THE SECRET OF ERCOLANO

Ercolano
Marco told us that if you looking a statue, the place to go is Ercolano, so we thought the place should be checked out. It’s in a dodgy shabby part of town, known mainly for its midnight drugs market on main square.

Original "Tile-it-Right" Ercolano Vinyl Flooring Display Showroom
Original “Tile-it-Right” Ercolano Vinyl Flooring Display Showroom
Perfect place to fence a hot artwork statue, if you’re in a hurry. There are cosa nostra gangs and dragon gangs, and you don’t want to get caught in the crossfire.
Original Ercolano Doner & Shish-Kebab TakeAway shop
Original Ercolano Doner & Shish-Kebab TakeAway shop

Ercolano is mostly below ground level and it’s a wreck. None of the houses are really habitable under 1954 HMO regulations. Roofs fallen in, toilets not flushing, cooking facilities outdated.
Original Ercolano porno cinema projection screen
Original Ercolano porno cinema projection screen

Ercolano original unisex beauty salon & nail bar
Ercolano original unisex beauty salon & nail bar

There’s a secret ramp to the beach, so it would be hard to catch the crims on the spot. I took my usual equipment and stumbled across a couple of jugs which will go nicely in the evidence storeroom.
Ercolano original Tupperware for yoghurt

Ercolano Soy Sauce bottle
A couple shifty geezers in soiled togas offered me dirty pictures but, just as I was paying for them, I spotted the object of our whole quest. Standing idly by a colonnaded cloister, posing as a loitering garden statue, there was Michaelangelo’s original David. Sure, it has been melted down and recast, but it’s unmistakable. We arrested the whole of the museum crew and took David into protective custody.

Recovered - original statue of David by Michael Angelo - melted down & recast
Recovered – original statue of David by Michael Angelo – melted down & recast

Job done. And still Janet has not revealed her hand.

I want to thank you all for being our back-ups on this mission, now we must get back to our yard, I heard a new case has come in.

POSITANO AMALFI

The clouds get stuck on the mountains along the coast.
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We can’t advise you to go to Amalfi because it is full up. There is no room for any more people.
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There are so many school pupil groups on day-trips that the teachers are having fits.

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We saw a cruise ship where the Russian orthodox priests come from.
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I had my first ever granite – delicious.
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Our return boat was late due to a breakdown, so they sent another boat, an hour later.

We met the only woman dock-mistress in the Medittaranean region.
FIT DOCK MISTRESS AT AMALFI
She is knitting a pink jumper for her grand-daughter who was with her and she looks fitter than a sports mistress. And tough, chewing gum.
DOCK HANDS AT AMALFI
I asked her the secret of long life, and she told me. [Sorry, it is a secret.]
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Trouble in Sorrento

Stairs in our new houseBay of Sorrento
Sorrento
On our arrival, there is a secret agents’ convention in the hotel. They all operate in pairs and are disguised as retired couples on holiday, so we had dinner with 458 elderly couples, not knowing which ones are deadly foes and which the genuine folk from Chelmsford. Some of them went off to the Sorrento Foreigners’ Club after; playing it by the numbers, we assumed they were the pros.
I bought a pair of desks
In Sorrento we met Giambattista de Curtis who told us his very sad & salutary story. He fell passionately in love with a girl on holiday from Milano, who worked in the postal sorting office there. When she went home he sent her dozens of love letters telling how much he adored her. But all his letters came back with “RETURN TO SORRENTO” written on the envelopes. So he wrote the famous and desperate love song “Return to Sorrento” which was recorded by Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Meat Loaf, Dean Martin, José Carreras, Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Beniamino Gigli, Mario Lanza, Franco Corelli,Giuseppe Di Stefano, Roberto Carlos, Alfie Boe and lots of lesser opera singers. And he sold a million 78rpm records and got a gold disk and won the IAFTA song award for 1924. He was famous but miserable. Now everyone agrees it is the greatest song ever written.
Listen to the true voice of Sorrento: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzg8DTzh4yk
And the moral of the story is, if you love someone, you must never let them go.
Museo palazzo muses
Recap report for Inspettore Mintalbini:
The pizza chef, the receptionist in the minibar & the parrot are all still dead. Rimedia Odora, the exploding vendor of organic remedies & cosmetics, is in a safe house. The grape treading Benedictine sister struck by laser, is in hospital being treated for PTSD. The humungus fart has largely dissipated, thanks to the Servzzi Fuoco, who hosed down the whole village. George & Connie are now serving their great country in Venice. The Smirnovsk gang are all busted and serving 144 years in San Quentin. David’s statue has not yet been returned. I am still in my nun’s habit with Christiane & Rosemary in little black numbers. Napolitani has survived and a new prime minister has been elected. The only fly in the ointment is that the penguin mother superior is out on the loose and Janet has been suspiciously silent.
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We decided to take the red bus around Sorrento. Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti & Andrea Bocelli, all let us down regarding a private performance of “Return to Sorrento”, so we’ll organise our own.

As we were setting out the chairs, I saw the shadow of Mother Penguin drawing her weapon on the far side of the Piazza. She shouted out “The price of one Faraglioni is a live boy child.”

We were on the harbourside,so in a flash, we leapt on to a day trip pleasure boat to Positano. The evil nun pulled an Uzzi automatic from her huge knickers and started firing at us. I launched my sports walking stick with pointy tip, like a spear and it pierced her abdomen; guts and dinner spewed out onto the harbour paving but she continued firing. I threw my tour-bus headphones as a sling to throttle her then I snatched Christiane’s Panama hat and flung it like a frisbee saucer, with all my strength, at the Mother. It sliced her head off clean, which bounced around on the ground for a few seconds. Blood gushed from her neck like a fountain high into the air, bits of nerve & muscle twitched, some residues of spinal cord & brain dribbled over her shoulders. Iris & Jade & Jean-Pierre were screaming at the top of their voices for gelatos, but we said “no” that would be disrespectful.
Stairs in our new house

To solve the whole case, now we only have to find and return the original David statue. Shouldn’t be too hard. The price of one Faraglioni is a live boy child.

LIFESTYLE SECTION

LIFESTYLE SECTION
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Yummy Capri Cake recipe
Ingredients: 300g chopped almonds, 250g butter, 250g sugar, 125g dark chocolate, 5 whole eggs, vanilla essence, icing sugar.

Cream together the sugar & diced butter in a bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each has been completely absorbed into the mixture. Add the almonds & chocolate, both chopped, and the vanilla essence. Grease and flour a cake tin of about 25 cms diameter and pour the mixture into it. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees for 40 minutes. Turn the cake out of the tin and leave it to cool, then sprinkle with icing sugar.
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Limoncello
Pure organic yellow, tastes of Capri. Microbottles to get through Ryanair weight limits – 5ml, $150.

Ethical caprese Espadrilles
The special buy this season are hand-made espadrilles. Don’t be seen dead in your cruel chinese espads this year. These little beauties are ethically sourced from organic grasses which are sustainably grown under humane conditions. The stitching is done by a refugee project to create employment for displaced women. The women are given regular tea breaks and are paid in real money. You can buy one espadrille at a time, if you prefer, but this does work out just a little bit more expensive. In red or lime green polka dots, sizes 35 to 45, $450 pr.
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Giardino sculptuarios
From a genuine caprese stoned artist – roman arches, model Fiat cinquecentos, reproduction pizzas, skimpy bikini tops in marble or granite or rusty old cast iron. $10,000 per kg, shipping extra.
Imagine coming all this way and NOT seeing The Blue Grotto. Sadly the grotto is closed for maintenance and so we will miss a thrill. Also it is raining and Capri is not very well adapted to rainy days.
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PERSONALISED JEANS
Have your jeans personally distressed and torn by an expert – at the knee, at the thighs, round the bum, wherever. You need never again have the same tears as the next person. Luigi Jinstireesi will prepare for you a unique item of fashion apparel, for just $997 + cost of jeans. “mmmmmmm”
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Diamonds, coral, gold, silver, platinum
Rings, bracelets, bangles, pendants, necklaces.
oooooh! aaaaah! ooooh! aaaaaah!

Sponsor customer orientation training
We have been conducting a small covert war against Citalia’s main taxi driver. He lacks all social graces and eau de toilette,he is uncouth, bossy and obnoxious. But the campaign is not going very well, because he is their only taxi driver at the harbour and we cannot get back to the harbour any other way. So we are now planning to withdraw our forces and having trained the locals, we are confident that Citalia will be able to maintain their own customer relations standards, but we may station some reserve trainers here on a long-term basis. This is a crowd-sourced project, so if you would like to contribute, send $25.00 quickly to Mark Neuman, a/c no 1234, Lehman Bros Bank, New York = You know it makes sense.
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Animal Welfare Appeal
We want the French and United States Governments to stop anyone using puppies and kittens as shark and alligator bait. Together we WILL put an end to this!

Because this is horrendous and hideous. Can you imagine the fear these animals must be in the last minutes of their lives? No living being deserves to be treated and used this way. These are private fishermen and the penalty is ONLY 2 years and a…See More at http://www.causes.com or don’t.

Diamonds, coral, gold, silver, platinum
Rings, bracelets, bangles, pendants, necklaces.
oooooh! aaaaah! ooooh! aaaaaah!

JUNIOR NEWS:AT LAST SOME REAL BIG/LITTLE NEWS FOR YOU

PLEASE SEND CONGRATULATIONS AND WARMEST BEST WISHES TO AMY & ANDI & BABY “LOOK”
Look

YES, it’s true, this blog has scooped the news that Amy & Andi are expecting a baby called “LOOK”, on 11.11.13.
They are getting a nice new baby room:

A DECENT HOTEL ROOM
A DECENT HOTEL ROOM

The number of children keeps growing and now we must apologise for not having “Look” in this intro:

And here is the main act today:

We also went to the Blue Grotto, the Green Grotto, the White Grotto, very nice:

CAPRI – BLING BLING FLING STING

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The plot thickens. Hiding out as a novice in the nunnery, Rimedia Odora beckoned me to a quiet corner of the yard, to speak one on one. She whispered “the penguin of Capri has kidnapped the parrot”, but, just as I was about to unravel this cryptic clue, we were distracted: the sister treading the grapes, Maria Farta Confessopettes, was zapped by some kind of laser-taser beam of red lightning. The poor girl collapsed in the grapes, lay almost lifeless and then suddenly let out the most humungus explosive fart you ever heard. The stink was overwhelming, they eat a lot of cabbage, birds and flying insects fell from the sky into the wine pulp. Rimedia Odora said “you see: this is not just a Kiss Kiss Bang Bang B movie!”. Now we have to reach Capri, and in a hurry.

We take the 8.02 Chianti regionale express from Siena, then the inter-city 125 from Chiusi to the South. At the harbour, a HydroJetSkiFoil disgorges 967 Korean daytrippers and picks us up for the crossing.
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The Capri penguin is mother superior of the order. She runs the biscuit business: in Siena it is Garibaldi, Napoli is Bourbon town. Capri is caprese capricious.

Yippee skippee dippee we reach CAPRI
In the old days, they liked to build in really awkwar places like on steep mouuntainsides and at the end of narrow tortuous paths, hanging over the cliff. The most instantly striking feature of Capri is No cars or taxis to your hotel. Nothing is allowed to detract from the film set of bling bling bling shopping. Every last luxury brand name you ever heard of, is here in cute little boutiques with sheer vitrine displays. Rich people look much like the rest of the population, but they wear their jumpers on their shoulders, so you can tell them apart.
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Here are some of the beautiful people we have met in the last couple of days:
We bumped into Richard & Liz in the harbour. So charming.
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Don’t you just love the necklace?
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But the air is balmy and breezy, the birdsong quite wonderful. The nightingales sing all around the rock cliff from dawn.

How d’ya like them apples?

How d'ya like them apples?
How d’ya like them apples?

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Now, in the relentless search for the gang leader, we must check out the Blue Grotto, the White cliff rocks and the dirty brown stain in the shower.
Imagine coming all this way and NOT seeing The Blue Grotto. Sadly the grotto is closed for maintenance and so we will miss a thrill. Also it is raining and Capri is not very well adapted to rainy days.

We have been conducting a covert war against Citalia’s main taxi driver. He is uncouth and bossy and obnoxious. But the campaign is not going very well, because he is their only taxi driver at the harbour and we cannot get back to the harbour any other way. So we are now planning to withdraw our forces and leave Citalia to maintain their own customer relations standards.

SIENA – THE REALLY GOOD STUFF

DIET
Living as a committed fruitarian can be tough. Today for breakfast I am focussing on the “Relaxfirming Program”, which stresses full-cream yoghurt with fresh plums, avocado and red fruits that are rich in anti-oxidants . I’m leaving the “remise-en-forme program” till tomorrow with its plentiful waters, and its fibres, whole grains & kiwis. Yesterday the “relax-anti-age program”, I think I had slightly too many prunes and glasses of orange juice.
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GUMSHOE
We have to get into San Girolamo Benedictine closed convent and find out why the herb vendor exploded on the train. So first we went to the Fancy Dress shop (negozio modas masccheria). Christiane and Rose went to the front entrance in little black numbers. I disguised myself with a dirty old habit and climbed over the back wall of the orchard. Under her new name, Sister Rimedia Odora Salvia Rosmarina Tima, was there, but I had never seen remedies & cosmetics prepared that way before.
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Obviously the sisters make the olive oil and wine by the traditional organic methods and I was not surprised to find them treading the grapes and working the olive press lustily while small rivulets of juicy substance trickled out and formed large droplets that jiggled gently before falling into the waiting bed of the runnel to the vat. The weather was sunny and , the white heat of the sun refracted on the walls and flagstones of convent yard. The sisters had begun their work in heavy robes but, only naturally, they got a bit hot doing such physical activities and they needed to cool off as much as possible. They sang and whispered tenderly to each other as they went about their duties, sharing Vaseline and chianti. The most amusing aspect of the scene was that they did not know that I am not a woman like them. My habit covered an altogether different configuration.
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Meanwhile, at the front entrance, behind a small grill, a window slid open in the great wooden doors to reveal a spy hole. An automatic digital access device said “Entrare il suo passaporto”. On the gravel ground of the inside courtyard, just within sight, Christiane and Rosemary could see a dead parrot. So they cried out loudly “Il vostro parrotto e muerto” and an old crone hobbled out of the concierge gatehouse. She appeared to be deaf because they called out again “Il parrotto muerto”, but she did not react and they could not get in.
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SIENA
Siena is divided on the postcode gang system with 17 different “contrade” protection rackets running the neighbourhoods of the town. Every street & cafe table & aspect of life is marked as belonging to one gang or another. Very rootsy, but isn’t it taking tribalism a bit too far?

Monte Dei Pasche are everywhere - streets, cafes, events, social services, ambulances, nurseries, banks.
Monte Dei Pasche are everywhere – streets, cafes, events, social services, ambulances, nurseries, banks.

In the mid 1400s the Black Death killed two thirds of the population of 130,000. The old town is built on several steep hills and the result is many streets of steps and ramps, every short walk requires lots of ups and downs.2013-05-03 14.32.10
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DUOMO
This is a fine building but I understand they have to change the carpet every 3 weeks due to the numbers of people are walking round and choirs stopping to sing a few verses in the transept. Underneath the ground floor there are 4 levels of basement cellar, each about 6m high, called the crypta. In old times these were used for car parking, for storing groceries & weapons against the danger of riot and for partying. They got some famous decorators like Caravaggio in to paint the walls & ceilings and it’s all very nice.
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O but pity the poor tourist: sore feet, tired, limping, with a neck crick from gazing upward at domes & vaulted ceiling paintings, nursing arm ache from holding the tablet or ipad steady for filming, suffering arthritis in the Nikon finger, thirsty & parched, affected by brain ache from looking at too many Jesuses, shoulder ache from a heavy bag, wallet pain from the cost coca cola, and developing knee problems from too many stairs and steps.
In Jesus time there were many many lions in Tuscany. We have the evidence of this from the numerous statues of lions in all the churches, chapels, squares & public buildings. One PhD student from Oklahoma University counted 422 lion statues in Piazza del Duomo neighbourhood alone.
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MONTE DEI PASCHI
Monte Dei Paschi founded in 1472 is the Godfather bank with its HQ in one of the finest medieval palazzos of old Siena. They were looking for a popular sport to sponsor because soccer had not been invented and someone thought of horse-racing. So they hung out banners and gave the riders shirts with the bank’s logo and it all worked a treat and so was born the annual Palio in the Campo square, and loads of other sponsored civic services. Monte dei Paschi became “Babbo Monte,” or Daddy Monte, the city’s largest employer and greatest patron.
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Going back into the mists of time, it paid for charities and civic works. The charitable Monte dei Paschi Foundation, has long operated as a sort of shadow government here, as banks controlled by politicians provided loans and jobs in return for votes, and sponsored charities and civic organizations to buy good will. The chief financial officer of Siena’s soccer team, likened the system to the way the Roman emperors kept their citizens happy with bread and circuses.

In January, Beppe Grillo, delivered a tirade about Monte dei Paschi’s longtime connections to the Democratic Party, which for decades was the dominant political force in the city.

The bank’s real problems began in 2008, when it bought another bank, from Santander. The price of 9 billion euros ($11.9 billion) was regarded as wildly inflated, and to make matters worse, Monte dei Paschi paid cash. In order to pay this, Monte dei Paschi raised about a billion euros with securities that deliberately confused whether the repayment notes were bonds or shares. The Italian Central Bank thought Monte dei Paschi concealed certain features of the transaction, and said: “M.P.S. did not disclose to the Bank of Italy significant parts of the operation in question”.

Later, Monte dei Paschi got help to conceal losses of 730 million euros, from Deutsche Bank and Nomura. A real philanthropic organisation eh? The Italian government hastily arranged a bailout worth $5.1 billion.
Country view from Gimi
I read today in International Herald Tribune that 4% of Neanderthals in Europe survived and moved to Billiricay. This has been proved by DNA tests, and they practised cannibalism just like the early settlers on East coast of US.

GIMIGNANO

May Day 2013
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From ancient Etruscan and Hellebore times onwards, centurions going home to Rome, businessmen on their way there from France, and pilgrims, used to take the old road through the hamlet of Pugiano in the valley of the Riguardi river, rather than taking the autostrada which was risky and had terrible traffic jams. The enterprising Mayor of this little village, made a tidy sum selling them Gauloises & Gitanes, and offering duty-free French perfume and French-style hotels. So the route became known as “The Via Francigena” and the village grew wealthy.
San Gimi 1
Shard
Gimi was bishop of Modena and, by making a miraculous apparition on the walls of the small town, he helped the residents fight off the hordes of barbarians who were coming as day-trippers with no refinement. Later he became a martyr but no one quite remembers why, so they made him a saint and renamed the village after him.
Corner view
Then the villagers all got the contagious medieval virus of building fancy tall towers to enjoy the views and they blew all the profits from their tourism industry ventures on erecting 223 towers. Everyone in Gimignano had a tower, but no-one was allowed to build higher than the mayor’s town hall tower of 1311 at 54m above ground , which still stands to this day along with 17 others.
Country view from Gimi

In this one small burg: Basilica Santa Naria Assunta, Chiesa San Lorenzo Ponte, Chiesa San Bartolo, Chiesa San Agostinho, Chiesa San Al Tempio, convent of Santa Chiara and paintings by every great artist of the 1200’s & 1300’s. There were problems between the Ardinghelli Guelphs and the Salvucci Ghibellines and in 1348 the Black Death killed 8,000 people out of a population of 13,000. This brought the town down and under the domination of Firenze.
Men on bench

There are many wild boar in the cafes & restaurants & tourist shops & gelaterias of this area, and quite a few in the woods around Toscana. There are berries and truffles, but you need a dog or a boar to catch them. The trouble is that the boars eat the truffles and the dogs eat the berries. This part of Toscana has the best life-style in all of Italy.

The countryside is a dream panorama and Christiane says that she understands why the British aristocracy love it. This must be where Berlusconi brought Blair, wearing that ridiculous skull-covering bandana.

We are in San Paolo which is a 17 star Wellness spa hote,l with swimming pools and tennis court and some very rude and expensive treatments indeed like passionfruit & crème fraiche wrap and “lover’s dream”, which can only be done in a private room with courgettes & mint yoghurt (treatment list price 200 Euros). We had one free session and spent all afternoon in the pools, on the bubble slabs and in the Hamam showers, the Aroma Booths, and Jacuzzis and Waterfalls and Saunas and Footbaths and Ice Douches. My skin is now a smooth & silky delight to the senses.

There is not much progress with the investigation, but the herbal remedies & essences vendor who exploded on the train has been discharged from hospital and we plan to interview her. The problem is that she has now sought refuge in the San Girolamo convent which is a closed order institution – no woman ever emerges from there after being admitted. [We may need daring unorthodox tactics.] There is still a dragnet out to find us, since Lucca, but they take a caffe break around 11.00am and that’s precisely when we slip through their grasp.

4 Towers
The gardens and views are wonderful, just like Antonio Carlucccio and his mate promised on tele in “Two greedy Italians”.
Corner view
We met two research chemists who are trying to find a pill which prevents flu in animals, but I think it dropped down the back of the sofa and now they can’t find it.
Doorways

Rose & Kiki in street
The fashion for cut-off jeans is big this year and jeans deliberately frayed at the knees are selling well; but the biggest trend of all is pre-dirtied Converse basketball pumps. They are daubed in mud and come in various colours, and command top dollar in the fashionista boutiques.
Diplomatic district

<a There is balsamic vinegar from Modena, and a T-bone steak called Fioren Tina, which looks very enticing, but Tina couldn’t possibly eat one on her own: it is so huge that it needs two serving staff to carry it in and another to slice it off the bone. Anyway, we can’t afford one. There is ragu of wild boar, which is less gamey than you might think. There is Schiacciata pudding with eggy custard and icing sugar dusting and a drop of Limoncello in the cornflour sponge, really toothsome.href=”https://markneuman.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/bridges-in-mist.jpg”&gt;Bridges in mist

Berchielli - Copy

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