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Adventures and alarums!

What the fuck is going on?

This last week has been rather fun but it has been a bit like some badly written situation comedy. Then again, most of my life is like a badly written situation comedy. McOther often tells me that if my life were written up as a screen play, it’s so barkingly strange that no-one would believe any of the true life events depicted were … well … true.

In a strange coincidence, two old friends who I haven’t seen in ages have rung up to say they’ll be in the area and could we meet up. To my delight they were around when I am, as well so I met one friend yesterday and another is coming to see me on Wednesday! Woot all round.

On top of that, it’s been an adventurous couple of days. The night before last McOther was due to come home late. He rung and told me he’d be even later than he thought as he was swamped with emails. I could hear the tension in his voice. That was fine though, I would make sure everything was spic and span and try to ameliorate the mess so it was not as bad as sometimes, or at least, so enough of it had disappeared for him to register that we’d made an effort to be tidy and feel loved accordingly. I began by starting McMini’s supper early and also putting McOther and my supper together ready for when he came home.

Meanwhile, McMini was convinced that he had to have a drink and it had to be ‘a potion’. I haven’t a blind clue why but we looked out a jam jar and he made himself a rock shandy (two thirds ginger ale to one third soda with a dash of bitters, ice and a slice of lemon).

Rock shandy made, although he never does the ice and slice, he explained that it needed to be a lurid colour.

‘What sort of lurid colour?’ I asked him.

‘Do you have blue?’

The food colouring is on the top shelf of the larder ever since I discovered McMini, as a three year old, taking a good pull out of the bottle of yellow. Accordingly, I went into the larder and climbed onto the fold away stool thing I use to reach the top shelves. Frankly, I’m too fat and heavy for this thing, so having already broken one, I have learned to stand on it very carefully. It can take my weight but only if I place my feet in a certain way – you know like always stepping on the joists rather than the bit between when you’re up in a roofspace.

The stool creaked and groaned ominously but held up as I had a shufty on the top shelf of the larder. Eventually I discovered the blue food colouring and passed it down to McMini. I was still stepping off the stool with a slowness that only glaciers, or the arthritic, can achieve, when McMini had whipped off the lid and upended the bottle.

Oops.

Luckily only about half of it came out before he realised what he was doing and stopped.

‘Sorry Mum, I thought it would have a dropper like the bitters.’

‘Nae bother sunshine.’

The result was a tall thin jam jar full of the most bizarre blue liquid. We both knew it was rock shandy but it did look like something fresh from hell, or an antifreeze tank, in rat-poison blue. Mmm-Mmm!

‘Please, please, please keep the lid on that at all times and don’t drop it,’ I told him. I handed him the lid which he placed carefully on the jam jar and tightened under my supervision before he went off happily, potion in hand. It really was very blue – I’m thinking Regalian Brandy, StarTrek fans, or certain brands of lavatory bleach, everyone else.

McMini disappeared with his strange concoction, to have a poo, he informed me.

Lovely.

I carried on with whatever it was I was doing, faffing about in the kitchen doing something or other and then I heard a noise.

‘Flabado-do-do-doom!’ It went.

I listened.

Nothing. Then …

‘Mum.’

‘Yes.’

‘Can you come upstairs a minute?’

‘Why?’

‘Something’s happened. Please don’t be angry.’

He’s fucking spilled it, I thought. There’s blue bastardy jizz all over my fucking stairs.

‘What’s up?’ I said.

‘I’ve fallen down the stairs and banged my head.’

Oh, or maybe not on the blue jizz front, I thought hopefully.

‘Oh dear. That sounds a bit grim. Are you alright?’ I was pretty sure he was, it sounded like a small boy version of a terrible injury rather than an actual … you know … terrible injury.

‘Yes I am but … listen Mum, please, please don’t be angry.’

Oh fucking bollocks! He knobbing has spilled it! We have a blue chuffing carpet, I thought

‘Have you’ve spilled rat poison blue liquid all over the stair carpet?’ I asked, just to check.

Long silence.

‘I’m really, really sorry Mum. How did you know?’

Because the klutz gene is dominant and Sod and his bloody law made it fairly inevitable, I thought.

‘Skill,’ I said. ‘I’ll just get some kit together and then I’ll come up to join you and we can clean it up. Where is it?’

‘Outside Dad’s office.’

Oh fuckity fuck.

Dad also known as McOther. The same McOther who rang twenty minutes earlier, his voice full of tension. OK, no matter how disastrous this was, it had to be gone before he got home or he was going to lose his fucking biscuits. McOther is a neat bot and although he tries not to let living with the two messiest and most disorganised people on earth get to him, things like a sudden stain on his beige carpets can drive the poor man buggy. Especially if he’s stressed and he’s had a tough day. Code blue had to be neutralised before McOther got home or the three of us would all have a horrible evening.

As you may have gathered from accounts of my activities on this blog, I’m a total and utter klutz. Or the spill-o-tronic, 3,000 series as I am known. This means I have a library of stain removal products that is second to none. I am also pretty good at removing stains because otherwise, I would have nothing to wear and a house that looked like an ongoing Jackson Pollock project.

I grabbed a bucket and put every bottle of propiatory cleaning product I could find into it, and trust me there were a lot of bottles in there; vanish soap, OzKleen carpet cleaner, white vinegar, washing up liquid, you name it, I equipped myself with it. And sponges. Then I took some old ‘real’ nappies that we now use for just this type of emergency and clanked my way upstairs with it all.

McMini was standing beside a football-sized carpet stain of a lurid torquise colour. To give him his due, the lid was on the potion, so only about a quarter had spilled. As he fell, he’d dropped it and it had tumbled from his hand and landed on its side, the impact loosening the lid and allowing leakage. He’d then tried to wipe it up with his hands, bless him, merely smearing a small concentrated spillage into a much wider area. A bit like the time he used his goal keeping gloves to pick up a poo he’d done in the hall by mistake after he’d waited too long to go to the loo because he had to stand his Lego General Grevious up first and it kept falling over. He’d seen me put on rubber gloves to clear up sick so grabbed the nearest gloves to hand. In other words, he’d got it so right and yet … so wrong.

There was a nerf gun on the floor beside the stain so it was clear he’d been taking too much stuff down the stairs at once and probably missed a step because he couldn’t see or he may not have fallen and have just lost his hold on one bit and ende up dropping the chuffing lot.

We started by putting nappies on the stain and standing on them to wick it away.

‘So were you taking all this gubbins down stairs at once?’ I asked him as I marked time on a nappy that was rapidly turning blue.

‘No,’ he told me. ‘I took the gun down and then I went back for the liquid and got that and then when I was walking down with it I fell.’

I looked at the gun, half way down rather than at the bottom.

‘I see,’ I said.

So that’s a, ‘yes I was trying to carry everything and dropped the lot,’ I thought, but I’m not going to say anything. How could I when he was supremely contrite and nearly in tears.

We put half a bottle of OzKleen carpet cleaner on the stain and scrubbed it, then, when that had almost run out, I chucked half a bottle of white vinegar in with the rest of the OzKleen in an approximation of a recipe McMini had just found on the internet using his phone. We put that on. Then I filled the bucket with water and ‘rinsed’ it out at which point McMini, feeling that he wasn’t helping, left me to it.

After standing on more nappies to ‘dry’ it out a bit, it was better, but still blue. Blue like the touch paper on the firework McOther would turn into when he saw it and went into orbit.

Arse.

Then I remembered the condescendingly helpful lady in the advert for the Vanish in-wash stain removal stuff. She got it in a small pot and added some water. Then you were supposed to be able to make a paste and spread it onto stubborn stains, scrubbing it with the stippled bottom of the pink scoop that came with it. Leave over night and rinse the next morning. That’s what it said. Yeh. So I did that. Making a vile pot of claggy slime with bits in that wouldn’t dissolve. But fuck it, what did I have to lose? I went ahead and scrubbed it into the carpet. Along with those little white bits like polystyrene balls that they put in to take up space, stay loader as Mr Bol* wash used to call them, which resolutely refused to blend into the rest of the mixture at any cost. Then I left it to work and emptied the water out in the bathroom and left the bucket up there, along with the sponges and the two nappies I hadn’t used which I set aside for ‘wicking’ the slimy gloop back up again (complete with blue hopefully).

McOther rang to say he was leaving the office. He sounded a lot less stressed but I realised that in order to ameliorate the impact on his wellbeing of the blue carpet outside his study door, I now had to break it to him gently so he was prepared for the sight of the blue stain and ready for the shock.

Hmm, how to do this?

Then like lightning, inspiration struck! Of course, I’d just say what McMini did. So I said that McMini had fallen down the stairs and bumped his head but was OK. McOther was all concern, at which point I broke the news that it was only a little bump and that McMini had also spilled blue juice everywhere in the fall. Bless him, McOther was just happy that the head bump was minor as I had been.

Even better, by the time I’d finished cooking dinner and went back upstairs to see how the claggy gloop was doing, the stain had … yes … vanished. OK we have a weird clean bit of carpet that looks like a pale stain but I expect I can fix by rubbing some dirt into it or something.

Meanwhile, McCat has been such a thieving bastard these last few weeks that I feared he may be ill. Like The Blob, he has been eating everything in his path. But he hasn’t been putting on weight, adding to my fears about his health. Some very expensive tests later it turns out that no, he is not ill, he is just a scrounging shite. This morning he capped it all by opening a plastic bag of this week’s vitimin pills. I take several different ones each day and I can’t be arsed to faff around with all the child proof lids that nobody in the house apart from my ten year old son can open. So I decant them all into a plastic bag each week. Only one thing to open. Except this week, McCat opened it. Twice.

McCat likes cod liver oil and evening primrose oil. It appears he’s also quite partial to vitimin A and cranberry cystitis pills.

I cleared up the mess and counted up a second bag. He ate a lot of the actual bag this time, as well as the cod liver oil and evening primrose capsules. He left the rest though. So now I will be putting the pills in a small pot with a very tight lid. Presumably McCat will have a blindingly luxuriant coat for a day or two. I just hope it doesn’t make him ill. Rock on summer when he will have insects to chase and will, almost certainly, become a well behaved cat. In the meantime, as well as vitimin pills he eats sugar snap peas, peas, broccoli, cheese, bread, olive oil, yogurt, pasta and anything else that is not nailed down.

Another eventful week then.

* Spelled the way the bloke in the ad used to say it, rather than the proper way.

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Filed under Blimey!, General Wittering

Let me take you by the hand and lead you …

Through the streets of Port Naain.

Yes, this week we are doing something a little different. I am posting an excerpt from the latest adventure penned by Jim Webster. This one is from Port Naain in the Land of the Three Seas and features Benor, apprentice cartographer and Tallis, poet, who meet and have numerous adventures in the Port Naain Intelligencer series. If you don’t know these guys, you should, they’re fun, some of my favourite indie characters. The series is well worth a read as are Jim’s longer books – which are about Benor when he is older. But what do I know? Read the excerpt and see for yourself!

Embarrassing

Tallis, with a tight grip on the hand of Young Vortac, ran down the alley, frantically trying to think of a safe destination. He glanced over his shoulder, realised the pursuers were temporarily out of sight, and dived down a side alley and kept running. A cry from behind of,

“There they are,” showed him his subterfuge hadn’t worked.

He knew this neighbourhood; they were now approaching an area where he had patrons. Still he didn’t want his patrons faced with a horde of ruffians. He glanced behind him; their pursuers were more spread out than they had been but some were getting very close to them. Then he recognised a house. He’d performed there but as an anonymous participant in an affair organised by somebody else. Without hesitating he led the boy through the side gate off the lane and burst in through the servants’ entrance. Hastily he slammed the door and barred it behind him. He was just in time. Somebody shoulder-barged the door even as the bolts slammed home. Ignoring the outraged cries of cooks and miscellaneous downstairs staff he led the boy, still at a run, through the house, out of the front door and away down the road. He reckoned they’d gained over a hundred yards before somebody thought to go round the front of the house to check the other doors.

Now with a better lead he had chance to think. The boy, Aea be thanked, had got the hang of it now and they were running side by side. Not having to pull the child had made things easier. Tallis ran in silence, considering and rejecting options. A glance over his shoulder showed him that he wasn’t going to outrun the thugs behind him indefinitely. Then the brainwave struck him. To the boy he gasped,

“Another hundred yards, then into the Institute.”

They accelerated as they approached the tall red-brick building with the imposing façade. Tallis ran in through the open door and slammed it behind him, then at a brisk walk made his way up the grand staircase. They had reached the top of the staircase before the first thug hit the door. Tallis didn’t have much confidence in the lock, a feeble thing. He reached the first floor landing and opened the door to the art class. Below he heard the crash and the door gave way.
As quietly and as unobtrusively as possible he made his way past the various ladies painting. Then to his delight he realised their model was a boy. Gently he drew Young Vortac to him.

“Go through there to the side room. You’ll find tea and cake laid out. Help yourself; I’ll join you in a minute.” The boy nodded and disappeared.

Tallis made his way to the model who was looking at him nervously. Tallis leaned forward and said softly, “When a mob appear in the doorway, point at them and shout, “Tallis, they’ve found us.”

“Why?”

“A good question. Because I’ll give you money.”

Tallis reached into his pocket, but the boy suddenly looked up, pointed at the door and screamed, “Tallis, they’ve found us.”

“Good boy, now run and hide behind the most formidable ladies you can find.”

Tallis turned to look at the fracas that was developing. One ruffian found himself standing very still as a young lady held a palette knife to his throat. The man obviously wasn’t sure how sharp it was but didn’t feel the urge to experiment. Others had gone down in a cursing heap of thrashing bodies, paintings and easels. Tallis ducked down, and hidden behind a phalanx of indignant artists, made his way to the side room. There he found young Vortac tucking into the cakes. Tallis helped himself to a couple and then led the boy down a side stair to the kitchens and then out into the street. Tallis and the boy walked casually together through the suburb heading generally south. Tallis pointed out sights of interest; finally Vortac asked a question that had obviously been troubling him.

“Excuse me sir, but who are you?”

“Why me? I’m Tallis Steelyard, the poet.”

It was distressingly obvious that the name meant nothing to Vortac. “And the other man, the one who rescued me?”

“Benor? Oh he’s a cartographer.”

Vortac touched the ring hanging round his neck. “So you know my father?”

“Never had the honour, I’m afraid to say; but I’m sure Benor knows him.”

They walked along companionably in silence for a while, and then Vortac asked, “So where are we going?”

Tallis pointed towards the estuary, visible now. “We’re going to the barge where I live. Benor will doubtless get fed up of looking for us and come back to the barge. Then we can take you back to your father.” Tallis glanced down at the boy. “I think it will be better to take you back to your father than back to school.”

“But my father is assumed to be dead.” The boy sounded uncertain.

“I’ve been assumed to be dead occasionally,” Tallis replied. “So long as you don’t actually die, it’s a useful way of stopping people hunting for you.” With this they walked on again. Not far from the Old Esplanade, Benor caught up with them.

****

Back at the barge Benor found some bread that had been left too long, and some cheese that was harder than is normally considered pleasant. With the bread toasted and with the cheese heated and spread over it, it made them not a bad meal, enlivened with a splash of spicy fish sauce to give savour. They finished with coffee and Benor reached behind a pile of documents on the dresser and brought out the silver drinking cup made by Young Vortac’s father.

“Do you recognise this?” He handed it to the boy.

“Yes, it belongs to my mother, my father made it for her.”

“I’ve sent a message to your mother, telling her I’ve found it.”

“She’ll be glad of that, she loved it.” Then more eagerly, the boy said, “And I got a letter saying she was coming to Port Naain on business and she’d see me soon.”

“How soon?”

“She should be in the city now; I was to meet her tomorrow.”

Benor glanced at Tallis. “We’d better get this boy back to his father now.”

They walked the boy back through the city. He carried the silver drinking cup wrapped in some rags.

At the door of the house on Togger’s Gyll, Benor knocked. Eventually it was opened by Vortac. Immediately his son rushed to him and threw his arms around him. Benor and Tallis stood back to give the father and son space, until finally Vortac set his son down on the ground again.

“So?”

Briskly Benor said, “There was an attempt to murder him and we thought he’d be safer here than at school.”
Vortac nodded slowly. “Then you have my deepest thanks.”

Benor continued remorselessly, “But probably not for the next bit. According to your son here, his mother is in the city and expects to meet him tomorrow.”

Vortac looked shocked. “So what do we do?”

“I know what I’m going to do. There’s a plot to kill your wife and daughter as well, so I’m going to find them and try and prevent it.”

With that Benor turned on his heel and strode off down Togger’s Gyll. Tallis murmured to Old Vortac,

“Don’t take it personally, he’s had a difficult few days.”

****

Katin, the Chevaleresse of Windcutter Keep and her daughter Natisse sat in the office of Raswil Muldecker the usurer. They both sipped small glasses of wine as Raswil himself checked through various papers. He looked up,

“Excellent, excellent. Everything balances and the inventory agrees with the contents of the chests.”

Somewhat haughtily the Chevaleresse said, “Shouldn’t it?”

“It’s a rarer occurrence than you might expect madam.” Raswill allowed himself to smile. “But yes, your funds are now deposited in the accounts as agreed.” He passed across three papers, “The top one is yours, the second is in your daughter’s name and the third in the name of your son.”

She scrutinised the papers and passed the second to the daughter. The others she folded and tucked into a purse hanging from her belt.

“Thank you Master Muldecker. Everything seems to be in order.”

“Thank you madam.” There was a note of sincerity in the man’s voice. “We have a reputation for reliability to maintain, we value our customers from Partann. We aim to provide security and anonymity.” He raised his glass, “To the continued good health and prosperity of you and your family.”

The mother and daughter raised their glasses dutifully and sipped. There was a knock on the door. The miser looked displeased.

“Who is it?”

“Santon Gilfell, sir, a matter of some urgency sir, concerning the ladies.”

“Oh well, you’d better come in.”

The young clerk entered looking flustered. I’ve just had a letter from an ex-colleague, Sir. You remember Wast Divot who used to work here?”

“The young fool who left a good job with prospects to become the clerk to a mercenary company?”

“Yes sir, well here’s his letter.”

The miser took the letter and read it in silence. He looked at the young clerk.

“Can you vouch for it coming from Wast Divot?”

“Yes sir. Admittedly it’s scribbled in haste but it’s still in his handwriting. On top of that he and I had a code. If he needed to prove a letter was from him he’d call me Sant in the greeting. I call him Waston when I write to him.”
The miser turned his attention to the two ladies.

“Does the name Ulgar-Zare mean anything to you, and would he try to kill you?”

The two women looked at each other. Eventually the mother said,

“Yes, if he thought he could get away with it.”

“It appears that young master Divot and his companions met one Ulgar-Zare in a wayside tavern. He was riding north with a dozen men in his train. There seems to have been drink taken and he overheard a couple of the men talking about the problems of finding you and killing you in a big city.”

Hastily Santon Gilfell added, “With your permission, I think I have a solution. I handle the account for Jorrocks Boat Yard and they have a boat, the Flower of Partann, which is ready to sail. It’s just been in for a refit, and they would leave tonight without taking on cargo, on your assurance that they’ll be able to trade with Windcutter Keep without tariffs to get a return cargo.”

The two women looked at each other again. Natisse whispered in her mother’s ear.

“I don’t like running.”

Her mother whispered back,

“Neither do I, but this way we can be home before he knows and mount our own strike whilst he is still in Port Naain looking for us.”

She turned back to Raswill and his clerk. “Thank you, we will take you up on your kind offer.

****

Benor went first to the house in the Merchant Quarter which the Chevaleresse had previously rented. Alia the housekeeper was there. She remembered Benor and was friendly in a somewhat guarded manner. She couldn’t tell him where the lady or her daughter were, but did tell him they’d sent her a note to ask her to close the house up for a while because they had to travel back to Partann unexpectedly.

Benor ran to Rapscallion’s Wharf where ships to Partann normally sailed from. As he passed along Fellmonger’s wharf, Mutt, still wearing his borrowed school uniform, fell in step with him. The boy had obviously been waiting for him.

“Benor, I was meaning to ask you summat.”

“What?” To his own ears this sounded a bit curt, so Benor added, “If it’s something I can help you with I will.”

“Am I still an apprentice cartographer?”

This question was so unexpected that Benor nearly stopped in his tracks.

“Yes if you want to be.”

“Good.”

Together they made their way down the Ropewalk. Evening was falling as they dropped down to Rapscallion’s Wharf. From that point on Benor moved cautiously and tried to stay hidden. He finally saw the Flower of Partann. There were a handful of crew on deck and the gangplank was still out. He made his way closer. It was there he noticed two sedan chairs travelling down the wharf. They stopped opposite the end of the gangplank and two ladies, the Chevaleresse and her daughter, got out of their chairs and walked up onto the boat.

Benor glanced down at Mutt.

“Can you go and get Tallis and old Vortac please? If those two women sail in that boat they’ll be drowned. Somehow we’ve got to stop it.”

“Nail and another lad are supposed to be waiting for me on Ropewalk, I’ll send them, Nail’s quicker.”

“Fair enough, send them to Tallis first, Tallis will know them and listen to them.”

Mutt slipped away and Benor turned his attention back to the Flower of Partann. The ladies were being shown into a cabin set under the poop deck at the stern of the boat.

Then he noticed two other figures watching the Flower of Partann. One was a man he didn’t recognise, the other was a women he did known. It was Minny. He moved forward, keeping a pile of sacks between himself and them. At the end of the pile there was an open area, but once he crossed it, he’d be able to get close to them by walking round the other side of some barrels. He made his way silently across the open area and reached the barrels. Here he stopped and listened. He could hear the voices but not well. He moved closer and peered round the edge of the barrels. He was now almost within touching distance of the man. He heard the man say, “You got them to go on the boat. If I was a betting man I would have put money against it.”

Minny replied, “Easily done if you know her. A forged letter which told of a serious threat, then an opportunity to avoid the threat and strike a sharp blow at the person who was threatening them, she couldn’t resist it.”

The man nodded, “Cleverly done. Anyway we got the boat ready, Minny. We’ve done our bit, so we want the money.”
Minny replied, “Yes, Ardal, you’ve done your bit, so I’ll do mine. Here’s the money.” She passed across to him a heavy pouch. The man opened it, looked in and shook the coins up a little. “Ah gold, don’t you just love it.”

Benor heard a sound behind him and felt a tap on his shoulder. He spun round just as a fist struck him on the side of the head and everything went dark.

======================================

And now the hard sell

I’ve thought long and hard about blog tours. I often wonder how much somebody reading a book wants to know about the author. After all, I as a writer have gone to a lot of trouble to produce an interesting world for my characters to frolic in. Hopefully the characters and their story pull the reader into the world with them. So does the reader really want me tampering with the fourth wall to tell them how wonderful I am? Indeed given the number of film stars and writers who have fallen from grace over the years, perhaps the less you know about me the better?

Still, ignoring me, you might want to know a bit about the world. Over the years I’ve written four novels and numerous novellas set in the Land of the Three Seas, and a lot of the action has happened in the city of Port Naain.

They’re not a series, they’re written to be a collection, so you can read them in any order, a bit like the Sherlock Holmes stories in that regard. So I had a new novella I wanted to release. ‘Swimming for profit and pleasure.’ It’s one of the ‘Port Naain Intelligencer’ collection and I decided I’d like to put together a blog tour to promote it. But what sort of tour? Then I had a brainwave. I’d get bloggers who know Port Naain to send me suitable pictures and I’d do a short story about that picture. It would be an incident in the life of Benor as he gets to know Port Naain.

Except that when the pictures came in it was obvious that they linked together to form a story in their own right, which is how I ended up writing one novella to promote another! In simple terms it’s a chapter with each picture. So you can read the novella by following the blogs in order. There is an afterword which does appear in the novella that isn’t on the blogs, but it’s more rounding things off and tying up the lose ends.

Given that the largest number of pictures was provided by a lady of my acquaintance, I felt I had to credit her in some way. So the second novella I’m releasing is ‘The plight of the Lady Gingerlily.’ It too is part of the Port Naain Intelligencer collection.

So we have ‘Swimming for profit and pleasure’

View or download the book from your local Amazon here.

Benor learns a new craft, joins the second hand book trade, attempts to rescue a friend and awakens a terror from the deep. Meddling in the affairs of mages is unwise, even if they have been assumed to be dead for centuries.

And we have ‘The Plight of the Lady Gingerlily’

View or download from your local Amazon here.

No good deed goes unpunished. To help make ends meet, Benor takes on a few small jobs, to find a lost husband, to vet potential suitors for two young ladies, and to find a tenant for an empty house. He began to feel that things were getting out of hand when somebody attempted to drown him.

======================================

Lastly, if you’d like to read yesterday’s excerpt you can find it here on Ken Gierke’s blog: https://rivrvlogr.wordpress.com/

While, tomorrow the thirteenth and final episode will be posted on Sue Vincent’s blog, here: https://wp.me/p1wss8-hR3

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Filed under General Wittering

New stuff, has landed! Woot!

So, I have a new release.

Yep. That caught you by surprise didn’t it? It’s a 10k short and it’s in an anthology of other excellent stories for yes, now, once again, ’tis the time of year for Christmas Lites. In this case, Christmas Lites VIII.

You may or may not remember the story behind this because I shared it last year. Splitter, an author friend from way back, found himself in a women’s refuge, dressed as Father Christmas with a bunch of candy canes in a sack. He was supposed to be arriving at the office party but instead, ended up doing the whole Santa malarky where he was and giving the candy canes to the people staying there.

You may also remember how his boss asked him where he’d been and how she then called him into work the next day where he found she had loaded her car with presents and how the two of them went back to the refuge with them the next day.

It’s a brilliant story, it’s human nature at its absolute best, and now every year, a group of authors join together and release a new Christmas Lites anthology to raise money for a charity which helps domestic violence victims, and which, I believe, was the the charity behind that shelter, the NCADV. It’s all the more poignant to the authors involved, now, since Splitter died of cancer a few years back so as well as the charity element there’s a dimension of doing a kindness in memory of a lovely guy. I am incredibly proud to be involved.

I’ve made a page of links to places where you can buy it. Unfortunately, because of the logistics of getting the money made to the charity, the book is only available on Amazon at the moment.  Hopefully that won’t be too much of a pain in the arse for users of other platforms – I can recommend the Kindle app if you have an Amazon account.

Grab your copy of Christmas Lites VIII here.

On other news, I also have stumbled upon a rather excellent give away.

It’s a Strange World Science Fiction

This giveaway is running from 22nd December through to 22nd January. These are authors who’ve written sci-fi books that are planet-based, you know, either future Earth, parallel Earth or different planets in other universes. If you enjoyed my stuff about K’Barth I think you may find some things you like among these too. At the least it has to be a release from Christmas telly and turkey farts!

You can find the books and have a look at what’s on offer by clicking on the picture or clicking on this lovely link here.

That’s about it from me, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas or, if you don’t do Christmas, I hope you had a wonderful whatever it is you do. Incidentally, did you know that the whole thing in America where they can’t say ‘Christmas’ is actually just something that occurred because Happy Holidays catches it all and shops didn’t have to have loads of labels, cards etc printed to mention all the other celebrations around at the same time. Then, in order to disguise their laziness, they pretended it was altruism and said they were doing it not to offend anyone. So now everyone’s up in arms at the liberals when the origin may well be down to Hallmark trying to save printing costs! Mwahahahrgh a little Christmas-tastic trivia for you. Sadly, I have not been able to fact check it, but I am very much enjoying the idea.

Anyway, happy it, whatever it is you do and all the best for a fabulous 2019. Whatever the New Year brings, here’s hoping it’s good.

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Filed under About My Writing, Author Updates, Blimey!, General Wittering

New Stuff? Yeh, excerpt, new release and old stuff for 40% off!

As you know, I’ve been writing new stuff this year and because of the state of my brain/demands on my time and general, inconvenient insistence of Real Life to get in my way, this new stuff is mostly novellas/short stories. I am now close to finishing my fifth short this year! Woot. Desparately trying to get it sort of done by the end of the year but it probably won’t quite happen now, although I will be, literally, about 1000 words short! Grrr!

Apologies that I don’t have a cover to show you. I did hope I would have by this time but, unfortunately, my car appears to be determined to bankrupt me, so I didn’t have any cash left over to stump up for a cover after new tyres, a new radiator and other extensive repairs. But I digress … After banging on about them so long, I thought you might like to read an excerpt anyway, even without the cover to look at. Barring one, the short stories start pretty much were Unlucky Dip leaves off. The one exception … remember that scene in The Wrong Stuff when The Pan of Hamgee, hero of the K’Barthan Series, tells Ruth he tried to kill himself? This story tells you how and why he failed.

If you’ve read Unlucky Dip, you’ll know that The Pan, gets employed as a go-fer by Big Merv, the local gang lord after making and ill-judged and pathetically cack-handed effort to steal his wallet.

Between that point and the start of the actual series there’s about a year when The Pan runs errands for his scary orange boss. A couple of people asked me what happened during that time so I wrote it down. It being The Pan, most of the errands he runs go wrong somehow and he has to put things right to avoid being incorporated into a motorway stanchion or sent to swim with the fishes in concrete overshoes.

When I’m writing, I tend to end up writing way more stuff than I use so this may not all make it into the final edit, but I thought you might like it anyway. It describes The Pan of Hamgee’s first visit to The Parrot and Screwdriver, shortly after he is ’employed’ not that he has much choice in the matter, by Big Merv. It also describes his first encounter with Humbert, the foul-mouthed parrot. I am hoping that my cat fans, in particular, will appreciate this one.

Enjoy.

K’Barthan Short Preview

Sort of on the same subject …

Christmas Lites VIII

You may remember me talking about Christmas Lites last year. It’s an annual anthology published in aid of victims of domestic abuse. This year I successfully got my shit together and actually wrote a 10k story for Christmas Lights Eight. Woot! If you’re interested in finding out how The Pan of Hamgee got the pink plastic ring which features in Looking For Trouble, the answer is in the story, Secret Festive Celebration – yes, naming my work is not my strong point but it’s probably better than ‘the pink spangly ring one’*. Marginally.

* the genuine working title.

As I write, I lack a cover photo for this one too – doing well aren’t I? I also lack any meaningful details of a release date but I have made the bold assumption that it will go live soon because I know that’s the intention, and the lady who runs it has just had a baby, which means it’s not going to happen in a standard manner. She has a small person in her life now and all planning disappears when that happens. However, I wanted to alert you all anyway, because I know it’ll be coming soon. I’ll do a post specially when it does.

K’Barthan Box Set on sale now! Woot!

If Kobo is your thing, or you buy your ebooks from pretty much any store and read them with the respective app, Kobo is having a box set sale until 17th December. The discount won’t show at first but if you click to purchase and then enter the coupon code DECSALE at check out it will knock 40% off the price for you. You can use this code again and again, so basically, if you like Kobo, this is a good time to mop up as many reduced books as you can!

To find out more, click on the picture or follow this lovely link here which should take you to your local Kobo … er hem, famous last words:

https://www.kobo.com/ebook/k-barthan-box-set

While I’m writing about that, I know it’s a little bit cheeky but if you’ve read the series and enjoyed it already, could you do me a huge favour? If you have time, would you be able to help new people find it by spreading the word about this promo, or sharing my Facebook post about it with your friends? I know dead cheeky, right? But if you think you can help, you will surely gain your right to fully-certified Christmas Awesomeness! You can find the Facebook post to share here.

That’s it from me for this week … next week I may tell you about my adventures when out metal detecting and I discovered the battery in my car key had gone, rendering the car impregnable. Perhaps I’ll describe how I fell to my knees in the mud and cried, ‘why me?’ as I realised my lunch was locked inside. Tune in next week and if I’ve got round to typing it up, you’ll find out what happens next and also the answer to the question, when you put a Lotus on a ramp, can you open the door and get in?

These and more adventures next week!

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Filed under About My Writing, Humorous Fantasy Author

The lady vanishes, or at least, the kids do …

So a light one this week from the non fiction family stories thing. The other day, there was a spoof article from SuffolkGazette – a jokey ‘news’ site on Facebook; ‘Girl, 9, disappears after putting on cream that makes you look 10 years younger.’  It made me think about this story about the antics my grandmother and great aunt got up to one evening when they were youngsters. My grandmother told me this story, herself, so it does come straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. She swore it was true and my mother thinks it quite probable that it is, so here, for your delectation …

The Vanishing Cream …

In this tale, Nye, my grandmother, was twelve years old, which would make Aunty, her sister, four. Nye comes over as a great deal less streetwise than twelve year olds today, but then, it was another era and having lived with ‘Granny’ Mum’s view was that she would have kept her children as young and naive as possible for as long as possible. Nye and Aunty didn’t go to school. They had a governess, who was French. When this story takes place I can only assume that she was elsewhere, or believed her charges to be in bed. 

Anyway, Nye had discovered a pot of Pond’s Vanishing Cream on her mother’s dressing table and was extremely intrigued as to what it did. Vanishing cream was first introduced in 1892 and got the name because it’s a cream that disappears when it is rubbed on. Nye’s Mum would probably have used it as a moisturiser or a colourless base for makeup. However, Nye had convinced herself that her mother wore it to make herself invisible. Reading a bit too much E Nesbitt, perhaps? Who knows, but whatever the reason, one night, while their parents were downstairs entertaining friends to dinner and the Governess was … elsewhere … Nye and Aunty, went ‘exploring’ around the house and crept into their mother’s bedroom. 

Immediately, Nye’s eye lit on the pot.

‘Look!’ she said, showing it to her little sister. ‘Vanishing cream! If we rub this on ourselves it will turn us invisible.’

‘Really?’ asked Aunty, saucer-eyed.

‘Yes. That’s how Mother knows when we have been naughty in lessons,’ Nye explained, never thinking, for a moment, that this might be because the Governess reported it to her when she reported on their progress.

The girls decided they would test how effective the cream was. Aunty went first and was disappointed to discover that she could still see herself. Nye put some cream on, with similar results. 

The two of them thought for a moment. 

‘I know what it is,’ said Nye. ‘We should undress because otherwise, even if people can’t see us our clothes will be visible.’

‘Is that why we can see one another?

‘I don’t know, let’s try.’

The two of them took of their clothes and put vanishing cream on literally every part of their bodies, I do hope, for their mother’s sake, that it wasn’t too expensive. They stood back and regarded one another.

‘Can you see me?’ asked Nye.

‘Yes,’ said Aunty.

‘I can see you too.’

‘Perhaps it isn’t working,’ said Aunty.

Nye thought for a moment. 

‘There is a way we can find out.’

‘How?’ 

‘I’ll tell you …’

Aunty was all set to try Nye’s cunning plan and so together, the two of them, still as starkers as the day they were born, crept downstairs. 

From the dining room came the sound of cutlery chinking gently on plates and genteel voices having refined and proper dinner time conversation. Nye pushed the door open a crack. Nobody took any notice. She turned back to her sister.

‘Remember, they can hear us, even if they can’t see us, so we mustn’t talk,’ she whispered, and put her finger to her lips. Aunty mimicked the gesture and nodded.

Nye opened the door a little more and slipped into the room.

The two girls stood there, in silence.

No-one reacted.

Nye walked round the table. The grown ups carried on talking, oblivious. Aunty’s hands flew to her mouth to try and muffle her gasp of delight. She went to join Nye and the two of them danced, cavorted and skipped about the room in silence. The grown ups made absolutely no sign of noticing anything. Perhaps if they were a bit older, our two heroines might have noticed Grandpop’s demeanour take on a somewhat stoic set, or might have seen the visible loss of colour on their mother’s face. They might even have noticed the atmosphere among the adults become a little strained, seen how a couple of the guests eyes bulged or heard how the conversation had taken on a somewhat stilted tone. But as it was, they were twelve and four, and not yet sufficiently aware of human nature to hoist in any subtleties like that.

After about ten minutes cavorting about without being seen got boring so Aunty and Nye left the room and returned to their bedroom; upstairs, next to the nursery. The Vanishing Cream Experiment had been an unmitigated success and the two of them slept soundly that night, dreaming of the wonderful things they would be able to do and places they would be able to visit now that they could become invisible.

The following morning, Nye and Aunty heard the governess being told off, extensively. When the two of them were called in to see Granny and Grandpop in the drawing room after breakfast they knew something was up. 

‘What do you think you were doing last night?’ asked Granny. 

‘Sleeping?’ asked Nye with more hope than conviction.

‘Before that. When you were cavorting about the dinner table divest of every single stitch of clothing.’

Nye was surprised. 

‘Did you see us?’ she asked. 

‘Of course I did.’

Oh dear. Although, thinking about it, maybe family members could see one another, yes, Nye reflected. That would explain why Aunty and her could see one another, too. However, she was sure none of the guests had noticed.

‘But we thought we were invisible,’ said Aunty.

‘Why on earth would you think that?’ asked Grandpop.

‘Because we were wearing vanishing cream,’ Nye explained, ‘and that’s why no-one else noticed us.’

‘You utter fools! Of course they noticed you!’ said Granny. 

She heaved a sigh and then Grandpop stepped in and went on to explain that some things are ‘not quite nice’ and those things are ‘not talked about’ and that two nude child children cavorting around the table at dinner would fall into the category of ‘not quite nice’ and ‘not talked about’ hence the gathered guests would do what any British person should do when confronted with such a disgusting spectacle. Ignore it stoically until it went away.

Nye was in a home by the time she told me this story and sadly, Aunty had already died, so I was never able to get her side of the story, and I’d have loved to have heard it. I remember Nye saying, 

‘Can you imagine it? There they were eating while two little girls danced around the dinner table naked and they were so stuffy they pretended we weren’t there.’

She clearly felt it served them right. I suspect Granny and Grandpop may have had more of a sense of humour than family history gives them credit for. But it’s quite clear that, whether or not they did, Nye was unrepentant, if not at the time then certainly in her late eighties.

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Filed under General Wittering, Tall Family Tales

The downside of making progress

Just a quick one today. I’m sitting in a cafe, drinking an enormous bucket of hot chocolate while I while away an hour before McMini’s harvest service. Very important I go to this one as Scion has a speaking part! Woot. There will also be a Hymn I Know, apparently, so I must make sure I am in a position to sing loudly without causing undue distress to people around me, ie I must stand at the back, alone at least twenty yards from anyone who can hear.

On the up side … I have my keys, although I didn’t yesterday. I was late meeting McMini after school – he walks half way home on his own and I meet him in town – because I managed to lock myself out of the house. On the upside, I did, at least, realise I had no keys before I locked myself out of the garden as well. The garden is a nightmare because my disability makes it impossible to just climb over the wall and unlock the gate. I have to borrow a ladder or a chair and lean over.

On the other hand, the house is easy, I’m usually back inside in about twenty seconds. It did make me late though, because I had to find the ruddy keys before I could come out again and I had wet knees from kneeling on the doormat. There are times when I wish my life wasn’t quite so remeniscent of a badly written situation comedy. Obviously any character as ditsy as I would be totally unrealistic when written into fiction. I can’t believe I’ve reached the stage where I’m so bad that, as a fictional character, I’d be untenable. Nobody is actually that crap in reality … er hem … well … no-one except me.

Obviously, even for me, locking yourself out of the garden or house three times in about five days is pretty impressive going. Now it could be menopausal brain fog – yes ladies I can tell you, for nothing, that really is a Thing – but I think it may be the knock on effects of my efforts to do a little bit of something. It sounds mad but thanks to the lovely Joseph Michael’s course on Writer’s Block, I have been following his advice to merely aim for ten minutes’ writing a day. The results have been so splendid that I’ve been doing it for other things. The results are a very much calmer, less tense MT because doing secret me stuff that I enjoy makes me happy and fulfilled.

However, by making this time for me stuff, I fear I may have inadvertently overstretched the mental capacity available. The way my memory for administriatitive shite works is that it has a finite amount of space and when that fills up, as I put stuff in one end other things start leaking out of the back. My old headmistress used to use the analogy of a sponge. As in; it can fill up with a certain amount of water but after that, when you put more water in, stuff that’s in there starts running out. This appears to be what is happening.

By doing things I enjoy alongside all the stuff I have to, I have discovered that the things I like are starting to take up a portion of that memory and as a result, shite, like remembering to pick up my keys as I leave the house is falling out. I am lurching from one, ‘shit McMini! We’re supposed to be at …’ insert name of specially organised Year Six event here. And just getting to things on time; school open days, upper school head master’s talks, providing packed lunches on the days McMini requires them, going to school in his PE kit with a bag full of his normal school uniform, or, like today, remembering that it’s harvest festival at ten am and that I have to be there.

To be honest, I’m not sure what to do about it. I am so much happier and more fulfilled if I do a few things I want to do alongside things I have to do that I’m loathe to go back to tense frustrated MTM. But at the same time, I don’t want to reach the stage where I fail to function as a human being in normal society! A stage upon the brink of which I am teetering, right now.

It’s a fine balance to strike and Mum is particularly muddled at the moment so I have to remember a bit more than usual for her and way, way more than usual for McMini. The quiet oceans of peace when McOther takes him to football on a Monday evening are gone because McOther is no longer home in time. I think the thought collection time is definitely lacking and perhaps this is part of the problem. I’m not sure.

Whatever it is, Real Life is rather too busy for my taste, McOther is buried under work and so I’m doing the cooking. By doing every dish from scratch and eschewing everything ready made I am hoping to lose some weight. It isn’t actually that much more work than using cook in sauces and I am cautiously optimistic that it may be working. Might need to hold back on the spuds a bit though. The cooking isn’t a problem but I do have to be a bit more organised, there are lots of lists although I seldom remember to take them with me when I go shopping etc.

Back to the drawing board then. I don’t want to drop the things that make me happy but I definitely have to find a way to remember more crap.

I leave you with a McMini-ism. Last night at about 3 am he called out. I went and found him on the stairs having had a bad dream. I sat down a few steps below him and told him he had far worse things to worry about, like that his mum might wee on the stairs because I really needed to go to the loo. He laughed and then told me he’d dreamed we were fixing my car, that his dad had given him a coke to drink and that he’d inadvertently drunk from a bottle of rat poison we were using instead and died. I said that sounded like a bummer but that if he was dreaming of dying it was a sure sign that he was enjoying life! I asked him he’d like a hug. Yes, he would, he told me. So I hugged him tight. Too tight. He farted loudly and then guffawing with laughter told me,

“I’ll be alright now Mummy!” and we both went, giggling, to bed.

Incidentally, as I prepare this for posting, it’s later in the day. I’ve managed to leave the house to collect my son with my keys, I locked the garden gate without shutting the keys the wrong side … trouble was, when I got home again, I realised I’d forgotten to lock the door. Hmm. Let’s call this a work in progress.

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The days when it drives you crazy! #dementia

Today, I’m going to explain some frustrations about looking after vulnerable elderly family members. Here they are:

  • Masses of frustrating administrivia.
  • The whole thing is a monumental time suck. You’ll find yourself wondering how the fuck they ran their lives before you and the care team came along to do it for them.
  • If you are going to allow the vulnerable person any independence, there will be slip ups. You will not believe how comprehensively they can stuff things up and you will have to do a lot of gatekeeping and/or clearing up.
  • Things will also stuff up randomly with monotonous regularity.
  • You will need to remember a lot of things for them.
  • Keeping them social and independent may involve covert surveillance from the wings, so to speak, so you can fix any bog ups quietly in the background, or at the least, see them coming. That may feel like spying or going behind their back. It isn’t. You’re just supporting them so they can be free for as long as possible. Hold onto that when it gets tough, my lovelies. Because …
  • The gift, or possibly the illusion, that they are running their own affairs (even when they aren’t) is the best thing you can give them. Aim to let the person have as much independence as is humanely possible, for as long as possible because however vulnerable they may be, they are not children, and allowing them to take responsibility for things is great for their confidence if they are supported the right way.
  • You will be amazed how crass people can be when presented with a dementia sufferer.
  • You will be amazed how lovely people can be when presented with a dementia sufferer.
  • There may be times when you feel trapped and cornered by the crushing weight of the responsibility and will wish that you could just run away and never return.
  • Sometimes you’ll wonder if they wouldn’t be better off dead. It doesn’t matter how ableist that is, it’s going to happen especially if one of them has told you, repeatedly, that  they hope they will die, ‘before I lose my marbles. I can handle pain, but I don’t think I could bear that, or knowing how awful it will be for you.’

In short you will have many thoughts that may not be pleasant but try not to beat yourself up because I’d guarantee that most of them are perfectly natural. You have to accept that your negative feelings are as natural as the positive ones. You have to accept yourself and look after yourself as well as them. Because if you go down, everything does!

When it comes to the time, you won’t mind putting the time in, and actually, most days, you’ll feel that it’s an honour. But on other occasions you may be roundly cursing your loved ones, especially if you have to drop everything and sort out whatever mess they’ve got themselves into. It’s nothing to be upset about when that happens so long as you don’t do it in front of them, because you’re human, and there will be times when it and they drive you buggy, no matter how much you love them.

Case in point, this week. It’s has been a bit hectic. Mum has reached the stage when we should really be activating the lasting power of attorney over her finances as well as Dad’s but if we do that, she can’t have a cheque book or bank card and neither can I. Running someone’s day to day finances and shopping needs from over 100 miles away isn’t going to be easy if none of them have access to a cash point and Mum can’t pay for anything by cheque either.

Sure, we can do it, but it will involve transferring hundreds of pounds to my own bank account every week and getting them out, putting them in an envelope and taking them down to my parents’ place. To be honest, I don’t fancy walking about with £500 plus on board, even in my quiet market town. Then, we have to hide the cash at Mum and Dad’s. We can put it in the safe but their having all that cash sloshing about is still not a prospect I relish.

Also even if I did it, what happens when I go away on holiday?

God bless my Mum, she managed to spend nearly £300 on some manure the other day. It’s excellent stuff, but she didn’t really need 36 bags. She used to, because she used to use a lot of it and would pass it on to friends. But not anymore. After that, and other scares, and a brief discussion with the carers we decided we’d hide the cheque book and card in the safe. Needless to say, when I looked in there, I found a bunch of cash I’d put in for emergencies while I was away on holiday a year ago – this was at a point where we were trying to have me bring cash each week and it wasn’t working. Obviously, there were four old tenners, so I had to put the new ones from my wallet in and take the others home where I could go into ‘any bank’ to swap them.

When I got home after three and a half hours of joy round the M25, I rang the fellow who sold her the manure. He wasn’t there so I left a message.

He didn’t call back until the next day and was extremely understanding but couldn’t really do much more than give us a discount and promise not to call again next year. I’ve had at least three bags of his manure, via Mum, so I do know he is legit but it was a pity. He also rang me just as McMini and I were leaving the house and it took us half an hour to sort it out. Half an hour that I didn’t really have.

Having agreed that Mum and Dad would have to keep the manure, but that he’d tear up cheque and I would pay a reduced sum by BACS, the next day, McOther then pointed out that I should wait to pay him until he’d sent the cheque back. Or stop it and then pay him. So then I had to stop the cheque.

However, HSBC’s Indian call centre came up trumps here. They still can’t pronounce the name McGuire but they are now more intuitive. Today I spoke to a lady who stopped the cheque for me and then, when I explained why I was stopping it, she waived the fee. Last time, when I was checking that there wasn’t a standing order pending for an insurance policy on her white goods that Mum had bought and I’d cancelled, the guy put a note on that no standing order should be approved without asking me. A stark contrast to the bastards at NatWest who would only change Mum’s old tenners if I had an account with them. Yes, after the thirty minute delay of the call with the manure man, it took us another fifteen to find a bank in the centre of town who’d swap the stupid tenners. Thank heavens there’s a Santander, where, ironically, I have an account but the teller swapped it all over without even asking if I do.

So the moral of this story appears to be don’t bank with NatWest, they’re a bunch of cAROOOGAHts.

It looks as if the suckers list Mum and Dad are on has just changed hands again and the ‘call blocker’ bastards are phoning every day, along with people ringing to say that the TV/Washing Machine/insert white goods here ‘insurance’ policy is due when there isn’t one. The former are scamming bastards out to rip off the vulnerable. The latter are selling worthless, overpriced services by cold calling people who are on the Telephone Preference Service (which is punishable by a £5k fine) but they are at least legitimate companies with websites and directors registered at Companies House even if their corporate ethics are in a fucking mess.

All of them call themselves something generic which is searched for lots on Google; Home Insurance Services or Call Technology Services, Home Services Limited or the like, things that will ensure any internet search for a record of their existence is buried under pages and pages of results. The other trouble is, if you are kind of person who purchases a suckers list in the first place, you’re not going to worry about selling it on with records that are duff when you’re done. As a result, every three months or so, Mum and Dad get a massive surge of these scam calls and then, as the shit-heads realise there are gatekeepers, the calls fall away until the list is sold on again.

Bastards.

However, I have a plan for the next call blocker selling weasel who phones when I’m at my parents. It’s going to be a gas! I’ll let you know how it goes.

I have a cunning plan … hnur, hnur, hnurrrrr.

 

 

 

 

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