Thursday, January 26, 2012

An award? For me? D'aaaaawwww.... shucks.

Right, so being the slightly-behind person that I am, this comes a little late after having it thrust in my direction, but I really want to make a note of it.

The wonderful Maggie, of, nominated me for a Liebster Award. I didn't know what that was but I felt pretty wicked about being nominated for something, and it's such a nice something, I've come to learn. It means a lot to me, coming from someone who is just the kind of dynamic, strong, clever, I-am-me type of woman I aspire to be. From Maggie's blog:

The Liebster Blog Award is given to upcoming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. Liebster is German (n.) and means: sweetheart, beloved person, darling.

... Isn't that nice?!

I'm going to do what the award asks of me (apart from "take this little moral boost from fellow-and-admired bloggers and keep on blogging, if sporadically and occasionally craply...!"), and give out the nominationy love that has been given unto me. SO! My five nominations (in no particular order) are...


Thanks for being great reads/viewing. And Mags, thanks for the nomination. This has spurred me on to write a bit more, write a bit better, make pages look prettier, and read more blogs!

Chuffed Claire xox

Monday, January 9, 2012

New Year's Radiostations

The thing I think I'd like for myself for 2012 is to be a bit more BBC Classic FM and a bit less XFM. “A-ha, young McEvoy, you exclaim, this sounds like a promising metaphor: do tell me more!” Alright then.

The nice thing about classical radio channels, which, let it be known, I don't have a long history with, is The Gap. You know what I mean. A longlonglong, story-telling, soaring piece of orchestral wonderment finishes... and there is a breath... a moment of silence... and then that calm voice comes in: “...that was... François-Joseph Gossec's 'Six Symphonies' performed by the National Chamber Orchestra of Andorra...” (I'm not going to lie, I went totally Wikipedia mad just then.)

This contrasts quite heavily with XFM and similar commercial radio stations. Katy Perry/The Vaccines/Ben Howard's latest hit nears its end- *OVERLAPPED CLIPS OF PREVIOUS DAY'S BREAKFAST SHOW HIGHLIGHTS DISPLAYING JUST HOW COOL THE RADIO STATION AND ITS PRESENTERS ARE!!!* *20 SECOND ADVERTISEMENT!!!* “It's 8.45am here on XFM, and coming up this morning, SO MUCH EXCITING STUFF!!!...” It appeals to our need for everything to be snipped and clean and fast-paced and constant and upbeat to keep us pepped up on the way to another day at WORK! (“ONLY FOUR DAYS, 6 HOURS AND 23 MINUTES UNTIL WE CAN ALL GET HAMMERED, LISTENERS!!! IT'S OK, WE ALL HATE WORK!!!”)... It's just a bit hectic. All light and no shade. Exhausting.

I don't feel a need for constant excitement as perhaps I once did. I'm OK with just sitting on the couch sometimes. I quite enjoy quiet times by myself. I've become One Of Those People who “prefers nights in with a glass of wine to crazy partying.” Vomit. No, no, it's a good thing. And it's not just about what I physically do with my time. I'm comfortable enough with the person I am, and assured enough that there are a few people who love me quite a lot, to not need to be as extroverted as perhaps I was. My nature has always been to be a conversation-filler and let's face it, a bit of a show pony at times. But as I get all old and wise and shit, I can appreciate that filling gaps and keeping conversation going doesn't always make other people more comfortable and certainly, it's pretty bloody tiring.

I suppose as I write this I realise I don't really need to resolve to make a metaphorical flick of the radio switch from am to fm this year. It's sort of already happened to some degree for me over the past couple of years, especially since being in the UK. Maybe though, I'm a bit worried that once back in Oz sometime in the next 6 months, it will be hard to keep this BBC Classic FM, take-a-breath pace and approach going, because it's hard not to be what I was before (“what I was before”? What am I like? Wanktastic, that's what). I certainly had a tinge of that feeling when visiting Oz last month. Admittedly, Christmas time is sort of the stupid time, isn't it, so it's hard not to get swept up in the craziness. And it has to be said I don't have as many wonderful people in my closer circle here, so there are less catch-ups to be had. I think once back in that big bosom of family and friends who have been around forever, I'll just need to find my feet a bit, and sometimes those feet will need to be up on a pouf.

Look, I can recognise that I'm a bit of an onion in the sense that under this relatively-new-found sense of being OK with not doing so much is another layer of Claire that does feel the need to be a bit constantly stimulated, under which is yet another layer that fights against that, and under this is yet another layer... we're all like that, aren't we?

I think too much XFM and 'waiting for the weekend' conversations and London vibes in general can leave me feeling like I should be more constantly switched on at times. But it needs to be OK to not always feel hip, hop and happening. And just to sit without talking. And to go to work some days and not be overwhelmed by the sense that every hour should be world-changing.

In conclusion there is no conclusion. We are all onions, and onions who can have 'on' and 'off' times; onions who can listen to different radio stations.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cornwall Part 2: a jolly nice Sunday and Monday

… so we rolled back on down the hill to the cosy B&B after cheap drinks and cheap outfits on display at the local pub where the karaoke was in full swing on a crazy Saturday night in Penzance.

On waking the next morning, I wrote in my diary about the dream I’d just awoken from. I now have no recollection of any of these apparently-once-very-vivid images but I’m so glad I recorded them, because they really are a bit wacko. Perhaps David Lynch would like to use them as a basis for his next movie? Here they are as I wrote them down...

Dreamt about a girl from work playing Dorothy in a sort of funked-up version of
The Wizard of Oz while I looked on in jealousy as a cast member. Talked with the
pocket-rocket (?semi-famous) black chick who’d missed out on the part of the
afro’d lion to someone crapper. Then it was suddenly Nikki Webster who was
Dorothy, and the Director was feeding her drugs in an attempt to get her into
bed. She and I ran down the street of my parents’ place to number 3, which was
owned by Chris and Georgia, the actual neighbours at Claremont St, and they had
a nice lunch- yes, never mind the sex pervert, come eat!- and we had somehow
found time to make a sort of root vegetable bake, and it was somehow deceptive
as the veggies didn’t cover the whole base of the dish, even though it looked
like they did [here I drew a picture of the aforementioned ‘deceptive vegetable
bake’ and wrote: “…lifting up these little discs of parsnip/whatever made us
realise that!”]
… looks like SOMEONE’S been eating too much Cornish cheese.

Anyway, after describing in ridiculous detail my ridiculous dream, I went for a lovely country run and then we took a lovely country train ride to St Ives! Our train companions were a lady and her two very cute grandsons, who were both fairly amped by the fact that the train was GREEN! And green is their FAVOURITE COLOUR! We took our bikes on the train, but abandoned them fairly quickly once at our destination, instead ambling in the *dun dun dunnnn!* sunshine, pasties in hand the size of small children. We sat on a wall that overlooked a boggy, tides-out patch of beach, and Taco waited eagerly for a buggy to get stuck and fling out its contents (child) for our amusement. Kind fellow. The afternoon rain forced us into tea shops for Cornish Clotted Cream Extravaganzas, charity shops for unnecessary clothing purchases, and warm pubs for wine and magazine-perusal. A bit squelchy on arrival back in Penzance, we dried off then settled in for a culturally-enriching night of Snacks From The Supermarket And X-Factor.

The next morning I went for another ‘lovely country run’, which involved a tiny bit more stress than the previous day’s: let it be known that “Nearest one is right down there in the village” are THE most uncomforting words a toilet-needy runner wants to hear, even if it is in a quaint Cornish accent. But enough of my bowel motions!... We rode to Marazion, a town which boasts being the home of St Michael’s Mount- a great big castle on an island on a hill. The tide was in…bummer… but then, quite quickly, the tide was out… YAY!... so we walked across the causeway and wandered around the castle. After a blowy ride back along the seashore to Penzance, and slightly pushed for time (quelle surprise, McEvoy), we packed our goods, pfaffed around deciding what to eat (wouldn’t you know it ended up being a pastie!) then boarded the train for London town. Which, to be honest, is not such a hot-spot to come back to after a long weekend somewhere with clotted cream and ocean and great accents and cheap spirits. It’s just coming home. Hyde Park? Schmeh.

Love Cornish Claire 2.0 xox

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

To Cornwall, dreckly! (or, Part 1: The First 1.5 days of a Weekend Trip to The South West)

As I was going to St Ives
I met a man with seven wives
Every wife
had seven sacks
Every sack had seven cats
Every cat had seven kits
Kits, cats, sacks, wives
How many were going to St Ives?

Two! From a misty London town on a Friday night filled with calm and possibility.

Last week felt like a 'big week' for me at work. It felt full, at times a bit too full, but also productive, for the most part. I felt like I had 'earned' my weekend. A couple of weekends ago, after a similarly 'big week', I sent a message to Taco on Friday after work saying I felt like I'd 'earned' my wine time, but that just earned me a big fat hangover on Saturday morning, and I resolutely decided last week to not reward myself with booze because I was over feeling crap from drinking too much on those rewarding occasions. It was good having a drier week.

I digress. Friday night felt full of promise for a rewarding weekend, and it was a train journey, not a glass of wine, that was going to put some distance between work and my brain. Yay train! We rugged up in cycle-worthy attire (tights and tiny shorts obviously, and also my swanky new Oakley beanie that makes me feel like a London Cool Kid on a Bike, which I'm really not) and rode away from Trentham St with one overstuffed backpack and one excessively heavy sports bag over our shoulders (four between the two of us- count 'em, folks). The man in the shop raised my seat for me that morning, so I was sitting pretty.

Battersea Park Road was filled with people who weren't as free-wheeling as us, Chelsea Bridge was filled with lights that made it feel like Christmas; from here we descended into Otherhalfville. I don't think people in Chelsea fart. Or at least, they keep their fingernails in much better condition than I do mine. Perhaps if I could just nail the non-nail-biting habit I could cross the river and join the SW3-ers of the world... I mean, lit'rally join them... lit'rally.

Hyde Park glowed all misty magic-like as we rode around the edge of it. Taco and I faced the reality (and the apartments) that told us owning a little place overlooking one of the more famous parks in the world, whilst a lovely thought, is not a future likely to befall us. We reached Paddington after a little U-turning here and there (not bad following only a squiggly line courtesy of Google Maps plus London's excellent little blue street signs), me throwing off the 574kg sports bag with significant dramatics as my right ribs cheered beneath my layers.

The night before, upon hearing the price we had paid for the overnight train tickets, and with the two of us slightly in the dark on the matter, Tac's housemate promptly said “Nope you won't be getting a bed.” And he was correct. It was eight hours of sitting-up bliss for us in coach A. After putting the bikes to bed in the front of the carriage, we settled in with books and crisps and coke and chocolate. Somehow, I managed to snaffle a good few hours of sleep, mainly with limbs splayed as far out as possible.

We could see the sea! Penzance was grey at 8am on a Saturday morning. But the grey was different to London: even with a gentle drizzle it felt fresher and quainter and more cosy than confining. Taco took directions to our B&B from a taxi driver at the station, and as we rode along 23 seconds later:

Taco: So which way do we go?
Claire: … did you actually listen to what that guy told you?
T: Not really.
C: Were you just listening to the funny Cornish accent?
T: Yup!

We dropped off our bags and, unable to officially check in until 3pm, we headed off with the bikeys to explore Penzance and surrounds. We rode along the coast to Newlyn ('Fish by Post' is a very distinct possibility from many outlets in the region) and on Mousehole (that's “Mao-sall” for those of you playing at home) where we had breakfast at Pam's Kitchen and read depressing stories in the weekend papers. Pam and her friend (not sure which was which) gave us directions to Land's End, the easy way (my ass) being to head back to Newlyn then take the A30. What sounded like a major highway was actually an undulating and often-narrow country road, but undulating was the operative word, and while I'm not one to give up easily in the face of a few meagre &^*$£-off hills, we realised the 10 miles was going to take us a bit longer than initially expected, and the steadily-falling rain and encroaching darkness told us heading back to Penzance was probably a smart idea (Taco calculated this as we rode along and I went “yepyepyepIknowIknowokok” in response). It was only as we sailed back towards town we gave the wind-factor the respect it deserved: the return journey was about 9,875 times easier. So we didn't see the western-most point of England. But by golly our quads got a workout.

We ate awesome Cornish pasties (which would set the lunch scene for the proceeding two afternoons, also). We wandered *charityshopsmumblemumblewhat?nothing*, we checked out a gallery featuring the works of three local artists who all died a couple of years ago. I particularly loved Joan Gilchrist's stuff, most of which was set in Mousehole, but all of which had people and their stories as the basis [the picture at the top is Day Trip to Landsend]. We had a drink at The First and Last Inn; I mean how could we bypass a pub serving “probably the best real ale in town”? And as we sipped away, heard the life story of the “I'm here every morning from 10am” punter. I keep up a vague jollying-along of the conversations in these situations, Taco just lets his mind wander off and eyes glaze over cheerfully. Later in the evening we had a really excellent meal at local restaurant The Blue Snappa and saw a show at the local theatre called 'Pub Rock', which cleverly blurred the line between gig and play. Later at The White Lion, feeling incredibly not-Saturday-night in a turtle neck jumper (God I hate turtle necks), I sipped a Baileys alongside Taco and his Southern Comfort and we marvelled at how far your London dosh can go in a Cornish bar: £3.50 the lot, thanks love.

More (pasties) later...

Cornish-ified Claire xox

Monday, October 24, 2011

There's something funny going on in my brain that's making me feel sad...

It's quite a bit to do with working in an environment that is happy and is beautiful in a lot of ways, but also kind of sucks.

The other day I was involved in a meeting with a family who are just so dedicated to their Mum. So dedicated. But cancer is slowly taking over her brain in a relatively literal sense and they can't let go. And another guy vomited everywhere and concurrently lost control of his bladder while we were moving him; in a moment, vomit was forcing its way out of his mouth with real speed and ferocity, he was also really drowsy, but through the fug of drug- or disease-induced haziness and the violence of projectile vomit, and the slippery wetness beneath him, he was also trying to apologise for not being able to control what was happening. Apologise.

I wanted to be able to be wonderfully in control and help move him with as much ease as possible, but it wasn't particularly graceful. (I also wished along with sedatives and anti-emetics and analgesics, it was possible to put a dose of Dignity in patients' syringe drivers- pharmaceutical corporations: I'll give you rights to that free of charge.) And I wanted, with the family, to feel I was saying things that implied “I fully understand your situation and what is going on for you Mum, but at the same time, I have strong conviction in my clinical judgement and voilĂ  my knowledge...”. But I don't think I really did do that, or say that.

I'm always unsure as to whether I'm doing the best thing, and I'm pretty sure the nurses think I'm a bit of a waste of space at times. And really I feel often I'm not adding anything new to the mix. The nurses and the assistants are so very much the beating heart of the hospice, and I sometimes I feel like a fraud. Walking around in my bright shirt, assuming a sort of self-important walk that is partly to do with the design of the shoes I'm wearing (you know how a pair of shoes can really change the way you walk? Well my Rocket Dog flats impose self-important bounciness), and partly to do with The Fear of Being Found Out: “Ohhh, you don't actually do anything, you make it seem like you have some knowledge base but really just help people stand up and wear flowers in your hair and a smile on your face.”

But then you know what?- the things in my brain making me feel sad?- not cancer. It's not a growing mass inside (or outside) of me telling other cells that were just doing their thing, minding their own business to Fuck Off Thanks Very Much, I'm Taking This Space. It's not gripping me with pain that keeps me awake all night, or nausea every time I think about moving. It's not stopping me from talking, or stopping me from stopping my waste products exiting my body in a socially-acceptable and comfortable fashion. It's not making me unaware of what's going on around me, or unable to get into my own house because of a couple of little steps.

So a little woe-is-me-this-is-sometimes-difficult-to-know-if-I'm-doing-the-right-thing moaning session, whilst being a good way of saying “shh, there, there ego”, or working as a kind of therapy or something, also makes me want to smack myself upside the head a bit, too.

Shut up, Claire. Put your flower in and give someone a hand to stand up.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Better late than never

And yet again she has fallen behind on the blogging front.
(I need to stop starting every single post with some form of that phrase. But at least I'm honest, eh?)

Due to the overwhelming nature of writing something after not writing something for a while, I'm not going to write anything.

But my dear friend Ger, a lovely Dutch fellow I did a bit of singy-songy fun with when I was living in Touzac (almost A YEAR ago now- weird to the power of seventy-five), has sent me a youtube link for some video taken on my last day in the little Frenchy village.

Let me set the scene (and provide the link)...
- It was boxing day
- I was hungover
- The sun was shining
- There were lots of nice people milling around the cafe
- We la-la-la'd the afternoon away. Sometimes sounding good. Sometimes sounding crap.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rotterdam-London on new old wheels.

I have a new bike! And he's beautiful. And his name's Kev.

I spent ten days in the Netherlands at the start of this month. Taco came to London at the end of his big round-the-world trip and we had a jolly nice time hanging out again. Presuming that perhaps we might want some more jolly nice hanging out time, I booked myself a train ticket to Rotterdam. Everytime I fly low-cost carriers I vow not to do it the next time I need to go somewhere. Inevitably I forget when the next time comes around, and I am once again wooed by low low prices, forgetting the crap that goes along with them (having to pay if you want to sneeze on the plane, spending as long as you do on the airplane just getting out to the airport, normally having fairly massive delays...). But they didn't trick me into it this time- it was Eurostar all the way, baby! (Well, half-way if you're going to be picky- the trip from Brussels to Rotterdam was on Thalys, the Dutch rail thingy.)

To be honest, the first couple of days of my stay were a mixed bag. Taco will probably be the first to admit that the ups and downs of my emotional and mental state were more taxing than climbing to Machu Picchu. This was the result of a number of things (hormones, impending sickness, new environments, expectations...) However, a few days in I came around to feeling more settled within myself, especially after getting some good countryside runs in, chilling out with some beers, AND... spending some quality time with Claire Stanley and Emma Haywood. To be honest, the fact that we met in Rotterdam was almost insignificant- there was a lot of wandering and seeing and eating and drinking cool things, but the focus was really on blah blah blah blah blah. We hadn't been together, the three of us, we realised, for about 18 months. Which is a long time. So it was good. Those two women are really amazing ones. You done good, Stanley and Haywood parentage- you done real good.

I'd had in my head since booking the train ticket that I might use my own pins to get me back to Ye Olde England. The lovely little hand-me-down bike that Rachel Rai had bequeathed to me on her departure from England had sort of given up the ghost on me. To be fair- it had 2 flat tyres and a bit of a squeak here and there that I hadn't got around to doing anything about, so it probably had more to do with me than the bike itself, but let's not split hairs- we just weren't meant to be together, long term.

Among the lovely Dutch people I met through Taco was Robert. He works at a bicycle workshop that is part of the local Barendrecht OP-SHOP! Here they take bikes that are no longer wanted, fix them up and sell them on. Fantastic. Just what I wanted. So down I toddled one morning to check out the wares on offer. Robert said "There's one that I thought might be good for you..." and 5 minutes later a deal was done. One little ride around on 'the wheel' and I knew we were a match made in Barendrecht.

It felt so great to have my own bike again. That night after dinner, Taco and I went riding for about an hour through the neighbouring villages of Barendrecht. It was nice and warm and still light at 10.30pm, and we rode between big paddocks and stopped for icecream at a snack bar just before it closed, feeling like 15 year olds on a Saturday night date or something. The next day we rode to Den Haag- halfway there the rain came pelting down but we stopped under a bridge and ate a boiled egg, and sheltered in a cute little pub until the sun came out again then continued on our merry way. We met up with Emma and her lovely friend Isabel and saw a dance/music show at 'De Parade'- a festival set-up which felt very much like The Garden of Unearthly Delights in RAdelaide! Holland is unbelievably fantastic to cycle around: there is nowhere where bikes have to compete with cars, normally being given their own cycle path everywhere, or else given respect and space by drivers. Hills are non-existant, signage is great. And even when we did get lost, the Dutch, whilst maintaining their directness, are really helpful and warm in getting little losties back on track.

Having kitted out the bike with a few necessary bits and pieces (repair kit, pump, paniers, lock- and in the process spending more than I had on the bike itself!), I left Rotterdam on Friday morning. I had with me a lovingly printed and translated set of directions that Taco had organised through an online bike route finder. I was totally down with what "schuin links" and "rechstaf" and "knoopunt" were, had sandwiches, and a deadline: The Hook of Holland by 2pm. As expected, I lost myself soon after leaving Taco, but after doubling back on certain sections about three times, and asking about seven different people to point me in the right direction, I was back on track. The ride took me through some canal-side villages, past ponies, and next to big scary highways that I didn't have to deal with because I had a bike path set back in the field. The last section was along the harbour, with sea breeze pushing up against me as the Stenaline Ferry came into sight. It felt a bit weird going through the boomgate for customs and tickets on my treddly, and I arrived with pretty much no time to spare, thanks to my excellent knack for getting myself lost those couple of times on the way. But no matter! I was there. I was onboard. I was... asleep for most of the sail across.

We arrived in Harwich at 8pm. After getting my Welcome Back To England stamp with a bigger smile than I normally get from the Home Office folk (perhaps they breed them happy in the north?), I rode off from the harbour, fairly literally into the sunset, which was donating big smears of pink and orange to the sky. I had done my Googly Mappy research the day before, drawn crappy little pictures in my notebook (iPhones! Pah!) and so had a rough plan and fingers crossed on how to make it to my next destination- the little town of Mistley, about 10 miles from Harwich, to the house of Eileen and Gordan. A few days earlier I'd contacted Eileen through Couch Surfing, and she said they'd be happy to have me for the night, even at late notice. I was quite excited about CS-ing again, as it had been a while. Harwich had a very quaint fishing village vibe, complete with seagull squawks, and the 10 miles to Mistley were excessively pretty- along the Stour River, through lush overgrowth of the nature reserve, past big paddocks of nothing much, all with the pink hue of sunset. Admittedly, there were more hills in those 10 miles than I'd encountered in 10 days in the Netherlands, and old Kev made me walk a few bits of them, but we got there! Eileen and Gordan were so welcoming. We had some chats, some wine, some cheesecake- all the good things in life- and then I hit the (very comfortable) sack to give my bum a rest for a few hours.

... and then she accidentally slept til 11am. But that was OK! A quick croissant and a photo of my hosts, and off I set with lovely hand-drawn maps from Eileen to get me going. Already the English drivers and not-so-friendly nature of UK roads were noticeable, but I managed to follow bike paths to Colchester (England's oldest recorded town!). I bought a map, I bought a helmet. From here a bike path went on to Tiptree. This was mainly unsealed paths and a few times I heard myself chanting "don't get a puncture, don't get a puncture" under my breath. I thought I was out of the woods as I zoomed along a proper road again, but whilst literally this was true, metaphorically, and in terms of my little tubes 'n tyres holding up, this was not the case.

* See Claire, her bike upside down, blood on her hands from tyre-removing cuts, searching for the puncture, patching it with her Dutch puncture-repair kit ("yes I'm sure the ghnoohungoor is what's needed here..."), working away furiously with her little pump, assuring the couple in the horse and cart that "it's under control", and finally flipping little bikey over again, quite pleased with own efforts.*

* See Claire then set off down the road towards Tiptree, her triumphant smile slowly fading at the realisation that THE AIR IS ESCAPING AGAIN! See her eat two packets of biscuits in frustration and defeat set in as she wheels her bike into town as English rain starts to drizzle spitefully.*

It was getting towards later afternoon now, and I felt somewhat worried about getting back to London before it was dark. I was about to find a park and give Puncture Repair Round 2 a go, but just briefly popped my head into the dry cleaning place next to the CLOSED bicycle shop.

Me: "Errm... is he... gone for the rest of the day then?"
Dry cleaning man #1: "Yeah I should say so, if he's closed up now."
Me: "Bummer."
Dry cleaning man #1: "What've you done?"
Me: "Got a puncture and not fixed it properly."
Dry cleaning man #1: "Go on Steve, you'll have a look at it for her, won't you?"

Steve (Dry cleaning man #2) wheeled Kev out the back, then whipped out his tools and fixed my puncture- the thing I'd thought was the hole was actually around the corner from the hole; but it's a lot easier to tell that once you're inside Steve's makeshift workshop and have a bucket of water to check it all out with.

So I was pumped up again! In the literal and figurative sense of the words! I rode on a little further, under the directions of Steve and DCM#1, to Kelvenson, where I got on a train to London. I had hoped to go on a bit further, to Chelmsford, but didn't want to be riding around London in the dark having no way of knowing really how to get home.

Such a good trip! Aside from the ups of English countryside hills and the downs of tyres, there was a great feeling of freedom regained with my own bicycle again, pretty pretty sights and a sense of being buoyed by nice humans in various countries. I'm looking forward to exploring a bit more of the UK with Kev over the summer, and fixing many a puncture in a timely and graceful fashion.