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January 22, 2021 – Tea-bagging the ocean pools

Tea-bagging ocean pools…

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It had been raining, and the lake had spewed its guts into the sea, onto the beach. But it made the sea like liquid gold.

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Ocean pool experience

Tea-bagging the Illawarra

Kate Mills, a swimmer in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, set herself a challenge over Xmas-New Year: to swim in each ocean pool along the Illawarra coast. She took friends; they rated each pool; and she blogged about it on Fbook. Here’s Kate's account…


Day 1 Coalcliff

Day 1: Coalcliff

We are on the south coast knocking off a coastal pool each day. (inspired by a piece in The Guardian Australia by Nicole Larkin).

There are 58 pools along the NSW coast and we are determined to swim each day in a different one. We started at Coalcliff yesterday - photo below - marvelled at Wombarra today and intend to end at Towradgi - with Coledale, Austinmer, Bulli, Woonona and Bellambi in between. My dream is to take a holiday and swim all 58 in order one day.

A few things to think about. How do you benchmark an ocean pool? We live near Wylies Baths in Coogee which we would always rate as a ten - but we do downgrade it because you have to pay to enter. We totally understand this as Wylies has significant infrastructure (hot water in the showers!) but still, having to pay to swim in the ocean seems slightly wrong. Then, what to call it when you swim in one of the pools? In Scotland there are 282 Munros or mountains in Scotland. It's a popular pastime to 'bag a Munro' meaning that you climb it. Is there a term for swimming in one of the 58 coastal pools, or if not, can we invent one? We have been playing around with snagging a coastal, or netting a coastal - or even bagging one. What do you think? 

Coalcliff combined ratings – 4.6

Kate 4
PJ – 5
Toby – 5
Coco – 4

Day 2 Wombarra

Day 2: Wombarra

Today we dived into the pool at Wombarra - me in the background swimming, Leigh Birchley
in the foreground with the kids.

Great facilities, beautiful water. Bebe sliced her foot open on an oyster shell but all ended well.

Wombarra combined ratings – 8

Leigh – 8
Kate -7
PJ 8
Toby 8
Ava – 8
Bebe – 9
Coco – 8

Day 3 Coledale

Day 3: Coledale

A bit hard to find (our friends went to the wrong beach), but wild & elemental once you get there. The pool is far out and dug into a flat rock face which makes it feel quite isolated and unprotected - in a good way. The bottom is cement, sand and sea grass and reminds me of how much I like a pool with an ocean floor. Disabled access - which I love.

There's a lone bench in front of it with rocks on it or nearby. As you get closer you realise the rocks are to weigh down your bag so it doesn't blow away while you swim. I like how nature provides a solution. A bit run-down and the water was briny. I tried not to swallow too much of it. Bebe would not come in but everyone else had a dip under the overcast skies. I like coastal pools in all weathers. In good weather they are breathtaking but in bad weather you have them all to yourself and people think you are a bit mad for going in. The water temperature doesn't change much from one day to another, however. I like the contrast of how the temperature is constant, while the weather is changeable. 

Coledale combined ratings – 6.8

Leigh – 3
Kate – 6
PJ – 6
Ava – 6
Coco – 7
Toby – 7

Day 4 Austinmer

Day 4: Austinmer

I have swum in Austinmer before. It has two pools side-by-side. A large one for play and then a longer, slimmer one for laps. Very sensible, I think. When you are lapping, then those that are at play are in the way, and vice-versa.

Austinmer has great facilities, and that’s what I remember thinking the first time I swam there. There is cover with plentiful benches for stuff, clean indoor showers, toilets and changing facilities. There is a car park and a playground adjacent. This kind of investment in public infrastructure makes coming to the water a free, easy and accessible experience for everyone.

We are on holiday but bound by the tides if we want to have a good swim. Low tide was midday on the first day and we try to go late morning so we can have the afternoon for leisure or sleep. But every day the low tide moves deeper into the afternoon and today when we arrive the waves are coming over the east side of the pool. I don’t mind. The best training for open ocean swimming is, I think, in high tide in an ocean pool where you are both safe - because you are close to the edge - but also tossed from side to side as though you are in an enormous washing machine.

We all swim today despite the weather. In the café afterwards, we rate the pools so far. The weather can make such a difference. A glorious day elevates the entire experience. A dull day means a downgrade. I think that Coledale would have been stunning for everyone if there had been sunshine because it has such an unusual aspect. I try not to let the weather impact on my score and instead focus on shape, access, water, size, facilities and environment when I rate them. 

Austinmer combined ratings – 7.3

Leigh – 7
Kate – 8
PJ 7.5
Coco – 7
Bebe – 7
Toby – 7
Ava – 7.5

Day 5 Bulli

Day 5: Bulli

This is a well-located pool. I like that as it’s hidden from the headland; you have to descend to find it – although the way to the beach is helpfully signposted.

Once down the steps or path, there are two pools—a large pool and smaller children’s pool. We all swim and the whole party apart from me stands at the east end of the pool where there is a barrier to hold onto as the waves crash over. It’s exhilarating to stand face on to waves that explode upwards and over you as they hit the rocks, and everyone squeals with delight.

It was a beautiful day after a period of rain and I think that elevated the scores we gave (this was debated by the rest of the party). For me, every ocean pool is a visual and sensory oasis, but Bulli is not my favourite. The access is difficult, the ladies’ toilets smelt terrible and the pool has nothing overly distinguishing about it. There is a great café at the top where we have a very good lunch sitting on the headland with a view on all sides while the wind whipped around us.

But when it comes to scoring, you have to benchmark. If there are going to be two pools, my bias is towards Austinmer where there is a dedicated lap pool. I appreciate that if you have young children then a children’s pool is ideal. Overall, it is our top-rated pool so far. Tomorrow, the tides have shifted so much that we will swim in the late afternoon rather than the morning. I like the way we are letting the tides dictate the day. Three more to go and then on the last morning I am going to get up and swim in my favourite one. I do hope that heaven is an unending series of coastal pools to rate with friends.

Bulli combined ratings – 8.4

PJ – 9
Kate – 7
Coco – 7
Leigh – 9
Ava – 10
Toby – 9
Bebe - 8

Day 6 Woonona

Day 6: Woonona

Gosh, it’s New Year’s Eve and following our swim in Woonona pool I have had two glasses of champagne already (it’s NYE so this is allowed) and need to write this up while I still can.

Facilities at Woonona are a semi-classical building with changing rooms below and a viewing platform above. Access is good with a car park above, and the toilet, shower and facilities lead straight onto the pool.

I learn something new here today. This pool is not cleansed by the ocean; it’s too far back from the sea. Instead, it has a pump that brings in fresh water during high tide and has exit holes for the old water to get out. I didn’t realise that is what happened in some ocean pools and I feel a bit fooled.

What I like about Woonona is that you can see the remnants of the original pools, built by hand by the local community. The old pools were sand-banked from some storms and the walls are now crumbled, so the community built a new Olympic-sized pool complete with diving blocks. I love the ambition the community had, because the remnants of the old walls describe an ocean pool longer than I have ever seen before.

The current pool lacks the imagination of the original. It’s a good, solid pool with diving blocks – as mentioned – which I have not seen before on an ocean pool. We do some laps, but I can’t help but feel that, because the water is pumped in, it’s not as connected to the ocean that I would like. There is no ocean debris in the water. Those mashed-up particles of flotsam and jetsam that let you know you are in this giant pathway of water that connects every part of land that you know.

Now to New Year’s Eve, my favourite night of the year. End of the old and bringing in the new. Tomorrow is the first day of a new book. To keep on track we need to bag two pools tomorrow, so will have to keep ourselves reasonably tidy tonight.

Woonona combined ratings – 7

PJ – 7
Kate M – 6
Kate F - 8

Day 7 Bellambi TowradgiDay 7: Bellambi & Towradgi

I got my days wrong and to do all eight pools we had to bag two of them on one day. It was New Year’s Day so we were a bit slow but roused ourselves in the afternoon to head to Bellambi and Towradgi – which had the distinction of being highly recommended by the owners of the house we are staying in.

The starting point is that every ocean pool is a work of beauty, but of course some are better than others. The water in Bellambi (below) is clear and the access is good with a sloping entrance to the water. It has bleachers, which make it feel like a good pool for races. But apart from that, I’m not quite sure why the owners have recommended it. It’s a big cement block which feels quite far from the sea and there are no facilities for changing.

Towradgi, on the other hand, deserves its recommendation (right). It’s also a cement block with bleachers, but it’s really close to the ocean, has great facilities and access. It’s also got one of those small features that makes all the difference. At the bottom all around the sides of the pool there is a step. This enables you to have a good vantage point where you can stand with your arms up on the poolside and look out to the ocean. It’s also got a big view south of the Wollongong skyline.

We have had a joyful time bagging coastal pools – eight down and 50 to go! It’s given a lovely shape to our holiday. One big joy was swimming with my children – neither of whom are very keen swimmers. But on this trip, they have been in the water nearly every day and even taken some very gentle instruction from me. It’s lovely to share your passions or pass them on to others. I do hope that even if my children never love ocean pools as much as I do, they will remember them as was one of the places was where their mother was at her happiest. I am now committing to do all the Sydney ocean pools over summer – do join me!

Belambi combined ratings – 6.4

Coco – 7
Leigh – 7
Kate M – 6
PJ – 6
Kate F – 6

Towradgi combined ratings – 6.5

Leigh – 6
PJ – 5
Kate F – 7
Kate M - 8

Day 7 Bellambi Towradgi 2

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Your most personal item…

Goggle respect

 We had a strong response to our story in our recent issue about goggle management. Here's our routine each time we use our gogs… 

Our routine

V630ASA AMBK 300This should apply to any brand of gog, not just Views (because all gogs are precious)…

  • Maintain routine maintenance (rinsing after each use, air dry, storing in case, etc… See Goggle Respect below)
  • Wash lightly in dishwashing detergent every few uses; air dry
  • Before each use, wet the inside of the lens lightly with sea water.
  • Don gogs.

That’s it. When following this routine, we do not—WE DO NOT—experience gog-fog (with our View Swipes, either Selenes or Wide-Eyes). We have clear vision throughout, limited only by the clarity of the water. We have now been wearing a pair of Wide-Eyes for months through winter, spring and now summer, and all we do is follow this routine.

We can't say the same regarding other brands of goggle, because we haven't used any in quite some time. But in our experience over the last 30 years, nothing—nothing—comes close to matching View Swipes. Whatever, you should look after your gogs using the same routine as we outline above.

Since we began to offer the Swipes, we’ve sold over 750 pairs of Swipe gogs to ocean swimmers. If major issues were going to emerge over that time, we figure they would have. They have not.

Swipes available

There are Swipe Selenes available in five colours. Wide-Eyes non-mirrored come in four colours, and mirrored come in three colours.

Out of left field: One of the least popular, but we reckon the best colour is the Swipe Selenes BR. The BR means bronze or brown, not sure which. It’s not a popular colour, just like brown suits, but it’s actually a very soft, forgiving colour for swimming in harsh sunlight, and a warm colour for cooler water swimming, over winter, say. We use the BR about half the time these days (alternating with BLEM – Blue/Emerald) Wide-Eyes mirrored. They’re terrific for early morning swims when you spend half your time staring into the rising sun. Every swimmer needs a quiver of gogs.

But every swimmer also needs to look after their gogs; to respect them. If you don’t respect your gogs, they will not respect you. And don’t go blaming the gogs all the time (although plenty really are shite), it will all come down to how you manage them.

Find out more and order your View Swipes, and other View swim gogs and swim gear… Click here
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Shark Island gets elite wave, Covid caps

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A message from the organisers of the Shark Island Swim Classic at Cronulla on February 7…

Hi Swimmers,

shark island logo 21 250The Shark Island Swim Challenge Website is now live and taking registrations for the ACE GUTTERS Cronulla Shark Island 2.3km swim and PULSE Cronulla Beach 1km Fun Swim.

This year we have some exciting news for entrants who want to go 'Head to Head' with the best swimmers in the 2.3km race: we have introduced an 'ELITE' wave, please see website for details and time criteria. (You will be contacted prior to the race for proof of previous swims and times). If you enter the 'ELITE' group you will not be eligible to win your age group as well.

We have also reworked our age categories for the ACE GUTTERS Cronulla Shark Island 2.3km Swim and offer the following year groups. 13-15, 16-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69, 70-74 and 75 and over. Prizes will be awarded for the 1st Male and Female in each category. The 1km swim remains as always, prizes for 1st, 2nd & 3rd Male and Female over the line.

As we move through COVID and its associated laws we unfortunately have to have a cap of 400 swimmers per race, so it is first in, best dressed. Also, there will be 'NO LATE REGISTRATIONS ON THE DAY'

Finally, here is some Arial drone footage of the 'EPIC' Shark Island Swim Challenge held on 2-2-2020… Click here

To enter the race please go to our website… Click here

Find and ‘Like Us’ on Facebook for up to date information relating to the race… Click here

Thanks as always for your continued support of Cronulla SLSC and the Shark Island Swim.

SIS Committee and Cronulla SLSC

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Photo essay

Deep inside

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Early morning with the Forster Turtles, and the post-rain sea is gold. It's holiday time. A lone body surfer surges onto his wave…

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… deep inside.

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Now, this is a story…

Only ten doors down

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Not everyone will like this: the arrival of a new president in the White House reminds us that it’s possible to have, normal, decent people in politics. We have some in Australia: Tim Fischer was the most decent pollie we ever knew; Ian MacPhee, Alan Missen, all of them coalition figures and all terribly decent and normal, although Tim was also strong on the idiosyncratic side.

On the Labor side, there have been people like Robert Tickner, minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the Keating gummint in the 1990s. Tickner was extraordinarily normal, but also abnormal in that he knew quite a bit about his portfolio directly, before becoming a minister, and had a very strong feel for it. Is that a good thing? Shouldn’t ministers be more detached, objective? Should they also have some idea what they’re doing? Yes, to both.

ten doors down cover 350Tickner lost his seat at the 1996 Keating-Howard election then spent years wandering in the wilderness before finding constructive roles in the not-for-profit sector. He’s also written a couple of books, the most recent of which is one of the most extraordinarily wonderful stories about normal, decent Australians that you will ever read, which you should.

Tickner, it emerges, was adopted at birth, the child of an unwed mother from the country. He was lucky to have a loving family life as he grew, and his adoptive parents made no secret of the fact of his adoption and told him something of his origins. Not all adoptive parents do this.

We have a particular connection to Tickner because we know him personally, from his political days, and we write these words now from our roll-top desk around the corner from the house in Forster, on the NSW lower north coast, in which Tickner grew up. We know some of his childhood friends. Tickner was a surfer and for a while he did squad—Tickner’s dad, who developed Sunliner caravans, in Forster, was the local swim coach in the family backyard, and Tickner talks in his most recent book lovingly of his adolescent days at Pebbly Beach, just down the road and across the park from where we sit at this moment.

The story Tickner tells in his latest book, Ten Doors Down, is his quest to find his birth parents. It is emotional; it is passionate—and we don’t use that word lightly, abused as it is by most of its users—it is tremendously personal; and it is a genuinely moving account of one of the most normal, yet arduous situations that anyone can face in family life, which is to say, all life.

In the blurb on the back cover, Professor Mick Dodson says, inter alia, ‘I wept in parts. I felt sad and angry in other parts. But this book is also about happiness and hope’.

Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, another authentic person in politics, the child of a single mother, says in his blurb, ‘An emotional and deeply personal account of the complexity of family and the need to understand your origins… leaves the reader feeling positive about the triumph of humanity’.

Indeed.

We trust that that Dodson and Albanese wrote these words themselves.

The reason it’s a triumph of humanity is that Tickner’s quest reached the ultimate fulfilment, in that he established warm, deep relationships with both his birth parents’ families. In the end, he not only had four loving parents, with all of whom he was very close, but three warm, loving families, including four siblings, aunts, and step-parents. He discovered, even, that his birth dad had grown up with some of his closest supporters as the federal member for Hughes (we know or knew a few of them, too); and the first photograph he saw of his dad, Len, was with a group of friends and his did had his hand, in the pic, on the shoulder of one of those mutual friends, all youths together. The photo, in fact, had been taken in 1947 at Stanwell Park. At the time he saw it, Tickner was living at Stanwell Park.

We cried in parts, reading this book, which we’ve done twice now. We cried eight times in eight parts of the book. And we could have cried more but, you know, stiff upper lip and so on.

There are many parts of the story that heap irony upon irony; that demonstrate the great happenstance of life: the title, for example, comes from the fact, as Tickner discovered when he finally met his birth mum, Maida (that's them, above, after they reconnected), that while he spent part of his earliest years at his adoptive grandparent’s house in Merrylands, then regarded as ‘western Sydney’, Maida was living ‘ten doors down’ in the same street—from number 18 to number 38. They must have crossed paths at some point, oblivious, tragic. His birth mum’s life was governed by losing her baby; she married happily later, but had no more children… (damn, we’re starting to cry again)…

tickner house forster 400Tickner follows all the normal procedures to make contact with both his birth parents (we gather they had been estranged virtually since his birth, although the book assiduously avoids discussion of their relationship, evidently at the behest of Tickner’s mum, who also made him promise not to discuss her with his birth dad). The only special favour he appears to have received from officialdom was that, being away so much as a minister, the state bureaucrat initially dealing with his application to make contact arranged to have Tickner come to his home late on a Saturday night to collect an important document. Otherwise, this is the journey that any adopted child, and any parent who lost their child to adoption must travel, or has travelled in order to make that life-defining reconnection.

On the way through, Tickner conducts an invaluable discussion about the treatment of single mothers in ‘the old days’, which weren’t all that long ago. This is something that touches most families, just like, growing up a Novacastellian, there is not a single family in Newcastle that wasn’t touched by BHP. It’s something that affects all of us. In the oceanswims.com family, we had an aunt who had spent time ‘in Melbourne getting a bone in her nose straightened’, as the family folklore put it. (Have you seen Philomena?)

Reading this book a second time, we treadled around the corner to Tickner’s birth address, just to see how it’s looking now. Here’s the pic… Just a skeleton, a pimple at the front of a motel complex, next door to a noisy, dirty petrol station. This week’s edition of The Forster Tuncurry carries a short piece, ‘Lake Street planning proposal’, on an application to rezone the site from medium to high density residential, from a height limit of 12 metres to allow a 30 metre-high unit block. What would that be… 10-12 storeys?

Time passes. You have to resolve these things before it’s too late.

Ten Doors Down: The story of an extraordinary adoption reunion, by Robert Tickner (Scribe 2020 ISBN 9781925849455)

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Covid: Changes to swims coming up

We don't have every swim listed here because we have yet to hear from some of them. If you can send us an update on your event, so that we can inform swimmers... Click here

  • Mona Vale (Jan 24) – Postponed TBA
  • Palm-Whale – The Big Swim and The Little Big Swim (Jan 31) – Big Swim (limit 350) is full, space still available in Little Big Swim (limit 400). If you want to go on a waiting list for The Big Swim, then first enter The Little Big Swim, then email us (click here) to tell us you'd like to go on the waiting list. We make no guarantees, but we will allocate vacancies as and when they become available in order of request to be added to that waiting list. If  you've already entered but can no longer make it, email us (click here) and we'll withdraw your entry, refund (subject to normal conditions) and offer your place to another.
  • Cronulla Shark Island (Feb 7) – Running almost normally, but with cap of 400 swimmers per race. Online entries only.
  • Manly (Feb 7) – Running almost normally.
  • North Bondi (Feb 14) – Running normally but caps on numbers, one swim only per swimmer.
  • Anglesea (Feb 14) – After running virtually in late December, Anglesea now also is running Actual February 14.
  • Malabar (Feb 21 – Caps on numbers, staggered starts, entries onlline only; entries open now.
  • Freshwater (Mar 7) – After initially scheduling for Feb 28, Freshwater now has shifted back to its usual date of the first Sunday in March (Mar 7). Online entries only; will open soon.
  • Stanwell Park (Mar 21) – Running as normal, online entries open soon. Entrants from last season need to enter again, but email us first (click here) and we'll provide you with a promo code to provide you with free entry.
  • Bilgola (Apr 17) - Rescheduled date now fixed, online entries only; open now on oceanswims.com

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Newcastle gets Spot's

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One of the most colourful and accomplished characters in ocean swimming, Spot Anderson—so loud, you need sunnies to look at him—Spot Anderson has rebadged and relocated with his young family to Newcastle, specifically to Swansea, on Lake Macquarie. From Swansea Olympic Pool, Spot now runs coaching and fitness sessions, including pool training, and morning beach sessions at Nobbys and Merewether, and at other locations as opportunity and demand allows.

lake mac penguins logo 250Spot has rebadged as Lake Mac Penguins, where he styles himself as Emperor Penguin. It's a departure from BondiFit, which Spot established as one of the first dedicated running, swimming and triathlon coaching operations in Australia. Spot started coaching at Bondi in 1983.

From most punters, this might sound boastful and braggardly, but Spot is one squad leader who walks the walk as well as certainly talking up a talk. We first became aware of Spot through the Bronte Biathlon, which ran in the 1980s from Bronte surf club. He was billed as something of a freak athlete, which he was and, in many ways, still is. Spot has competed in the World Surf League as well as at international level in triathlon.

Spot follows Bondi Rescue lifeguard Andrew Reid, who also relocated recently to Swansea/Caves Beach with his young family.

It's a big change for Spot, who's a Bondi boy born and bred. Life is slower in Swansea than amongst the myriad milieux of the Sydney's Eastern Suburbs. We wish him well.

Find out how you can join Spot's squads... Click here

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Controversy Corner...

What do you reckon about any of this stuff? We received a lot of feedback after our last newsletter. Check it out... Click here

Let us know and we'll facilitate the debate... Click here

(Also see posts at the end of this newsletter.)

Swims open to online entry…

Coming soon - Freshwater (Mar 7), Stanwell Park (Mar 21)

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Cloud formation over Forster, last Monday evening.

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Don't be an emergency eejit. It's 'strordnry how many punters enter swims online and list themselves as their own emergency contact. Just say something happens to you out in the sea, who are awgies going to contact? You? Get real. Think about it, and enter someone else as your emergency contact, event if it's your boss at work.

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1 comment

  • Allan Hutton Comment Link
    Allan Hutton
    Friday, 22 January 2021 07:42
    Read the article about the pools in the Illawarra with interest. As a local and dedicated year round user of some of these pools (as well as keen ocean swimmer) it was a curious thing to see the comments and the ratings.

    My home pool is Bulli, mostly because its walking distance from my house but I still occasionally do Austi and Woonona. Not to mention Thirroul and the Continental at Wollongong, Although these may not rate as “ocean” pools.

    All of the pools mentioned have their locals and associated Kulchas, But the truth is that there is always somewhere to suit any avid swimmer.

    One point I will make that may have been missed by your correspondent is that Woonona is (quite justifiably) known as the coldest pool in the Illawarra. And nobody can explain why!!!
    Report

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