Fast talking Strabane man
My late maternal grandfather was born in Strabane, County Tyrone, Ireland. I am a dual Irish/British citizen by virtue of that fact.

When I lived outside of Scotland people used to complain that they never understood half of what I said, with my North Lanarkshire accent being pretty incomprehensible, interspersed as it is with the various elements of "Ulster Scots".

When my paternal ancestors moved to Ulster from Scotland, a local dialect evolved there which was basically English with a smattering of Scots, but with a twist. The input of the local Ulster Irish people caused the dialect to change more towards English than Scots so that it was easier understood, as aptly demonstrated here by George Cunningham, a late resident of Strabane. George was staging a three man demonstration against Strabane Town Council, and you should be able to get the hang of his Strabane accent after a year or two of listening. The dubbed laughter is due to the fact that a UK TV station featured the interview in a show named "It'll be alright in the night!"

Sadly, George died a few years back, and they say the last word he uttered was "Strabane".

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Strabane is in what is now known as Northern Ireland (UK) and is right on the border with County Donegal in the Republic. George's reference to "ower the watter" means across the River Foyle in the Republic. The reason for his protest is not entirely clear, but seems to be centred around the fact that a local factory refused to employ him, despite the fact there were vacancies there.
:lol: The accents in the north are very different to the south. Same in Scotland - the regional accents are vastly different. From the soft lilt in the western isles to the Aberdeen fisherman to the Glasgow shipbuilder and then east to the Fife area ... (I don't know that accent !)

It takes a while to get used to a strong Glasgow accent too (I worked in the John Brown shipyard for a short while !) and you need to know "the patter". People who talk very quickly often have bad diction, whatever their accent - I can't imagine what it must be like trying to understand them if you have bad hearing.
The only people I really have a problem with here is old folk who've lost their teeth !
<QUOTE author="Corsaire" post_id="62238" time="1535293099" user_id="2107"><s>
Corsaire post_id=62238 time=1535293099 user_id=2107 Wrote::lol: It takes a while to get used to a strong Glasgow accent too. People who talk very quickly often have bad diction, whatever their accent - I can't imagine what it must be like trying to understand them if you have bad hearing.
The only people I really have a problem with here is old folk who've lost their teeth !


I worked with two ex marine plumbers in Glasgow and their conversation was punctuated with silences during which one or the other of them acknowledged there was no need for the other to complete the sentence. You'll have heard it in "The yerds". "Gonnae geez that big............?" "Aye, nae problem, dae want the .............?". "Naw that wan''ll dae".

I believe the background noise was a factor so speech had to be kept to a minimum. I never lived in Glasgow so my accent "wiz dead teuchterish". My Glasgow relatives would constantly try and get us to "talk right, luk thame", but it never worked. We had the Ulster habit of qualifying everything by saying things like "he's jist a wee eejit, so he is!" On recent visits to the area I have noted a general tendency to speak more like Glaswegian, and the "Ulsterisms" are dying out a bit. In my generation there were still quite a lot of "ouldies" who had been born in Ireland, so they still influenced us in our speech.

All of my Irish relatives were from Counties Donegal, Tyrone, Armagh, Derry, Antrim, and Armagh, and I have none whatsoever who were from the "south". You'll know Donegal is in the Republic but most Donegal people I've met have "nordie" accents. My Donegal roots are from Castlefinn, Ramelton, and Redcastle, and they all have a slow and deliberate accent not much different from George Cunningham's in the clip, albeit at about 40% of George's speed. "Nordies" do tend to get a bit brassed off when people just assume they speak the same as southerners, and come out with the "Durty tree and a turd" type "funnies". That's 33 1/3 in case anybody was wondering.

My late grandfather from Strabane was once asked why he never bothered to learn the Irish Gaeltacht, and he said there was no need, as nobody could understand their version of English anyway! When he heard the clip on TV he said that it wasn't the case that George was speaking too fast at all, it was just that the "TV man" wasn't listening quick enough! Now that is typical Strabane humour, and he taught me all he knew!
Hi Sally & John,

No problem to me. I did seven tours of duty over there, so am attuned to the accent.

We also had a whole boat-load of Jocks in my Regiment, so no difficulties understanding the many Scottish accents either.

Ditto: Welsh.
Ditto: Geordies.

Kind Regards,

Hi Stephen,

Your mention of "Geordies" made me smile. I was once in a workmens' social club in Tynemouth, north east of Newcastle, and a comedian took the stage. He was from Middlesbrough as I recall, and he started his intro.

He made the fatal mistake of trying to put on a Geordie accent for a laugh, and the locals were having none of it. An old worthy was sitting drinking his pint of "half and half", and heckled the comedian; "Ha'way tae the netty son, an hoy yah heid doon it, if that's the best Geodie accent ye can dae. Wouldn't even pass foah a Mackem, and wemembah theyah Weaysidahs!"

I'd better translate it, even though you reckon it would be no problem. "Away you go and put your head down the toilet son, if that's the best Geordie accent you can manage. You wouldn't even pass for a native of Sunderland, and remember they're Wearsiders" (not Geordies). Anybody who lives in County Durham, although we all just call them "Geordies", are not classed as such by the real Geordies who live north of the Tyne. They are referred to as Wearsiders (living as they do on either side of the River Wear), and a Mackem is a slightly derogatory term for the people and dialect of Sunderland. Apologies if you knew most or all of that already, but I think most would struggle with the Geordie speech element. As always the "lettah ah" (letter r) is not pronounced.

The old guy got just about the only laugh there was during the comedian's turn. I sat with my mouth shut (as difficult as that was) in case the old guy had a pop at me for my accent! Why aye man, ah did an al!
<QUOTE author="Corsaire" post_id="62238" time="1535293099" user_id="2107"><s>
Corsaire post_id=62238 time=1535293099 user_id=2107 Wrote::lol: The accents in the north are very different to the south. Same in Scotland - the regional accents are vastly different. From the soft lilt in the western isles to the Aberdeen fisherman to the Glasgow shipbuilder and then east to the Fife area ... (I don't know that accent !)


English speakers who don't live in the UK often have great difficulty working through the different accents, which I'm told can change every couple of miles.

I've lived in Hawick for 22 years, and it did take me quite some time to get to grips with the local Hawick accent. "Caw yow sigh migh, Eh'm ahent yon muckle thrigh trighs? If ye caw sigh migh Eh'll sigh yow et tigh time. Tarra!" = "Can you see me, I'm behind those three big trees? If you cannot see me I'll see you at tea time. Bye!"

That conversation, or something like it, took place during one of the Common Riding rideouts, when a rider became unseated from his horse on an open hillside during one of the festivals. His wife phoned him on his mobile worried that he may be injured, but could only get the car so far up a farm track. The rider saw his wife in the far distance, as he recognised the car. He told her to look in the general direction of three large trees. After reassuring his wife that he was OK, he advised her that he'd see her at tea time. Note the use of the very English "tarra" for "cheerio", and the fact that that word "caw", doubles up for "can" and "can't". Took me a long time to become familiar with the local accent, and just when I thought I had cracked it I met somebody from Langholm!

By the time you get to Canonbie on the Border they're talking with a very strong Cumbrian accent, same as they have in Gretna and Annan. Just as well they put signs up telling people they're in Scotland, as you'd never know it until you're about 20 miles over the border. When I drove buses across the border to and from Carlisle I'd often get tourists having journeyed down from Edinburgh, "telling" me that we must be in England because of the way the passengers spoke as they boarded the bus. A similar situation exists in the area of Berwick upon Tweed, and on the same shift we might have to tune into Border, Northumbrian, and Cumbrian speakers. Mind you I much preferred tuning into them than driving in and out of Edinburgh. All that tartan and bagpipes drove you to distraction if you had to do that journey twice in the one day.

Tourists expected you to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the city, despite the fact you lived about 60 miles outside it. To them you were an Edinburgh bus and they demanded to know what local tourist attractions you passed by, and were you related to such and such a clan? On certain such occasions I'd put on my best imitation of my grandfather's Strabane accent and say that I had left Strabane that morning and had got lost. The looks on their faces was worth it! Fortunately we operated "Limited Stop" in and out of Edinburgh, so we never strangled many tourists at all. The concept of the fact that the bus was on a 100 mile journey to and from England which took almost 4 hours never occurred to them.

Sigh yow later!
I am confident with most accents and dialects, even Brummy. You will probably have noticed that the accents of city dwellers in densely populated areas tend to be much harsher, while those who live in more sparsely populated areas have a gentler timbre. I think this is probably true the world over.

Accents are really important, and I would hate it if any regional accent were lost. My own dialect, when I choose to speak it, contains a great many Norse words. Place names in my area are also heavily influenced by Norse words, including: Skelmersdale (valley of the devil) and Golborne (land of the marsh marigold)

Small town which have "kirk" as a prefix or suffix are also Norse in origin, as are those with "by".

Kind Regards,


That's interesting about "kirk". Here in Brittany, there are places that start with "ker", also meaning church. Brittany and Cornwall have some similar place names, presumably with the same Celtic origins - Pen, Pol, lyn/lan and tri/tre.

Regional accents seem less marked here in France than they are in the UK apart from a north-south divide. Each region has its patois (words from the original regional language) but much was lost when Napoleon decreed that French should be the national language. Some languages are still written and spoken such as Breton in the north-west and Occitan in the south-west but a little like Scottish Gaelic, they are kept going to stop them dying out. There are many songs in Breton and even in a fairly small area, there are variations in the spelling of words.
Hi Stephen,

I need to speak in my own dialect, as I haven't managed anybody else's as good as I can do my own, and no matter how hard I try I cannot speak "propah" English either.

Oddly, it's only in the far flung parts of Scotland where any words have much Norse influence, and even then you need to work hard. A "voe" is a fjord in the very far north east, and on Orkney and Shetland, which were under Norwegian rule at one time. Their dialect contains a large number of words of Norse origin on account of that, but if you are looking for tall blond Viking types, the last longboat left in 1468 for Norway, and they all got on it. The people there these days (those who aren't English "settlers") are mainly short and dark.

The more common "ness" is also found in England, right down to Kent. We have a lot of "kirks" same as you but don't have enough Christians to fill them.

In my own "picturesque" area of North Lanarkshire, a lot of the place names are Celtic in origin. That's not Gaelic but Celtic, as the area was settled by Celts, the Scoti tribe, who variously came from Ireland, Northern England, and of course Scotland. The Gaels of the north west of Scotland are described by historians as being "probably" related to the Scoti, but their culture has remained different from the rest of us, and they too were part of Viking territory (the Southern Isles) for some time. Their language and culture has remained different from ours for centuries, and it is to that culture that most present day Scots who have a tendency to claim to be "different" from the rest of the UK, lean towards.

Everybody is entitled to their own interpretation of what the historians tell us, but I know for a fact that my own ancestry cannot be traced to anywhere exotic, and certainly not to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, in any way shape or form. If you take time to reason everything out you discover that the "Romans" who built Hadrians Wall were actually soldiers from the Batavian Roman Republic (present day Netherlands), as the air fares were considerably cheaper from there than they were from Rome, same as the present day!

As one of my ancestors, who may have been Anglo Saxon, Gaelic, Pictish, or a refugee from Kazakhstan for all I know, would have said, "Daddy, why do those Romans not speak Latin?" "Shut up and get me another big stone for my sling!"

We're off to Brummagem in a fortnight for more lessons on how to tell the difference between a Brummie and somebody from the Black Country. The lady of the house is a Brummie and her husband is from the Black Country, who is often referred to as "that big lazy Yam Yam". I'll not go into the Black Country dialect here as "Y'am joost wuddn't git eet, awroight!"
<QUOTE author="Corsaire" post_id="62285" time="1535441123" user_id="2107"><s>
Corsaire post_id=62285 time=1535441123 user_id=2107 Wrote:but much was lost when Napoleon decreed that French should be the national language. Some languages are still written and spoken such as Breton in the north-west and Occitan in the south-west but a little like Scottish Gaelic, they are kept going to stop them dying out.


I read that the Vikings were in Normandy, so they may have nipped over to Brittany for the odd flagon of ale, and torched a kirk or two. My youngest daughter has red hair and she was the centre of attention in some parts of France. However, when we went to the Rennes area it seemed every other female had red hair, and it wasn't out of a bottle. Might have been due to Viking stag nights in the town?

It's sad that most French regional accents are dying out and I've read that they still refuse point blank to allow any other languages to creep into the school syllabus. Neighbours of ours are friendly with a family named Verbrughe, and they come from a village named Ghyvelde, near Dunkerque. Mother and father can still find the odd Flemish word for the sake of tradition, but the kids have no knowledge of the language at all, other than the names of some local historical characters.

Hawick's twin town is Bailleul, and a lot of the kids who come/came here on exchange visits have Flemish surnames, but no knowledge of the language.

Wonder what Napoleon would have made of Ch'timi, or Rouchi from Valenciennes? I suppose they are essentially French dialects at the end of the day.

If Napoleon had done a better job with his campaigns, they wouldn't be writing "Poileas" on the cop cars in Scotland!

Funnily enough there has just been a huge festival in Rennes for redheads called "Red Love" - the first of its kind. There were over 1,000 redheads there and no doubt the next fest will see many more.

The Vikings certainly got around, even as far as Canada (Newfoundland) according to a documentary I saw recently. Incredible feat when you think that they sailed/rowed in open boats.

The French refuse to speak Flemish though many in the north-east have Flemish names. I've come across many Belgians who speak French but not Flemish and others who speak Flemish but not French. But Belgium is a peculiar country being relatively 'new'. They have 3 main languages, French, Flemish and German. They are even divided in sport, with Flemish teams and French teams. However, there are many Belgians who believe that bringing language/political differences into sport is wrong and they are fighting it.

There's been a lot of publicity about the Ch'tis - there was the film, of course, which drew attention to them. I haven't really ever listened to the way they speak.

The accent I do like very much is that of Alsace - very lilting and southern German. Hardly surprising really given their history ! They do have their own language which is spoken by many of the locals which is similar to German.
Hi Sally,

Louis Ledrich and Pierre Parachini were both from Alsace, as were other great players, whose names now escape me. I have heard the accent, although it sounds a bit comical to me, with all those high pitched exclamations.

Bienvenue Chez les Ch'tis was a brilliant film and so was Rien à declarer, about a joint French/Belgian customs operation. Danny Boon has one of those elastic faces that it is hard not laugh at.

I don't suppose anybody but a Ch'ti could actually speak like one, but the most noticeable feature is their tendency to replace "s" sounds with "sh". Garshon for garcon, and Shoixante, for 60. In the days when there were Francs and cents I remember being charged "Shept francsh et sheesh shentsh" in 'aszhebrouck (Hazebrouck)for "deux bieresh presshion".

I was tempted to ask the cafe owner if he was having trouble with hish new teeth, but fortunately I heard him speaking English on the telephone before I made a fatal mistake. Maybe your Breton oldies with no teeth sound the same when inebriated!?

My first wife had friends in Brussels who were called Van Damme, but they too were French speakers. Francine had applied for a government job and was fluent in French, Dutch, and English, but she failed the application because her knowledge of German was deficient. I did come across Belgian speakers of German in Liege. They were from the nearby district of Eupen. Fortunately I did remember never to try and speak French in either West or East Flanders, in case I got my teeth knocked out and ended up speaking Ch'timi!
Before I forget about it, here is a very brief account of the plight of a Scotsman in Belgium, and Denmark.

When I was in the Navy we provided helicopter transport for the 10th Dutch Royal Marines and I picked up a few words of Dutch along the way.

My wife and I went to Bruges (Brugge) in Belgium and during the check in to the hotel she mentioned to the owner that I could speak the language. Later on in the bar the owner started speaking to me in Flemish, and I never had a clue what he was saying, at first. However, when the penny finally dropped I started speaking back to him. He asked me why I spoke Flemish with a Chinese accent and we both had a good laugh.

He began to work on me to improve my Flemish and I thought I was doing rather well. A few days later we were in Blankenberge, and I approached a stall which was selling delicious looking waffles. Full of confidence gained from my recent Flemish lessons I proudly asked for "Twee luikse wafels, asjeblief". (Two Liegeoise waffles, please). The stall holder advised me that I had been watching too many war movies and I'd have been better asking for the waffles in English, as my Flemish sounded like German.

I was in my late 20s then, and with the determination people af that age tend to have, I kept practising. A year or two later we were in Maastricht in the Netherlands and it appears my "Flemish/Dutch" had improved somewhat, as I was getting along fine with the odd word here and there. I was very pleased with myself indeed, and we went out for the day to Liege in Belgium. A few rather excellent beers later, there was a waffle stall, and I just had to go and prove I could speak anybody's language. So, bold as brass up I strode to the stall, and blurted out "Twee luikse wafels, ah shit, s'il vous plait!" The reason for my tri lingual sentence was that halfway through the proceedings I realised they speak French in Liege, and tried to make amends for my initial gaffe.

The stallholder, without the semblance of a flinch, said in perfect English, "Certainly sir, would you like salt and vinegar or brown sauce on them?", then burst out laughing. A Gaufre de Liège is a sweet waffle (certainly not improved by the addition of any savoury condiments) and the stallholder explained, "Please remember we speak French in Liege and not Flemish. At first I couldn't work out where you were from, but I spent some years working in a fish and chip shop in Scotland, and eventually I worked your accent out. You won't get a haggis supper in Liege, by the way." I don't think I stopped laughing about that one until we came home.

After that I became rather disinclined to bother to try and speak other languages. Reading and writing them is one thing, but speaking is probably best left to the natives, at least in my particular case.

It gets worse than that. Some years later we were on holiday in Denmark and on every occasion when we entered a tourist type venue, we noticed they had circled "NL" for our nationality on the admission tickets. I asked one of the staff at Silkeborg Aquarium why she had circled "NL", and she explained that they were obliged to record the nationality of all people who were admitted for statistical purposes. She said that she had heard the three of us speaking to each other, and decided as we looked like western Europeans but couldn't understand a word we were saying, then we must have been Dutch.

I advised her that we were Scottish and she just shrugged her shoulders. My last words were "Do you know where I can get a haggis supper in Silkeborg?" before my wife hit me on the back of the head with her handbag!
I lived in Hamburg in the early 70s and when visiting Amsterdam, I was warned not to speak German. Equally, I was cycling in western Brittany in the late 70s and when I cycled past a group of Frenchies in a village, they shouted "Boche" at me. Must have been the blonde flowing locks. I was mortified but decided it wasn't worth stopping to correct them - they might have lynched me. It wasn't the first time either.

When I speak French, I'm sometimes asked if I'm Dutch rather than "anglaise". I have no idea how the Dutch speak French, but if they speak is well as they do English, I'm quite happy !

My husband has been learning Dutch for a while but is often frustrated by Dutch people replying in English. I once had a conversation with a woman who spoke Dutch while I spoke German - we understood each other perfectly ... O think !

Mmmmm just thinking of stroopwafel ...... and chocolate sprinkles :lol:

I've found any attempts to speak Dutch in the Netherlands will almost always invite an answer in English. Margo has family in Amsterdam, but they've been there a long time and get way with it. They even have "amsterrrrrdamse" accents.

Very few non Danes can handle that language either, and any time I've ever tried I'm taken for German. When I go to Norway they think I'm a Dane, despite the fact I lived there for a short while, and when I go to Sweden they think the same.

I had a bit of an issue once in West Flanders in Belgium when the pedal cycle I hired from Belgian Railways broke down. The gear change cable snapped and it stuck in 3rd gear. I had hired it in Brugge and had been heading back there, but decided it was getting harder and harder to pedal it so attempted to return it to the station at Blankenberge. The old guy just smiled and said I must return it to Brugge. He kept saying "Zijn de freins vast blijven zitten?" I couldn't work out why he was using the French word for brakes, but discovered later that the use of various French words was common. No the brakes weren't stuck on, but I couldn't remember the Flemish word for gears. I tried showing him the bike but he wasn't interested.

Confident I wouldn't be able to strike up any meaningful conversation with him, I stormed off and nearly dislocated both knees cycling the 12 miles back to Brugge in high gear where I returned the broken bike. The old guy there asked me why I hadn't just put the bike on the train from Blankenberge and travelled back with it as the hire covered local train travel!

Sometimes I think that we Brits just shouldn't be allowed off the island!
Following my first divorce (a very unhappy time for me) I decided to tour the whole of Europe. I took six weeks off work, and packed my tent and luggage into my car. An old Army chum of mine decided that he would like to accompany me on this adventure, so I picked him up in Stevenage on my way to Dover.

On our way back to the ferry, we stayed at an hotel and restaurant complex in Chalon sur Soane. Though in the same building, the hotel and restaurant were actually separate enterprises. I speak a little French now, but spoke none at all back then.

My chum and I spoke a little German so, as the hotel receptionist spoke no English, we booked our room in German. We also booked a table at the restaurant through the hotel receptionist, who must have told the restaurant staff that we were German.

Our waiter was a nice enough chap, though his German was fairly weak. He said something in German that I didn't understand, so I asked my mate (in English) what he had said. The waiter then told me that I spoke very good English for a German, and asked if we could continue to use English as his German was not all that good. I readily agreed.

Kind Regards,

When I was serving on the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes there were 2000 UK sailors and airmen (which included me) on board, and 400 Dutch marines. We all had to make use of the Chinese laundry on board, staffed as it was by civilian natives of Hong Kong, as well as the cobblers, tailors, shoemakers, and barbers enterprises.

When you first sent your laundry in for process, the Chinese laundry operatives asked for the last 4 numbers of your six figure service number, and they used those as identification, so that you were able to retrieve your own laundry. Mine was 3352 and all of my uniform and civilian clothing was discretely marked with that number, either on the inside of the clothing itself, or by labels sewn on to it.

It was a great system, depending on who was operating the counter where the laundry was collected.

One very busy day in the Mediterranean when it was sweltering on board, I was in the queue for my laundry. The operative asked me for my laundry number, whereupon I shouted "3352". A few minutes later he reappeared with a huge pile of laundry belonging to a Dutch marine. I explained that the laundry wasn't mine. He screamed at me that I'd asked for "9352", and I replied in the negative. I told him my laundry number was "3352". He shouted, "But you look like Dutch Marine and your English no good. You say four number and I think you say 9352. No my fault!" At that time I would have to admit that as a tallish type with a full head of reddish blond hair I was often mistaken for anything other than a Brit.

I told the guy I was really sorry, but hopefully by the time we got back to Plymouth I'd be able to speak English as well as he could! Fortunately he saw the joke and I received the correct laundry. His parting comment was, "You must go school and learn English, or people no understand what you say!" I still treasure that moment!
Hi John,

How very strange ........ your last three numbers were 352 ........ my last three numbers were 353.

We often travelled on the LSL's RFA Sir Gallahad, etc. They were all crewed by Hong Kong Chinese, few of whom seemed to speak much English.

As these ships were flat-bottomed, crossing the Bay of Biscay was a very bumpy ride. In fact, anywhere you sailed on those damned things was a bumpy ride.

The food was truly amazing, though the amazing part of it was that it was seriously awful. To describe it as "pig slop" would be too kind, as I'm sure the pigs would turn up their snouts at that muck.

Whenever we knew that we were to sail on an LSL, we all raided the stores for "K" rations.

Kind Regards, and a Yo Ho Ho,


If we weren't careful we could get an RFA posting, mainly to the Engadine, or the very same Galahad. It was actually classed as an easy number but they never got me.

Most of those Cantonese guys on the ships lived very sad lives. They never went ashore anywhere and saved all their cash so they could go home to Hong Kong. Gambling was their passion and the card and mah jong schools went on into the wee hours.

When it was "roughers" (Force 10 or worse) the chefs couldn't use the galley (mind you they weren't very hot on it when it wasn't rough). We had to exist on bread, chocolate bars, purchased with our own money from the ship's NAAFI shop, and ships' biscuits, which I think they also used as emergency ammunition for the AA guns. Drinks were dispensed from the "goffer" machine, so called because you either got a trickle out of it or you were drowned by a "goffer", which is navy slang for a very big wave.

On one such occasion in the beloved Arctic Ocean, a brave chef got the deep fat fryer going and made semi-passable chips, which quickly ran out. Some hungry guys asked him to get the fryer going again but the Chief Cook vetoed it. Unfortunately one of our guys shouted and swore at the poor chef. The Chief was livid and shouted out, "Who called this cook a c***?" A Glaswegian voice retorted by shouting "Who called that c*** a cook?" The culprit was never identified, and it wasn't me.

Bet you're glad you never had the same number as me, as mine never brought me much luck at all.
Hi John,

It all depends on how you define luck. My number was, I suppose, lucky, but only from the point of view that I survived. In many other ways, it could be considered unlucky, as my antecedent history contains a considerable amount of blood, sweat and tears.

Still, at least I survived, but not without cost.

Kind Regards,


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