Category Archives: Camper van

Chilling in the sun

Sunday morning was  another lazy start, the sun was out and we made a decision fairly quickly to not venture anywhere in the van and instead hang out, walk the other way along the coast and have a BBQ, for the best part of the morning we just sat about outside the van catching rays and then made breakfast, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on toast. 

While I was making tea I took a shot from inside the van looking out,


As you can see Lolly is very pregnant, 31 weeks to be precise and still up for an adventure in the van, top wife!

After breakfast we walked to the village and got everything we needed for our BBQ later, mincemeat to make our own burgers, sausages, halloumi, salad and beer. We stashed our goodies, put our walking shoes on and set off along the coast.

This probably the least eventful walk we have been on, just walking along the coast path, sea to the left and the military road to the right with the occasional super bike or jap sports car hooning past. We walked for an hour, sat down for a bit and then made our way back which took about an hour.

Lolly made us 2 fat burger patties, and I got the cobb on the go, the great thing about the cobb is once you set fire to one of the cobblestones it takes about 5 mins to go off and then you’re ready to cook.


For most of what you cook on the Cobb it’s great that it doesn’t pass any of the fuels flavour to the food, however on this occasion I wish we had brought some charcoal so we could have used used the BBQ grill attachments, although we seasoned the burgers the meat tasted a bit bland, would have been better with a bit of BBQ taste, they looked the part though!


The sausages and halloumi however were amazing, the sausages were from a local farm and Lolly added oil and garlic to the halloumi which completely transformed it.

After we ate I took an arty pic of the van for my instagram account.


I also took one of Lolly by the van watching the beautiful sunset.


After a few drinks (me) the sun set, I did the washing up and we settled in for the night with a movie, Jackie with Natalie Portman. I lasted about 15 mins before I declared this was the worst film I had ever seen and Ms Portman voice was truly annoying, Lolly agreed, we switched it off, best thing for it.

While Lolly turned in I grabbed my camera and took some pictures of the van under the stars, at the time of writing I haven’t edited them but they don’t look too shabby raw, I’ll post them up when they are done.

This was our last night on the Island, home the following day at some point.

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Grange Farm


Where we have been staying is a little campsite called Grange Farm which is on the west of the island in a village called Brighstone. It caters for tents, trailer tents, caravans and motor homes with a choice of non electric pitches to grass pitches with hook up and hard standing with hook up and water.

You can also rent an arc which comes with electricity.


It’s a proper farm with a host of resident animals including goats


Alpacas


There are also horses, sheep, ducks and chickens but I didn’t get a picture of those.

There is a playground for kids with swings and a buried boat amongst other things.


At the time of our visit half the facilities were getting a makeover, the ones we used looked a little tired but all worked fine, I’m assuming they will be updated when the others are finished.


There is also a well stocked shop on site that sells most things you would need, a 15 min walk away is the little village of Brighstone that has a fantastic village shop that sells amongst other, things, locally produced ales and farm produce, the sausages are lovely!

At this time of year the campsite is fairly quiet, I’d expect in peak season the view you see below would be quite different.

 

Just past that awning on the left is a path down to a pebble beach where we saw surfers and paddleboarders, there is also a small collection of static caravans you can rent overlooking the sea.

It cost us 80 quid for us both for 4 nights with electric hook up, this is an off season price.

We both loved it here and I would recommend it for a couple or a family as a base on the island, the sunsets on this side are spectacular too.

For more information you can visit the sites website here

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Happy birthday me!

We awoke on Friday morning to a slightly overcast day, it was also my birthday so we made tea, opened cards and ate Star Wars biscuits that Lolly made me especially for my birthday.


She bought an amazing tin for them to go in, she’s the best wife 🙂


We had planned to make breakfast in the van but decided we’d go in search of a cafe instead, by the time we got ready to roll the clouds and cleared and the sun was shining.


We headed off in search of a place called Sevens but couldn’t find it, we then found out there was a cafe at the pearl centre so we made our way there. The pearl centre is basically a pearl showroom where you can buy all manner of jewellery so long as it has pearls on it, you can even pick your own pearl from a live oyster though I’m sure the oyster doesn’t see the appeal in this. As you can imagine, the clientele was of the older generation, Lolly and I had the least grey hair.

My expectations for breakfast were not high, this was no greasy spoon, more your department store kind of cafe / restaurant, I was pleasantly surprised to see croque monsieurs on the menu but then spotted what turned out to be the most spectacular surprise breakfast.


I can’t actually remember what this is called but I shall call it the Breakfast Ciabatta, basically most of the ciabatta has been scooped out and replaced by bacon lardons, chopped sausage, beans, chopped egg all mixed in a kind of bechemal sauce topped with melted cheese and a fried egg, it was awesome, we had one each, the chef even came out to ask us what we thought, thumbs up five stars smiley face, or words to that effect.

Our destination for the remainder of the day was the Needles which are the furthest West Point of the Island and just off the coast of Alum Bay. There is a kind of theme park thing which has lots for kids to do and you can buy a book of tickets that saves you money on each attraction, we were only interested in the chairlift to take us down to the beach, you can walk but for three quid you might as well experience the chairlift, I’ve only ever been up with a snowboard attached on a chairlift so going down was a new experience for me, it’s quite steep!


You hop off the bottom and there is a shingle beach you can walk along the coastline here is quite dramatic.


The cliffs are also all different colours, once upon a time you used to be able to scrape the different colours off the cliffs and take them home in a jar but you’re not allowed to anymore, they are really beautiful colours, especially on a bright sunny day.


We walked along the beach and then found an alternative route back up to the top, you can take the chairlift or walk up some steps but we decided to hike up a land slip instead, fair play to Lolly, she made up to the top despite being 32 weeks pregnant!


I’d like to add that on several occasions I did suggest we head back down but Lolly was having none of it. In the distance of the picture above you can see The Needles, three bits of rock sticking out of the sea that look like needles with a light house on the end. There is also an old military battery which is free to visit if you are a national trust member, we are so we made our way over. 

En route we stopped by a little house that has a quite incredible amount of ornaments on display in it’s garden.


The walk to the battery is along the cliff tops and takes about 20 mins, there are options if you are disabled to get you there quicker. For a pound you can buy a guide book that tells you all about the battery and the different rooms and every room has information on what it was used for and what life was like there.


There is also a really cool tunnel.


This leads to the old searchlight room.


Look where the search light was made!


We had a really great time at the Battery, it’s well worth a visit.

Our next stop was over to an old school friends who owns a hotel on the island, Lyon Court in Shankhill.


If you are looking for somewhere to stay on the Island his place is excellent and I’m not just saying that because he’s a mate, he’s just renovated the ground floor flat which sleeps 8 people, it’s so nice I’d live there!

We went for food at a restaurant on Shankhill seafront called Steamers, we both had amazing burgers and Dan treated us which was really nice, thanks Dan.

The kids made me a lovely chocolate birthday cake, we lit candles, sang happy birthday and then carried on drinking till 2.30 in the morning, well, me and Dan did, the girls went to bed way earlier.

I had an excellent birthday and the sun shone all day which was most unusual!

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Updates

While we were away it was really difficult to get a decent internet connection so I wasn’t able to update our trip as best as I could, i’ll be spending a bit of time this weekend putting up the rest of our exploits for those that are interested.

I’ve also written up an account of the solar panel install I completed on Bumblebee just before we left,  you can find it here.

 

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Day 3

Our 3rd day in France has turned out to be somewhat epic, I can honestly say this is the best view I’ve woken up to on a Tuesday in a long while. 

Our day started much like any other on this trip, tea with the added bonus of a nice lie in.  There was much faffing about and we didn’t get ourselves ready to do anything on the bikes till about two, we met a bloke in the car park called Sven who was from Norway but his accent was a mix of Scottish, Irish and Norwegian, he gave me his bike pass for five euros as he paid for the day but was too shattered to ride anymore, result, a ticket to the bike park costs 25 Euros and when I say bike park I mean a lift up 3200 meters to the glacier and a while mountain to play on. 

Being a glacier, there is snow at the top, we were wearing shorts and t shirts and there was at least one dude snowboarding, it was fairly cold. 


We decided to chip off sharpish and make our decent to warmer climes, before we set off I asked Lolly to get a picture of me on a mountain bike on an actual mountain.  


The way the tracks are marked out is a little confusing, the one we were following shared the same name ia a few runs that are sign posted for winter activities, we ended up on a few reds which I was alright with but lolly struggled, we stopped by a lake to take stock and find our way to a blue run down. 


The blue run we took was definitely not a blue, more a red in my book, I loved it but Lolly wasn’t so keen and walked a lot of the trail, when we got to the end of the blue we had the option of another blue or a green, we took the green which lolly found a lot more enjoyable. 

As if mentioned earlier, I always wanted to see what a ski resort looks like in summer, below gives you an idea, slightly like Mars! 

As we made our way down there were a few photo ops. 



Once we reached the bottom we swerved into a bar for a couple of beers to celebrate making it down in one piece. We really enjoyed the downhill trails and if you are ever in this neck of the woods it’s a great day out. 

We finished our beers and made our way back to the van to make some food, BBQ pork loins, rice and salad.

Our food was awesome, we watched the second episode of Stranger Things, loving it! 

Tomorrow we’re off to meet Lindi and Ian, 7am start, they have a shower in their motorhome, winner! 

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Day 2

Not a lot to say about day 2, we made our way to the Alps which meant 12 hours on the road, not all of it was driving, we stopped at an Aire and I grabbed a couple of hours sleep in my  laybag while lolly consulted the maps and Aire books looking for the best place to stay, we settled for Les Deux Alps. 

We managed to get a shower as well, fairly ghetto setup in a car park and at lease one motorist saw me naked but it was worth it to feel clean again, you can see the shower laying on the roof to the right. 


After a lot of driving we arrived and were greeted by some stunning mountain views. 


We cooked some burgers, drank some booze, watched the first episode of Stranger Things and went to bed, we don’t have to drive anywhere tomorrow so we’re off exploring the mountain, can’t wait! 

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Day 1

Our trip to France started with a 21st birthday party in Hertfordshire and camping in a bloke called Bob’s back garden. He has a lovely house in a little village called Furneux Pelham and had offered to host Billies 21st. Billie is Lauren’s cousin. When we arrived there was a good sprinkling of family chatting away and some of Billies guests in the pool, they’re quite a sensible lot, if someone had let me borrow their house and pool for a 21st birthday it would have been proper carnage!

As the evening progressed the only people that seemed to get smashed was us oldies, either the 21 year old massive didn’t drink or they held it down well, I was probably too smashed to notice. 

Bob’s garden is massive as demonstrated by the small band of travellers that stayed the night in their wagons taking up no room at all. 

Our alarm went off at 05.00, nothing like getting up at stupid o’clock to go on holiday, we made a brew and then lolly went for a dip. 

We had a chat with Lollys mum and dad who are also travelling to France, made a fairly loose arrangement with them and then headed off for the ferry. 


The roads were deserted apart from the odd tool driving in the middle lane forever, rather that then traffic. 

In no time at all we could see the sea which meant Dover wasn’t too far away. 


The crossing was relatively uneventful tho I did buy a new Bluetooth speaker, haven’t tested it yet but am sure it will sound way better than the one I have at the moment which is average at best and a blatant rip off of something that should be way more expensive. 

We left Calais and made straight for a little village called Chemin du cal serin, it’s about 2 or so hours drive heading in the direction of Marseilles. We’re stopping in this village as a couple we met last year recommend the Aire, for 5 euros a night you get water, electricity, WC and a nice view of an old castle. 

When we arrived all the spots were taken so in true Mark Ashley / Croydonia style we made our own space. 


We hadn’t eaten since we arrived in Dover so we set about getting some food cooking, chicken on the trusty Cobb and Lolly knocked up a lovely salad, rice and coleslaw.


After cooking the chicken the Cobb was still roasting hot so we cooked up all our sausages before they went off and chucked a couple of corns on and left them to cook while we went for a wander up to Coucy-le-chateau-auffrique. 


What’s surprising about this place is there is a whole little village built around the ruin and there is a community of friendly goats roaming about the place too, they are really friendly if you have food. 

Much to Lollys dismay we’d arrived just as the local boot fair was packing up so no wandering about looking at people’s stuff they’re trying to get rid of, we did however have a good look about the town and unfortunately just missed the tour of the castle. After about 30 minutes we came across the track we’d come so decided to head back down to the van, do all the washing up from earlier, have a little wander and then crash for the night. 

We took a walk down a lane not far from the van which will be forever remembered as mosquito alley, bastard things everywhere, I’d already been bitten once and now have a temporarily inflated foot. I’ve been bitten a few more times since that walk, we retreated to van and watched the final two episodes of Wayward Pines, ate a considerable amount of chocolate and then went to bed. 

All in all a successful first day, no fuel issues either which is a bonus, the only downside to living like this is not much in the way of showers, we do have a camping shower but I’d set that up a bit late so it hadn’t heated up very much by the time we got back to use it. 

The combination of solar panels and split charge system is keeping the battery charged and fridge powered up which means our food keeps and if I ever get any beers they will be cold. 

We’re off to the mountains tomorrow, I’ve always wanted to see a ski resort in summer so that’s what we’re doing, with any luck we’ll have a shower too! 

 

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And we’re off !

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It’s that time of year when Lolly and I pack up the Bee and head off in search of sunshine and adventure..

We are heading to France again but all we’ve booked is our crossings, everything else will be made up along the way. I’ve added some solar panels to the van so we can go a bit more off piste and not rely on having to be hooked up to keep the fridge going.

Our crossing is tomorrow AM, we’re off to a 21st birthday and then the adventure begins which i’ll update here as it happens, can’t wait to get going!

Bye Bye DRL’s – Hello being able to see….

One of the things that attracted me to Bumblee when we were searching for our Urban Caravan was purely cosmetic, the lovely looking Audi style day running lights or DRL’s for short, here they being modelled by Bumblebee.

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Whilst they look very nice and are quite expensive to buy they are rubbish as lights. Visibility at night is dreadful, so much so we can drive around at night with the full beam on and nobody flashes us, true story. I thought it might be the bulbs so invested in a set of H1 Osram night breakers, they marginally improved the situation.

There are a number of wiring looms you can buy that allegedly improve the situation specifically for DRL’s with projector style lights by combing the side lights and full beam or by increasing voltage to the bulbs, the problem you run into is by increasing the voltage to the bulbs you raise the bulbs temperature which in turn melts the projector cover and combining the side lights and full beam is only helpful when you have your full beam on, not really a solution.

I spoke to Martyn at Travelvolts who confirmed I had done pretty much all I could do and the only way to see an improvement would be to go back to standard lights, fit an upgrade loom and night breaker bulbs so, after a year and a half of bad night time driving it was time to take the plunge.

After doing a bit of research I bought the following from eBay and Amazon.

Headlights

Indicators

Bulbs

I also bought the headlight upgrade loom kit from Travelvolts, you can buy something similar from other places but I trust Martyn and his products so I bought it from him.

First things first, out with the old, you have to remove the front grille which is held in place by four screws, two at the top and two in the lower grille, it then just pops out.

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Once this is done you can unbolt and disconnect the headlights, quick nod to the previous owner or whoever fitted these for maintaining consistency with their poor work, both headlights were held in with 2 bolts instead of four..

Undo your bolts and unclip your bulbs and the lights come out, this is what you are left with.

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I came across what I think are the self levelling motors for the lights, one was connected to one of the DRL’s and the other wasn’t, I removed them both as my new lights have no way to connect them. Once you remove your lights you are left with a few extra plugs, I taped them up as I felt that would be helpful.

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At this point I slotted together the indicators and headlights, I then fitted the bulbs and attached the wiring loom upgrade to the bulbs, this makes installing the loom a bit less fiddly. I then fitted the lights with four bolts for each, I had to pack the drivers side light out a little near the bottom with washers so it sat straight.

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Last thing to do was hook up the loom using the instructions I downloaded from Travelvolts and test the lights before putting the front grill back on, all working first time, marvellous.

I then took the van to the hand car wash as it was filthy.

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I’m really pleased with how they look, the smoked indicators tie in with the smoked rear clusters and the main lights IMO look better than the old DRL’s. I waited for nightfall and took the van out for a drive to see if the visibility had improved.

In hindsight I wish I had taken a visibility before and after picture for comparison, I cannot tell you how much of a difference this has made, dipped beam visibility has greatly increased and full beam is bonkers, you can see miles ahead, the bulbs give off a nice white light too, not quite Xenon but not far off, the light temperature also matches up with my fogs!

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If you are thinking about swapping out your standard lights for DRL’s my advice would be save your money and upgrade the looms and bulbs instead, maybe buy some smoked or clear indicators if you want to add a custom look.

The total cost of this came to approx £170.00, the old DRL’s will be going up on eBay and I reckon I should get £100.00 back for them so with any luck, this will only of cost 70 quid, money well spent!

 

 

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Re-Insulating Bumblebee

One of the first things we did when we got Bumblebee was install central locking to both passenger doors and the sliding door, when me and Andy took the panel off the sliding door to fit the central locking motor and contacts we came across the worst kind of insulation you can use for a van, bog standard loft insulation aka lagging.

It’s bad for a number of reasons but the main one being it absorbs moisture, either from cooking or making tea in the van or just breathing, soaks it all up and rusts your van from the inside out, it had to go.

It’s taken me a while to crack on with it mainly because it’s a mission, every panel has to come off, the electrics have to come out, cupboards undone, rock and roll bed out, massive ball ache, however, after the leak in Seaford and an impending 11 days in Wales at the end of March where it will rain I had to fix the leak so I figured I might as well take a couple of days off work and sort it all out once and for all…

First thing to do was decide how to insulate the van, there are a number of methods to choose from, some involving bubble wrap, others using recycled plastic bottles, the cheapo option the previous owner went for or the method I chose, Thermoliner.

The principal behind Thermoliner is you stick it on your van and then put your panels back creating a void between the outside of your van and the inside, the thermoliner greatly reduces the transfer of the climate outside of your van to the inside and the climate inside of your van to the outside, I bought a roll of Thermoliner 8m x 1m from Harrisons Trim Supplies, you can read all about it and order it from here, I put my order in and it arrived the next day, sweet.

First job was to empty the van, it’s an eye opener when you take everything out of the various nooks and crannies and put it in all one pile!

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Next up was to get the bed out, this is held in by four bolts, the two nearest to the tailgate are easy to get out as I could hold the spanner on the bolt with one hand and use a socket to undo the nut with the other, there was no way I could do this for the two nearer the cabin, i’d need 8 foot super bendy arms and hands with grips like the jaw of a pit bull, luckily I had some g-clamps, I was quite impressed with my impromptu ingenuity!

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I managed to get the bed out by myself and left it on the drive and set about removing the first panel.

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As I suspected, full of crappy lagging, I removed that and set about replacing it with Thermoliner. I used the panel I removed as a template and marked out the amount of Thermoliner I would need. It was pretty cold and I was a bit worried the Thermoliner adhesive back wouldn’t stick, not a problem, it stuck without issue.

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Thermoliner is my new favourite thing, it’s really easy to work with, it’s easy to cut and sticks to anything, before I could make any further progress the cat came to inspect my work.

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Once she was happy she tested the tailgate to see if it could take her weight, no issue there.

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Once the cat jogged on I set about undoing all the electrics and unbolting the cabinet so I could access the panels behind it, as you can see there was a small bit of awful insulation, one whole panel was left completely exposed.

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I came across this which I think is part of the vans previous life with the AA, I have no idea what it does but disaster would probably follow if I removed it so I left it where it was.

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In about an hour the drivers side of the van was properly insulated.

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Once i’d replaced the panels on the drivers side I moved the cabinet back and secured it properly, the whole thing was held in place with 4 screws, there are also a number of internal brackets that might as well have been held together with blue tack, how none of this came apart is beyond me, I spent about an hour reinforcing all the brackets and securing the cabinet to the walls and floor of the van, it’s solid now, how it should have been in the first place!

Next up and the last job for Thursday, the roof.

Trim clips are my new least favorite thing, what a pain in the arse they are even with a trim clip removal tool.

Since we’ve owned the van there has been an ugly remnant of the Bumblebees previous life as an AA van i’ve been meaning to remove.

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I don’t know what this actually did but it as you can see it’s covered in filler, I guess this was supposed to seal it from the elements, didn’t really work…

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This is about where the drip came through when we were in Seaford, I cut out the cables and undid what ever that thing was leaving a nice hole in the roof!

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Ideally I would have cut out the rust and welded a plate in to cover the gaping hole however I can’t weld and didn’t have any plates hanging about so i did the next best thing, I wired brushed off the rust and sealed the hole internally with Dynamat and externally with all purpose clear silicon, should hold fine!

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None of the roof had been insulated, it is now !

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I finished up for the day and left the roof panels down overnight to dry as they were damp from the leak.

The next morning I put the roof panels back up, rewired all the electrics, insulated the tailgate and sliding door, I didn’t take any pictures as to be honest there are only so many pictures of insulated panels your readers are going to be interested in…

It took me a day to do that and I was nearing the finish line, all that was left to do was put the rock and roll bed back in along with all the stuff that lives in the van and decide what to do with the Thermoliner I had left.

I decided to insulate the cab doors, why not…

Before

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After

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Lolly helped me get the bed back in and I ferried all out “essential” stuff back to the van.

The van is now in my opinion properly insulated and should be leak free, I took a picture of all the lagging I took out of the van along with the left over AA cabling..

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I’m glad I finally got round to insulting the van myself, i’ve been meaning to do it for ages and I hope it keeps us nice and warm in Wales, i also feel I can put a built not bought sticker on the van as i’ve pretty much properly redone everything the previous owner put in.

If you are reading this and starting a build i’d really recommend Thermoliner for your insulation, it’s easy to work with, good value for money and delivered pronto if you order it form Harrisons.

 

 

 

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