The Road to Gotland

As we Campervanners are basically grounded at the moment I am seeing a lot of ‘favorite trip’ type posts on various forums, so I thought I may as well join the party.

It would be far too difficult to choose a favorite trip as they are all pretty special……so I thought I would start by reflecting on the ‘most epic’

Many UK campervanners take a trip up to the beautiful Scandanvian countries there is nothing really epic about that per say……but, perhaps if I set out from the off that I work full time, so this particular adventure was all done within my allowed 2 week holiday. Yup that changes it a bit doesn’t it? It was a very long round trip in only 2 weeks.

The reason for this trip was to cheer on ‘team Guernsey’ in the 2017 Island Games, (for those not familiar it is a sporting competition for smaller islands, that takes place every 2 years). I had family and friends competing and, it seemed like an adventure, I didn’t go this one alone though, I have a crazy friend who was also up for a challenge.

The only French ferry route open to Guernsey, is St Malo, a mere 2 hours from port to port. There is only one ferry a day (at most) and, the timings are not great so we decided to kick our heels a bit and spend the first night at the site I affectionately call my 2nd home, Camping La Hallerais in Dinan…..it was a chance to catch up with friends before the adventure really began.

The first day of driving was our longest day, we set off from Dinan headed for Bruges. Unfortunately my ability to get lost in Caen didn’t let me down (the sat nav tried to take us up a non existent road, just as we were exiting) & we lost about 2 hours trying to get ourselves back onto our route……not helpful. The route though, as with any route in France, was very scenic, as we trundled through Normandy, through the Somme and onto the Belgian border. It was a great relief to see our site Camping Membling in Bruges. http://www.brugescamping.be/en/home/ & get the gin open.

The campsite was great and within easy walking/cycling distance of the main town. We had a couple of nights here to enable us to explore. Bruges itself is absolutely stunning, obviously one day was no where near long enough and I definitely have it in mind to return again one day.

The next days’ driving took us through 3 countries (I did think we were going to dip into Luxembourg too but, the sat nav must’ve taken us along the border). We set off in Belgium, went through Holland and, emerged into Germany. For those that haven’t experienced driving in Germany it is truly something else. A continuous line of trucks in their own lane and, no speed limit on the autobahn. The dots in your rear view mirror approach and leave you standing at an alarming rate.

We were only doing an overnight stop so hadn’t spent too long researching the site but, Camping Munster https://www.campingplatz-muenster.de/der-campingplatz/wohnmobilstellplatz.html was a lovely site and, with a bar/restaurant….so we did what any visitor to Germany really should do and, sampled the beer.

The second of our ferry trips followed as we travelled on to Denmark and headed for Copenhagen, where it was great to meet up with family making the same trek……..I think we agreed there and then (whilst enjoying probably the most expensive curry we are ever likely to have) that we had seriously underestimated the amount of driving. Our campsite for the 2 nights in Copenhagen was Charlottenlund Fort http://campingcopenhagen.dk, which did not disappoint. The views across towards Sweden were simply stunning and, it was easy cycle or bus access to the main parts of Copenhagen. We spent the next day exploring and, again it wasn’t long enough but, nice to get a taster. Another one on the ‘must go back’ list.

Our 3rd ferry took us from Denmark to Sweden. We had fully intended to use the Oresund Bridge however, it is incredibly costly and the ferry took us slightly further North, which is the direction we were traveling so it made sense to do that…..I would say it is perhaps one regret I have, as it is not everyday you get to use a bridge that goes under the sea.

Sweden, as expected was simply stunning. I was incredibly fortunate in that by now T had become comfortable driving ‘Nelly’ and, was very happy to do the whole drive, so I got to sit back and enjoy the scenery…..it certainly didn’t disappoint. We were headed towards Vastervik where we would get the ferry to Gotland. We had a lovely little stopover in Vastervik with a very rural campsite right on the side of a lake. The really make something of mid-summers day in Sweden, so we arrived at our site in the middle of a small carnival.

There was barely any driving the following day, a 10minute drive to the ‘Destination Gotland’ ferry and, about the same once we had docked in Visby. Finally, we could set up the van for a four night stop (hard to believe we had travelled all that way for four nights). Our site in Visby was Visby camping strandby visby camping strandby. It was right by the gates to Visby (a walled city) and, was in the heart of the Island Games action, infact when we watched the tri-athlon we literally just put our Guernsey flag over the fence at the back of our pitch, as we were right on the cycle route. Across from our pitch was the Baltic Sea….perhaps another little regret, despite being a keen (seasonal) sea swimmer, I didn’t venture in.

Gotland itself was as beautiful as expected, we saw some cracking sunsets from our pitch and, explored Visby, as well as heading further afield for some of the cycling events. Would I go back, probably not, though only because I can’t think of a reason that I would need to but never say never……at least I would know to look out for the non-alcoholic wine which unfortunately took me rather by surprise!!

On the way back we took the overnight ferry from Sweden directly to Germany which psychologically was a good call as we were able to sleep through a big chunk of the journey and, were fresh to tackle the autobahn. We did just 1 overnight stop (Belgium) on the way back to Dinan arriving a night earlier than we had planned, meaning we managed a cheeky moules frites at my favorite cafe down in the Port de Dinan.

I would definitely like to travel more of the Scandinavian Countries, as the few bits that I saw were incredible but, I will wait until I can really take my time. It made me realize that my preference is shorter drives and longer stays. These days I tend to stick to about 4-5 hours per day driving & usually like at least 2-3 nights in each stop off…..after all it is the journey not the destination that is important.

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Canadian Adventure part 3…….Journey Through The Clouds

One of the main reasons I wanted to celebrate turning 40 in Canada was so I could take a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer…..and that trip was part 3 of my Canadian Adventure and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

We stepped onto the Rocky at some ungodly hour on a slightly cloudy day in Jasper station. Our hosts Chan, Alana and Jennifer introduced themselves as the Rocky rolled out of Jasper station…..within 5 minutes a ‘bucks fizz’ sat on my tray top. I think I knew at that point that this was going to be a fabulous couple days….!!

As we made our way towards Vancouver the scenery changed from snow topped mountains, to the lushest greenery I’ve ever seen, to dry and sandy and finally onto city suburbs, we saw bears, mountain goats, big horned sheep, eagles and osprey….it was truly amazing and the enormous windows and domed roof of our silver leaf carriage meant we didn’t miss a thing.

Every mealtime saw the tray top in front of me turn into my very own white table clothed eating area and the food was simply amazing……from the cranberry salad appetiser on day 1, to the most amazing chicken dish I’ve ever eaten on day 2 it was a fabulous culinary experience as well as a scenic one.

Our three hosts were superb, we were fed watered and entertained throughout the entire journey…..five star service with a smile.

I’m not one for sitting still for too long but, as we rolled into Vancouver my only regret was that I hadn’t booked a longer journey……if your travelling to Canada I would definitely recommend a journey on the Rocky……!!

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Canadian Adventure Part Deux

So my Canadian adventure is continuing at pace, before I move on to part 2 I just want to revert to part 1 for a little update.  Since I posted my blog post I have since discovered (via the weather report) that 57 Cm of snow fell the day we visited Lake Louise.  That’s a pretty significant snowfall for springtime…..no wonder they re-opened the ski hills.

Our stay in Banff ended with a wildlife safari where, we (that’s Miss T, Mother dearest, Mrs B and I) together with a mini bus full of wildlife loving international tourists went in search of Bears, well it was actually supposed to be for all walks of wildlife but let’s cut to the chase here…..we were all hoping to see bears.  Despite our guide Pam’s best efforts the bears sadly stayed out of sight.  We did however encounter numerous deer, the back end of a rocky mountain goat, a goose and numerous fellow tourists…!!!

The following day it was all aboard a Brewster ‘Motorcoach’ destination Jasper……a mere 154 km away and onto part 2 of the Canadian adventure. This journey was without doubt the most scenic I’ve ever experienced……it was nothing short of spectacular…..!!

A blizzard was falling in Banff as we left and I have to say it felt pretty cold and really wasn’t much fun however, as we pushed on past Lake Louise and up to the ice parkway the weather began to clear.   The views of the snow covered mountains, glaciers and frozen waterfalls were nothing short of spectacular.  As we entered Jasper National Park the snowy scenery started to give way to green scenery, we soon came across some Rocky Mountain goats, grazing in the road (as you do on the highway).  Brian our driver pulled aside so we tourists could indulge our inner wildlife photographer as the poor goats made a bid for freedom by scaling the cliff face.

We had barely recovered our composure from all the goat photography when a truck pulled into the side of the highway caught our eye and as we approached we spotted what had caught their attention……a beautiful black bear hanging around roadside foraging for berries.  Again we proved our tourist credentials by snapping away (I will post photos when I’m back on the rock) before Mr or Mrs bear tired of us, crossed the highway and disappeared into the cover of the forest.

The following morning we awoke to find Jasper shrouded in sunshine so we headed for the Jasper skytram.  Whilst ‘downtown’ was clear of snow the hiking trails at the upper station were still covered in a thick blanket of snow.  Undeterred Miss T and I settled Mother dearest and Mrs B on a rock, donned our rather fetching shoe grips and set off up the mountain.

Now when we reached our summit we were I have to say pretty breathless (the air was pretty thin at that altitude) and I know I was wondering what had possessed us……and then I turned around…..the view of the mountains and lakes was just fantastic.  As usual, for me, getting down from the summit was far more challenging than actually climbing up to it.  I’m glad to say we both made it down unscathed and after collecting Mother dearest and Mrs B from their rock we enjoying a well deserved high altitude hot chocolate, all the more enjoyable as calories don’t exist at that altitude….!!

In my next post it’s all aboard the Rocky Mountaineer for part 3 of the Canadian adventure.

 

Jo

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Canadian Adventure Part 1

As many people have commented my blog has been a little neglected of late and for this I can only apologise.  This is however good for me for two reasons……The first being that people have missed me…..the second being that I have been extremely busy so there’s lots for me to blog about in the coming weeks….!!

But on with this post which comes to you live not from a tiny rock in the English Channel but from Chateau Lake Louise in the Canadian Rocky Mountains…..yup it’s long awaited holiday time :).

When I was considering what I could do to celebrate turning the big 40, and officially entering middle age (as many have pointed out), there was one thing that really stood out at the top of the ideas list (yes I’m that sad I made a list)…..I wanted to return to Banff in Canada.

Although 17 years have galloped by since my last visit I wanted to see it in a different season to ski season (sorry I mean winter……I do actually know that ski-ing hasn’t yet made it to be one of the official four seasons) so we (that is my travel bud Miss T, Mother dearest & our friend Mrs B) elected to travel in Spring.

Well yesterday we arrived in Banff via Calgary airport to a blanket and by blanket I mean the really thick mid-winter double duvet type of blanket of snow……I think there’s actually more snow here than when I’ve previously visited in ski season!! In fact I’m beginning to think I have an influence on the weather system here…..during my first visit way back in 1996 we experienced ‘freak’ conditions which saw us ski-ing every day in Temperatures the wrong side of -40 (yes I can confirm your tongue does stick to stuff in those temperatures).

Un-deterred we lept from our beds this morning and boarded the bus to Chateau Lake Louise.  The lake I have to say was not displaying the spring colours we were expecting in fact it was displaying just one colour…..very bright and beautiful white.  This actually added to our excitement and we set off, ice walking studs strapped to our hiking boots, through the snow.  Disappointingly Mrs B the shortest of us all declined my suggestion of posing for photos in the deepest snow…..I thought it would be a good way of recording just how deep it actually was.

Miss T and I continued around the lake until we were met by a sign deterring people from continuing unless they had avalanche survival skills and a raft of equipment we couldn’t even spell.  We momentarily debated as to whether we did in fact have these skills/equipment but decided, wisely I feel, that the torch on my iPhone, combined cookery skills which usually result in plain salad and the shrieks we’d let out when snow had fallen from the trees and planted itself in our hoods didn’t bode well, so we made the very wise decision to return to the chateau for a hot chocolate.

The afternoon was spent in the warmth of the chateau shopping and then munching our way through a very delicious afternoon tea & quaffing prosecco in front of a large window where we could enjoy the sight of others batteling through the snow surrounding the lake.  All in all a not too shabby start to the long awaited holiday…..!!

I will post a photo account just as soon as I’ve thawed out when I’m back on the rock.

 

Jo

 

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My February

Despite it being the shortest month, February seemed to drag on forever.  I’m not very good at being indoors but. the awful storms we experienced unfortunately left very little choice.  We fared much better than our neighbours in the UK and France but, our poor little island still took an awful battering…….some might say we were literally left ‘clinging to a rock’.

When there was finally a break in the weather it became apparent that i am not the only person who suffers from ‘cabin fever’…..it seemed the entire population of the island were out and about.

Here is a selection of my favourite ‘out and about in Guernsey’ photos from February.

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View over the St Peter Port Harbour from the ‘Blue Mountains’

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Castle Cornet

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Amarreurs Harbour at low tide

The island looked so beautiful in the winter sunshine I was even inspired to write poetry whilst out on one of my coastal walks!!

My list of ‘40 things to do in 2014′ is progressing very nicely.  My picture of the month is a February themed doodle I did whilst enjoying a doodle day which i blogged about previously.

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My book of the month I’m afraid is not terribly interesting…..I have taken on some study but having spent much of the last 2 years studying, I really wasn’t planning on this for the first half of the year.  The result is that I haven’t been organised enough to have study time and pleasurable reading time therefore, my book of the month is my study text book……which I can confirm I have read cover to cover.  Whilst the studying is on-going I am now more organised and I have already made a start on my march book of the month.

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I had a go at archery which was very enjoyable although, I was a little disappointed not to be able to dust off my Robin Hood tunic and tights……?!  After a slow start I was rather pleased to hit the gold part of the target on multiple occasions and, I’m now very much hoping to get onto a beginners course in the summer.

My beginners course of Guernsey french or, Guernesais (pronounced Jur-nayz-yeah) has sadly come to an end.  It’s such a complicated language as there is no written word, there are different dialects for different parts of the island and it’s not spoken in day to day life so practicing is difficult……plus the parish that I live in is the most difficult to pronounce……my many attempts to do so often bought laughter to the lessons.  Undeterred though I have signed up for a follow up course which begins this week.

For now though I will say good-bye until next time or in Guernesais A la perchoine.

Jo

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A Doodle Day

Who doesn’t love to doodle? I certainly do but, my doodles never seem to be overly creative or pretty.  So when a local adult education provider, Workers Education Association, were advertising a doodling workshop, I signed myself up pronto and coerced the lovely Martine of IMake fame into coming along too.  What a fantastic day I’ve had learning how to structure my doodles.

Our tutor Lynn was very modest about her own doodling skills but she showed us her work and I have to say I was pretty blown away…..I never realised that doodles were so far reaching, the sky really is the limit!

During the morning session we  learnt various doodling techniques:- a mixture of pictures, words and doodling on a stone……. Image

I particularly loved the cats (obviously) but, the elephant and the pig also have a special place in my heart.

After a delicious sandwich lunch and a sneaky piece of carrot cake (1 of my 5 a day) in Les Cotils Coffee Shop, we wondered around the grounds at Les Cotils to get some fresh air……..what a spectacular view they have!!

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The afternoon session focused more on practicing the techniques learned.  I was loving the day so much I just had to express it and worked on  a piece I called ‘lots of love’.  Then I did a series of doodles which summarised the day for me.

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Sadly I think this was the last planned session this year but, if you live in Guernsey and doodling is your thing, then keep an eye on the WEA website, they may just put on additional sessions and in my opinion it’s definitely a day well spent.

I shall definitely working on more structured doodling now so watch this space…..

Happy doodling

Jo

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2014 – the story so far

 
Well I can’t quite believe that we’re about to enter the last week of January already.  I’ve started planning how I’m going to complete my list of 40 things to do in 2014…..It is ever so slightly daunting but I have a trustee spreadsheet (ssshhh that is not at all geeky) and I’m underway.

My book for January is an audio book (I make the rules & have ruled audio books to be acceptable) ‘the Summer of Love’ by Katie Fforde.  I love Katie Fforde’s books a nice easy read/listen.  

 

Summer of love is a very relaxing listen

 

I have chosen the reference for my January picture, a fab stormy scene photographed by my lovely friend Jen when we went for a walk over the Christmas/New Year period.  It’s already sketched out & I will be using watercolour to finish it over the next couple of days.

The reference for my January painting

 

I’ve started taking Guernesiais (Guernsey French) during my lunch breaks.  This is Guernsey’s native language which is very sadly dying out as the older generations of Guerns pass.   I personally think it would be awful if it were to become extinct and fortunately there are efforts being made to re-generate it in schools etc.

 

I’ve Started learning Guernesiais

 

Lastly from my list for this month I’ve had a go at some crocheting.  I’ve not really put in enough practice time so I’m not really progressing but it’s a start!!

So for now I will say A La Perchoine which is Guernesiais for Goodbye until next time 

Jo x 

 

Posted in Challenges, Crafting and Handmade, Guernsey Life, Life Planning, painting, Photography/Projects, reading | Leave a comment

The one where I don’t make a New Years resolution

Well I hope you all had a fabulous Christmas, spent quality time with your loved ones and got everything your heart desired. I mentioned in my last post my love of receiving handmade gifts.  I was delighted that the very first gift I unwrapped (well technically the first gift I unwrapped was cat biscuits and a flea collar but, once we established I was working from the wrong pile it was the first gift) was a knitted hat and scarf made by my very clever Mum.  Bring on the cold January/February weather!!

My new hat and scarf

 

Now we’ve reached that time of year where every mortal soul pledges to go to the gym 100 times a week, quit smoking, quit drinking and generally live a vice free life…..All of which usually lasts until about lunchtime on New Year’s Day.  Now. Am I right or am I right.  

I learned many years ago that New Years resolutions just don’t work for me.  To start with I hate being told what to do even if it is me doing the telling.  It’s far better just to let me come up with the idea myself…..I do usually get there eventually.   So rather than make lots of resolutions I have no hope of keeping I prefer to make a plan for the year and make the required adjustments throughout the year when the opportunities presents themselves.

2014 will see me reach the grand old age of 40.  Now I can’t let this milestone go past without marking it in someway……so I’ve compiled a list of 40 things I want to do throughout the year (ok I know there’s only 33 at the moment but I still have 2 days to come up with the last 7).  I’ve gone for quite a variety, some of which will be completely new to me, others are things I particularly enjoy but don’t get to do often enough.  I shall keep everyone updated via the blog. 

One thing from this list I’ve already signed up for (well I’ve ordered the required book as no signature is actually required) is the ‘Imake Snowflake CAL’ which requires me to crochet 2 snowflakes each month.  There is a small hurdle here in that I can’t crochet……I’m hoping this will be a good way to learn and I’ve already got some fab ideas of what I’ll do with my snowflakes.  Hopefully my snowflakes will improve as the year progresses.

I hope you all have a safe and wonderful New Year’s Eve and I wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014.

Jo x 

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Handmade Christmas

Now Kirstie Allsop has nothing to fear I don’t do handmade Christmas on her scale……for one thing I happen to enjoy buying blingy decorations for my tree.  Primarily I make gifts but this year I had my proudest crafting moment.

Each year mum makes a series of wreaths for the many in our family that are no longer with us.  This year Mum asked me to make the wreaths for my Dad and Gran/Aunty….clearly my recent crafting efforts have reached the required standard.  I love flower arranging and as I was using oasis this wasn’t too much different……I must say I was thrilled with the results, these can also be hung on a front door and I’ve already had orders for next year!!  Best of all the majority of this came from the garden or the local pine forest. 

I was thrilled with my first attempt at a wreath

I personally love receiving handmade gifts and a few years back I thought family and friends might do too.  I was right…..I’ve had some really great feedback.  

My advice to anyone considering making gifts is to choose your audience very carefully……some people just don’t appreciate handmade as I found out when a former colleague asked me if ‘everyone should expect tat I’d cobbled together’……I of course pointed out that she shouldn’t!!  That didn’t put me off though as the kind and appreciative comments far outweigh the bad and most people appreciate the effort that goes into handmade. 

In the past I’ve made Christmas cards, scrapbooks, some very simple beaded jewellery, decoupaged pots (for poin settia),  lip balm (always a favourite), soap, body scrub, bath salts and bath bombs (another popular one).  

Handmade lip balm has been a popular gift in the past


Mum was thrilled with this tribute to her cats

This year I have to confess not as many presents have been made.  I’ve have however tried something completely different to previous years and have made sloe gin, blackberry vodka, blackberry jam (I have the scars to prove the berries are hand picked) and some chocolate treats.  I have also done some very different wrapping and made my own festive labels.  I’m going to enjoy giving these gifts knowing that I’ve made a lot of effort and as a bonus have avoided the long Christmas shopping queues!! 

My finished Vodka and Gin and handmade labels


Chocolatey treats


Festive wrapping

 So all that remains is for me to wish all Clinging to a Rock readers a very happy and peaceful Christmas.

Jo x 

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Chocolate Heaven

This evening, together with a small group of friends and colleagues, I ventured out (yes on a Monday) to a local chocolate shop to learn how to make lots of different chocolatey treats (what better way is there to pass a Monday evening?).  

The evening began with instructions to don a rather fetching white hat & apron (I’ll spare you the photos of that).  This was quickly and rather strangely followed by instructions to partially blow up a balloon……All became clear when the balloon was dipped into dark chocolate to make a fab chocolate bowl.  I think I will fill this with Mums favourite chocolate Brazils which will form part of her Christmas present.

Next I was instructed to put a couple of marshmallows onto a skewer.  Again I chose dark chocolate for this.  The chocolate covered marshmallows were then laid on a pretzel with Eyes and a red nose subsequently added……chocolatey Rudolph was born. 

Next with the aid of a piping bag, a skewer and some raisins I created a chocolate Christmas pudding lolly (yes a chocolate Christmas pudding lolly…..it gets worse).  This was later completed with some white chocolate and a sprig of plastic holly.  Remarkably no-ones piping bag came to a chocolatey end in the chocolate machine this year (yes this is something of an annual event).

Next came a hot chocolate spoon…..complete with marshmallows (I might keep this for my own Christmassy treat).

My creations in progress

Next came chocolatey Santa which involved  a plastic Santa mould.  Details such as santas sack, boots and belt were ‘painted’ (well a paintbrush was required) using dark chocolate.  Santa’s beard and the fur trim on his jacket were painted using white chocolate. This I found particularly challenging as with the clear mould it wasn’t always easy to see exactly what bit I was working on.  I did make a few errors here and there but hey nothing handmade is ever perfect (well not if it’s made with my hands anyway). 

Once the details were ‘painted’ the Santa mould was then dipped in milk chocolate and then the fun bit……a lot of shaking was required to make sure the milk chocolate filled the mould evenly.  A thoroughly shaken but not stirred chocolatey Santa is now taking pride of place in the fridge (still in his mould) where he will remain until he is wrapped as a Christmas treat for one lucky person.

The last pieces I made were chocolate truffles.  These were made with rum milk chocolate and topped with white chocolate and sprinkles to make a Christmas pudding effect……perfect for after Chrismas eve dinner.

I was delighted with the end results and I think these will make fab handmade gifts.  Best of all there were quite a few laughs along the way (always a bonus on a Monday) in what was a highly entertaining and relaxing couple of hours with my colleagues…….here’s to next year!!

My finished goodies

 

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