Posted by: annmucc | February 1, 2012

Learning Danish in Denmark

I have now been in Denmark for around 3 months. Although I can survive with English, it is always useful to learn the language of the country you are in. So Danish lessons it is!

I started Danish lessons at the beginning of January. The Danish government offers free Danish lessons to all foreigners who move here, making this quite a painless decision, besides committing 3.25hrs a week for the lesson. This is, of course, a great way of enticing people to learn the language.

But what about the lessons themselves?

Well, being government-sponsored means that there is no choice where you can learn Danish, at least in our small town (to my knowledge). It seems to me that this has resulted in a quite chaotic system within the school I am attending. On my day of my first lesson I was told off for not going the week before (though my letter said specifically to turn up on the day I did). I was then placed in a class that had started over a month before, meaning that I didn’t start from the basics – I still don’t know my Danish letters, but I can say sentences!

Also, rather than having a well planned curriculum as I would have expected, lessons mainly consist of going through the exercises in the book one after the other with the teacher not always appearing to know what is coming next. However I am not sure this is completely the teacher’s/school’s fault. For a country that looks down on teaching to the exam for Danish citizens, it is surprising to see that this is the education they offer foreigners learning Danish in their own country.

Furthermore, I must admit that going from university level education to Danish lessons, where I am essentially at the level of a primary school kid (if that) has been  a shock to the system, especially since the teacher’s enthusiasm for teaching matches that (i.e. very enthusiastic teacher).

Nevertheless, in spite of all these gripes, I HAVE actually learnt some Danish. Today I had my first decent (make that around 5 sentence) conversation with a colleague and she understood me (me choosing the one Dane who actually understands my efforts and often has to translate my Danish to other colleagues when I have tried it before has nothing to do with it :P). So, after all, the scope of the lessons is being reached. Maybe I shouldn’t be complaining!


Posted by: annmucc | November 5, 2011

Enjoying London…for Free

I have now come to the end of my stay in London and moved for a job to Denmark. I will be blogging about my life there mainly at, although I might use this blog sporadically to write about things that do not fit into this blog (such as rants, or trips abroad). However, I thought it would be useful, and appropriate, to post an email I have sent to my friends about where I used to find about all the events going on in London for you to follow:

  1. sign up to and When you are on the mailing list every so often they will email you about a show or concert that you can get free tickets to. These are typically shows that haven’t sold out so they want to fill up the theatre as it is much nicer for the ones who paid to have a full theatre. We have seen some not that good shows, but have also gotten tickets to see Bon Jovi, Rod Stewart, Annie Lennox, musicals etc – I probably wouldn’t have paid for 95% of what they offered (not because of the quality but more because of interest/cheapness) but for free I gladly go and mainly they are very decent things! It is also useful to keep an eye on their facebook page as they often post stuff there as well.
  2. Sign up to the Barbican’s freeb scheme (25 and under). They regularly put tickets onto the scheme that you can book for free. We have seen quite a lot of stuff, from contemporary dance (that we’ve decided is NOT for us), to a Basement Jaxx organised concert, to classical, comedy, and everything in between. The booking system takes a bit of getting used to, as you have to sign in, then select the concert you want to go to through the freeb website, then select seats that are marked in black (only those are available through the freeb scheme), and then you need to tell the system that you want 0 standard tickets and 1 or 2 freeb tickets, and at every stage after that you need to keep on telling the system that you do not want parking and do not want ice-cream etc etc. However, I’ve really enjoyed most of what we’ve gotten at this theatre.
  3. Jameson Cult Film club: Jameson sponsored film showings at interesting locations e.g. Union Chapel (a church), at the docks etc. You get a film, and free Jameson cocktails 🙂 What’s not to like?
  4. As you have made it here you might be a regular visitor of blogs, or you might not. But in any case, a good blog listings I have found that advertises stuff that I am interested in is ianvisits. I haven’t been to much through there – mainly because of time rather than anything else – but through it I’ve learnt that e.g. the Diamond Light Source will have an open day and could book a place onto it etc.
I think that is most of where I have gotten the free stuff. Really in London there is more free stuff going on than you can handle :). As a student they come in helpful!
Posted by: annmucc | July 31, 2011

Hampton Court Palace…At Last!

Hampton Court Palace has been on my ‘to-do’ list before the to-do list ever existed in any physical form! It was the first on there, but it is only now that I have nearly done everything on that list that I have finally visited!

Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace in the London Borough of Richmond. Situated in a green area of London in the midst of a various parks and on the river Thames it is very picturesque. It was built by Thomas Wolsey and given as a gift to Henry VIII when he realised his downfall was close. It featured quite prominently in the TV series The Tudors that Michael and I saw in the past year. This made me more eager to visit. However, it wasn’t until things didn’t go too well on Friday at uni that I decided I wanted a break and the choice fell on visiting this palace – at long last.

We arrived at the palace from a side entrance to the surrounding gardens. This meant that we approached the castle from the side. It was a bit confusing at first, so it wasn’t till we actually turned the corner to the front of the palace that we could see how majestic and imposing it is in its location. We were eager to go in and explore, so we bought our tickets (two for one thanks to daysoutguide and national rail!) and hurried inside.

Hampton Court Palace entrance

Soon after our arrival there was a ‘meet the court’ event planned as part of the ‘Living Tudor World‘ activities planned to bring the palace alive. So we decided to start with that. The activity involved the participants meeting Henry VIII’s physician, then a lady and an earl, as well as Henry VIII himself, and Queen Catherine. I think it is a nice touch. However, as I knew the story I didn’t feel that they contributed that much to me, so we decided to skip the rest of the performances in preference to walking around the palace on our own.

The tour of the palace is facilitated by audio guides that are given free with the ticket. This is a great idea I always think, as then the length of time you spend learning about the place doesn’t depend on your reading speed. Also, you have time to look around as you listen rather than focus on the written words.

Hampton Court Palace

Most of the audio guide commentary was from the point of view of a character working in the palace on one specific day, such as the day that Henry VIII got married to Catherine Parr. However, I appreciated the audio guide for the kitchens the most I think as it presented the place from today’s point of view, while explaining how they learnt about the different aspects of the place. I found this much more interesting.

Hampton Court Palace - Tudor Kitchens

We didn’t only spend time in the palace though! The palace has quite large gardens that go with it. In the gardens there is the world’s oldest maze – we did find the middle, but I felt quite disoriented by the end of it!

Gardens at Hampton Court Palace

We also took a guided tour of the history of the gardens with an extremely knowledgeable volunteer. There was just four of us on that tour, that made it that much better. That tour was probably one of the highlights of the visit to me, possibly as it was one of the few opportunities to have direct human contact with someone for any length of time in the place and get your questions answered (though the stewards in the rooms also seemed very knowledgeable when I spoke to them, and very eager to impart their knowledge. So maybe it was my issue that I didn’t ask more).

The garden history tour guide

By the end of the day I was absolutely shattered! We spent from around 10:45am to 5:15pm- so around 6.5hrs in total (with a break in the middle for lunch and a rest in the gardens). However, this means that while quite expensive you really do get your money’s worth. There’s something for everyone – we didn’t even see everything there was to see.

Was it worth the visit? Most definitely! So glad we made it there in the end, and on a gorgeous day to boot! A perfect day 🙂

Posted by: annmucc | July 19, 2011

Weekend at the BBC Proms

The BBC Proms is the ‘world’s greatest Classical music festival’ held annually at the Royal Albert Hall. I have been meaning to attend for quite a while, but never got round to it. Earlier this year I put it down on my to-do list. Having written it down I had to find a way of going. So when tickets were out I made sure to be online on time to buy tickets. We had decided to purchase weekend passes for the first weekend (Proms 1-4) and weekend 5 (Proms 38-41).

And the first weekend has arrived (and gone by). The promming pass we had was for the gallery. This meant that we could just queue with the season ticket holders, and therefore get in earlier than day prommers, and get a decent place each time. At £17.50 the pass was definitely good value for money!

We heard a wide variety of music during the weekend, from new commissions to more well-known pieces, from single instrument pieces (organ recital), to massive performances (Gothic symphony, with over a thousand performers!). The performance I really appreciated was probably Benjamin Grosvenor’s encore of Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 5. I didn’t expect it, but loved it! I also enjoyed the last act of William Tell (Rossini), for which we had moved down to the Arena. Not sure if the reason I liked it was because we were closer to the performers in the arena, or if it was just the piece of music. The Gothic Symphony was also impressive!

If I hadn’t decided to attend the BBC Proms before, I might have been lazy and not got round to attending this year either. Buying a weekend pass also meant that I attended for things I wouldn’t have necessarily gone to otherwise. So definitely a good choice there (though attending for four concerts in 3 days is it the top of the limit).

So how am I planning to enjoy the rest of the season. Well, we already have a weekend pass for August, when my mum is visiting – so looking forward to that, especially as those proms should be a bit more accessible. I’m also hoping to enjoy a few other individual proms, starting with tomorrow’s Dvorak and Smetana Prom. Looking forward to it all!

Posted by: annmucc | July 3, 2011

First Weekend in the New Place

It’s Sunday evening here – our first weekend in the new place is nearly over! And what a weekend! Not the busiest, or the funnest or anything – just the most relaxed and good time weekend in a while though I think.

First things first on Saturday: clearing up the loose ends left from our previous place. So we went up to Willesden Green to clean the room, remove the last few things we had in the place, and return the keys in return for the deposit. We should be getting all the deposit back, which is great! Having finished that off it was back down to Kilburn for some shopping, relaxing, cooking…and tennis.

Yesterday was the ladies final at Wimbledon. Now, neither Michael nor I are big tennis fans, but as we were eating the game was on and decided to watch it. Immediately I started rooting for Petra Kvitova – she was the underdog after all, while Sharapova was the runaway favourite, so I guessed Kvitova needed the support. And she proved me right! She won the game to become Wimbledon ladies champion :).

The evening was then time for a pub crawl 🙂 *yeay* Melissa, our flatmate, had a friend over, and invited us to join on a pubcrawl with them and some other friends. It was a great time – a normal evening with friends, which is not something common here in London for us. We went to four pubs in one evening, stopping at one to watch the Haye vs Klitschko heavyweight title fight – my first boxing match. Not my favourite sport, but good to watch once I guess.

Black Lion pub

Having had a late night last night, today we had a late morning. On waking up we saw the great weather outside so decided we needed to get out. We walked to Hampstead Heath (only around 35min walk from here), enjoying the good weather, greenery and water. I think it was a great idea. We finished the walk with a pub lunch at the Golden Gate, which we had been to last year for Valentine’s day. I wasn’t too impressed with the food, but it was decent enough.

Back home it is now time for a rest. A great weekend, but now need to get back to work tomorrow…wish me luck!

Posted by: annmucc | July 2, 2011


A new month, a new start…we’ve moved house!

For the past few months it has been quite stressful at the place we were staying in. The guy we were sharing with (who is also the landlord) was suffering from some mental health problems. This made things very stressful for us as whenever we left the house we weren’t really sure what we would find when we got back. Would he be in a good state? or no? Would he be shouting? Would the house be re-arranged? Would the electricity be switched off? Would the house be a complete and total mess, or would he be cleaning and it looks decent?

Anyways, all in all it wasn’t a good situation for us. We couldn’t rest when we went home, and spent most of the time tiptoeing around him in case we would set him off. The only positive that, with the exception of once, he was never threatening or intimidating (and the once was more exasperating than anything else). So a few weeks Michael and I took the decision to move out.

We saw a couple of places, liked one, and luckily we were told that we could move in on the 1st of July. However, this being London, you are never completely sure if things will work out, so we were on tenterhooks till yesterday. And yesterday it happened! We got the key, we moved our stuff (with the help of a minicab), and voila! We’re in our new place.

So far it all looks good. We have an amazing view from our balcony/window, which we can see while lying/sitting in bed. The housemates also seem very friendly from the little we have seen. So all in all, so far – very positive!

Can’t wait to have the first people over :D. Who’s it going to be?

Posted by: annmucc | June 26, 2011

A Danish Wedding

Last year Michael and I had been to my cousin’s wedding in Malta. However, so far I had not managed to wiggle my way to a Danish wedding invitation. Danish weddings are smaller than Maltese ones, so these are a much rarer prize it seems! So when we received an invitation to go to Soren and Helene’s wedding, I jumped at the opportunity. I wanted to see what a Danish wedding is all about and this was the perfect opportunity as I was told it would be completely traditional.

Unlike Maltese weddings that tend to start either between 10 and 12 or in the evening, the wedding started at 2pm with a church service. The service took around 45mins. Surprisingly, at least to me, the service mainly consisted of the priest talking and a few songs. There was nothing else, except for the short ‘do you take this woman as your wife’ section. In my head the point of having a church wedding is that you put God at the centre of your day and draw comfort from the service. Admittedly, I didn’t understand much from what the priest was saying, but I didn’t get that.

Following the service we then had an hour drive to the Koldingfjord hotel, the reception venue, with a couple of old school friends of Michael. I enjoyed the ride and talking to Michael’s friends. I had met the wife at a party at Michael’s house, so it was good to meet her farmer husband. Now, I always think of farmers as these old men or not particularly educated younger people working the family fields. So it was a revelation to me, I guess, to see this young, well-educated (and good-looking I must add) man who chose a career as a farmer. However, I now realise that in Denmark to be successful as a farmer you need to be on top of everything as it means you have a major business, unlike the mostly tiny fields people tend to in Malta.

On arriving at the hotel we checked in (we were sleeping there to be ready for our flight the next day), dropped out stuff in the room, and went down to the entrance to welcome the bride and groom. They arrived in a classic car (bizarrely owned by a friend of Michael’s sister who we met at his dad’s birthday party 2 weeks early!), got showered by rice, and then we were told (or ordered really) that we were going to go down to the water side, get a group photo, and then couple photos will be taken so we need to be there for that.

The water side (and the whole venue really) was absolutely gorgeous! This made a perfect place for taking wedding photos, especially on such a nice day. On starting the ‘couple photos’ I was surprised to learn that this does not mean that we all take photos with the couple. Instead, the wedding couple were having their own photo shoot, while the rest of us were herded along to take individual/couple photos alone (i.e. Michael and I took one). It felt a bit like we were in roll call, and this was a way of making sure of who had come and who hadn’t. Luckily it didn’t take that long, so it was OK.

After the photos it was in to the dining room, where we found our pre-assigned seats and settled in. This is where the main part of the wedding day happened. Main part you say? Well, the whole wedding lasted from 2pm to around 2am. Of these, we spent pretty much 90% of the time from 6pm to 1am in that room. Why? Well, there was the food to be eaten, and on top of that, there were 20 speeches. Yes – you heard that right 2-0 speeches…in Danish. Let’s just say I wasn’t too excited about that. This also meant that most of the time was spent getting food then sitting down and listening to people giving their speeches. We didn’t have much time to talk to our neighbours (as soon as the last table had got its food, the next set of speeches started), and more unexpectedly to me we didn’t even get to speak to the bride and the groom much. I found this a bit restrictive, when compared to the Maltese reception style where people can move around and mingle at their heart’s content. Luckily, the food was great – but it did mean that I probably indulged myself a bit too much ;).

Another difference I noted was that the cake cutting was barely given any importance. In Malta that is pretty much the main focus of the wedding party. However, in Denmark, the couple barely waited for everyone to arrive for the cake to be cut. I was however surprised to find that even though it was not the typical Maltese almond wedding cake, I wasn’t disappointed (at all!) – the cake was delicious. It seemed to me like rather than the cake cutting being the focus, it was the first dance which was. During the first dance we all stand in a circle around the couple and clap, while progressively making the circle smaller till they cannot move and then they kiss. Unfortunately following the first dance we had to get back to our seats for the last few speeches (the first dance has to be done before midnight apparently), before we could take to the dance floor.

The night ended with the ‘night food’, which in this case was hot dogs at 2am in the morning. Nomnom…I love Danish hotdogs (though I hate the fact that the bread is never big enough to hold the whole sausage!).

So what did I think overall? Well, I like the fact that the wedding is all about the wedding couple, from the service, to the reception, to everything. As a guest however I really felt like this is their day and you are there just as a spectator rather than to necessarily enjoy yourself. This is completely different to the Maltese weddings where I often feel that there isn’t enough focus on the wedding couple, and the wedding couple don’t get much time to enjoy themselves as they have to go round talking to everyone.

Would I go to another Danish wedding (if invited)? Probably – though hopefully I would know more Danish by then.

Would I want a Danish wedding for myself? Probably not – it’s a bit too much. Even on my special day I don’t think I want me to be the centre of attention all.the.time – it felt like an invasion of personal space just by looking, let alone being the one in the middle! The number of speeches as well was a bit over the top for me. However, there were some things which I liked, including (surprisingly!) the cake :). Oh – and I love the romanticism of Danish churches ;). I guess I would have to compromise with Michael if we ever get married as to what we do :P.

Congratulations Helene and Soren!

Posted by: annmucc | June 16, 2011

Weekend Country Hopping

My last post here was a month today. That’s probably a record of the longest time without posts here! It’s not that I have forgotten the blog. I have been very busy at university writing up my PhD. This often means that when I get home I don’t really feel like writing much more! However, it is not just university which has been keeping me busy! There’s also been three trips in the last month!

First off it was Michael’s dad’s 60th and Michael’s brother-in-law’s 40th birthday in May. So they organised a joint birthday party for around 130 family and friends on the 28th of May. We couldn’t possibly miss this! So off to Denmark for a weekend it was.

Friday morning was spent at the Southern Jutland animal show in Aabenraa, where Michael’s dad was working on his companies stand. The place was full of farm equipment and animals. Michael also got to help herd(? – push more like it!) some cows and a bull to the showing ring for the father of a friend of his! I was scared he’d get trampled, or the animals would trample one of the many kids running around the place. Luckily it went by with no incident! In the afternoon we then went to help set up for the party in preparation for the next day.

The party was a typical Danish party. This to me has started to mean that there was a seating plan, a buffet, but more importantly there is people-hand-shaking and speeches – in Danish! Too much of these last two I would say! All the farmer guys shaking my hand (you have to shake everyone’s hand as they arrive and as they leave) meant my poor hand was a bit squashed by the end. And of course I don’t understand anything of the speeches! However, besides that, I had a good time. I am starting to feel more comfortable interacting with the Danes (even if they still appal me with their directness sometimes!) so I could go off on my own as well. I also got to make some bread on the campfire set up for kids…yeay to me!

Weekend over it was time for me to return to London while Michael spent two weeks in Denmark. However, once back in London I started to get a bit fidgety, and finally settled on going to Malta the weekend coming! This turned out to be a good thing as my sister was in Malta with friends, and my brother was going to Malta for some work. This meant that we ended up being 7 people (mum, 3 kids + 3 of my sister’s friends) at home! We must have driven my mum crazy! I am so glad I went back. I really enjoyed my time there and returned to London with an enthusiasm for work. I won’t say much about it but one of my sister’s friends, Ross, guest-blogged on my sister’s blog. So go over there to check it out!

Back in London I had three days of very productive work, before returning to Denmark. Having picked me up from the airport Michael drove us to Farup so, a lake close by, where we got a take away of spare ribs and picnicked away while enjoying the view. We didn’t manage to eat it all, the portion was so big! It was great to have some time to relax and talk after two weeks apart.

The main reason for this second visit in so short a time, however, was for a wedding – my first Danish wedding!  It was a great (if slightly traumatising) experience. But I plan to write a whole new post about that soon. So you’ll have to hold your curiosity till then 🙂

Posted by: annmucc | May 16, 2011

Camping in Cookham – Part 2

We went camping at Cookham Lock. As the name indicates, the camp site is actually on the site of a working lock at Cookham “that the powerful waters of the Thames meet the Chiltern chalk at Cliveden Cliff”. You can read Part I here.


Sunday we were woken up with the sounds of birds and wildlife around us – how great is that? We opened our porch door and the tent window and relaxed while enjoying the views while waiting for the sun to rise properly.

Soon though we were starting getting a bit hungry, so we made our way to the village where we tracked down some muffins and a newspaper at a shop in the petrol station in the middle of the high street. Back at the campsite we then relaxed for an hour next to the tent reading the newspaper, looking at boats passing by and soaking up the atmosphere before packing the tent, saying our goodbyes, and making our way to the village.

On arrival on Saturday we had immediately seen posters all over the place about the Cookham Festival happening that week, as well as a street festival to be held in the high street on Sunday from 12-4. We were a bit early so we stopped at Infusions cafe for a baguette and a hot drink, while observing the people getting busy setting the place up (and the people walking all their humongous dogs in Cookham!).

We also got the experience of an opera singer in a ball gown singing in the area set up for that purpose just opposite the cafe, i.e., bizarrely, the petrol station, just between the fuel pumps! I guess as the road was closed the petrol station couldn’t do any business so why not be put to good use?

Soon enough noon arrived and we started making our way around the stalls. There were stalls of crafts, jewellery, soaps and whatnot.

However, probably the one drawing the most attention was the stall of the Bel and the Dragon pub.This pub is reopening tomorrow (don’t know how long it has been closed for, but don’t think that long), so the chefs and waiters were offering free food (including a suckling piglet!), wine and ice-cream to passers-by. The wild garlic and onion soup they were giving out was absolutely heavenly! If that is the quality of the rest of the food I’m sure it will be a success!

Our stay in Cookham was however coming to an end. So we made our way up to the train station. By this time it had started to drizzle so it was good to reach shelter while waiting for the train. From Cookham we got the train to Maidenhead, where we changed to the train to London, and on home in a reverse of our trip to Cookham. All in all a very successful and relaxing weekend. Even though we’ve just spent a whole week in Ireland enjoying the countryside, which meant we might not have appreciated as much as we could, it was fantastic to get out of London and into the countryside. The question now is, where next? and more importantly…when?!

Posted by: annmucc | May 15, 2011

Camping in Cookham – Part 1

Ever since Michael brought his tent over to the UK from Denmark where it had been resting for a number of years he has been hinting that we should go out of London and camp in the great outdoors. On winning a book about Tiny Campsites, which is all about campsites under an acre in size around the UK,  the hinting became more like strong suggestions! We tried to go last year, but when we tried to book at the one we had decided on we were told that it was fully booked for the season. So we deferred the idea to this year…to be precise…this weekend.

Now, though Michael was very keen to go camping, for some reason he got the idea that I am very lukewarm towards the idea (to put it mildly), so he restricted the stay to one night only. The decision, mainly because of time and distance, fell on Cookham Lock.

As the name indicates, the camp site is actually on the site of a working lock at Cookham “that the powerful waters of the Thames meet the Chiltern chalk at Cliveden Cliff”. It takes around 1hr to get there by train from London, so on Saturday, after a good breakfast and finishing with the bag packing, we started on our way to Cookham via Paddington Station and Maidenhead station. Arriving in Cookham we walked down to the lock (around 1 mile away), said hello to the friendly lock keeper who gave us the key to the area (it is locked at 6pm) and looked for a place to pitch up the tent.

Now, there are a couple of places to pitch a tent. However, for the night it was only going to be us and another tent, and we were first there, so we got the choice of the whole area to decide on. Asking the lock keeper for suggestions we settled on what we think was a super location, at the end of the island, beside the lock, overlooking the water, trees and cliffs in front of us. What a sight to wake up to! Pitching up the tent took us less than half an hour (we’re impressed by ourselves, thank you very much – there’s been quite a lot of that lately!). So at around midday we started off on our way to explore the area.

As always, before making our way there I decided to check up on the area to try to find a walk which would be interesting. Our decision fell on walk 24 from ‘Time Out Country Walks near London vol 1 which I had given to Michael as a gift when he moved here. (and haven’t used as yet!). Since that edition the walk has been revised, so we found the updated version on the Saturday Walkers’ Club website.

From the lock we walked west towards Cookham Village, Cookham Rise and Cookham Dean, then made our way to Bisham Woods and on to Winter Hill (possibly the inspiration for the Wild Woods in The Wind in the Willows), finishing on the Thames Path all the way back to Cookham Lock. We were highly impressed by the directions! It would be very difficult to go wrong if you follow them – they were so comprehensive. So well done to whoever works on that. The vistas also changed, from tiny villages, to overgrown woods, to cliffs and the river Thames – great variety which means that it never gets boring.

Besides walking we also stopped at The Bounty on the Thames path for lunch. The pub is worth visiting for the way it looks. Unfortunately the food was uninspiring at best!

Back at the lock we took the time to rest and read a bit. This was probably a good thing, as while inside the tent it started to rain a bit. Luckily this didn’t last too long, so we could get out to explore the village a bit further. We tried to find a place showing the Eurovision Song Contest as we thought it would be interesting to see it with others in a pub. Unfortunately we couldn’t find anywhere showing it, so we settled for some dinner at the Old Swan Uppers (decent food btw!) before making our way back to settle in.

Go on to Part 2.

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