Saturday, April 29, 2006

i've heard it all before

Scotty rang. His boyfriend was away for the week and he was lonely. I could hear in his voice he'd been drinking. We chatted for a while and I told him I was going to see a play on Thursday afternoon and I'd love him to come along. The play was starting at 2pm so if he could wait until after then to start drinking it'd be a great way for us to spend time together. I told him if he got drunk before the play I wasn't interested in seeing him. He made a note...

Thursday arrived and I caught the bus over to Glebe. When I got there at midday Scotty was sitting up in bed drinking a glass of beer. My heart sank. It obviously wasn't his first for the day. "Why are you drinking?" was something I remember asking him. In my despair I felt like crying. I showed him the note he had left for himself, which stated the day and time of the play and name of the playwright as well as two words writ large: NO DRINK. I asked him when is he going to get his shit together and start caring about himself and our friendship. I asked him how far he was prepared to go before he gets help. I was pretty calm and reasonable about it. I've had plenty of practice, so it wasn't like I was badgering him. I soon realised it was pointless saying anything reasonable to him while he's drunk. He claimed he was still coming to see the play, but I told him he wasn't coming with me. For a moment I thought he might become aggressive. Once again I see nothing much has changed in the whole time I've known him, except I'm no longer his boyfriend.

I left him in Glebe and walked to the theatre. I wondered what gives me the right to tell him he can't come to the theatre. He insisted he was okay, but despite this I didn't want him with me. I wasn't sure just how pissed he was, but he stank of alcohol, he could be unpredictable and I'd seen him drink the remaining mouthfulls of his beer while I was there so I knew he was messy enough.

When I got to the theatre I was pissed off because I realised the small cast included Scotty's cousin. It would've been a great chance for him to see her, she's a brilliant actress who deservedly received a standing ovation at the end of the performance. What a shame Scotty missed it. He rang me later that night and I told him what he'd missed. He called me a cunt and a prick (I've heard it all before) and then he calmed down and became reasonable again, but then, fortunately, the battery on his phone ran out and he was disconnected

coincidence file > madonna

I was in bed trying to think of the first few words to a Madonna song, La Isla Bonita (don't ask me why - I've got no idea), but all I could come up with was "Last night I dreamt of..." and that was as far as I got. When I walked into the post office the following afternoon I heard the song playing on the radio and although I missed the vital lyrics it reminded me to do a search on the internet and I discovered "San Pedro". In my head, all I'd been able to hear were words to a satirical version, which included "...young girl with eyes like potatoes..." (once again, don't ask).

coincidence file > vi greenhalf

When I was a kid there was a TV presenter called Vi Greenhalf who popped up on various talk shows, including one of her own - Vi's Pad (the title still makes me and some of my friends laugh). Vi died a few years ago and I've always thought she never received the recognition she deserved. She was a unique character and a pioneer of TV in this country, yet her passing went without much comment. I'm not sure why she popped into my head, but I was thinking about her as I wandered up to Paddington post office on Monday. I picked up a 1970s TV magazine I'd won on eBay and was astonished to find a double page spread featuring Vi and her plush new home in Melbourne's Toorak

coincidence file > karen black

While Cliff was visiting from Melbourne we watched Robert Altman's Nashville, a film we both love. Karen Black, an actress we also love, features in it as Connie White. It was seeing Karen Black that got Cliff thinking about a film she had made with Hitchcock (his final film). The name eluded Cliff even up to the time of his departure, so I was pleasantly surprised later that day to discover in the TV guide a listing for Family Plot - the very film he'd been trying to recall...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

farewell to adventures in TV land (for now)

Cliff returned to Melbourne on Monday afternoon, but not before we crammed some more TV adventures in. We caught a taxi to the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo and wandered around the 'On the Box' exhibition, which celebrates 50 years of TV in Australia. His plane left at 1 o'clock and we didn't get to the museum 'til 10:30 so we had limited time, but we managed to see a lot of stuff, including footage from some of our favourite treasures of the past - Number 96, The Box, Class of '74, The Young Doctors and Prisoner. There's plenty more classic footage there too. So if you find there's nothing good on the telly why don't you check out the exhibition and see how fabulous TV used to be

Rolf save the Queen

Despite being born in Pommyland I really have no interest in the Royal family (especially now the Queen Mum's no longer around. I mean, who can resist a Royal who enjoys a pint and a game of pool?), but for some reason I found myself sitting down on Sunday night to watch Rolf Harris Paints the Queen or something like that. I wasn't alone. Cliff, who was feeling just as delicate as I was from our big night out, joined me in front of the telly as did my housemate Tom and his friend Brett. Maybe it's a gay thing. I spoke to other gay friends later who had also been watching. The thing that caught my interest was an ad for the show a few daze before. It dawned on me that I'd never seen Her Maj in such an informal atmosphere and I was curious to learn what she might really be like.

Rolf had two sessions where "Lilibet" sat for him as he painted and made small talk. During the second session you could really feel her warming to him (despite her being sick with a cold) and there was an intriguing connection - years before, Rolf's grandfather had painted a portrait of the Queen's grandfather. The other intriguing thing is the four of us watching the show sat there almost in silence, whereas beforehand we'd been convivial and raucous with quips flying thick n fast. When it was all over I'm surprised we didn't get up and stand to attention just like we used to back in Primary School

books, beer, a boogie n a bonk

So anyway, after our big night in front of the telly Cliff and I made plans to check out some of what Sydney has to offer. We headed for Circular Quay, but got as far as Pitt Street Mall. A visit to a music store looking at CDs of Dolly Parton, Olivia Newton-John and Donna Summer was followed by a long stint in a book store. Cliff recommended some of his favourites (David Sedaris, WG Sebald and Joseph Roth), which I've added to my list and then we found a new book on 50 years of Australian Television. We plonked ourselves down side by side in comfy chairs and stayed there for the next hour or two. When we'd finally finished pointing out all the mistakes in the TV book (and complaining about the dodgy photos) we'd run out of time to do anything else. We made our way back to my place and picked up where we left off the night before with plenty of beer and more episodes of Blankety Blanks.

Then it was off to Palms, my favourite venue on Oxford Street. Cliff hadn't been to Palms before and I knew he'd love it. It's been around for many years apparently, though I only discovered it maybe three years ago. They play great music, it attracts a friendly crowd and it's close to home. We got stuck into beer, then vodka then who knows what and we danced with glee to Dolly (Peace Train AND 9 to 5) and Olivia (Xanadu), but no Donna Summer. Somewhere along the line I met Jon. When we all got booted out of Palms at 3am we headed to one of the other bars on Oxford Street, but didn't last long. I gave Cliff the key to my place, said cheerio and went to Jon's house in Alexandria

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

get ready to match the stars

On Friday afternoon I came home from work to find Cliff sitting in my room watching TV. He'd arrived from Melbourne only 20 minutes before I got home and I was pleased to see him. I had a gammy head from the night before so I was just as pleased when he offered me a fast working, pain relieving pill. Cliff and I have known each other since we were in our 20s. We met in the early daze of The Lounge in Melbourne's Swanston Street and as well as spending many nights drinking and dancing until the sun came up we fooled around under the covers a couple of times too, but more importantly we've remained friends sharing similar interests and lots of laughs. For a while he shared this house with me and others when he moved to Sydney in 2000. I'd been in Sydney for a few months and had just moved into this house when Cliff rang to say he was moving up here for work and needed somewhere to stay. It was good timing because we had a room available. He's since gone back to Melbourne, but we keep in touch and catch up from time to time when I get back to Melbourne. In a typical twist of degrees of separation his partner has been friends for a long time with the two sisters I once lived with in Melbourne. And that's just for starters. Over the years our lives have become curiously entangled...

One of the things Cliff and I share is a love of pop culture and Aussie Film n Television in particular, so it wasn't long before we were settling in for a night in front of the telly watching old episodes of Graham Kennedy's Blankety Blanks on dvd and drinking beer. This popular game show originally screened in 1977-78 on the 0/10 Network. For a generation of kids who hadn't grown up watching Kennedy on IMT this show introduced us to the outrageous antics of The King as well as all those fabulous panellists who appeared with him on our screens at 7 o'clock each weeknight. Rediscovering the talented Kennedy and his band of celebrities with their gags, quips and answers loaded with double entendre proved just how timeless Blankety Blanks is (apart from the contestants in their '70s fashions). What we came to understand is that the timelessness of it all is tied up with the banter between Kennedy and those stalwart panellists whose backgrounds were steeped in vaudeville and live theatre.

Cliff and I agreed our ultimate panel of stars would be made up of Noel Ferrier, Noeline Brown, Ugly Dave Gray, Carol Raye, Stuart Wagstaff and Barry Creyton - a combination which never actually appeared together in any one episode. We sat watching, marvelling at how quick-witted these celebrities were and how much fun they were having. There was an easy rapport between them and Graham and it's interesting to note that Kennedy handpicked all of the panellists. As well as the more established celebrity panellists Graham also invited other up and coming performers onto the show, such as Abigail, Belinda Giblin, Peita Toppano, Mark Holden, Delvene Delaney, Jon English and John Paul Young. There was a wonderful mix of old and new stars.

But watching these episodes was also tinged with sadness. It showed us just how many of our old showbiz troupers - Dawn Lake, Bobby Limb, Tommy Hanlon jnr, Peggy Toppano, Gloria Dawn and June Salter - along with Noel Ferrier and Graham Kennedy are no longer here to entertain us. We tried to come up with a group of panellists who would have the same impact today and we couldn't do it. It would be just as hard to find a decent compere. Channel 9 tried to bring the show back at one stage with Daryl Somers as host and it just didn't work (I'm not surprised).

After we'd had our fix of Graham Kennedy's Blankety Blanks we had no choice but to watch one of the dvd's special features, All At Sea, described on the box as "a saucy comedy treat from the vaults...". Now that deserves a whole post of its own

Bravo Amanda

I've been busy having fun since Thursday night when I was offered - and half heartedly accepted - a free ticket to the opening night of a new show. I met Ernie, my date, at Taylor Square and we shared a taxi to that awful place where people get blinded by dazzling lights and the chance of winning a fortune (whilst their kids are locked in the car). I didn't really know what to expect, but I always have fun when I'm in Ernie's company so I had nothing to lose. The show (and group) is called Bravo and I guess it's basically jumping on the Il Divo bandwagon - handsome guys singing new versions of popular songs. Ian Stenlake, Scott Irwin and James Miller make up the trio accompanied by a great mini orchestra complete with string section.

We arrived in time to order a beer before the show and then met up with Ewan and Gary. Ewan works in the world of Theatre and had organised our tickets. Gary works in Television and often appears as Ewan's handbag. Being opening night I was scanning the foyer to see who was there. Rachel Beck was an early arrival - she just happens to be married to Ian Stenlake, but apart from her and Pippa Grandison (E Street, Muriel's Wedding) I didn't notice any other familiar faces.

The bell rang, advising patrons the show would soon be starting, so we made our way inside and found the little table reserved for the four of us. This is when I began to think it could be a better night than anticipated. The table wasn't too far from the stage and more importantly it was packed with booze - beer, wine and champers on ice. And it was all free.

The show got underway and I was mostly impressed by the range of songs - a few classics such as Unchained Melody and some surprises like Howzat (the Sherbet song) and Only You (Yazoo). If you don't know any of these songs it's because you weren't around in the '70s and early '80s and all I can tell you is, they were big in their day. There was a Simon & Garfunkle medley, which was a crowd pleaser, though Ernie couldn't understand why Mrs Robinson had been omitted, then at some stage Bravo sang a version of Cool Change (Little River Band), which was one of my favourites throughout the night (along with Only You).

Bulldog-like broadcaster Alan Jones was sitting nearby and I had some evil thoughts when I saw him get up during the show to go to the loo. With the knowledge of him being caught some years ago loitering in a public toilet in England I considered following him into the men's room and seeing what happens next. Perhaps I could've gone to the tabloids the next day with a juicy story. It's a good thing I believe there's no such thing as a missed opportunity...

The first half of the show was quick n slick with room for improvement - it was their first night - but the interval was confirmation that I had done the right thing when I'd accepted Ernie's invitation. When the lights came up I could see who else had come along to enjoy the night. There was Tom Burlinson, Peter Cousens and his wife Suzanne Roylance, an actor from Home & Away and sexy Simon Burke who was seated down the front not far from the incomparable Amanda Muggleton. A writer friend, Marcus, came over to say hello at interval and he was as excited as me to discover Amanda was in the audience. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Prisoner, the Aussie soap set inside a women's prison. Amanda made a huge impact in the early daze of the cult soapie as tarty Chrissie Latham. She went on to establish herself as one of this country's most formidable talents with roles on stage in Steaming, Shirley Valentine and Master Class (to name a few) and another great TV performance as Connie Ryan in Richmond Hill.

Marcus, who grew up watching as much television as me, was making cracks about Chrissie Latham having escaped from Barnhurst - another fictitious women's prison from Prisoner - when Ewan decided to bring Amanda over to our table to say hello. She was introduced to Marcus and Gary and greeted Ernie who she knows through mutual friends. When she was introduced to me she said she remembered meeting me many months ago at the Stables Theatre in Darlinghurst. This really made my night. I've admired her since first discovering her in Prisoner and apart from other stage work I saw her in Steaming more than once.

Amanda and I have actually met a few times. The first time was many years ago in Melbourne when she was performing in Shirley Valentine. After her performance that night (she received a standing ovation) I sat spellbound with friends in her dressingroom as she regaled us with story after story. She's an absolute delight. As we said our goodbyes I sheepishly asked her if she'd mind signing my programme. She was more than happy to oblige and wrote something I'll always cherish: "Never live a little life". It's something I sometimes lose track of, but it's still something I try to live by.

The second half of the Bravo show was entertaining, as was the party afterwards. Ernie, Gary and I were three of the last to leave (nothing unusual) and then Ernie and I ended up at the Oxford Hotel chewing the fat and drinking 'til about 2AM. The night turned out to be one of those occasions where despite initial misgivings I made the effort to get out of the house and had a ball

Thursday, April 20, 2006

fly away home

When I was 3 1/2 years old my parents packed up the family home in England and along with my older brother, younger sister and me (as well as seven suitcases) flew off to Australia. It's because of this new beginning that I'm able to distinguish between certain events that happened at an early age. I once started writing a list of things I remembered of my life in England and it didn't take long to fill a page. Try it. Once you start recalling things you dredge up other elusive memories...

One thing I clearly remember from those daze when I spoke with a Pommy accent is a time at my grandparents' house. I was enthralled as my Gramp magically manoeuvred a little wooden ladybird around on a piece of paper. I don't think I'm breaking a code of secrecy by revealing it was all done with magnets - a magnet concealed underneath the sheet of paper was connected to a magnet on the base of the ladybird, which darted around on the top side of the paper. At that young age it had me mesmerised. I guess I remember this trick because throughout my life whenever I've seen a ladybird I've pretty much always thought back to that time, even if subconsciously.

After my Gramp's death some years ago, if I ever saw a ladybird I'd think of him. In fact I saw it as a sign that he was letting me know he was still around, even though I couldn't see him. So on my way home today as I was sitting in the bus travelling from Pyrmont back to the city I was pleasantly surprised to see a little ladybird on the window beside me. I don't know how it got there, but it was a lovely reminder of a person and moment from my past. What's one of your earliest memories?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

well well's Bernard Fanning

I'm a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to a lot of things. Music for instance. There was a time in my life when I could tell you all the top 40 songs and artists in the charts, but those daze are long gone.

One Saturday night in November last year I switched on the telly around midnight and there on the ABC music video show Rage was Sweet Hitch Hiker by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Now Rage is one of those shows where you sort of get sucked in to watching - if you don't like one song you keep watching because it might be a different story in a few minutes when the next song comes on. Well this particular night I enjoyed song after song after song. After CCR came Kenny & Dolly with Islands in the Stream then Mazzy Star with Fade into You, Kate Bush with Wuthering Heights. And plenty more. Even Peter Allen popped up shaking his maracas (and his arse) as he sang I Go To Rio somewhere in amongst Queen, the Bee Gees, Prince and David Bowie.

The tunes kept coming - from KISS, Otis Redding, Bill Withers, Bob Marley, DEVO, Human League, George Harrison, the Beatles and Crowded House. Two hours after tuning in I was still watching. The guest programmer had chosen well. Some time just after 2am he introduced a new song/video. It was Wish You Well by Bernard Fanning. Now as I said, I'm a bit of a late bloomer. I know hardly anything about the group Powderfinger even though I take it they've been around for 10 years. I've heard some of their songs, but that's about it. Most people will know Bernard Fanning is the lead singer of Powderfinger. What most people may not know is Bernard Fanning was the guest programmer on Rage that night and I think I'm in love

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Egg Hunt

Easter's a strange time of year for me. I got to thinking about how it's impacted on my life up 'til now. I went all the way back to my first memory of Easter, which just happens to be in Grade Prep at Primary School. I'm talking 1971. Mrs Hunt's class. I would've been five years old. We all made small baskets by cutting and gluing square pieces of coloured paper. I imagine we lined the bases with cotton wool and used pipe cleaners for handles. Then the class went outside into the yard to play a game or something. I don't recall exactly what we did, but I know it was a diversion because when we got back into the classroom our baskets were filled with two or three tiny chocolate eggs and a fluffy yellow chick.

It's great to have such a wonderful first memory of Easter because in later years I came to realise that, for me, this time of year often coincided with bouts of depression. Don't ask me why. It's not like I timed it that way, but sure enough, if I go back to my darkest daze, they seem to be inexplicably linked with Easter...

It's not all doom n gloom though. I remember one time - before the days of being hounded by the black dog - when I shared a house with two sisters in St Kilda. The three of us loved to throw a party, any excuse would do and all our friends would join in. One particular night a group of us went mental after drinking who knows what (topped off by shots of sambucca with the requisite coffee beans). With music blaring we ran around the house yelling and screaming, "Egg hunt, egg hunt" and throwing little chocolate eggs around. The sisters had been given some 'Elegant Rabbits' as an Easter treat, but in the frenzy (and without the sisters' knowledge) they'd been smashed, their chocolate carcasses left shattered in the bathtub with large plastic rats (leftovers from a Halloween party) strategically placed so as to look like they were feasting on the rabbits. Somewhere during the mayhem real chook eggs were smashed against the kitchen wall just above the heads of our guests - someone always goes too far (yes, I'm afraid I'm guilty) and one of us (I swear it wasn't me) wrote in thick black texta on one of the doors: 'Egg Cunt'

Wishing you all a peaceful Easter

Saturday, April 15, 2006

coincidence file > amy

I woke around 3:15 this morning and switched on the telly. Channel 9 was screening Amy, the 1998 Australian film directed by Nadia Tass and starring Rachel Griffiths. I have a love affair with Australian films, which began when I was a kid. Back then it was all about seeing my favourite actors from the soapies popping up in different roles. This memory came back to me as I sat in bed watching Amy for the first time. There was a strong contingent of actors who, amongst other credits, had all appeared in Prisoner: Janet Andrewartha (Reb), Mary Ward (Mum), Frank Gallacher (Mr Bentley) and Kerry Armstrong (Lynn). Joining them was a host of other performers I knew from various roles: Ben Mendelsohn, Susie Porter, Malcolm Kennard, Torquil Neilson, Jan Friedl and William Zappa. A wonderful ensemble.

But the thing that really caught my attention at 1/4 past 3 this morning was the scene where Zac (Jeremy Trigatti) arrives at Amy's (Alana De Roma) house with his home made hubcap percussion instrument. He begins to sing and Amy joins in. The song is Stand By Your Man

Friday, April 14, 2006

Still Standing

I was washing the dishes earlier and listening to a CD I hadn't played in a while - Lyle Lovett & His Large Band. Track number 8 is Stand By Your Man, the song originally made famous by Tammy Wynette. I first heard Lovett's heartfelt version when I saw the movie The Crying Game. Hearing it again today got me thinking about loyalty and love and one of my ex-boyfriends, Scotty. I met Scotty at the end of 2001 in the infamous Judgement Bar at Taylor Square's Courthouse Hotel, a one time favourite watering hole of mine here in Sydney. Scotty came up to me and my drinking companion and asked if either of us would buy him a drink. I suggested he buy me one instead. My drinking companion, Carole, suggested he go away and leave us alone. But I was intrigued (and a lil bit pissed) and I wanted him to stick around. He joined us for a drink or two before Carole got fed up and went home. Moments after Carole's departure Scotty and I stumbled arm in arm up the road back to my place. At one point we crashed to the footpath with me grazing my hands, but up we got and off we stumbled some more until we eventually found we'd stumbled into a relationship.

From the beginning it was easy to be with Scotty. There was an instant familiarity and I felt comfortable having him around. Physically I didn't think he was 'my type' at first, but the sex was fun and we'd remembered each other's names that first morning after our drunken night. Scotty was also honest with me from the start. He told me he was an alcoholic. Fine by me. I wasn't about to judge him. At least he could admit he had a battle with the demon drink and I didn't see any problems. I guess I never really understood. I was also lonely. I'd moved to Sydney from Melbourne and after being here 18 months I was ready to share my life with someone I cared about, someone I loved.

He moved into my place maybe three months after we met. I had a spare room in my share house and it seemed like a good idea at the time. We had separate bedrooms if we needed space and we had company the rest of the time. He got a job and went to AA.

I actually had a theory that declaring oneself to be "an alcoholic" was a bit of a cop out. It meant you could hide behind the label and not actually deal with the problem. I believed the problem was not the drinking, but whatever caused the drinking in the first place. And trying to figure that bit out was no easy task. Well, for me it was, it all went back to childhood, but for Scotty, it wasn’t, even though he’d been a regular member of AA and had been in rehab twice before I met him. I’ve always been a happy drunk. If I drink to excess I laugh and dance and have a good time. It was different for Scotty. He could laugh and dance for a while, but then he’d turn black and ugly and unreasonable and irrational. And he'd disappear.

I went to a couple of AA meetings with him to try and understand his alcoholism better. I also attended an Al-Anon meeting, a support group for friends and family of alcoholics. That was a mind-altering experience. I felt so empowered after just one meeting where I met people who had been through similar experiences to me that I was scared to go back. It’s ridiculous, but I was on such a high after that Al-Anon meeting I knew that I would leave Scotty if I went to another one. I could’ve found the strength to leave my man, but I decided to stand by him.

I stood by him all those nights he was just having one bottle of beer and when that ran out he’d sneak off to the pub and buy more and the more he drank the more morose he became, the more boorish he got and the more aggressive he became. I stood by him all those mornings when I woke up and he’d disappeared. At first I’d go looking for him all over town – the pubs, the beats, the streets – getting angrier and angrier. What if he’s lying in a gutter somewhere, what if he’s been hurt, what if he’s late for work, what if he’s in someone else’s bed. I didn’t know how to leave him to his own devices and wait until he came home, which he always did when the beer money ran out.

I stood by him because in between those drinking bouts he was an angel. My friends and family couldn’t believe he was an abusive drunk. They’d seen him sober and gentle. He was artistic, funny, intelligent, handsome and loving. But it was always up and down, good and bad, sober and pissed. It got to the point where he was so pissed one night he hit me. I called the cops. They warned him. I didn’t press charges. I stood by my man. It’s true what people say about the great sex you have when making up after a fight. And of course he was sorry. He'd never hit me again.

But he did hit me again. Only this time I hit back. I’d never hit anyone in my life before and I was surprised how much force I had. I’d been drinking too and I’d had enough. The cops were called. He disappeared. They found him. I pressed charges. I let him come back home. The next morning I couldn’t believe what I had done. His face was swollen. I felt ashamed for hurting him. How did we ever get to this point? We broke up. He moved out, got into rehab again.

We continued having sex for about a year after we broke up. Even after he'd met someone else. When that relationship ended he met someone else again. When his current boyfriend took him to court I stood by him once again and went along to offer him some moral support. I know I made the right decision to end our relationship. We have rules now. He still drinks, but doesn’t come to visit me if he’s drunk. He hasn’t been here for a while. We no longer have sex with each other. Sometimes we go swimming or to galleries, but we mostly speak on the phone. In fact I called him earlier today to wish him happy birthday. Sometimes I'm surprised he's still standing

catch my drift

drift/ n. 1. a driving movement or force; impulse; impetus; pressure. 2. the course of anything; tendency; aim: the drift of an argument. 3. to be carried along by currents of water or air, or by the force of circumstances. 4. to wander aimlessly

[with thanks to the Macquarie Encyclopedic Dictionary]

There are actually a total of 12 meanings listed in the dictionary for the word "drift" - the four I've chosen to include here are the ones that seem most relevant to this blog and what I might discover as I drift along the road to blogdom. Please join me...
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