Tuesday 4 June 1991, Brussels

Cold weather has surprised us, both in London at the weekend and here in Brussels this week. I wore a jumper to Hyde Park on Sunday morning but was cold all the time I was out - and this is June!

What a horrible day I had yesterday - and it wouldn’t end! First of all, I really dislike having to use my alarm clock to wake up. I needed to catch the 6:20 overground train from Brondesbury, which meant I had to get up a little earlier than in my natural cycle. That left me feeling tired all day. I was, however, falsely cheered up by the train arriving on time, so I didn’t have to make a mad dash in a taxi (as once before), and by the fact that I didn’t have to pay, since there was no ticketing machine or barrier at either end. The plane left a little late, from City Airport, bumping and swinging up through the windy cloud layer. On the plane, I talked to a lady from the Catholic development aid charity which. She had a dour appearance but a refreshing, open manner. So far, still so good.

At the flat, there was very little mail, I am particularly cross that there is nothing from the Parliament. Of course, my phone does not work - very depressing. Arriving at the flat, I do feel depressed. I cannot quite isolate the reason. Later in the day, I tell people it is the telephone business making me depressed; but that is not it really. I have come here for 12 days this time round, but I have nothing to look forward to but work. I think I am depressed also because I won’t see A and B for two weeks. I am listless at the flat but push myself off to the Commission where I collect papers and listen to the press briefing. Christine Sanglier tells me that very little has happened energy-wise during the last month; the biggest story is the decision to pull down Berlaymont.

I lunch alone at the Council - slipping into the pattern that takes over while I am here - and visit the FT office on my back. Jo sympathises over my telephone problems; I find nothing of interest in the papers. A headache begins to develop a little. When I get home, I think a sleep will be the best thing. Two hours later I wake up with a cracking headache. I take a pill, but it never quite clears the pain. I go to the shops, read a book, listen to a play on the radio, pace around my flat, and still it doesn’t go. About 9, I think I might just be able to get off to sleep. I do, but at midnight I wake up sharply and the pain is back in full force. I swallow another pill immediately, but for an hour I am in torment - I get up, go back to bed, put the radio on, try to read, pace around, I even go out for a walk. Finally, the pain is assuaged and I can go back to sleep. This morning, my head is clear, but my body feels stiff and awkward, there may be a cold lurking somewhere. I have not yet organised my papers or worked out who to call, and I feel not a whit like doing so.

Friday 7 June 1991, Brussels

Friday evening now, the week draws to a close although I’m sure I shall spend much of Saturday working. Today was particularly busy with several appointments at the Commission and the Council. I am not unhappy with the week’s developments; after my initial depression on Monday I slipped easily into my Brussels routine. This routine leaves little time for any regrets about a lack of a social life or any time to be bored - I find it a rather clean and tidy life which I enjoy in short measure.

One of the projects for this trip is to make substantial progress on typing up my 1974 travel diary. I manage to type when I’m tired or listening to the radio or in any spare 15 minutes. In four days, I have nearly completed the month of August - there must be over 10,000 words. The diary is written with such small handwriting and each entry, although supposedly confined to half a page, has an extension written elsewhere in the book. In the last few days, then, I have travelled across the Persian Gulf through Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and I am now settling on a houseboat in Kashmir. This is exciting stuff and stirs some, although not many, emotions in me. Did I really do all that, did I really put up with that pain, that hassle, that boredom, that uncomfortableness, that amount of poverty? My younger self impresses me: there are so many stories of other travellers getting stuck because of money or drug problems, I seem to have been so eminently sensible and yet adventurous with it, at least compared with other travellers I met. Never do I find a question of turning back or doubting what I was doing, even when I have some serious problems with festering sores, repeating nose bleeds, or bad colds. Moreover, I clearly had an innate ability to keep my finances in order; not for nothing did I struggle so at every purchase decision - be it for food, travel or shelter - to keep the costs down to the very minimum.

When I read recent diary entries, the writing often touches cords and emotions and traces of things that happened to me, triggering memories still there in mind. It is reading such entries that I find rewarding. I cannot, however, say that the 1974 diary touches any significant traces in my memory, and thus it is a different experience, it is as though I am typing up the writing of another person. There are some memories of my travels which have hardened into stale memories and, which interestingly, are often wrong in detail. For example, my memory of the journey through north Afghanistan is that we only found out about the disappearance of Westerners (and thus the reason for the police’s initial reluctance to give us permission to go that route) once we got to Herat. This is not true, since I read in my diary how after the first leg of the journey we heard stories of disappearances. Occasionally, I do get a flicker of a street view or a scene of some sort or another that hasn’t been stuck in the stale library of my memory banks, but it is never a very rich or colourful memory rather just a thin tracing.

There are omissions in my diary-writing back then which I find frustrating: I would like to know now, for example, more about the decision-making processes, on where to go next - there is virtually no discussion or debate (as must have gone on in my mind) about which route to follow or which journey to explore; it is also frustrating to find myself talking about ‘we’ so often but not to know who the ‘we’ is. Even if a name is mentioned, there is nothing about who they are, where they are from, what they like, why I am travelling with them etc.

I clearly did my best with descriptions of places, and with trying to record accurately and faithfully my movements through them. It is not uninteresting although it is rather poorly written; it suffers from both poor grammar and being written in a hurry. Often, it sinks into a chain of phrases, plus there a truly boring obsession with the trivia of prices. Still, it has flavour, it has detail, and I can certainly be proud both of it, and of the travel itself. Indeed, it is amazing that I managed to record details for every single day without a single omission, even though I was doing so much, meeting so many people (with whom it was always possible to talk or pass time). It is not as if I ever lazed around either: more laziness would have given me less detail to record and more time to record it in!

I must report that I now have a telephone. On Wednesday morning, two RTT men arrived to do some work in the basement. They were here a long time. On several occasions they came up to my flat and tested a phone which didn’t work, and each time this happened my heart sank; I could not imagine what they were doing. Finally, the first signs of a crackle were heard, and then, lo and lord-be-praised, a dialling tone, and then, lo and lord-be-blessed-eternally, a ring. They had done it. Miracles do happen. RTT really can get a telephone to work. However, all was not as it seemed; this was no ordinary telephone, and it was working on no ordinary line. The engineer explained the telephone was a special one which operated on a low frequency signal - my telephone wouldn’t work, nor an answering machine, nor a modem. They had rigged up a system whereby my telephone line was hitch-hiking on someone else’s line at a low frequency so that it would not interfere with the other line. Only this special telephone (with a ring dialler and no memory), they told me, would work. But let us be thankful and praise the lord of influence. The Foreign Office has wielded its power and Paul Lyons of the FT has his telephone. My working life has already improved immeasurably.

Since my management report - ‘EC Energy Policy - A critical assessment’ - looks likely to fly, I have begun to think along two lines in all my work here in Brussels - there is the strand searching for timely news and features for the monthly newsletter, and there is the strand that wants to accumulate background information and debate and criticism about the various policies for the book, the most ambitious single project I’ve yet undertaken. I must be careful to try and organise myself as early as possible. I need to get a clearer and clearer idea of each chapter’s contents, and not be afraid to over-structure it. Each chapter is going to need its own references and its own research, some of which will overlap. What sort of order should I write the chapters in? Should I start writing now, in chunks and paragraphs as I think of them, or I should I make concerted efforts to do a whole chapter at a time? This will certainly be an interesting exercise. Today, at lunch with Brian Jensen, the Danish representative to the energy working group, I tested out some of my ideas for. For example, he thinks that a formal set of questions to the permanent representations is unlikely to get a response whereas an informal approach, using the same questions, is likely to be received better. He also thinks it will be hard to get historical background on interesting legal cases, which is another of my ideas.

Fiona has gone to London for a wedding, but she has left me an invitation to brunch on Sunday at a friend of hers - Janet. I might meet Brooks and his son for a short while on Sunday morning also.

I have been out one night this week, to a multidiscipline show - dubbed Swedish visual theatre by the listings magazine - created by someone called Michael Laub. The troupe is called Remote Control and the show Fast Forward/Bad Air and So. The movement, acting and dance were all carried out with a surprising degree of professionalism indicating a very high level of rehearsal. I have really no idea what message Laub wants to get across - if anything I just see a clever, talented even, director expressing his own pre-occupations through people. As interesting as the show was, the venue itself - Ancienne Belgique - was more so. The bar, where the audience collect before the long journey through dark corridors to the theatre, is strikingly undecorated and uncoloured and has a definite air of being inhabited by an intellectual clique of marginals. Despite the reasonable number of people, the conversation level was hushed, the costumes of people were dark and inconspicuous - oddly it reminded me of the cool sophistication of bars I found in Berlin on a visit many years ago.

Saturday 8 June 1991, Brussels

What an exciting day. I go out once to buy my croissant and pan de chocolate for breakfast, and again at the end of the morning to buy vegetables and fish for my weekend meals; otherwise I have sat at my Applemac typing in ECE stories, or my 1974 diary - I have reached the Taj Mahal - or I’ve read more of ‘Brighton Rock’, or I’ve listened to the radio. I might finish ‘Brighton Rock’ tonight.The telephone has not rung or been used once today - which is fine. I had a long conversation with Adam and B last night. B has problems with her major project for next year, Adam looks forward to going swimming at the weekend.

Wednesday 12 June 1991, Brussels

Well, I continue to travel fast across Asia - I am now in Kuala Lumpur and the end of the rough travel is in sight since I have just bought my ticket for Darwin. The typing is a pain, but I do it in odd moments and rarely type in more than 2-3 days’ entries at a time. I should finish October before I leave for London which means I will have typed in the bulk of the Asia travel, some 40,000 words probably. I wish I could track down some of the real memories, see some of the people’s faces and some of the sights again in mind.

It seems as though every time I come to Brussels I get more and more involved with the whole area of EC energy policy. I have just come from my first meeting with Sampaio Nunes, who is number two in Cardoso e Cunha’s cabinet. He remembered meeting me briefly at a conference already two years ago which he attended with Cardoso e Cunha. I thought it would be a quick in and out affair (as with Bob Hull adviser to DG 11 on my last visit) but not a bit, I was in his office for 90 minutes as he tried to convince me of the need for the Community to have increased oil stocks - he even gave me a copy (a real leak this) of the draft Communication. He was less forthcoming about the draft TPA directive but he did at least confirm that I was on the right track. I don’t know whether I should actually record the details of such issues in these pages, it may be that I am still at the stage of putting into my newsletter the sum total of my knowledge, and therefore there can be little point in reiterating what is actually published in these private unpublished pages. But there’s a good point actually, I should make sure that I keep a full set of ‘EC Energy Monthly’ at home - since it is so completely of my own making and development, and now even more than ever it is filled with my own writing.

I realise, in retrospect, that the setting up of ECE was an even smarter move than I calculated at the time; and now by swinging this move to Brussels I have won approval to make the newsletter even more exclusively mine and to enhance my own particular expertise. The fact that ECE has indeed grown up and become a real newsletter in just two years, with very little risk on management’s behalf, has inclined it to have faith in me. Sliding ECE into being through the supplement mechanism with hardly anyone noticing has to be seen, now, as a master stroke. I should not forget that there were short-term reasons too for its inception - the desire to get a full-time assistant, the desire to persuade management I ought to be taken onto staff, the need to orientate ‘European Energy Report’ in a different direction.

Just after I finished writing my brief entry for last Saturday (8 June) I ventured out for a walk round the block, prior to retiring. In particular I wanted to have a look at a nearby bar, I’d spotted recently. What a joy to discover this small, unpretentious bar, not one hundred metres from here, is a meeting place for all sorts of jazz musicians who, on Saturday night at least, jam for ages. At 10:30 lesser musicians were still allowed on the floor but as the night wore on so others kept arriving and replacing or joining those on the tiny stage - the standard was never brilliant but there was such a relaxed atmosphere there I stayed for nearly two hours. I was reminded of the Clifton pub in London which once, many years ago, used to host a little-known weekly jazz jam session, and of the folk group I used to frequent in Dunedin.

On Sunday, I had two engagements which broke up the weekend. Janet put on a good spread of palma ham, cheese, tortilla from the nearby Spanish restaurant, and strawberries. I talked to Martine, a friendly translator from ‘European Report’ about nothing consequential; to an Irish girl who worked for the ‘Cork Examiner’ and ‘Irish Press’; and to Ann and Louis, the English and American pair who are often the life and soul of a party. The most interesting conversation I, personally, had to offer to anyone was about my telephone and the special low frequency trick - telephone talk goes down well in Brussels, there is always a sympathetic ear on hand.

Later in the afternoon, Brooks and his son Ronan came over. They stayed an hour and half, I suppose. Ronan was really well behaved I thought, considering there was nothing for him to do. Brooks and I talked about work and kids and things. He has invited me over to supper on Wednesday.

20 22, Friday 21 June 1991, Brighton

There has not been much time for the luxury of diary writing in the last few days or more; I can’t be precise why, although I could hazard a few guesses. The best time to have written would have been last weekend, when I was also here in Brighton, but I did not have my Tosh with me, since I came straight down from the office having arrived direct from Brussels earlier in the day. The trip back from Brussels was uneventful, the last lap along the river made for a change. I walked right into a visit by two Americans who insisted on taking me to lunch. I think they were selling gas turbines and had come to pump me for information about god knows what. Unfortunately, they could have been from another planet; we spoke the same language but came from such different worlds that lunch was sheer torture: they wanted insights into the future of natural gas in Europe but were not able to listen or interpret the information I had to offer. They had been in so many meetings over the last two weeks, in so many countries, that they were on automatic overdrive, fulfilling the machine task and remaining superficially polite.

I’ll pass by the weekend without comment - the weather was lousy, there was nothing to do and I appeared to have little spirit for invention or play with Adam. I slept quite a lot, although I’m not quite sure why since the ten days in Brussels were tranquil and stress-free enough surely. Perhaps typing in 40,000 words of the 74 diary took more out of me than I thought.

This week has taken a lot out of me too; I seem to have been working 10-11 hours days. At least twice, I was in the office by 7, and at least twice I left well after Kenny and Henry who generally knock-off around 6. I had thought that by completing so much work in Brussels I would be reasonably free to get on with other things this week; not so. ‘EC Energy Monthly’, my precious product, grew in stature and size through from Monday to Thursday ending up as a 20-page product (85% written by me), with four scoops, two of which are the subject of separate press releases from me. I must just detail the important stories, one or more may yet achieve attention in the Sunday or Monday newspapers - we’ll see.

In the first place, we have the draft Commission Communication on a strategy for stabilising CO2 emissions by the year 2000, including details of a possible energy tax - given me by Andrew Warren of the Association for the Conservation of Energy. He can’t leak it himself directly to the papers since he has been given it in confidence. He’s let me have it hoping that, through me, we can get a wider public audience now and, consequently, make it more difficult for the Commission to weaken the document’s proposals before final approval. Since my newsletter aims always to present accurate detail, though, we have to stress that this document is only a working draft, not yet even approved by the Commission; and, even when it is approved, it is only a Communication to the Council, there are no draft Directives or Regulations in it. Nevertheless, in my press release, I have stressed that ‘EC Energy Monthly’ has, for the first time, details of the need for an energy tax (to achieve the CO2 stabilisation aims) and how the Commission plans to implement it.

Apart from that scoop, I have another important document, leaked to me by the cabinet of Cardoso e Cunha. This one is on Commission intentions to set up a strategic Community oil stock as in the US. The intriguing connection is the Commission would like to finance it with the energy tax.

Then I have, from yet another source (Greenpeace this time), the paper outlining the EC’s draft convention on global warming. Also in the newsletter, I have preliminary information about DGXVII’s draft Directives on third party access (on the front page); a story about nuclear waste being carried on passenger ferries; and another about the European Parliament calling for an end to nuclear reprocessing.

Truly a bumper package this month - never was so much time and effort put into a publication that was going to be read by so few.

8 27, Sunday 23 June 1991, Brighton

I should report, firstly, that ‘The Observer’ has carried a story about the energy tax proposal, on the back page, but the paper ‘has obtained’ its own copy of it; and, at the end of the story, Andrew Warren is quoted. I see, once again, I have been rather mis-used - these campaigners have few principles. The importance of the message outweighs any personal or professional ethics. I had truly understood that Andrew was not going to give the document out anywhere else, and thus billed it an exclusive on my front cover. We had talked about him giving a taster of the story to ‘The Observer’ so that the Monday newspapers could bite at the real meat in ‘EC Energy Monthly’ but not about him giving them the whole document. Ah well, as I rise up to these dizzy heights, I must learn to be more wary of the vultures and flying sharks. Of course, Andrew had a perfect right to distribute his document wherever, I just object to all that messing around on the phone about what our press release was going to say.

It is also interesting to have confirmed so clearly that even the great and noble institutions that are our daily and Sunday papers are simple victims to the loudest/pushiest/cleverest campaigners, and that real news and information gets submerged under the clambering mound of self-publicists. If I had sent ‘EC Energy Monthly’ to the journalist that wrote Andrew’s story in ‘The Observer’, he would certainly not have written it - yet the information is precisely the same - the personal contact by Andrew making all the difference.

Adam sits downstairs drawing. Once he’d got up and washed he came to sit on my lap at the desk here. He asked if we could play backgammon (I’d shown him the game yesterday), so we went through a session quickly with Adam pressing the return button. Afterwards he wanted me to read one of the books he’d brought yesterday from the library, about the weather. Next, A wanted to play pick-a-sticks.

A reasonably productive day yesterday - I did some more work on the East Europe proposal, wrote up some 74 diary, read the papers, went to the beach with Adam, walked around the shops, went to Claudio’s to pick up the old Kaypro (which we will use to get money off the purchase of an Applemac next week), went to the playground with A, read some of my thriller (‘Red Dragon’ by Thomas Harris, author of ‘The Silence of the Lambs’), watched cricket (England making a heroic recovery - they won the first test against the West Indies), went for a meal with B to the restaurant next door (the one that does Tarot readings) in the evening.

B is working hard towards the end of her year - term finishes in two weeks and she has all sorts of work to hand in before then. I can hear her noisy printer dot-matrixing away in the study. We have had endless discussions about buying a new computer - what with educational discounts and a special offer on the Applemac LC model (whereby you bring in any old computer and get £200 more off) total cost including VAT and a printer will work out at £1,600. Well, really, what an indulgence, some people spend money on cars, others on fags, and me on computers.

During the week, I saw my ex-lodger Caroline, who certainly hasn’t changed much - she’s still dancing in ‘Phantom of the Opera’. I drink two glasses of wine with her after work and am rolling drunk on my way home for not having eaten anything.

The German government has chosen narrowly to reinstall Berlin as its capital.

On Tuesday night I treat myself to a night out at the National - a Philip Prowse production of John Webster’s play ‘The White Devil’. I’d not seen it before, nor read it, though clearly it is a classic of the Elizabethan period. The set was phenomenal, as one would expect from Prowse (Glasgow Citizens - Ann Hubbard first brought Prowse to my attention), the costumes a treat, but the production could have been really set alight by one or two excellent - not just good - actors. The plot tells of a religious and political intrigue in 17th century Italy.

My lodger Clare has decided not to leave after all. She was in a good mood on my return from Brussels last weekend and had changed her mind. She does not get on so well with Melinda, and so the atmosphere in the house is not as convivial as it has been in the past, we all stick to our own patches more or less.

I spent a morning at the nursery, standing in for B who should do two half days every half term, I think. It wasn’t easy to involve myself in the nursery goings on - on the one hand I didn’t even know the routines, and on the other none of the children knew me. I read a few stories to Toby (Noel’s son) and I chatted to a table of children at snack time asking them what fruit they wanted to be. For a while upstairs, I got quite involved with about ten children. We pretended to be on train that kept going into tunnels, and when we were in the tunnels and it was all dark, everyone turned into an animal, then when we came out of the tunnel we were back on the train discussing what animal to be next. I hardly talked to any of the teachers, but that was my fault I should have been a little more forward.

Thursday 27 June 1991

I have gone to a house on a small hill below which runs a river through a valley in a forest. Adam has not wanted to come in and prefers to play outside; I let him but some time later I come out looking for him and cannot find him - I shout and hear his response from down near the river. I go back in. When I come out looking for him again - I have to shout, and this time I hear a quiet or faint response. I return to the house and it is only later, when it is beginning to get dark, that I start to fear something might have happened. I shout out for him but there is no reply, I hurry down to the river and find that it is a raging torrent of icy water rather than a stream. It is getting darker and darker, and there is no sign of Adam at all, I begin to realise his last response might have been weak rather than faint, and I fear he might have been swept away by the river, and is lost to me for ever. I wake up in a terrible sweat.

14 18, Sunday 30 June 1991, London

To Brussels tomorrow. As I write, Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire play in ‘Funny Face’ in the TV. This afternoon, the family is due over, all of them minus Julian if the cricket pitch isn’t waterlogged. It’s Mum’s birthday on Wednesday and the others are seeing her then, and taking her racing on the following Saturday, so I’m just doing my little bit.

Yugoslavia falls apart - Slovenia and Croatia have declared independence. Real chaos develops everywhere. The EC’s foreign ministers acted quickly and bundled its troika off to tell the Yugoslavs that they would be far happier if Yugoslavia stayed together. I think the situation if immensely complex; as my Yugoslav correspondent Nada said it would be. The republics do want to stay together but not with the existing constitution, they need time to retreat and come together again, and the best thing would be for the Western media to ignore the country for the next six months while the internal processes find a new equilibrium.

Thatcher has announced she’s to leave the House of Commons at the next general election thereby, at one and the same time, relieving Major of a back seat driver, and allowing herself to speak her mind without the constant speculation of newshounds that she’s got on eye on returning to No. 10. There’s a lot of talk ongoing about Europe, and Major does not appear to be out of hot water on the issue. Jacques Delors is talking of ‘Federalism’.

Meanwhile, for the first time in my life, I’ve been in the newspapers. The press releases that I sent out on Friday were duly ignored by top tier of British media, but not the second tier. The ‘Yorkshire Post’ rang me in Brighton, and ran a story on Monday based on the energy tax paper - it quoted me quite extensively but did not state that the paper had been leaked to ‘EC Energy Monthly’. On Tuesday, ‘The Scotsman’ ran an even longer item combining both the energy tax and oil stocks stories; it did mention ‘EC Energy Monthly’ in the second para and quoted me extensively also. As usual, though, I was miffed that the ‘Financial Times’ didn’t take the opportunity to use the material - it’s always so reluctant to give anything uncovered by the newsletter division any value.

These days I never run out of things to do at the office. Although I hardly inputted to ‘European Energy Report’, I had to organise the East Europe supplement - an eight pager; on Wednesday I joined in a half-day study session at Chatham House on three papers about the environment in East Europe. I didn’t say very much at all, in fact I felt quite buttoned up. There were 25 people; too many for me to lose my inhibitions. I can’t say I got much out of the discussion, none of the papers were really startling in their revelations or in their analysis. Once or twice, I was struck by the academic nature of the work and the status given to particular individuals who had written on the subject. On Thursday, I went for lunch with my two new marketing people - Louise and Louise - and was impressed by both of them. It really cheered me up to think my newsletters would have some intelligent marketing over the next months. Astonishingly, I found myself listening to good ideas that weren’t my own! I have been starved of decent marketing for so long now I’d forgotten what it’s like to have good marketing support.

I seem finally to have got the message through to Dennis that the desktop publishing software, Quark, we are using on the Macs is inappropriate. He brought in an independent consultant with publishing knowledge - two women, one of whom I had worked with at ‘European Chemical News’ all those years ago - I told them of my judgement, they must have passed on the message to Dennis and Dennis has now asked them to give a presentation of another software! I also hear that the money for any more equipment has been put on hold for the moment!

As I sit and write this, Mary Fagan from ‘The Independent’ rings, still interested in the story - she’s been on holiday the last week and only just seen the energy tax press release I put out. We talk for a while, but she must sell the story to her editor first.

I have finished typing all of my London-Darwin travels, and printed it out - there are some 70,000 words and a fat wad of papers. How interested will anybody be in the price of rice and veg in India 17 years ago.

Adam watches ‘Sesame Street’. Yesterday we did some number lessons; although he cannot write numbers or letters, he can do some simple sums. I write out four sums such as 1+1 = 3, 1+3 = 4, 2+2 = 5, 2+3 = 5 and ask A to write a tick or a cross next to each one depending on whether it’s right or wrong. As long as they are not too difficult, he gets them right. We continue with our speaking lessons; A can manage the ‘th’ sound better now although he still won’t use it normally leaving little differentiation between thin and fin or fat and that. His ’s’ is good now, although B reports that he still uses yeah a lot after being at nursery. On Saturday we go to a show at Lauderdale House, story-tellers tales from somewhere in Africa. I had a fine time sitting in the sun reading ‘The Guardian’.

July 1991

Paul K Lyons


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