Seals in Pembrokeshire with commentary from The White Cat; what the White Cat Says

The White Cat has obviously been taking lessons from David Attenborough. Here he is, commenting on seals in Pembrokeshire:


sealc sealc2

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Swans, books, knitting, walking, seals.

This weekend saw the launch of The Wild Swans into the world. To mark the occasion I spent the day at Solva Woollen Mill, reading, knitting, talking, signing books. And people joined me, with and without their knitting. There is something very pleasant about reading and knitting in company, so thanks to all those who came, some from the far off land of England, to share time with us, and thanks to Solva Woollen Mill for once again dressing the mill up to celebrate.

knit6 mill3 Rick brought Viking knitting, which was all the more intriguing when I remembered that I was buying a silver Viking chain from True North Gallery.

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Meanwhile I had written a piece for The Guardian online about both East of the Sun, West of the Moon and The Wild Swans. These are companion pieces really. They sit beside each other well, for many reasons. To read the article Follow the link to the Guardian Online and please share it as much as you can.

2booksbadgesBoth books are available form all good independent bookshops and signed copies of these and all my other books in print are available from Solva Woollen Mill.

The new Christmas card is now available from Help Musicians, via their webshop.

qmAnd the card, Otter Hunting, Curlew Rising, for the Suffolk Wildlife Trust joins a beautiful gallery of rather lovely cards, including one from Catherine Hyde on the Suffolk Wildlife Trust site also.


After the launch we took my tired head to the beach. I had woken with migraine, after 2 weeks in which I had 3 public appearances and my cat had died horribly. Not easy. Sunshine, sand and sea eased heart and mind. Karin walked at the water’s edge.

The next launch at Solva Woollen Mill will be the relaunch of The Seal Children, in hardback, with Janetta Otter-Barry Books. This will be late April, early May 2016 and I am planning something different, special for this. If you want to be kept informed please sign up to the Solva Woollen Mill mailing list.

sealsx2For now, thank you, to everyone who has bought books over the last couple of weeks, sent messages, and just been there with support and kind words and prize winning honey cake. Without readers, writers are silent, lost. So thank you.

The day after the launch was one of rest, walking, talking. I had promised to show Karin seals.

stdsWe walked up the hill and The White Cat came too. White Cat, Grey Dog.

white whiteb b3 sealwatch sealbeach5 manys

Of seals there were many and plenty. And they sang songs, mournful praise songs of the sea. And the White Cat walked as if he owned the path. We passed some walkers who stopped to talk, not noticing His Elegance who lay stretched on a rock, markings blending with the lichens. At least not seeing until The White Cat peeled himself into standing and prowled down the rock.

” Oh my God,” the walker said, “What’s that?”

” We call them cats,” I replied. ” But this is a special one, a creature of legend, Cath Palug. He fought with King Arthur’s Knights. He is a warrior cat.”

I smiled. The walker looked at me as if I might be just a little crazy. And perhaps I am. For The White Cat is not Cath Palug. She swims the waters around the Menai Straits. But every cat has a little of her in its bones. And if you click on the link you will find a story. Tell it to your cat. Then they will know that you are wise.


cliffs relaxed


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Blow the Moon Out

You could stop all the clocks, make white doves wear black satin bows, but life continues and there is another small cat shaped hole in my heart as Leopard didn’t make it yesterday. His jaw was too broken, too tiny, too fragile to fix and the pain he must have been in still addles my brain.

Last night, when we walked around the village with The White Cat all aglow in the bright starlight the moon that had ridden new in the evening sky was gone. Maybe Leopard sat on its curve, watching us.

And some would say, ‘he was only a cat’, and in the grand scheme of things and the dark times the world is facing, that is all he was. Only a cat. But what a cat. What a beautiful, bold, angry, fierce bright jewel of a life, all a glitter in the sunshine with jade eyes and subtle movements and a purr to charm the gods.


I would like to thank the staff at The Oaks Vets in Haverfordwest, who did their very best for him.


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Talking about books and working.

Last year I was interviewed for The Summer Reading Challenge. At the time was beginning to work on The Wild Swans. Tomorrow the book is launched from Solva Woollen Mill.

All f these questions would be answered differently now. But this is a moment in time.


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Hard times; Thank you

I wanted to write a blog post to thank everyone for their support for me and my cat, Leopard, during a difficult couple of weeks. For those who don’t know, he disappeared Monday 7th for 5 days and came home having met and battled with monsters. Soaking wet, with festering sores from bites, I will never know what happened, where, when or how, or how he even made it home.


Leopard, picking a fight with his brother by another mother.

At the vets he was found to have a broken and dislocated jaw and was treated with painkillers, antibiotics and not expected to live through the night, but he did, and seemed stronger in the morning.

So, operation to fix jaw, feeding by hand, time. And then people began to offer me donations towards the hefty vets bill. Wow. People can be so kind.

But this is how my life is. As an artist my life is supported by all those who buy my books, cards, prints, paintings. It’s where I get my ‘wages’. It’s how I live. Every time people buy books, cards, prints, paintings it enables me to spend my time making more, and I have been so lucky, so very lucky, because I have been a full time artist and maker since  was 27. For 27 years all I have done is paint and you people who buy my books etc have made this possible. It’s like Kickstarter only in reverse. You have helped me to buy a house, feed and cloth my children, buy books and paints and feed various cats and dogs and get them though any medical traumas. In return I try to create to the best of my ability.

And I am about to sign the book deal of a lifetime, which is wonderful.

So, thank you for all your support, in what have not been an easy couple of weeks, though at times they have been wonderful. Even as I type Little Leopard is fighting for his small life, and I am afraid it’s a battle he won’t win this time. He used up too too many of his beautiful small lives in one giant fierce battle.

On Saturday I will be celebrating a book launch at Solva Woollen Mill. If no one could mention cats to me that would be wonderful. When I write a book and it is published there is a whole industry behind that book. There’s all the people who work in the publishing house, the printers, shippers and warehouse people. There are the people in shops who sell the books, landlords who own the buildings the bookshops are in. The ripples of the industry spread wide, but begin for me, up the hill, walking and writing with cats beside me.

Little Leopard is the star of this year’s Cat Walk calendar. You can buy the calendar direct from Graffeg. Graffeg is a small company, employing several people in Llanelli. I love what they have done. They took Cat Walk on as a project when many other publishers had turned it down, failing to understand what it was and could be. It’s not really a book about cats, it’s a weird autobiography. With photos.


All my books in print can be purchased from good indie bookshops and signed copies are available from Solva Woollen Mill. They have cards too, and calendars. When you buy from the mill you are also supporting a family run business that employs several staff in full time jobs. The same goes when you buy from a bookshop.

Prints are available from different places, but both prints and paintings can be found at The House of Golden Dreams. I will be putting up images from The Wild Swans soon. And I am having an exhibition in Dulverton in October of some of the work from the book.

I have work on show in New Brewery Arts Cirencester ( only for a couple more days)

The Shed, Porthgain

Solva Woollen Mill

Oriel Cric, Crickhowell ( where I am a ‘new face’ for their gallery)

Number Seven, Dulverton

Obsidian Arts, Near Stoke Manderville

The Golden Sheaf in Narberth

Rossiter’s Bookshop, Ross on Wye

Mr B’s Emporium, Bath

The White Hart, Widecombe, Bath

And if you can’t afford to buy the books you can borrow them from libraries. I still get paid. It’s called PLR. I love the democracy of books, and love libraries and the cheque that comes after Christmas from PLR has often arrived just in the nick of time to pay bills.

And the thing is it’s not just me. When you buy from any artist, maker, you are supporting them to make more of their art. So thank you for offering to donate to Leopard’s vets bill. But you already do, already have.

For every author the most important person is the reader. Without readers we are nothing; silent volumes on dusty shelves. You keep reading, I will keep writing.

Oh, and over the past couple of weeks it has been so hard to work, to move from day to day at times. Everyone’s support has helped. And so has knowing that beside a river in Scotland, maybe in the Cairn Gorms, Robert MacFarlane has been writing me an otter.




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Through other eyes; a guest in my studio

When Davina from Number Seven Dulverton came to St Davids for a holiday I invited her in to wander around in my studio. As a result she took some lovely photographs and I invited her to write a guest blogpost. I hope this is the first of a few guest posts on my blog.

There is no doubt that there is a certain allure and fascination at being allowed to view first hand the studio of any creative whether they be an artist or writer – or in Jackie’s case both.

Artists’ studios have always captivated my attention from a small child, my mother studied at art college, I knew she was artistic and had a certain flare for display and interior design but I have never seen her paint or draw and she certainly never had her own studio. But her love for art and design was very much part of my upbringing and our lives. However I do have very early memories of being surrounded by pots of well-used brushes, pens and inks from venturing into the garden studio of the children’s illustrator Edward Ardizzone at his home in Rodmersham where we lived. He was by then already a very old man and I no older than nine. I would tidy and sweep the leaves that had blown into his studio although at that age what true help my impact was I very much doubt! In return instead of giving me money, which I would have instantly spent in the village shop on sweets he would give me a signed copy of one of his books, which I treasure to this day and I can still visualise the ‘oh so high book shelves’ that stretched from floor to ceiling from which he would select a title from the tightly packed shelves.


Since then my role commissioning work for Number Seven and writing for Somerset Art Works I have been privileged to visit many studios and I can assure you the fascination never wanes; they are as individual as the people who work in them. I will admit it is the cluttered and chaotic spaces that appeal to me most, the ones that have not been tidied in preparation for open studio events, the spaces of constant creative flux – the inner sanctums where visitors rarely get to tread.

finishingdetailprinthare  jackiestudiowildswans

Jackie understands this inquisitiveness and often shares images of her work in progress, still on the drawing board within its studio setting. As a result many of us feel very familiar with her private working space, but earlier this year I got to see it first hand.

Chris, my partner had work in the area and so I decided to join him, combining the two and taking a working holiday. It would also be an opportunity to catch up with Jackie, collect some of her prints and get her to sign a stack of books for our customers back in Exmoor.

I was very conscious of the fact that the deadline for Wild Swans was drawing close and that her spare time, if any, would be precious. I am sure that many of you who work from home will understand the presumption that you are free for endless cups of tea and phone calls that you would never receive whilst ‘at the office’ and it can be hard to say no without causing offence.

However Jackie made me more than welcome – I took cake and I took gin (to aid the signing of books) and I joined her on her morning walks with Ivy. It was a delight to be let into her realm that she shares so freely in the virtual world.ivybw

She was keen for me to photograph her studio. So one afternoon as the timber lined attic cocooned us from the March wind and rain Jackie painted while I snapped away. Christopher mischievously hid his curious teasing tags for Jackie to discover another day, and a certain sense of quiet and calm descended about us all; there was no need for conversation.

finishingprint copy

Jackie’s studio occupies the entire top floor of her sturdy little cottage, a tiny turning staircase leads you up, a door baring cats and creatures whose paws and fluff would cause chaos if they were to enter. The ceiling is so low it allows you only to stand under the central roofline, but since Jackie sits to paint so this is no worry to her at all.  The bookcases, plan chests and shelves that line each side, accentuate the narrowness of the room and every surface is filled with the potential to inspire a story or painting – my camera eye was more than happy.

jackiestudiobooks jackiestudiowings

A cabinet of curiosities is how many would describe the artefacts that take up residence in Jackie’s studio and all are there to inform her drawings – the envelopes sprouting with feathers, the perfectly poised stuffed hare, even the broken moth eaten specimen that no doubt was just as sprightly in its time. The groups of objects have not been ‘displayed’, they simply find a home where there is space, and get moved around as Jackie requires them. This is truly a working, evolving collection and depending on the subject matter of her next book or project new objects appear to take centre stage on her desk while others relinquish on the shelves chatting amongst themselves until they are recalled. There is a sense of suspended animation, puppets rest patiently, Karin Lillmany’s felted creatures conspire in huddled groups; traces of chocolate still on their muzzles and Jackie often jests that they all ride wildly at night on the wooden rocking horse!

jackiestudiofelt jackiestudiofeltsp jackiestudiohorse

jackiestudiohare1 jackiestudioharebw jackiestudiofeathers1 jackiestudiofeathers2

There are two desks, one at either end of the space. One is off course filled with jars of brushes, tubes of watercolour and gouache, bottles of ink and mixing palettes. That tantalising array of jumbled mess from which images and pictures grow on crisp white paper stretched on boards forming a fleeting window of white amongst all the life and colour. I say fleeting because Jackie paints surprisingly quickly once an idea forms in her mind and many years, of looking, studying, drawing, drawing and more drawing means that she is adept at her craft.

jackiestudiowildbrushes jackiestudiofeathersbird

The other desk acts as office but is no less creative. Here she goes through the layout of books with her publishers and edits photographs as well as the daily task of replying to emails. Next to this hub of activity is a day bed nestled under the eaves of a window overlooking her garden and the Welsh stonewalls beyond. Filled with bright cushions and ruled over by a huge cuddly tiger Jackie ‘rests’ here to read, taking in the texts of other authors for who she has been commissioned to illustrate.

Reading can take place anywhere and so too can writing, which means that Jackie is not bound to the confines of her studio. She has always taken immense pleasure in exploring the headland that is an extension of her garden and often takes her notebook and camera with her, hunkering down behind a sheltering rock or nestling on warm grass with a view of ocean blue and making it her office for an afternoon. Having Ivy has resulted in Jackie taking longer walks once again and a favourite destination is the wide expanse of Whitesands where Ivy becomes a blur at speed in the sea mist relishing in the space to run and become inspiration for a future book.

It goes without saying that it was a sheer delight to visit Jackie in her studio and landscape, an honour to be invited and I don’t think I distracted her too much.

What is it we are seeking when we enter an artist’s studio, are we hoping to catch that spark of imagination in action, some secret that is withheld or an act of creative osmosis that will suddenly make us too be able to draw and paint. Are we hoping to unwittingly inspire or be inspired or to simply witness the creative process and glimpse a working lifestyle that is seen as outside convention?

Being an artist or writer is primarily a solitary occupation and to be let into this incredibly personal space where ideas are their precious commodity is very special. If you are let in enjoy, impart energy and remember close the door behind you for if we wish them to continue enriching our worlds with books and art then we need to leave them doing what they love best – creating!


When I visited Jackie was of the mind to print out this message that was pinned to the door of the writer Barbara Newhall Follett:

‘Nobody may come into this room if the door is shut tight (if it is shut not quite latched it is all right) without knocking. The person in this room if he agrees that one shall come in will say “come in,” or something like that and if he does not agree to it he will say “Not yet, please,” or something like that. The door may be shut if nobody is in the room but if a person wants to come in, knocks and hears no answer that means there is no one in the room and he must not go in. Reason. If the door is shut tight and a person is in the room the shut door means that the person in the room wishes to be left alone.’

Next month I will be in Number Seven for an exhibition with Tamsin Abbott and Eleanor Bartleman, and a ‘Wing-Walk’ celebration for The Wild Swans.

And if you now have a taste for wandering round studios, look at these beautiful photos from Jake Green.

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Five Fragments of Abandoned Paintings

These five fragments of abandoned paintings will be going to Blue Ginger Gallery, Cradley, near Malvern for their auction.


100% of the money raised goes to Acorn’s Children’s Hospice.

My pieces will be signed on the back and I will add more as the mood takes me, between now and the auction date of 25th October.

Please get in touch with Sue Lim at Blue Ginger Gallery to either bid on work, or donate items.

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Adventures in the city, gardens, hills, museums.

They say a week is a long time in politics. This week has been one of the longest. Where to begin? A trip to London. But this will be a long and meandering blog post, the kind that when you go on a course to learn how to write blog posts people say are the wrong way to do it… too many words, too many pictures. But sometimes the right way to do something is nonsense. So pull up a cup of tea, open your eyes, ears and heart and I will tell you about the last two weeks. teahomeWe drove to London, via Narberth where The Golden Sheaf have my work in their window.

gs We called in at Obsidian Art where I dropped off a couple of prints for Trisha and picked up a cheque for sold work, something which will come in very handy, as you will understand when I reach the end of my tale. There was beautiful work there, but I was particularly taken with these from Tamsin Abbott.

ta ta4 We were staying in a hotel in the centre of London, the old GLC building. Strange, but quiet, and really rather wonderful in its budget sparseness.


vigilWe were meeting someone, for the first time, after many an email and had arranged to meet by the polar bear. It seemed only right. Greenpeace had brought Aurora to the doorway of the Shell Building to protest about Shell drilling for oil in the Arctic. A beautiful anamatronic giant bear, she stood guard outside the building and even the writing in the road seemed to side with Greenpeace, for this is what Shell should do. Keep clear of the Arctic and all its diverse wildlife. Do follow the link to GreenPeace’s site to learn more about this wonderful creative protest creature.

gpb gpb2 rmacfSo, the next morning I met Mr Robert MacFarlane and we walked together to have our first meeting with a publisher about a book we are working on together. He is gathering the words, I am decorating them as best I can, and we hope to build together a hymn to the wild that gives a voice to wild things. But more on that later.

For now I can only say that meeting with him was wonderful. I had thought that this man, who can find his way to the wildest and remotest parts of the UK would know where he was going. Robin ( Mr Stenham) had dropped me off at the bear. So, after talking to the people from Greenpeace I suggested we should be going and he looked around in a confused kind of way and said, ‘which way is it?'( Hmmmm… note to self, do not rely on Robert MacFarlane for directions in an urban environment.)

withlittlepThe meeting went well. Robert had a brief chat with Little P and didn’t seem too phased to be meeting such a famous little panda, or if he did, he kept his cool quite well.

After the meeting I went to the Natural History Museum to sign books, where I was met with many a wild weasel and bear from the home of Celestine and the Hare, all of whom seem to have left home to have adventures new families.

nathistm trouble!

In London there was much to see and I found unexpected beauty.

beautyfulHome for a few days. And this was where things began to go wrong. It was my birthday on 8th Sept, Tuesday. On Monday Leopard didn’t come home for his supper. Nothing unusual. Now and again one or other stays out. But he didn’t come back the next day, or the next, and then I had to go away and he still wasn’t home. It’s hard to go away when this kind of thing happens, and talk about books etc, but I have places in my head where I can lock things away, until I have time to deal with them. I was worried. I ‘felt’ that he was still alive. Maybe that was just a naive hope.

tgSo, first we went to Rossiters in Ross, talked about a peregrine, signed books and spent a wonderful evening with Nicola Davies. The next day we drove to Tamsin’s house, to do an event in Blue Ginger, a supper, with stories. There’s something about Tamsin’s garden that brings peace to the heart and soul. And Blue Ginger was lovely with a great audience of lovely people, wonderful food made by Sue. We had arrived early and I spent an hour sitting and knitting and eating damsons while Ffion read her book.

oww mh2 tsi tg2 tg4 tg5 gl2 offtowork gl6

The next morning Tamsin, Ffi and I went back to Blue Ginger. Sue was making us all breakfast and i had books to sign for her. The sun shone. It was glorious.

blueg pallascats bbg pdwwI bought Kenji’s drawing of The Panda Who Drinks from the Well of the World, a piece of work that fascinated me. I had watched Kenji working on it, long distance, as it was made in Japan. Love his work. And he is going from strength to strength. He made a wonderful film of the making of the work, well worth a watch.

Later we went walking, and then picnicked by The White leaved Oak. It was strange. People had left the most bizarre votives. Weird, unnatural, out of place. Plastic watches, a cd, a sock, a bottle. The tree itself was beautiful. The offerings not so, more littering than spiritual. It seemed a little defiled really and we were uneasy and moved away to sit with a view of a small slice of heaven.

wlo2 votives wlo3


That evening, late, Robin phoned. Leopard had come home. He was taking him to the emergency vets. He sounded shaken. He wouldn’t show me what my cat looked like, but it seemed, after talking to the vet, that Leopard had encountered monsters in his time away. Where he had been we do not know, but the vet thinks that a few days ago he had met and fought with something, perhaps a badger. Hannah suggested that perhaps he had poked his cat-curious nose into a badger’s home. This would explain the bites on his head, which were festering. Dehydrated and weak with hunger and infection, a broken jaw and a crushed nose I will never know how he made it home but I am glad that he did. He’s still in the vets and they hope to operate on Monday having built up his muscle-tone by feeding through a tube and rehydrated him. He may lose an eye. He may yet die as we don’t know if he has other injuries, internal, hidden ones.

It’s very hard to do events. It’s hard to leave home when the cat is missing. Hard to concentrate of ‘celebrating’ the release of a new book. And yet I had a wonderful time away with good friends and good company in very beautiful places.

Now I am home, waiting to hear about my spotted cat who I am told is doing better than expected. Most of my day so far has been taken up with thinking about what I have to do and knitting and making lists. But there is still the background unease of someone missing from home. Nine lives. I think he has just used up four of them at least.


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Peace and beauty

hilltopIt’s my birthday, and in the true spirit of children’s literature and Winnie the Pooh I am giving something away.

Today people asked me what I wanted to do. ‘I want to knit in silence for 30 minutes’, I said. What no one realises is this is work. The Wild Swans has knitting and silence at its heart. But not just 30 mins of it. Months and months. I wanted to see how I went. Eliza has to knit in silence for if she utters a single word her swan brothers will die. I can’t tell you how many swans would have died while I was knitting. But today, I walked to the top of the hill and sat knitting with Ivy at my feet.

heatherpillow moreknitI could hear a gentle shush from the sea, birds, including a curlew, a plane that flew over and the wind, coming and going across the land. I could hear insects, the buzz of their wings, and many landed on me as I sat, still, knitting. The sunshine was beautiful. I sat where Floss’s ashes lie, having walked the last walk I did with Genji.

30 minutes. Not long. Definitely something to do again.

So, I want to give away;

A copy of The Wild Swans

A copy of East of the Sun, West of the Moon

A pair of no 4mm bamboo needles

Two balls of Rowan, kidsilk stripe and

The pattern for the scarf, stole I am working on.

It’s an easy pattern, very simple to follow and very quick to learn.

I will also scatter across the comments, at random cards, a badge or two, whatever I find in my studio.

knitwithivine giveaSo, simple. Tell me something beautiful. Add a comment to this post, tell me something beautiful. Put links in the comment if you like. I will choose a winner on October 13th, a date plucked at random. And remember, if you can’t knit it’s never too late to learn, and if you don’t want to knit you will probably know someone who does.

If you want to share something from this blog, or the page about the new book, or one of my paintings from The House of Golden Dreams then please do, but there’s no need to if you don’t feel like it. Just tell me something beautiful, because the world seems a hard harsh place at the moment and we could all use a little more beauty.





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When fires burn inside the mind

Unsettled, and mind ill at ease I decided to walk to the sea. Yesterday I had met up with Dinny Pocock. Now, usually when you arrange to meet someone it’s in a town and you say ‘on the corner by the pub, or church or whatever’. This time it was ‘past the hill, there’s a signpost and a cove, where the seals breed. You can’t miss it. I will be there about the same time as you if I set off now.’ She walks faster than me.

And there we met. And there were seals. So today, because a fire was in my head and despite having so much work I could not settle to it,  I went back with my camera. It’s always a bit strange before a book comes out, and this next one, The Wild Swans, is a bit special in many ways.

I walked a different way, past Llanferan where Adam Buick has his studio. He wasn’t there, but his kiln was fierce hot from a firing and Graham Lovett was loading beautiful white domestic ware into another kiln. Along the pathway moonjars lurked in beauty.

adamspot pathway

wren13 I took with me the small wren that Dinny had made for me on request. She looked lovely out in the landscape.

And there on the beach seal pups were feeding and learning to swim while other seals hung in the water.

bf2 beachfeed sf5 sf4 sf2 sf1 I watched for a while and Ivy was patient with me.

waiting learning

I did some knitting in the sunshine while the seals sang to me and thought perhaps I should have a competition for photographs of knitting in beautiful or unusual places.

ivyknitting motherandchild

Then we walked home, up the steep hill along the path where heathers grow.


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