t quite ready yet.

moss

There was interesting moss to make up for the lack of blue

hairy moss

Very interesting moss

dandelion

The dandelions were in good condition

distillery

Spring comes to the old Langholm Distillery

river esk

Looking down the river Esk from beside Skippers Bridge

skippers Bridge

And looking back at the briodge

wildflower

Wild flowers beside the river

heron

An old friend getting his feet wet

cherry blossom river esk

Blossom between the bridges

It was a delightful stroll and only needed a drop or two of golden sun to make it perfect.  I got a little splash of sunlight near the end of the walk but it only lasted a moment or two.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been working hard in the garden while I was out and by the time that I got back from my walk, we were both quite tired enough to make going inside and having a cup of tea seem like a really good idea.

Once inside, we got planted and didn’t go out again.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and Mike I enjoyed a small glass of Old Speckled Hen, a quality bitter beer, and then, while Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal caught up on all the news that was fit to hear, Alison and I enjoyed some good music, ending with a Partita in G by Telemann .  This was a really good way to end an enjoyable day.

If only my new bike would appear all would be well with the world.

I have put out some fat balls at the feeder and they attracted the attention of a sparrow today.  It is the perching bird of the day.

_DSC3957

 

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Today’s guest picture shows a rather more ornate bench than our new one.  Venetia sent the picture to me but couldn’t say what it was like to sit on the bench as it is too tall for her to get up  on to.  A triumph of art over practicality.

venetia's seat

The short spell of good weather continued today and it was a pleasure to go out into the garden after breakfast and be greeted by genuinely warm air.

I took the picture of the daffodil of the day at quarter to nine in the morning when we were sitting on the new bench enjoying the sunshine.

double daffodil

The morning sun brought out the best in a bunch of yellow tulips too.

yellow tulips

We didn’t have as long as we would have liked to enjoy the glorious weather as it was soon time to go to sing in the church choir.  Probably because it is a holiday weekend, the choir was rather short handed so we all felt a bit exposed but we had a good sing.

We had a little time to work or wander  in the garden when we got back.  I turned my attention away from the large and showy to the tiny…

small garden flowers

…and then spent some time stalking a peacock butterfly round the garden until it was polite enough to stop for a moment (though it didn’t fully stretch out its wings).

peacock butterfly

Then  we had a cup of coffee and went on a short walk to see if the good weather had brought the bluebells on.

The walk was most enjoyable with a lot to see on the way.

I stopped to check if the lichen on the park wall was enjoying the heat.

It was…..

red lichen

…but just behind the lichen was something that I found even more interesting.

What I took to be moss was sprouting in a way that I have never noticed before.

moss

I did some research on the internet and couldn’t find anything like it so I may be mistaken in thinking that it was moss but it certainly looked like it.

Mrs Tootlepedal was very struck by the huge bracket fungus on an old tree stump nearby….

bracket fungus

…but my eye was taken by a tiny oxalis growing on a damp wall as we climbed up the slope to the Stubholm.

oxalis

It was a beautiful day for a walk.

stubholm tree

Most of the wild garlic was still waiting to come out in spite of the warmer weather but one or two plants were giving a taste of things to come.

wild garlic

Did I mention that it was a beautiful day for a walk?

Easton's walk

Mr Grumpy was out enjoying himself too.

heron

And the view down the river from below the church was spring at its springiest.

River Esk

The only black mark was the fact that the bluebells were not much farther on than they had been when I last walked by a few days ago.  I shall have to be patient.

We had time to visit the garden again before lunch.  The euphorbia continues to attract flies.

fly on euphorbia

I think that this is a hoverfly.  It seemed too small to be a bee.

…and the tulips continued to attract me.  This one is my current favourite.

orange tulip

 

…as it glows more than the others.

tulip centres

After lunch, we headed off to Carlisle for a little shopping and a lot of singing with our Carlisle choir.  It did cross our mind that it was far too nice a day to spend more of it inside but we have a concert coming up soon so we didn’t like to miss a practice.

It was still warm enough to sit outside in the garden when we got home and we were serenaded by two competing blackbirds who were singing fit to bust from a nearby roof  and holly tree.

blackbirds

The very last daffodil has come into flower….

daffodil

…and soon the age of the daffodil will be past.

I mowed the middle lawn and then we went in for a delicious lamb stew prepared by Mrs Tootlepedal in the slow cooker.

I didn’t get any chance today to linger indoors and look out of the kitchen window so the flying bird of the day is a frog which turned up in the pond among all the tadpoles.

frog in pond

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Today’s guest picture shows a fine selection of flying birds spotted by Mike Tinker in Singapore on his way home from New Zealand.

flying swans

There won’t be much in the way of text today because I have had a hard afternoon and evening as we first had a rehearsal for our Langholm Sings concert with the Langholm Concert Orchestra and then, after a relatively brief pause, we had the concert itself.

As I was not only singing in the choir but also acting as compère, it was quite a busy time….especially as I was only told that I was acting as compère two minutes before the rehearsal started so I literally had to make it up as I went along.  Still, I enjoyed both the singing and the introducing so I am not complaining, just a bit jiggered.

When it comes to making things up as I go along, I sometimes think that I should have been a politician.

Mrs Tootlepedal spent a very busy day in the garden and I wandered about there too.

daffodil

Daff of the day (with added fly)

muscari

A tributary of the river of blue

daffs

The back path

tulips and daffs

These tulips keep coming up year after year.

spring flowers

Garden colour

dogs tooth violet

There are a lot of these about

lichen on plum tree

The plum tree is home to many lichens.

tulips

The tulips came out generously in spite of a generally cold and grey day.

I was just saying to Mrs Tootlepedal that you never seem to see a bee on a daffodil when I was proved wrong yet again.

bumble bee on daffodil

There is obviously a lot of pollen going about.  I will have to change my statement to. “I very rarely see a bee on a daffodil.”

I expect I will see lots now.

After lunch I took a walk down to the river, stopping off to check on the red topped lichens on the park wall.

lichen

Still thriving.

The poplars beside the church are in leaf…church with poplars

…and the ladies’ smock along the river bank is going very well.

ladies smock

A lesser black backed gull almost flew for me.

gull

…and I was a millisecond to late to catch a flying mallard…

mallard

…but it was fun to watch them both.

I didn’t have much time to watch the garden birds and because of all the garden activity, there weren’t many about.  When they got a chance though, they turned up in numbers.

busy feeeder

I was going to cheat and make either the mallard or the gull look as though it was flying but I ran out of energy and three chaffinches will appear as flying birds of the day instead.

flying chaffinches

I have a very heavy day tomorrow as we are singing in the church choir and then going to Glasgow for to attend a concert in the evening so a post may not appear until Monday.

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mike and Alison’s recent visit to New Zealand where they saw this handsome NZ kingfisher.  I don’t know which of them took the picture.

NZ kingfisher

It was reasonably warm for the time of year again this morning but once again the effect was somewhat spoiled by light drizzle and a very strong wind.  I stayed indoors and did some useful stuff.

Mrs Tootlepedal had to go off to the dentist for some treatment and I filled some of the time while he was out by watching the birds.  I was able to confirm that we have at least four lesser redpolls visiting us at the moment.

busy feeder with redpolls

I am not sure if the hidden bird at the back of the feeder is another redpoll or a siskin.

There were plenty of siskins shouting and beating people up.

busy siskins

A wood pigeon brought a more stately air to the proceedings.

pigeon

The forecast was for a fine afternoon with a further rise in the temperature so after lunch, I thought of cycling although the wind was a bit off-putting.  However, I did manage to get into my cycling gear and go out.  Virtue was rewarded when it turned out that the wind had dropped considerably from the morning and although it was still noticeable, it wasn’t totally discouraging and I enjoyed pedalling in some warm air.

There were signs of spring along the road and although the prettiest was probably this primrose…

primrose

…..the most welcome was probably this larch twig, a real forerunner of the new green season.

larch bursting

As always, I looked at a wall if I stopped to take a general view and I liked this crusty set of lichen…

lichen on wall

…and was interested to find that there were some tiny red spots of colour among the stems when I put the picture on the computer.  I hadn’t been able to see them with the naked eye.

The most noticeable thing was not the roadside flowers or the larch needles but the fact that the grass has at last started growing in the cultivated fields.

Ewes valley april

We are greening up….

Ewes valley april

…although the rough hillside has some time to go yet before it goes green.

I was a bit sorry to find that the day was more amenable to cycling than I had thought that it would be as I could have gone a more interesting route if I had realised.   I made up for my dull route choice by stopping at the Kilngreen to buy a nougat wafer from the ice cream van there and I ate it while sitting on a bench by the river and enjoying the bird life.

This is a lesser black backed gull (I have to thank a reader who corrected my view that it was a herring gull last time one appeared in a post),

lesser black backed gull

And these are a small fraction of the hundreds of rooks that swirl about in the sky over the town.

rooks

I took a picture of the Langholm Bridge to show how much the river has dropped since yesterday…

Langholm Bridge

…and then I pedalled home, arriving just as the sun came out.

It was such a lovely afternoon that I persuaded Mrs Tootlepedal, who was just having a cup of tea indoors after some hard work in the garden, to come and drink it outside.

Mrs T's new bench area

She has almost finished her new bench area so we put a couple of plastic chairs out and tested it.

This is the view that we had from the chairs.

daffodils

It was wonderful to be able to sit out and enjoy the warmth and the sunshine as this was our first opportunity for months.

The new lawn shaping has been completed and this is how it looked this afternoon.

new look middle lawn

You can see the new bench are on the right.

I was quite pleased to see the grass on the middle lawn trying to win the battle against the moss so I got the mower out and mowed the front lawn.  There is no picture of the result there as the moss is still winning hands down.

I had time for a camera-wander.  I got a fleeting glimpse of a tadpole in the pond….

tadpole

…which was very encouraging.  There were lots of others about too.

The first fritillaries are out…

fritillaria

…and I found a corydalis in a pot and the rosemary next to the greenhouse.

corydalis and rosemary

The temperature is due to drop back a bit but even half a day at 18°C was enough to cheer us up enormously.  We have had such a long spell of cold and cool weather that we had begun to think that things might never warm up again.

The are a lot of daffodils to choose from but this one was my daffodil of the day today.

daffodil

I made some risotto for our tea and then Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help at the Buccleuch Centre and I went off to sing with the Langholm community choir.  Our concert with the local orchestra is in two weeks so we worked hard.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.  It is not a good picture but I think that it conveys some of the energy that these tiny birds put into their visits to the feeders  so I have put it in.

flying siskin

I would like to thank Canadian reader and Langholm exile, Joyce Lewis, for a very kind mention of this blog in an article which she wrote for our local paper.  It is very nice to think that the pictures can bring back youthful memories of the area.

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Today’s guest picture comes from Bruce’s recent trip south and shows a public sculpture in Sheffield.  The sculpture is called ‘Double Helix’.   I like the sculpture but don’t know how it got its name as it looks more like a contorted screw eye than a double helix.

sheffield sculpture

Our slightly warmer weather continued today but so did large quantities of rain which fell from the sky with gusto during the morning, making everything soggy again.

As the rain was accompanied by a very brisk wind, even when the rain stopped the day didn’t feel a great deal better.

Happily, while the rain was at its worst….

puddle

…I had the pleasure of Dropscone and Sandy’s company for a cup of coffee and a scone.  They are both off to southern European sunshine islands for holidays shortly and so they didn’t mind the weather here as much as I did.  It makes going abroad more fun if the weather is horrible at home.

The rain stopped after lunch and I was able to go out into the garden to capture the daffodil of the day….

daffodil

…but it was too wet to wander about or do any lawn care so I came back in and watched the birds.

They were very busy again today but you can have too much activity so I settled for some quieter portraits of our regulars today.

siskin

repoll

goldfinch

A greenfinch turned up and was probably quite surprised to be treated with an unusual lack of respect by both siskins and chaffinches.

greenfinch being hounded

The siskin flew away and the chaffinch just bounced off so the greenfinch continued feeding quite unruffled.

Mrs Tootlepedal was helping at the Buccleuch Centre coffee shop over lunchtime and when she came back, the weather was too unsympathetic to garden so she went for a rest and after doing some computer work, I went for a walk.

It was still very windy but it was warm enough to make walking a pleasure if you could get out of the wind.

I walked along the park wall to see if the red tipped lichens were enjoying the warmer weather….

cladonia

…and found that they were thriving.

I thought that it would be better to walk along the top of the bank at Stubholm rather than along the rather soggy riverside path so I went up the track and along the top of the wood.   I am impressed by the fact that only some of the trees on this steep bank have fallen over so far.

tree on bank at Stubholm

When I got down to the Murtholm fields, I could see that quite a bit of rain had fallen….

puddle at Murtholm

…so it was no surprise to find an oyster catcher in one of the fields (in a rare moment of sunshine)…

oyster catcher and lambs

…as well as traditional sheep and lambs.

The willows are starting to show along both banks of the river.

willow

And there was plenty of water coming down the river past the old distillery building.

Langholm Distillery from Skippers

As it got near Skippers, it was foaming and boiling…

Esk at Skippers in spate

…but the new bridge repairs are holding up well and the bridge is still standing.

Although the river was quite high, it wasn’t high enough to need all three arches of the bridge.

skippers in April

I entertained myself by looking at lichen on the bridge parapet (right frame in the picture below)…

lichen

…and a very pretty sort on the fence at Land’s End (in the left frame).

I stopped off at the Co-op to acquire some fish cakes for my tea and then walked back to the suspension bridge.  Looking  up river from the suspension bridge, I could see that the Langholm Bridge was using all three arches…

Langholm Bridge in april

…and looking downstream, I could see three goosanders on the gravel bank beside the Wauchope.

goosanders

I was expecting them to get up and swim away when I got close but obviously they thought about swimming much as I had thought about cycling in these conditions and they were fast asleep and going nowhere.

The garden continues to show a little more colour each day…

spring flowers

…and I was happy to see the dicentras coming out as they are great bee magnets.

dicentra

It was far too wet and windy for bees today though.

When I got in, I persuaded Mrs Tootlepedal that it was warm enough to be out in the garden in spite of the wind and we spread a little manure about in a helpful way and then she stayed outside doing useful tasks for a while before the wind blew her back inside.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal settled down to some serious sock darning while I looked through my pictures and tapped away at the keyboard for this post.  In this throwaway age, it is rather reassuring to be able to wear well darned socks.

We are told that it is going to get suddenly very warm for the time of year tomorrow afternoon and then stay quite nice, if a bit cooler, for the next three or four days.  I hope that this turns out to be true.

Following my success in thinking about things and then seeing the things that I had thought about appear, I bought a lottery ticket along with my fish fingers this afternoon.

I am going to have to think a bit harder it seems.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

flying siskin

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Gavin’s Spanish holiday where he came across this chap.  Hard to know what he is thinking.

IMG_5854

We had a lovely day here, warm with light winds.  I will say that again: We had a lovely day here, warm with light winds.

There was an article in my newspaper this morning pointing out that this has been the coldest spring for 30 years and that it is likely to continue to be cold until June.   You can see why everyone thought that today was so special.

It was a bit unfortunate then that I had to spend quite a bit of time making sure that everything would be ready for the return of Mrs Tootlepedal.  This involved brushing, sweeping, hoovering, dusting, cooking and ironing so I was kept quite busy.

Mike Tinker popped in to say that he had seen a pair of goosanders at the Langholm Bridge so as soon as I had finished ironing a couple of shirts, I went out to see if I could see them.  Unfortunately but predictably, they had moved on.  (It takes me quite a time to iron a couple of shirts.)  I snapped a pair of oyster catchers instead….

oyster catchers

..and came home.

I had time for a walk round the garden.  The tadpoles were showing definite signs of life….

frog and tadpoles

…and once again, I found a frog in the pond.

I am going to try to take a picture of a daffodil of the day for a while.  Here is today’s effort.

daffodil

There are peonies growing so fast that that they blurred the shot.

peonies

And there was a good number of bees buzzing about.  Unfortunately they were mostly interested in the hellebores and as the hellebores’ heads hang down, it was hard to get a picture of the bees visiting.

bee on hellebore

Spot the bee.  There is one in each frame.

I am very happy to see that the redpolls are still coming and there were more than two today.

edpoll

The feeders were busy….

chaffinch approaching feeder

…but so was I so I didn’t get many shots.

I had time for a short cycle ride after an early lunch and I was able to discard a layer or two in the sunshine and wear mitts instead of gloves.  This was very welcome but it didn’t make me pedal any faster.

I made a short diversion to look at the alder catkins….

alder catkiner

An interesting shape but still no females flowers to be seen.

…and enjoy the rippling of the little burn beside the tree.

arrisgill  water

I had a much better view from the top of Callister than I had had on my last ride and I have no doubt that readers will be as surprised as I was to see that the turbines at Minsca were not turning, a very rare situation.

minsca windfarm

It was even odder than usual because the wind turbines on the Langholm side of the hill had been going round.  Some freak of land shape must have directed the wind in one way and not the other because there was no breath of wind on my cheek when I took the picture above but after noting a fine lichen on a nearby wall…

lichen on wall

…and being mightily impressed by the clouds behind Langholm…

clouds over callister

…I found a light but distinctly helpful wind behind me as I cycled down Callister and back home…

celandine

…passing turbines that were turning and this lesser celandine on my way.

I had time for a shower and a final look around before I went to Carlisle to pick up Mrs Tootlepedal from the station.  She had come up from London in the company of my stepmother, Patricia who is visiting us for a few days.  The weather had been horrible in London so they were very pleased to find the sun shining in Carlisle.

We hadn’t been in the house for long before it started to rain rather unexpectedly.  However, it was very nice to see that the weather gods were only using the rain to provide a high quality welcome home for Mrs Tootlepedal.

rainbow

Mutter, mutter mutter, “Those telephone wires always spoiling a picture,” mutter, mutter, mutter.

rainbow

Ah, that’s better.

The rain didn’t last long and I took a moment to check the feeders before we had our tea.

greenfinch

After our evening meal, Patricia, Mrs Tootlepedal and I had a gentle and pleasant walk along the river in the gloaming.  Rather annoyingly,  two goosanders swam past us, safe in the knowledge that the light was far too poor now for photography.

The flying bird of the day, in the nick of time, was that greenfinch I saw before tea.

flying greenfinch

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia who has been up to town where she visited the newish Design Museum in Holland Park with my sister Mary.  I wonder if the very large sign reflects a lack of confidence that the visitors will know where they are.

designer

I started the day by looking out of the kitchen window and being pleased to see a redpoll or two.

They are birds that appeal to me because of the contrast between their generally quite dowdy plumage and the bright red heads that give them their name.

redpolls

Mrs Tootlepedal (among others) was badly missed from the church choir this morning as numbers were low, doubtless owing to people being on holiday.    With only one tenor and one bass, it was hard to blame anyone else if I made a mistake.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the singing, especially as our Carlisle choir is on holiday so I have been short of singing.

I had an early lunch when I got home and I had time for another look out of the kitchen window.

I was very pleased to see a male reed bunting…

reed bunting

…and having seen a female yesterday, perhaps we will see more of both of them in the future.

The usual suspects were out in force…

siskin, goldfinch, redpoll

…with a very red polled redpoll in evidence.

redpoll

In the garden, the daffodils are doing their best to make a show in spite of the chilly weather…

daffs and forsythia

…and a forsythia is in flower too.

I was pleased to see both a bumble and a honey bee but I was a bit disappointed that there was only one of each.

bees

Still, although the temperature was theoretically quite reasonable, in actuality, it felt a little chilly so I don’t blame the bees for staying at home.

It was quite nice enough for a pedal though as the wind wasn’t too brisk so I got the slow bike out and went for a traditional Sunday pedal down the main road.  I had hoped that the sun might break through the clouds but in fact it got gloomier as I went along and it was quite chilly by the time I got home after 40 miles.

I stopped every now and again for a breather and tried to make the stops coincide with something worth photographing.

The bridge over the Esk at Longtown.

Longtown Bridge

The bridge over the River Lyne on the Brampton road.

Lyne Bridge

I worry a bit about the flotsam jammed up against the bridge but it has been there for some time so presumably the people responsible for the bridge don’t think that it is an issue.

Looking east from the bridge, the flood in the field to the left shows how little good drying weather we have had in the past year.

River Lyne

From the bridge, I could see our newest windfarm, sited on an old airfield near Longtown.  If I have to bicycle along in never ending winds, it is a consolation to see that at least they are being made good use of.

Longtown windmills

The Longtown to Newtown road has quite a few of these individual pine trees along its length.

Brampton road

And the first tree blossom of springtime was just a bit further down the road.

tree in blossom

I can’t remember where I saw this elegant moss.  I think that it is Leucobryum glaucum.

moss pincushion

Some people disapprove of planting daffodils along our roadsides as being rather unnatural but I think they are very cheerful and don’t mind them at all.  These ones are near Canonbie.

daffs in Canonbie

I stopped for a final breather at Irvine House with just a few miles to go and was rewarded by finding a rich yard or two of wall to look at while I got my breath back.

wall at Irvine House

Once back in the garden at home, I had another walk round…

daffs

…to admire the different daffodils which are beginning to light up the garden but it was too cold to hang about outside for long so I went in and soon found myself wasting time watching various sports on the telly.  With the Commonwealth Games highlights, a F1 motor race and the Masters Golf, I was spoiled for choice.

When I have finished this post, I will go off and watch the closing holes of the Masters.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin getting a few choice tweets from a goldfinch.

goldfinch and siskin

Mrs Tootlepedal returns tomorrow.  Three cheers.

 

 

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