Liminal time

Melbourne has been in Stage 4 lockdown for a few weeks now. Exercise once a day for a maximum of an hour; shopping for essentials once a day and only one person; only within a 5 km radius. And a curfew from 8:00 at night to 5:00 in the morning. Businesses have been severely curtailed, with only essential work to be carried out and workers needing a permit to show they are essential.

Mask-wearing has been mandatory for about a month, and most people are complying.

Our borders with NSW and South Australia are closed.

Fortunately these very strict measures seem to be bringing the numbers down, although our elderly in residential care have had a very tragic time. You might like to read my last post about our Elders.

And me? Thank you for asking! I feel that I have been doing this for ever, and indeed it has been a long time…..Day 47 today. My postcode was one of the hotspots that had to go into Stage 3 lockdown on 2nd July. A little over a week later there was a Melbourne wide Stage 3 order. Numbers weren’t coming down so Stage 4 restrictions were put in place. So 47 days of sheltering at home.

Even looking further back, there was never a time since the end of the first lockdown where I felt really comfortable being out ~ although I did have a chance to meet up with my Mum in June, and that was delightful. So I feel like I have been inside my house since mid-March.

It has been a very odd time. I am sure that every single one of us feels the same ~ this strange time, this between time. This liminal time.

Liminal time is a concept I have just come across, but to me it sums up this time so well, and in a strange way gives me consolation.

Liminality is the state of being between, being just on the verge of something, understanding that this time and place feels out of the normal. It is leaving the known, the familiar, but not being in the new.

Long haul air travel (remember that?!) is an example. Once you walk through the departure gates you experience liminal time, where the old has been left behind, but you haven’t arrived at the new, your destination. You are in a between time, way beyond your familiar.

Richard Rohr says it is “when you have left, or are about to leave the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer.”

So the coronavirus has forced all of us to experience liminal time, even those who are not now in quarantine. We have been forced to let go of our old lives and plans, but we have no idea of what our ‘new normal’ will be like. What will the economy be like? Will there be jobs? Will there be my job? Will my lovely Melbourne ever be lively and bustling again? Will the familiar patterns still exist? Will we travel overseas again? Will we ever be free of this virus? Will we……? The questions go on, because we have no idea.

Our sense of time has changed. How often have we said “What day is it today?”? Time feels like wading through sand and yet skidding over the top of the waves. Even our language to measure time is different ~ when this is over; when we have flattened the curve; when we have slowed down the spread, when we are back at the footie/concert/ballet. Or, as I am doing, measuring the time as days sheltering at home, rather than the days on the calendar.

This in-between time is a very difficult time for many people. It is riddled with anxiety, uncertainty, an unsafe time. Someone I read said that maybe this is why humans have built extensive rituals around these times ~ rites of passage, the change of seasons, even things like 21st birthdays, and graduations. The rituals are often guided by the elders and done in the community. To use that very overworked phrase, these are unprecedented times and so we have no rituals to soothe us.

My experience though is a little different. I am not going to loose a job, or be evicted, or be forced into bankruptcy. At this stage everyone I love is safe and secure. I have a comfortable, warm house and I can shelter in place with lots of things to keep me occupied. I feel safe, even though my future is unknown, and unknowable.

But not always easy. It is a sombre time. It is winter here in Melbourne, so the cold, grey, still days have perfectly matched the time. It’s a quiet time and a reflective time, but an anxious time.

It seems to me that liminal time is not limbo. There is movement and change, we just can’t see the final outcome. Like the pupa stage of a butterfly’s life. Which is not to say that at the end of this there will be a beautiful butterfly. Life at the moment is a shit-show and what emerges from the pupa could be mean and ugly. Or beautiful. Or a mixture. All we can say is that it won’t be the same.

It is understanding that I am in this strange between time that anchors me. The familiar has become the unfamiliar and will turn into the unexpected. Strangely, knowing that gives me some comfort, which I think it comes from relinquishing control. All I can control is me, and even that requires some letting go. I am thinking of the shape of my future life, although, because I am in liminal time, it can only be the vaguest of outlines. However, to reach the end of this lockdown I have reduced my expectations of myself ~ things like finding comfort in creating, doing simple drawings and sewing, things that feel right; laughing every day; being in the fresh air; connecting with others. Celebrating making it to end of the day.

I hope you are doing okay in these times. Remember to ask for help if you are not. If you are interested in knowing more about liminal time, just ask Lord Google. You may even come across liminal space, spaces between, like stairwell and schools after everyone has gone. Those places that have an odd feel to them.

I also found this podcast with Alain de Botton really interesting and surprisingly positive. One of the things he talks about is ‘constructive pessimism’ ~ bringing our worst fears into the power of the light. Instead of saying “It will be okay” ask “Will I be able to get through this?”, “Will I be able to bear this?” and “Will I be able to endure the worst?”. The answers will probably be “Probably”.

Stay well, stay safe.

Well, here I go again….Lockdown #2

The northern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, have seen a disturbing number of COVID-19 cases over the last week or so, most of them coming from community transmission. Compared to many other places the numbers are still low ~ in the 60s and 70s each day ~ but still enough to know that it must be brought under control. We can see from other countries how easily low numbers can increase to numbers that overwhelm.

So the Victorian Government has declared that 10 postcodes (zip codes) are to go into lockdown. My postcode is one of them. And I am perfectly fine with this. Action needs to be taken now, and we know that isolation works at suppressing transmission.

It is interesting to think about why Melbourne has been affected, as the other states have either very low or no new cases. This is my interpretation of the information I have gleaned from the authorities…..

International arrivals, ie returning citizens, are quarantined in hotels for 14 days. Quite a few of these arrivals seem to have come with the virus. In Victoria security at these quarantine hotels was farmed out to a private security firm, while in other states it is the job of the state police. I suspect that some of the security guards caught the virus from returned travellers. That was compounded by breaches of hygiene protocols by these security guards. Sharing a cigarette lighter has come up a few times, as well as crowded tea rooms and lack of protective equipment. So, a couple of the security people caught the virus, and inadvertently took the virus to their families.

At this time restrictions were being eased and families could gather in groups of 20. We love our families, and I can imagine how exciting it was for these families to see Grandma or Grandpa or cousins for the first time for ages. It is hard (but necessary) to maintain that 1.5 metres in a loving family gathering. So the virus was shared around. Then it moved to other family groups, and so it spread.

Now we have too much spread and these 10 ‘hotspots’ have to go into isolation.

We can only go out for the usual four reasons:

  • shopping for food and essential supplies
  • exercise
  • care and caregiving (this includes medical)
  • work and education if you can’t do it from home

It all feels very familiar.

And comforting in a weird way. As restrictions were gradually being lifted I felt a little confused. Not confused about what I could and couldn’t do, that always seemed clear to me. Rather I was confused about assessing the level of risk. Should I go to the hairdresser? I answered myself “No”. Should I go back to pilates? Probably not. Would lunch at a restaurant with friends be okay? Yes, as there were only 3 of us, and I knew they had been very cautious. I assumed the restaurant had the right protocols in place. Each venture out needed to be weighed. Now any dilemma has been removed ‘cos there is no option to go out!

The other thing that strikes me about this lockdown is that my level of anxiety is lower. Were you like me back in mid-March, or whenever your lockdown began, worrying about all manner of things? Will the rubbish still be collected? Will supply chains hold up? What happens if our electricity supply can’t cope? Would I have enough food? I even remember wondering if the parklands would be maintained. And I didn’t even have the worry of job losses or loan repayments or how to keep a business afloat.

I know what this quarantine period will look like, and that I can deal with it. I am confident that things will hold up, that the rubbish will be collected and the lights will stay on. And I know that there are others, like my wonderful family, on the ‘outside’ who are there cheering me on.

We are still at the beginning of this pandemic, and numbers in many countries are frighteningly high. So uncertainty is our new normal, our Covid normal for quite a while. We know what we have to do ~ practise excellent hand and respiratory hygiene, socially distance (at least 1.5m, please), wear a mask and don’t go out if you are feeling unwell. And if you do have to go back into lockdown, please do it.

On the practical side, the exhibition where I had two pieces hanging has been put on hold. The Incinerator Gallery has been caught up in all of this. Disappointing, but that’s how these things go.

Let me finish on my lovely librarian. You know how I love my library, and how happy I was to have it open, even though I couldn’t browse. I went in yesterday, before the lockdown, to confirm that they had to close. The librarian asked me if he could select a bundle of books for me to borrow. So between us ~ me standing behind the desk and him at the shelves asking if I like this author or that style ~ I borrowed a stack of books. I wouldn’t have chosen some of them myself, but I will certainly give them a go.

So, between my art and my book supply I feel that I am well equipped for another month at home.

Stay well.

Pesky possums*

* Warning: alliteration ahead!

Pesky possums have been a part of life in Melbourne for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a house next to a park, so we always had possums playing. They loved to chase each other around the roof, sounding like marauding hordes. Then there is the unholy scream they make, enough to chill your bones.

I well remember one time when we were woken by our dog, Galahad barking on the front verandah. We had long ago dropped the “Sir” from his name, as he did not live up to his gentle, ethereal namesake. So image our surprise to find that a baby possum had ousted Galahad from the door mat and was keeping this big dog at bay. I felt sorry for this wee, frightened creature and went to pick it up. My reward was a bite on my finger, and later a tetanus injection that hurt more than the bite! From memory the possum scampered off, and probably grew up to be one of the marauding hordes on the roof.

Then I moved to my own house and I would listen smugly to gardening shows where there were inevitably complaints about possums.

“The possums have eaten all my rosebuds. What can I do?”

“The possums eat the rind off the lemons and leave the fruit to rot. What can I do?”

“The possums…..” “The possums….”

I say smugly because I didn’t have pesky possums. My roses and lemon tree had many other problems, but not possum problems. However, the Gardening Gods do not like smug gardeners…….and you know where I am going with this……..

Yep, I have possums, pesky possums.

My pesky possums are not pilfering the roses or the lemons (and that is not smugness ~ just give them time!). No they are plundering the vine.  And this is a problem because it is one of our main forms of summer cooling.

You may remember me talking about the vine before. We have ceiling fans rather than air conditioning, and rely on the vine to cover and shade the eastern side of the house. It’s been a great system as the morning sun doesn’t get a chance to beat into the house. But now the possums have come to play, and they just love to nibble the new shoots of the vine down to little nubs.

The weather has been hot this November ~ 36º today. We seem to have gone straight from the cold of Winter to the heat of Summer, without Spring in between. We are missing the covering of the vine.

So, I am trying to out-fox the pesky possums. Surely with some human ingenuity and the rampant growth of the vine I can get the tendrils up the wires. My thoughts are that if I can overwhelm the possums with young shoots some of them will sneak past and take hold. Armed with a ball of string and a rake I have been tying and training, trying to keep the young shoots away from places where the possums can reach out to take a nibble.

This is the state of the vine:

If you look hard you can see the string amongst the tangle of tendrils.

At the moment I think it is nil all, but it’s only half-time! And a long hot Summer ahead of us. I will let you know the final score!

Other gardening news….

It is time for the jacarandas to flower. Again I have written about them before.

I have had a delightful volunteer in the front garden, in among the onions!

A red poppy was a delightful surprise, and I wonder where she came from.

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A trip into town

I live about 10 kms from the centre of Melbourne. Today I had to go into town to change a ballet ticket, and I thought I would ask you along for the ride. [When I came home there was a blog post from Margaret, describing a walk with her dogs, through lovely lush English countryside. Isn’t serendipity a wonderful thing!]

Our first steps take us up to the tram stop, about 5 minutes away from the house, past the Little Free Library

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to the shopping strip and the tram stop.

We will travel on the #57 tram, which wanders its way through Flemington and then North Melbourne. Ascot Vale is 10 kms from the city as the crow flies, not as the tram travels, so sit back and enjoy the half hour ride. Actually the tram is very full today, as we pick up the RMIT students who have just poured out of their exams at the Showgrounds. We also rumble past the Flemington Racecourse, where the Melbourne Cup is held, and later, the Victoria Market, home to great fresh produce.

Eventually we get to the end of Elizabeth Street, at Flinders St, right at Flinders Street Station. The station is not looking its best, as it is covered up while some work is done on it. So out we get and cross the road. (Sorry the second photo is blurry ~ I was in danger of getting run over!)

[BTW, a little piece of esoterica…..the streets in Melbourne are built on a grid layout. I still remember how delighted I was to realise that the streets that ran north/south were named King, William, Queen, Elizabeth. That pleased me no end!]

There is a walking tunnel under the tracks. It is rather grungy and in need of a good clean, but this sign made me smile, as there are not many options, only forward or back the way you have come!

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Out into the sunshine, right on the bank of the Yarra River.

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We are going to walk across that bridge, and stop in the middle to look down stream. That bridge you can see used to be for trains. I remember travelling across it in the old red rattlers, as the old trains were called. Those silver things are sculptures that now adorn the bridge.

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And then look upstream to Princes Bridge, which links Swanston St and St Kilda Road. If you look closely you can see the mighty MCG in the background. The Melbourne Cricket Ground is not only where cricket games are held, but is the heartland of Australian rules Football…..now there’s a good game! At the foot of the MCG is Melbourne Park, a tennis complex where the Australian Open in played each January.

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You have probably noticed the rowers on the river, but if you look on the other side you will see a group of canoeists as well. I wonder if the pair of ducks in the fore ground are have a little laugh at the antics of the humans on water!

Let’s walk on, to Southbank, the promenade that runs beside the river. It is full of cafes and restaurants and food courts, and if you can’t get something you like here, you are not trying!

Up the steps alongside Princes Bridge

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and stop to admire the fancy lettering on the foundation stone.

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Then take a breather at the top of the steps….Hamer Hall, a recital centre, is on our left. I must take you on a tour inside one day. The Arts Centre is straight ahead, with the National Gallery of Victoria further along St. Kilda Road.

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To get to the ballet box office we need to go around the back of the Arts Centre, and we get some great angles of the spire. In the original design the spire was meant to be coated in bronze; it turned out that the budget didn’t stretch that far.

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Past some interesting ballet sculptures, just to let us know we are on the right path

and then to the box office. No photos of that, as it wasn’t very interesting!

To make the return journey a little different we are going back to St Kilda Rd between the Arts Centre and the Gallery, then back to the river.

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Now, we deserve some lunch. Let’s walk back along Southbank

to the Blue Train, where we can sit in the Winter sunshine and admire the view.

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Then it is back on the tram, which, fortunately, is a lot less crowded on the home journey!

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Thanks for taking this walk with me. Perhaps you would like to tell us about a favourite walk around your home town.

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A newsletter update:

I have given up on trying to get a button on the side bar. However, I can insert a link to the sign up form on the post itself. So that is what I am going to do. At the end of each post you will see the link. I hope it will be prominent enough for new people click on, but not so prominent that it annoys those of you who have made the decision about the newsletter. It has got to be better than one of those wretched pop-up screens that appear whenever you open up a page.

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ANZAC Day

Today is ANZAC Day, and my daily walk took me back to the Women’s Peace Garden. I am reblogging the post I wrote last year, when I wrote about my feelings about the day, and why I visited the Gardens.

Anne Lawson Art

Last Saturday was ANZAC Day, the day in which we remember the men and women who have fought for Australia, and New Zealand, in many overseas wars; remembering too the many who are still serving. This year was a big event because it was the 100th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli in the First World War. In fact it was such a Big Event that there was debate about the amount of commercialisation of Gallipoli and the ANZAC Legend.

However, I had a different view of the day. Let me assure you that I am quite respectful to those who fought in wars, and also of those who treasure the day. My grandfather went to WW1 and fought on the Western Front. My father was involved in WW2. Fortunately both returned. I have visited the War Memorials in Normandy and been brought to tears by the acres of graves. So many…

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Botanic illustration and flower painting

Jan McDonald, the Rare Books Librarian at the State Library of Victoria, uses two books from the collection to show the difference between botanic illustration and flower painting.

One book contains depictions of Australian plants collected by scientific illustrator Austrian Ferdinand Bauer. The other, by the decorative French painter of flowers Pierre-Joseph Redouté, captures the blooms growing in Josephine Bonaparte’s garden at Malmaison

And exploration of Australia played a key part in the creation of both books. Enjoy!

Jan McDonald on botanical books

[BTW can anyone ~ Meeks? 🙂 ~ remind me how to embed a video? I can’t seem to do it at the moment 😦 ]

Jean Paul Gaultier

Photos from the recent Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the NGV Melbourne. Such wonderfully playful creations.

And to finish off, a slide show showing the amazing models. The face was projected onto the model and it looked like she was actually looking around the room. It was a little unsettling at first!

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The gift of music #4 — Dave Holmes

You may remember that I have a wonderful stash of music given to me on my birthday, and you also may remember that I am sharing those musical gifts with you. It is a long time since I have shared any, but I am getting back into the swing of it with two great CDs.

Great Ocean Road and Heartache Moon by David Holmes were gifts from Sue and Dave himself. And I have enjoyed them immensely, another wonderful addition to my listening.

David writes most of his own songs, creating songs that are heartfelt and entertaining. He is a Melbourne lad and, while his lyrics reflect that, they will fit anywhere. His music is rather bluesy and rhythmic. But it is his voice that draws you in. His website describes him as “Blessed with a Rolls Royce baritone voice”, one that is an wonderful combination of speaking and singing. Have a listen to him singing my favourite track from Great Ocean Road “Hold on tight”, which has the very wise words

The day-to-day gets in the way

Hold on tight to your dreaming

https://soundcloud.com/david-holmes-19/hold-on-tight

Some have country flavour too

https://soundcloud.com/david-holmes-19/driving-my-guitar-david-holmes

I think my favourite of the two CDs is Heartache Moon, and my favourite song of all is the title track. Unfortunately I can’t find a clip to share with you. You will have to go to his website and buy the CDs, or check out his performance dates in Melbourne [Sunday 18th Jan at the Town Hall Hotel, Errol St, North Melbourne].

http://www.daveholmesgang.com

The website also has a great link to a very young Dave, in 1970 when he “won best new talent on Bandstand and released this track, “Denver Idle Man”, which got to number 8 on the XY top 4 chart.”

The Art of Botanical Illustration 2014

Unfortunately the Art of Botanical Illustration Exhibition, organised by the friends of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Melbourne, is finished. Also, again unfortunately, I have no photos to show you. Photography was not allowed. Even if it was I would not show photos of the works of others without their permission. They are not mine to show. However follow this link to the Friends website to see the digital catalogue. Other links through the post will take you to menu of the catalogue and from there you can select the name of the artist I am referring to.

Botanic art is not still life or floral art [perfectly valid art forms], but rather a scientific depiction of a plant. That sounds rather dry until you recognise that there is a spectrum, from the pure scientific drawings that you would see in an encyclopaedia of plants, drawings that have to be accurate to exact length of the hairs on the stem, through to paintings that might be ‘portraits’ of the plant, almost floral art. Within that range there is scope for all sorts of works.

There were paintings in the exhibition that some might have been taken aback to see — orange segments, single autumn leaves, walnuts and seaweed. For me, each work displayed showed the amazing diversity, complexity and fragility of the our world.

It is the artist’s job to tell the story of the plant, flowers and seed, habit and form; to convey the complexity of the plant. We have to make artistic decisions about how to do that. What medium is best suited to the plant? What composition will tell the story best? I am always amazed at the quality of the works in exhibitions, and feel lucky to be able to learn from these wonderful artists.

Watercolour is the traditional medium for botanic artists. It has a transparency that allows the light to shine through. If you get it right it is perfect for plants like roses and poppies or plants that have very fine detail. Jennifer Wilkinson‘s Iceland poppy shows how subtle and delicate watercolour can be.

A number of artists chose other mediums because they were better suited to their plant. Have a look at Simon Deere‘s wonderful, controlled works in graphite [pencil]. Other artists, like Sandra Johnston, selected coloured pencils. The bark on Sandra’s eucalyptus work is amazing. For others the best solution was a mix of media. Two of my favourites used watercolour and graphite.

Joanna Hyunsuk Kim exhibited a couple of Strelizias, and both were gorgeous. However it was the S. nicolai that demanded that I stop and look. It was a dried flower head. The detail of the husk was captured beautifully in graphite, while the petals were watercolour. What really made it for me were the seeds. They had been painted in bright orange and popped off the page when compared to the muted tones of the rest.

Another perfect mix of media was Anne HayesBanksia serrata. The image on the website is lovely, but it doesn’t show the texture of the original. If you have ever touched the leaves of a banksia you will know that they have an interesting combination of a fuzzy surface with tough, prickly structure. Anne has captured that beautifully. And the control of the pattern of the seed head……oh my.

I was also taking note of composition, looking to see how others tell the story of the plant. I was lucky that on my plant, Cullen palladium,  the seeds, mature flowers and buds are all on the one spray. Other specimens are not so accommodating!

Fiona McKinnon solved the problem by having the different stages of the plant on different stalks that intertwined over the page. Kate Nolan’s composition for her Spinifex sericeus combined a couple of strand of the plant. This was another wonderful example of mixing media. Who knew that the humble beach grass could be so ethereal?

These are just a small number of the works. If you saw the exhibition, I hoped you liked it. Tell us, in the comments, which was your favourite. If you missed it, there will be another in two years, with another stunning selection of delights for you.

 

Off to the Art of Botanical Illustration Exhibition — a walk through Melbourne

Two years ago, when I was new to the blogging world, I published this post about going to the Art of Botanical Illustration Exhibition. I am going to republish it, because I like it! Also, last week I went along much the same trail, as I visited the 2014 Exhibition, so I have added in some extra photos.

I am going to tell you about the exhibition in my next post. However, for now, have wander through Melbourne.

Yesterday I did my volunteer stint at the Art of Botanical Illustration Exhibition. It is a fabulous exhibition, with many beautiful paintings. If you are in Melbourne, follow my trail to Domain House to see these stunning works. If you can’t make it, enjoy the walk through Melbourne.

I got off the 57 tram and had coffee in Block Place, walked through the beautiful Block Arcade, over the mosaic floors,

The beautiful Block Arcade

Mosaic floor, Block Arcade

 

 

 

and down Melbourne’s lanes that are thronging with people drinking their lattes and eating lunch.

Melbourne Lane

The walk takes us past Flinders Street Station

and Federation Square, to cross the Yarra

 

The Yarra River

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go past the National Gallery of Victoria and further up, ‘Weary’ Dunlop‘s lovely statue.

The National Gallery of Victoria

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We keep walking up St Kilda Road, under the trees with their spring growth to reach the outside of the Botanical Gardens. The Tan track circuits the Gardens and we have to dodge the runners and walkers, their dogs and prams to reach the Shrine.

The Shrine

Only a little further now. Past the Observatory, turn right at the Herbarium,

The Herbarium

past Latrobe’s Cottage, with its spring flowers

to Domain House. And we are here. Enjoy the exhibition!

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