27th April 2017…… Bluebells galore

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On our journeys on the bus to Looe, we noticed a little pull-in, only big enough to hold two cars, on the edge of the bluebell woods, so today we decided to use it to explore. The woods were absolutely magnificent, covered in bluebells from top to bottom. Someone had even thought them so worthy of a prolonged look that they had brought a couple of picnic chairs and left them on the slope.

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As nearly always the bluebells were accompanied by wild garlic which makes for a nice contrast. Both plants are interesting. Bluebells, at least the native English variety, are under threat from Spanish bluebells which can spread very quickly from gardens and from fly-tipping…luckily all those we see seem to be native. They are a sign of ancient woodland, as at Binley Woods where we used to live, so well worth further investigation. The same applies to wild garlic which is suffusing our lanes at the moment. I have used it to wrap fish but have just read that it is quite easy to confuse with three other plants which are very poisonous (Note…be very careful!).

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On emerging from the woods at the top of the hill we consulted a map and walked across the fields to Tredinnick, a beautiful little village where we noticed a cottage for sale (further research showed it was £200,000 not a bad price but small and cottagey and with no garden to speak of). We walked along the lane and descended to another pretty village Treworgey which seems to be a village solely of holiday cottages and adjacent riding school. In fact it was a lovely location with the best children’ playground ever seen…we availed ourselves of the adult swinging chair to admire sandpits, ride-on tractors, skittle alley, wendy house, secret willow walk, pens for rabbits, sheep and much else, and all with a view down to the river near Looe,  we were very impressed. The cottages are the sort we would like to stay in too.

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The walk back through the woods was even more spectacular with bluebells, and we

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were so glad that we had done this short walk. On the way home, just 5 minutes drive, we called in at Duloe church which we had never visited before. The church is mainly fifteenth century, with of course Victorian restoration, but the tower is of the thirteenth century and quite unusual. It leans too (not as much as Pisa, but noticeable!). Inside there is the Coleshull chantry chapel added to the north of the chancel and it is ‘one of the glories of Cornish church architecture’. A rood screen was added between nave and chancel, and the chapel was provided with a parclose screen. The chapel still contains the tomb with recumbent effigy of Sir John Coleshull, for whose soul the masses celebrated in this chantry chapel were intended to intercede.  However, worthy Sir John no longer gazes up into the eyes of an angel (an otherwise unexplained corbel below the arch between chancel and chapel where the tomb was designed to stand).  The arch is carved with vines and grapes, crowned roses, angels, family coats of arms, tiny statue niches and even an upside down green man.

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16th April 2017…. Our daughter’s wedding

 

20170416_140415.jpgA very special date for Frances and me. We were, as may be imagined, at first surprised when Katherine said that the zoo was on the short list for their wedding, but on visiting it with her and her partner Nasar we saw what a splendid venue it would be. And so it came to pass.mansion-house-edin-zoo-4.jpg

The wedding took place in the Georgian house on top of Corstophine Hill now known as the Mansion house which stands within Edinburgh Zoo but has exceptional southerly views of Edinburgh and the hills around. It was given a baronial makeover in 1891 when it was occupied by the Macmillan family. The house and the estate were sold to the Scottish Zoological Society 1912 for £17000.  Enough though of its history, suffice to know it really was an exceptional location for a wedding.

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The ceremony took place in the Macmillan room which is so beautiful, it is like being in the middle of a Wedgwood fairy cake. The day dawned without rain and being there early I helped usher in the guests from the Members entrance to the house, thus starting to get to know guests I had never met before. The actual ceremony started with Nasar on double bass as you see here with Malik (senior man at the Guardian).

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I then proudly led in Katherine and Aiisha (who proved to be very much part of the ceremony).

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And proceedings began with Nasar very much the proud head of a beautiful family. He looked spectacular in his outfit….and Aiisha’s plaster on her head didn’t show too much! The ceremony was delightful with readings and a children’s story, exchanging of vows (and rings), and everyone was entranced. I don’t think there was any way in which it could have been nicer.

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We then had photos of course (the photographer being particularly good at coaxing the results he wanted). And then to the lunch. Because I was giving the first speech I was very nervous (but then again I found out that everyone else giving speeches was too!……surprising really as we were all used to talking in public ). I couldn’t really eat, so I can’t say I enjoyed the meal, but what I did enjoy at the meal was meeting all of Nasar’s extended family and Katherine and Nasar’s friends. Here are Sophia, Khaliq (senior at the BBC) and Samira.

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And here Nasar’s mum Ruqia whom I got on with very well indeed. She was at our table of course so I got plenty of opportunity to talk.

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Judy was here from Spain and enjoyed herself very much I think. So F. and her sister have a combined age of around 150 years…looking at this pic, you would have to say….absolutely unbelievable!

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And David and Jennifer looked the part and enjoyed theirselves.

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The dining room looked magnificent and beautiful views outside only added to the effect.  And it was lovely to find a present at my place which, when I opened it, proved to be ‘A Daughter’s Love’ by one of my favourite historians John Guy. What more could I ask?

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The Meer brothers are famous for wandering around chatting rather than sitting down and eating, so we were never short of an interesting conversation! This time it is Malik (second most senior person in NHS London..what a responsibility).

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Cutting the cake was a joint effort as you see, and later on there was another cake (this time composed of cheeses).

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We were not short of things to do as there was an Indian dancing demonstration which then led to lessons. This went down very well. There was a disco. There was an opportunity for some people to see the famous Edinburgh pandas. And there were lots of areas where one could just sit down and chat to other people. Oh and I forgot to mention the magician (he was great), and the face painting, and probably other things I have forgotten.

All in all a memorable occasion. A beautiful wedding, and a chance to meet Nasar’s very high-flying family, a remarkable lot indeed. We hope we see more of them….

My speech went something as follows…

“I’ve read that the ‘Father of The Bride’ speech is ‘usually seen as a bit of a warm-up act, and something to be endured rather than enjoyed’. And that it’s really best to leave it to the Best Man to lay into the Groom. I don’t intend to let either of these two things worry me.

So my first pleasant task is to thank you all for coming especially if you knew who would be making the speeches. I’d particularly like to acknowledge the two mothers, of Bride and Groom, and in the plethora of success and achievement that Nasar and his brothers and sisters represent, I’d like to draw their attention to the fact that their mother Mrs Meer…Ruqia (Ruh-kay-ah) is undoubtedly wiser than the lot of them, and if they ever need any advice I am sure they know that’s where to go…..

Now as you might expect Katherine and Nasar are not letting this occasion go by without getting an academic paper out of it….luckily, or perhaps unluckily, I’ve been able to find out the title….I accessed their many daily emails to each other…The Title is….

Zoos Myth and Reality : the prevention of neurogenesis diminished social avoidance, how a postmodern, poststructuralist, dissimilar affirmative social event predicates the anticipated epistemological repurcussions and the deeper structuralist conceptualization of coupling constants

or in other words the implications of holding a marriage in a zoo (and the long-term consequences thereof).

So I thought I’d better warn you about that, and also, for those of you giving speeches, you need to know that Katherine and Nasar are awarding a substantial Prize for the best speech. Which is why in this sea of blue I have opted for the stand-out grey look so that you’ll remember me when it comes to the voting…..

Now, here’s a strange thing. When Katherine first asked me to say a few words today, this was followed, this is not a word of a lie, by 2 or 3 follow-up telephone calls in which she said ‘Dad, are you sure you want to do this?’! I can only assume of course that she had been reading what the form was on these occasions, and that fathers, usually with some ease I should think, bring up a few embarrassing incidents from their offspring’s childhood. Well….far be it from me to mention things like the time when she made her little brother eat a chillie, or on another occasion a dog biscuit (telling him it was really nice, and that we eat them all the time) or, and I can hardly bear to mention this, when we took our little dog who couldn’t swim to the River and she forced him in, and when he swam to the nearest point to get out, she made him do it again repeatedly to the point where he eventually jumped in himself. No, I’m definitely not the type to drag these things up.

Now if you talk to either of our children about their upbringing, it’s not long before you’ll hear the sob story that they haven’t got ‘a real home’. I realise now, after feeling distraught for years about that, that what they mean is they have had lots of homes. In fact Katherine had had 10 different homes by the time she was 13. But what our children don’t realise is that we moved home often for a very good reason….which I can now demonstrate. Now just copy what I say. Mamma Mia. That’s Yorkshire for ‘Mum, I’m home…’ So now you see the reason for the moves…we were protecting our children from developing a strong regional accent, and we have thereby accelerated their careers.

Anyhow, I’d rather dwell on the present and say how proud we are of the person Katherine has developed into (despite us), and of her success. Her Mum is going to describe her in a few words shortly so I don’t want to steal her thunder. I know the recent round of musical Chairs didn’t quite end up with two Chairs and Nasar, the competitive person that he is, ended up with the last Chair available, but it’s only a matter of time before K gets an even more prestigious Chair, and so Nasar will have to look to his laurels.

Now I think I’ve finished my Introduction, and am getting to the meat of the speech so that brings me onto Nasar. How can I describe him in a few words? Best not to try I suppose. Nasar, the Buffy fan, the man who can shed tears whilst watching ’Titanic’, the man who is famously decisively indecisive, the man who decided to sell all their furniture on eBay and start from scratch to fit their new flat and then at the last minute decided he didn’t want to sell any of it (bar the one item that was so ugly that it didn’t have any bids anyway) and had then to make frantic efforts to ensure he was the highest bidder on all the furniture (which resulted in Katherine and he paying eBay to retain their existing furniture)……

I do sometimes question whether Nasar has the full sense of humour that our family has (very necessary in our family)..so look we’ll give him a little test…Nasar, What’s the difference between a hippo and a Zippo? One’s very heavy and the other’s a little lighter!
More testing jokes for Nasar here…..

Censored bit here!!

……… No, I do think Nasar’s strengths outweigh his failings (although it’s a close-run thing). Obviously, we were delighted on first meeting Nasar that Katherine had chosen well, and we remain so. He does have many strengths (I won’t embarrass him by listing them), and we both love him to bits. We love them both and so

TOAST ……here’s to the future of Nasar, Katherine and their growing family….”

Could I remind those following me (I’ve been allowed a little leeway) that The Gettysburg address was only ten sentences long. Thank you…………….

This epic was followed by my (mother of the bride’s) short speech!  I described how Judy and I first met Nasar at the flat in Alvanlea terrace.  This very polite young man who had only recently joined Katherine and assorted flatmates immediately offered us a cup of tea, which we gratefully accepted.  Nasar and I  have been enjoying our tea ever since – it is very special as we both prefer tea out of proper china cups so Nasar brings out the tea service with tea pot, small plates (there is always cake)  cups and saucers and milk jug every time we visit.  I also mentioned how beautiful Katherine was as a baby and how proud I am that she has become such a beautiful woman.  Of course, Aiisha is now the most beautiful child in the world and she is lucky to have such wonderful parents.

 

 

 

 

 

The garden in April..

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Our garden must have been ‘designed’ by the previous owners as a Spring garden, like many in Cornwall, as it does seem to be at its best in April and May with plenty of Rhodedendrons and Azaleas.

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And beyond the well there is a naturalised area with specimen shrubs and trees which looks particularly good now too with the star magnolia out and the acer coming on. There are plenty of Azaleas too.

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So one of our contributions is to plant some lovely pots up and to plant about 250 bulbs, many Summer-flowering, so that should help maintain interest. I’ve also created 2 new borders at the front of the house with a selection of shrubs such as Pieris which is one of my favourites and always reminds me of the Lake District where it seems to thrive. I’ve also planted white flowering bulbs there. We’ll see how we get on.

 

7th and 8th April 2017…Carbis Bay Hotel

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We took the train to Carbis Bay for a Mother’s Day treat from David and Katherine (and me) which was for a one-night stay in the magnificent Carbis Bay Hotel and a meal in its restaurant. We arrived early to make the most of our time, and having dumped our case we first had 20170407_111909.jpga drink and a read of the paper in the Clubhouse overlooking the  private beach and then walked into St Ives – a pretty walk along the coastal path. The day was warm and sunny and, as whenever we visit this area, the whole experience was spectacular…where on earth would we rather be?! The whole  of St Ives bay is one long beach really, stretching miles, and in the pic below F. is looking towards Godrevy lighthouse its little island separated by the narrowest of margins from the point. It is said to have inspired Virginia Woolf, author of To the Lighthouse – although she locates the lighthouse in her story in the Hebrides. The actual ‘light’ is now not on top of the tower but on the adjacent rock, and is solar-powered and controlled from Trinity House in Essex! If there is one job I have always imagined myself doing  it is lighthouse keeper…doing good, tucked away in a safe place in dangerous conditions, and with no-one to bother you, marvellous.

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The walk is mainly alongside the railway line and one of the high points of  it is to

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look at all the expensive houses built into the sea cliffs and imagine what it would be like to own one. Well, one can but dream. As St Ives comes into view you first encounter 20170407_121146.jpgPorthminster beach which despite it being holiday season was uncrowded for a lot of its length. Here we are walking down past the kitchen garden of the much acclaimed Porthminster Cafe and Restaurant. We had a quick look at the menu which seemed very reasonable indeed, but decided to opt for our all-time favourite further on. The tide was out so the harbour beach was more extensive than we usually see it and with boats moored in the bay it looked a most inviting scene.
20170408_114727.jpgHowever no boating for us. We wandered through the shops and then past (and sometimes into) galleries in Downalong before ending up at Porthmeor Beach Cafe in the shadow of the Tate for our usual tasty and reasonably-priced and very well-cooked lunch. Looking at the surfers and beginner surfers, and the variety of bodies on the beach from the attractive to the obese, and the many ways in which families interacted, provided our in-meal
20170407_135450 2.jpginterest and amusement, and watching the Lifeguard hard at work was reassuring (for someone). We took a slightly different route back, booked into our room and then spent some time enjoying the local private beach (although anyone can visit). Having our free pre-dinner glass of wine was a pleasant experience in the conservatory, overlooking the sea. The barman was particularly friendly, told us his name was Martin, liked visiting Looe, and said that, as there was a wedding on, if we gave him a wave he would see to us, no problem. Most helpful (unlike most barmen I come across!). Dinner can only be described as delicious. Amuse bouche and three courses….all without exception tasty, beautifully-presented, and not over-facing. I was worried whether we might be getting second-best as the wedding had taken over the main restaurant where we were due to eat, but not a bit of it. The room was lovely overlooking the sea and the sunset, and everything was first-class. We retired reasonably early ready for bed after our walk and the sea air. The room was a garden room, overlooking the car park and garden, beautifully presented and with an excellent en-suite. Having seen the superior rooms overlooking the sea with private balconies, our only regret about the stay was that we could not have one (probably all booked for the wedding and too expensive for us!).

20170408_112555.jpgAfter a great breakfast on Saturday we went for a swim in the supposedly heated outdoor pool. Luckily we were early and bagged sun loungers. The swim was ‘invigorating’ but the jacuzzi afterwards was hot as could be and utterly relaxing. Oh, to have a jacuzzi! Changed, we walked again to St Ives and this time slummed it in the lower, beachside cafe of Porthmeor which we had not used before. Incredibly cheap prices, and all good. Wandering the back streets of St Ives is almost like being in Spain, 20170408_133113.jpgdozens of fishermen’s cottages virtually all converted into holiday accommodation. On our way back, we hovered at the door of the St Ives Arts Club where they were mounting an exhibition. Luckily for us we were invited in although it was not officially open. We saw some interesting work and one painting in particular which we both liked very much. We have been looking for the best part of a year for a painting to hang in the living room to ‘finish it off’, and were looking to spend up to about £500. This painting was £280 and just the right size. We bought it. The organisers then had the problem of filling the gap. It was rather cumbersome carrying it back along the coastal path, but well worth it. A last couple of hours was spent sunbathing on the very edge of the sea, where for half an hour we watched a friendly seal very close in to the beach indeed…if we had waded in we could have touched him. A lovely experience. All in all a great couple of days.

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5th April 2017…Lantic Bay

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After dropping off two prints to be framed in Looe, as it was such a great day, we decided to explore two beaches which we had seen signs for on our bus trip to Polruan. After parking in the NT car park on top of the hill we then decided not to proceed to Lantivet as I was wearing my best shoes and didn’t fancy getting them dirty. Instead we drove along the coastal road to the next NT car park at Lantic Bay which seemed better for 20170405_142525.jpgwalking. What a treat! A short walk along an enclosed path by the side of the road with views of St Wyllow a church on our list to visit because of its setting, led us to the top of Pencarrow head. As soon as you are above the peninsula you can see Lantic Bay. This features in a walk on the splendid site IWalkCornwall. Here is what they say…. The crescent shape of Lantic Bay shelters it from the wind and its white, sandy beaches face south towards the sun. Within the bay, the main beach – Great Lantic Beach – is accessible via a flight of steps. At low tide, this joins to the other beaches in the bay – Little Lantic Beach on one side and some small coves on the other. As the tide comes in, these are cut off and there is no path up from them, so care should be taken in exploring them. We did the walk right around the headland, about 1 mile I suppose, and got brilliant views of the beaches plus far-flung views to East and West, Devon one way and Roseland Peninsula the other. They really were quite spectacular. There is a convenient bench, as so often, at the head and there we sat taking in the views for quite some time. We didn’t actually walk down the very steep path to the beach as F. felt we needed our walking sticks. On the way back we looked down on two boats moored near Little Lantic beach which was otherwise inaccessible. It must be really, really nice to have that freedom…one can but dream!20170405_133759.jpg20170405_140429.jpg

The drive home was through countryside that seemed remote and totally unspoilt (you sometimes don’t get this feeling in Cornwall), and was a lovely way to end the day.

4th April 2017…Fragile Lives

Unknown-1.jpegJust finished ‘Fragile Lives’ all about the life and career of heart surgeon Stephen Westaby. I do so admire people who fight against ‘the system’, and Stephen certainly did that turning Oxford into a world centre of excellence. He often saved people’s lives with innovative thinking and inventions and this was sometimes against procedure and ethics committees and so on and so forth. If there was a life to save, he saved it. Who can argue with that? Hospital management apparently! Stephen broke the mold throughout his life…when things got tough during his career he sat before Churchill’s burial place in Woodstock, the village where he lived, and communed with the great man, a nice touch. ‘Never surrender’ that’s how he lived his life. Some reading this book might think he is arrogant (he admits this) but give me arrogance any day when I’m on the operating table, ready to be opened up like a spatchcocked chicken (as I have been!).

2nd April 2017…Spring flower show at Bocconoc

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A visit to the Cornwall Garden Society Spring Flower Show at Boconnoc. A beautiful day, a beautiful location and an excellent flower show where we bought rather more plants than perhaps we should for our two new borders. Boconnoc was surprisingly near to where we live, and as the satnav sent us down back ways all the way there it was a very enjoyable drive. When we entered the grounds there were plenty of other cars taking the winding and long drive through the grounds, past the obelisk, to the field where we parked. Boconnoc is the usual story of a beautiful house run down somewhat, handed over to the Americans during the War and then not lived in for 30 years. The pictures of the interior as it then was are to me distressing. It was actually rescued by the heroic efforts of the Fortescue family, but why had the authorities let it and so many other priceless pieces of our heritage get like this. They have plenty of powers to serve enforcement orders and take various routes to saving things, but they very rarely use them. Why? Thank God for the Fortescues and their like. The restoration is immaculate. We will visit 20170402_143031.jpgwhen we can see inside but we managed to go inside the chapel and saw the historic copy of Charles 1’s letter to the people of Cornwall thanking them for their support during the Civil War.

The history of the house is fascinating. Do see the Historic England site. It was actually bought at one point by Thomas Pitt (1653-1726), the former Governor of Madras, who had sold the Pitt Diamond, a gem he had acquired in India, to Philippe, Duc d’Orleans and Regent of France, for £125,000. It was the proceeds of the diamond sale that enabled him to buy and improve the house. The diamond itself is on display in the Louvre. And of course the house then became associated with three Prime Ministers. And everyone except the new owners the Fortescues were happy to see it fall to rack and ruin…unblelievable!

The first year in Cornwall…

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Using our bus passes.

One of our objectives in retirement was to make as much use of our bus passes as possible, are we doing this? The answer yes. Here are the buses we have used so far….

73 This is the bus that goes to Liskeard one way and Looe and Polperro the other. We use it to go to Liskeard to catch other buses, or occasionally to the station, and to go to the doctors or to go shopping. We frequently go to Looe for fresh fish and odds and ends shopping from the Coop, and to do the walk to Hannafore point and back. We also catch it to near Talland and do the walk to Polperro where we catch the bus home again.

11 This is the fast bus to Plymouth, just under an hour.

11a This goes from Liskeard to Padstow where we often have fish and chips at Rick Stein’s, and walk along the beaches. The journey is about one and a half hours so it is a day out.

71 This is the longer route to Plymouth from Liskeard, about 2 hours. We have only used it once so far and there was a diversion along the coastal bit so it wasn’t quite such a spectacular journey as we imagined. Nevertheless it calls at such nice seaside places as Seaton and Downderry as well as the lovely village of St Germans which is where Port Eliot is situated.

74 This took us to Callington where a short wait enabled us to catch the 79 to Tavistock, a historic market town pleasant and interesting enough for a few hours visit. We caught the 45 back to Plymouth and then the 11 back to Liskeard. All of this needs quite a bit of planning!

The Stagecoach Gold bus to Totnes. This we caught from Plymouth, an enjoyable ride on a rather luxurious double decker with leather seats and wi-fi. We know Totnes well and were happy to reacquaint ourselves on a couple of occasions.

There are more possibilities for us to go to places we haven’t explored yet such as Kingsbridge and Bude for example. But considering we pay nothing on the buses unless we travel before 9.30am, it is a wonderful thing for us. We do hope this perk remains for some while yet!

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Using our train passes.

Although you do have to purchase the Senior rail cards (we got a particularly good price for 3 years), they do offer great value. And of course we are just 5 minutes away from the mainline station at Liskeard. Whenever we visit the station I never cease to be amazed that you can get on a train here and get off in places as far away as London or Penzance or Manchester or Glasgow……..all from little old Liskeard. So we hardly feel cut off. We have used the cards to go by train to Exeter, Penzance and St Ives, and on our local beautiful Looe Valley Line (our local station at the bottom of the hill is pictured), so I’m sure we’ll get good use out of them.