la routine

All photos © Kristin Espinasse

Come harvest time, this old wagon is an important part of la routine for a certain Cécilién* farmer. (*Cécilien, Cécilienne: resident of the village of Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes)

Jean-Marc's USA Wine Tour: If you are near Tampa on March 24th, you are very welcome to join Jean-Marc for one of his wine tastings. Have a look here for the list of cities where he will pour his wines, including his gold winner "Mistral".

Today's Word:
Because today's word (the title of our story...) is the same in English, we're going to turn the tables a bit, and look at the French definition this time. Following the definition, you'll be in for a treat: Tante Marie-Françoise is back with her second article in her series "Lettres de Ma Terrasse". Enjoy this edition and be sure to share it with a friend who loves France.

la routine
(lah roo-teen) noun, feminine
    : habitude prise de faire quelque chose toujours de la même manière

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Lettres de ma Terrasse
"La Routine"

Toutes les maisons de la rue du quartier ont la même architecture : un escalier latéral de quatre ou cinq marches fait accéder à un petit perron devant la porte d'entrée. Les maisons sont donc légèrement surélevées parce qu'en sous-sol il y a une cave antique souvent creusée dans la roche. Autrefois c'est là que l'on faisait le vin, sous la salle à manger! On entre encore dans ce réduit par une minuscule porte au ras de la rue, gymnastique garantie!

Sur les petits perrons il y a une grille de protection et c'est une tradition de la garnir de quelques plantes fleuries. Ces plantations modestes, le plus souvent des géraniums, sont l'occasion de conversations anodines entre voisins... comme on va le voir!

C'est l'été, les personnes âgées, on le sait, se lèvent tôt... et encore plus tôt à la belle saison quand le soleil et les oiseaux sont eux aussi très matinaux.

Ma fille Audrey, alors 10 ans, est en vacances et n'a aucune raison de se lever aux aurores. Un matin, mon café tout juste avalé, je la vois descendre de l'étage des chambres la mine renfrognée. Je m'intrigue et la questionne sur la raison de ce réveil matinal.

"Mais, Maman, tu n'as pas entendu les voisines?"
"Si, je sais bien que tous les matins elles balayent leurs escaliers puis y jettent un seau d'eau."
"Mais tu vas voir qu'elles vont encore se raconter la même rengaine pour leurs fleurs."
"Ah bon, je n'ai pas remarqué..."

Nous faisons silence et, de fait, les deux mamies voisines engagent dans le parler local une conversation d'un trottoir à l'autre.

"Dites, Françoise, mes fleurs? ... je les ai arrosées hier... c'est pas la peine que je les arrose aujourd'hui quand même... parce que... bon... si je les avais pas arrosées hier... je les arroserais aujourd'hui... mais comme je les ai arrosées hier...."

"Eh oui, Lucienne, moi je les ai pas arrosées hier, c'est pour ça que je les arrose aujourd'hui... mais demain, je les arroserai pas.

Tu as entendu! s'énerve Audrey, elles se posent la même question tous les matins et je suis sûre que demain c'est Françoise qui demandera à Lucienne s'il faut arroser ou non les fleurs!

Pour cacher mon fou-rire, je pars faire chauffer du lait; j'apporte le beurre et des tartines de pain tout juste grillé. Je lance:

"Dites, Audrey, vos tartines, je les ai beurrées hier... c'est pas la peine que je les beurre aujourd'hui quand même... parce que... bon...

Un grand sourire éclaire enfin le visage de ma chérie; elle m'embrasse puis s'installe devant le bol fumant.

"Quelquefois la routine a du bon ma chérie!"

*     *     *

Check back on Wednesday for the English translation of this story! Meantime, please leave a note for Marie-Françoise in the comments box -- letting her know how you enjoyed her story. I'll be sending her the link so that she can enjoy your words!

Enjoy "Planter le Décor", Marie-Françoise's last story, here.

Update! Mille mercis to Divya, Jacqui, Ally, and Leslie (and anyone I might have missed) for translating Marie-Françoise's story. You'll find their versions (in American and English) in the "routine" and "anodin" comments boxes!

Today's Photo & Question:

Jackie sainte cecile spectacle serignan goult 001
In the town of Orange: Red-n-Yellow: French façade & matching flowers

Question: Is your outfit matching or clashing today and do you even care?
Share your story in the comments box.

My answer: currently, I am matching (in non-color: beige, black, white...) though I was seriously clashing over the weekend when, at my son's basketball game in Tarascon, I noticed the other women's shoes: heels and poiny toes, black all around! Meantime, I wore gray tennis shoes* with pink stripes, and black patterned (!!!) socks. I know better, but I also now know that weekends are for relaxing, for breaking the rules, and for not taking yourself--and fashion--too seriously. There is a time and a place for everything and it was time to focus on my son and be an (ableit mismatched) cheerleader.

PS: those shoes were a 2003 Christmas gift from Jean-Marc. At the time, I thought they were the dorkiest shoes that I had ever seen. I put them in the back of the closet and forgot about them... until one day I needed shoes. Now I wear them almost daily. "Dork" to me now is someone with an attitude: ungrateful, self-important, or plain 'ol stubborn.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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I am matching! I have on a long sleeve navy cotton pull over, navy blue jeans, my husband's big white athletic socks and gray asics off trail sneakers...they're my favorite! I'd wear sneakers over a pointy toe shoe ANY day of the week!
Love your blog!!!
Cheers, Randy


Red and yellow. Mix them together and, voila, Orange!!

I'm all in blue. It matches my mood on an overcast Monday.

chris colyer

I'm wearing a yellow sweatshirt and black sweatpants....old grungy tennies and I'm getting ready to son is getting married in our front yard this summer, so I will be gardening a lot....i love to garden and this is very exciting for me to plan the yard.....i'm not sure if i match, but i'm comfortable.....from the land of oz....chris


White-at-the-knees jeans, a red sweatsuit top that's seen better days, navy socks, and bright blue Crocs -- but my plans for the morning are to run the vacuum cleaner around. I will go as far as putting real shoes on to drive a friend to her physical therapy appointment today.


About shoes: years ago friends in Marseille took me to Les Baux. They explained that they had been there most recently with their daughter's class and a group of visiting American high school French students. As they watched the teenagers spread out and looking down and away from the cliff they noticed the shoes. There was half overlap, with French and Americans wearing sneakers. The other half of the French students wore high heels, whereas the other half of the Americans wore hiking boots!


The outfit is a light green nightgown, an off-white chenille robe and beige slippers. Does that qualify as matching? It's not easy getting in gear on a gorgeously sunny and warm (for the time of year) Front Range Colorado morning. The only blue in my Monday will be the sky. Time for a second cup of coffee!


Okay, Jan. NOW, I'm GREEN with envy. Bright, bright green that defineitely does NOT match my blue ensemble:) -- Diane

Jules Greer

My one-piece bathing suit which I have tried
to redesign twice. I finally found a mini black tube top to put around my chest to hold the damn thing up. I think it looks pretty cool. I gave up bekini's on my 61st birthday, but if I get in good shape this spring at FRENCH BOOTCAMP - I'm back to the bekini.


I can relate, Diane! As for me, I'm puttin' sweats and gowns on my wish list... a little elegance... and, ahhhh.... expanding waistbands!

PS: Mom: you beat me to the comments box today. I just saw your note. We must have hit "publish" at the same time. Get ready for BOOTCAMP! PSS: I see you have *finally* shared your blog.... hurray!

Jules Greer

O.k. - sorry about the incorrect spelling of bikini - where is the spellcheck on the comment box?

Jules Greer

Kristi - what do you mean "shared my blog"
Have I pushed a wrong button on this $#$%
computer. It is not NOT ready yet.


What's the saying: you're ready as you'll ever be -- and perfect just as you are! xoxo


Merci, Marie-Francoise. C'etait mignonne votre histoire. Elle m'a donne un beau sourire.

Teresa Engebretsen

I am at work today so, oui, I match. But I just got back from 10 days in Paris and I never feel very chic there! French women must be born in heels. Heels and cobble-stoned streets! I admire their sense of style. Ladies always dressed up just to go to the market...


My sisters and I have an "it doesn't match, but it goes" philosophy.

Today my clothes go.


Mine is not and I do not care as I have a bit of food poisoning from the train last night coming home from Venice back to Paris.
I knew the food wasn't as good (the city is fabulous and colorful just like your shots!)


A charming and touching vignette. Mme Marie-Françoise writes like a modern Daudet. I much enjoy her language—French—and the sensibility.


I am responding to the question about fashion. It's been difficult to know my own fashion here. It seems there are 3/4 kinds of style.... 1. Comfort and don't care, 2. Care and dare - lots of tucks, zippers, poofs.... buttons.... pointy shoes.... then, 3. simple good looks, you don't notice, but it's a good not notice, then at last, 4. the best dressed - matched to perfection, perfect fit, even the cashmere sweater matches the white and blue checked basket on the back of the bicycle. It makes me want to give up. In America, I was fashionable - even described as "looking French" but here, I just don't get it. I want to look good, feel good and not spend so much!!!!!!!!!!

I am emphathetic about your fashion dilema.

Seems like a very interesting subject!!

Emily M

I rarely match in that official "ladies who lunch" way, but I firmly believe that coloring outside of the lines and being eclectic is the true measure of an interesting person that I want to know better.

And patterned socks are far superior to plain. J'adore your outfit as described, Kristin!


Thank you, Emily--and I like your "coloring outside of the lines... is the true measure of an interesting person that I want to know better"!

Jeanne: hope you'll feel better soon!

Morton and Pat: mille mercis de la parte de Marie-Françoise!

Mike Armstrong

Merci Marie-Françoise pour votre petite histoire charmante. C'est vraiment la même histoire partout que la routine nous rassure (surtout nous qui approche la viellese!) que, jour par jour, la vie continue; et qu'il faut arroser les fleurs tous les jours, or tous les deux jours--j'oublie...c'est la maladie des anciens... Bonne continuation de vos lettres!

Diane O.

Actually, I was packing last night and going through my pile of unfolded laudry and came up with a unique combination. I wore my great grandmothers slip, the full one with the shoulder straps and short enough to go beneath a miniskirt. A teal blue chiffon scarf with glittery border sewn along the sides, and my favorite plain white 100 percent cotton with 3/4 slleves, and lastly fleece pick floppy socks. All a collection from visiting my family in Boston though I live in Hawaii. My husband winced at the combination but kissed me still.

Diane O.

Sorry for all the typo's I think without the errors.


No worries, Diane. I noticed there was a double post and I deleted one of them.


Today I match.Perfectly pressed pants with a charcoal grey cashmere sweater,pink scarf and navy overcoat. I sell wine and my accounts may not appreciate my colorful unmatched outfits that I wear on the weekend. Yesterday I wore a long crazy yellow and grey shirt/ dress type thing with an orange and white printed long scarf! It was gloriously french looking and i felt so chic. Today I look a little boring, At least my lipstick is red!!!


J'adore cette petite histoire de la routine. Je pouvais presque voir les fleurs et gouter le chocolat chaud. Que la France me manque!


Lets see...I am wearing today a fullish black skirt with a white singlet top under a silver grey singlet top and a cream knit cardigan over ( has a small collection of tourist stick pins on one side) and sandles. Note to self...don't forget to brush hair before you go out! (repeat to self...)
I am looking forward to sitting down later today to try and translate Marie-Francoise latest story. I throughly enjoyed her last story, although my translations only get the gist, and then following everyone elses translations as they weave in the beauty of her written images...language is wonderful no matter where it originates!


Merci Marie-Françoise pour votre petite histoire drôle. Il en est de même dans tous les pays avec les jeunes filles, n'est-ce pas?

Carmen Clarke

Marie-Francoise, je trouve cette histoire charmante. Vous racontez bien la beaute et la verite dans la vie.

Fred Caswell

I'm wearing comfortable and warm, non-matching clothes as it is too cold for this octogenarian. My trousers are on the more dress-up side only because my baggy sweat pants are just too crummy looking for being in town earlier.

Kristi,it was a joyful surprise to see a picture of Orange. The area is vaguely remembered but the photo elicits other pictures of different times in Orange that are most vivid.

My giving wife bought a cell phone for me. I have mixed feelings -- happy to be able to call Nancy when I need to be driven home from a place too far from chez nous for me to walk and not so happy when Nancy said"I need to know where you are (from time to time -- not all the time yet!)

Great news -- expecting to have a great grandson delivered in July and reservations have been made to visit my one-of-two best male friends, Ray (who has terminal cancer), in Texas. We have agreed to have lunch together with his wife, Rosie, on April 19th and 20th.


sigh!....Jules, I think we need to write out "bikini" and "sandals" out 100 times!!!

JacquelineBrisbane (Oz)

Merci à Marie-Françoise pour cette délicieuse vignette. Je crois "entendre" ces dames aux accents succulents.
Though I feel 40-year-young (la fleur de l’age), my body sometimes behaves like the 57-year-old that I am. So sensible lace-up shoes with orthotics is my lot! They come in boring black or boring black…. ONE DAY, I will dye them… in non-matching colours! In the meantime, it is my “guilty pleasure” to wear mismatched cotton socks (or crocheted fine wool socks). I also love to wear odd earrings. In deference for St Patrick, though, today Both my socks are green. :)- (Well it IS the 17th already, here in OZ).


Matching is not my forte; in fact, I am definitely a not-match type. Ma soeur is matchy-matchy - typical for sisters! My wild and wonderful article of clothing is sans doubt SHOES...a recent interest...a new passion. But I am very not "collect," they have to be outrageously fabulous. I think it is more fun to be a little outrageous w/clothing. I continue to try and "dress up" more when I leave the house...inspired by French women when i was there last Fall. Alas, I slouch out of the house too often. I am looking at this word "slouch" which I have never used like this before. But I like it.

Merci Merie-Francoise--working on the translation.

Jennifer in OR

Wow, I'm jealous that Diane has her great grandmother's slip. What a treasure.

Bill Lloyd en Libye

Match? Ce n'est pas quelque chose pour allumer le feu? Ou le journal de Paris? Bon, my sox match (each other, nothing else): bright red/turquoise argyle pattern, dark blue chinos, and a hawaiian shirt (too many bright colors to list). Et milles mercis a Marie-Francoise pour sa petite histoire. Et a tous, bonne fete de St. Patrique!


Bonjour Marie-Françoise,

J'ai bien aimé ce petit scénario très amusant et si bien décrit! A quel point la routine aide-t-elle la mémoire? On se le demande! Bon ..., je vais m'amuser à faire une “Version vaisselle”, (vaisselle "un jour sur deux"...)

“Eh oui, la vaisselle, je l'ai faite hier … c'est pas la peine que je la fasse aujourd'hui quand même... parce que … bon... c'est demain que je la ferai”...

Cette version n'est pas aussi amusante et à propos que la version beurre sur le pain grillé!
Bon..., cela dit, ... la prochaine fois que Kristin ira à Châteauneuf-du-Pape, j'espère qu'elle prendra quelques photos de maisons typiques, comme vous nous les décrivez -> avec quelques marches, petit perron, grille de protection et plantes fleuries, minuscule porte au ras de la rue …

Au revoir et merci.
A la prochaine anecdote!

Hello Kristin,

Does the old wagon stay in the field all year round... as a piece of sculpture?
I love the warm colour of the rust all over it!
Thanks for the 2 pictures of the grape wagon (at the back, there is an intriguing little squarish opening … (I'm wondering what it's for ...)
BTW, when I click on the second photo of the wagon, I get the “rideaux brise-bise” picture instead...

Is my outfit matching today? Hmmm, yes – variations on a BLUE theme! St Patrick's day had no influence on my choice...

What do I think about “matching” outfits? Let's say I more often think in the way of a “contrasting” colour... or... a striking detail. I don't try to match every item from top to toes!
Shoes? The older I get, the more I feel the need to wear shoes that are essentially comfortable and good support. I love walking in a pair of “trainers”. I don't think such shoes are only just for gym enthusiasts! High heels and pointed toes? Not for me.
Socks? You may think it's boring, but I stick to plain navy blue and plain black.
When gardening, “matching” doesn't mean anything to me. I simply wear wellington boots and old clothes.

There was a time (I am talking about France & England) when the word Sunday was associated with --> "porter les habits du dimanche" (= wearing your Sunday's best!) These days are over and so much the better for our way to relax!

By the way, Happy St Patrick's day to everyone!

jim smith

The word in Tante Marie-Françoise's piece that caught my eye was "anodin" ("conversations anodines"); a similar-looking word in English is "anodyne", which refers to pain-killers or analgesics. Is innocent, "safe" conversation a pain-killer?

M. Barnes Nowlan

Well, I'm matching, but my daughter, in the spirit of St. Patrick's day, went with all the green (in varying shades) that she could find: bright green top, muted green & blue flowered skirt, mostly brown tights with pink and green butterflies, and bright white tennies! Luckily she's only 5 and can get away with it.


Je savoure l'histoire de Marie Françoise avec plaisir. Merci! Je travaille dans un supermarché et tous les jour à 9h pile, On voit toujours les même personnes qu'il fait soleil, neige ou pluie.
Kristin, il y a quelque jour, j'ai appris le mot "parer" pour les vêtements. Je le trouve beau mais malheureusement on utilise moins souvent maintenant.

Mirra de Beaugency
(Une petite ville charmante au bord de la Loire)

Scott Reeves

Quelle bonne histoire!

Jacqui McCargar

All the houses in the street of the neighborhood have the same architecture: a side staircase of four or five steps that go to a small porch at the door. The houses are slightly elevated because in the basement there is an ancient cave often carved into the rock. Once this was where the wine was made under the dining room! You enter in this reduced even, tiny door flush with the street, gymnastics Guarantee!

On small porches there is a protective grid and it is traditionally garnished with a few flowering plants. These small plants, mostly geraniums, are occasions to innocuous conversations between neighbors ... as we will see!

It's summer, the elderly, you know, get up early ... and even earlier in summer when the sun and birds are also very morning friendly.

My daughter Audrey, then 10 years, is on vacation and has no reason to lift the aurora. One morning, my coffee just swallowed, I see off the floor of the my rooms renfrognée. It intrigues me and I asked about the reason for the morning alarm clock.

"But Mom, you do not hear the neighbors?"
"I know that every morning they sweep the stairs and then throw a bucket of water."
"But you'll see they are still telling the same old story for their flowers."
"Really, I did not notice ..."

We do listen in silence and, in fact, the two neighboring grannies engage in a conversation local talk of a sidewalk to another.

"Say, Francoise, my flowers ... I have watered yesterday ... it's not worth the waste of water that I still water today ... because ... well ... if I had not watered yesterday ... I'll water them today ... but as I watered yesterday ...."

"Yes, Lucienne, I've not watered yesterday, that's why I the water today ... but tomorrow ... me ... I am not watering.

Did you hear! Audrey irritated, they ask the same question every morning and I am sure that tomorrow Françoise Lucienne asks whether or not to water the flowers!

To hide my crazy-laugh, I go to heat the milk, I bring the butter and bread just toasted. I run:

"Say, Audrey, your toast, I buttered yesterday ... it's not worth the butter that I still today ... because ... well ...

A smile finally illuminates the face of my beloved; m'embrasse she then moved to the smoking bowl.

"Sometimes the routine is good my dear!"

Bob Burgess

For those of us that treasure this site and all the value it gives, I would like to invite you to visit my web site ( and wander through Provence, France and Paris with me. You will find links to different collections at the top of the web page. Thank you
Je vous souhaite une bonne journée.
Bob Burgess


Thank you, Bob. I love your photos! (Your Provence section is a favorite!)

Ally Barton

All the houses in this part of town look the same: a sideways staircase of four or five steps leads up to a small porch over the front door. The houses, hence, are slightly raised as underneath, there is an old cellar, often dug out of the rock. In other times it was here that people made wine, under the dining room! ! You enter this cave through a tiny door by the pavement – a gymnastics fete!
Over these little entrances, there is a protective grille which, by tradition, people decorate with some flowering plants. These little gardens, mostly of geraniums, are the topic of idle conversation between neighbours, as we will see.
It’s summer, everyone knows that older people rise early ….and even earlier in the beautiful weather when sun and the birds are also very ‘morningy’.
My 10 year old daughter, Audrey, is on holiday and has no reason at all to rise at dawn.
One morning, my coffee just gulped down, I noticed her coming downstairs with a frown on her face. I asked her the reason she was up so early.
But mum, didn’t you hear the neighbours?
But yes, for sure, every morning they sweep their steps and throw a bucket of water over them.
But you’ll see, they’re going to tell the same story of the flowers.
Oh, I hadn’t noticed..
We fell silent and, on queue, the two neighbouring grannies started talking in their local dialect, a conversation from one pavement to the other.
Tell me, Francoise, my flowers?.... I watered them yesterday….. It’s not worth my bothering to water them again today….because…, well, if I hadn’t watered them yesterday…, I would water them today… but because I watered them yesterday…
Ah, yes, Lucienne. Me, I didn’t water mine yesterday… so I watered mine today… but tomorrow … me…I won’t water them.
There you have it! Whined Audrey. They ask the same question every morning. And I’m sure that tomorrow it’ll be Francoise who asks Lucienne whether to water or not.
To hide my silly grin, I go to heat some milk. I bring butter and freshly toasted rolls.
I launch…
Tell me Audrey, your rolls, I buttered them yesterday….it’s not worth me buttering them today…. again… because… well..
A big smile finally lit up my darling’s face. She gave me a hug and set herself in front of the steaming bowl.
Sometimes, there is good in routine, my dearest”!


All of the streets in the neighborhood are of the same architecture: sideways steps leading to a small stoop before the front door. The houses are slightly raised because underneath them are old cellars, often carved out of the rock. In the old days, this was where wine was made, below the dining room! You still enter this little space through a tiny door at street level, forced to perform a gymnastic feat!

On each stoop, there is a railing, and it is traditional to decorate it with flowering plants. These humble plants, usually geraiums, are the subject of banal conversations among neighbors - as you will see!

It is summer, and older peple, as we know, get up early ... and even earlier in the summer, when the sun and the birds are also very early risers. My daughter Audrey, at the time ten years old, is on vacation and has no reason to get up at dawn. One morning, my coffee just swallowed, I see her coming down from the bedrooms with a sullen look on her fce. I'm curious and question her as to the reason for this early awakiening.

"Really, Maman, didn't you hear the neighbor ladies?"

"Yes, I'm well aware that every morning they sweep their steps and then throw a bucket of water on them."

"But, you'll see - they're going to sing the same old song about their flowers again."

"Really? I hadn't noticed that."

We fall silent, and, in fact , the two neighbor grannies have a conversation in the local dialect from one walkway to the other.

"So, Françoise, my flowers? I watered them yesterday. It's not worth the trouble to water them again, really, because, well, if I hadn't watered them yesterday, I would water them today, but since I watered them yesterday..."

"Oh, yes, Lucienne, I didn't water mine yesterday, that's why I'm watering them today, but tomorrow, as for me, I won't water them."

"You heard!" says Audrey, annoyed. "They ask each other the same question every day and I'm sure that tomorrow it will be Françoise who asks Lucienne if she should water her flowers or not."

To hide my fit of giggles, I go off to heat up the milk. I bring the butter slices of
bread, just toasted. I begin, "So, Audrey, your bread, I buttered it yesterday, really it's not worth buttering it today, because ... well..."

A big smile finally lights up my darling's face; she kisses me, then sits down before her steaming bowl.

There are some good things about routine, darling!

Dennis and Ingeborg Ely

Interesting that I should be participating in this, however just completing "Words in a French Life", while in Hawaii, (la Bastide-Puako on the Big island) was wonderfully written. This should be fun for others to read, and share. We've been to France at least +15 times, and have loved each and every moment. Our most delightful area in Provence is Ramatuelle, and route D-93 from St. Tropez over the hill to La Croix-Valmer is a fantastic beautiful drive, especially if you drop by Girgaro, and happen to find a parking stall. We reside in Los Gatos, Ca. and are so sorry to have missed the wine tasting in Berkeley, Ca. Our ridge home, though small, is a very warm soft butter colour, with white trim, however, the orange tree, with the white rose, purple wisteria and lilac is in the moment, beautifully seen just out from our front room windows . . . Why you can just open up one of the windows and pick a few for breakfast, with coffee and a croissant!


I really enjoyed reading the story and seeing the different translations--I'm too 'unconfident' to offer my own, this time....maybe another time..?
Bob Head [email protected]

Gagner plus d'Argent

Je vous remercie enormement pour cette mine d info.

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