Saffron Watson

Thursday, 19 July 2018

My Graduation | 2017

It's been one year since I sass walked across the stage at Portsmouth Guildhall and became an official graduate of the University of Portsmouth.

 Graduation is supposed to be a happy day, where your parents get to see your friends and a little bit of your life at university.

For me, it was stressful. My graduation was at 1pm so I had plenty of time to get ready in the morning - except my staple eyeliner had run out and I couldn't find any nude tights because I messed up the fake tan on the legs a few days before. I had to run into town and pick up said items and run back.

It was the first time in my life that I was doing a full face of makeup and doing my hair, I wanted to look my best for all of the photos with my family and Connor.

In hindsight, I should've hair-sprayed my loose curls more as the wind brushed most of them out. It just had to be rubbish weather on my graduation day!

Once me and my family got some professional photos taken we met up with Connor's family just before the ceremony.

Also, no one tells you how awful the cap and gown are to wear. The cap is constantly moving even when hair-gripped into place, and the gown just wanted to kill me, and the hood was always slipping and making you look scruffy.

I didn't know what to do with my stuff for when I would sit down during the ceremony, so I only took my purse which could fit my phone in. I didn't really have any female friends that I could get some help with on that topic, so I was frantically looking around the graduates to see what other females were doing. I contemplated taking my phone with me and placing it in my tights - I quickly thought that was a bad idea as knowing my luck my phone would start sliding down the tights as I would walk across the stage in front of everyone. In the end, I opted to leave my things beneath my chair and hope that no one would steal them during the ten minutes I was away from my seat.

When they call your row to make your way backstage it all starts to feel very real. There are last-minute helpers to adjust your gown and cap in case they've gone wonky since the last time you checked. At this point, you're still in an alphabetical queue moving towards the stage. My heart was almost beating out of my chest as I started to see the stage, Sandi Toksvig (my Vice Chancellor at the time) and my lecturers seated on stage. I kept telling myself to not trip, smile and try to have a quick glance at where my family were seated.

It's all over in a matter of seconds. You can go back to your seat and never have to worry about walking across that stage again.

The worst part of graduation for me was that I wasn't sat near anyone I got on with in my class, so effectively on my own. I had to listen to the student speaker about looking around to my peers and the journey we've had together. The guy I was sat next to didn't even have the courtesy to say hello back to me when I sat down. That just about summed up my relationship with my peers. I zoned out of the extremely peppy speech. She wasn't talking about my university experience, and I also didn't want to cry and mourn the loss of the experience I could've had, thank you very much.
Connor was my rock throughout university, the fact that we both did the same course meant we knew exactly what the other was going through. Thank you, Connor, for your blunt honesty, and occasionally being really sweet and helping get to the other side, I love you.

The best part of the day for me was having mine and Connor's family together for the day, and having photo's taken to capture the memories. It's something that doesn't happen very often and I treasured it. Considering my own family is rather small, and I had lost some family members whilst at university, it's important to me to make the most of special occassions.

One huge piece of advice I have is...TAKE AS MANY PHOTOS, VIDEOS AND BOOMERANGS AS PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE. I was so stressed and caught up in the day I didn't even realise I missed out on some great photo opportunities. For one I don't have a single outfit shot of just me on my own. I'm gutted. After all the searching for my outfit and deliberating I didn't have one single full body photo on my own.

Oh, and girls, always trial hair and makeup in advance. And don't fake tan for the first time a few days before graduation if you plan to have your legs out. You are welcome.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Living with Post Traumatic Stress

I've had this post on my mind a lot since publishing My Bedroom Caught Fire.

I just saw a post which triggered me. It's like my body goes numb and my panicked heartbeats thumping against my chest are the only things I can focus on. But I have to snap out of it, and not let it consume me.

As most of you might know I still suffer from Generalised Anxiety Disorder and depression, it doesn't always affect me, but I've had painful reminders that it's still very much a part of me.

Experiencing the house fire first hand was one of the worst things that has ever happened to me. When I talked to my counsellor the week after the event, she mentioned being careful of post-traumatic stress. In just that week I was having unbearable flashbacks, fire-based anxiety and trouble sleeping.

On top of all of that, I was confused as to what I had actually lost in the fire, I had to go through the things I had at my mums to clarify what was gone. I also spent quite a few months spending money I didn't have to replace a lot of the stuff I lost, I was trying to fill a void and try and go back to before the fire happened.

As if I didn't need any more trauma, in the last two years I've frequently been the punch line to very painful and cruel jokes. I understand that to other people, it can be funny. There's plenty of hilarious fire content to be said. But, I don't want to hear it. I deal with my PTSD symptoms almost every day, I don't need someone else to be reminding me further of my traumatic experience, and to be mocking me as well.

I'm usually in shock when it happens, I can't believe what they've just said. I just ignore it as I don't really want to address it in front of them and usually other people. But also, no one ever stands up for me, they join in laughing.

Is it funny that I lost the majority of my belongings? That it put an even bigger wedge between me and my housemates? That I jump in the air when I hear a siren and it kickstarts my flashbacks? That I can't even look at candles? That people who didn't know about the event gifted me candles that I can't use? Let alone the fact that the Grenfell Tower incident is still very raw, I don't think jokes about fires are funny.

One of my most vivid panic attacks after the fire was when I was on a work placement. I was having the time of my life, I had an amazing opportunity to learn and have a film credit on my CV. When all of a sudden all of these howler smoke detectors were set off. Immediately I could feel my heart doing gymnastics and looking for help or a cause as to why the detectors were going off. No one was reacting. I couldn't hear anything anyone was saying over the top of these shrill fire alarms. I was ushered into an empty room while the crew were sorting out the current scene. I couldn't see or hear anything other than the alarms. I could feel the panic rising and walking around the room trying to figure out what to do, was there a real fire? Has everyone evacuated and left me behind? I walked out to where the crew were which was reassuring that everything seemed to be fine. As I was carrying food (not that I felt like eating it now, I was sick with anxiety) I was yelled out of the room back into the previous one, but other crew members were in there now. I thought that maybe I could calm down, but it was too late.

I needed to get away from everyone and the terrible noise that was not cutting out. I could feel tears welling up and my breathing starting to get shallow, I left the room and tried to get out by not being seen. Unlucky for me it seemed that all of the film's crew were in that part of the building, I ducked into a small room and hid as my eyes streamed and my breathing became out of control. I left the building as fast as I could into the darkness (as it was night) and carried on walking around in a clear state of panic. Even though I could no longer hear the alarms, and there was no immediate danger.

I tried my breathing techniques I was taught during my counselling vigilantly. Eventually, I calmed down a bit and tried to track down my boyfriend, who fortunately was working on the film as well. When he found me we decided that the best thing was to go home. I was still really traumatised from my episode and was in no state to carry on working.

When I told the production manager about what happened and why she was really understanding and said if the alarms went off again to stop what I was doing and just walk outside (as leaving situations used to be my coping mechanisms). When it did happen again, I was surrounded by people so I knew it was ok and it was just a smoke machine that set them off. The issue is that when one goes off they ALL GO OFF. But, the production manager came running in to find me and told me to go outside, but I reassured her that I was fine as I could tell it wasn't real. I was so grateful that she was understanding and cared about my welfare.

I generally don't tell employers about my mental health problems or about the fire. If I thought that it would affect the quality of my work then yes I would tell them, but since I was discharged from counselling I've been handling it myself and referring to my family and boyfriend if I feel like I'm slipping.

Since my first panic attack from an accidental fire alarm, I've managed to improve my coping mechanisms. It's strange that perhaps it needed to happen so that I could try and move on with my life. It's still horrifying when one goes off. Recently I was bed bound by a virus and a smoke alarm went off and the sound sends my body into shock and I freeze and barely breathing. It's like I'm trying to hold the panic in, or if I don't breathe I won't panic. I just had to lay there and listen out in case it was a real fire, whilst giving myself a pep talk that it's probably just the toaster that set it off.

Now, does any of that sound funny to you? I hope not.

All year round my PTSD is triggered by candles, fire alarms, BBQ's, bonfires, sirens, news about other fires and even just a familiar object or smell. I had never experienced such brutal flashbacks in my life until the fire. It's like I'm back there again, in my bedroom in front of a growing blaze screaming the house down for my housemates.

I just want people to understand my side, and how your words can affect me or anyone who might've been through the same and who even might have lost more than me.

Just think twice before making a joke at someone else's expense.

Saffron x

Sunday, 17 June 2018

How University Broke Me

I've been speaking to a few people about my experience at University, and thought I'd write up a little post in case more of you want to hear how my time went...

When I look back now to nearly four years ago when I begun University, a lot has changed.

I was a lot slimmer, albeit I had a little belly it was nothing compared to my permanent food baby. I was a lot happier within my own skin, and had just begun an exciting adventure. I had suffered with untreated social anxiety from my teenage years, but I had been growing out of it and developing my social skills.

My finances weren't great, I had to get help from my parents to pay my deposit for my first year house and everyday spending. When my student loan actually came in I paid my rent for the first term in full so the rest was to save or spend. I had a rough budget for food each week, around £20-£25 but I used to raid the reduced section like a pro.

I'd started collating friends on my course and sampling the university lifestyle.

Flash forward to now:

I'm probably the heaviest I've ever been, the most unhappy I've been in my own skin since discovering my stretch marks a few years back. I try to cover up so people won't notice but it's getting to a point where I just look like a huge blob.

And I've more or less left University how I entered it, with no-one except my boyfriend; Connor.

How does that make me feel? Well in all honesty it's a whole mixture of emotions. I'm starting to prepare my mind and my body to shift my un-wanted pounds (post or video to come soon if I find the motivation). I do mourn the University experience I didn't get to live. Sure I went on nights out and learned how to cope on my own (just about). But uni has been tainted by all the bad memories, the stress, drama and fall outs.

I often wonder what it would be like if I hadn't of gone and gotten around £50,000 in debt, and went out and got some real experience in the industry. I would be far more employable that's for sure. Yes, I have a shiny degree I've worked for, but I don't have the experience, or enough of it to be desirable.

University has opened a few doors for me, I wouldn't have gotten most of my experience without it. But, I can't help but feel that if I had maybe done an apprenticeship or an internship I might've gotten more.

The main consequence of going to uni was how much my mental health deteriorated, and the domino effect of how that changed me as a person. As mentioned before there was a time were I was surrounded by lovely friends and going out each week. I started getting stress induced anxiety during my first year but I didn't really pick up on how bad my mental health was until second year. This was through all of my physical anxiety symptoms disrupting my life. When I started to seek help, it was the best thing to have happened to me.

However, during my counselling my Granny got seriously ill and passed away, and then the day after her funeral My Bedroom Caught Fire. These were two HUGE setbacks and I had to work even harder to try and survive each day. To be able to cope with all of this I decided to move back home with my Mum, so that I could have a bit of sanctuary where it was peaceful and I felt like I had my own space again.

By doing this it detached me from University life. It was a lot harder to go out now, I was becoming more isolated and friendships started to crumble. I didn't want to lose that close-ness but I wasn't the same person who started University anymore. I wasn't their friend, I was now a complete stranger who couldn't promise them the friendship they once had. But, my mental health benefited more from it, I had more alone time to focus on myself.

Even though I was doing better and my grades were excelling in my third year, a lot of damage had been done. I was extremely forgetful, my self confidence plummeted along with my self belief and of course I had to deal with my anxiety, PTSD and depression on a daily basis.

If I could go back to before University with all of this information and chose to do it again, I wouldn't. I know I've learned a lot from this experience but I lost so much at the same time. I lost myself, my friendships and two family members. My Dad used to say to me that it was much more important that I left University with my health, rather than beating myself up so much for a shiny degree.

I do believe that University can be a good thing for some people, some career paths you may need a degree to work your way up, or some people might want to go into academia. It's also okay to go if you want to have the experience of University if you have a passion or interest in a specific subject. I just think that in the end University wasn't for me. When I realised that, it was too late.

So there's my story. I know I may have skimmed over areas, but I didn't want waffle too much. I just wanted to cover my story as to what went wrong for me.

My lovely friend Lily, has written a post about her choice to not go to University.

I would love to hear about your experiences of going to University, or if you didn't!

Love Saffron x


Sunday, 20 May 2018

My Bedroom Caught Fire


Two years ago on the 20th May, my student bedroom caught fire.

I've been debating for a while whether to write a post or do a video about it. Some of you might recall in some Twitter chats that I wanted to post something but felt too afraid. Well, this is it. My deep dark secret that still haunts me to this day.

I talked to those close to me about posting this and no one had anything negative to say, I don't know why I've been so self-conscious about it. Maybe because it's quite personal and it's been nice that not everyone knows what happened.

On the 19th May (the day before) it was my Granny's funeral, I had been devasted and in mourning the few weeks after her death.

The Day Of

At 9am I had my hour counselling session on a Friday morning (for those that don't know I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Depression) it went really well and I actually left feeling uplifted and good about myself. This might've been a sign that I wasn't actually ok.

I went back to my student house and I was sorting through and clearing out my things, as I'd decided to move back home early due to my mental health and loss of my Granny. I cleaned our kitchen and opened all of the windows to freshen up the whole house as it could get a bit stuffy in there. I was actually feeling really good like I had a fresh start and my mind was clear.

Earlier that morning I had lit three candles in my room as I liked to light scented candles on a regular basis.

I chatted to one of my housemates for a while then when she left I carried on tidying my room, I had to move my clothes horse/drier out of the way so I could get to the other side of my room. I began sorting stuff on my desk when in the corner of my eye I could see a sparkly kind of light. When I looked to my left, my clothes horse was on fire. Molten bits of clothes dripping onto the floor, I tried to stamp out the embers.

I stepped back in shock trying to find something to cover it and put it out but there was nothing near me as I watched the flames get higher and higher. I screamed for my housemates calling their names and shouting FIRE. I've never heard myself screech so loudly. They came rushing up and said to grab my phone and leave. As we were leaving I tried to call 999, I was in a panic and couldn't remember where I lived. When we were outside I was flapping in frustration and anxiety as my room was filled with smoke. I was lucky that the fire station was only around the corner from us.

As the fire engines came my housemates made sure to get our neighbours out of their homes. I couldn't believe what actually happened. It must've been a bad dream. Crowds began to gather watching all of my belongings burn, I had people coming up to me asking what happened out of sheer nosiness, they didn't actually care. I didn't want to talk to any of them.

This is me in the left hand corner. In hysterics.

I didn't know what to do, where to go. I would sit on the floor opposite my house with my head in my hands trying to figure out what went wrong and trying to catch up with the present. I couldn't sit still, I wanted to do something that wasn't just watching my life burst into flames.

My phone only had 4% battery, I sent my parents and my boyfriend a text:

"My room caught alight I'm fine and fire ambulance here"

My Dad was in the area and called me straight away as I cried hysterically explaining what had happened. By the time he came they had cordoned off the area around my house, there were three fire engines putting out my room. Firemen and women checked that we were all out and who was present and to get details of what happened.

Which was that I had a tea light in a candle holder on a table in my room, and I placed my clothes horse with lots of clothes on, on top of said candle. Within seconds the whole thing was on alight.

A couple of the firefighters approached me as I was the only one who'd been in the room for quite a while whilst it was on fire, they asked if I had any medical conditions. I thought I'd let them know that I suffer from high anxiety levels as I wasn't sure if I was going to have a panic attack or not. They asked if I wanted to be checked over, I looked over to my Dad and he nodded, I suppose he wanted to make sure I hadn't been harmed and just to check I was ok. They checked my heart rate which I think was way over 100 beats per minute, which wasn't a surprise. They gave me oxygen therapy to help bring my heart rate down.

By this point my Mum had come as well, I can't imagine what I state I must've looked. Their daughter being treated in the middle of the street. I'm very glad that I didn't move too far away from home so my parents could be there for me.

Some paramedics arrived and they did some further tests on me. I had never been in an ambulance before, the two guys were lovely and chatty. I wasn't quite sure how I was supposed to act anymore. My heart rate had been brought down, but I was still dealing with what had happened. A firewoman brought over to me the remains of my MacBook in some sort of evidence bag, in case I could get anything off of the hard drive. Fortunately, I had handed in all of my university assignments, I was just more concerned that I wouldn't have a laptop at all, it went everywhere with me. I'd taken it to Boston, America and even Paris! When we took apart my Mac the hard drive had completely melted.

There used to be a protective blue case on the outside, I think it protected some of the metal outsides.

That black stuff is the remainder of my bag that my Mac was in on my bed.

Once the paramedics said that there shouldn't be any damage to me from the smoke I was free to go back outside. It had been nice to not look at my charred window for a while, a bit like an escape.

When I left the ambulance my other housemate had returned, and I felt really awkward. Some of the edginess of my anxiety had been taken off, which left me feeling rather empty and unsure of what to actually do in this situation: I had accidentally set my room alight, of which may have caused damage to my housemate's rooms as well. In most situations, I'm a bit quiet and socially awkward anyway, and this was heightened tenfold because it was something I feel couldn't have been helped, I didn't mean to burn all of my possessions in my room.

My belongings in the foyer.
I remember looking at my singed items that had been thrown into the foyer outside our house, and my DVD's where there, some of the discs still salvageable. I started to joke about watching said singed discs, which of course wasn't the right thing to do or say but I was still in shock even though I'd been given oxygen etc it wasn't making me act or think clearly.

We weren't allowed into the house as it might have been unstable, so I had no idea what the house looked like, how much damage there was or what might've survived. At the time I didn't want to look, I'd seen the outside and was dreading the inside. As there wasn't anything I could do, my Mum took me home to have a shower and get changed as I stank of smoke and only had a jumper, PJ bottoms and socks on.

I felt as though I had nothing, all I had was the clothes on my back and my dead phone on me. Even though I had some belongings at my mum's I'd say three-quarters of my stuff was in my student house. I kept running through that afternoon, what I could've done differently, what I should have grabbed on my way out. But there's no use, you can't change the past.

If my housemates hadn't been home, I'm not sure how long it'd have taken me to leave the house. I was stuck in that one spot panicking. The only reason I left was that my housemate told me to leave and that released me from that spot. I also might've gone back into the house to try and save some belongings whilst it was on fire. Fortunately, I did not, but I was very close. I knew how much I was losing, the longer I saw it spread and break my bedroom window.

I would not wish this upon anyone.

I was lucky that no one got hurt, it didn't affect any of the houses surrounding us. But it did spread through the house because I had opened the windows and didn't close my door behind me as we were more or less running outside, and I wasn't thinking straight. I'm not an expert but I think if I had shut my door the fire would've spread into the roof more and could've set the other houses roofs alight also. But I can't be sure.

The Aftermath

I was on edge and became really jumpy after the fire, I was still in a state of shock and wanted this all to be a bad dream and to wake up. Over the weekend I kept having nightmares about the fire and the things that I'd lost, I started to worry about electrical fires and kept thinking that I could smell smoke all the time. I decided that I needed to go back to the house to see what was left to try and prevent my nightmares. I was dreaming about my letters and notes that my Granny had written for me in the few months before she passed away. I had put them in my diary and carried them with me everywhere as I held them close to my heart.

I had to arrange with my landlord about going to the house as my keys (student house, my mum's and my work keys) had perished in the fire as well as all of my ID, bank cards and passport.

I was not prepared for what I saw when I entered the house.

This is what I saw first, black smoke that's stained the ceiling and walls as it was put out by the firefighters.

This was our upstairs bathroom.

This is upstairs facing towards my room which you can't see at all.
It was really eerie to see what the fire had touched and to have seen its path through the upstairs of the house. But I was on a mission to search for the things I wanted most: my keys, purse, passport, my letters from my Granny, and a Celtic pin my great aunt gave me.

There used to be three shelves on the left side with all of my books and DVD's, and one candle was there. On the right side was a rail for my clothes and a set of drawers underneath.

They had to board up the windows, which made it quite dark in my room and we had to use torches to search through some of the rubble. In front of the window was where the table was with the candle and the clothes horse.

You can kind of make out some of my belongings but they've all more or less melted together.

My desk used to be against the far wall, with a notice board with pictures on it. That was where I was standing when I saw my clothes horse covered in flames.
It was really horrible having to dig through the remains on my floor to try and find anything that I could use and take home. I was getting more and more upset the longer that I couldn't find what I wanted. After sifting through what might have been some of my ceiling, I found my diary. It was quite scorched, but somehow my Granny's letters were just about saved in between the hardback cover. I nearly burst into tears at how happy I felt to have found them, they are priceless to me. I also found my purse but more of less everything was useless, my ID was burnt around the edges but I was able to use it whilst I waited for a replacement. Somehow, my great aunt's pin that was tucked away in my purse for good luck had just about survived. Again, it's another priceless possession and I couldn't believe how lucky I was to have found the pin and the letters!

In the photo above you'll see me finding some photos one of my close friends gave me for my 20th birthday, it was one of my favourite presents as she chose three photos from over the years. She'd handwritten "Happy 20th Birthday Saffron" in different coloured pens and used to be situated above my desk. By this point I was a bit annoyed at the amount of stuff that wasn't worth taking home as things had holes in, stank of smoke was charred or stuck to other objects, I put it back where I found it. But my boyfriend; Connor picked it back up and reprinted the photos exactly the same, cut out the handwritten message and re-framed it for me. That was such a lovely gesture, as I loved looking at that photo frame every day, and he made that happen for me again.

Here is the candle holder which had the main candle which started the fire. I was really surprised to see it around the area it started in. A lot of people didn't believe me when I told them it was just a tea light that started this. But actually candles are a huge fire hazard and there's a lot of house fires each year (I know this because I searched the internet to find out how common it was).

My main purpose of this post is to make others aware of house fires, especially the use of candles. I had been using candles since I was in my early teens and had usually been careful. A few times I would fall asleep whilst having candles lit (which is bad, don't do it!) but I had at times been reckless if I put them near a lot of objects as I can tend to be a messy person. This was why I lost so much, there were a lot of accelerants in my room: clothes everywhere, perfume bottles, igniter fluid for lighters and my bedding was nearby.

Even though two years have passed I'm still not over the fire. I've gotten better as I'm less jumpy and less on edge. I've been in some situations where fire alarms have gone off and it's caused a panic attack, but it's a learning curve. I'm never going to be the same as before the fire, it was a huge set back with my mental health. I still sometimes think I can smell smoke and have to check the whole house is ok. It feels as though a piece of me died that day. It took me a while to feel like me again.

Sometimes I'll wake up in the middle of the night as a huge warm wave passes over my face as though flames were in the room.

I don't use candles at all anymore. It's kind of sad but it makes me feel better and safer, my parents use candles but I won't light them or touch them. I've thought about using them again, but I'm still not ready.

All I can say is that I am thankful no one got hurt, it could have gone a lot of different ways as I've played out a few in my head. The firemen and women, and paramedics were lovely and really helpful, I didn't get to find out their names but I did thank them.

It's hard that I sometimes have to go past my old house, but it's unrecognisable now.

I hope that this post will help someone out there to not have to go through what I have, it's not only affected me but my old housemates, my landlord, my parents and friends. There's a ripple effect with these kinds of traumatic events, and I doubt it'll ever leave me.

Stay safe,

Love Saffron x

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Molly's Den | Winchester

A few weeks ago myself and a couple of my friends and my boyfriend; Connor, decided to have a little day out in Winchester. We went to Molly's Den; an antique and vintage warehouse filled with different sellers products. These can range from collections of limited edition milk bottles to antique furniture, or handmade items.

Since becoming more aware of the environment, and the amount of waste we produce, I've been really getting into buying from small businesses, second-hand pages and websites. It makes it more of a mission to acquire certain items, but it makes it feel worth it knowing that instead of buying something brand new, you're rehoming an item. I recently found a pair of gorgeous black boots when I was least expecting it in Wickham, a quaint little town outside of Fareham, Hampshire. They have some lovely vintage shops filled with goodies.

There's two floors to explore and a lovely little cafe if you get tired of browsing and need a rest.

I want this sloth onesie for my future children.

Just some of the examples of lovely handmade gifts, or products for the home. I personally love "Sorry you're feeling ruff".

I absolutely love vintage typewriters, I had a very girly modern one when I was younger. I love how you really had to know what you were going to write, and if you made a mistake having to get the tipex out to try and fix it.

There are lovely little trinket items for the home or gifts as well, I thoroughly recommend visiting Molly's Den, they do have new sellers setting up areas and change over of sellers so you never know what you might find...

Or at least have a look in your local area for charity shops, vintage and antique places, it can be a lovely trip out.

There's also a few instagramable places, so please enjoy this selfie of myself and my beautiful friend Lily, who has her own blog and you should take a look.

I hope you enjoyed my little post about Molly's Den. Please let me know in the comments of other lovely antique vintage places around the U.K I'd love to visit them!

As always,
Love Saffron x
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