27 Sept 2020

Tickle's Flown Away to the Rainbow Bridge...

It happened almost three months ago, within the first hour of the last day of June, and I still feel numb with pain. It happened quickly, six weeks after your being diagnosed with a nasty lung condition with a big long name (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis). So quickly, it is still hard to take in.

R.I.P. Tick-Tick, We'll meet again, at the Rainbow Bridge!

I have since been assured that you are watching over me from where you are now and that, in your world, beauty is magnified and life is one big ball... of energy, high and bright.

We met on the August Bank Holiday week-end of 2006 at Manchester Dogs Home (U.K.) and it was love at first sight. I saved you and you saved me, you my best friend, my soulmate, close family and my now guardian angel.

Tickle: "Why are you crying, mum? I'm not going anywhere!"

You were one little hyperactive bundle of Jack Russell Terrier dynamite, running around, loving to play fetch and barking away to your heart's content, never tired, never fed up, always up for action! You weren't for the faint-hearted or the sedentary; you were just right for me, we fitted in each other's active lifestyles!

We navigated the highs and lows of life, together, always together. My life revolved around you. We were one unit, inseparable, out and about, trekking up the mountain, driving around the island, exploring places, visiting people, making friends, running errands, taking photos, daydreaming, sat on the beach, baking, gardening, saving things, fixing things, trying to fix the world one random act of kindness at a time... Oh, and you could be so funny at times, such an entertainer! And you turned heads anywhere we went, because quite frankly you were one good-looking tricolour Jack!

Your little bed, toys and cushions have remained at the same spot, less than one foot away from my desk. Your leashes, harness and collar are still hanging from the hook by the front door. In the kitchen, your cushion (that you loved plumping up so much!) has been taken over by three kittens called Coco, Reuben and Rohmus, all cuddled up together. You already knew Coco (11 months old now) and we helped her stray mummy cat Midnight raise her. As for 4-month-old Reuben and Rohmus, you must have brought them to me within a couple of days of your departure as I found them outside our front door with their four siblings and an overwhelmed Midnight who had delivered the new litter... Tick-Tick, you softened the blow with a flurry of kitties, showing me that life goes on, life must go on, for those kittens at least to live it.

So life goes on as it must, with joy and heartbreak all at once. With you, my Tickle, on my mind and in my heart forever always. I miss you greatly.

Run Free, Fly High, Together Always! I love you.

16 Apr 2018

Flannel, Foxglove and One Fancy Fox

You know how it goes: you start off reading something online and end up caught in an interweb that steals hours from your life, hours which you will never get back. Sometimes though, you can turn this to your advantage, especially if you are an artist in search of inspiration - or more prosaically - if you have a blog to feed.

I started off this Brett Ryder journey by logging into my inbox, looking at a newsletter from the Balance Festival, and from there randomly clicked on one of their sponsors - Arctic Power Berries - that took me right to one of their own sponsors - Fenwick - and there this illustration from The Summer Season campaign caught my eye. A blog article was born.

The Summer Season campaign by Brett Ryder for Fenwick

The artwork looks a little frivolous, thank goodness, for frivolity is what is needed right now after the last few months my family and I have been through. So a little sunshine and a smattering of quirky characters and floral embellishments will do us fine. Besides, an ode to Summer will always get our votes, especially after a rather long Winter packed with bitterly cold days and nights spent in a Medieval house with no central heating and a leaking roof terrace!

More surrealism with a softer side is to be had when you browse Brett Ryder's agency portfolio. Here are a few notable pieces:

 'Can you build softer skills?' article for Construction Manager magazine, artwork by Brett Ryder
'I couldn't get anywhere' article for Brummell magazine, ibid.
Health Affairs, MERS in the Middle East, ibid.
Action for Happiness for The Telegraph, ibid.
'Rites: A Childhood in Guatemala', by Victor Perera for Beat #6, published by Heart, ibid.
Nongfu Spring mineral water bottle label - 'Summer', artwork by Brett Ryder

Wahey, if that bottled water taste as magical as its label, we are in for a treat!

Make sure to check out Brett's website portfolio.

11 Apr 2018

Say it with Flowers

When words fail to express how much I miss you, and fail to lend me the strength to hold my own onto that ship...

While your being gone has cast our lives into disarray like a tempest unforeseen, bashing us castaways against the harshness of our depleted surroundings, wreak havoc our lives, split open our hearts...

Despite your not being afar for I can feel you around, softly brushing past, hesitant tip-toe, lingering into regretful embrace, gliding up and down the Stairway to Heaven in nocturnal errance...

If only you whisked me along.

Bloomers Flowers & Decor

How I care to imagine living a day without you and still carry it through, whether my life will be whole again despite the hole that you left...

How what mattered yesterday has come to pass and lies at our feet in its irrelevant, insignificant splendour...

And whether I seek to explain to the rest of you here - or not,

I shall never cease to love you.

When words lack a word and words fail your hurt, elude or go astray, laced into the atemporality of the present hurt...

You have to forget the words and forgive them too.

And let flowers do the talking for you.

© Nathalie Hachet Kuntz, 11-Apr-2018

25 Feb 2018

Art Déco Showtime, Paris, 1925

The international design fair Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, held in Paris in 1925, was the catalyst for the most significant worldwide Art movement of the 20th century. The Expo was an acknowledgement, a coming of age, a culmination of form and function know-how into Art Déco. It gave it prominence and status, the lettres de noblesse it deserved. The fair was a resounding success with the general public, and yet at the same time it was criticised by artists and insiders for its somewhat elitist approach, for its ostentatious display of deluxe utopia, and ultimately for its disconnect from the reality of the world. Its wasteful character was panned too as the luxury pavilions hosting the show were only to be temporary structures, meant to be dismantled afterwards, not kept in-situ. Yet no expense was spared for the event: a frivolity, as post-war reconstruction was costing the nation a pretty penny and moods were still sombre from the destruction of war. There was though no better way to introduce Art Déco to the world than with a bang!

Porte d'Honneur, photography by Georges Buffotot.

The necessity of rebuilding cities, towns and villages was handled hand in hand with foresight in order to bring style into livelihoods. Thus modernism in its clean lines, in its avant-garde, optimistic, future-embracing approach, was elected. The brief was all about breaking away from previous styles while cultivating a strong personality. WWI had profoundly broken the West and there was a willingness to start afresh, to start anew and to give design one's best shot and inject awe, pride and a strong presence into it! This didn't just affect architecture. Art Déco spilled across the decorative arts and crafts, clothing fashion, automobile, graphic design, typography, product design and more.

Art Déco celebrated a renaissance:
the return of life after the sheer brutality of war.

The Art Déco phrase was coined right out of the Expo's name; Art Déco being short for Arts Décoratifs (Decorative/ Applied Arts). Finally the movement that had been organically spreading since after the war, and which was gathering momentum, had a name. A French name that would come to be recognised all over the world without the need to translate it into a different language. Now, almost a century later, the prospect of diving straight into the rare photographic testimonies of the Expo, laid out for us by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs itself, is pure delight for every Art Déco fan and historian!

Boutiques du Pont Alexandre III: Boutique No.26, Siegel.

Source: All photography via the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes dossier by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. (1) Porte d'Honneur, night time photography by Georges Buffotot, Fonds Edition Albert Lévy, inv. EAL-011. Photo distr. © Les Arts Décoratifs/ Editions Albert Lévy. (2) . (3) .

Master craftsman Edgar Brandt was involved in the construction of the Porte d'Honneur.

9 Jan 2018

Happy New Year from Yesteryear

As the New Year is kicking into gear, and our idea of the obligatory New You is following suit, it is all too tempting to map it out of Brand New Things as opposed to just New Things! Now hold on. How about turning back the clock, especially as far as those vintage French New Year fancy cards (a.k.a. mignonettes) are concerned?

Bonne Année (1908)

The design of those yesteryear cards bears more gusto and compulsion than today's watered-down/ minimalistic representations. Look at those freestyle calligraphic fonts embossed in gold dust and swathed in flowers, a call for Spring in the thick of Winter: how dainty and desirable are they!

Bonne Année (year unknown)

Picture the scene: you get ready for breakfast, check the post as coffee is percolating away, and bring back half a dozen of those adorable mignonettes from the letterbox to your kids and spouse. Open them together and relish on the sweet words sent out to your family by other loved ones, as you sip café au lait and munch on chocolatines. Rejoice in the knowledge that the senders are receivers too as they too are experiencing the tokens of family joy which you sent them. 

Happy New You, Y'All!

Bonne Année (1912)
Bonne Année (1909)
Bonne Année (1906)
Bonne Année (1908)

Source: Move over, eBay, the big boys are in town! Delcampe is the specialised ephemera auction site from Belgium that describes itself as the greatest marketplace for collectors, with a current offering of almost 80 million items from the world over - I kid you not!

Postcards (> 46.4 million items to choose from!), postage stamps (> 22.8 million!), books, magazines and comics (> 2.6 million), old papers (> 2.5 million, anything from autographs to invoices and lottery tickets!), numismatics (> 1.1 million!), and other collectibles (> 3 million, including photography, advertising and music). From the commonplace to the rare collector piece, from the affordable to the extravagant, from the dilettante à la Mirabelle to the serious hobbyist à la J. Paul Getty, Delcampe has it covered.

Bilingual, so why not? A Happy New Year (1908)

You may kickstart your collecting career with less than five dollars to spare, making you the proud owner of a 100-year-old greeting card (see above). Collecting has to start somewhere and it might as well start with those as the risk factor is close to nil. Note the strong use of symbology for love, luck, happiness, peace, eternity and prosperity: heart, four-leaf clover, horseshoe, lily of the valley, dove, forget-me-not and mistletoe. (1) Bonne Année greeting card from 1908. (2) Bonne Année greeting card (year unknown). (3) Bonne Année greeting card from 1912. (4) Bonne Année greeting card from 1909. (5) Bonne Année greeting card from 1906. (6) Bonne Année greeting card from 1908. (7) A Happy New Year greeting card from 1908. Cards (1) to (6) are still available to purchase.

31 Dec 2017

Happy New Year & Happy Sale

Happy New Year you all! Three Line Studio and TLB Games are extending their Christmas Special Sale! Some call it Christmas every day, we call it starting 2018 on a high note, especially if you have gamers in your circles! RPG (Role Playing Games), D&D (Dungeons & Dragons), game theory, we have it all covered for those special occasions in the year ahead! TLS is no random shop: it is the publishing house and agency of one of the original D&D members, American author and game designer Robert J. Kuntz!

🎄 🎄 🎄

You really want to check out our range of competitively-priced quality original products, you will not find them elsewhere!


Here is a short item selection:

El Raja Key Archive, NOW FROM ONLY $14.95
Dave Arneson's True Genius treatise, NOW ONLY $14.95
Sunken City adventure module, NOW ONLY $6.99

23 Dec 2017

Aynhoe Park's Cabinet of Curiosities

Oh, don't I love it when a blog visit sends me onto an unexpected journey with twists at every turn! Curiosity takes you places you hadn't heard or thought about!

Hui's wedding dress by Phillipa Lepley; wedding venue: Aynhoe Park.

It started off with The Londoner Rosie Thomas's customised wedding dress post, followed by her wedding designer Phillipa Lepley's portfolio, and then onto her client Hui's wedding venue: Aynhoe Park, Oxfordshire, England. But what could have easily been mistaken as yet another palladian country house, revealed a full-scale treasure trove of eclectic antique pieces, eccentric objets d'art and modern pieces that have blent together well into a potent cocktail and lent the place a distinct mood halfway between antiques shop, Natural History Museum and a well-travelled, well-heeled collector's cabinet of curiosities! And when I come across those, time crashes to a standstill. Exploration is a must!

The Aynhoe Unicorn: bold, brash and larger than life!
The Aynhoe Unicorn (detail), painting by Rico White, via A Modern Grand Tour

If history, the statuary, and unique quirky heirloom pieces are your thing, then you have it in spades here, and the little kid in you will awaken to those treasures. I must say that I am no fan of taxidermy and animal trophies in all their forms but if I summon the little kid in me convincingly enough, I might be able to work miracles, Night at the Museum style...

Look up, look down, the folly is all around! Photography by Barker Evans.

This is certainly a magical place that has the power to turn into a magical land of its own accord, depending upon how wild your imagination is and/ or with Santa's little tipple helpers! You are nudged on your journey: Aynhoe Park is interlaced with elements of fantasy (unicorns of all creatures!) and Narnia-esque elements raring to come to life and play!

White Witch Awakening, by Miss Aniela, surreal fashion series photoshoot (2014), via ibid.

Thus all that is needed is to believe and to let your imagination loose and soon enough the creatures will come to life and whisk you away into their dreamlike world! Step into the wardrobe, enjoy the party, Christmas is only a twinkle away!

Pair of Brass Waterlilies, via A Modern Grand Tour
The Ostrich Feather Lamp in 'Ivy', via  ibid.
Wooden Cobra Carved Sculpture, via ibid.
1970s Shell Table by Antony Redmile, via ibid.

* Last updated: 06-Jan-2018

Source: Have cash? Purchase a piece of the action and take the magic home. Or just leave it where it belongs, at Aynhoe, providing an enchantment piece to guests and visitors. Yet if you are serious about parting with a little cash and take home an investment piece that is both unique and eccentric, Aynhoe is destination shopping delight!

Aynhoe Park hosts hospitality events and weddings, which is another way of getting up close and personal with its magical wonderland!

25 Nov 2017

The Art Déco Redesign of Saint-Quentin

It is high time Mirabelle paid its dues to a northern French Art Déco town which holds a special place in my heart: my hometown of Saint-Quentin! A born-and-bred saint-quentinoise, I spent my formative years there. I moved away for college before returning briefly home (for three years), and then onto the next leg of my personal journey, the UK.

Most of my family still lives in Saint-Quentin. My parents relocated to Corsica ten years ago and I followed suit from the UK approx. three years later. When my dad left Saint-Quentin, he left his heart behind - and probably even his soul. I left bits of myself behind and fragments of my heart too. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we all leave bits of ourselves behind whenever we up sticks.

Nouvelles Galeries, rue Saint-Jacques

We are ambivalent as to whether we should have moved away, whether we should have moved on with our lives. For my dad, this has proved virtually impossible after he was forced to sell our much-loved family home, a one-of-a-kind (unique) property whose elaborate construction and overall design he had been personally invested in every step of the way over the course of almost 35 years. A painstaking labour of love carved out of the best materials, using the best skillsets, that makes the house he lives in now a mockery (his words) if only in terms of architectural merit.

Mosaic ribbon (detail), rue de la Sous-Préfecture; another element of the façade is shown on pict. (13)

The irony of it all is that through our time in Saint-Quentin, none of us hardly took any photos of the town itself, none of us photographically recorded its beautiful, history-laden architectural heritage which was the background to our every day. A faux-pas which I reiterated in Manchester! So once again, I find myself reliant upon other people's photography in order to relate a part of my personal, intimate history.

Trade 'Commerce' medallion on a façade, rue de la Sellerie, carved out by French sculptor Raoul Josset

The moral of the story: do not take for granted the locale you live in. Pay attention to it, observe it, acknowledge it and immortalise it with your camera (or your paints and brushes or pencils).

Because this article just so happens to be a tale of ironies, the other irony is that while living in Saint-Quentin, we didn't pay much attention to its Art Déco architecture. We took note of the older (albeit rare) buildings that survived WWI ravages (and to a much lesser extent WWII ravages), namely the Basilique Saint-André (Basilica), Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), Palais de Fervaques (tribunal) and theatre, all of which were extensively renovated post-war. Scattered vestiges here and there also survived the war. In actual fact, roughly 70% of Saint-Quentin was destroyed by the Great War.

Criée Municipale frontage, place Gaspard de Coligny

Now prepare for some home truths in this tribute:

Art Déco architecture was such an element of our daily lives - we bathed in it - that we found it too mundane and ordinary, to be worthy of any value. We didn't notice its merit, nor did we recognise it formally as a component of the internationally-celebrated design movement. We appreciated it only for what it was: an architectural style that characterised our town (and other northern towns and villages) and made it functional, rather than functional, innovative and eye-pleasing. We did not sing its praise. Rather, it just happened to be there, a mere landscape to our lives.

Brochure, via Calaméo

In retrospect, I wish I had paid attention. I hear you suggest that I could return to Saint-Quentin to soak it all in and capture it but nostalgia, and generally the memory of loved ones gone, times gone and a way of life gone, have ways to make you sea-sick. And this is the pain I have interiorised. Maybe after all, we shouldn't have gone in the first place. Just stayed put. But is this what life is about? Stay put? Deprive yourself of brand new adventures?

Buffet de la Gare, train station restaurant mosaic (detail)
Forged iron and bevelled glass door (detail), rue Voltaire

Now let us be clear. To label Saint-Quentin as strictly an Art Déco town (as modern-day historians tend to do) is a fallacy. It deprives it of its rich, long and checkered history: founded by the Romans, sacked and looted by the Francs (in 406), then by Atilla the Hun (in 450), and later by the Barbarians (in 531). Not to mention other charming visitors like the Spanish conquistadores and the Prussians. Saint-Quentin's strategic location as a gateway to northern and Eastern Europe, made it a geopolitical hotspot and a battlefield, as well as an intersection point between paganism and christiandom.

The Casino cinema, built 1929, a flamboyant landmark

The prevailing Art Déco style across our northern town reflects the fact that 3/4 of its pre-WWI buildings had been blitzed out by war. Thus no expenses were spared when reconstruction came about. This coincided with the flourishing movement of the time, Art Déco, using a variety of materials (brick, stone, slate, marble, granite, mosaics, stained glass, enamel, concrete, plaster, forged iron, stainless steel, bronze, brass, copper, lead, wood) and a palette of techniques that heralded the new and the bold while grounding it into a solid classical approach in terms of proportions, perspective, materials and general elegance. The constructions were made to last the distance in terms of both appeal and quality, not be demolished on a whim within a couple of generations.

Local architectural firms, as well as those from Paris, Lille or nearby, all delighted in the prospect of showcasing their know-how, and added quirky touches as they came up with residential, commercial, institutional and industrial premises, not to mention train stations, churches and war memorials, that lived up to their name, reputation and promises.

Art Déco translated the wave of post-war optimism into a movement. No solemnity to it, only a hymn to joy and oppulence meant to affect everyone positively, if only by way of a little architectural beautification, whatever came to play to perk up a nation raw from the horrors of the Great War.

Over several years, in certain cases to the dawn of WWII (or beyond for churches), the reconstruction of France and other war-torn nations was akin to a beehive of ingeniosity writing the book of 20th century design and paving the way for the mid-century modern of later years. Artisans and craftsmen were an integral part of the workforce, hence process. My great grandad, Joseph, a marine carpenter by trade, travelled all the way from Brittany to Saint-Quentin with his family in order to provide his sought-after skills to the building trade.

The Conservatoire Municipal (Music Academy) lobby area

After all, mass-consumerism hadn't quite cut its teeth into society just yet. France was still being built up out of wares that had been made in France! There was this fierce, strong sense of belonging and the Nation State. Personalisation, customisation and innovation played an important part in Art Déco craftsmanship. The result was an architectural equivalent of fashion haute couture or a quality off-the-peg piece, rather than ready-made, pre-assembled ensembles churned out on an industrial scale. Ironwork was hot off the local forge, not off Home Depot.

Decorative terracotta grapevine relief band, residential property, Champs-Elysées area?

All these elements fuse together into lessons in contemporary design and late neo-classicism that many a modern-day architect worth their salt should embrace rather than run from or deride. I cannot bear to think what our towns and cities would look like if they were being rebuilt today, under this post-industrial, post-craftsmanship styleless, paradigm of using cheap and cheerful one-size-fits-all Far-East imports that line up the shelves of DIY chain stores. I can all too painfully notice its ravages at a local level (in Corsica), the breeze block-plasterboard-PVC residential combos with their utterly charmless personality-devoid utilitarian Soviet finished look. Life is meant to be celebrated, not mourned, which is why Art Déco should make us thankful. Rejoice, people, rejoice!

Glass and metal front door, rue de la Sous-Préfecture; another element of the façade is shown on pict. (4)

Sources: Art Déco knows no blandness. Art Déco as a movement created bold, awe-inspiring, sculptural - even flamboyant - statements. Think the Chrysler Building! Made up of bold, aerodynamic, streamlined curves, abstract patterns and geometric florals and feathers, it is meant to be embraced from a distance and appreciated up close. A celebrated duo of form and function that epitomises good design and relishes both its clean lines and intricate vignettes and frescoes. Born just after WWI, the artistic and architectural movement swept across the world and span across the Roaring Twenties and Depression Era.

Front door (detail) of the Grande Poste (central post office)

(1-3) Construction of the Nouvelles Galeries retail store started in 1922, and the store opened to the public five years later. Despite the building having been disused for the last 50 years, it has nonetheless managed to keep visitors spellbound to this day. While awaiting an hypothetical renaissance, the site has found its vocation as an exhibition hall for... Art Déco exhibitions! (1) Photography by Julien Sarrazin, via On Teste Pour Vous en Picardie. (2) La folle expo d l'Art  Déco, photography via Art Déco de France. (3) Photography via the city of Saint-Quentin's official website. (4-5) L'Art Déco à Saint-Quentin, photography by Jean Triboulloy and Michèle Wojciechowski. (4) Mosaic ribbon (detail) fringing the façade of a much-photographed Art Déco maison bourgeoise residential property, located next to the sous-préfecture. See its panelled glass and ironwork door pict. (13). (5) 'Commerce' medallion on a façade, rue de la Sellerie, carved out by French sculptor Raoul Josset. Interestingly the prolific sculptor moved to the USA in order to pursue his craft under the Art Déco influence; he created larger-than-life statues in his adopted state of Texas. (6) Criée Municipale, unattributed photography via Nicole Boxberger. It features a concrete curved one-storey building that used to host the municipal fish market. I remember it operating until at least 20 years ago. Under the town hall's Art Déco preservation and renovation programme which provides incentives and professional advice to eligible property owners from both the public and private sectors, the Criée was renovated. Its lettering, which used to be a tomato red on cream, has now been given a flattering blue floral treatment that lends panache and a little relief to the signage. The neat Art Déco typeface is pure typographical delight! (7) Art Déco has taken centerstage in Saint-Quentin only recently, over the last 25 years. Prior to that, the movement might have been perceived as being still too recent in order to deserve acknowledgement and critical acclaim from local historians, the local authorities and the local population alike. The brochure 'Raconte-moi l'Art Déco à Saint-Quentin' was published by the Local Authority (Agglomération du Saint-Quentinois), and is available to read via Calaméo. (8-9) Photography by Pascal Stritt, featuring (8) the mosaic detail of the Buffet de la Gare (train station restaurant), and (9) the forged iron and bevelled glass door, rue Voltaire. (10) Inaugurated in 1929, the flamboyant Casino cinema and music-hall is flanked by two pilasters topped by carnival heads, Jean qui rit (the laughing John symbolises comedy) and Jean qui pleure (the weeping John symbolises tragedy). The heads used to spook me stiff every time I went past! (11) The Conservatoire Municipal (music academy) is a gem of Art Déco fusion, with its façade bearing a distinctive flemish style flanked by bow windows. (12-13) Photography by Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose, via Flickr. Their photography portfolio is a collection of (mostly) Art Déco architecture, including architectural artefacts (plaques, reliefs, friezes, etc.) from around the world. (12) Decorative terracotta grapevine relief band on the façade of a residential property believed to be in the vicinity of the Champs-Elysées municipal gardens. (13) Glass and metal front door, rue de la Sous-Préfecture. Cf. pict. (4) for another element of the façade. (14) Glass and metal front door detail of the imposing Grande Poste (central post office), located nearby the Basilica. Photography by MEL.A, via Instagram. René F. Delannoy was the architect (1929). The account features more Art Déco views of Saint-Quentin. (15) Photography by Pascal Stritt, of one of the tin plaques that decorate the bar of the Restaurant des Champs-Elysées, rue de Baudreuil. (16) The Art Déco movement is now celebrated every Spring in Saint-Quentin and neighbouring towns.

Tin plaque, Restaurant des Champs-Elysées, rue de Baudreuil

Further Resources:

A yearly celebration of Art Déco in Saint-Quentin


* The acute accent on the letter 'e' of Art Déco is my deliberate attempt at translating the fact that the Art Déco movement originated from France. It derives its name from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes held in 1925 in Paris, an event which came to be known as a catalyst of the Art Déco movement.

* Last updated 12-Apr-2018.
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