Monthly Archives: August 2008

One Day To Go…

“All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go…” 

 John Denver

I’m not ready to go…  I’m having second thoughts!  Actually, at this stage my mood is swinging wildly from, “Yippee!  Another Adventure!”, to “Oh my God, another adventure…”  Funny how fine the line is between excitement and anxiety. 

Stuff All

As I type this, next to my desk are two dark green canvas bags packed with my camping gear, and my clothes.  I’ve got those pre-trip jitters, in which I agonise over taking too much stuff, as opposed to not taking enough.  I wish I was like my mate.  He packs in seconds: keys, wallet, spare undies, shirt, and stubby cooler.  He can pack like this because he knows I’ll be bringing more than enough for both of us… “Can anyone use a kitchen sink?  I’ve got two here just in case.” 

And there are the key words, ‘Just In Case’.  I overpack because past catastrophe’s have left me scarred enough to think, ‘Never again!  Next time I’ll definitely pack a spare fan belt, beanie, bottle of ear wax remover, machete’, blow up air conditioner, etc, etc.”    

On this trip though, there is a weight and space limit, so I’ve had to choose very carefully between what I need to take, as opposed to what I want to take.  Of course there are a few frivolous items, like a collapsable walking stick (if I can still walk after pedalling 60 klms), and an MP3 player which I’m going to learn to use, or throw under a moving truck tyre.  I don’t need these things, but I’ve got a stack of space leftover since I ditched the concrete mixer and the horse blanket, so I tossed them in. 

Today I also caught up with the happy go lucky bloke who is going to give me a lift to Bundaberg tomorrow.  He’s a veteran of 4 of these rides, and did a lot to put my mind at ease.  He’s a light packer too, and he sold me on the idea of ‘Minimal Stuff’, so when I got home I was inspired enough to ditch even more things, although I’m going to scream if someone asks for a set of World Book encyclopaedias.  

Maintenance

My bike hasn’t been helping my stress levels either.  On Tuesday I stepped off the bike after a good ride, and was undoing my helmet when I heard, “SPONG!”.  It was the now familiar sound of one of the spokes on my back wheel snapping.  I don’t know why this happens, but every now and then it does.  I gave my customary sigh, found the offending spoke, took the wheel off and put it in the boot of the car.  Then I gave the rest of the bike a clean down, tweaked the brakes and the gears, before tracking one greasy footprint across the driveway and through the house.  Mrs Gb was impressed.   

Health

For the past two weeks I’ve been surrounded by people either coughing up one of their lungs, or just getting (or getting over), some of the most violent tummy bugs seen in town since a dodgy batch of horse meat nearly wiped out the early settlers.  Ever notice how people seem to want to share, at extremely close range, the grisly symptoms of how ill they are, or have been?  Paranoia set in when I felt a tickle in my throat yesterday afternoon.  By 9pm last night I was convinced I had a deadly strain of diptheria, bird flu and measles.  Good news folks, I don’t.  I’m sorry I mainlined all those vitamin pills now… 

Last Minute Purchases

After much thought I ended up buying one of those Rainbird spray jackets, because it’s nice and light, and packs down to the size of a tennis ball, well, it does now.  Then I upgraded my canvas bag, and while I was going berserk (much to the delight of the camping store owner) I lashed out and bought one of those camping towels, which are made of the same stuff as the chamois I dry my car with.  It also folds down to the size of a tennis ball.  And at the counter they had these neat little clips which I casually tossed onto the pile.  I don’t know what I’ll use it for, but it will definitely come in handy, so I’ll take it…

just in case.

See You In 9 Days  🙂

Gb

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Happy Anniversary

“Happy Anniversary Baby! 

Got you on my mii- ii -iind.”  

with thanks to the Little River Band.

Yesterday marked our 18th year of marriage.  It was like any normal Monday.  The morning rush, followed by a quick dash to school, and work (for some).  It was 11 a.m. before I remembered what day it was.  At 11:05 I was on my bike, madly thrashing at the pedals as I steered toward town. 

At midday, I walked into the office where my wife works and handed her a bunch of flowers.  She smiled, and I got a warm kiss.  Then she admitted that she had forgotten our anniversary as well!  The day was getting better 🙂  We had lunch together, and afterwards I pedalled home in a reflective frame of mind.

I thought about our wedding day, our engagement, our first date, and shook my head in wonder.  It wasn’t supposed to last.   First of all, she was my mates’ little sister.  A golden rule of mateship is that we don’t date our mates’ little sisters.  He suggested it once, and  I thought about it, but I didn’t do anything because, well, he’s a good mate.  Then one night they picked me up off the street, literally, after I’d ‘won’ a drinking contest at a local nightclub.  On the way home, I asked her out… apparently.

The first I knew about it was when I rolled round to the mates’ place the next day, to thank him for giving me a lift home.  He smiled at me and said, “So, where are you taking my little sister tonight?”  I stared at him, “Nowhere, why?” 

She appeared in the window, “Hi!  I’m really looking forward to going out with you tonight, do you have anything planned?”

I closed my gaping mouth, “Yeah, sure!  I’ll be round to pick you up at seven-ish, we’ll go out for dinner ok?” 

“Great!  See you then!”  She disappeared back inside, and my mate grinned at me, “You’d better get your arse into gear mate,” he said, “she’s talked about nothing else all day.”  There was no warning sign of anger in his eyes, although in my hungover state I was probably missing all sorts of important signals.

We went out.  It was a nice evening.  I spent more and more time over at the mates’ place, and it became pretty obvious that I was there to see his sister nowadays. 

The boys at work were onto the news in a flash, and I was offered lots of advice eg:  The girl you go out with is totally different to the girl you marry, then she changes again when the kids come along… and you don’t want to even know about the horrors of menopause, added one old timer who wore the hang dog expression of a battered husband.  One of the younger tradesmen, a bit of a hippy, even matched our stars, “Not good man,” he sighed, shaking his head a little, “you’re a swinging Libran, she’s brown shoe wearing Capricorn, too sensible for you, it won’t last.”  The omens were ill indeed. 

In spite of the fact that we were in danger of offending the gods, we kept seeing eachother.  And eventually, over a period of months, she moved into my unit.  I remember asking her one day, “So, when are you thinking of going home?”  She gave me a strange look and said, “I am.”  Okaaay…  this would explain why my laundry work had tripled almost overnight, and the appearance of knicky knacky objects from her room were now scattered amongst the tools and engine parts in my spartan little flat.   

We lived together for 5 years, survived the odd spat, my time at the mines, and the time I left town looking for work.  She joined me in Brisbane, a big step away from her family, and the town she had known all her life. 

A year later we were still in the city, and I had finally landed a full time job.  The pay was crap, but it meant I wasn’t expected to travel round the country side looking for any casual work that sprang up.  It was time to think.  I confided to one of my new workmates that I was going to pop the question.  He looked alarmed, “Are you nuts?!” he cried, “do you know what the divorce rate is for couples who marry after living together long term?”  I shrugged my shoulders, I did’nt have a clue.  “Well, I’ll tell you,” he said, “it’s 2 out of 3.  If you marry this girl mate, you’ll be making a huge mistake, you’ll be divorced in months, seen it all before.”  He was a lifelong bachelor.  Come to think of it, he still is… 

Another friend, thinking along the same lines, decided to add his voice as well, “You realise you’re both too different to make it work, don’t you?  I mean, you don’t really have all that much in common, no similar interests or hobbies.” 

I had never thought about it, “Well, it seems to be going ok so far?” I replied. 

He smirked, “Yeah, well, wait til you’re married mate, then you’ll get to meet the real woman behind the friendly face.”  Funny thing is, I saw his ex-wife last month, she looks a lot happier these days.   

Anway, I held off making a move for a little bit, then a couple of weeks later my girlfreind announced that she was going home for a week to visit her parents.  It was time for me to do some real thinking.  Three days later I rang her mum and asked her for her daughters hand.  Her response, “Well, it’s not before time is it?”  No.  She put her daughter on the phone, and I asked her the question.  She said, “Yes!”  She was happy, I was happy. 

It was a good day.   

We got married a year later here in Gladstone.  It was another good day.  It didn’t start off too well though, I still maintain I had food poisoning, but my father insists that it was nerves that caused me to have a dose of the runs and pukes on the morning of the big day.  Thankfully it cleared up and the wedding went off without a hitch.  Afterwards we honeymooned for a couple of weeks mooching down the coast road visiting beachside villages along the way. 

Three weeks later we had our first real argument, which took both of us by surprise.  We survived it though, and you may be surprised to learn that we’ve had a couple more since 🙂     

And here we are now, middle aged, kids, debt, careers, the whole deal, still together.  I don’t know how or why, but I’m not going to tamper with a winning formula!  My old workmates were right though, she has changed, but then we all have, and that’s a good thing.  Life would be too predictable, too stale otherwise, I like the variety that growing old together offers.      

I reached home and was putting my bike in the shed when I remembered what my old Uncle in Maryborough said a couple of years ago.  We were watching his wife, my Auntie, backing his car out of the driveway, “She’s a good old model that one, I don’t think I’ll trade her in just yet,” he muttered. 

I smiled, “You must really like that car, because you’re always getting rid of them and buying new ones.”

He turned to me with a gleam in his eye, “Wasn’t talking about the bloody car boy!”  

I know how he feels.  When you find a good one you hang on to it, and don’t trade it in for quids! 

So, “Happy Anniversary Baby!  Makes you want to smii–ii–le!” 

Cheers all,

Gb

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This Sporting Life

Show me how you play the game and I’ll tell you what you are.

 

It was another classic comment from our middle child as she strolled from her room to the refrigerator, “Oh yeah Dad, I told my teacher you’d referee our soccer game tomorrow.”

 

“Yep no worries,” I mumbled as I feverishly struggled with the latest Sudoko puzzle.  Seconds later my brain crashed into reverse and I called out, “Hey!  What did you just say?” 

 

She re-appeared in the lounge room, with a milk moustache and a fist full of Tim Tams,  “I said, that I told my teacher you’d referee at soccer tomorrow.”

 

“Why would you tell her that?  I’ve never reffed a game of soccer in my life!”

 

My wife looked up from her magazine, “Well, you played it long enough.”

 

“True,” I agreed, thinking back on my far from stellar career as a goal keeper, “But playing’s one thing, reffings’ another.”  I turned to my daughter, “And I’m sure we’ve had this conversation before about you volunteering me for things, and not letting me know until the last minute!”  She shrugged her shoulders. 

 

“Well,” I asked, “how long have you known about this?”

 

She thought for a moment, “Coupla weeks probably, I forgot.”

 

“You forgot!  Well, I’m not doing it, so tell your teacher that tomorrow!”

 

“But dad I said you’d go, and you’re the only parent who can make it who has actually played the game.”

 

“You’re kidding me?”

 

“No, that’s why my teacher asked me if I knew anyone who actually knew how to play and sort of knew the rules and stuff.”

 

“Did she also ask about the poor quality of your grammar, or are we waiting for a parent who knows how to teach English to appear as well?”

 

She shrugged again and started nibbling on another Tim Tam.

 

I thought about it, how bad could it be?  “Yeah, all right I’ll do it, but this is the last time you’ll get me like this,” I said sternly, “What time is the game?”

 

“Oh it’s not one game it’s five games, and it’s out at the Calliope school at nine o’clock.”

 

I goggled at her over my paper then turned to my wife wearing my ‘exasperated father’ look, she shook her head and returned to her magazine.  I spent the next couple of hours on the internet cramming up on the rules of the game, at least I had just enough time for that. 

 

So, the next morning, armed with a little plastic whistle that my youngest daughter had thoughtfully dug out from under her bed, I made my way to Calliope where I was handed a bright, shiny metal whistle which didn’t taste like a week old lollipop covered in dust.

 

Now I’m not the worlds’ worst referee but I did make a lot of mistakes folks.  It became clear to everyone very early on in the game that I was making up the rules as I went along.  But in spite of this there was no need for touch judges, or a video ref scrutinising every move made.  The kids told me when the ball had gone out, and whose throw in it was, or if the ball had actually gone into the goal not over it.  And everyone stopped to help on the few occasions there was an injury, which was really quite touching.  It made me feel very proud of all the teams I reffed that day. 

 

And that’s true sportsmanship.  Play your best, play fair, and have fun as well, whether you win, lose or draw.  The kids were out to have a good time, and I relaxed enough to enjoy the day with them.  The only complaints came from one smart alecky little malcontent, who I managed to silence by threatening to remove all her Tim Tam & Milo privileges when we got home.          

 

Will I do it again?  Of course I will, for the kids, for the fun, and because next time they might let me keep that nice, shiny whistle. 

 

Cheers all,

 

Gb

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Magpie Madness

Spring has Sprung!

The grass has ris,

I wonders where that birdie is…?

Trust me on this, I know where the birdie is, he’s chortling ‘Death From Above’ as he swoops toward my bike helmet.  It’s magpie season, and this year, it’s early.

The shock of it was so unexpected that I nearly fell off my bike.  In fact, the little bugger hit me three times before it dawned on me what was happening.  As I wobbled along, one hand raised above my head in frantic circles, I shouted “You’re a month early!  It’s too early!” 

He wasn’t in the mood to listen.  He had a job to do, and he was doing it.  Nothing personal of course.  Of course. 

A couple of years ago I tried inventing some Magpie Deterrents.  They had some limited success.  Here is example #1: 

I found a Mr. Bean mask and strapped it to the back of my helmet.  My workmates convinced me that it would work.  They probably didn’t think ‘anyone’ would be stupid enough to do it in the first place.  It got me a lot of attention from passing drivers, many of whom did slow down long enough to share their thoughts with me.  Some of the insults were actually quite funny, but not at the time.  Did the mask work?  No.  It did not work in slightest, in fact it only made the magpies angrier.

One magpie in particular, a real nasty piece of work, who haunted a large gum tree near our local Hungry Jacks really had it in for me.  I had to pass that tree fairly regularly, and it didn’t matter who else was riding or walking by, he seemed hell bent on nailing me every time.  In spite of my best efforts to deflect his attention towards passing school children, or little old ladies with umbrellas, he wanted nothing more than my eyeballs on the end of his beak.

One time, I actually snuck through his heavily guarded patch, and was under the last stand of shrubbery right on the outer limits of his kingdom, my eyes peeled for the black and white marauder.  I must have waited there, statue like, for about 5 minutes, and there was no sign of him.  I smiled as I straddled my bike, “Tricked the pea brained pest!” I thought with a certain amount of smugness.  There was a flurry of black and white feathers, followed by the all too familiar sound of a beak smacking into the top of my helmet.  The little rodent had been sitting on a branch right above my head. 

It all came to an end when he started attacking people in the Hungry Jacks carpark.  His stellar career came to a sudden halt, a victim of a corporate hit probably… or maybe they had the brains to call in a wildlife carer to remove him to a less populated part of the world. 

Next week, there will be over a thousand of us on our bikes hitting the highway south to Brisbane.  I’m predicting that there will be some very tired magpies hanging from their tree branches after we’ve passed through.  It has occurred to me that the organisers of this event must have a sick sense of humour. 

But I’ve been back in the shed tinkering with some new inventions.  I’ll let you know how they go next week.

Cheers all,

Gb

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Two Weeks To Go

Status:  Nervously Eager

Well, at this time in two weeks, I’ll be waking up in sunny downtown Woodgate, just south of Bundaberg, and waddling over to my bike.  It will be an added bonus if I’m actually looking forward to riding to Biggenden that day…

My ‘training’ so far has been sporadic to say the least, but I did climb one of Gladstones’ steepest hills the other day, and didn’t pass out at the top, so I reckon I’m as ready as I’ll ever be 🙂

Preparation to date:  Bought a new bike helmet.  My old one looks like it’s taken a fairly big hit from a sub-machine gun, and after trying on several helmets I stumbled across a model that didn’t squeeze my brain out of my ears, or make my eyes cross.  I bought it immediately. 

Buy a light rain coat.  Anyone who has travelled any distance with me will attest to the fact that I seem to have an almost magical ability to summon thunderstorms, monsoons, and flash floods from seemingly empty skies.  Of course, it’s all part of the fun! 

Serviced the bike.  Pretty happy with the old girl at the moment, she’s been running as smooth as silk, and I don’t know why, because her real nature is inclined towards Bitchy, and for some reason she’s been on her best behaviour.  No squeaks or rattles, no punctures, no snapping cables…  I’m getting a bit worried to tell you the truth.  In fact, even my feet have stopped going to sleep on the pedals, so the saddle is obviously in on the game as well, yep, definitely worried now! 

Bought a high vis long sleeved shirt.  I wanted two, but the shop only had one.  That’s the joy of shopping in Gladstone.  If they actually have the very thing you want, they won’t have it in sufficient quantities.  It keeps the sales folks amused watching you search desperately for everyday items that seem to have ‘just run out’, or ‘are on order’.     

Decide which tent to take.  I’ve got my old faithful, $30 special which I bought years ago, with the intention of putting it up, then setting it on fire the next day to save packing it up.  But that weekend, during the ensuing tropical downpour, Old Cheapy, was the only tent that didn’t leak in the camping area.  It goes against my nature to destroy something practical.  I’ve got the option of buying a much better tent for a great price off a workmate, but I haven’t had a chance to put it up yet.  Old Cheapy sets up in seconds, folds away in minutes, and looks like something the Beverley Hillbilly’s would be proud to own…

Things to do:  Buy a couple of canvas bags and line them with heavy duty plastic bags, so all my gear stays dry (have I mentioned that I have a history of attracting rain on my holidays?).  Try out a pair of proper bike pants.  Buy a small, quick drying towel.  And sort out exactly what other knicky knacky bits and pieces I will ‘need’ as opposed to ‘want’.   

The biggies.  Organise a lift to Bundaberg.  Get my holidays approved.  Avoid catching the flu.  And, most importantly, Don’t Worry about Stuff beyond my control.  Hey, how hard can it be?

Cheers Everybody 🙂

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Walkabout

I like my afternoon walks.  I never used to.  There was a time when I had to be dragged kicking and screaming out of my door to go for a walk.   But not anymore.  Of course having two furry alarm clocks appear at 4.30pm every afternoon at my feet with expectant looks on their faces is a big motivator.  Dogs are great walking machines.

So, we were tramping through the bush the other day, and I was deep in thought with the usual philosophical meanderings eg: “Who would make the better wife, Samantha from Bewitched, or Mrs. Brady, or, Mrs. Robinson from Lost in Space?”  I was debating the pros and cons of each candidate when I looked up and saw a path to the side of the track that I’d seen before but never gone down.  It was a faint path, barely noticeable in fact, but a trail nonetheless, “Wonder where that goes?” I thought, and almost instantly decided, “Let’s find out!”  So off we went, me and two little dogs. 

The male dog was off like a shot, sniffing and snuffling the ground ahead, “He’ll be useful if ever I need to clear a path of landmines,” I thought.  The female dog was nowhere to be seen, I looked behind, around, and ahead, and I couldn’t see her.  It was only when she licked my ankle that I looked downward.  Ok, so she isn’t exactly the explorer type. 

We trudged along for a while, with me stumbling over a terrified little dog every now and then, until the path petered out.  I shrugged and pushed on into the trackless bush.  There we were in deepening dusk, in the middle of the bush.  It was quiet.  I stood for a moment savouring the peace, the smells, and the feeling of being surrounded by trees.  Both dogs took the opportunity to relieve themselves.  Good thinking. 

It struck me that this was the sort of environment that the aborigines knew.  Nothing but trees and peace.  How good would that be?  Imagine living off the land like they did.  Your home, is anywhere, anytime.  No work, no money.  Bliss.  Might be something in that lifestyle… 

Ok, they wouldn’t have sandshoes, so broken toenails would be a daily occurence, no electricity means no lights after dark, or running water piped to your house which means no comfortable toilets, and no hot water either! 

Then there’s medical treatment.  No headache tablets, for starters, then appendicitis would be a bit of a bugger to put up with, along with tooth ache, a slipped disc, or a broken limb.  In fact there was a raft of illnesses and ailments that we almost laugh at these days that could bring about a fairly speedy end to someone living in the scrub without access to a doctor, or a hospital.   

No air travel, no railways, no large ships… it was at this point the whole idea started to lose its’ gloss.  I made my way through the bush, pushing on through a couple of gullies until I found a familiar track and followed it home.  The back deck light was shining brightly through the trees and I could see my family gathered in the kitchen.  Yep, this is more like it.  The call of the wild will have to remain unanswered for the time being.  Domestic man had returned home for another night of comfort and pampering.

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Sorry, we’re full up…

Here in Gladstone like many other burgeoning towns and cities around the country, we have a bit of a  labour shortage.   Good paying jobs are going begging, and HR groups are being sent far and wide to source potential applicants for the many positions available.  Unfortunately for them, while they’re away, other HR groups from rival companies are enticing their workers to jump the fence.  The mines are screaming for people, and are prepared to pay some serious dollars.  I know a few people lately who have made the move.  Not me though.  

When we returned to Gladstone in the mid 90’s, after being away in the Big Smoke for 7 or so years, things weren’t booming here.  There was work around, but locals were being preferenced over ‘blow ins’.  As we drove back into town for the first time, we were pulled over on the side of the road and someone stamped the word “Outsider” in big red letters on my forehead, and as a result, I was getting turned away from all available jobs here, even the worst, heavy, hot, low paying, arse busting jobs were off limits to me. 

So after three weeks of ekeing out an existence on our meagre savings, I spent our last $20 on fuel, kissed my wife and girls, and set out to find a job, or leave town.  I visited 12 companies, walked through their doors and almost begged every one of them for a job.  12 groups of secretaries, and Human Resources people looked at the big letters on my forehead, then my resume’ with all my Brisbane references, and sniffed, “Sorry, you’re not a local.” 

So, by the time I got to the last company, a shed on the edge of town next to the highway, I was not in a happy frame of mind.  So when the secretary looked at my, now heavily doctored resume’, highlighting my previous local employment (albeit in the 1980’s) she saw straight through it, “You’re not a local are you?”

I sighed, my shoulders slumped, then I got a little bit upset, “No,” I replied, gritting my teeth to stop from screaming, “no, I’m not.  You see, unlike your precious locals, I’m actually employable outside this tin pot town,” my voice starting to shake a little, “I have skills, and talents that make me quite a valuable employee anywhere in the known bloody world, except here apparently!”  She pushed her chair away from the counter as I snatched up my resume’, a few staff people leaned out of their office doors to look at me, “And,” I continued, “unlike your inbred, six fingered, drooling moron, banjo picking locals, I can walk upright and breathe at the same time!  And now I’m going to shake the dust of this dump from my feet, drive to Mackay and get a job with a ship building firm, and it’s your loss, you stupid, petty, small minded bastards!!” 

The poor girl didn’t know where to look, and in my haste to leave I dropped my resume’, papers went everywhere.  I dropped to my knees scrambling to pick up the precious documents when I became aware that a shadow had gone over the sun.  Looking up I saw a big bloke looking down at me with a fierce expression on his face.  This wasn’t going well. 

“What do you do?!” he bellowed. 

I stood up, paper falling from my hands despite my best efforts to hang onto it, “Any bloody thing you tell me,” I said. 

He laughed, and poked me in the middle of the chest with a large, and heavily scarred finger, “Good, you start tomorrow.  Now apologise to the lady.”  I did, and I then I kissed him.  Well, no I didn’t, but I wanted to. 

Later that day I returned home and told my wife the good news.  She was happy, which meant I was happy.  That job got me a start back here in Gladstone, and once they sewed my sixth finger on, and handed me my honorary banjo, I was able to get a job in one of the big companies, and start earning some good money.  I’ve been there ever since.  We bought our first house here, we have friends in town now, many of them are locals.  We have ingrained ourselves into society, at times I needed to use a crowbar…

There were more of us out there, just waiting for a chance to join in, and many had the door firmly closed in their faces.  But now the shoe is on the other foot.  Now, not only do the businesses, and many towns folk want non-locals, they’re prepared to pay them handsomely to come here.  It can’t last, but I for one am glad to see how times have changed. 

In any event I will probably keep the sixth finger though, it makes it easier for me to pluck my banjo as I sit on the front porch, watching and waving to all the ‘Outsiders’ pouring in off the highway.  It doesn’t hurt to be friendly now, does it? 

Cheers,

Gb

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