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Archive for August, 2011

Today’s picture shows a battered toadstool on the golf course.

toadstool

Golf was the chief business of the day and as I was determined to try to play well, I didn’t go cycling in the morning first. This left my monthly mileage total a little lower than I would have like but still above the 500 miles a month that I need to complete to arrive at my target for the year. I will put the updated totals on my cycling page.

Mrs Tootlepedal was called into work to cover for an absentee and as I was playing in the Wednesday competition with Arthur at noon, I had a leisurely morning, drinking coffee and doing the crossword, before taking an early lunch and going up to the course.

For once, I managed a reasonable start and found myself playing pretty steadily. Unlike last week, I had got the hang of pitching which made life a little easier and my putting was very good and I holed a lot of putts and missed very few.

I took this shot from the elevated second tee to show the consolations provided by the view if you are not playing well and the slightly terrifying tee shot you have to play from there.

second tee

The trees on the right get more intimidating every year.

I finished the first nine holes in a very cheery mood and promptly hit two terrible shots at the tenth hole.  Sometimes the force is with you and it was today.  Instead of burying itself in a thick fir tree, my second shot went straight through and came to rest in a spot of ground under repair from which I was able to take relief and hit the ball onto the green. I had one other stroke of luck among some trees on my way round but kept my head and finished with 40 points, easily my best score of the season. As the conditions for playing golf were just about perfect (no wind, holding greens, preferred lies), I expect other golfers will have had better scores but I don’t care. I really enjoyed myself.

Arthur mentioned in passing that he suspected that some of the varied ducks that I put on the blog yesterday might be mongrel crosses with the local ducks and not distinct breeds.

I took this picture on the third hole of some golden rods and Michaelmas daisies which Arthur had planted some time ago to disguise an unsightly mound of rubble.  His plan has worked well.

Arthur's planting

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had made excellent progress with the lawn extension and I picked up a fork and weighed in to help her. The dry weather had helped a lot and we were able to fork and trample and rake the soil into reasonable shape. I needed a rest after a while so I got the camera out.

Evil  blackbird

I had to stand and watch as this evil blackbird pecked my plums

We are getting some eatable plums so I don’t mind sharing a few as long as they know when to stop.  Our early apples are tasting very good.

Cosmos and bee

Not our usual kind of bee

Feverfew

Feverfew, a charming little flower

It’s not often that I can surprise Mrs Tootlepedal with my garden observation but when I told her that there were three clematis along the vegetable garden fence, she thought I was mistaken. I showed her this one…

clematis

…and she had to admit that I was right. As she didn’t plant it, its arrival in the garden is a bit of a mystery but welcome nonetheless.

She certainly planted this Fuchsia and it was just for me because I like Fuchsias so much and you can see why.  It is a striking plant.

Fuschia

Liz, our neighbour turned up to inspect our works and while I went into to the house for a Culture and Heritage meeting, she helped Mrs Tootlepedal reshape a part of the lawn and lay the unneeded turf on the new section. It all looks very promising.

The meeting passed uneventfully and in the evening, I completed a thorough back up of  my old computer, which I am using for this blog, and also backed up the current contents of my photo cards.  It might be too late but I am learning.

I may not be able to produce a blog for tomorrow but I hope I will have one ready for Friday night.

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Today’s picture is a marigold in default of any new life in the garden.

The darkness of the background gives an impression of the gloominess of the day.  We had been promised a good start to the week but it rained on and off during the morning and the early part of the afternoon too.  I had hoped to get in a good pedal but the wind was strong and the rain was light but persistent so I just footled about doing fourteen miles up and down the Wauchope road going nowhere.

This tiddly little journey somehow took up most of the morning, what with waiting to see if the weather improved and then having coffee after I got back and nothing else useful got done at all.

Even the birds weren’t very entertaining.

sparrow

A sparrow sitting quietly and minding its own business

Blue tit

A blue tit impervious to the rain

chaffinch

Dive, dive, dive!

After lunch I went to do my usual stint in the Tourist Office at the Kilngreen.  I had missed last week because of the Seniors’ Golf Open and when I met John, who had deputised for me, and asked him how he had got on, he told me that he had had twelve enquiries.  That’s more than I have had in all the other weeks put together.  Today. of course, was back to my usual quota. I had one enquiry in the first two and a quarter hours, though I was visited by Sandy and Mrs Tootlepedal which helped to pass the time but don’t count as enquiries.  Right at the end of my stint I was visited by a party of four.  They were led by regular blog reader Ruth who was conducting a family party round.  They took leaflets and therefore bumped my enquiry count up a lot.  I caught up with them on the Kilngreen after I had locked up.

Happy family

Happy family. Notice the heritage trail leaflet, indispensable for visitors.

After our duck lecture at Caerlaverock yesterday, I took more interest in the ducks than usual.  They are a mixed bunch at the moment.

light brown duck

A light brown duck

dark brown duck

A dark brown duck

brown and white duck

A brown and white duck

white and brown duck

A white and brown duck

two patchy ducks

Two patchy ducks

grey duck

A nicely patterned grey duck

I don’t know whether there is always this variety and I just haven’t noticed them before or these are recent arrivals. I think they are newcomers.

There were gulls too of course.

gull

The weather had improved a bit and when I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had finished clearing the border.  After a cup of tea, we went out and spread three bags of farmyard manure on the soil and dug over half the area and gave it a preliminary rake.

new lawn

If you are not a gardener, you can have no idea what a lot of work it has taken Mrs Tootlepedal to clear the relatively small area you can see.  You can see the toll that all the tramping to and fro with barrow loads of stuff has taken on the existing lawn but it is all in a good cause.  Notice the high tech measuring device lying on the lawn.  The soil is very wet at present and hard to work so we are praying for a good day tomorrow to get it dried out a bit.

In the evening, Luke’s dad came round with my laptop and bad news. It looks terminally damaged and I shall have to consult further about trying to get the data off the hard disk.  I don’t mind the photos too much because  I basically took them for the blog and  many of them are still there of course, although it would be nice to get the originals back at full size, but there is a lot of archive stuff which I have been working on as well as the photos and I would like to get that back very much indeed.

Dropscone’s daughter only got back from the Belgian F1 race at teatime so I went to Carlisle for recorders by myself.  We were four tonight as Sue was also missing but we played away very pleasantly at a mixture of early fantasias, dances and canzonets, a Haydn trio (while we waiting for Heather to arrive) and a charming modern piece called A Swing in the Park. As always, Jenny provided excellent tea and biscuits to follow the playing and this time we were treated to figgy rolls.

Every time I go out of the back door, I am greeted by this cheery bank of cosmos. It lightens the dullest day.

cosmos

It really has felt like autumn these last few days and this may well be the last day lily of the year.

day lily

On a happier note, I am just going to have a small plate of our late raspberries with cream before I go to bed.

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Today’s picture is of a brood of young swallows that we saw when we were filling up with diesel at Langholm.  They will have to grow  up quickly if they are going to make it south.

swallows

Note to those interested: I am doing this blog on my old computer which has meant that I can’t use my usual photo editor so some of the pictures are not quite as I would have liked them to be. Sorry about that.

As Mrs Tootlepedal had to provide breakfast for our cycling B & B guests, I got up early too and after a quick plate of cereal, I went off round the morning run on the speedy bike rather earlier than usual.  There was quite a stiff breeze and it was mostly against me so I wasn’t very fast but it was a beautifully sunny morning so I didn’t mind.

When I got back I had a quick coffee, followed by a shower while Mrs Tootlepedal filled the car with plants that had been removed in the great border upheaval.  We then set off for a day out with a visit to the council dump on the way.  We stopped to fill up with diesel and Mrs Tootlepedal, ever observant, saw a swallow feeding her young under the lintel of a neighbouring house.  I took a hurried picture as we were blocking a pump and then we set off.

The visit to the dump was accomplished without trouble and we took the coast road out of Annan until we arrived at the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust site at Caerlaverock. This is a winter home for geese and a spring breeding ground for an osprey but we were too late to see the osprey on its nest and too early for the geese. One surprising thing we did see there was Jean Weatherstone with her son and daughter in law and her mother.  They too were having a day out.  We had a light lunch in the cafe there and then set out to see what we could see.

bird watching wellies

Mrs Tootlepedal in her bird watching wellies

We went to the duck pond first.  I was much taken by the bright green legs on this moorhen.  I don’t think I have seen one walking about before.

moorhen

We had an interesting chat with one of the wardens who told us a great many things about ducks at this time of year that we didn’t know. He told me that this bird was a young moorhen, which I would never have guessed by myself.

young moorhen

Replete with duck knowledge, we set off for the edge of the site to see if we could see an osprey. We had been told that we would probably see one perched on a lump of driftwood.

driftwood

We could just see the driftwood in the sea but there was no osprey. There were a lot of windmills.

We did see a very large beetle on our way down.  I welcome suggestions as to what it might be.  I have searched the internet without spotting it.

beetle

We saw some geese flying by.

geese

We could see the Lake District

Lake District

Lake District across the Solway

We could see Criffel across the Nith estuary

criffel

We even saw a Hebridean sheep.

Hebridean sheep

But we didn’t see an osprey. I wasn’t surprised because my bird watching skills are matched by my patience so I rarely see anything exciting that is not right outside my kitchen window.

We gave up osprey watching after a while and went round the meadow walk where the lady in the shop had told me would see lapwings, butterflies and dragonflies. She didn’t add, ‘But not today’, but she should have. It was too cold and windy for them. Nevertheless we enjoyed the walk very much. It wound round a meadow past many ponds, twisting and turning and offering many fine views.

Willows

High protective banks are a feature of Caerlaverock and this one was covered in willows tossed in the brisk wind

Pond

The ponds have been attractively managed for the passers by

Another pond

I almost like ponds as much as lawns

Pond flowers

There were quite a lot of these pretty flowers in one of the ponds

There are a lot of viewing spots and hides dotted round the site. The two here are at the duck pond and at the entrance.

viewing points

Another view of Criffel across a pond

Another view of Criffel across a pond

The warden told us that there are currently three swans on the site.

swans

Here are two thirds of them.

Most of the meadow plants were over..

seed head

..but there were still marsh and pond plants about.

Curious plant

Can anyone tell us what this curious plant is?

clover

We did see a bee

There was a notice telling us that we might see swan mussels but the nearest we came was this empty shell.

swan mussel

Yet another pond picture

I told you that I like ponds

flower

We ended our walk with a stroll round their reed bed sewage system and followed that with the cup of tea which is essential, in Mrs Tootlepedal’s opinion, to round off a good day out.

The drive home was uneventful and as soon as we got back,  Mrs Tootlepedal snatched up her garden fork and got to work on the border.  She is making excellent progress and we should be at the lawn preparation stage within a week.

In the evening, my flute pupil Luke came and although he has been busy with the youth theatre group, he is still making good progress. He brought his father with him which was lucky for me, because he is a computer man to trade and he took my laptop away to see what he could rescue for me. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

 

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Today’s picture is the splendid restoration of the Scotsman Steps in Edinburgh. My sisters and brother walked up these the other day. They have been relaid in various shades of marble.

Scottish trip August 2011 012

It was a quiet restful day with a gentle pedal but the event overriding any pleasure that I had felt was the apparently fatal crashing of my laptop on which I prepare this blog and on which I have most of my photographs stored. Over several years I have become so used to my computers working well that I have become slack about setting up restore points and making backups and this may well come to haunt me now.  I have tried several things but the cause is not evident and I may have to pay money to get a result. I can open it in safe mode and get my photos off but the computer I am using now takes ages to process a single photo so it is not much use for a ten or twenty picture blog. Luckily I processed today’s efforts on the laptop just before it crashed. Unfortunately, because it was a dull day both literally and metaphorically, they are not very interesting.

It was another of those days where the wind blew stiffly and the rain threatened to come and as a result, I did nothing much until 4 o’clock when I got the camera out to see if there was anything flourishing in the cold damp weather.

daisies

The Michaelmas daisies can stand up to anything

v

This spirea by the greenhouse still comes up with fresh flowers

sedum and bees

The sedums continue to develop and attract bees

The one things we really can’t stop growing are the courgettes. Mrs Tootlepedal is living off courgettes for tea every day.

courgettes

I'm told people eat the flowers as well. They must be hungry.

The vast crop of plums, which we have relentlessly thinned all summer, are still too closely packed and are only fattening up very slowly. It will be a race against time to get them to an eatable state and I foresee plum jam looming on the horizon. I have been able to find a small but steady supply to eat and there are few things better than a fresh off the tree Victoria plum for a fruit fanatic like me.

In the end, I got the speedy bike out ready to do as much or as little as my energy and the weather permitted. I headed off up the Wauchope road once more and it wasn’t long before I could feel raindrops. These were fairly few and far between so I pressed on into the wind over Callister to Dunnabie where I turned left to go to Waterbeck, still with occasional raindrops. I don’t like hedges when the farmers cut them and put thorns on the road but on a day like today, they provide a very handy shelter from the heavy crosswinds and I was grateful to skulk along underneath one from Waterbeck back to Falford.  Once back on the Wauchope road again, I was blown home by the wind and was happy to have completed the 21 miles without getting wet. I think the strength of the wind had probably kept the rain from falling more seriously.

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had done more work on reshaping the borders. In fact she has done so much work that we will have to have a visit to the council dump tomorrow to get rid of the excess plants. Our own compost bins are already full to bursting  and much of the stuff she has removed is old plants which are rather tough when it comes to breaking them down in the heap.

The evening was spent crying in front of screens that said the blindingly obvious, such as ‘ Your computer has failed to start properly’ and then ‘Your computer has failed to start at all’ and finally ‘Give up now, you fool.’  So I did.

At least the Icelandic poppies continue to be thoroughly dependable.

icelandic poppy

I took three pictures of chaffinches today as they seemed to have the feeders to themsleves for long periods.

chaffinch 1

Weighing things up

chaffinch 2

I still haven't seen one go into the fat ball fortress. They seem slim enough to get in.

chaffinch 3

Boy and girl

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Today’s picture shows a final burst of activity from a side shoot of a campanula.

last campanula

Mrs Tootlepedal spent the morning in Newcastleton judging the needlework classes in the Holm Show. It was pretty wet and horrible so I stayed at home and did the bank holiday competition crossword for want of anything better to do.

From time to time, I glanced out of the window.

unruffled sparrow

An unruffled sparrow is not bothered by the rain

battling sparrows

These two are not so calm

I went out to buy some bits and bobs for a pan of minestrone soup and on my return, I saw the white duck was about.

white duck

It was stalking the other duck with her duckling brood.

Duck and brood

She was standing rather anxiously by them.

The ducklings were oblivious to external matters and were in a duckling heap engaging in constant grooming of themselves and their siblings.

duck heap 1

duck heap 2

They are very unflustered beings and happily there are still seven of them.

Making minestrone soup by the recipe I use is a very labour intensive process and it took all morning to complete.  Mrs Tootlepedal returned from Newcastleton after lunch and then we hit one of those annoying times when plans are made and then unmade as the weather fluctuates between rain and no rain.  Mrs Tootlepedal did some shopping and some ironing and I applied for a new driving license as I have to as my seventieth birthday is fast approaching.  I did this on-line and the process was very pain free even for a formophobe like me.

At last the weather brightened up and I went out into the garden.

puffy chaffinches

These rather puffy chaffinches were warming themselves in the sunshine as I went out

cosmos

The cosmos stretches its petals out to the sun

nicotiana bee

A bee takes a snuff at a tobacco plant

last clematis

This is the first flower of the last clematis to bloom in the garden this season

I like the crocosmia because as time goes by the old flowers fall neatly off and the new come out in an orderly sequence making it always look fully out from a distance.

crocosmia

No dead petals in sight here

Once it became plain that it wasn’t going to rain for a bit, I got the slow bike out to give it a test run to check on the knocking noise and Mrs Tootlepedal returned to her task of shifting plants in the border reorganisation.

I went off up the Wauchope road and once over Callister, I turned right on a little dead end which I have never been up before. It leads to the Winterhope reservoir and I was surprised at how big the works were for it.

winterhope dam

Quite impressive

winterhope reservoir

I headed back to the Lockerbie road, crossed the outgoing stream from the reservoir at Falford and turned left towards Waterbeck. I took the first right towards Crowdieknowe and was rewarded by fine views to my right and straight ahead.

view north

Looking to my right

view of Dunnabie

Straight ahead

It was a lovely evening by now and my bike wasn’t making any untoward noises at all so all was well with the world. At Dunnabie, I turned back to Langholm and so cheerful  was I feeling that I spent some time trying to see if I could get a picture in my rear view mirror while pedalling along. I could. This is on the top of Callister.

mirror image

This is a mirror image

Although it is thought to be rather cissy, when you get to my age a mirror is essential as I can’t turn my head enough to see what’s behind me any more. Or not without falling off my bike.

We were visited by Dropscone after tea who was returning a memory stick which I had lent to him. He revealed that he had played eighteen holes of golf in the Saturday Competition this afternoon for the first time since his accident. He didn’t reveal his score though.

I am looking through my photos to see if I can find ones that I can enter in the Langholm Show. I find that I have taken an awful lot of them and it is going to be a task just to find any ones that fit the classes and then just pick five or six good ones that are suitable for showing out of the hundreds that are all more or less the same as far as I can see.  I don’t take the photos for showing but for putting in the blog for interest. I am more interested in the subject than the composition but I try to make them as good as my limited experience lets me.  The expert photographers have a lot of polish in their efforts that mine lack. I shall persevere.

 

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Today’s picture is from my friend Bob. He used the word ‘orpine’ in a game of Scrabble recently and I raised an eyebrow at so strange a word so just to show me, he has sent me a picture of one he saw on a recent walk. It is a sedum.

Orpine

The morning was fine and the forecast threatened rain later on so I got the speedy bike out and pedalled along the A7 cycle path and on down to Longtown to enquire about the health of the slow bike. Levi can’t get it to make a noise when he gets on it but has replaced the bottom bracket anyway as it was rather gritty. I arranged to pick it up in the afternoon and went on with my pedal. I did a loop round Arthuret and Longtown and then went home by Milltown of Sark…

donkey flock

A herd of donkeys at Glenzier

…and the A7 cycle path again. The cycle path has been so nicely cleaned up that it only seemed right to use it as much as possible before it gets covered with leaves in the autumn. The trip was 33 miles and my speed was good going down with the wind behind and moderate coming back up with the wind getting up and against.

Once home I was able to admire the work that Mrs Tootlepedal is doing re-arranging the border.

garden changes

These changes have come about as a result of her tour of great gardens of the south a couple of months ago and they will require more lawn and less border. The laying of more lawn will require a good deal of work and as a preliminary to that, we went down to Longtown again in the afternoon, this time in the car, to get some bags of farmyard manure and a packet of grass seed. We picked up the slow bike on the way and visited Gretna Gateway on the journey back so that I could refresh my stock of undergarments and buy a new pair of shoes. All this was achieved satisfactorily and we sat down to a nice cup of tea when we got home.

Before I went, I snatched a couple of bird feeder pictures.

sparrow

Sparrows can be more colourful than you think they are

coal tit peanut

A coal tit tucking into the peanuts

After our tea, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to collect some horse muck in a bucket from our neighbour Liz’s field and I took the slow bike for a short test run. No knocking so far. I am keeping my fingers crossed that it was the bottom bracket. I will give it a longer run tomorrow.

The garden is on hold, waiting for a bit more warmth but there is a bit of development here and there.

sedum

A sedum on the verge of full flowering. It should attract butterflies when it is out.

queen of denmark

The Queen of Denmark hasn't been totally wiped out by the rainy spell

leaf

Leaves offer colour too

chimney fuchsia

This fuchsia is plump and gracious

In the evening we were once again visited by Alison and Mike Tinker for conversation, red wine and tootling. Mike impressed us very much by knowing what an orpine was. Alison and I enjoyed playing a Handel sonata in C among other pieces. The red was French, moderately priced and very drinkable so the evening can be judged a success.

I leave you with a picture of some yellow pansies which have been flowering since the spring but which are literally facing the chop as part of the border improvements. Sic transit.

pansies

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Today’s picture shows Mrs Tootlepedal’s first venture into cucumber growing still bearing fruit.

cucumbers

In spite of a gloomy forecast, it was a lovely day today from dawn until dusk. If there was a drawback, it was the chilly morning temperature and I had to put a thicker cycling jacket on for the first time for months as I set off round the morning run.  It was an uneventful pedal except for a moment of pleasure when I found that the council had cleaned up the cycle track and made a good job of it too. I met the men further along and stopped to thank them for their work.  They told me that they had taken two tankfuls of dead leaves off the road.  It is very satisfactory when someone tells you that something will be done and it is done. This satisfaction lent speed to my heels and I got round in a good time.

On my return, I discovered that Mrs Tootlepedal had taken advantage of the sunny weather to dig up the remaining potatoes and all the onions and lay them out to dry off.

potatoes and onions

While I was looking at the vegetables, my eye was caught by the row of three different clematis along the vegetable garden fence.

three clematis

At the head of the vegetable garden, the gladioli are going strong. Mrs Tootlepedal was rather dismissive of their suitability for our garden earlier in the rainy spell when they looked a bit bedraggled but I like them and hope that she reassesses their value. She tells me that she would have to dig up the bulbs and keep them in store over the winter so maybe they are not worth the trouble.

gladioli

I have got tomatoes and peppers coming along nicely in the greenhouse. This is the first year that my tomatoes have not caught some nasty disease and in spite of being yellow instead of the advertised red, they are very sweet and tasty. Outside the greenhouse, the lobelias continue to provide a good splash of colour.

lobelia

Our neighbour Liz had invited Mrs Tootlepedal to go with her to the mart in Longtown where she was selling some of her lambs. Just before they went, she told me that the white duck was back on the dam and went to get some bread to feed it.

I got the camera.

white duck

Mrs Tootlepedal and Liz went off to the market while I put in another week of the E&L into the database. I then got out the petrol driven ground cultivator and gave the now empty flower bed where the lawn is to be extended a good going over. It is a wonderful machine and saves hours of hard work.  Mrs Tootlepedal is quite excited by her plans for the trimmed down borders and as soon as she got back from the mart, started in on shifting clumps of ornamental grass to their new position. She very much enjoyed her visit to the mart and was impressed by the relentless smoothness of the operation of selling sheep and cattle in large numbers. Liz had got a fair price for her lambs which had made her happy too.

I mowed the lawns which made me happy so everyone was happy.

I took the camera out again in the evening sunshine.  I am very interested in this clematis. I keep expecting the centre to open up but it remains obstinately shut. It must open sometime to get pollinated.

clematis

anenome

I couldn't resist another anenome picture

There was an article in our local paper today bemoaning the lack of coloured butterflies this year.  We have certainly had a lot of white butterflies though this one looks as though it has been in the wars.

white butterfly

Just to prove that whatever is in the paper is wrong, I saw a nice coloured butterfly today as well.

phlox butterfly 1

It doesn't look very colourful here, I admit.

phlox butterfly 2

But it was. I like its long antennae. They look like the little flexible torches you can buy.

In the evening, I went to the Archive centre with Jean and put some more of the E&L into the database. Sandy wasn’t with us as he was visiting his wife in hospital but he looked in on his return and we all adjourned to the Douglas for a drink.

It was unusually crowded and rather sombre when we went in and we wondered whether there had been a funeral but it turned out that the only thing that had died was Scottish football as both Rangers and Celtic were being beaten simultaneously on two different TV at opposite corners of the bar. This means there are no Scottish clubs in Europe beyond August for the first time since the inception of European club competition in 1956.

Other countries put a premium on developing two footed football skills in young children in a non competitive situation while we concentrate on winning school  matches with teams of very young children on very big pitches.

When I was a teacher I used to have a rule that once a player had scored a goal, he couldn’t score another until someone else in his or her team had scored one too. The children hated it as it meant they had to pass the ball which wasn’t football as they knew it.

I finish with a picture of a Sweet William. These have been flowering away since they first appeared and are another very good value plant.

sweet william

The nuthatch didn’t come back today, or at least not while I was looking.

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