Wednesday, 31 October 2007

boo!

Halloween has arrived. We had a little impromptu apple bobbing last night while the kids were getting their haircut. Who needs playstations? A bowl of water and some windfalls kept 6 kids occupied for about an hour. I managed not to burn the sausages and found some chocolate covered apples in asda for 40p each - bargain.

I have mixed feelings about halloween particularly as my son has been invited to join a merry gang of trick or treaters this evening. It's all very American and I think it's begging and what's worse, begging dressed like a mini-goth. I'd much rather they all sat in our garden and terrified each other in the dark instead of mooching about in the line of cars containing tired commuters. I shall see how the land lies this afternoon.

In the meantime I'm just about to sort out my wireless connection to broadband. Yes, I am the only woman in England still on dial-up and yes, it annoys me and yes, I've tried to sort it out before. It's my technological equivalent of ropey cuticles. I see it every day and every day I put up with it and every day I ignore it. Just think how chirpy I'm going to be if it works. More likely, I suspect, it won't and I will be distinctly unchirpy.

I'm back at college today too but only for this afternoon. I'm looking forward to actually working up a project and have had ideas flitting through my head for the last fortnight. What I need to do now is put those ideas on paper and preferably not looking like a scrapbook. I'm intrigued to find out what the course will be like now we've done our taster sessions.

I also did a wee walk this morning. Since my birthday, the pounds have started to creep back on again. As the house is stuffed full of wine, chocolate, cheese and nuts I am trying to be lenient on myself. Unfortunately this leniency is quickly descending into pound gathering. It must stop. So - herbal tea this morning and a 30 minute stomp. A good step.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

40 + 1

It's a week since the day after my party. It's windy, wet and wild out there, J's watching 'Match of the Day', G & E are still snoring and I'm enjoying a bit of herbal tea and the peace and quiet of this Sunday morning.

Last weekend was crisp, bright and sunny. My birthday is often like that. It was like that on our wedding day and I roasted in my cream wool suit.

So - projectforty? Now I am forty, do I carry on? I think so. I think the format will change a little. A project review is required to see how I measured up and I think some sustainability issues will have to be examined. It would be good to continue with the weight loss strategy, particularly in the run up to Christmas and the college trip to Paris. I might not be allowed to leave my room if I don't look suitably groomed.

I've been to Paris several times, the last time on honeymoon. I noticed, even then, that the levels of feminine grooming were phenomenal. I'm sure this does not extend to the suburbs but the city of Paris demands a level of beauty and perfection of its inhabitants, however temporary. I'm planning, if all else fails, to hide behind my handbag and hope that its status protects me. I will also need a proper coat, clean shoes and make up every day. I read once that it's a woman's responsibility to present herself in a way that does not offend others, especially as she ages.

With the new projectforty in mind. Here is my first rant. Yesterday I read of a man who, instead of helping a woman, abused her in the street in a way I can't bring myself to describe. The woman died after he'd gone inside to get ready for a night out. The paper said he was imprisoned for three years. Now I'm forty, I can write - what is the world coming to? How can I live in a country where people behave like that? How can I sit in my comfy chair, planning where I'm going for my next holiday and what my kids will get for Christmas when some woman has died because some s*&t for brains b&*"tard doesn't know humanity from his elbow? I just don't get it.

Friday, 26 October 2007

10 reasons I love my new handbag

- I could buy it (thanks to my parents’ generosity)
- It’s from Paul Smith (favourite British designer)
- It’s beautifully soft
- It has those little buttons on the base like proper handbags do
- It isn’t from Asda, Tesco, New Look or Marks & Spencer
- It’s shiny
- It’s made in England (fabulous carbon footprint – darling)
- It came in a wonderful Paul Smith carrier bag
- The sales lady was very pleasant
- It looks like a proper handbag

I never knew there were so many handbags in the world. We visited Liberty, Selfridges AND John Lewis during the quest. Liberty has to be the most beautiful shop. I’m obviously lacking in retail opportunities as I felt myself gasp in some of the rooms at the sheer number of gorgeous clothes and objects. The vintage section contained some of the most exquisite beaded frocks I’ve only ever seen in magazines. I would love to work there – just for a week or two. I expect it’s hard on the feet.

Selfridges was just as how I remember it – full of glitz and sharp. I’ve never really enjoyed Selfridges as much as Liberty, or even Harrods which I enjoy just because it’s Harrods.

So – I have the handbag. The bling is next. We tried to go back to the jewellers who made our wedding rings. Love ‘em , they were useless. This is the marital birthday present – a ring. This quest is likely to last quite a bit longer than the one for the handbag. Be warned.

I have felt a little deflated after last week’s excitements. I suppose that’s why people who have parties continue to have them. I’m enjoying being back home though and looking at all the wonderful parcels and presents and flowers that arrived. I’m a very lucky fortysomething.

We have another party lined up already though – E’s. A joint Harry Potter party with one of her best friends from school. I’ve already bought the broomsticks. Asda’s very good for those.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

done and dusted - Part I

What a laugh! The birthday, the party, the trip - all done. I've had a ball and been thoroughly spoilt. The preparations for the rugby took five men eight hours on the Saturday. Everything else was sorted by Jill & I in about four. The DJ was a paragon of assertiveness - he wouldn't go on the stage, he played three of my favourite forty tracks and refused to turn off the novelty crap he insisted on playing that I'd asked him not to. Everyone else thought he was marvellous. I'm never booking him again.

We had a little dance, a little sing and didn't eat enough cheese. We came home with 4 lumps of stilton, all the lancashire and three quarters of a whole brie. I spent most of Sunday persuading family members to take some of it with them.

I received wonderful, thoughtful presents from so many people and have a two page long list of thank yous to write. I was overwhelmed with friends' and family's generosity and am looking forward to enjoying them - especially the pooping penguin so carefully chosen by B.

There were fireworks and a cake and sort of speeches by G and at one point everyone seemed to be dancing.

A good night.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Let's get this party started....

Insomnia strikes but that's OK. I'm enjoying making a list for later. Everyone is starting to arrive and I had a wonderful day yesterday. College was fine - almost inspiring. We also found out more about the Paris trip. The only drawback? Sharing rooms. I am going to pay a supplement to sleep by myself. I can't spend a week waking up every night. That won't do at all. Anyway it's 10 - 15 December which means I've got a few extra weeks to get Paris-skinny.

Our timetable is also more structured which means I can plan some 40-something (there, I said it) exercise in. I could go on a toning table or perhaps get myself one of those bendy knee things to challenge my thighs. I'll have to have a look in the Sunday supplements tomorrow.

My saintlike and stoic approach to the other thing that's happening tonight is definitely wearing off. I think it's because more 'men who watch rugby' have arrived and their armchair sport bonding has begun. I thought I better make the effort to try and feel something about the rugby, maybe even form an opinion on it but I just couldn't. I have no idea who is in our team, I keep having to remind myself who we're playing, it just leaves me numb. The only reason I hope we win is so that the gentlemen at my party don't sulk afterwards. I think they might dance more if JW does his foot thing. But then if they win, I imagine there'll be lots of burly bear hugging and singing. It's a worry.

Thank you, dear posters, for posting. In answer to the nagging query, I don't nag according to an article I read because I don't make my husband lists and I don't repeat any request within fifteen minutes. I just take umbrage and sulk if I don't get my own way immediately - it works for us!

Did I mention it was our wedding anniversary yesterday too? 12 years. Silk and satin. I gave G a lino print that I'd done during my course and he gave me a saucy little halterneck number. Not sure the shoulders are up to that but I'll give it a whirl!

If you're not coming to my party, I expect you to at least, find a copy of 'Dancing Queen' and pop it on your stereo for a quick dance later today. Get your groove on....

Friday, 19 October 2007

I’ve made it….

I’m 40. The clock has moved around a gazillion times since I popped out at the Firs Maternity Home and I’m 40. I hate to say it but I feel fab! I wanted a wee mid-life crisis. Maybe if you’re reading this, you think I’m having one but I’ve enjoyed my peri-fortiness.

Of course, my woollyback pessimism won’t allow me to think it will be all plain sailing. There is bound to be an episode of woefulness. Perhaps it will come when I’ve run out of lists. Perhaps lists are the secret to happiness.

I’ve actually started making lists of things I have done instead of things I need to do and it’s amazing how it’s shifted my perception of ‘stuff’. I see that I’ve achieved things instead of looking at a list of uncompleted tasks, delving into the doldrums of too-busy-ness and then somehow losing the list.

Writing a list of the day’s bits and pieces, completed, is a positive way to end the day instead of making another list of stuff for tomorrow.

I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone and having my family around me over the next few days. I’m especially looking forward to accidentally snipping the plug off the telly at about 7.45pm tomorrow night.

I now have a room full of pretzels and nuts and olives – oh my! Tesco kindly brought my party at about 10.30pm last night.

I had a wonderful time in London yesterday. The couture exhibition at the V&A was amazing and I’m going to do some research on the couture houses during the second world war. A few of them started during the devastation and drama then. They also did a weird fashion dolly exhibition in the late 1940s which I’d like to look into.

I bought loads in the V&A shop, including a Christmas tree with baubles already attached, and then went to stroke handbags in Harrods. I think I’m going to go for Mulberry but can’t decide to be sensible and go for classic shapes or this season with a purple patent number. What a decision to have to take. I also saw Martine McCutcheon, twittering about losing a map or something. Handbags and celebs....

So, anyway – happy birthday to meeheeeeee!!!!!

Projectforty won’t end, I’m enjoying it too much.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

things i should do after tomorrow

- pack away my parka
- put aside dreams about being 'discovered'
- embrace peptides
- watch nature programmes
- sniff about reality TV
- eat handfuls of nuts instead of custard creams
- cleans, tone & moisturise day AND night
- start saying 'i'll just pop round'
- have a proper shoe cleaning box
- tidy the greenhouse, the garage, the recycling room
- keep my car clean
- invest in a mac
- wear jaunty neck scarves
- stop reading unsuitable magazines
- start reading all of the Telegraph, not just the weekend section and the magazine
- recycle my hoodies
- ditto leggings
- start shopping at East, Country Casuals and Phase Eight instead of New Look
- exercise because it's good for my bones, not because it's going to make me thin
- make sure I make my next hair appointment straight away
- start nagging my husband
- embarass my children more often
- start saying 'terrific' and 'you are a card' and 'where are my tenaladypants'

Got to go. Need to get to college.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

why i love johnny wilkinson

- he's rather handsome
- he doesn't wear one of those silly hats when he plays rugby
- he's blonde
- he looks good in Hackett and that takes some doing
- he's going to inspire me to sing my best karaoke ever between the hours of 8 and 10pm on Saturday
- he has a mostly symmetrical face
- my son worships him
- he seems like a nice young man

48 hours of 30-ness left

I'm embracing spirituality now I'm nearly 40. The rugby situation is teaching me tolerance. My timely hacking cough and voice loss is teaching me humility. My escalating credit card bill is teaching me mathematics and through all this I am accepting my passage through the space continuum.

Ha! Got you! I've lost a stone, a stone, a stone. What's this taught me? I thought losing a bit of weight would be fantastic but it isn't, I just feel less fat. I don't look like Kristin Scott Thomas after all. I bet she probably wants curly hair just like me anyway. I'm pleased, however, that I've taken a stone off rather than put one on which is what usually happens when I go on a health and fitness campaign.

In relation to 40-grooming. Eyebrows? Tick. Hair? Tick. Cuticles? Not a tick in sight. I just don't have the time unless I go today and if I go today it's very unlikely it will last until Thursday, nevermind Saturday. A bit of clear polish and a shuzz with the emery board will sort them.

I had a long chat with the DJ for my party yesterday. He was most impressed with my list of sad-old-lady songs and started talking about how he'd been doing this 6 days a week for the last 15 years. I had exactly the same chat with a DJ a couple of weeks ago. What is it about them?

I also had my assessment for college on Monday. I missed all last week which was making me re-dream 'why I left college last time' dreams. Luckily I took most of my stuff with me first thing Monday morning and found out my slot was at noon. I've been gently persuaded to keep textiles within my project but not its entire focus. Apparently I have some facility with fine art. That's news to me although I had a great time making my first attempts.

So...after having a short discussion about how the briefing for the project at 10am ON MY BIRTHDAY was more important than cuticles (see above), I've got to go in on Friday to have my studio space allocated -studio space (!) - and me, from Wigan. I'm not sure the head of art had discussed whether a student's 40th birthday manicure treat should take precedence over his course before. It wasn't my best move - but he laughed.

Thursday I'm off to London on a study trip. I've worked out that I could potentially get 5 hours shut-eye on the coach. I'm praying for a proper coach not a mini-bus. I don't think I could cope with arriving at the Dior exhibition at the V&A in a mini-bus from Swindon. I might have to get off at the tube station and walk. We're also going to the RA so I'm praying for a wee diversion up to Liberty to have a little stroke of the handbags. G's delighted as I won't have to make him follow me around an exhibition of sticky out skirts next week.

He came home with a massive new telly yesterday. I think sales might be up this week. Come on Engerland!

Sunday, 14 October 2007

rugger b*gger, they're through

Since blogging on Thursday I've listened to a brass band, made smoothies, sorted felt, visited the theatre, had a pizza and a curry in the same day, got a little squiffy, stood on a football touch line and cleaned the house. I've also learned that England are through to the Rugby World Cup.

Why is this significant, you may ask? Well, the final of said inconsequential tournament just happens to start at the same time as my party. This is not good news. I am expecting 40 or so gentleman at my party. That means there will be 40 or so grumbling, resistant gentleman at my party if I don't arrange something so that they can watch the final. It also means that there will be 40 or so stressed friends of the female persuasion, telling off their partners because I've decided, somewhat ridiculously it seems, to celebrate my birthday on such a momentous and masculine occasion.

I have decided to remain stoic about this. G will organise a television and there is a separate room at the hall where it can be installed and half of the people coming to my party are welcome to watch it while drinking and doing whatever they do when they watch it. Thinking about it, this will result in greater capacity for dancing around handbags and potentially a little bit of stupendously diva-like karaoke.

The eyebrows have been plucked and their hair has been 'done'. The nibbles are ordered and the wine is being delivered tomorrow night. Progress is being made on all fronts. I just can't believe that by this time next week, it will all be over and I'll be in my pyjamas with a raft of happy memories and sore feet.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

40 - 8 days

Traumatised - moi? I'm up, again, at an unearthly hour. It's OK though, I've done the playlist for my party, tidied the kitchen, sorted out some paperwork and added to my college sketchbooks.

Book club was good last night. There were 7 of us. I ate the most crisps, as usual and drank the most wine, as usual. So much for purity in all things! In my defence, I'm now eating like I used to 20 years ago. Yesterday I had soup at John Lewis (because you have to), a chunk of cheese, a banana and a bowl of cereal at tea time. I managed an apple in the car on the way back from shopping. No wonder the shiraz got straight to the point.

I often wonder if our book club is the same as others. We manage to choose pretty good books between us but it's quite hard to discuss them without swerving off onto tangents. I think it makes us talk about things we wouldn't necessarily discuss as a group without a book in front of us. It's also interesting how we each approach the books and the interpretations we bring to them. There's always lots of nattering - that must be a good sign.

The next book is 'Surviving with Wolves', it's about WWII and that's all I know. I'm trying to finish 'The Art of Keeping Secrets', Eva Rice which I'm enjoying. I'm trying to work out where the house in it is as the main character talks about Westbury and Wootton Bassett quite a lot. It's all very 50s/early 60s with gloves and phonograms and monocles!

Today, I can't go to college as I'm getting my hair done and working, probably in the company of my daughter - again. Panic is now firmly embedded in my mind. Will I get to pursue textiles based on my skimpy sketchbook? Will I be allowed on an overlocker next term? Will I every master applique?

If you're reading this, leave me a comment or two......

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

the needle is out of the haystack

As a perfect mother, I took my coughing daughter shopping this morning. Instead of wrapping her in a duvet and letting her watch cbbc all morning, I dragged her to the mall, all the while watching out for EWOs - the people who take absences from school very seriously. She's been off school 3 days now.

I can do the first day. I called college, told them she was ill, did lots of domesticated nonsense. I managed the second day. I called college, told them she was ill again, did a bit more sorting out, got some work done. Third day? I woke up. I heard the coughs. I felt my eyebrows knit and my feet twitch. I've got a million things to do and I was facing another day in the house. Noooooooooooooooooooooooo!!

We went shopping. Only for a couple of hours. And we bought medicine. That's OK then. I'm off the hook.

I found the frock. Knee length, black and a nice shape with a bit of sparkle around the waistband. Shoes are next on the list. I also got a lovely rollery suitcase - red leather - get me!

Book club tonight. This month, we've mostly been reading 'The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox' - Maggie O'Farrell. It was very Maggie O'Farrell, very understated but satisfying. It had all the things I enjoy reading about but not actually participating in - dysfunctional families, a bit of insanity, tangled up relationships. Just like watching Eastenders really but more with proper words.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

40 - 10 days

I've had the first of the 'ha, ha, you're nearly 40' comments from my beloved brother-in-law. Mmmm. I rose above it, of course.

My daughter and I had a day at home today with sniffles, a hacking cough and the guinea pigs. We spent most of the day looking for a catalogue which seems to be the main source of her birthday presents. We couldn't find it. I keep losing things. And breaking things. G keeps forgetting things. It will be a miracle if we get to the 19th October in one whole piece.

I've realised how many things I've got to do for the party and I haven't got the time to do them. I've also got some work to complete, school stuff to do, an event to organise for Saturday morning and, give me strength, the PTA AGM to run on Thursday. I'm going to do it differently this year. Instead of preparing a list of what we've done, I'm going to ask the people who come along to prepare it at the meeting, partly so they realise what we have done. I keep dreaming that someone will stand up and say 'I want to be Chair'. This is not likely. It's my own fault though.

I would never have thought 20 years ago, that I'd be worrying about such a thing. I never thought I was going to get married, never mind having children and all the things I do now were not even on the radar. I always thought I'd have a wandering kind of life, 'flitting about' my Nan would have called it and I just don't. I'm glad I don't.

A little more weight has shifted and I'm slapping on the moisturiser. I read a great article about Beth Ditto. She's a flitter. For those not up with Sunday mag culture, she's a 15 stone, 26 year old, southern american dyke who fronts a band called Gossip. She's fab. I think she's fab because she doesn't give a flying stuff about being fatter than the average twig. She wears great clothes, has a mouth like a sewer and well-vocalised opinions on just about everything. As an old bird, I'd love to think she's some kind of portly beacon to all those worried, self-obsessed teenage girls who spend their lives obsessing about what everyone else thinks about them.

We all know that it's 'what's on the inside that counts' deep down. Unfortunately we're all so surface-orientated that it's easy to forget and look no further than the l'oreal moisturiser. It's so much easier to make assumptions about neighbours if what you see is their house, their car and their highlights. It's quick. We're all busy. It takes time to get to know other peoples' strengths and dreams. Who's got time for that?

Sunday, 7 October 2007

time running out

12 days to go and I'm in project panic mode. The cause? Photographs taken at my son's bowling birthday party on Saturday. They weren't pretty. They were wide. I think I can safely say I've blown the health & beauty aspect of projectforty. I need a radical, quick fix approach for the next 12 days.

Moisturisation, moisturisation, moisturisation is first on the list.

Followed by: rehydration, rehydration, rehydration.

And bringing up the rear: high heels under a long maxi dress with 3/4 length sleeves - thereby creating the illusion of height, ergo a slight slimming effect.

I have some hope in that I'm getting my hair cut this week and possibly my eyebrows sorted. Finally. This will hopefully improve the panic levels.

I knew this would happen. I am not great at sustained, level, persistent activity. I'm more your quick burst sort of girl. It's just the way things go. Unfortunately, the outward manifestation of projectforty is my weak spot. I know that I've made huge changes over the last couple of months. It just doesn't look as if I have because my bottom still wobbles and my arms are as thick as Kate Moss's legs.

I'm still wrestling with the do I, don't I care question? Do I care that I look what I look like? If I cared that much, I presume I would do the persistent, consistent stuff that you need to do to look better. Do I care that I'm having a fab time and enjoying myself - do you know, I think I do.
I'm quite sure though that I'd think I was having a fabber time if looked more like Kristin Scott Thomas. I've always wanted to look like someone like her - angular, pale, poised. Like I've always wanted straight hair and the ability to say no.

Gardened today too. Very virtuous on the domestic/green goddess front but not so great for the cuticles. In fact, I think I've torn two of my nails off today. Acrylics here we come?

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Hurdle 1 - jumped

He's 10 now. All is well. I think he had a lovely day. We had some friends round for fajita tea and the chocolatey cake from Asda went down well. We've got the same cake for his party on Saturday - only bigger.

I had a day out in Bath yesterday. There were 3 in our party and we had a lovely time pootling about looking at lots of things. I managed to lose a whole carrier bag. That was a little dispiriting. I did buy lots of things in M&S so I've now got a nice range of things to return. I treated myself to a HUGE bag for college as it seems I need to take all sorts of things with me each day. I'm planning to customise it as it's very big and very black. I'm thinking felt flowers and pompoms. That will make a statement.

It's beautiful today and I have to go to Trowbridge for my final, final, final work meeting. Not that I'm getting paid. Me, being me, offered to go ages ago. Now I wish I was charging them a daily rate of course! I've even agreed to go to Westbury to pick up a couple of parcels. I must remember my sunglasses.

I've now got a huge pot of green veg soup on the go. I cooked it yesterday and am going to sample it when I get back from the meeting. I'm never sure about eating cabbage based foods when there may be some form of social activity afterwards. I accept cabbage's good qualities but it does kinda linger.

Back to college tomorrow - more ceramics. I'm just about to spend some time sorting out my sketchbooks. I need to find the pritt stick....

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

another milestone

I gave birth to my son 16 days before my 30th birthday, on 3rd October. I never thought I'd have children. I'd had a bit of an ectopic episode the previous year. I'll spare you the details.

He's 10 tomorrow. Ten. X. Dix. Zehn. TEN. How did that happen? He can't be. He went out to play with his mates on the football field at the weekend. By himself. Twice. Mrs 'laissez-faire, all-will-be-will, que sera sera' was a nervous wreck. I became uncontrollably grumpy and didn't like it at all. Not one bit. Ten. Pahhhhh. I keep thinking that in 10 years time he'll be at college drinking and having a good time with not a me in sight. That's not good either.

So...if I didn't have my little milestone to climb over, I've got his too. Oh, yes, and our wedding anniversary. We got married on my birthday in 1995, so that's 12 years this year. So many things to remember all in one month.

I've got the ingredients to make lots of healthy calorie-free soup. A friend was telling me about her juicing regime and it all sounded fabulous but a little cold. So, for the next few days, I will mostly be taking flasks of boiling hot green soup to college with me so that the temptation of the newly discovered bacon baps in the canteen just turns tail and slinks off.

College is still a blast. Ceramics on Monday was loverly. Lots of drawing and freedom to mess about. Printmaking today was marvellous. Lots of cutting and sticking and making textures. I still feel guilty that I'm allowed to go and spend 6 hours a day just messing. Some of my fellow students seem slightly upset about all sorts of things but I just can't be. £120 for a year's worth of creativity. Can't be bad.

Monday, 1 October 2007

really worried

There was a lot to do over the weekend. Two parties to get going, 3 sports matches and 2 sets of football training to squeeze in. We coped.

The parties were good. The first, to celebrate our local primary school's 25th anniversary seemed to be a great success. Loads of people turned up and there was a general air of festivity and jollity. The second, a disco for the adults to raise a bit of money was jolly too but not profitable enough. Never mind, we live and learn. We all had a bit of a dance though and got thoroughly silly to the end. I was reminded of several of the songs I do not wish to have at my party.

My party is now 18 days away. The activitiess of the weekend led me to lose another couple of pounds. So, if I'm very good, I'm on track to have lost a stone and a half by my birthday. The problem is I don't think it looks as if I have. My clothes are feeling a little less snug but I can't tell the difference visually. I was considering getting myself stretched out on a rack.

I have had a recommendation though for the hair do so I'll be calling today and getting an appointment to do something with my unruly mop. There's also the eyebrows to deal with. Am off to Bath on Wednesday so am going to look up brow bars when I've finished this and try and find someone who can tame them without making me look like I've walked into a shattered glass and cut my head open. It's great having sensitive skin.

Off to college today - ceramics. This, I expect means finding an object, drawing it and interpreting it in clay. We have a box of shells to rummage through which, frankly, is becoming a little tedious. I loved the drawing though and enjoyed being creative with pva and ink.

What to wear for pottery? It's a conundrum....