Tag Archives: reading

So long, October

8 Nov

A little later than planned (sort of like the US election results) here is what I got up to in October – a month that went by so fast I didn’t realise it had ended!

October brought the reintroduction of a recommendation from the government to work from home where possible but, despite an alarming number of cases, we have still avoided lockdown. I’ve also stopped going to the gym (I didn’t feel safe and the classes I went to have been cancelled anyway) and I decided to halt my tennis lessons with a heavy heart just to be on the safe side. Several larger get-togethers in my social circle were also cancelled which was disappointing.

Luckily I’ve had plenty of things to do with my two Masters courses now in full swing. I’ve spent most of my time with a head in a book or watching comedy series which is the best and safest place to be right now. It’s hard work but I’m enjoying it so far and learning lots.

In October I was busy making cards for little people. I made these cards for my niece and nephew for Halloween because they were disappointed not be able to go trick or treating. I’m not sure Halloween cards are even a thing but the card producers are missing a trick if they’re not.

I also went for a few autumnal walks as the weather has been mild and dry. I managed to spot a lot of weird mushrooms on my travels. I’ve never seen anything like these before and they do look good in a photograph.

It was also the time of year to visit Jucker Farm for their amazing pumpkin exhibition. The exhibition seemed to be a bit scaled down this year but the diver was my favourite. I love the colours of autumn and I’m hoping the reds, oranges, browns and yellows are with us for a good while longer!

Adios August

3 Sep

August was a busy month and there were some surprises along the way. Here (slightly later than planned) is what I did last month:

The online drama classes I toook during lockdown finally went live with a socially-distanced audience. I was completely unprepared but I managed to get through it relatively unscathed. I was quite taken aback by some of the comments I received for my monolgue performance and a scene that I wrote which was staged read. It is so incredible to hear something your wrote being brought to life by actors.

I got accepted to not one but two Masters programmes. I didn’t think I’d be accepted to either of them but I found out I had got places on the same day. Incredible stuff. After a lot of consideration I have decided to do both of them. I know it is going to be a lot of hard work but I would be impossible to choose one or the other. I also have a contingency plan if worse comes to worse. Both are writing related and I’m so excited to start. I have already bought lots of new stationery!

I found out one of my short stories will be published later this year around November. It’s given me confidence that what I write is publishable and I have been writing more as a result. My problem has always been that I don’t finish writing that I start so I will be finishing projects I’ve started in September before my courses start and I forget about them completely.

I completed the bonus round of my online book challenge group which means I read 20 books in two months. I read so much but my to read pile just keeps getting higher and higher.

Speaking of challenges I finished another challenge from my 40 Before 40 list. Here is the link if you missed it.

I also finished my 12 week transformation programme at the gym. I did two weeks, had a two-month break because of lockdown and then completed the last ten weeks this week. It’s made such a difference, even though the early mornings are a killer. I’m hoping to get back to more running as well as continue with some of the classes that I’ve enjoyed. This week I’m having a break though because I feel like I deserve it.

September will be busy. It’s my birthday and I will be going on holiday and starting my Masters courses! It’s going to be another busy month but I’m ready for it!

Hope you have a great September!

Bye Bye, July

2 Aug

Slightly later than planned, for no other reason than laziness, here is what I have been up to in July:

I completed the first round of my online reading challenge that I take part on a regular basis. I managed to read 11 books in July, mainly because TV has been so shockingly awful. I’m now only one book away from reaching the target I set for myself in 2020 which was 75. I have a feeling I might surpass my total from 2019 but I’m going to challenge myself to read some longer books I have been putting off for a while.

The ‘offline’ books I read in July

I’m now 100% in on the weightlifting/gym routine and I am enjoying it. Four session a week plus running and tennis lessons has been gruling but I am getting used to it and managing to stick with it. The added benefit it that I actually sleep. I’ve been a notoriously bad sleeper, espeically over the past few years but now (as a result of the training and the early mornings) I drag myself to bed before 10 almost falling asleep before my head hits the pillow.

The package of tennis lessons I paid for it almost at an end and, considering I had never really played before, I’m very happy with the progress and I might keep playing on in the winter.

I took part in my first ever improv show. I still can’t make up my mind if I liked it or not. The audience seemed to be entertained which is the main thing. More classes will start in the new year and I’m tempted to carry on with it.

I’ve also had online script writing lesson which have been great fun and I’ve learnt a lot. It’s given me quite a bit to think about in terms of whether I want to focus more on script writing or novels/short stories. I guess I can always do both!

I’m not sure what August will bring but there is another drama performance in the pipeline and more reading of course. Perhaps later in the year there will be a holiday or a chance to go home to see family and friends. Fingers crossed!

Challenge #35 – completed

6 Jul

My aim to read 40 non-fiction books before I am 40 is over. I’ve never been a big lover of non-fiction so I decided to attempt to clear my shelves of some of the books I’ve been meaning to read but haven’t. I must say I enjoyed this challenge more than I thought I would. Here are the books I read to complete the challenge:

The Healing Self: Supercharge your immune system and stay well for life by Deepak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi – I get the irony of me finishing reading this book, just as lockdown started. There were interesting anecodes in the book but I would say that there was anything majorly life changing about the book. It advocated practising meditation, eating less meat and not drinking alcohol which are fairly standard practices for people who want to improve the quality and longevity of their lives.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – this book is about the author’s struggle with coming to terms with her husband’s death while dealing with her daughter’s serious illness. I found it fairly indulgent and the most interesting part for me was how she dealt with her grief rather than her feelings of obligation to her daughter. A lot of the thoughts about grief and loss were familiar to me. I wished the whole book was devoted to exploring this rather than just dipping into the subject.

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff – I credit this book with being the main reason I managed to finish the first draft of my novel. It’s a great read about why people fail to tackle goals they set themselves and how to recify this. There are lots of practical examples and tips to help you achieve any goal, no matter how big or small. To read a full review, check out my writer’s website here.

How to Get What You Want in the Workplace by John Gray – this is the third book of John Gray’s I’ve read for this challenge. I like the advice he gives and how it makes you rethink about how communications between men and women differ. In some respects, this books gives very similar advice and observances to the other books I read but I still found it useful and I’m trying to incorporate the advice into situations at work, though that is difficult at the moment when I’m working from home!

Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox – This was a very interesting and funny book. The author looked at all aspects of English life from the pub, to queuing and attitudes towards brands of cars. Parts of it were funny and parts really made me think differently about social situations and the class system in England. I would love to read more books like this.

Dare To Connect by Susan Jeffers – I’ve tried to read this book before but failed. I managed to get through it this time and loved it. (I guess before it wasn’t the right time to read it). It’s all about connect with people and how having the right connections with the right people can help you achieve happiness. A great book.

A Rebel’s Guide to Inner Peace by Mahima Lucille Klinge – part autobiographical work, part self-help book, I found this interesting. I actually received this when I went to a conference arranged by the author last year. It was interesting to read more about how she had come to be at the point in her life where she was coaching people to improve their lives and as a reminder about the things I learnt at that conference. I am grateful I went on the conference and read this book as I benefited from it greatly.

How to Work with Just About Anyone by Lucy Gill – after reading this book, I realised that I have it easy as work. All the examples given in the book seemed to involve utterly awful people. If my work colleagues were that bad I would quit my job and be done with it. There was some good advice though which, again, I will hope to use in the future… if I haven’t forgotten it all after working from home for so long.

Finding Ultra by Rich Roll – as running an Ultra marathon is also on my list of things to do before I am 40, I thought this would be a great place to find tips for me to use in my training. The author was an over-weight middle-aged man who realised his lifestyle was slowly killing him so he changed his lifestyle and fell into long distance running. He went on to complete in the world’s most grueling competitions, such as Ironman races. It’s an inspiring story and, although I doubt I will compete in Ironman’s, I have learnt a lot about training for an Ultra. I highly recommend it if you are interested in competing over longer distances.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch – this book had me in floods of tears at the end and I don’t care who knows it. The author wrote the book as a legacy to his young children after he was diagnose with terminal cancer. So many parts of the book struck a chord with me and the book was a reminder that although life is short, you can achieve your dreams, whatever they are.

I have now completed 22 of my 40 challenges. I’m starting to worry about completing the travel-related ones on time but I am pushing on regardless.

Bye June!

30 Jun

Another month has come and gone and we are half way through 2020. It’s strange to think we have spent about half of this year in lockdown and I am still working from home at least for another month. What a crazy year.

June itself has been pretty uneventful. Things have been slowly opening up in Switzerland but I’m more than happy to spend as much time as possible at home for the time being and spend time doing (socially distant) sports.

I have started going back to the gym in the mornings. Two weeks before lockdown I signed up for a 12 week fitness plan. I was just getting into it when I had to stop. I’m now in the third week of restarting the programme and I’m starting to feel the benefits already. This means my ambitious running targets have been dropped for the time being but I did get out of bed this morning at 5.30am to go for a 10km run because I realised yesterday that I hadn’t run a 10km in June. I enjoyed it a lot and the sun hadn’t come up. I hate running in heat!

I’ve finished another one of my 40 Before 40 challenges this month as well. I’ve not written about it because I only finished it yesterday but that will be coming soon and I’ve started another challenge from the list – which will take about 6 months to complete.

I’m going strong on my alcohol-free year. It’s something like 130 days now and I’m finding it ok. I think it’s definitely having a positive effect on my wasitline as well as my pocket.

I took part in an online theatre performance. A playwright had written a series of Zoom calls for us to perform all based on Lockdown life and the performance was recorded. I was so nervous about it but I enjoyed it and I hope the audience did too!

My writing progress has slowed down a bit. You might remember I finished the first draft of a novel in May and my plan is to get busy on some other writing before coming back to it later in the year to start the first of many rounds of edits. The hope that I would be able to use my ‘high’ of finishing the book would end up with me being more productive on other writing projects wasn’t been realised. But I have two submissions for competitions in early July to make so I need to get cracking on those or I’ll miss the deadlines.

In July I will be taking part in my online reading challenge again, aiming to read 10 books which fit 10 different categories. I’m happy this challenge means I will be able to get some more room on my reading shelves.

I am also aiming to post every Monday in July on this blog because I realise I haven’t been so good with updating this recently. This is partly because I’ve not done anything that deviated especially from my lockdown routine so it didn’t seem like there was that much to say.

Adios April!

30 Apr

It’s been a funny month. Today is the 44th day of Lockdown in Switzerland but things are slowly, slowly beginning to reopen.

I have heard people saying they have lost motivation to do anything during Lockdown but I’ve managed to keep myself busy over the past month, despite the restrictions. I’ve been quite productive. Being stuck at home has meant I’ve had time to re-organise my bathroom cabinet, take better care of my house plants and other small things I keep meaning to get round to doing but end up forgetting or being too tired when I get back from work.

However, aside from these little jobs, I have been busy with quite a few other things. Firstly, I set myself the challenge of running 70km this month. I’ve only done one long run (which was 11km and that’s not all that long really). The rest have been shorter. I’ve managed to run my 90th kilometer this afternoon! I was so surprised that going 6 times a week and doing short distances would add up to such a large total. I guess my goal for next month should be to run 100km or more.

Of course, I have been baking more than usual over the past 30 days so this might be a motivation to my running success. I’ve baked hot cross buns (2 batches), crumpets, scones and a rhubarb and apple crumble. Even though I’ve only done this, I now don’t think applying for Great British Back Off is just a pipe dream.

I’ve also been reading a lot, although over the past couple of days I’ve not been as interested in it. I’m not sure if that’s because of the book I’m reading or because I’ve reached my fill for April.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of writing and I’ve been dabbling in screen writing for the first time since being at school. This project came about because I signed up to do an online drama course with the drama teacher I studied with at the end of last year. In one of the sessions we looked at home to write a theatre scene and now I am trying to finish it. It will hopefully be a short 3 act play. The drama course has been great fun and I have learnt so many things that I can use for my fiction writing as well.

I’ve also decided now is the right time to sit down and start the first draft of my novel. I am (almost) 5’000 words in and it is interesting to see where the book is going. It seems like it might be a Young Adult novel or a children’s book which isn’t what I thought it would be like when I sat down to write.

Aside from all of this, I’ve been playing online board games with friends and virtual quizzes with family and the netball club. It has possibly been one of the most productive month’s ever for me so I am sad it is over.

Let’s see what May will bring and what I will find myself doing if they let us outside again!

Update – Challenge #35

6 Feb

This is an update about the 40 non-fiction books that I am attempting read for my 40 Before 40 challenge. I have recently read 10 more which means I only have 10 more books to read before I finish the challenge.

Here are the books I recently read:

The Decision Book: Fifty Models for Strategic Thinking by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler

This was only a short book but a fascinating read. The authors present fifty different models with illustrations. Some of the models I was familiar with from the economics that I studied for my accounting qualification but the majority of them were new. My favourite in the whole book was The Esquire Gift Model, which was explains how much you should spend on a gift for someone based on the number of years you have known the recipient combine with what type of occasion it is (engagement, anniversary etc). It is so simply explained and is something that people, myself included, agonised over.

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray

This is the second book on relationships by John Gray that I’ve read. Some parts of it are a bit outdated (it was written in the 90s) but a lot of the information and observations that he makes are valid and made sense to me. The problem with these books is that there is almost too much information to process. I think it is best to take a handful of advice and focus on these rather than trying to remember every single detail.

Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

I was excited to read this book because I had heard a lot of good things about the first book by this author, which admittedly I haven’t read. It’s fairly obvious from the title that it is the diary of a bookseller. I was slightly disappointed. It wasn’t as funny as I was expecting – the recommendations on the cover made it sound like it was one of the funniest books ever written. But it gave a very interesting insight to the problems facing second-hand booksellers (Amazon, Kindles, unreasonable customers asking for discounts) and some of the methods that they need to employ to survive.

The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008 by Paul Krugman

Apart from banks in America failing and house prices going down, I didn’t know very much about the Crisis of 2008. Krugman is a Nobel Prize Winner in Economics and manages to explain complex economic theories succinctly. He explains that the Crisis could have been predicted by inflation and currency valuation problems that happened prior to the crisis in South America and Asia. It was an interesting read, especially as many of the warning factors that he mentions are evident around the world today which may mean another depression is on its way.

Change Book: Fifty Models to Explain How Things Happen by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the Decision Book (see above). The subject matter was a bit dry and the model were less applicable to daily life. It also covered a huge range of topics like explaining the world to aliens, why some people are unfaithful and climate change. One of the most interesting models was When Something Starts to be Uncool. It plots mainstream against the avant-garde to show how somethings remain cool but other things quickly become unpopular in modern society.

Dinner with Mugabe by Heidi Holland

I went to Zimbabwe went Robert Mugabe was president and this was a fascinating read. I had no idea that he was very intelligent (he had 7 degrees) and he was a very religious man. The account in this book paints a different picture to what I imagined the man to be like. It presented a balanced view of him by looking at historical events and talking to people who knew him the best, while trying to pinpoint the reasons why such a shy and thoughtful man ended up becoming one of the world’s most famous dictators.

Man Alone with Himself by Friedrich Nietzsche 

The last time I read something by Nietzsche was under duress at university. This was a very short book but it had some really interesting idea in it. The first part of the book was a series of aphorisms (tidbits of philosophical insight). My favourite of these was about language: ‘he who speaks a bit of a foreign language has more delight than he who speaks it well; pleasure goes along with superficial knowledge’. After my struggle of learning German, I can say this is very true.

Run Faster: How to be Your Own Best Coach by Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald

I have had this book gathering dust on my shelf for longer than I care to remember and, as I want to try to improve my running times this year, it’s about time I read it! The book was aimed at runner who are far more advanced and better than I am but I still found a lot of useful tips in the book that I will definitely try to incorporate into my running. I am super keen to beat one of my PBs this year and I hope this book has helped me to work out areas I can improve on to do that.

What to Do When You Become the Boss by Bob Seldon

I bought this book when I got a job as a manager for the first time. It didn’t work out and I left the job but I decided to read it anyway. There were a lot of interesting tips for people who aren’t managers and it gave a different perspective on working in a modern environment.

Some of the tips I don’t agree with, like only checking your email once a day. I guess it depends what your role is but, as my job is operational, it’s just not all that practical to do that. I do see how constant email checking can be addictive and a waste of time though!

The Lady and the Peacock: The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi by Peter Popham

I don’t often read biographies but I’m glad I made an exception for this one. In my ignorance I had no idea about the struggles of Burma gaining independence nor about Aung San Suu Kyi and her and her family’s part in the fight for independence. It’s incredible that the book touches on points of history within my lifetime. It makes me want to read more about Buddhism, non violent struggles and the story of India’s independence which the author compares with Burma’s story throughout the book.

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Ciao January

31 Jan

I don’t know about you but I feel like this month has lasted for about 90 days but I’m not sure why. Because I work in finance, January is always a busy month as everyone is so interested in finalising the full year results and, as a result, I end up working longer hours. Maybe that has something to do with it.

Today marks the end of the first month of the new decade and also Brexit will finally happen at midnight. With so much going on, it feels like it is a good moment to sit down and have a look at what I have been up to over the past 31 days.

  •  We welcomed in the New Year at home with Raclette and plenty of alcohol. I’m not a New Year’s Eve person by any stretch of the imagination so that was fine with me. It was nice to be at home for a change and feel relaxed enough to do virtually nothing.
  •  I went back home to see family and friends in the middle of January to try to make up a little bit for not being home over Christmas for the first time in seven years. It was great fun but I completely derailed my aim to try to eat healthier.
  • I finished the latest installment of the online Book Challenge by Erin that I have taken part in for the last 2 years. I only finished my final book of the challenge last night so I am still to post my review about the books but it will be coming soon.
  •  I managed to stick to my fitness goals for January that I blogged about earlier in the year. It was surprisingly easy to stick to and I have managed to run for more than 50k over the past month. Apart from a few blips in my healthy eating programme, I have also managed to stick to a good diet. In February I am hoping to do exactly the same but I also want to do more exercises like sit-ups and press-ups at home to help me slim down.
  • I’ve got stuck back into writing again after taking a bit of a break at the end of last year. So far I have 6 drafts of story stories that I hope I can make into a collection at some point this year. I also have 3 other story ideas on the go.
  • I was elected to the committee of the netball club at the end of last year and I have been busy updating the website and posting things on Instagram and Facebook. I’m enjoying it so far and it makes me more motivated to go to training every week.
  • I also cashed in my birthday present by attending a brewery course in Luzern last weekend. I found it really interesting and the free beer tasting was also great.

It seems that my wish to take it a bit more easy this year is already out of the window. I genuinely don’t realise how much I do until I sit down and thing what I did over the past month. In February though I will be taking a two-week holiday in a warmer climate which will mean more time for running, beer drinking and writing. I can’t wait!

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Aloha October!

31 Oct

The months just get busier and busier. The long nights are back and once again I am kicking myself that I haven’t enjoyed the summer as much as I should have! I didn’t even go in the lake once this year which makes me so incredibly sad that I can’t really put it into words.

But I can’t complain because I have done a lot of cool stuff this month. Here is what I have been up to:

  • I’ve made some progress on my 40 Before 40 list of challenges. I visited another European country (Ukraine) this month and toured the Chernobyl exclusion zone and I have been busy reading some more non-fiction books
  • Shooting season is slowly drawing to a close but not before prize givings and end of season dinners
  • I now only have 2 exercises to finish of my online writing course which I have enjoyed – click here for a sample of an assignment I wrote if you missed it!
  • My drama workshop is also coming to a close. Next week we will have our “sharing of work” (because the word performance is far too scary) with family and friends. I’m nervous about performing a drama production in front of an audience since the first time since 1994 when I played a parent in our junior school play The Evacuees
  • I was sad to watch the last episode of Great British Back Off but it does mean that I get to have my Tuesday nights back for the rest of 2019.

November should be a little more relaxed as I will be sunning myself in the Canaries for 10 days to make sure that I get enough Vitamin D to last me for the rest of the year because, it may be Halloween today, but I really shouldn’t look like a vampire for more than half a calendar year.

Here is picture I took last weekend that really sums up October for me.

 

40 Before 40: Challenge #35 update

26 Oct

I am now half-way through my challenge to read 40 non-fiction books. Here are the latest 10 books that I’ve read for the challenge.

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

This was such an interesting book about how the actress Leah Remini was raised by her parents in Scientology, how the religion controlled her life and how she was finally able to leave the religion behind. (I am, of course, using religion in a very loose sense of the word). I found it fascinating that she managed to leave the organisation. I have seen documentaries in which people discuss that they are completely trapped and, despite terrible circumstances, they aren’t able to escape. It was a very honest account but I can imagine that for legal reasons a lot of detail was left out.

My Liverpool Story  by Steven Gerrard

I actually bought this as a gift for my brother but then he told me I’d already given it to him for Christmas so I decided to read it myself. I thought that this book was also very honest – relationships with managers and fellow players were discussed, revealing not always happy memories. There were hundreds of good quality photos in the book as well which made the book about double the size that it could have been if it just contained text.

The Things I Talk About When I am Running by Haruki Murakami

This is a relatively short book about how the author decided to leave his successful business to become an author. He is also a very good amateur runner anf triathlete. The book is about how his success in both writing and running haven’t come naturally to him and he has had to find way for him to get better at both disciplines. He makes lots of comparision between running and writing that I really appreciated, as I don’t consider myself to be a natural runner (even though I enjoy it) and I am working hard at becoming a better writer.

Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

There is a lot of hype about this book, especially with the increased awareness of mental health issues. It looks at modern life and how social media and technology can make us feel more disconnected than connected. The book made me realise that I am probably not as affected by modern technology than other people. I am more than happy to not have internet for a week when I am on holiday and you will never find me more happy than when I have my head in a book and I’m blocking the rest of the world out.

The Krays: The Prison Years by David Meikle and Kate Beal Blyth

This book made me realise that I constantly mix up the Kray twins and Ronnie Briggs, one of the great train robbers. This book was meant to be able the time that the twins spent in prison but there was quite a lot about how they ending up getting caught and their background. It was interest and also quite depressing to hear how much “freedom” they had in prison because of who they were and their relationships with celebrities.

A Woman’s Guide to Triathlon: The Things Men Will Never Tell You About the Sport by Eva Mauer

I have been thinking about taking part in a triathlon. I’ve even signed up to a swimming course to help improve my front crawl technique. So I was excited to read this book. Unfortunately, I didn’t think it told me that much that I didn’t already know. I mainly wanted to know about how to practice the transistion phases but there wasn’t a great deal of information on that. I also didn’t understand why it was a woman’s guide to triatholon. There wasn’t anything in the book that would have been specific to a woman and not a man. A bit of a disappointment.

Mars and Venus in the Bedroom by John Gray

I’ve never been completely convinced that men and women do behave so differently from one another but after reading this I’ve changed my mind. It was a really interesting read and a lot of the examples were so recognisable that it was scary. The book was written in the mid-90s so it was a slightly outdated. I also have another couple of books by John Gray that I want to read for this challenge.

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

This is a famous book and I don’t know what to think about it. It says that thinking positively can attract what you want to your life. I completely agree that the more positive you are, the more good things will happen to you. But then wouldn’t everyone have everything that they wanted if this was true. I do think some of the exercises are worth giving a go and seeing what happens. But I think to get the full benefit you need to 100% commit to that way of thinking.

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

This was the funniest book I have read in a long, long time. I was roaring with laughter. It is also the most tragically heartbreak book that I have read in a long, long time as well. It is the diary of a junior doctor working on the maternity ward. You know from the start that the author ended up leaving the profession and in the penultimate chapter you find out why. I felt queasy when I read it. It was a sobering end to an account of how overworked and underpaid NHS staff are. I’d highly recommend it if you haven’t read it yet.

Mindfulness Pocketbook by Gill Hasson

It was a book about how to become more mindful in daily life with exercises to help improve health, mood and attitudes among other things. I would say that 80% of the book wasn’t useful to me but there are definitely some tips and exercises that I will use.

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