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eXPassenger
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« Reply #30 on: March 28, 2020, 10:52:11 am »

I will start by saying my only direct railway connection is that I spent much of my working life based in Bristol but spending 1 or more days a week in London, so I saw the migration of HST 1st Class from BR all the way to FGW.  The nearest I can get to railways is that my grandfather was a civil engineer and his first job was as assistant engineer on the building of the Lynton and Barnstaple railway.

I am interested in the general development of the railway system as part of our industrial heritage and operationally as a complex, real time, system.

I am Devon born and one of my early recollections is waiting at the Broom crossing gates while a SR express hurtled through.  Broom gates were completely manual, but at the next crossing (Axe gates) the gates were controlled by a wheel in the signal box – very exciting for a small boy.
 
After reading Chemistry at Exeter University I qualified as a Chartered Accountant, specialised in IT security and then became an IT consultant.  I have worked on infrastructure, email systems and business process design with some lower level work running systems and programming, mostly for large corporates.  My final full time work was in financial services IT management.  Before finally retiring I worked part time as an IT trouble shooter for a major UK agricultural company.
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ellendune
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« Reply #31 on: March 28, 2020, 10:59:18 am »

I am a Civil Engineer and my professional railway experience is largely limited to about 2 months working on railway tamper development for BR at Derby (and in field trials in north Nottinghamshire and the ECML) in the mid 1970's and a related final year project at university.  After that I moved into local government for a time and then in the water industry for most of the last 40 years. I live near Swindon and have regularly used trains to travel for meetings in London, Birmingham and less frequently further north for the last 30 years or so. Have also occasionally used trains to travel to meetings on the near continent (Rotterdam, Paris, Brussels and Cologne) for work. I now work part time - for the time being - from home.    
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Sixty3Closure
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« Reply #32 on: March 28, 2020, 10:47:02 pm »

Going against the grain I have no interest in trains or railways other than as a commuter. I found the Forum after failing to get answers from FGW (as was) about poor service, electrification, train upgrades or even why my train was constantly cancelled.

I would like to say that I do appreciate all the help and information I've had over the last few years. I'm not sure knowing why my train has failed to turn up again has made me any  less grumpy but I do understand why things happen which is better than just feeling lost or angry. It's also given me a certain cachet amongst my fellow travellers when I'm able to announce with confidence that the 06.53 will be 12 carriages in December (to pick one random example). Its been a very welcoming community.

I appear to be a bit younger than many of the members and have worked exclusively in broadcasting for pretty much most of my working life. Resolutely stayed away from the technical and engineering side but have at various times been a producer, reporter, film editor, archivist, project manager and business continuity lead. Currently sitting in middle management with a job title that even I don't understand trying to work out how to keep the News broadcasting/publishing with very few staff and no one to drive any of infrastructure.
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Reading General
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« Reply #33 on: March 29, 2020, 11:50:33 am »

I'm a former driver for Reading Transport of almost 20 years. I had to stop working over a year ago to look after a family member full time as there wasn't a lot of options. I have an interest in public transport in general (pun intended) but particularly permanent forms of urban transport. My interest in railways began from quite an early age, being taken to see HST's and the like at Reading (General) station by my late father and discovering former lines on maps, heading out on a bike to find them. As I grew older, railways became my means of exploring the south for various activities in the glory days of a run down railway with slam door stock and it astounded me of the sheer variety of places possible to visit in one day from Reading.

I never particularly had any interest in buses, save for trolleybuses which my dad was interested in, I simply joined the bus company for a job as I had a licence and found myself out of work. My interest and general pestering of management for better services in my later years as a driver was for the best interests of the town rather than as a disgruntled employee, as Reading is somewhere I like to promote, even if it is a much maligned town. I've been to Europe many times, to some fairly average places with much better public transport networks than any of ours and I would like to see Reading, and the country in general, have and view public transport in the same manner. To see public transport as the best choice to move around urban areas rather than just the option if you don't have a car.

Cheers
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #34 on: March 29, 2020, 02:16:08 pm »

My name is Tim Weekes, and I am a born, bred and buttered Bristolian.

My interest in railways is probably in my DNA; Dad was a keen railway photographer. He could give you the number of any named GW loco, and could tell you the boiler pressure and tractive effort of every class and sub-class. One of my earliest memories is of an open day at Bath Road shed, probably in 1965. I think Clun Castle was there, and I remember being thrilled to squeeze through the hot engine room of what may have been a Western.

I was brought up in South Bristol, close to the Bristol and North Somerset Railway. We bought our first family car, a 1956 Austin A50, in 1968, and on sunny weekends we would go for a drive to Cheddar or the Mendips. It seemed that at every railway bridge we passed Dad would say ‘That was the old Slow and Dirty’ or ‘That was the line up to Yatton’. As a child, it seemed to me that decline and closure was the inevitable future of rail.

I was awarded a free place at Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital School in Bristol in the early seventies.  Every day I travelled into town on the No.3 bus. I watched as much of Totterdown, that amazing warren of steep streets, was torn to the ground for an massive road junction that thankfully never came. In the school library, I discovered Reece Winstone’s excellent ‘Bristol as it Was’ books, which give the lie to the popular conception that the Luftwaffe destroyed old Bristol. They didn’t - it was the Highways Engineers. At that time a ring of blight and dereliction was ripening through Bedminster, Totterdown, St Pauls, Montpelier and even into Cotham and Clifton. To me it seemed sad but inevitable that these areas would be bulldozed for urban motorways.

In my teens, I took to exploring the surrounding area by bus. In those days the Bristol Omnibus Company covered the area from Bridgwater to Hungerford and up to Cheltenham, and I have happy memories of squeezing through Axbridge in an LH, being thrown out of my seat on a speeding FLF between Gloucester and Cheltenham, bumping along lanes near Devizes in an MW, and even exploring hidden Stroud valleys in an SUS.

I worked at Rolls-Royce in Bristol for 20 years, developing computer-aided design software and later managing distributed computing networks. After a few years managing software distribution for Orange, I realised that the business my wife had set up, doing web design, was much more interesting! So I joined her, and that’s what I still do.

Railways were fairly peripheral to my life until I moved to my current house near Montpelier Station in 2001. I visited preserved railways from time to time, and used the train when travelling long distances alone, but this was probably not more than once or twice a year.

Living near a local train station has changed my perspective on what rail can offer: probably half my journeys now begin at Montpelier Station. Latterly, inspired by grahame’s campaigning, I’ve been getting more active in trying to promote rail as part of a sustainable transport system. I’m now the webmaster for Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways (FoSBR) and an adminstrator on the Coffee Shop forum.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2020, 06:20:05 pm by Red Squirrel » Logged
Bob_Blakey
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« Reply #35 on: March 30, 2020, 01:04:39 pm »

London Bus Syndrome? Another geologist (there would be more of us if people realised what an endlessly fascinating subject it is) who worked in the oil industry for 10 years until redundancy induced by the 1986 oil price crash. Which was a shame as I was enjoying living in Singapore and working on contracts in various Asian countries at the time. 28 years with a multinational telecoms outfit followed, seemingly because in 1987 I already knew how to work a computer. As you will have guessed I (also) don't do internet anonymity. And I still don't think the 'On The Buses' remarks are that funny! Retired since 08/2015. My only, extremely tenuous, connection with the railways was as the lessee of a patch of British Rail land near Cowley Bridge Junction which was used as an allotment; it was next to my first house which, at the time, was the last house on the west side of Cowley Bridge Road going north - a veritable train spotters paradise although I do remember the 'Westerns' being a tad noisy.
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grahame
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« Reply #36 on: March 30, 2020, 03:45:27 pm »

London Bus Syndrome? Another geologist (there would be more of us if people realised what an endlessly fascinating subject it is) ...

Did I ever admit to my first two jobs being at SSL (Seismograph Services Ltd) and Seiscom ... firmly based in the UK at Petts Wood, briefly Keston and Sevenoaks, processing data from Oman then moving into computer operations, finally joining the software development team.  Lead me astray and I braced off into Computer Graphics. I refused a derisory job offer after Uni, to realise a couple of years later what a favour that offer had done me, as it had meant I had passed up a job with a company who's manager (I'm sure with hindsight) knew they were soon to announce a move of their processing out of the UK, and didn't want me to take what he knew would be only of for months but couldn't say. 
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Chris from Nailsea
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« Reply #37 on: April 22, 2020, 02:07:19 am »

Chris from Nailsea here. Wink

That's exactly who I am: I'm Chris, and I've lived in Nailsea, North Somerset, for the past 20 years. I was born in Plymouth in 1959 and lived there, in Plymstock and Elburton until I was 14, when my family moved to Bristol.

I had no real contact with the railways, other than family days out on steam trains, but those are what I remember.  In particular, I have a memory of my father carrying me (aged about three) down a platform on Plymouth North Road station to say hello to the driver of one of the first diesel trains there. I remember that the driver gave me a small metal enamel badge of a diesel train - probably the worst thing to give a toddler, with the benefit of hindsight!  No, I don't have it now, and no, I don't think I swallowed it then.  Roll Eyes

Moving forward many years now: when I was married and my family had moved to Nailsea (via Portishead, which is where I developed my keen interest in the re-opening of that particular branch line), I used the railway to get in to work in Bristol.  Except that it didn't, all too often.  Wessex Trains services were basic, unreliable and often unapologetic.  It was something of a relief when First took over - but in the early days, they weren't much better.

That's around the time that I joined the Coffee Shop forum. It was the last week before Christmas, and I was so frustrated that I couldn't get answers to my questions about 'how can things be going so wrong?'. I then stumbled across this online forum, while searching for such information, and found what I was looking for. I promptly signed up as a posting member, and was welcomed into the family here. Within months of my joining, I was very flattered (and indeed embarrassed) to be invited to become a moderator here. Since then, I have genuinely enjoyed my time on this forum, interacting with so many characters - mostly good, and only sometimes rather more challenging. Wink

Returning to my experience on the railways: In the financial crash of 2008, I was made redundant, so I no longer needed to commute into Bristol. However, I did subsequently do some railway-related activity with the Severnside Community Rail Partnership (Hi, Keith and Heather! Wink), liaising with teams of Community Payback offenders doing unpaid remedial work at railway stations and car parks, for example.

Moving on yet again, I am now a grocery delivery van driver partner with Waitrose. We live in interesting times.  Grin

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William Huskisson MP was the first person to be killed by a train while crossing the tracks, in 1830.  Many more have died in the same way since then.  Don't take a chance: stop, look, listen.

"Level crossings are safe, unless they are used in an unsafe manner."  Discuss.
eightonedee
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« Reply #38 on: April 22, 2020, 02:56:28 pm »

This thread seems to have run out of steam a little!

I am still intrigued to know if Didcotdean is a clergyman or admirer of late 19th century GWR steam engines, and wonder how Stuving acquired his encyclopedic knowledge of everything........
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Trowres
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« Reply #39 on: April 22, 2020, 09:54:20 pm »

My story begins close to the "Golden Mile" of the Western Valley line to Newport from - in those days - not only Ebbw Vale but also Brynmawr, Tredegar, and Brecon.

There is some insight here into the workings of the young mind, as it struggles to comprehend what it sees for the first time, devoid of background and historical context. My one surviving grandparent lived adjacent to the railway in Pontymister (between Rogerstone and Risca) at a time when this part of the railway was four-tracked. As a young child the passing of trains fascinated me. My father also took me to watch trains. Our local station was Bassaleg Junction. Western Valley passenger services ceased 1962 pre-Beeching, and yet I think that I saw a DMU at this station. Father also took me to watch trains at Newport High Street. And yet, I have absolutely no memory of steam trains in service, although they undoubtedly were. The difference between steam and diesel seemed to be lost on me as a youngster, except in terms of a story book I possessed (it was not one of the Awdry series).

Strangely, early memories of Newport High Street station are of a display of sanitary ware near the ticket barriers (by local merchant Davies Bros). Maybe a bit later in time, there was an illuminated sign in the booking hall advertising that Newport was "Home of the Mole Wrench".

Father sometimes took me with him on local (road) journeys. I have a tantalising memory of what can only be a train on Crumlin Viaduct. I definitely saw tantalising glimpses of Pontypool Road Station from the nearby road bridge, and the large array of sidings and loco shed on the other side.

And then... it felt that my memory was playing tricks on me. Surely I had seen a signal box by the underbridge at my local station? Were there not signals visible from my grandmother's house?

Gradually, one made sense of the sad scene of disappearing features; the rusting rails and voids where sleepers formerly were bedded. The low bridge in Rogerstone that once carried trains into the Alcan factory. Condemned vehicles lined up awaiting their fate. I was never to see used an interesting line that crossed the main road in the middle of Risca; it latterly served Bird's scrapyard, I believe.

The Western Valley remained busy with freight, and as the level of the line was above my grandmother's house, I was unaware of the removal of two of the tracks. A footbridge was still visible, marking the site of Tynycwm Halt, from which my mother commuted during the second world war.

Memories are of B class 37s (not that I knew them as such) growling with heavy iron ore trains to Ebbw Vale; clanking coal trains coming down the valley. A great variety of wagons of part-finished goods with mysterious names: vanfit, shochood, hybar... in those days the route was incredibly busy.

But for the first ten years of my life train travel was largely unknown; one shopping expedition to Cardiff, and an excursion to Bristol Zoo. On the latter, the expected diesel (I was told) had failed. I assume the replacement was steam, but I have no recollection. Did the train really hang about for ages at some station on the way - and how did it reach Clifton? I often wonder.

Another relative worked at Cadbury's, Bournville, with a garden ending at the Camp Hill line. No trains on the day we visited. I was disappointed, but heard an explanation (right or wrong?) that included the word "Beeching".

I was gradually making sense of the  changing railway world around me.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2020, 10:26:02 pm by Trowres » Logged
Incider
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« Reply #40 on: April 22, 2020, 11:41:56 pm »

As the name suggests, I work in the rail industry and am happy to add to threads where I can reveal some incider knowledge or answer questions.  I have Engineering and operational experience.
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Adelante_CCT
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« Reply #41 on: April 26, 2020, 12:59:57 pm »

My real name is Carwyn, born, bred and have always lived in the western areas of Reading. Currently have 3 children (definitely no more) with the youngest having severe autism and numerous other complications (mentioned elsewhere on the forum). Straight out of my college years I went to work for for a Stove Enamelling/Powder Coating plant located behind the new Reading Traincare Depot on Cardiff Road where I have been for the past 15 years.

My background into railways came from my parents both working and meeting in the (old) Paddington Telesales office off of Platform 1, both went on to work in different roles at both Swindon and Reading. As a result I grew up with free rail travel (priv pass) and have travelled the length and breadth of the country as a result. This has tailed off a lot in my adult years but still travel by train whenever I can. I do have a small amount of 'real railway' experience in that in my much younger days I used to assist with signalling operations at the Shobnall Maltings signalbox on the late William McAlpine's garden railway at Fawley Hill.

I have been apart of this forum now for 5 years, work commitments have meant I have drifted in and out of the forum over the past few months but due to much lower work levels recently hopefully I have time to integrate with the forum once again.
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4064ReadingAbbey
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« Reply #42 on: April 28, 2020, 09:20:04 pm »

The spare time generated by this Covid-19 thing encourages vacillation which has kept me put off applying my fingers to the keyboard - but as it pouring with rain today I have finally taken myself by the scruff of the neck…

My name is Robert and I am a war baby, born in Reading. Until I was at grammar school I only had a passing interest in railways but one or two earlier memories stand out. One was walking with my grandfather who was pushing a pram with my younger brother in it to watch the shunting engines in Reading Central Goods Depot beside the Kennet. The bang-bang-bang-bang is a sound which I can still hear in my mind’s ear.

My mother, together with one of her friends who had a son the same age, used to take us once each school holiday somewhere ‘educational’ which would appeal to three young boys. So we went to Navy Days at Portsmouth by train, to London Airport by bus (the Thames Valley Victoria 'B' service), the Tower of London and, of course, to the Science Museum in South Kensington. On one of these latter trips we were were waiting on Platform 5 at Reading when one of the two ‘Kerosine Castles’ whistled through at speed. Was that noisy! And it left the same smell behind it as the Vickers Viscounts did at London Airport when seen from the top of the Queens Building. It was obviously the future…

At the age of 14 I went on a school holiday trip to Rome, by train. We left Reading one chill morning in April for Paddington and carried our suitcases round to Victoria on the Circle. We were steam hauled on what I assume was the Golden Arrow, but in an ordinary coach, to Folkestone Marine - I remember reversing and a row of little tank engines - and crossed to Calais. I have very little memory of the ship, but the train was the Train CB (overnight Calais - Bâle, in compartments each with six boys, two lying in the luggage racks) where we had breakfast in a cavernous cafeteria at about 6 o’clock in the morning. We changed trains there, went over the Gotthard to Milan where our coach was shunted between trains. On the adjacent platform was one of the Settebello trains looking like something out of Dan Dare - even more of the future than the Kerosine Castle. We arrived in Rome Termini in the evening, some 36 hours after leaving Reading - the corridors of the youth hostel still rolled and rocked and clicketty-clacked for another couple of days. After getting home I still didn’t really appreciate railways, they were very exhausting, but the scenery I saw was spectacular and I think the travel bug infected me.

A couple of years later I did an exchange visit to Sweden for a month, by ship from Tilbury having got there by train from St. Pancras. During the time I was away my younger brother was at a loose end and was persuaded by some friends to go train spotting at Reading. As a result he was seriously bitten by the railways bug and later won an engineering scholarship from BR and read mechanical engineering after spending a year being an engineering apprentice at Swindon and afterwards at Bath Road depot. He left the railways some ten years later as the bureaucracy was getting him down, but still remains in touch with many of the people he met.

Back from Sweden he persuaded me to go with him to the station and I saw the first of the diesels, Ark Royal and the like. Somehow I must have realised that I was lucky enough to be present at a time when the world was changing for ever and also got bitten by the bug. But in my case it was more to do with finding out about the history, the technology and the social impact the railway had made. The Great Western’s locomotives, although mostly terribly run down by the time I started to appreciate them, were elegant; the sights, sounds and smells were primeval. Paddington was breath taking when I saw it with new eyes.

After that I read Physics at Battersea College of Advanced Technology (now the University of Surrey) under Professor Lewis Elton - a polymath and mind opener. One of the most inspiring people I ever met.

I never lived up to his intellectual abilities but stayed an experimental physicist, working first in Chelmsford on TV camera tubes and then on scientific vacuum equipment in Crawley. Then came the three-day week; a bit like now business was on hold with no chances of promotion or a pay increase - and this after some years of stagnation. In the early autumn of 1973 The Daily Telegraph carried an advertisement for ‘Vacuum Technology in Bavaria’ with interviews in the first instance to be held in Slough. I wrote in, received a postcard saying that my application had been received and they would contact me. A couple of months went by without hearing anything and I assumed that the whole thing had died until, sometime in November I received an invitation for an interview in Ulm. I trotted off to a travel agent and asked how I could get to Ulm, I was asked where it was and I said ‘Southern Germany’. ‘Then you want Munich’ was the reply. This was now in the run up towards Christmas, then there were only about three flights per day in each direction and they were all full. I made an international phone call (the excitement and the expense!) expecting not to understand a word but I was answered in perfect English and was told they would be quite happy to see me in the New Year. So I did, and I knew I had landed the job before I was on the plane home. Then the Doubts set in…but I started work there a couple of months later and found out that the advertisement had lied - Ulm is in Baden-Wurttemberg!

I got married in Germany, my late father in law was a country GP and I think most of Schleswig-Holstein turned up for the Polterabend! After nearly eight years in Ulm we moved to Belgium following a job offer from a technology consulting company. Five years after that we found ourselves in the Île de France as I took up a position with Apple Computer Europe in European R&D in Paris. I said to myself as I drove to Ulm in my Cortina that whatever happened I would stick it out for six months - I got back to the UK some twenty years later…

So, I have never worked for the railway, but I get great pleasure these days in swanning around in trains. I still enjoy the sights and sounds of the railway, but electric railways are a bit short in the smells department.
 
One of the legacies of Lewis Elton was his insistence that physicists should not be narrow-minded technicians and to this end hung artistic works in the corridors of the Physics department in Battersea and insisted that we all take ‘Liberal Studies’ for a couple of periods each week. This covered subjects such as literature, industrial relations and trades union history, geography and economics, for which one of the tutors was a lady who wrote for The Economist. Beeching’s report on the ‘Reshaping of British Railways’ was published while I was at Battersea and this was an ideal subject for discussion and debate. I think this is where my interest in the complex interplay of economics, financing, politics and social policies where they affect the railways and their business had its roots.

But I still hanker after the shrill scream of a Landore Castle dipping and rolling at speed across the Westbury Line junction at the head of the evening Up ’South Wales Pullman”…
« Last Edit: April 28, 2020, 09:30:42 pm by 4064ReadingAbbey » Logged
grahame
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« Reply #43 on: April 29, 2020, 06:26:18 am »

The spare time generated by this Covid-19 thing encourages vacillation which has kept me put off applying my fingers to the keyboard - but as it pouring with rain today I have finally taken myself by the scruff of the neck…

Thank you for doing so - a fascinating read.
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ellendune
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« Reply #44 on: April 29, 2020, 10:58:35 am »

The spare time generated by this Covid-19 thing encourages vacillation which has kept me put off applying my fingers to the keyboard - but as it pouring with rain today I have finally taken myself by the scruff of the neck…

Please remember there are some of us who have no more and possibly less spare time during Covid-19.  Yes I have saved the travel time (only occasional hold ups on the way through the dining room), but some things take a bit longer. 
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You can find out more about how this forum works [here] - that will link you to a copy of the forum agreement that you can read before you join, and tell you very much more about how we operate. We are an independent forum, provided and run by customers of Great Western Railway, for customers of Great Western Railway and we welcome railway professionals as members too, in either a personal or official capacity. Views expressed in posts are not necessarily the views of the operators of the forum.

As well as posting messages onto existing threads, and starting new subjects, members can communicate with each other through personal messages if they wish. And once members have made a certain number of posts, they will automatically be admitted to the "frequent posters club", where subjects not-for-public-domain are discussed; anything from the occasional rant to meetups we may be having ...

 
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