So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

I’ve caught a glimpse of the Christmas lights on Regent Street last afternoon. I’ve been walking along the south bank in the frosty wind thinking about how much I love the sea at winter, and the Thames is the closest thing to the sea you have. There’s something romantic about it in a way that is not the cheesy romantic people think of when you say romantic. The contrast between the view of the buildings that have been the backbone of the city for hundreds of years and the bustle of Covent Garden and Piccadilly on a late saturday afternoon once we left the Transport Museum made me feel like I travelled to another dimension. I felt as the outsider looking in, guarding someone else’s secret, something I was somehow part of, but not a part of.

So I got around to watch watch Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby last night.

There is a literary quality to the story on its own, regardless of the nearly poetic writing that makes up the book. It’s its symbolism. You could say that Jay Gatsby is a character that lies comfortably in the tragic tradition  that started with the Greeks.

Ironically, I was discussing Shakespeare and Aristotle’s theory of tragedy over a fry-up this morning, complaining with my teacher friend about how literature is taught in this country. If I’m ever a mother I want to be able to make my children love literature the way it should be loved before they are taken down with the system in their schools.

Over time, we moved on from the tragic hero being a victim of the caprice of the gods of Olympus, now we are victims of the caprice of all other sorts of gods.

The visuals in the film are stunning, if a bit over the top as you would expect, but the modern music didn’t work this time. Though it was not a perfect film, it did stay true to the sense of desperation of the times. And it feels like not much has changed.

This is no longer a time of boy meets girl and happily ever after, though Love has always been the most capricious of all gods, as it wasn’t in 1922. None of us will escape the tragedy of life, whatever we’re running after.

There’s a quality to the way Leonardo Di Caprio took the character and made it his own that reminded me of why I never really identified with many female characters in literature. Some would say that we need more great female characters etc, but this would miss the point. What makes a classic is this quality that goes beyond these details, and one should universally be able to relate to them, or aspire to be them, or react to them in a way that is higher and deeper than who the character is. Only characters that embody a sense of impersonality and timelessness stand the test of time. Art has been seen for a long time as what elevates us to the superior condition of a God creator, something that transcends the immediate reality. Sometimes, even in the poorest executions you can find Art.

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On falling out of love with London

I was on a bus going past the canal, lost in my thoughts. I noticed a building I liked that I’ve never noticed before.

I got lost on my way to St. James’s Park station, lost in my thoughts again. I walked my way to Westminster, welcomed by Big Ben as the only source of light.

I’ve been to see the Foreign Office feeling like a child on Christmas morning, and I cried in St Stephen’s Hall.

It’s not that I don’t love London, because I do. I love London the way you love someone you’ve been married to for a long time, when the spark is rare and it’s easy to get annoyed at them for not pulling up and putting down the toilet seat. Or whatever.

It’s no longer the excitement of the first dates when you didn’t see each other for days and then you go out and it’s amazing. I see too much of London, and I see its menial side. The overcrowded tube and people stopping in groups on Oxford Circus as if nobody really had to go to work there so that they could enjoy their very slow shopping.

That’s what happens when you are stuck in a low wage job just because people keep telling you that it’s better to have one and look for something else, even if then you’re too tired because you’re overworked, and really lack the time for that. I confess my mistakes so that you don’t have to repeat them yourself.

You won’t have the time, the energy and the money to go on a date with London, and what is free you’d be too depressed to enjoy. You wish you separated (at least living in two different houses, not filing for divorce) so that you could have a better chance to enjoy your time with London.


These were my feelings when Team v’s new campaign was launched. The hopelessness and desperation of feeling trapped. I would have bailed out if I were class 2015, and the fact my year’s first campaign was The Sustainable Generation is one of those coincidence that I believe are signs. Everyone who knows me knows my involvement in environmental issues, I’m a Catholic girl in the end and of all the years spent in the Church what I brought home were Catholic Social Teachings and a feeling of uselessness when I’m not giving away my pocket money in Lent so that the missionaries can build facilities for poor children in Africa. My late grandmother raised me not to waste the food on my plate, one of those potentially damaging things done out of absolute goodwill. Think of the children who have nothing to eat at all, she would say.

So, when the campaign was revealed, I found it too contentious for me to be able to take part to it, too much at risk of being politicised even if I knew how hard they work to avoid that, and I was glad it wasn’t my assigned campaign because Team v has been a life-changing experience for me. I’m probably in the bracket of people that would be considered poor in this country, yet I try so hard not to embrace this mentality. Maybe it’s easy because I’m a single woman, and I don’t have to provide for my children on two low incomes and benefits, with them looking around and seeing children who have things they want, but they have to stick to whatever I can come up with the little I have because we can’t afford those treats. I don’t know. I just don’t like the idea that anyone in one of the richest countries in the world can call themselves poor when people die of starvation somewhere else. They’re not poor because they’re not alone.

I’ve read The Jubilee Roadmap with a growing feeling of “OMG someone understands me”. This is a booklet from the Jubilee Centre we were kindly donated as part of the IMPACT course. It offers an insight on what Biblical society can teach our post-Christian one. Far from advocating a return to the faith, it shows very practical issues and very little ideology.

One key thing they stress about is relationship. Poverty is not just financial. The categories considered more vulnerable to poverty were “the alien, the fatherless and the widow” (Deut. 24:19). The whole system for those people who were not marginalised was designed to keep communities together. You had a family to rely on, and if things were really hard, you could lend your work or sell your land for some time. The law protected you from people taking advantage of this.

So I joined the Hunger Challenge. My family has always been very keen to donate to food banks and never failed to donate stuff of the same quality that we would buy. Not the savers’ brand for them, and the good branded beans for my father.

It may be for the wrong reasons, but I believe it’s important. It may help those who are used to plenty of food and especially snacking to see things in a different perspective. I’m more often than not having my lunch out of Food For Life so the parcel seems like plenty of food to me, but it doesn’t matter. It’s not just about changing people’s perspective on what most take for granted. There’s a similar challenge to live within the means of a poor person in a developing country, and that’s really a challenge to me. My food bank parcel for 3 days cost me more than double what I could spend in that challenge for 5.

It’s important because we need to help people in need so that while the impersonal big economic abstraction called the market fails them repeatedly, society won’t. We’re in a country where the army of a corrupt government doesn’t go to steal goods that have been donated to help the poor, and foreign aid money isn’t blown away in expensive cars and drugs by the dictator’s son. We have a long way to go to ensure to those who can work that their work pays rather than pay them enough for the expensive transport they need to get there, and those who can’t work are supported. I’m not saying that’s not the case. However, I joined the challenge with the gratefulness of a 21st century young woman in the UK who would have somewhere to go if she didn’t have those 12£ to buy the parcel herself. It’s important that this doesn’t go forgotten, so please donate to your local food bank as much as you can. Many are under threat.

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Untitled (I like Sigur Ros, OK?)

It’s once again nearly Pumpkin Spice Latte season, and I’m once again brought back to the shore that is my long neglected blog.
I’ve been inspired to write this by an article on Buffer’s blog about Twitter bios.
I struggle with biographies. That’s something coming from lack of self-esteem and a Catholic tendency not to know the real boundary between arrogance and confidence.
There’s a difference between sharing things in a context that makes everything equally (ir)relevant, and sharing things in a context that is meant to be the most relevant things about you. Ever.

Apparently, I’m the most fascinating when I talk about something I am passionate about.
I like to believe that James II really threw away the Great Seal of the Realm in the Thames, my ideal man is William Pitt the Younger and I have an unhealthy obsession with Tim Stanley’s hair.
I don’t like The Thick of It but I think motivational posters with Malcom Tucker’s quotes are brilliant.

I think Daleks are cute.
I watch Lost in Austen when I’m sad, which happens quite often. Wickham makes it easy to forget anything bad.
No matter how fashionable it is to say you can’t stand Stephen Fry, I love QI.
I’m obsessed with weddings and all things pretty.
I listen to post-rock and classical music, but I have a past as proper stereotypical indie kid.

At the end of the day, I think the most accurate description of me would be:
“Metropolitan type coupled up with a country gentleman. I want a pet fox. Whovian (but I hate Steven Moffat). History and politics geek. Addicted to Pumpkin Spice Latte”

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The London Loo Tours and other stories

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (if that’s not you, sort your priorities out) will know by now that I’m in my 3rd campaign as a Team v Leader. David from the Rank Foundation who interviewed me last summer told me at Residential that I was in for a big surprise and gosh, I was indeed. Because if you can’t guess from the name Routes to Roots, that’s a campaign about migration. And if you’re so used to me being all political you might have forgotten, but I am someone who’s where she is because she can parade around with a EU citizenship.

I can’t believe I’m 1 month away from the end of my journey as a Team v leader, and this campaign will be my legacy to Bloomsbury and the borough of Camden. We’re working harder than you’d probably think from the stream of Suits related tweets, and we’ll welcome your stories to join the story of Rachel, better known as the Loo Lady, and others at our fantastic event that is now a work in progress. Just give me a shout.

I am aware that now we have a TV channel dedicated to what to do in London that makes me as a blogger useless, but I’m pretty and there has always been a debate in Aesthetics about whether beauty and utility can coexist so I’ll use that as an excuse to justify my existence in this climate.
We all know how much Tom Hiddleston does to eradicate poverty in the world and to entertain geeks but would you argue for the suppression of Tom Hiddleston if he didn’t? I didn’t think so.

So you’ll now hear about the London Loo Tour of Bloomsbury I went on on a mixed weather Saturday morning during Holy Week. And you are already thinking that no way you’ll get up on a Sat morning even for the most amazing thing ever, she does afternoons too so you really have no excuse.

It was really fun, but as always with this kind of things it works best if you’re funny too so don’t take yourself too seriously as you’ll be paraded around by a girl carrying a Dalek manipulator arm. Otherwise known as a plunger, if you have lived under a rock for the past 50 years (have I told you I’ve been to the Doctor Who Anniversary Event at the ExCel? Now you know it).

I’m juggling a lot of things together, including a fundraising for the charity that will take me with them to Nicaragua for the summer, while I wait for hopefully good exam marks and I don’t have to hear from my family for 10 weeks. If you love your loo and care about other people having their loo to love, too, why not give me a few pennies on my JustGiving page?

If you think that I’m too delicate and/or posh to dig toilets in a poor country think that they gave me a place on the programme and as someone raised a Catholic I’m not that good at saying good things about myself, so they think I can do it without embellished truth.

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The Start of a Journey

Autumn is a season of transition…the leaves changing colour, the start of school, the layered clothes. To be honest, I don’t really feel the feeling of “start” in this season. Strange huh? Given that I want to get married in September! Autumn is a melancholic season so it’s totally-me, and I like burgundy as a colour anyway. In spite of (500) Days of Summer being all about new beginnings with Autumn, to me it’s still more Journey’s End.

Vintage Autumn by Ocean Orchid

However, September is when you go back to normal after the holidays, if this year is normal at all.

First of all, I have 2 500-pages-each history books staring at me on the desk behind my Macbook screen. And as much as I just want to curl up in bed watching Doctor Who in preparation for the Celebration event at ExCel in November I’ll have to go through those books if I want, one day, my bio on Twitter to read like Dr Whatever-my-husband-is-called-like, Historian of the-most-useless-period-in-history. The hair is not mine, I’ve got extensions. And if you didn’t get the reference you need to set your priority straight.

Anyway, Gossip Girl spotting your favourite blonde on a campus in Bloomsbury isn’t the only new thing.

You may remember the conclusion about the world not needing more successful people in my previous blog post. I never really like to talk about those things because it feels like showing off and it makes me uncomfortable.

I ticked another box on the list of Perfect Young Christian Woman and future wife to the Perfect Young Christian Man, or politician for that matter. It isn’t mission overseas, though I applied for the International Citizen Service and passed the 1st round of selections (it isn’t exactly mission in a Christian way but I think it still qualifies).

For the next 9 months together with lectures, seminars, essays and preparing exams I will be busy pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone by coordinating a group of volunteers as part of Team v.

It’s kinda incredible they got me in after I said in my application that I want to swap lives with the Doctor, but then again I even have people who date me even if they know that.

I took the decision to apply because finding it seemed like an answer to a specific prayer. After depression, struggle and losing a job that didn’t make me happy but I didn’t want to leave for fear of the future I needed something that would make me happy. It’s as simple as that. Helping others makes me happy.

If I have to rationalise it, there is a dimension of the idea of leadership that I want to explore. Like one of my main girl crushes aka Lauren Dubinsky wonderfully put it:

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 21.25.59

There’s a lot of talk about leadership and management in the corporate world, but I think there’s a whole world outside of it that is much needier of a leader than it. This isn’t a sarcastic remark on the British political situation. No really, it isn’t, I promise.

Life as a 20something young woman in London isn’t easy, but honestly it has a lot of funny anecdotes you can blog about. And you can always post random pictures of Tom Hiddleston if you have none.

What I meant is that it ain’t too bad, it’s for other people that it’s not as nice, which is why I feel I have a moral responsibility to do something. I may not change the corporate world all by myself, become a Bishop or a PM (though I gained the nickname of Claire Underwood for a reason) but I can inspire a change and I’m going to do that.

It sounds so encouraging, maybe I should really write speeches for politicians for a living.

(c) Ocean Orchid

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How to be more successful (not really…)

Successful people are morning people. If that’s not just their propaganda, I’m doomed to be either the proof you can be successful as a night owl or unsuccessful. I’m beyond doubt a night owl.

A couple of months ago, during a weekend away in the countryside, I had the brilliant idea to wake up at 4 AM to see the sunrise, and then join the morning office of a Benedictine priory. Far from being a devoted Christian thing, that’s as close as you get to being in the Middle Ages according to Ken Follett.The Pillars of the Earth, Prior Philip

I started writing this post on paper that morning when left with nothing to do before my day, and this reinforced my idea that it’s useless to get up early in the day and you don’t really get anything done that you can’t get done in the night. The sunrise on the countryside is certainly beautiful, but the world is still not going to be functioning until later in the day. Unless you catch up on work being done during the night somewhere else in the world like when you work at Buffer (which, unfortunately, I don’t), or you do something relevant for what you are going to do later in the day I see very little reason to get up early when your focus grows in the night. So if you are a morning person fine, do that. If you aren’t, that’s another story.

Writing this could be considered doing what successful people do, but the propaganda behind the successful people are morning people mantra implies a degree of action that hardly is an equivalent of my late night contemplations. Or early morning contemplations. Or up to midday contemplations. My mind is far from being functioning in the let’s conquer the world way until it’s fashionably late. I was born at 3.45AM in January and I think it wasn’t an early riser thing, it was a “I can’t miss out on the night” thing. Tales of day being a huge nap-time and my insomnia begin from day one, and you see a perfect example of unconditional love in the fact my mother never killed me for being wide awake when she had to sleep. The fact I look perfectly like Novalis itself should raise suspicions.

The reason why they say morning people are successful people implies a specific definition of success. I’m sure of that because it’s shouted all around that night owls are cleverer than early risers, so how can people who are smarter be less successful?

The dictionary definition of success lists 3 meanings: social status, achieving a goal and the opposite of failure.

Let’s start with the first, which is the meaning behind our mantra. If you didn’t notice, the flood of articles shouting the mantra from the rooftop come from places like Forbes and Business Insiders and anything dedicated to entrepreneurs really. It’s all about success in business. If you are in the Christian blogosphere you may find how to have a successful marriage but besides that, if your aspiration is to share newspapers midmorning over brunch with a husband of the like of Dr Tim Stanley (who has the same aversion for the before 10am time slots I have) after spending most night working on your next research looking like Philosophy in the Paradox of Acting, no one cares.

But as my dear friend and reputable life coach Jack Ori says:

Success has to do with achieving goals that are important to you, not everyone else.

So we leave social status behind and move on to achieving goals, which was our 2nd definition. The past few years have seen a rise in messages about how we can achieve whatever we want, but we were also hit by continuous messages telling us what we wanted. This has seen a rise in the number of failures too (as not everyone is good at the same things so why should we all have the same goals?), and reduced the smallest things to less than a success, while if I were ever able to cook eggs properly I would feel like the Queen of England.

There is also a third definition worth mentioning, and it’s that success is the opposite of failure. I have to agree with Jack Matson (Professor, innovation junkie, and a “frequent failer”) that failure is part of success instead. He theorised Intelligent Fast Failure as an integral part of the creative process, he had a TEDx talk on it and now he’s teaching to yours truly too. Then there are all those beautiful images with quotes about dreaming big enough and all.

But I want to go back to our first definition of success. Dalai Lama

Choose wisely.

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Short Cuts

This is not going to be another of those INFP posts quoting Tolkien to make a point about the poetry of life, getting lost, finding yourself and loving the wrong guy. I can’t assure I won’t be quoting Tolkien, but this is about a theatre festival dedicated to the Metamorphosis. Not Ovid or Kafka, it’s actually pretty fun stuff.

It’s day 502 of being in London and I went for the first time to a pub theatre. If I thought the Trafalgar Studios are intimate, I couldn’t imagine a pub theatre. But then, again, there was a naked Craig Gazey involved at the TS, so maybe it’s that. The Hen and Chicken had its fair share of gorgeous men too if you’re interested. No one fully naked with only a bag to cover, though.

Short Cuts is a festival of short plays running until the 7th in a fancy pub where a couple of pints will cost you almost more than the ticket and you’re likely to enjoy the show more than the pint. Come prepared. I suggest you finish your drink before the show because I risked throwing mine on stage at least once. At the price you are paying it, you don’t want it to end somewhere that is not your oesophagus.

The theme is the metamorphosis because all plays deal with change one way or another, using comedic styles very different from one another. There’s a metamorphosis already in that! This is mind blowing.

It is a new talent showcase on all levels, and everyone knows how I feel about new writing. Or if you don’t, in short I don’t buy into the positive thinking and entitlement culture that just because you want to do something you are going to succeed at it and you have a right to expect and demand attention. For this reason I am more critical to new writing than I am to the old stuff. And by old stuff I mean before Coward including Alan Bennett. So if I say that I enjoyed my night out in spite of the price of my pint of cider and that while I certainly have a favourite or two out of four the festival as a whole is a success I’m probably understating it. I can fairly say that I have seen productions of old stuff I liked less. Really, I did. I’m not in a position where I have to fake enthusiasm about everything because it’s implied in my job duties after all. Geeks especially are expected to like it more than the rest of the world, you’ll see why.

PS Over the weekend I have seen the adolescent dream of seeing the Cribs live come true. I’ve also seen Klaxons for the first time in their official position and not in a club in their spare time, swooned over Miles Kane like a teenager for Justin Bieber and sang along and danced to Kasabian who were bloody brilliant. It was 2008 all over again. All for free courtesy of Newham Council. You’re welcome.

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An Anthology of Madness

There is something great about literature. It’s the undeniable confirmation that when you wake up in the morning you can rest assured you’re not alone. That maybe, just maybe, someone out there knows how you feel. You can tell yourself that as many times as you want, but it will never feel real until you read something and you feel like you wrote it yourself. Some books just reach you down under your skin, straight to your bones, and change the person you are in a way that a 1000 people could never do. Because 1000 people are not that one person, and will never be.


“We are anxious human beings, desperately seeking approval because we’ve invested our hope for happiness in things which will inevitably let us down.”

An Anthology of Madness. Of Guilt. Of Pain. Of Grace. Of Love. Of Friendship. Of Faith. Of Compassion. Of every deep intimate human feeling. Of what it’s like to be a Christian in a broken world where everyone is as broken as I am. Of what it’s like to seek for an answer without a question, and have all questions without an answer.

There is no preaching. No self-righteousness. No religion. This is just the tale of a journey like all the journeys of the heroes with a thousand face. It’s the journey of a saint and of a sinner. It’s St. Agustine and Jack Kerouac. It’s the poetry of the Romantics. The honesty of its words is the most powerful tool in the world. You cannot put it down, because to put it down feels like killing a part of yourself, and when it’s over it feels like a part of yourself has died in the way it dies when a great love becomes a dormant fire.

I feel part of something big, like a revolution. We’ve shared tears and laughter and blood and ideals and the feeling that the world is a little better now we know we are there for one another. Those words of a humble creative and broke(n) man made me feel for the first time what it means to be Brothers and Sisters in Christ. The Church never managed to do that. I think in 40 A.D. we showed up on Sundays for one reason: to celebrate the fact that everything was going to be okay. We should do that more.

I wish even non Christians would read it, because it’s the most powerful prose I’ve read that was written in this decade.

I have been blessed with an advanced copy, but now it’s available for everyone to feel. Buy it on Amazon. 

Italics by Max Andrew Dubinsky. Picture by Sarah G.

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Jam & Dram

Believe it or not it was sunny today in London, and it was sunny one week ago. The light sunburn, however, is all today’s, as last week I traded the golden disk in the sky for whisky, waffles and gorgeous Scotsmen. Ahem. The reason being that Jam & Dram organised by The Whisky Lounge was held indoors, in what by night turns into a hipster club in Shoreditch. And this was a very hipster whisky fair, not what you would expect to have going on in a room with people tasting whisky. It may be my taste in literature and films but the idea of whisky gives me mental images of the Earl of Grantham and political discussions after dinner in a noble house or at the Club. Or Don Draper. Or Chuck Bass.

Chuck Bass drinking whisky in bed in Gossip Girl

Even Chuck Bass dresses too posh for the event, which was really casual and friendly. If their aim is to bring to people you would see drinking Jack Daniel’s to the kind of whisky you expect to see only in the house of the parents of the Made in Chelsea cast then it’s been the greatest success.

The concept behind Jam and Dram is brilliant. The core of the event was not the waffle stand, though if you’ve never had waffles with bourbon chocolate sauce and champagne cream you have half lived. It wasn’t even the blend whisky-making class or the expo of maybe 50 different whiskies: islay, speyside, India, Japan…

There were 3 bands, each of which had a chosen blend (because another aim of the group was to erase the prejudice in favour of single malt whiskies) we had to vote at the end of the day. The blend and the band were meant to represent each other, like a woman and her perfume. Speaking of which, I’ll gladly accept a bottle of Coco Noire…

During the day I learnt that some whiskies are very feminine (or like an exhibitor said ‘good for the morning), that cocktails work amazingly with whisky as they do with vodka and that I have a fine taste, the confirmation of which always makes me happy.

Legends say that I once almost puked only at the smell of whisky, so you would never expect me to have had one of the best times in my life in a place like this, but I did.

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Night Works and past memories

I know what it felt like when Marty McFly was sent back to 1955 and back to the future again.

Back To the future

I know it because even without a DeLorean (or a TARDIS or any time machine you can imagine) stepping into The Miller was like being sent back straight to a summer somewhere between when Alex Turner started dating Alexa Chung and when it was over. The place would have been the Rocket, or Circolo Magnolia with still the stage indoors only but the beer garden open for that random fag someone in your group really needed to have. But everybody spoke English and nobody was posing as cooler kid because of their latest trip to London to see that unknown indie band they kinda scouted or a famous indie band everybody in the room wanted to see but couldn’t. And that amazing denim you’re wearing? That cool new designer from CSM with a pop up on Shoreditch High Street (and a few things imported in that cool multi-branded shop at the Colonne btw). Whatever, nobody is really going to listen to what you said about it.

Girls are either blonde (but rarely it’s their natural colour) or brunette (and it’s mostly the natural blonde ones), but there’s always a shade of red lipstick to go with it. Maybe a fringe and a hat too. It’s London’s style baby, and it was our dream.

When I stepped into the pub the atmosphere was then surreal, and for a while it didn’t feel like a new happier life. I didn’t spend my time reminiscing, and in fact I went as far as enjoying the first half of the night which was Night Works’ music with a very annoying light flashing straight at me. 3 free drinks help you forget everything about it looking like a scene already played in a long run, just with you in the audience for a change. But something has to be said, no place that tries to look like London looks like London.

Shit just got real (sic.)

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