Saturday, March 11, 2017

Clothes Make the Woman

RHYS:

As I write this I am in the middle of jetting around the country, speaking and signing books.

I am told that some people fear public speaking so much that they would choose death over getting up in front of an audience. Speaking in front of people has never been a problem for me. I was sent to ballet school at three so I grew up used to performing in dancing competitions, acting in plays. And I’m a natural extrovert!

However when I have a book tour or convention coming up I lie awake and anguish about what to wear! I always feel that I am wearing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Like the time I attended a cocktail party given by my then-agent at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The party was for my European agents to meet me. I bought a stunning sapphire blue silk jacket. And when I entered the room everyone else was in black. I mean it. Everyone. I felt like a peacock that had inadvertently stumbled into a hen house.

I was once at a convention in Toronto and didn’t find out until I got there that the convention banquet was a formal affair. As in cocktail dresses. I had only pants and jackets with me. Nothing fancy at all. I had to rush out and try and find something suitable. But it was summer and the stores had shorts/short sundresses. Nothing suitable for a banquet. Mortifying.

And another fear is that I’ll be on book tour and someone will come up to me with a photograph. “I took this picture of us the last time you visited here three years ago,” she’ll say. AND I’M WEARING THE SAME JACKET!  She’ll think I only own one jacket!


And then there is the matter of weather. Last week I was scheduled to speak in Indianapolis. I thought Indiana, February. Cold, right? And accordingly I brought a fur vest with me when I traveled from California to our condo in Arizona. And two days before the trip I check the weather in Indianapolis. 70 degrees. That is simply not fair. My smart 70 degree clothes are hanging on a rack in California.
So I arrived wearing a light outfit. The next morning I woke up and guess what—it was snowing. Wind chill in the teens. Luckily I had carried my one winter coat onto the plane.

The trouble is that I like to travel light. No huge suitcases to drag around and put my shoulder out. So I don’t want to take a selection of clothes suitable for all eventualities. I have learned to take an extra pair of black pants and an extra white turtleneck, just in case I spill coffee on myself (which certainly has happened) or as in the time I was on a midday TV show and in the segment after mine the chef cooked his grandmother’s favorite spaghetti sauce (bright red) and gave some to me to taste, on camera, wearing a white shirt. I still sweat at the memory of it!
And about the time the back of my long cardigan inadvertently dipped into the toilet… well, I won’t go there!

When you read this I’ll have just returned from Houston. I used to live in Houston. I know that the temperature can change 40 degrees in an hour so any trip in that direction means a choice of clothing ranging from Artic to tropical.


How I wish I could be Hank and look fabulous in a black suit.Or my friend Cara Black in her draped Paris-style black clothes.  Alas black is not my color. I look as if I am heading to a funeral, probably my own.  I realize that most people come to see me and don’t care what I’m wearing. I tell myself this. So why am I staring at the ceiling at 2:30 a.m. wondering what to wear at my next speaking engagement? 

Reds and Readers: do you agonize over what to wear or do you just open your wardrobe and grab something?

51 comments:

  1. Rhys, you always look perfectly put-together in every picture of you that I’ve ever seen.
    I can relate to your frustrations; I always worry about what to wear . . . .

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    1. I agree - Rhys always looks fantastic!

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  2. Rhys, I agree with Joan that you always look great, so classy. I, too, don't mind speaking in front of people but worry about my clothes. My worry stems from my weight, being heavier than I want to be and thinking everything I put on only accentuates that. In relation to that, black is a favorite color of mine, but it has always been. I try to do something with a scarf occasionally, but you Reds are way ahead of me in making that look stunning. And, I hate being under-dressed, with people dressed more formally than I am. I guess including a black dress or skirt is always a good idea.

    I wish I could follow your lead, Rhys, and not try to pack for every eventuality. Of course, with the weather this winter, it's been a real challenge for anyone traveling in the states. Except, going to Hawaii should be rather easy. I won't be there for LCC, but I arrive right after it. I just need to remember to put in a couple of sweaters or a jacket, as it can get a little cool at night this time of year. I am trying my best to limit myself to one suitcase this trip. I may do some clothes washing, even though I hate doing that on trips.

    Oh, and shoes. I'm not a big shoe person, but I still am usually in a quandary over what shoes to take, more so to a colder climate. I much prefer packing shoes for a warm climate, with sandals taking up so much less room. Oh, dear, now I have to go check and see what sandals I have.

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  3. I'm singing... Black, is the color, of everything I wear. On the road.
    Rhys you always loo (to us Kathy's word) CLASSY! Isn't that the goal? Yes, scarves are the thing.
    And shoe are the quandary. Because they have to be super comfortable and that narrows the field.
    Isn't it lovely that we have these things to worry about?!

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    1. I love basic black, Hallie. It always looks sophisticated even when I'm faking it, which is always.

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  4. Right there with you, Rhys! I love nothing better than driving to a conference, because I can bring that selection of outfits. Like Hallie, I have to have comfortable footwear, even for the dress-up banquet, but in winter that often entails boots - which are not lightweight to pack. With you on the sandals, Kathy. I am not very good with scarves, either, and these days they always end up feeling too hot around my neck, unless the room is hyper air conditioned, in which case I'm glad I always end up tucking a shawl into my bag. Have fun on the rest of your tour stops, Rhys.

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  5. Shoes! Shoes cripple my fashion choices. I've never been addicted to heels, but with age I've developed a need for orthotics to keep my foot from rolling, which messes up my ankle and knee. Heels of any height are right out, unless I'm prepared to limp for a week after. Fortunately, my work is mostly backstage, where jeans and boots are mandatory: you don't want to lift a very heavy cimbalom in a chiffon cocktail frock and strappy sandals. Black is my friend, and I adore scarves, so I've managed to develop a look that is . . . interesting, if not exactly cutting edge fashion. If I were ever to be fortunate enough to go on book tour, though, I'd have to rethink the whole thing.

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  6. Gigi Norwood, I'm with you. Heavy duty running shoes and orthotics every day limits my outfits to pants most of the time. I figure good scarves - I have a collection! - and earrings dress up any boring all black or all navy pants and top. Rhys, you always look rather glamorous so I think you've got this mastered.

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  7. Had to laugh at your comment about only one jacket. If I go back through old photos of myself at Malice, I seem to go four or five years wearing the same outfits and then upgrade to a new one for the next few years. Since, like you, I don't do black, this is very obvious.

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  8. I get nervous speaking in front of a group, even after all these years--and what I'm wearing can have a big impact on how comfortable I feel. Some years I hit it out the ballpark with an outfit, other years--whoa! Good thing the style police didn't catch me! But generally, I can't go wrong if I stick to a slim black skirt or black pants, topped by appropriate seasonal top, accessorize with earrings, etc. I don't do scarves very well. You look fabulous always, Rhys, no one would ever guess you felt out of place!

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  9. Gigi and Triss, same problem here! Hiking boots and orthotics do not a great fashion statement make. But I feel lucky to be able to walk without pain:). And Rhys, you always look great. And you write amazing books so who cares??

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  10. Oh,it's all because of social media! Before Facebook, we could wear the same thing to every event, and no one would ever know! Now I look at myself and photos, and say "oh that was my green jacket phase. "
    But My mother used to tell me: "no one remembers what anyone wears except themselves. It doesn't matter what you wear, as long as it is appropriate." But I agonize, too, over what to wear, and plan and plan and plan. And it is so reassuring once I make my decisions.
    My downfall is when someone says "oh it'll be very casual, just wear jeans.' no, please, don't make me wear jeans!
    And Rhys, I bet you looked fabulous in that jewel toned jacket among all the block. I think that is a wonderful decision! Looking back on it, what do you think people said about you? If they have a memory of it at all, They said oh, she was in that gorgeous jacket!

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    1. Agreed. I am an advocate of a personal uniform - whatever that ends up being for you. My mother had *one* formal outfit that she wore to any and every occasion and everyone remembers her for her conversation - not her outfit. Truly.

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    2. My mother was an advocate of that, too! "She'd say--get one great dress and wear it all the time! And people will only see you." So wise!

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  11. That was supposed to say " among the black. "

    I must say I am reassured that you all think about it too. I sometimes worry it's only me agonizing over packing.

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  12. I am a college teacher and, in my early years, used to worry about repeating my outfit through the week and having students *know* that today's outfit was the same as the one two days. Sheesh! A decade later, I don't care - and, actually, I don't believe the students care, either. True, I notice what speakers wear, but mostly my noticing is about whether or not the person looks comfortable in their clothes. Comfort rules supreme in my wardrobe world. These days, I wear a sort of uniform - cords, blouse or turtle neck depending on the season, and a jacket or cardigan of some kind. I no longer care what people say about my attire; but I'll admit it takes a lot of head work to be OK with simply cycling through the same clothes each season, such is the pressure of the fashion industry. But, as Hallie so sensibly pointed out, we are lucky, indeed, to have such frivolities to worry about. Closing comment: I'd go to see and hear any of the Reds speak regardless of your wardrobe choices...if you ever made it north of the border to the Canadian prairies!

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    1. Amanda, I think all 8 of us will be coming to Toronto to Bouchercon in October!

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    2. Oh wow, that's wonderful! Toronto is a bit far away for a quick jaunt, but who knows what might transpire in my life between now and then. I'll explore dates and options...

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  13. Rhys, you graciouly spoke with me for a minute after a late day panel at the Tuscon Book Festival in 2015. You were engaging and funny. I have absolutely no recollection of your clothing, just you. Also, am halfway through In Farleigh Field. It is (insert your 12 favorite superlatives here) and nearly impossible to put down.

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  14. What to wear is always a dilemma for me. I have psoriasis on my scalp and I'm always stressed about the dandruff-like shedding. So I rarely wear dark colored tops, sweaters, or jackets. And that limits a lot of options.

    On the bright side, that forces me to be more creative and pushes me toward brighter colors and patterns which seem to work for me. Then layers because you never know what the temperature is going to be like anywhere, inside or out. Rooms can be cold, hot, humid in any variation or combination even depending on where you are in the room. I was once on a panel were the end of the table was under a freezing vent yet I sweating and being dripped on by the broken vent above. So, I'm definitely a proponent of wearing what's comfortable - both physically and emotionally. 😊

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  15. I am truly baffled by this post. Rhys, I have not seen you in person, but every single photo I have seen shows me a beautiful, classy, and well dressed woman. I can imaging every person in the black-clad room lusting after your turquoise. I do know that we all have to put our anxiety someplace! And, I guess maybe the end of the story is that your worrying seems to pay off!!

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  16. Rhys, I've probably already already​ told you this, but I really admired that gorgeous navy silk evening pants outfit you wore to Bouchercon. It was elegant, and smart, and you could definitely wear it many times without anyone being the wiser.

    All of it: clothes, shoes, bags, outerwear. It's a nightmare. I always default to scarves, as you know if you've ever just me.

    We are currently in Colorado, visiting a daughter, on our way to a week in the ski area, a gift from a relative who was unable to use their timeshare this year. Normally this time of year, boots, sweaters, and yes, fur vests, would be part of my travels wardrobe. But it's unseasonably warm this year, in the 50's and 60's during the day, so it was a tough call to figure out what to bring. We finally decided to drive from Cincinnati, believe it or not. Part of the reason was we needed to bring the last of our daughter's belongings to her (she is almost 33, after all), and Steve also wanted to bring his cameras. Way too much stuff to haul on a plane, especially these days.

    I am grateful that one of the things I brought was a raincoat. Because contrary to every weather report I've seen in the last ten days it's raining right now in Boulder. Up until yesterday there was zero chance of any precipitation.

    For all you travelers, Macy's has a line called INC which now includes amazing pants, in lots of different colors, leg shapes, and other features, including some with zipped pockets. They are mostly pull on style, but you would never know it, and most are made of a nice weight that makes them look fairly dressy. They are super comfortable, stretch forgivingly, recover their shape even if you have to sleep in them, and are easy to brush clean. And they look great on. A big plus is that you can put them in your suitcase without worrying they'll get rumpled.

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  17. Thank you for all the kind comments.i know, in theory, that nobody really cares what I wear,
    And yes, dress up jacket with different scarves. I try to do that too. And shoes? Flat and comfortable. I am in awe of Hank's heels. They look so awesome, and so uncomfortable. I remember when I worked for the BBC and wore heels and stood on the set all day and longed to take my shoes off. Now comfort comes first

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  18. Rhys, I thank you for this very personal post. I think that you should wear what makes you comfortable. It is the book you are selling not yourself.

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  19. Dresses! It's all about dresses for me. They don't take up much room, don't wrinkle, and leave room to eat! I agree with Hank that social media has ruined everything because photos from every book stop tour are online. One of my little cheats? I put little tags on my hangars at home and keep track of where I wore that particular outfit. Sounds a little nutty, I know, but it helps me mix things up and not do too many repeats with the same potential audience.

    Here's a question: Do we think that male writers give much thought to their outfits?

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    1. I was married to a writer and I can tell you, he liked to look good, but he never stayed awake all night worrying about it. For many years he only wore black, and switched out his fedora for variety's sake. In later years he had a couple of sports coats and a rainbow of off-beat ties, but he didn't care if readers had seen any of it before.

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    2. I can't imagine men worrying so much, but then it's considered normal for them to wear a standard suit and switch up the shirt and tie. And I bet they *never* think about shoes - they just wear what's comfortable!

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  20. Ingrid.. you put tags on hangars? I am sooooo impressed, and so despairing because I know I'd never do that. Please tell me your wardrobe is not color coordinated?
    One thing I do before a convention is to lie in bed and stare at my open closet. Then I put things I'm planning to wear at one end of a rack so that I can think about them and observe how they go together.
    Rhys

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  21. Ingrid.. you put tags on hangars? I am sooooo impressed, and so despairing because I know I'd never do that. Please tell me your wardrobe is not color coordinated?
    One thing I do before a convention is to lie in bed and stare at my open closet. Then I put things I'm planning to wear at one end of a rack so that I can think about them and observe how they go together.
    Rhys

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  22. Rhys! You must not ever default to black! It is not your color and your jewel tones are fabulous. You always looked perfectly dressed and perfect for the occasion.

    I am so with you on the book tour fashion nightmare. I couldn't manage a month with stops everywhere from Seattle to Florida with a rollaboard, although I'm sure Hank could have managed it. And social media is the killer. I can tell which conference or book tour just by what I'm wearing in the social media pics. And whatever I choose, I never think it's quite right. I did wear scarves, and did quite a few events in my denim jacket, which I figure is as good as black and will never be out of style:-)

    Now, a dilemma. I have an event coming up where I'm hosting a table at a fancy university library fundraising dinner. It's "black tie optional." Like Lucy and Gigi and Triss, I can't wear heels anymore. Which means no cocktail dresses for me, alas, although I love them. So, I'm thinking, dressy pants and top, cute flats, jewelry, and that will have to do. What do all you fashion experts think?

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    1. Debs, I wear cocktail dresses with sandals--Mephisto makes some that look decent and have good arches. It's not perfect, but it works for me:)

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    2. Debs, I also have to speak at a big,very formal fundraiser. I'm planning to wear a turquoise silk jacket and I'm looking for flowing chiffon pants so I can also wear sandals

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    3. when I visited Italy, our Italian tour guide wore beautiful ballet slipper style flat shoes.

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  23. Rhys - Wonderful picture of you and Debs and Louise Penny. I love your jacket!

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  24. Yes, Debs, flowy pants and flats. Perfect and elegant.

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    1. Yes! I love organizing stuff, but I suspect you don't need any help! 😉

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  26. Rhys, I saw you speak at Murder by the Book in Houston this week and admired your outfit! I can't do black either and fiddle too much with scarves. I like navy but do feel less svelte than the black crowd. I tell myself to wear what makes me feel happy and admire others who also dress for their personal joy. Thanks for coming by Houston and for bringing us your lovely books.

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    1. I had such a good time and you were a lovely audience at MBTB. Thank you!

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    2. Dressing for personal joy--that is brilliant! xo Thank you!

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  27. i suspect a lot of us are going to use Ingrid's idea and start tagging our hangers! At last, the solution to showing up on Facebook wearing the same outfit three times - solved!

    My footwear solution for dressy warm weather occasions is a fancy jeweled sandal, and for winter, velvet flats. Those old-fashioned slip-ons (that were once gentlemen's smoking slippers) are making a comeback. Stylish AND comfortable.

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  28. One of your stories reminded me of the scene in Bridget Jones where she was invited to a tarts / ? party then she shows up wearing a costume! No one else wore a costume and it was really embarrassing!

    I cannot wear black. However, I inherited my grandmother's beautiful black wool dress, which was made specially for her before I was born. We looked alike except that she had olive skin and I inherited the fair Irish skin. I wear a bright blue or green scarf around my neck to offset the black. That is the only black dress I own.

    Rhys, you always dress beautifully. I do not think the person would notice that you wore the same thing twice! Aren;t British people supposed to be thrifty or is it the Scottish who are supposed to be?

    I often wear the same dress to fundraisers / galas and I always get compliments! No one seems to notice that I wear the same thing again and again!

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  29. Oh, thank you, Rhys! Your post made me laugh and it made me feel better. I have no fashion sense - zero. I wish I could wear jeans or yoga pants to everything. I have tried to step up my game and now I own a few skirts but it is an effort!

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  30. I try to organize a shirt with my black pants for work. Long sleeve shirt from the men's department since women's blouses are often too small in the chest area for me!

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  31. I have the same problem! I'm from Maine and always assume the weather going south or west is warmer. So the Christmas we went to Disneyworld we froze when there was a week of frost! Or last March in Alabama I brought shorts and skirts and again there was unseasonably cold weather. I have sweatshirts from evrywhere I travel!

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  32. Considering the brilliant books you write (I finished the latest last night--fabulous!), you can show up wearing whatever you want in my book!
    Libby DOdd

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  33. Rhys, I've never seen you look anything but elegant and classy. In any color.

    I'm among the people who can only wear flats these days. For a multitude of reasons. This means I was faced with a dilemma - alter all my dressy pants to accommodate the flats or get rid of them. And because I work in such a casual environment for the day job, the pants were simply taking up space in my closet. So I donated them to charity. Now it's all jeans, a pair of chinos, a pair of thin-wale cords, and a couple pencil skirts that go with -- flats. The dress I'm going to bring to the Agatha banquet goes with flats. I know the rest of the conference is the dreaded "business casual" according to everything I've read. But that's not my wardrobe these days and it's not me as a person so I guess I'll make do and hope people don't laugh at me behind my back. =) Basically, I'll do what I've done for the past few conferences. Lay out my choices on the bed and ask my fashion advisor (aka The Girl) if it makes me look frumpy or goofy.

    Scarves - I've gotten into them! And wraps, like pashminas. I've got a raspberry pink, a sapphire, and a fiery orange that will probably make the cut. Alas, only one sweater they really "go" with and the dress. But there is time to shop, right?

    Mary/Liz

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  34. I pack three-season clothes, because half the time the coldest places are overheated and the hottest places are over air-conditioned! I used to wear all black but I got tired of that and now I mix jewel tones into the mix. Not always to rave reviews: Last month in Florida at a conference held in a beach town one woman commented on my wearing purple as if it were a crime.
    I had to laugh. It reminded me of the time I met Julia Cameron at a writer’s event in California and one of the writers in attendance made a snide comment about her wearing orange in front of everyone. Just like this woman did with me. I thought, Wow! I'm in good company!

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  35. I agonized for years. But I've learned to shop my closet. The older I get, the more I discover something cute that, by God, still fits! And once I discovered Chico's "Traveler's" line, it got a lot easier! The clothes are like Kinsey Millhone's amazing little black dress. All synthetic, non wrinkling, indestructible matching items. Yes, there are nicer things at Nordstroms, but who can afford them anyway?

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  36. I traveled for my job for years and years. Because of the factory environment I typically wore black pants. Fell in love with pants matched with tops, not really pant suits, but coordinated pants and tops. Wore the heck out of those. Flats were a must, due to dirty sometimes slippery floors. After I read an article that stated that if an older woman wants to look even older then she should carry a black handbag/purse, I donated all my black bags and went out and purchased new ones in a rainbow array of colors; bright blue, grass green, deep red, bright red, Hawaiian print, purple with sequins. And I still mourn over a silver carry all purse made of the softest material. (I should have bought it.) I became sort of known for my handbags!

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