Thursday, 29 December 2016

Grand Theft Harmonica

Och aye ... it's yon time again, ye ken, my friends. Cheerio the noo!

I have to report a very sad event in our town, or in the hood, as they say in some quarters.

We have the one and only factory in the world which makes one of the best harmonicas ever. They are all made by hand and their output is about one harmonica every two to three weeks. The harmonicas sell, mostly locally, for a fortune, or a pint of the best drink Scotland produces.

Unfortunately, a few days ago there was a break-in at the local factory and all harmonicas produced there were stolen. A whole year's production, at least.

This is very unfortunate for the Harmonica Philarmonic Orchestra, a local orchestra consisting of 100 musicians playing no other instruments than harmonicas.

It was planned that the Harmonica Philarmonic Orchestra would see the New Year in this year by playing Auld Lang Syne on the harmonica, instead of the traditional bagpipes. With this theft, there seems to be no prospect of this event happening.

There is a suspicion that the theft was carried out by another group of musicians consisting of bagpipes and drums who wanted to see the New Year in with traditional musical instruments.

The Harmonica Philarmonica Orchestra have practiced instead with the comb and paper; but to be honest it does not sound the same.

Fortunately, I have at home the one and only harmonica produced by this factory last year. So, I have been asked, and I am very proud, to step in and do what the Harmonica Philarmonic Orchestra cannot do.

Happy New Year to one and all.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Theodore's Mince

It was just after Christmas day when Theodore Luxton-Joyce called on Father Ignatius at the Parish House to return a book he had borrowed. The priest was not at home so Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, invited Theodore for a cup of tea and a slice or two of her best Dundee cake in the kitchen whilst she was preparing the day’s meal.

“I say this is a decent piece of cake … what?” exclaimed Theodore, “better than any I have ever tasted … did you make it yourself Mrs D?”

“Of course …” she said with a smile big enough to brighten up a cold and grey winter day.

“Then you’ll have to give the recipe to our cook,” replied Theodore helping himself to another slice of cake, “then perhaps we’d have a decent slice of cake more often … what?

“I’ve often said to my dear wife Rose, if you were not the housekeeper here I’d have you in charge of the kitchen up at the mansion in no time … But I suppose the poor Padre deserves a decent meal every now and then … and it’s a good thing you’re here to look after him!”

Mrs Davenport was now glowing with pride as she brought Theodore a plate full of her latest batch of mince pies which she had just made.

“I’ve made these too …” she said rather coyly.

“By Jove … you’re a marvel Mrs D … have you made the mince meat too?”

“But of course,” she replied very pleased with herself, “I use a secret recipe my grandmother gave our family. I mix together raisins, currants, sultanas, orange and lemon peel, honey, sugar and spices, a little salt, suet to hold it all together, and to give it a little crunchiness I add crushed walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and pecans … and for extra taste I put a generous measure of whisky AND brandy! Not many people do that!”

At this very point Father Ignatius came into the kitchen.

“Ah … Mrs Davenport’s famous mince pies …” he exclaimed as he picked one from the plate. “Better than any you can buy at the finest establishments in London or anywhere else. Royalty doesn’t know what it’s missing, Theodore!

“Mrs Davenport makes her own mince meat, you know. A secret recipe she’ll reveal to no one … Even the Bishop remarked the other day on the excellence of these pies!

“Which reminds me … I have to visit the Bishop today. I’ll be going in about an hour or so … I have some paper work to deal with first. Could I take two jars of your mince meat for the Bishop Mrs Davenport?”

And with that, the priest picked another pie and went up to his office.
Mrs Davenport’s warm prideful glow turned into an ashen gray as if she was at death’s door, as she sat down on a nearby chair.

“What is the matter?” asked Theodore, “you suddenly look as if you’ve seen a ghost … what!”

“If only I had, Mr Joyce,” she lamented, “it’s worse than that. I’ve no jars of mince meat left. I made twenty five two days ago and some went in the pies whilst others were given away …”

“Calamity indeed …” exclaimed Theodore … “but all may not be lost … what? Is this the jar you use?” he asked picking up an open jar of mince meat.

“Yes … it’s an ordinary jar. Then I make my own labels with the words ‘Mrs Davenport’s Mince Meat’ and I stick them on the jars.”

“All is not lost indeed …” cried Theodore as he stood up suddenly knocking the chair over as he did so, “you make two more labels Mrs D … I’ll be back presently.”

Before she had time to ask him he’d rushed out of the kitchen as fast as he could and promptly ran as quickly as his old legs could manage, avoiding slipping in the thick snow, and went to the grocery shop across the road.

Moments later he returned to the kitchen with two of the best quality mince meat jars that money can buy.

“Not up to the standard of your recipe …” he declared, “I’ll soon have these labels off by soaking the jars in some water … then we can put your labels on!”

“But … but, that’s cheating …” she hesitated.

“Cheating … what? Of course not! Would you have the poor old Padre heartbroken as he drove gift-less to the Bishop? The wise men brought with them great gifts all those years ago … and our Padre will take to the Bishop something no less valuable. Not as good as your original, mind you! But he’ll never know!

“And the Bishop … well, he lives from day to day pining for a spoonful of your mince meat to spread on his hot tea cakes and muffins.

“So you’d be doing two men of the cloth a great favor … think of all the days off Purgatory that would buy you!”

Before Mrs Davenport could protest some more, Theodore’s enthusiasm had the old labels off the two bought jars of mince and Mrs D’s labels stuck on.

He was drying out the jars carefully of any smudges of glue when Father Ignatius came in the kitchen with briefcase in hand. 

“Ah … you’ve got me your mince meat” he said placing the jars in his case carefully, “thank you Mrs Davenport … the Bishop will be delighted I’m sure … you’re a Saint!”

Theodore waited until he heard the priest drive off and then he beamed “Did you hear that Mrs D … the Bishop will be delighted … you’re a Saint!”

He chuckled to himself as he drove off to his mansion on the hill.

A few days later Father Ignatius took Theodore aside after Mass on Sunday.

“Have you anything to confess?” he asked him gently.

“Ehm … no Padre! I’m far too busy to sin … what!”

“Something about two jars of mince meat, perhaps?”

“Oh … she told you!”

“The poor lady was beside herself with guilt,” explained the priest, “she told me as soon as I returned from the Bishop’s.

“You implicated me in your deceit knowing full well she did not make those two jars!”

“Not the jars … what! I doubt Mrs D is any good at glass-making …” said Theodore feebly.

“You know full well what I mean.” continued Father Ignatius, “you leave me no choice but to absolve you of your well-meaning sin and for your penance I suggest you apologize to Mrs Davenport.”

“I’ll do better than that …” declared Theodore, “I’ll buy her a huge box of chocolates … women forgive you easier with chocolates … what!”

He jumped in his car as he left a smiling Father Ignatius waving him goodbye.
Add caption

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Silent Night

I hope to go out Carol singing this year to raise money for charity.

Here's a short recording of me practicing at home singing 
Silent Night 
and other hymns.

Friday, 16 December 2016

A Christmas Tale

It was a very cold week in early December. Some parishioners asked Father Ignatius if it was all right to build a Christmas crib in the car park as well as the one usually set up in church by the Altar.

The intention was to build a small wooden hut made of old wood they could pick up cheaply from the local saw mill; and then decorate it, and use the Nativity scene statues which they discovered in the store room deep in the basement under the church whilst they were cleaning it in summer.

Father Ignatius agreed, “as long as you don’t ask me to lift those heavy statues from the basement … they’re quite heavy you know. So be careful!” he said.

A few youngsters helped by the leaders of the Youth Club got together and built the wooden hut. At first it looked quite bare and unwelcoming, a little like the original manger in Bethlehem I suppose. But eventually, with loving tender care, mostly by the women involved whilst the men gave instructions or went to the pub for a drink, it looked really magnificent.

The statues were then brought up, with great difficulty, from the basement and placed in position. A local electrician volunteered his services and placed hidden lights at strategic places to make the crib glow warmly at night.

As it snowed and got bitterly cold, even for Northern England, the little wooden hut glowing in the church’s car park made a beautiful heart-warming sight for all passers-by and gave them a little hope for the New Year ahead.

Just beside St Vincent church, by the car park gate, there’s a little narrow lane leading deep into fields at the back of the church. From the street you cannot see the fields. There’s the church’s car park entrance, then the narrow lane entrance, then the entrance to the Convent nearby.

This long lane leads to a small field used by a local farmer to store his farm machinery. He leaves his tractors there, as well as several harvesting equipment and ploughs in a large shed. The field is well enclosed by a high fence and, for extra security; the farmer keeps a dog loose in the field with a small opening in the shed for it to shelter in his doghouse when it is cold and raining.

The dog is not always there; only on rare occasions when the farmer needs additional security on the site.

One morning, a few days before Christmas, the farmer called on Father Ignatius.

“You haven’t seen my dog by any chance Father?” he asked, “it’s a large shepherd dog. I keep him in the yard behind you every now and then, in his dog house in the shed.

“The area is well fenced-off so he shouldn’t have got away. But maybe he found a hole in the fence somewhere and ran off!”

The priest hadn’t seen the dog, but it could be possible that he found a way through the fence and got into the church’s gardens and car park. So he put on his coat and went out with the farmer to search the church’s back gardens first.

It had snowed all night and the snow was very thick and even everywhere since no one had been out to walk on it.

“I hope he’s OK …” said the farmer despondently, “it was very cold last night … well below zero Father. He should have stayed in his dog-house for any chance of warmth. I keep an electric fire on the wall nearby to heat the place … he would have been as warm as toast in the shed. It’s like a sauna in there even in winter!”

“Well … he’s not in the back gardens,” said the priest, “we’d better look in the church car park. Although if he went there he would have escaped in the street by now …”

The two men searched the car park and, eventually, there in the crib, sleeping in the manger just beside the statue of baby Jesus was the large shepherd dog.

As soon as he heard the men approaching he jumped in delight welcoming his master.

“At least he had the sense to find some warmth in the lap of Jesus,” said Father Ignatius, “pity some people do not have as much sense!”


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

A Guinea Christmas

A couple of days ago I was invited at my boss's house out in the country for "a little bite to eat and a festive drink", as he called it.

He lives in one of those big mansions that posh people have, you know, just like the one where Theodore Luxton-Joyce lives.

He had invited a number of people from work as well as a few of his friends and golf-playing pals and a number of people from his gentleman's club. It was mainly a stand-up affair where everyone stands in this large room mingling and talking whilst a multitude of waitresses come round offering you hors d'oeuvres, canapes and small little bites you would not give your dog; and a number of waiters offer you various drinks, mainly alcoholic rather than a good pint of lemonade, or a cup of tea.

Anyway, I had been invited and it was not the kind of invitation you would turn down. More a three-line whip as they say in political circles. 

As it happens, just before I set off from my office I got a phone call: "Could you pick up Bertie the guinea pig from the vet please? ... Please ... Pretty please ... We'll be ever so grateful for the rest of the year ... All twenty or so days that are left ... Please!!!"

Why can't they pick up their own stupid pets? Anyway, at the vets the nurse said that Bertie was still a little sleepy from the anaesthetic and will be so for the rest of the day. Have I got his little carrying cage?

Have I heck? I said yes and took the little creature and put him in my brief case to keep him warm.

At the party, whilst everyone was mingling and being ever so polite and upper-class, don't you know, what? Jolly good old chap. And all that. Someone noticed my sleeping Bertie walk along the wall. He must have woken up and got out of my case when I went to fetch the Marketing Report for my boss and forgot to close the case again. 

Now normally, any sane person would have said there's a guinea pig about.

Just point at the creature and say: "By Jove, there's a most magnificent specimen of the guinea pig variety, don't you know ... what?" Now isn't that something you have often said at parties?

But NOOOO. On this occasion some idiot from the golf club said: "There's a rat here, a damn big rat!"

"A rat?"

"Yes ... a rat!"


"Over there!"

"Where over there?"

"It was there. He's now gone over there I think ..."

"A big fat ugly rat ..."

"It's now ran over there ... look out ... he might bite!"

"Rats carry the platonic plague, you know ..."

"Yes, it's in their teeth. One bite and you're a gonna!"

"I don't want it to tear my 15 Denier nylon stockings ..."

"Don't be silly, man. Why are you wearing nylon stockings anyway?"

"Because I couldn't buy nylon tights to fit me!"

"Over there ... I've seen the rat over there ... it's big and furry ..."

Pretty soon there was pandemonium in that room. My boss's wife was mortified as well as mummified at the thought of having rodents in her house. 

"We don't have rats in this house, have we Luis?" she asked her husband.

"No ... there's quite a few at work though ..." he replied referring to his employees.

Everyone was running here there and everywhere in no particular direction trying to avoid and escape a non-existent rat who happened to be my sleeping Bertie taking a walk. 

Women, including the waitresses in their mini skirts, suddenly jumped on top of chairs, sofas, armchairs or whatever furniture of height, like the table at the end of the room, and held their skirts and dresses up high showing off their un-mentionables.

What is it with you ladies? What is the point of standing on a chair with your skirt held up high? Do you think the rat, or any other creature, would climb up your legs? The very sight of you screaming would most probably send him to apoplexy. 

I noticed there was even a wimp of a man standing on a chair and holding tight to a young waitress. On second thoughts, maybe he was taking advantage of the situation.

The butler came in with an assistant and tried to find the rat and kill it with a heavy shovel in his hand.

Luckily, I noticed Bertie cowering in the corner just by the grand-father clock. I quickly bent down, picked him up and put him in my trouser pocket. The stupid animal thanked me for saving him from certain death by biting my finger. He then proceeded to tumble and somersault in my pocket in a most embarrassing display which I wouldn't want you to imagine right now!!!

Luckily, no one saw him or his acrobatics in my trouser pocket. And the rat was not found or seen ever again.

The party continued in a most subdued manner, and I noticed no one was eating the hors d'oeuvres.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Small Talk

You know what it's like. You get invited to a party, especially at this time of year with Christmas and the New Year celebrations, and you meet a lot of people, some you know already, and some you've never met before, and you wish you'd never met them anyway, and you all stand there with something to eat in your plate, and a glass of wine in the other hand, and you don't know whether to eat or drink because you do not have a third hand with which to do either, and you pretend to be interested in the other person as you make small talk with people who approach you and encroach your private space and ... I hate it.

I just do not like small talk. Whether it is to break the ice when I meet someone for the first time, or just to be pleasant and pretend to have something to say when in fact I have nothing to say at all, or when you approach me and what you have to say may be of interest to you but only succeeds in sending me to sleep which would be unfortunate since I am now holding a plate of food in one hand and a drink in the other which I would like to enjoy and if I fell asleep suddenly I would drop both to the floor and attract even more unwanted attention than the one I am having with you right now.

The other day at a party I was happily minding my own business and being totally unsociable as is my nature when I was approached by a man I had not met for some time and to be honest I could not remember his name, nor where I first met him, nor the circumstances through which we knew each other. Immediately my brain started working fast to remember his name or where I knew him from. Was he a business connection, I wonder? An old client perhaps? Or did I know him from church? Did I meet him at the golf club maybe, or does he work at the library perhaps? Where did I ever get to know him and what is his name?

He, however, seemed to know me well and started with "Hello ... long time no see ..."

"Lucky me!" I thought, "just go away!"

Fortunately, he could not hear my unwelcoming thoughts, so he went on: "How are you keeping these days?" he continued and then proceeded in discussing various members of my family, "how is ... these days? and is ... still at school? ... and how is your mom-in-law doing? ... and do you still work in London?"

"Who is this tediously boring man?" I thought, who seems to know so much about me, and I can't mention or remember anything about him or his family, if he has got one. Where have I ever had the misfortune of meeting him before?

Then came the small talk.

"Where do you work in London? Regent Park? ... oh yes ... I have a friend there called Marjorie Smith ... do you know her? Or is it Regent Street? Can't remember. Either of the two! She has three children; a boy and two girls. Although I'd imagine they're grown up now. She used to work near London Zoo. Do you know it? Of course you do ... everyone knows London Zoo. I went there last when they had the baby gorilla ... do you remember the baby gorilla?"

Now London happens to have more people living there than the whole of Scotland; and Smith happens to be one of the most common names in the UK; and Regent Street and Regent Park are two completely different places, how am I supposed to know this Marjorie Smith when I don't even know who you are? And I do wish I was in the company of a baby gorilla right now. He would certainly be more entertaining than you prattling on. And I can't be bothered listening to this man and his boring small-talk conversation any longer, and isn't life better when you are miserable and totally without prejudice since you dislike everyone equally?

At another party I was approached by a wonderfully beautiful woman I know well, wearing the most tight fitting dress a hundred sizes too small. The pretty black dress was as short as I can still remember, and it had a décolleté so low she might as well not have been wearing one!!! For some reason, she immediately caught my attention, and kept it caught for as long as she stood there beside me. She was the kind of woman whom every man would want to be talking to; and yet, there she was talking just to me.

She was holding a plate of chocolate cake which she teasingly played with with her fork and every so often she placed the tiniest morsel on her lips whilst making small-talk which certainly concentrated my attention at the time; although I can't now remember one word she said. My mind and eyes were elsewhere as I recall.

Anyway, as she was placing a piece of cake on her lips, she accidentally dropped a crumb on her breast and did not notice it. As she continued talking that tiny crumb seemed to come to life and slowly made its way one little step at a time down her breast.
Now what is the party etiquette in such circumstances of small-talk? Does one point at her breast and say there's a piece of cake there? Or does one pick it up with one's fingers? Or with a spoon perhaps, to avoid touching her? Or does one ignore it altogether and watch it make its way down and hide inside her dress?

I tried to make small talk and look her in the eye, but somehow this proved too difficult as my gaze kept going South. She eventually noticed my distraction and looking down her breast she picked up the tiny crumb before it disappeared out of sight. She laughed heartily and asked me what I would have done if it had gone down her dress. "I would have warmed the spoon first," was my quick reply.

So as you can gather, I hate small-talk and mingling at parties. I think when we meet someone we should go immediately to straight talking like "What do you think of this country's Gross Domestic Product compared to that of other European countries?" or "What would you do if reincarnation actually exists and you came back as yourself? Or a mosquito perhaps?" or "Do you ever re-cycle old jokes to entertain people or do you re-cycle yourself and send everyone to sleep?"

Those kind of straight questions, totally devoid of small-talk, would soon get any party going.

Personally, when I meet a woman at a party I often say, "That's a lovely pair of shoes you are wearing!" Especially if I am lying flat on the floor drunk at the time.

What sort of small talk do you use at parties?

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Robin Redbreast

The robin is such a beautiful bird often associated with Christmas. Since the 19th Century images of robins in a background of snow have adorned many a Christmas card.

I love robins, especially their wonderful songs. They are cheeky little birds, and courageous too. They visit our garden all year's through, not just at Christmas, and in summer, when I have worked in the garden and perhaps disturbed some insects or worms, a robin often visits and waits in the bushes; then he plucks up courage and jumps from branch to branch until he is on the ground literally just three feet away picking up something to eat. He is totally fearless and I stand there still like a statue, not daring to move an inch, so that I don't frighten him away.

Did you know that legend has it that when Jesus was dying on the Cross, a robin, then just brown in colour, flew to His side and sang in His ear. Christ's blood stained the robin's breast and since then they all have the red markings.

I saw a robin in our garden only yesterday. Fearless and cheerful as ever.

This reminded me of a story long time ago when, a few days before Christmas, I visited a factory full of machineries, conveyor belts, and a huge furnace burning so fiercely you could feel the heat a long way off. I was doing an audit of their financial accounts.

As I arrived, someone had found a wounded robin amongst the heavy snow in a hedge somewhere. He picked him up and put him in a small cardboard box, and wrapped him in some pieces of cloth to keep him warm. He had a damaged wing and could not fly, as he was lying there in his box with his eyes half closed.

I was going to my office so I took the box there. I had just visited my favourite burger restaurant, so I put a large chunk of burger and a few French fries in the box for the bird to eat. He did not seem interested. So I covered the box with a pile of papers to make sure he doesn't fly away, not that he could; and also to make sure that the office cat does not help himself to a feathered meal whilst I was out of the office.

An hour or so later I checked the box and to my dismay the piece of burger and fries were still there un-eaten. To think that I could have had them instead. There I was generously giving part of my meal to a bird in distress and he couldn't even bother to even taste it. He just stayed there, lying on his side, eyes half closed and breathing ever so lightly.

In total disgust at this bird's ungratefulness at my generosity, I ate the piece of burger and fries and threw the box into the fiery furnace.

It took only seconds for that blazing inferno to turn the box and its contents into ashes.

I stood there and watched with a smirk on my face as the ferocious famished flames devoured hungrily the little morsel they'd just been offered.

I then carried the bird carefully in my hands and took him back to my office. It was imperative I kept him warm in this wintry December weather.

I placed him in my empty coffee cup, upside down, so he doesn't fly away. Took off my shoe, the left one it was, as I remember. Took off my sock and put the bird in it to keep him warm.

I then filled the cup with hot coffee to keep me warm too.

After work, I took the sock and its content to the local Bird Rescue Centre where they took care of him. They never returned the sock though.

I had to drive back home sock-less in my left foot; which nearly gave me frostbite by the time I got to my apartment.

A few days after Christmas the Rescue Centre invited me back to see the bird now totally healed. I was there when they released it in the wild once again to fly happily and to sing to its heart's content.

But they never gave me my sock back!!!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

In Defence of Divorce

"And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery--unless his wife has been unfaithful." Matthew 19:9

"Let no one split apart what God has joined together." Mark 10:9

Christ's teaching seems clear and unequivocal.

So, at the risk of unpopularity let us consider this teaching in today's modern world. We live in a broken society indeed, and everywhere, the pursuit of self seems to be put to the fore at the expense of personal responsibilities and promises made under oath to God and one's spouse.

It is indeed true and achievable that a couple remain together through thick and thin "till death do us part!" Previous generations managed it all right; so why not us, one would wonder. Why is the rate of divorce so high these days? Have we made it easier and guilt-free perhaps?

In Christ's teaching above, He seems to make an exception as to when divorce is acceptable, or allowed. But what would He teach in modern society?

When one spouse is perhaps addicted to drink, drugs, gambling, crime or indeed there's violence in the marriage? 

Does "till death do us part" still apply? Would God want that a couple remain together in a living hell where violence to the spouse and children are almost a daily occurrence? 

Does God want us to "stand by your man" (or woman), come what may and treat the affliction as a disease, which perhaps it is, and suffer "in sickness and in health"?

Let us not make light of divorce. It is arguably the most shattering of experiences one can go through in life and causes immeasurable hurt not only to the spouse, but to children and family and friends too. The feelings of betrayal, failure and complete despair never goes away with some people. But tragically, divorce is a fact of life. 

There are cases where, for the safety and well-being of all concerned, divorce, with all its ugly implications, is the only way ahead. 

It is wrong, totally wrong, but at times one should do the wrong thing for the right reasons.

Many churches have now pragmatically accepted that divorce is at times necessary. One would hope and pray that God too sees it this way when we get to meet Him.

Life after divorce can be re-built in some cases, but sadly not always. The fear of betrayal runs deep sometimes jeopardising any future relationships.

The Catholic Church has a complicated procedure as to when a divorced person can marry again, and a previous marriage can be nullified; and when it would be adulterous to marry again or live with a new partner. 

To nullify a marriage can be a long and difficult process taking months, if not years, depending on which priests, bishops and dioceses are involved. In some cases marriages are not nullified meaning that a divorced person cannot re-marry or have a partner under pain of being adulterous and therefore excommunicated - cannot take Holy Communion. Not surprisingly, under these conditions, many Catholics choose to ignore their Church altogether and either marry in a civil ceremony or in another denomination.

Perhaps the Catholic Church needs to reconsider its teaching and dogma on this matter. But this is a debate for another day.

Friday, 2 December 2016

More Reflections for the soul

Victor S E Moubarak 
ISBN 978 1540 661630
Paperback and Kindle formats
A selection of readings to help you reflect and meditate when praying or when in need of inspiration.

This book asks pertinent questions such as:
What does God look like?
Why was Christ tempted in the desert?
What is the connection between Peter, Thomas and Paul?
Are you going to Heaven?
Why do Catholics pray for the dead?
Does God listen to such prayers anyway? 
Is your fate not sealed once you die?
Will God be influenced by pleas and Masses for the dead?

These and many other questions are explored and explained in easy to read short chapters. You can read the reflections in chronological order or just open the book at any page and read what is there. Hopefully, it will help you in your prayers.

The previous book in the series
Victor S E Moubarak 
ISBN-13: 978-1514851210
Paperback and Kindle formats

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