AN investigation will not be held into Wokingham ... [more]
Friday, 22 February 2019
Supporting the NHS
Sir, — A month ago I was paralysed in my legs and body and having difficulty breathing. I was diagnosed as having a rare disease called Guillain-Barré Syndrome, or GBS.
Dr Marko Bogdanovic, a neurologist in the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, told me he would prescribe a powerful anti-viral treatment but I might need assistance to help me breathe.
He stressed that my recovery would depend on my own efforts to learn to breathe normally, to learn to walk again and to focus on regaining my health. He said recovery usually took months, certainly weeks.
I was told I had an eight per cent chance I might die.
For me this was, deja vu as I’d been in this position three times before. Each time I had managed to overcome the illness and recover.
This time a week of intensive treatment was very unpleasant, including nightmares and constant pain, while the anti-viral drip helped my body fight the viral illness.
I could not sleep. I had a lot of time to think about what was important to me, to my family and friends.
But what I really wanted was to speak to patients who had recovered from GBS.
Each of us faces growing old and some need more help than others. All of us need support, preferably from our family and friends but also from the community in which we live, supported by our local medical support system.
I vowed that if I could walk out of the hospital unaided within a month, I’d focus on helping others to stay alive, both physically and by being aware of opportunities.
On January 3, I managed to leave with the aid of only a walking stick. I’d focused on relearning to walk, day and night.
Last week I had a relapse and as a result had a panic attack.
I attended Sonning Common Health Centre and was fortunate to see Dr Ralph Drury, my GP, who immediately booked me into the rapid access care unit at Townlands Hospital in Henley.
Little over two hours later I was being checked into the unit where I was examined and given an electrocardiogram.
Dr Alison Espley spent time with me answering questions, steadily reassuring me my problem was my mind, pushing my body beyond what was possible.
Since I was discharged from the Royal Berks a very experienced physiotherapist, Vicky Mynott, had assisted me to regain my balance and learn to walk. She had insisted on my strengthening all my core muscles first. Dr Espley confirmed this was essential.
Too many patients do not listen to the advice they receive. I was guilty of not doing what I was told and trying to do too much too soon.
I learned from Dr Espley how fortunate I am to have a history of physical activity. I’ve also had many setbacks and learned to handle stress. Other people are not so fortunate. We discussed my work. I agreed to focus on assisting others by sharing my knowledge with those who might benefit from my experiences. For example, mentoring others who suffer from GBS.
South-East Oxfordshire has 10 primary care health centres, medical centres that provide care for more than 80,000 patients.
Each centre has representatives who provide a link between the patients and the doctors and medical staff. They also discuss common interests and concerns.
This association is called SELF. One current objective is to encourage parents of young children to become a patient representative in their local patient participation group at their own medical centre.
A prime objective is to share best practice and review how the NHS is operating within the Oxford Clinical Commissioning Group and make recommendations about ways in which NHS and related services might be improved or made more effective.
The patient participation groups also organise events where patients learn more about their own surgery and about the different services available.
Our NHS is the envy of the world. It is the only comprehensive medical system that is free at the point of delivery. Each of us should appreciate how fortunate we are and not take this remarkably effective health service for granted. For the NHS to function well it needs our individual active support at grass roots level, for example by helping your own medical centre.
If you are a parent with young children and you are interested in assisting your local patient participation group, please contact your surgery. — Yours faithfully,
A patient participation group committee member
Train horns save lives
Sir, — The debate about the noise of train horns at Shiplake raises a number of questions, although I see a very straightforward answer has been provided by one Facebook group suggesting that if you live near something which makes a noise it might well be down to a decision you have made.
But wherever you live things can, and will, change — just as the train service between Henley and Twyford has changed over the years, although oddly the total hours of train operation have changed remarkably little over a very long period albeit with differences in between.
Thus nowadays the first train of the day from Twyford leaves at the same time the first train left in 1947 while the last train of the day from Henley leaves slightly earlier than its 1952 equivalent.
Timetables change to meet all sorts of varying requirements and that change will no doubt go on for whatever reasons.
Equally it could be said that nowadays trains are running at a lesser frequency than the 10-minute interval between successive peak period trains back in the late Sixties and for many years before then.
It all depends on the figures you care to quote but you’ll often find on most railway lines that what might be regarded as “new” or novel in terms of train times or frequency will have a precedent somewhere in the past and the Henley branch is no exception to that.
So what has changed? The automatic level crossing at Shiplake came into use over 40 years ago and from the start there was a requirement for trains towards Henley to sound the horn before starting from Shiplake station.
That requirement for many years excluded the period between 11.30pm and 7am unless there was an emergency which required the horn to be sounded.
Regrettably, “emergencies” were all too common at Shiplake, which at one time was regularly in the top 5 worst crossings on the entire rail network for road user abuse (i.e. not complying with the road signals) on the part of both motorists and pedestrians.
That is one reason why it was an early candidate for the addition of new — simplified — barrier system devised as an additional measure to reduce abuse at such crossings.
Shiplake also has two other hazards in the shape of foot crossings at both ends and sighting at these is not aided by the lineside jungle which has grown up over the years to create additional hazards for people using the crossings, which are both classified as “high risk”.
Clearly any change to warning arrangements (i.e. the sounding of train horns) in respect of crossings at Shiplake would require a detailed risk assessment.
Whoever carries out that assessment will have to consider the physical situation, such as lineside tree growth affecting sight lines, as well as past records of use and abuse.
But in the end the numbers which come out of the assessment will maybe one day be a matter of life and death for somebody and whoever calculated them could well find themselves in the dock so any decisions to ease warnings given by sounding a train’s horn cannot be taken lightly.
The whole purpose of sounding the horn is to warn; nothing to do with frightening anybody but a means of getting their attention.
It’s a good many years since I left the national rail network but as a subsequently trained (Lloyds Register) rail safety auditor experienced in asking such questions of railways outside the nationalised network, I would ask some very searching questions if anything is done to reduce the level of warnings at Shiplake without carrying out other mitigations such as vegetation clearance. — Yours faithfully,
Cromwell Road, Henley
P.S. Before anybody asks, during certain weather and wind conditions I often hear train horns being sounded for Bolney Farm Crossing on the Henley side of Shiplake.
Public cause accidents
Sir, — According to the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, 96 per cent of the risk at level crossings is attributable to misuse by users.
Presumably this figure is just as high for foot crossings, user-worked crossings and probably any other interface between the railway and the public, including platform edges.
Either intentionally or otherwise, the public at large represent something that train drivers must be constantly alert to.
In order to aid them in their duties, there are many safety devices offering various degrees of protection, but ultimately it is down to their vigilance, an audible warning device and, as a last resort, an effective emergency brake to keep us all safe.
The UK rail network is one of the safest in Europe — the Henley branch has been an evolving part of this process since 1857 — and Shiplake is no exception. — Yours faithfully,
Mystifying votes on EU
Sir, — This is an open letter to Henley MP John Howell.
I note that on January 29 you voted against a number of amendments that would have ruled out leaving the EU without a deal.
At the same time, you voted against a number of amendments that would have required the Government to seek an extension to the Article 50 deadline in the case parliament had not come to an agreement over the form of our withdrawal from the EU.
You also voted against amendments that would have given parliament the chance to explore options that might prove acceptable, both to parliament and the EU.
Finally, you voted for an amendment that instructed the Government to return to the negotiating table to identify an “alternative arrangement” that could replace the Irish backstop in the existing withdrawal agreement.
Since the Government and its civil servants and the EU negotiators and their technical advisors have been looking for such an alternative arrangement for more than two years, I fail to understand why you expect our Prime Minister to succeed in that task within the next two weeks.
You appear to have voted for an amendment that does nothing other than waste another two weeks and further erode whatever goodwill we might have remaining in the European capitals.
I’m sure that you must have had your reasons for such a counter-intuitive set of voting choices, but they escape me. I sincerely hope it wasn’t just because you’d been told to vote that way.
Your job is, of course, to use your judgement to vote in what you see to be the best interest of the nation and your constituents in particular.
I hope you take the time to explain your rationale in your next ebriefing, to avoid us jumping to conclusions. — Yours faithfully,
Cheshire Road, Thame
John Howell MP responds: “Your correspondent is correct. I shall be producing an ebriefing in due course. Anyone who wishes to receive a copy is welcome to email me with the word ‘subscribe’ in the title.”
At least we’re democratic
Sir, — I am grateful to Edward G Hallett for now acknowledging that it has been NATO that has provided our collective security rather than the EU, as he had previously averred (Standard, February 1).
Now we just need to get him to accept that our democracy is better served by being governed by those we have elected and who we can unelect. I can see the attractions of the firm hand of autocratic rule by the European Commission, compared with the circus in Westminster, but that still doesn’t make it right.
Westminster may be clowns but they’re our democratic clowns!
Love Europe, hate EU. — Yours faithfully,
Red House Drive,
Sir, — While walking round the churchyard at St Andrew’s in Sonning on Sunday afternoon I came across this draft document which I think may interest your readers:
“Dear electors of Maidenhead, — It has been my privilege to mislead you over Brexit.
As you know, I was fainthearted in my campaigning to remain and therefore was ideally suited to try to implement the impossible task that the British people, by a small majority, manipulated by the Russians and a few madmen and women from the Right wing of the Tory party, voted for. As I said, Brexit means Brexit but I have been spending lots of time with my red lines and am no closer to understanding what on earth it does mean.
What is now clear is that you, the voters of Maidenhead, were right when you decisively rejected Brexit in the neverendum.
It has proved impossible to have our cake and eat it. My right dishonourable frenemy Boris Johnson MP has been left spitting out even more foam-flecked hymns of hate as he describes his outings in the Torygraph.
Anyway, I have given up. I have come back to you, the true Tory believers. No one could have tried harder to deliver catastrophe than me.
I have always been inspired by Titanic, the Charge of the Light Brigade, Passchendaele and the Somme. Reflecting on these catastrophes, comforts me that I, too, will have a unwanted place in British history. Yours — T May.”
I am sorry to break Mrs May’s confidence but I thought it was important your readers had an idea of her thinking. — Yours faithfully,
Would we join EU now?
Sir, — Just a thought: If the UK were not already a member of the EU would many people of sound mind be clamouring for us to join? —Yours faithfully,
EU has been a blessing
Sir, — I am sorry to have offended Philip Collings with my comments on his pro-Brexit stance and did not intend to be condescending.
I regret having called his analysis “almost comically optimistic” as there is nothing in the least bit funny about it.
He refers to his 38 years of opposition to the EU — over the same period I have come to understand that membership has been one of the greatest blessings this country has enjoyed in my lifetime. It has helped us — or some of us — become far less insular, prejudiced and ignorant about the continent of which we are a part.
It has made us more civilised, more humane, more aware.
There are many aspects of the EU and its apparatus that are odious but the principle behind it was and remains a noble one.
I hated the campaign that David Cameron and the rest of them waged in the vain effort to get a Remain vote because it made nothing of this and concentrated instead on stoking up absurd fears about how we would all be worse off if we left.
I am happy to accept Philip’s wager, although I would suggest that we need to wait six months rather than one to see what the impact of Brexit day has been (actually it will take a generation).
If his forecast is correct, I will be able to pay the £500 out of my share in the enhanced national prosperity without it hurting too much.
If mine is correct, a dinner with Philip plus a donation to charity will provide some minor comfort. — Yours faithfully,
Wood Lane, Sonning Common
Vehicle has years to go!
Sir, — I would be interested to learn who produced the Henley Town Council report on its Land Rover, which is to be replaced (Standard, February 1).
No doubt an independent consultant that the council is fond of using, at considerable expense.
The report stated that the vehicle was “probably towards the end of its useful life” — this after just 65,000 miles!
As was confirmed by a call to a Land Rover engineer, the expected mileage over its lifetime is three times what the council’s parks vehicle has managed so far.
The Land Rover is seven years old and has cost £3,000 in repairs, plus £1,000 on hiring replacement vehicles.
Based on the figures, there should be a further 14 years of life left in the vehicle, likely to cost in repairs of let’s say £10,000.
That would immediately save the £25,000, with the repair costs spread over the expected 14 years and a consequent saving to the parks department budget.
Sounds like a no brainer but, hey, what do I know? Far better to take further advice from resident expert Janet Wheeler, the town clerk, who stated “short journeys put wear and tear on the vehicle”.
This is notwithstanding that Land Rovers are successfully exported to some of the most inhospitable places on earth! — Yours faithfully,
Church Avenue, Henley
Cook outside at home
Sir, — “Ban on barbecues in meadows likely to be made permanent” (Standard, February 1) — whoopee say I.
Why on earth people have to lug their cooking utensils and barbecue kits to Marsh and Mill Meadows in Henley beats me.
Could they not prepare a cold lunch (or pop into the supermarket — there is always a wonderful selection of picnic food to be had) instead of creating a pong that everyone else not so inclined has to tolerate?
By all means bring your sandwiches etc to the meadows but take home your garbage and then when you get home you can stink out your own back gardens with your barbecues and the rubbish left is all yours — simple.
And you can use your own lavatories instead of other people’s gardens. — Yours faithfully,
Welcome the picnickers
Sir, — One of the most pleasing sights of a Henley summer weekend are the large extended family groups of British Asians picnicking on Marsh Meadows.
Ranging from infants to 90-somethings, they spread their blankets, play cricket and barbecue.
They do not seem to need alcohol to enjoy themselves and I am sure they do not litter either.
How disappointing it is then to see that, otherwise conscientious, town councillors are seeking to extend the emergency ban on barbecue use, which was introduced due to last summer’s heatwave.
When this topic last featured in the Henley Standard letters page five years ago, there was barely concealed disapproval of picnicking British Asian family groups from one or two letter writers.
I hope the council will bear this in mind.
The council should also not be banning the public from enjoying public land. We are not “mugs” for sharing our beautiful riverside with hardworking families.
We do not ban the royal regatta for the littering it causes to the riverbank. Most of the litter on Mill Meadows is down to young people drinking and foxes tearing open bags of rubbish.
The reasons given for the ban were absurd — the environmental crisis, dogs and bones, tree roots and defecation.
Your article referred to a council “park manager, a senior park warden, an estates manager, an enforcement contractor and a conservation warden”, all of whom are paid for by council taxpayers i.e. me and you.
Surely it cannot be too much to expect these people to come up with a better solution to litter than a barbecue ban?
In your Take Five feature, four out of five members of the public said that the council should have better things to do than ban barbecues.
Councillors need to listen to the common sense of the people they serve and whose money they spend. — Yours faithfully,
Queen Street, Henley
Yes, ban the barbecues
Sir, — Let’s hope the Henley Town Council decides in favour of a complete ban on barbecues in Marsh Meadows.
They’re banned in all other parks around; does this not tell us something?
Being a Henley resident, I have been avoiding my local open spaces in the summer for the last two years due to the hordes of people using the meadows in a most environmentally unfriendly manner.
Hopefully, I will be able to use the open spaces that I pay my council tax for this year. — Yours faithfully,
Football fun for children
Sir, — It is a cold, wet and windy Saturday morning.
Jubilee Park in Henley is not the place to be if you are a fairweather sailor. Yet even with a chill breeze blowing off the river that gives this historic town its appendix, the sprawling sports ground is alive with the sound of dozens of youngsters indulging their (or their ambitious parents’) favourite weekend activity — football.
Decked out in the colours of their respective teams, children of all ages are engaged in a life-and-death struggle for dominance and the chance to be crowned “man of the match”.
Proud parents line the touchlines as teeny tots abandon cuddle blankets and soft toys to trip their way through 90-minute training sessions.
Under the judicious eye of coaches and muffled-up mums and dads, bigger boys and girls — no sex discrimination here — dribble and chase with all the dedication of their Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal professional counterparts.
Looking on, and shivering through the winter chill, parents, hot coffee cups clutched in frozen hands, fashionable boots and wellingtons soaking up the Henley mud, lend vocal support.
The trainers who stand anxiously nearby are firm believers in touchline coaching. No smart three-piece tailoring here, just tracksuits and advice aplenty: “Mark that man”, “Move into that space”, “Fall back, fall back”, “Go forward”, “Pass”, “Cross”, “Run”.
Their advice is complemented — and frequently clashes — with the players’ dads and mums whose lack of professional credentials are no impediment to advice-giving.
Little Jimmy or Jemima is supported by the “experts” shouting instructions as they dash here and there, displaying thrilling streaks of genuine talent at one moment and comical pratfalls at others.
The commitment is total, the skills developing before your very eyes.
When the final whistle blows the teams line up with their coaches. “Hip, hip, hurray” resounds around the pitch three times — oh yes, and one for luck!
This is followed by a round of hand-shaking and back-slapping before the debrief in which the day’s outstanding players are congratulated and their team mates gifted words of encouragement.
And while their professional counterparts may indulge in long, hot baths and post-match massages, for the boys and girls who have done battle on the fields of Henley, its an opportunity to dine out on hot dogs or burgers from the ground’s canteen van before heading home, tired, dirty but happy with a job well done.
The venue may not be Wembley, the glittering prizes sorely lacking, but the kids who turn out in all weathers — and their parents — appear to simply love it. — Yours faithfully,
Ian Barron (Pitchside grandfather)
Gadd Close, Wokingham
Distraction from screens
Sir, — For anyone looking to get their kids away from the telly/iPad, I strongly recommend enrolling for Saturday morning football with AFC Henley next to Tesco.
My six-year-old son recently joined and he is having a great time (he now also plays on Wednesday nights).
The coaches are absolutely brilliant with the kids and really invest their energies in helping them to play and learn the game — all with big smiles on their faces.
A big shout out to the coaches, and in particular Jack Woodley and Sam Bell who have made my son so happy to play and develop his skills.
I would recommend any parents of boys or girls to get in touch with AFC Henley and give it a go and get them away from those dreaded screens! — Yours faithfully,
Mill End, Hambleden
Take care with gundogs
Sir, — I was delighted to see your article on wirehaired vizlas and the rescue of specialist breeds (Standard, February 1).
But as an owner, trainer and walker of working gundogs, I did feel a word of advice might not be amiss.
These are high exercise and stimulation dogs, the canine equivalent of a works rally car, and as such both the dog and new owner might need mentoring to prevent wildlife and livestock worrying as they have a very high prey drive (as do all hunt point retrieve dogs).
All the specialist breeds have rescue organisations and they make very loving companions around the home but just get to know what you are letting yourself in for, years of fun and love but remember the training! — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — Further to Roger Betts’s fascinating account of Beatrice Sloane Stanley (Standard, January 18), readers may be interested to learn that her grandparents, Sir John and Lady Rose, were renting Greys Court from Sir Francis George Stapleton at the time of her death.
They were probably only there for a year or two before taking Loseley Park on a much longer lease.
Residents of Rotherfield Greys may also be aware of a persistent local rumour that Beatrice was the secret daughter of the Prince of Wales.
Bertie’s latest biographer, Jane Ridley, believes this is highly unlikely, although he may have had a brief affair with Beatrice’s mother several years after her birth.
In any case, the Prince of Wales was called as a witness in the scandalous Mordaunt divorce case at the time of Beatrice’s conception in the spring of 1870 and would not have risked an affair at such a sensitive time.
Jane Ridley points out in her biography, Bertie: A Life of Edward VII, that stories about his reputed illegitimate children abounded during his lifetime, especially around Sandringham and Balmoral, but checking birth dates against his well-documented movements usually disproves them.
He was also careful to destroy any documentary evidence of his affairs: a single letter from Susan Vane-Tempest survives.
As Roger Betts pointed out, there were close connections between the Prince of Wales and Beatrice’s family, which no doubt fuelled the rumours.
In 1860 19-year-old Bertie first met 11-year-old Charlotte Amy Rose at her home in Montreal, when her father was his host during his tour of Canada.
Charlotte Amy and her brother Charles Day Rose shared a passion for horses and hunting with the Prince of Wales and Charles was his one-time racing partner, while their sister Mary Clarke and her husband were part of his intimate social circle for many years. — Yours faithfully,
Greys Court History Group
Queen Emma and Wargrave
Sir,— In your Hidden Henley item (Standard, February 1) there was mention of Queen Emma, the building in Wargrave that bore her name (Queen Emma’s Palace) and of Wargrave Manor.
In your issue of January 11, also in Hidden Henley, you mentioned a booklet of historic Wargrave walks,
Page 20 of that booklet says the building now known as Wargrave Manor was never the manor house.
The house now known as Wargrave Manor was built in the 1780s by Joseph Hill and it was originally called Wargrave Hill (possibly as it is situated on a hill or possibly after his surname).
Joseph was a London lawyer, who was related to the Jekyll family that later owned it (Gertrude Jekyll, the well-known garden designer, lived there for a short while).
After several other occupiers, about 100 years ago, the house was bought by Sir William Cain and it was he who renamed it Wargrave Manor.
The Manor of Wargrave (a manor was a large estate of land) had belonged to Queen Edith (wife of Edward the Confessor) and later to the Bishops of Winchester before passing to the Neville family, who took the title Lord Braybrooke.
The latter also had the Manor of Waltham St Lawrence and the Manor of Warfield and had his manor house locally in the middle of these three at Billingbear. (The Braybrookes also had land at Audley End, near Saffron Walden in Essex, and still own Audley End House).
There is no house within Wargrave that is confirmed as ever having been “the manor house” (the Lord of the Manor as either the Crown, the bishops, or the Lords Braybrooke living elsewhere).
A different property is of appropriate age and size that it might have been used for that purpose but no actual evidence of that has come to light.
The building known as Queen Emma’s Palace (on page 16 of the same booklet) was sited in Church Street.
It could never have belonged to the Queen as she lived in the Saxon period whereas the building was a Tudor one, i.e. it was constructed about 400 years after Emma’s time.
The building was demolished in 1827 and the Woodclyffe Hostel (built in 1905) now stands on the site.
So, I am afraid that the legend of Queen Emma’s ordeal does not relate to “this impressive building”.
There is even some doubt as to whether Queen Emma ever did own the manor of Wargrave. She did undergo “trial by fire”, the manor of Wargrave did belong to the Bishops of Winchester and the two events have been put together in the legend many years ago but as to whether correctly so is very much open to debate. — Yours faithfully,
Wargrave Local History Society
Keep your ‘toots’ short
Sir, — While I have every sympathy with the residents of Shiplake who are subjected to the lengthy and noisy “tooting” by Great Western Railway trains, may I respectfully ask that readers take note of the request by the editor to keep their letters to the point and not exceed 300 words.
The first letter on this subject exceeded the request by approximately 600 words. This was despite there being an excellent article on page 15 by James Burton which gave chapter and verse on the matter.
In addition there was a second letter from Nathalie McClure on the same subject which was brief, succinct and clearly made the point under discussion.
So please, Vivien, do take the request you made to the train driver and keep yours “toots” to a minimum. — Yours faithfully,
Festival is big enough
Sir, — I’m sure that, like me, the majority of local residents agree that 20,000 is already more than enough people for the Rewind Festival and it is simply the organisers’ greed driving the proposed expansion (Standard, February 1). After all, how else are they to pay back the £30million they have “invested”?
Instead, I would urge my fellow residents to get behind the “real” Henley Festival in July.
Admittedly, I love a good Eighties revival as much as the next 40-something, but we really should cherish the Henley Festival and its support for both the local community and charities.
However, I do feel compelled to point out a slight mathematical error in the quote from Remenham Parish Council’s chairman John Halsall: “It’s more than doubling the size of the event because it goes from 20,000 to 30,000.”
My 10-year-old daughter, who attends Valley Road Primary School and is an avid reader of your paper, swiftly piped up: “That’s not more than double, Daddy, it’s a 50 per cent increase.”
A quick scan on the council’s website reveals that the chairman is a chartered accountant and went to Oxford University.
And they say standards in education are falling! — Yours faithfully,
The editor responds: “Your daughter is quite right and we should have spotted the error and saved both ours and Councillor Halsall’s blushes!”
Drone has been claimed
Sir, — Thanks to your letters pages (Standard, January 25) the model drone that was found has been claimed and the helicopter that was lost has been found.
Everyone concerned is extremely happy. — Yours faithfully,
Hurrah for this business
Sir, — I feel that in this day and age it is important to recognise a small, privately owned, high street business giving excellent customer service.
The business in question is D J King jewellers in Henley. It is run by a young couple who will always treat you with courtesy and efficiency, whether buying an item or requesting a minor repair.
I took an antique watch with sentimental value to them on two occasions: once when needing an adjustment and another time for a small part to be replaced.
These were done while I waited on both occasions and I was charged just £2.
They could have charged me any amount, especially the second time when the bracelet had come away from the watch face and I thought it would not be able to be repaired or at least would have to be sent away.
Small, local businesses need our support! — Yours faithfully,
Deanfield Road, Henley
11 February 2019
THE new vicar for the benefice of Goring and ... [more]
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