Thursday, November 19, 2015

Grocery Delivery and the Smell of Quince

I've been sick. It hit fast and hard - the kind of sick that brings you to your knees in both the "God please make it stop," type of way and the, "I'm too weak to walk to bed, so I might as well crawl," type of way.

The past day or two I've slowly been coming out of it, and as I went for a walk today - the longest I've taken in two weeks - I was thinking about how my flat had kind of become my entire world.

My orbit was my bed, to read and sleep; the couch, for watching a movie (or Real Housewives) (the Spaniard: "Is that show benefitting you in any way?" Me: "I am learning about human nature"); the stove, for making another mug tea.

My husband would call everyday on his way from work, asking if I needed anything from the grocery store or the pharmacy. But, bless his heart, as he is the type to forget half the list, and get the wrong things from the other half of the list, and - horror of horrors - bring home diet coke which he is NOT supposed to drink, I did my grocery shopping online and had it delivered.

When I really needed some supplements and other things that only the health food store would have, I discovered that they, too, do delivery.

Thinking it might help a bit, I decided to get a massage, but because I didn't trust my ability to be out for very long, I had the masseuse come to me.

One evening, as my appetite began to pick up a bit, I had a craving for a favourite thai soup. Warm, creamy with coconut milk, full of soft vegetables. It was the first sign of appetite in a while, and I wanted to stoke it. And, so, what do you know? There is a delivery service which goes to any restaurant of your choice, to pick up whatever food you have ordered.

I needed my medical charts sent from Canada, and my doctor's office did it immediately, as soon as they got my email request. I found a doctor here who does phone consults if he has my previous charts, will prescribe what I need, and is getting a pharmacy in Glasgow to mail me a prescription, because they are the best at compounding it.

Everything I needed was done with my laptop, as I was lying on my couch.

We recently put a deposit down on a flat, and as the Spaniard has less than negative interest in picking out the furnishings, other than that there be "an armchair that is soft, has a high back, and feels like it is hugging me," that task has fallen, in its entirety, into my eager hands.

As the flat we are currently in is rented, fully furnished, we have not a stick of furniture to our name. And as we are hoping to move right before Christmas, and as most of the furniture takes between 2 and 6 weeks to arrive.....choosing everything from our couches to beds to tables to lamps has been of pressing importance.

Even that, I was able to do from my couch. With the floor plans at my disposal, and multitudes of windows up on my laptop screen I was able to fill a living room, dining room, two bedrooms, and a kitchen with the necessities of life.

Even the chair that feels like a hug. Yes, even that.

I was contemplating all of this as I walked today. How grateful I am, that everything I needed could be ordered with a few clicks and swipes, as I lay on the couch. What a gift.

And yet.

Isn't it strange, perhaps, that everything from groceries to pharmaceuticals to a masseuse could come to me, without my lifting more than a finger? That I could furnish an entire flat without once setting foot in a store?

These systems don't exist just for when you are sick and can't move. They exist because people, in the way they live their lives, have created a demand for them. If we wanted to, we could live almost our entire lives outside of work, never venturing from our own little homes.

Living this way was an utter revelation to me.

Typically, on Thursdays I go to the Borough Market. I stop in at Olivier's Bakery and get a loaf of sourdough rye from the sweet French girl with the incredible dreadlocks. Then, I walk to the Hook and Son's Dairy, and get two litres of raw milk. One of the guys is from Calgary, of all places - he used to live down the street from where my family used to live! -  and the other one keeps trying to convince me to buy a bottle of colostrum. "You've gotta take advantage of it when we have it. The calves normally get it!" I've told him I'm not ready to try it.

Perhaps not ever.

After that, I go to Chegworth Valley and get whatever vegetables and fruits are in season and fresh, and always wonder at the strange variety of employees that they have. I am pretty sure a TV show could be filmed there.

My last stop is generally Neil's Yard, where I get the most amazing lemon yellow butter that tastes like no butter that is available in North America. Sometimes they give me apples that have been shipped from their orchards that day, and last time the saleswoman gave me two quince - "to make your day brighter!" - and told me to put them in a bowl, because the colour is beautiful, and the smell is like a fresh summer's day. She was right.

Before heading home, I will generally take a break at Monmouth Coffee, and spend twenty minutes being entertained by the hipster conversations floating around me. If I have run out of coffee at home, the guy with the amazing tattoos will always make a great recommendation and grind me up a bag to take away.

I love my Thursday morning ritual - not just because when I get home I have amazing, nourishing, food for the days ahead, but because I treasure the small interactions, the growing friendliness, the wave of recognition, the "Coffee is on us today, love!" that comes with frequenting the same places and getting to know the people who take such pride in what they sell, and who also take an interest in me because I love their products.

These types of relationships are important. They are what make our neighbourhoods feel safe, and our cities feel like home. They keep us connected to those around us, if only because we share a common interest in good quality butter, game meats, and unpasteurized cheeses. That connection, that shared interest is important - it encourages is us to care in a small way about the world outside our small circle, to take an interest in something or someone we might never normally come across.

These connections ground us and remind us that we are all, in some way, reliant on each other. They humanize our chaotic daily life.

So while it might have been gloriously convenient to have the world delivered to me with the click of a button, it will only ever be something I do from necessity.

The world needs more connection, more awareness of the lives of the others, and I'll continue to do my small part. In fact, perhaps I will cancel my arm-chair order now that I am feeling a bit better, and go to the small shop on the King's Road, with the old man who is so proud of the beautiful chairs he designs. I think he might be glad for a chat. I know I will.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Let's talk Clothes.

Let's talk clothes. Gentlemen, look away lest you get bored.

When my husband and I first started dating and he would visit me in Calgary, my home town, he would often comment that everyone looked like "hobos." He couldn't get over the yoga pants and the Uggs and the sweatshirts during winter, or the short shorts, tank tops, and flip-flops during summer. He was disturbed by all the bare legs with skirts. No nylons? No tights?

Now, I get it. Having lived in London for about three years, there are certain things I used to love, that I just don't wear anymore. My eyes bleed, just like his must have, when I walk from the plane into the Calgary airport.

After a bit of trial and error, and having no patience for faffing about in the morning, wondering what to wear, I have developed a bit of a uniform so that I don't stand out like a sore thumb or, let's face it, a tourist.

Having a really good wardrobe of basics is key to this.  From that wardrobe, you can grab pretty much anything, and it will work.

Most days, I roll with dark wash skinny jeans,

and either a great blazer and tee or button down shirt,

or any variety of sweaters if it's a bit cooler.


Generally, I finish the look with ankle boots. I currently have four pair; they are a bit of an obsession. I have shopped many other places for them, but Clarks generally does the trick.

Having a classic trench on hand is always a good idea as it puts a bit of polish into any outfit and protects against the milder elements,

And a wool coat is a must; for those really damp days, there is nothing better to keep you warm.

Massimo Dutti

For rainy, windy days, a nice waterproof jacket is a necessity. 

I have about four casual dresses in rotation for when I am PMSing and don't want to squeeze my belly into jeans. I wear them with ankle boots, flats or knee boots - depending on my mood and the weather - and, if more than a couple inches above the knee, black tights. This is essential. It is not done to show a lot of leg, unless you are from Essex. If the dress falls below the knee, feel free to wear skin coloured nylons. 


Flats are great to have. Having one dressy pair...

And one casual pair will do the trick.

And if you have a classic pair of black pumps, you can dress up any outfit, even jeans and a sweater.

Knee boots are perfect for Autumn and Winter - for keeping warm, but also keeping an outfit put together.

A classic cross body bag is essential. If you do it right, it will go with everything, and it will be the one bag that you return to, so that the necessities of your life, like lip balm, lip gloss, kleenex and your house keys are always with you.

And when you have a LOT of junk to carry, like your laptop, or your library books, or your latest shopping spree that you don't want your husband to notice, a tote is perfect.

And, of course, once you have a good basic wardrobe, you can jazz it up with more seasonal, trendy items, if you choose.

Ultimately, it is not any more difficult or time consuming to throw on a pair of nicely fitting jeans, a sweater, and some boots, than it is to pull on some yoga pants, a sweatshirt, and some tennis shoes. 

And I promise you: it feels a whole heck of a lot better.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

What Did We Fight For?

About a month ago, on a lazy Saturday, my husband and I went to a flat viewing in a part of London that we were unfamiliar with. It was a new build along the canal, with gorgeous views, but the area around the tube station seemed a bit sketch. Even though it was well on its way to full "gentrification," what with all the bankers - like my husband -  moving in to the "Five Star Luxury" buildings popping up like rabbits, we weren't quite sure what to make of the neighbourhood as a whole.

We wandered around the high street, eventually coming to a  cafe with almond milk lattes and super seed salads - a sure sign of growing gentrification. So we stopped for - what else? - an almond milk latte and a super seed salad (me), and a "sweet treat" (him).

Him, as our order came: "I can't eat that green shit. What are you, a rabbit? That's not human food."

Taking a seat on the outside terrace, I proposed that the best way to get the feel of an area is to talk to the people who actually live there. I zeroed in on two women, yammering away at warp speed as women typically do over a Saturday brunch.

I ended up deep in conversation with one of the women, from New York, in London to visit her friend. She is a writer, a typical seventies feminist, thoughtful. At one point she looked at me with what looked like desperation in her eyes. "Is this what we fought for? Did we fight for women to have it all, and then to feel immensely guilty when they can't do it all, and burn out in the process? Women are exhausted and depleted. So guilt ridden. If they are working, they want to be with their children. If they are with their children, they are worrying about their work emails. When they are at business dinners, they wish they could be on a date with their husbands. There is not enough time for all of it. What did we do?"

I often wonder the same thing.

In the process of ensuring that women can have the same opportunities as men do, something major seems to have happened. Those roles traditionally inhabited by women have become utterly devalued, an addendum to the "real" work of the world.

I don't really think anyone would disagree that if a woman wants to be a professor, or an engineer, or a doctor, or whatever else her interests and gifts lead her to, she should be able to go after it. But the fact that the option is there, that the freedom of choice is available to her, seems to have warped into a "must."

One of my dear friends, contemplating the birth of her first baby looked at me with embarrassment one day. "I just want to stay home with her. When she is born, I want to quit my job. I want to be there when she takes her first step and starts talking. I don't want anyone else to change her diapers."

But the problem?

"That's not enough. I would be betraying everything our feminist foremothers fought for, if I did that. I can't just stay home. How will people look at me?"

Another friend, having just had her second child and preparing to go back to work,  told me that it almost didn't make sense to go back to work. "I want the best care for my children. And the best care is expensive. Once we pay for that, and for the cleaning lady whom we need because no one is ever at home to clean, and the meals we order in because no one has the time and energy to cook, my salary is almost completely eaten up."

The problem?

"If I stayed home, people would think I was making a dumb choice. They would think I was wasting my education and my abilities."

A friend stared at me over Skype one day. Her two toddlers were wreaking chaos in the background. Laundry was spilling off her table. She hadn't had time to shower yet, and her husband was on his way home from work. "I'm not doing enough. I should probably start applying for jobs."


"Because what do I tell people? That I take care of my kids and make meals and try to keep the house clean?"

Dark circles ringed her eyes. "I need to be doing more." But then, "What do I do with the kids? They are so little. I don't want to put them in day-care and miss their growing up years."

What is this "more"? Why "must" you? 

Just because a woman can do everything a man can do - or nearly - doesn't mean she must in order to retain her dignity and worth. If she wants to inhabit that more "traditional" role in her family, then why is she made to feel guilty for wanting that? When did career success become the only measure of one's worth? 

When did it become ok for women to feel guilty for wanting to be with their own children? 

The fight for a woman's ability to chart her own course, have her own money, enter any career of her choosing, leave abusive men without being vilified - this was a worthy and great fight. But it seems to have gone off course somehow, and ended up breeding the assumption that child-rearing, home-making, care-taking are somehow less worthy, less important than going to an office everyday.

I don't think this was meant to happen, and it is a tragic disservice to women that it has.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Way We Live, Part Two

Last week I wrote about one of the choices my Spanish half and I made with regard to living our lives together.

An interesting side effect of this and something which, when I became aware of it, I intentionally cultivated, is that when you have a clean home, the energy to make it beautiful, and the time to cook well, you fill a hole in the lives of many people.

London is a hard city to live in. It is expensive, competitive, extremely large and busy, and most people just pass through and don't settle here. It is a place to gain experience, make your fortune, or invest your money. It is not really a place conducive to building a family life.

It is ironic that precisely those overworked, stressed out, exhausted people who have no one to rely on or to ask for help, who are far from their families, and perhaps longing for some kind of connection and support, are most in need of some of those key elements that family life can provide, and generally have no access to it.

And so, if they have money they might go to the spa to relax, go out to eat for most of their meals, and talk to a therapist or coach so that someone will listen to them.

All of these things - relaxation, food, a listening ear -  are typically available in a home. But there are no homes.

When I found myself in possession of a house, with a natural inclination to make it pretty - because I like pretty things; to have it clean - because I can't deal with dirt; tidy - because I hate clutter; full of  a fairly constant supply of healthy, yummy food - because what you eat is really important, I suddenly also found myself with people on my doorstep. Or, to be more accurate, buzzing into my flat.

Because I've chosen to live life the way I do, I've usually had the time to do a morning de-clutter and tidy, so the flat is more often than not a pleasant place to hang out in.  If it is afternoon when the buzzer rings there are probably some cookies to have with tea, because my husband has a sweet tooth and I make him healthy, sugar-free cookies. I have usually already planned dinner and three is pretty much the same is two, and three pretty much the same as four, so if you want to stay it's no real trouble.

And it should be that way; I have chosen to live my life to take the time to make it that way.

What I have realized is that this luxury - for it is one, in this day and age - is not just for my husband and me. It spreads itself into the lives of others, as it should, and it can be a real gift. For the lonely, or the stressed, or the exhausted, sometimes there is nothing like sitting on a couch doing nothing, while someone else potters around making you something to eat, listening to what you have to say.

I realize that I, perhaps, have opened myself up criticism of all sorts, from various different camps. But I am not writing this to be prescriptive - not everyone would enjoy this type of life, or even be good at it. And that is absolutely fine.

Ultimately, I write this as encouragement. There are many women who, either by choice or necessity are in their homes, and struggling with that fact for many reasons.  And I am not saying that you have to stay there - if there is something you feel really called to do, do it! We are lucky enough to have all options open to us.

But, I would guess, that if you reframe how you look at what you do within your home, you might be surprised at the energy and resources you must expend to do it well. You might even begin to be impressed with yourself. It takes time and talent to create a welcoming environment. It takes thought and research to plan and cook nutritious meals. It requires patience and understanding to listen to those who need an ear.

There is a reason why the family is the building block of society. It is the place where new members are created for the future. But it is also the place from which people can go, having been nourished, encouraged, perhaps even a bit renewed, to tackle the world and do their best in it.

So, to those of you in the home, you might just be doing rather important, crucial work. In your generosity, you might be providing something that someone desperately needs and can't get anywhere else.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Cultural Differences

I never tire of observing the cultural differences between Canada and the UK. Between Canada and Spain. Between the UK and Spain.

I am caught in a weird world where I have to balance and be aware of the differences between the place I was raised, and the place I live; between the place I live, as well as the place I was raised, and the customs of my husband and in-laws.

It never gets boring.

I finally realized the other day, why my husband has always believed, since he first met him, that my brother kind of didn't like him.

Our friend - from California - had mentioned in passing the rather barbaric practice that North American men have, of hitting or teasing each other if they like each other.

My Spanish husband observed that he really didn't understand such behaviour.

The penny dropped. I asked him if this was the reason he thought my brother kind of dislikes him.

"Well, yeah. He always punches my arm and says insulting things about Spain and being a Banker."

I couldn't stop laughing.

In Spain, if they are friends - and, probably, even if they are not -  Spanish men are inclined to pat each other on the back, even give each other a hug, and verbalize quite a bit of encouragement. The closest similarity I can draw is that they are like North American women.

I don't say that insultingly or disparagingly. It's just a fact - Spanish men tend to be more verbal and outwardly affectionate than North American men, traits which tend to appear more in North American women.

I had to explain to my poor, befuddled Spaniard that if my brother didn't like him, he would probably ignore him completely, and if he had to pay attention to him, be excruciatingly polite. Violence and insults are signs of affection from the North American male.

"So, I just have to insult him next time I see him and he will know I like him?"


So, I should stop hugging him when I see him?"

"He'd probably feel more comfortable if you punched him in the gut."

The Spaniard stared into space for a moment. "How strange."

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Way We Live, Part One

I spent the entire day today flat hunting. I suppose anything to do with house buying, renting, or moving is exhausting, so today was no exception. There is the added frustration of this being an extremely fast moving, competitive market. So you might see something you love in the morning, only to have it sold out from under you in the evening.

My husband hates flat hunting with an almost obsessive passion, so I have been commissioned to do the leg work, and only present him with the absolute cream of the crop. Which suites me because, tiring as it is, I love anything to do with houses.

As I was zooming around today, meeting one agent after an other, I was grateful that I was in fact able to do such a thing. I wasn't viewing flats after an exhausting, full day of work, or on the weekend and interrupting our down time. It was during the day, and I had the whole of it at my disposal to bop from place to place.

I only work part time - a maximum of about twenty hours a week - and this is, to be honest, only because I enjoy it, and I want to keep building up my skills and challenging myself.

This was a very conscious choice that we made together, as a couple. I was offered a full time job in the summer, and another offer seems just around the corner. And while each offer is tempting, I really love the choice we have made.

My husband has a stressful, very busy job. He loves it and is very good at it, but it asks a lot of him. He travels almost bi-weekly for a day or two or three at a time, and goes through seasons of needing to go to networking events in the evenings.

And so, if I know he is going to be out in the evening or is going to be away for a few days, I will try to meet him for lunch near his office. Occasionally, if I don't have a work or volunteer commitment, I will join him on a work trip. I have the flexibility to do these things - purposefully - and we need it this way so that we can actually spend quality time together.

I try to take care of anything extraneous going on in our lives so that the weekends are purely for relaxation and seeing friends, and not spent rushing around doing errands that couldn't get done during the work-week.

When he gets home dinner is prepared, he can escape his suit, and then we can eat and chat about the day and maybe watch a show together. If we have dry-cleaning to be dropped off, we don't have to worry about WHEN that is going to happen, or about trying to get there before closing, because I will take care of it during opening hours. The fridge is always stocked with fresh vegetables from the market, the table always has a bowl of fruit,  there are always some cookies in a jar for his sweet-tooth and for anyone who stops by for tea, and generally things are in their places, easy to be found when they are needed.

I can hear wails starting about how our feminist foremothers fought so that I wouldn't have to tend to my home. And so they did. But the key there is the "have;" it is perhaps more accurate to say that they fought so I could actively choose to live my life this way, and not have it as my only option.

Think of it like this: you get married in order to build a home together. Why not make it as pleasant as possible? If you are not tending to that life within your home, and working to make it a place where you actually want to live, then why did you get married? What is wrong with a practical division of labour, so that your lives together are actually enjoyable, instead of a frantic blur?

I think of the alternative. We both rush out of the house in the morning, and then back into it in the evening. The bed is probably unmade, possibly with a wet towel dampening up the mattress; there might be half drunk coffee on the counter and dirty dishes piled in the sink. We might have to put a load of laundry on, or maybe hang the laundry that was left moulding in the washing machine all day. We would have to figure out who is going to make dinner -  that is, if there are even any groceries available with which to make it. It might be about nine o'clock by this time, and do we really want to head out to the grocery store? And so we order food in, regretfully, knowing that we really should be eating a bit better, but with no energy or time to make it happen.

If there is no one whose job it is to take care of those things, then everything is wedged in between working hours. The reality, as much as we act as if houses and meals take care of themselves, is that in order for the home to function well, a series of little jobs must be taken care of. And this is work. And someone has to do it. If there is no one taking care of these jobs during the working day, you must do them out of work hours. But I suppose that is what evenings and weekends are for.

No wonder the divorce rate is so high; instead of spending focused time together, one person is at the grocery store, and the other is changing the sheets because - EWW - when were they changed last?


The other day, as he was getting ready for bed, apropos of nothing really, my husband said he was really glad we had organized our lives as we have. He has just changed jobs, and it has been a stressful transition. He insists that the reason he survived it with energy to spare is because I make him eat vegetables and lots of protein - a far cry from his bachelor habit of opening a can of whatever was on his shelf and heating it in the microwave.

And so he said the sweetest thing - that it is only because I am behind the scenes supporting him and taking care of everything else, that he is able to do as well he does; that he sees his work life as a genuine team effort, with me making sure is always able to be in control of the ball and score.

The way we live is a genuine team effort geared towards building an enjoyable home life and a united relationship. And interestingly, that has rather far reaching effects.

But that is a post for another time.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Bilbao and Enjoyment

Something that drew me to my husband is his ability to "Enjoy," as he says. In fact, that is one of his most frequent words to me, one of his most constant reminders. If it is a moment to enjoy, just live it with full concentration until it is over. Enter into it with all your energy and forget about everything else.

You need this time of enjoyment to have the energy for the "everything else" of life.

If it is a sunny day this means lunch on a terrace, with dessert and then a coffee added to extend his time, so that he can properly enjoy the sun and return to work refreshed. One of his frequent rants against anglo-saxon culture is its tendency to sit in front of a computer at work, eating a sandwich and a bag of crisps for lunch. "That is inhuman, and I am sure it is bad for the mind and terrible for the digestion."

I remember one of the first times I had Sunday lunch with his family. They started gathering around 2PM to snack on olives and almonds. 3PM brought the entrance of lunch, and at 5 we were still sitting around the table.

I was getting ancy around 2:30, so by 5:00 I was about to spontaneously combust. What are we DOING? Why are we sitting here? Don't we have things to DO? I don't understand this.

But, just enjoy. Enjoy sitting with nothing to do, talking about whatever comes up, laughing at ridiculous things. The work week is coming, so prolong the enjoyment as long as possible.

This past weekend we were in Bilbao for two days. What a beautiful city.

 It houses the Guggenheim Museum,

It is a city of incredible bridges,

And it even has a giant dog, made out of flowers,

We were there for a reunion of Marcos' old classmates to celebrate fifteen years since they graduated from their MBA program. These people studied together for two years, have kept in contact for the past fifteen, and their sheer excitement at spending time together was just lovely to see.

We began to convene at about 2:00, outside a bar in a beautiful square in Bilbao. We had some wine, chatted for about an hour, and then meandered five minutes down the road to the restaurant. Lunch started at three, was seven courses, and ended at 6:30. By now accustomed to the Spanish weekend lunch, this didn't phase me, but I was absolutely ready to get going and "do things." 

Namely, go to Massimo Dutti and buy the leather jacket that has stolen my heart.

....And perhaps go for a brisk walk to feel better about the monumental lunch I had just consumed. 

But no.

The next stop was a cocktail bar about a five minute walk away from the restaurant. We settled in there for gin and tonics. By eight PM, things seemed to be wrapping up, we started gathering our things, and I started to plot the quickest way to the shops, only to be pulled up short by another stop at a bar about a ten minute walk away from the previous one. Another round of drinks.

Ten P.M. rolled around. Surely people had to get home, have dinner, see their kids. 

But no. The kids were with the grandparents. There were still many things to enjoy.

And so, yet another bar, this time to eat some Pintxos, the Basque version of Tapas, and drink some more wine...

By this time I had no idea what was happening, or when it would end, but I knew that to fight against it was useless.

The evening finally ended, for me, at an 80's dance bar, aptly named "Bowie," which was about the size of a hallway, and so crammed with people that at one point a woman's bum was so firmly wedged against my stomach, I couldn't quite breath properly. 

Everyone in our group that night was at least a decade older than I, they all have between two and five children, and they all work stressful jobs in finance. I hit the wall first. By 1AM, having drunk for 11 hours straight I needed my bed.

Everyone else was still dancing strong when Marcos and I stumbled outside, expelled from the overstuffed bar like a cannon ball from a cannon. We walked about a block down the street, and I decided I couldn't move anymore. I just couldn't. We hailed a cab for the three minute drive to our hotel, and Marcos had to explain to the concerned driver as I sprawled out in the back seat occasionally emitting weak moans, that I was "muy cansada," having been defeated by his middle aged friends. As quickly as I could, I oozed into bed.

And this is what the long Spanish Sunday is for. After a day like that, there really is nothing else to be done, except to sit in the sun, in a square in the Old Town, drinking (more) wine, eating (more) pintxos, and enjoying the freedom to do nothing before the work week starts again.

And, frankly, it is remarkable how ready one becomes for the daily grind of the workaday week, when you have taken the time for enjoyment. 

It is a lesson I am still learning, that dedication to enjoyment is just as important as dedication to the work and serious tasks of one's life. But it is a worthy one, and a rather fun one.