Time for another split-up with Trina. We had a drunken, sociable and dancey time at the house music weekender on the Fylde, but we ended up going home separately. She was very irritated at me telling some people that we were not together, which I suppose was a bit hardline of me, but I want to remain independent from her in others' eyes. That upset her and I was berated about it on the walk to the station, where I petulantly went and sat at the other end of the platform, telling her I'd see her at a unspecified later.
She sent me several texts that night, one of which reads "I'm so sorry your free jollies at my expense have ended. Walk out on me, treat me like shit, and expect me to treat you. More fool you. I dislike you now looby, in every sense of the word." The last sentence is a reference to the text I accidentally sent to her rather than Wendy, in which the words "love" and "Wendy" were used in place of "dislike" and "looby".
I've sent her a card, thanking her warmly for everything, expressing my gratitude for the way that she has made so many enjoyable nights out possible, and saying that those memories will be with me for the rest of my life. I apologised for this dogged insistence of mine on maintaining my discrete personal identity.
There is no better way to dispel an obsession with a woman than with another.
A month now since my first message from Trish. She has an effortless knack of turning me on, just by talking. Every conversation turns to sex eventually. We've spent three hours in two separate calls with each other today. In the more relaxed one this evening, after we'd both had a couple, we swapped sexual likes, and told each other about what unnerves us about our bodies when presented to another, a mutual attempt at pre-emptively quashing those anxieties, which I think only succeeds in drawing more attention to them.
I'm not complaining about anyone who tells me, "I love everything about you so far"; "Your talk is liberatingly crude"; "I wish I could be there now, and you could just give me a good servicing". Tonight I said I'd like to spend three days with her, sex mainly, in bed and all over the house. "I think I'm a bit unusual," she said, "for wanting sex so much," and proceeded to tell me about the first and last weekend she had with a previous boyfriend who couldn't get it up. She told me about her husband: together twelve years, and they only had oral sex once. "Oh no, that should be on page one of Tune A Day, shouldn't it?"
She drinks all the time. "I'm too pissed to answer you," she sent once -- at 4pm. In the long term, we'd be going to hell in a handcart together, each of us looking to the other to put the brake on our hedonism.
"What I'd like to do right now," she said yesterday, "is to drive to Lancaster, and you could give me a good seeing-to." Both of the lodgers have moved out, so we could have had the place to ourselves, but she'd already had a few. We're meeting in a pub in Preston on Friday. Snogging within the hour is the operational target.
Meta: I'm sorry about not commenting or visiting the bloggers amongst you much recently. I've been running a knackered computer from a USB stick. which is painfully slow (maybe I wasn't using USB 3.0 or whatever it is), so my activities, like those of a starving man, have been restricted to that which is essential for life. Anyway, all solved now. I found this notebook on Ebay for £40.
The whole of my hard disk went recently. Amongst other irritations, I've had no pornography for a few weeks. When there is both, pornography and real life sex are a virtuous circle, feeding off each other, stoking desire, but at the moment I've neither. I only want Wendy. I wank thinking about her, and then afterwards, a feeling of desolation, of hopelessness, knowing that that is the nearest I'm going to get to her physically.
The real life closeness isn't something she wants. I'm corralled, laagered. "Why," I repeat endlessly, post-wank, in my head, "why not, Wendy? We go out alone together, we chat and talk and take drugs and get pissed and chat and chat and chat." It would be the most natural thing in the world to put my arm around her, to kiss her, to smile at her, to stroke her, and for sex with her to be that blurring of the boundaries between physical desire and the joy and laughter and wordplay and fabric-admiring dressiness and pisstaking delight that she gives me; but we can't. I'm held at bay, out there. I can go out with her, we can go up to the park and take mdma and drink Prosecco and talk about everything, but on a license, revocable at any time if I stray from its conditions. This is how it is going to be, always. It makes me sad, very sad. Most things in life you can change, you can do something about, but with Wendy, there's nothing I can do.
So on that bright and cheery note, I will recount the signal events of the past two weeks.
Have been having a flirtatious exchange with a woman who lives in a south Lancashire mill town where I lived for eighteen months. It used to have a bus station buried in a sort of culvert, a filthy place designed to keep the rats warm and the fumes contained. Now it's got trams. We agreed early on that it was too far away to pursue seriously, but I've enjoyed messaging her. It quickly got flirty.
After a few exchanges, she sent me a message about a disastrous date she'd had that evening. "Honestly looby, it was like an ironic comedy...the most agonising hour-and-a-half in the history of man (or woman in my case." She continued "It is an effin pity we aren't nearby. I'd have been with you getting bladdered and discussing your move, in between a few snogs, rather than wasting my time with the previously mentioned 'date'."
I had a day's work in Barrow-in-Furness, so I sent her a postcard. To the above message, I replied "... Your idea of how it should have gone is absolutely up my street and had we been up to that I may well have been at least on cloud eight-and-a-half. Oh, but look! The postman's been!"
I wonder whether she could be steered into a bit of sexting. In which case the distance vanishes by satellite.
Me and Trina treated the curious bystanders of Southport to a good row in a car park there on Monday. We went out for a few pints while the carer was looking after her mum. Out of nowhere, she reached across the table, and riffled through my diary until she saw "Wendy" written in for Friday. She stood up, saying she doesn't want to be second best with anyone, telling me that I am emotionally autistic and fucking selfish, and stomped off.
Incredulity turned suddenly to anger. I chased after her. "Well fuck you then," I said, "Fuck everything, fuck the [weekend we've got planned], fuck the boat, piss off yourself then." And so on. I went back, trembling, to the pub.
I was disgusted with myself, for giving release to such an outburst. From the station, I texted her saying that I think it's best that we call it a day, knowing all the while the inevitable outcome, which reflects our unhealthy co-dependency. The next day she apologised, saying that she'd never seen such a reaction from me, and that my surprisingly strong reaction had been "a wake-up call."
It's alright for me to tell her that Wendy is just a friend, but it'd be different if Wendy wanted me the way I want her. The anger and frustration comes from the knowledge that we are in a symmetry of dissatisfaction: I would like to be given permission to love Wendy; Trina loves me but I can't reciprocate.
Last weekend, we went to a DJ friend's birthday boat party in Chester, sailing and dancing down a black River Dee speckled with constellations of lights from the boat and the riverside houses.
Booking into the hotel, we were assured at reception -- over the urgent plasma seriousness of Everton v Norwich or something -- that it was only a question of asking if we needed anything, "like extra toilet paper." It made me wonder whether Trina and I come across as a rather loose-bottomed couple.
How ex-vegetarians can fall: we scoffed on pig's cheek, coriander squid, mushrooms in garlic and sherry, and a delicious hake in white wine sauce, in a restaurant where I asked the waitress, who called us "guys" throughout, to turn the canned music down or off. She turned it down a touch, but the latter was a step too far for her.
After we docked, we meandered rudderless, looking for the after-party, queries to locals every fifty yards, drifting, we hoped, closer to the nightclub. Halfway, there was an impromptu fuelling stop, where we calmly wandered into someone's wedding reception. I bought a pint and went and stood chatting outside. A woman promptly knocked it onto the pavement, and didn't notice what she'd done. Trina had disappeared: I found her inside, headbanging to the local band thrashing out rock covers.
The Cellar Bar across the road; a fine end to the night, with its ceiling as low as the light, the music a bit harder. I wasn't sure if one or two people were a little put out by my draughts on the butyl nitrite. They know it's legal, but perhaps it's the gay overtones that causes the querying glances. But by then, I really couldn't care, vasodilation and a sense of togetherness taking me into the music, seconds after the long pull at the bottle.
I finished Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend.It contains some Italian I don't know: cotognata, mortadella, taralli, orzata -- but best of all, disperazione, which describes the state of some of the men who frequent the local bar. In Neopolitan dialect, Ferrante says, it can mean both having lost all hope, and having spent all one's money.
I've got some not very remunerative work as a mystery shopper. On Friday, they asked me if I could go to a cafe in Ambleside. Ambleside on a Friday afternoon in August doesn't cohere: Japanese on the Beatrix Potter pilgrimage strapped with rucksacks covered with cartoons of owls, girls in billowy harem pants making posh arrangements which conclude with the arrival of a gym-pumped car, middle class parents convinced of the efficacy of branded anoraks and rational argument with children.
I negotiated some expenses but made nothing on the day other than a free lunch. The bloke who served me might be in trouble because he gave me a handwritten receipt with nothing on it to indicate it was from the company. But then, there was a poster inviting expressions of interest for the franchise, so maybe he knows that's he's going to be cast onto the dole just before Christmas, so is doing a Philip Green in his last few weeks.
On my way to the cafe, I passed by the hotel where my first ever girlfriend -- a forty-year-old married woman -- took me for a dirty weekend when I was eighteen. I've been imprinted for older women ever since. It was a weekend of sucking, fucking, being taught and shown what to do, her hand guiding my cock; girlie mags, "which girls do you like in here?," sex, sex, sex. We hardly went out. Fucking her as she splayed her legs wide across the arms of the armchair. Wanking on her arse before she was quite awake.
I've been working at the fag end of Lancashire in an open-air shopping centre in Fleetwood, a wind-blown place with the smell of rotting fish stewing in wheelie bins. To get there for 1145, when I start, I have to leave on the 0938 from Lancaster. In the morning, the journey gives me time to read, and I have finished the second volume of Knausgård and am now wrapped up in Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend, about her childhood and adolescence in 50s Naples. She's a better writer than Knausgård, manipulating language into evocative conjunctions, and able to still a moment better than he.
On the way back, weary from cajoling people into answering questions in which they have no interest, and filling in half the answers myself based on imaginative extrapolation from their clothes and manners, I have taken to cancelling my evening at home and settling into a pub in Blackpool.
You have not seen obesity until you have sat at teatime in a cheap pub in Blackpool. Massive couples sit with legs splayed, eating, with cutlery seen as a refinement too far. One man was so fat he couldn't turn his head as far as he wanted to follow a boob-vested teenager out the front door. It's a coarse and accepting place and I like it.
Walking back to the station the other day, I fell in with three homeless people in a shop doorway. They were intelligent, fallen middle class people. The bloke offered me a bottle of lager. In a well-meant but unthinkingly superior gesture, I refused, saying "No thanks -- we can go better than that!" and produced a bottle of Prosecco intended for my journey home. One of the girls struggled with a mouthful, her manners in a competition for her face with a contortion brought on by the wine's acid sparkle; she made her thanks, and went back to the Carlsberg.
I constantly lie to strangers to make my imaginative life more interesting and my lived one lazier: I told them I was a security guard in a shopping centre. A few weeks ago, at the opera, I told a curious elderly lady that I play the viola.
There's a vacant room in the house at the moment and I was supposed to be showing a teacher round it 8.30. Enjoying myself too much, I rang him with a tale of having to "finish a project in Blackpool", which, devoid of detail, is a lie only by omission.
He only wants the room for a few weeks, which suits me, as I am moving out of here. I am sick of this house. I am sick of living with the cycle of strangers, sick of being around Muslims and their smiling separatism, sick of the insatiable desire of the gas and electricity meters, sick of homely soups and bonhomie in the kitchen, sick of never knowing if anyone else is in, sick of shit and piss and flushing that isn't mine.
Trina has offered me her narrowboat until (or if) Kirsty decides to move in with boyf and let me rent what used to be our house, sharing it with the girls. Therefore, I've got to start giving away my furniture and belongings. I only want to keep my hifi, my records and the futon. I got the beds, the fridge-freezer, the tables, the sofas, the washing machine -- everything -- free, and I am only attached to those white goods that can be crushed and put up your nose.
Wendy's ex is a manipulative man who sleeps on his mum's sofa every night in order to claim that he can't have their daughter round and who controls her by using their daughter as his proxy. He's very jealous of me, and poking around on her mantelpiece the other day, he read all the postcards I've sent to her over the last two or three years. Worried about the postcards? You should see the texts, mate.
Kitty has been superb in all this, the best of critical friends. I went round to hers on Wednesday: Prosecco, acid, and laughter to the point of crying with it. She wanted me to feel her thighs, proud of the tautness brought on by going to that outer circle of hell known as the gym. "Oooh yes," I said, in a put-on northern accent while pincering her legs. "That's the finest specimen we've seen in the Heifer Class at the Westmorland Show for many a year."
When we'd calmed down, we talked about Wendy's situation. Kitty said she had proposed that she gets him to give her back his key and set a deadline for him to move all his paraphernalia out of the house.
When I got in I texted Wendy about it. "...it's just that I'm concerned that this is turning into a borderline abusive relationship. We'll do anything we can to help you. I love you and I want to do anything I can to make your life better. I can help with re-decorating and I can have the dog when you're at work and help take his stuff to the tip. Me and Kitty can help you. Everything though, the key, his stuff, and having [their daughter] more, you've got to do it xxx." And later, from bed, aching with the lack of her, "...night night. I send you a hectare of love, a metric ton of tonnage of love, a wharf of love, and a little hayfever of love that I turn around along my lips xxx"
Wendy and her ex set up a Summit Meeting for today. They met in a beige pub whose interior decor seems designed to drain emotion from tense meetings with exes. It was all I could think of all day. She rang me afterwards, saying that it went surprisingly easily -- almost too easily, with keys handed over voluntarily and a couple of dates arranged when he would have his daughter. She said that her relief was only tempered by wondering whether such a ready capitulation was another round in his manipulative game.
And then she asked me what I am doing tomorrow, saying that she had a couple of hours free while he took daughter swimming, and was thinking of going up to the park. "I'm going out with you, of course," I said. "You and a bottle or two of Prosecco. It's been ages. I've missed you."
I was standing in the dull vestibule of the pub, but inside of me, as I put the phone down, I felt as though a liquid joy had been poured into me. It was a mixture of admiration at what she'd done, the joy of having her back in our circle ("The Unholy Trinity", Kitty named it), a pleasure at having such a brilliant friend as Kitty to urge her into action, and -- and here I descend again into the folly that Wendy provokes in me -- a lip-bite of hope that perhaps at some point in the future she might come to love me in the way I do her; followed immediately by a foreboding of the pain that such a hope will cause me in the future.
I rang The Racing Commentator and tumbled away about it for an hour. "I must love her", I thought to myself, "talking to people about her like this." He was advising me not to exploit the situation, to tone down the declarations of love, and to play a long game, to be practically helpful and a good friend, to wait. I must keep reminding myself though, that nothing is going to develop, no matter how much I want it.
Meta: I managed to throw my computer to the ground in a leg-meets-wire accident. Alcohol may have been involved. It made a funny buzzing noise and the hard drive appeared to be knackered. I've changed the hard drive now but the keyboard's still a bit moody. The greater problem was having to re-write my style sheet and all the shortcuts again. I've lost hundreds of emails, my address book, my RSS feeds, my...
Yes, I'm getting bored too now. Let's get on with it.
I went, out of a reluctant parent's duty, to watch middle daughter in a professional open-air play in our spectacular park, which is a dreamy, wonky jumble of hillocks and dells colonised from a former quarry. It poured down, and I was ill-prepared. By the end of Act One I was soaked even unto my underpants. No-one wanted to help me with my bottle of Prosecco so I drank the lot. Rain was dripping off my hair into the glass. It was poetic for a while until it got a bit cold. At the interval I said I wasn't enjoying it and was going home; the selfish, alcoholic impulse. I apologised to everyone the following morning and they were charitable about attributing my departure to the rain, when in fact it was because I found it a wearyingly boring play.
Three weddings (but no funeral yet): first was that of two friends of mine who met in the same week as did Trina and I. Laura's well-endowed in two ways, but Richard's fairly poor, and with such a financial mismatch I'm always curious about whether they've made a morganatic marriage. You won't get anything out of Laura though. She observes the middle class taboo on any discussions of money other than by its proxy, house prices.
My first thought was how to avoid all of it, and ended up attending nothing more than half an afternoon at Richard's pre-stag do drinks. It was a pleasant enough couple of hours spent around a table with men I didn't know, trying to look relaxed as I mentally scrabbled around for common interests. I sometimes wonder at the ease with which others seem to respond to situations like that. Perhaps, like me, they're dissembling but being more successful in doing so; or maybe they're happy with having one personality which doesn't change according to circumstances.
I was evasive about whether I might turn up later, whilst knowing that I wasn't ever going to spend a night with a rock guitarist and a load of pissed-up men in a basement.
One night last week, and out of nowhere, I was overwhelmed with a pre-emptive grief about my Mum dying. I texted my brother, telling him that I was in floods of tears thinking about her, "Don't reply, I selfishly said, "it's just me sorting myself out."
The following morning I sent him a card apologising for burdening him with it, and saying that I'm sure he doesn't need me adding to what might be his own worries about what's to come. He sent a generous and couth reply, saying that he recognised that it came from the heart and that he's got big ears and is always willing to listen.
The following weekend it was my sister's. The uncooperative owl carrying the rings was the star of the show, much preferring a perch on the deep windowsill in the C14th castle in which the wedding was held, rather than the best man's forearm.
At the reception I was pleased to be sat opposite my mum's best friend's personable early twenties daughters, who were both dressed in the same sunflower patterned mini-dress. They both liked them when they saw them in Topshop and neither would back down. The prettier one -- the one that has kept her eyebrows -- helped me with a bottle of red, then I got her mum to pinch another one looking forlorn on an adjacent table.
We had canapés and Cava on the lawn, during which middle daughter took a picture of my youngest, who works in a record shop and is into the modern beat music. I think it looks like a future album cover. There's one of me side on with my big conk which makes me look like a well-dressed rake, which I would post here had I not lost my password for my ftp client.
On the same day it was Denise's. She has been my work colleague, sexting partner and confidante; she's none of these any more. In one way I'm pleased I couldn't go: it would only be a goodbye, a long second of wordless recapping of everything we've said.
Afterwards, me and and Trina went to Appleby for a couple of days. There is absolutely nothing to do there, an advantage that in this tourism-saturated age is one possessed by fewer and fewer places. In the old market hall, you can fondle polished stones made into earrings by a local artist, while you are stalked on your way round by someone who thinks a pestering quiz about your stay will make you want to buy a brooch, and that's about it. We ate and drank, mainly, and sat in our room overlooking the town square making
snippy and derogatory remarks about the populace.
The main pastime in Appleby is talking about others. In the Hare and Hounds, one of the greatest pubs in the north of England, three burly agricultural types were talking in that way that is ostensibly private but meant for interested others too.
A rotund man was talking about how he reacted when he asked his son, after years of suspicion, whether he was gay. "Dad. Do you have to ask?" "I wasn't keen at first," said Dad, "...if I'm honest, but --- why not? I don't know. As long as he's happy." It was a delight to hear everyone's reactions, which amounted to a Westmorland shoulder shrug. In pure farming territory.
At the bar, the barmaid was talking about wine. "I thought Shiraz was a type of sausage." Another habitué told the assembled company about a time round last Christmas when he got so pissed that he had to be helped to stagger home by one of the barmaids. "Yes, yes, I remember that," she chimed in. "You got to Grant St and then you said 'you'll have to go now, Jean'll see me with you', and I said 'I'm helping you home, I'm not shagging you'. And you stood gripping those railings for so long saying 'I can't go on' that I had to leave you and come back here."
Trina got intercepted by some women as she came back from the loo, who told her that as offcomers they were just a bit wary of how we'd react to the language in there. "But we saw you laughing away so we knew you'd be OK."
Wendy said that her ex had commented on the fact that she looked "dolled-up" when she came to meet me the other day. I looked down at the carpet and at the table, the vast and unbridgeable two feet of distance between us, a Prosecco sadness, knowing that what her estranged husband imagines is going on, is what I wish were happening. I have thrown my last die at Wendy, which means I have reached the height of delusion and folly. Half past two in the morning, from my bed. It took absolutely fucking ages to write, a drunken man on a very old phone.
"I love and fancy Wendy [sic -- missed out the "you"]. I would do everything in my power to make you feel loved and wanted and to be a good co-parent for [her daughter]. I absolutely ache for you at night. I want to be yours. I miss you, I want you, and I love you."
Then, next morning, a clarion banging in my head, saying "Why do you carry on like this when she is not interested?"
The lock is buggered on my front door so we can't get in or out through it. The bit that sticks out has come off its spring in the lock and is stuck hard. This means that I am treating the neighbours to the unseemly spectacle of me climbing in and out of the house by the front window. After some sweatily unsuccessful efforts at sawing it off manually, I am hiring a mains-powered jigsaw and slicing through the fucking thing completely. If that doesn't work I'll drill the whole lock out.
That will happen when I've finished these few days of working doing "exit surveys" for a market research company. "Exit survey" sounds to me like something you do with people at the point of death, which -- seeing as these are being done at a stinky open-air shopping centre in Fleetwood, with its embittered coach parties -- might not be too inaccurate a description.
Fuckwit Lodger and his mum came over to collect his belongings, first amongst which is "his" cat. No friends, no girlfriends, no visitors ever, just a cat. His mum's voice was a forty-minute unbroken drone of her health problems, moans at Fuckwit for incorrect packing technique, and a detailed disquisition on different types of dog food.
I don't care about them; I'm just sorry about the cat. Poor thing will now be cooped up twenty-four hours a day in a bedsit in the worst part of Morecambe. I've been letting her out for hours at a time, and overnight occasionally.
Me and Trina had a jolly night at a soul and house do in glamorous Clayton-le-Woods. Walking there we got a lift with these three gorgeous, chatty women who'd driven up from Derby, although their accents were Scottish.
Arrived and met several of the usual suspects. I made the mistake of buying a "fajita" from the van outside. It was like a cold stew of slimy veg and salad. I asked them if they were doing Clitheroe Food Festival which is coming up on 13th August. "Well, Clitheroe's never really worked for us," she said. "No, that's 'cos your food's shit," I thought.
There was problem with the volume though. One DJ in particular was wrecking the speakers and the music yet again with absolutely ear-splitting volume. I politely asked him to turn it down just a notch, and he stuck two fingers up at me. Poor lad's deaf as a post. I wish I could install an electric shock machine into the volume knob when he's playing. In the future, I'm just going to avoid events where he's on the bill. He's like a patient you can't help.
We went back to the hotel to wait until he'd finished and put some music on. I got a couple more ales down me neck while Trina did her bit for the Swedish vodka industry.
Went back and it was still too loud, but not to worry, it was warm enough to dance around outside for a bit.
Then we bumped into a couple of people I know, an ex-copper and a youngish DJ who made me glow very nicely with some comments about my musical knowledge. We acquired a couple of unknown girls, as all perambulations to hotel rooms require, and we all ended up in Plod's room where to my immense delight he produced a bottle of his Hungarian Dad's homemade pálinka.
The plan for afterwards was to go back to the DJ's room. Trina had gone back to our hotel by them, but I asked someone where room 15 was, and knocked on some person's door who expressed a small degree of displeasure at being knocked up at half two by some random. It was actually room 50, I'd misheard him.
As I walked back I realised I didn't have my key, nor my phone to ring Trina. I didn't want to knock the hotel owner up at 3am so wrote a note on a serviette telling her not to start her car as I'd be sleeping under it. Decided to try an alternative route into the hotel annex by climbing over a flimsy wooden fence with an 8 foot drop on the other side. I succeeded but I snapped the fence and was a bit worried I'd be on CCTV.
I knocked on the wrong window to be let in and saw this naked black man standing there with his mobile phone in one hand. I eventually found the correct room and climbed in through the window. Trina told me that a handsome black man had met her outside the hotel and walked her home. He had been texting her a bit trying to get her to go round to his room but she'd declined. In such situations I am expected to be jealous, but I couldn't have cared less if she'd had a bit of black pudding for supper.
For some time I have been vexed by the the closure to the public of the Storey Gardens in the city centre. Together with the Mechanics Institute, which later became the Storey Art Gallery and Museum, they were bequeathed to the City of Lancaster in 1891. So I don't see why they shouldn't be open to us.
All entrances are locked.
But three high gates present no obstacle to a nimble man.
Inside, a more difficult, flimsier fence to be overcome. It kept listing, making me cling hard as it leant backwards.
However, soon got inside to a anti-thrill let-down of no falling masonry or friable walls.
But eventually, I was thwarted by a gate set inside a ten foot high wall.
A hacksaw might be necessary for my next visit. On the other side is a neglected sculpture park thing. It's been robbed in the past so they probably want to keep the overly curious out.
I was pleased to see that my welfare in these endeavours is of concern to the Council.
There were a couple of interesting alleys to explore.
I was curious about the lower one.
Passing some sheds...
I came across an open fire exit.
And found myself in a gallery, where an assistant looked surprised to see me, and said it wasn't opening until tomorrow. I said I'd been doing some work with someone upstairs and he'd told me to come and have a look round.
I quite liked this one.
Probably won't be appearing in Exile On Pain Street's New York auction summaries anytime soon, but I still can't afford it.
Thank you Thomas Storey. I'll be back soon, better equipped.
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