The Very Curious Incident of the Girl In the Photograph

I make no excuses for the title; if it bears any semblance to a well-known book and play by the author Mark Haddon it is purely deliberate.

Just recently I logged onto the Newcastle’s Classic photos page on Facebook and came across this photograph dating back to round about the late 19th century. It shows a group of people waiting expectantly for some unknown reason. Most of the figures appear to be gazing up the street in anticipation, though it could well be that the person behind the camera had instructed the crowd in their pose. The lady at the back beside the wall appears to be biting her fingers with a look of apprehension on her face as she watches for someone or something to appear down the cobbled road. I thought maybe a visit from some dignitary was expected but surely, that being such a rare occurrence at the time such a visit it would have surely drawn greater crowds of people. One will never know the occasion of the scene. Nevertheless, the photo is a wonderful testament to the society of the day, a true reflection of the history of the people of Newcastle upon Tyne.

As the city expanded and the population increased, travelling down towards the quay side were rows of rundown lowly buildings, well past their best, inhabited by ordinary folks who rented individual rooms to house their often large families. The buildings themselves, were most often the remnants of houses abandoned when the gentry and more affluent members of the time moved away to the more pleasant suburbs; away from the overcrowding; away from he stench of the working river. The dwellings left behind quickly became slums, as families too large for the individual rooms struggled to live in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions. Families consisting of mum and dad and ten, fifteen or up to twenty children was not unusual. Neither was the fact that some families with more than one room dwellings often rented out one of the rooms to a couple of lodgers to compliment their lowly wages. How different to our world today.

It was only when I looked further at the buildings and focused on the figures that I became intrigued as to why they were standing there waiting. imageBack in those days people had to stand posed for quite a while before the photograph was taken: I couldn’t imagine many children today staying still for so long. Photograph wasn’t available for everyone, yet here was a street scene that could have been taken right off the page of a Dickens’ novel. As I further scanned the photograph I was taken aback by the curly-haired youngster standing in the foreground. She was so familiar I felt I knew her. But how could that be? I may be getting on a bit, but I certainly wasn’t around a hundred plus years ago. Where had I seen her before? Could I have seen this photograph previously but forgotten about it? I didn’t think so. The girl did seem familiar yet I didn’t recall the buildings. Maybe I was imaging it, but I did feel like I knew this girl from somewhere.

I wondered, did I have a copy of this picture amongst my own? Maybe I had a copy in my family tree or in a folder waiting to be added into my family history album. It was then that it occurred to me that this young girl closely resembled myself at a similar age, a face I remember seeing in a photograph taken by my Dad in my granddad’s garden when I was about twenty months old. I remembered the photograph being in my cupboard so I dug out the box and trawled through the old pictures until eventually I found what I was searching for. Yes, the young girl looked a bit like me as I’d thought but on closer examination I was confronted with could only be described as my doppelgänger, which was quite a shock. I told myself it was just my imagination: but closer examination with a magnifying glass confirmed what I had initially thought might be a slight resemblance was anything but. image Those two pictures could have been of the exact same person. Yet more than a hundred years separated them. Both girls look well fed and cared for, especially the girl in the oldest of the two photos. In comparison, Some of the other children looked a bit unkempt, were barefooted and looked a bit grubby.

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I was intrigued, I copied both the photographs, cropped the old one and put the two figures next to each other.

The result took my breath away. Maybe it was just a coincidence, maybe it was just a trick of the camera creating the resemblance, so I dug through more photos and there near the bottom of the box was another picture of me that also mirrored this girl from so long ago.

imageThis set me to thinking, who had that young girl been? Could she have been one of my ancestors? The photo was taken somewhere in old Newcastle where my great grandparents had lived. In fact, my paternal Nanna had been born in Nunn Street, almost in the centre of the town so there is every possibility that there is a family connection. Who could this girl have been? Perhaps I will never know, but one day I will find the time to do some research, hopefully finding out the reason the people are standing there, and from that find out her identity.

And so, thereby begins the tale of,
‘The Very Curious Incident of the Girl in the Photograph’

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Happy Mother’s Day

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On the 30th March here in the UK, Mothering Sunday or Mother’s Day as it is commonly  known, is celebrated by families spending time together and giving gifts.

The tradition started sometime during the 16th century when people returned to their mother church on the fourth Sunday of Lent, a Christian celebration leading up to Easter.

This was the only time that domestic servants were given a day off, therefore joining their mothers and families at their mother church, or cathedral was an important and cherished time for them. Servants and their families rarely had a day off that coincided with each other, making their time together very precious.

imageThe religious tradition of young people and children in service collecting wild flowers on the way to church to meet their mothers, evolved into the Mothering Sunday tradition of giving gifts and flowers to Mothers. Mothering Sunday, is still practiced in the Church of England but over the years society has merged it with the imported Mother’s Day celebrations that was started early in the 19th century in the USA.

By the 1950’s Mother’s Day celebrations had spread across the UK and so began a very lucrative commercial enterprise. Each year the price of flowers rise considerably on the day, and people are encouraged to buy more and more expensive gifts, to show their love for their mothers.

Because the two days, Mother’s Day and Mothering Sunday,  have been mixed together people wrongly assume they are the same thing. Mothering Sunday is still part of the church calendar, and during the service the children are given small cards and posies of flowers to give to their mothers.

Internationally, Mother’s Day has been adopted as part of the culture of many countries; it has been incorporated into existing religious and traditional celebrations, held on a variety of different dates.

Mother’s Day however can be a very negative day for some people. It can leave them feeling sad and resentful that they haven’t experienced the kind of love portrayed by the media. Every child deserves the protection and love of their parent but as we know not everybody has that experience growing up.  The closeness they crave is out of reach, leaving them bereft of and on the outside of  society’s happiness bubble of motherly love.

There has been many song written about mothers some good, some bad, but one of the most poignant  I know was written by John Lennon when he was undergoing therapy.  His father, a seaman, was absent for most of John’s childhood and he was left to live with his aunt.  His reunion with his mother was short-lived after she was killed in a traffic accident.  The lyrics of  the song “Mother” written and performed by John Lennon expresses the hurt and detachment he experienced as he grew up.

Mother
Mother, you had me, but I never had you
I wanted you, you didn’t want me
So I, I just got to tell you
Goodbye, goodbye

Father, you left me, but I never left you
I needed you, you didn’t need me
So I, I just got to tell you
Goodbye, goodbye

Children, don’t do what I have done
I couldn’t walk and I tried to run
So I, I just got to tell you
Goodbye, goodbye

Mama don’t go
Daddy come home

Mama don’t go
Daddy come home

Mama don’t go
Daddy come home

Mama don’t go
Daddy come home<

Whatever your feelings about Mothering Sunday or Mother’s Day, whatever your feelings about your own mother, have the best day you can have, spend it with those you love and who make you feel good.   And if you have children, be the best parent you can be, give them the best memories they can have and give them all the love you have to give.

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Happy Mother’s Day

Cushions

One if the cushions I made to help raise money for the Race for Life. Cancer Research.

One if the cushions I made to help raise money for the Race for Life. Cancer Research.

More Race for Life cushions.

More Race for Life cushions.

Patchwork cushion to go on my granddaughter's bed

Patchwork cushion to go on my granddaughter’s bed

Cushion I made for a Dr Who enthusiast in Australia

Cushion I made for a Dr Who enthusiast in Australia

When I saw this material I Just had to buy it to make my brother a cushion.  Camper vans are his passion.

When I saw this material I Just had to buy it to make my brother a cushion. Camper vans are his passion.

The final two of the set made for Liz.

The final two of the set made for Liz.

Three of a set of six I made for my daughter Liz.  Two square cushions are imitation smoking, the others have tucks down one side of e covers.

Three of a set of six I made for my daughter Liz. Two square cushions are imitation smocking, the others have tucks down one side of e covers.

Made to match the blue cushions but made in a different fabric which was easier for my granddaughter to work with. Excellent result for her first attempt.

Made to match the blue cushions but made in a different fabric which was easier for my granddaughter to work with. Excellent result for her first attempt.

I've made several cushions to match the quilts I've made.  It's a good way to practice my quilting skills on a smaller scale

I’ve made several cushions to match the quilts I’ve made. It’s a good way to practice my quilting skills on a smaller scale

I

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I was teaching one of my granddaughter how to appliqué flowers onto cushions.  Together we made a beautiful set for my sofa.

I was teaching one of my granddaughter how to appliqué flowers onto cushions. Together we made a beautiful set for my sofa.

No I didn't make the dog, I'm not that clever.  But I did make Ben a new bed which he loves to chill out on.

No I didn’t make the dog, I’m not that clever. But I did make Ben a new bed which he loves to chill out on.

I gave this to my neighbour. It wad an attempt at a new technique, bits very simple but effective.  Word is its greatly admired by her many visitors.

I gave this to my neighbour. It was an attempt at a new technique, very simple but effective. Word is it’s greatly admired by her many visitors.

I made this for my grandson Chris to match the curtains I made for his bedroom, very comfy to snuggle up on to read. A book.

I made this for my grandson Chris to match the curtains I made for his bedroom, very comfy to snuggle up on to read a book.

Charlie loved her birthday present, a quilt tiger cushion.  My quilting on the sewing machine is improving so much, it's no longer as scary as it used to be.

Charlie loved her birthday present, a quilted tiger cushion. My quilting on the sewing machine is improving so much, it’s no longer as scary as it used to be.

Bag Selection

This bag has been cross stitched on the front in a reddy orange colour. It's filly lined, has doubled stitched seams for durability and is strong enough to carry shopping or books.

This bag has been cross stitched on the front in a reddy orange colour. It’s fully lined, has doubled stitched seams for durability and is strong enough to carry shopping or books.  For Sale

I've made a variety of these busy bags.  They're just the right size to carry and store toys and activities for children.  It encourages children to tidy away after themselves when they've finished playing and are easy to pick up and take with you on a car or train journey.

I’ve made a variety of these busy bags. They’re just the right size to carry and store toys and activities for children. It encourages children to tidy away after themselves when they’ve finished playing and are easy to pick up and take with you on a car or train journey.  For sale

Made for children to carry toys or activities. The pocket is big enough to store a small colouring book, crayons or pens.

Made for children to carry toys or activities. The pocket is big enough to store a small colouring book, crayons or pens. For sale

I had a few squares left after making Jo's quilt, enough to make a lined bag.

I had a few squares left after making Jo’s quilt, enough to make a lined bag.

I made this and used  it to practice quilting on the machine, it was no sooner finished than it went off to a new home with Lucy.  Like all of my bags it's fully lined, and has double sen seams for durability.

I made this and used it to practice quilting on the machine, it was no sooner finished than it went off to a new home with Lucy. Like all of my bags it’s fully lined, and has double sen seams for durability.

Charlie loves her bag, just big enough to carry her essentials when she goes out.

Charlie loves her bag, just big enough to carry her essentials when she goes out.

I made this originally to carry my iPad in when I went on holiday but Chris liked it and needed a bag to store his inhaler so it went to a new home

I made this originally to carry my iPad in when I went on holiday but Chris liked it and needed a bag to store his inhaler so it went to a new home

This drawstring top bag resembles a fish, with fabric scales and button  eyes.  Fully lined and double stitched seams

This drawstring top bag resembles a fish, with fabric scales and buttoneyes. Fully lined and double stitched seams.  for sale

Just one of many soap bags.  I made about twenty plain cream coloured cotton for the Beaver pack.  They decorated and named their individual bags to use for an overnight camp.  This one was for my granddaughter

Just one of many soap bags. I made about twenty plain cream coloured cotton for the Beaver pack. They decorated and named their individual bags to use for an overnight camp. This one was for my granddaughter

Fully lined bags, double stitched seams and strong enough to carry day to day things.  For sale

Fully lined bags, double stitched seams and strong enough to carry day to day things.
For sale

Facebook

Love it or hate it, Facebook is here to stay. It’s a great way to keep in touch with family and friends and in my case, neighbours, via Australia.

Let me explain. Last year my grandson was in hospital and I was spending a lot of time on the ward with him so his mum could go home for a change of clothes etc, and allow her to spend time with her other two children. I didn’t have time to call on my neighbours to see they were alright, and to tell them about Chris. But they were informed through the power of Facebook. I posted updates on Facebook, mainly for the family, it’s easier than phoning everyone. My neighbour’s daughter in Australia read the posts and told her mum when they spoke on Skype. With only a driveway between us, they found out the news via the other side of the world. We had a good laugh about that when we finally saw each other.

Recently, I read of a lady in London who was left a note by another motorist, who had witnessed a wagon driver scrape down the side of her car before driving off. But the power of Facebook, along with a copy of the letter showing the wagon’s reg number, helped to identify the culprit who was found and made to pay up for the damage he’d caused.

People have found long-lost relatives, lost dogs and cars and only two days ago a rabbit that had escaped was returned to its owner.

But not everything about Facebook is of a positive nature. I know families across the country and beyond were deeply concerned about the emergence of the necknominations that swept the web last month. People died carrying out stupid, senseless nominations to drink ridiculous concoctions that became more and more bizarre as the days passed. Happily, that trend seems to have died out as people came to their senses and realised the futility of these dares. I imagine the parents of numerous teenagers breathed a sigh of relief when it finally drew to a close.

I am always amazed at what people believe. It’s on Facebook so it must be true. Do people not realise that any nutcase can write something, cite it as fact, and lead people along like sheep to the slaughter? When did we stop questioning what we read or are told? When did we give up thinking for ourselves? I despair of society sometimes and do not like the implications for future generations.

Tonight I read on Facebook that people are posting photos of themselves without make-up to raise awareness of cancer. How it raises awareness I’ve yet to discover, but like sheep people are jumping on the band wagon without thinking or questioning why. I could understand the trend if the people taking part made a donation to a cancer research programme, or for McMillan nurses, otherwise it’s a quite pointless exercise.

I suppose the ladies who take part can congratulate each other on how pretty/beautiful/amazing they each look without make-up. It may not raise cancer awareness but it will certainly boost the confidence and self-esteem of the British female public for a short while.

The government will surely see the value of these ‘selfies’ and will adopt the strategy to boost the economy, ergo the confidence of the public. What a wonderful society it will be.

But that’s me, a cynical woman who thinks deeply about issues, who by my actions tries to help others, who questions what I read and endeavours to make sense of a world where often there is no sense.

The North Wind Doth Blow

Up here in the north-east the weather can be so contradictory, whatever the season. One day it’s warm, the next near freezing and today is no different. Yesterday we had brilliant sunshine, it was warm enough to sit outside with a coffee. Today, however it’s chilly; the northerly wind is blowing cold enough to chill your bones. Seeing the sycamore tree across the way swaying back and forth only adds to the coldness seeping into my poor old bones. Yesterday I was walking around in a tee-shirt, today its back to the tights and thick jumper. Last week there were butterflies and bees buzzing around in the spring sunshine, the birds were gathered in the garden, chasing each other and fighting for territory, but today they’ve all gone. Wood pigeons are sitting shivering in the bare branches of the oak tree, struggling to hang on against the wind.

Snowdrops and crocus have covered great swathes of the garden, fighting against the elements. Tulips, hyacinths and daffodils are already poking through the cold earth, the strong green shoots unaffected and seemingly thriving in the coldness.

It was while I was sitting this morning huddled in front of the fire that a poem from my childhood popped into my head that seemed to fit exactly with what I’d been pondering. I’m sure many people will also remember it too.

The North Wind Doth Blow

The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will the robin do then,
poor thing?
He’ll sit in a barn,
And keep himself warm,
And hide his head under his wing,
poor thing!

The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will the bee do then,
poor thing?
In his hive he will stay,
Till the cold’s passed away,
And then he’ll come out in the spring,
poor thing!

The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will the dormouse do then,
poor thing?
Rolled up in a ball,
In his nest snug and small,
He’ll sleep til warm weather comes in,
poor thing!

Mother Goose/Traditional

More Wishy Books

Wishy tiny Town

Wishy Tiny Town Busy Book
Materials: felt, cotton fabric
Promotes: imaginative play, fine motor skills, social and language skills, colour recognition, counting

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Wishy matching Book.
Materials: cotton fabric, felt, buttons
Promotes: fine motor skills, colour and shape recognition, language development

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Wishy Humpty Book
Materials, felt, cotton fabric, ribbons, plastic beads
Promotes, social and language development, puzzle solving, counting skills, fine motor skills

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Wishy Sensory book
Materials, cotton, fleece, corduroy. Satin fabrics, wool, clear plastic, ribbons, metal bells, tulle
Promotes: sensory/tactile skills, fine motor skills, colour and shape recognition, language development, observational skills

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Wishy lighthouse Book
Materials: cotton fabric, felt, Velcro, metal hook and eyes.
Promotes: imaginative play, fine motor skills, language and social development, counting, story telling skills

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Wishy Road Book
Material: felt, cotton fabric
Promotes: language development, counting skills, number matching, imaginative play, fine motor skills, Colour recognition, story telling skills

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Noah’s Wishy Ark
Materials: cotton fabric, felt, Velcro
Promotes: language and social development, fine motor skills, matching and counting skills, colour recognition, story telling skill

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Wishy Taggies

Square taggies made with fleece and cotton fabric, and ribbons

Just the right  size for little fingers exploring the world, lovely tactile experience, providing comfort and familiarity

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Child’s cotton pinny.

material; cotton

can be made any size from toddler to adult, and with a choice of fabric colours.

My Little Hero

The last couple of days have been very busy, one of our grandsons has been staying with us whilst his mum has been at work.  Six year old  Chris suffers from quite severe asthma that can flare up in a very short time and often results in him being admitted into hospital.  Last weekend he had a bad attack and over the last week has had two more bad episodes. His temperature has been fluctuating rapidly and the usual steroids and his inhalers have had very little effect on his condition, and he’s been so tired and lethargic. But that hasn’t prevented him from telling me how to make his thermometer work.  My technical expertise is limited to the toaster and my laptop.

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It’s so hard to watch Chris  struggling for his breath, to feel his little heart beating so fast you could almost imagine it exploding, and being utterly powerless to stop it.  Two nights this week he’s had next to no sleep, napped for short times throughout the day and had little energy to do anything except watch cartoons on the television. His grandad took Chris for a walk to the park, but he didn’t have the energy to play, and asked to be brought back home.

He misses so much of his schooling, which is worrying.   He  could get some work from school to do whilst he’s  off school, but he wouldn’t have the energy to do it.  Consequently,  he has to work twice as hard at school when he goes back.  There are so many children who suffer from this debilitating illness. Some children however do outgrow this condition, but sadly Chris is not one of them.  But despite all this, he is a happy, amusing young man, who loves to chat to people, who never complains no matter how bad his day, and who is so  cuddly and loving, you just can’t help but love him back.

Mind you, when he stays with us he works hard for his keep. He’s my little tester for the busy books and activities I make. He loves to try them all and tell me what he thinks is good or bad about each one, and helps me decide how and what changes I may need to make. Which is one if the reasons why I rarely make two things exactly the same.

He’s also keeps an eye on his Grandad, monitoring his driving and telling me if he says any naughty words. Only yesterday he told me his grandad had said the the ‘s’ word. My friend and I thought for ages but couldn’t think what he meant. Then Chris whispered, “it starts with s and it has a h next to it, but if you put them together it makes sh. And there is it at the end.” He then proceeded to sound out the word, quicker and quicker till he was saying it. You can’t get angry with him he is so funny. He’s a special little boy, unique in so many ways.

When his mum came to collect him tonight he just wanted loads of cuddles from his big brother whom he’d missed so much. Together,  they laid out an Easter egg hunt,  round my house, using the baskets Chris had made earlier on in the day with his grandad.  Chris really enjoys making things, solving problems and adapting things so they work the way he wants them to.  He loves nothing better than getting in a mess  whilst creating something, the messier the better.

He  never moans about how hard his life can be, or how poorly he feels.   He manages his condition so well, he’s able to tell me and his grandad what we need to do to assist him, how many puffs of each inhaler he needs and  when he needs them.

Chris is my little hero, an inspiration.

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Alice

On Christmas Eve 2013, we were blessed with our first GREAT grandchild; a beautiful little girl named Alice Jayne. Alice, her mum and grandma came to visit on Saturday after visiting the Church to book Alice’s christening for April. She is such a placid, happy baby who has already stolen the hearts of everyone she’s met in her short life.
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Although we phone or message each other almost every day, we don’t always get to see each other often because of work commitments and the distance between our homes. So visits are very precious to us. The church is also a distance from their homes but it is where two of my children, and most of my twelve grandchildren were baptised and where my daughter was married. On our fortieth wedding anniversary, four years ago, my husband and I renewed our wedding vows there, in the company of our family and friends.

On Christmas Eve most of the family come here before going down to church for the children’s service, and preparation of the Crib. It’s become a family tradition, going to church, back to grandmas, then changing into their Christmas pyjamas before going off home to hang up their stocking. Then snuggle down in bed to wait for Santa Claus. It was so nice to hear Alice’s parents want her to have her christening at our church.

Now all I have to do is find the baptism gift and record book that I bought last year. As usual I put them away somewhere safe, but up to now my searches have been futile. Somewhere in my home is an invisible room full of things that I put away safe and have never seen again.
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Our parish church is a beautifully modernised building, over 100 years old. It’s home to a small but dedicated congregation who manage to keep the place alive, despite being in an area where almost all of the houses were demolished a couple of years ago. Initially, the estate was to have been rebuilt, but the plans were buried in an office by the local authority when the financial situation affected the housing department. Recently, a very small portion of the land has been earmarked for a few new houses to be built. The roads have been laid and signs of walls rising from the ashes. And so the church stands virtually alone at the opposite end of the estate, a visual reminder of the faith of the people who keep it alive and slowly growing.

Whilst we were chatting I suddenly realised that there were four generations of our family all together in my living room.  But not only that but we are all female. And so I’m going off to look for a photographer who’ll take a photograph for us to record what is an unique occurrence.

Wishy Busy Books

I’ve several more Wishy Busy Books for sale. Please message or comment if you are interested.

I can’t put all the photos on here today, I can’t get it right, so they keep disappearing. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Each page is a  different textured fabric. The front has a clear pocket so you can add a photo of your child.  The inner pages also have pockets for photos along with looped ribbons, fluffy threads! Wishy bells securely sewn into a tulle pocket. The back of the book has a clear cover, over a figure constructed using shapes.

Each page is a different textured fabric. The front has a clear pocket so you can add a photo of your child. The inner pages also have pockets for photos along with looped ribbons, fluffy threads! Wishy bells securely sewn into a tulle pocket. The back of the book has a clear cover, over a figure constructed using shapes.

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Two buns with felt shapes to create muffins.  Velcro fastenings.  Shapes are stored in the apron  pockets, behind the bun, then fasten the ribbon straps.  Materials: cotton fabric, felt, ribbon, Velcro

Two buns with felt shapes to create muffins. Velcro fastenings. Shapes are stored in the apron pockets, behind the bun, then fasten the ribbon straps.
Materials: cotton fabric, felt, ribbon, Velcro

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