Telling stories: The swan, the postmans bike, and the sword and the watch.

There are people you come across, and friends that you know, who are just great a telling stories. Stories so big, so fantastical, that it doesn’t matter if they are true or not. I certainly don’t class myself as one of these people, and I will come to this in my next post.

I think I’ve met just a handful of good story tellers throughout my life, and they are always a pleasure to listen to. I first started work when I was 13. I had a Saturday job in my next door neighbours car body repair shop. I was the youngest person there by at least 7 years, so everyone else seemed like men of the world. They used to all take a break at the same time, and all sit together talking. This was before the smoking ban, before mobile phones, these men had to entertain each other. There lives were far removed from mine. They could drive, go to the pub, entertain the ladies. Everything to me was a story, but all they were doing was telling the others what they had been up to. In hindsight, I was probably a little spoiled by this and it shaped my expectations as to what to expect.

The next working environment, would turn about to be the one I had my first proper job in. I knew one person there, but we couldn’t always have a break at the same time, and because there were shifts you could end up on break sat on your own in a windowless room. After a few years a guy came to work there, let’s call him Mikey, and he loved to talk and tell you what he had been up to. Which whilst it was entertaining, it all sounded made up. In fact, Mikey, for the most part just came across as a liar. Now I had made friends with someone else at work, let’s call him Robert, but they had left and moved away. We stayed in touch, and whenever I could we would meet up. It was at this point that Robert would tell me what had been up to, and these big long stories would develop. They sounded completely, ridiculous, some of them could not possibly be true, but at no point did he ever come across as being a liar. It seems to come down to the way he sold them, and the fact that he was coming across like he believed what he was saying, and that his own story was entertaining him. It was after one such weekend when Robert had told me a story, that just can’t have been true, about him trying to ride a swan, that I went back to work and realised what the difference was between him and Mikey. When Mikey told you a story, he looked like he almost expected you not to believe it. Not only that, but he didn’t look like he believed it himself. It was pretty much passionless.

Over the years Roberts stories got bigger, and more outlandish. Truth be told, I’d started to not believe any of them. That however, did not matter in the slightest. They were always really funny, and hugely entertaining. Little did I know, that this would all come to change one night when Robert came to stay with me and we went out into to town.

I had been to the bar and come back to find Robert telling one of my friends a story. He sounded like he was a fair way through it, I hadn’t the faintest idea what he was talking about, so I started talking to someone else. I was stood pretty close to Robert though, so every now and again I heard snippets of the tall tale he was telling. However, then he said something that I recognised. At first I thought he was telling a story he’d told before. He wasn’t. I broke off my own conversation and listened in. Then it dawned on me. The ridiculous story he was telling, was about me. Moreover, it was true. It sounded as extraordinary as all his stories, but it was all true. Which I then went on to take that all of his preposterous stories were real. This changed everything. And I think over the years it has inspired me to do some pretty stupid things just so that I’ve had a funny story to tell.

To be continued…

My fascination: Spiralling towards a dead end.

Jumping forward to the present, I’ve just finished reading Time And Time Again by Ben Elton. It was a gift, it had been on the shelf for a while, and I had thought that it was about time that I read it… but I kind of wish that I hadn’t.

There is not much depth to the protagonist, Hugh. I think if you replaced the character description in the book with; Imagine a cross between Daniel Craig’s James Bond, and Bear Grills with a dead wife and children, you won’t go far wrong.

The explanation to the mechanics of how he travels through time is fantastically brief, but I don’t think that matters. What did matter however was as to what he thought that then meant, as to what would come of the timeline he was from.

Hugh is sent back to try and prevent the Great War, with no way of getting back to the future, once his mission is complete he will be left to live in the present of his own making.

The book is a real page-turner, so I read through it pretty quickly, but it really seems to fall apart in the 3rd act. It would appear that Hugh’s thoughts about what happens to the timeline he is from are also the authors. It comes across as being confused, and really doesn’t make sense. In fact, it then appears to make less and less sense the more it goes on. It’s the mechanics of the time-travel here that really let it down, as they are so ill-conceived and not scrupulously stuck to. Bill & Ted got this, so I’m not sure why Ben doesn’t. There are far better books that are about the preventing of a real historical event, and what comes with that, such as 11.22.63 by Stephen King (which I will go on to write about), but I wish someone had prevented me for reading this one.

To be continued…

Paying someone to insult you.

“It’s your age. The fact that you’re completely inflexible, and you’re tight.”

I could have responded with something other than a laugh to this, but I couldn’t because he was right. He was a chiropractor that I had gone to see as the back back that I have suffered from pretty much all year flared up again last weekend. This time, it was the worse it has been. On Monday I couldn’t put my socks on, I couldn’t get anywhere near my feet. The walk to the train station was as comical as it was agonising, and I couldn’t really get up from chair once I’d sat in it at work. I told my boss that I was going to have to see a doctor, but he told me not to worry about it and got me booked in with his chiropractor. It’s the first time I’ve been to one, and I didn’t know what to expect. Insults aside, one thing I wasn’t expecting to be told that it’s not my back that’s the issue. It’s my legs. They’re not very flexible, and I have a tight spot in one at the back on one and the front of the other. I therefore have to stand on the wonk, and that is causing my back to hurt. In a way this is great news, as I can do something about it. I just need to loosen up, and become… not more flexible, just flexible. As at the moment, I’m not at all.

Crashing.

Hold tight. Jen, don’t worry, it’s not that sort of crashing.

“Don’t fall off.”

Is the last thing Jen says to me before I set off on a ride. And with the exception of just once, I have followed her advice. She could equally just as well suggest that I,

“Remember to have eaten enough before you set off, and don’t ride through all your fuel reserves.”

That would prevent the type of crashing I’m going to writing about here. There are loads of technical reasons as to why it happens, but that’s about the long and the short of it. I am, to be fair, not going into why or how it happens. Or, how to prevent it.

From my days of reading MBUK I can remember 2 pieces of advice about managing your energy and fuel levels whilst exercising. Eat and drink little yet often. And if you start to feel hungry, or thirsty, it’s too late. So, do the first, to make sure the second doesn’t happen. And, I suppose, if the second is happening stop whatever you’re doing to rest and refuel.

Crashing is horrible. In my experience at least it has just slowly crept up on me, leaving with me the feeling that I wish I’d eaten more food earlier. I’ve then not rested, well, certainly not for long enough, carried on riding, and then everything has gone wrong. All of a sudden my mouth is too wet, that strange feeling that you get just before vomiting. Any strength I had just disappears, leaving my legs essentially just going through the motions. They will carry on going round and around, but I’m not certain they are actually pedalling anything. I was perilously close to this happening on the first club ride I went one. I stopped, rested, ate, and then dialled back what I was doing. If I hadn’t, I don’t think I would have been able to make is back.

Thankfully, I can count on one hand how many times I have crashed. The worst, and bizarrely the funniest, time it has happened to me however I was no longer on my bike at all. I had just returned home from a 50 odd mile weekday ride, and at that point, even though I felt a little hungry, I didn’t feel bad at all. So I got washed, changed my clothes, and took a walk into town to get some food as after a quick scout around the kitchen we didn’t seem to have anything in. Everything was fine then, nothing to worry about. I’d had a good ride, and on a rare weekday off too, and then I felt all the colour drain from my face. I had the same wet mouth feeling as before, and my legs seemed to get heavier. I was just over halfway into town, and in dire need of food. My legs were going through the motions of walking, and I’m not sure that I had any control over them at all. My functions started to shut down including my brain, as I carried onto where I had set off rather than actually go into to any of the handful of places I could’ve got food sooner. I was definitely running on autopilot. I arrived at the Cornish Pasty shop and ordered my usual, a large traditional. Now at this point I don’t know what was going on with my face, because when the lady had to tell me that they had now sold out of large traditionals for the day she looked scared. I knew I’d been polite when I’d asked for it, but she didn’t appear to be reacting to what was going on that way.

“I, I, I, I can do you two mediums for the, for the, same price…?”

“That’d be amazing, thank you so much.”

“Sorry, I’m really sorry…”

“No, no, that’s fantastic, thank you.”

“Can I… get you anything else…?”

“No thank you, this is great.”

“I’m so sorry…”

I knew I was saying the right thing, but something wasn’t right. I left as quickly as I could, and I’m convinced that I heard the door being closed behind me. It, well, ending up with two pasties, couldn’t of worked out any better as I was able to eat one in town before setting off home. Well, I say eat, I think I pretty much breathed it in. It definitely didn’t touch the sides.

Now I’m no athlete, but I do know that a pasty is not ideal recovery food. It’s not something that you should take as advise. Maybe making sure you have enough of the right food in your house before you exercise however, that’d be good advice. Being prepared, that’d do it. But above all else, “Don’t crash.”

My fascination: The Hiro that never was.

When I lived with Mighty in the flat, every Tuesday night, was lads night. And lads night, generally meant US television night. We would have friends round and watch as much US television as we could find. I think it had started with us just watching 24, and then moved on from there.

One of our favourites was a program about a group of ordinary people who discovered they had superhuman abilities. It was actually Mighty who came across Heroes first, coming into my room one evening after work and saying that I should watch it. By the end of the first episode you could tell why Mighty would go onto love the series. If Mighty had a dream, he would be flying. Standard. From Superman flying, to swim-flying, and anything in between. He would talk about this a lot, and even joked that he expected to wake up on his 25th birthday and be able to fly. His dreams were just training. So when Peter Petrelli jumps off a building wrongly believing he can fly, only to then be saved by his brother Nathan who can actually fly, I knew that this series would be the first program we would watch every Tuesday.

However, whilst Mighty had his focus firmly set of the Petrelli brothers, Hiro Nakamura was a firm favourite for all of us. For Hiro appeared to be the only one of these ordinary people who appeared to want his superhuman abilities, and to want to become a hero. Personally Hiro was my favourite as he could manipulate time and space, which he deftly showed in the first episode by teleporting himself into a ladies restroom and then later from a subway train in Tokyo to Times Square in New York. And it is on another subway train that Hiro ends up on, that the story really ramps up and that everyone’s focus was suddenly on Hiro. The lights go out on the subway train that Peter Petrelli is riding on in New York and he very quickly becomes aware that he is the only one not frozen in time… at least, he is in the subway car. Someone lands on the roof, and then walks to the end of the car and joins Peter. The figure is dressed in black, and clearly has a sword on his back. He then speaks with a Japanese accent, but in perfect English.

“My name is Hiro Nakamura, and I am from the future.”

I’m not certain who was more surprised. Peter, or us. This was the fist time Hiro wasn’t speaking in Japanese. Gone were the glasses, blue jacket, and satchel. Gone too, was his usual bumbling, excited, nerdish mannerisms. We were looking at a warrior, a hero, and he had a message for Peter.

“The girl, you have to save her.”

He goes onto to say that my saving the girl, the cheerleader, he will prevent everything. She must live. He also tells Peter than when he calls, he must tell him where they meet. And then as he walks off towards the end of the car, the lights come back on and time starts running freely again.

Meanwhile Present Hiro is in Nevada, where upon he happens to meet Peters brother Nathan. After seeing him land outside a diner Hiro tells him, in very broken English, that they are both special, and that he can bend time and space and that he’s has teleported into the future and seen New York destroyed by an explosion, which is what the characters all end up working towards for the rest of the season. The episode ends with Peter giving Present Hiro a message Future Hiro asked him to, thus creating an Ontological paradox. This was a huge episode. It seemed to set up not only the rest of the season, but character arcs that would run the course of the series.

Except that, that didn’t happen. The rest of the season built to a superb climax. But the following season started with a huge misstep, which it never recovered from. Don’t get me wrong there were some great ideas, new characters (Adam in particular), and stories (the one that showed what happened to Nathan when he was getting rid of the explosion at the end of the first season). But all of these opportunities seemed to be squandered by the show runners, and the series just kind of fizzled out.

As much as I’m loathed to quote a fictional character to back up a point. Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory once stated that;

“Heroes gradually lowered the quality season by season till we were grateful it ended.”

Grateful it ended? No. But didn’t care? Almost certainly. I wouldn’t bet money on it, but if Hiro did ever became that version of him we saw on that subway train the series had become that dire that I then didn’t notice. Likewise, if circumstances ended up meaning that we were watching a different time-line to the one Future Hiro came back from then that plot point totally passed me by.

It is such a shame as the series and characters showed so much promise, and the first season in particular was brilliant.

To be continued…

Karma for drunk Batman.

After mentioning karma in the last post, in a roundabout kind of way, I thought it was only fitting that I told you about some karma being served up on me.

I have long been a believer in karma. Not really in a spiritual way, but certainly in the universe balancing itself out. If I’ve ever felt the need to write a letter of complaint, I have only done so if I could also write someone else a letter of praise. Working in the service industry it was my reaction against those who only write in to have a moan, but never to praise. It was my way of balancing out what I was doing, in the hope that others would do the same. I’ve always had the intention of treating others as I would like to be treated, and again always spoken to people in shops (again because of the industry I’m in) in the same way I like to be spoken to.

However, what does any of this have to do with drunk Batman?

In my days of going out in town for the evening, or day, I undoubtedly drank far too much. Talking rubbish was at an all-time high, and behaviour at an all-time low. Fun was being had, but certainly at a cost. I once ran as fast as I could into a barrier surrounding a building site as I thought it would cheer up someone who was in a grump, which was fun for me until the moment I bounced back over the path and landed on my back in the middle of the road. Andy and I once ran over a road and jumped clean into a skip, unsighted, containing god knows what, just because we thought it would make a group of bouncers laugh. Now I’m not sure of the sight of us jumping in the skip did make them laugh, but us climbing out covered in wet cement definitely did.

This behaviour wasn’t just limited to being in town, as I could still get up to no good on the journey home. On the walk home to the flat we used to walk past the side of a house, a huge windowless wall with a badly fitted television aerial wire running most of the way up it and one Friday evening that wire got that better of me… Pulling it free from the bottom of the wall, I then tried to climb up the wall just like Adam West used to do in Batman. What could possibly go wrong? Well, if you speak to Andy nicely he may still be able to show you as he filmed it on his phone. I did when we got home, and then again the next morning over breakfast, just to make sure I wasn’t misremembering what I had done. It’s hard to tell as it’s dark, but I definitely climbed to a higher height than I am tall, and was pretty much in the same position as Batman and Robin used to get as they scaled walls in the sixties tv series. Except that I wasn’t climbing up a Batrope, or, spoiler alert, wasn’t actually pretending to climb whilst really on the floor… although, I soon would be. I’ve heard Andy tell other people this story, and as he likes to picture it is that a family were gathered around their television when all of a sudden it yanked back towards the wall were upon the aerial lead disappears through it. On the other side of he wall, with the lead now falling towards me, and nothing to hold me up, I fall and land flat on my back on the path. It’s at this point that Andy ran away, but I got straight back up and then followed him fast as I could. We laughed about it when we got home, and people laughed when Andy told the story the following day, but I then started to feel a little bad. I walked home from town a slightly different way that night. Head down, and kept myself to myself, no shenanigans. Neither Andy nor I mentioned it next day, and I tried not to think about it. However, the next morning when I went out to my car to drive to work I found that someone has smashed my windscreen with a brick. Directly connected or not, I knew that it was the universe balancing things out. I was annoyed, of course I was, but I don’t remember being upset or even surprised that it had happened. And whilst I still felt a lot of regret, remorse, and shame still for what I had done two nights previous, I also felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders and that drunk Batman had paid his price.

The pint-sized spear wielding warrior.

A few years ago I was talking to one of my friends mums at a party, and she said,

“I saw you and ~my son~ the other day through the window at work. I tried waving, but neither of you saw me. We’ve got a new guy at work who’d asked who I was waving at, and when I told him he said, ‘Richard, Richard Moir?’ And he then said that the two of you had gone to school together. I asked if you were friends, and he said that he didn’t really know you that well.”

“Oh right, what’s his name?”

Now, this is not his real name, but let’s call him… “Terry.”

“Terry?”

“Yes. Why, do you know him?”

Well yes I did. And I can’t remember quite what I said next, but I know I then changed the subject pretty quickly as I didn’t quite know how to respond to what she had just said… or rather, what Terry had said.

“he didn’t really know me that well.”

He was my best friend at primary school, and for most of secondary school. Granted, that was a long time ago but how can he say that he didn’t know me that well? We did everything together, in school and out. We lived on the same street. How on earth could he say that? I was completely incensed, and was for quite some time too. A week or two later I happened to see an old friend, and when I told her that story she said,

“What? Terry, Terry?”

“Yep.”

“But, you used to DJ at school discos together.” (I know I brought this up, but don’t ask).

“I know.”

“How can he say that?”

I didn’t know, and it really shouldn’t matter at all. I don’t think we had seen each other since I had started at Sixth Form. This was all so long ago, It really shouldn’t matter, but it bugged me so much. Months later, I would find myself remembering what he’d said and getting upset by it again. Well, I say months, it was years. I really struggled to forget this. It hurt.

However, one day I remembered something and that seemed to make it all better.

It was… reverse karma. Conscious time-travel. Somehow my brain had recalled a memory, and I was able to view it from a different perspective to how I did at the time.

The pint-sized spear wielding warrior.

Terry and I used to go everywhere on our bikes, and would roam the estate where we lived for the most part completely without purpose. One Sunday (and this was in the days when you could tell what day it was outside. No one drove. There was no point. Town was closed, all the shops were shut. The streets were empty) it seemed we had the estate to ourselves, we cruised down Avocet Way and then took a right onto Kingfisher Drive. This was the steepest road in the estate. For the first third you would pedal as fast as you could, freewheel the second, and then have to brake for the entirety of the third. Just as we were finishing the first third, when we were reaching terminal-velocity, I remember hearing something coming from one of the gardens on the left. Now, I was riding in the middle of the road, and to the right of Terry, but I heard this screaming sound. It was quiet at first, like it was coming from one of the back gardens, but then it got louder and louder. And it was just the one long scream. Looking to the left I then saw a little boy, much younger than us, running out of a garage holding what looked very much like a cricket stump above his head like a spear. He then ran diagonally across the front garden, heading down the hill, and when he ran out of garden he launched the cricket stump. A more perfect throw, he could not have done, and it sailed through the air straight into Terry’s front wheel. At the time, this was horrific. However, as my brain played this back to me it was the adult me that was riding my Raleigh Grifter down Kingfisher Drive. The bike is far too small, knees everywhere, and that boy throwing that cricket stump like a spear into Terrys front wheel is hilarious. Terry is thrown straight over the bars, and continues his way down the hill sans bike. It was at this point, and believe me I know this sounds mean, that the adult me wanted to skid my bike to a stop (there used to be no other way), and shake the boys hand for what he’d just done. It’s like he knew what Terry was going to say in later life, and was helping me out with my retribution.

Is it getting harder to avoid spoilers?

I’ve previously posted about having the plots of television shows and films being spoiled, and then in doing so may have spoiled every film both Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt have and ever will be in. Apologies again for that.

I think everyone that is bothered by spoilers now know to avoid social media if they know that they are going to miss a show, or won’t be able to see a film on its day of release. They’ll know too to not read reviews of either shows or films that they want to see. Now I know that last one does seem a little obvious, but reviews did not use to give a way entire plots. A lot of them now appear to serve as plot summaries. Now on the whole, they will tend to warn the reader not to read beyond a certain point. However, when that article is then displayed in the main body of the website it’s on, or on news readers*, they are more often that not formatted in a way that the highlight of the article that you can see has been the spoiler. Whilst writing this I have tried to find a review of Game Of Thrones from a year ago on The Guardian website that had really bugged me. – Now I will preface this by stating that I have only watched the first five episodes or so of GOT, but I do at some point want to watch it. So the chances of any of it being spoiled are very high, I know this, please don’t feel sorry for me. – But whilst I can easily find the review, I cannot find the way it was originally displayed on the site. Originally the snippet of the review, which I was trying to scroll past, strongly implied that a big character had died. And whilst it didn’t name anyone, was immediately above a photo of a character (the review currently shows the character forlorn and weary, where as my memory of it is of the same character on the ground with their eyes closed), which in turn was above The Guardians spoiler warning. Winner, they’re dead then. Even now, looking at the full article and the way it is now shown, it is hard not to take away from everything above the warning that that character is dead. Just in case you didn’t put two and two together they had an article a week or so later with the title; Game of Thrones algorithm finds ******************* should not have died. Incidentally, I’m not sure I agree with The Guardians reviews of GOT anyway, in that it is essentially a UK news website and yet they put the up the morning after the programmes HBO airing, which is the morning before it’s aired in the UK.

The Radio Times are also not very good with spoilers. At the time of writing I still haven’t seen a huge film from late last year as the highlight of something that I was trying to scroll past gave away a big reveal in the film. The snippet appeared to be falling over itself not to say something, again above a photo that then gave it way, again above the spoiler warning. This bummed me out so much, I then didn’t rush to the cinema to see it. John, this is why. About a week later, knowing what the spoiler was I went and read the article anyway… and it spoiled something else.

News websites in particular seem to take great glee in spoiling plots and revealing things that should come as a surprise. Years ago, I went to the cinema with some friends and one of them kept asking their partner throughout the film questions; “Who is that?” “What are they doing that for?” “What’s going to happen next?” Their partner, far, far, more patient than I would answer some questions but not others. They would however try and reassure them those questions would be answered by the film itself. “But I’d feel happier knowing now.” It’s maybe for these people that the spoilers exist. People who don’t like surprises… or suspense, or drama. I’m certain there must be more people that don’t like spoilers than do though, right?

Spoilers should be put aside somewhere on each website so that can’t accidentally be seen. I know sites have to do everything they can for SEO, to get people to visit in the first place, but they should be more careful. Ruiners. There are much more important things to be concerned about, granted, but if stories are meant to help you escape those things why spoil them?

*incidentally, just to clarify; I do mean articles displayed on news reader apps and RSS feeds, and not displayed on the likes of Krishnan Guru-Murthy.

My fascination: Wyld Stallyns.

It has been over five years since I last wrote about time-travel. So with that in mind I’m going to travel all the way back to 1991 when I was still at school…

This is pretty hazy, but I do know that I actually saw the films the wrong way around. Whilst I think I went see Bogus Journey on a date at the cinema, I definitely know that a few weeks later I saw Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure on VHS at home with my sister Gillian. She had seen it before, and had come to Bill & Ted way before I had. I think though that her interest in it was more to do with actors in it rather than the subject matter. The reason that I want to start back here, and with this film, is that time-travel is inherently nonsense, and this film is nonsense at its best.

When I first watched it, I definitely didn’t notice the paradoxes that they use, I took it as a fun trip through the past with Bill S. Preston Esquire & Ted “Theodore” Logan collecting figures from history to help them with their final history report. It was pretty funny, and it didn’t really appear to take its time-travel too seriously. They even time-travel in a phone box… but unlike the Tardis it was just a phone box, so they are all squashed in there. It is however when we (and they) first see the phone box, and we first meet Rufus who sends them on the adventure in the first place, that we come across the paradoxes that are being used. Although, it’s not until much later on that you realise that that’s what’s going on. On seeing the now past versions of themselves looking at them from the car park of the Circle K. the now present versions of Bill & Ted decide to head out of the phone box and go and talk to themselves. They’ve already had this conversation from the other way around, but can’t quite remember what it was;

“What’ll we say anyway.”

“I dunno… lets find out.”

They then, of course, proceed to have the exact same conversation as before. Whatever happened, happened. Even later when Bill points out that Ted forgot to wind his watch,

“Even though you reminded yourself not to.”

Ted’s response is to remind himself again, even though this will be the first time he’s done it. So whilst Bill & Ted, maybe are not quite there with how this works, we are. Later they go on to mount a jail break by having a conversation about something that they will have to go on to do. And in doing so then seem to get it for themselves… just.

“Ted, good thinking dude. After the report we’ll time travel back to two days ago, steal your dad’s keys, and leave them here.”

“Where?”

“I don’t know. How about behind that sign? That way when we get here now, they’ll be waiting for us.” (bends down and picks up the keys) “See?”

“Whoa! Yeah! So after the report we can’t forget to do this, or else it won’t happen. But it did happen.”

And with that it would appear that the film uses the exact same paradoxes as The Time Travellers Wife. The Predestination, and the Ontological paradox*. Two more different stories you could not get, and yet they both have exactly the same grounding. Time-travel only works as a story device when the story-tellers pick the mechanics as to how it’s going to work, and then stick with it. No matter what. I started off by saying that it was inherently nonsense, which it is, but you do need those mechanics (rules) in place to help you suspend your disbelief just the right amount to be carried along with the story.

To be continued…

*The Ontological paradox is probably better known now as the Bootstrap paradox. A casual loop involving information or objects with no point of origin. And some of examples of which I’ll have coming up.

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