Monday, 31 May 2010

I’m on top of the world, looking down on creation

It was Bank Holiday today, but the children were at school so David and I took the opportunity to go for a walk.

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We started here

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And we went up

VLUU L310W L313 M310W / Samsung L310W L313 M310WAnd we went across snow 

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And we walked some more that was less up and more along 

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We were heading for this 

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The beginning of the view to the east 

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View to the west 

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Look at me!

VLUU L310W L313 M310W / Samsung L310W L313 M310WWhat am I doing up there?

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I had to sneak up on the edge so it didn’t move when I peeked over, ahem. 

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Loch Einich 

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T’ other end 

VLUU L310W L313 M310W / Samsung L310W L313 M310WBraeriach

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David was there too

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The views go on

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…and on

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…and on

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…and on

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…and on

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…and on!

I LOVED IT! This is my kind of hill. We walked up Carn Ban Mor, 1052m, and onto Sgor Gaoith, 1118m, my first munro.

And don’t I look happy?!

The weather was pretty good too.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Fancy birthday pants!

Today IS my birthday. And it's a happy one!
The fancy pants I got for my birthday from David are my new Marmot Scree Pants, which had their first outing on Monday up the hill near Glenmore. They are great. David thinks so too.
I got a watch from my mum, but not just any old watch, oh no,(I've got at least three of those!) this is a special watch. It has a pedometer thingy and a distance thingy and a heart rate thingy. And a light button, which is always handy in a tent. (Or the bedroom if, like me, you are ABAAB and the clock is on the other side of the bed...) And it's black, so it matches all my other kit! I think it will be useful when I've mastered which button to press in which order to do each trick. Clever mum. Do you think she had any help?!
And the children got me the new Sherlock Holmes DVD. The question is, do I watch it with the family, or would it be more discreet at my new age to drool in private?!
Oh, and thank you Weekend Dude, very kind.
There's going to be cake. A big one. A chocolate one. With candles! (In tens and units, so as not to singe the frosting too much...)
I love birthdays!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Tuesday, 25th May

Today is the day before my birthday.

I recently confessed to my sister that, as a child, I had thought my birthday was today, simply because the 25th was the same date as Christmas Day and was therefore easy for me to remember. Still, that mistake made it easier to remember the real date when I found out.

So, today is not my birthday. Tomorrow is the 26th May and that will be my birthday.

I like birthdays.

Mine especially.

A nice day out

Me, David, Ciara and the boys went for a little stroll. We arrived at Glenmore at midday, a little later than intended, and set off towards Badaguish and on through the woods to the path to climb Craiggowrie. We stopped just after getting out into the open to have a sandwich before we plodded on up the hill.

VLUU L310W L313 M310W / Samsung L310W L313 M310WVLUU L310W L313 M310W / Samsung L310W L313 M310WThe picture before this was from behind, me riffling in my pack. Lovely. Thought this was less offensive!

Shortly after the lunch stop, Aedan said something that is becoming quite common in our family.

Mum, is that an eagle?”

You tell me.”

(From behind the binoculars) “It’s really big and the wings are long and fingered. His head is shiny.”

Yes son, you’ve spotted and eagle.”

Excellent stuff! Just soaring off the end of the rocks above us.

It took a while to reach the 687m summit, Ciara plods at my pace, or a little slower even, but plods on bless her.

We then headed east(ish) along the ridge over Creagan Gorm. 732m, towards Meall a Bhuachaille, but didn’t summit that today, we took the path back down to Glenmore.

VLUU L310W L313 M310W / Samsung L310W L313 M310W Towards the Cairngorms

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With Meall a Bhuachaille in over Ciara’s shoulder.

We saw this little chap, a roe deer buck, on the way back. He was looking straight at us and the wind was blowing straight at him, but he was only a few metres away and he just wasn’t bothered.

VLUU L310W L313 M310W / Samsung L310W L313 M310W I was using my new-to-me Golite Jam pack that I won from Martin, just to see how I got on with it and I rather liked it, which is good! It held everything I wanted to carry with ease and was very comfortable to boot. I was also wearing a new pair of Marmot Scree Pants, which I like very much. They were wind and rain resistant and extremely comfy to wear. My new best friends, in fact!

The hills/ridge didn’t bother me at all, but then it was only a little hill and David’s usual comment, “You could play a game of football up there!” was probably quite true on this occasion.

A really nice day out.

Promises, promises

My mother always told me never to make rash promises. So, explain to me how I managed to promise the boys we’d go to Landmark for a joint birthday treat? Mad woman.

The children had a few in-service days, giving us a long weekend to entertain them and it was decided we should do the deed. Off we went to Carrbridge for the day.

It was a perfect day for it, as it turned out. Dull, but warm and dry, not too many people, even considering the bus load of school children. We didn’t queue for any of the rides, which is unheard of. The best thing is probably that the children are old and big enough to wander off together as a group without a pair of middle aged fuddy duddies following on behind.

So, explain to me how I found myself wearing a harness, clipped on to the safety wires for the Tarzan Trail, (a high wire challenge for those who do not meet the height requirement for RopeworX, (and for those who are more comfortable slightly nearer to the ground!).) I think it’s about 8’ off the ground, with my 5’ 5’’, that’s quite high.

I did it! Made my hands sore, my arms and legs were like jelly, but I did it.

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I had to go for a little sit down for a while, then a bit of a walk, then I was persuaded to have another shot, build myself up for RopeworX. I did say that would never happen, but I did make it round the Tarzan Trail again, a little speedier this time.

Then, it happened. I found myself harnessed and clipped onto RopeworX. It did briefly cross my mind that I’d made a dreadful mistake, but I couldn’t bear the idea of being rescued and lowered down a rope from a really high platform, so, I did it!

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I actually found I could trust and rely on the harness and rope without too much concern. Odd really.

No idea how came to be climbing up a 30’ pole to do a sky dive. That was madness. Complete surprise to me, but I knew if I stopped climbing, I’d be stuck. I knew I didn’t want to be rescued (although Rob, the American Tarzan attendant was obviously desperate for a good laugh!) I had to do it. I got to the platform, did quite a lot of heavy breathing and…

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Stepped off!

And screeeaaaaammmmmmed all the way to the bottom where my legs were too jelly to land anyway other than on my back.

That was dramatic!” said Rob.

Er, yeah!

But that was it, my adventures for the day over. And what did it achieve? What did I prove? Not sure. I did it. Despite the paralysing fear, my mind took control and I did it.

I don’t know if this will be a small (rather unusual!) step towards getting control of my vertigo, but it does seem madness that I could do all that, but I don’t like standing on my own two feet on top of a big hill.

Oh, and the children had a fantastic day out, by the way.

Return to reality

So, Tuesday, 18th May dawned and we had to return Rosie. It was sad, but we’d had a blast, just the two of us in the little red campervan. Learnt a lot and I’ve been making plans on how to overcome my ‘issues’ or maybe just to make the most of what I can do.

Thanks to David, for organising our adventure and Douglas, for supplying such a wonderful vehicle for our escape.

Back to reality and our wonderful children and my wonderful mother. Life’s hard!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

A lazy day

We hadn’t done much, but we decided to have a lazy day Monday, firstly to really enjoy the benefits of Rosie before taking her back home, and secondly the after-effects of the Cetrizine were really beginning to kick in.

We stopped at Bridge of Oich to take some photographs of the interesting bridge and while we were there, the swing bridge opened to let some boats through. A lady Challenger stopped us on our way back to Rosie to ask directions to the GGW, which I could give directions for, thankfully.

05 17 10_0826 Bridge of Oich

We drove on to Fort Augustus, a little de ja vue perhaps. I thought it would be a good idea to buy some nik naks for the children, like you do when you’ve been away and abandoned them, so we wandered around and found some little bits and pieces to suit. We also found coffee and cakes, which we snaffled up in comfort in the back of Rosie.

Lunch became a concern after a little while, so we were glad to see the fish and chip shop by the canal was now open. We trotted up the steps and queued politely for our freshly cooked fish suppers. As we waited, the lady Challenger arrived. She duly ordered and we chatted for a while about her journey so far. She was ahead of her plan so quite chuffed but a little distracted, maybe a tad tired and bewildered? Anyway, I managed not to get her name a second time, so I hope the rest of her trip went well.VLUU L310W L313 M310W / Samsung L310W L313 M310W

  The lock in action

A plan was made to try the campsite just south of Invermoriston and off we went, just a few miles up the road. It’s certainly a clean, tidy, quiet campsite, but a little odd. The chap seemed very keen for us to take a particular pitch, close to the entrance. He even lied to encourage us, we discovered later, as he’d suggested if we took a pitch further along (it’s a long, narrow campsite) we would have further to walk to do ablutions. Not so, as we found a toilet/shower block at the other end of the site. He didn’t tell us if there were any washing/drying facilities and we didn’t find any, so if there aren’t any, how did they manage to get four stars?! Odd place. I wouldn’t recommend it.

By the time David came back from the pot wash, having washed the tin mugs, I had nodded off. I stirred briefly and he sat down and put my feet over his legs, then I nodded straight back off. For over an hour. Ooops! It’s the Cetrizine, honest. Anyway, I felt much better when I did wake up, if a little groggy for a while. Dinner was boil in the bag rice, tinned chicken in white wine sauce, fruit corner yoghurt, shared a bottle of dry white and maybe a small dram nightcap.

Tuesday, we return Rosie. Boo hoo! It’s been lots of fun.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Failure, some success and more new friends

On Sunday I woke in the early hours with a migraine and raging hayfever, so I was rattling my way to the showers a couple of hours later, full of tablets in the hope of feeling better. Eventually, we travelled along the road towards Kinloch Hourn and Rosie waited for us below Gleouraich.

As we faffed outside the van, two walkers came down the road. An interesting looking couple and despite lacking the usual huge rucksacks of Challengers, I guessed who they were. They stopped for a chat, the gentleman having mistaken us for gypsies because of Rosie and as we got to know each other, I asked if they were on the Challenge and if they could possibly Lou and Phyllis La Borwit. Yes! The internet is an extraodinary thing and these people are famous Challengers because of it, on their 13th and 12th crossing, respectively. They were travelling light on Sunday because a kind man had offered to deliver their packs to their next stop, so today they had a tiny pack between and were fair flying along. It was wonderful to meet them.

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The plan was to do a loop, taking in Gleouraich and Spidean Mialach, but it didn’t quite turn out that way. It’s a steady, winding climb up towards the summit on a fantastic path with fabulous views towards Knoydart and the Glen Shiel hills and it was a lovely day, if a little breezy at times with the odd spot of rain, but nothing to speak of. David considered it to be perfect walking conditions.

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We reached a sheltered point at about 2666 ft where I started to have a crisis. I was anxious because the path I could see seemed close to the edge and we were obviously a long way up. I felt insignificant and vulnerable. I wanted to do my first Munro, but I was running out of steam because of the after effects of taking *Cetrizine and I was still suffering flashing lights and visual distortion from the migraine. There was also time pressures as we’d set off a little later than intended and at the speed I was going, we would have finished later than we wanted. Not really the best circumstance and I wanted to enjoy the experience, rather than a miserable struggle, so after some soul searching I decided to wait there, wrapped up, where I could still watch David make the final part of the ascent.

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As I had my crisis, a golden eagle soared above the summit and along the ridge, an omen of success according to David, just waiting to enjoy my sorry carcass, I thought! Three other walkers appeared and left us to discuss my predicament, but the chap at the rear later confessed to David he thought I’d made the right decision. As I watched from my vantage point, the eagle soared back into view and away again. David followed the other three dots up the hill, disappearing briefly from view, then back again at the top. Then he romped back down to me. I was only 1000 ft roughly, a half a mile from my goal, but I was more relaxed when he returned.VLUU L310W L313 M310W / Samsung L310W L313 M310W

We returned swiftly downhill to Rosie and trundled back along the road to the Tomdoun Hotel to spend the evening with a few Challengers, including Laura, Alan, Phil, Chris, Dennis, Humphrey to name but a few. There were many who’s names we didn’t catch, or maybe just can’t remember! Lou and Phyllis were there too and had remembered to mention us to Alan, so he knew we were there. All lovely people.

A little later, we left the chaos behind, (and there was chaos!) and tiptoed back to Rosie, whom David had secreted away down the road a little, so we could have a couple of drinks with our meal and wild camp with Rosie for some added fun.

We had a great day, despite my failure to summit my first Munro. I refuse to let myself feel bad about this, it was just not the right day for it. I’ll have another go someday. My overall conclusion is that I am a walker, I can plod all day long, I can do a decent gradient, but I don’t like height. With edges. I’m not and never will be a Munroist, but I don’t have to be to be a walker, so that’s fine with me!

*Cetrizine is a ‘non-drowsy’ hayfever medication. I only have to take half a dose and within a few hours, I’ll be in a truly unpleasant, drug induced sleep. I wake up feeling exceptionally grotty. Loratadine is is another ‘non-drowsy’ hayfever medication. Half a dose, and I’ll be out cold in less than an hour and feel grotty for a day or two after. It’s no fun, but neither are my symptoms in the first place, unable to open swollen, gunk filled eyes, swollen face and lips, unbearable itching, and this year, aggravated asthma. I could go on (and on) but you get the picture. It’s pants.

Stretching the legs and Rosie makes a friend

Saturday, and we trundled up the slightly hairy road to leave Rosie in the shade at Glen Affric as we strolled the ten miles around Loch Affric.

It was a lovely day, if it hadn’t been for the showers, which were just enough to stop us taking our waterproofs off. I did have to par down the layers underneath, but that’s what layers are for. The scenery is beautiful and the path good, but David was disappointed at the lack of wildlife. There were plenty of cuckoos giving it laldy and a dozen or so sand martins at the head of the loch giving a tremendous display as they swooped low over the water.

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We crossed the bridge here and took shelter behind a couple of lock ups, presumably belonging to the small croft. Lunch was consumed between showers.

05 15 10_0847Another shower, heading our way.

It had become very apparent that everyone we met, twenty walkers, two cyclists and three dogs, were going in the opposite direction. The last two, who looked as if they may have been Challengers, passed us as we left the croft. We didn’t see another soul.

Just around the corner, David got to see more wildlife. A stag, albeit a dead one by the side of the path. The path was still clear, but narrower and more lumpy. And decidedly more wet!

VLUU L310W L313 M310W / Samsung L310W L313 M310WLooking back towards Mullach

There were burns to ford, although most were a mere hop and a skip. According to our instructions, there was a burn to ford that ‘could be tricky’, followed by another which had been bridged. Such a burn was duly met and was indeed a little tricky and another bridged by sturdy planks. Imagine my disappointment when we came across another angry burn in full spate, that was even trickier to ford! There were definite tracks up and down the burn where other poor souls had tried to find a crossing that suited them.

I was not a happy bunny, but with a lot of encouragement and a good strong arm, I made my way across. I was happier when I got to a rock large enough to take my bum so I could shuffle from rock to rock and feel quite in control. It’s the rushing water, it unnerves me! There soon followed another burn, with a wooden bridge. C’est la vie.

When we got back to the car park, Rosie was waiting for us, ready to whisk us away to our next campsite. We had planned to use Faichemard campsite, but there were no pitches with hook up left, so we back tracked to Fort Augustus to Cumberlands campsite. Interesting site, brand new toilet/shower block, but with no mirrors, some toilet cubicles with no paper dispenser and no curtain or screen between the shower and the back of the cubicle where you’ve just neatly stashed your clean, dry clothes and shoes. Fun.

Anyway, it was quiet, there was electricity and thus warmth, but it got very, very dark.

And Rosie made a friend! We parked next to (leaving a respectable distance) the other VW campervan on the site. She was even older, but they made a nice pair.

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Business dealt with and the adventure begins

We gave Aunty Mary a good send off, the full works in the chapel, Great Nephew Peter piped her away in the car and into the cemetery and we all went to Torley’s for the wake.

Late after noon we shot back up north (near Dingwall) and to my great delight and as compensation for not getting on the Challenge this year, David had booked a VW campervan! An original from the mid-seventies, called Rosie. She’s lovely!

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Me and my friend Rosie at the foot of Gleouraich

It was getting late by this time, so we ventured slightly south to Cannich campsite. A pleasant site with all amenities, if a little basic. It was a shade nippy that night, so we were glad of  the electric hook up to power the fan heater! Could have (there you go Alan) done with a tad more lighting as we ate our tinned curry and boil in the bag rice, but we were camping, it’s going to get dark!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Thursday, 13th May

We dashed down to Fife after lunch and booked into a nice hotel in Kinross (Alan, just a wave of a hand down the side of the mirror in the bathroom and I was bathed in light, more than a handful of hangers in the wardrobe), a quick change and further dash to Lochgelly for a short service in the chapel, then back to the out-law’s for a ‘buffet’. Two glasses of white and a large Glenmorangie later and David took me back to the hotel bar for Hendricks, tonic and cucumber, a small Glenmorangie and a good sleep!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Extra trip

We’ve been planning a trip to do some walking around Glen Affric, or close by, starting on Friday, but due to a family bereavement (out-laws), we have to extend our time away and leave Thursday lunch time. We have to shoot down to Fife, attend the services, then shoot back ‘oop north’ Friday afternoon to start our break.

Mum will be here looking after the little treasures, or maybe as the responsible adult and Rhiannon will be looking after the little treasures. She has a list!

Mum has been paying attention to the weather forecast and spotted the snow and low temperatures. She keeps telling me we don’t have to go, or we can come back early.

Not a chance!!

Good luck to all Challengers, I may meet a few this year, which I’m really looking forward.  To the rest have an excellent trip and I’m poised for lots of reading!

Monday, 3 May 2010

A weekend away

We made a flying visit to Perth this weekend, to join in the celebrations for the In-Laws Golden Wedding. Whilst we were there, David and I took the boys for a quick dash around Moncreiffe Hill, roughly 4.9 miles and total ascent of 953ft in just under 2 hours. There were some lovely views from the top which would have been better without the low cloud and light rain (waterproofs were deployed, again) but we could see Perth prison and the Tay estuary amongst other landmarks. We saw lots of wild strawberries in flower and wood sorrel en route. Not a bad walk to stretch the legs and blow away the cobwebs caused by too late a night (or early morning, as the boys were kind enough to point out…) with many G & Ts in hand, one at a time to maintain decorum, ahem.

Upon our return, I discovered I’ve won a prize! Over on Martin’s blog, I’d entered his competition last month to win a Golite Jam, amongst other goodies, and my name was first out of the hat, wow! Makes one wonder where my good luck was last October, but hey ho. I’ve supplied my address and now eagerly await my parcel, thanks Martin!

Planning is still in progress for The Great Escape, but I’m hoping to happen across a couple of Challengers, maybe in the Tomdoun area and maybe after I’ve made an attempt for my first Munro. I have no intention of starting a tick list, my vertigo would probably not allow me up certain hills and I don’t do ropes, so any ticking would be entirely pointless, but I would like to do a few for pleasure. A couple of totally unpronounceable ones have been found, Gleouraich and Spidean Mialach, in the right vicinity, so I’ll give them a shot.

Today, we’re embarking on a new mini-adventure. Geocaching. This is a family adventure, minus one. The Teenager is staying home alone, but she will at least be studying, she’s the studious type, thankfully.

Might actually take the camera and use it, for a change.

Walking, there’s been a bit

Admittedly, not an awful lot.

I did the usual Monday circuit with Louise and Lynne on the 26th, Angela couldn’t join us because of the girly walk we’d done the day before, oops! We checked on the osprey and they are still there, which was a relief as none of us had seen any sign of them for a fortnight. Thankfully, it must all have been about timing.

We did the usual girly walk on the 25th. Angela’s husband had kindly worked out a fifteen mile circuit, taking us over ground that all of us knew a bit of, just not necessarily the same bit. This was to prove entertaining as we got further into the walk!

I provided the taxi and parked it at Clashdu, part of the Dava Way and we set off towards Craigroy, onto Tomnamoon, Johnstripe and the Divie Viaduct.


After passing under the Viaduct, we had a conflab. Angela’s knee was not good, she’d overdone it the week before (!!!!) and Judith had only intended a short walk with us before being rescued, so as a physio, she strongly encouraged Angela to go with her.

So there we were, Me, Jo, Alison, Sarah and Pip (a person, not a four legged friend.) We continued across the road and down a lane that is clearly signed Private, but we don’t care! Onwards towards Dunphail House, Relugas and Daltulich Bridge. This section was intersting because I had the map, but the only person who’d done it was Judith. Ahh. Down to my map reading skills then.

Well, we found the bridge, so that was good! We also had the ‘Sally Effect’, as she wasn’t walking with us, it rained. Straight down, wet rain. Waterproofs were deployed.

The path from the bridge took us north along the bank of the Findhorn. Now, with all the snow melt of late, the Findhorn is running pretty high and fast. Raging torrents spring to mind. And this path is high and narrow. Luckily, Sarah knew this bit, so she took the lead and Jo and I brought up the rear so they didn’t have to suffer/witness my minor attack of vertigo and Jo was a love and looked after me. What a wuss! I think the speed of the water flow didn’t help.

There was much scrambling to be had on sections of the high, narrow path that had been washed away. I had no idea that such slopey bits could be so soggy! Alison and I both sank up to our knees at some points, not quite sure how the others remained so much drier and less muddy.

We slithered onwards, past Randolph’s Leap (felt quite ill at that point) and off towards Logie Steading. Alan would be so proud, we stopped and had coffee and cake! Although, Jo and I both sighed “Real toilets!” and rushed first to the cupboard in which they were kept to cries of “Porcelain, doors and running water!”. A shade snug with a small pack on, but at least I took mine off and left it by the wash hand basin. Jo realised her mistake soon after, but managed to escape. Our relief was two fold at this point, it stopped raining at this point.

After hot coffee (chilled elderflower presse in my case) and cake were suitably enjoyed, we abandoned Pip and Sarah to their fate, (a lift home, they waved on the way past…) Jo, Alison and I took the scenic route down the long, long driveway and up the long and winding road to the A940, which was crossed quick smart. We then paddled through mud and farmyard muck to Peathillock and rejoined the Dava Way to return to Clashdu.

It was a lovely day out, despite the rain and an interesting method of navigation (“Who knows this bit?”).

(Data will have to be added later, I currently have a technical hitch.)