Back to the present

Did you miss me?  I’m sorry I’ve been away so long.  My elderly laptop died.  Like all bereavements it was quite traumatic and unexpected.  The shock dear!  I’m still reeling.

It was like this.  There was I, one evening, tired after a day gardening in the rain, thought I would just have a nice cup of tea and catch up with the fashions on QVC the shopping channel.  I now buy nearly all my clothing from QVC the shopping channel and have been doing so for about twenty years.  I hate clothes shops.  I hate snooty assistants.  I am not fond of being short. I do not like tiny changing rooms with violent floodlighting.  I do not consider a curtain to be adequate privacy.  I hate those mirrors  with the grey cast that magnify my varicose veins and I never have any idea whether anything I like in the shop will go with anything else I have at home at all.  Also, have twenty seven other people tried this on before me?  How many times have these trousers been farted inside?  Was the person who had a go of this bra before me keen on washing?  Why does this tee-shirt smell of perfume?  What is this ginger stain round the armhole?

I believe the purchase of clothing to have been traumatic for most of my life. I went to a girl’s school that had only one uniform supplier and standard sizes for each age range.  The uniform bit was up an open-plan fifties staircase with huge gaps between the treads, ensuring that the small uniformee would arrive at the changing area in a state of panic to be consistently told that I was too small for my age and would have to wear the kindergarten uniform until I was sixteen.  I don’t remember there being a changing room.  I do remember having to stand on a very slippery polished wooden floor in my underwear whilst numerous grown ups including my mother sighed deeply.  I do remember my mother’s horror at the bill. Well, it was a monopoly.  I do have crumbling photographs of me lost inside a giant grey jumper, sleeves trailing.  I do recall the weight of a wet tweed coat and having to walk home from the bus by swinging one foot and then the other as the massive garment weighed me down like a sack of wet coal.  And the smell! It was like going to school in the middle of a herd of sheep. To this day, when I see sheep I think of a school bus.

Clothing was different in the past.  A friend and old flame of my mother’s, who had never managed to leave home, finally married when his mother eventually popped off.  I was twelve at the time. The outfit bought for me was a roll-on girdle, a pair of nylon stockings, a brown houndstooth check pleated skirt and matching short sleeved high necked top with a wool trim like the teeth of a circular saw round the neckline and a pair of white gloves that cracked like lightening when you bent your fingers.

I took the lot off in the taxi on the way home and arrived in my knickers and vest with a one inch upstanding weal round my neck and was warned I would have to wear it again plenty to get the money’s worth.

Then there were the trousers of my cousin that I wore to go on a skiing trip with the school. My cousin is a tall bony girl with thin limbs.  I am a short fat girl with cabriole legs.  The trousers were half lined in order to enable the linings to wind themselves clockwise up your legs with every stride, gathering the inside seams where they were sewn to the wool outsides, into bunches.  You had to do three or four waddles and then stop and pull the trousers down your legs again.  Two hundred yards and your ankles had turned to icicles.

Then there were……………….oh you get the idea. Me and clothes. No.

So shopping channels which have a guaranteed money back return policy and the opportunity to try stuff on a home and look in a mirror which has been educated to your requirements with everything else you already have? Show me where to sign up.

So ‘twas in the middle of a very necessary fashion show with spindly models demonstrating  assorted clothing on a person rather than a hanger that the computer screen suddenly did rainbows, a test card, a migraine pattern and then nothing.

As I have not even had email I couldn’t tell regular correspondents what was the problem.  But here we are up and running again.  Can’t find a photograph management system I understand.  Haven’t got a document writing system yet.  The S&H, however, advised on make and model and came two days ago and set up quite a bit of it and here we are.

I hope this will work, let me know if there’s a problem.  Next weekend we’re off to the S&H’s so he can attempt to retrieve everything his idiot mother had not backed up.  The only item I had a paper copy of was some of the email addresses, so if you want me to write to you write to me and I’ll reply.

But first, clothes shopping, online where nature intended it to be.

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Slow on the draw.

Not a shoot out with the OH or some doctors, actual drawing.

I cannot believe how happy simple drawing makes me and, amazingly, at my age it’s new.  Many people go through a stage of drawing endlessly when they discover what to do with a pencil.  I never really did, partly because I was enchanted with writing very early, there are ‘books’ I wrote aged five.  Also, of course, I just thought I was rubbish at drawing and didn’t know how other people could do it, I had no idea I couldn’t see very far.

About four years ago, looking for new craft stores I found an art shop in the next town to me, running drawing evenings, life drawing and portraiture and thought I would have a go.  It really helped that a lot of the students were also rubbish.  For the first five or six evenings I sat beside a little old lady who rendered the nude, patient model in green scribbles that would have had Picasso putting his head on one side and asking what it was meant to be and wasn’t the eye, if that is what it was, in the wrong place?

So cheered by comparison and the lack of tuition I continued to attend.  It was also a big attraction that wine was served and at the time I was worried that because of the drinking of the OH that I would develop a psychosomatic aversion to alcohol such as affected my grandmother.  She, brought up in a pub and marrying an alcoholic, suddenly had a problem.  At my cousin’s wedding she took one sip of champagne and her face swelled up like a balloon.  It did the same ever after with just one sip of alcohol.  Determined not to go down this route I bought a glass of wine at each drawing session in half time and consumed it publicly with no ill effects of any variety.  I only ever buy it when I have got to the colouring-in stage or I’d be giving Picasso a run for his money but the object was achieved and four years on I can draw, as well.

What I am doing now is the illustrations for my novel, which is finished.  There are eight illustrations, including the cover.

I intended to write the book the moment my duties as a carer had finished but that summer – 2017- I broke my arm so badly, I couldn’t type but I could hold a light plastic pencil, so I drew the cover.

That was going to be it but I had drawn the buildings where the action takes place so I knew what you would see if you came out of one room and turned left, for example, as I did for the village, which is on the book cover.  Then one of my writer’s group asked for a floor plan which I was happy to do, as it was in the text anyway.  Having done those, there were one or two things that had been banging about in my head so I got them on paper too.

I went off to my local copy shop and got four copies of each to colour in.  This is not a bad idea, I have back ups, can do experiments and best of all, my chosen medium will not react with ink and I cannot accidentally erase the pencil lines.

I know you’d like to see but I won’t put them on the Internet and pre-empt my own copyright, that would either be asking for trouble or great publicity, depending.  I cannot tell if they are good or not, I couldn’t see very well until I was sixteen.  They could be worse than I think, it could be me and Jackson Pollack riding a bicycle across a lake of paint shouting ‘wheee!’

Or it could just be me carefully colouring in stuff that looks like what it is meant to represent ( I am hopelessly old fashioned sometimes.)

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Marginal sanity.

I have been washing my fountain.  This is not a euphemism for anything, I have actually been washing my little solar fountain because the grand children are coming today and they always make straight for the fountain.

I should have been washing my fountain a week ago on Monday, which was my birthday.  As it was a Bank Holiday and no one was working, the family offered to come for the day but I put them off and instead stood in the garden in the freezing cold digging trenches across the lawn and crying.

I have such low self esteem partly because I’m married to a drinker, partly because of my childhood.  The drinker problem seems to get to all relatives of anyone who will put a fluid before a relative in importance.  All the months I was lying in bed with cancer and a broken arm and the OH was out drinking himself into oblivion did little for my confidence.  In fact it is one of my perpetual worries now; if I get sick again, he’ll be off.

The other, in particular the birthday thing, is to do with my mother.  I did hope it would improve when she was no longer around to be difficult.  It seems to persist.  Every year I dread my birthday, think I might be OK, on the day am awful up to suicidal and then the next day I’m fine as if nothing had happened.

For years, by which I mean all my life, my mother used to say on my birthday :On this day I do not think of you, I think of your mother who gave you away.  I did have birthday parties when I was little but I was supposed to be ‘of service’ to my guests and woe betide me if I ever won a prize by mistake.  My twenty first was terrible.  My mother poured vitriol verbally in my ear in the kitchen and then pushed me into my relatives in the lounge telling me to smile.  Perhaps her behaviour had something to do with jealousy or control, I really don’t know but I do know the effects are long lasting.

Yesterday I was round at my neighbour’s, she too had childhood difficulties with her mother.  She was dismayed to hear they did not finish when the parent passed as she was hoping they would.  But she did suggest I had two birthdays, like the Queen.  A real one to be miserable on and an official one for larking around.

I see there was a reunion on the news of a lady and her birth mother who is 103.  I was always told never to seek my birth mother because she would have forgotten me and made a happy life without me, her horrible mistake, and that if I turned up on the doorstep I’d be a home wrecker.  Lately I have thought it would not be too clever anyway to turn up just as someone was looking for someone to care for them as they’d gone a bit potty.  I don’t think I can do dementia a third time, having paid for the first two with cancer each time.  I might have to do it with the OH unless he packs in the drink.

So – Happy Birthday – is it just a saying, as I always thought, or is it possible?

On the other hand, it’s all good for a writer.  If nothing bad ever happened to you, you’d be slim, healthy, happy, well adjusted, happily married, sound of wind and limb with achieving, kindly, caring and appreciative relatives.

Completely abnormal, in other words.

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Stuck up

What’s this?

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You can see the size of it.  It’s quite large for what it is.

Some of the porcelain things I make are small, well they would be – they are dolls’ house miniatures.  However out of those some are really small.  The 24th scale ornaments for example are small enough to get stuck up your fingernail.

Items of this nature cause problems with display.  Exhibitors have an interesting range of solutions.  Some who have a very good opinion of themselves are prone to big glass enclosed cabinets and ‘Do Not Touch’ notices.  Some just display one sample fastened down and have the rest in boxes under the table.  Bettina who used to exhibit with me showing her tiny crocheted animals, had them all pinned to her velvet covered foam steps.

I have always enjoyed the kind of display that has the lot out.  Everything.  So you can choose.  But when they are tiny light things there is always a danger that visitors bending close, may inhale the exhibits.  This could cause further problems for St John’s ambulance (usually in attendance) and  the exhibitor’s insurers (at one point I was insured to pierce your ears with a nail while you sat on a deck chair in the street.  I never actually tried this but, with the right nail, could have ended up a millionaire on a really busy thoroughfare.)  The inhaling visitor may have not come out of the encounter well either and I almost certainly could not have resold the inhaled, retrieved item.  Snot possible.

So my solution was good old double sided sticky tape on plastic steps designed to put in a cupboard so you can see the tins at the back.  I lined the steps with strips of tape, transported them with waxed strips on top and, upon arrival, took the ornaments out of their boxes and placed them on the steps.  It worked.  The visitors could choose, the ornaments stayed on the steps and everyone enjoyed picking off their choice with plastic tweezers.  Brilliant.

Well brilliant for several shows then a problem evidenced itself.  Sticky tape is sticky for ornaments but also for tiny price labels, dust, lumps of fluff, hairs, sneezes, dirt.  Gradually the white plastic steps turned grey with undertones of something quite nasty.

I thought I would just peel off the sticky tape and put on some new stuff.  That is what I thought.  The trouble with double sided sticky tape is that the underside, which is stuck down, is as sticky as the upper side which is coated with gunk.  You cannot just get your fingernail under the end and rip if off unless it is your fingernail you wish to rip.

Eventually I resorted to a chisel.

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This method very effectively chopped tiny triangular pieces out of the plastic.  The sticky tape was left largely untouched.

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Minute fragments were rolled along by the chisel until they reached a stickier area to which they attached themselves immovably, like a crowd on a rainy day out finding a cheap cafe.  Look, you can see what rubbish this method is. The ball is the result of an hour and a bit, chiselling.

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You can see the filth.  In the end I sacrificed the rest of my fingernails having previously tried a pin, scissors, a scalpel, a spoon handle and anything else.  After nearly three hours of my life picking off the sticky I had put there, I washed the shelves and dried them and then, when they were shiny white and clean, I stuck fresh sticky on for the next show.

And this

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Is the ball of sticky stuff I generated.

Visitors to shows sometimes tell me what a wonderful life I must have, endlessly creative.  It is, it’s fab.  There are people who are employed, as a proper paid job, to get the chewing gum off pavements.  Whilst I have every admiration for them I would not necessarily shake them by the hand.  Well, not when they were at work.

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Happy Easter

Easter already, can you believe it, where is the year going?

I didn’t post last week because I had a germ and was horribly sick.  These days after the hospital horrors I just stop if I am ill and look after myself, so I did that.  I am on the mend now and looking forward to seeing the family on Sunday when we will celebrate the GDS having his second birthday a couple of weeks ago, the OH having his 68th on Tuesday and quantities of chocolate eggs which are just worth celebrating on their own.  After the weekend we move into the best season of the year by far.

Yes dear reader, up and coming it’s marked down supermarket Easter eggs season.  This yearly festival sometimes lasts only a few days.  I was happiest when we had a Woolworths because they had vast quantities of eggs to begin with and, therefore lots of leftover eggs to be reduced.  Because of this they tended to reduce the prices in three steps.  The first was as markdown of pennies on the ordinary eggs about two days after Easter once shoppers were unlikely to be soothing their consciences about folk they had forgotten.  Quite a few eggstras were sold and the remnants of dozens of shelves moved to one display unit.  After a pause, usually by the following weekend, the very expensive eggs would be reduced by five pounds a bash and the bashed eggs on the bottom shelf to a pound a go.  This was the time to keep your nerve.  You could pass by and hover and watch the less controlled shopper swooping on medium priced eggs with a pound off but still costing a lot in terms of weight for the chocolate, still charging a lot for a fancy cardboard box.  At this stage on the bottom shelf more eggs would develop holes and casualties with robbed out innards be removed completely.  But for those of us with nerves of steel the weekend after next was the one to wait for.  Large quantities of garden plants arrived in the store as the gardening season got underway, shelf space was at a premium and the remaining eggs; posh ones in huge gold boxes, ones with fancy chocolate selections and anything with a big red ribbon were put on a table by the door displaying seriously slashed prices.  And then those of us with iron self control would dive in off a trolley and swim around in the best, the thinnest, the finest chocolate of the year.

It is by such iron self control that I have achieved the figure I celebrate today.  Oval.  I blame those adverts in the Sixties, telling you to go to work on an egg.

Eggstatically happy Easter to you.

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Miniatura.

What a lovely show.  The feeling in the hall was so happy.  There is nothing quite like a hall full of likeminded people, getting together to celebrate a hobby and doing it in such a super show.  Several people remarked on the quality of the exhibits to me.  It’s one of the main reasons I exhibit at Miniatura and not anywhere else.  I think if you are taking the time and trouble to get out to a show and paying good money to get in to it, then every single table should be something worth looking at.  There are lesser shows that are larger because they are filled up with cheap imports or things that are not really miniature related but I wouldn’t exhibit there.  If you only have a weekend or a day, then every moment of your time should be used for the reason you have come out.  I also would not exhibit at a show that did not cater for everyone, meaning full wheel chair access and facilities; toilets and restaurants in the hall and a place to sit and think if you want to.

Miniatura has it all, it really does.  And it has free parking, at the NEC this is quite a consideration, as I discovered visiting other shows in the summer.  £16 out of my budget before I even got out of the car park was a bit of a shocker.  The parking for Miniatura is free, you just ask on your way out of the hall and they will give you a paper hat, or a voucher, or stamp your boot or draw kisses on your face or whatever they are doing this time round for you to show at the car park booth on the way out and not be charged.  Hooray!

However the benefit of Miniatura that I love the best, is meeting up with old friends, both exhibitors and collectors and making new friends, both exhibitors and collectors.  It is such a pleasure to hear someone gasp with pleasure because they’ve just discovered I make porcelain dolls under three inches tall fully articulated and jointed.  It makes me so happy to encourage people to pick the doll up and have a good look and see just how very small and lovely they are in the hand.

I also love to hear where my dolls are living and how well they are cared for.  They make people smile.  Collectors do smile, often I think without realising they are doing it, when they tell me all about their houses and what my dolls are up to.  Everything about the show is positive and happy.  It’s just lovely.

When I came home, after a couple of days off I began to have a big clear out of the sun room, ahead of the builders knocking a wall down.  In the sun room live the wheeled bags I take to the show.  And a ton of junk.  And for lo!  behind it all I found a huge plastic bag that I had forgotten all about with paper pictures in it.

I began painting oil paintings in miniature, probably ten years ago.  Then I painted oil portraits of visitors.  I took a photo at the show and by the next show had the portrait ready.  They were not much money and I got quite good at it but they were not a success because people forgot they had asked and didn’t come back, sometimes they did several years later, when I had stopped doing it.  So then, when I got good at making silicone moulds I began making bass relief pictures in paper clay.  I had only just started, quite successfully as I recall, partly because the method of production enabled me to make several of the same at once, rather than having to start from scratch with each one, though they were painted individually. This in turn meant they could all be very reasonably priced for a hand made item and, as they were made of paper they were very light for hanging on dodgy walls.

I was just getting under way with these, when my father died and I became carer for my mother.  So shows were fitted in with everything else and the big bag with the pictures in never saw the light of day again.

But it has now.  What treasure trove!  There is an entire stand full of pictures and I have  a head full of ideas for others.

I always feel inspired by Miniatura but I think this is the first time I have been inspired by the clearing up afterwards.  Pictures next post if I have finished the new ones by then.

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Fairy houses

I thought you might like to see what I am taking to the show.

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Lit and decorated with Graphic 45 papers.

There are two fairy houses.  Although they are in mushrooms I have done flat wall room dividers, so you can have fireplaces, or stoves or anything else that needs a flat wall.

I was originally going to offer them as a shell and then I realised that the strange nature of the structure would make them difficult to decorate once the roof was on, difficult to light too without the wires showing, and also hard to curtain.  So I have done all the tricky bits, you just have to furnish, fairy and fly in.

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There’s a green one and

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a purple one.

Both have insides and outside toilets.

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and wells and chimneys and also and early warning system of eyes on the roof, which I reckon you need if your house is likely to be picked and eaten.

And they and all the usual suspects (who I am just busy packing now) will be at Miniatura with me this weekend.  See you there!

www.miniatura.co.uk

They don’t come with a pencil, that’s to show non-miniaturists the size. (24th scale to you and me.)

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Toilets

I am still busy with the fairy houses, there will only be two, hopefully.  I am currently struggling with the lighting.  As the houses are so irregular, well they would be, they are mushrooms, I had decided to offer them as much done as would be difficult to do once they are constructed.   They will come stuck to A4 canvas boards, which enables me to make them irregular and arty and mushroom-like.  I know you are muttering ‘toadstool’ I can hear you doing it under your breath, but there isn’t mushroom in them at all, which is why I am offering them wallpapered and lit.

I am papering with Graphic 45 papers because I love them.  I am lighting them with fairy lights because when I was looking for lights they were actually called fairy lights, therefore ideal for a place with not mushroom.  I have put room dividers inside, mainly so there will be a flat wall in the middle, easy to fasten fireplaces or cooking stoves to.

It is all going down to the wire a bit, as usual.  So far I have finished the toilets.

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Once they are glued to the canvas board you won’t be able to see that the toilets have proper header tanks, but, of course, as they are my porcelain toilets they do.

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With only two weeks to go I don’t know what I’m doing chatting to you, I’d better get on.

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Well at least you’ve got something to go on.

www.miniatura.co.uk

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Der

I got started yesterday on some fairy houses for Miniatura.  Having spent the usual time faffing around, prior to actually tackling the thing I wanted to do, I thought it a good plan to get an early night and get started first thing.

It is now three in the afternoon  and first thing has still to occur, despite getting up at seven, because it’s been one of those days.  Had I known it was one of those days, I’d have had a lie-in.

First off I wanted to post back a mail order item of clothing that looked wonderful on the model but made me look like a recently deceased elderly auntie of a zombie.  So I brought it downstairs, in the plastic bag, located the outer bag and sought the returns slip.

Where him slip?

Not on the counter top.  Not on the table.  Not on top of the microwave with the plastic disposable dishes that are too nice to dispose of (they fitted three chips in the three chip compartment perfectly – had someone grown potatoes to the exact size?).  Not behind the stack of papers on the edge of the top.  Not in the cupboard.  Not in the bedroom on the side.  Not in the bedroom on the dressing table.  Back downstairs.  Not on the stairs.  Not in the kitchen.  In the bin?  Not in the bin (which was wet.  I was wearing an absorbent top.)  Back upstairs.  Not on the dressing table.  Put the wet top on the radiator.  Not on the radiator.  Back downstairs, not on the stairs.  Not on the table.  Give up, will type letter.  Make tea, wash spoon, soak top.

Upstairs.  Not on the radiator.  Not on the dressing table.  Back downstairs.  Not on the stairs.

Into the lounge.  On the desk next to the computer where I put it last night.  Fill in returns form.  Make up parcel.  Get in car go to post office.  Park car.  Go in.  Post office shut. (Computer meltdown.)

Back in car down hill to supermarket garage.  Up to entrance.  Entrance blocked off, forecourt filled with men in high-vis vests.

Back home.  Made tea.  Third top of the day joining others on radiator.

Search for twenty fourth toilets for fairy houses.  Not on first shelf though I had a good look when everything fell out.  Not on second shelf, involving crawling on floor.  Everything fell out.  Everything fell out of third shelf spontaneously, did fourth shelf, didn’t feel lucky enough to do top shelf, heavy boxes.

Find three other things, put them on welsh dresser find toilets there.

Have lunch, fall asleep in chair, miss show on Internet and now it’s now.

I am going to the post office now if it still exists in this reality.

Miniatura 30th and 32st March details www.miniatura.co.uk *

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*31st.  Don’t go on the 32st it doesn’t exist.

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Thank you

We went on the train down to London because the OH wanted to see the orchid display at Kew Gardens.

Like idiots, especially like retired idiots, we hadn’t realised it was half term.  We had not realised either that at half term absolutely everyone with school age children would be keen as mustard to take them on a train to London.  It wasn’t exactly Tokyo bullet train in rush hour but it wasn’t far off.

So it was that when we entered the train at our stop there were no seats.  The OH arranged himself against a metal pole thing and I stood in the aisle, hanging on to the handle on top of the seat.  I’d been doing this for about three quarters of an hour when the gentleman from the family behind me very kindly offered me his seat, as he appeared about thirty years younger than me and looked strong, I accepted gratefully.

So for another three quarters of an hour I sat in the bosom of a strange family, trying not to eavesdrop.  When we approached London I stood up and said to the gentleman that he could not have known when he gave up his seat that I had recently had quite a bit of surgery and probably couldn’t have stood all the way and I thanked him very sincerely, and told his teenage son that his dad knew what was what.

The sun came out, locally, everyone smiled, everyone was happy.  When I saw them later leaving the station they looked bouncy.

A proper thank you is such a simple thing that makes such a big difference.

Thank you for reading, I wouldn’t be here without you, well there wouldn’t be any point, really.

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