Rosemary - Interview 25

Age at interview: 65
Brief Outline: Rosemary's son, James, was killed in the 7th July bomb attack in London in 2005. The family was devastated. Rosemary found help via family, friends, and colleagues, and through a vicar and a psychotherapist, and by creating wonderful memorials for her son.
Background: Rosemary was formerly a senior administrator for a university. She is married and has 2 children (1 died). Ethnic background/nationality: White British

More about me...

Rosemary’s son, James, was killed in the 7th July bomb attack in London in 2005. He was underground, traveling by tube when one of the bombs went off. At first Rosemary was not aware that James was involved in the incident. However, she knew that something had happened to him because he was supposed to be coming for supper that night and did not appear. Rosemary tried to get information via the “help line”, but was asked the same questions over and over again and found the process unhelpful and exasperating. Looking back she thinks that the lack of information was scandalous. Later, when a Family Assistance Centre was set up things improved and families received more help.
The bombs went off on a Thursday. By Sunday the family had two police liaison officers. The officers took DNA to help with identification and gave the family information as it became available. They also interviewed Rosemary and she suspects that they were trying to find out if James was connected with the terrorists in any way.
James’ disappearance was a shock to the entire family. Rosemary soon suspected that her son had been killed. While friends and younger family members searched hospitals she slept a great deal and read books while she waited for news.
James was identified by DNA about a week after the attack. The two police liaison officers rang the family to say that they were going to visit them with some news, and then they arrived and confirmed that James was dead. Rosemary and her husband were given the opportunity to identify James’ body but they decided, given the circumstances, that it would not be a good thing to do. Later, when they received the post-mortem report, they discovered that James had died instantly.
At first Rosemary did not think about herself but was most concerned about the reactions of those around her. In particular she was worried about her daughter, her husband and her son’s friends. However, Rosemary was devastated by her son’s death. At first she wondered how she was going to get through future years without him. She contacted her local vicar, who was very supportive. Even though Rosemary is not a religious person she found that the vicar helped her enormously. He helped her to appreciate that life was still worth living, and he convinced her that she had to get on with her life and not sit around doing nothing.
Three weeks after James died Rosemary organised a private funeral for family members, and a memorial service for the family and for hundreds of James’ friends and colleagues. Both services took place in the local church. James was cremated and then his ashes were buried in a garden of remembrance in the church yard.
Rosemary went back to work after three weeks. She had wonderful support from family and friends and work colleagues. She also found professional counselling very helpful. She went to a psychotherapist once a week for four months. This was a NHS referral. The counselling was excellent, but the process of getting the referral was terrible. The GP who referred Rosemary made her feel as though she was making an unnecessary fuss. However, she only had to wait a week for counselling to start.
After the bomb attack the Mayor of London set up a fund to provide some financial help to those affected. Rosemary thinks that this was well organised. The families of those who died also received £11,000 from the Government as Criminal Injury Compensation.
The inquest has not yet taken place. Rosemary finds this waiting very difficult and she thinks that the inquest should take place as soon as possible. She suspects that the coroner is waiting for the result of another court case, concerning those suspected of being involved in the acts of terrorism, before holding the inquest.
Rosemary wanted a memorial for her son. Her son’s employer, a health care body, has made an award to enable other young people to do research into health care. This award is made annually. The family has also donated money for an annual award for the person who does best on a University course called “Islam and the West”. Rosemary is very proud of these memorials. A physical memorial to those who died on 7th July will soon be put up in Hyde Park. Rosemary also wrote about James for the Book of Remembrance, which is kept in St Ethelburga’s church, in the City of London, where there is a Centre for Reconciliation and Peace. She found that writing about James was very therapeutic. A copy of this Book of Remembrance is also on display in the Museum of London. Rosemary is also involved with the charity, Disaster Action. Recently she was asked to comment on the new rules for Coroners, which are due to come before parliament.
Rosemary was interviewed in 2009.

Rosemary was asked if she would like to identify James’ body after he was killed by the London...

I mean one of things I was going to say about that is, one of the police liaison things, which was very unpleasant for them, was having to say to us, "Do you want to identify the body?” and I mean our immediate reaction, in fact my sister-in-law, who has been involved in this kind of area said, “Don’t, definitely don’t because you don’t need to do that and in the circumstances it will be an appallingly difficult thing for you to do”, but of course other people, that’s very important that they did. But I still wonder if I’m really honest whether I should have done but I’m not sure that, I don’t know, I’m ambivalent about it because part of me feels that it’s not closure, because it’s not about that where I’m concerned, it’s about understanding the reality of what happened, and I’m not sure that if you don’t do that whether you really do. But perhaps that isn’t the right way for you personally to deal with it in the future, I don’t know but I think as far as I’m concerned it is an unanswered bit of it really whether I should have done that.
So they asked you and then you discussed it as a family?
We decided definitely not and they actually said, right decision, basically and that was obviously because, I mean some of the other questions they had to ask was if they found any other body parts could they just dispose of them, I mean they have to ask you that sort of thing I understand that and you’re kind of numb so you don’t, it’s only afterwards you think, God what are they asking me here and whether they, and they find things, you know, things that belong to somebody, you know, do you want them back, that sort of thing. So you, you wonder whether, whether that’s the sort of thing you should have actually said, “Yes I do” and it’s the right thing to do but, I mean, lets face it this is the subject of many a plot this kind of thing and my feeling still is that we made the right decision because that isn’t the right way to remember somebody, I don’t think it really isn’t. 
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Rosemary believes that if people create memorials to those who have died something positive can...

And then you said there’s going to be a memorial for everybody involved?
Yes there is, but perhaps we can talk about something else I found really good which is, I thought personally we’ve got to do something to mark his life for him and what his employers did, they suggested it, not me, the Chief Executive and the Chairman suggested that they had an award in memory of him, which is to enable other young analysts to do research into health care basically, and that’s what’s happened, so since 2006 there’s been annual awards, with quite a generous amount of money to young people who work for that organization.
They do with research and I’m on the selection panel for it and so is one of James’ friends who happens to be a solicitor and I think they’ve done some amazing research projects and they’ve been given an opportunity to do something they wouldn’t have been able to do before and it’s in his memory and it’s on the website so that’s lovely. And also last year the university and my family between us are donating an annual prize in memory of James to the person who does best on one of the university courses called Islam and the West, which when I read about it I thought this is just the right thing to do. 
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Rosemary has also written about James in a Book of Remembrance, kept in St Ethelburga's church....

What about the Book of Remembrance is that. Where is that kept?
It’s kept in St Ethelburga’s which is in the City of London and the idea was and the people who organised that, they wrote to all the bereaved and asked them if they wanted to contribute something about the particular person, and I did and that’s another thing I found very therapeutic, I found it wonderful to write about James actually, in an honest kind of way. We all had to provide some photographs and things. It’s a fitting memorial, in fact it was very interesting because it’s also in the Museum of London and I have, I went to dinner with the Director of the Museum of London about six months ago and it was, it’s actually on display in a main area of the Museum of London and it’s being looked at so often, it’s tatty and that’s kind of, you know, really tatty, you know, and you think that’s pretty, you know, at least people are, the fact it’s in the Museum of London is fantastic because that’s in a way the heart of the history of London and I think it is part of the history of London now so it’s great that it’s in there. I must say that was one of the things I really wanted to do and thought it was really valuable to do it and it made me feel, writing about James, made me feel, yes it was good for me I think.
Did you have a sort of special ceremony in the church?
Yes we did, we had a dedication ceremony for it which was, I mean it was nondenominational, it was really just, yes I mean it was just a fairly simple ceremony with some, you know, words basically.
Has it been moved to the Museum of London permanently?
No, they’re just copies basically, they’re the copies in the Museum of London and the main copy is in St Ethelburga’s and will be permanently because it’s the Centre of Reconciliation, which I think is very appropriate actually, it’s a nice place to go, very quiet.
Can you look at it in the church as well or is that behind glass?
I think, I haven’t been in there recently, I think it may be in a cabinet, I can’t remember.

When Rosemary told people about her son’s death she sometimes found she was consoling them or...

As I say my sisters and my brother and my husband’s relations and everybody were genuinely you know, concerned for us and so forth but it is interesting in these situations because, you know, there are, you know, inevitably everyone does don’t they if you’ve got a number of relations a couple of our relations are pretty needy in their own right and were very devastated by this and I have found, I have found particularly at first, I was doing quite a lot of consoling of other people and even my friends, I think there is this like feeling oh I’ve had this, you know, people can’t help it can they, I’m going to about to regale you with my ghastly experience now. Having said that, I mean my sisters were fabulous.
Do you like talking about him at home?
Yes we do, yes we do talk about him, we talk about him quite a lot because, I think everybody’s always done that quite naturally because we feel the need to actually. I don’t think you can dismiss it and quite often when we’re talking about you know, things that people did, I think now that we can also talk about him in a oh God do you remember what he did sometimes, you know, which is very healthy I think. One of the things I still find quite difficult I have to say is necessarily talk about it to people who I’ve just met, I do find that quite difficult because you don’t know what people’s reactions are going to be and even things I’m quite involved with you think, I mean I am conscious, I’m going back to being a Trustee of a charity and I haven’t told them and I think I’m going to have to soon because, I don’t know it seems, a thing I didn’t want to do I suppose is, I didn’t consciously not talk about it but it just didn’t come up and I think I want to raise the topic under the right circumstances really and that’s not necessarily that easy I think so there are things like that but there are practical things. And like your first question like, how many children do you say you have, you know, it’s difficult actually that sort of thing. 
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After the London bombing those who died were remembered in a ‘two minute silence’. Reporters...

Generally though I think the press, you know, the press is insensitive at the wrong times. I mean after it happened they were hanging around, loads, all of them were hanging around the main hospitals in London waiting to see whether they could talk to anybody who might possibly, possibly be bereaved. I think the other thing that, I think it was the day that there was, when they had the two minute silence, I can’t remember we weren’t in London at the time I don’t think, or the same month  there were a lot of people in Trafalgar Square and they just happened, my niece who’s a pretty little blond, she was about 17 at the time, they took a photograph of her when she was crying and it was in the paper and I just opened The Metro and there was a picture of her crying, you know, and you think, “This is awful”, you don’t know how traumatic this has been for her and it was just, I mean it was a good picture I suppose if you want, you know, grief and all the rest of it, that kind of thing, it’s intrusive and all the things that we all know about. But possibly I think initially it was worse than I imagined, I still find it very difficult to understand how people can really, I’ll not say job, I mean really, really trade in other people’s pain and grief, I just find that, you know, totally repellent. 

Soon after her son died in the London bombing in 2005 Rosemary went to see her local vicar. He...

I mean after that, I mean after a couple of days, I mean I have to say I did something I’ve never felt I’d do again because I’ve kind of lost interest in religion and all the rest of it, you know, a long time ago, but I went to see our Vicar actually and I have to be honest it was one of the best things I ever did. Really was, I mean I didn’t know this man from Adam but it turned out that he was, I think he actually, when I talked to him about James he understood some of the dilemmas he’d been going through and I think he’d perhaps experienced something similar himself. And it was just fantastic, I can’t tell you how amazing he was and James’ memorial service, which he did and he didn’t know James at all, was just fantastic it really was. The address he made was just, it was just the right thing to do and it was probably one of the most, it really, he was such, he was just amazing he was just so supportive and wonderful, I can’t tell you and, you know, I’m afraid I used religion as a crutch for a bit, not for very long I have to be honest because I think a part of me then began to think [pause 1 sec] I’m rather embarrassed that I actually felt this way but I can’t tell you it helped so much initially. And some, some very, things that I wouldn’t have thought I’d ever felt again because I was brought up in quite a religious way, you know, about going to God and all the rest but at the time it was the right thing to say to me, I mean, he didn’t overdo, he didn’t overdo that but he was just really. I think he enabled me to get over that feeling well, you know, there isn’t very much point in anything really, you know, and how am I going to live through the next  you know, however many years it is without him.
Was this a Church of England Priest?

Rosemary wanted to resume normal life as quickly as possible, but felt that she would never be...

I mean you don’t know what the longer term effect is and I have to say a couple of older people did say to me you may find that having done that you find that, you know, you’ll have a reaction in a couple of years time but I haven’t, I haven’t found that to be the case actually. I needed, I needed to not get back to normality because I don’t think you ever do that, but what’s normality, but you need to, for people like me, you need to perhaps resume what was normal life before it happened as quickly as you possibly can and that’s what I did. I’m afraid I came back to work after about four weeks because I just, no three weeks because I’d just, I’d had enough of sitting around and actually I think that’s when you also get to realise after a few weeks that; I haven’t, I’ve never really got the impression that people were bored with it or that I’d gone on about it too much but you can see that with some people the glazing over effect does happen, you know, after a while and they don’t want to talk to you about it and, you know, I couldn’t see myself sitting at home gradually boring everybody to death, it’s not the way that I would deal with things…


And to sum up your feelings, how have they changed over the last months, years since it happened?

I think you realise as it goes on that you’re never going to really be the same person again because, you know, such a large part of my life was taken away from me. And I think perhaps the thing I’m, one of the things I feel really strongly about is such a lot was taken away from him if I’m honest. You know, I mean he was at the beginning of his career and his life really and then he was about to make some quite major decisions about the way his life was going I suspect, he didn’t get the chance, you know, and he should be here really and I think that’s what’s the most difficult thing to get, you never really get over that feeling that he should be here having the life that he deserved. You know, and he didn’t, he didn’t really deserve this to happen to him and so I think as far as I’m concerned it’s much more about the personal, you know, I think the political side of it, as I say, I try to be positive about that, it’s more about what’s been taken away as far as I’m concerned. 

After a mass disaster Rosemary says that the police must remember that individuals are involved....

And finally have you got any message for any professionals?
I think, I think the police particularly probably need to look at their procedures to make sure that with these particular circumstances where there, it’s not just a personal thing, it’s a wider thing, that the processes and policies, they have actually, you know, do take account of the individual as well as the generality and I know that’s really hard for them and I know that they try but I think it’s something they need to keep looking at basically, I really do, I think it’s so easy to be insensitive without meaning to I think. Or on the other hand too sensitive so you just appear to be a bit, you know, inept, so I think yes that’s probably what I’d say. I guess I’d probably say as well that I’m not really sure the Coroner’s should be allowed to send people post mortem reports under any circumstances and I don’t think it should be a matter of choice of the individual coroner frankly, I cannot see any reason under any circumstances, I’ve thought about this quite a lot when I was answered it, answered the questionnaire, why any individual coroner should think it was the right thing to do I just don’t understand why.
I’ve never heard of that happening actually.
Well no but I was told, the Ministry of Justice told me because I asked them.
I know some people ask to see them but that’s different.
Yes, but to just be sent it seemed to me to be extraordinary. I mean because quite honestly, okay it had been in two envelopes and there’d been a certain amount of publicity about it happening but it didn’t seem to be at all to be a good answer, I mean I just thought it was unacceptable frankly and I’m not, I still do, I mean I always will I just think that my husband had to, I mean okay he could have chosen not, I mean he did know what it was as it turned out, but he could have chosen not to look at it but it did seem to me, I mean he’s pretty annoyed about it too because he said he would have been devastated to find I’d looked at it and so would I, so I think it’s not… I think the trouble is it would stay in the imagination, you know, and I don’t want that to happen really.

Rosemary recalled the very difficult time she had after the London bombing, when people were...

Well what happened was that my son James, who actually was on the way to a presentation event that morning at I think Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and was actually on a tube that he wouldn’t normally have been on because he lived in Islington, and was on the tube that was blown up at Russell Square basically and well it was a bomb on the 7 July and I think…. I think probably one of the things that was strange about it, I can remember very clearly, I was on the way to Excel in East London to an exhibition about careers and I was sitting at Stratford Station and I remember there were lots of messages about power outages and things and it was a very strange feeling because nobody really knew what was going on and I think it wasn’t, I didn’t realise, I went to the exhibition and I didn’t realise until lunchtime that there had been any problem at all.
In fact how I realised was I had lots of messages on my mobile phone, people asking if I was alright because I wasn’t in the office, and I knew that James was actually doing this presentation that day and it was quite important to him because he’d come back from Prague the previous day so that he could do it. And I didn’t, but I didn’t know that … we just didn’t know where he was and I didn’t get any answers from my mobile phone messages and I spent a lot of the afternoon, obviously, and the evening trying to find out where he was. And I have to say I did realise very quickly that something had happened to him, you know, I think even though you are told by people, you know, the help line and so forth was very unhelpful, and I got a lot of stuff about how many people had actually, how many calls they’d had but I just knew that something had happened to him because he, he was supposed to be coming round to supper that evening, and he didn’t come, obviously, and I just couldn’t get hold of him so I mean I, I was fairly sure, fairly quickly that something had happened to him I’m afraid, and I think that’s probably one of the most difficult things to deal with because I did realise, it’s not just hindsight, I really did realise fairly quickly, and other people didn’t, and of course there was all this days of, you know, hope and his friends going around looking in hospitals and all the rest of it, which is quite difficult to deal with because, you know, I knew there wasn’t any point in it and I mean really deep down I knew there wasn’t any point in it.
And I think that that was one of the most difficult things about the whole thing because you just, I mean I was very close to him, I mean people say that in these circumstances don’t they but I was and I just knew that, that something had happened to him. And I suppose that was the worst part of it really, particularly at first, because it was kind of frustrating, which I know you couldn’t really, I couldn’t say to his sister or his friends that, you know, I knew that because it sounded rather defeatist but I just did know it so.
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After James was killed in the London bombing Rosemary and her husband received money from a...

The fund they set up and all the rest of it was terribly well done. Yes, and all of that was amazingly well done and I do feel that some people had been a bit disingenuous about that, I mean we were all given rather a lot of money actually. Every time I opened my post for a while I seemed to have been given some more money, I mean okay that’s fine but, you know, I think I didn’t really see how people could argue that they weren’t getting anything, I suspect the people who were worse off were the people who were actually injured particularly the badly injured. I mean the bereaved it seemed to me were treated, I mean the, it was set up well, it was well organised and it was, and it wasn’t bureaucratic at all and it was run down, you know, when it needed to be. I mean I was very impressed by how un-bureaucratic it was.
Who set the fund up?
I think the Mayor’s office did originally… I think it might have been a mixture of people actually, but it was very well run and very efficient and I, and really, I mean when you read things in the press I’m not sure I really agree with that. I think it was very well run and I think we were pretty well treated. I mean some of the other stuff, the initial stage [such as lack of information] was far worse, much worse.
Do you automatically get Criminal Injuries Compensation from the Government?
Yes you do.
You get £11,000?
Yes you get that automatically and I suppose, I suppose, you know, we just got it, I mean in a way you sit there and think, you know, gosh, you know, and what would you do, well you take it obviously, I mean I gave it to my daughter, I think probably but you just think…. it’s this money life thing, you know, because it’s easier for me to say possibly than it is for some of the other people concerned, I understand that.
Did you have to apply for that money or is it just sent?
Not really, no, no, no I think they knew who we were. We had to fill in very minimalist details and we were just given it basically, I don’t, you know, particularly the money for me, the London Relief Fund or whatever it was, the criminal stuff was a bit more, I think was a bit more complicated. But quite honestly it was all very pretty straight forward. The other thing that was really good actually directly afterwards was our solicitor dealt with this of course, but for example, James still owed some of his student loan and the student loan company wrote it off immediately the next day, you know, and really, what was fantastic I felt, was that people like that acted whereas we had far more trouble with, I can’t remember, I think he had an overdraft, it wasn’t a huge overdraft but, you know, two or three hundred pounds, I think but I think we had more problem with whoever his bank was suggesting they might like to write that off too. I mean our solicitors were very keen on that they said, they should really write off everything, but I was impressed by the student loan company because it was actually very efficient and I think people perhaps, in these circumstances these things can actually be quite important if you were, you know, if you think you are going to be, having to sort out that kind of thing as well, so I think it’s always as well to actually go and see a solicitor to make sure that, that kind of thing is dealt with actually because it just adds to the trauma of the whole thing I think. 

Rosemary found her NHS counselling very helpful, but the way in which the GP made the referral...

But what I did do as well I had counseling, partly because one of my best friends is a psychotherapist and she said “I think it might be a good idea”, but I found counselling very helpful, I think I found it, I felt the man I got was a funny old chap actually, but I think he let me talk and I think he also, obviously with counselling and I’d never really experienced it before, I was able to talk about things that I, you know, about my family and my background and about James properly, you know, my concerns about him and how we’d, you know, gone through this kind of, you know, breaking the umbilical cord bit, which was very real to me at the time but I have to be, yes I think I was, I found counselling, I mean I had counselling for about, I don’t know four months I think, once a week and I found that very helpful and at the end of the four months he said to me “How are you feeling about this? I said “I think that, I think that you’ve done for me what you can do, you know, I think I’ve, you’ve perhaps allowed me to talk in a way that, I mean I’m much more of an advocate for counselling now than I used to be, to be honest. It enabled me to talk about other things and about James but I began to feel that I was repeating myself, do you know what I mean and it stopped being useful.
So he was a professionally trained therapist, he wasn’t a Cruse counsellor?
No, no, no I went to the doctor and this was the worst experience I had of the whole thing, if you could get doctors not to do this it would be fantastic, I went to see, not my, I mean it’s a large GP practice and I’ve never had much to do with any of them, but the woman I saw, she was a Chinese doctor, she was, I think she’s one of the partners now and I cried and she said, “ Oh you’re obviously suffering from grief” and I looked at her and I thought “Yes, I think I might be” and she referred me to this counsellor and said, “This woman is exhibiting signs of grief,” and she made it sound, she made it sound, it was extraordinary awful, you know, I, she made me feel, In fact the counsellor said to me, “I think I may be having to have words with the practice about this”, you know, the way she’d written the referral, of course, you know, in the way counsellors are he was very non-committal about most things. I have to say that was the worst part of it because I felt like some kind of rather pathetic specimen at that point, you know, and it was just down right unfair frankly and unreasonable and I do get the impression, in fact with the GP who is head of the, he’s the main, I don’t know what they are, he’s a very nice man and actually wrote me a very nice letter, because he’d had something to do with James, I think when he left University because I was a bit concerned about whether he was depressed or not, and so he knew James quite well and so I think he was, he was better but I just got the impression that if that was the standard of the way GP’s dealt with those circumstances, it was really appalling. Because, you know, some of the people I have met, some of the other people who have been involved with the 7th July they’re, you know, they obviously have had appalling problems about getting, you know, leading any kind of normal life and actually, you know, really accepting that you have to try, you know, and perhaps not being able to. I mean because obviously we’ve been, there’s a lot of stuff going on at the moment about the memorial and so forth and some of those conversations are very difficult.
Did the GP refer you to the psychotherapist that you went to?
That was, was it the National Health Service?
Yes it was, it was a National Health Service referral. I mean largely because that’s what this friend of mine suggested I did. I mean she said, “But only do it Rose if you really feel that’s what you want” but I’m glad I did, but the actual process itself was awful, really awful. I mean I really was made to, made to feel that a) was it really necessary, I mean it’s bad enough being told to go and find your own physiotherapist but I did think that on that occasion I thought yes I would like you to refer me please, you know.
Did you have to wait a long time?
No I didn’t have to wait at all actually, I had to, I think I got an appointment the next week actually. And it was all, the actual counselling was fine because the chap, you know, wouldn’t have been everybody’s cup of tea, I can see that, he was quite elderly but I quite liked him.
Did he describe what he did in any particular way, I mean did he talk about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or anything like that; he didn’t describe himself as a particular kind of counsellor?
No he didn’t, no, I mean in fact actually it was, that was, that was okay but, I mean I think for someone like me who’s lived as long as I have and never done anything like that before perhaps, perhaps slightly more direction would have been better, I don’t know. The benefit I got from it really was just sitting and talking to him, he did ask, to be fair though and I’m  I mean he did ask me some pretty probing questions about the way I felt about things and my relationships with various people, including my mother and things like that but, you know, it wasn’t, I didn’t really I felt that what I got out of it was, because I talked to him, you know, really rather than because he didn’t, he never suggested anything at all really except he did, he did, at one point we came onto the fact that I hadn’t had a dinner party for a long time, I remember I thought and I said I hadn’t really felt like it and he said it might be an idea if I started having them again but anyway, I mean it sounded as if I did it all the time and I do remember that particularly because it struck me as being rather amusing about that I could rush off and make a dinner for somebody [laughter]. But you know I think in the end what, what’s really valuable is having somebody, I mean both the Vicar and the Psychotherapist who, who were not exactly paid to listen to you but were you felt that you could take up their time.
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