A Judge Decided by Helen Fenwick

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Act of 1996 is a unilateral treaty which seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international borders. Its main objective is to enforce rights of custody over a child or children who have been wrongfully removed or kept in a foreign country in breach of those rights and to secure their prompt return to the country where the child or children habitually reside.

In the story I have written a judge must decide the future of two very young boys caught up in the complications of this law.

In our modern world divorce is a reality for many couples. But when one parent is in one country and the other in another sharing custody of the children can become the focus of a bitter battle. Who ought to have the children? Should it automatically be the mother? Why not, the good father?

”A Judge Decided” is a fictionalised story based on some true events.

It is available for purchase from Eloise of Sonopuitgewers for R250,00 plus shipping. If you wish to purchase a copy, please email her with your details and she will quote you the final price.


Or contact me @ fenwickh@jebomail.co.za


Child custody – a topic often avoided, but when discussed, one that inevitably leads to heated debate; a controversial subject since King Solomon and his verdict on the rightful custodian of the disputed child.

Families are known, not only to divide, but to split because of the issue of child custody. Now Helen Fenwick examines in depth this contentious topic in her gripping new book, A judge Decided.

Written with circumspection and great sensitivity, Fenwick deftly interweaves other underlying issues of parent separation and third party involvement.

A Judge Decided is not only a remarkable legal case study based on true events, it exposes the human face of the dramatis personae in a deteriorating relationship.  In her groundbreaking work, Fenwick casts the reader into the roles of parents and children alike –  the latter caught between two counter poles. Central to the sub-plot of a husband substituting his loyal wife for another woman, is the presence of a mother pining for her children.

Written in the present tense, the book is refreshingly candid and characterised by  rare-found honesty, expressed in engaging dialogue between the characters.

Always hovering in the background, in another dimension,  is Leigh’s mother – her spirit guide who acts as mentor and counselor. Carey appears in the form of a bird – a heron, a sparrow, an owl –  to comfort both Leigh and Penny.

The author successfully portrays and explains bewilderingly legal issues, such as custody of the central character’s children in a disarmingly honest way. Her style is loose and pragmatic, and she paints her narrative in a flowing and easy way.  Enshrined in  the issue of custody, is The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Act 72 of 1996. Helen Fenwick not only untangles this complex legal web, but presents it to the critical reader in a palatable and credible way.  

At the risk of spoiling the reader’s potential enjoyment of this excellent work, I shall restrict myself to saying that the tension builds up palpably up to the point where the judge finally has to give his verdict. Will the forces of good prevail?

The print and layout is pleasing and attractive and Eloise Krige’s Sonop Uitgewers deserves a commendation for a job well done.

In conclusion:  A book dealing with the topic of A Judge Decided is long overdue and will be thoroughly appreciated by parents and individuals of all ages world-wide. Rating: *****

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Share Your World 10 May 2021

Here are my answers to this weeks Share Your World from Sparks

What do you believe but cannot prove?

There are so many beliefs in the world that cannot be proved and it is all very confusing. However, I believe that there is an element in all of them that points to a common almighty creator or force be it ‘the universe’, God, Allah or whatever. When I see a beautiful sunrise, awesome flora and fauna and the mighty ocean and I cannot help but believe that there is a God. Why do we need proof? I have yet to meet somebody who does not believe in some sort of unscientific thing not matter how they might protest against believing so. They do!

Somebody is responsible for the design and creation of this amazing creature

Do animals have morals?   Exclude human beings from the equation please. 

An animal will never wilfully do something cruel. Look at that apologetic look on your pet dog’s face when he knows he is in trouble. Wild animals only act to defend themselves or catch prey. They don’t destroy for the sake of it. There is no such thing as an evil animal. I don’t know whether you could call this having morals but they certainly are better behaved than people.

I promise you, I’ll never leave you. I’ll be faithful to the end.

Is there inherent order in nature or is it all chaos and chance?

The chaos of nature has an order that we don’t understand. An orderly chaos if you please. It simply speaks of supreme creativity and then Man comes along and ruins it all.

Where is your least favorite place in the world?

This is a difficult one to answer. Nowhere is unbearable to me. Places I visit all have their good and bad side. My original home is Cape Town. I will never hate it but I am so happy in Struisbaai that I only visit ‘home’ when I have to and when I am there I love catching up with family and friends and the beauty of Table Mountain never ceases to move me. Visiting the beach on which I grew up also holds a special place in my heart in spite of the fact that it has changed a great deal.
I love Cape Town, but it is my least favourite place to go back to visit when there are so many other places in the country I love to explore.

Seeing the mountain as I enter Cape Town never ceases to move me
Fish Hoek Beach where I grew up and where I raised my kids and grandkids

Feel free to share something about the seasons that makes you smile!

We are in the marvelous month of May. It is Autumn/Fall going into winter. In the Western Cape seasons are not as clearly defined as in other parts of the world. Basically we have warm summers and cool winters but those shoulder seasons are the best. Autumn/Fall is my favourite time of the year. Summer brings strong south easterly winds. Winter brings the cold and rain. Autumn temperatures are mild. We have sunny days and no wind. The early mornings and nights are cooler but it is still not time to light the woodstove! The colours of autumn make me smile.

Having said that, here in Struisbaai we had some extreme weather last week. Fortunately we escaped the drama as we had to be in Cape Town for The Earl’s cataract procedure. There was torrential rain, thunder, lightning and hail the size of golf balls. A lot of damage was done. Some of our township people are still mopping up and charities are assisting them with temporary homes, blankets and food. But the sun is out again and fortunately our home was not affected.

Photo from a friend who was here at the time

Share Your World 3 May 2021

Here are my answers to this week’s Share Your World from Sparks

Would you rather be a super nice person and be depressed all your life, or be happy and a total *sshole?  (Credit goes to Cyranny for this question, aired on one of her “Cyranny’s Quickies” posts.)

If you are a total *sshole you’re not going to be happy. I have yet to meet a happy, horrible person. That person is usually horrible because of some darkness in their life and that is what is making them awful. So to answer the question – I know lots of depressed people who are really nice – too nice – because they empathise with everybody, worry about them and can’t seem to separate themselves from their worry and that’s why they are depressed. Maybe we need these depressed people because often they are the only ones who care about what’s going on in the depressing world we live in. They’re the ones who dress up and show up to help others even when they’re feeling so low it takes tremendous effort just to get out of bed.

Have you ever made someone cry?

Yes but not on purpose. It’s usually because of some thoughtless thing that’s popped out of my mouth. When it has happened I apologise and we’ve managed to laugh about it.

Are you a dreamer or a go-getter?

Both. You have to dream to go-get.

If you were in a band, what instrument would you play?

I have no musical talent so I would not be able to play in a band. However, if I could learn in an instant, I would like to play a keyboard.


Do you feel gratitude is necessary? 

Yes. You don’t feel happy and satisfied if you’re not grateful for your blessings.

Tourists in Our Own Backyard

Sometimes we simply take for granted the old familiar places we visit so often. But when you take visitors exploring and see it through their fresh eyes, the joy and wonderment of it all gives you a renewed appreciation of your own backyard.

We recently had friends, Chris and Har visit us for a few days and we took them to all our favourite spots. In November last year we met them at an overnight campsite in Ermelo and then found ourselves at two of the same camps in The Kruger National Park. We discovered that we had a lot in common and told them that if ever they were in our neck of the woods they were should please contact us. And we are so glad they did because we had the most awesome time.

The stop-over with us was part of a caravanning road trip they were doing. They fitted us in between Cape Town and The Garden Route. Although they had visited the area many years before their memories of Struisbaai were quite vague.

On Monday we visited the Southern Tip, Agulhas, Suiderstrand and Arniston.

The coastline is rocky and interesting and quite different to what they are used to in KZN.

The compulsory tourist shot
The Meisho Maru – a Japanese Fishing Boat that wrecked at Suiderstrand in 1982
Suiderstrand is a remote holiday village about 10 km from Struisbaai
The Earl and me walking back to the car
Agulhas Lighthouse
The resident yellow mongoose of Agulhas

After driving around and showing Chris and Har the growth that has taken place in Agulhas and Struisbaai we took a drive to Arniston where we had lunch at the hotel. If you’re ever in the area this is a good place to overnight or just to have a meal,or a drink and a snack.

It’s a half hour drive from Struisbaai to Arniston if you’re not a birdwatcher. We all are and so it took about two hours!

We saw more of these Denham Bustards that we have ever seen travelling along this road
There were also scores of our national bird, The Blue Crane

We stopped many times along the way to see bokmakieries, yellow canaries, red bishops – in non breeding plumage, capped wheatear, common fiscal, francolin and guineafowl among others.

Capped Wheatear
Chris and Har admiring the view at Arniston
In front of the hotel
Looking over Otter Beach

After a lovely day out we returned to Struisbaai and just before it became too dark, Har and I went for walk. We enjoyed seeing both the sun going down and the super moon rising.

Sunset over Struisbaai
Super Moon

The next day, Tuesday, we made our way to the quaint village of Elim, once again birding along the way and stopping at The Black Oystercatcher for a snack and a glass of their excellent Sauvignon Blanc.

The ever-present Ostriches – we believe Struisbaai was named so because of all the presence of the ‘volstruis‘ which is the Afrikaans word for ostrich.
There were scores of rhebok about too
Lavailant’s Cisticola
Cape Longclaw
Yellow Canary
Jackal Buzzard
Cape Canary
Non-breeding adult common starling and pied starling having a chat
Spur-winged Goose

Elim village is situated on The Agulhas Plain and was established in 1824 as a Moravian mission station. It’s position was chosen as there was plenty of water there so they could plant vines and make wine for their communion.

The German missionaries taught the villagers many trades and skills including thatching. This is a craft the young men took to well and to this day they are renowned for their skill and often travel abroad to do thatching contracts.

Even today one may only live in Elim if you were born there or marry somebody who was born there. Many of the women are employed as protea pickers by the nearby protea farms. The men are engaged in various trades and some are farm workers.

Elim has a care centre and school for handicapped children which has an excellent reputation.

There was once a working water wheel but this no longer functions.

Har bending very low
Chris being a lot shorter is not as lowly
The Water Wheel
The River that runs through Elim
The picturesque thatched cottages of Elim

Sadly Chris and Har had to leave for the next leg of their journey on Wednesday morning but before they left we went in search of Black Oystercatchers before having some breakfast and sending them on their way.

We did not see the oystercatchers on the rocks but we got them flying and calling overhead.

It was spring low tide so the photos of the harbour were interesting

Spring Low Tide at Struisbaai Harbour
No Oystercatchers but we did see some distant Caspian Terns
The very long Struisbaai Beach

What a wonderful three days we had. May you enjoy the rest of your journey, Chris and Har!

Share Your World 26 April 2021

Here are my answers to this weeks questions from Sparks

Which would you rather throw away: Love or Money?

I wouldn’t like to throw away either but if I had to choose it would leave the money and take love. Money is useful to help you enjoy life and your loved ones but it cannot replace the joy you get from being with those you love. I am sure I can live quite happily on love and fresh air.

Do you believe you should do one thing a day that scares you?

Like what? Pick up a spider or swim with sharks? One scary thing every day? No – not necessary. I will do something that scares me if I know that once I’ve done it I will feel good – like skiing down the Alps or flying in a light aircraft. But I don’t need to do that every day!

What’s the last thing you do at night?

I usually watch some TV, read a chapter or two of a book or do a sudoku puzzle.

If you could own a mythical creature (unicorn, phoenix, etc.), which one would you pick? (A nod to the soon ending 2021 A-Z Blogging Challenge, my topic this year “Mythical Creatures”) 

Perhaps a fairy with a magic wand that with a swift wave would have all the household chores done in an instant.


What Are You Grateful For? 

I am grateful for having enough of everything that I need.

A Judge Decided – Interview

On Tuesday 20 April I was interviewed telephonically on local radio station called Cape Talk. Each week Pippa Hudson, the talk show host, has a slot for Family Matters. As my book, A Judge Decided, deals with children caught up in a custody dispute she invited me to be part of the show. She also had an attorney on who explained The Hague Convention of the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Act 72 of 1996.

You can listen to the Podcast here

Remembering Jeffrey and Annaline

Jeffrey and Annaline will always be remembered and deeply missed by our family. Earl and his sister Carrol met Jeffrey and his brother when they were still preschoolers. They had weekend-homes hidden in the fynbos on the mountainside of Castle Rock near Miller’s Point. This was their playground, a children’s paradise in the days when children were allowed to roam free and the only rule was to be home by the time the street lights came on. Here, though, there were no street lights and even at night they enjoyed many adventures together. In their early teens, during the school holidays, they along with another friend, Garth and a few others, would be left from Monday to Friday to fend for themselves while the parents went back to the city for the work week. They would collect mussels from the rocks, fish both onshore and offshore and collect and sell sour figs on the side of the road.

These idyllic days were soon over and they all married and started families and though they were grown their friendship continued. Castle Rock was still a frequently visited place and when their parents passed on the properties stayed in their respective families. They still fished together and shared the ups and downs of their lives throughout the years. Jeff and Annaline had no children of their own but Earl’s Lisa and Lauren, and Carol’s Gregory and Peta-Ann were very close to them. They were the Godparents to all of them. They frequently slept over and even went on holiday with them. And when I joined the family as Earl’s second wife they warmly welcomed me and my little Laurie into the group and we became firm friends too.

Jeffrey and Annaline always stepped in to help whenever any of us needed them. So of course when Lisa came home after her marriage broke down they were there to selflessly help with baby-sitting, support and advice. Our two grandsons grew up as much in their home as in ours. They were like an extra pair of grandparents! When Jay was about five he was talking about ‘parents’. “What is a parent?” I asked him. “Somebody who looks after you,” came the reply. “So who are your parents?” I enquired. “Mom, you, Grandpa, Laurie and – Uncle Jeffrey and Aunty Annaline!” Because at that time they were looking after the two little boys a great deal.

Several years ago Jeffrey was diagnosed with colon cancer. He underwent surgery and chemo and we were relieved that he recovered and although he had regular check-ups he was in remission. Last year, Annaline suffered a stroke. For several months she was in hospital. Because of Covid, visiting was limited. It was a tough time for everyone. The four God-children were devastated that their precious aunt was suffering. At New Year’s she passed away. Then just a few months later, Jeffrey’s cancer returned. He had surgery but on Good Friday he too, passed away. Could it be that he just didn’t want to go on without his beloved wife?

Jeffrey was a proud man. He did not easily share his suffering and would brusquely deny that anything was amiss. He an Annaline had recently sold their home in Fish Hoek and had moved into a flat built onto the home he once owned at Castle Rock. He and Annaline had become friends with the new owner and he’d offered to let the flat to them. They were back in Jeff’s childhood holiday home, close to Carrol and her hubby Vere. Jonathan was so kind to them and a rock during Annaline’s and then Jeff’s illness. T

Not many people knew the real Annaline. She appeared to be quiet and unassuming but she had a tough inner strength. She danced ballet when she was young and after her marriage kept fit by doing advanced yoga. She was the perfect wife for Jeffrey while quietly pursuing her own career as a legal secretary. Later she studied through Unisa and achieved her law degree. Annaline was always quietly concerned about the people in her life. She never forgot a birthday or anniversary, encouraged the children in their pursuits, was non-judgemental but certainly offered good and wise advice when asked.

Jeffrey was a non-nonsense kind of guy. He was wonderful with the children but would not hesitate to give them a talking to when it was called for. The kids adored him. He made no demands but was always willing to give a hand or a listening ear.

Rest in Peace Jeffrey and Annaline. You were a huge part of our lives and we are going to miss you tremendously. Our lives are richer for having had you in them.

Josh having fun with Uncle Jeffrey
Jay and Josh in the pool with Uncle Jeffrey
Jeffrey the fisherman on Greg’s boat, Devenish
Jeffrey and Annaline at the Southern Tip when they visited us in 2018
Earl sharing an old photo with Annaline
Celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary at Carrol and Vere’s home at Castle Rock – Jay, Lisa, Annaline, Jeffrey and Josh
The extended family (Earl and I were away on a cruise but the rest of the gang are here) Allan, Lauren, Eugene, Peta-Ann, Lisa, Gregory, Peter, Simon, Joshua, Shannon, Vere, Annaline, Jeffrey, Carrol, Jay

Two Geckos on a Road Trip – Day 14 – Mountain Zebra National Park

Today is our last full day in the park. It is almost the end of our Road Trip. Tomorrow we will pack up and head to Oudtshoorn for our last overnight stay and then it will be back to Napier and Struisbaai.

It was very cold during the night and we were grateful for a down duvet as well as a fleecy blanket on the bed. The morning dawned with clear skies and the promise of warmth but it was a while before the temperature rose above 15 degrees C!

The Earl cooked breakfast and then we headed out in our own vehicles for our last drive in the park. It was most enjoyable and we saw lots of animals on the plains. There was nothing new though so this will be a short report.

I was delighted to get a snap of this Cinnamon-breasted Bunting
There were quite a number of Common Fiscals all quite willing to be in the photo shoot
Blesbok were gathered in great numbers too – this one was close by but didn’t want to look at me
What a wonderful thing it is to see large gatherings of different species decorating the landscape
The Springbok were out in full force
Exhausted! Playing too much rugby perhaps?
These three were curious creatures
Watch out for the Lions – What do you mean – they’ll never beat the Springboks!
At an otherwise empty pond we spotted a single terrapin catching a few rays
The froggy I saw a day or two ago has found a mate!
No trouble spotting these guys (Scaly-feathered finch)
Monkeys are a pest in the camp but seeing them in the wild where they should be is always entertaining
You don’t want those teeth to get you – so please people when visiting the parks don’t feed the animals. You’re signing their death warrant if you do because if they hurt somebody (think child in particular) they will be shot. If they’re not fed, they won’t come into the camps. Just the sight of a catty (sling-shot) will have them running away.
Yes, you are cute when you’re in your tree
See you next time!

By the time we returned to camp it had warmed up quite a bit and the evening temperature was not nearly as low as last night. It was our turn to cook and The Earl did a lamb curry using the Smart Space Pot on the Snappy Chef induction stove. I made a banana salad and also served some pickled vegetables bottled by my friend Esmarie. Dessert was chocolate chip ice cream.

Being Sunday, the camp was pretty deserted as all the weekenders had left. It will probably be quite full for the Easter Weekend. We did not get to see the cats and it seems nobody else we spoke to did either. This is not a park to visit if all you want to see is the Big 5 or cats. It is, however, awesome for birds and a variety of other creatures. The scenery alone makes it worth the visit.

Two Geckos on a Road Trip – Day 13 – Mountain Zebra National Park

Today we drove the Sonnenrust in tandem with Alec and Cathy. The Earl was not all that keen on doing any 4X4-ing and I think it might have been because he ‘aged prematurely’ after doing the most hectic of the trails last time we were here. The Umgene Trail is described in the guide book as one to provide either great excitement or premature aging! We survived that one after having to move a large rock out of the road so this one was a piece of cake! It was quite hectic but we all thought it was enormous fun.

Our first sighting of the day before getting to the Sonnenrust Trail
What a handsome Gemsbok/Oryx
Finally an Ant-eating Chat posed beautifully
A Black wildebeest on his own
This springbok was also on its own and kept company with the white-tailed gnu
There are over 1000 mountain zebra in the park
Love birds
At the start of the trail we found the buffalo who are known to frequent this area
Who are those canned people, Mom?
Come on Mabel. Keep up!
What big horns you’ve got
Black-throated Canary?
Inquisitive Zebra
Stunning grazing for the zebra – Spot the Northern Black Korhaan behind the tail of the middle zebra
Having fun
Way in the distance I spotted a single suricate
Bright eyed and bushy-tailed
Ground Squirrel by The Earl
At the viewpoint
We should be so lucky to come across lions in or out of the car!
Stunning views
Yesterday I posted photos and was not sure what the birds were. At first I thought sandgrouse but seeing these made me think Shelley’s Francolin. I went back to the post and saw that Anne suggested Grey-winged francolin and of course she’s right! Apologies to all for the confusion.
Look out for Kudu we are warned by this signpost and for good reason
Because who should walk by one second later?

Back at camp we had a snack and a cuppa and then relaxed for the rest of the afternoon We did not go for an afternoon drive but I took short walk at about 17h00.

Fiscal Fly-catcher
Cardinal Woodpecker
Pied Starling

It was Cathy and Alec’s turn to cook. I lent them my Romosca pot and they did the most divine chicken casserole served with mash potato cooked in the smart space pots on a gas cooker and mixed veggies done in the micro

A wondrerful cooking system
A yummy meal was enjoyed by all

Two Geckos on a Road Trip – Day 12 – Mountain Zebra Park

27 March 2021

The rain has gone! But it is still a tad chilly in the mornings here in the mountains of the Eastern Cape. We started our day with an “Early” breakfast, did a few household chores and then set off separately for a drive. We met halfway going in opposite directions and then headed back to camp for a cuppa. We then did another drive in the afternoon. Most of the game can be seen on the wide open plains but a few hang out in the mountains too. Birding is good. The views are magnificent. Below are the highlights from both drives.

Burchell’s Sandgrouse, I thought Now I think Shelley’s Frsncolon? Nope it a grey-winged as Anne suggests in the comments
Cape Bunting
View across the valley
Black Wildebeest / White-tailed Gnu
Our national animal – Springbok
View of the terrain – black wildebeest in foreground
Mountain Zebra giving us the look
Baby looking shy
Karoo Chat
Having a delightful sandbath
And a lovely shake afterwards
Contemplaing a swim
Come on in, the water’s lovely
I know it’s early darling, but come on out – the sun is up
Hello, Who are you? Do you have a snack for us?
Leave the tourists, love – they’re not going to give you anything. Just look out for jackals
Hang on – something’s in my tail
All good – let’s forage
I’ve got something
Me too
Pale-chanting Goshawk
Looking for ground squirrels?
Even the little lizards are interesting
And this tiny frog is so cute
Come into my parlour
Red-headed finch
Female not as colourful
Scaly-feathered finch looking cross
Male Ostrich
Red-billed firefinch trying to hide
Springbok by The Earl
Zebra by The Earl
Female Kudu by The Earl
Familiar Chat?
An evening view across the valley
Such amazing colours
Mountain Zebra Campsite
As the sun sets
Wonderful way to end the day
Bonding at the Braai

Just a final word about the facilities at Mountain Zebra – There are two types of campsite. C indicates a caravan site and T a tent site and the sites are numbered. We are on C32 and 34 with T33 between us. It was not busy when we arrived on Thursday but today (Friday) the weekenders arrived and it is now quite full.

The ablutions are clean and neat but there has been trouble with the water – no water for a few hours on this afternoon (Friday) and the shower in the morning was luke-warm. The Earl is also horrified by the state of the electrics in the camp. He is an electrician! Sadly maintenance is always an issue in South Africa but the beauty that surrounds us makes up for it all. I would still recommend MZNP as a destination.

Two Geckos on a Road Trip – Day 11 – Orania to Mountain Zebra National Park

Thursday, 25 March 2021

It rained continuously during the night but had stopped by the time we rose this morning. By 07:50 we were packed up and on the road. Because we had heard of the dreadful potholes on the route via Colesberg we took the route via Britstown. It is no wonder our roads are being destroyed when you see how many huge trucks are driving them. It won’t be long before this route is also riddled with potholes.

Four in a row
Continuing on our scenic route

We turned off into Britstown to refuel and have breakfast. It is not easy finding a suitable establishment in these small Karoo towns but The Old Mill Coffee Shop was a winner. It was one of those delightful shabby chic places that I find so fascinating. One woman’s junk is another woman’s decor.

Call back the past
Wise Words
Outdoor seating available
Don’t throw anything away – hang it on your walls!
Good use of ancient stuff
The outhouse or dunny to my Australian readers
Outdoor hand washing basin

After enjoying some delicious toasted sandwiches we were soon on the N10 to Mountain Zebra National Park and the trucks moving ore to the coast were still very much a part of the scene. There were more trucks than cars on the road.

But the scenery was lovely

At the gate of Mountain Zebra we filled in COVID forms, had our temperatures taken and then checked in at reception where we were warmly welcomed.

We set up camp on site 32 and 34. A lovely couple from Great Brack were between us on site 33 and it turned out that they know our sister-in-law very well. What a small world.

Rain had threatened all day so we decided to book for dinner at the restaurant. It was a tad expensive but the food was excellent. Alec and Cathy enjoyed delicious lamb shank and The Earl and I had Venison bobotie. All the meals were served with hot vegetables.

I am only posting now as I had a bit of difficulty with the internet last night. Today it is working perfectly.

More about MZNP to follow

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