Balloch to Clydebank Half Marathon 2022 (Andrew)

The Balloch to Clydebank half marathon was one of Scotland’s least scenic races. Previously it started in Balloch; ran through the worst parts of Renton and Vale of Leven; popped into Dumbarton before running along the side of the A82; passed the betting shops of Bowling and Kilpatrick; and through an industrial estate in Clydebank before finishing at the bins of the Clydebank shopping centre.

Over the years it has improved. It moved the start to Loch Lomond, it swapped Renton and Vale of Leven for the Dumbarton canal but it always finished at the bins. Until this year. Or, technically, until 2020 as this was the postponed 2020 race which had been cancelled due to the pandemic. Instead, for the first time, the race finished beside one of the Clyde cranes in a newly re-developed area on the banks of the Clyde. We barely even passed a betting shop. A big change.

Unfortunately, while the race was improved, my time had not. I made two mistakes with this race. The first was to turn up at the start line in the wrong shoes. I had my trainers in the car but I forgot to change into them when I collected my race number in Clydebank and jumped on a bus provided by the organisers to get to the start line. Instead of running in nicely cushioned trainers I had to run in trainers with all the bounce of a brick wall.

Secondly, to make the race even harder, I was running after bruising my ribs two days before. Every time I swung my arms, my chest complained. Every time I took a step, my chest complained. Ouch.

Luckily, the new route is straightforward and very flat for most of the race so I was able to settle into a slow rhythm and get round without any yelps of pain.

The race normally takes place in March but was moved to September as it has been cancelled a number of times due to bad weather in early Spring, including one year when it was snowing. The change of date meant there were fewer people running so, if you’re thinking of a race late in the season, then do think of this one. It’s a great race, well organised, and it’s doesn’t end at a bin (any more)!

Plymouth to Dakar in a Car Bought For £100 – Part 8 of 8 (Andrew)

In 2004 a friend and I tried to to drive from Plymouth to Dakar in a car bought for £100. In August 2022, Livejournal sent me an email to congratulate me on my 18 anniversary of starting a journal with them. When I checked the link I discovered they still had all my old online journal (not called a blog then!) entries. I thought would be fun to publish them again.

18 December 2004Team Smokey Bandit in ruin/Rouan…

Despite emergency repairs on the side of a french motorway, our car is experiancing major transmission problems. It and us may not be going much further as both the Chrysler garage in Rouan and our very helpful contact at Chrysler in London are doubtful that our automatic gearbox will survive for much longer.

We are discussing options and will let you know what happens next.

A major thank you to Team Leak who stuck by us last night and made sure that our car reached Rouan.

19 December 2004The end of the road?

Beauty, our Chrysler Town and Country, was officially pronounced dead late on saturday. She has now been scrapped. We can’t explain how gutted we feel to lose her – we’ve been planning for this for more than 6 months, and to think that this could be the end of the road is incredibly hard to take.

We knew, before we even bought the car, that there was one risk we could not mitigate – Beauty was an automatic, and while we were confident that we could fix anything else that went wrong with her, we knew that if the automatic transmission went there was next to nothing that could be done. And there was nothing either we, or the guys at Chrysler could do in advance to protect against it. The gamble we took was that it would hold. Our luck ended on the side of a miserable french motorway late at night.

So what now? Well, we’ve made our way back to Paris. Andrew is going to stay in Paris for the time being, while Gav is making his way back to London, to see whether or not we can get a new car and start again – we’re only 3 days behind everyone else, so it’s not unrealistic that we could catch up. The trouble is actually likely to be the paperwork – it took us months to put all the insurance, visas, ownership and export documents in place, to try and turn all of that around in a day may just be asking too much. We’re hopeful, but at the same time it’s a tall order.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us so far – we’ll try not to let you down. Even if we can’t get back on the road to Dakar, we’ll do something else, so keep checking back to see what happens.

27 December 2004Fitness freaks

We’re getting over the disappointment of not being able to complete the Plymouth – Dakar challenge by throwing ourselves into our new challenge – the Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative’s New Year’s Day Triathlon.

It’s fair to say that in the run up to the start of the Rally our preparations didn’t allow us much time for anything – including going to the gym. No swimming. No cycling. No running. Fortunately we did have time for a fair amount of Christmas eating and drinking though.

So from the time we got back and got accepted for the triathlon we have just 10 days to get ourselves fit enough to take part in the triathlon – swimming 500 metres, cycling 20 kilometres then running 5 kilometres. With no stopping in between. We get out of the water, jump on our bikes. We get off our bikes and start running straight away.

So there were no seconds of christmas dinner (well, ok, a very small plate of seconds). We can’t have too much to drink on new year’s eve.

The big question of course is – who is going to win? The Bandit has more triathlon experience, and its fair to say is the better swimmer. However Arbroath Smokey is a pretty good runner, competing in marathons and half marathons on a regular basis. We reckon it’s going to be a pretty close thing – keep following us for training updates, and the all important results!

[2022 Comment – This was the final report and the first time I’d ever though of taking part in a triathlon. But it would be a few years later before I actually entered my first race as I couldn’t get through to Edinburgh to take part as I didn’t have a car and I hadn’t realised that trains didn’t run on New Year’s Day. D’oh!]

The Sound of Football: Chelsea (Andrew)

Every fortnight we cover the best and worst football songs from every club in the UK from our book ‘The Sound Of Football: Every Club, Every Song’. You can buy it here


Nickname: The Blues

Ground: Stamford Bridge

Stadium Capacity: 41,837

Songs: Zigger Zagger/One Man Went To Mow

No one bans vegetables – not when you need five a day for healthy eating. Yet, that’s precisely what happened when Chelsea played Sparta Prague in the Champions League in 2012/13.

Before the game, the UK government warned Chelsea supporters that they could not bring drinks, poles, flares, weapons or CELERY into Sparta Prague’s stadium. This was not a random decision. Celery had been thrown at Stamford Bridge for many years, accompanied by a saucy chant. But, in 2007, Chelsea banned it after the Football Association launched an investigation following several instances of celery being thrown on the pitch. Five years later, the UK government had no choice but to follow the FA’s lead when it issued instructions to Chelsea’s travelling support. Celery was banned.

While no one knows precisely how the celery throwing started, most people suspect just one man: legendary Chelsea supporter Micky Greenaway.

I have found more vocal support away from home because there is not the atmosphere at the Bridge for shouting for the Blues. If everyone capable of cheering would shout powerfully at every home game (especially early on in the game), then Chelsea will know they have supporters on the terraces, and Chelsea would be inspired by such support” Greenaway writing in the match programme for Chelsea’s match with Workington, December 1964. 

Micky Greenaway was born in the shed. Not literally. That would make him Jesus. But ‘The Shed’: Chelsea’s south stand and home to its hardcore supporters. He was a larger than life character, often dressed in pinstripes while carrying a briefcase, even though he was not a businessman.

He was born just a few streets from Stamford Bridge in 1945, brought up by a Chelsea loving stepfather, and made the club’s mascot when just nine years old. By the time he was a man, he was a devoted fan, and all through the 60s, 70s and 80s, he would lead the Chelsea fans in song. When the fans were quiet, he would sing even louder to encourage them to join in.

Greenaway even encouraged supporters to join together in the Fulham Road Stand at Stamford Bridge. He christened it the Tram Shed, now known as just the Shed so that they could rival the atmosphere created by Liverpool’s fans in The Kop at Anfield.

Greenaway started many of the songs Chelsea sing today in the Shed, including the ‘Zigger Zagger’, derived from the ‘oggie, oggie, oggie’ chant.

In his booming voice, he would bark out the call, and the crowd would reply:

Zigger zagger, zigger zagger, (oi, oi, oi,)

Zigger zagger, zigger zagger, (oi, oi, oi,)

Zigger, (oi,)

Zagger, (oi,)

Zigger zagger, zigger zagger, (oi, oi, oi!)

(Source: fan chant)

Greenaway also led supporters in singing ‘One Man Went To Mow’. At first, it was a joke, a tape he brought to soundtrack a pre-season tour of Sweden in 1981. For a laugh, the fans on tour started singing along whenever the tape was played. They sang it again for Chelsea’s pre-season game against Exeter when they returned home to remind them of the Swedish tour. Other fans picked it up, and by the end of the season, it was heard at home games. When Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012, 60,000 fans sang along to the club’s unofficial anthem.

Micky Greenaway died in 1999. The 90s were not kind to him. He was named in the News Of The World as leader of a Chelsea firm (gang) and accused of organising riots. Although many say he was not involved, the club banned him from Stamford Bridge, he lost his job and never worked again.

It was a devastating blow for a man who once wrote to the club to implore fans not to swear during games.

I wish to reply on behalf of the ‘Shed’ regarding all the things that have been said in the press recently about Chelsea supporters. First, let me say that I personally have made persistent attempts to curb the bad language that has been used at various matches, and there is now a crowd of us who will stamp this out with our own methods. There will be no need to persist with the use of Special Branch detectives in plain clothes mingling with the crowd,” Greenaway wrote in the club programme in October 1966.

Greenaway never saw the club he loved transformed by Russian billions. He never saw them lift the Premiership trophy or find success in the Champions League. Perhaps he wouldn’t recognise the club Chelsea has become. A club that once was feared but now bans celery. Greenaway died penniless and alone in a bedsit in Catford; buried today in a pauper’s grave, forgotten by most but remembered by all in voice and song.

Buy the Sound of Football from Amazon.

Plymouth to Dakar in a Car Bought For £100 – Part 7 of 8 (Andrew)

In 2004 a friend and I tried to to drive from Plymouth to Dakar in a car bought for £100. In August 2022, Livejournal sent me an email to congratulate me on my 18 anniversary of starting a journal with them. When I checked the link I discovered they still had all my old online journal (not called a blog then!) entries. I thought would be fun to publish them again.

16 December 2004An impending sense of … something

What is this funny butterfly feeling in my stomach? Is it nerves? Excitment? Fear? Panic? Or just that Chinese from last night?

This time tomorrow Team Bandit will be well on their way, hopefully arriving at Dover awaiting the ferry that will transport them on towards their adventure.

Asked how they were feeling about the big trip now looming less than 24 hours ahead of them, The Bandit replied “Sorry, can’t talk now, too much work to finish before we leave.” Arbroath Smokey was more forthcoming however: “What do you mean 24 hours? We’ve got loads of time, we’re not leaving till December. What do you mean it’s December already..?”

17 December 2004 – Smoke Signals Part 1

If its London and its December it must be dull, grey and raining heavily. Despite that, preparations are underway for a 11am departure to Dover – which is you know pretty close (we think) to Plymouth. Well, almost as close as Banjul is to Dakar.

We’ve spent the last few hours ensuring that the car is fully “pimped” with logos and graphics (Check out and for pictures later today) and we’ve now moved on to the all important “have you seen my passport?n I’m sure I left it around here somewhere…” loading of the car.

Apart from my complete failure to remember to bring my flat keys – Iain, make sure your in the flat when I get back! – we’re all set to start the Plymouth (now Dover) to Dakar (now Banjul) Challenge!

[2022 Spoiler warning – we weren’t!]

Plymouth to Dakar in a Car Bought For £100 – Part 6 of 8 (Andrew)

In 2004 a friend and I tried to to drive from Plymouth to Dakar in a car bought for £100. In August 2022, Livejournal sent me an email to congratulate me on my 18 anniversary of starting a journal with them. When I checked the link I discovered they still had all my old online journal (not called a blog then!) entries. I thought it would be fun to publish them again.

7 November 2004 – Mr Smokey’s Orientation 101

So they drive Plymouth to Banjul via Dakar. 

It all sounds so easy. First they go to France then Spain then Morocco. They take a quick trip across the desert by passing through Mauritania before ending up with a short ride through the Gambia to reach Senegal.


Or at least that’s what they thought.

Turns out, these countries are slightly bigger than they anticipated. It turns out that some of the signposts (that’s if they’re lucky enough to actually see any signposts) might not even be in English. Worst of all under cross examination Mr Smokey had to concede that he didn’t actually know where Senegal was.

“Africa”, He said, “On the coast, I think”

So Team Bandit bought maps. Loads of maps. Road maps of Western Africa. Individual maps for each country. Such detailed and highly precise maps that even Mr Smokey must surely know where Team Bandit is going.

We were wrong.

“Africa” He said. “Down the coast, I think.”

Mr Bandit despairs, he really does…

8 November 2004 – Bandit Jones’ Diary

Sunday 7 November 2004

Number of finger nails with oil under them: 10
Number of minor injuries: 2
Number of new spark plugs on Beauty: 4
Number of swear words used: too [bleep]ing many
How absolutely useless are Halfords: very

A productive weekend for Team Bandit as we continued to prep Beauty for her holiday in the sun. The Bandit earned his mechanical stripes, putting to good use the brand new shiny red box of tools we bought last week. Beauty had a mini service: new spark plugs, engine oil and oil filter, replaced the leaky coolant hose, and probably most important of all put the Chrysler hood ornament (a five pointed star) up there at the front of the bonnet.

We also scored a major success on ebay (the auction website where we bought Beauty in the first place), procuring some all important sand waffles for a knock-down price, of which more later.

15 November 2022 – They’re Waffely Versatile!

Our sand waffles arrived safely at the end of last week, causing a great amount of excitement at the Bandit’s flat. Well, ok, truth be told only the Bandit was really excited – Karly, and Ian (the Bandit’s flatmate) were pretty non-plussed.

Right about now you’re probably wondering (with good reason) just what the heck sand waffles are. You’ve heard of belgian waffles, which are often eaten at breakfast time with whipped cream and a strawberry conserve. You might even have heard of potato waffles, which come from the freezer section and they go great with eggs, burgers, fish, fingers – fish fingers… you know the rest of the song.

Fortunately sand waffles are not a member of any of the food groups. For a start they’re too big to fit in your freezer, and would be too filling to eat for breakfast. 

Rather, they are made of glass reinforced plastic, are about a metre long, 30 centimetres wide and 5 centimetres deep. You place them under the wheels of the car when you get stuck in sand and can’t get out, and they form a little bridge to help you get out of the sand and get moving. The theory is that once you’ve got some momentum up you can keep going, and as long as you keep a bit of speed up you shouldn’t get stuck in the sand again. And a top tip from the Bandit’s brother – Andrew “Ray Mears Survival Expert” McGinty – tie the sand waffles to the back of the car with a long bit of rope so that you don’t have to stop to pick them up and get stuck in the sand again.

They’re pretty essential then when you consider that we’ll be spending days crossing a desert in a car which, quite frankly, can’t even cope with a daytrip to the beach.

They were another wonder of ebay hunting, and Gav won them, quite literally, by beating the other bidders in the auction by 70 pence with 4 seconds left to go. If that sort of luck stays with us, the trip should be a breeze!

14 December 2004They’re Flashy! They’re Bouncy! They’re Flashing Bouncy Balls!

Being popular is a difficult business. 

But if you have something to offer, something that people like about you, then soon you’ll be the coolest kid on the block. But what if you have nothing? What do you do then?

Team Smokey Bandit have no fears on this front, as thanks to Pinsent Masons the team go fully stocked with a box full of fluorescent coloured flashing bouncy balls! Roughly the size of a golf ball, when dropped these things bounce straight back up to you (Wow indeed!). But that’s not the real magic – the clincher is that the bouncing action sets off some crazy disco-party lights! 

Yes, it’s certain that we will be the most popular team when we start handing out the coolest christmas presents in town. Border guards will open gates, desert bandits will wave us through as, once Mr Smokey and Mr Bandit set all the lights going, they will become Africa’s first mobile discoteque!

15 December 2004 – Flu? No, they drove there by car…

In HG Well’s War of the Worlds the evil Martian invaders are defeated by none other than the common cold.

Though these Martian’s had heat rays and tripods and interplanetary crafts, “intelligences greater than man” and “mathematical learning… far in excess of ours” they didn’t have Strepsils or Soothers or lemon flavored lempsip.

Now, Mr Smokey has all these things (plus a bright red nose from two days of constant sniffling) and, he, unlike those lily livered Martians, isn’t going to let a last minute bout of the cold get in the way of preparations for the rally.

With a flight to London booked on Thursday night, Mr Smokey is confident that his umpteen injections for everything Africa can throw at him (surely they must be good for something as simple as the cold?!?) will show this cold what what and ensure Mr Smokey is fighting fit for Friday’s rally.

The common cold?!? The cold’s nothing! Why, in Africa they don’t know the meaning of the word “cold”…

The Sound of Football: Charlton Athletic (Andrew)

Every fortnight we cover the best and worst football songs from every club in the UK from our book ‘The Sound Of Football: Every Club, Every Song’. You can buy it here

Charlton Athletic

Nickname: The Addicks/The Robins

Ground: The Valley

Stadium Capacity: 27,111

Song: The Valley Floyd Road

There’s something fishy about Charlton Athletic. The club is nicknamed the Addicks, which is not a corrupted form of Athletic but derived instead from ‘haddock’.

When Charlton was building its stadium, players and directors would eat fish after every match. If Charlton lost, the club would save money by eating cod. They would have splashed out on a haddock supper if the team won. As Charlton became more successful, it became known for its haddock, and it became known as the Addicks.

Although the club was formed in 1905, it was fourteen years before it could play at its ground, now known as The Valley.

The club had purchased an abandoned sand and chalk pit in the Charlton area but didn’t have the funds to develop it. Charlton supporters volunteered to help. They dug out a pit for the pitch and used the soil from the excavation to build up the sides. The ground’s name most likely comes from its original valley-like appearance.

As the club’s supporters helped build the stadium, they have a strong bond with it. This is reflected in the club song: ‘The Valley Floyd Road’ (sung to the tune of ‘Mull of Kintyre’), which includes a verse about its 14-year wait to build a home.

A version of the song was released in April 2003 by 3 Blokes From F Block and Friends, including former stars Kevin Lisbie, Claus Jensen, Mathias Svensson, and future England International Scott Parker.

The club’s greatest success (and most haddock suppers consumed) came in the 1930s under the stewardship of Jimmy Seed.

Seed had an unusual background. He fought in the First World War and had only just survived a gas attack. He led the club to successive promotions from the Third Division to the First Division. In Charlton’s first season in the top-flight, it finished runners-up. It then finished third and fourth in the final two seasons before the outbreak of the Second World War.

During the 1940’s Charlton made it to Wembley four times. Twice to contest the “war cup”, a tournament that replaced the FA Cup for the Second World War. Charlton didn’t capitalise on the success, and the club refused to invest money in new players or facilities, which meant that although Jimmy Seed ‘discovered’ England legend, Stanley Matthews, he wasn’t allowed to sign him.

Charlton has also been known as the ‘Robins’ after its red shirts, which it had originally borrowed from local rivals Arsenal to save money when it started. Charlton is not the only club to begin in a borrowed kit. Its benefactor’s Arsenal also started with borrowed kit from Nottingham Forest.

In honour of its second nickname, the team enter the Valley at every home game to the tune of the ‘Red, Red Robin’ by Billy Cotton.

Buy the Sound of Football from Amazon.

Plymouth to Dakar in a Car Bought For £100 – Part 5 of 8 (Andrew)

In 2004 a friend and I tried to to drive from Plymouth to Dakar in a car bought for £100. In August 2022, Livejournal sent me an email to congratulate me on my 18 anniversary of starting a journal with them. When I checked the link I discovered they still had all my old online journal (not called a blog then!) entries. I thought it would be fun to publish them again.

11 October 2004 Falling at the first hurdle…

Sharon, the most patient person in the world, has for the last couple of months kindly been letting us store Beauty in the garage beneath her flat. In doing so she has risked inciting hatred from her neighbours and ridicule from her friends. We’re extremely grateful.

This week, however, Beauty needed to find a new home, as Sharon needs her space back. Not a problem, we thought, she can go out the back of Gav’s flat for a while. So Gav went round on Sunday morning to move her. Now Beauty hasn’t been driven in a few months, so she didn’t quite share Gav’s optimism that she would start first time…

After a bit of a push start, with the long-suffering Karly at the wheel, the engine caught on the second (third… fourth…) attempt. 

“Hmmm, I’m not sure she’s meant to sound like that.”
“Why is she revving so hard?” 
“Sounds like the accelerator pedal is stuck. Can you smell burning…?” 
“Ok, turn it off.”

A brief inspection under the hood later, and Gavin “The Car Doctor” McGinty offers a diagnosis. The accelerator cable is definitely jammed. If only we knew which one the accelerator cable was, and how to unjam it. Also, there appeared to be a mysterious green liquid leaking from one of the hoses. Looks like coolant. Or Limeade. If the car has an automatic Limeade dispenser it’ll be mighty handy, but we’ve yet to find it.

We put a call in to the RAC (who I suspect are going to get to know this car quite well between now and Christmas). A short time later our mechanic, Emma, turns up. She agrees with Gav’s diagnosis, but fortunately she also has the skills to heal Beauty. Actually, within 2 minutes, she’s got her purring like a kitten again, and has fixed the leaky coolant hose. Hmmm, I’m sure we could have done that if we really put our mind to it. As first tests go, then, maybe we should have done better… there won’t be an Emma in the middle of the desert (unless we kidnap her).

23 October 2004 – A Very Bandit Christmas

Countering years of popular belief, Historians have today announced that the date of birth of Jesus, commonly thought to be 25 December, is in fact wrong. They have revised previous schedules and announced that the correct date is in fact closer to 23 October, bringing the popular feast of Christmas forward by some two months.

Or, at least, that’s the way things are in the McGinty household today, we’re taking a rare opportunity that we’re together to have christmas dinner, as Gav will probably be somewhere south of Casablanca on Christmas day.

Merry Christmas, one and all!

24 October 2004 – Does Beauty know what you have planned for her?

A copy of Mr Smokey’s email to the Bandit tonight. Beauty won’t know what’s about to hit her.

And now a guide to what we need to do to the car courtesy of my paranoia about breaking down in the middle of the Sahara: 
1. Beauty needs to be in sound mechanical order i.e. engine, cooling system, fuel system, suspension, gearbox, transfer box, clutch (or whatever the automatic equivalent is), brakes, steering etc. This is what the garage should do.

2. Drive beauty repeatedly and for long trips to see if she’s up for the journey. 

3. Add bash plate to protect sump and gearbox and cover the tie rods. 

4. Add new springs and shock absorbers.

5. Check battery.

6. New all terrain tires all round. Keep two of the old ones as spares.

7. Have 2-3 spares inner tubes for the tires

8. Miscellaneous equipment: High lift jack, sand ladders, towing strap, shovel or sand spade, spare engine oil, brake oil, warning triangles (these are compulsory in some countries but not sure if it applies to our ones), foot pump, tyre repair kit, block of wood to place under jack, pressure gauge to check tyre pressure when adjusting it for different terrain

Not much really!”

25 October 2004 –

A reply

And now for the Bandit’s response:

“That all seems to make sense Mr T, and good to have it in a list form. Some
comments per your numbering.

1. Hopefully we’ll get a garage to do all this stuff, Alan is going to chase his
guys today, and we’ll see where that takes us, otherwise I’ll start to push on with that.

2. I do need to get Beauty out and about more than she is, alhtough in part I’m reluctant to do so due to lack of MOT / Tax, and the consequences that getting caught could have on my licence… So 2 maybe has to come after 1, and we’ve got her an MOT. I was thinking about a long trip up to Glasgow one weekend, to give us an opportunity to do some scottish PR work.

3. This will either be done as part of 1, or alternatively we’ll sort out the
parts we need and then get it done in Morocco. The cost of a day’s labour from a mechanic down there is £5…

4. This would be nice, is perhaps more of a Could have than a Must have, but if we can get them as part of 1 then all the better.

5. The battery is strong, but it wouldn’t hurt to get a new one, or at least to
carry a spare.

6. Yep, that would be good too, we might need to get onto some kwik-fit style people and start begging 🙂

7. Inner tubes is a good idea, the other thing we’ll try and get is some instant foam sealant stuff, in case we get really stuck.

8. High lift jack (got) 
sand ladders (need to get – though would prefer some sand waffles – their about £70 a pair)
towing strap (need to get)
shovel or sand spade (need to get, will get a snowboarding one that I’ll buy
myself, and then probably an ex-army folding one)
spare engine oil, brake oil (also need spare air filter (at least one) spare oil
filter, and petrol treatment (the further we go the lower the octane rating
gets, and you get a lot of very watered down petrol, we need to keep her running sweet 🙂
warning triangles (we’ll need for France, and useful to have anyway), 
foot pump (got), 
tyre repair kit (need to get) 
block of wood to place under the jack (got), 
pressure gauge to check tyre pressure when adjusting it for different terrain
(is a part of the foot pump).
Also need a decent tool kit.

A lot of this stuff is relatively cheap and easy to buy, but I’m keen that we
get some corporate sponsorship to help us out with this.”

And how many weeks are there to go again…?

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