Monthly Archives

October 2014

Learning Disabilities and the Capacity to Consent

By | Emily Yates, Lifestyle, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability | No Comments

Ella

“I’m interested to know what you think about the court’s decision that a young woman with learning disabilities and a history of abusive relationships does have mental capacity to consent to sex: http://dailym.ai/1wBHexD I personally find it tricky because while, on the one hand it’s important people with learning disabilities are treated with respect and have equal rights to the rest of us, on the other hand don’t we as a society have a duty to protect vulnerable people from abuse?”

Emily

Hi Ella. Wow, great question. I personally find this just as tricky as you do, and agree with everything you say. The issue that I have with this situation is that, before the alleged sexual relationships and financial deals started at this woman’s expense, she was in a vulnerable position, and had made friendships and relationships with those who did not have her best interests at heart. It upsets me that this has somehow been allowed to happen, which has led to her being taken advantage of, whether she was deemed capable of consenting or not.

Regardless of a certain difficulty or disability, I hope this case has been dealt with the severity it deserves; any financial dealings around sex, and domestic abuse, are illegal (this seems to be a ‘glossed over’ part in the article), and I do personally believe that this lady’s condition leads to a much more sensitive case with lots of factors to think about.

As to whether or not I think the verdict was correct, it’s hard to say as I do not know the lady and, as with many things, all cases are different based on the individual and their needs. Her age is a really pivotal part of the case as if she’d been only a few years younger and legally a child, her disability would have only strengthened the horror of the case. With the age she is, however, the court has a real dilemma of treating her just like any other adult, or basing their decision on a child’s case, and effectively demeaning her by doing so. The problem, it seems, is that there are no guidlines for anything inbetween, which this situation obviously is!

I do think that this case and your eagerness to talk about it has made clear that situations like this need to be looked at closely and reviewed with sensitivity. In my opinion, this article highlights the very sad truth that, with correct preventative measures and support for the lady, these awful events would possibly never have happened; this should never have been a case for the court to decide. Apologies for not being able to give you a ‘black and white’ answer, but more than happy to keep chatting things through if you wish to do so.

25, transgender with Cerebral Palsy

By | Lifestyle, Mik Scarlet, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability | No Comments

Carl

“Hey my names Carl I am 25 with CP. I have had an extensive dating history some of which I am proud of some of which I am not. I guess we all have been there. I am transgender and only recently came out as such. Now bare in mind that I have done the whole internet dating thing as well. What I find is that you get some questions from people that make you question societies common sense in general like, “Have you ever had sex?” Like one, if I hadn’t had sex before would I tell you? And two, if that’s a good conversation starter and that’s your idea of a ice breaker I don’t think we will EVER have sex .

I find now that I am more confident in my self and how I am with others, but as soon as I went over to Mars and left Venus behind ( a little trans joke ) I find that I struggle with dating. Like I was the cool hot girl that was good at video games and good at fixing cars … now I don’t know I am a lot more guarded. I don’t know I just feel like something has changed, I was guarded about guys wanting me as a fantasy lay.
Now its that plus the added pressure of “do they want me Carl or the women side of me because I am pre op and not on hormones so I don’t know is it me am I putting my foot in the water too soon? Or am I just too jaded or think too much ?

Mik

A toughie Carl. I know I once went out with someone and when they discovered I could have sex they were rather pissed off. They imagined I would become a nice little love slave, giving out the pleasure but needing no attention in return. So I get the whole unsure of what people are looking for. I cannot deny I have little experience of Transgender issues, although some of my friends do. I kind of don’t really care and I wonder if that’s the approach you might adopt around dating? If you like someone and they like you, should it matter if they want your Venus or Mars? And even after reassignment, you will still have both as part of who you are. I know I am very happy with being feminine, even though I know I don’t look it physically. I might be straight and a male, so I inherit the world kind of which makes it easy to be in touch with my feminine side, but I know that it is the whole of me that my partners have found attractive. I would advise you to worry less, while ensuring you keep yourself safe as we all know what tossers some straight men can be about this subject, and explore the new you with people you like as people, and who do the same for you. I would also try to find a support group near you, and get joining asap. Talking to people who are going through the stuff you are will really help and allow you build your confidence for the future.

I will also have a chat with my Trans mates and see if they have any pearls of wisdom I can pass on. Until then, I think it’s best to be cautious at first but not too let that prevent you from dating. Be up front and honest, and let that new found confidence shine through. Hope that helps somewhat?

Have either of you tried online dating?

By | Lifestyle, Mik Scarlet, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability | No Comments

James

Have either of you tried online dating? do you think you need to be upfront about your disability (and risk putting people off!) or should you hide it, and surprise them later on?”

Mik

Hi James, I am so old that online dating didn’t exist when I was on the prowl, so it’s an unknown concept to me I’m afraid. However I have always been proud of my impairment and cannot see that that would change online. I know that is because I use a wheelchair so it’s not exactly something I can hide, but I also feel it is part of how I am and as I like myself I am out and proud. As a teenager I wasn’t so upfront, but found that I had to have “that chat” about what did and didn’t work on my body. Some of my partners reacted badly, and as I got older I found that being upfront from the start was easier for all concerned. So if I was single today, in the world of online dating, I would choose the open and direct approach. Who wants to go on a date and see “that” face, of someone who discovers you are disabled at a point when they feel they have to smile and be fine about it no matter what they really think. I mean, who wants to date someone who is put off by disability? Gonna be an awful date, if nothing else.

If I’m honest I have always seen my impairment as a filter that saves me from dating some people who would have not been, shall we say, a good match (polite eh?). We are disabled and if someone finds that a turn off then not being with them is better for all concerned. So if you use online dating, be upfront and that way you will only get those people who don’t really care. Sure it will cut down the number of responses but is that bad thing?

Us oldies can count ourselves lucky. We met in clubs and bars face to face. We could over come the stereotypes around disability in person and so it wasn’t such a big deal. One bit of advice I would give to anyone is that was the best way of meeting people. If you can creating an active social life leads you to situations where you meet people in an environment that allows relationships to form around who you are and not what you are. But that could just be the old man talking. Whatever you try, good luck and have fun. If you approach it as a laugh and not some serious search for love then you can’t loose.

I am 31, single, with Cerebral Palsy…

By | Emily Yates, Lifestyle, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability | No Comments

Fiona

“Hi, I am 31, single with CP. I have had only one boyfriend and am feeling alone as all my peers are marrying and having children. I don’t know what to do?”

Emily

Hi Fiona. Thanks so much for getting in touch. I’ve also got CP and know the feeling of ‘will I ever find someone that’s for me?’ very well indeed.

I think that the two main and most important answers that I can give to your question of what to do now in terms of finding a relationship is, firstly, stop comparing yourself to your friends and, secondly, focus on you and only you.

This may seem like a really tough thing to do, and it is! However, I can assure you that it can also really change your outlook on yourself and your life.  You and your friends are in different stages of your lives and having different experiences.  That is FINE! Enjoy the gossip you get when your friends talk about their marriages and babies, but please don’t let that make you feel like you’re not having as much fun as them or that you’re not worthy of the same happiness.  I can assure you that you are and that romance will happen for you, but the more that you search for it, get down about it and worry about when it will find its way to you, the harder it will be to find.  In fact, most of the time the best things happen when we aren’t looking for them 🙂

I also mention the importance of focusing on yourself because this will help you to become more aware of who you are and what you are looking for in someone else. Have fun being single, and get yourself out there doing things that YOU enjoy.  Now is the time that you don’t need to compromise or worry about what anyone else may think.  You can do everything that you want, how great is that?! An added bonus is that, by going to events that interest you or taking up a hobby that’s always tickled your fancy, you have a very good chance indeed of meeting somebody with common interests, so if romance does blossom, you’ll have loads to chat and giggle about!

When I was 19, I made the decision to go and study in Australia for a year.  I left my friends, family, and my long term boyfriend behind.  Our relationship ended because of the distance but, do you know what?! It was one of the best things that ever happened to me.  I went out most nights with my girl-friends, enjoyed living and studying in a new country and said ‘YES’ to every opportunity that was offered to me.  I didn’t even kiss a guy for the whole year, because I was only interested in having the best experience possible, and I didn’t want anyone to become the centre of that experience and distract me.  I can honestly say it was the best year of my life, but only because I used the fact I was single in a positive way; I could’ve easily been really miserable too!

So, my ultimate advice is to have as much fun as you can, and I guarantee that when they see you laughing and smiling, the boys will be chasing you! 😉

All the best,
Em x

 

Is sex really all guys in their 20’s are looking for?

By | Lifestyle, Mik Scarlet, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability | No Comments

Liz

“Hi Mik, Just over 6 months ago, I came out of my first relationship. It was an amazing time in my life, ok maybe relationship is the wrong word, we were dating for two months. The breakup hurt, but it wasn’t disasterous. He’s not talking to me but that’s fine, he obviously isn’t ready to be friends.

However, since that time I’ve been on a few dates and had quite a few guys said they were interested in me. They’re sweet, and funny, and seem genuine; until they turn around and tell me they are only interested in sex. Now I guess I kind of feel flattered, I’m a 24 year old woman with mild cerebral palsy, but I haven’t crossed that hurdle and I want to mean something, and for me to mean something to the other person, when I do decide that’s what I want.

My question is, is sex really all guys in their 20’s are looking for?

I have a really close relationship with a guy I met when I was on holiday in Florida when I was 16, but he lives in Australia, so that’s not really possible. He’s the only guy, at 26, around my age who I have actually had interested in me who’s not just interested in sex. I’m just wondering if I’m giving the ‘come try me’ signal but avoiding it entirely. I don’t want to apologise for being me, but I feel like this seems to be such a big draw for men.

Any sage words of advice would be greatly appreciated!”

Mik

Arh Lizzy, the age old question. Are boys in their 20’s only interested in one thing, sex? The short answer is no, but that’s not to say that they will admit that they want more. I was an aberration as I have always sought out a relationship rather than sex, which really freaked out some of my partners when I was in my 20’s. It’s also not just men who are interested in sex. My wife freely admits she went out with me at first as she fancied me and wanted to have sex with me. The relationship came out of the sex… tee hee.

So, what would I advise you? Well firstly, is it so bad that these guys are being truthful? I know that many women end up with broken hearts when they discover that the guy they thought wanted a relationship only wanted sex, and with these guys telling you like it is, you at least know what you’re getting in to. I also wonder is it such a bad thing to start out just having sex? As I said, that is how my marriage started and it’s getting stronger every day 26 years later. As well as not knowing if it will grow into something more, if you really fancy a few of these guys I wonder if a few nights of sweaty fun might not a good idea. Make some nice memories at least. Sure there’s the reputation issue, which is so sad in the 21st Century, but I would hope they weren’t the kind of guys to kiss and tell. Always an important thing to gauge before you jump into the sack.

As for your worry about that signals you are giving, I know your pain. My wife might have only wanted sex but I fancied her to bits. Apparently I was such a flirt she was sure I’d love her and leave her, so that is how she went in to the relationship. Luckily I trapped her with my charm and wit (?), but she was still attracted to how I was and I couldn’t have changed if I wanted. Please don’t over think the way you act with these guys. Be yourself and they will love it, or leave it, either way you win.

Actually, don’t over think it all. Men might say they want sex, and of course we do because we are mostly horny little devils, but we aren’t really that different from you ladies. We also want to be loved and secure and happy, but we just aren’t brought up to be able to say it. In a way their honesty shows how much they like you. If they really wanted just to have sex with you they’d say whatever they thought would get you in bed. Men can be bastards! Go out on a date with them, maybe even tumble into bed and see what occurs. It might turn out they were trying to be cool and they want as much from you as you think you want from them. If not, make sure the night was something to remember when you are old and past it!

To be honest, it’s so great to get a question from someone who is not finding their impairment isn’t a bar to finding love, sex and flowers. Get out there and let the world take you where it will, and enjoy the ride.

The author Holly Williams

Writing, Fantasy, Disability and Me by Holly Williams

By | Disability, Hollie Williams, Lifestyle | One Comment

When I met Jenny, one of the owners of this site, through the firm where I work and she asked me if I wanted to contribute to this blog, it put me in a bit of a quandary. Of course I was keen and flattered to be asked but where to start? What angle should I come at the topic of disability from? As a writer that has always been a sticky point for me, finding the first sticking point to launch myself into something. So after much pondering I decided what better place to start than writing itself, why I do it and what I do it about. And like all good stories mine starts a long time ago.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Holly who, because of some complications at her birth, was born with Cerebral Palsy. She was a very bright, if somewhat stubborn and disobedient, child who wanted to do everything she saw other children do. Her parents loved her very much and having been told by doctors that she would be ‘little more than a vegetable’ decided to stimulate her eager young mind in every way they could think of as they were sure that their daughter would prove the so-called ‘experts’ wrong, (they were quite stubborn and disobedient themselves!) So with the help of Holly’s devoted grandparents they set about filling her life with as much information, fun and education as they could. They took her on countless day trips everywhere from stately homes to the seaside, enrolled her in mainstream Brownies and played endless educational games with her. But although Holly’s childhood was as stimulating and as fun as any child could wish it, she was still very aware how different she was to other children and desperately frustrated. Monstrous tantrums would erupt when her damaged body wouldn’t do what she wanted it to or drawings would be ruined by her clumsy hands. What she desired most in the world was to do something that wasn’t affected by her disability. And so, in desperation her parents turned to books. They read to her, as much and as often as they could. In the car, in the bath, waiting for doctors’ appointments, as they attempted (mostly unsuccessfully) to feed her breakfast and when they tried (VERY unsuccessfully) to get her to sleep at night. They read everything and anything that was suitable from Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton to the Brothers Grimm and Childrens’ Encyclopaedias. And she adored it.

Thus begun a romance and love affair that has lasted my entire life. Words and stories became my favourite toys and dearest friends. They didn’t break when I played with them or run away or point like other children. Soon I grew bored with just hearing the stories my parents and grandparents told me and started making up my own. I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember (apart from one day when I was about six when I put my Dad’s slippers on my hands and decided I was going to be a dog!) By the age of 12 I had written my first book ‘Animal High’ about a school for disabled and non-disabled animals which was published for charity, the proceeds going to the special school I attended. I took a short break in my teenage years to sit my GCSEs and A levels before leaving education at 18 to start my first novel. I decided to write about disability, (they do say write what you know). I sat down at my computer, opened up Word and…Nothing! Well not nothing, a few pages of various stories about special schools and residential homes but nothing that made want me to keep writing.

Now can I tell you a secret? Promise you won’t judge? I find writing about disability boring. Not all the time of course, I wouldn’t be on this site if I did but a full length novel? It hit me why I had such bad writer’s block. I didn’t want to be a writer who wrote stories about disability, after all, I didn’t read books about disability. I wanted to be a writer who wrote gripping, thrilling fantasy adventures that just happened to have characters with disabilities right at the centre. Now you may not think that there’s much connection between disability and fantasy literature, after all there aren’t any disabled students at Hogwarts (I have a MAJOR issue with that by the way. Every creed and race shown learning magic but not one wheelchair, what gives?) But if you’re a massive fantasy and mythology nerd like me, you’d be surprised what crops up.

Hephaestus, the Greek god of the forge was depicted as having wasted legs and throughout history there has been a long tradition of people with disabilities such as blindness and physical deformities being seen as possessing or being victims of magical powers. The saying ‘I have a hunch’ originally comes from the belief that those with spinal deformities had psychic gifts. The term ‘changling’, a baby who was stolen by the fairy folk and replaced for one of their own, is believed to come from people trying to find explanations for numerous impairments from epilepsy to autism. Of course, such folk tales were usually far from flattening and such legends were quite often used to persecute and portray disabled people as ‘evil’ or ‘unnatural’, but the very fact they exist fascinates me.

My first fantasy novel ‘The Jersey Guardian’ was published in 2005 and over the following years I completed the trilogy with ‘A Warlock In Jersey’ and ‘The Ghosts Of Helier.’ The stories focus around a fourteen-year-old from South London named Jessica Kent who discovers that her family are fated to be the guardians of Jersey and protect the isle from witchcraft and evil. If you read my books (please read my books, there’s a link to buy them at the bottom of the page), you might be surprised to find that there are no characters who have clearly recognisable disabilities but that doesn’t mean the themes and problems that have affected me through my life in regards to my disability aren’t featured at the core of the stories. While it’s true that the main threat faced by my heroes comes from the supernatural, they also have to tackle what it means when you or someone you love has a physical impairment and learning difficulty. It’s one thing to seek out and destroy ancient magic but how do you face the challenges of knowing you’re not as ‘normal’ as the rest of society and face the harsh judgements of others, even those within your own family?

In traditional fantasy literature where the hero has to summon inter strength to rise to vanquish every obstacle, it’s hard to raise the topic of disability when most impairments have to be endured rather than cured. I don’t claim to have totally succeeded in creating disabled heroes and role-models that were lacking when I was a child. I’m not arrogant enough about my talent to make that statement. Let’s face it, who, disabled or not, wouldn’t want a magic wand or potion that would make them happy, healthy and rich. That’s why fantasy exists in the first place, to create in the mind what does not exist in the real world. All I’ve tried to do is create a cast of characters who are interesting, brave, funny, loving, selfish, cunning, foolish, bigoted, forgiving, and enjoyable enough for the reader to stay with for 300 or so pages. It just so happens that in my stories one or two of them might not be considered as ‘able-bodied’. Holly Williams is an author, poet, artist, performer, graphic designer and disability campaigner.

Her books are available through this link.

My wife and I are very adventurous sexually and are keen to try attending swingers parties…

By | Disability, Lifestyle, Mik Scarlet, My story, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability | One Comment

James, Milton-Keynes

“My wife and I are very adventurous sexually and are keen to try attending swingers parties. However, I have MS and am a wheelchair user. Can I expect the swinging scene to be equipped to deal with and accepting of my disability?”

Mik

While I haven’t ventured onto the swinging scene, I have many friends who have. I do know that from my contact with them that disability is not really an issue. To be honest I kept finding myself being told that I would “enjoy” myself on that scene as many of them have a tick list, or a list of things they want to try.

Sex with a disabled person is high on that list apparently, so if you don’t mind that idea then it might be fun. I would check out your local scene and see if you like the people, which I would imagine is pretty important if you intend to sleep with them! Of course some people might be arse holes, but that is life. I should say that please go it into with your eyes open. I know many relationships that have been torn apart by trying swinging.

It may sound fun, but will either of you be able to cope if one partner is more popular than another? Jealousy can kill a successful relationship, and while it is a not fashionable emotion I personally feel it is part of really being in love. Having said that, I also know couples who have a great time and swear it has brought them closer together. So if you really fancy it, go for it. Trust me, as far I as I understand having a disability is not bar to swinging your socks off!

My spina bifida means that my body looks different to everybody else’s…

By | Lifestyle, Mik Scarlet, My story, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability | No Comments

Kelly, Bournemouth – “My spina bifida means that my body looks different to everybody elses. I’m almost too anxious about it now to go clothes shopping and try them on in the changing rooms. How can I get some confidence?”

Mik – To me this issue is one of the biggest that many disabled people have to contend with. However much we might outwardly appear confident, and claim to be proud of our impairments, we live in a society that is obsessed with perfection and let’s face it, we are only human. We cannot help but be influenced by this growing need to be beautiful and perfect, and measure ourselves against the images that fill our media. It is a remarklable person, disabled or not, who is not touched by the dream of being perfect. I know that when I was a teenager, back in the early 80’s, I found myself so sure of my unattractiveness due to my disability that I developed an eating disorder. Even today what I see in the mirror and what I understand everyone else sees is very different. However, I will give you the advice I try to give myself every time I find myself looking at the mirror and seeing a monster, fuck em! You are the most perfect you ever. OK, you may not fit the stereotype of what beauty or perfection is, but who say that is right? Mostly a bunch or fat man who work in the press, or aging women in the fashion industry whose obsession with youth is driven by their fears over the passing of time. Disabled people wear their strength and individuality on the design of their bodies, like an amazing work of art. We challenge society to see what biology can actually achieve, and how robust the human form can be. Don’t let the non-disabled world make you feel less because you do not look like they do. It’s them who should feel inferior. So from now on when you get up, look in that mirror and know you see beauty and perfection. Your own totally individual form that no other person can achieve. Be proud of that, and if anyone dares to challenge it then they can go f**k themselves. As for finding clothes, I always advise find a style that works for you. Fashion is our enemy, as trends change so quickly. Instead experiment with style until you find one that fits.. and stick to it. Sure you can follow fashion, but make sure you model it to suit the style you have created. I used to wear loads of leather, not only as it looked great but because it was hard wearing and made me look like an injured biker. The alternative scene has always been less judgemental that the mainstream crowd and so I found my outrageous clothes allowed me to become part of scene who didn’t seem to care if I was disabled, or sky-blue pink!. So best bet, scan the fashion mags plus books on the history of fashion. Find a look you like and that you think will work, and THEN go shopping. With a look in mind, you are already half way there. And if you find a shop without a changing room, remember the Equality Act demands that they have one. So get shouting…. “I know my rights!” If you need any styling tips, drop me a mail, maybe with a pic or two, and I’ll see if I can help. Believe it or not, I actually studied fashion as a overly trendy new romantic youth so I do know what I’m on about!

I haven’t been on a date in well over a year and am finding it increasingly hard to meet women…

By | Lifestyle, Mik Scarlet, My story, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability | No Comments

Peter, Bath – “I haven’t been on a date in well over a year and am finding it increasingly hard to meet women and get out of the house because of the pain of my early onset osteoporosis. How can I get myself motivated and out the house?”

Mik – Dear Peter, I also know the joys of chronic pain and how debilitating it can be. I have tried everything to fight it, both conventional and alternative, and I might suggest trying Mindfullness. It’s a meditation technique thatmight sound a but hippy dippy, but I have found it really works. Not only as a method of counteracting the pain but also to give you back some feeling of control. That feeling of being the captain of you own ship is the thing that will help with motivation, so it really important to get the ball rolling. Ask your GP or at your pain clinic about Mindfullness and for advice on controlling your pain. If you aren’t being seen by a pain clinic, that must be top of your list. Even before you start out on the road of finding methods of fighting your pain I would suggest allowing yourself to feel down, ill and angry. We always get told to keep your chin up and other such arse, but until you have felt real chronic pain it is difficult to understand. While it can stop you from doing anything, and I know in my past I have spent years lying on my sofa unable to sleep for days wishing I would just pass out to have some release, I would advise you to start small. Little trips out, doing things you really enjoy. Imagine it is like a little baby, trying to learn to walk. You make short trips, not pushing yourself too hard, and then build up to longer and longer ventures into the outside world. It’s a balance between reclaiming your life from your pain and not making it worse. But you will win. If for no other reason that you eventually get used to it. However try to get your medical team to understand how bad the pain is and get them to do something for you, as it can be controlled. I have my daily pain medicine, and then something stronger for break through. With the Mindfullness to help me when it gets really bad or when I know I need to spend days at work, I have a full arsenal to fight and defeat pain. With the right help you can too, and then you control it and not it you. Once you reach this point you will look back to now and see how far you have come. Trust me, it is possible. Good luck, and if you need any more help please get in touch.

My longterm girlfriend and I are separating but she is the only person who knows how to deal with my disability

By | Lifestyle, Mik Scarlet, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability | No Comments

Melissa, London – “My longterm girlfriend and I are separating but she is the only person who knows how to deal with my disability and I have become very reliant on her. I am paralysed from the waist down, a wheelchair user and am scared of facing life without the aid of my partner and the prospect of not meeting somebody so understanding. How can I cope?”

Mik – Hi Melissa, as someone who is also paralysed like you, and who had a very similar experience in my past, I can only say do not be scared. I know that I felt I may never find another love when the relationship in question ended, especially as they supported me so much. However in truth it gave me the push I needed to become truly independent, and so I was able to form better and more fulfilling relationships. I am now happily married to someone who has cared for me during some very dark times, and supports me in my daily life but as I had created an independent life for myself before we got together we both know she helps me through love and not sympathy or any other negative reason. I should also say it is vital you do develop independence as you may open yourself up to bad relationships based on your belief that no one else would assist you. I had one of those, and I was brainwashed to believe that so I ended up being bled dry financially. My advice would be contact social services and work with them to put a fullcare package in place for you. Also use what may seem as a negative time to discover exactly how much you are capable of on your own. I know as I discovered how independent I could be it changed my life. Trust me, it might seem scary right now, but it will get better and you will find that this might be the beginning of a fantastic new chapter in your life.

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