Quote of the day

"The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the one who will win."

- Roger Bannister

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Pictures that make me smile...10

The main reason this picture makes me smile?

Check out the 1990s hair!

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This week...

Feeling: far too hot! We are heat-waving hard here in London.

Thinking: about summer! I am so ready for sun and fun and not being in a classroom for a while :)

Making: plans for delicious summery meals!

Doing: far too much!

Reading: How to be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran. She writes like she interviews - poppy, whizzy, engaging. I'm a couple of chapters in and enjoying it so far!

Writing: report corrections and end of year write ups.

Watching: Gilmore Girls. It's definitely an addiction. I'm now on to season four, almost!

Eating: a totally erratic collection of food! This time in the school year it's famine or feast!

Drinking: gallons and gallons of water! It is soooooo hot.

Listening: to J-Pop.

Working: my butt off. Alas, not literally.

Wishing: for all sorts of loveliness!

Looking forward to: summer break. For reals.

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Sunday Self Portrait, Sunday 26th June




Big ole pile of ironing (ah, the auld enemy...) just out of shot.

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5 Minutes: Wonder

Linking up as is traditional with the beautiful Lisa-Jo.

5 minutes. Just 5 minutes.

This week, the topic is.....wonder.


I think I'm lucky, because my world is full of wonder.

I'm naturally an optimist, a joy seeker, a blessing counter, a dance-like-no-ones-watching kind of girl, and I love to see the little bits of magic that we can see in the everyday.

I'm also lucky enough to spend a good deal of my time with eight and nine year olds, and heaven knows, they are great at finding wonder. It's not a pile of old boxes, it's material for building. It's not rain, it's preparation for puddle jumping. The cakes aren't squished, they are different!

I love that about teaching.

Sometimes I have to stop and wonder at the wonder and beauty and grace and joy that I'm lucky/blessed enough to live amongst. Yes, there are bad things, but if you'd told me five, ten, fifteen years ago, I would never have believed that I'd be this stable, this happy, this grateful. Those seasons were hard, full of sadness, loneliness, anger. There were some bad people involved, a lot of abusive talk and negative situations and self-hatred that makes me wince when I think of it, like spilling vinegar on a cut still healing. as I've grown (and dare I say, improved?), I've been able to see the wonder all around me.

Wonder is waking up to another day.

Wonder is safety in the arms of my love.

Wonder is looking in the mirror and not hating. Sure, I'd make improvements, but I can also see the good - the wrinkles from smiling too much, the wide grin, the big eyes, the mad hair that's just so me.

Wonder is forgiveness, both given and received.

Wonder is the blessings that crowd my life, and the ability to see them - the stolen moments, the love, the joy, the sparrow in the park, the special cupcake, the stick man drawing, the "my teacher rules" heard in the corridor.

Wonder is a future unknown but looked forward to.

I think that life is full of wonder. That's what makes it wonderful.


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This week

This week, I have mostly been....

Feeling: that the end of term is now firmly in sight....

Thinking: about babies names, weirdly. No babies on the horizon (breathe, honey), but I'm thinking about names a lot. I blame this on a) writing out names eleventy million times for reports, and b) Toddlers and Tiaras and some of the wackadoodle names you can find on there!

Making: plans for the summer.

Doing: so. much. paperwork. Oh, and also planning gifts and parties - that's more fun. :)

Reading: far too little.

Writing: reports, and hoping they are done soon because I have a tonne of thank you notes to write! Such a backlog.

Watching: Gilmore Girls. I fear it's an addiction.

Eating: over the weekend, far too much takeout. This week seems to be yoghurt, coffee and fruit.

Drinking: coffee (often decaf) and wine. And mojitos.

Listening: to Kate Miller-Heidke. Oh, and The Weakerthans, who I am super excited to see on Thursday!

Working: just as hard as last week, but in a wildly different way. Again!

Wishing: for more hours in the day...

Looking forward to: going to see Bridesmaids on Wednesday with Eileen, meeting Becca T and gigging Thursday, half-Christmas on Saturday with Vixie...and parties, picnics and zoo visits besides. Good times!

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Sunday Self Portrait, Sunday 19th June

Taken on Wednesday after adventures away with the badgers.

The wonkiness is due to the level of TIRED, I think.

Still smiling.

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My current reading list....June

It's high time I updated on what I'm reading - I love finding out what other people are reading and sharing my current reads!

Christy very kindly gave me this book yonks ago, and it's finally time to actually read it! I'm excited - I love a good bit of Canadian fiction.

This book always makes me think of Mlle Wilson. We do love a bit of Mitford action!

Such an interesting man! I'm looking forward to reading this autobiography.

'Pride and Prejudice' is one of my favourite books ever (I must have read it twenty times!), and there's a little mini-genre of books that have sprung up around the book and it's characters. I hope this book is entertaining!

A Christy recommendation :). Looks fluffy and fun.

What are you reading, friends?

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Woo! Friday!

Two posts in a day.

My goodness.


But seriously, below is an actual videoblog.

I think my favourite part is where I discuss strikes and beating children at a party....without having previously mentioned that it was a BOWLING party.

I told you I was tired.

That screengrab ^^^^^? Hawt. Heh.

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Five Minute Friday: Home

Thanks as always to the beautiful Lisa-Jo for running this link up!

This week's prompt is......Home.

After a childhood, teenhood and womanhood often spent in transit, home is sometimes are hard place to figure out.

London feels like home, with its noise and rush, the sirens never too far away, the crush of people on the Tube, the neon of the city reflecting in the Thames. Good friends and neat places forming a map of my own across the city, a mesh of memories of parties and adventures and brunches and cups of coffee and meetings.

Scotland feels like home too. The grey blue of the Moray Firth, the endless blue skies, the view from Califer across to the Black Isle, Caithness, and beyond. The lilt of accents, the gentle pace of life, the friends who have known me for decades, not years. The memories of teenage parties, learning to ride a bike, first loves, heartbreaks, and stolen moments.

School feels like home. The ebb and flow of teaching days, the rhythm of the timetable, hymns in the morning, bells and whistles, the marking never quite finished. Boys and noise and colours and laughter, the incessant chatter, the jokes, the learning. The familiar whine of 'Miss Thornleeeey' when you just know someone's had a falling out, the wonderful moment when a child discovers something for himself.

Matthew, and our little flat, feel like home. Our little badger sett, with all its quirks and funnies, the view out across the church, the cutlery and china we picked from John Lewis, the girldates with Eileen over wine, the neighbours who just can't shut the door without slamming it, T&T&T&T with Lou, the nights curled up on the sofa watching Mad Men, all the lovely times when we've hosted friends. It feels like our home, a place to be together.

Home really is where the heart is.


Phew....that was pretty much five minutes, but I did have to go back and fix a couple of typos!

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Pictures that make me smile...9

The grin says it all.

I was oh-so-very-excited to be a big sister.

It's a job I still love. :-)

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This week

This week, I have mostly been....

Feeling: busy, again. I'm glad exams are done, but this week is another kind of busy. It's activities week, so we're just back from three days in Surrey. Tomorrow is a giant picnic (and then a bowling party for one of my pupils), then Friday is Roman Day (toga-tacular!). Add in to that lots of reports to write and busy is definitely the central theme!

Thinking: about a whole mess of things.

Making: bases with my boys. Ah, the joys of building forts and bases!

Doing: plenty.

Reading: The Pursuit of Love. After Googled, which was great but pretty heavy, I fancied something fluffier, a bit more fun.

Writing: postcards home from camp, and reports!

Watching: nowt. No TV out in the woods, baby!

Eating: piles of veggies, and lots of fruit. I love summer produce!

Drinking: plenty of water, and the occasional "teacher juice" (a.k.a. wine...).

Listening: to all sorts. I'm cooking up some mixes.

Working: just as hard as last week, but in a wildly different way.

Wishing: for my reports to magically write themselves. Ah, for the powers of Mary Poppins.

Looking forward to: going to the zoo on Sunday! Penguins ahoy!

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Things I like (parts 111-120) by Claire

111. Reading indoors with a cup of tea when it is cold and rainy outside. After the glorious sunshine of April and May we've been hit with some rainy days. I do love the rain.

112. Visiting the Farmers' Market - I love the fresh flowers, the piles of produce, the yummy samples. Ah, happy times.

113. Making plain, wholesome, simple dinners for Matthew and I. Sea bass and roasted vegetables, grilled chicken with mash and veg, beef stir fry....yummers!

114. Girldates! I'm missing my girldate tonight, but I'm looking forward to lots of get-togethers soon. Brunches, lunches, movies, wine - the activity matters little, the company is the most important thing!

115. The fact that it's 4 weeks until summer break. WOO HOO!

116. Being out and about with my Year 4s. We are down in Surrey for three days, two nights of good outdoorsy fun. Archery and bonfires and all sorts of boy adventures. It's fun to see and be part of!

117. Watching The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe with my Year 5 class. I love Lewis' books, so sharing them with my students is a real treat. After exams we always settle down to watch the film adaptation too. I love it - it's been done with such obvious affection for the books.

118. Afternoon tea. Is there anything more restorative than a slice of buttered toast and a cup of tea?

119. Newsy, chatty phone calls.

120. Taking photos. I need to take more, so I'm trying to remember to do so...I may buy a new camera later in the year (funds permitting), to further encourage the habit.

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Getting healthy in 2011

So, as many of you know, I've struggled with my weight for a long time.

A mixture of a busy lifestyle, an ability to cook, a huge comfort eating problem and a genuine love of food all combined to have me tipping the scales at 245 pounds and bursting out of a size twenty (eek!) as of last December.

It was not a pleasant place to get to.

You see, I think everyone has their 'point'. You know, the one they always vow they'll never go past. For some, it's not being able to fit into their size 10 skinny jeans any more, for some it's a magic number on the scale, for others it's a feeling. For me, it was size 20. I've been happy at a 14, happy at a sixteen, fairly happy at an 18....but 20 made me feel huge. And when that started to get too tight....something had to give (before my zipper did. B'dmm kssh).

So this year, I've been focusing on getting healthier, and so far I have lost a little over a stone (some of which I gained back after my walking marathon and my visit to the health farm. Fail). Not the greatest amount, but definitely heading in the right direction - those tight size 20s are starting to get baggy! And now it's time to knock it up a gear. In six months I'll be thirty-one, and I would love to celebrate that birthday 'overweight' rather than 'obese'. Can I do it? Time will tell.

This time, though, I want to lose weight the healthy way. No starving. No binging. No purging. More exercise. More rest. Everytime I try to lose weight the demons emerge, with the result that I'm always too hard on myself about some things (making myself feel horrid, worthless, ugly), but way too easy on myself about others (skipping the gym, snacking, etc.).

This time, it's personal. I'll check in early next month and let you know how I'm doing....

Start weight, Jan 1st 2011: 245 pounds (BMI of 40.8)

Current weight, June 13th 2011: no comment - once I've been healthy for a month I'll share! I'm weighing in every week.

Target weight (first of four long-term): 179 pounds (BMI of 29.8)

I want to do this. I need to do this. Thank you in advance for your support!

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A few weeks ago, I hit a bit of a low. I was feeling down a lot of the time. I was exhausted. I was under the weather. And I was overthinking everything.

Do you ever get like that?

I'm all too aware that I am an infinitely blessed young woman. I'm fairly healthy and very happy, and am surrounded by all sorts of blessings in my everyday life. But sometimes, I worry. I've always been a worrier, and sometimes when I'm tired or stressed, all my worries come home to roost.

Such was the case a few weeks ago. I felt like I was just going through the motions at work, with friends, at home, and the rest of the time I spent worrying and beating myself up (not physically...but you know what I mean). It wasn't pleasant.

A lot of this was silliness on my part but it still made me feel lousy. It was a snowball - a few snide comments, a couple of interfering questions, one big answer that changed a lot of things for me, and I was magically on a bit of a downward spiral.

And now I'm feeling better.

I thought you'd like to know.

Have a great week!

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Singalong Saturday, June 11th

The lovely Shan wanted to know what I listened to when working out....and it was high time I did a singalong post.... So let me talk you through one of my workout mixes (there are several!).

1. Lose My Breath - Destiny's Child

Just looking at the moves they throw in the video makes me want to move!

2. We R Who We R - Ke$ha

(caution - this video contains Ke$ha)

Yes. I know. Ke$ha. So help me, she makes me feel the burn when I'm working out. This song is also killer for spinning classes!

3. Raise Your Glass - P!nk

(caution - swears and oddness)

The more astute of you will have gathered that Pink is my jam when it comes to working out. This would be true.

4. No Cars Go - Arcade Fire

There's something about that driving drum beat that keeps me going.

5. Falling For The First Time - Barenaked Ladies

There's always time for Canadian alt-pop.

6. Saturday Superhouse - Biffy Clyro

Ditto Scot-rock.

7. Stronger - Britney Spears

This one always makes me giggle when I'm weight training. I feel like I should be pumping serious iron, not prancing around with my 1 / 1.5 kilo arm weights!

8. When Love Takes Over - David Guetta & Kelly Rowland

Oooh! Dancey!

9. The Pretender - Foo Fighters

If Dave Grohl doesn't motivate me, very few things will ;)

10. Celebrity Skin - Courtney Love

Great beat, clever lyrics, and always reminds me of my mis-spent youth in the Mudd Club in Aberdeen. When I was much skinnier!

11. Dirrrty Girl Mash up - Christina Aguilera and Jet

Amazing mash up. Great cross-trainer rhythm. Can't find anywhere on youtube!

12. S.O.S. (Let The Music Play) - Jordin Sparks


13. Since U Been Gone - Kelly Clarkson

Yeah, two AI alums in a row. I have mad cheese selecting skillz. Love this video too.

14. Can't Find The Moonlight (remix) - LeAnn Rimes

Coyote Ugly. Filmic genius.

I'm quite serious.

15. Bad - Michael Jackson

This has the added workout bonus that the first line (Your butt is mine) makes me giggle like a schoolboy. Extra-ab-workout-high-five!

16. Supermassive Black Hole - Muse

Adding some more rock to the mix. This always makes me feel like I should be strutting down a catwalk somewhere...bonus.

17. Up - The Saturdays

Dancey Brit pop cheese, which always reminds me of Lloret Del Mar with Katie Boo. Good times.

18. Number 1 - Tinchy Strider feat N-Dubz

Oh my goodness. It's like all my musical taste abandons me the moment I enter a gym...

19. Heads Will Roll (A-Trak remix) - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Slightly more credible note to finish.

So, be honest....does anyone else embrace the cheese for work outs?

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Five Minute Friday: Backwards

Linking up again with Lisa-Jo for Five Minute Friday. Come play!

Five minutes. Just five minutes.

And today's theme is....."Backwards".


There are times where I feel like all I do is look backwards. Like an elephant, my memory is long, and I sometimes seem to spend a lot of time looking back - to happy times, to things I've done wrong, to choices I've made. I reflect and ponder more than is healthy sometimes, and the 'what ifs?' can sometimes hang over my life like a little raincloud (cue images of Eeyore in Winnie The Pooh).

I think part of this is comforting, though. You see, the past is known. For good or for ill, we all know where we've been, what we've done, the decisions we've taken, the people we've loved, the words we wish we could come. Even with the things we regret, there's a finality, a done-ness to things. Whereas the future is full of maybes, buts, ifs....

Ask someone about the past, and answers are often clear.

Talk about the future, and a million questions bloom up, like a bank of daffodils magical appearing on a spring morning.

The future contains all sorts of wonder, but is also unknowable, hard to pin down, a mystery to be solved, a test to face, a new ocean to traverse.

Kind of magical, right?


Have a great Friday!

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Pictures that make me smile...8

I haven't been to a good gig in a while.

This, however, was truly one of the best.

Foo Fighters at Wembley with Naomi (the lovely Mme Muir, or the artist formerly known as Mlle Wilson).

The gig was Saturday and had been sold out for months.

But I happened to be listening to the radio on the way to school, at just the moment when they announced one thousand extra tickets being released.

A quick phone call later and Nai and I were off for a great evening's music.

And lots of screeching at Dave Grohl. :-)

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This week

This week, I have mostly been....

Feeling: busy! After the glorious lull of half-term, jumping straight into exam week has been a shock to the system!

Thinking: less. I'd got myself to a very worried place a couple of weeks ago. No I feel like I've re-centred, and hope that whatever comes my way I will be able to handle.

Making: a mess, mostly. My classroom is a paper explosion right now!

Doing: lots and lots of marking. It's exam week, baby!

Reading: Googled. Still. My brain was way too frazzled for reading on 400-cals a day, so I need to get reading this week. During exam week. Yeah, right!

Writing: exam scripts and notes for reports.

Watching: Cougar Town. That show cracks me up.

Eating: more than last week (not difficult!), less than the week before that.

Drinking: so much water....

Listening: to lots of cheesey pop as I work out, and a real smorgasbord of tracks as I work on some mixes.

Working: hard!

Wishing: for a few more hours in the day.

Looking forward to: summer break. 5 weeks to go!

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Pictures that make me smile...7

This lady is affectionately known as 'Mum White'.

Like me she's a joinee, and she also one of the coolest ladies I know - she's incredibly giving and loving and intelligent and makes everyone who knows her grin like a loon.

I love this picture of us both at Karmageddon a few years back!

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5 Days of Cabbage....

So here in the UK, last week was our half-term break. Half-term break is a genius invention, a time when teachers and children alike get to down tools and relax ahead of the challenges up ahead. Except for those poor souls mugging up for exams, of course - my thoughts are with you guys. Been there, done that!

Most half-terms I spend on holiday or visiting, or just hanging out at home reading and hanging out and meeting up with people. This half-term, I decided to do something a little different. I went away to a place unlike any place I've ever visited before. Depending on your outlook, it could variously be labelled a....

* detox destination
* weight loss retreat
* spa

....and many other things besides.

The retreat first came to my attention via a Groupon offer, and after vsiting the website, I had decided I quite liked the idea of going away for a week in the countryside, eating sensibly, working out lots, relaxing and unplugging from busy life here in London. I was also aware that after a strong start my weight loss had stalled and I needed to get a fresh take on food and exercise. It's always goof to reboot.

So on Sunday I headed down for a seven day stay (which I cut to five, for more or less one reason only!). And here, in bullet points, is what I thought of 'The place with a name so tacky I can't type it' (such a tacky name for a genuinely beautiful place!).


The good:

The situation is perfect. A converted Georgian house in an idyllic little village surrounded by rolling hills.

The trainer, Lisa, was a gem. She knew exactly when to be a cheerleader and when to be bossy. I have a newfound love of squats, and a grudging tolerance of both lunges and (gulp) the plank.

The showers, and the steam bath. I genuinely feel like I glow!

The opportunity to relax. With no internet and being removed from London, chilling was top of the menu.

The fresh air and exercise. I have a tan and freckles for the first time in years!

The visiting teachers...both the Zumba and the swing teachers were fantastic.

The long nights of sleep. I was having nine hours a night. Gorgeous.

Trying new things. After 5 yoga classes, I'm a convert and am looking forward to taking classes here in London too.

The results. I lost 9 pounds in 5 days. I remain unconvinced as to the healthiness of this, and will work hard to keep it off, but the bottom line is still quite exciting.


The bad:

The disparity in the quality of the rooms. For a place billed as luxury, I found my room more than a little lacking. Less boutique hotel, more grandma's spare room (with all due respect to grandma). Lovely, but not particularly well finished or thought out. To avoid the single supplement I'd gone for the shared bathroom option, and the bathroom was lovely. The room was below par though.

The joke of a 'nutrionist' they had visit us. Utter codswallop being offered as fact.

The towels. Threadbare white towels at a 'luxury' destination? For shame.

If the boss *and* her PA are both due to be away, surely you make some contigency plans? Lisa and the spa ladies and the cook all worked hard to fill in the gaps, but there was 'something' (or rather, someone) missing throughout.

The food. Now, the website says it's a weight loss retreat, so I was expecting skimpier portions. I'd imagined somewhere around the 800 - 1200 calorie range, maybe. But no. We were actually closer to 400 calories a day. That. Is. Insane. Now, luckily there were two doctors on the retreat who quickly reassured us all that the body was fine with this amount of food for a small portion of time, but friends....this was still way too little for a Claire. Juice for breakfast...cabbage salad for lunch....half a kiwi, a strawberry and three blueberries for afternoon tea....cabbage soup for dinner. Oh my goodness. This is why I cut down to 5 days...the lack of protein was getting to me so much I couldn't function! Now yes, this extreme diet helped the pounds come off, but I still think a little more food along with a little more exercise could have done the same in a more healthy way (just my opinion, YMMV!). I'm not a fan of fad diets, much prefering the eat-lots-of-real-foods-and-step-away-from-the-junk plan, so this was a major shock to the system!


The best:

The other guests. I met some really wonderful women on this jaunt, and I really hope we keep in touch. Because of the challenges and the lack of food, we really saw one another at our highest and our lowest. The support, camaraderie and hilarity was top notch! I'm so grateful I 'lucked out' with such a great group, and hope we can all build on our achievements going forward.


So that was my week....more positives than negatives, for sure, and a definite change of scene.

And now....back to school!

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Saturday Self Portrait, 4th June

Because I like to mix it up.

So after five and a half days away at the health retreat (more on that soon!), this is how I look.

I feel rested and relaxed and replenished.

I also have proper freckles for the first time since my teens, and was reminded how much I love to be outdoors. More of that this summer, I think.

I'm totally befuddled by the random spot though....no caffeine, alcohol, carbs, meat, pretty-much-anything, and I get a zit. Ah, the joys of detoxing....

Of course, one of the delights of detoxing is the epic amount of sleep you get. I swear, I've slept for hours and hours over the amount I usually do.

Good times.

Hope you are all enjoying your weekend :-).

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To do: June

1. Finish the pile of thank you notes.

2. Have a hair cut!

3. Lose seven pounds.

4. Learn some new recipes for stir fries and salads and soups.

5. Tidy and organise the 'Claire lair'.

6. Spend at least twelve hours in the gym, the pool, or classes.

7. Read four books (i.e. one a week!).

8. Finish up the year with a suitable amount of aplomb.

9. Sit down and plan the summer (yay! Summer holidays!)

10. Smile.

How about you?

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Pictures that make me smile...6

My lovely sister and I live miles apart.

She lives in rural Oban, surrounded by dogs and rats and fields.

I live in central London, surrounded by traffic and people and noise.

Our lives could not be more different if we tried.

I miss her loads, but I'm so happy she is happy.

And a big part of that is her fiancé, Chris. Here they both are, in the wilds they love so much. Their wedding is sure to be awesome!

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