A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland

Archive for the ‘BUTEC Range’ Category

So Much…..

Siting at the menu table after 4 hours work and just before it all kicks off again you wonder how on earth she runs this place the way she does. I have only been here for the weekend, granted I have also been fishing and washing creels and trying to sort a breakdown in the last couple of days, but running the Applecross Inn takes a phenomenal effort. When things are running okay it is busy, food, accommodation, drink and people all coming in and going out the door. The Dream Machine outside is also ploughing on with haddock, Aron’s ice-cream and coffee all going south as fast as it is being made or fried. As well as all this the roof needs done, the cold store gets put outside to make way for more space in the Prep room, new gas boilers and constant repairs for accommodation. For me, without all the extra stuff, this morning from just after eight it was checking out residents, taking booking for accommodation and meals for anytime this summer, bottling up the bar, cutting lemons, changing the menu board, ordering soft drinks and answering random requests from the phone, redirecting customers to the Walled Garden for breakfasts, sorting the float out for the Dream Machine and finally getting the crashed till system up and running again. Twelve o’clock now so the day starts. That plus another twelve staff, cooking, serving breakfast, servicing rooms, prepping, preparing salads…..

(The above was written in the heat of the battle just before twelve last Sunday, cannot believe that it is ten days since last post). Having said that, looking back on the photos there has been a lot packed in. The weather has been immense over the past while, to the extent of having three fires in Applecross in 24 hours. The first one in Toscaig had about ten residents and holiday makers beating out a fire across from the old homestead. The following day I called in one that started on the Coast Road, across the Bay. The opinion was that this was started by a passing car throwing a cigarette out. The Fire Brigade came from over the Hill as well as our beaters. If this had not been tackled, judging by the flames seen across from the Inn, this one had the potential to race up the Hillside behind Cruary. While the Brigade were in another one was called in at the Campsite and seems this was caused by wood worm dust coming down on an extractor fan, over heating, setting off what could have been a serious fire at the Steading. Pure coincidence/luck that the fire men were in Applecross and were diverted from across the Bay. Story is that another ten minutes and there would have been serious damage.

The week has been taken up with some long days, combining the fishing and the Inn. This is what I have been telling myself during the winter that I work the whole year during the summer months and should not feel so bad during the winter wind down. Yesterday, for example, I was up at 6.30am, fishing till around 3.30pm, landed the langoustine and squat tails, a half hour on the couch and shower before going up to the Inn till just before midnight. Finding the Inn very rewarding these days, meeting lots of folk, both regular and new arrivals. The weather makes such a difference to people’s moods and on week’s like these no wonder so many people come for a “get away from it all” holiday. And there are some who get that bit more, speaking to Ian last night and we were talking about the essence of the place, a spiritual peace. The bubble of the Inn can be left behind by walking in any direction for ten minutes and you enter a place of peaceful serenity. At a meeting last week I asked some one to describe the character of Applecross, he could not which I found a little disturbing as he is tasked with conserving it. But more of that later. I love being surrounded by people’s contentedness, happiness, pleasure of visiting such a beautiful part of the world and you try to covey to them what it is like to live here. Despite being hectic, busy, sometimes not enough time to stop and look around, the conversations you have with people like the Walkers or Ian, who obviously connect with the place, reinforce the feeling of pure joy of living in Applecross. Very occasionally there is a spare room available due to late cancellations and one such was filled on Sunday. I showed them the room and left smiling at how excited she was by the room the view and the promise of good food, a Hungarian who had just come of the ferry from one of the Western Isles having the holiday that they will never forget. You meet the world and their dogs at the Inn, so far not a Trump voter in sight, and there are a large number of Americans on the move.

The fishing had taken a bit of a dip last week but seems to have recovered somewhat on the last couple of hauls, catching enough to keep both Inns supplied. This morning there was an early start to get some langoustines over to the east coast with a regular carrier who was heading back with an empty lorry. The sights and sounds on the fishing trips are as varied as ever, some soaring and graceful,

some that jar, who is watching who,

traffic as other marine users ply their trade and make their up the Inner Sound,

natures intriguing creatures,

this being a Rhizostoma octopus floating by, I stopped to take a couple of shots but as the tide was flowing found it quite hard to manoeuvre, but pleased with the effect of the exhaust discharge on the water over it

and just the views of all the different goings on

and weather

fill one up.

Even the blackbacks have a certain beauty.

Still time for Dougal and Co to go for a wander on the mornings I do not go to sea. The advantage of being single-handed was I had time to recover on Monday morning before going out to haul two hundred creels in the afternoon to keep the Inn going. A walk is as good as a rest.

The trips home on the bike from the Inn are as good an example of the contrasts that Applecross throws up. Serving a hundred and fifty folk followed by a serene cycle home in the moonlight.

The rest of today , although the plans have not been set out properly yet, involve most of the rest of the day off with just a stop off at Aird to pick up a half ton of bait for the creels on the way home. The plan is to head north to Ullapool, eventually for a spot of music, possibly an art gallery visit and a dog walk thrown in. And it seems the weather is holding out so looking forward to a busy day off. Again so much has been going on so will try and catch up over the weekend as there was another film crew on board the Varuna and two more Consultation Meetings plus a missed CC Meeting due to tired head. Onwards. Duncan Chisholm on the stereo certainly setting us up for the rest of the day.

 

 

Trident for Tourists

Not only is Applecross on the NC500, has exquisite local seafood, a welcome second to none, stunning scenery and backdrop but it also has our very own Tridents. This according to Argyll and Bute Council and Mr Mundell MP is the ultimate visitor attraction. Personally I abhor these insane WMDs which look so out-of-place on our beautiful coastal backdrop.

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Turquoise Seas

So far this week it has taken place mainly at sea. We are experiencing a wide-spread algal/plankton bloom which is giving the seas here a beautiful turquoise colouring.

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My limited knowledge of these occurrences are that basically the ones you see are great for feeding as are the dinoflagellates, less visible, but when they die they give off toxins which the bivalves feed off and ingest and those are harmful to us. The scallops and mussels are fine and when we were scallop farming back in the 90s the toxins hardly entered the mussel (white meat) of the scallop. Our gripe with the testing regime was they tested the whole animal, the liver, intestines and anal tract finding lots of toxins so shutting down whole areas for harvesting. Testing something you do not eat to find for toxins was a daft way to protect the public but it happened to be the latest food scare. The catch yesterday showed severe signs of disappearing although on reflection it was deep water and not the cleanest of creels. Today a little shallower fishing and they were back to good quantities.

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Still finding a large number of octopodes, I have been wrong in calling them octopi seemingly.

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They could be octopuses but I prefer the former. Despite their delight at scoffing large quantities of langoustine they still go back over. Very artistic as they disappear back to the deep, leaving an ink trail behind.

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29th of June the new Bylaw was enacted that doubled the size of the BUTEC Range, despite what our Defence Minister said in Parliament. With all the chaos everywhere this does not even register a footnote In anything other than our local press. It is news in papers like the WHFP, however it did appear in the National yesterday. You feel totally powerless against the Establishment regime. It is worth pointing out that the  Range managing company, Qinetic, is a privately run organisation which runs at a profit for its shareholders. I have a licence to fish for langoustine, for profit also, on the waters off my shores and now this Company has had a law enacted that has taken this right away from me and other small operators. The area we can no longer fish in is now over 52 square kilometres. If this happened on land then it would be called compulsory purchase and users, we are not owners, would be compensated. Qinetic to pursue profit for their shareholders are doing so in part preventing me and others from making a living from this section of previously accessed grounds. But for the sake of national Security and the pursuance of profit we have not got a leg to stand on it seems.

At the Inn it is busy and the Scottish schools have broken for the holidays so it will not get any quieter. Good Sunday music session with Sally on whistles, Mo on bodhran, John vocals and Bill guitar and vocals. Enjoyed by all even the wee one in the corner woke up for some.

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One of our prep room stars is getting very excited about the Euros 2016 as Portugal and Rinaldo are still there, not sure he dresses well for the occasion though.

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We have the European flags flying on both sides of the Inn now and to be fair views are not clear-cut at all. The chaos down south continues but I watched a really interesting view from the north of England, around Doncaster where they voted out but for different reasons than the oft-repeated migration issues. Sure they were a factor but they also felt they had nothing to lose and use their vote to tell the Establishment what they thought of them. It goes back to the de-industrialisation of whole swathes of areas leaving the younger folk with little hope, no jobs and few future prospects. Mines, steel manufacturing which were the reasons for these town to exist does not happen any more. Interesting to hear that MainStream media interviewed and edited the UK discontent out but concentrated on the migration issues. Hearing that May, the leading PM contender, wants quick decisions on Trident renewal you can understand that things are not feeling too rosy at the moment. Add in a wee family trauma that only time will heal plus having to keep a close eye on the Hydro there is not much spare time. But it is not all doom as our Cambridge Festival Tickets are here and the last week in July is earmarked for unadulterated musical pleasure.

Surprise,Surprise, MoD get their Expansion.

Back from the Pier washing the 100 or so creels I took home on Saturday.

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The washing did not quite go as planned and a few left for tomorrow.

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Arranged to meet up with Eileen, come over from Inverness to chat about the expansion of the BUTEC Range. Seems the Bylaw is being enacted on the 29th of June, assuming the fishermen concerned know that they have to shift the gear from the new enclosed area. As expected this is all going ahead with the repercussions throughout the local fishing fleet dismissed without a thought. The socio/economic survey concluded that around £500,000 would be taken out of the local economy and fishermen would lose employment with fewer boats fishing on the Inner Sound. The survey seems to have been a simple fact-finding mission with no actions intended to mitigate the expansion. It was made patently clear that there was to be no compensation awarded for lose of fishing grounds. An act of compulsory purchase which if carried out ashore would come with some recompense, but the MoD/Qinetic do not follow these rules and comply only with National Security and shareholder profits. The survey steered well clear of added value of the catches which are sold in Applecross and attract large numbers of visitors into the area who want to eat local and sustainably caught seafood. Although I do not know the source but I have read that £1 spent is worth £6 when it is spent locally.  You do not need a calculator to work out the value of the hundreds of kilos of crab, langoustine, lobster and squat lobster sold locally and what they mean to the local economy. I will always support local when I am able as, if we lose services that most people consider a right, then this community is in trouble. While there is absolutely no animosity between the local Qinetic workers and the fishermen, both sectors see the need for the other’s survival, there are only two Applecross jobs directly connected to the BUTEC Range. The other danger I see is the tie in to the Defence machine and the vulnerability of the local economy being so dependent on public funds being made available for the continued operation of the Range. It does not matter if they are left or right-wing politically, a future Government may well decide the operations here will be too expensive to run and may turn off the tap leaving local employment now dependent on this industry high and dry. Applecross has always been a Sanctuary and that has been desecrated to some extent by these actions. I was asked what now but I have always taken the view that we were powerless from the start and whatever the MoD/Qinetic wanted they were going to get. Statements put forward by management saying that the structural work taking place at Sand costing millions was maintenance was being disrespectful at the very least to the fishermen, but this has been the case since the MoD have come into the area in the 1970s. Pleasant to meet Eileen anyway and all went well apart from her camera falling over on the pier, new camera and old tripod, which a bit of tape did not sort out. This was just before the camera tipped over on the slope of the pier.

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She was doing a long shot of the moorings with the Varuna sitting peacefully there.

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The interview was finished off on her iPhone, now a lot seemingly are. On the way down to the pier there are lots of scenes telling us that conditions this Spring have been conducive to reproduction.

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With more up on the Bay yesterday.

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The weekend began early but fortunately finished reasonably early as it was a lot quieter than expected on Sunday evening. Half past four start on Saturday but again only had to haul seven fleets as the fishing is still holding up. The weather is forecast to deteriorate at the beginning of the week so hopefully have enough in tubes hanging over the side of the Varuna for the bad weather days. On the way out I passed the Suilven at anchor in the moorings.

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I saw her the previous evening bouncing her way north but obviously deciding that it was a little too choppy. The passage on Saturday was fine.

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The Boss was away at an old man’s concert at the Caley stadium, we got a couple of fairly incomprehensible phone calls late on so assume she was enjoying herself. Sunday was very enjoyable , starting with a couple of car rallies, the Porches are regulars and although parked neatly along the side of the road they managed to upset a passing local.

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There is always going to be little upsets. As I keep saying there are a lot of people wanting to experience the Sanctuary and who are we to deny them, it means going with the flow a little and when you pass the Inn it will take half a minute longer. The Aussies from Sydney, the Americans from Louisiana, Miami and Oregon along with the Europeans from Romania, Germany and all other parts seemed to leave very happy. I have been in need of a shift like that and even better when I get home early as well. When the weather is fine it makes front of house so much easier.

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This evening I had Eileen back on the phone, seems that the interview done on her phone was causing problems for the technical staff. A telephone interview follows and the spag bolls takes a little longer to cook. Foxgloves always seem to find the hardest, poorest ground to grow on.

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Busy

(Monday evening) Four and a half hours of meetings on a beautiful Spring day.

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Balanced out a bit by taking the dogs out just now. Looking up to the sky, seeing Orion’s Belt along with a fat finger nail moon and listening to an owl calling puts things into perspective. The ill-informed tweets I’ve been getting from the mobile sector, the long three hours with Marine Scotland trying to close off The Inner Sound to the mobile sector to mitigate the actions of the MoD need a balance. By keeping the trawlers out it may make a bit of room for the displaced creels. Not just about banning mobile sector but instigating our own conservation ideas. Some good intelligent debate and all positive apart from coming up against the slow machinations of government. Nowadays the negative “Whatabout my rights” when you try to instigate some measures that will help the long-term sustainability of the fishery against the short-term lose of livelihood using unsustainable methods. It seems to be a mantra both at sea and on land from those that have so much and have their environments at the bottom of their priorities. More the defence of their positions and the continuation of supremacy is more important. Ended with a quick trip down to the Ironworks to drop a couple of photos off and a Highland Wholefoods shop. Good craic there although had trouble writing the cheque….still recovering from the Marine Meeting. Beautiful drive back through Torridon as  I picked up some bait and salt at Aird. (Would have been back later if I had not forgotten the camera.) This along with dropping prawns at Loch Ness Inn meant more than just a meeting. Home in time for a plate of soup and back out to Community Council. Good meeting and MoD features along with an organised Independence Convoy of around 250 cars. We are taking the opinion that we cannot cope with this number of cars on top of a busy summers day in May.

(Tuesday evening) busy old day involving, fuelling up,

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bit of fishing on a stunning quiet day,

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salting a quarter tonne of herring, landing the langoustines, an hour at the wood after checking dips at the Filling Station, tea cooked (Thai squat lobsters), and then Fortnight invoice to the Inn followed by an on time Fishing Return and a last but one (late) VAT Return. Managed a few tweets in favour of MPAs and had a couple of discussions with the mobile sector about what is sustainable and what may not be. As pointed out in Inverness where is the inshore mobile fleet now? two draggers left in Kyle now, one gone to the twin rig and the other up for sale…..not a great sign of sustainability. Hopefully the creel sector will try to get their own house in order in reducing their fishing effort. We are having a good spell just now and I only needed to haul 200 creels for my own little market. Fishing and catching the langoustine is only part of a day at sea, looking around and taking in the beauty that surrounds us

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is the best part of the deal, keeps the tiredness at bay. The solitary seagull

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or the very happy female eider

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and the basking seals.

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Caught my first mackerel in the creels, a little unusual at this time of year.

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Summer has arrived,

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for a week anyway, and is to be enjoyed with lots to do. Have not even thought of the croft and garden.

Uneventful, but Wait a Minute…

Apart from sky-high stress levels it has been a fairly uneventful week so far. Wrote that before I thought too much about the week. Monday was a usual days fishing, couple of fleets foul with mine but in shallow water so not too hard to free up. Have to watch the shoulder, had it diagnosed as the equivalent of carpal tunnel syndrome of the shoulder. Bit of a pain and always need to protect it. Seals basking

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in the sun on the way in.

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The weather has been pretty good this week, today it bright and fresh from the south, so it a mix of wood and starting the garden make over.

Tuesday was a day of walking the pooches, casing for the wood pile, and then over the Hill for a meeting in Kyle at the BUTEC Base for a meeting about the Range expansion. Managed to get a “commitment” that the Outer Sea Area will never be closed during a Trial. Sounds fair enough but there are going to be times like now when they will be using the Outer Sea Area and we will be requested not to be there while Trial goes on. Am I too skeptical or just realistic. We keep hearing about the wonderful cooperation, mainly we do not upset the MoD operations by not fishing there. The lines of the expansion seem to have hardened and are going to be the expansion, full stop. They were the original lines on the “leaked” map, something I was told was a regular occurrence with in these establishments, although in this case there was a pretty hefty investigation following this leak. I am impressed with all the ideas put forward by the fishermen from the south on how to have a bit of dual use of the Range. They are all “being taken on board” but nothing further I fear. It was pointed out that the so-called ripple effect should be described more as a tidal effect on the boats out with the Range area when the creels have to be moved from the new restricted grounds…..on a weeks notice it seems. At the end of the meeting the last kick in the teeth was lobbed in. “There will be no compensation” for lose of the Fishing Grounds. Minister has already decided….and people still query why I voted Yes?

The journey there and back was made to feel quite short due to the company and wide-ranging discussions, mainly politics, very interesting and a little insightful shortened the journey. A bit of concentration needed on the Hill as there was a covering of snow on the road but all well. Wednesday morning meant an early trip down to the pier to refuel the Auk

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before they headed out to a days diving for scallops. Received a bag of smaller scallops on Monday for a fine feed. Rather more than expected but the freezer is stocked up for the summer with lovely underaged king scallops. The morning was beautiful

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with the snows still on the mountains

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and the sun shinning bright.

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The last couple of nights I have been pretending to be in charge at the Inn and so far it has been very smooth. Result being that I have not added to the double-digit shifts with any fishing. They have plenty prawns to sell over the weekend and the forecast for the next week seems quite settled. It was a gentle night last evening but tonight threatens to be a lot further up the scale. Full Inn and more at the Hostel alongside a pre funeral meal means at least 50/60 meals tonight. Just Zuzu and I to deal with the front. Regard it as a challenge and a reminder summer is close by. Instead of the fishing the wood gathering and dog walking take precedence in lovely weather and big tides. Went out to Sand

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to check up reports on some dead sea life but did not come across any. Worth the trip though and Dougal

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certainly thought so.

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Back Fishing Again.

Slow start to the week. Bit cheesed off on Monday morning, glass calm and out to the Varuna for a day’s fishing.

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Not to be as the batteries would have been good for Shrove Tuesday. They were flat as pancakes. Back ashore and did a bit of wood cutting, along with a bit of the community stuff, up at the Hydro

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and taking dips at the Filling Station. With the storms we have now there is always a bit of something to burn which has just been blown down. Trying to stay a season ahead and pretty hard work keeping wood for drying so it burns properly. Companions are always with us

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on these trips and the light

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and deer

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were looking good. Think Angus is the stag in the middle. Later on the light changes again.

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Tuesday evening it was back into community council stuff. Long meeting and pretty interesting in that it ranged across many subjects as diverse as setting up First Responders, purchasing defribulators, complaining about the condition of our roads and wondering what to do with the heavy advertising from the NorthCoast500 tourist group. Slightly relieved to hear that it is neighbouring councils that are worried as well. Chatted about the Highland wide development plan and the Trust consultation where housing came up. The school roll has dropped markedly and it was pointed out that Shieldaig has a healthy roll now and they have affordable housing. We are in trouble as far as that goes. I find it frustrating seeing the SLE campaigning as hard as they can about all the land reform legislation proposed but just wring their hands about the landlords that prevent communities trying against all the odds to keep their heads above the water, far less encouraging them to develop.

Batteries fully charged around 11 o’clock so decided to go out and at least fit them and give the Varuna a run. Conscience took over and went out to haul a couple of fleets so I could get the big N/A beside the langoustines off the menu board. Not many in the creels but the ones that were caught were good size and condition and went down well in the evening. Some Swedes booked in checking out some scenic views for a new Volvo advert. It just keeps happening. Seems the Inn has just been voted best pub by Countryside magazine and Sand the best beach. I would have thought Luskentyre in Harris would have won hands down, but there we have it. The world is coming to Applecross this summer.

Today was meant to be full on but due to a slower than planned start, and the last two fleets hauled were fouled up, a planned trip to Kyle BUTEC was called off. Short notice and good weather does not go well with fishing politics and as I am working this evening not good to charge over the Hill to attend a three-hour meeting for an hour and head back home. Low tide

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and cormorants

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are more interesting than these meetings anyway. Smart rainbow yesterday. Helicopter on the top and boat sailing up the Sound at the bottom.

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