Scotland the brave

Scotland the brave

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Yes we were lost in the Highlands of Scotland (Torrin), however thankfully, all turned out ok once we asked a local where our actual address was. We were only six doors away.  Julz was happy that we had finally arrived.

Our host, Raurie, was a multi-generational farmer.  He greeted us covered from head to toe in black grease.  “Sorry in the way I look”, he said when we arrived. “We have been working on the tractor for weeks”.
It was a one night stay in his specially built accomodation.  Air Bnb would continue to give us unique experiences.

We left early in the morning to get driving through to the highlands and lochs to Lochgilphead., situated about 7 hours away.  The country side was stunning and the mountains of the Scottish Highlands are truly mystical.  So much history along the way, with castles and old ruins scattered through the hills.  We discovered the Dornough castle, and were impressed by its majesty on the loch.  Beautiful, stunning.

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This was our first night stay with a local through a global peace organisation we had uncovered, Servas.org.  It had started in the early 1950’s based around the principle of promoting Peace around the world.  Specifically developed for local people to host a visitor so they could experience the local custom.  We were so lucky to have chosen a beautiful host, Margaret, living in Lochgilphead. When we eventually arrived, Margaret had cooked a wonderful home cooked vegetarian roast vegetables for us. We found, very quickly, so much in common with Margaret and were enthralled by her stories and wonderful hospitality.  This was like visiting an Aunty who you had not seen for years.  A wonderful memory was made. We will most definitely remain connected.
We then drove across Scotland, in some drizzle, winding our way around the vast mountains and lochs.

Edinburgh was a stop for us today, so we explored the castle where we went back in time to explore the lives of the various aristocracy and knights who lived within the walls of Edinburgh Castle. Oozing history with many wonderful Scottish tales that enthralled us both.

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We drove down the highways of Scotland and our next stay was with another Servas couple, George and Marjorie In a little town called Penicuik.  Again we were greeted by a lovely couple who treated us like long lost relations.  Once again they spoiled us with a traditional Scottish meal, minus the haggis.
They mentioned to us about a “lost garden” in the woods.  It was a feature of a wealthy families estate back in the 1800’s that people knew was somewhere, however, until recently it was re-found.  The community grow all their flowers, fruit and vegetables, manned by regular town folk and some “woofers”.
If you want some produce, you leave some money in the community honesty box.

The Scottish people are just so lovely and they love to talk. Which, of course, is one of my fave things to do as well.

In the morning we headed further south, driving across to the coast and thinking we would see a beach, we saw just an industrial wasteland and shipping port.  Welcome to Newcastle and Britain.
We then drove across to York, which is a stunning, large, historical city to explore.  History galore.

We had a night this stay at Evesham, UK, so we could explore the old historical village of Stratford on Avon.  This was the home of William Shakespeare and now a tourist mecca.  It has only a few of the original homes standing in the Tudor style architecture.  William, of course, has a lot of controversy over the authorship of his body of works. We explored the various historical areas to get a sense of those times.

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I ended up in a conversation with a local who proceeded to agree that his authorship was still being challenged after over four hundred years.  We found the township too touristy and left to drive down to Truro where we had a nice Air BnB for two nights.

It was time to explore Avebury and Glastonbury and see what all the fuss was about.

To be continued…

Part one – The British Isles Adventure

Part one – The British Isles Adventure

Part one – THE BRITISH ISLES ADVENTURE (part of a four month, round the world adventure).

The time arrived for us to board our Qantas flight from Brisbane, Australia, to London, UK, on Tuesday 12th of July. We prepared, mentally, for the 30 hour trip, via Singapore, then changing to Finnair, through Helsinki, Finland and on to Heathrow. The movie marathon was fun, however, now I can’t remember a single movie, except a wonderful documentary on Finland’s huge Bilberry (Blueberry) industry. Note to self – the Bilberry juice is to die for.

Julz and I arrived into Heathrow and with our four (4) – yes, that’s correct, four backpacks, we hoist onto the “tube” and head for our Air BnB hosts home in South Ealing. Paul is our host and he is so trustworthy. He is at work, however, leaves the key for us to shower and relax, before heading out to visit the local districts shops.
Julz uncovers some new clothes (eeeek!) and then we uncover Marks & Spencer’s food hall. This must have been invented for weary travelers, like us. We stocked up on fruit and veggies, along with some healthy dinner to cook at Pauls home. We are very happy.

Awake early (off by 5.30am) to catch two trains to the Luton airport for our flight to Inverness, Scotland, which left around 9.30am. Good thing we caught the train, as the car traffic was a car park for many miles (or so it looked).

 

We arrived in Inverness and looked around the city. A very historic city, lovely old architecture of stone buildings and homes. We waited for a bus to take us to Forres, spoke for ages to a local Scottish lady, willing to impart her knowledge on every topic you could imagine. Is it possible she spoke more than me? An hour after the bus was meant to leave (it breaks down regularly we were told), we departed on a healthy bus to the beautiful town of Forres. We dropped off our backpacks and met our new Air BnB host, Nicole, who proceeded to give us a guided tour of her amazing backyard garden. We decided to head off the next day to walk around Forres and see the local sites. These included seeing an ancient carved stone, Sueno’s Stone, a 6.5 metre high (21 ft) Picto-Scottish/Celtic created in the 9th Century. Just up the road from that stone is a plaque in memory of the Witches Stone. Read the plaque image below.

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The rain had set in for the day, so we decided to continue our walk with rain jackets on. The flowers in the gardens are striking. All through Inverness and Forres, the coloured flowers look extraordinary at this time of year (possibly all year long). After retiring back to Nicole’s home, after a huge day exploring, we crashed and slept for a good 12 hours straight.

Refreshed and ready to get to, our main reason for bring in Forres in the first place, Findhorn Foundation College –

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Experience Week.
We had only heard about Findhorn from our friend, Peter Watson, who had shared some of their background at a regular “meet up” group in Brisbane. We were talking about Eco Villages and other successful ways people have discovered how to grow food, but also how to grow people in community. We researched the “back story” and it felt right to go and see firsthand this 50+years community and what makes it tick, first hand. So here we are, rocking up in a taxi, all four backpacks between us, at The old hotel, now college, ready to experience, “EXPERIENCE WEEK”.

We walked into the foyer and no-one greeted us. We looked at each other and Julz approached the reception desk, however, saw the chap behind his alcove. People were bustling around and no one seemed to notice us, even though we were packed to the eyeballs. It was only awkward for a few minutes (thoughts about “why are we here again”?, shooting a glance between Julz and my eyes).

All that changed when the chap behind reception, shot up and showed us a space to relieve us of our backpacks. He then pointed for us to go upstairs to registration and meet our “Focalisers” (a new, funky name for “Facilitators”). We meet Niels, who now lives at Findhorn, he takes us on a whirlwind tour of the four floors of the Findhorn College and shows us our bedroom, where we stay for the next seven nights. We settle in and visit the huge lounging area, where we start to meet a few newbies also attending “EXPERIENCE WEEK” with us. There is also a large contingency of Portugese speaking, Brazilians, who are also doing their own “Experience Week”. There is quite a buzz in the place as many newbies are getting aquatinted, unofficially, with each other. Lunch is buffet style Vegetarian, which makes us very happy, all week long.
We finally meet all of our ten members of our group, plus the two Focalisers. We are advised that another person will join us on Sunday, making the group 11.

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We sit in a circle and start by introducing ourselves, with a short story of how we all came to hear about Findhorn Foundation. As we went around the group, it started to dawn on us how quite global our group was. In our group, we meet Robert, from Scotland, John from New Zealand, Beat from Switzerland, Pam from Houston, Texas, Juli from Austria/Florida, Franceska from Switzerland, Corinne from Byron Bay, Australia, Margreta from Switzerland and Julz and I. Joining us on Sunday is Regina from Brazil. Our Focalisers are Niels from Denmark and Ilsamarie from Germany.
And so our experience began.

 

Kununurra to Katherine


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Kununurra is the gateway to the eastern end of the Kimberley’s and a host of national parks, rivers and dams. We camp beside the Kununurra lake, which is part of the Ord river system. The land is lush and fertile. Many farms grow paw paws, bananas, sandalwood and loads of other fruit and veg. The town only became Kununurra in around 1960, before they had a vision for creating a huge hydro dam and flooding the area and giving life to Lake Argyle. It is an amazing place that we visited and we’re all impressed with the lake and the rivers that run into it. 
The assortment of termite mounds continue to entertain us along the roads, some short and stumpy and new varieties that are slim, not unlike obelisks, or cathedrals.


We take a day of rest at Kununurra, to sit, swim and sunbake in the 34° heat.


The next day we leave to drive 509kms to Katherine in the Northern Territory and say our goodbyes to Western Australia. We all take turns in driving, except Bet, who is quite happy reading books on her iPad or doing her crosswords. From time to time we listen to audio books which provides us all with some entertainment. We have enjoyed “Danny Dunn” by Bryce Courtney, another about a Jillaroo, and from time to time Elton or the Bee Gees have kept us company – with Bet screaming out, “turn it down”. 😜

The mountains and landscape heading towards Katherine is breath taking and beautiful. The scenery continues to change dramatically and the red and orange cliffs start to appear on both sides. Katherine is a city of 11,000 and many indigenous people (First Nation) are living within the city confines. The caravan park sits five minutes from a natural hot spring, so we explore the crystal clear waters after setting up camp. We realise that to see Kakadu National Park, which is 300 kms further up near Darwin, it may have to be on our next road trip in 2017! Having Gypsy, the dog, travelling with us has limited our ability to visit many National parks. We have not minded, as Julz and I have decided to come back to the Kimberley’s, Kakadu and Arnhem Land next year for a month or two.
We book in to do a visit and boat cruise around the Nitmiluk National Park, or Katherine Gorge, as it use to be named. We board a small flat bottomed boat with about 30 others and get a guided tour deep into the gorges of the Nitmiluk river. Our guide is a local indigenous man from the local Jawoyn mob. He gives us an extensive history into the land rights struggles, and successes, for the tribes around the Northern Territory and beyond. The history, stories and botanical knowledge he shares is inspiring and enlightening, for many, the truth about the colonialists and pastoral past, which is a constant reminder about our future role as Australians for ongoing reconciliation with our First Nation people’s, who have lived here for over 60,00 years, maintaining this beautiful country. 


There is a great spirit felt in this part of the land. We have so much respect for the traditional owners and custodians of the land. We have learnt so much about the horrific way they have been treated by the explorers, pastoralists and colonialists. This history is being shared openly now, as part of the reconciliation process, and in our limited experience we see a healing taking place, slowly, with our First Nation indigenous people of Australia. 

From Katherine to Mt Isa – two days, 1300kms


.Packing up and leaving Katherine at 6.45am early Saturday morning was quite a feat, but we did it, as expert caravaners we are now. 😜 We knew that the next leg of our journey was to be a long one. We had not planned where our next destination was going to be that evening, however, we got underway at sunrise and headed south towards Tennant’s Creek on the highway that runs from Darwin via Alice Springs to Adelaide. We thought with the three of us driving, we could accomplish about 150 kms each, which may not sound a lot, however, towing a heavy caravan, and driving between 80-100kms in a 130kms speed highway, (yes, Northern Territory has an open highway speed of 130kms – the huge road trains must love it!) and stopping to see only two things along the way. 


The first deviation off the main highway was to see the memorial cemetery of the author, of (book and movie fame) “We of the Never Never”. It was 9 kms off the main road and was the first time on our entire trip that we saw an abundance of kangaroos and wallabies. Many were standing on the side of the road and bouncing back into the bush as we drove past. The other deviation was to a little town named Daly Waters. It was an old novelty township, featuring a small outback pub space covered in remnants from the past including oodles of ladies bras, thongs, and car number plates, hanging from the ceiling and walls. There was a lack of good scenery, a few million ant/termite mounds and some dead trees, and we noted that nearly every car that passed us had a caravan in tow. Apart from the odd, three or four carriage, road train, caravans, hire camper vans, we passed very few sedan cars. Don’t ask us how we ended up driving well over 780kms on our first day, this beating our record which we set driving across the Nullarbor Plains, some six weeks ago of 700kms in just one day.


We pulled into one caravan park to do a one night “drive through”, however, the cost was quite astronomical, compared to what we have been paying. So, we moved onward further and ended up camping at Banka Banka Station for one night. This long drive was 520kms and this made our total two days, 1300 kilometres. 


We have found these stretches of road to be the longest, and dare I say it, “the most boring”. We hold good memories of our journey so far, and we are all looking forward to heading home. We turn left at the “Three Ways” and head towards Barkly Homestead and Mt Isa. I had not visited Mt Isa since 1978 (will tell that story next article) and Julz had flown in for work a few years back. Maybe one night in Mt Isa will do us, then through “The Outback” of central western Queensland and on or way home. Yay!!

Broome, Bro and a Bucket List

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Broome is such an interesting city. It has one road in and out, about 30 kms, from where we are camped at Roebuck Roadhouse (“Roey” to the locals). This township has one overarching history and theme. PEARLS. Yes this is the capital of cultured pearls in Australia. Starting from the mid 1800’s, this has been a hive of activity, and still is today, for Pearl farming. Broome has door to door retail shops selling pearls for the ladies (nothing for us fellas). Thankfully Julz is not a material girl, so we explore other things after she visits one store to see how much – wtf? $12,000!! Whew, now if I mention diamonds, then Julz will be all over them, thanks heavens no one has them here (OK, a material girl over diamonds, as she believes that they are her best friend). 
Julz has had some issues regarding her right knee, since her falling on them in the mud while fishing at Pardoo Station. We try and get an Osteopath, no luck. Her and Bet (her Mum) decide to have a day relaxing and they give Ron (her Dad) and I a green light to go on an ocean fishing charter. With such a bad run of fish, it is time to bring home a freezer full of fresh fish. Ron and I set out really early and meet up with ten other “visitors to Broome” with a crew of three on a large fishing boat (an old crayfish boat). We go out about 40kms into the Indian Ocean and when we all drop in our lines, within minutes we are all reeling in a range of fish. It is a bit windy and rocky, however, Ron is an old sea dog fisherman (60 years being a fishing enthusiast) and I through his advice, we both take a sea sickness tablet prior to boarding. We pulled in about twenty large, medium and small sized fish, throw nine back, (as they are not edible) we kept eleven. Ron had the catch of the day, last cast of the day, with two fish on his two hooks coming over onto the deck.


Most on the trip caught a nice selection, however, we had the largest bag when we left the boat in the afternoon. Such a great day, weather got better and sea got calmer, the girls were excited about the large quantity of Snappers, Giant Trevally, Grassy Emperors and more. Needless to say we had few good nights of eating bbq’d fresh fish.

Our son, Chale, and his wife, Angela, living in Sydney, and found it hard to send a Mothers Day gift to Julz in early May, due to us travelling. They decided that when we arrived in Broome, they would cover the cost for Julz and her Mum, Bet, to dine at a local restaurant for dinner. Zander’s restaurant based at Cable Beach was organised for Wednesday eve, so we arrived to witness the most amazing sunset of the entire journey. We wondered why the walkways looking over the beach were crowded with onlookers and the beach was busy with people around 5.30pm. Then as the sun came down, this amazing red glow filled the horizon over the calm Indian Ocean. It lasted for about 45 minutes, and it was great to see 100’s of people all facing towards the sun and admiring the amazing view – Mother Nature at it’s finest! This was quite a special, sacred experience for all present. Our camera could not capture, or do any justice, the beauty of “being here” and seeing a beautiful sunset unfold in front of us – being in the moment. Needless to say, the meal was excellent, with the backdrop of constant changing colour, a perfect way to spend the evening. To see Broome at night and experience this bought memories of my brother, Clint, as Broome was on his ‘bucket list’, which he unfortunately never got to see. 

Back in 2010, Clint was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer, he passed in November 2013. He came to live with us, (he was living in Capella at the time) to be closer to the hospital and receive his fortnightly treatment. Our trip to Broome this week, we dedicate to my Bro, Clint, who would have absolutely loved it, as we have. 

We left Broome and drove north to Derby, which has the Boab tree as its symbol. The scenery on the way is covered in Boab trees and large termite/ant mounds. The Boab’s are a fabulous looking artistic tree, which has a large circular base trunk (sometimes with a hollow ground centre graduating into narrower branches in the top of the tree. Julz loves them and says that they are one of mother natures marvels, however, is not happy when we find out about the ‘prison tree’. This was one of the huge old Boab’s that was used to hold indigenous slaves captives inside – Mother Nature would definitely NOT have created such beauty with this purpose.


In some areas the termite mounds are small, which reminds us of grave headstones, literally thousands of little mounds pointing to the sky.

We heard about a concert on Saturday night at the local racecourse. We scurry down to hear some local indigenous bands belting out some country music. It is great to see them perform on a large, professional stage using great sound equipment and lighting. 

All the local indigenous people we have chatted with have been informative and gracious with their knowledge. Being here in the Kimberley’s gives you a real understanding of the injustices and struggles that have occurred to get Native Title rights. Even though this is an ongoing battle, at present, it looks like the towns are flourishing and so are the people too.


We leave Derby and head back in the road to stay overnight at a free camp site at Mary River. We turn off the highway and drive over a narrow bridge and creek, and to our surprise there is another forty other campers, caravans all setting up for a night in the bush. We are rewarded by a full moon overhead and the Milky Way. We get up early and make our way to Kununurra. The land is becoming more mountainous..and we start to get quite excited by the scenery. 

More to come……

Barn hill station to Broome ‘advencha’

(Written by Julz)

Barn hill station is reached by a 9km red dirt road, mostly sand, thank goodness Dad is driving – he wouldn’t have it any other way!It is really hot, 35 degrees, in the sun. We find a site in the shade, setting up is fairly exhausting and we are ready to look around. 

The beach is reached by a small red dirt path with old timber decking stairs. The view from the top of the staircase is absolutely magnificent! We are at the end of 80 Mile Beach, all you can see is the sea, sand and cliffs of earthy coloured rock – breath taking!!
The beach has so many shells and an amazing amount of pieces of Mookaite, which is washed smooth from the action of the sea and sand – I am in seventh heaven, as this is one of my most favourite crystals!! The colours are pink and purple to the earthy Browns, beige and burgundy – WOW!!! 


Gypsy, the dog, is allowed off the leash on the beach and she is in an excited frenzy and has re-found her puppy enthusiasm. 

The ‘facilities’ here are ‘interesting’. A corrugated tin roof with walls that do not reach above hand height, and do not reach the floor. I am the first to admit, I do not like crawling things of any sort, and am reluctant to take the risk of my clothes encountering any of these ‘unwilling to travel’ with me creatures. I take a pair of undies and a towel to the shower, I also lower my intake of water and chai, so minimal toilet visits.

We have a bit of a ‘fish feeding’ session late afternoon, with an inability to throw out far enough, because the line quickly comes back in with the incoming tide. We decide that we will only stay one night, due to the ‘facilities’. In the morning we decide we will again come to the beach with Gypsy and her ball.

Just a bit of a background on Gypsy – Mum had a heart attack 6 1/2 years ago and had bi-pass surgery. She was told to take regular walks and exercise, hence, Gypsy. Gypsy is Dad’s dog and they carry on with a mutual admiration and love for each other. In Dad’s life, it is Mum, Gypsy and the rest of us after that!


The morning dawns and is absolutely stunning. The beach is beautiful, with a cool lovely breeze. Dad is throwing Gypsy the ball, which unfortunately lands in the water, oh well, have to dry her before we go. The ball went into the water, again, and of course, Gypsy went after it. There was a small rip and of course, the ball went into it followed be Gypsy. I was luckily at the waters edge half watching her and half fossicking for my finds, and realised that Gypsy was going to get into trouble. So, of course I waded out and retrieved her in my clothes up to under my arms! The rip was quite strong, so it was very fortunate that I didn’t have to go any farther, as it was dangerous. All I could think about was how Dad would be if something happened to her. The ball and her lead (which was in my back pocket) went floating off into the sea, as they were replaceable. Must admit, I had a very shaky trip back up the stairs to reuse the dreaded shower again. An adrenaline rush I hope I never suffer again.

The countryside on the way to Broome is ever changing, dry and dusty scrub land to green farming properties with mainly cattle, also spotted some white/grey emus! 

We are stopping at Roebuck Roadhouse caravan park, 30 kms outside Broome, a nice tree covered little spot with great facilities😍! (Yes, it has a pool!!)

Mum is a diabetic and last night, she had another ‘hypo’, which was different to the others. Earlier in the night, about 12.15am, compared to 2am. She was a lot more co-operative with Dad and the glass of milk and cheese biscuit. As she was coming around, it touched my heart to see her stroke Dad’s cheek and place a kiss on it. My Mum loves to be in control, and she has genetically passed this on to me, so I understand this notion. This disease is in control of her, not her in control of it, which is extremely frustrating for her. Hoping there’s no more for the rest of the holiday.

We decide to stay five days (four nights) in Broome and have some more relaxation and rest.  

Cararvon to Karratha then Port Hedland to Pardoo Station


We left Carnarvon, after staying two nights, and traveled over 600kms directly to Karratha. The landscape and scenery starts to change dramatically, the first red dirt appears and it all becomes flat, vast open space, with low green bushes once again, however, with the complete absence of mountains until we are 50 kms outside of Karratha. Some of these hills have a spooky resemblance to Uluru (a sacred indigenous mountain in the desert of Middle Australia) – or maybe it is just the late afternoon sun. This area is called the Pilbara area. As we have Gypsy, the outlaw’s dog, we are limited in seeing the National parks, so we drove past Exmouth and Coral Bay, on the way to Karratha.We arrive at Karratha, passing a few natural gas processing plants and lots of mining vehicles with large flags. We are well and truly in the heartland of oil, gas and mIning, where everything seems to be owned by Rio Tinto or BHP. Karratha is next to a major exporting port, Dampier, and this city seems to be all grit and industrial business. The large infrastructure within the townships is the glue that holds it all together for Australian exports. You can see why the fossil fuel and mining industry (Copper, Iron Ore, Gold, Salt, etc) would be so against the emerging new “free energy” industries making a slow headway into their futures (wind farms, solar etc).


The highlight at Karratha was a roadside memorial for the Red Dog (book, movie etc) which took place around this area. 

We drove up to view a little town north of Karratha, called Roebourne, which turned out to be a small community for local miners and local indigenous people. 

The outlaws (Julz folks) did not want to explore any further the towns of point Samson or Cossack, so we headed back to camp for the afternoon – and some rest and R & R.

We left Karratha to a striking sunrise morning and headed further north to view Port Hedland, about 180 kms north of Karratha. The huge four carriage long road vehicles and the “as far as the eye can see” iron ore trains were prolific as we headed into Port Hedland. BHP and Rio Tinto certainly have a large presence and the port was full of large cargo ships loading Iron Ore and other minerals being shipped, mainly, to China and the broader Asia.


We were disappointed with these mining towns, possibly because we have been spoilt by the wonderful array of beaches and coastal towns, now absent in these places.

We stopped at the local information office at Port Hedland yo ask about our next leg of our journey. We took their advice and spent two nights at Pardoo Station, a working cattle station that has access to the Marine Park along the coastline of Eighty Mile Beach. We had heard it is a great fishing spot and so after chatting with some experts, we get the tips on the spots to go and fish. Because we are very north of WA the tides are either very high or very low. We find a beaut little creek, Pardoo Creek, which is low ride when we arrive with an incoming high tide. Julz and Ron put a line in and Julz catches a Bream and a Salmon. Very exciting stuff. The funniest part of the day was when Julz slid in the mud, on the river bank, however, we laughed so hard and just covered her more in the slush. 


There are two local indigenous ladies fishing alongside us, with hand lines, and they are reeling in a feast of Bream and Salmon. I reckon they caught ten within an hour.

This area of the coast, between Port Hedland and Broome, at this time of year, is perfect weather too. We are at 33° in the day and 24° at night. The ability to witness the amazing array of planet and stars in this area is “to die for”. 

Needless to say, we are feeling quite relaxed and with no digital coverage, forces us to not think about social media or phone contact. Digital detox is healthy (especially for me, I am reminded 😜).