Ready for Mayhem?

AUSTRALIAN UK-based folk-punk troubadour, Benny Mayhem, is returning to his home town Albany to perform with his band on Sunday.

Benny recently released his new single Song For Absent Friends.

Written in a hotel room in the Austrian Alps, the song is a mix of Benny’s trademark folk-punk sound with Sunnyboys-style Australian power pop and a touch of Californian punk.

“I lived in Albany for 11 years, growing up at Middleton Beach, Lower King, Spencer Street and Burgoyne Road,” Benny said.

“My family moved around a lot, but each place had its own magic.

“Hearing the railway shunting at night, walking the jetties and wharves, bushwalking and fishing are all happy memories. And the rain on a tin roof.

“I have a song called Kinjarling, the traditional name for Albany in the Menang Noongar dialect, and means ‘place of rain’.

“I wrote that when I was 29-years-old and it describes many of my fondest memories.”

Sunday’s gig will be Benny’s third trip to the region since he first returned as a solo musician in 2014, helping with the Anzac Albany commemorations.

He performed at the Stirling Terrace Mess Hall and conducted workshops at TS Vancouver naval cadets, where he and his father were once cadets – as well as at Denmark TAFE.

Benny moved to Perth with his family in 1994.

“We didn’t intend to stay away for long, but in those days the big city had many more opportunities than we had in the county so I lived there for the next 18 years,” Benny said.

“I threw myself into the original music scene where I was very active for a long time – especially with my punk/rock’n’roll band Project Mayhem, which is how I became Benny Mayhem.

“The old band were very successful locally and performed for 10 years straight. We were a band of buddies and eventually we decided we all needed to do something else for a while. 

“I had never travelled, so I moved to London. But I didn’t really have much of a plan of what to do when I got there.

“So I did what came naturally and became a full-time professional musician.

“I took every opportunity I could and that took me right across Europe, including the UK, Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.

“I’m now able to take that experience and build on it here in Australia and especially WA, which is my home and a place that will always be dear to me, wherever I may find myself.”

Benny will perform his own brand of folk-punk at the King River Tavern, Millbrook Road, on Sunday May 21.

Tickets will be available at the door.

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Former POWs share wartime encounters

LOCAL man Neil McPherson is reminiscing over coffee with fellow former prisoner of war Harold Martin a few days before his 95th birthday last week.

He invited The Weekender to sit in and share his wartime memories.

“People say to me ‘do you hate the Japanese?’” he said.

“My son is a lawyer. He lives in Japan and married a Japanese midwife so I have two grandsons half-Japanese and half-Australian – that’s the answer.”

Neil was a shipping clerk in Perth when he enlisted in the Australian Army and found himself deployed in the Middle East.

“I was very fortunate; I got leave in Jerusalem and leave in Tel Aviv so I saw a bit of the country up there,” he said.

“Then I was posted to a Victorian unit and they were the first troops to be sent back to Australia when Japan came into the war.

“We were on the Orchades coming back. They diverted us to Java when Singapore fell and of course something like 54,000 Japanese troops landed on Java and there was 3,000 of us.”

The 19-year-old found himself working on the Burma end of the notorious Burma to Siam railway that claimed the lives of thousands of allied prisoners.

Although they never met at the time, Harold Martin also worked on the same end of the railway as Neil McPherson.

“I think I might have been born with the right genes,” Mr McPherson said.

“I was a 19-year-old and Harold was 23 so we had youth on our side.”

Neil was a group settler’s son from Margaret River where during the depression he frequently went to bed without a meal, so hunger pangs did not frighten him as a prisoner.

“I had malaria and dysentery and I escaped ulcers which were a terrific killer because once they amputate a limb you haven’t got much resistance to the different diseases,” he said.

“I escaped beri-beri which was another killer.

“Another thing that killed a lot of chaps was the stress – chaps with families at home, the worry about how their wife was coping on their own was instrumental in a lot of them dying.”

Both men were selected to go to Japan and work in a coal mine in Kyushu prefecture which Mr McPherson said probably saved their lives.

“I was fortunate that when I went to Japan I went to a little village,” he said.

“We were working in a coal mine but the village had never been bombed and the people probably didn’t hate the Americans and Australians as much as in other areas.

“Sharing the hazards of the mine with the Japanese miners created a certain amount of camaraderie.”

When Japan fell, the Americans dropped rations. Prisoners would often fill  haversacks and go hiking in the country visiting local farms and sharing their food.

“They showed us photos of their sons who were overseas. They were very pleasant times,” Mr McPherson said.

“I put on about three stone and when I got home people would say ‘I thought you were supposed to be hungry’.”The Hardie Group, Mr McPherson’s employer, had a surprise for him when he returned.

“The Reid family who owned
the company, made up the difference between their employees’ wages that they would have got if they’d continued on working,” he said.

“So when I got home there was something like five or six hundred pounds waiting for me which enabled me to buy land.

“I worked for them for 50 years.”

“I started work in Perth, transferred to head office in Melbourne, came back and became manager of our Perth branch where I started as a message boy 50 years before.”

Since moving to Albany several years ago Mr McPherson met Mr Martin for the first time.

As two of the hundreds of workers deployed on the railway they had not known each other and although Mr Martin was also selected for mine work in Japan his ship had been torpedoed.

“He survived being torpedoed in a prisoner-of-war ship and was in the water for six days,” Mr McPherson said.

He paid tribute to his friends’ ability to survive and support each other during their time in the prisoner-of-war camps.

“The greatest thing that could happen to the camp was if we had some Australian farmers there because they could turn their hands to anything,” he said.

“They could take a bit of barbed wire and turn it into something useful like crutches or something like that.”

Mr McPherson has been back to Thailand, the former Siam, twice and celebrated his birthday a few months after Mr Martin who is now 100.

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Classic poster unveiled

FINAL preparations for the Great Southern Weekender Albany Classic on Sunday, June 4 are underway.

Albany artist Sue Halsall was again commissioned by the organising committee to create the painting that would be used for the infamous promotional poster and as a special auction item at this year’s sponsor’s dinner.

The painting recreates the excitement of the historic motoring event and pays tribute to the Theyer family’s involvement in racing, with Elizabeth Theyer waving the flag for the late William Theyer racing his TQ.

Posters are available from The Weekender, price $10 each.

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What, no potato?

THE reality of a crippled market is starting to mount as the region’s potato growers face the threat of a psyllid outbreak.

The tomato potato psyllid (TPP) is an exotic pest that has been detected by both commercial and domestic growers in the Perth metropolitan area.

Although the pest affects productivity in other fruit and vegetable crops, the specific threat for potato growers lies in the associated bacteria that TPP is known to carry which causes zebra chip, which renders the vegetable inedible.

As a result of the detection of the insect in Perth, the movement of host fruit and vegetables and used machinery and equipment from WA has been blocked by eastern states.

TPP has not been detected near Albany and there is no evidence of the zebra chip bacteria Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum (CLso), despite the Department of Agriculture and Food setting hundreds of traps since the outbreak in Perth.

Third generation Albany potato farmer Julian Ackley said the trade restrictions to the eastern states were frustrating as it had not only impacted big exporters, but also created an oversupply in WA.

“We’ve all got product sitting here that is fine, but we can’t sell it because the door is shut.

“The problem is the crops are all available now and it’s all perishable. It’s not like it only affects a little bit of product over a longer period of time.”

Mr Ackley said his attempts to divert potatoes bound for the Eastern States to the local market were not viable, with prices depressed at least $100 per tonne.

“We didn’t even get a quarter of our costs back,” he said.

Remaining potatoes would more than likely be fed to livestock or go to diary farmers who were already oversupplied with wasted potatoes.

The future of his own operation and the industry in general was not something Mr Ackley preferred to dwell on.

“It doesn’t bear thinking about. I have my doubts about next year,” he said.

Fellow local grower and industry representative Colin Ayres exports the majority of his seed potato crop to the eastern states and has been hit hard by the trade restrictions.

He has already made the tough decision to lay-off four permanent staff and would not be employing backpackers and other casual labour. While he had one eye on the broader impact of the industry, Mr Ayres said he had some challenges to face with his own operation.

“Our program will be about half of what it was this year: hence, our labour force has been drastically reduced,” he said.

“To downsize, there is also a mountain of work to do in the office before you even get near a tractor.”

Mr Ayres said he was comfortable with the WA Department of Agriculture’s efforts since the detection of TPP and new Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan in her response to the crisis.

But he was scathing of the industry’s failure to act on a national level and enact the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed sooner. The deed is in place to deal with the response to national pest incidents.

“It took six weeks for the deed to be triggered. If that’s an emergency response then God help us,” he said.

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Sharks lose their bite

ON Sunday, North Albany were looking to build on the momentum gained last week when their first win of the season saw them beat Albany at Centennial Stadium.

The reigning premiers ran out of that match convincing winners by 105 points.

Heading into this round three game against Albany Sharks, North Albany were forced to make a number of changes; Dom Knight, Luke Cameron had both suffered injuries against the Magpies while Matt Orzel was rested.

This opened the door for the premiers to debut Taj Williams, Kohen Lemin, Angus McKercher and Tom Bigwood.

On a warm day and in front of a decent-sized crowd, North Albany made a strong start to the game hitting the scoreboard first.

It was then a hard-fought first quarter with both sides applying great pressure.

The visitors came out on top at the siren, to go in at the first change up 16 points, 4.6 (30) to 2.2 (14).

Sharks started the second quarter as they had finished the first – by kicking the first major when Shaquille Narrier slotted one through from a tight angle.

However, the Kangas found their aim and kicked six goals straight to two one and finished the term 10.6 (66) to 4.3 (27).

After the long break North Albany had much of the play and although they made the Sharks pay by adding another six goals they also added eight behinds. So possessive of the ball were the Kangas, that the Sharks were only able to add two behinds to their score.

It was damage limitations in the final quarter for the home side in the hope they didn’t suffer a third consecutive lost by 100 points or more.

This wasn’t to be as North Albany once again contained the ball allowing Sharks just one scoring shot – a goal, while adding another six goals six to win 5.5 (35) to 20.20 (140).

The match produced a long list of goal-scorers for the red and white side with 11 different names.

Jake Becroft was top with five followed by Corey Hitchcock with two. The former along with Grant Corcoran and Jack Mcphee featured in the winning side’s best.

For the home side, Shaquille Narrier kicked four of the team’s five goals with Michael Simpson getting the other.

Narrier took home the Best on Ground for Sharks with Fraser Eaton and James Eaton also stand-out performers.

In last Saturday’s games, Railways headed down to McLean Park to take on Denmark-Walpole.

After a poor first term, trailing by 25 points, they came away with a 49-point win, 19.12 (126) to 12.7 (79). Coen Marwick had a good day out with six goals.

Unbeaten sides Royals and Mt Barker faced off at Centennial Stadium with the Lions gaining the upper hand early and never really gave last year’s grand finalists a chance, winning 8.14 (62) to 4.3 (27). Samuel Baddeley-Holmes was the only multiple goal-scorer of the match, kicking four.

This weekend’s matches will be highlighted by the grand final rematch between North Albany and Mt Barker at Collingwood Park on Sunday.

There will be two Saturday games.

Denmark-Walpole will be looking to cause an upset when they host Royals, and Railways will take on Albany at Tigerland.

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From snippet to stage


IN 2005, a single paragraph from an article in the Weekend Australian caught Dianne Wolfer’s attention.

It briefly mentioned a young girl who lived on Breaksea Island and the postcards she received from troops gathered on Navy ships in King George Sound before departing for war.

The postcards thanked her for relaying messages to the troops’ families as the soldiers anchored in Albany’s protected waters.

And that’s about all there was to the story – a short, sweet little snippet humanising the departure of 30,000 troops from Albany in 1914.

But Wolfer’s fervent imagination just couldn’t let it go.

She was curious about that little girl, Fay Catherine Howe, the lighthouse keeper’s daughter.

“It got me thinking when I was walking down the beach,” Dianne said.

“I was looking across to Breaksea Island and kept imagining her out there and couldn’t get her out of my head.”

It was the genesis for two of the local author’s books Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy.

These books’ recent stage adaptation by Black Swan State Theatre Company in Albany and the ensuing extended season of the play in Perth, has had Wolfer’s name buzzing around town.

She’s grateful for the recognition and is more than happy to jump back into conversation about the story of little Fay Howe and those troops.

But there is much more to discover about the award-winning author.

Wolfer is a primary  school teacher by profession and without lamenting the fact, she knows the grind of making a living from being an author – even with 16 books to her name. There are no million-dollar best-seller contracts. With guest-speaking visits to primary schools and public libraries and royalties on book sales, she still earns less than a first-year teacher.

“Most authors have another job, so it’s a matter of what job and how much can you survive on versus having time to write. So that’s always the trick,’ she said.

“For me it’s not that you sit down one day and say ‘I’m going to be a writer’.

“It creeps up and then slowly you get more books published as you spend more time at it.

“But I just can’t not write. You get ideas and you write them down and they stay in your head and I shape some of them into stories.”

The work ethic that accompanies Wolfer’s vivid imagination and relentless researching also becomes apparent as she discusses her approach to writing.

She can write anytime, anywhere and often takes a few pages of a manuscript with her for editing to fill in some of life’s idle moments.

“You don’t have to be on a Greek Island, but you just need a space.

“Sometimes it’s the quiet corner of a café.

“Sometimes getting out of the study works really well for me,” she said.

“I think if people are sitting and waiting for inspiration, then good luck it might happen, but it’s like any job.

“You can’t just go to work and say ‘I’m not feeling inspired.’”

That constant drive to write usually results in Wolfer penning several stories at once and regardless of whether it’s a 6,000-word piece of historical fiction or a 32-page playful picture book, the process is incomplete until it’s as perfect as the deadline allows.

“Usually I’ve got three or four things that I’m writing at once,” she said.

“For example Light Horse Boy and Granny Grommet and Me. They are completely different books.

“I was writing them at the same time and they both took three years.

“I know it’s crazy. Why would a picture book take that long? There’s so few words.

“But you wouldn’t believe the emails back and forth with an editor over a sentence.”

With the whirlwind of excitement from the premiere of the production of Lighthouse Girl easing, Wolfer still has plenty on the go.

With its release due next month, her forthcoming picture book Nanna’s Button Tin will break stride from the run of historical-based fiction for a moment.

Although Wolfer is also happy to reveal she is working on a third, and perhaps final, installment to follow on from Light Horse Boy and continue the war-themed story to its conclusion.

With the fine details of the story’s plot lines still bouncing around the page, she confirms it follows Rose, a young English nurse who meets Jim (from Light Horse Boy) and is set in the shadow of WWI against the deadly Spanish influenza pandemic.

Her latest release The Shark Caller is another story for her growing number of young/adult readers to ingest.

The story was inspired by past family holidays to Papua New Guinea and was brought forward from the back-burner thanks to a scholarship from UWA.

The scholarship allowed Wolfer to write the book as part of her PhD on Anthropomorphism, the attribution of human qualities afforded to animals and objects.

Donning the graduation gown and throwing the hat in the air is also on her to-do list for the middle of the year, but please: don’t call her Dr Dianne.

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Sounds like many of my favourite things


THE Opening Night of The Sound of Music was received with rapturous applause last Friday, as Albany again showcased its formidable talent in one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most popular musicals.

Ever since it hit the screens in 1965, The Sound of Music has won the hearts of millions, with generations of fans still charmed by its unashamedly sentimental and whimsical story and timeless music.

And once again, under the directorship of Anne Davidson, the Albany Light Opera and Theatre Co (ALOTCO) has demonstrated it can take on any challenge and produce a sell-out season of eleven performances before the first curtain goes up.

It didn’t matter that most of us knew the story and the songs back to front and word for word.

We just wanted to sit back for a night of nostalgia and smile indulgently as Maria did her best to become a nun, before she won the hearts of the seven von Trapp children, and their father, through lots of singing, dancing and fun.

We silently sang along to all our favourite songs, and soon adjusted to the variations in the stage production, compared with the film, and barely noticed a few changes in some of the songs and events.

The costumes and scenery were superb, and the three-hour show never missed a beat or a do-re-me.

Each role was well cast, with the whistle-blowing captain Georg von Trapp played to perfection by James Turner.

Newcomer to ALOTCO Mollie Hare was delightful as Maria, with a strong voice and a natural acting ability that beautifully captured the essence of her demanding role.

The cheery nuns in the abbey were all blessed with glorious voices and were led by the versatile Carmen Fasolo as Mother Abess.

Carmen’s powerful rendition of Climb Every Mountain was one of the highlights of the opening night’s performance.

As expected, the von Trapp children stole the show.

Bonnie Staude (Liesl) looked as though she had just stepped out of the film and onto the stage, and amazed the audience with her amazing voice; Hudson Bell, (Friedrich), Bella Fasolo (Louisa), Kye Stewart (Kurt) and Josie Staude (Brigitta) slipped confidently into their roles, while Rosie Talbot, who performed at opening night, will take turns with Jessica Turner playing Marta.

The part of Gretl, the youngest member of the family, is being shared by Madison Bradford and Asha Lewis, both of whom have produced heart-melting performances.

Tom Croucher, who stepped in at the last minute when Todd McGregor became ill, excelled as the self-serving, witty Max Detweiler, while Azi le Page made an impressive ALOTCO debut as Baroness Elsa Schraeder.

Last but certainly not least, a round of applause must go to musical director, Hayley Burns and the orchestra for another excellent performance.

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Licence for letting


ALBANY residents who let property out on a short-stay basis using internet services such as Airbnb will have to be licensed with the City from July 1.

At last month’s meeting council voted to start enforcing its licensing conditions for tourist accommodation at that date with a two-month amnesty period to allow operators to apply for a licence and meet conditions.

Mayor Dennis Wellington said the licence was issued for the operator’s own protection in the case of an insurance claim.

“When you invite someone into your home on a commercial basis and you don’t have all the bases covered, like fire extinguishers, or fire alarms, you’re culpably liable,” he said.

“We’ve got to make sure it’s safe for the visitors and safe for the people who operate them.”

The two-month amnesty will give operators time to have properties inspected and meet requirements.

About 100 properties are already licensed in the city.  In proposing a motion to enforce licensing conditions Cr Paul Terry said at any one time about 100 unauthorised operators were advertising tourist accommodation online.

The motion passed 8–1 with Cr Carolyn Dowling voting against it.

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Shire flood rules change


AN exemption allowing local shires to use their own resources to repair vital infrastructure from flood damage, yet still claim for reimbursement under the WA Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (WANDRRA),  has been met with mixed reactions.

Prior to the exemption, councils have been forced to use contractors if they planned to seek reimbursement under the arrangement.

The Shire of Ravensthorpe suffered extensive damage following the floods in January and February this year, with parts of the shire still under water.

Shire of Ravensthorpe CEO Ian Fitzgerald welcomed the move, but said there were still challenges ahead.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” he said.

“We’re still assessing our damage.

“We’ve got more than 2,100 jobs we’ve identified and each one needs to be photographed, recorded and costed out to meet engineering standards.

“It needs to be in a certain format to fit in with the WANDRRA process, and we’ve got to do that 2,100 times.”

Mr Fitzgerald said while the exemption gave the shire the option of using their own staff and plant and equipment, the cost of overheads associated with the work would still fall on the shire, under the current update to the arrangement.

“One of the good things to come out of the exemption is the funding arrangement,” he said.

“It’s 40 per cent up front.

“Previously the shire would need to spend the money and wait for it to be checked off before we’d see any reimbursement.

“This gives us a good starting point and puts less strain on our cash flow.”

Mr Fitzgerald said the shire would be looking at utilising a combination of its own staff and contractors to complete the work.

Shire of Gnowangerup CEO Shelley Pike said the floods at the start of the year were the worst in living memory and the repair bill had more than doubled from initial estimates of $5 million to $11 million.

Ms Pike said the exemption would work for smaller shires that had suffered minimal damage, but were not a complete solution for the Shire of Gnowangerup.

“We’ve had nearly $11 million worth of damage and there’s absolutely no way we can manage that in-house,” she said.

“Timing is also an issue. You’ve got 24 months to get the work done.

“You can’t carry out this work when it’s wet, so we’re not looking at starting until September and we’re looking at three years of work to get the repairs done.”

Ms Pike said the temporary exemption would help if shires could claim what she referred to as ‘opening-up’ costs in the short-term response to the floods.

“It’s things like clearing roads so they are trafficable straight after the floods,” she said.

Ms Pike said the shire had to increase its overdraft to cope with increased costs while it waited for reimbursement.

Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson said the restriction on the use of local government resources for repairs had been the most pressing issue in the electorate following the floods and acknowledged the frustration of local shires.

“It’s been a frustrating wait due to many unfortunate circumstances – a state election, a government in caretaker mode, changes at departmental levels, and lengthy negotiations between senior bureaucrats,” he said.

“We’ve seen reports from shires here in O’Connor that recovery work is costing far more than it should through the use of contractors, who are obviously in high demand due to the extensive damage across the Wheatbelt and Great Southern.”

State Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan also acknowledged the frustration felt by those affected by the floods.

“While this has taken some time to work through with the Commonwealth Government, I’m hopeful this new process will provide choice for our local governments in how they repair roads and other essential public assets, as well as being more cost effective for taxpayers,” she said.

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Budget will hit students


THIS week’s federal budget has delivered a fresh list of fiscal winners and losers for the Great Southern.

One of the broadest measures was the increase in the Medicare Levy by 0.5 per cent to help fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

There was no silver bullet for flailing small business owners either, with the only bone being the continuation of the instant tax write-off for capital expenditure up to $20,000.

The federal government is also clamping down on drug and alcohol affected welfare recipients, with plans to run drug tests.

Measures that have been received positively include the proposed increase in school funding, the one-off power bill rebate for aged pensioners and lift the freeze on the Medicare rebate freeze, which will give doctors more incentive to bulk bill.

Ahead of Tuesday’s budget, the government attempted to soften the reaction to some of its less popular measures by making several announcements prior to Treasurer Scott Morrison’s budget speech and the media lockdown. It was revealed last week that university students will pay more for their degrees and will start paying them back sooner in an overhaul of tertiary education funding.

In the government’s bid to even out funding allocations, some course fees are set to rise to a maximum of $3,600 for a four-year degree, while Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) repayments will kick in when a student’s income reaches $42,000, down from the current threshold of $55,000.

In announcing the reform package this week, Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham highlighted the need to sustain funding for the tertiary education sector, with student loans totally $52 billion.

The measures in the reform package are set to save taxpayers $2.8 billion over the forward estimates period.

For University of WA student Oniesha Vernon, the issue is more about the $8 a week she will need to repay under the reduced repayment threshold, rather than the pile of debt the government is sitting on.

Miss Vernon is enrolled in a psychology double major at UWA’s Albany Centre and has completed the first year of her degree.

But she has deferred her studies to gain a bit of real-world experience after entering university straight from high school.

She said the measures would deter some students from studying at university, although she intended to pick her studies up again despite the increased cost.

“Going to university is already considered to be the expensive option,” she said.

“I know people who have decided to go to TAFE instead, because of the cost.

“This will definitely put more people off as they finish school and decide what they want to do.”

Under the reduced repayment threshold, students will be required to pay back one per cent of their income when they earn $42,000, which equates to $8 a week.

Miss Vernon said it didn’t sound like a lot of money, but it would put some graduates under more pressure in a tough job market.

“I decided to go to university and study psychology to get the best job I can,” she said.

“Eight dollars doesn’t sound like much. Students and graduates are struggling now, let alone the increase in costs of completing a degree.

“I feel sorry for country students who are studying in Perth and supporting themselves

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