Hello everyone

I thought I’d start by saying that I write this diary not as a blow-by-blow account of daily happenings, instead this is more about my thoughts on the current situation, the reason being, I think it important to capture the essence of how we are all coping during these extraordinary and unique times.

So, how are you all feeling about the nearness of winter, and the increase in Covid cases, with the strong possibility of a return to lockdown?  Because, yes, while it would appear that our government would rather that a full-lockdown does not happen, that might return. For the moment we now have (slightly) more restrictions on our lives than before (in England, anyway, and parts of it more than others) and we await the news to hear of the rapidly increasing cases, and live with the probability that there will be more restrictions coming soon.

I mean who would have forecast that this year would have been so challenging. And yet, we cope. So for this diary I touch on some of my month’s activities but I also offer you some thoughts on my coping strategies, and how we can all live with hope and the expectation that this will pass, because, really, it will, so hang on to that my friends 🙂

Well, I did a lot of reading and watching (more of that below) and we managed to visit our children plus one friend in their respective gardens. I now pop into our local shops, with a mask and without any fear. I give supermarkets a miss – that’s a step too far for me! I also pop into my two local charity shops and visit the wonderful Emmaus for the vintage clothes that they have, and wow, do I have some great finds from these forays to show you in my next couple of posts! I also went to the garden centre and intend to rethink and repot my little balcony for the winter. So all good, but just as I got my confidence back to do all this, the visits that I had planned to several friends are now on the back-burner.  And sadly while my son-in-law teaches in a crowded classroom with no proper ventilation I shall also curtail our visits to that little family. Btw, I have my views on the pressure on our heroic teachers to perform and teach in not very ideal circumstances, and the confusing nature of our masters’ messages to our nation, but will absolutely stop there and keep that for the diatribe I shall one day write for My Other Blog!

I continue to talk to my friends and family on the phone, and via WhatsApp and FaceTime. But there’s not much more to report as these are such abnormal times. I mean, not even a trip to London! I think that as a couple, me and Mr F adapted well to the whole situation but like the majority of the population I have days when I feel a bit anxious and glum. So what to do?  How do you cope? Here’s my thinking on the whole scenario.

The pragmatic/positivity stance I aim for:
As far as possible be reassured by the stats – the medics have learnt much and there are treatments for Covid in-patients that were not used at the beginning of the pandemic.

Stay healthy
Ha! Because I didn’t start the year particularly healthily, but I have worked hard to get back to a healthier state, and that includes a daily walk, which is getting longer and longer, still under an hour, but it is now 3/4 of an hour non-stop brisk walking and that people is an achievement. I also have a weekly Zoom Pilates class and a 1-2-1 to work on strength and particular areas that need to be worked on. Do you remember I used to have a tilt to the right when I woke – that’s gone and all due to Pilates and a stronger core. Now I work on the shoulder stoop.  And woo-hoo, every day I walk up 3 flights of stairs to my flat. Whatever, you know it is important to keep moving. Do so, in whichever way you find is best for you.

Don’t forget the flu vaccine, which is available now, albeit in the UK with a system of being called in to the surgery by letter. I got my jab 5 days ago because I had a face-to-face appointment for something else and had it there and then, and Mr F has decided not to wait for his letter but get one in a walk-in clinic at a local pharmacy.

Follow your instincts and not the crowd
Yes, only do what you are happy to do. And what’s more feel totally OK about that. I have noted that people have gone on holiday. (Oh the lucky few who have a second-holiday home.) No, I’m not going to book a stay cation. I do acknowledge that if this goes on well into 2021 I might revise my views, and might book a cottage in a quiet place. But I’d rather not. Nor have I gone into a restaurant. I think outside in a garden pub is fine, but inside, oh no.  And don’t feel in any way, that you should be doing loads of activities and eating out to help out. If you don’t want to – don’t! However, see below.

Be kind to yourself
Because of our decision not to eat out, we have just recently decided to ‘eat in’. On Friday we are going to have a curry delivered to us, consisting of an aubergine curry, a dahl, rice and samosas, and all of this coming in four lovely metal tiffin containers. Oh wow, what joy, and this is going to be an on-going Friday event followed by a film. We aim to try this particular food delivery scheme every other week (we do like a curry) plus I simply must have some fish and chips delivered, and maybe a pizza. So excited.

Another way to be kind to yourself is within reason, don’t listen to the news. News is definitely all about disaster and of course, we are living through challenging times and the challenges are not only about this pandemic.  I feel I must keep abreast of what this government is up to, plus there is the election over the pond. And I do, but if possible reign in the tendency to listen to the ‘news’. I was such a news junky, but no more.

Feed the mind
Did I say that last month I finished Hilary Mantel’s latest book, The Mirror and the Light? I love Mantell’s writing and felt this was as good as the other two in the Cromwell trilogy – in other words it was excellent. Rather devastated for her that she was not short-listed for the Booker. After that chunky book (it is long but every word is exquisite) in complete contrast I read a fairly light family saga by Santa Montefiore, The Secret Hours.  It was good but not great. Currently reading The Singapore Grip by JG Farrell, which is being televised on ITV. I’m afraid to say the book is far superior to this series as the televised version can’t quite get at the subtleties and depth of Farrell’s ironic look at the last of Empire.

Other television that is outstanding, rather than the usual, it’s good but not brilliant (like the Mystery Road series to be found on BBC iPlayer) is Grayson Perry’s Big American Road Trip to be found on All 4.  American followers do you know this man?  He’s well known here for his eccentricity of dress (!), his pots and is in actual fact a near genius in my view!  He has made many television series on British culture, and this time he turns his attention to the States.  But please don’t think he’s superficial or in this to make us laugh, his empathy and understanding of people is just the business and so acute. If only people like him ran our country. This is television at its best.

We have watched several films, most of them instantly forgettable, but the last film we watched was very entertaining, it was Netflix’s Enola Holmes starring the young actor, Millie Bobby Brown. This is the story of Sherlock Holmes’ sister, Enola, and it was just delightful, with great acting coming from a number of British actors including Henry Cavill. The link leads to a review, which gives it 3*, personally I give it 4*. And hey people, at first I thought, wow, Millie Bobby Brown’s managing a great British accent, but people I did not know Millie Bobby Brown is British, you live and learn!

Talking about living and learning we have booked an online Guardian Masterclass with Hadley Freeman on Life Writing as both of us have ideas on writing about our families. Mr F has done a huge amount of family history and is wrestling with the story that he has to tell that will make sense of all his research, and I would like to return to writing my memoir.  A class like this will stimulate the brain cells and they are really good value for money as well at, usually, £45.

Be more Norwegian
And hear this, apparently in Norway the further north people live the more they embrace the dark night of their cold winter without sun.  In the far north of the country, Tromso has only two to three hours of below the horizon indirect sunlight (imagine!) yet the people living there do not have the depression that winter brings to so many who live further south. And this is because of their mindset that their dark winter is something they accept willingly as exciting and enjoyable.

Think of Keats’ Ode to Autumn, such a beautiful poem, with so many lines that catch your breath with their truth. Autumn is absolutely the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and winter too, has its beauty.  Let us embrace the coming season rather than feeling the fear. No, we face it, and that change of season is exciting, plus, and I am going to be really superficial here, I so love my winter clothes! Can’t wait to wear leggings, thick socks and skirts and wooly tops – yes, bring on the cold weather!

Finally, every day I am thankful and pay tribute to the many good people working away on behalf of us all: and I include the people who deliver our post and all those online parcels to us as well as the researchers in labs working on the vaccines that might just end this. I say a big thank you to all those front-line personnel from nurses and doctors and pharmacists and teachers to the refuse collectors, I mean where would we be without those, they were and still are expected to work as normal throughout. Yes, there is so much hard work going on – hats off to the lot of them.

I leave you with this photo of a typical grey day in London. How I love that scene.

And more greyness, plus the mud-coloured Thames!

And absolutely finally, I’ve had this favourite £5 yellow coat dry-cleaned, and got out the green hat and scarf, which I don’t think I wore once last year.

The very next photo of this combo will be outside as I aim to wear the hat and scarf a lot.

Then there’s this jacket and don’t forget the studded boots. I do love my winter clothes!

That’s all for now, but, as ever, I really look forward to hearing your views on living through these unusual times.

With love, Penny, the Frugalfashionshopper

P.S. They say that great minds think alike, two bloggers that are favourites of mine, and probably yours, have written similar pieces.  Gail of Is This Mutton and Tricia Cusden of Look Fabulous Forever have published posts that are all about facing the coming months with positivity – three cheers to both of them.  It is so good to know we are all thinking along the same lines.

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29 thoughts on “The Back-to-Lockdown Diary – 30 September 2020

  • 30th September 2020 at 7:22 am

    You are our Samuel Pepys. In yesterday’s Guardian there is a lovely article about swearing parrots that would make anyone’s day. Keep up the good work.

    • 30th September 2020 at 9:16 am

      Oh yes, my husband told me about that article – I shall go and read it immediately! Thanks Flora and take care 🙂

  • 30th September 2020 at 8:28 am

    I am so dismayed at the number of people who will be living through the winter in isolation. My son who lives alone has found the summer hard going. He has only visited us once (we are over 70 and my husband has been shielded) and says that he dare not come again because his gym is his lifeline, and he is not confident that it is Covid-secure. The winter will be hard for him – or for anyone. My elderly friend has hardly been out since March because of mobility problems. She does not know how to download Skype or Zoom, and says that she does not know anything about Netflix, because she can’t find it in the TV programme listings. I am not sure whether I am allowed to visit her at home or not – who knows what the rules are – but I am going to help her with her problems, come what may.

    To cheer myself up, I have taken up Spanish. After ten weeks of very hard work, I am happily chatting on for an hour at a time with a nice young man in Madrid who does not mind my mistakes and gesticulations. (Professional tutors can be found on italki.) It’s good to laugh in pleasant company, and hey, this is a totally unexpected new skill for me. For anyone wanting to brush up a language with a view to finding language exchange partners and making new friends online, a fun resource is “Learning Languages with Netflix” which is on a Chrome extension. It subtitles selected Netflix programmes in English and the language, and then freeze frames so that you can read them properly.

    • 30th September 2020 at 9:26 am

      Yes, absolutely with you on this, that a second lockdown will be so very hard for some, and especially for this who live on their own. It’s tricky all round, I definitely lost my confidence and ironically found it hard to come out of lockdown, it must be so awful to have mobility problems and in addition, no knowledge of the wonders of the internet. I see it where I live. And like you, I can’t pop in to their flats to sort out their Kindle or introduce them to the various platforms that are out there.

      Good for you re: the language course, I aim to do more Guardian Masterclasses, as they are such good value for money and having been to the Guardian HQ in London for these classes in the past I know that they are well produced and, wow, what a joy to just get a cup of tea afterwards at 9.0pm rather than taking 3 hours to get back home.

      Thanks so much for your comment 🙂

    • 2nd October 2020 at 5:15 pm

      Early on in lockdown, my grown-up grandson became a village volunteer through his Parish Council. Willing to do anything, he did the usual things like shopping and taking mmessages between people but for him, best of all, was helping an elderly gentleman learn how to use his new phone in order to be able to stay in touch with his family. Given that this was achieved with the help of good weather and a socially distanced tutorial through an open window for as long as it took, the weather now wouldn’t allow for that, but, perhaps your friend’s local council/parish council/church or similar could find someone who would be willing to write a simple 1 2 3-type guide to getting Netflix, Zoom and Skype for her. And if she has a mobile phone then WhatsApp is quite easy to use once it’s installed. I’m sure anyone kind enough to be so helpful in the first place would also be willing to help out further by telephone if your friend got stuck. My grandson said seeing how delighted his neighbour was at being able to contact his family all on his own gave him the greatest pleasure of all the jobs he did. It’s just a thought, but it’s possible that a similar help scheme might be in place where your friend lives.
      I’m with you, while I love my summertime shorts and t shirts, come Autumn and winter, chunky woollies and boots and jeans win hands down. Having just returned from chilly North Norfolk, believe me, our time has come, my dear!

      • 3rd October 2020 at 5:15 am

        Thank you for your kind and thoughtful reply, which is all good sense. I was thinking of the larger picture, of people who before March were, through choice or necessity, leading rather solitary lives. For them, calling through an open window or writing notes to enable online communications may not be enough to keep them on board with the rest of humankind. My personal opinion is that compassion sometimes leads us to look beyond our own safety, to reach out to them before they drift away into isolation and despair.

      • 3rd October 2020 at 5:15 am

        Thank you for your kind and thoughtful reply, which is all good sense. I was thinking of the larger picture, of people who before March were, through choice or necessity, leading rather solitary lives. For them, calling through an open window or writing notes to enable online communications may not be enough to keep them on board with the rest of humankind. My personal opinion is that compassion sometimes leads us to look beyond our own safety, to reach out to them before they drift away into isolation and despair.

      • 3rd October 2020 at 8:32 am

        Hi Zepherine and thank you so much for your kind comment. I agree wholeheartedly with you that actually older people can be guided into the 21st Century and the IT world. My other half taught IT to a class of older people (80+) and they were in particular so willing to Skype their younger relatives. But much depends on having an up-to-date television and mobile. And I know many in this block who have neither. And that is a real stumbling block. I mean the ageism and sheer lack of empathy that everyone has the latest phone to download this latest NHS app (which isn’t NHS at all) to trace contacts. I could go on!

        And yes, winter clothes every time! Thanks again – so thoughtful of you as it’s great to hear of these examples of good neighbourliness 🙂

  • 30th September 2020 at 10:32 am

    Those photos of a grey London made me smile – I am more apt to try to find (rarer) pictures of a blue sky London! But today on my walk there was a a blue sky (now gone) and lots of dew, and the countryside looked magical.
    The Netflix language extension sounds interesting, particularly as I want to brush up my French! I love watching subtitled French TV progs but they speak so fast it’s hard to keep up.
    Love your two coats – the animal print coat looks so glamorous, and the yellow coat so cheerful.
    And I love your idea of the Indian feast being delivered every Friday. I may start doing this too!
    I’ll also give you a mention Penny in my post today xx

    • 1st October 2020 at 7:47 am

      Actually my other half pointed me to a couple of photos I have of heavy grey skies and amazing bronze coloured trees in the courtyard of the Tate. Will try to get those in a post.

      I don’t know why we haven’t done the cooked dish delivery thing before – there’s a lot of people doing this in Brighton. The veg curry tiffin delivery scheme is very local to us and I’ll let you know how it was.

      I think online classes to nurture both the body and the mind are absolutely here to stay. The sheer convenience of being able to attend one that is in London is just wonderful. And our Pilates teacher says she’s going to keep the Zoom classes on for ever, albeit when it’s over to include a live session in her studio. She’s not going back to teach in gyms. That is one positive that has come out of the pandemic. Take care xx

  • 30th September 2020 at 10:37 am

    You are walking and climbing steps very well! That is good! Our rules are restricted as of yesterday, so I don’t go to shops, restaurants or friends for two weeks . And we will see how it goes then! Love both your coats! They are gorgeous!

    • 1st October 2020 at 7:49 am

      Oh gosh sorry to hear about your current restrictions – it’s the way of the world for the next few months. Nancy, one day we will meet on the seafront and it can’t come soon enough. Take care xx

  • 30th September 2020 at 2:41 pm

    Lovely post, Penny, and I loved your new (ish) green hat!

    Funnily enough my brother was talking about the film ‘Enola Holmes’ when he came for dinner on Sunday; I like the sound of it…

    Well done you on increasing your walking times and straightening up through Pilates – what great achievements. I heard this week that our swimming pool is finally reopening so I’m looking forward to my weekly swim.

    I’m like you in that I try to stay as positive as I can about the whole Covid-19 thing and as for Autumn it’s my favourite season!

    Take care

    • 1st October 2020 at 8:21 am

      You will love the film, Veronica, so well acted and entertaining. We need more of this type of film these days I think! Take care xxx

  • 30th September 2020 at 3:38 pm

    As you say Penny a lot of people are thinking about the same things at the moment! I’m usually OK with the winter – I like experiencing the seasons although lots of rain and grey skies can be a bit dispiriting! We usually have a short UK break in the autumn to set us up for the darkness but not this year. In fact we should be away on a 30 day cruise to America now which was going to be partly for our 50th anniversary. I just hate being at home so much, it feels like I’m already so old that I have no alternative. I keep saying I’m going to do some online talks etc (WEA & Denman college offering some) but I can’t motivate myself at present. I read quite a lot & have been reading more non fiction ( currently Democracy for Sale by Peter Geoghegan) & catching up with The Bridge 1&2. Want to watch the new Spitting Image but it’s on Britbox and him indoors doesn’t think it’s worth £6 a month(!) Must catch up with GP in America. His Art club was one of the best things on TV in lockdown. I think they’re going to bring it back next year.
    My PT still comes once a week ; just hoping that will be able to continue as Skype was not that great. I went into town yesterday as needed a special birthday card for a friend. A woman with no mask on the bus & nobody paying much attention to the instructions about where to sit etc. When I got off there were loads of students milling about oblivious to social distancing so I had to keep letting them pass. I went into a couple of charity shops and bought books and also some very reduced costume jewellery from Accessorise which I certainly don’t need and probably won’t wear. I was able to use the NHS app in a cafe, with a great deal of help from the server. It said that the area was ‘medium risk’ but I felt quite safe. The gluten free Victoria sandwich cake was very nice anyway.
    Tomorrow I’m getting my hair done with the hope, but not expectation, of coming out looking different & also seeing my sister. Gosh, what a sudden burst of activity after months of hardly any! My choir is back but with very few of us but glad to be singing again. I’m getting out the winter clothes now bit by bit but not very excited as nowhere to wear them. I do dress as if I’m going out & do my face every day. Listening to More or Less today I discovered, as I expected, that current Covid cases are nowhere near where they were in April due to the testing numbers. The earlier stats were a huge underestimate because so few tests were happening so we are not comparing like with like. Sadly the newspapers are not reporting this correctly & panic buying is back.
    I’m on a day-by-day existence and the weeks seem to keep coming round & the months changing. Trying not to think about not seeing my younger daughter all year & the frustration of not being able to progress move/stay and refurbish ideas. Oh look, nearly 5 o’clock again, time for a tipple!

    • 1st October 2020 at 8:30 am

      Yes, I listened to that same programme which is excellent and regularly pulls up the sloppy reporting we get on so many subjects and yes, the Covid case stats are not comparing like for like, and yet, I still don’t like the current increase, makes me feel really uneasy hence the cutting down our socialising, not that we were doing all that much.

      Good for you to dress up every day. While I do put on a full makeup every day, rain or shine whether I see someone or not, I still don’t exactly dress up to go out, which is why I am looking forward to the colder weather when I can ring the changes with my hats and coats – that I look forward to. I think try a couple of online classes – they could be good. I aim to try and do one every month – currently looking for the November one!

      GP is the absolute best person ever. So empathetic and quite bonkers at the same time. You’ll love that programme.

  • 30th September 2020 at 3:38 pm

    Your 2 jackets are lovely! That yellow is so pretty! I have been so good about walking and running with my friends and am hoping to continue to do so in the fall and winter. Just need to find a jacket for exercising! Otherwise am well prepare for outdoor time in the cold if lockdown occurs: it was a lifeline the first time around. Boys are in school full time and I am enjoying that while it lasts. I like your Friday night program! It is good to have something to look forward to!

    • 1st October 2020 at 11:21 am

      Thank you Mireille – so good you like the outdoor life. I haven’t got a garden/yard but apparently a lot of people with gardens are buying fire pits and/or fire braziers ready for the outdoor entertaining the people hope to do!

      I am looking forward to Friday!

  • 30th September 2020 at 3:55 pm

    Your post gave me some hope this morning as to what we can do in these trying times. last night was especially difficult as it was the first presidential debate and it was pure chaos! We here in the US are in for a wild ride no matter what the outcome of the coming election is. It is hard not to have some degree of fear. Anyway, after reading your post I put on my sneakers, or trainers as you Brits call them and took a walk. the sun had not yet risen and I could hear the birds singing. I made a cup of tea and had a healthy breakfast and then went for a haircut. While I was there I met a friend, totally unexpected, and after our respective appointments we had a cup of coffee together. she will be moving South on Monday so I was grateful for this time with her. Mostly I read fiction, mysteries and I guess what is considered literary fiction. I am however reading a really interesting book called The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabelle Wilkerson. it is beautifully written, about the migration of Blacks from the South in the 30’s, 40,s and 50’s, tracing three separate families. I am learning so much from the book and highly recommend it. she also has a new book out called Caste which I also want to read. I do watch too much of political talk shows for my own good.
    Enjoy the Autumn Penny, keep stylish and be an inspiration to us all.

    • 1st October 2020 at 11:41 am

      Hi Darby, I’m so glad you went out and unexpectedly met your friend – how amazing was that! We have to hold on to these small positive happenings that will, definitely, occur throughout the winter months.

      There is so much I could say about the ‘debate’ and there has been much in the British press about this but rather than depress you I hope that this gives you a laugh https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZuIN2Hx-gY

      I hope this is the right link – this is Michael Spicer on the James Corden show. If it’s the wrong link you can find it on YouTube. He’s been doing this ‘behind the scenes’ sketch for all our politicians and he really is brilliant!

      Thanks so much for the tips about your reading – it’s good to share and hear about authors one might not come across. Take care 🙂

      • 1st October 2020 at 12:25 pm

        that was brilliant and did indeed make me laugh! Thank you Penny.

  • 30th September 2020 at 10:07 pm

    Hello from Vancouver BC, Your exercise regime is so inspiring. I must spend less time on the sofa and more time on my apartment’s stairwell. Your hot colours are tremendous! You and your follower’s comments are so full of useful info. Wishing everyone the best for this coming winter! Judy @fancified.ca

    • 1st October 2020 at 11:44 am

      Greetings Judy to you over the pond in Vancouver 🙂

      I too wish you all the best over the coming months! Bet it’ll be colder where you are than in Brighton! Take care 🙂

  • 30th September 2020 at 11:06 pm

    First, those two coats are seriously the best Penny. I have a leopard one and couldn’t part with it even when we moved here where there basically isn’t a winter!! In my defense, I did wear it once or twice last winter.
    And you should be so proud of yourself with your walking ….it’s so important yet I get so lazy at times. I couldn’t agree more with you about not watching the news. It’s SO negative that I’d rather be an ostrich!!

    • 1st October 2020 at 11:49 am

      I love those coats and can’t wait to wear them Jodie – it’s not quite cold enough yet, but soon….!

      RE: walking have you got a Fitbit? It actually tells you to get up and walk if you haven’t been moving for an hour. I find that very useful when I am writing – one can really get lost in the world of blogging or whatever, and to get up and go out is actually quite energising.

      Take care 🙂

  • 6th October 2020 at 1:32 pm

    Hi Penny, glad I came by to see if you had a new post. It does sound similar to here, Michael and have a lot of projects to keep us busy. I did stop substituting teaching and there have been cases of Covid at school so it was a good decision. We are militant mask wearers and only go places where they are mandatory which means long Drives to the city for grocery shopping.
    But I have my sewing, knitting and animals but we hate not getting to spend time with the girls and grandsons-such lost time. Take care, Terri

    • 7th October 2020 at 8:01 am

      So glad you’re a mask-wearer as it just makes so much sense. I don’t wear one when I walk by the sea and we do pass other people, but it is in the very blowy breezy open air. In a shop and/or supermarket it is absolutely essential and I don’t know why some think differently. Yes totally with you there’s plenty to do but it just isn’t normal.

      Btw, since you came back I’m not entirely sure my comments are getting to you??`? I always look at your blog and your wonderful sewing – you are so skilled, Terri. You take care too x

  • 6th October 2020 at 7:49 pm

    We had been “good” here in NY for so long…but what with schools and colleges starting up, and more people dining inside restaurants as the weather cools down, our numbers are starting to rise a bit. I don’t mind lock-down one bit, especially in the winter, but I know that others do 🙁

    That yellow coat w green accessories is amazing!

    What will you plant on your balcony for winter?


    • 7th October 2020 at 8:10 am

      To be honest, I don’t actually mind lockdown although I would like to do some normal stuff (like visit the hairdresser) which I have taken the decision to not do. But it’s not seeing family and not being hands on with my son and partner’s move this weekend and new baby next weekend (we hope) that I deeply resent. But being positive I shall make up for it big time when this is all over.

      I’d like my balcony to have rather more permanent plants rather than the summer annuals I put in which are now over so the balcony is all empty pots. So more perennials like verbena bonariensis, euphorbia, and I’d quite like one of those white/green hellebores for the winter. But not too many as when they go over what do I do with them??? I’m learning that balcony planting is quite an art!

      You take care over there and have a great rest of the week x

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