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Last weekend, my primary human and I travelled to Eastbourne for our fifth reading retreat. The house we stayed in was pretty fancy:

Eastbourne 1

We moved around quite a bit over the weekend, reading in bed and in the smaller reading room, but this was our preferred spot:

Eastbourne 2

Other readers took up position in the large conservatory at the back of the house, where there was also a jigsaw to try when taking a break:

Eastbourne 3

The view of the marina was very pleasant:

Eastbourne 4

We did venture out for a walk on the Saturday afternoon. The random public art at the housing estate roundabout demonstrated a not unexpected nautical theme:

Eastbourne 5

There was a pleasant walk among the rocks to view the Martello Tower:

Eastbourne 6

And there was, of course, also the sea!

Eastbourne 7

Some of the rocks were interestingly marked:

Eastbourne 8

And the architecture of the waterworks was almost Escher-esque:

Eastbourne 9

But mostly we read and read and ate and read and ate and read some more. My human was particularly pleased with the fingerless gloves in this occasion's goody bag:

Eastbourne 10

Not long to wait until the next retreat in March - and we're already booked for one in November too!

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This is my friend, Trent. He's a Morale Officer in the department where my primary human works.

1 Trent

He's named after Trent Park, which is where my human broke her ankle falling off a horse, after which Trent came to live with us.

And, earlier this week, we got a new member of our family when Trent's cousin, Stanley, arrived (they share a surname):

2 Stanley

Stanley has had quite an impact so far, and is very good at providing snuggles, which my primary human really appreciates at the moment because my secondary human is away. And, as far as I can see, Stanley is settling in very well!

3 Chilling

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The humans and I headed down to the south coast for a few days for Christmas with the family. My primary human's family aren't particularly traditional, but in terms of decorations they seem to feel old is best. The tree dates back at least twenty years:

1 Tree

The stockings are maybe only about ten years old, but now a staunch and welcome part of the festive season. My primary human spotted them in a sweet shop and asked how much they were. The shop assistant said they were actually part of the shop's decorations and not strictly for sale, but the manager was happy to give them up to go to a good home:

2 Stockings

This jolly message from the Mister Men is almost as old as my primary human (so about 40) and has survived remarkably well:

3 Mister Men

Santa's sleigh is of a similar era and has lost a few minor bits and pieces along the way, but still makes a good effort:

4 Sleigh

My primary human's youthful creative efforts are not spared from the nostalgia fest:

5 Masks

There used to be a sack of presents each, which has now been downgraded to a medium-sized bag. But nobody was complaining and everyone seemed to like what they got:

6 Presents

But being with family is by far the most important part of Christmas for my humans. The snowmen seem to agree:

7 Snowmen

And I certainly appreciated the chance to catch up with Tigger and Father Christmas, and enjoy a snuggle with the delightful Dolce, who said she liked my Christmas jumper:

8 Family

Merry Christmas everyone! And all the best for 2019!

Iceland!

Nov. 30th, 2018 04:42 pm
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Iceland is very pretty:

1 Pretty

But there are lots of holes in the ground you have to be careful to avoid:

2 Fissure

It also has glaciers:

3 Glacier

And steam coming right out of the ground:

4 Steamy

We saw a small amount of water shoot up in the air:

5 Geyser Pic

And a much greater amount of water plunging down to the ground:

6 Waterfall

My primary human had an awesome scarf to protect her from the cold:

7 Scarf

And my secondary human provided a snug place for me to take shelter:

8 Snug

I met lots of interesting, friendly folks on our trip:

9 Rock People

We came across this gentleman, just chilling in the park (see what I did there?):

10 Chilling

And I met a fellow bear standing guard outside a shop:

11Bear

This fine fellow had a place of prominence in the town centre:

12 Dude

And the legend of the Icelandic Christmas Cat says he will eat anyone who doesn't get new clothes for Christmas, so it looks like I'd better ask for a new jumper!

13 Cat

The Icelandic horse has its own monument:

14 Horse

Thor is still important to the Icelandic people, as evidenced by this representation of him in a shop:

15 Thor

But alongside all the ancient myths and traditions, the cathedral only dates back to the 1980s and kind of looks like its made of lego:

16 Cathedral

The humans and I really enjoyed our trip to Iceland!

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Today, my primary human and I got back from our fourth reading retreat (www.readingretreat.co.uk), which was at The Well House near Leominster (apparently pronounced 'lempster'), a converted barn in the village of Brierley:

1 Well House

I got a wonderful surprise when we were shown to our room, because our lovely hosts had made a special goody bag, just for me! So, I was well provisioned for our stay:

2 Bear Goodies

My human also got a goody bag, and had packed plenty of interesting books to read over the weekend. She actually got through five, if you count the reading done on the journey there and back, as well as at the house:

3 Human Goodies

The house was lovely, with lots of nice little details scattered around:

4 Detail

We didn't go for the usual daily walks, but made it far enough outside to discover the original well that gives the house its name:

5 The Well

The reading room was luxurious and had enough sofas for the readers to almost have one each, with plenty of armchairs to supplement the comfort:

6 Reading Room

But it got a bit warm in the reading room sometimes, so my human and I did quite a lot of reading in our very cosy room, so as to avoid falling asleep over our books:

7 Cosy

The food was amazing, as ever, and the company was excellent, so another wonderful reading weekend under our belts. We've got two more booked already for next year!

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Chefchaouen is called The Blue City, and it's easy to see why:

1 View from Hill

Our hotel was not actually blue, but it was also set slightly outside the town on a hill. It was still extremely pretty:

2 Our Hotel

But once we got into the town proper, there was plenty of blue in evidence all over the place:

3 Blue Stairs

Chefchaouen was our favourite place of the whole tour and we loved just wandering around. There are lots of distinctive, ornate and very pretty doors in Morocco, but Chefchaouen had the best:

4 Pretty Door

The town square had a blue fountain, and a very pleasant cafe right up high, where we stopped for tea and the excellent view:

5 Town Square

The next day it was off to Tangier, where the weather favoured us with bright sunshine and a beautiful rainbow after heavy rain all through the drive:

6 Tangier Rainbow

Tangier is at the meeting point of two oceans:

7 Two Oceans

It also has a very dramatic cave, where you can look out over the sea:

8 Cave Bear

One of our favourite parts of the trip was the overnight train - 11 hours from Tangier to Marrakesh. It was snug and comfy and my human got her best night's sleep of the whole holiday:

9 Overnight Train

Marrakesh was our final stop, and probably our least favourite place. It was very smelly, but had some lovely mosque towers:

10 Mosque Tower

There was also an extensive market, where we had the opportunity to peruse many different types of wares:

11 Spices

And so ended our Moroccan adventure! We saw many beautiful sites and met lots of lovely people, and I'm very glad we got the chance to go.

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Our next day in Morocco started with a tour round the Roman ruins at Volubilis:

1 Ruins

My human was particularly interested in this as she studied classics a lot and has some familiarity with such sites:

2 Ruins

It was a beautiful day and the ruins looked very lovely in the sunshine:

3 Ruins

Then we made our way to Meknes for another tour, where we met The Water Man, a traditional Moroccan figure:

4 Water Man

Our longest touring day was in Fes, which is quite large:

5 Fes

We started at the royal palace, which has very ornate doors:

6 Fes Palace

Then we went to a ceramics workshop, where we saw craftsmen working on mosaics. They do it by hand, placing the pieces together upside-down, so they have to memorise the pattern:

7 Mosaic

The medina of the city houses the main market, and lots of very narrow streets:

8 Medina Street

We were given fresh mint to sniff before entering the tannery, though my human and I didn't think it smelled that bad - not that we'd want to work there, though:

9 Tannery

After the hustle and bustle of the market, it was nice to take a moment for some peace and quite, and reflection, at the Quranic school:

10 School

And it wouldn't have been a proper trip to Fes without at least one fez!

11 Fez in Fes

Morocco is beautiful and very varied, and we were glad of the opportunity to see so many different things. But the best was yet to come!

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A couple of weeks ago, my primary human and I went on an exciting trip all around Northern Morocco.

We started out in Casablanca, where one of the first things we saw was a Catholic cathedral, which was a little surprising, though it ceased its religious function in 1956:

1 Sacre Coeur

Next we made our way to an art deco mansion, which housed a modern art exhibition, also not something we had considered typically Moroccan:

2 Villa des Artes

Public buildings in Moroccan cities are generally large and very elaborate, as can be seen by the frontage of this post office:

3 Post Office

Despite the fact that the famous film was shot entirely on a sound stage, there is of course a Rick's Cafe in Casablanca, though we unfortunately arrived just after is closed for the afternoon:

4 Rick's Cafe

Our first day with the tour group saw us getting the train to Rabat, the capital of Morocco and a city of several parts. The first was the political district:

5 Rabat

The second was the medina, where the market was situated:

6 Covered Market

And the third was the walled fortress, the original settlement designed to protect the area from pirates:

7 Fortress

We made our way up onto the battlements for a lovely view of the sea:

8 Battlements

After lunch, we travelled on to Moulay Idriss, a small town built into the hillside, where there are many steps and donkeys are habitually employed to carry things up and down:

9 Moulay Idriss

We stayed in a beautiful guesthouse and were lucky enough to get one of the rooms right at the top, on the terrace:

10 Our Room

We shared our attractive perch with a couple of friendly tortoises:

11 Friendly Tortoises

In the early evening, we went on a tour of the town, winding our way through the narrow streets and up many, many stairs, until we reached the top, where we watched a beautiful sunset and admired the houses:

12 Top of the Town

And that was all in the first two days of our trip! Come back for more tales of Morocco later in the month.

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The second half of our Scottish Highlands trip started with a lovely lunch in Fort Augustus, where we met this lovely lady:

12 Fort Augusts Nessie

Then we made our way to Castle Urquhart, which has some impressive ruins, and the sun came out to welcome us:

13 Urquhart Castle

We managed to look round most of the castle before it started raining again:

14 In the Ruins

We stayed the next two nights in Plockton, where it was a little too grey for the bay to be seen in its best light:

15 Plockton Bay

We did spend quite a lot of time in the car, but the views out the window were definitely worth it:

16 View from the Road

It was perhaps most dramatic on the drive to Applecross, which was steep and narrow:

17 Road to Applecross

On our last day, the weather smiled on us again when we went to visit the gardens around Attadale House:

18 Attadale House

There was even enough sun to tell the time by the giant sundial:

19 Giant Sundial

The gardens were very varied - they even had a geodesic dome:

20 In the Dome

There were interesting rock sculptures in the woods:

21 Rocks in the Woods

And a beautiful Japanese garden with a place to complete a cleansing ritual on the way in:

22 Japanese Garden

The humans and I had an excellent time, and we will definitely be returning to the Scottish Highlands for more holidays in the future.

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This past week, the humans and I took a trip to the Scottish Highlands, starting out in Inverness:

1 Inverness Bridge

The town hall was very grand:

2 Inverness Town Hall

And the castle had an excellent multi-floor exhibition about various different local tales. There was also an unexpected Raven:

3 Raven

Outside was a statue of Flora Macdonald:

4 Flora Macdonald

From Inverness, we headed north to Dunrobin Castle, which was very pretty:

5 Dunrobin Castle

It also housed a large bed of very large rhubarb plants:

6 Giant Rhubarb

We were very lucky in that the rain stopped long enough for us to enjoy the impressive gardens:

7 Castle Gardens

The inside was just as impressive, though I did get told off by the guide for sitting on the wrong piece of furniture in the dining room:

8 Dining Room

Our hotel that evening had a lovely view out over Loch Ness:

9 View of Loch Ness

The following morning, it stayed dry long enough for us to climb up to Foyers Falls, and enjoy a long walk back through the woods:

10 Foyers Falls

In fact, the weather was quite miraculous, as it was generally very wet and we often drove through quite heavy rain. But, every time we wanted to get out of the car or visit somewhere outside, the rain stopped and the sun came out, so we saw some quite spectacular rainbows:

11 Rainbow

All the scenery was gorgeous, and there will be more stunning shots in the next post, when we travel to Urquhart Castle and Attadale.

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On the recent bank holiday Monday, the humans and I took a trip to the Uffington White Horse:

Uffington 1

The area has a wonderful view and some interesting markers:

Uffington 2

We were early for our appointments, so we took some time to wander about and enjoy being outside:

Uffington 3

But we were there for a very specific purpose, which ran contrary to this sign:

Uffington 4

Ignoring this directive, we collected our supplies and made our way onto the horse itself to aid with its preservation:

Uffington 5

Volunteers help to re-chalk the horse twice a year, and we did our bit. It was lots of fun, but also quite hard work.

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Last weekend, the humans and I went to a board games convention in Maidenhead, called Handy Con:

HandyCon 1

I made friends with some other game-playing folks:

HandyCon 2

My humans had brought some cupcake cases to hold the game components but I discovered they also worked as a hat:

HandyCon 3

My fashion statement even attracted more friends:

HandyCon 4

Of course, we were really there to play games, and we did manage quite a bit of that, from old favourites:

HandyCon 5

To complex new endeavours:

HandyCon 6

To ridiculous games involving throwing a rainbow over another player's extended finger:

HandyCon 7

There were people there who had made their own games and were demonstrating them:

HandyCon 8

It was lots of fun - probably the best games convention we've been to. This fellow (whose name is Andy Connor - see what they did there?) tells me it runs twice a year:

HandyCon 9

So we've bought our tickets for January already!

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This past week, my primary human and I took a trip down to Sheepwash in Devon for a writing retreat. We stayed in a sprawling, 17th century house, with a view looking out over the village square:

Sheepwash 5

Our room was very nicely appointed, with an extremely comfy bed:

Sheepwash 1

This rather wonderful fellow kept us company during the week:

Sheepwash 2

And there were dragons to guard our sleep during the night:

Sheepwash 3

Of course, my human was there to get some writing done, and she achieved a lot over the course of three and a half days, ably supported by many pots of tea:

Sheepwash 4

We did get out and about on occasion as well, and enjoyed a long ramble through some nearby woods:

Sheepwash 6

It was lovely to be away from London, somewhere we could relax and focus. And Sheepwash was certainly a great environment for that. I did most of the relaxing, while my human was focusing:

Sheepwash 7

It was a wonderful few days away, and I hope we shall go back there again before too long.

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Today, the humans and I joined many other people in central London on a march protesting Donald Trump's presence in our fine city.

I started off by helping the humans complete their placard:

1 March

I worked on my own while we were waiting for the train:

2 March

So we were all ready to go when people started gathering on Regent Street:

3 March

There were a lot of people there, with many large placards, so I felt rather small:

4 March

But my primary human was kind enough to give me a prime vantage point:

5 March

A fair few people stopped us to ask for photos, which was nice, and it felt good to be part of something we believe in.

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Last weekend, my primary human and I travelled to the Doddington Hall estate in Lincolnshire for a reading retreat (www.readingretreat.co.uk). We were welcomed with open arms (and a goody bag) by our hosts, Cressi and Sara, and enjoyed a wonderful couple of days, reading and relaxing:

Doddington 1

I met Mr Ted (Teddy to his friends), who was accompanying his human on the retreat. We bonded over cake and a book by the visiting author, George Mann:

Doddington 2

The retreat took place at Holly Farm cottage, which is part of the Doddington Hall estate, so we took the opportunity to visit the hall itself:

Doddington 3

There was an interesting stone pyramid in the grounds, which proved a bit tricky to find, but was worth it:

Doddington 4

Inside the hall, this friendly chap showed me round the library:

Doddington 5

There was a very grand reception room, where they hold weddings:

Doddington 6

There was also a rather fun, and beautifully decorate tent room:

Doddington 7

We saw some lovely gardens from the upper windows:

Doddington 8

So we went to explore and found lots of flowers:

Doddington 9

There were unicorns everywhere - from topiary:

Doddington 10

To carved art on sale at the shop:

Doddington 11

There was also an extensively stocked farm shop, where we gained quite a haul of excellent goodies:

Doddington 12

It was a glorious weekend, and we can't wait until our next reading retreat, which will be in November.

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Last week saw the humans embarking on their annual group gaming holiday, this time at a lovely house in the village of Great Hockham, near Thetford:

1 The House

There was an accompanying pool house, which offered additional bedrooms right next door:

2 Pool House

Inside the main house, there was a very nicely appointed drawing room, where my secondary human practised the guitar, and late night roleplaying sessions caused much hilarity:

3 Drawing Room

The pool house had a large games room with a table tennis table, a games console, and lots of seating, but we didn't actually spend much time in there as it wasn't heated and the weather for most of the week was pretty chilly:

4 Games Room

I particularly liked the decorations in the dining room of the main house, where the patterns on the wallpaper extended down and across the radiators:

5 Painted Walls

The house combined grandeur and comfort, so we enjoyed our surroundings but felt quite at home:

6 Hanging Out

The tennis court saw use on the first sunny day, but resulted in a couple of minor injuries, so wasn't used again after that:

7 Anyone for Tennis

And some in the group managed to have some fun in the pool on the last day, which was the only other day when the weather was good:

8 The Pool

The pool looked out onto a rather lovely walled garden, where those not swimming enjoyed a picnic lunch:

9 Walled Garden

Most of the time, though, was spent in gaming, as usual. And there were plenty of games to choose from:

10 All the Games

We also had access to a beer cooler, which was well stocked throughout the week and very popular:

11 Finding Beer

The village was advertising its 746th annual horn festival, but unfortunately it was taking place a couple of days after we left:

12 Ancient Festival

It was a very welcoming village for bears, though:

13 Bears Retreat

And it even had its own Aloysius house, the owner of which was delighted to discover my interest:

14 Aloysius House

Overall, it was a marvellous week, and everyone agreed it was one of the best venues we'd used for our holiday. So, we may well be going back there again!

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Last weekend, my primary human and I travelled down to Devon for a writing retreat at Stickwick Manor:

Stickwick 1

There was no hint of snow the day we arrived. By Sunday, however, it was deep enough for a bear den:

Stickwick 2

My human was happily writing away, looked up after a few hours and the whole world was white:

Stickwick 3

One of the other writers there asked me to pose with her book, and I was very happy to oblige. We all needed some strength to keep focus with such distracting weather!

Stickwick 4

The manor's playground wasn't really accessible for entertainment:

Stickwick 5

So we had to find other outlets for our creative energy when taking a break from writing:

Stickwick 6

Needless to say, it was rather chilly, so I attempted to warm up on the aga when we came back in:

Stickwick 7

When that didn't work, I tried snuggling up in the window seat:

Stickwick 8

Eventually, there was nothing for it but to retire to our lovely bed, up in the attic:

Stickwick 9

We had a wonderful, and very productive week. We met lots of lovely people, and enjoyed Charlie's wonderful hospitality. The snow disappeared just in time for us to have an easy journey home, but we're missing Stickwick already. We will definitely be going back later in the year, if we can.

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Midway through February, my humans and I joined 1700 other Sea Monkeys upon JoCo Cruise 2018, on the Ms Oosterdam, out of San Diego. None of us had been on a cruise before, so we weren't sure what to expect. The ship was luxurious:

1 Ship 1

And various changes had been made to make the geeky gamer passengers feel more at home:

2 Ship 2

There was a casino on board, but it was mostly deserted throughout the week...

3 Ship 3

...because most of the Sea Monkeys were in the gaming room instead! I liked the fact that signs were available for people to invite others to join their games.

4 Ship 4

We spent quite a bit of time on the Lido deck, as it was very pleasant to watch the ocean roll by, while enjoying a tipple and a snack from the 24hr taco bar.

5 Ship 5

Ten Forward, or The Crow's Nest, was also a nice place to linger, with comfy chairs and an awesome view:

6 Ship 6

If we ever lost track of what day it was, all we needed to do was step inside a lift, where the rugs would help us orient ourselves:

7 Ship 7

On the Wednesday, we ventured off the ship for a boat ride, which took in the local haunt of some seals:

8 Loreto 1

The island we were deposited on was beautiful, though my secondary human reported that snorkelling was quite chilly.

9 Loreto 2

That afternoon, we ventured into the town of Loreto, for a delicious food festival, and an awesome concert by Jonathan Coulton and several of the other performers from the cruise.

10 Loreto 3

Most of the time, though, we stayed on the ship, where there were lots of activities to enjoy. There were shows, panels, q&a sessions, meet ups, workshops, and a crafting session where we made a very fetching fascinator:

11 Crafts

Friday was Formal Night, so the humans put on their glad rags and went for an extended promenade around the whole ship:

Formal Night-JoCo Cruise 2018

There were many interesting creatures to meet on the ship, including this rather unexpected elephant, who lurked under the stairs on Deck 1. Nobody else we asked about it had come across him...

12 Elephant

But most friendly were the towel animals who came to visit us in our cabin every evening. This fine fellow stayed all week, making sure we had everything we needed:

13 Animal 1

Every subsequent day saw a different visitor:

14 Animal 2

Day three:

15 Animal 3

My friend, Mikei, also accompanied us, as part of my primary human's pirate costume, and he was very popular amongst the other Sea Monkeys, as he fit the theme so well:

16 Animal 4

Day five:

17 Animal 5

Day six:

18 Animal 6

On our last day at sea, the main bar on Deck 2 sprouted many, many monkeys:

20 Animal 8

And this fine fellow was waiting in our room in the evening to check we got our suitcases packed and ready to go by midnight:

19 Animal 7

Overall, we had a great time, and would definitely consider going again. We made a few friends, some of whom we hope to see at our gaming event later in the year.

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For the first weekend of February, my primary human and I travelled to Thorpeness for another glorious reading retreat:

Thorpeness 1

We received another lovely goody bag, this time with socks and tea - and had our pile of books all ready:

Thorpeness 2

The cottage had a spacious living room, where most of the reading was done:

Thorpeness 3

The Reading Retreat Totoros were on hand to provide quality control on all the amazing food we ate over the weekend:

Thorpeness 4

We also got out and about on a walk down the beach to a giant metal clam shell:

Thorpeness 5

It was an impressive structure close up:

Thorpeness 6

On the second day, we walked inland round the village and took a look at the House in the Clouds:

Thorpeness 7

Opposite was a rather strange windmill:

Thorpeness 8

Mostly, though, the focus was on reading, and here is a rare picture of my human in her preferred habitat - note the tea and snacks within easy reach, and the fluffly slippers for maximum comfort:

Thorpeness 9

The whole weekend was marvellous, and we're very much looking forward to the next one in June!

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The humans and I spent a convivial few days in Cheltenham over New Year.

There were lots of new friends to meet:

1 Totoros

Presiding over the whole thing was King Boris, who was a very welcoming host:

2 King Boris

This little fellow wasn't in a very good mood:

3 Grumpy Kitty

But I soon won him round, and we became friends too (this had nothing to do with the alcohol behind us, honest!):

4 Happy Kitty

There were also games aplenty, most of which we hadn't played before. We enjoyed Sailing to India:

5 India

We were a bit baffled by Mottainai, but still had fun playing it:

6 Mottainai

It was great to see our friends, both old and new, and a good time was had by all!

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