Boswells Blog

21st September 2018

Your Guide to Our Student Check List Essentials

Your Guide to Our Student Check List Essentials

Whether you’re heading off to university for the first time, or returning for another year of study, we’ve put together a guide to student essentials to get you started for the new academic year. Don't forget to sign up to our Student Club to get 10% off now and other offers throughout the year!

You can scroll to read the entire guide, or simply click the options on the menu below.


Arriving in Oxford Making Yourself At Home Bedding and Towels
Kitchen Essentials Space Saving Solutions Making It Your Own
On the Go Starting Your Studies Beating the Fresher’s Flu
  Enjoying Your Time in Oxford  


Arriving in Oxford

Bridge of Sighs Image

Arriving in a new place can be a bit daunting at first while you figure out how to get around and what to expect from your new location. Oxford has lots of exciting things to offer, from its iconic dreaming spires to its museums, restaurants, pubs and shops, but it’s also an old city with many an interesting sight to be found off little side streets and winding passages. If you’re new to the area we recommend picking up a copy of the Pitkin Oxford City Guide to get to know the area.

The guides are available in nine different languages, and offer a comprehensive guide to Oxford’s attractions, big and small, along with a map of the city centre and suggested walking routes. If this is your first time living in the UK then a visitor to the UK travel adaptor will allow you to run 240v mains devices, like your phone or tablet, and so we recommend this as must have item.

We think Oxford is a fantastic place to live, but it seems that Oxfordshire's clothes moth population does too. Although the moths are pretty harmless (except to clothing) we suggest investing in something to keep them at bay, which will protect your clothes and soft furnishings from getting munched. Zensect Moth Proofer is a good way to do this, as you can discreetly hide the lavender scented balls, and there’s no need to be spraying chemicals near your clothes.


Making Yourself At Home

One of the most important parts about settling into any new home, whether its student halls or a new flat, is making it your own. Partly this comes down to practical purchases, but also adding your own decorative flair to your new place.


Bedding and Towels

Bathroom ImageThe first things you’ll need are the more practical items—your bedding, towels and something to go in the kitchen. To get you started we highly recommend a bed bundle. The single duvet bundle comes with one hollowfibre 13.5 tog duvet (perfect for draughty college halls) and one free hollowfibre pillow.

The bundles are all non-allergenic, and great value as there’s no need to buy a separate pillow. Plus, the double and king size bundles each come with 2 free pillows! We suggest also taking a look at our low cost range of sheets and pillow cases to get you started.

When you buy your towels you can mix and match the colour to personalise your bathroom a little. We recommend our range of Bliss Pima towels by Deyongs, which are currently at a fantastic price, and are made from 100% cotton (so they’re nice and soft!). These towels are available as a face cloth, a hand towel, a bath towel and a bath sheet in a range of different colours.


Kitchen Essentials

Cooking ImageNext you’ll need to fill your kitchen with the essential implements to keep you well fed during your time at university. We highly recommend the 1.7L cordless kettle from Igenix, which has all the safety features you’d expect, like a locking lid and automatic shut off. The Igenix 2 slice toaster is also a fantastic buy, and a great idea for grabbing a quick piece of toast before your morning lecture!

For those of you with greater culinary ambitions than toast, we’re currently selling a good selection of low-cost saucepans and frying pans in our Cookshop. In particular we suggest taking a look at our range of stainless steel Royal Cuisine saucepans, which are sold individually at 16cm, 18cm and 20cm. They’re suitable for electric, gas, ceramic, halogen and induction hobs, and they’re fully dishwasher safe, which means that whatever facilities you have in your accommodation these pans should do the trick.

Our China & Glass department is stocked up with lots of glasses, plates, bowls and mugs, and there’s plenty to choose from within an affordable budget. 


Space Saving Solutions


Student housing can often mean getting a little creative with space, so we have some items to help you out there as well. We suggest checking out our range of clothes hangers—its hard to appreciate just how essential they are until you arrive to an empty wardrobe with no way of hanging up all of your clothes! The mix & match range have proven to be a favourite with our customers, probably because they’re available in 17 different shades, and come in a pack of 5.

A collapsible airer is also worth investing in so that you have somewhere to dry your washing that can also be packed away when you aren’t using it. We also do a pop up laundry basket, which can be stored away when not in use. And for those of you with awkwardly placed plug sockets, an extension lead will give you a bit more freedom as to where you can set up any tech you’ve brought with you!


Making It Your Own

Throw ImageOnce you’ve stocked up on the basics you may want to personalise your new place a little. We aren’t going to lie to you, fairy lights aren’t strictly speaking essential, but adding some fun touches to your accommodation can be a really important part of settling in to your new environment, especially if this is your first time away from home.

Other little flourishes that can make you feel more at home are things like throws and rugs. We highly recommend the Ultrasoft single throw as a great bargain. There are 7 colours to choose from, and they’re as soft as the name would suggest—just the thing for keeping warm during the Autumn/Winter, and just generally great for brightening the place up.


On the Go

Since you won’t be spending the entirety of your time at university in your room you may need a couple of items for when you’re out and about. A Kikkerland portable phone charger is pretty useful; it charges via the mains and can slip into a bag or a pocket as a way of topping up your phone or mp3 player over the course of the day. A small umbrella to keep to hand is also a sound investment—if you’re new to the UK, be prepared for unpredictable weather and rain that can start and stop with little warning. The Fulton Miniflat umbrella is ideal for unexpected rain showers as it fits easily in a bag, and won't cost you a fortune.


Starting Your Studies

Fresher’s week won’t last forever, soon lectures and seminars will begin in earnest and you will need a few scholarly supplies. Firstly, it’s a good idea to get hold of an academic diary. This will help you to keep track of your classes and deadlines, and the diary covers the entire academic year, so no need to buy a new one in January. We also have a good range of pens and notebooks in store at the moment to help you get ready for the start of term.

Morning classes can be a pain, and so it’s also wise to get an alarm clock to help you get out of bed on time (which inevitably gets harder as it gets colder).


Beating the Fresher’s Flu

Colds and flu spread through universities with ease and efficiency—and don’t let the name fool you, it isn’t only freshers that are at risk, fresher’s flu will find you whether you’re a first year undergraduate or a post-graduate veteran…even your lecturers aren’t exempt. We’re offering a walk in flu vaccination service in store over the Autumn and Winter, available from early October 2018.

If a cold or the flu do catch up with you though we also have a range of products in our pharmacy to help you manage your symptoms, not to mention tissues and throat lozenges. 


Enjoying Your Time in Oxford

There’s usually plenty going on in town, and the city has some great annual traditions that are worth keeping an eye out for. Don't forget to pop into Boswells or visit our website to take advantage of our student offers while they last, and to get 10% off with our Student Club! Finally, and most importantly, have fun, study hard, and make sure you make the most of your time in here in Oxford!

14th September 2018

Flu Vaccination - What you need to know

Flu Vaccination - What you need to know

Winter is well on it's way and so we're pleased to say that we are now offering flu vaccinations in our Pharmacy, to help you make the  ost of the season. The flu vaccination is one of the best ways of protecting your health over the Autumn and Winter months and of preventing the spread of infection between familes, friends and colleagues.The jab itself only takes a few seconds and there are qualified staff available whilst the store is open.

Updated for Autumn 2018 (Available from October 2018):

Adult flu vaccine £12.99

Child flu vaccine £18

Boswells Student Club members & Business or Institution bookings £9.50

So here's what we think you need to know to make a decision on whether it's right for you.

What does the flu vaccine do?

As with all vaccines the injection includes a tiny amount of the flu virus to get your anti-bodies ready to fight off a larger dose. Vaccines have proved the most effective way of fighting viruses. This vaccine helps protect against the viruses most likely to be responsible for causing most cases of flu this winter including the H1N1 virus (swine flu).

What possible side effects are there?

Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine?

Can I get the flu vaccination for free at Boswells?

Can children get a flu vaccine?

Who shouldn't get a flu vaccine?


What possible side effects are there?

All medicines can have potential side effects. For the flu vaccine most of the potential side effects are not serious and should disappear on their own in a day or two. Most people have no side effects at all.

The most frequently reported side effects include: Fever, Feeling unwell, Shivering, Headache, Sweating, Muscle and joint pain, Skin reactions such as redness, pain, bruising and hardening of the skin at the injection site.

Rare reactions include: Nerve pain and inflammation, Numbness, Tingling, Fits, Thromboctyopaenia (a blood disorder), Vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels), Rare nerve disorders. On rare occasions anaphylaxis may occur (we have procedures in place to deal with this). You should get medical advice straight away if you experience any of these reactions.

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Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine?

No. Although the side effects (if you get some of them) can seem similar you don't have the flu itself.

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Can I get the flu vaccination for free at Boswells?

Yes if you meet the following criteria. Don't worry if you aren't sure. Tell our pharmacy staff & they can advise you before treatment.

1) You are registered with a GP in the Clinical Commissioning Groups of; Aylesbury Vale, Bracknell & Ascot, Chilterns, Oxfordshire, Newbury & District, Reading, Slough, Windsor, Maidenhead or Wokingham AND

2) You are between 18 and 65 years at the time of vaccination AND

3) You have one of the following medical conditions and have a medical exemption certificate. See how to apply for these at the NHS Website.

  • Pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy
  • Carers in receipt of carers allowance
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic Respiratory disease
  • Chronic Heart Disease
  • Chronic Kidney Disease
  • Chronic Liver Disease
  • Chronic Neurological Disease
  • Imunosuppression due to disease or treatment.

If you aged over 65 see your GP for a free flu vaccine as this can't be administered in a pharmacy.

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Can children get a flu vaccine?

Yes, between 18 months and 18 years there is a different vaccine. For young children there is also an alternative delivery method than the needle. If necessary raise this with our pharmacy staff. Prices vary based on the type of vaccine and the number of children being treated at one time so speak to our Pharmacist to find out more. 

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Who shouldn't get a flu vaccine?

Our pharmacy staff will go through a short questionnaire to check suitability before treatment but here is a guide on when NOT to take the flu vaccine.

  • If you have a known hypersensitivity to egg products
  • If you are acutely ill on the day of vaccination
  • If you have a history of anaphylactic (allergic) reactions to vaccines. Any allergy should be checked against the specific ingrediants of the flu vaccine.
  • Anyone who has already received the flu vaccine within 12 months.

In addition anyone with the following medical conditions should see their GP before having a flu vaccine. Cerebal Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, any hereditory or degenerative disease of the nervous system or muscles, an allergy to latex, bleeding disorders or those receiving anticoagulant treatments.

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14th September 2018

Streamlined Storage Hacks for Every Room of the House

Streamlined Storage Hacks for Every Room of the House

Image: Unsplash

Modern homes are becoming smaller, thanks to a variety of factors. This means that the demand for smart storage hacks has never been greater, as people seek ever more creative ways to make the most of the available space.

In this post, we’ll run through the ways in which enterprising homeowners and renters alike can maximise the space at their disposal through a variety of strategies all across the house—delivering a zen-like feeling of decluttered calm…sounds good, doesn’t it?

The Living Room

Shelves are an obvious place to start with regards to living room storage. Make sure the books and photographs you’re most proud of are given pride of place on floor-to-ceiling shelves, which offer far more in the way of storage options than a standard bookcase. If you’ve got any ‘dead space’ in your living are, such as below a staircase or alongside a patio door, fill it with custom shelving that you can either make yourself or commission.

Depending on what type of sofa you have, you may be able to store things underneath with the addition of some small-scale boxes that can slide out when needed. This particular storage hack is especially useful if your living room is multi-purpose, as you could hide an air bed and pillows very easily.

The Bathroom

When not addressed, your bathroom can become a clutter-filled mess: various bottles of shower gel and shampoo, half-used from Christmas gift sets, a medicine cabinet filled with things you don’t use anymore—it’s not a pretty picture.

Paring down your bathroom to the essential components is all about what storage to use. Decanting your favoured shower products into soap dispensers and recycling the plastic bottles is the way forward, as it’ll promote relaxation in a decluttered space. In terms of non-shower products, consider utilising the space below your bathroom sink as storage for toilet cleaners and spare loo rolls—making a small shelf or cabinet in this space will be a fun DIY project that won’t take up too much time.

The Kitchen

While there’s no panacea for kitchen organisation, especially in a busy family home, there are some things you can do to store away awkward items and make sure the space is fully optimised.

In terms of worktop space, make sure your spices are well-organised and you don’t have several small supermarket pots spilling out of a tired old rack. Just like with the bathroom, decanting is the way forward—so invest in some small spice jars and banish the plastic pots for good.

Under the worktop, make sure your cupboards are working hard to accommodate everything you’ll need for a fully functioning home kitchen. The addition of hooks or magnetic boards to the inside of your cupboard doors could be a game-changer, offering a convenient storage space for awkward items like cleaning sponges and rubber gloves.

The Garage and the Attic

Storage in your garage needs to be streamlined, as, all too often, the space ends up becoming a cluttered nightmare realm of abandoned DIY projects and battered old bicycles. The attic is much the same; as a storage space, it’s often neglected, which means any grand plans for an attic conversion are shelved almost immediately due to the sheer weight of the disorganised items living up there.

A garage organisation overhaul can be arranged easily with sturdy garage shelving systems, which will make sure that everything you need is easily visible and comfortably stored, while the attic can be dramatically improved if you’re willing to be ruthless rather than indulge your inner hoarder. A quick audit combined with a smartly organised set of plastic boxes will make the space infinitely more manageable.

       Storage Image

Image: Unsplash

We hope this post will prove to be an important resource in your battle against home clutter. Just remember: everyone’s home is different, so use a little of your own judgment to work out what’s best for your space and you’ll be well on your way to an expertly optimised home.

21st August 2018

Meet the New LEGO® Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts Sets and Minifigures!

Meet the New LEGO® Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts Sets and Minifigures!

Image ©2018 the LEGO® Group

Every summer LEGO® releases a new wave of sets in various themes. The LEGO City line is inviting you to explore the arctic as researchers, uncovering prehistoric animals, while the 3 in 1 Creator sets range from a roller coaster to a skate house! But, more unusual, is the return of one of LEGO’s old themes: Harry Potter! First released in 2001, the theme was shelved after the last film came out, around 2012.

Yet, with the Fantastic Beasts franchise set to return us to the wizarding world (and Hogwarts as seen in trailers) this November, LEGO has decided to release some new magical sets. The range is comprised of eight sets based on the Harry Potter films and two based on the Fantastic Beasts films.

LEGO® Hogwarts Great Hall 75954

The largest set released in the Summer wave is The Great Hall. A staple of Hogwarts architecture, the great hall featured prominently in the Harry Potter films. This is where Gryffindor won the house cup, the place where the goblet of fire stood, where every school year began and ended, accompanied by a large feast.

This massive set is packed with nods to multiple films such as the mirror of Erised, a rowing boat, the sorting hat, Fawkes the phoenix and many more. The set includes a whopping 10 minifigures, including many of the staff and pupils. Personal favourites would have to be Sir Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor ghost with silvery printing, and an adorable Hagrid who comes complete with his pink umbrella.

                          LEGO Harry Potter Great Hall Image

Image ©2018 the LEGO® Group

LEGO® Hogwarts Whomping Willow 75953

Was the great hall not enough? Does your Hogwarts layout need more parapets? LEGO thought you might, and here is their solution. Able to be added to the great hall as an expansion or perfectly fine as a smaller Hogwarts, this set is deceptive in its name. The Whomping Willow makes its first appearance in LEGO but also included is the ford Anglia of the second film. This, added with a driveway and scene accurate clothing printed on Harry and Ron, points towards the set being based on the beginning of the second film where the flying car crashes into the magical, moving willow tree.

The titular tree is also built with a mechanism that swings the trees branches, which are also capable of clutching the car, brilliantly recreating the scene. Of the six minifigures included, Filtch the caretaker has to be my favourite for the hilarious hairpiece used to make him balding!

           LEGO Harry Potter Whomping Willow Image

Image ©2018 the LEGO® Group

LEGO® Quidditch Match 75956

Quidditch, the wizarding sport, even played here in Oxford, may not have been as present in the films as in the books but it is still prominent in people’s recollections of the series.

This fast-paced game on brooms is brilliantly recreated here by the various balls that can be launched from the ground, Flint’s black broom, and the unique piece that LEGO created especially for the coveted golden snitch. Each house is represented by a stand, with the Hufflepuff stand providing a scoring system to keep track of points. Six minifigures are included in the set and Marcus Flint stands out to me thanks to his goofy evil smirk.

                     LEGO Harry Potter Qudditch Image

Image ©2018 the LEGO® Group

LEGO® Aragog’s Lair 75950

Looking for a smaller bite sized chunk of Harry Potter LEGO? Then Aragog’s Lair is the set for you. The spider is a fantastic design and its new printed eyes make it that much more believable. An additional five smaller, and even more realistic, spiders are included in this set. …Perhaps keep this one away from those who fear eight legged creepy crawlies!

A tree from the Forbidden Forest is included, with a neat firing web mechanism that can knock over a figure. Speaking of which, two minifigures are included in this set, Ron Weasley and, of course, Harry Potter.

                 LEGO Harry Potter Aragog's Lair Image

Image ©2018 the LEGO® Group

LEGO® Hogwarts Express 75955 

Every now and then LEGO releases steam trains and this one certainly doesn’t disappoint: The Hogwarts Express. The fleshed-out engine is perfectly detailed, even using technic pieces as working driving rods on the three wheels on each side. A coal tender is included, which also functions as storage for the suitcases included in this set, while a passenger car has seats for four figures (although I’m sure more can be stuffed in).

Not only is there a train, but also a platform—complete with a bridge, which is detailed with a clock. The figure selection is also desirable, the dementor gliding on its mist for legs being the highlight of the six.

              LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts Express Image

Image ©2018 the LEGO® Group

LEGO® Newt’s Case of Magical Creatures 75952

Fans of the newer Fantastic Beasts films will be pleased to know that LEGO has also created two sets especially for you!

The first film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, centred around Newt and his magical “Mary Poppinsesque” case full of wonderous magical animals. The designers for this set had the ingenious idea of having the various living quarters of the creature’s fold in and transform into a suitcase.

All the major creatures are included here, from the rhino like Erumpant to the tiny gold hungry Niffler. All four major protagonists are present in minifigure form, with special mention here for Kowalski, the charming muggle dressed up in rugby gear as protection from the Erumpant.

                  LEGO Harry Potter Newt's Magical Case Image

Image ©2018 the LEGO® Group

LEGO® Grindlewald’s Escape 75951

Although the second instalment of the Fantastic Beasts films is yet to be released, LEGO has given us one set depicting the villain Grindlewald using a thestral drawn carriage escaping the American minister for magic; Seraphina Picquery.

Based on a scene featured in the trailers, the set comes with a brilliant new thestral with new dual coloured wings. The figures are also equipped with power blasters which can be launched when pressed.

                         LEGO Harry Potter Grindelwald Escape Image

Image ©2018 the LEGO® Group

LEGO® Harry Potter Brickheadz

Under LEGO’s relatively new line, Brickheadz, three more Harry Potter sets have been released: Harry Potter & Hedwig (41615), Hermione Granger (41616) and Ron Weasley & Albus Dumbledore (41621).

These miniature figurines are highly collectable and each set has unique printed bricks. The characters have all been seamlessly translated into the quirky Brickheadz style and a cute little Headwig even comes with Harry Potter!

LEGO Harry Potter and Hedwig Image      LEGO Harry Potter Hermione Image      LEGO Harry Potter Ron and Dumbledore Image

Images ©2018 the LEGO® Group

LEGO® Harry Potter Minfigures 71022

Last, but certainly not least, LEGO has released a Harry Potter series of collectible minifigures.

Each minifigure is packaged in a blind bag and there are a range of 22 figures to collect, six of which are from Fantastic Beasts. The range of figures is huge and includes the leads of each franchise, Harry and Newt, as well as more obscure characters like Credence and Cho Chang. Each figure comes with a plethora of accessories, from the pets of our three heroes to more interesting pieces like a book with a sock inside for Dobby or a screaming mandrake plant for Neville. All but three of the figures comes packed with a set of two wands so you can have fun making magical duels between your figures.

                         LEGO Harry Potter Minifigures Image

Image ©2018 the LEGO® Group

Overall this brand-new wave is sure to have something to fill everyone’s Wizarding world needs. Whether it’s a Hogwarts castle, a Brickheadz Hermione, a magical suitcase like Newt or a minifigure of Professor Trelawney, there’s sure to be something for you in Boswells’ Toy Department.

LEGO, the LEGO logo, the Minifigure, DUPLO, BIONICLE, LEGENDS OF CHIMA, the FRIENDS logo, the MINIFIGURES logo, DIMENSIONS, MINDSTORMS, MIXELS, NINJAGO, and NEXO KNIGHTS are trademarks of the LEGO Group. ©2018 the LEGO Group. All rights reserved. Use of this site signifies your agreement to the terms of use. & © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (s16).

17th August 2018

Discover the Surprisingly Long History of the Humble Sandwich

Discover the Surprisingly Long History of the Humble Sandwich

280 years ago, Boswell’s flung open their doors and the till’s have been singing ever since. To celebrate this occasion, we have launched our very own Name That Sandwich competition in conjunction with our Tea Room. The winner not only gets a prize, but the sandwich of their own creation is put on our menu, along with the other great sandwiches we have been feeding to the public. I have the honour of judging the winner (I have become John Montagu, lording over all entrees). So, what delights and bespoke culinary sandwiches will you create for me to judge and celebrate?

The Ancient Sandwich

Spice Image

Sliced and stacked, hot or cold, savoury or sweet, I think I can safely say there isn’t a single living Englishman that hasn’t devoured this national finger food—the sandwich! This single, layered culinary staple isn’t leaving the world's collective menu anytime soon, nor ours here at Boswells.

Any way you slice it, the origin of the sandwich is difficult to trace. There are, however, several people throughout ancient history who have been seen with one in their hands (and mouths). The first recorded was Hillel the Elder, a prominent Jewish rabbi who lived around the 1st century, B.C. When not crafting the Golden Rule, Hillel is believed to have placed a mixture of chopped nuts, spices, apples, and wine (somehow) between two matzos, which were to be eaten with bitter herbs. It seems that he was the first person to have a sandwich named after him: Hillel’s concoction became so ingrained in the observation of Passover that the food became known as a “Hillel sandwich.”

The Original Sandwich Platter

Bruschetta ImageDuring the Middle Ages (between the 6th and 16th centuries A.D.) people ate not from plates, but blocks of stale bread known as trenchers. Among other foods, meats with sauce were piled on top of the trenchers and eaten with the fingers. The trencher would soak up the excess juices due to its thick and absorbent texture and would then be eaten if the diner was still hungry at the end of the meal. Otherwise, the trencher was either thrown away or given to the poor.

Lord of Sandwiches

Ciabatta Image

The sandwich didn’t become the sandwich until the 18th century. In the middle of a 24-hour gambling event, the story goes, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, wanted to be able to continue betting without taking a lunch break. He had previously visited the Mediterranean, where he had seen the pita breads and small canapes served by the Greeks and Turks. Montagu instructed an aide to put together a similar meal for him, which could be eaten with one hand, leaving him able to continue his gambling spree. So, we have a lot to thank all these fancy dans and their foreign breads for.

Create Your Own Sandwich Masterpiece...

Sandwich ImageWe, here at Boswells, will be embracing the noble ciabatta to hold together the wonderful ingredients for the winning sandwich, as we needed a bread a little more street wise and robust than our glorious white farmhouse or granary sliced. 

Once I've eaten my way through all of the entries, the winner will be announced on Monday the 3rd September. The winning sandwich will appear on our menu for you to try for yourself this Autumn.

To enter, simply pick up an entry form in store, or email your recipe to Good luck to la sandwich!

10th August 2018

Outdoor Play: 5 Ways to Combine Fitness and Fun During the Summer Holidays

Outdoor Play: 5 Ways to Combine Fitness and Fun During the Summer Holidays

Image source: Pixabay 

With the Summer holidays finally upon us, thoughts are turning to the inevitable challenge of keeping young ones active and entertained while school’s out. From trips to the coast, when the weather permits, to making the most of local parks and playgrounds, in today’s post, we’re looking at ways you can get your kids back outside and active this Summer.

1. Encourage family time

One of the best things about the Summer holidays is it’s a great time for families to spend some quality time together—and while in the evenings this might mean cosying up on the sofa to watch a classic blockbuster, the world is yours for the exploring during the daytime.

Whether you’re blessed with an outdoor area or heading off in search of an open space, outdoor toys are great for encouraging activity in the summer months. From the beach to the park, make sure you’ve packed playtime essentials like the  Extreme Fun Tech Ring Frisbee in order to enjoy hours of family fun while the sun shines.

2. Explore the great outdoors

The UK is a veritable treasure trove of outdoor hotspots - essentially providing your family with their very own playground which is ripe for exploration. We’re fortunate enough to have naturally beautiful locations on our doorstep—so why not make a map of places to visit and let your children choose their next destination?

Keep costs to a minimum by making the most of free travel by heading out on foot or on road bikes as a family or investing in weekly transport passes that allow you to explore further afield. With a little research, you’ll soon find there are a number of exciting places for you and your family to discover together.

3. Get animals involved

Girl with Dog Image

Image source: Unsplash

Part of the problem with exercise is that it seems like such a strenuous task, particularly for those who have grown up surrounded by mobility-limiting technology. One way to counteract this is to work fitness into ordinary aspects of life.

Whether your family pet is a dog, cat, rabbit or hamster, you’ll be surprised at how you can use this to your advantage when encouraging your youngsters to become more active. From dog walks together around the local area to cleaning out the rabbit hutch, why not combine fitness with practicality and experiment with giving your little ones more responsibility for their pets?

4. Turn chores into activities

While school might be out for Summer, for parents, carers and family friends who are helping out with the little ones, day-to-day jobs still need carrying out—so why not turn these into an activity? Getting the kids involved with everything from washing the car to putting away the grocery shopping will free up your time and help them get up and moving.

It doesn’t need to stop with the everyday activities, either. If you’ve been meaning to clear out the garage, paint the decking or just tidy up the spare room, you can turn these mundane jobs into fun projects for children to get involved with. This way, even if you’re not fortunate enough to have the whole Summer off, you can make the most of your time together and square away those long-standing chores.

5. Get involved in the community

Whether you’re out saving the bees or litter picking in the park, getting involved in local community projects is a great way to get your kids away from their computer games and out in the fresh air. With play schemes, Summer fairs and council-led events popping up at this time of year, you shouldn’t need to look too far to see what’s on in your local area.

If there’s nothing happening that quite suits what you’re looking for, why not set up your own activities? Encourage your youngsters and their friends to pick plastic up from the beach or paint pictures for nearby care homes. This will help them learn essential life values as well as keeping them stimulated during the long period off school.

However long your little ones have off this Summer and whatever budget you’re working with, with a little creative thinking, you can find plenty of ways to combine fitness and fun during the school holidays.

3rd August 2018

How to Create a Cosy, Ambient Bathroom on a Budget

How to Create a Cosy, Ambient Bathroom on a Budget

Image: Pexels

For some, the bathroom is a purely transactional space, where you have a quick shower before work and get on with your day—but the truth is there’s so much untapped potential in the bathroom as a relaxing space in which to truly unwind. If the rest of your home is optimised for your comfort, why can’t your bathroom be that way, too?

This post will run through some ways in which you can inject a little cosiness into your bathroom without breaking the bank.

Bath Mats: Upgrade for Luxury

There’s little worse than stepping on cold tiles after a Winter-time shower, except for stepping on a damp, thin bath mat that needs upgrading. If your toes curl at the sight and feel of your bathroom floor, it might be time to invest in a more luxuriantly coiffed bath mat that’ll give your shower or bath-fresh feet the pampering they deserve.

In terms of improving the room’s ambience, the effect is much the same as adding a rug to a living area. Opt for a sharp, citrusy colour like lime green or orange to give the space a fresh feel, or go for a more luxurious, regal colour such as purple or gold for an indulgent ambience fit for royalty.

Candles: An Ambient Essential

There’s no better way to ramp up the ambience in your bathroom than lighting a few scented candles and letting their subtle, flickering light dance across the room. Ideally paired with a long, warm bath at the end of a hard day, making your bathroom into a luxe space filled with dancing candlelight is the epitome of cosiness.

This can be done incredibly cheaply, too. A large pack of tea lights isn’t very expensive, and you can invest in tea light holders, but the effect is largely the same. Also, if you’re wary of having open flames in your home, there are a wide range of small LED tea lights available right here at Boswells that can have the same effect without the fire risk!

Colour Palette: Choose Wisely

Getting your bathroom colour palette right can make the difference between a super-chill ambient space and one that’s completely missing that indulgent cosiness you’re striving for. Pastel shades can work well in a bathroom designed to create a relaxed vibe—for example, you could combine a baby blue or periwinkle colour scheme with playful nautical touches, such as model boats.

Alternatively, you could go bold and paint a feature wall or fixture in a sharp primary colour, as a striking focal point for the room. Sink cabinets or bathroom radiators in a rich crimson or yellow can add a charming ambience to your bathroom—and you won’t need to spend big on paint.

Ornaments: To Add Character

When you strip away all the functional items in your bathroom, the space can feel a little bare and devoid of personality. This can be easily combated by adding a few characterful ornaments such as a hand-painted metal frog or a flamingo—additions that’ll impress and amuse guests while making your bathroom cosy and personalised to you. A refresh of your shower curtain also wouldn’t go amiss - replacing an old curtain with an eclectic design can transform the whole mood of a room for a very reasonable price.

Unsplash Ambient Bathroom Image

Image: Unsplash

Of course, adding your own individual touches to your bathroom is the way to go to truly make it a cosy and calm space, ripe for relaxation. So, take these tips on board and indulge your own creativity alongside them to perfect your budget-conscious bathroom upgrade.

26th July 2018

Make the Most of Long Distance Flying with These 10 Tips

Make the Most of Long Distance Flying with These 10 Tips

It’s that time of year again, when thousands of us stuff our suitcases, stock up on sunscreen and jet off for another amazing holiday. We don’t doubt that fantastic adventures, lazy days on the beach and some of the best food the world has to offer await you, but first there’s the flight to deal with. Few people enjoy long flights, so here are a few tips to help make your flight as easy and enjoyable as possible.


Window Seat Image

10. Find Your Perfect Seat

Before you even get to the airport, you have an important decision to make…where to sit? No pressure, but the seat you choose could make or break how much you enjoy your journey. There are different opinions about where the perfect place to sit on a plane is, the trick is to find the seat that’s right for you. Here are a few things to consider...

The Window Seat

The window seat is an old favourite for many. It provides a view of the world below, a nice wall to rest your head against, and you are entirely free from having to get up to let other passengers get out of their seat. On the other hand, in these seats, you will find it much more difficult to get out of your own seat. This makes it much harder to make trips to the toilet or to simply stretch your legs.


The Aisle Seat

The aisle seat, on the other hand, will allow you ample opportunity to get up and wander about pretty much any time you like (turbulence permitting). You will, however, have to contend with frequent disturbances from other passengers wanting to climb out over your seat, and airline staff moving up and down the aisles throughout the flight. If you’re planning to sleep through the entire flight, this may not be the seat for you.

9. Eat Well…But Not Too Well!

Airline Food Image

Apparently eating foods rich in carbohydrates can help your body to adjust to a new time zone. Pack a few snacks for the journey, so that if you feel hungry between meals you have something to nibble, but be careful not to overdo it. Your body digests food slower when you fly, so lots of bulky food isn’t necessarily the best idea.

If you’ve never been on a long-haul flight before, you may be surprised to discover that your meals will probably come based on which time zone you’re currently in, which means you may get lunch, followed a few hours later by breakfast. The best we can say is, just go with it…


Image Credit

8. Don’t Forget to Pack These Essentials…

There are 2 kinds of things you need to remember to pack when going abroad. The first is everything you will need when you reach your destination. The second, and easier to forget things, are all the bits and pieces you might need for the journey. Here are some easily forgotten essentials:

  • A Pen: Make sure you have a pen to hand to fill in any necessary immigration documents on the plane (and bring a spare for your neighbour, who will inevitably have forgotten to pack one!)
  • Toothbrush and Toothpaste: Brushing your teeth will add a touch of normality to your day, not to mention keep your teeth nice and healthy.
  • Packing ImageHeadphone Adaptor: Some airlines have special headphone sockets, so it’s worth checking this in advance, and if you’d prefer to use your own headphones, we suggest getting an adaptor to give you this option.
  • Prescription Medication: If you take any prescription medication, make sure you have this with you in case you need it (and in case your checked luggage goes astray). Keep the prescription to hand in case customs need to check this later.
  • Hand Sanitiser: We highly recommend taking a small bottle of hand sanitiser with you…you probably don’t want to know just how dirty planes can get, but trust us, you’ll need this!

The trick to packing the right amount of carry on luggage—everything you need, but not too much—is finding the right cabin case or bag for the job. Pop in and speak to the very knowledgeable staff in our Luggage Department, or have a browse for yourself on our website, here.

7. Keep Yourself Entertained

Entertainment on Plane Image

Most long-haul flights come stocked with a vast selection of films, TV series, music and games to keep you occupied. You can usually look this up in advance to see whether there is likely to be anything that you’re going to want to settle down to for several hours of flying. If not, or if in any doubt, filling your tablet, e-book reader or mp3 player with things you know you love can be a smart move.

If you’re not travelling solo, a pack of cards can be fun, and make keeping yourselves occupied a more sociable experience than simply watching the inflight movies.

6. Soothe your Flying-Nerves

If you’re a nervous flyer, you’re not alone. It’s quite common to have a little apprehension about flying, but we hope that doesn’t stop you from getting out there and seeing what the rest of the world has to offer!

Statistically, you will reach your destination safely, and although at times during the flight you may not feel completely safe, you really are in expert hands.

Plane Image

It may be helpful to inform a member of the crew that you’re a nervous flyer, as they will be able to talk you through any concerns you have and check on you throughout the flight.

The middle of the plane, near the wings, is said to be the most stable place to sit, so should there be any turbulence, you’ll feel it that little bit less if you sit here. Distractions are also a great way to soothe your mind…indulge in films you like, a good book, or the company of a level-headed friend to take your mind off your worst imaginings. It’s important to acknowledge and address your anxieties, but try, also, to counter them with the excitement of your destination, and the holiday ahead.

5. Battle the In-Flight Insomnia

Some people can sleep pretty much anywhere, but for others it might not be that easy. Bear this in mind before flying long distance, and make sure that, at the very least, you’re well rested before you get on the plane…it may be a while before you get some proper sleep.

Travel Pillow ImageTo help you get your 40 winks, we recommend getting your hands on a travel pillow, an eye mask and some noise cancelling earplugs to block out the hum of the engines (although it’s always comforting to know that those are still working away while you doze). Some swear by sleeping pills to help them with sleeping on long flights, however, we would recommend popping in and speaking to one of our friendly Pharmacists for some advice before going down this route.

If you’re one of the unlucky souls that simply will not be able to sleep sat upright in economy class, no matter what you try, there are a few things you can do to help make this more bearable. Find yourself some good films, music or a book to help while away the hours in the air, but remember that if it’s a night flight you may be sitting awake in the dark for several hours. You could also try taking occasional breaks from the in-flight entertainment, curling up with your pillow, and closing your eyes for half an hour or so to allow your brain a little respite.

And finally, if (and when, eventually) you do sleep, try to sleep according to the time zone you’re headed towards, rather than the one you’ve just left. This will help you to combat jet lag and adjust to the new time zone a little more smoothly!

4. Stay Hydrated

Stay Hydrated ImageStaying hydrated when flying is extremely important, as the airconditioned air you breathe on a plane can be especially dry. Being dehydrated can cause your blood to thicken and increase your risk of deep vein thrombosis when flying. The trick is to drink plenty of water, little and often, and avoid drinks like tea, coffee and alcohol, which can contribute to dehydration. We recommend buying a bottle or 2 of water in duty free before you board, so that you have water to hand throughout the flight—although you can always ask the flight crew for a drink later. We would strongly advise against drinking water from the taps on the plane.

Bear in mind that some countries do have restrictions in place when buying water before a flight, such as requiring you to keep the bottle sealed in a bag until you board. If you’re flying out of Malaysia, for example, all water in duty free is served in disposable cups, rather than a resealable bottle. It's always a good idea to check what the restrictions are in advance. 

You may also find that your skin, lips, eyes and nose feel very dry from flying, but a little moisturiser, chap stick, nasal spray or some eye drops may help with this. Drop in and speak to our Cosmetics and Pharmacy staff for a little advice on which of these to choose.

3. Dress Comfortably

Wardrobe ImageUnsurprisingly, sitting in the same small space for hours on end as you hurtle across the globe isn’t always the most comfortable of experiences. So, when you’re preparing for your flight, give some serious thought to clothing that is loose fitting, and has some give in it. Whatever you’re wearing needs to be suitable for checking in for your flight, sleeping, eating and lots and lots of sitting. We also heartily recommend turning to a trusty pair of fluffy bed socks to add to your comfort.

Some people prefer to take a change of clothes with them, or even get into their pyjamas after take-off, it really all is a matter of preference. We also suggest bringing some layers, as the aircon can sometimes mean the temperature can fluctuate. Layers will mean you can cool down or warm up as needed.

2. Look After Yourself

Moving Around Plane ImageIt’s important to take good care of yourself when you’re flying, as being inactive for long periods of time and dehydration can put you at risk of deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot that can cause serious complications). To keep yourself in tip top condition, try to get up and move around the cabin every couple of hours. If this isn’t possible, there are exercises that you can do in your seat that will help with your circulation. Flexing your feet back towards yourself, and then pointing them towards the toe repeatedly can help, as can rotating each foot in small circles in your seat. Loose fitting clothing will also help the flow of blood around the body.

You may want to consider flight socks, however it’s important that these are properly fitted for you, so we recommend speaking to a pharmacist if you think this might be a good option for you. If you are concerned that you may be at risk of deep vein thrombosis, it’s wise to visit your GP well before you travel, so that they can prescribe any necessary medication, or fit you for the correct flight socks. Visit for more information and advice on deep vein thrombosis.

1. Plan Ahead!

Travelling with Children ImageFinally, planning makes all the difference. If you’re travelling a long distance with the family, for example, a little extra planning can make the journey much easier and more enjoyable for everyone. This handy Sainsbury’s Bank guide to travelling with children is a great place to start your planning for a journey with the kids.

Putting a little thought into where you’d like to sit, what to pack, what to wear and how to take care of yourself well in advance of your trip means that you have fewer things to worry about on the day. Simply sit back, enjoy the ride, and make the most of the adventure that lies ahead! 

Check out our other travel blogs here!

25th June 2018

Making The Most Of Your Kitchen Worktop: 4 Top Tips

Making The Most Of Your Kitchen Worktop: 4 Top Tips

Image: Unsplash

Buying a stylish yet practical granite or quartz worktop is a must for homeowners who are serious about achieving a luxury kitchen look. Expanses of shimmering stone can inspire a homeowner to cook up some delicious culinary delights, and are hardy enough to be a fixture of a family kitchen for generations.

However, eye-catching worktops can soon be swamped by kitchen clutter, relegating their elegant shine to a mere backdrop. Nobody wants this, least of all homeowners who have saved for their granite worktop and want to make it the centrepiece of their kitchen.

In today’s post, we’re going to run through some easy tips to help you utilise this surface while still allowing it to shine - meaning you’ll have a super-functional kitchen that’ll also wow family members and guests alike.

1. Protect the worktop

Most granite worktops are incredibly hardy and will last for years with the correct care and treatment. However, this doesn’t mean that you have carte blanche to chop produce directly on to the surface - so make sure you stick to culinary best practices by investing in a chopping board and making use of trivets to keep your surfaces shining for longer.

A well-protected worktop will look even better once you’ve cleared away your cooking equipment. Remember that with pots and pans in regular use, scratches and burns can easily occur - even on the hardiest of surfaces. So, avoid this by protecting your surfaces and clearing up after every cooking session.

2. Consider a simple style

Chances are, you’ll have a number of appliances vying for space atop your work surface—and making sure that their style fits well with a premium stone or ceramic worktop is an important consideration. Choosing neutrally coloured kitchen products or items in one colour will make it easier to complement your worktops and tie the whole kitchen aesthetic together.

Having a high-quality knife block poised and ready for action is a great first consideration. A dark stone worktop could benefit from a simple wooden knife block, epitomising the elemental nature of the space, both plain wood and plain stone work well in a room where raw ingredients are made into delicious meals.

3. Know what’s functional

Despite the kitchen’s primary purpose as a functional space in which meals are prepared, you can often get caught in a clutter trap, hoarding items that take up space and obscure the fine finish of your worktop.

Carrying out a quick audit and working out which items you actually use on a day-to-day basis is an important step that’s often overlooked—but you can start by storing away rarely-used items in your cupboards, and leaving everyday-use appliances like toasters and kettles on the surfaces. After doing this, your kitchen will become a more functional space, and you’ll have plenty of surface area to enjoy.

4. Invest in some smart appliances

A new worktop will benefit from some cutting-edge appliances alongside it to really give it that finishing touch, so once you’ve completed your audit of kitchen items, why not treat yourself to some new appliances?

The timelessly stylish Kitchenaid Artisan Food Stand Mixer will undoubtedly give your kitchen a premium edge, while the Empire Red 2 Slot Toaster by the same manufacturer will add a sharp burst of colour that can truly brighten up the room - and with a pull-out crumb tray, your bespoke stone worktop won’t be blighted by toast detritus!

Kitchen Worktop Image Unsplash

Image: Unsplash

Of course, your kitchen should be a reflection of your own culinary creativity, so make sure you use that as your principal point of inspiration before actioning any of these steps. Adding a dash of your own style is always a great idea, and it’ll mean that your kitchen will sparkle for years to come.

15th May 2018

Memories of Boswells

Memories of Boswells

To kick off our 280th birthday celebrations, we’ve been gathering up memories of Boswells from staff and customers alike. We’ve been learning all sorts of fascinating things about our own history along the way, and so we’d like to give you a little taste of what we’ve learned so far…

Fond Childhood Memories 

A little childhood magic can really forge fond memories. We’re truly honoured to hear that we are a part of so many of your wonderful, early memories!

Whitey ImageJan Barnard sent us this picture of a toy she got from Boswells as a child. We’re told that he’s called Whitey, and it looks to us like he’s had a long, happy life. Here’s Jan’s memory of getting Whitey: “My parents used to take me to the toy department in the 60’s when we lived in Oxford. You used to walk down a big wooden staircase into the toy department that was magnificent and enter a magical world. When I broke my arm and had to have it set at the old Radcliffe Mum took me there to treat me to a toy and I picked a toy dog which I still have. Wonderful childhood memories.”

We’ve also been hearing lots of magnificent tales of trips to see Father Christmas in store. Susan Walters sent us this fantastic memory of a visit to the North Pole (via Broad Street, of course):

“I am 70 years old and this is my most favourite memory of my childhood. The Father Christmas train ride to meet him. I honestly thought we were on a train as we sat in a carriage and watched the land go by through the windows. Then when we arrived, we went to the end of the carriage to see Father Christmas to get a present. Never dawned on me when we went out of another door that we were still in the shop but hadn't travelled back! Wonderful magical memory.”

Entering the World of Work

Boswells 1960s Image

There’s nothing quite like your first job to prepare you for what life has to offer, and so we’re very proud to have been somewhere where so many of you could make your first ventures into the working world!

Matt Muller got in touch to tell us about his first job, working as a Saturday boy in 1962:

“I can’t remember exactly when I started, but I recall looking forward to earning real money in order to indulge in my passion–pop records. Mr Piper was my boss. He was in charge of Linen and Leather. I have fond memories of Mr Piper, he was a small man, kind and supportive of his staff, thorough but someone you would not mess about! I met my longest standing friend in Boswells, John, another Saturday boy who now lives in Holland.”

Mary Anne Brown, who worked for Boswells in 1982, also fondly remembered her time here:

“Working in the upstairs office at Boswells was my first job after leaving school in 1982. I counted the takings each day in a time when credit cards were used much less and people often paid with cheques and cash. We had no computers. All accounts were recorded in ledgers. We worked at decades old wooden desks and chairs; it was quite a big deal when we had wheeled office chairs bought for us! I remember the two brothers that owned/ran the store; Mr. Tony and Mr. Christopher. Their first names were used since they shared the same last name, which would be confusing; but they were still always referred to as ‘Mr.’ In fact, all the department heads were called ‘Mr.’ or ‘Mrs.’ –never by their first name.”

Things have changed quite a lot around here since 1982, although the novelty of the wheeled chairs still hasn’t worn off…especially in those parts of the store where the 1920s flooring isn’t quite close to level…

First Impressions

Cookshop Team ImageThe staff here at Boswells have been sharing some of their memories of what the store was like when they first started working here.

Linda in our Cookshop has been with us for an impressive 27 years and has seen the shop change a lot in that time.

“I was amazed at how big the store was. The Gift department had a large till in the middle of the shop floor which was very busy, went in to the China department, which is now the Pharmacy. There was lots of large stands with many different manufacturers names on and full of all sorts of china.” Getting to grips with the size and scale of the store is something that a lot of Boswells staff remember finding tricky at first, but the building really does have its own special charm!

Laura in our Luggage Department started working at Boswells 10 and a half years ago and has worked in most departments at one point or other.

She told us that her “First week consisted of Saturdays at the beginning. My first day I was quiet, shy maybe. I had a lot to learn, I started on a department that is no longer there. Also, the building at the time was a maze to whoever didn’t know where they were going.” Laura quickly got the hang of things and is now quite skilled at helping newer members of the Boswells team come out of their shells.

Expect the Unexpected...

Sometimes it’s the amusing, but unplanned moments that stay with us. Marion Rea sent us this fantastic memory about when she first came to Oxford:

Gifts Image

“As newly arrived students my friends Lisa, Jane and I bought a casserole dish together in Boswells in order to recreate the tastes of home that we were all missing. We proceeded to blow it up—even Pyrex isn't able to withstand being heated on a hob—causing a spectacular shower of glass across our shared kitchen, a fire alarm, and a long-standing reputation for domestic incompetence. But... we learned our lesson and the replacement Boswells casserole dish is still going strong, nearly 30 years later, and we three students remain great friends.”

Strange and unexpected things have also been known to happen to our staff. Lorraine in our Gifts Department recalled a time when a “Pigeon flew into the Broad St window and while everyone else was trying to rescue it Phil [who worked in Luggage at the time] went and got his camera to photograph the people running around.” Jen from Gifts informs us that in the middle of this kerfuffle, the pigeon actually landed on a member of staff, and stayed there long enough for Phil to get his camera! 

Fun and Games

Emma Meets the Queen ImageEmma in our stock room has been telling us about the celebrations the staff held for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. “We all dressed up in red, white and blue costumes and had a tea party in our staff room. I won the prize for best costume, as pictured, and won a giant chocolate gold medal!!!” Unfortunately Her Majesty was rather busy that day, so a cardboard "lookalike" stood in to do the honours...

Serena in our Cookshop has worked for Boswells for 32 years, and so unsurprisingly has plenty of stories to tell about her time here. This one particularly made us chuckle:

“[In the old lift] you would slam the inside door and there was a little window, and you could see when the lift was coming up. And when it literally died, my old boss, Mavis, put a bunch of flowers in there, put in there ‘R.I.P’. Of course, everyone, when the doors opened, thought somebody had died in there. She didn’t do it for that. It was because the lift was gonna be taken out…so it was like ‘goodbye’ to that lift. It served us well.”

A Little Piece of History

Boswells Building Design ImageAnd finally we were delighted to recently hear from Janice Bridges, who has a very special family connection to Boswells…

“I remember when I was a child that every time my mother and I shopped at Boswells she would say my Grandfather built this shop. Indeed, she was correct; E Organ and Sons created a fabulous piece of architecture for Oxford… Stand back and look up at the building next time you are shopping at Boswells. My family are so proud of the connection with such a wonderful store.”

How to Enter Our Memories Competition

We’re very lucky to have been surrounded by such wonderful people for the past 280 years! Boswells is the world’s second oldest independent department store, and made up of all of our stories, memories and experiences of it. With our memories, we all get to be a part of Boswells’ heritage, and we think that’s really quite wonderful.

A huge thank you to everyone who has entered our Memories of Boswells competition so far. I you haven’t entered it yet, we’d love to hear your recollections too!

The winner of our prize draw will win a £50 gift card, and have their memory included in our very own time capsule! To enter, all you need to do is send us your memories or photos of the store during May (more info on how to enter and the full terms and conditions can be found here).

So, what are your fondest memories of Boswells?

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