Unrepentant

Somebody who follows me on Twitter – no idea why since they object to pretty much everything I say on there – asked me yesterday why I was always angry. Well, I’m not ALWAYS but it’s inevitable I should sometimes be in the current climate since, you know, I don’t go through life like a mindless robot.

No apologies for that.

I’m definitely too old for the number of Brainy t-shirts I own, but: I identify – I can be as annoying as he is but I’m unrepentant about using my brain.

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Modern Journalism for a Modern Society

 

A story in three photos –

In the issue of 12-17 April, the New Statesman published an article by George Eaton, joint deputy editor, on the Conservative philosopher Roger Scruton.

On April 10th, George Eaton tweeted what he called “a series of outrageous remarks” by Roger Scruton. The four tweets by George Eaton certainly had an immediate effect on social media – racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia: Roger Scruton was guilty of it all according to Eaton.

Only the supposed quotes from Roger Scruton seemed to be wholly out of context and appeared to have been manipulated. Did anybody try to find out whether Roger Scruton had actually said any of the things he was accused of saying? No. This is not how things work anymore.

There was a twitter storm and it raged for a while.

The Labour Party and several leading Conservative figures immediately demanded that ministers remove Scruton from his unpaid position as chairman of the government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful commission.

A mere four hours after the article appeared, James Brokenshire, the housing secretary, dismissed Scruton. Without talking to him, without asking for his side of the story. James Brokenshire sacked Roger Scruton based on a series of inflammatory tweets, and nothing else.

Eaton posted on his personal Instagram account a picture of himself drinking champagne, clearly as way of celebration.

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If anybody was in any doubt that Roger Scruton had been the victim of a hit-job, this was proof, of sorts.

(George Eaton later deleted and apologised for the Instagram post.)

Luckily there are still people with honour and integrity in the journalism world. Douglas Murray (I adore him), a friend of Roger Scruton took up the fight to clear the philosopher’s name. He repeatedly called for the full transcript of the interview to be published, a call that was not answered. Meanwhile, George Eaton had suddenly gone very quiet on social media.

 

Eventually, Douglas Murray somehow got his hands on the transcript of the interview which revealed Roger Scruton had been smeared in the most appalling fashion. He had been deliberately misrepresented, his reputation tarnished by…a journalist… who works for a major magazine. Is it any wonder people don’t trust the mainstream media anymore?

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I can’t even begin to explain how angry this whole debacle made me. As a person who values truth, integrity – as a qualified journalist myself who was told every single day without fail when I was training that: “accuracy is everything” – I was disgusted by it all. I still am, actually.

I was ecstatic when Douglas Murray published his article clearing Roger Scruton. So much so I indulged in being petty and replicated the ‘George Eaton gloating champagne pic’ for Twitter – twice – with the caption: “The feeling when Douglas Murray exposes the duplicity of George Eaton in an excellent piece that should hopefully deter other ‘journalists’ from distorting, lying and trying to destroy the reputation of anyone, let alone one of our finest minds.”

Petty? Yes, but I couldn’t resist. incidentally, that second pic is the first drunk pic of me to ever make it on the internet (Facebook doesn’t count)

 

I had booked tickets to go and see Roger Scruton and Douglas Murray talk in London before George Eaton published his ‘article.’ I had been looking forward to it but the event took on a special importance after the scandal. The evening wasn’t just about listening to two highly interesting people anymore, it was about showing support for a man with a very fine mind who had been needlessly demonised.

And it was a delightful evening – I was (without exaggeration) glowing when I left. Roger Scruton came on and was given a standing ovation. The love and respect for the philosopher in the room was almost tangible. He touched on the whole scandalous story of course, without bitterness – he was actually wonderfully magnanimous considering he hasn’t received a proper apology from anyone who was so quick to condemn him based on nothing more substantial than a few tweets. 

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I have to ask: what kind of a society have we become when journalists deliberately entrap others, when journalists are happy to lie, to smear, to demonise…and to gloat about the result of such despicable actions. When people in governments make decisions to sack someone without knowing the full story, without even bothering to speak to the person they employ, a person who has an outstanding reputation as a philosopher and writer.

I am so angry about the left’s methods which have gathered momentum in the last couple of years. No debate, but lies instead. No discussion but name-calling.

If they can do this to a respected philosopher, what chance do the rest of us have?

After a prolonged absence, George Eaton is back – he has apparently been demoted but the real scandal is the fact he wasn’t actually sacked. He is a disgrace to journalism and clearly an appalling human being. Journalists have always been guilty of bias, they’ve always been known to flirt with misrepresentation and even lies…but we’ve achieved a whole new level of deception that is just unacceptable.

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We are living in dark times, anybody who cares about truth and freedom of speech should be very worried – we have a duty to fight back against this tidal wave of sheer hysteria, self-righteousness and authoritarianism that has infected everything. 

Game of Thrones: all style and no substance

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Game of Thrones…

WHY?

Why do this to us? We invested so much into the show and have been treated with utter contempt in return.

Let’s start with Daenerys. So many people are spitting mad she is now “the insane queen”.

I’m sorry, but she was always destined to become exactly that. The only problem I have with her burning everything to the ground is that this season was incredibly rushed and we don’t see the progression of her state of mind clearly enough. But it was always on the cards. Dany has consistently shown pride and arrogance, an utter belief in her “right” to rule. She never showed any mercy in the past when she thought people didn’t accept her birth right. She ultimately suffers from that god-awful self-righteousness that affects so many people who see themselves as “good” – they make the best tyrants because they believe that anything is justified when it comes to ridding the world from “bad” people. God knows I’ve seen enough of this in real life in the last 2 years, I’ve been abused and bullied by so many who preach “love, not hate” simply because I disagree with them. That’s not kindness, it’s a horrifying sense of their own moral superiority which drives them. But I digress, revenons à nos moutons.

Jon Snow or Aegon Targaryen…it makes no difference: he knows nothing. I have grown so annoyed with him in the last few episodes. Leaving aside the fact there’s NO chemistry between him and Dany and their relationship has been unbelievable from the start and no more than a convenient plot point, what the hell was he doing indulging a woman who clearly cares more about the throne than their relationship? Also, does it not strike anyone as odd that incest has not been mentioned at all, not at any point since Jon discovered who he really was? Not once. Dany immediately begged him not to tell anyone, he refused at which point she turned frostier than all the combined ice queens throughout history…but he or she never said: oh, hey, we’re family and we’re…you know…having sex…maybe we should think about that…FOR AT LEAST A COUPLE OF SECONDS! But no, clearly incest is fine in this case even though the whole realm was in bits over Cersei and Jaime…okay.

So Jon watched with a stupid expression on his face when Dany started to let loose in the city and her ‘army’ suddenly turned into bloodthirsty savages. The breaker of chains was now a burner of children and Jon was nonplussed, as if he really, REALLY didn’t see that coming.

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I have championed Jon for years, but this last season has led me to think that maybe he doesn’t deserve the throne anymore than that crazy arrogant bitch does. That’s an exaggeration actually, but he better redeem himself by killing her in the last episode – I won’t be satisfied with anything less.

As for Tyrion. He’s meant to be a smart man, he’s been one of my favourite characters because of it…and yet, he betrays Varys and chooses the wrong side …then we have to endure the camera lingering on his shocked and horrified face…what I was doing when that happened was shouting (quietly, it was almost 3am and other reasonable people in my house were sleeping) “what are you looking so shocked about? Is it because you realise you misplaced your brain?? You stupid fuck!”

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The fact he also thought Cersei would “give up” if she thought the city was lost made no sense whatsoever. Does he NOT know his sister by now??

Varys…he deserved better, he really did. Again, if they hadn’t rushed this season we would have seen him think long and hard about whether Dany was fit to rule or not…he might have agonised over it…it would have taken time because, well, these things do and it’s Varys ffs, he isn’t the type to be impatient or make decisions in haste…and yet from one episode to the next he decided the woman he had gone through so much to support wasn’t actually right for the role he had envisioned for her and he went straight to Jon with this…absolutely ridiculously stupid.

Are we REALLY meant to believe Varys would immediately betray Dany and that Tyrion would also immediately betray Varys?? Give us some credit, it flies in the face of everything we know about the characters.

The dragons…last week we lost one in about 20 seconds as a ballista seemed super accurate and destructive. Three shots managed to bring down a powerful moving target…JUST LIKE THAT.

Never mind the fact Dany and her advisers should have been prepared for some kind of attack as they were nearing King’s Landing, NEVER MIND THAT, nobody thinks anymore because the writers wanted to be done with Game of Thrones once and for all…so last week we lost a dragon quickly and effortlessly, there was no strategy in place, no scouts had been sent ahead like they’ve been since the dawn of time in those kind of, you know, WAR situations. Fast forward to last night and a ballista is ALL OF A SUDDEN totally ineffective – like it should have been last week – and the last remaining dragon now has a super duper instinct and is dodging everything aimed at it with NO problem whatsoever. Hmmm, ok.

Cersei…waiting with a faint smile on her face, confident af and I have to tell you, I was SURE she had some kind of brilliant plan in place. She must have had, right? She’s displayed such cunning in the past, she’s smart, there’s no way she’d just wait for a dragon to come swooping down burning everything to the ground…right?

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WRONG. Turns out there was NO plan, none whatsoever. The wildfire that had been put to such good use in the past may as well not have existed. Oh, it appeared, but as an afterthought, because the dragon ignited it as it was rampaging through the city. Could I have rolled my eyes any harder?? 

I was asked to believe that this brilliant if flawed woman had lost her capacity for thinking too. No, no and no. Come the fuck on.

So I watched as the confident smile turned into a worried frown… then into a face betraying fear…then eventually into tears. Lena Headey is SUCH a brilliant actress, she can convey more with her face than most people with pages of dialogue…she deserved SO much better than this.

Jaime…that fight with Euron (how the fuck did he survive btw, another stupid thing in a long line of them) was contrived and utterly ridiculous…he somehow found his way to Cersei at the end of it…and he died with the woman he loved in his arms. How touching. But wait…THAT Jaime who knighted Brienne and had sex with her? That Jaime who stayed behind in Winterfell until he SUDDENLY decided he had to go and be with the love of his life after all?? Yeah, that one, because the writers yet again wanted to end all this as quickly as possible and destroyed all the character building that had gone on for entire seasons.

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My favourite bit last night was the scene between Tyrion and Jaime btw, it reminded me of a time when GoT actually made sense and could be emotional and didn’t try hard to steamroll my favourite characters.

CleganeBowl was great too but once again it was part of an episode that packed far too much in. It kind of diminished something that had been coming for a LONG time.

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I’m not sure what they were doing with Arya, I think that after she – kind of quickly and easily gave up on her revenge plans – served mainly as a witness to the horrors visited upon King’s Landing’s inhabitants…all the people Dany is supposed to care about, the poor, the powerless, the REAL people.

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I most probably left lots of stuff out, but to conclude: last night’s episode LOOKED great: the dragon unleashing hell, the carnage, the blood, the buildings collapsing, the people screaming, the burning bodies, the ash, the dust…visually, I can’t really fault it. But that’s all it was, style and no substance. Which might satisfy some people but most of us care a great deal more about content.

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I am so, SO disappointed by this last season. I spent the time during the breaks and after the episode messaging with people who all, without any exception, felt as pissed off as I did. We felt CHEATED.

I read this on Twitter and it echoed my own thoughts so much, I’m ending this rant with it:

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For anybody who wants a more measured review, you can check out Tom’s blog: Game of Thrones: The Final Season (NO spoilers)

How to live with Writer’s Block.

By Tom, about writer’s block – please go and like the original, thank you 🙂

Idle blogs of an idle fellow

“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all”
Charles Bukowski

What awful timing, or perhaps it’s related. My new novel UnfinishedBusiness is published and I’m struck down by what feels like something I don’t want to name, no, not a STD, but writer’s block. Despite a launch party last night that included four Spanish women without  word of english to their name arriving to buy a signed copy of the novel for one of their brothers, I’m looking at Unfinished Business with the sense it was a fluke; never to be repeated.

I can’t recall if I’ve written about writer’s block before, I must’ve blocked it out, which is exactly the sort of crap joke that suggests it’s time to step away from the keyboard and do something else. Anything. Just stop writing. Mind you writers aren’t capable of much else, unless it’s the…

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Notre-Dame

I watched Notre-Dame burn yesterday, I cried and I had to turn away from it – I couldn’t bear it. I read this by the always excellent Douglas Murray, it encapsulates everything I feel and think – he is much more eloquent that I could ever be. This is Douglas for The Spectator: link to the original article is here: https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2019/04/notre-dames-loss-is-too-much-to-bear/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

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Civilisation only ever hangs by a thread. Today one of those threads seems to have frayed, perhaps snapped. It is impossible to watch the footage coming out of Paris. Like videos of pornographic violence, all that can be done is to groan and turn away. It is not possible to watch the spire of Notre Dame collapse. It is not possible to watch the great cathedral consumed by fire.

Evelyn Waugh once said that in the event of a fire in his house, if he was able only to save his children or his library, he would save his library because books were irreplaceable. Only at a moment such as this is it possible to concede the slightest truth in that remark. Almost anything could be borne rather than the loss of this building.

There will be recriminations, of course. There will be disputes about budgets, and overtime and safety standards and much more. It is worth reading this piece from two years ago about the funding problems that existed around the cathedral’s restoration. But if Notre Dame can burn then all this is as nothing, because it tells us something too deep to bear. As I said a couple of years ago in a book, in some way the future of civilisation in Europe will be decided on what our attitude is towards the great churches and other cultural buildings of our heritage standing in our midst. Do we contend with them, hate them, ignore them, engage with them or continue to revere them? Do we preserve them?

Though politicians may imagine that ages are judged on the minutiae of government policy, they are not. They are judged on what they leave behind: most of all on how they treat what the past has handed into their care. Even if today’s disaster was simply the most freakish of accidents, ours would still be the era that lost Notre Dame.

We would have to tell future generations what it was like, this treasure that we lost. At the start of this decade I was living part of each week in Paris, commuting back and forth to a little flat on the edge of Le Marais. Each time I headed out to the earliest Eurostar on a Monday morning I would see the great cathedral first as I turned into the street. One winter morning heavy snow was falling and as I headed to the station I stopped dead, alone in the street with the cathedral and just drinking in the sight of a building I had seen a hundred times before. When I got into London a friend could see I was just beaming still, radiating far too much joy for such a time of the week. He asked how I was and I remember simply saying, ‘This morning I saw Notre Dame in the snow’. It was like that.

Thwart Democracy at your peril

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This is going to be one of those posts: an unpopular one on WordPress. I don’t care, I’m hungover but I have a few jumbled thoughts I want to put on my blog – because I’ve had enough. I’ve had it up to here with the insults, the slurs, the bullying – I’ve had it up to here with the utter contempt for democracy.

A lot of people still seem to be unable to differentiate between Europe and the European Union.

Those same people decided more than two and a half years ago that Leave voters were racists and bigots and they haven’t at all tried in all that time to listen to the actual reasons why some wanted to leave the EU. The short, easy and simple answer – by the way – is sovereignty. But nobody wants to hear that. 

Leave voters have been abused, demonised, they’ve been threatened, they’ve been bullied – yes, bullied – and dismissed as the scum of the earth. 

It has also been made abundantly clear they are crude, uneducated, stupid. 

For two and a half years, the enlightened middle classes, artists, creatives, academia, politicians, the media have looked down on the people who could get it so wrong. 

I saw this yesterday: “You can’t be an art lover and be pro-Brexit!”

It might as well be set in stone.

Well, I’m an art lover, (and most of the Leavers I know are too) and I find it astonishing I should have to explain why I love art and culture in many shapes and forms and why I’m also opposed to a centralised power and homogenised society—it’s incredible I should have to explain I can’t & won’t subscribe to a fabricated identity.

And why should I explain it? Because the ‘enlightened’ don’t believe it. They can’t, they refuse to see further than: pro-Brexit means ignorant, stupid and evil. 

Remainers hate nationalism so much they make a point of constantly stating they are ashamed of their own country. Which is quite something when you think about it. There is nothing wrong with patriotism. I love France, I also love England, my adoptive country – I am proud of their collective heritage and yes, I want to protect that. There is nothing wrong with any of this. What is wrong is not having any pride in your own country, what is wrong is looking back on its history and finding fault with every bit of it, what is wrong is attempting to re-write history, what is wrong is embracing some made-up identity which makes no sense whatsoever. 

Someone said yesterday: “Remainers who are EU devotees don’t realise that, draped in their flags and their insignia and blind faith to a political structure, they’re showing all the hallmarks of extreme nationalists. Just because it is supranational it doesn’t make it any different.”

I couldn’t have put it better. This devotion to the EU is also akin to religious fanaticism. 

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But the worse of it all is this self-righteousness: they will do everything to overturn the result of a democratic vote because they believe they are on the right side, and the good side of things. Apparently, leaving the EU would plunge the UK into chaos. We’ve had ‘project fear’ where nothing less than the apocalypse has been predicted if the UK actually leaves the EU. Of course there isn’t one shred of evidence this will happen but the propaganda has been relentless. The truth is: nobody knows for sure what the economic and political consequences of leaving the EU will be, how could they? Speculation is just that, but there is no actual reason to believe leaving will bring about Armageddon.

There is also the fact that leaving the EU apparently means turning your back on Europe – utter rot, of course. I don’t even want to keep addressing this “little Englanders” thing, the racism, etc… they keep talking about – it’s just too ridiculous. 

This self-righteousness which I find repellent has made people turn on their friends, sometimes even on their family. How does one even get to that point? To feel so utterly right, to be so incredibly sure you -are- and -know- better that you accuse and demonise and preach tolerance whilst displaying anything but?

Meanwhile, a government composed mainly of Remainers has sung to the EU’s tune and deliberately done everything it could to delay and stop the inevitable. 

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A petition to stop Brexit has just reached 5 million signatures – let’s be clear: this is a petition to cancel the result of a democratic vote – and Remainers rejoiced as if this was a success…in any way. I suggest they get back to us once they’ve reached 17 million…which they won’t, because rabid Remainers are part of the elite. And the elite by definition is small. Ah, but where the elite is, you find the power, obviously. Remainers are a small but very vocal minority because they are the academia, they are the media, they are the politicians. They are not the people and they despise the people – the great unwashed cannot be allowed to make decisions since they can’t be relied upon to know anything. How deliciously ironic that those who actually understand what the EU is, how it works and operates are ordinary people – they are also able to comprehend you can love Europe and loathe the EU. 

To be clear, I was a Remainer before the referendum, but I was of course also a believer in democracy. You lose a vote, you don’t get to vote again – that’s not how democracy works. I am convinced another vote would see Leave win by an even bigger margin but, I will erect barricades before I let this second vote happen as it would make a joke of the democratic process. People say: we need to stop Brexit because the government has made a total mess of negotiations and clearly can’t implement it. Well, that’s true, but only because it doesn’t want to implement it. Well, that’s tough because it has to. The consequences of not respecting a democratic vote will be much more dire for the UK than Brexit could ever be. 

Everything has been done to overturn a democratic vote and, yes, Democracy itself is at stake. You should never attempt to thwart democracy, there is no telling what chaos will ensue if you undermine it. I’m afraid this is something the ruling classes will learn the (very) hard way. 

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Happy New Year and thank you all.

Idle blogs of an idle fellow

“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.” – Shirley Temple

It must be Christmas because I’ve just spent half an hour trying to remove sellotape with forensic levels of care from the wrong part of the parcel I was wrapping without tearing the paper.

James Bond is on the TV and he’s already seduced a woman with nothing more than a one-liner and a ruffled hair do. I was caught up in the timelessness of it until I spotted one of Ken Livingstone’s hated bendy-buses crossing Westminster Bridge. The weather is mild and damp. The fridge is full of food that no one is allowed to touch, and the tree in the living room needs its own security force to keep inquisitive children away. It must be Christmas

I want to…

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The Absolutely Best Advice on the Internet is…

“Life advice is something people once went to pubs for, alongside flat beer and sticky carpet. Being regaled with ancient wisdom from bedraggled men escaping their wives at the bar was once a rite of passage for younger folk, who now deliberate whether to like pictures of restaurant food on social media with a thumbs up or an emoji instead…”

Idle blogs of an idle fellow

Remember this, folks – I am a Hillbilly, and I don’t always bet the same way I talk. Good advice is one thing, but smart gambling is quite another. 

Hunter. S. Thompson

Perhaps it’s because everyone is an expert these days, but people have an opinion on everything. The most liberating thing to say is, ‘I can’t comment because I don’t fully understand it.’ I’ve been supporting a football team for 20 years and still don’t understand the point of substitutions in the 90th minute. To be honest I’m beginning to wonder what the point of football is full stop, but that’s another blog. Advice is much the same, dished out like Sunday newspaper supplements without much thought as to where it all ends up.

Live every day like it’s your last‘ is the sort of advice that flies about like a flu bug: impossible to pin down…

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Book Plug

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I’ve just finished reading Pantheon by Eric Syrdal (his blog can be found Here )

I don’t do book reviews for a good reason: I’m no good at writing them. So you’ll just have to trust me when I say Pantheon is an epic, unforgettable read: it’s a novel told in free verse poetry and I could not put it down. Granted, I was already an Eric fan before picking up his book because he’s a master word weaver…but this blew me away. If you’re looking for a new book recommendation, you could do much, much worse.

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How Writers Survive Bad Reviews.

“If there is one thing that writing teaches an author, other than how easily the semi-colon might be misused and how gleefully people love to point it out to you, it is to prevail. Writing gives purpose to an aimless day and teaches resilience….”

Idle blogs of an idle fellow

“Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.” Mark Twain.

There is so much focus upon writing, on the magic tips and tricks that at times the real skill is neglected. And that is the art of disallowing poor feedback or bad reviews from ruining your day, and your ENTIRE BLOODY LIFE AND EVERYTHING THAT HAS LED TO THIS DISASTROUS MOMENT, which is pretty much what neighbours heard when I read my first 2-star review of the Life Assistance Agency on Amazon. Ironically writers chase these reviews because it helps with algorithms and sales, although no one has yet provided a coherent answer as the relationship between the two without ending up sounding like a conspiracy theorist. And what reviews don’t help with is your mental stability. Or do they?

(Yet) another great thing…

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