London Shop Fronts
June 2, 2009 2:57 AM   Subscribe

London Shop Fronts
posted by nthdegx (71 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's rough in East London.
posted by fordiebianco at 3:45 AM on June 2, 2009


So I've been considering going to London to do my PhD.

Yeah, I'm kind of reconsidering that now.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:51 AM on June 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I earned a decent salary, but being unable to afford even a one-bed flat just around the corner from these, I left.
posted by niceness at 3:58 AM on June 2, 2009


I don't think there is a country in the world more setup to deliver the good life if you are rich than the UK. It sucks to be poor, however.
posted by bystander at 4:05 AM on June 2, 2009


Not much different from much of NYC. You can imagine pondering these storefronts in sequence as you lurch slowly past them on the bus. But don't they remind you of this film?
posted by Faze at 4:13 AM on June 2, 2009


http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/photoblog/2009/06/londons_shop_fronts.html
posted by vbfg at 4:15 AM on June 2, 2009


I was hoping to see Fishcotheque!
posted by vacapinta at 4:16 AM on June 2, 2009


Oops. I'll try that again in link form.
posted by vbfg at 4:16 AM on June 2, 2009


se also: Flickr Storefronts and Shop Fronts pools.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:22 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wish this site could also reproduce the smell produced by high streets full of kebab shops/fried chicken places/greasy cafes/corner shops. It's the essence of London.
posted by Summer at 4:27 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you're going to be poor, being poor in London is a pretty good place for it.

Big downside: very high rents for tiny rooms.

Upsides: wide-ranging public transport. Cheap supermarkets, proper markets and even biggish-box stores can be reached on public transport. Parks, museums, squat parties for free entertainment. Though the competition may be fierce, you know that jobs are there if you're looking.

I think you're better off being poor in a place where the poor are visible. If you don't see any poor people, it's because they've been shunted off into estates or banlieus or ghettos or the countryside, and have no access to wealth or opportunities.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:30 AM on June 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


Jesus, if you think London's rough, you should visit Darwen. But leave your valuables at home first.

Favourite shopfronts - Magic Phonogram on Askew Rd, W6 (now a taxi office) and GoGay! laundrette in Clapham. I'm a sucker for vintage launderette signage.
posted by mippy at 4:46 AM on June 2, 2009


I think you're better off being poor in a place where the poor are visible. If you don't see any poor people, it's because they've been shunted off into estates or banlieus or ghettos or the countryside, and have no access to wealth or opportunities.

Yep. One of the good thing about London planning - which is dreadful in so many ways - is that the poor sit next to the rich. It keeps the city alive.
posted by Summer at 4:54 AM on June 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's easy to pick out the worst examples and say "corr, isn't London grim?". But most of them are nice vibrant shops that most Londoners I know are very happy to have nearby.
posted by nthdegx at 5:13 AM on June 2, 2009


After a few beers this evening and getting a train back to Walthamstow, I will be getting my cab from here. Weird.
posted by MrMustard at 5:22 AM on June 2, 2009


Also, what nthdegx said.
posted by MrMustard at 5:23 AM on June 2, 2009


So I've been considering going to London to do my PhD.

Yeah, I'm kind of reconsidering that now.


What, you can't bear to be in a city with lace curtains in it?
posted by Happy Dave at 5:26 AM on June 2, 2009


Wow. Looks a lot like New York.
posted by scratch at 5:33 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's rough in East London.

It sucks to be poor, however.


I'm going to have to claim ignorance here. Are these storefronts examples of poverty and rough living somehow? They look fairly prosperous. They also have lots of grocery stores with fresh fruit and veggies. This is what storefronts look like in my fairly nice DC neighborhood, so perhaps I'm not seeing something I should.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:43 AM on June 2, 2009


I live in inner east London and these are all poor shops from poor or scruffy parts of London. They're interesting, but hardly representative. If you did the same thing in Marylebone or Westbourne Grove they'd all be the world's cutest boutiques and upmarket foodshops; near me and they'd be mostly Asian; in the suburbs and they'd be they'd be the usual Orange-Starbucks-Vodafone-WHSmith clone parades.

Nothing against the blog or the choice of shops - but it's worth remembering that, like most big cities, it's very easy to find the absurdly upmarket and the crushingly po' in a relatively small geographic space.
posted by rhymer at 5:50 AM on June 2, 2009


Rats. I can't find it on the list, bu tmy favourite shop front is "Booze Nest" off licence on Holloway Road.

I decided that if I ever decide to open up a shabby tavern, I'm going to steal that name.
posted by generichuman at 5:50 AM on June 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


You can't read the sign on the door of this bookie from the photo but the gist is "this betting shop is now closed, our open nearest branch is on Walthamstow High Street". I love their optimism in their clientele! As if they are going to schlep a couple of miles across London passed dozens of perfectly good bookmakers, powered only by Special Brew and rollies, out of brand loyalty.
posted by ninebelow at 6:03 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I live in inner east London and these are all poor shops from poor or scruffy parts of London.

But what makes them particularly rough? I'm seriously curious and not trying to question that life is harder here or there, I'm just curious what makes these particular examples of rough living. I live in a mostly black, mostly working class, but not impoverished by any stretch, neighborhood and we have no store fronts (mainly I believe because the big-boxes have destroyed private retail in America). The commercial strips are now full of boarded up windows and prostitutes, what I wouldn't do for a fresh fruit vendor, and that is in a decent family area (except for the commercial strips obviously). So what is it about these places that says to you, as an insider, "poverty" or "rough life?" Honestly, to me, if they have doors open and lights on it's a real improvement over what I've got.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:05 AM on June 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm with Pollomacho, if those are the "rough" areas of a city, sign me up. Poor neighborhood shopping districts in the States are either boarded up or just weedy empty lots. I'd kill for a grocery store in walking distance.
posted by octothorpe at 6:14 AM on June 2, 2009


I'm also partial to this recruitment company disguised as a nail bar.

They're interesting, but hardly representative.

They are pretty representative of the parts of Hackney where the photographer obviously lives. However, the message seems to me to be less "aren't these shops crap?" and more "look at the variety of these shops", drawing a contrast with the sort of clonetown high streets you mention.

Honestly, to me, if they have doors open and lights on it's a real improvement over what I've got.

What answer are you looking for? Poverty is always going to be relative.
posted by ninebelow at 6:16 AM on June 2, 2009


Newsagent • Tobacconist • Greeting Cards • Fancy Goods

Shoes and Bags

Yaseen Hair Dressers
posted by Busy Old Fool at 6:16 AM on June 2, 2009


But what makes them particularly rough? I'm seriously curious and not trying to question that life is harder here or there, I'm just curious what makes these particular examples of rough living.

Nothing, apart from the apparent assumptions of some posters up-thread. Nearly all of these shops are on East, North-East or South London high streets, in areas like Hackney, Peckham, Walthamstow, places like that. Many of these areas have lots of poor residents. Some of them have large council estates.

But most of these streets are pretty safe, honestly, unless you're stupid. I'm a speccy white boy from Scotland who habitually wears rugby shirts and board shorts, and I've wandered down high streets that look like this all over London, and never had any trouble. Honestly, there's bits of Glasgow and Edinburgh, where I'm from, which I find scarier than your average London high street.

But yeah, as noted upthread, this is a very narrow sample of shop fronts, and does not tell the whole story. It's looking at one aspect of London life. You can walk down Oxford Street or Tottenham Court Road and see dodgy looking off licenses right next door to chain stores, as you can throughout most of London.

I'm surprised not to see more fried chicken shops on this blog though, as they're pretty dominant in the 'dodgy wee shop' stakes. They're bloody everywhere. Not 'colourful' enough I guess.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:18 AM on June 2, 2009


So what is it about these places that says to you, as an insider, "poverty" or "rough life?"

I remember when I first moved to London and lived in South Wimbledon I thought the local Cost Cutter was the most exotic shop I'd ever been to, at least compared to the local shops in the village where I used to live. You actually had a huge choice of wine and Lindt and Green and Blacks chocolate and other fancy stuff in a corner shop.

But once you've lived in London a while, what you're comparing these shops to is not the scummy local shops you find in villages and estates in the rest of the country, but shops like these, that you find in your more high class parts of London.
posted by Summer at 6:18 AM on June 2, 2009


What answer are you looking for? Poverty is always going to be relative.

What about those shops tells you that they are poor shops? Is it just the lack of Starbucks'? Is it that they include kebab shops? There seems to be a pretty universal reaction from the Brits here to immediately classify this as low end retail, I just don't understand why.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:21 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


On review, I think Dave and Summer have better answered my questions.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:25 AM on June 2, 2009


There seems to be a pretty universal reaction from the Brits here to immediately classify this as low end retail, I just don't understand why.

I think there's a couple of different threads going on, honestly. Most of the shops on this blog are in areas with mixed populations of poor, council-housed, yuppies, artists (some places) and immigrants. The real, vital, interesting (but occasionally a bit down-at-heel) places in London.

A few people upthread seem to think that makes them 'rough'. I disagree, especially as compared to the dereliction, vacant properties and crime of 'rough' areas in the US is nowhere near the experience of living in these areas. Occasionally the local gangs will have a go at each other, normally with knives by the bus shelter, but Baltimore West Side this ain't.

Part of London's strength is that everybody, outside of the really posh bits like Kensington and Hampstead, lives mostly within walking distance of these kinds of small store. Some high streets are a bit dodgier than others because of a preponderance of bottle shops or pubs, some have a lot of rubbish because of all the fast food places. But I can honestly say there's nowhere in London I'm consciously afraid of going to.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:28 AM on June 2, 2009


I don't think there is a country in the world more setup to deliver the good life if you are rich than the UK. It sucks to be poor, however.

I'm not a fan of American exceptionalism, but mind-blowing inequality and everything-for-money is something that we're famous for. Donald Trump is still alive.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:30 AM on June 2, 2009


Part of London's strength is that everybody, outside of the really posh bits like Kensington and Hampstead, lives mostly within walking distance of these kinds of small store

The problem with them is you can't really get stuff like decent fresh meat, the fruit and veg is generally not that great, the bread is of the bog-standard Hovis type and everything's a lot more pricey than the supermarket. They're not stores you can do your weekly food shop at, and it's a bit depressing to live in an area that doesn't have a big Tesco/Sainsbury/Waitrose that has freshness and variety.
posted by Summer at 6:38 AM on June 2, 2009


The Walworth Road is one of my favourite places for these sorts of shops. A sample. Pity I can't find a picture of Risky Fashions.
posted by Summer at 6:44 AM on June 2, 2009


They're not stores you can do your weekly food shop at, and it's a bit depressing to live in an area that doesn't have a big Tesco/Sainsbury/Waitrose that has freshness and variety.

Absolutely agreed, if you tried to do a weekly shop at your local corner store, you'd be paying a lot for a little in most case. But you can't beat them for grabbing some cereal, eggs, cheese or a few beers for the back garden on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Also, honestly, the guys at my local shop were the first people in London who I saw who recognised me, and the little bit of chat and human contact I got from them got me through a very lonely initial year or so in London, since I did a lot of my growing up in a village where people jovially shouted 'MORNING' at you from across the street even when you had no idea who they were.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:44 AM on June 2, 2009


What about those shops tells you that they are poor shops?

That blog doesn't present a uniform sample of shops and I've never said they are poor shops. A lot of them they clearly aren't particularly prosperous though. I live in Hackney and use shops like these on a daily basis. They are extremely useful. However, if you look at photos like this or this and don't see "low end retail" then I don't know what to tell you. These are the sort of shops that don't even have shelves. There is no money to spend on basic maintainance. They frequently go out of business (and indeed, several of the photos are of businesses that have shut their doors).

Places like these make up the bulk of Hackney's retail offer. As Summer says if you had to do all your shopping here it would be pretty depressing. It is because of this that Hackney has a real problem with retaining local wealth, instead lots of residents chose to spend their money elsewhere, particularly in neighbouring Islington.
posted by ninebelow at 6:51 AM on June 2, 2009


Bloody Londoners with your fancy illuminated signs and your fresh exotic vegetables. You were lucky; where I live we had no fancy 'shops'. we had to make do with a plastic bag in a septic tank and bloody grateful we were, too.
posted by Phanx at 6:57 AM on June 2, 2009


Is it strange that The Siddeleys' "My Favorite Wet Wednesday Afternoon" began playing in my mind when I saw this?
posted by adipocere at 7:08 AM on June 2, 2009


Ah Summer, that was the first shop in London that I found selling Key Lime Pie and knew I could be happy here.

Somewhere on the King's Road there is a shoe shop called "R. Soles" (say it aloud with a cockney twang) where the gentile ladies buy their shoes.
posted by Molesome at 7:22 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


There, that's better.
posted by Zambrano at 7:25 AM on June 2, 2009


Hi all,
It's great to see a lot of debate going on about London Shop Fronts.
I want to feedback on some of the comments, and will do as soon as I get out of work and a chance to look through them all. In the meantime if anyone has any specific questions they want to ask me about it then please do and I will respond.
Cheers
Emily
posted by ewebber at 7:31 AM on June 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


But where is Cheap Booze on Pitfield Street?
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 7:38 AM on June 2, 2009


I want to feedback on some of the comments, and will do as soon as I get out of work and a chance to look through them all. In the meantime if anyone has any specific questions they want to ask me about it then please do and I will respond.

Huh, cool. Hi Emily, welcome to Mefi. My question would be, how do you select your shots? What catches your eye, and what are you looking for?

And how come there's relatively few Sarf London shops?

/moaning South Londoner.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:40 AM on June 2, 2009


A few people upthread seem to think that makes them 'rough'. I disagree, especially as compared to the dereliction, vacant properties and crime of 'rough' areas in the US is nowhere near the experience of living in these areas.

Clearly there are some absolute criteria of roughness (boarded-up stores, regular homicides) but so much of it is subjective. The indicators of poverty versus middle-classness are so culturally variable. Exoticism helps; I prefer these kinds of stores in NYC, where I'm not a native; and in Italy every single store looks gorgeous.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 7:41 AM on June 2, 2009


Poor neighborhood shopping districts in the States are either boarded up or just weedy empty lots

Population density has a lot to do with how many small shops an area can support. In London, car culture is much reduced as it is a PITA to have a car at all in many areas.
posted by asok at 7:46 AM on June 2, 2009


Another Hackney resident chipping in.

As (many) others have said, it can be a bit grim out East, but overall it's hardly the epic hive of poverty that some of those photos might imply when taken in isolation.

As has already been noted, areas of London like Hackney have a rather strange balance between poor, not-so-poor, trendy middle class and hoity-toity upperclassness going on, all within spitting distance of each other.

Not the most contrasting example, but one that doesn't require me to actually leave the room is this:

View out of the window on my left

View out of the window on my right

As I say, not the biggest contrast in the world, but you've gone there from average household earnings of about £15,000 p/a to about £50,000 p/a simply by crossing the street.

I used to live on one side of the road, now I live on the other - a journey of barely one hundred yards, but one that required some damn good parenting (thanks mum) and sticking out an education. Still makes me laugh sometimes at how far I've come without ever really moving at all.

Guess what I'm saying is that when it comes to most of London, everything is a bit grubby, shoved together, and (often) a bit scary, but somehow it all works and everyone (for the most part) gets on - regardless of income, race or creed.

So its probably best to look on those photos not as an example of poverty, or diversity, or... well... of anything else really. Just look on them as a rather fascinating visual snapshot of one of the many pieces that go together to form the wonderful behemoth that is London.

Oh, and for the record, I'm currently drinking a bottle of beer that I purchased not six minutes ago from this shop here. Its just over the road.
posted by garius at 7:47 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I want to feedback on some of the comments, and will do as soon as I get out of work and a chance to look through them all. In the meantime if anyone has any specific questions they want to ask me about it then please do and I will respond.

Can you get me a bottle of Crystal's Hot Sauce next time you're passing that K.G.N. Wholesale & Retail in Clapton?

They're the only place I've found that does the big bottles not the little ones.



Sorry. You don't really have to answer that question.
posted by garius at 7:52 AM on June 2, 2009


And how come there's relatively few Sarf London shops?

Happy Dave, it's a London shop fronts blog.


*hides*
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:06 AM on June 2, 2009


Charlie Brooker on London shop fronts.
posted by Summer at 8:11 AM on June 2, 2009


Happy Dave, it's a London shop fronts blog.


*hides*


*grinds teeth*
posted by Happy Dave at 8:21 AM on June 2, 2009


And how come there's relatively few Sarf London shops?

Happy Dave, it's a London shop fronts blog.


That's cooooold. South London used to have loads of shops and then woolworths and Apollo Video went bust
posted by garius at 8:24 AM on June 2, 2009


My favourite shop front is a bakery called Bread Pitt in Singapore.
posted by roofus at 8:35 AM on June 2, 2009


The coinwash picture is particularly interesting as the N graffiti is by an artist called Eine. UK writer and performer Dave Gorman has more information and the complete alphabet. (flickr)
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 8:45 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


The East London graffitti is also featured on an Alphabeat album.
posted by Summer at 8:56 AM on June 2, 2009


generichuman: I can't find it on the list, bu tmy favourite shop front is "Booze Nest" off licence on Holloway Road.

Heh. Go past BN every day on the #17. My favourite greasy spoon makes the site, but it's not complete without Holy Chinese Takeaway.

Also second Summer's comment on London planning. For the most part, well-off and poor live within sight (or no more than a few streets) of each other.
posted by bright cold day at 9:33 AM on June 2, 2009


Top Tip: Booze Nest is cheap, but the place on the corner of Kingsdown Road (just the other side of The Crown) is cheaper.

"And on the seventh day, God had a bit of a hangover and fancied a greasy breakfast and a cheeky Sunday pint followed by a night in with some cheap cans and a pirate DVD.

And Lo! He created Holloway Road. And it was good."


- 5:14, The Gospel according to Delroy
posted by garius at 9:53 AM on June 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow. Looks a lot like New York.

Yeah. That kinda sucks. London should be like Jolly-good cheerio cannae I have a Pint O the bitter Mam, and God Bless the Queen etc.... and The Who should be heard on every street.

Who needs another city filled with 99 cent stores w/ crappy sign-age?
posted by Skygazer at 10:46 AM on June 2, 2009


I like these pictures since I'm guessing these are the shopfronts that most local people pass by without special notice — a kind of picture that gives me a little bit of a sense of a place.

More from New York for comparison: Brooklyn, Harlem.
posted by dreamyshade at 11:10 AM on June 2, 2009


From my days in Elephant and Castle, Cafe Reality.
posted by Summer at 11:58 AM on June 2, 2009


It's really nice to see these comments, I'm glad everyone is enjoying the blog.
So here is my tuppence-

A few here comments about London’s ‘poor’ and ‘rich’ areas – aside from some areas in west London they don’t really exist as large areas (we simply don’t have the space for this), you might think you are in a ‘posh’ area and turn the corner and you are right in the middle of an council estate – Hackney itself (my area) has a few of the former (and a lot of the latter), which is great!

I wouldn’t call these areas particularly rough I might not want to be wandering around at 3am on my own, but I wouldn’t want to do that anywhere, this is the diverse vibrant London that I love.

I tend to document the shops that have their own history and charm, which is why you are seeing those with a little more character, but you don’t have to look too far on any high street to see these. These are the disappearing shops, the ones that the big chains and the latest recession are pushing out.

These shops make up my local area and day-to-day life, I buy most of my food from my local corner shop, which always have an interesting supply of fruit, veg and fresh bread and know my name. The local supermarkets are not only too far for someone who doesn’t have a car (yes there are a lot of us without them) but lacking in variety and not the most enjoyable experience.

@vacapinta
Where is Fiscotheque?

@flapjax
and of course this flickr group

@Happy Dave
the reason I don’t have so many fried chicken shops as they are almost a chain in themselves, there are sooooo many - and it isn’t always that easy to photograph them without people standing outside! Have you seen Meet Mr Chicken it's amazing.

About South London - I am from South (East) London originally! My abundance of Hackney shops and lack of some other areas is purely about where I spend my time, I will be getting round to more soon – there are a fair few from Peckham for now!

@game warden to the events rhino
Cheap Booze is in my collection, but not posted, unfortunately the big sign doesn’t quite fit into the front-on view I tend to go for.

@garius
Yes I agree LSF is more a celebration than anything else and Wine Gate is coming soon

@generichuman
Booze nest has always had cars in front when I have been past ☹

@Skygazer
Yeah. That kinda sucks. London should be like Jolly-good cheerio cannae I have a Pint O the bitter Mam, and God Bless the Queen etc.... and The Who should be heard on every street.

interesting view of London, ummm….have you ever been?

Emily
posted by ewebber at 12:09 PM on June 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Emily - Fishcotheque is outside Waterloo station, near the IMAX.
posted by Summer at 12:30 PM on June 2, 2009


….have you ever been?

Twice.

And it was exactly like what I wrote.

/sarcasm
posted by Skygazer at 12:57 PM on June 2, 2009


Oh wait scratch that 3 times. (Last time was in 1993, on an extended business trip of sorts that took me all over the city over a 2 week period.)
posted by Skygazer at 1:00 PM on June 2, 2009


I like the way the pictures all have the same aspect. Graphically, it's really interesting. London's big, there are some cheesy shops. Not sure what's the big deal.
posted by theora55 at 1:51 PM on June 2, 2009


I took a load of photos of Kilburn shop fronts a few years back on my old nikon stills camera. Sadly I got burgled and the camera stolen before I managed to take the film out, and I never got round to taking them again, but highlights (now sadly gone) included an urban clothes store that had black mannequins making gang signs, and my personal favourite, a lawyers office where the L was hanging by one nail, swinging down below all the other letters. I used to imagine just how much trouble I'd have to be in to go to see a lawyer with a sign like that.

Kilburn rules.
posted by ciderwoman at 1:58 PM on June 2, 2009


ewebber writes: @flapjax - and of course this flickr group

Thanks for the heads up on that one, Emily. With its strict rule of straight-on views of full shop fronts (no details, windows only, etc) I think it's the best. I just joined and added some photos.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:41 PM on June 2, 2009


What's the deal with this apparently Satanic hairstylist? This must be some other meaning of the inverted pentagram that I don't know about. Also, when I think of Las Vegas, pretty much the last thing I think of is nail care. I guess this is the same kind of thing as those generic Chinese tools that all have fake brand names like "Chicago" and "Philadelphia".
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:18 PM on June 2, 2009


Man, I would kill to have a store like this in my neighborhood. I'm salivating just imagining all the awesome records that must be inside.
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:23 PM on June 2, 2009


None of you truly understand London!

Me neither - WTF?
posted by Sparx at 5:00 PM on June 2, 2009


@flapjax: I just joined and added some photos.
Nice photos, great addition to the group

@DecemberBoy There are a lot of Vietnamese/Chinese run Nail salons around London and a lot of them are named after places in the US much like the fried chicken shops - to do it seeming more glamorous to be called Hollywood than Liverpool or something...I guess
posted by ewebber at 10:07 PM on June 2, 2009


I'm not a fan of American exceptionalism, but mind-blowing inequality and everything-for-money is something that we're famous for.
I'm surprised to see my 'great to be rich/sucks to be poor' comment conflated with the 'looks a bit rough' comment.
The reason I think London beats NY or LA for the uber wealthy is that it is so comparatively safe even in the worst neighbourhoods, located central to Europe for that weekend jaunt to St Moritz and has extraordinary diversity of upmarket shopping.
Similarly, the sucks to be poor comment was really all about housing costs/quality, although I can see the benefits of London are many for the down at heel too.
posted by bystander at 12:35 AM on June 3, 2009


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