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Sunset over the Crossroads tent on Easter Sunday

What an amazing week I have had at Bluesfest! The weather was perfect (no rain), the company was delightful, the music was great, and the whole experience was healing. While I realise that ‘healing’ is not a word that is normally associated with music festivals, in this case it is very apt. I have returned home feeling lighter in my soul, clearer in my mind, and more centred than I have been for a long time. My mother has likened it to a trip to a health spa, and if you ignore the beers and burgers that I drank and ate, she is right!

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Blue skies, feet up in hammock – bliss!

The highlight of the festival was, of course, the music, but being with lovely people, having a good night’s sleep in my trailer tent, and being able to truly relax (the hammock got a work out) were all important. I saw some bands and artists I had never heard of, and others who I have been familiar with for a long time. Some I saw on my own, others with friends. Some nights I was content to go to bed early and listen to the jangling sounds of 6 stages all playing at once, while other nights I stayed to listen to the last notes. A dear friend of mine has attended each of the previous festivals that I have attended, and managed to attend for one day this time, continuing our great tradition – so we had to get a ‘selfie’ to capture it!

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Our Bluesfest ‘selfie’

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Elvis Costello on the final night

My musical highlights? Steve Earle (I saw both his sets), Charlie Musselwhite, Jack Johnson (his connection with the audience was the reason I stayed up to listen to every note), Elvis Costello, Beth Hart (powerful voice and rocking band), Jake Bugg (brilliant musician but too young to have a stage presence yet), Booker T Jones (such a great sound), Aaron Neville (so romantic and swoony)and for both amusement and musical memories, KC and the Sunshine Band (although I did object to his scantily clad raunchy dancers and their antics on feminist grounds). But my stand-out? An artist called ‘Passenger’. I had heard one of his songs on the radio before so went along out of interest. Wow. He had the thousands of people in the tent in the palm of his hand. One man and a guitar, getting the whole tent to sing along with him – including on a song he had written that morning. He covered “Sounds of Silence” and the tent was almost silent, and then at the end played a song he is about to release called “Whisper”, followed by a song called “Holes” and I was in tears! I highly recommend having a listen to his music – just a delightful, authentic voice and talent.

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A very blurry shot of Passenger holding the crowd in the palm of his hand with amazing music and lyrics

I read, crocheted, slept, danced, and relaxed. At some point over the weekend I wrote a note to myself on my iPad that simply says “Be kind to yourself”. I can’t remember what prompted that, but they are definitely words to live by. I had all sorts of wise insights while driving, and relaxing, and remember very few of them, so I am glad that the only one that I wrote down is the best of all the thoughts!

My trip home had some added adventure with a midnight breakdown, two rides in tow trucks, a motel that my road side assistance service organised for me to check into at 3am, and some very helpful auto-electricians who fixed my car and allowed me to get home. Despite all of this potential stress I remained calm, and, apart from being extremely tired, wasn’t adversely affected by it all!

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My car and trailer waiting for the second tow truck ride – one hour from home but so far away!

I have bought my ticket for next year’s festival already. They won’t start to announce the artists until August, but I have looked at the previous lineups for this festival and have never seen one that I wouldn’t be happy to attend. The savings of buying early well and truly outweigh the risk that there will be artists that I don’t want to see! Plus my festival friends will be there again (our group grows a little each year) and I will be encouraging all of you to join me!

And now I am home, the chicks have returned, and we have three more days until they return to school. In between spending time with them I am starting to get the house and the sewing room back into order so that I can get back into creating this week. My head is full of ideas and I am itching to start working on some of them! I also have this overwhelming desire to get more organised…… so stand by for some further de-cluttering, making up of schedules (that may or may not be followed) and some planning (of course) to get that urge under control!

Before I sign off I should add that the chicks had a wonderful Easter break too. Their father and step-mother took them down to Victoria for some time with their grandparents and cousin, then to Melbourne for a couple of days where they got to see some football games (the first big AFL game for the boy), go to the Zoo and the Aquarium, and ride the trams everywhere. They really had some great adventures.

I hope that you have had a wonderful Easter weekend, safe travels, and lovely adventures.

Away

I am writing this sitting in the shade of my tent, listening to some guitarists in another tent and contemplating whether to go and pick up a fresh bag of ice, or lie in my hammock. Tough choices!

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For the third year in a row I have travelled to Byron Bay to attend Bluesfest. This year I nearly didn’t come. The thought of the drive (about 13 hours before you factor in breaks), travelling on my own and attending a large music festival on my own was starting to overwhelm me. But…. here I am and I am glad I came.

I decided to stagger my trip so I wouldn’t be exhausted before I arrived, but I didn’t plan it at all! Just before I left home late on Tuesday afternoon I decided that I would drive to a spot just north of Sydney called Umina that I had heard good things about. When I rang the campground the receptionist talked me out of camping because of the late hour I would be arriving at – which was an absolute blessing when I arrived during a torrential downpour that was blooding streets and tents. Sleeping in a cabin was the best decision!

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The next night I stopped at Coffs Harbour and stayed at the same campground I stayed at last year, set up my little tent and was asleep before 8!
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A cup of tea the next morning set me up for a great start and I arrived with 20 minutes to spare before meeting my camping neighbours from last year so we could camp together again. The ridiculously luxurious trailer is set up, and our neighbours thus year include a family of guitarists who seem to be attracting other guitarists to them so we are being serenaded.

Why am I giving you a blow by blow account of my trip? Because three days on my own has not been scary nor overwhelming. Last night I attended the festival on my own and had fun. I could wander where I wanted, to my own agenda. I saw great musicians – Steve Earle, Charlie Musselwhite, Dyson, Stringer and Cloher, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. I was exhausted by the time it got to Edward Sharpe and had retreated to a chair, thinking that there was no shame in sitting to listen…… and then they started playing and I was propelled from my seat forward to dance, confirming once more that music cures all ills!

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My observations so far this year are quite irreverent – lots of young men with long hair and beards being escorted by girls with flowers in their hair, flowing skirts and bare feet – they look like they are reliving their grand- or great- grandparents youth at Woodstock – but with a lot more cash. There are also a high proportion of grey haired men who look like they have been sitting behind desks their whole lives wandering around in packs looking happy. You can pick the northerners – they are wearing jumpers in the chill of the 18 degree evening (scoffs the southerner who is loving the warmth!)

No post would be complete without a sewing report – I decided it was time to sew for myself so whipped up a Tova tunic using my birthday fabric from last year, and a bag and coing purse for myself (using the jeans I wore here last year!)

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No kids, no agenda, and nothing to worry about. Just what I needed, and the reason I bought my tickets a year ago.

I hope that your Easter weekend is all things good for you.

A workshop

Today I spent a few hours teaching a workshop (of the continuous kind) for a few hours at a Craft Day where there were numerous wonderful workshops, demonstrations, and a few stalls selling handmade goods.  I decided to teach on the use of freezer paper to make stencils and decorate tote bags and t-shirts.  While those of you reading in America might be familiar with this, freezer paper is not an everyday commodity here in Australia.  You can buy it from speciality shops for a couple of dollars a metre, or, do as I did, and have a friend who is travelling to the United States purchase a roll from a supermarket!

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The workshop was fun.  The fox stencil that I made last week was the most popular.  I saw it going home on bags and t-shirts in a rainbow of colours – red, orange, green and blue!

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There were other great stencils made by participants including a golden panda, a red toadstool, and a multi-coloured Lego Man that I didn’t manage to capture photos of.  Here are a few that I did manage to photograph!

 

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As always happens at these things, it was the people who made it amazing.  There was the little girl who looked like she was about 5 who was so incredibly precise with her paint – and so proud of her results.  The elderly lady with a younger woman who worked as a team to make a blue fox for a 2 year old that the older lady wanted a gift for.  The family who all made a bag each to be their adventure bags for the school holidays that have just started.  And lovely people to talk to, to share ideas with, and to learn from.

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The most amazing part of today was that I took all three chicks with me.  The boy made one clay plate, then sat quietly behind my stall with my iPad.  The middle chick made a clay plate and spent the rest of the time at the free stall for children – making all sorts of amazing creations with glue, glitter and coloured paper.  The eldest chick, who often claims to not be very crafty had a ball!  She made this beautiful paper votive house, stamped a delightfully cheeky card for her step-mother, and generally had a go at everything!

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They all behaved beautifully.  The boy left half way through with their step-mother, and the eldest chick left with a friend, but the middle chick stayed to the end and helped to pack up and carry all the loads back to the car without complaint.  It was very special!

I have been busy this week but don’t have a lot to show for it, apart from a fresh pile of bibs to re-stock the website that sells them too.  Between appointments for all and sundry, doing other parts of business like attending meetings and talking to insurance brokers, and keeping on top of the housework, not a lot of additional sewing has been achieved!  I haven’t made a bag for a couple of weeks now and am missing it!  I am actually contemplating making a bag for myself!  Shock, horror!

I am heading off up the coast next week to attend the Byron Bay Bluesfest – a 5 day extravaganza of musical delights (only a portion of which are actually blues).  This year I am driving up on my own, and although I am meeting the people I camped next to last year, and became friends with, I am flying solo.   I have nearly chickened out a few times, and decided not to go, but realise that there is no ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ on attending a music festival, so am going to give it a go and see how I fare!  The first night has Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros playing – a band that I saw live about 18 months ago and really, really enjoyed, so that will be a good start to it all!  There is an eclectic mix of artists playing – Elvis Costello, Jack Johnson, the Doobie Brothers, Buddy Guy, Suzanne Vega, Skunkhour, Matt Corby, the John Butler Trio….. and lots more.  If I can manage to get to even half of the acts on my wish list I will be happy!  And back to the bag making – I think I might make myself a bag to wear while I am grooving around on my own!

For now, though, this little bird is exhausted and needs to lie down after a big day!  I hope that your weekend is going well!

A world of possibilities!

Although the first day of April is traditionally a day for pranks and tricks, today was actually a day for celebrating some steps in my life, with no pranks in sight!  My bags are on sale through the Shop Handmade here in Canberra from today, and I received my first month’s sales statement from the Shop for my bibs (and can report that there were in fact sales – phew!).

Today also marks the first day of my long service leave, and the end (hopefully for a while) of being on personal leave (which is the modern public service name for good old fashioned sick leave!).  Although there is no real difference in terms of the freedom that I have, I have found that since I made the decision to take time off to look at what my options are for the future it is like a load has lifted off my shoulders.  I feel lighter.  I have been joking with the chicks.  We rode our bikes to and from school today because I wasn’t worrying about what time we would get there, etc.  I am breathing out.

The world of possibilities that this time off work opens up is huge!  I have already come up with a long string of outrageous travel plans that bear no resemblance to my bank balance – just to enjoy the dreaming possibilities!  I am thinking about all the creative opportunities that I have, and starting to map out how to fit them in.  And I am enjoying feeling that there are no rules, and that I can do what I want with this time (within reason and the law of course!)

The first big adventure is one that was planned a year ago, before life got so complex – the 25th Annual Bluesfest at Byron Bay, over the Easter weekend.  For the last few weeks I have been umming and ah-ing about whether I should go, on my own, and whether I would cope, etc.  But a funny thing happened as I wrote a message to a friend offering my ticket for sale to any of her friends….. I realised that the only person putting pressure on myself is me.  I sent a follow up email asking her to ignore the first one – and instead we agreed to catch up over a drink or two in the campground instead!  The line-up for this year has a few acts that I really want to see – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Jack Johnson, Elvis Costello, Steve Earle, Suzanne Vega, John Butler Trio, plus a few that I will catch because I don’t really know their stuff, and others I will go to see because I have never heard of them!  A good start to a period of freedom!  (And some trips to the beach for a swim in the ocean might figure in that plan too!) It all kicks off in 16 days, so my road trip will start two weeks from now!  Yippee!

Other smaller adventures over the next few months might include some trips to see friends, a lot of sewing, drawing up further and better particulars on some business plans (see – you can’t take the lawyer out of the girl even when she is on holiday!), and seeing what opportunities come along!

I have tackled my sewing room and sorted it out after weeks of chaos – jumbled piles of fabric, interfacing, threads, half finished projects, scraps, etc.  It is back to being a calm oasis of creativity and just what is required!  Sorting and folding fabric is such a beautiful way to spend time – it reminds me of all the beautiful possibilities that lie in those piles!

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Half way through making piles, with the sun streaming in to help.

I also finished the last of my custom ordered bags from the markets two weeks ago.  The young woman who ordered this one deliberated over a wide range of fabric choices before selecting this one for me to order in.  And her deliberations were worth it.  The fabric matched perfectly with the beige duck cloth she had selected and has resulted in a sophisticated, understated, elegant and practical bag for her overseas adventure.  I even managed to get 2 zips in it without crying!

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With the desk clear, my load lighter, and a head full of ideas, tomorrow is looking good for a day of sewing and creating.  Which is a good way to mark the 5 year anniversary of the day that my marriage ended.  This is not a path I chose, and is not the plan I had for my life, or the life of my children.  However I am proud of the new life and the new path that I have been able to build, and of the values that I am teaching my children.  Although they still wish that we lived with their father again, they acknowledge that their life is better than so many others, and that they are very lucky to have three parents who love them.  I continue to be thankful that their step-mother is so incredibly decent and has made an effort from day one to make it easy for me to have a positive relationship with her. (I also continue to be thankful that he waited until the 2nd to leave – imagine having your husband leave on April Fools Day – you would never be really sure if he meant to do it or not!)

Now I am off to brew another cup of tea and to go and admire my neat sewing room and plan my first project for tomorrow!  I hope that your week is going well!

 

Return from Easter

I am back!

Back from a week of no computer, no responsibility, no children and no routine.  Back from an unintended break from blogging, sewing, crafting, and cooking.  Back from a fuzzy head – almost.

So – where have I been?  As promised/predicted/threatened I went on a road trip to Byron Bay to attend Bluesfest – a five day festival of music based loosely on a celebration of blues and roots music.  In reality there is probably more non-blues music than blues – but no one cares.  The countryside around Byron Bay is spectacular, the weather is temperamental, and the lifestyle is very relaxed.  The people who attend Bluesfest provide a lovely cross section of society – ranging from older retirees in their neatly ironed shorts and shirts through to the barefooted, dreadlock wearing hippies, with everyone in between.  I reckon I fall right in the middle of the range – and I am okay with that!  I did get good wear out of my two Tova tunics – and actually remembered to get a photo of myself in one!  (My photographer went a bit crazy….. and I am pulling a face in most but there are a couple that show the shirt….)

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Camping on site at the festival is part of the fun – you get to know neighbours, compare which bands you have seen or want to see, and share the joy in finding a clean toilet, stocked with paper…..  and compare gumboot styles as the rain hits and causes mud that has to be squelched through to be believed.

So did I enjoy it?  For the most part – yes.  Driving there and back on my own was tiring (it is about a 15 hour drive including breaks) and affected my enjoyment (I slept early on the first night and missed seeing Chris Isaak, which I regret).  On the way there I stopped and camped overnight on my own – and enjoyed the experience.  On the way home I pushed through and did the trip in one day – not as enjoyable.  I did find that looking for geocaches was a good way to break up the trip, so will be doing that again.

My ‘campanion’ (pun intended) was suffering from ‘man-flu’ and ended up leaving on the fourth day.  The rain was depressing and meant that there was mud and hot steamy crowds…..  so I found parts of it quite challenging.  There was a moment on Sunday night when I put myself to bed early and lay in the tent listening to the rain, and the sounds of a Ska band blaring through the rain, when I wondered what on earth I was doing there – and whether I really needed a life lesson in coping with anxiety and depression right at this point in time.  But – the next day the sun was out, I ended up having a nice day on my own and I got to hear/see Paul Simon singing, which moved me much more than I expected, and it all seemed worth it.

Highlights?  Meeting some lovely new friends in the campground, finally seeing Ben Harper in concert, seeing Robert Plant and Paul Simon, and Busby Marou, discovering new music through the band Current Swell, and hearing other legends like the Counting Crows, the Steve Miller Band, Bonnie Raitt, and a plethora of great blues artists.  And going into Brunswick Heads for a swim in the ocean.  Such a simple treat!

So now I am home, and back to the challenges of life as a single parent.  By yesterday afternoon I was completely overwhelmed – yet another meeting with teachers at school about my son, making new childcare arrangements after the babysitter’s timetable changed, trying to think about groceries, homework, housework, gardening, paying bills, caring for animals……..etc.  So I went to bed, convinced that I was getting sick.  This morning I felt dreadful but got up and went to work, and then to an early morning chiropractor appointment.  I quickly realised that in fact I wasn’t sick, or overwhelmed.   I was in pain.  Once I was ‘adjusted’ properly the world seemed quite decent again – and all the little bits and pieces that had been threatening to pull me under last night were quite manageable again.  A good lesson in being aware of the impact of pain on my mental and physical wellbeing!  (and a good reminder that dancing in gumboots, driving long distances, getting tumbled in the surf and sleeping on an inflatable mattress for a week aren’t good for my back…….)

My mum will go home on Saturday after her epic effort in looking after my children, then in a week the children go on holiday to visit their father.  So my mind is slowly starting to turn back towards creative thoughts.  Some bags, some patchwork, a kindle cover or two……  my sewing fingers are getting itchy…..!

Lessons learnt?  Keep things simple, enjoy the moment, and don’t forget to dance.

I have been reflecting on a wide range of topics in the last few days. Some relate to crafting, and some to the influences that have shaped my life.  (If you want to skip the musings bit the crafting bit with pretty pictures is at the end!)

When I started this blog I thought it would be a great way to record my sewing adventures, to market my wares, and to join a community of like-minded people. So far I can say I can tick each of those boxes. What has changed is my head space. With my return to work and a new role I have had to continue my (life long) journey of finding the right balance.  So sewing gets priority over blogging, kids get priority over sewing, etc.  I suppose what I am saying is forgive me for fewer posts, and for less focus on creating new things. There will be a time when I can return to the way I want to blog and craft and market my wares, but for now it is a little erratic.

One of the things I have been musing over is how I have come to a point where all of a sudden sewing ‘clicks’ for me.  I am confident in knowing how to fix errors and in understanding how they occur, but am also confident to send my ‘made’ goods out into the world, without getting constant reassurance from the recipients (both purchasers and gift recipients) that they are happy with what I have made.  This is such a change from how I have lived some other parts of my life that it is quite liberating.  I suspect it is to do with that other life long journey of getting comfortable in my own skin.  Believing in my ability to do this means that I don’t need reassurance – I can just ‘do’ for the joy of doing.

Listening to different pieces of music in preparation for my trip this week to Bluesfest (5 days of music festival with no children – wow) has taken me on some trips down memory lane.  One of the great joys of music is that ability to transport you to another place and time.  This time I have been taken back to my first year of university and residential college (by Led Zeppelin and the memory of boys sitting around playing air guitars and air drums).  While at the time I thought I was living this mature independent wild lifestyle (yes – I am completely aware of how nonsensical that is now) I look back with the maturity of someone more than twice the age I was then and am horrified at my acceptance of the culture of bullying, alcohol, and male domination that defined that year.  I understand how it happened – I was a 17-year-old girl who had been educated at a Catholic girls boarding school, who found myself in another part of the country in a co-ed college, with a bar on the premises, and experiencing complete culture shock.  I tried to be independent for the first few days but found myself changing to fit in very quickly.  I look back and understand why my parents were so worried about me!    What strikes me in hindsight was how so many intelligent young women let the ‘men’ (who off course were boys – most no more than 20) set the rules and run the show – who was ‘in’, who was ‘out’, etc.   I posted a comment on my private Facebook page about flashbacks from the music and realized that the flashbacks weren’t necessarily fond memories but memories of a time of confusion and challenges and changes.  Of course I can’t regret most of it – it shaped who I am today – but I will be working very hard to give my children some different perspectives to take forward into life with them so that they might have some different choices about their experiences.   (As a side note I failed my first year of university and was therefore ejected from the Medical Faculty – probably a blessing in hindsight as I have enjoyed my career in the law and think I would have made a shocking doctor!)

While I could sit here and muse for hours more, there is work to be done, sleep to be had and camping supplies to be prepared.  So instead I will share my second version of the Tova tunic – I added two little buttons to this one so that I don’t always have to wear a singlet underneath.  This gave me the chance to use my automatic buttonhole function for the first time – how easy is that??  I am so impressed!  There will be buttonholes galore from now on!

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A round-up of the rest of the week/weekend?  A library bag and music bag were made.  An impromptu strip patchwork pouch to carry a gift card was made on Friday night,

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and my two girls graded for their purple belts in Taekidokai – the martial art that they all study.  I was so proud of them – the eldest for working so hard, and the artist-in-residence for keeping on going even though she was sick.  I had tears in my eyes watching her do her situps while an instructor signalled to me that she had a lot of heart to keep going as she did.

And now to prepare for the week ahead.  I may not post before Easter due to travelling, so I hope that you all have a safe and happy Easter, and are able to have some time reflecting on the purpose of the holiday.

A work in progress

I have a confession – although I love sewing and constructing, I hesitate to call myself a seamstress, because I am not good at making clothes.  However I have decided to challenge myself, and attempt to make a top for myself to wear on my trip (this time next week I will either be in Byron Bay or en route and at least in the vicinity!).  A few weeks ago I was reading a blog (and if I could remember which one it would have saved me hours of fruitless searching on the net) and the blogger was showing a photo of a tunic top that she had made – and shared that she is not normally great at making clothes.  Having identified fully with this statement I took note of the top – but forgot to pin it, favourite it etc.  To cut a long story short, on Sunday I finally remembered that it is the Tova Tunic from Wiksten, so promptly ordered the pattern.  After a few very helpful email exchanges I received the pattern yesterday (I suspect my paypal email address had filtered it out).  Last night I printed it and did the jigsaw puzzle to fit the pattern together.  And tonight I cut it out and started sewing.  I had to stop when my overlocker blew a frizter valve – but I managed to repair the overlocker, so full steam ahead tomorrow to finish it.

I am happy with it so far, so here is a dodgy nighttime shot of the work in progress!  If it all works out then I will probably make another one in a different fabric – but I thought that this bright orange could work well – and as a bonus will help me to stand out in the crowd at the music festival so my friends can find me!!

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I have a bunch of other things I am keen to tackle – my girls have both asked for Kindle covers (they both emailed me from their bedroom to put in an ‘order’ – I am not sure whether to be amused or horrified), a lovely work colleague has ordered a retro styled apron, and I would like another top and skirt to take away to Bluesfest, plus a bag to carry my money, glasses, etc at Bluesfest (in a futile attempt to save my back by lightening the load – which is futile given that I will still stand/dance etc for hours at a time).  But given that there is only a week until I am on the road I have no idea what will actually be achieved!  I will keep you informed no doubt!