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The Invisibility Myth part 5-Be the heroine of your own adventure

I am more & more aware that soon we will be the elder states persons in our lives…

  ➨ So, my project is gathering momentum.  I had the honour of doing the first, virgin fresh interview for my fledgling book; The Invisibility Myth the other day. I deliberately sought out someone I had no history with, a new friend (as I now like to think of her), so I had no pre-conceived notions of what she would say to me.

   ➨London that day was sporting a spectacular coat of spring blossom, full of optimism and possibility, which perfectly echoed my mood. I was en route from the west to the north side of town, to meet ‘C’ as I will call her for now.  A wonderful woman who will be 63years old this year, so well within my chosen demographic for research.  She is brim full of vim and vigor, honesty, opinions, wisdom, insight, creativity. Getting on with being the heroine in her own life;

Unapologetically the sum of her accumulated years of experience;  an ever evolving kaleidoscope of a life lived and living in colour,  with few shades of grey.  During the interview, as she referenced a time when a number of people she was close to had passed away, she said the words; ‘I was surrounded by more ghosts than people’,….WOWSA ….It started me thinking that soon WE who still consider ourselves (in our heads)  to be youthful and with so much yet to say/do/be, will inevitably have to take on the crown of the elder states persons in our own lives.  A sobering thought. I’m not yet ready for this, I don’t feel old, wise or mature enough!  

   ➨As I record ‘C’ picking out questions from my list to answer, it becomes abundantly clear to me that there is no singular experience of all women. We assume so many roles in our individual lives, but perhaps the most important role we play is  that of nurturing empowerment in other women to do/be/evolve into what best suits them.  We also have a wider responsibility to the tender young women in our lives. So much of my dialogue with ‘C’ revolved around these topics.

 We should fill them with positive affirmation and assurance that it will all be ok, because despite all that has happened to us – the older women – in our individual life adventures, we have survived. The future will be chock full of possibilities for them, despite all those insecurities being driven by crazy hormones.  I am reminded of Caitlin Moran’s  heartbreaking open letter to the young women she encounters at her book signings, its from her book; Moranifesto.  I’m picking out a tiny quote:-  “Know that you were not born scared and self-loathing and overwhelmed. Things have been done – which means things can be undone.  It is hard work. But what you must do right now, and for the rest of your life, is learn how to build a girl. You.”……

The full piece catapulted me back to my own youth – the conflicting feelings and emotional insecurities.  The promise I made to myself to always remember those physical feelings, even though the detail would be lost in time, so that I could support others. I laugh to myself when I think how badly as an adult I dealt with some of the more extreme teen behaviour of my own offspring….My excuse being that I was peri-menopausal at the time…….Oh well, we are human after all…… 

   ➨We grow, we bloom, absorbing what is around us.  We keep on blooming – or should do – until we complete the cycle of life/death/rebirth and embark on the next adventure.  I don’t know about you, but this thought has sure as hell comforted me in my ‘dark night of the soul’ moments…..Still does.
 ➨Recently, I paused my day of to chat with two old guys – ordinary, extraordinary elders from my London street.

They were born in 1933 and 1929, making them 84 and 88 years old and they always, always have great life affirming stories to share.  The younger one was having difficulty remembering  details, but the other is as active mentally and physically (within reason- he is older than god!) as he always has been.

Guyanese Eric and Jessica Huntley  founded a radical publishing business called The Bogle L’Ouverture Press in 1968 from their house, which is only slightly quieter now that Jessica his beloved wife has passed away.  Life was anything but easy for them back in 1970’s London when they arrived separately to pursue their passion. The title of their autobiography; “Doing Nothing is Not an Option” says it all about their life principle. Their home is a revolving door of people of all ages and races seeking out the company of Jessica and Eric, wanting to be inspired by their stories and wisdom.  Go to’s for advice, education, comfort and occasionally a good telling off! To me they are icons of their age. The epitome of the “extraordinary ordinary”.  My life is undoubtedly enriched from having them as neighbours and friends.  I must ask them who they look up to……

    ➨Apropo of nothing in particular, my man was 59 a few days ago. I will be 61 this year…..
Am I/we ready to grow up and be elder states persons?  Not really.
Am I/we wiser?  A bit, not much.
Am i/we evolving?  Sure are – just not sure in what way! 
Be kind humans…..Don’t forget to be your own heroine.

Love and Peace.
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    The Invisibility Myth part 4. Now for the real work


    “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” —Mark Twain. 





       My final night shift in the homeless shelter for 2017 (perfect volunteer work for the insomniacs among us) and my mind is buzzing with an avalanche of thoughts and ideas I need to give form to.
    Last night my daughter’s boyfriend created my web domain; theinvisibilitymyth.com, so now the real work begins to get this book writing show on the road. I am starting to gather interviews with some of the extraordinary ordinary women I am encountering on this journey.  I will start to form and paint the website with stories and photographs and ultimately create and publish a book that will inspire and celebrate the real lives of us women; who we are, where we have come from, where we are headed.  A celebration of lives lived, experiences shared. Mutual empowerment….. I’m exciting myself here!

       So, i’m reaching out, asking you to email me at; jeanielovesart@gmail.com if you would like to share. I would absolutely LOVE to hear from you if you do, and promise to get back to you.  The idea is for you to answer a set list of 20 questions that will tell a short version of your life – life stories of you extraordinary ordinary women’s adventures to add to my own.  Preferably I would like you to be post 50, but i’m open to hear you all!…. 


       Why am I doing this?  
       I’m glad you asked… 
    Here’s the thing; At 50 I woke up as if from a dream state.  For 10 years I had been what is now recognised as peri-menopausal.  Functioning for periods of time in a foggy grey bubble of un-reality, which I found it imposssible to get the medical profession to properly diagnose.  I believed I had become invisible – to myself and to the world.  This was SO not like me.  Every now and then I would have periods of relative “normality”, but always ended up back in the bubble. Waves of hormones and mood swings made me unpredictable company.  I want to stress that this was NOT people making me feel this way, it was something organic dwelling within me.  A hormonally driven craziness that made me feel as if I were not really here.  Around my 50th birthday the greyness and fog lifted.  It was like a re-birth of sorts.  I dwelt comfortably once more in my old skin and partied for my 50th birthday like it was – erm – 2006…..Time to move on with life in real time, not dream time.  I have been making up for that lost time for the past 10 years.




       Self-image interests me, so I am drawn to delve into the credibility or otherwise of the ‘invisibility’ card. I recently read of a woman saying:  “Age, I now realise doesn’t creep up, it fells you with changes you didn’t see coming.  And it happens at 50.  You vanish, replaced by an old and forgettable woman”. ????? Seriously????? I remind myself what is being put out there by re-visiting feminist writer Naomi Wolf in her book ‘The Beauty Myth”.  Her reasoning is cultural, systemic and makes for depressing reading. Thankfully,  most of us women are too busy getting on with our lives, to get bogged down in the detail in the book of the demands of the so called patriarchy. I do not want to give oxygen to this myth, and here’s why;  It’s all in our individual heads….Put there by years of conditioning and experiences. We need to let it go. In order to be the person I am today, I have had to let go of a veritable Trump Tower full of accumulated baggage.  The truth is that women in the western world are freer than ever to celebrate being the women we want to be in 2017 and we seem to be blind to it.  The 1st rule should be that we give ourselves permission to really feel beautiful from deep within and foster a strong personal identity. We are being complicit in our own downfall by harsh self-judgment and criticism of ourselves and each other. The title of Norah Ephrons book: I feel Bad About My Neck, is an honest, funny account of ageing, but the title says much about our default tendency to see ourselves in a negative, concerning light. My accumulated 60 years experience of living, feels so unfettered now, compared to the winging it of my youth.  The more natural, home spun self confidence age has brought me is no longer the unwieldy, unpredictable, misunderstood tool it once was. It sits comfortably with me as I feel the power age and wisdom has conferred. My post menopausal sexiness if you like, is now in the form of that confidence, not in obsessing about the need to seek plastic surgery for (among other things) – vaginal rejuvenation – who does that other than accident victims? I know I am 60.  I own it.  It walks with me on my cranky knees ffs!

    Nasty bitching about a woman – oh – by a woman….

       Who, in the main are the advertising copy writers, the editors/writers of the fashion magazines???? – yes – WOMEN. Powerful women in charge of a multi-million pound business. Women who decide what to validate or knock down.  What to give us overt permission through their tag lines to do/be/say. It is a form of bullying to my mind.  Ladies we need to stop feeding this judging of one another.  We all do it and it needs to stop. Period. Be who you want to be.  Empower and allow others to do likewise…It’s not a competition- or shouldn’t be. There is no prize. However, there is a goal; – Self worth. Self-respect. Happiness. Positive connection with the human race, positive role-models for our daughters and younger women. We are the keepers of a hot, hot flame!

    What a sad, sad viewpoint to buy into…..

    …..If perchance you do choose to buy into some of this ‘older women are invisible’ malarky, maybe shoplifting is a good choice of career for you….If salespersons do ignore you…well, those goodies could find their way into your bag and out the door unobserved……Maybe you  could eat and drink in restaurants and leave without paying the bill…..Or book into expensive hotels and slope off in plain sight at the end of your stay unobserved…Just an idea….I’m not sure you’ll find you are as invisible as you may think you are……..

    Nice to see the press occasionally validating  my beliefs…


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      The Invisibility Myth Part 3

      ❤….Another day another altered
      state. The mind blows so many emotions around in a tornado of challenges. Who
      is this person looking back at my stripped bare face from the steam clouded
      mirror in the bathroom, hair on end, the errant remains of yesterdays makeup
      smeared down my face?….I kind of know her….Been kicking around since oooh
      1956…

      ➨Face says
      60.
      ➨Brain says
      30.

      The battle rages – Not between me and my brain, I know
      myself, there are no more illusions – but between me and the media image of my
      60 year old self.  I’m thinking of a few
      poster queens: The surgically enhanced, photo-shopped Kardashianesque
      types.  The Theresa May school prefect
      and captain of the hockey team, glass ceiling busting hard-arse types.  The actress/musician/model verbalising their
      mid-life crises by bemoaning the lack of roles for older women, whilst
      nip/tucking/lifting/botoxing to ridiculous extremes.  Is this really something we want to aspire to
      in order to be visible? I personally try to venture out without being
      hyper-aware of my age and just approach the world with an open mind and heart.
      I endeavor to out manoeuvre the script dictators and stick to dancing to the
      soundtrack of my own life, continue to evolve from within my chosen colourful
      tribe. It’s fun to dress up, make the most of myself and promenade like the
      exotic, wisdom filled old bird I like to think I am. I strive to encourage and empower everyone I encounter to
      stop making excuses and say yes, yes, YES, rather than ‘no’ or ‘maybe’ whenever the opportunity arises to have fun.
      Spitalfields Colour walk with an awesome bunch of creative people..

      ❤I’m
      convinced that we are more interested in seeing and being inspired by examples
      to emulate, from the ordinary extraordinary non-celeb older women who, like me,
      have been cracking on with this life thing since time.  After all, we are freer to do so than at any
      other time in our history.  We have been
      messily attempting and succeeding in doing it our own way, since we were old
      enough to customise our school uniforms and forge a fake ID, and the stories
      are often comedy gold….and lets not forget, laughter and sex is good for the health!

      ❤So what
      keeps us in the closet?
      Who says we vanish from view post 50?

      ❤We simply don’t.  It
      just suits a whole load of other people’s agendas, when and if we buy into the
      hype that spawns a whole industry of pills, potions, surgery and dependence.
      Regardless of age or sex, one can find a virtually inexhaustible supply of
      people who will be happy to make you feel badly about yourself if you let them.
      Why would we give anyone that much power over us?

      ❤The
      mainstream media/advertising industry, for some reason are failing to see the
      rising tide of a more visible than ever generation of older women.  Once they believe that it’s financially
      advantageous to promote a positive image of us golden oldies – BOOM – we will
      go public in a big and hopefully enlightened way.  The current refusal to acknowledge the worth,
      beauty and sexuality of us post-menopausal women is their financial loss in my
      opinion. There is nothing stopping a revolutionary shift in mainstream exposure
      other than our demanding of it – if indeed that is what we do want. We are free
      and empowered to make those choices.

      ❤In the
      interests of research, I impetuously filled in an online advertisement for
      models of all ages and sizes required. I was confident in my belief that when
      they saw my age and photo they would not get back to me.  They did. 
      Eek. I decided to be truthful with the phone interviewer about my
      motivation – ie; seeking research material to prove my invisibility and the
      media theory for my book; The Invisibility Myth.  Surprisingly, amusingly gob-smacked, I am
      invited in for a photo shoot.  Double
      eek!

      Showered, blank canvas – ish…..
      ❤Sooooo,  yesterday I rocked up at the photographic
      studio in Marylebone, London.  Fresh faced as requested (apart from my lippy – I feel naked without
      it!), with a suitcase full of “looks” trawled from my wardrobe for potential
      portfolio/agency photographs.  You know
      what? Not going to lie, I had a blast, despite my reservations. 
      Oh the joy of having someone else do the hair, the makeup…. the
      preening!  The only vaguely uncomfortable
      moment was having my waist size taken (no comment!).  I have posted some of the un-retouched photos
      on this blog, because I am proud of the me they show. Plus, the opportunity it
      afforded me, to chat to the young women who work there and those coming and
      going, about research for my book, and experience the less than glam reality of
      the selection process of potential models from 3 to 60, was both fascinating
      and enlightening. 

      I have never looked this glam!

      I felt nothing but
      huge respect for the courage and determination of young people who decide that
      a career in the media spotlight is their calling in life.  My own agenda was different, therefore being
      seen as a potential older model at the end of the shoot was an amusing and
      unexpected bonus. When and if, the agency concerned actually translates what
      happened with me yesterday into paying work, we shall see.  I shall look past any hype and have fodder for
      my book regardless.  Yesterday’s
      shenanigans may see my un-botoxed, unsnapped and nipped 60 year old face and body off on a whole new adventure, pioneering the glam older
      woman look into a more mainstream acceptance – squee!!!  Who knows? Stranger things have happened.

      The gold shoes had another outing…

      ❤Just call me Helen for now – that’s
      Helen Mirren – Now THERE’S a glam babe….But she’s mainstream, therefore outside
      my chosen remit….

      However, if anyone fancies making a film of my life, I
      always wanted her to play me…..in the absence of the real me of course …. And quite honestly that real me ain’t aiming on going anywhere invisible in the foreseeable future…Accompanied by my freedom pass of course… 

                                                         💋I am ever the optimist.💋
                                                                 Love in
      abundance.

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        A love letter to myself – Yes really……
        My
        Journey:
            
            In 2016 I reached what could be 
        considered a milestone –
        60 years of being me.  Alongside planning the celebrations, I felt the
        desire to write a love letter to myself; A song of thanks to the body
        and soul that has held me since 1956. 
        I mulled over the the tone, the words chasing around in my head via
        chats with my girl-friends and evidence glimpsed most days in the
        media: ‘Women over 50 become invisible”….SAY WHAT GIRL???  HELL NOT
        ON MY WATCH!
             From this came the seed for my book “The Invisibility Myth”.


         A wider love letter to ALL the
        strong, awesome, ‘ordinary extraordinary’ women of the world; Those I am
        blessed to know and those I have never met. I feel the need to:

        Explore and share the journeys,
        life stories and photographs of a number of ordinary extraordinary
        women over the age of 50. 
        To challenge stereotypes – for
        example: Language; ’Silver fox’ for men implying yumminess – ‘Cougar’
        for women implying predator…WTF????
        To show that there are women out
        there all over the world just getting on with being their awesome selves,
        regardless of age and other peoples expectations and judgments upon them.  Doing their best to walk to the beat of
        their own drums. 
        To demonstrate that age IS a
        number, but need not be embued with negative connotations with reference to
        women – It is the age you feel
        comfortable with
        that is relevant. A woman’s fertile years should not be
        her defining ones. Once the mind-messing hormones are done with there are years
        of opportunity ahead to enjoy new life adventures and experiences.
        Get people to take an honest look at
        the women (and indeed the men) they are looking to on social media for so
        called ‘aspiration’ and ‘validation’.

        The letter I wrote to myself went like this:-
                           
                             
                             
                             
                             
                  10th October 2016
                           
                             
                             
                             
                             
                   
        My
        Dearest Jeanie:
         
            What a journey it has been, from
        that illegitimate girl child of the 50’s baby boom, to
        the noughties. I feel compelled to take a moment to bow down and thank my
        scarred, beautiful body and soul for the miracle of sustaining my life, and of
        the chance I have been given to create new life from my love of another. 

        This life I can honestly say, when the cheques and balances have been
        weighed, has been ‘an awfully big adventure’ to quote Peter Pan – yes
        brain, I know JM Barrie was referring to Peter’s impending death – but hey,
        that is an inevitability of being born and it waits for us all at some yet un-designated
        hour. Yes, I can  feel my mortality
        lurking more in the shadows, but I never allow it to dictate my life script any
        more than I did when I was a youth who was convinced I knew it all and was
        invincible…

            
           



        This morning I stand naked in front of a full-length
        mirror taking stock of the purely physical Jeanie. I hear a quote in my head
        from a Beckett play: 

        “To have been always what I am – and so changed from what I was.”
        >16-60<

        Oh my, the reflection I see is much changed from my youth, but not too shabby.
         You know I could, if I allowed myself
        the self-flagellation, stand here all day picking myself apart – but
        what exactly would be the point?  For the most part I comfortably inhabit
        this age-spotted, wrinkly, lined and headed south skin with a proud dignity.
         I have no wish for it to reflect back a surgically enhanced lie
        about its 60 years of wear and tear, as inside I would be lying to myself.
         Its physical scars and blemishes are the marks that tell me how strong I
        am. That I am a survivor.  For me, I want my body to look the very best it
        naturally can, given this ordinary extraordinary inhabitants history. 

        I thank you for every detail.
        Also;

        I will bless Bravissimo, and it’s ilk for the anti-gravity lift for my bajonkas, and for the support and comfort of higher waistbands. 
        I will clothe my body in what makes me feel awesome, …and take the necessary
        pain relief when I wish to strut around in those killer heels, remaining interested
        in fashion as I always have been, but not a slave to its dictates.  
        I will colour my hair not because it
        is grey but because I have always
        loved to colour it.

          I will wear makeup, have regular
        pedicures to avoid gnarly old person feet and dentist visits to avoid false
        teeth! 

         I shall till my final breath, continue to delight in
        the freedom of the first warmth of the sun on unclothed skin, dance badly, walk
        barefoot, delight at the sweet smell of new babies, puppies and kittens,
        freshly opened bags of coffee, fresh warm bread, wild flowers and the sea.
        I shall continue to randomly hug, kiss and cuddle those I care for – and
        occasionally total strangers when the feeling overwhelms me, without
        apology or edit.

        I shall continue to kick ass, have
        opinions, demand to be seen, heard and counted as the evolving, caring,
        interested and engaged Jeanie I always have been.  Why would I not?


            My personal freedom was hard-won by previous generations of women,
        the ghosts of whom I walk alongside in appreciation, feeling blessed to be a
        1950’s babe.  It has taken a lot of work
        so me/I/Jeanie can stand nakedly, honestly in front of this mirror and
        like what she sees, now with maturity recognising that each person has a unique
        journey, their own demons to battle. FinalIy I see colour not just black and
        white.

            I feel no different at 60 on the inside, than I did at 26,
        so why should the world even consider treating me any different when they
        encounter the older me?  Or does it?  There seems to have always been
        prejudices to overcome, whatever my age. 

        Possibly the lack of young men turning heads as I pass by now? …Or
        builders refraining from whistles and inappropriate comments?, Youf being uninterested
        in my opinions?….Hardly wasting my precious time considering this as “a loss”,
        which some women seem to, whilst simultaneously finding it sexist and offensive
        when happening. 

            Confused?  I am.  
            Some of my contemporaries seem
        to take these things as personal slights and use them to support their
        experience of apparent invisibility as truth, 
        leading them rather sadly to a self-fulfilling prophesy of low
        self-worth and the reasoning behind much that they feel is unfulfilled in their
        lives.  Surely we have evolved further than that?   As far as I am
        concerned, if my 87 year old Aunt Eva can want to do a sky-dive with me – because
        as she asked – “why not?”- the answer to which is (apparently);  ‘health and safety’… I feel I should actively
        dismiss ageist excuses and not allow them to creep up un-challenged
        into my brain.
            No apologies, no regrets Jeanie.

            I cannot in all honesty end this without facing my… how can I put it – Less
        mentally mature side.  That nasty bit of me that needs constant work
        and attention: That human condition of occasional bitter and twisted anger and
        jealousy that threatens to take hold… 
             In the interests of  self-reflection,
        I acknowledge  I have harbored these emotions over the years, I cannot deny it and the truth has to be faced.  Enforced stern,
        honest words with my darker self usually (not always) result in   bin-bagging the offending, offensive, wrinkle causing negativity pretty
        darned sharpish. Otherwise it eats away like acid and etches itself onto my
        soul and into the way I express myself to the world.
         I need to continually address it, iron the frowns (or resting bitch
        face as my daughter Amber so kindly puts it), ship it out and move
        on.  However, always, ALWAYS  I refrain from the familiarity of recidivist
        activity, life’s wind-ups and temptation regularly lead my human
        self to the outer edges of reason and it is natural to seek comfort in the old responses, never stepping outside….

         “I have had many crises in my
        life – most of them in my head”. Wise words that stay with me as a reminder to
        keep perspective. 
        Always re-group and re-evaluate what
        and who you are my dear.
        With thanks in abundance from you to you.
        Remember to love yourself old girl.

        Jeanie
        Fuelled by Cadburys Fruit & Nut


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          Gimme Shelter (and a break) – The Invisibility Myth

          Hey there world – I’m excitedly and enthusiastically starting to research my fledgling book; “The invisibility Myth”, and already I’m finding gazillions of articles that are throwing me off-track!  I get easily embroiled in human issues that have me screaming my non-invisible,  unbalanced, un-edited opinions at the computer screen!..… 



          There are the individuals,  feminists,  whingers,  unhappy, the man-haters, the people haters, the grudge bearers, the disgruntled and the trolls.  There are the institutions,  social media, the press, TV and radio, the doctors, the psychologists, dieticians, plastic surgeons and the guru’s.  All eager to sell their valid points of view….and I am oh so gagging to join the fray!!!! 






              Tonight I am dipping in and out of my duties as a volunteer at a local homeless night shelter in London and penning a partial account of my Tuesday night stint keeping in touch with the real world. 


              …..The blue flashing light of the paramedic’s car arrives at the same moment as I do for the start of my all night shift at the shelter.  One of the guests has apparently suffered a seizure and a calm, resigned sort of chaos is the easiest way of describing the scene. An hour later the 58yr old schizophrenic guest is sitting up in a freshly made bed, eating his heated up supper.  He seems confused but recovered, poking the exhausted young guy snoring in the bed next to him who an hour ago was trying to help save his life, but who is now apparently annoying him. The Paramedic sits quietly writing up his notes before moving on to the next emergency. 
              All in a nights work for him and his team.
              Crisis averted.
              I send up a quiet prayer of grateful thanks for our National Health Service.


              
              2.30am – All is quiet now apart from the hushed, soul searching exchanges between my Polish guardian angel night owl buddy and me – He checks that I remember the word he taught me last week: ‘dyscalculia’ – Yep – random, but the sort of thing he likes to do.  I have to sheepishly look up how to spell it ….. We two settle into a familiar and strangely cosy routine until the breakfast shift is due to arrive around 06.30am.  Our purpose is to watch over this group of men locked in to the church with us overnight. Safe from being preyed upon.  Removed from the chance of violent encounters on the dark streets (though not immune to kicking off occasionally amongst themselves whilst here sadly).  
              Temporarily away from the numbing temptations of alcohol and drugs, which are banned on the premises. 
              Temporarily saved from themselves.


              
              12 male guests of various ages, races and creeds. Why no women?  Last year there were 3 women, 2 of which were using the time in the shelter to get themselves accommodation and sort out their lives., which is what it is intended for.  What makes the men the majority?  What is the weakness between the two sexes that makes the men more likely to self-destruct when things go wrong?  After 3 years of observing whilst volunteering in this shelter, a lifetime of living with men and raising a son, I struggle to extract any enlightenment or insight from what I see and experience here.  I sadly cannot comprehend the kind of addiction that makes people loose every last scrap of their self-respect when things conspire against them.  I also cannot comprehend a society that believes it is acceptable to allow the extremely vulnerable and mentally ill among us to be ‘cared for’ in the community.  Leaving them when incapable, to self medicate and stumble through each day alone, unsupported and misunderstood.


           

              
               The church pastor and the main organiser of this particular shelter finish their shift tonight scooping excretia that has found its way into the urinals in the mens toilets at some point throughout the evening.  
              This makes me extremely angry for some reason, even though I am not the one doing the clearing up. There are so many good people volunteering here trying to help, trying to make a difference. Treating the men with dignity and respect; Feeding and clothing them, providing freshly laundered beds, towels and toiletries each night, offering them a friendly welcome with opportunities to get help and seek solutions to their plight.  Yet the lure of alcohol and drugs to some of them seems greater than the offer of human kindness. The care givers are left to shovel the shit – literally tonight, which they do with such willing good grace that I feel ashamed of my anger.  It seems upon reflection to be unjustifiably judgmental of me. I need to have a talk to my less tolerant self….


            
              I wish that my Red-Bulled, wired old brain and heart could crank up to warp speed and en route conjure up a superpower – one that could stop the rot…..But hey – most of the time I have enough trouble saving me from myself and my own rot….what do I know…I just crack on regardless…..Maybe that is an essential difference. I’m just sitting here drinking endless cups of yucky instant coffee, scoffing the bar of choccy I stupidly bought with the Red Bull and blogging – not exactly the stuff of Nobel Prize winning analysis……And yet who knows, maybe, just maybe the inherent ability to ‘crack on regardless’ is a worthy solution-  one of the Superpowers that separates us women from the chaps???? And you know, when we are finished with the old hormones that drive us bonkers every month, we are realistically free to be stronger,  shine brighter and contribute to the world with more confidence and accumulated wisdom than we ever were capable of when young.  The only limitations are those we set in our own minds (with the exception obviously of health issues).  Step up, celebrate it, sing it, take from the pot and give back…..Above all else enjoy the ride ladies.  We have never had it so good 💜…… Discuss.



              

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            Use somebody? Valentines Day-It’s for life
            Lost Lovers Ball

             Use Somebody

            ‘I’ve been roaming around
            Always looking down at all I see
            Painted faces, fill the places I can’t reach
            You know that I could use somebody
            You know that I could use somebody
            Someone like you, and all you know, and how you speak
            Countless lovers under cover of the street
            You know that I could use somebody
            You know that I could use somebody
            Someone like you’
            ****************


               I am definitely a pack animal.  Who/What are you?

               
            On the eve of St Valentine’s Day this year I shall be helping overnight in a homeless shelter.  The dispossessed and often un-loved will temporarily become a part of my world every Tuesday night for six weeks. I shall as I always do, encourage them to talk if they want to, when they wander out from their makeshift camp beds unable to rest.  I will listen in amazement to the often heartbreaking, unbelievable stories, the twists of fate that took those humans like me onto the streets and made them so vulnerable.  The unhappy life situations that sometimes defy logic to take away personal control. I am blessed – able to walk blearily home when the breakfast shift arrives, back to Jeanie world.  Humbled and reminded how close we all are in reality to the potential of our lives collapsing like a house of cards. 

                  Back in The Blue House, I faithfully and happily create little shrines to enduring love around my home. I ignore the onslaught of the financially driven Hallmark spend-fest, the one that dwells on the need to invest in just one ’significant other’ in our lives. Instead I take time to be thankful for the myriad of different personal relationships in my life;
                     The good, bad and downright indifferent kind. 
                     The soul feeding, joyous, uplifting kind….

                     The passionate requited and unrequited heart fluttering kind…. 

                                 The toxic kind that requires ‘social pruning’ as one girlfriend calls it, to                            prevent it from ruining your life…..                                 

             

                   

               
               ..I have a memory from years ago flash up like a lightbulb in my mind.  It is of someone  telling me in the heat of the moment that he didn’t like me – never had, never will. Despite my initial urge to tell him to ‘**ck-off then!’,  I calmly replied that if he ever did get to the point in his life where he changed his mind, I would be there for him. He replied that he didn’t need people, didn’t need friends, didn’t need anyone. Didn’t care.  I have never forgotten those words.….What a sad, alienating life view he has.  ‘No man is an island’ – who wrote/said that?  I can’t remember, but it is so, so true. Life is a team effort… Preferably with lashings of hugs, cuddles, inappropriate, scabrous, gossipy, laughing-till-you-wee connectivity, fizz, chocolate, coffee, tea, babies, dogs, cats…..Have I missed anything out? 
               
              I personally thrive on human contact and connection.  My family, friends, neighbours, community – Hell every single day even my Facebook and Instagram ‘virtual friendships’ thrill me,  lift me up, inspire me, keep me on my toes, make me laugh and cry.…
               My door is always open literally and metaphorically,(sometimes because I forget to close it, has to be said!) and there is always fizz chilling, vodka/tequila in freezer, kettle on, ready to share what I have.  To provide you with whatever you may need dear humankind… 
               The unexpected frisson of random encounters with total strangers on planes, trains, in the street, dog walking in the park, help to maintain my sometimes jaded, severely tested faith in the belief that there is always balance to be had between the good and bad in humanity. Enriching and life enhancing.  
            Why wouldn’t you want/seek that connectivity?  

             I have recently received some tearful  photos from our love child who is working in Kenya at the moment, from an orphanage she has visited.  She says:  “I had this little three month old cuddled up to me.  Just needed some contact.” No **it Sherlock –  We are programmed to seek comfort, connectivity, support from one another right from the beginning. Babies are programmed to do it for survival.  Why would we believe that human kindness is not necessary once we are self-reliant?  
               I guess the hardest price to pay for loving and being loved, of letting people in, is loss. Loss through abandonment, rejection, bad judgment, bad luck, relationship break down, geography or ultimately, the big one – death.  By not connecting, it’s possible that you save yourself the pain of having to process emotionally testing things, but the loss of and to humanity is far, far greater.  
               My family and friends will be attending the funeral soon of my husbands parents. They had a long and fulfilling life together, made babies, worked, travelled, had great friends, neighbours and church family.  They dealt with the vissitudes of life, then died within five days of one another. No better tribute to the human endeavour and spirit.

                   I glance at our animals; Lu-Bear the DoodleDog and Ozzie the Romanian refugee cat, different species snuggled up together on the sofa (yes, I know it’s because its sooooo cold at the moment, but lets try and keep the romantic illusion in tact!).  Nature says they are enemies, but in this environment there is no need to be….They both have all they need to avoid conflict.  Their humans willingly and lovingly provide it for them…. In return, they give us unconditional(if food based) love and warm snuggles… We in return dress them up in silly clothes and have endless pleasure taking photos of them… win/win really. I think there is a life lesson in there somewhere……*insert your own answer*

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               In conclusion:
            Love one another.
            Go and hug-a-hoodie… 
            Phone that grumpy relative…
            Invite that snarky neighbour round for a glass… 
            It will make the world a better, more loved up place.  
               Or maybe not…..xx

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              A Little Matter of Life and Death….
              Saturday 28th January 2017

                🌈 We have our first Airbnb guest baby in The Blue House – A gorgeous 3 week old schnuggley  zen-like Buddha boy with a head of shiny black hair and a wise, knowing expression.  It is a sunny lazy Saturday morning in the kitchen and we are drinking coffee and playing pass the adorable baby…None of us can resist wanting to cuddle this warm, perfect form. This wriggling, stretching gurning delight…..The new, innocent, sweet smelling miracle of a new life….



                 …🍂Then we get the phone call.
              The one we have known to expect for so long.
              The one that takes us 2 hours on 4 motorways to a different home.

                 🍂It is currently a sad, tired place.  The house where 58 years ago the life of the man I love was rather precariously received onto the living room floor.  Today, now,  the gentle kind, sweet Mother who gave him life, breathed her last exhausted breath, from her bed in what was once the dining room of the family home. The new home she entered as a young wife in 1952. 
                 🍂I got to say good-bye to the familiar face that rested
              as if sleeping….Finally relaxed, at peace and free of pain and confused anxiety, she looked younger. Dare I say it; even peaceful. The deep etched lines on her face have smoothed, her fine white hair, once dark, dark brown feels silky soft as I stroke her head, her skin still warm as I kiss her and tell her I love her one last time. I feel a mixture of sadness, disbelief and, dare I say it… relief.

                             ❤Ale-ha Ha Shalom – may she rest in peace.❤

                                     🌱A completed circle of life.🍂

                 🌱She was an Austrian Jewish child who’s mother made the ultimate sacrifice of putting her daughter alone onto the Kinder-transport – her best chance of survival. 
              Of life.
                🌱She found refuge in England as a young Jew and departed this earthly realm as one of John Wesley’s devout Methodists. The Jewish prayer for the dead – The Kaddish may be deemed inappropriate by some, but I/we will recite it anyway, if only to complete another, different circle.  It will be a nod of respect to her early roots and a reminder of the hope that one day we will be able to fill in some of the empty spaces of her early life in Vienna. Then we can speak of her beginnings to future generations with clarity not vagueness.

                 🌺 This lady who has breathed her last today was more than a mother-in-law to me; for many years she was a de-facto mother when my own was lost.  She accepted me being brought into her family’s life by her beloved son without question or apparent judgment.  I came with a bundle of messy baggage which she and I spent many, many hours trying to unpack and unravel, bonding over shared stories and confidences along the way. I’m not sure if we ever did complete the unravelling, but having an older, wise, strong woman who I trusted and adored to confide honestly and openly in, was a blessing she seemed too humble to realise the importance or significance of.🌺 




                
                 🌳 This woman was also a devoted wife of 63 years, a mother of 3, grandmother of 6, a radiographer, epic gardener, knitter, seamstress, country dancer…in fact a whole raft of talents, many of which she was shyly dismissive of.  Knitting was one of the last creative things her brain lost the ability to transmit to her fingers…I photographed those fingers at work when I first realised something more than the forgetfulness we all experience from time to time was going on and she revealed she was frightened for what lay ahead…I made her promises that I was unable to keep…



                
                🍂I /we will miss you beautiful lady, but truth to tell I did my real mourning for you while you were alive as I watched your consciousness slip away into a twilight zone far, far removed from reality.  I hope though that you could feel the love that surrounded you and that you had a sense of fulfilment in life and all you had achieved.🍂



                
                🍂I thank all the heavens above that you survived and gave birth to Stephen, without whom there would be no Oliver and Amber, no soul mate to complete me, no family of my own to nurture and grow.  I thank you from the bottom of my tender, bruised heart for that gift above all others. It has been a true blessing and privilege to have you in my life sharing the journey to this point. 

                🌳 Chosen family, tribe, roots and love.  The great, unfolding story that we are all a part              of. 
                   🌳 The only stuff that matters.
                   🌳 The only stuff that keeps us grounded in reality.

                                    

                                              ♥︎🌳 Shalom 🌳♥︎


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                Kiss me, demonstrations and free hugs in NYC. Therapy in the sky.

                graffiti in the closet
                🇺🇸My Man and I happen to find
                ourselves in 🍏New York on Inauguration Day 2017…..Friday 20th January 2017 -The day the 45th POTUS, who’s name I cannot bring myself to utter,  officially gets sworn into office in Washington DC. 
                ☔️The weather is grey and wet.
                ☁︎Heavy skies.
                ♥︎Heavy hearts in need of free hugs.
                ✒︎Police everywhere, response fingers on the triggers of their machine guns. Life and death decisions at their fingertips.
                ✒︎People demonstrate. In the main peacefully. Democratically. 
                Every cab we take, the conversation is one of negativity, dislike, fear, despair. We share our mutual concerns as we see them from across the pond in Blighty.  
                ✒︎We connect, with wry humour and belief/hope that it will all be ok in the end. 
                ✒︎We accept that democracy has spoken. 
                ✒︎For now.
                ✒︎Homeless people abound on the streets, as they do back home in London, but with no free National Health Service to gather them up when they fall, they beg with a sad intensity and it has to be said- an inventiveness- we don’t often get to experience back home.
                ✒︎This is the uneasy backdrop to our visit.

                ….Bizarre then you might think, that we are having the most awesome time!  We weave through the real time events and demonstrations taking place in and around Manhattan and DC, steeping ourselves in the cultural, the shopping  (despite the appalling exchange rate), the endless pit stops in iconic delis for coffee and eats and cheesecake – always NY cheesecake….propping up the hotel bar supping Dry Martinis and Old Fashioned’s, Madison Square Garden for Kings of Leon gig, viewing great art at 
                MoMA….walking, talking, buzzing, looking up and out literally and metaphorically at the history and people of this great vibrant city. 
                It has survived and evolved.  Because it has to..
                 💠So have we. 
                 💠Because we have to. 
                The alternative is surrender and acceptance to other people controlling and dictating our lives. Not an option I would consider for me or those of my Tribe.  I think maybe I can be too much of a naive idealist,….but then again, I prefer to have the audacity to Manifest Hope. It was after all the 44th President Obama’s mantra in his original presidential campaign. A very, very different vibe back in 2009 when we witnessed his inauguration in Washington.


                🚂 The pleasure bus has to eventually stop at its final destination sadly. So after leaving my man at Penn Station where he is taking the Amtrak train to Washington for work meetings, I walk disconsolately back to Times Square and find myself drawn into  “Smokey Mary’s” – a French Gothic church, a city block deep and 80 feet high, hidden in midtown Manhattan. Statues and images of Mary, Jesus, saints and angels inspire reverence or at least respectful silence. It is a quiet haven for the homeless and dispossessed to nap safely and warmly. A time alone for me to reflect on my life blessings. As I prepare to leave, I notice a pile of coats in the gloom – only a pair of rather beautiful, gnarled yet elegant black hands show there is a human within – a sad woman’s face in  shadow.  I gently touch her arm and slide dollars into those hands, blow her a kiss, say a silent prayer to whoever may be listening, and leave in a big yellow taxi for JFK Airport.
                Homeward bound.🇬🇧

                Safe haven, for a short while.

                ✈️… I am blog writing in my wired state (as I so often am after midnight) in the middle of the night somewhere across the Atlantic Ocean en route back to the UK. After an uneventful wait in the departure lounge and despite the threat of storm chaos as wind and rain once again lash the East Coast, I take up my seat on the BA plane next to a seemingly edgy anxious young Trinidadian man.   He is clutching a cabin sized bottle of red wine and requesting permission to start drinking in order to quell his flying nerves…Not exactly my idea of the perfect partner of choice for a long flight, but I decide to try and engage with him in light hearted banter-type distraction during a slightly turbulent take-off and see where it takes us. Half an hour later up above the clouds at cruising speed we are best buds on first name terms!!!!….Strangers on a plane, connected via the human condition – In particular; family, religion and the pursuit of individual contentment and happiness.  


                🎯Nothing trivial.

                🎯Straight in there.
                🎯The BIG ones.
                🎯Life, death and everything in between.
                🎯Nothing off the menu.
                Best. Flight. Ever!!!!!!…
                I discover my fellow traveller is a banker turned psychologist…Yay – a 6 1/2 hour therapy session –  me grilling him about his Jehovas Witness upbringing in Trinidad (harsh!)…Fascinating stuff:  the theology, the dogma, the indoctrination an ohh, oh, the eternal judgment.  He forged his escape (as I myself had done) at a young age, to another country in order to create the dialogue of his own life, in his own words and seek a destiny free from the daily crushing criticism and guilt back in Trinidad. The legacy of such a life change is always seeking to find sense and order in the chaos of emotional thoughts and reactions to life events, always seeking peer and parental approval despite knowing it is unlikely and also unrealistic. My new BF  grills me about my relationships, how my responses are informed by my background, how I avoided recidivism….. 
                ❓How many times in my life have I had these discussions or a variation on the theme of with people  
                Including my own “choose life over a living death” story, the answer is; too many to count…..
                  
                ↪️Continued sometime later, back home in my sweet, sweet island of a bed, pooch, cat and tea to hand:

                Writing from the warm safety of my bed!



                Our animated chat was broken only once by a short nap taken after supper,  accompanied in the psychologists case by downing half a sleeping tablet with his 3rd cabin bottle of wine…  We found ourselves sharing the kind of intimate confidences it is, for some reason easy to divulge when you know time is limited, there is no escape and you are unlikely to ever see the person you are confiding in again!  Suitably oiled by his consumption of wine and mine of Bloody Mary’s from the trolley, we ploughed on through the minefield of life’s adventures until we descended to land through a thick London fog.  
                Oddly and I realise probably to both of our relief,  the sheer volume of people impatiently exiting the plane and me stopping to take photos of the crepuscular dawn, meant we did not even get to say goodbye, bonne chance….. 
                🔵An enlightening brief encounter.
                🔵A reminder that we humans share the same inner doubts and insecurities, but rarely have the opportunity or feel secure enough to express how we feel. 
                🔵It feels good to share😉……

                🌈Life sure is a glorious gift and the unwrapping doesn’t ever have to end. 🌈😘


                Donuts-knitted-world needs them

                                                                          🌳Shalom🌳

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                  Life laid out on the table………
                  Trust me, I’m human…
                     A duvet day…..Pills and caffeine consign the head thump and slight temperature into background noise for four hour breaks, which allows a degree of creative thought.  
                     Certain sentences come and go in my head:-  

                  The nature of trust….The need for pain release…..

                     How am I making a connection between the two? 
                     By putting out ripples and question marks, opening my heart and mind. 

                  Airing thoughts…


                     ….Amongst a variety of other things, I am an Airbnb host at my London home and people often ask how I seem to so comfortably and easily welcome strangers into my home, hand over a set of keys and actively encourage my guests to feel like it is their own for the duration of their stay (sometimes beyond)?
                  seek it…
                     I find the answer is one that relies to a degree on my personal strength of character and self- belief:- It also lies the nature of how we communicate and empower trust in others – in my case, on two major levels; 
                  show it…
                  (1)  My personal decision to accept or deny a booking relies initially on instinct when I view the person(s)profile who are making a booking request.  This is backed up by Airbnb’s own references/verifications, but after that it is down to the guest understanding my clear, written requirements regarding behaviour and respect whilst in my home. Then me developing a relationship with the individual guest when they arrive, encouraging them from the start of their stay to treat my home and family as they would their own -hopefully with respect. My own life experience has shown me that you are no more likely to be hurt or abused physically or mentally by a stranger as you are by known members of your own family or friends, which leads me on to:
                   

                  Do it!…

                  (2)  I work hard to maintain my inherent belief in the goodness of the human race, whilst also recognising and being prepared to encounter and deal with the darker side of humanity. Both thrive from attention and having seen both in my life (who hasn’t?) I choose to dwell on the positive and cut off the negative before it becomes a major problem. If it were a guest I would politely remove them (although thus far this has never been an issue – all my guests have been delightful). Family can be more tricky, but as far as I am concerned – same rules apply.  Being blood related does not supply you with an immunity clause.


                  I gave this trust thing a lot of thought recently whilst having a rather beautiful tattoo on my wrist, designed and drawn for me by my man to mark my 60th birthday -Phoenix angel wings rising from the flame, ….always optimistically rising and regenerating. 
                  Lordy it hurt!
                     I chose to experience that pain, and yet I am not a self-harmer.
                     I felt for some reason I welcomed that pain.
                     It was a kind of release from the pressure that had built up in me that I wasn’t even aware of on a conscious level.
                     A metaphor for wiping the slate clean and starting afresh.
                     My body produced wonderful endorphins in response to the pain of the needles, which resulted in me leaving the tattoo parlour with almost a sense of euphoria.
                  Balance restored from the weird, intimate experience of giving a stranger permission to permanently mark ones body with ink, in the form of art.


                     Many, many hurtful, painful and difficult things have been accumulating in my life for quite a while, as I know they do for everybody.  My life in the main is brim full of joy, grace and abundant love, great family, friends and community. But it is also a life that, through being lived in an open, extroverted not introverted, full-on way, has left me exposed to that dark side. I do not choose to shy away from conflict and as a consequence have to deal with some irrational, bad behaviour from people it is impossible to avoid if you are going to engage with and to learn to trust-or not. Indeed I have experienced reason over the years to trust strangers over some of the people who have been closest to me, who have given me little or no reason to invest in trusting or respecting them. And yet I still believe in the goodness, still keeping my heart and door open to the opportunity to connect.

                  Always hope…

                   For now I will work on maintaining my optimism and tolerance levels, ready to welcome and host as I have been doing, for it has enriched my life beyond measure and helped keep any cynical thoughts to a background mumble….Or is that the brain ache returning as the pills wear off???   

                  To life….


                     There you have it.  Transparency and reflection.  Not something I normally have time to do.
                  Does any of what I wrote make sense?
                  Will I look at this tomorrow and not even recognise the person who wrote it!?

                     Just laying my life out on the table, putting ideas out there that will maybe resonate with a wider audience. 
                  Maybe be passed on?
                  wise

                  Wise words…

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                    We are Stardust, We are Golden………’
                    Thinking cap on

                    💭January. An ideal time to re-boot, re-set the clock of experience and start afresh.💭
                    🐾Dogs on the bed🐾. One is a huge, warm, in-your-face real and rug like Doodle called Lu-Bear. The other one known as Clemmie the ghost dog, departed in 2016 after 16years snoring quietly away-still there in the shadows. The ghost dog replacement is a character full young Romanian refugee cat – Ozzinobuns…..

                    Short, grey days provoking introspective thinking over endless cups of coffee. 
                    ❓What are we here for?
                    ❓What is the point in it all❓
                    Hmm – Big, loaded questions, for which there seems to be an abundance of financially driven self-help and enlightenment industries peddling solutions to the desperate ‘us’- you and me, who sometimes in our darkest and more vulnerable moments seek a deeper answer. Solutions profound, shallow, sometimes downright scandalous and dangerous.

                    Often the answer seems to require a credit card, bucket loads of trust, blind faith and belief in what is being ‘revealed’ by the superior, already enlightened who are eager to cash in on their knowledge. A humungous online/offline industry driven by commerce,  self-interest and often individual aggrandisement, not philanthropy.  Cynical moi❓  

                    Do I sound more like my man; old punk rock Stoffles in this outpouring, rather than hippy,peace and love Jeanie❓  Yeah, well I have my moments.  
                    I am (sort of)human after all.

                    I know the answer- ask me!


                     I personally seek humour and self-deprecation in those whose answers I most often turn to.  Often enlightenment comes to me from art, literature, a film, an overheard conversation, an encounter with a stranger.  Sources that aren’t those that come in a neat, packaged in an Amazon box, black and white ideal. 


                    Why then am I sharing this internal monologue, this verbal dribbling out loud❓


                    I have been on this journey called life for 60 years on this green and blue batshit crazy planet.  In that time I have engaged with life to the best of my ability. I have been no saint or shrinking violet and have chosen a pretty gritty- roller-coaster-no apologies-no regrets kind of life as much on my own terms as possible. My experience is glorious technicolour, dancing and stumbling through light and shadow, not black and white. Recently various people who’s opinions I respect, have ventured to suggest that I should consider writing a book about – amongst other things – ‘The Sayings of Chairman Jeanie’.  Or Stalin Jeanie as I have been referred to occasionally by my dear offspring. (A tad cruel me thinks given Stalin’s particular plan for global domination and control of the masses…..).

                     So, here I am giving the idea some thought and trying to think what deep Words of Wisdom I could come up with to share with the world and stretch to a few hundred pages. What on earth do I have to say that has not already been said, re-said, dressed up like a dogs dinner and been exploited to the point of exhaustion? And I need a sexy title to kick me off… (lets be honest here – sexy sells – even the inference of it) and a tag line that taps into the zeitgeist of the moment…

                    Well, to quote Seth Cohen from The O.C: ‘Heres the thing’- The only thing that has come into my head thus far (apart from the need to fight off a nap) is a comment I have to attribute to Joanna Fellowes (wife of Fred Fellowes who gave birth to The Secret Garden Party and happens to now own my old Dutch sailing Barge…..):- “We are stardust we are golden, we are billion year old carbon and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden”

                    I’ll get back to you on the rest – it’s a work in progress, but one thing I can say for certain: There will always be Dogs on the Bed…Err…….Could that be a working title do we think❓❓❓❓❓

                    Shalom Global Village.
                    TTFN😎😘

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