World War ll London Blitz: 12-10-40 to 12-31-40 Last Sunday night we had the worst bombing that has happened in this town yet. South Street, North Street, London Road, Old Church Road, the Market Place, very much damage done.

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December 10, 1940

Artie came on the twenty-fifth and left again the following Monday, a week ago. We had a quiet time, on the whole whilst he was here, though we received a bad bombing on the Friday November Twenty-Ninth. Then things were fairly quiet again, with no alert at all through out Saturday night last, the seventh of December. Sunday also was a quiet day, but last Sunday night we had the worst bombing that has happened in this town yet. South Street, North Street, London Road, Old Church Road, the Market Place, very much damage done. Also the Telephone Exchange demolished, operations buried in the debris, awful! Our old section near Westwood practically completely demolished. The number of casualties is not yet known.

Then yesterday was quiet, and a quiet night again last night, quiet so far today, but what will happen tonight?

It is four p.m. and Miss Coppen has just been in. She only came back from Devon a week ago and arrived home in time for Sunday’s slaughter. Happily there was no serious damage in her locality this time. She had only to endure the noise, and the fear, of course.
This morning I was writing letters to America. The censor returned a long letter I wrote to Jim and Doris November eighteenth, to me a few days later, also parts of a letter I wrote to Harold. It seems no information about times and places of air raids must be mentioned to anyone abroad. It might help the enemy! This is sheer nonsense. The enemy knows what he has done, anyhow. Further how can he possibly get hold of the mails? Further what good would it do him to know the names of the obscure suburban streets on which his bombs fall? Especially when the news is weeks old? Oh, the silly censorship!

December 13th, 1940

Foggy, but we have been out. Ted bought himself a new overcoat this week, so I ventured to ask if I could buy some new underwear. After some talk, of course! Ted said I might buy some. I quoted a figure of from three pounds to four pounds, but actually the bill comes to four.nineteen.six. When he gets it he’ll expostulate, but the garments are bought, and not before I needed them. The last time I bought winter underwear, was in New York, in nineteen thirty-three, and I have patched and patched these till they are now only fit for floor clothes. Of course I had hopes of renewing them again in New York. But when shall I get to New Your again? These English garments are clumsier and less well cut and well tailored than the American ones, but they are wool, and expensive. Still, they are the best I can get in England.

Saw the town. The devastation is tremendous, but everywhere workman and clearing up, boarding up the broken windows, and renewing shop fronts, with planks and beaver board. There isn’t a piece of glass left from Latham’s Corner to the Romeo at Raynham Road. Exchange Place, where the biggest bomb fell is one indescribable heap of rubbish, which looks as though it could never be cleared up.
One curious thing I noticed in the town, and that was a sense of exhilaration. The streets were as crowded as usual, but people looked more alive than usual, sort of excited. There was no gloom. Everybody seemed to be smiling, ready to chatter and laugh. It’s as though the town knows it has suffered the worst, and now it says, let them all come! We don’t care a damn!

December 15, 1940

Ted is playing for High Mass. I just want to say I’m happy. No reason, just happy. Perhaps it is a general feeling everywhere that the tide of fortune has changed, at last we are beginning to win the war. There has been a terrific defeat of the Italians in Egypt this week. This morning’s report says we have taken over thirty thousand Italian prisoners in Egypt with all the tanks, guns, equipment and supplies. The Greeks too continue to beat the Italians in Albania. It’s heroic. Then, besides, Petain has forced Laval to resign from the French cabinet, and this mornings report is, that Laval has been placed under arrest. At least this means that French public opinion is changing. Maybe the French are recovering from their defeatism.

The day is cold and frosty. We had a good sleep last night. No warnings yet since that all clear which sounded at eight-thirty p.m. last night. Ted slept upstairs in bed, but I remained down here in the dining room. I don’t think I shall ever be able to stay upstairs till the war is over. Had a good sleep just the same. When Ted went
out to church, had a good bath by the fire, and dressed in my new Jaeger combs. Also put on two new plasters. Altogether I’m feeling very comfortable and very fit.

Now I am going to cook the dinner. Actually have a piece of beef today, two pounds fourteen ounces of rump. This is marvelous. Beginning tomorrow the meat ration is to be reached again. Anyhow, here’s roast beef for today. Oh the roast beef of Old England, and Oh the Old English roast beef! That’s a song that was always mixed up with the Christmas carols when I was a child. So long!

December 16, 1940

The first, the greatest, and the most everlasting factor for the intelligent married woman’s happiness, is financial independence. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, and I’ll repeat it on occasion until I die.

Love is a chimera, religion is a broken reed, but money in hand is an unbreakable blessing, and without it life progress is all over snags.

Have just had words with Ted over luncheon, about Stone’s bill. It is for four.nineteen.six Pounds. After a harangue and a scolding, he refused to take it with him (I had asked him please to write me a check for it) but said, I’ll take this up with you again.

Of course, this will give him a second occasion to nag me again. I notice that whenever Ted has to pay out money for my personal expenses, he is always most reluctant to do so, and very disagreeable about it. He has bought himself underwear this winter, eight shirts, four pairs of shoes, a raincoat, and an over-coat, also handkerchiefs.

I have bought no clothing at all, until now, when I have bought only underwear. To buy this I first had to ask permission! When he asked what it would cost, I replied, I didn’t know perhaps about three or four pounds. He hemmed and hawed about it, but finally said all right, I could get myself some underwear. I did not know what it would cost. I have never bought myself underwear in England. So, my estimate was too low. I went one pound over it. That’s my usual fault. I am so afraid to ask him for money, I always put the figure as low as I can, and practically always I say something too low. It’s always like that.

Ted seems to think a wife should cost nothing. Deep in his old self-conscious must lay the Victorian conviction that a wife and mother must give all, endure all, and receive nothing. He was sarcastic about Dr. Keighley’s bill. I’ve no right to be ill, it seems. Every time he has to pay out real money for me he hates it. I ought to cost nothing, and I never ought to want anything. Oh dear, he is a trying man! I didn’t handle him right. I ought to have bought new clothes twice a year every year of our married life as a matter of course. I never did. I made my clothes last, until now he seems to have the notion they ought to last forever. The dress I am wearing now is made over from a dress I bought new in nineteen thirty-three to go to America in! Then it was shop worn, and offered at the bargain price of a guinea! I ought to throw my clothes away every season, the same as other women do, but alas, I haven’t the habit.
Yes, to have money of my own, what heaven that would be! I still keep the dammed household accounts book. Every penny I spend has to be written down, and once a month it is all analyzed into a big book Ted keeps. It is so silly. His passion for figures makes household and personal accounts a burden. Oh, for money of my own, for a life of my own, for freedom! I want to have money without asking for it, to spend it without accounting for it. Why shouldn’t I? No. Not with Ted for a husband.

December 17, 1940

Ted, at breakfast, Who eats the brown bread I occasionally see on the table? I get it for possible visitors, and sometimes I eat a piece of it myself. All right, so long as it is eaten. Don’t buy it for me. I don’t eat it you know. Don’t buy so much bread.

I buy one small whole-wheat loaf once a week, on Saturdays. Ted has to interfere in trifles. What has the housekeeping got to do with him? This is a good example of his petty carping. Oh, he is an exasperating fellow!

At dinnertime I had to ask him to bring me one pound tonight, for tomorrow’s laundry, etc., I was scared to death to ask him, but had to. Then he surprised me by saying, And where’s your Stone’s bill? Give it to me now and I’ll write you a check. So I’ve actually got the check without being compelled to ask a second time for it. Of course he presented with it another harangue on spending, and I said naught, though privately I though him very silly.

December 20, 1940

A bad raid this morning, which frightened me considerably. I am in a very depressed frame of mind. I am weary. Do you know what? I want to be happy. I am so tired of everlasting seriousness of life with Ted. I don’t want conferences about trifles. I want to be careless. I hate the everlasting debating and arguing, all of it mostly about nothing. I’m always being called to account. I hate it. I’m so tired of housekeeping and of meal getting. I gave Ted a dish of spaghetti, tomato cheese for his lunch today. He complained it was too wet, all the water in it held the heat. I said I was sorry, but he went on for half an hour about my extraordinary ideas about cooking, and what he calls my knife, fork, and spoon dishes. So silly! Yes, I’m tired. Tired of the house, tired of the husband, tired of myself and damnably tired of the war. I want ease and love and laughter. I’m tired of the gloom's, sick to death of war and prosiness.

December 23, 1940

I’ve many letters to write and don’t want to write one of them. The older I grow the less and less I like writing letters in fact, I detest writing them.

We had a bad night again last night, but I notice I am not as frightened as I used to be, which shows one can get used to anything. I also notice I don’t pray anymore. Why? Is it because I am convinced God doesn’t care, so why bother him? Or is it because I am so fed up with Ted’s religiosity that I am drained of all religion? Or because I am so disgusted with all the religious piffle which is so interlude in the B.B.C. programs, I feel I cannot add an iota of my own to what I have to receive from the air?

Anyhow, I’m not praying. It is not that I am feeling particularly irreligious. It simply is that I don’t feel to need religion nowadays. Ted, if anything, is more religious than ever. When he will talk about it I am bored to extinction. His fanaticism becomes even more extreme. When he came back from Mass yesterday I was listening to a religious service on the radio. The B.B.C. broadcasts at nine twenty-five on Sunday mornings a religious service, conducted on Anglican lines, but with the address given by prominent laymen.

Yesterday’s address was by Henry Brooke, M.P. Ted always makes sarcastic comments on these items. Yet, when an R.C. Service or sermon is broadcast he always listens attentively. The fact is that Ted cannot allow validity, authenticity, or even sincerity, and positively not knowledge, to any religious sect except the Roman
Catholic. His bigotry is extreme. Literally for him there is only one true religion, the Roman Catholic religion.

Deliberately I say Roman Catholic religion for it is a religion all of its own. Ted never speaks of Christianity. He only speaks of Catholicism, by which he means Roman Catholicism, and no other. He really believes all the other Christian sects and churches are in error, a vast concourse of Heretics.

When I was listening to the Anglican prayers and collects yesterday I though how dignified and how lovely they are; and, like a fool, I said so; to which Ted immediately countered, that they were only translations from the missal. I didn’t say anymore. They are not all translations from the missal. Many of them are originals to the English Prayer Book but what would have been the good of saying so? Ted will not allow goodness or beauty to any prayer or devotion outside Rome. Oh, what weariness his pettiness is!

When he came back from benediction in the after-noon I thought again what an essentially selfish religion Roman Catholicism is. The Catholic is only concerned with this own soul, saving his own soul. He does not go out to help the afflicted; he does not attempt to better the world; he does not speak of God, nor of Christ and the teachings of Christ, he only speaks of the church, and the teachings of the Popes. The Catholic is only concerned to keep himself in a state of grace, so that he may avoid hell, primarily, and get to heaven eventually. About his neighbor, for good or ill, he is not concerned at all. It is, God and myself, as Newman has said. Yes, my self. In the world there is something very callous about the Catholic. He is so sure he is one of the elite, and he doesn’t give a damn for any other fellow. Talk about the masons being cliquey, they’re not in it with the Catholics!

One day last week I met Father Bishop in Ives Gardens. We chatted about the war for a few minutes. What else is there to talk about? As I noticed him in the street I couldn’t help thinking how unimposing he was. To begin with he has an insignificant appearance, a short man in clerical clothes, a raincoat too big for him, a soiled white neck cloth, an enormous hat, going green with age, and a cheap cardboard attaché case. This shabby and soiled appearance is inexcusable.

Father Bishop has plenty of money, private means. Besides, as Wesley wrote to one of his Chaplains, a pastor should dress well and keep his clothes neat and clean or he is a very poor advertisement for his God. I also noticed Father Bishop, in the cold, showing a purple-tinged nose. I didn’t exactly have a sense of revulsion from him, but I thought to myself, how can I ever have thought that this man could ever have advised or helped me in any way at all? What does he know? Whatever use is he in the world? What is to being a priest, to say mass, to administer the sacraments, to pray? What is that in this world today? Father Bishop doesn’t even teach school. He doesn’t do anything at all that is work. He is “busy” with his church, yes; but what a lot of play acting that is! After all, it is only inside his church that he has any importance at all. In his cope he is impressive, but that is the impersonal impressiveness of the archaic actor. In his rectory, wearing Cossack and biretta he has a dignity of office; but on the street, my, he has no dignity at all. On the street he doesn’t even seem to be a man, only just some sort of a neutral block of flesh perambulating. Yet I like Father Bishop. As a man, as a director I hold him of no account at all.
Ted was talking last night about what the world might be after the war, and saying that, the Pope ought to be asked to the conference table for the peace. Ted thinks the Pope the most important man in the world. The world doesn’t think so. After all, our ancestors fought bloody wars to throw the Pope out of politics, so I hardly think statesmen will talk him by the hand and invite him back into politics today. Besides, he is an Italian. I don’t think any Italian will ever be asked for his advice in the administration of democracies. Well, I must write my letters, so Au-Revoir.

December 27, 1940

We have lived through one of the strangest Christmas’s I have ever known; yet I was happy; happier then I have been at any Christmas since we left America. Ted and I were quite alone.

There was actually a lull in the war. We had no raids Tuesday, nor Christmas Day, nor yesterday, which was Boxing Day; nor during the nights either. The war began again this morning. Gerry was overhead during dinner- time, and the one o’clock news reported a heavy duel this morning with the long-range guns across the channel.

Midnight Masses, the first mass for Christmas Day, were celebrated during the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Because of the blackout, a special dispensation from the Pope being given for this. The real midnight mass, from the Benedictine Abbey of Downside, was broadcast by the B.B.C. This was weird. Here we lay, in this little room, rolled up for the night on our sofas, and in the darkness we listened to the mass, sung by the monks. We also kept our ears pricked listening for an alert to sound, because we didn’t know Hitler wasn’t coming. It was beautiful. As always, the Adeste Fideli’s brought me to tears, and also to prayer. I was melted and able to pray. I prayed especially for Cuthie.

Ted rose early and went out to the eight-thirty mass. I did not go of course. I don’t think I can sit out any service, or any movie show either until the war is over.

After breakfast we had callers: Mary Bernadette Jude, and Rita Pullan. Edna Renacre came up for Christmas Eve. For dinner we had chicken, and a Plum pudding: for supper, veal and ham pie and a plum tart. Ted went to bed early. He went upstairs, and wanted me to go too. It was too early, only nine-thirty, and besides, I cannot even try to sleep upstairs. Again, we didn’t know Gerry wasn’t coming.
So I stayed down here by myself, and enjoyed my self quite thoroughly. First of all there was music from America. Then a play by Edgar Wallace, The Squeaker, and then Henry Hall and his band until midnight. Some of the tunes were so compelling I even got up and danced by myself two sides round the table, all the room I had. It was good. I felt happy.

Then there were some new songs, very funny, which made me laugh right out. The absurdest was entitled, Never swipe your sweetie with a shovel, Really very funny, or so I thought on Christmas night. Then I listened to the midnight news, and then put out the light and settled myself for sleep.

As soon as the sales come on, if there are going to be any this January, I’ll go shopping for dress goods. Anyhow, I feel like new clothes. I want to be happy, I want to feel nice, and to look nice, and I feel like sewing. I feel I can’t let the war get me down anymore. I’m going to smarten up in every possible direction. I won’t be sad. I won’t be fretful. I’m fifty-six, but I’m going to be as happy and as beautiful as I can possible make myself for the next thirty years. The war has got to end sometime. Meantime I’m still alive, and intend to do my utmost to stay alive.

Ted slept downstairs last night. We had a real pleasant happy evening together. Ted can be charming when he wants to be. Lights out as the clock struck eleven, but we both overslept this morning. Ted did not wake until eight thirty-five a.m. I had been awake sometime, but had been lying waiting to hear the clock strike eight. You may be sure that I wasn’t going to start the day by waking Ted. We could lay abed until 8 o’clock every morning if only he could give up going to early mass. However, he was very good-natured, and we had a happy breakfast together. Then off he went to the office. So the holidays all over, and here we are, on joy-trot again.

December 28, 1950

Eleven thirty-five a.m. Ted has just gone out, to pay the bills, change the library books, go to the barbers, and to confession. We have been having a cozy morning with the papers beside the fire, myself having intermittent trips to the kitchenette, to pay the tradesman, see the garbage man, fix a stew, and so on.

The German night raids began again last night. There was a very big attack on London. The barrage was terrific. It began promptly at eight o’clock, and went on without ceasing until eleven p.m. Then it died down, and the all-clear came about midnight. It was bad here in Romford too. Bombs kept on falling, one terrific one seemed to fall right in our back garden. However, it didn’t. I don’t know yet where they did fall, though at church this morning Ted heard there was a land mine fallen in Gidea Park again. Perhaps that was the most awful one we heard. As usual, attack seemed to be concentrated further over toward the station, so I suppose poor old Victoria Road got it again. What a life.

I had most pleasant dreams. I was dreaming of when I was a girl, working in St. Martin-le-grand, and Ted was the handsome foreign stranger, knocking at the door. It is seldom I dream of my girl hood days. Last night every detail was clear, and correct. I even dreamed of the very clothes I used to wear and had forgotten, till sleep brought them back to my mind. I was having a lovely time, and so happy, and excited too, like I used to be in girlhood. Perhaps my resolutions against encroaching old age brought my youth back to my dreams. Or perhaps it was a sort of delayed action dream, contingent on Ted having received a Christmas letter from Fred Phillip, in which he told us of the retirement of Tiddler Raison. Anyhow, I was back in my girlhood in St. Martins-le grand, and life was being a thrilling adventure. Good! I hope I can dream of my girlhood some more. My dreams have forgotten I was a mother, almost as my waking hours have forgotten the fact. I was just merely myself, my young self.

Have been reading Andrea Maurois’s book, The Art of Living. I liked it. Here is one idea he quotes from Goethe. It seems Goethe once wrote, It is absolutely necessary to break people of the habit of dropping in on you unannounced. They insist on you concerning yourself with their affairs and their visits fill your mind with ideas foreign to your won. I myself do not need such ideas; I have more than I can do to carry my own to their proper conclusion.
How heartily I agree with Goethe about this. For these past two weeks I have been free of the visits from the lady next door. Her husband is at home on the sick list. As soon as he goes back to work I know she’ll be on my doorstep. I intend to protect myself from her trouble- some time wasting visitations. I’ve got my writing to do, and I intend to do it too. I feel in fine form, and I’m going to write steadily, every opportunity I can make.

Milkman has just been. He tells me the worst damage last night was in Balgores Lane, which is completely wrecked. They also got the gun crew at Marks Gate. At the top of Carlton Road is an unexploded land mine, all the people evacuated. Another mine happily fell in the tennis courts. Barking and Barkingside got the very worst of last nights packets.

December 29, 1940

Am sitting with my back to the fire, drying my hair. I haven’t washed my hair for myself for years, but today I felt I just had to. It is about six weeks since I was at the hairdresser’s, but it has been feeling so greasy, and so itchy this past week. I’d got today to the point where I couldn’t wait another day to go to the beauty parlor. So as soon as I had finished washing up the dinner dishes, I fixed a shampoo and have given my head a fine wash. I also cleaned all the households’ combs and brushes. Of course I can’t set my hair. A professional will have to do that. Also, I am debating with myself whether to have my hair cut short again. For nearly a year now I’ve been pinning it in a bun on my neck, but I’m getting tired of the bun, tired of the hairpins, and the hard knob of hair, which is in the way of my hats. Of course, if I have it off, I expect I shall immediately regret it, yet I am tired of it as it is. Having long hair cut off is very like other mistakes of a woman’s lifetime, like leaving your country, or changing your church. You never can go back properly to your originals.

Ted is at church, and I’m hoping he won’t invite Simpson back to tea. I am not exactly dressed for visitors, in a towel and my hair hanging down to dry.

We had a most awful explosion at exactly noon today, and a blinding flash of light accompanied it. Ted was in the parlor and did not see the flash; but I was in the kitchen, standing at the sink, and I thought the very sun itself had fallen into the room, and I wasn’t even facing the window. I was awfully frightened, and shook for an hour afterwards. There was no alert on, so we presume this must have been a delayed action bomb exploding somewhere nearby. There were no raids hereabout last night.

Last night I was dreaming of Cuthie. He was dressed in a blue lounge suit, but with decorations on his shoulder. We were out walking together, and he was holding my elbow, as is his custom. I was also dreaming of my girlhood again, and back even further than before. I saw myself sitting on St. James Park Station, waiting for a train. It was a Sunday morning, very still and quiet, and I was the only person waiting for the first after church train to come, like it used to be, often, when I was returning from Swallow Street. A vivid dream of the girl I was, and remaining with me all day, but the girl is a stranger.

Memories. I have thousands and thousands of them. How am I ever going to pin them all down in a book? I feel I must hurry. When death strikes now any hour, any day, any night, I want to express all that I know, all this that I am, and all that I was, before death can strike me. I want this for my children. When in the future some of them say, I wonder what sort of woman Mother was, anyhow! I want them to be able to look into the mirror of a book, and find me. So I must write quickly and steadily. From day to day I will write what I can, and if I cannot write consecutively, then those who find my writings must sort them into their proper order, and so make the sequence correct for themselves.

December 30, 1940

At six o’clock last night the raids began again. The all clear did not sound until just before midnight. Nothing fell here in Romford, though the zooming was incessant. This morning however we are told the main attack was on London, the heart of the city, and that hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of incendiary bombs were literally rained down. Among the buildings damaged were the Guildhall, another Wren church, two hospitals, a museum, and several schools. Except for naming the guildhall, no names were given, but the report says it was a wholesale attempt to destroy London completely by fire.

Eighty horses were killed when a high explosive fell on a brewery. Several shelters were hit, and railway stations no properly military objectives were attacked and the enemy appeared to be concentrating on setting fire to as many buildings as possible. When is all this deviltry going to end? The rest of the world for the remainder of time, I think, will hate Germans.

I’m restless today. For one thing the day itself is dismal. I rung up Lillian Young’s early this morning, to see about getting my hair set, but her assistant answered me, telling me Lillian was away for a few days because her husband was home on leave, though probably she would be back at work tomorrow. However I did not make an appointment. In these times when nobody can tell what may happen tomorrow I think it’s useless to make any sort of an appointment ahead of time. So, with my free empty morning I wrote some letters and made out some new library lists.

I could not write any of my own stuff because I could not settle to thinking. Bad luck that free time should coincide with a bad mood! However, I rung up Lambert’s and have ordered some books. First of all Mrs. Vivian Hugh’s latest A London Family Between Two Wars. I need to follow Mrs. s. Hughes work. Next, a book reviewed in last weeks Times Literary Supplement: An anatomy of Inspiration, by a Dr. Rosamund Harding, and lastly, Ideal Weight, by W.F. Christie, described as a practical book for outpatients. It costs less then a visit to Dr. Keighley. Anyhow, I’ve ordered it.

Then a read a little in Proust. So far I find him even more enjoyable on a second reading than on a first, but I do think one need to be a Catholic and to know France to extract the very utmost pleasure from him.

President Roosevelt made a great speech last night. Ted actually woke me up at three-thirty this morning to tell me Roosevelt was on the air! We tried to get through, but could only get music. I was sorry. I would have liked very much to hear the real voice, making the real speech. However we were given many excerpts from it in the one o’clock news, on records: good, but not so good as hearing it in the first historic moment. He was calling to the Americans to give all aid to Britain. Harold, back in the summer, thought America would be in the war by January. Now I’m going to get a cup of tea. I’m most horribly restless. I hope I am not suffering a premonition of something.

December 31, 1940

It was a quiet night, due, most likely, to bad weather. This afternoon I went to the hairdressers and had my hair properly set. I did not have it cut. Now it looks nice again. Will try to get to the hairdressers regularly every fortnight during nineteen forty-one.

Further reports on Sunday nights raids on London. It was evidently an attempt to destroy the entire city by fire. Uncountable thousands of incendiary bombs were dropped, and practically old historic London was burnt down. The Guildhall is gone, Trinity House and eight Wren churches. What vandalism!

Commenting on this vast devastation to Ted this evening I inadvertently let myself in for a long evenings monologue. In particular the loss of Wren’s Churches gave him a fine spring boar for his criticizing. He said the churches weren’t beautiful, weren’t used, and Protestantism was dead anyhow. Then he enlarged his discourse to condemn modern art and modern religion, about which he knows nothing of either. He kept on merely the whole evening, and I sat grinning like a Cheshire cat, I suppose.

Oh, I was so bored. I kept on noticing Ted’s mouth. When he monologues he scarcely opens his lips, or his teeth either. He speaks very quietly in a monotone, and his mouth is one thin straight line. It was a horrible and cruel mouth.
I have Jacob Epstein’s, Let there be Sculpture, to read. 

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