Member Profiles

You May Have Met My Mistress?

 

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Records indicate she was conceived over the period 21/22 January 1958.  This Austin Healey 100-Six four-seater was built at Abingdon where she was clothed in Pacific Green over Florida Green with Grey trimmings.  She then migrated to  Sydney, Australiaon 23 January 1958.

 

Little is known of her first twenty years.  However, in the mid to late sixties her color was changed to Ford Yellow Ochre and the interior became tan.  She was also fitted with a JS fiberglass hardtop manufactured in Sydney and a set of chrome wheels replaced her ‘spokes’.

 

In the early 70’s she fell into the care of Joe Armour in Sydney who then attended to her needs for the next thirty years. The original engine had suffered a failure and was put aside to be replaced with a Holden engine.  In good English traditions it was necessary to undertake repairs to door sills, mudguard dog legs and lower half door skins. 

 

Eventually the engine was repaired, refitted and in late 2003 she was passed to Ross Astles who had been a member of the Austin Healey Club of NSW and had now retired to a property at Port Curtis near Bundaberg, Queensland. It was his intention to return her attitude, however ill health forced him to offer the vehicle for sale in late 2006.

 

I then acquired a new mistress.  You may not be aware but I first had a mistress in 1965.  However being young and naïve, I did not truly appreciate the impact this mistress would have on my life.  She was a BN1, Carmine was the color with Black trimmings and was everything a young man could ask for.  I tended to her for the next two years until a minor accident made her undriveable and she was parked up under my father’s home.  I was about to be transferred to Western Queensland for work and the instructions were, “she had to go”.

 

MyFirstMistress.jpg - small This first mistress was never forgotten. Over the intervening years I continued to read about Healey’s, collect newspaper cuttings and when I did settle down to marriage endeavored to bring additional understanding to the marriage by readily identifying potential mistresses to my wife.  Imagine how well all of this was accepted by the five foot lioness!!

 

Through my work I met Owen Williamson and to this day I do not understand how we have remained such firm friends. This high achiever has coached me, taught me new skills and even though we argue like two grumpy old men the results are always the same.  We are both always right.  He has been very tolerant of my eccentricities and he has a wonderful shed that he has shared with me!

 

Things mellowed on the home front and I was allowed to purchase an MGB.  Whilst this was nice to drive it was not an Austin Healey.  Owen decided he wanted a Healey and so we embarked on another chapter in our lives.  Owens’ acquisition of his BJ8 and membership of the Austin Healey Owners Club of Queensland created a new opportunity for me. Ross Astles had seen advertising his car in the club magazine for a few editions and I gradually became more and more interested.

 

Joe Armours’ name was mentioned in the advertisement so I rang him. My first mistake was to ask who Joe Armour was – then I learnt a lot about Healey history! 

 

I made several phone calls to Ross and finally after a trip to Port Curtis for an inspection and drive, knew I had to have this mistress.  The only thing missing was the bow used to support the Tourneau cover.  She was straight all over and had only ever been damaged once over the front left wheel AND every number on the vehicle from vin to engine and all panels matched perfectly

 

My wife, Lorraine, even went with me when I collected her and I knew I had done the right thing. Whenever we stopped on the way home with my new mistress proudly sitting on the car trailer, people came to cast an eye over her shapely proportions and I was even more convinced that I had done the right thing.

 

Lorraine, in the best of marriage traditions, took advantage of this period of captivity to mention that there were a ‘few things’ that she would like done around the house……….

 

I delivered the mistress to Owens’ shed on 11 November 2006 and immediately removed the hardtop.  After photographs were taken she was wheeled into the shed and plans were formulated on how we would proceed with her return to glory.  I researched every restoration book I could find, trawled the internet and was in awe of the generosity of the members of the Austin Healey Owners Club of Queensland who were prepared to share information with me.

 

It then took me 12 months to slowly bare the soul of my mistress.  As I progressed, photographs were taken of every component, its location and other surrounding components.  All items were tagged, bagged and indexed together with propriate notes.  Everything was then cleaned, checked and prepared for re-assembly.  Shopping lists were made of parts required and gradually I set about the restoration process.

 

Once everything was off the chassis it was sandblasted, primed and then delivered to Phil Jefferies of Hampton Park Panels.  Phil is a panel beater and spray painter who works by himself and has prepared a wide variety of classic motor vehicles for restoration.  The chassis was in very good condition and he strengthened the engine mounting brackets, fitted stronger front and rear chassis cross members as well as fitting adjustable front shock absorber mounting plates. New floor pans and door sills completed the chassis preparation prior to painting.

 

His care and attention to detail was extraordinary.  No matter how many times I went to his shop, he continued to work at his pace and over a period of months the chassis started to come back to life.

 

I did the right thing and consulted my wife about colour; took her to the ‘show and shine’ at the Toowoomba Rally; explained the various combinations of colours and settled on Healey Blue over Old English White.  By now the marital interest had got to the stage of “and how long is this going to take”.

 

In the meantime Greg Bray of Bray Autos undertook a complete rebuild of the motor.   Although he found several of the piston rings broken the motor was in remarkably good condition.

 

Whilst these rebuilding activities were taking place we headed off to Americafor six weeks.  It was an exciting time as we travelled by planes, trains, omnibuses and automobiles and caught up with relatives on the east coast.  The holiday fell into the ‘balanced spending budget’ category and I learnt that it would be necessary to make several more adjustments along the way.

 

The return of the painted chassis was an exciting time as the true rebuild could now commence.  As I was only working on the car of a Saturday, I would research, plan and prepare what tasks would be completed during the preceding week.  Of course Murphy’s Law prevailed and some weeks the results were excellent whilst I also experienced disappointment on many occasions.  At least I know now which parts of the Healey should be refitted to the chassis first!!

 

Knowing very little about motor vehicles, the inner workings of engines and the more obscure world of amps, volts and the positive/negative arrangement or was it negative/positive was a complete disadvantage.  I did meet a lot of new people as I asked questions, made stupid assumptions and cleared the fog from my brain.

 

I ordered a new wiring loom from Classic Wiring Looms inMelbourneand I wondered what I had done when the photocopy paper box arrived and out fell this mess of wires.  Every piece of wire was tagged and when I laid the harness into place everything fitted up as it should and all the tails slotted into the appropriate instrument, light fitting or terminal.  I had requested alterations to the loom to enable fitting of separate rear turn indicators and driving lights. 

 

Fitting of the harness worked well except for those times when age and perceived colour recognition difficulties affected my ability to connect two wires of equal value.  My friend Owen was a tremendous help as he tested, checked and tested again all of my work.  I really had to leave my ego outside the door of the shed.

 

We replaced the front drum brakes with discs and had the rear brakes and master cylinders refurbished.  When I inquired at the brake repair shop if I needed to do anything before refitting, I was told everything had been done and I just needed to reinstall, fill with brake fluid and bleed.  Well we bled and bled those brakes but could never retain brake pedal pressure.  After the rebuild was completed our mechanic, Greg Bray, found there was some sludge and grit in the master cylinder and once this was cleaned out brake pedal pressure was achieved.  Another valuable lesson learned.

 

During this part of the rebuild my wife discovered that the kitchen needed to be replaced.  Once again the ‘balanced spending budget’ required adjustment. The kitchen including appliances (of course) and some other minor expensive realignments of our home took place.

 

Saturday morning question, “You’re not going down to that damn car again, are you?”  Response, “Yes dear” – must be said in a low voice whilst moving quickly!

(to be continued – health and welfare permitting)

 

 

 

(Part II)

 

Towards the end of 2007 I contacted Luke Pascoe at Sodablast Qld Pty Ltd, Yatala and arranged for all the body panels from my mistress to receive some attention.

 

The end result was extraordinary in that all the old paint was easily removed and all of her blemishes were exposed without any damage to the metal itself. Within a week all of these panels were delivered to Phil Jefferies for a coat of primer to prevent any unnecessary reaction with the dreaded rust bug. A wise move indeed.

 

Saturday morning at breakfast, “You haven’t forgotten you’re taking me out to see Tammy this afternoon?”

Damn, I thought I had got away with that one! Whilst there are many advantages in having a mistress there are also penalties. Now, Tammy is a delightful, engaging person. I guess you could call her a ‘personal artisan’. By that I mean you don’t just arrive at the premises; one makes an appointment and after entry has been made there is plenty of gushing over the potential wearer and the humble lamb (the payer) is prepared for slaughter. Then there is the development of the design, the selection of metal and the color of the bauble that will do the metal justice. We establish that the quote will be phoned through in a week or so and then there will be a couple of fittings; maybe we could also look at some other stones………

 

On the way home I get an excited, “Thank you for taking me to see Tammy. I have been wanting to do that for awhile”. My timid reply of, “No problem” fails to dispel the frustration of no mistress time today. Then the left hook comes along, “I’ve had such a nice day. You can take me out to dinner now”. Another (upward) adjustment to the “balanced spending budget”!!

 

I am just so thankful that my mistress has wheels and not legs!!!

 

Suspension and Discs in place Its now early 2008 and my mistress’s chassis is ready to be collected from Phil Jefferies. It really is an exciting time as we relocate the chassis to Owen’s shed at Burbank and wheel it into its corner. I have waited months and months for this moment and do not leave that day until I have reinstalled the accelerator linkages. I had figured that as they were the last items to be removed during strip down it was logical for them to go on first. Oh, what a feeling! It is all so very blue and clean and new looking.

 

The very serious business of fitting up the front suspension starts. During the cleaning up of all fixtures and fittings from my mistress I had all the suspension arms powder coated black and the front coil springs powder coated yellow. Front and rear shock absorbers had been reconditioned and all new nuts, bolts and washers purchased. I was surprised to see evidence on some of the old bolts of just how much movement occurs in the vehicle components.

 

Another valuable lesson to make sure that the torque wrench is used to finish off each critical process. Another decision that had to be made involved the fitting up of new bushes. Once again the consultation process had been invoked before the strip down had been completed. I needed to make some firm decisions on which way to go - traditional rubber bushes or polybushes. In the end, I found after exhaustive research and talking to friends, advisors and other creditable experts that the decision was mine and mine alone and I chose polybushes. I am sure there will be those who will say silly so and so but there were a number of good technical reasons for doing so:

1. I have always fancied myself as a driver (I have received a couple of speeding tickets over the years!!);

2. Owen Williamson advised me to set the car up for comfort (Having more fat on my frame than him I went the other way!!); and

3. I had one chance to enjoy this trip and I couldn’t think of one argument against the polybushes.

 

I had the rear springs reset and then started on the rebuild of the suspension. New king pin sets were fitted to the front suspension and needle bearings were installed instead of the original thrust washer setup. The new disc rotors were fitted to the wire wheel hubs and the front suspension gradually came together. When we went to fit up the dust shields for the disc brakes, the mounting brackets were out of alignment and took a considerable amount of cutting and finally welding to achieve the right result.

 

I had advised the parts supplier of this alignment problem and whilst they supplied replacement shields, they did not seem too concerned about their quality control. We then tackled the rear suspension. I had decided early in the restoration that I would not disturb the differential as there had not been any unusual noises emanating from this area during my test drive. I did replace the front oil seal and we sealed the welded area around the drain plug where oil was leaching. Fitting the polybushes to the leaf springs created some excitement with a small gathering of professionals advising on the best way to achieve results. I think we eventually worried the bushes into place and everything was able to be fitted up without any leftovers.

 

There was peace on the homefront with the appearance of a potential suitor for my eldest daughter, followed by a planned wedding and then a few months later news of a grandchild on the way. Bloody hell! From my perspective this really impacted on the “balanced spending budget” until I was advised that my daughter was a separate issue and anything to do with wedding receptions, new dresses or other necessities required by the mother of the bride were gifts of affection. Under the circumstances I couldn’t bring myself to use the ‘love’ word.

 

To console myself I went to tell my mistress about this latest tale of woe and in the process as I was tightening up a particularly cantankerous nut ripped a large piece of skin from my knuckles. Another lesson learnt – keep your mouth shut!

 

We recovered from these trials and tribulations and then set about installing new pipework for the brake lines. Once again my friendly advisers claimed it was s..t easy. Except for me. Nobody had considered my ineptness at pipe bending. I had angles going in the wrong direction and my pipe was too long or too short and my double folded ends left a lot to be desired. Then every now and again as if by magic I would strike gold and achieve a perfect fitting. That sense of achievement was something else. Gradually all the pipework was installed, master cylinders in place and reservoir connected and filled. I also installed a new brake booster to assist the disc brakes perform their duty. I have referred previously to the difficulties I experienced in achieving brake pressure and cannot emphasize too much the importance of ensuring everything is very, very clean. During all of this time the engine and gearbox, which had been rebuilt by Greg Bray, sat in the corner waiting for their opportunity to take up centre stage. So Owen and I sat down to plan out how we would achieve a result. To me it was simple. To him it was complex. When I had originally lifted the engine from my mistress, Owen was away on an overseas holiday and there was just me and the engine hoist. It all came out so easy. I kept asking him to go away for a holiday but he insisted on staying around to help.

 

So we decided we needed a third set of hands and asked another engineer to come around and help us with the lift. Now, Darrel is a very good friend and one of nature’s gentlemen. Born of Chinese parents in Inverell, he consumes about a ‘tonne’ of rice a week, doesn’t understand one syllable of Chinese and is an even bigger pessimist than Owen. Worst of all he never agrees with any contribution Owen and/or I make to any discussion but we really enjoy each other’s company. Amazingly, we did plan how we could achieve a result and more amazingly we did manage to work together to achieve a result and with three bosses on the job it was even more amazing that the engine found its way home. We then took our long suffering wives out to dinner to celebrate this remarkable achievement and I was a little surprised at the complete lack of interest displayed by our partners in our ability to co-operate.

 

I had always felt during the restoration of my mistress that there were a number of milestones. Important things like the completed stripping down of my mistress, the restoration of her chassis and the installation of the motor and gearbox. As if on cue at Saturday morning breakfast Lorraine announced ever so quietly, “I’ve made an appointment for us to see Tammy this afternoon.”

 

You may remember I introduced you to Tammy earlier. I imprudently replied, “Not another ring!” “No, but I do need something like a pendant that will compliment my other pieces when we go out.” So I imprudently replied again, “That’s easily fixed. We won’t go out!” Ouch!

 

I am getting worried. We arrived at the premises of Tammy, the personal artisan, and after the normal welcome Tammy asks me how the car is going. Immediately all my senses go to alert stage and my defense mechanisms kicks in. I believe there is some nasty business going on and wonder just how much jewellery can one woman have or how many more designs are there waiting to be produced.

 

Eventually we agree on a new trinket and the “balanced spending budget” is adjusted upwards and more importantly peace is restored to Camelot.

 

I’m ready to fire up the engine! But Owen thinks he’s on a major infrastructure site and starts talking about commissioning and testing followed by more testing. And all I want to do is start the engine! In the end sanity prevails and we begin a series of tests that sees all the electrical connections tested and retested, all nuts and bolts checked again and wheels fitted. The vehicle is lowered to the ground and arrangements made for Greg Bray to attend for start up.  A fuel can is set up and at the first attempt we cannot get enough battery power to turn the motor over. Start up is deferred so I purchase a new battery and then remove the spark plugs, connect my Pajero to the new battery as well and turn the motor over a number of times to achieve rotation.

 

The following Saturday we again gather to make history. I was feeling really cool and confident about my (our) preparations so I thought I had better ask Greg if he put oil in the engine. “No,” said Greg. “Did you?” Oh s..t, so we put oil in the engine. All that bloody checking and commissioning and we missed putting oil in the engine! Another lesson – will these lessons never stop.

 

Blood pressures seemed to return to normal, Greg did some coaxing and minor adjustments and then my mistress fired. It really was a great feeling and a terrific sense of achievement to hear that motor roar into life. I ring Lorraine on my mobile, “Can you hear that. The motor is running beautifully.” “That’s nice. Make sure you bring home some bread for lunch.” Back down to earth very quickly.

 

I then rolled my mistress out of the shed and drove her up and down Owen’s driveway for what seemed ages. I just couldn’t get the stupid grin off my face!! We were now ready for the final phase of returning my mistress’s attitude.

 

(Part III)

 

I’m back and I am grateful to those people who inquired after my health following the printing of Part I and Part II about my mistress in Healey Torque. However I am most appreciative of my daughter Melanie who has helped me back to full health following the accidental fall I suffered when Part II of my story appeared. Apparently it resulted from a misunderstanding on my part; my wife and I are now communicating again in monosyllable responses. I am sure some budget adjusting will placate the demons!

 

Following the successful firing of my mistress’s engine it was now time for her to again visit the workshop of panel beater and spray painter, Phil Jefferies. Phil had been holding all of her body panels for me and had undertaken some repairs whilst I prepared my mistress for her new clothes. This was around November 2008 and she remained with Phil until 21 April 2009. During this period he fitted, adjusted and then refitted her clothing several times whilst trying to achieve her perfect proportions.

 

Then when all seemed to be to his satisfaction he commenced to paint and paint and slowly my mistress took on a whole new aura. For my part there were tasks that needed to be done. There was chrome plating of the bumper bars and overriders undertaken at Queensland Chrome Plating, Wynnum, now being run by Ravi who did an excellent job; the instruments were refurbished by John Robertson at Lionel Otto Instruments and I continued to gather all those smaller but expensive bits and pieces that complete the presentation of a mistress.  Lorraine’s mother became very ill and I gave up work to help with her care, however the fight was too telling and this unknown champion retired. Just after farewelling Granny, Phil Jefferies advised that my mistress was waiting for me to collect her. How opportune as one sun sets another rises bigger and brighter than before. Those who have been there can appreciate just how special a mistress can look once she is dressed and some color is added to her flowing proportions.

 

Once again she is re-located to Owen’s shed and we stand and admire her and photograph from all angles possible. Again I make the decision that I cannot go home that afternoon without fitting up some brightwork to her new exterior. After striking a number of undignified poses I am able stand back and admire the side flashes fitted to the front guards. Of course the easy way would have been to instal them before the final fitup of the painted body panels. Lesson number 103 completed! And of course her name – the Austin Healey badge was fitted to the front shroud so that her true identity could be established. It really is an exciting time and as I am on an extended sabbatical from working I find I am able to put in a few extra quality time hours with my mistress. The fitting of the taillights and new indicator lamps, where the reflectors were, make a real difference to the rear appearance of the vehicle. Then the headlights and parking/indicators are fitted.

 

Now it is time for more testing and commissioning. Owen and I (more Owen then I) had previously checked all the circuits after laying in the wiring harness. Now it was time to re-check everything with all the light fittings in place and connected. But the brand new made for Healeys right rear indicator would not co-operate. Hours later following much mutterings about engineers, failed electrical items and bloody British junk, Owen found that the earth inside the indicator light was faulty. I think it was lesson 105 – pull it to pieces and check everything again.

 

It had been a particularly difficult year for Lorraine so we decided to go for a little drive and just have a break away from all around us. I put the dust cover over my mistress said my farewells and we headed off to Rockhampton for a few days then out to Emerald and a drive through the coal fields. I had been very fortunate through my work in that I had travelled most of this country but Lorraine had never experienced some real dust in the hair. We were doing pretty well. There had been no mention of mistresses or money matters and we found a great homestay in Emerald where we were treated exceptionally well.

 

On the Sunday morning in a magnanimous gesture of goodwill I suggested we go for a drive to the Sapphire and Rubyvale. Talk about bad luck. Would you believe that markets are held in Sapphire on a Sunday morning! Not your usual markets, a rock market; colored rocks to be exact or to be more precise, sapphires. If you concentrate for a minute, you can hear the words, “Just what I’ve always wanted!” Bloody hell, I look at the price of this rather small yellow object and thought, ‘No way!’ I looked at Lorraine and realized I am not going to win this argument. “Too many dollars,” I bravely said. “Just ask. You’re good at negotiating.” was the quick fire response.

 

Obviously the dealer recognized me as man trying to keep the ‘balanced spending budget’ in check, look after a mistress and be nice to my wife. The deal was done and we departed Sapphire with an altered cash flow outcome. After a couple of days at Caloundra we arrived home and five minutes later, “I’ve just spoken to Tammy and she will see us tomorrow. You’re not doing anything, are you?”

 

Remember Tammy, the personal artisan to my wife, the one who started asking how my car was going and had a design for every occasion. I hadn’t even unloaded the Pajaro and arrangements had been made. By now the ‘balanced spending budget’ had taken a real lean towards the left as we set about having a new ring made. I went and consoled myself with my mistress and set about fitting up the doors with the door handles, lock bodies and the aluminum trims for the door openings. Another challenge as I had decided to replace the original trims and install all new aluminum sections.

 

It had taken me some time, but I had finally found an upholsterer. Ron Jackson from A-Quality Upholstery had been recommended to me as a man who was pedantic about the quality of his work and took his time to achieve his results. Ron may be known to some of us, however he is particularly well known in the Triumph fraternity where he has re-upholstered many vehicles.

 

I was very quickly put in my place when I suggested that I would like to have the upholstery done in a particular way and Ron advised there was only going to be one way and that was his way! Yes, Sir. I am pleased I followed his directions.

 

Over a period of time I had purchased a carpet kit, boot kit and mohair hood for my mistress together with a mohair tonneau cover. The quality of all these components had been good except for the tonneau cover which we believed was cut and stitched the wrong way around. In the end the supplier provided me with enough material to remake the tonneau cover ourselves. It took Ron three hides and ten months to complete the upholstery in my mistress including fitting the carpets and hood. In the end we decided to fit carpets in the boot and I sold the boot kit. The fitting of the carpets in the boot just seems to complete the overall perspective of the vehicle.

 

Whilst Ron worked to complete the upholstery I continued fitting all the smaller, difficult items that we tend to put off because they are so difficult. One example was the radiator grill and radiator grill trim. At a Healey Club meeting one evening I happened to ask one of my advisors when was the best time to fit these items as I seemed to be having some difficulty. Very politely I was told that this activity is normally undertaken early in the rebuild.

 

Three days it took me! Just as well I had Owen’s hoist available as I had to dismantle part of the front section of the vehicle and slowly fit the radiator grill trim and grill together with countless other parts that seem to hang off these same bolts. Three days! Even Owen seemed to avoid me as I declared sanctimoniously, “I don’t need any

help!” Then on the third day I lowered my mistress to the ground. Bruised and battered I left the shed and declared, “It is done.” I think that was lesson 110.

 

In June 2010 my mistress was started and we ventured out onto the road. We travelled around to Greg Bray’s place for her final check up, testing and tightening for her Roadworthy Certificate and registration. What a wonderful feeling. This was true elation as I endeavored to tame this beast. It felt so good, the front suspension was tight and there was no movement in the steering wheel, I had made it work. Greg needed to do very little and the Roadworthy Certificate was issued without any trouble, followed by registration.

 

I proudly bought my mistress home expecting a small amount of praise for my achievement. Melanie, my daughter was excited, “When can I drive it!” Lorraine commented, “Liquidate it!” Rare praise indeed. Melanie has been very disappointed, as she cannot quite reach the pedals despite our best efforts. We have had one long outing when Melanie came with me to Leburn recently and we both came home sun burnt and wind burnt, but what a fabulous day. My mistress performed to expectations and Melanie and I managed to have a great conversation about acquiring or building a sevenesque type kit car. Both of us would really like to participate in hillclimbs or GEAR days.

 

Now that you have met my mistress, I hope you have enjoyed my journey. It has been truly remarkable, more so that I didn’t know fully what I was letting myself into. The drive and passion that I needed to maintain momentum is more a credit to the people that I chose to do the tasks beyond my ability; and the sense of pride that I could see and feel as they applied their professional skills to the heart and soul of my mistress.

 

I am very grateful to all those friends and acquaintances who have helped me achieve my dream. Not a day goes by that I do not walk into my garage, look at my mistress, admire her curves and think, “I gave her life.” To my great friend Owen, words cannot express my appreciation for the support, encouragement, patience and advice he gave, not to mention the mess I made of his shed whilst my mistress and I occupied one corner.

 

In the study, Lorraine has a rather large photo of the grandchildren sitting on her desk. It takes pride of place, but in the corner of the photo frame I have noticed there is a small 8 x 4 photo of yours truly with a rather smug look sitting in his mistress in the driveway at home. I think I could feel the love! This is a truly remarkable gesture of tolerance or maybe, just maybe, acceptance of my mistress.

 

I imagine I will be advised at an appropriate time, e.g. when budgets are discussed. Also, Lorraine has now identified that the bathrooms (note the plural) need refurbishing and protracted negotiations have commenced. “Hey, Mel,” I called to my daughter. “Yo, John.” You know the type of response you get from daughters when they know you have something for them and its in their best interests.

 

Whereas if I said the same thing to Lorraine, the response would be, “No!”

 

“Hey, Mel. I think I know how we can get another car.”

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John Hopgood.