I mentioned that I’d been overseas – yep, a quick trip to Hong Kong and Indonesia. In Hong Kong, I spoke at a conference and gave a tutorial for my students at one of the Universities there; but why Indonesia?

Well, I’m setting up a company and establishing a brand. Always wanted to do this and I will be able to reveal more over the coming months. No, it has nothing to do with makeup (sadly!).

I’m currently applying for trademarks, meeting with marketing people in Christchurch and so on. So this is why I was in Indonesia – sourcing products and meeting with people I’ll be working with. This is just one of the countries I’m busy sourcing things in; I’ve already sourced great stuff in Bhutan and Borneo (the part that belongs to Indonesia, which is Kalimantan). Once I know the trademarks are through and the brand and logo is ready to go – you’ll be the first to know.

In the meantime, since arriving back a week ago, it’s been nothing but boring, rainy days. So much rain that the property has flooded. Miss Rosie and Danny are currently living in the arena. I was worried they would end up with mud fever. At the least the arena provides them with a drier environment. Karma and Saffy are doing okay in the paddock though. Because they’re smaller horses they can shelter under the macrocarpa. I’ve only managed to ride Karma twice due to the rain.

SO OVER IT. This is when I seriously contemplate a move back to Sydney. The Royals (aka Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and baby Prince George) have just completed a three-week tour of New Zealand. Most photos of the stunning Duchess show her clutching an umbrella and under grey, drizzling skies. Then the Royals hotfoot it to Sydney and I see a photo that really tugged at my heart – the Duchess in a glorious canary yellow dress under a sunny blue sky and with the Harbour Bridge as a backdrop. Ah…Sydney.

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The stream that runs through our property is swollen from bucketing rain and getting near to the house and carport.

 

Well, dear reader: I’m back. I took a two-week break for a couple of reasons. The first reason is I went overseas and I’ll tell you about that in another post. The second reason was I decided to see what it was like to be totally offline. For two weeks. No mobile phone. No laptop. No email. No Facebook. No Twitter. No Pinterest (this was hard as I’m totally obsessed with Pinterest).

But you know: being offline was actually great. A relief really. I do enjoy blogging and the whole Internet thing but sometimes it’s just great to reconnect and read some books. In fact, I read five books and here they are:

The Bees by Laline Paull. Although not my cup of tea, this is a stunning debut novel by an established playwright. It’s an imaginative tale of a brave herione, Flora 717. A lowly sanitation worker in an orchard bee hive that is ruled by ancient laws and strict social hierarchy, Flora dares to challenge the Queen’s fertility. Her strength of character and maternal instinct bring her into conflict with the hive’s high priestesses. What results is a suspenseful tale of jealousy and sacrifice that make powerful connections between the bees’ natural laws and those of our human world.

I read somewhere that this book has been described as Watership Down but with insects. I’m not really into books that have animal or insect characters and I wouldn’t say this book was a page-turner for me but still, it was a good read.

Paris Letters by Janice Mcleod. Now, this was a page-turner. An American copywriter chucks in her day job and discovers love and a new career in Paris. And the question she asks herself really resonated with me: how much money does it take to change your life? I love Paris and Mcleod’s adventures reminded me that this beautiful city is a city of layers, like a mille-feuille. I guess it’s a love story that is in the vein of Almost French. Paris Letters also reminded to pick up The Artist’s Way again. I read this self-help book on creativity about 10 years ago, when I was writing a novel (yeah, well: still writing it). As suggested in The Artist’s Way, Mcleod kept a journal and this helped her to clarify what she really wanted to do in life. Eventually, she started her own business on Etsy, creating beautifully-illustrated letters from Paris inspired by artists like Percy Kelly.

Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster by Dana Thomas. This is a well-researched book that takes a look at how the Luxury Brands manufacture their goods in China but oops, forget to tell the customer who pays through the nose for the latest It Bag. It’s a hard-hitting look at the contemporary fashion industry and how luxury (once the province of the wealthy elite) is now mass-market. This has led to a sacrifice of integrity and quality – luxury has lost its lustre (which is how we spell the word in NZ).

Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson. This is the debut novel I wish I could churn out. I think it’s been turned into a film starring Nicole Kidman. I literally couldn’t put the book down. It’s a fast-paced thriller about a woman who wakes up every morning but remembers nothing about who she is or her life. I actually guessed the ending half way through (after guessing something else first) but I didn’t mind because the execution of what is really a pretty simple plot is amazing. I wasn’t thrilled by the writing style but the author did manage to establish a very deep connection with the main character, Christine, and I think this makes the book cohesive and well-constructed.

You’re not going to pick up this book for a happy read because it’s quite dark and disturbing. It reminds us how we are defined by our memories.

Beautiful Ruins: A Novel by Jess Walter. Hold the phone people!! (does anyone but me actually say this anymore?!). AMAZING. I haven’t finished it yet but, from the first few pages, I was mesmorised by the writing style. A wonderful story about an American actress who escapes to a remote Italian village after filming Cleopatra in 1962. I don’t know if this has been made into a movie but heck, I could hear the soundtrack as I read the first few chapters. Under the layers of romanticism and beautifully-crafted sentences, lies a sharp social criticism. I’ve not heard of this American author before (what rock have I been living under?) but plan to read his other five novels pronto.

I didn’t read any of these books on a Kindle or any other e-book reader. Nope. I lugged around the books with me and I reckon polishing off five books in two weeks is impressive. It reminds me of how much I’ve missed reading and turning the pages of a book, anticipating the next scene. When living in Oz, I used to travel to work by train. It was a looooooong journey – 2.5 hours each way – so five hours per day sitting on my proverbial. I’d get on the train and enter another world – whatever world was offered up by the book I was reading.

Since moving to New Zealand and starting a new life with Zeph, Zsa Zsa and the horses, I barely have time to slap on the makeup these days let alone read. I plan to change this – we’ve turned off the TV (not that we watch that much because NZ TV is crap) and we both read in bed for an hour or so every night.

It’s inspiring my writing again and my resolve to find out whether I’m related to the Victorian author, Walter Matthew Gallichan. My grandmother was Ivy Elizabeth Gallichan and her family hailed from St Helier, Jersey where Walter Matthew was born. I believe that the surname Gallichan is reasonably common in Jersey so, knowing my luck, there’s no relationship but I can dream on LOL.

I’ve read his book Like Stars That Fall (1895) many times and I don’t understand why it wasn’t particularly successful. Although I suppose writing and publishing around the time of Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens didn’t help. Probably Gallichan’s subject matter didn’t help either, given strict Victorian moral attitudes (wife abandons husband and daughter to perform on the stage and gets tangled up in a doomed love affair with someone above her station in life). Oh, I forgot to add that Like Stars That Fall was written under one of Gallichan’s pseudonyms: Geoffrey Mortimer.

I’m pretty sure that Like Stars That Fall was his only novel – he then went on to to write about travel, angling and sex education. I’ve tried for YEARS to get a paperback edition of this book with no success. I’ve had to suck up the digital version in PDF format.

If we are related (however, distantly) it would explain my penchant for writing. I wrote my first novel at the age of 12 (as you do). I’d just finished reading The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favour and go find it. It was published in 1940 (no, I didn’t read it then LOL) but it so affected me, I decided to write a novel too.

I can only remember the opening scene of my book – vulnerable young woman stares out the window of her second-storey apartment; early morning hours; she can’t sleep; it’s hot and sticky; she is fearful; she spots a mysterious man on the street, lighting up a cigarette. He is standing under a streetlight but his fedora hides his face. When the flash of the match illuminates his face….well, this is about as much as I remember.  Mmmm….maybe I should search my cobwebbed brain and see if I can dust this baby off!

 

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Walter Matthew Gallichan.

Loyal reader! I’m taking a bit of a break and will be back to blogging around April 8 or so. Very secretive I’m sure! Will have some news for you then but, in the meantime, don’t hit the Unsubscribe button!

I leave you with Zeph and one of his new toys.

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The other day, my friend Stephanie visited and Zeph decided to get into her car. He HATES getting in our car but Stephanie’s car is an Aladin’s Cave for him. Firstly, it smells of her five Pointers – usually one of her females has been sitting in the passenger seat. Secondly, the passenger seat usually boasts a selection of fluffy, cuddly toys.

Zeph still thinks he’s a puppy so he rushed into her car and “stole” a toy reindeer. We both thought it was so cute – he exited the car with a brown soft toy in his mouth. Normally, Stephanie would just give it to him but this reindeer forms part of her Christmas float – she appears in the local Santa parade with her dogs. Sadly, Zeph had to give it back.

But over the weekend, Stephanie arrived with three fluffy, soft toys for Zeph – a grey elephant, a brown kangaroo with a yellow vest and a camel-coloured lion. She left them on the front seat of her car so Zeph could jump in and make his selection. Zsa Zsa wasn’t going to be left out but we made sure Zeph had first dibs.

His selection? The kangaroo. He was wagging his tail furiously as he took off towards the house with his new toy. It was a rainy weekend, so the dogs spent many hours playing inside with the new toys. The Pointinator destroyed the grey elephant within about one hour. She thrashes and bashes any soft toy to death.

Zeph kept the kangaroo to himself but then there was a stand-off over the lion. Zsa Zsa claimed it and growled at Zeph if he tried to approach. Too funny! The little diva dog gathered up both the lion and elephant toys into her mouth and took them off to bed with her.

Over the last couple of days, both dogs have been guarding or playing with their toys. Even though they are both three years old now, they are still puppies at heart.

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Zeph poses with the grey elephant before The Pointinator destroyed it.

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Little Zsa Zsa guards her new toy lion. Because it was a rainy day, she also had her pink moose blanket that I bought for her in Sweden.

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Zeph rushes towards the house after selecting the toy kangaroo.

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Zeph was allowed to select a toy from the passenger seat of the car. Zsa Zsa tried to get to the toys first!

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After an exhausting day of playing with new toys, Zeph sits on top of the haystack and gazes at the landscape.

As we know, Zsa Zsa is a mighty huntress. She loves nothing better than spending HOURS in the hay barn, searching for pesky barn mice. I’ve only ever seen one or two but, the way Zsa Zsa turns her head this way and that, listening for the scurrying of barn mice, you’d think there was a whole city of the little critters underneath all the hay. Oh wait: maybe that IS the case LOL.

She’s now taken to half-burying herself in a bale of hay in her attempts to catch mice. The little diva dog can spend five or more minutes with her head and shoulders completely buried in the hay. During this time, she doesn’t move one inch. And then, all of a sudden, she starts digging furiously. Hay straws fly everywhere and Zeph usually appears from nowhere to get in on the action.

Last weekend, New Zealand was hit by Cyclone Lusi. Well, the North Island; not so much the South Island. But it did mean that most of the weekend was spent indoors due to incessant rain. Not Zsa Zsa though – she was in the hay barn doing what she most loves.

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I am working with a technology company in Christchurch. Well, they’re doing the work; not me. I’m having a website built, so I need to visit them weekly. As I was on my way into their offices in a new funky building, I caught sight of……well, let’s just say I thought I was back in the 1980s.

I have to admit I’m incredibly old. I was around in the 1980s. Yep, sad decade for fashion that it was. But the exciting thing about the 80s was that it was the dawn of the technology revolution. We had the Sony Walkman (aka portable audio cassette player) and you carried around a pencil with the Walkman to slowly (and very carefully) untangle the tape. The tape would get stuck or tangled if you rewound with haste or fast-forwarded a little too fast. I was distraught when I lost one of my fav 80′s songs: Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds.

I checked out the song on YouTube to refresh my memory. OMG. The fashion. How tragic. I had such a crush on the lead singer, Jim Kerr, but what’s with the high-waisted trousers and baggy attire? Yeah, the 80s.

Where was I? Oh, back in the technology company office. There it was  – the very first computer I ever used in my very first job.

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It was an Apple computer and, to tell you the truth, I’ve used Apple Mac computers ever since. The law firms I worked in had Macs and I’ve had many Mac laptops (currently a MacBook Pro). I’ve had a few jobs where I’ve needed to use PCs but, heck, they are no match for an Apple.

I thought the computer was an Apple IIE but, looking at photos of old Macs, I don’t think so. The Apple website refers to the computer as the original 1984 Macintosh and what I most remember about it was the smiley face that greeted you on start-up. I think it was called the Apple Macintosh Plus and I had to teach myself how to use it. My job was personal assistant to a child psychiatrist and he used to dictate documents whilst standing behind me. He had no idea how to use the Mac and marvelled at my ability to use this new-fangled invention hahaha!

I loved the square box-shape of this computer and all the noises it made. I even liked (now that I think about it) the rather sad beige colour of the computer. I remember thinking how futuristic the trash can icon was and was stunned that you could drag documents into trash. And then of course there was the floppy disk drive. No cloud computing or USB sticks back then. You lugged around 3½-inch floppies if you wanted to share documents with people. I think this computer had a handle on the top so you could carry it – not that I ever did. I would think it would have been quite heavy in comparison to say the MacBook Air that we have now.

But you know the Mac computer I loved the most? It was the iMac G3. I was working in a law firm in the late 1990s and we had these brightly-coloured Macs with a translucent, plastic shell. We were able to put in a request for the colour we wanted and I chose the Grape colour.

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The other Mac I loved is the iMac G4 with its distinctive round base and adjustable arm. I’ve been told this antique Apple may prove to be valuable (yeah, what 100 years from now?). Apparently, it is considered one of the more unique personal computers of the early 2000s. I still have my G4 sitting around. I think it was called The Sunflower.

In fact, we have a whole lot of antique Apples – maybe we should open up an Old Apple Computers museum LOL.

Another month; more empties. So very satisfying! But I’m not getting through much makeup I’m afraid. A few lippies are about to bite the dust but my eyeshadow, bronzer and blush collection just lives on and on.

So let’s ferret through my trash and see what I used up.

Cleansers. I finished up two cleansers. One is a deluxe-size sample from Kiehl’s and the other is from NZ brand, Comvita. The standout by far was the Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective White Purifying Foaming Cleanser. The deluxe-sample seemed to last for ages and just a little bit of the creamy cleanser was needed to get off makeup (not eye makeup though). It’s designed to brighten the complexion and uses white birch and peony extracts. With regular use, the cleanser is said by Kiehl’s to visibly diminish discoloration and dark spots. The scent is a gorgeous soft lavender and the cleanser itself was a delight to use: creamy, luxurious and did not leave my skin with that tight feeling. I would certainly buy a full-size tube if I didn’t have a number of cleansers to use up. I also have a deluxe-size sample of the matching toner and should finish that in a week or so.

The second cleanser is by Comvita and it’s the Gentle Smoothing Cleanser with Manuka Honey (for normal to dry skin). I have combo skin but bought this on the recommendation of a sales person as she said it was good for sensitive skin too. I’ve had a look at the Comvita website and I think this cleanser has been discontinued. If so, that’s a shame as it’s quite good although I think there are better cleansers from NZ brands (such as Oasis Beauty and Evolu). I did like the smell of the product – a sort of peppery smell for me – and, apart from the manuka honey, ingredients included Brazilian bark extract, Macadamia oil and Kowhai extract. No nasty sulphates, parabens or phthalates in this creamy cleanser. I guess it just didn’t wow me; nothing actually wrong with the cleanser as it performed well. It’s taken me some time to get through this product as I lost it somewhere in my bathroom collection of stuff. Maybe if I had used it continuously, I might have felt the love.

Skincare. A bunch of stuff finished up yeehah! All by NZ brand, Moreish. I went through Day Cream, Night Cream, Facial Serum, Eye Gel and Eye Cream. I didn’t finish everything up at the same time so I saved the empty products so I could show you the range. Yeah, well: not overly-fussed about Moreish. Again, there’s nothing wrong with any of the products; I just didn’t feel they were amazing. The Moreish range is based on argan oil and various NZ botanicals. I did like the Day Cream Light as it’s not a heavy moisturiser and the inclusion of wheat germ, avocado, olive and flaxseed oils made this a very soothing product. I’d certainly consider a repurchase on the Day Cream Light but the rest of the range? Not really.

I think I found everything too light, not rich or luxurious enough for me (particularly the eye gel and eye cream). In my mind, this is a range for the younger woman but, in reality, I’m sure any woman could benefit. In comparison though to my two favoured NZ brands – Evolu and Oasis Beauty – Moreish products don’t do it for me and I didn’t notice any real difference in my skin.

I also knocked off a moisturiser I bought in Thailand ages ago. To be honest, I’ve battled my way through this one – stubbornly determined to use it all up. It’s by Putonnam and is called the Gold Herbal Siam Origin Day & Night Natural Moisturizer Cream. I initially liked this moisturiser but, over time, I found the very strong herbal whiff got to me. It’s a bit like the Moreish products too; I didn’t see any visible improvement or change in my skin.

Serum. I finally used up the Antipodes Hosanna H2O Intensive Skin-Plumping Serum. In the last couple of years, I’ve really shifted towards the use of serums and facial oils. Antipodes is another NZ brand that I very much like and this serum is especially good for thirsty skin. Love the smell of this rose and cardamon fragranced serum that also contains Mamaku black fern for cell renewal. Will certainly repurchase after I finish up other Antipodes serums that I have.

Eye makeup remover. I knocked off yet another tub of Almay eye makeup remover pads – the moisturising version, which is infused with a botanical blend of aloe, cucumber and green tea. You get 80 pads in the tub and the cost is around NZ$10-11.00 depending on where you buy them. I took this tub with me to Bhutan and use one pad to remove eye makeup from both eyes. So all in all, pretty good value and the pads work gently to remove all traces of makeup. No nasty stinging of the eyes either.

But…I’m now a bit worried as I saw in Farmers the other day a whole new range of Almay eye makeup remover pads and I’m not sure if the moisturising version is still available. The Almay NZ website seems to show two versions: a gentle formula and a soothing and depuffing version. I’ll probably buy the gentle formula once I’ve finished up the Neutrogena Oil Free eye makeup remover that I’m currently using.

Mascaras. Another two bite the dust. The first one is Maybelline’s Mega Plush Volume Express in Blackest Black. I didn’t like the brush; too flexible and flimsy for my liking. But I did end up quite liking the consistency and performance of the mascara. But….seems I’m allergic to it. I noticed that every time I used this mascara, my eyes watered. So I’m tossing it and wouldn’t repurchase.

The second mascara was my all-time favourite that has, sadly, been discontinued. It’s the Helena Rubenstein Lash Queen mascara in the colour 03 Chinchilla Blue. You can still get all sorts of Lash Queen mascaras but not in the gorgeous blue shade of Chinchilla Blue. I’m not talking bright electric blue; just a subtle light navy blue. I went through so many tubes of this coloured mascara over the years. I bought them in Asia, not sure if Chinchilla Blue was available in Oz; and this was my last tube. How sad. It was a fantastic mascara for plumping up the lashes. I might try the Feline Blacks version once I’ve finished up the mascaras I have ready to go.

Concealer. Another Almay product. You know, I don’t think Almay gets a whole lot of love from YouTube beauty gurus who tend to go for Urban Decay, Too Faced, Nars and Chanel products. But this concealer was a joy. It’s the Line Smoothing Under Eye concealer in Light and the tube lasted for around five months. Very creamy but was never cakey. Just the right shade for my NC15 skin tone and contains green, red and white teas. I will be purchasing this again but, in the meantime, I’m trialling the Maybelline Fit Me concealer in Light. I must say this is a very good product.

Shower puff. Wouldn’t normally show you a shower puff but….I’ve long been partial to The Body Shop shower puffs. They’re a bit pricey at around NZ$7.00 or so. This is the last one I’ll be buying though as I’m fed up with how the puff loses its shape so fast. Basically, a few days after using the lovely pink puff, bits of netting were sticking out and the puff became a lot larger than it was originally. I’m now using a cheap $2.00 puff that is standing up to the task very well.

Toothpaste. Another organic toothpaste without nasty SLS finished up. I really like Aussie brand, Grants, and I’ve been through quite a few tubes of their Fresh Mint with Tea Tree oil toothpaste. The toothpaste I’ve just finished up is by another Aussie brand, Riddells Creek Organic, and it’s their Herbal toothpaste with Myrrh. I quite liked it even though it was a bit of an odd taste to begin with. No sulfates, fluorides or mineral oils in this toothpaste, which is the important thing. I’d certainly buy it again but have another tube of Grants ready to go.

Skin supplement. I’ve always used some sort of skin supplement; usually Imedeen. But last year, I bought two bottles of Procol Collagen. Publicity blurbs say it rejuvenates and helps smooth wrinkles. Quite a pricey product at NZ$99.00 for 90 capsules (but I picked up a two for one offer). Can’t say I see results so I won’t be repurchasing. And a real negative for me is the tablets are HUGE and you take three per night. This is the last bottle so that’s it for me. Think I’ll just stick with my Berocca tablets, which I’ve been taking for many, many years.

Dry shampoo. I decided to try out the Batiste range of dry shampoos and finished up a can of the Wild version with leopard print pattern. I must say the fragrance is lovely – a sort of vanilla musk. The website calls it Oriental. Okay. Very easy to spray in the hair but I do find it leaves a white cast. The secret though is to hold the can a fair way from the hair and make sure to brush out vigorously once the dry shampoo has soaked up the oil. Does have a tendency to leave my hair feeling a bit dry but heck, who wants to wash hair every day. I am now using the Batiste XXL Volume can and don’t like it as much. I plan to try the Cherry one next and basically make my way through the whole Batiste range.

Soaps. And finally, my favourite thing – soaps! I finished up a large slice of LUSH’s Karma soap and you know how much I like the Karma range – Karma Kream, Karma Komba, Karma perfume and the Karma soap. I LOVE the orange flower water and almond oil scent of Karma with its layers of spicy patchouli and cinnamon. We’re not talking old hippie patchouli though; it’s a warm, subtle patchouli. The citrus blast of this soap is great to experience in the morning shower. The soap is creamy and long-lasting. A delight to use.

I also finished up a soap made by Lavish Soap in Oamaru. I had a hard time selecting just a few soaps when I visited the shop last year. I could have bought everything but ended up with a goat’s milk soap and the Almond soap made from sweet almond oil. Another delightful, luxurious soap. The almond scent lasted as I used up the soap and the bar was creamy and moisturising. Thankfully, I can buy online as I’ll certainly try out a few more Lavish Soaps.

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February empties! Zeph was very interested – you can see him in the background.

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Riddell’s Creek toothpaste, Karma soap, Lavish almond soap, Kiehl’s cleanser.

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Moreish products; mascaras; Almay eye makeup remover; Antipodes serum.

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Mascaras and Almay concealer.

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Procol skin supplement.

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Thai moisturiser.

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Comvita cleanser.

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Kiehl’s deluxe-size cleanser.

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Organic toothpaste.

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