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Posts tagged ‘Weekend’

A Windsor Weekend, Part IV: The Park

The true might and scale of Windsor Castle is best appreciated at a distance. When approaching by train, the station at Windsor and Eton Riverside gives the appearance of a toy town construction as it sits in the shadow of the mighty castle silhouette on the skyline behind it. From the river, the great Castle pervades all watery reflections as a mirror image in the Thames doubles its impact. But best of all is the Castle viewed from the vast grounds which surround it, as the sprawling regal complex stands at the apex of a 2.65 mile perfectly straight road which cuts through Windsor Great Park: a true demonstration of its domination over the land.

Windsor Great Park is great indeed, humongous in fact. Had we wanted to explore each of its 2020 hectares we would have been exhausted indeed. And it would almost certainly take weeks to do it all. For these great hunting grounds of monarchs past are today the site of sprawling forests, vast landscaped gardens and agricultural land, and contain some of the most beautiful unspoilt countryside within the outer reaches of London.


We restricted ourselves to the closet section of the park to Windsor town centre, namely the Long Walk and the land around it. Stretching from the Castle at one end to a grand imperial sculpture of George III upon a stallion at the other, the path is at the centre of a stunning tree and lawn lined avenue which seems to stretch as far as the eye can see. When setting off, the equine statue appears to be at the end of the world as it appears, tiny like a speck of dust on the far horizon. But as you proceed upon the Long Walk, admiring a progressively more bucolic scene unfold on either side, the true pomp and  enormity of the sculpture becomes clearer as behind, Windsor Castle shrinks in size.


It was a hard slog, but we eventually reached George III, with the final efforts of our ascent to the base of the statue aptly rewarded by the most dazzling view of Windsor Castle far off in the distance. But turning the other way, we saw an idyllic landscape of rolling hills, woods and fields unfurl into the distance, and unable to resist a little embrace of this less landscaped scene, we delved into the forests and fields, snacking upon beautifully sweet forest berries as we did so. Here, only the unfortunate sound of Heathrow aircraft interrupted us. Otherwise the world was utterly still, and we found ourselves wonderfully at ease in this most heavenly of natural surroundings – the playground of the many Kings and Queens who have enjoyed the very rich landscapes which surround their home at Windsor.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

A Windsor Weekend, Part II: The Town

The title of this post is perhaps a little misleading. For as any visitor to Windsor by train will know, Windsor is not a town that flies solo. Rather, just across the river is the equally prestigious town of Eton, and together they make up an inseparable twosome with only a narrow stretch of tranquil water flowing between them. So today’s post will look, photographically speaking, not only at Windsor, but Eton too, for each one of them is historically important and aesthetically quaint, and both are surely the very quintessence of the picture-postcard English town.

The little town of Windsor is very much shaped by the castle which sits at its heart. The main high street encircles the vast outer walls, and every shop and business is turned towards the Castle as though they are spectators at a show. Given the size of the Castle, it is perhaps unsurprising that Windsor looks small and cute by comparison – much like Queen Mary’s dolls house which resides famously within the State Rooms of the Castle on the hill. But it is this scale which characterises Windsor as being an idyllic little urbanisation, with history oozing from its shops and houses as much as from the Castle.


As though playing up to the English stereotype, the town is a hotpot of quaint little English pubs, sweet shops and of course fish ‘n chips – tourists must flip out when they stumble upon this paragon of Britishness. Not quite as entertained by the English ideal, I was instead enamoured by the chocolate-box quality of the place – by the houses which appeared to be leaning and creaking in every direction, as though reminding all visitors that their foundations are historical, a far cry from the modern lines and standard shapes of the 21st Century.

This charming idyll continues across the river to Eton, which is of course famous for its school, educator of Kings and Prime Ministers from across the ages. While Eton’s high street will greet you, long before the school, it is clear that Eton is very much subservient to its principal offering: hence why the shops are in business to take photos of the students, to dress them in their Sunday and uniformed best, and to boast, through souvenirs, the great educational treasure which the town holds within its midsts.


Not far up the high street, that great bastion of refined education and privilege looms from beyond the buildings like a Tudor palace. It wasn’t possible to gain entrance, but peeks inside from the grounds betrayed a college which, like the Castle over the river, plays to the global mythology of a Harry Potter-like college oozing with age and historical significance. This is an expensive school, and the ravishing historical lines of its red-bricked building, its gardens abound with flowers, and its grounds running straight down to the river betray an establishment where students will benefit from the very best education and exposure to England at its verdant, bucolic best.

There was no hiding our pleasure at walking these grounds, smelling the fresh air and sitting back to enjoy the somniferous trickle of the calm river Thames. And even though a hint of envy might have entered our afternoon tranquility, when our own schools compared, somewhat less favourably, with this, it was largely with a sense of pride that we traversed the grounds of Eton. For as English stereotypes go, this is a ravishingly beautiful one, and something which the lucky few should enjoy to the full, never taking for granted the unspoilt beauty and prestige with which they will formerly enter the world of adulthood.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

A Windsor Weekend, Part I: The Castle

The myths and legends surrounding England’s valiant past are so intertwined with our history that it’s sometimes hard to remember what is fact and what is fiction. The tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is a typical example of this, and while many have determined the magic surrounding Merlin to be the stuff of fairytales, the fable of King Arthur and his Knights certainly resonates as being a more realistic depiction of historical England. Whether or not the round table existed, the image it evokes – of brave knights, lion-emblazoned coats of arms, and of shiny coats of armour ridden into battle – very much captures a sense of the England of old. And if one place were to lift that image off the pages of legend and into the real light of day, it’s Windsor Castle.


Grand, imposing and the very epitome of a medieval-style castle, Windsor is not only a historical monument worthy of legend itself. Rather it always has been, and continues to be a favourite royal residence, and today boasts the record as being the longest occupied palace in Europe, as well as the favourite weekend retreat and place of entertainment of the UK’s current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. With roots stretching right back to the Norman Conquest of 1066, Windsor Castle has been constantly remodelled and expanded to suit the tastes of each succeeding monarch, from the lavish baroque of Charles II to the Georgian flourishes of George IV and the modernisation of the Victorian and later eras.

While on the outside it appears as stark and imposing as a great stone castle should, on the inside it is very much a palace in the true sense of the word. While some rooms are emblazoned with sparkling armour, decorative weaponry and historical coats of arms, others are masterpieces in rococo and baroque, glistening with gold and chandeliers and filled with the most lavish of palatial furnishings. In 1992, much of this beauty was almost lost forever when a ferocious fire tore through the building and destroyed many of the most important State Rooms. But today, after an award winning restoration, Windsor is not only back to its beautiful self, but much improved, with many interim changes reversed to take the Castle design back to its early glory days.


But Windsor is not just a single-building castle, but a complex with gardens, out-buildings and places of worship making up a mini town within a town. Chief amongst these ancillary sights is St George’s Chapel, which is probably one of the most beguilingly beautiful churches I have seen. Gleaming with light filtered through intricately conceived multi-coloured stained glass windows depicting the Kings and Queens of old, the chapel is a masterpiece of the perpendicular gothic. Its lattice stone-weaved ceiling is a work of genius, and in such a good condition that it is hard to think that for the most part, this is the work of 15th Century craftsmen. Its Quire (where the choir sing) is simply magical. The home of the Knights of the Garter, it is a true homage to all things Round Table, adding to the myth which surrounds British history and expressing in a stroke of true theatricality the historical importance of this preeminent body of royal knights. Meanwhile, peppered throughout the chapel are some of the most important monuments you are likely to see in any single one place in England: here lies Henry VIII, the Queen Mother, George V, George VI and Charles I to name but a few. And for those not buried here, monuments to the likes of Prince Albert and Princess Charlotte (who died in childbirth leading to the ascension of Queen Victoria) are masterpieces of pathos carved in stone and crafted in the suitably melodramatic Victorian aesthetic.


Unfortunately the splendours of Windsor’s interiors are the preserve of the eyes only, as photography is banned throughout. I must therefore content myself with sharing with Daily Norm readers my photos of the joys of Windsor’s grounds, from the incredible exterior masonry and gothic façade of St George’s, to the beautiful moat gardens which, filled with roses, so perfectly soften the hard lines of this mighty castle beyond.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

London, Rediscovering My City: Battersea Park

It’s no wonder I was moved to paint the great green expanse of Clapham Common in my new painting, Green in Common. Spring really has been a verdant one in England, and while sunshine has been somewhat lacking recently (remind me to make an official complaint to the Met Office about that), when its rays have shone down upon us, we have been afforded an ideal opportunity to enjoy what England does best: its green and pleasant land. And while London may be the country’s greatest urban conglomeration, there is certainly no shortage of green space to enjoy. Just look at my posts on Wimbledon, Richmond and Hampton Court, and that’s just for starters.


Recently we discovered that there’s a no less worthy green expanse even closer to our home in the form of Battersea Park. Since I had long ago dismissed it as something of a mediocre patch of land next to the river, I had no idea about the treasures which were hidden inside. These began just metres from the entrance with a set of swirling, curving boating lakes interlaced with cosy pathways crossing and edging the water, designed to make the visitor feel lost in a great wetland well out of the city. With not a straight line in sight, these beautifully cared for wetlands are every bit the reserve of a booming wildlife habitat as they are the favourite haunt of visitors who sat picnicking in the shadow of sculptures by Henry Moore or romantically boating upon the lake. Our romantic stroll was no doubt enhanced by the bubbles we sipped at a surprisingly chic café by the water’s edge. This set us off in fabulous shape to explore the rest of the park, which included vast flower beds bursting with tropical plants, tulips in every conceivable colour, and all number of paddling pools and picnicking areas much frequented by visitors and Londoners alike.


But the pièce de la résistance had to be the riverside walk, which contains probably the most distinctive feature of the park: a beautiful, sparkling Peace Pagoda. While it looks as though it has made its way from some ancient civilisation in the midst of a Thailand jungle, it was actually erected in Battersea in 1985 before soon becoming the park’s most iconic landmark. From its dazzling raised portico, you get the perfect view of the Thames, and my favourite bridge, the Albert Bridge. Dainty and elegant, this Thames favourite leads a perfect bath over to Chelsea, where we were promptly persuaded to while away the rest of the afternoon. Happy days.


© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Hampton Court Palace, Part 1: Manicured Gardens

It’s always a wonderful thing to discover that an incredible attraction can be found on your doorstep. And somewhere which is literally 30 minutes by train from your nearest station is not so far from doorstep status, especially when you consider the extent to which those short 30 minutes have the power to transform you from inner city jungle to utter bucolic majesty. Such was my discovery last weekend upon visiting the former home of Henry VIII and his 6 variously fated wives, Hampton Court Palace, which can be found nestling alongside the banks of the Thames a few meandering loops down the river. Our trip to this vast palatial complex was so astounding, so plenteous in its beauty that I have decided to split my experience in three for the sake of The Daily Norm, so that a focus can be had on the various facets that make Hampton Court so incredible.

I must admit that it’s the gardens which really thrill me at Hampton Court. The inside has its merits, naturally. The Chapel Royal is pretty much one of the most stunning historic spaces in the United Kingdom. But the interiors also have the potential to disconcert, as one is led from the Tudor quarters, steeped in the gothic gloom of the age, to the more luminescent baroque rebuild instituted by William and Mary of Orange in the late 17th Century. The result is fragmentary and disorientating. It is like visiting two very distinct palaces, albeit that from the outside, there is a certain level of unity achieved by the uniform use of a rich pink stone. And it is outside where this little photographic tour begins.

The Privy Garden and the Banqueting House


In my naivety, I thought that a visit during April may be too early to enjoy the gardens. How wrong I was, for the timing enabled us to enjoy the most spectacular array of Spring flowers I have ever seen. In the Privy Garden, the elegant South-facing walled garden extending towards the River’s edge and containing rows of manicured conical hollies and yews lining a perfectly geometric system of paths, tulips in vibrant shades of red and yellow danced in the sunlight and contrasted brilliantly against sky blue hyacinths which filled the air with their fragrance. In the cosy walled Pond Gardens just beyond, the abundance of flowers increased as floral collections were displayed in rich strata of contrasting height and colour to create a ravishing spectacle of nature’s brilliance. I don’t think I ever saw such a variety of tulips, nor so well choreographed an exhibition of this glorious Spring flower.

The Pond Gardens, the Knot Garden and the Orangery 


This gardening brilliance continued into a small knot garden, laid out in 1924 to recreate the gardens as they would have been during the Tudor dynasty, and in the Lower Orangery Garden, which flowed from Queen Mary’s passion for collecting exotic plants. Of course the gardens of Hampton Court extend much further than those on this Southern expanse – The Great Fountain Garden is so grand as to be worthy of a post all of its own – and will surely get one in a few days time… But for now, I wanted to share photos of these more manicured gardens. Spaces so vividly enriched by their floral abundance, and so satisfyingly regimental in their layout and design that I could have remained there admiring them forever, especially during these happy days of Spring.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

London, Rediscovering My City: Richmond Park

What Wimbledon Common offered in richly verdant, tightly packed woodland, Richmond boasted in wildly windswept, delightfully untended moorland, where great swathes of sweeping grasslands were punctuated by biblically ancient twisting oak trees, and occasional rugged rockfalls like something more characteristic of Northeast Scotland than Southwest London. But London is indeed the host to an astonishing array of green spaces, and it never fails to surprise me how bucolic an atmosphere can be found so close to the city.


Last week’s Wimbledon adventure was followed swiftly by a tromp across the harsher, wilder lands of Richmond Park (indeed, we stumbled upon said park when an end to Wimbledon Common brought us to the somewhat harsh reality of the A3, which we rapidly crossed, eyes blinkered, before escaping back into the rural idyll of Richmond). Through one of the grand gold-gilded gateways which mark the entrance to this ancient recreational space, the magnitude of Richmond Park was immediately tangible. To call it a park is to suggest a mild-mannered patch of urban greenery, but this mighty swathe of natural ruggedness is true testament to nature winning out over the city sprawl. Even the occasional car crossing its vast geographical spread cannot compete with the true king of this space – the mighty stag, one of whom we came into satisfyingly close contact with, so much so that at one point we thought an attack was imminent.


A few hours crossing Richmond Park was enough time to convince us that in London, this great metropolis, an embrace with the great outdoors need never be too far away. Yet just beyond the perimeter of this rurality, a welcome return to civilisation was manifested in the form of the elegant Richmond Hill, whose Georgian houses and small little pubs were glowing a richly golden yellow as all concerned basked in the setting sun, and visitors sipped on bubbles while overlooking one of the most stunning views of the Thames as it snakes alongs its course towards Kingston and beyond. In this way, green turned to gold as our rediscovery of this truly idyllic suburb of London drew to a satisfying close.


© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

London, Rediscovering My City: Wimbledon Common

Knowing that the first weekend of Spring was going to be gloriously sunny, we had one objective in mind: to get outside. After living two years in Mallorca, London can feel claustrophobic by comparison. Life here is more geared up to the inside – cosy corners, candlelight, cushions – and yet ironically it’s one of the world’s greenest cities, so much so that a map of the city remains recognisable, even when the roads are taken away. This past weekend, we were determined to enjoy some of those green swards, and enjoy them we did. After agonising over Wimbledon or Richmond as potential locations, we actually ended up doing both in one. But the photos which resulted from that extensive walk are so ravishing that frankly I’ve felt compelled to split this post in two. Both green gems need their place in the sun!


A renewed enthusiasm for the great British outdoors definitely comes of my Mallorcan experience. I spent so much time taking inspiration from the island’s impressive landscape that I realised how little I had devoted myself to the equally beautiful countryside back at home. And the English landscape really is beautiful, a point made no better than by artist David Hockney, whose vast multi-coloured canvases pay homage to the Yorkshire countryside in all its wild beauty, a selection of which can currently be enjoyed in a show of his work at London’s Tate Britain.


It was to Hockney’s ravishing landscapes that my mind turned this weekend as we set out on our outdoors trek across Wimbledon Common. Within metres of entering the Common from the bustle of Wimbledon Village, we felt as though we had been plunged into the middle of the countryside. Here there were no cars, no litter, few people… you could barely even hear planes. But what could be heard was a relentless chorus of chirping birds awoken by the promise of Spring. The further we walked, the deeper the wooded landscape became, and as the trees leaned inwards over a path made from the footsteps of many, the tunnel effect brought to my mind the works of Hockney, as did the twisting complex maze of branches over head, which looked all the more beautiful for the lack of leaves, which, in mere weeks time, will be covered.


These photos capture, I think, the very elegant beauty which can be found in the simplest patch of the British outdoors. Here there is no topiary, no control. The flowers are far and few between. Instead the trees, wild and tall had been allowed to dominate, and in the twisting unplanned trajectory of their growth, they had created an architectural marvel which is every inch as impressive as the sea of glittering glass skyscrapers comprising the centre of London, mere miles away.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

A weekend in Barcelona

Barcelona: the creative beacon of Catalunya, a thriving city with all the charm of a seaside town, a capital for culture and a statement in gastronomic, stylistic and artistic innovation. It is a mere hop across the sea from Mallorca; on occasional days of peculiar weather, some have even declared that one place can be seen over the horizon of the other. And yet Barcelona may as well be a world apart. It is not just a pretty city fringed by palm trees and an attractive port – it has been the inspiration for some of history’s most famous creatives, and today continues to be an icon for stylists, fashionistas, foodies, designers, architects and artists across the world.


Famous for its modernista architecture by the likes of genius Antoni Gaudí, as well as for its connections with the likes of Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró, and more recently for the 1992 Olympics which put it firmly on the global map, Barcelona is a veritable feast of visual inspiration for any artist or photographer. Yet as I took the opportunity to fly the short 30 minute journey across the sea to Barcelona last weekend, I found myself so utterly wrapped up in the striking city vibe that I quite forgot to photograph anything. Almost complacently I walked the ravishing streets, soaking in the atmosphere but forgetting to capture the sights all around me in a two dimensional form. That is why, as a new week begins, I am left with a head full of wonderful memories and few photos to support them.


And yet those few photos which I did capture are fully representative of the kind of weekend which we really enjoyed. For rather than prioritising previously experienced touristic sites or much-explored museums, this trip was about reconnecting with the urban vibe, and enjoying all of the accompanying pleasures which inevitably partner a large city. For us that meant a combination of (largely window) shopping, particularly in chic concept stores such as Jamie Beriestain, where Christmas has come early in the form of full-sized pine trees glittering with gold, or fully indulgent fine dining in new eatery hot spots such as the El Nacional food market or the impressive restaurant, Petit Comite.

This little album is therefore representative of a weekend in Barcelona which involved much dining, and much refined wine-ing, strolls in the autumn sunshine and the odd Gaudi interaction. In short everything which a weekend in one of my favourite cities is guaranteed to offer.


© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Mallorca Moments: Sunday stroll to Portixol

It’s funny how quickly one becomes accustomed to routine and habit; how we as humans are drawn to certain patterns and securities. I suppose it is what makes us who we are – knowing that there is a certain structure in place around which the greater vicissitudes of life can gain some stability. And I am no exception. For despite what has been a huge move from London to Mallorca, including a complete change of career, language, society and goodness knows what else, I have still found myself falling into new structures which help to normalise this big transformation.

Chief among them has been my Sunday stroll to Portixol. A little port lying just East of Palma’s city centre, it is only a short 30 minute walk away from the hustle and bustle of the city, but it couldn’t be more different. With small story fishermen’s cottages, pastel coloured facades, and of course an enviable position directly next to the Mediterranean sea, Portixol has all of the charm and charisma of a typical seaside village with the most laid back of sensibilities.


This makes Portixol the perfect place to dine, wine and recline, and with the number of cosy restaurants and bars lining the waterfront, it is no wonder that the port has become our perfect Sunday retreat. And should all the food become a little too much for the good old new year’s dieting resolutions, there is a real spirit of the great outdoors about the port, as its ample paseo maritimo is used by joggers, cyclists and rollerbladers alike.

So here in Palma, Sunday morning has a new morning: Coffee on the beach, a stroll along the seafront, a continuous view back to the glorious cathedral and ahead, the food destination of Portixol a mere half hour away. It’s another of those Mallorca Moments that makes my new life in the Balearics such a daily joy.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Weekend Review – Candy floss and tutus

Sometimes when a weekend is so bounteous in treats, both planned and unplanned, it becomes a chore to try and sift through the experiences and feature one or two on my blog. And since the alternative – which is to write about none of them – does not sit well with the spirit of blogging, nor indeed with what is, after all, meant to be an epnoymously daily blog (although admittedly I’m not currently doing all that well on that front…) I thought I’d just tell you about the whole darn lot!

So, on Friday afternoon, as the clock hand clicked past 5 and I started to feel the rush of weekend relief fill my worked-out body, I rushed home to start the weekend. For me this meant three things: First the completion of my new painting, “Composition I”, an entirely new direction of painted expression (which I’ll try to post up on the blog in a few days time) with which I have discovered gouache paint for the first time. It’s a work inspired partly by the Choucair exhibition I attended last weekend and partly by a typical luncheon by the sea in Marbella, with squid, and patatas – the perfect weekend on any view.

But back to Blighty, and with paint brushes put aside and a wooden spoon picked up in their place, I commenced cooking up a risotto feast – the perfect creamy end of week pleasure, and a good one for using up odds and ends of food after a week’s exhaustion of supplies. In this case it was half a packet of palma ham, some rather old chorizo, a few tomatoes, half a bulb of fennel and a little fresh mint which made it into my rather indulgent left-overs risotto. And what a treat to eat it al fresco too, on our warm London balcony, watching commuters aplenty passing by, the majority with a bounce in their step, overjoyed as we were that the weekend had come at last.

My "odds and ends" risotto

My “odds and ends” risotto

Dining al fresco...

Dining al fresco…

But as ever the al fresco air inspired us to go out into the open air in search of dessert, and a walk across the vast expanse of Clapham Common and back towards Northcote Road in the Clapham Junction area brought us to a new entrant on the restaurant-lined street. In place of what had once been a rather chic Austrian eatery is now a cute little Spanish restaurant AND sherry bar, Rosita. Unsurprisingly we headed straight for said sherry bar in search of our dessert. The fact that we then ended up with two glasses of wine and a few savoury tapas dishes was perhaps inevitable, but dessert did eventually follow, in the form of deep friend sweet potato cakes in a honey syrup. Delicious.

Rosita's sherry bar

Rosita’s sherry bar


Now too fat to move, we bemoaned our over indulgence and returned home, exhausted, to bed.

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