I love musicals. I've always loved musicals. From Irvin Berlin's black and white masterpieces to contemporary theatre and, of course, the occasional Disney tune. I've always been a sucker for them. However, when Hamilton started gaining traction in the theatre scene, I wasn't originally sold. Sure, some of the tracks were catchy, but I'm not really a hip hop kind of girl, and I dismissed it as a 'not really my thing'.
Gosh, how wrong I was.
A few years later, I saw some fan made anime music videos on Youtube. They featured scenes from Yuri on Ice set to various Hamilton tracks, and I suddenly found myself completely and utterly addicted to them. The songs were incredible, with sharp, witty lyrics and hauntingly beautiful numbers fuelled by a passion that made my heart ache. I found myself listening to the soundtrack on repeat for weeks. Hamilton soon found its way to the top of my list, with its inspirational story that lit a fire inside of me. It soon became the soundtrack to my convention prep work. If Alexander Hamilton could spend his days writing like he's running out of time, if he could push himself forward with such drive and determination, surely so could I? After all, I only have to paint some pieces to sell at comic conventions. It's not like I was busy, I dunno, trying to defend the newly written constitution, after all.
So Hamilton became an important part of my work process, and an inspirational mantra I'd call upon when I needed that little push.
When I heard that it was actually coming to the West End, I desperately wanted to see it. But, Hamilton is a powerhouse of modern theatre. Tickets sold out long before I even knew they were going on sale, and they were sold out until the end of time. I even looked into flying out to New York when flights came up really cheap. but Broadway prices are expensive, and again, very, very sold out.
I figured I stood next to no chance to ever see it live.
And then I did.
Hamilton has a 'lottery' app you can download, which gives you a chance to win extremely cheap tickets. The show opened previews on a Wednesday, and on Thursday I got a phone call at work. My friend Sarah, who had been playing the lottery with me, had won two tickets to see Hamilton the very next day. After a lot of screaming, crying, jumping for joy, work-shift-juggling and excitement, I was on the train on my way up to see Hamilton! On its very first Friday performance in London.
And it was amazing.
I'd initially been a little worried about seeing a different cast perform the roles I'd grown to know so well from the original Broadway run, but I needn't have been. Within moments, I was fully entranced with their performances, captivated and enthralled. I adore Lin-Manuel Miranda and I honestly don't think you could get a better Hamilton, but Jamael Westman made the character his own, too, even though he lacked the staple Hamilton ponytail. I'll forgive him. Just.
And then... I got to do it all over again!
Early this year, they extended its run at the Victoria Palace Theatre, and with the new dates of course came new tickets. My friend Archer and I dove at the chance, because the extension went through July, which meant we could see it for our birthday! Archer is one of my very best friends, and we happen to share the same birthday. Which is super ironic, because we were both born on the Fourth of July!
It was wonderful seeing it a second time around, because this time we were able to invite our friends along for the ride. Archer's sister Becca joined us, Moose and Luke joined and Sarah's boyfriend Matt came along, too. We got a Saturday matinee because Archer and Becca had come all the way down from Sheffield for the show, and this time I came extra prepared.
There's a website I am obsessed with called Artscow, and through them you can design and make your own clothing. I already own a bunch of Artscow dresses with my own art on them (and have even sold a few at conventions), but I knew I had to make a Hamilton dress for the show. I designed a simple golden dress with the famous Hamilton star logo, teamed it with a small black cardigan (which promptly came off in the extreme heat of our Summer this year!)
I teamed my dress with a badge from H0lyhandgrenade, another artist in the UK con scene, and an official Hamilton pin I'd purchased my first time seeing the show. I'm not too modest to say that my dress got a lot of attention! While outside waiting, a guy approached me and said he loved my dress and that he loved Hamilton. He wasn't even going to the show, he just knew what my dress was about! In the auditorium I had comments from the staff and some audience members, and a guy even found me on Twitter by following the hashtag and said his daughter had fallen in love with my dress at the show. It made me so happy! I'm so glad I took the time to design it. I really, really recommend Artscow if you ever want custom clothing. They've never let me down yet.
This performance of Hamilton had a couple of cast changes, including Hamilton himself. We had a different Lafayette/Jefferson too, who I think was a stand in for the main cast member, and I honestly preferred him to the regular guy. He was so dynamic and so fancy in both roles, absolutely perfect for the part. The main actor for the part is incredibly talented, but I just think he doesn't fit the role as accurately. Lafayette, and especially Jefferson, are such huge, showy characters. By contrast, I wasn't quite feeling the substitute Hamilton. Again, that's absolutely not to rain on their abilities at all. They are all phenomenally talented, but sometimes they just missed the mark a little, in my opinion.
Hamilton is absolutely my favourite musical, and I'm blown away with how lucky I've been to be able to see it twice in such a short space of time. Technically, because I saw it first in December and then again the following July, I've seen Hamilton once a year since it opened in the UK. 2019 is just around the corner. Y'know, it'd be a shame to break a now-annual tradition...
As somebody who regularly attends comic conventions and often immerses herself in other worlds, there's really no greater thrill than dressing up and playing 'let's pretend' for a little while. I'm always thrilled to find new ways in which us grown ups (apparently) can let our hair down, dress up in silly clothes, and leave the real world behind far behind. One of my absolute favourite ways to do that is by attending the 'Secret Cinema' event that take place each year in London.
I adore Secret Cinema. I've attended five of their events now - Star Wars (The Empire Strikes Back), Dr. Strangelove, 28 Days Later, Moulin Rogue and now I've just come back from their 2018 offering; Blade Runner.
In short, the whole event was incredible, but I've honestly come to expect nothing less from Secret Cinema. After watching Luke Skywalker land above us in a life-sized X-Wing, after evading zombies while running through the streets of London, and after drinking absinthe in a bohemian cafe on a dark Parisian street, I had faith that this event would be just as immersive and exciting as the others. I'm a sucker for cyberpunk and urban dystopia, and while I wasn't immediately familiar with the movie (we all made a point of watching the film before attending Secret Cinema, as I believe your experience is heightened if you know what's going on and who the key players are), I knew that Blade Runner was the granddaddy of the genre, and I couldn't wait to see what they would do with it.
What they did with it was incredible. If you aren't familiar with Secret Cinema and how it operates, it's pretty much a fully immersive interactive experience that puts you smack bang in the middle of the movie. Prior to the event, you get given a character and role to play that all unfolds on fully themed and completely authentic-looking websites and social media pages. They advise you on costume choices, but generally you can wing it a little so long as you look the part and as long as you wear a few key items that help their actors identify your role. When you actually get to the event, everybody, and I mean everybody is in character, from the security team to the barmen, and sometimes it's even difficult to tell the actors from the more dedicated attendees.
From there, the night is up to you and entirely dependent on how much you want to put into it. You can absolutely go straight to the bar, find some food and sit back to enjoy the atmosphere, but I really would recommend just plain throwing yourself into the moment and having a little fun. At first, you might feel silly talking to actors (who are all incredible and put up with even the most reluctant attendees), but it really doesn't take long to shed your regular self and become your new persona. I put that entirely down to the sheer talent and improv skills of the actors, as well as the detail to every set you'll encounter. And boy, were the sets in their Blade Runner event amazing.
My role was a 'professional friend', a companion or, as Hannibal Chew addressed me, 'sex lady'. My partner, Moose, and my friend Sarah were both Tannhauser Industrialists while my friend Luke was a Tannhauser Technician. In the paperwork we were sent before the event, we were all sent a contact to find (each one a key character in the movie), and items to bring that we might use to interact with them. I won't spoil too much of what we did in the evening, because the event is still running and I really don't want to ruin it for anybody else, but it was all absolutely incredible. We spent most of our time running between the Snake Pit (one of the bars in the film) and Chew's laboratory, tasked with various activities that we got so involved with that we ended up taking a moment out just to plan how best to manipulate it all to suit us and our individual roles best. I ended up with a hilarious interaction with Mr. Lewis (the owner of the 'Snake Pit' bar) that set me off into hysterics (while Mr. Lewis himself was 100% professional, in character and incredible, despite my completely melting down on him in an uncontrollable giggle-fit at my own poor performance.)
I can't speak too highly of the event. The atmosphere inside was thick and loud and neon, just as you would imagine the atmosphere of a futuristic dystopian L.A might be. They advised us to bring umbrellas and raincoats to protect us from the 'acid rain', and boy, did it rain - even though the whole event took place inside (apart from the queuing area, which is the only place you were allowed to take photos as, per every Secret Cinema event, cameras and phones are strictly forbidden and you're forced to seal them away in baggies before you enter).
Secret Cinema is Disney World levels of stage design, actor professionalism and immersion. People wince at the prices (this latest event had three ticket tiers, £48, £60ish and VIP passes at around £100) but when you compare the night to a trip to the theatre, it really isn't that extortionate. For that money, you get an interactive show, a game that lets you completely lose yourself in the moment, and, of course, a movie screening at the end of it all.
I'm not actually a huge fan of Blade Runner - it's 'okay', and I'm grateful for what it did for the cyberpunk/dystopian genre (uh, y'know, by creating it) - but it's not a movie I'd actually plan to ever see in the cinema or make any special arrangements to view again. However, because I love the setting and the world it presents, I loved this Secret Cinema event just as much as the others, even despite not being the biggest fan of the film. That's all down to the sheer level of work and attention to detail that the Secret Cinema company puts into their productions.
Honestly, if the show wasn't entirely sold out, I'd go back. I'd go back if only to experience the world they've managed so successfully, yet again, to create. Let's face it, where else in this world can I dance in acid rain or eat noodles under a neon soaked sky?
Friday was our last day of the holiday, and because we had a painfully early flight the next day, we decided to spend our last day locally, in the gorgeous little seaside spot of Saltburn by the Sea. Saltburn has a historic cliff lift that takes you down to the beach and it was a wonderful little thing to experience! We all bundled into the old carriage, which had beautiful stained glass windows (not original, sadly, but reinstated in 1991) and headed down to the beach. Of course, the one time we decided to spend the day at our local beach was our first bad day, weather wise! It was drizzly and rainy the whole day, but fortunately Saltburn by the Sea has a little arcade by the pier so we took refuge in there while we waited for the rain to ease a little.
We decided to grab something to eat at a very appealing looking restaurant pub overlooking the sea called Vista Mar. It was very cosy and comfortable and the food was delicious, the perfect way to enjoy a grizzly grey sea view.
With full bellies, it was time to head home. We had a slow stroll across the beach before returning to the cliff lift, and spent the evening cleaning and tidying the house, packing and getting ready for the unearthly 3am start we had the next morning (our flight was at 7am, at an airport two hours away, yeech.)
This trip to Yorkshire was absolutely phenomenal. We all had the most wonderful time. I loved returning to the comfort of such a gorgeous holiday home and chilling out in the games room. Eden Camp was incredible, Beamish was just as fun as I remembered from my childhood, and York is a beautiful old city I'd love to return to someday. We haven't had a group holiday this year, and finally finishing this trip report has made me so ready for one!
On that note, I'm sorry it's taken over a year to compile this report - I've been a terrible blogger lately but I'm determined to make a change to that now. There's something about Autumn that makes me really love blogging, cosied up in comfortable slouchy clothes with a cup of hot chocolate at hand. I spend so much of my creative time these days drawing, I've been missing my writing side lately, so it's nice to flex my, erm, fingers a little here on the blog. Thanks for sticking with me, guys! I'll be back more often now, I promise.
Today was the first day to divide our group! Moose, Luke, Sarah and I wanted to explore Flamingo Land, a theme park and zoo resort in North Yorkshire, while Pash, Joe and DC decided they'd rather go back to York.
I'm a sucker for theme parks (obviously). I adore roller-coasters and I heard there were some pretty unique ones at Flamingo Land, so I was super excited to check them out. I'm also crazy about animals (again, obviously) so I was really excited to visit the zoo part of the resort, too.
One of the very first things we did was rode was the log flume, Lost River Ride. Fortunately, it was a gorgeously sunny day, because we got absolutely soaked! We then made our way around the various roller-coasters, including Hero, which you sort of stood up into and it leaned you forwards with a really weird sensation of free flight! The sensation was... weird. It was really the oddest coaster I've ever been on, and I'm not sure I'd be in a rush to return to it!
We took a break at a cute American style diner there, before checking out the zoo section of the park. We managed to catch a sea lion show and a bird display, both handled very professionally and by people you could tell cared for the animals and their well-being.
Honestly, the resort was a lot better than I'd been expecting! I'd not really heard much about Flamingo Land before we looked into places to visit in Yorkshire, and I'm so glad we discovered it. Some really great and unique rides for roller-coaster enthusiasts, plus the nice zoo gardens, made it a really busy and tiring day out for us! I'd definitely go back if we were 'up North' again!
Wednesday was our day in York! I've been to York before but honestly couldn't remember much about it, and certainly didn't remember what a beautiful place it is. We began our day by checking out the National Railway Museum, which honestly wasn't my first choice but I gotta say my Dad would have loved it! It was essentially a giant warehouse full of different trains through history and I'd say it would be a wonderful (and free!) trip if you're interested in this sort of thing. They had a workshop you could look down into where people were actually actively working on restoring parts, which was really interesting to watch, and my personal favourite area featured a train that had been used to transport injured soldiers during the war.
We then headed to the York Cold War Bunker which is way more my sort of thing! I'm super interested in the Cold War and I love learning more about it. This bunker was active all the way through the 1960s to the end of the Cold War in the 1990s and was designed as a nerve-centre to monitor fallout in the event of a nuclear attack. Our tour guide was fantastic and enthusiastic (they only allow guided tours) and made the whole visit very enjoyable indeed.
After our tour, we journeyed into York itself! It really is such a beautiful place to explore. We weren't able to go inside York Minster but spent a lot of time walking around the grounds, before wandering the narrow streets and exploring the many independent shops there.
By the time we grabbed food and wandered back to the car, we were all absolutely exhausted. I think I slept most of our drive back, but it was absolutely worth the trip!
Firstly, apologies for the ridiculous lateness in this post! I want to get back to active blogging but I feel really weird just ignoring the rest of the Yorkshire blog posts to do so! So, even though this is all ancient history, allow me to take you back to September 2016 where we continue my holiday report!
On Tuesday, we stayed with a historical theme, and visited a place I'd never actually heard of before called 'The Eden Camp' Museum'. Occupying a WW2 prisoner-of-war camp, Eden Camp now covers all aspects of the war through the 33 huts spread out across its grounds. Each hut is filled to the brim with information and historical artefacts pertaining to WW2, including fully recreated scenes retelling the horrors of the blitz and streets full of shops selling the products of the time.
The photos I took really don't do the place justice. It was hands down my favourite part of the trip! We spent the whole day there wandering about but I think we could have easily returned as so much of it had to be skimmed past in order to see everything. There was a lot to take in! Here are just a few shots from the day.
Monday was our first true adventure! We were headed to the Beamish Museum, a huge living history museum dedicated to life in the North through the years. The name 'museum' really doesn't give credit to places like Beamish. Beamish is a huge sprawling slice-of-life encounter, where you get to live and breathe as though you're in another era. I visited this place years ago with my parents and remember loving every moment of it. I'm very glad to say it entirely holds up as an adult, and I'd truly love to go back if I lived closer to enjoy all their seasonal activities throughout the year.
Beamish is comprised of several different areas, the best of which (in my opinion) is by far the 1900s Town. You can take a tram up to it from the entrance (this museum is seriously huge), or walk to it via a 1940s Farm, but we decided to hitch a ride on the tram. C'mon, how could we not?
The 'Town' itself features a whole slew of living, breathing shops you can take a look around and buy authentic items from. We were immediately directed to the sweet shop, where the shop keeper told us he was about to be making a whole new batch of acid drops to sell and we could watch. Everything at Beamish is done as authentically as possible, and the sweet-making process was no different. We watched in amazement as he made the drops completely from scratch using original machinery and techniques, explaining each step of the process as he performed it. It was really informative, and at the end, we were all given free samples. Brilliant! Entertaining, informative and yummy!
After that, we headed over to the cafe to grab a quick drink, before exploring the rest of the town. One side of the town is entirely dedicated to a terrace block that is the living quarters of various enhabitants, all doubling as their places of work. We visited a solicitor's office, a music teacher's home and even a dentist's surgery. The chap in the dentist's surgery was very informative and took great delight in explaining just how horrible everything was back then. And you thought you hated going to the dentist these days.
After visiting these lovely homes, we looked around the rest of the town. At the pharmacists I noticed they were selling bottles of sarsaparilla and I'd never tried one, so I decided to give it a go! These bottles were great. Back before glass bottles had bottle caps, they used to put small balls in the tops to keep them fresh. The only way to open a bottle was to force the glass ball down into it. Apparently they're still quite popular in Japan, which is where Beamish now imports their bottles from. As for the sarsaparilla? Sort of like dandelion and burdock, a very medicinal taste. I kept the bottle, but probably won't go back for seconds.
We bought some lovely freshly baked bread from the bakers, and looked around the co-op shop, bank and newspaper shop. You could spend hours in this part of the museum alone, but we pressed on as we only had one day to squeeze it all in!
We decided to walk back down and not take the tram, as there are various things to do on the way. The route back to the main entrance from the town passes by a train station, a small fair ground and a warehouse full of stock ready to be placed into Beamish someday. I think I read that they're in the process of building a 1950s area to the museum, which is of course right up my street, so I might have to make a return visit once they do. The warehouses were full to the rafters of wonderful vintage household products, everything from old fashioned vacuum cleaners to magazine collections. Again, I could have spent hours in here. I'm a complete sucker for this stuff.
Further along the road back to the main entrance, we came across the 1940s Farm. This place featured a farmhouse and assorted buildings, all ready for life at war. There was wonderful 40s music belting from the radio while we explored the living room, and then wondered around outside. There was a kitchen set up outside replicating the restaurants set up by the government during the war. I tried a Spam sandwich! It was actually really delicious. And to think Spam gets such a bad rep!
Afterwards, we plodded down to the Pit Village. This was a smaller area, featuring a schoolhouse, a fish n' chip shop and a chapel. The school house was a lot of fun. We spent far too much time trying to learn how to hoop roll, because we're all adults.
We went to the Colliery after, where we took a guided tour down a mine and learned just how awful life down there was. We also had a very eye-opening chat with a man who was one in a long line of proud Northern miners and who had a lot to say about the closures of the mining industry in the 1980s. I must say, the people at Beamish were all so passionate about their roles. They were all so well informed and chatty!
After, it was finally time to meet with the rest of our group (we had split up way at the start and didn't see much of each other during the whole trip!). We arranged to meet back in the pub up in the town, but they had gotten distracted so Moose and I sat and enjoyed a beer while we waited for the last tram home.
And then we went home and slept forever! Seriously, I adore Beamish! I'm sorry for so many photos, but I couldn't narrow them down very well (I took so many!) I'm so sad it's so far away from us down here in the South because I'd love to visit more often. I really, really recommend a visit if anyone's considering the trip. It's a wonderful, informative and fun day out and I can't wait to see how their new developments pan out.
Our second day was our first full day, and we had planned to stay local and visit our nearby beach, Saltburn-by-the-Sea and grab a Sunday roast somewhere along the coast. Sadly, we hadn't done our research properly and found Saltburn completely taken over by a vintage car rally. While it would have been lovely to have looked around (I love vintage vehicles), the whole place was heaving and there was literally nowhere left to park. In the end, we decided to drive around a little bit and see what else we could find instead.
We stumbled across a lovely little village called Skinningrove, right by the coast. It was a gloriously sunny day, so we were lucky enough to enjoy a proper stroll along the sand.
After, we set out to find the Sunday roast we'd dreamed of. We read good reviews of a nearby pub, but unfortunately, it being lunch time by the time we got there, the place was packed and we had to look elsewhere. We ended up driving towards Whitby, and finally decided to park up and go on a hunt for food. We found a seafood restaurant called Trenchers. I'm not a huge seafood fan, really, and this place was exclusively fish. My Mum's allergic, so growing up I never really had it. I only started exploring the options when Moose and I started dating, so looking at Trencher's menu was a little daunting at first. I ended up opting for the simple fish and chips (I know, I'm so adventurous) with a prawn cocktail starter. Moose ordered a crab starter to share as I'd never eaten crab before - can't say I was a huge fan!
Anyway, the food was delicious (crab aside, and I don't think that was any fault of the restaurant, I just don't think it's for me now I've finally tried it), and one thing I liked about Trenchers was how they had a chalk board on the wall explaining who had caught today's fish, and where. Always encouraging to know your food is fresh and from sustainable sources!
I really like Whitby, but both times we visited were quite fleeting and it'd be nice to have a full day exploring the place. We watched some people catching crabs before heading back but didn't have very long to look around. Next time!
A couple of years ago, my friends and I all went down to Cornwall for a week, where we rented a lovely big cottage and spent the days adventuring around the West Country. This year, we decided to travel a little further. We kept it in the UK to try and keep costs down a little, but this time opted to visit Yorkshire, a good 250 miles away up north!
We found a gorgeous farm house in Guisborough, just half an hour from Whitby and only a couple of miles from the coast. This place was perfect, with two reception rooms, a huge dining table for gaming and group meals, and a self contained games room fully equipped with a pool table, table tennis, foosball and even a dart board!
Originally, I toyed with the idea of driving up, but we discovered that flying to Newcastle from Bristol International was actually pretty cheap (tickets were under £100) and the flight took less than an hour. Beats a five-six hour drive, that's for sure! The only downside was that the flights were so early in the morning - going up wasn't so bad, but having to leave our comfortable, warm farmhouse at 3am on our last morning to catch our return flight was some kind of cruel and unusual punishment. Sarah, who had opted to drive for some crazy reason, and who was able to sleep in and leave at a far more sociable hour, certainly got the last laugh on that one.
Anyway, back to the beginning! After an airport breakfast (did you know Burger King at Bristol Airport sells beer??), we boarded our flight and escaped the rain. It was actually gloriosly sunny in Yorkshire for almost the entire holiday. We were very lucky! The flight took about 48 minutes, most of which was spent playing dumb games on my phone. I gotta say, it's very strange taking a flight to another part of the UK. I associate airports with foreign holidays, of course, so stepping foot back on British soil after a flight was a new experience to me!
Joe went to collect the car while we waited with our luggage. We couldn't get into our house until 3pm, so we decided to make a day of it by driving down to Whitby for lunch. We arranged to meet Sarah, who had decided to drive up. Unfortunately, Whitby on a sunny Saturday was a very popular choice, and we ended up at a very busy Wetherspoon pub for lunch, which wasn't really our ideal start to an authentic Yorkshire holiday! Still, Wetherspoon is pretty good for encouraging local produce and I at least I managed to treat myself to some Whitby scampi and a pint of Whitby Brewery beer!
After lunch, we had a very quick look around before heading to the house. Tidkinhow Farm is actually situated up a private drive, through a working farm, and up a country lane. We were very, very secluded from the rest of the world! But, my, what a view!
That evening, we went food shopping as our plan was to eat plenty of meals at home to save a little money (plus group cooking is fun!) The rest of the night was spent in the games room, which was essentially just a giant barn full of fun things to play.
We had fajhitas and played a little Zombies!!! and celebrated the start of a very fun, busy week!
I hope you enjoy reading about our little adventure 'up North'! It all happened a few weeks ago now, so it's really nice reliving it all through blog posts and photos! We went to the Beamish Museum, Flamingo Land and Eden Camp, among other places, so if you'd like to read more about those, feel free to check back in the coming weeks!
I am so lucky to live where I do! The Vintage Nostalgia Festival is right on my doorstep and I couldn't be more excited! The Vintage Nostalgia Festival has now become one of my absolute 'must do' events on my calendar and I am so glad it doesn't clash with MCM Expo, which is usually the weekend before!
The Vintage Nostalgia Festival is a three day event here in Wiltshire covering all things vintage and retro, with a heavy emphasis on mid-century goodness! So, y'know, exactly my cup of tea! I've been there the past two years and I was so excited to go back this time. I keep saying I'll camp there for the whole weekend experience because I bet the night life is incredible, but so far we've only managed to visit for a day trip. One day!
The event covers everything, from vintage cars, musicians, dances and dance classes to, of course, a ton of stalls selling all sorts of vintage and reproduction clothing, home-ware and other goodies. I fell in love with pretty much every dress I saw, but ended up only bringing home these two lawn flamingos, whom I've named Dotty and Lola! They'll be perfect for when Moose n' I get our own place together!
Here are some lovely photos from the day! Dad usually comes along with us but this time it was just me and Mum, sadly. We ate burgers and drank beer and I even competed in a sack race! This event is so much fun! We're so lucky to live so close to it. I can't wait until next year!
I'm Selena, an artist, blogger and gamer - but maybe not always in that order! Dream Somehow is a blog dedicated to travel, art, geeky adventures, vintage style and a little bit of Disney Dreaming! If you'd like to know a bit more about me, click here!
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