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The life of a Dundee groundsman

The life of a Dundee groundsman: It’s no walk in the park being a groundsman at a Scottish football club when the dark winter hits.

Read the full article from The Courier here

The life of a Dundee groundsman

The life of a Dundee groundsman

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In the shadow of BT Murrayfield

In the shadow of BT Murrayfield: Edinburgh Rugby has a new home, a short pass away from the grandeur of BT Murrayfield. Scott MacCallum talks with Jim Dawson, head groundsman, to find out more.

As we enter a new year and say “Good riddance” to 2020, we can reflect on what has been an extraordinary difficult time for us all. One sector which has had more challenges to cope with than most is that of elite sport, where competition has continued but without crowds and all the related revenue streams that huge numbers of supporters generate.

In the shadow of BT Murrayfield

In the shadow of BT Murrayfield

One of those bodies was the Scottish Rugby Union, but throughout everything Edinburgh Rugby’s new home was being constructed.

Just outside the main BT Murrayfield stadium the new stadium was conceived to provide a permanent home for Edinburgh in a more intimate environment of a 7,800-seater stadium.

That latter fact is a little ironic given  that Scotland, and every other northern hemisphere national team, have been busting a gut in front of empty seats since the autumn. But there is no doubt the ability to provide that 16th man is made more easy in a compact arena.

One man how has watched its development closely over its various developmental stages is Head Groundsman, Jim Dawson.

“The stadium is more or less complete. The stands are in, the carpet is in and the posts are going in as we speak,” said Jim, as we chatted towards the end of November and, by the time you read this, the ground would almost certainly have been Christened.

“The pitch is exactly the same as the one we have a Scotstoun (Home of Scotland’s other pro team Glasgow Warriors) which has been down four or five years and which has been brilliant,” said Jim, who is in charge of both the BT Murrayfield and Scotstoun surfaces.

The new pitch is a Greenfields MX Elite. Pile Height: 60mm; Total thickness: 62 mm; Number of tufts per square metre: 4,750; Number of filaments per square metre: 114,000; Roll Width: 400 cm; Colour Fastness: Xenon test: blue-scale more than 7, grey-scale more than 4.

In the shadow of BT Murrayfield

In the shadow of BT Murrayfield

“Paddy (Ferrie) won the Best Managed Artificial Surface of the Year at the 2017/18 IOG Awards for the pitch, and the work he does is second to none. He does an absolutely fantastic job in the way he maintains the carpet and we will just incorporate the practices he carries out at the new ground.”

With an artificial training pitch already at BT Murrayfield, Jim doesn’t need to add to his machinery inventory to cope with the new pitch.

“We have the brushes we need and the Campey Unirake, while the pitch does come with a one year warranty from Malcolm’s so they will be coming in and do whatever needs to be done for the first 12 months.

“We will carry on with the same testing that Paddy does at Scotstoun, measuring the depth of rubber crumb, and using the Clegg Hammer to ensure that it always plays its best.”

While the new build adds to the variety of work for Jim and his team, it will also be a real change for Head Coach Richard Cockerill and his Edinburgh team.

“They have been used to playing on a top quality grass pitch and to go and train and play on an artificial every day will be a bit different for them.”

Throughout the pandemic the pitch will be fully disinfected every week. Previously it had been once every six weeks.

“We are all really looking forward to taking the new pitch on board and it’s really good for Edinburgh to finally have their own home.

Back at the main BT Murrayfield Jim dealt with a full autumn schedule which this year incorporate the Nations Cup – all of which went on without crowds. Jim and his team had just prepared the pitch for the visit of France.

“Alex (Latto) and I watched the game from the disabled bay and, without crowd noise, you really do hear the big tackles going in as the players making their calls on the pitch,” said Jim, who also acknowledged he did notice how the lack of crowd meant that the build up of tension which Murrayfield normally sees just wasn’t there in the last five minutes of the game.

The BT Murrayfield DESSO pitch is now six years old but with loving and expert care, Jim reckons he can look forward to a 13-14 year lifespan.

In the shadow of BT Murrayfield

In the shadow of BT Murrayfield

One of the main issues with which Jim has to deal, ironically enough for Scotland’s national stadium, is that it is in Scotland.

“We are the most northerly rugby stadium in Britain. The main difference between ourselves and Twickenham is daylight. As soon as the clocks change the grass wants to lie flat and shut itself down. With our stadium lighting and our undersoil heating we’re telling it not to go to sleep and to keep working which does stress it out.”

Jim and Deputy, Alex, review turf management practices regularly including their fertiliser programmes and to keep even more on top of things they are looking at reviewing more regularly.

“It has got to the stage that we are looking at things on a weekly, rather than a monthly, basis. Sometimes it’s just to tweak things a little but it might also mean leaving it alone for three or four days. And all groundsmen know, that to do nothing, is the hardest thing for us.”

Unlike the majority of the Scottish Rugby staff Jim was retained for most of the time during lockdown as, like so many in his position, he had to ensure the pitch continued to be cut, rather than left to its own devices.

But his workload didn’t stop there. “I got a couple of weeks in but was trying to spin so many plates and that fact that the weather had improved, I asked if Alex could come back too. He’d been climbing the walls. He’s a keen cyclist but had done virtually every route close to his home so he was delighted.

That helped me a lot, particularly with the back pitches and the many bankings that we have on the site.”

One of the jobs that they, and the Facilities Team – a total of seven – had to carry out, wouldn’t necessarily appear on any Job Description for a groundsman role.

“We had to turn every tap in the stadium on for five minutes to flush the system and prevent any outbreak of Legionella. We had a system where we had cable ties on them to keep them on otherwise it would have been a struggle,” said Jim with a degree of understatement.

All in a day’s work for Jim and his team at BT Murrayfield.

Campey announce passing of David Briggs

Campey announce passing of David Briggs: It is with deepest regret that we announce the passing, just before Christmas, of David Briggs, who had been suffering with Parkinson’s’ disease. 

David joined Campey Turf Care Systems in 2000 and retired in 2017. He was a successful product specialist for Southern England. He made a subtle but significant impact on industry methods of creating dealership networks and direct customer contact, both in the UK and abroad. David was instrumental in establishing a highly effective dealer network for Campey machinery, in Southern Europe. He was always a popular and much respected member of the team. David was also highly regarded and well respected amongst his colleagues and customers alike.

Campey announce passing of David Briggs

Campey announce passing of David Briggs

We offer our sincerest condolences to Diane and all the family at this incredibly sad time.

Richard Campey
Chairman
Campey Turf Care Systems

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CleanShield – a peace of mind

CleanShield – a peace of mind: Amega Science’s CleanShield – an alcohol-free, multi-surface cleaner, offers peace of mind at a time when it is most needed according to Martin Ford, UK Sales Manager for Agrigem.

It is widely documented that the most common way that microorganisms, particularly bacteria, are spread and cause infection is on hard surfaces and carried on people’s hands. Preventing infection and managing the spread of germs from hands and surfaces is therefore important in all environments.

CleanShield – a peace of mind

CleanShield – a peace of mind

CleanShield is designed to bring broad spectrum pathogen protection and biological cleanliness to large areas in an instant. This high-performance sanitising solution has been independently proven to be effective against a wide variety of germs including Norovirus, Ebola, MERS, Swine-Flu, Covid-19 and many more.

Martin from Agrigem claims that he has seen an increasing demand for CleanShield, particularly over recent months. He also had no hesitation in using the product at his local football club (Rastrick Junior FC in Yorkshire) where he is also manager and chairman.

“Since the pandemic we have obviously had to put many safety measures in place. When we were able to restart after the initial lockdown, we were told by the FA that we needed to disinfect all of our equipment after every session – our goal posts, the footballs, the bibs, the cones – pretty much everything.

“At our club, there are over 350 players and 70 coaches – so it was essential that we carried out the necessary measures. When CleanShield was released we knew it was going to be a reputable product and it was going to do exactly what it claimed to do.”

CleanShield is alcohol free which has many advantages over alcohol-based products: it kills spores or non-enveloped viruses unlike alcohol-based products; alcohol hand gels and surface wipes can dry the skin causing hands to crack and bleed – but with no alcohol content, CleanShield will not irritate the skin at all and is proven to be effective for up to 45 minutes on hands and 3 days on surfaces after its application.

Furthermore, it can be mopped, sprayed or wiped onto floors, walls, surfaces and equipment providing easy instant protection to any environment where the transfer of germs is a concern. It is ready to use immediately with no preparation or mixing – something which Martin is particularly impressed with.

“CleanShield can be used straight out of the bottle which is great,” he said. “This makes it easy for the coaches at the end of each of the sessions just to spray everything down. It also goes an exceptionally long way which a huge benefit because it is so cost effective.

“In this day and age, you need to take the necessary precautions and keep everyone safe. You need something that will work effectively and not give you any problems further down the line – CleanShield gives you peace of mind because it does exactly what it claims to do.

“I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending this to anyone, and I have already. My wife is the Operations & Welfare Manager for Leeds United Sports College and even she has bought some CleanShield. This proves how good the product is, because if I can sell it to my wife – then I can sell it to anybody!”

Please contact Agrigem:

Web – Agrigem.co.uk

Phone – 01522 246491.

Twitter – @AgrigemLtd

Facebook – Agrigem-Ltd

Linked IN – Agrigem-Ltd

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Xpedite® rescues Manor of Groves GC

Xpedite® rescues Manor of Groves GC: Having exhausted all mechanical methods of improving surface drainage, Manor of Groves Course Manager Lee Brinkley went into the winter of 2019/20 facing the challenge of managing saturated greens once again.

Or so he thought! A consultation with his regional Headland Amenity Technical Manager led to a trial of Xpedite® on four of the club’s problem greens and, despite it being one of the wettest winters on record, the greens had never been drier.

Xpedite® rescues Manor of Groves GC

Xpedite® rescues Manor of Groves GC

Nestled in a secluded spot on the Hertfordshire/Essex border, many of the greens at Manor of Groves are surrounded by trees, restricting both light and airflow to the surface. “It is no exaggeration to say that my predecessor and I had tried everything” explains Lee, who heads up a team of six greenkeepers. “We’ve hollow-cored, top-dressed, removed thatch and even installed drainage to try and solve the issue. Speaking with Peter Blackaby of Headland was a final roll of the dice to try and avoid the problems we’ve had for many years; with retention of water and the knock-on impact this has on overall playability and plant health.”

“We trialled Xpedite® on four greens, using the equivalent of 14 x 20kg bags per 500m2 of surface after hollow-coring last October, and were astounded with the results” Lee explains. “We had both mild, and wet conditions last year but the greens treated with Xpedite® stayed dry and playable throughout. This specific application dovetailed our existing nutritional programme which is delivering fantastic plant health, strong sustained growth and disease-free greens.”

Xpedite® is a soil amendment product that introduces non-compacting pore space into problematic rootzones. The porous nature of the Xpedite® granule, produced from diatomaceous earth, increases oxygen-holding potential and helps to improve permeability and drainage. In summer, it is able to retain water within its structure – which is then available to the grass plant during periods of dry weather.

Lee concludes, “Following the success we achieved last winter, we are about to hollow-core and apply Xpedite® on all 18 of our greens. The impact this will have on plant health should see us deliver the quality surfaces demanded by the golfers, as well as reduce the need for remedial treatments as we emerge in the spring.”

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Starlings part of the plan at Sherborne GC

Starlings part of the plan at Sherborne GC: Under the guidance of Agrovista Amenity, Sherborne Golf Club is currently embarking on an integrated pest management plan (IPM) to control a leatherjacket population.

Sherborne is a mature 18-hole parkland course set on a Dorset hilltop with stunning views over Somerset and the Blackmore Vale. Much of the course was designed by the renowned British Open winner and inter-war course architect James Braid and the Club is a member of the Braid Association.

Starlings part of the plan at Sherborne GC

Starlings part of the plan at Sherborne GC

Scott Johnson has been the Head Greenkeeper at Sherborne Golf Club for just seven weeks; however, he knows the course inside out as prior to his promotion, he was the deputy course manager for six years. Therefore, he was aware of the long road he had ahead of him in regard to controlling the leatherjackets. He immediately set his mind to the task.

“It was apparent that I needed to minimise the amount of bird damage by reducing the number of leatherjackets,” said Scott. “We have 4 or 5 greens that are getting torn apart on a daily basis by crows and rooks.

“Since I became the Head Greenkeeper, we have tried many cultural methods to limit the bird damage. These included the purchase of a bird scarer microphone that really was quite effective to start with – the members took them round as they played first thing in the morning and late in the evenings, but obviously you can’t expect them to keep doing that every time. We also had spinning CDs dotted around the worst affected greens.”

Scott soon got in touch with David Bevan, Amenity Specialist for Agrovista Amenity, who visited Sherborne Golf Course to take a look.

“It was apparent there was a problem with leatherjackets,” said David. “Sherborne is an ecological minded golf course, so I started chatting to Scott about integrated pest management (IPM) which I am a firm believer in.”

With many active substances now withdrawn from the turf and amenity sector, crucial practices such as monitoring and using a range of preventative measures within an IPM approach is being widely encouraged as best practice. David’s advice to Scott was to explore a more long-term, controlled outlook which would also reduce the need for purchasing products year on year.

“The immediate solution was a single application of Acelepryn, which contains the active substance chlorantraniliprole,” continued David.  “I also spoke to Scott about how starlings are natural predators to the leatherjackets and it was at this point that I recommended our WoodStone starling boxes – I thought these would fit in nicely with what Scott and his team are trying to achieve.”

Constructed from a mix of concrete and wood fibres, the WoodStone boxes comprise of a single 45 mm hole – which is the perfect size to encourage starlings and discourage other birds and wildlife. As David says, starlings are an important natural predator of chafer beetles and crane flies and can be encouraged by turf managers as part of an integrated approach to pest management (IPM). Their narrow beaks facilitate feeding on these pests whilst causing minimal damage to the turf and promoting natural aeration of the surface. David further explained the benefits of starlings.

Starlings part of the plan at Sherborne GC

Starlings part of the plan at Sherborne GC

“A crow tends to scavenge and tear the turf with its claws and beak to get to the leatherjackets, whereas a starling has a very short, sharp pointed beak so it tends to peck straight in and straight out. A starling won’t cause any notable damage to the turf, which is why we are encouraging them to set-up home.”

Scott purchased nine WoodStone starling boxes which have been put into various locations all over the course and David has warned him not to expect overnight results.

“We have just created a habitat for the starlings to nest and breed, and now we have to let nature take its course – you can’t really put a time on that. It’s certainly a long-term approach and the correct approach in my opinion. The more you can do to encourage the natural predator the better, whether it be golf courses, schools or anywhere else for that matter.

“I think the industry needs to start looking away from chemical controls as the sole answer where it can to be honest and Scott is certainly taking a more ecological approach at Sherborne, by encouraging what amounts to a biological control. We will continue to support him closely with what he’s trying to achieve.”

Scott was full of praise for the service he has received to date from David and Agrovista Amenity.

“David has been in to visit on a number of occasions now – always with fantastic advice and knowledge. The products from Agrovista are great and the continued support is much appreciated. I’m excited to see the results,” he said.

For more information about Agrovista Amenity, visit www.agrovista.co.uk/amenity

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IKON XD zero-turn is top of the class

IKON XD zero-turn is top of the class: Zero-turn mowing is the fastest way to cut your grass. Speed and manoeuvrability have made zero-turns the increasingly popular alternative in the UK to the conventional ride-on lawnmower.

The ability to turn on its axis eliminates the need for three-point-turns and cuts mowing time by half. What’s more, you’re doing this without the conventional steering system. Zero-turns are driven and steered by the rear wheels via an independent transmission. Two levers are all you need to drive, brake and steer.

IKON XD zero-turn is top of the class

IKON XD zero-turn is top of the class

The latest Ariens IKON XD zero-turn makes it a comfortable and easy ride with a newly designed seat and intuitive controls for precision performance. That’s not all when you’re considering a zero-turn, you need to know you are choosing a machine that is built to last. The IKON XD wholly fits the bill with engineering excellence that puts it top of its class. Sporting new decals and side panels for a sharper look, this is a zero-turn built so much tougher and more durable it will surpass your expectations. That’s because the IKON XD comes with a wide range of commercial features, but at an affordable price for homeowners and semi-professionals. It’s constructed with a fully fabricated, heavy-duty tubular steel frame to provide enhanced strength and stability while travelling over different terrain.

The power comes from a premium Kawasaki 726cc engine for reliability and driving a commercial quality cutter deck. This deck is fully fabricated from 10-gauge steel for the durability of professional-grade equipment. There are 13 cutting heights which can be effortlessly adjusted by turning a dial on the control panel. Built for comfort, with its new high-back seat, armrests and vibration-reducing floor mat, the IKON XD comes with a three-year or 300 hours warranty. Models available: IKON XD 42 with a 107cm (42″) cutter deck or the IKON XD 52 with a 132cm (52″) deck.

For more information contact your local dealer or visit the website ariens-uk.com

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The true cost of cutting costs?

The true cost of cutting costs?: When a machine is operating at optimum performance and being utilised in the correct conditions, professional groundskeepers or operators can expect to see healthy and pristine looking turf. But performance could be hampered if a mower isn’t properly maintained and that includes the choice of replacement parts.

Currently, we’re in the thick of the core mowing season, and it’s likely that replacement parts will be required to maintain that optimum experience and result.

The true cost of cutting costs?

The true cost of cutting costs?

Here, Franck Pillittieri at The Toro Company, shares some reasons why it’s essential to consider true lifetime value and not just a low price point when it comes to purchasing replacement parts.

“We know that for many in our industry, as in many others, there is a need to try and reduce cost when it comes to maintenance work on equipment. In the current climate especially there is likely to be more pressure than ever to cut costs in the short term – but what is the true cost when the price is lower?

“As a premium manufacturer, our parts are not the lowest price on the market. We offer our customers the Toro Genuine Parts solution for a Genuine performance. Below are the top reasons we recommend buying discerningly when replacing parts in your mower.”

Quality fit

Our Toro Genuine Parts are custom designed for each machine, so when one needs replacing it makes sense to fit a like for like piece. Cost demands though, could lead people to consider a cheaper alternative. However, not only could the lower cost part not fit correctly, but it could also compromise the machine going forward, increasing wear and general run down of the machine.

Durability

Whilst a cheaper price may seem like a great saving at the time, it is likely to prove a false economy in the long run if the part isn’t built to last. Not only may you have to incur the expense of replacing non-genuine parts more often, you also may experience longer downtime for your machine, impacting your productivity.

Safety

With any replacement product that is not designed for the machine there is a risk to the safety of the user and the lifetime of the machine. Often, cheaper replacement parts come from manufacturers who focus more on cost than safety. We, at The Toro Company, place the safety of the users and the performance of the machine at the top of our priorities.

Machine damage

When parts are purchased from a Toro-approved channel partner, the consumer can trust that the channel partner is committed to the care of the machine. We cannot expect this to be true for unrelated suppliers that may offer the cheapest parts on the market. Cheap parts could damage to the machine, resulting in a cost that could counteract any potential savings. Downtime for repairs can also result in lost income. For example, belts and filters go into the core of the equipment, and there is a risk of causing a break down or technical issue by using non-genuine parts.

Time efficiency

If certain parts of the mower are replaced with non-genuine replacements there is a possible impact on the time it takes to complete a job. For example, all Toro blades are engineered for our specific machines to increase efficiency. A replacement blade could be less effective and require more frequent cutting, again incurring more overall costs and decreasing efficiency.

Poor results

There is also the possibility with cheaper parts that you could achieve a poorer cut with your mower. When using cheaper tines, for example, you may damage the turf and have a reduced result.

“At The Toro Company, we offer a high-standard after-service experience in collaboration with our channel partners. This includes 24-48 hour delivery, meaning less downtime for your machine, knowledgeable service technicians if you need help installing parts or require information on your mower, a 90-day warranty for peace of mind, and a guarantee that we are investing in innovation to benefit customers now and in the future.

“So, whilst we appreciate the current situation that many of our customers are in, we encourage everyone to consider the longer-term view for the best outcome for their machines.”

For more information please visit www.toro.com/en.

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Greenkeeper shares 40 years of memories

Greenkeeper shares 40 years of memories: A dedicated greenkeeper thought to be one of the longest serving in the industry is celebrating spending 40 years at the same golf club.

Terry Wharton joined Haydock Park Golf Club in April 1980 as a young man and is now head greenkeeper.

Greenkeeper shares 40 years of memories

Greenkeeper shares 40 years of memories

He said: “The 40 years have gone quickly and I’ve been very fortunate to spend most of my working life in a beautiful landscape, working with good greenkeepers and staff trying to raise the standards and the playability of our course.”

There have been plenty of changes since he first took up his role at the club.

“The early years saw limited machinery on the course, with most surfaces cut with hand machines, except for fairways and rough that were cut with tractor and gang mowers,” he said.

“The top-dressing facility of a self-contained hopper supersedes the tractor, trailer and wheelbarrow that in the early 1980s you’d be lucky to dress greens with 20 tonnes throughout the year, against 120 tonnes delivered in a two-month period in the spring at the present time.”

With the advancements in technology and more televised golf events, Terry has seen many changes during his career.

He said: “The golfers’ desire for better surfaces has seen the staffing levels raised at most clubs compared to the early years, with busy clubs realising the work programme for the day needs to be completed quickly and efficiently before the golfers start their round, with only the basic tasks being completed early afternoon. This point can be shown with our start times in the summer of 1980 – we had an 8am start with a 5pm finish against present start time 6am with a 2pm finish, allowing the greens team to complete most of the course set-up before the course gets busy.”

Terry said his favourite part of the club was its members, remembering one in particular.

He said: “We’ve had some real characters playing the game at Haydock Park, none more so than Jack Padoue, who was one of the ‘old guard’.

“On arrival at the club one Monday dinner, Jack was met with builders in the men’s locker room.

“Jack looked surprised, ‘how dare they work’ on the day he played, and it may affect his preparation on setting up for his four ball. Jack’s four ball was run to military precision and woe betide anyone getting in Jack’s way!

“So the builders were told by Jack what was expected from them – he wanted a ‘quick clean efficient job and by the way turn that radio off, don’t you realise you’re working at a private members’ golf club?’

“The builders came across Jack a few more times before they finished the work and were met with the same abruptness.

“On the builders completing the locker room Jack realised his key wouldn’t open his locker. On further inspection someone had accidentally spilled some super glue into the lock, we wondered who….”

Stephen Nicholson, the club’s business manager, paid tribute to Terry’s loyal service.

He said: “Wow, 40 years – that’s longer than I’ve been on this planet. It’s a feat that’s rarely matched these days, with more and more people opting to move from position to position to progress their careers. Terry’s loyalty has been at the heart of his longevity here.

“Alongside this what I am impressed with the most about Terry is his enthusiasm to continue to learn and develop.

“We’ve sent him down to Oxford to see how a different style of greenkeeping works, we’ve updated our systems so he now has a computer in his office, has access to Word, Excel and email whilst updating everything in the cloud along with an online planner in the form of Turfkeeper that tracks all shifts, financial planning of stock, seed, fertiliser applied etc.

“It’s great that Terry continues to push for more and we look forward to continuing to work together for the next 40 years! You are a credit to the club, your profession and your family. Once this crisis is over we will no doubt have a proper celebration for Terry – in the meantime, thanks again for all that you do and keep up the great work.”

Click here to read the original article

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Martinstown CC’s message of support

Martinstown CC’s message of support: Martinstown Cricket Club have found a unique way to get behind the NHS, leaving a message of support in the middle of their pitch.

The club has shown their love and support for the NHS by cutting a pattern of the three letters encased in a heart into the turf.

Martinstown CC's message of support

Martinstown CC’s message of support

With many members of the club and their families’ working for the NHS in the fight against coronavirus, the club’s groundsman, Tony Jacobs and its President, Jim Godding decided to use their time and resources to pay tribute to the NHS.

Mr Jacobs said: “We had the time and the place to show that the club is indebted, as we all are, to the NHS.

“Jim and I were proud to do it, and we made sure to social distance throughout, of course.

“There may be no cricket possible, but we are glad to have the opportunity to pay tribute to our wonderful NHS.”

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