Monday, 28 June 2010

How much more is there to tell....?

Given half a chance I would spill the beans about everything about me.  I seem to lack a natural internal filter and often have to think very carefully about what I write in case it falls into the category of Too Much Information or You Can't Say That, People Would Be Hurt!  So there is much that you don't know about me but which, unfortunately, I really cannot write about.  Which is a bit of a shame because I'm going to struggle to find a list of seven things about me that you don't know that also won't make you lose the will to live from boredom.  So I can't discuss, say, my stepmother, or my mother's previous husbands, or what I did with lovers from the past, or how I came to be arrested - you know, all the really interesting stuff.

But a list has been demanded following the bestowing of a new award upon me by the ever-fragrant future Canadian immigrant, Ms Katyboo and it would be rude not to at least try:

I cannot bear the taste of celery.  It truly is the Devil's vegetable.  I do, however, adore crunchy vegetables - cucumbers, for example, so you'd think celery would be on every shopping list.  It also has a useful shape for shovelling quantities of dip into your gaping maw - another point in its favour, perhaps, but only if you've no taste buds in my opinion.

I have a tattoo.  It was done in 1985 when there was a trend amongst the twenty-something girlfriends of mine to get one.  It's about five inches long and is of a lizard.  I'm not sure I particularly like it now but don't dislike it enough to do anything about it.  I have been toying with the idea of getting another somewhere, of a Swift or three, racing across the sky.  I could, I suppose, have something like that worked over the lizard but it would end up having to be a big piece.  Dunno.  Will have to think about it.

I have/have had/probably still have Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome.  This is why I have no children despite years of trying and three rounds of 'fresh' IVF with two rounds of 'frozen' IVF in between.  Apart from the infertility, PCOS has some other delightful symptoms, such as increased weight gain and hair growth.  I'm at least 2 stone (28lbs) overweight that I seriously cannot shift, other than by complete fasting (either voluntarily or nil-by-mouth in hospital whilst recovering from a bout of Pancreatitis), which I don't recommend.  I'm also a very hairy girl.  Seriously, I have feet like a hobbit and I'm slowly cultivating a beard that would put Captain Bird's Eye to shame.  So after years of plucking and waxing and bleaching to little avail, I've decided I owe it to my future crone self to get this seen to properly and am therefore undergoing laser hair removal.  This is not a lot of fun and is not especially cheap but needs to be done.  I've had 4 sessions so far and there is some improvement.  If you want to ask any questions about this, feel free to ask them.

I've been on a single. A proper, 45rpm one.  As you know from previous posts, I used to sing and play sax in bands in and around Guildford during the 1980s.  The last band I played with before hanging up my sax for good was Steel Bill and the Buffaloes - a hugely enjoyable bunch of people to play with and almost more fun than you can imagine.  A whole world away from the po-faced, cooler-than-thou, cheekbones and pointy shoes bands I played with in the very early 80s - the Buffaloes wholeheartedly embraced the concept of dressing up and having a laugh on stage.  We became very popular with the Students' Union crowd at Surrey University and it's always great to play to an audience that actively likes you.  We didn't 'make it'- although Steve Griffiths, the very charismatic lead singer, went off to Australia and was recruited to join the Australian Doors Show as Jim Morrison.  We used to save up the money earned from gigs and put it towards recording costs and eventually enough money was raised to record and press a single.  It was called 'Four Fleas on the Dark Dog of Night' and had four tracks.  I was still married to The Artist at this point so am listed under my previous married surname of McInnes.  Occasionally you still find copies of it available up on eBay, as there is at the moment, but doing a Google search for it for the purposes of this posting, I was astonished to see that someone has actually gone to the bother of uploading three of the tracks onto Youtube!  So, if you want to hear us, here is Louis the Buffalo, Cardboard Church and Laura's Secret Garden.  I don't play on all of them and whoever uploaded the tracks gets the lyrics wrong, but - hey - I'm on Youtube!

My eyesight is not the best - I've worn glasses since I was 18 and I have a certain amount of tinnitus - presumably from years spent in deafening rehearsal rooms or on stage or at gigs - so my hearing's a bit iffy, but my sense of smell is shit hot, always has been. One of things I would do, if I could live my life all over again, apart from training as an opera singer or a proper silversmith, is be a parfumier.  I used to make 'rose water' when I was little but it was a bit rubbish - putting dead rose petals into water doesn't actually make anything smell of Turkish Delight, much to my disappointment.

I know I'm 2 short of the list but it's taken me all afternoon to decide on the above and I need to go and do other things now.  If I can think of anything else, then I'll add it but don't hold your breath!!

I'm meant to pass this on to at least five to ten other bloggers but everyone I would send it to has already done it so feel free to grab this for yourself and do your own list, if you feel the need to share....

Thursday, 24 June 2010

2010 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Those readers of mine who have valiantly read my pointless ramblings over the past 18 months or so and can remember as far back as this time last year, might recall that mid-June is the time for the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, Piccadilly, London.  This is an exhibition that has been held every single year, without fail, since 1769 and anyone can submit work for judgment by the committee.  Only about 1000 items out of around 10,000 submissions make it through.

I first started going about 4 years ago now, I think.  The first time I went I was very taken with a print called 'Orange Tom' by Daniel Wallis and then I bought a few other things over subsequent years - there are pictures on last year's blog posting or this one about this.

So, this year's Buyer's Day hoved into view on Thursday 10 June 2010.  I know I've been a bit tardy with doing this year's blog post about it but, well, I've been somewhat busy doing other stuff that I'm not about to bore you with, and have only just round to it.  It would have probably been even later if the very fragrant Ms Katyboo hadn't gone the other day and has already posted about it!

The last 2 times we went to Buyer's Day we decided to go early and get there in time for the doors to open but the downside is everyone else has the same idea and the place is ALWAYS rammed with people. Plus the RA has uneven air conditioning, so it's a hot, sweaty crush, you can't get close enough to see anything, the sweat starts running down your back to pool in your knickers making things very uncomfortable.  TLH doesn't care for the crush either and waits for me in slightly emptier galleries which means we don't look at the same pictures at the same time and are constantly saying 'did you see the picture of the [whatever]?' and having to fight with pointed elbows out through the crowd to have another look.  Added to that the fact that the train fare from Farncombe to Waterloo at that time in the morning is eye-bleedingly expensive (if I recall it cost us almost £60 last year just to get the bloody train!!!), this year we thought we'd do it differently.  Go up late morning, take in a leisurely lunch, have a quick potter round the British Museum to see the Renaissance Drawings exhibition, then stroll on over to the Royal Academy about mid-afternoon.  Wander about there for an hour or so, then head off home hopefully before rush hour.

Everything went according to plan.  Got the 11am train or thereabouts which turned out to be only slightly less eye-bleeding than going earlier.  Oh well.  We couldn't decide where to go for lunch.  It's ridiculous, really, you'd think (if you listened to us) that there were only about 5 places to eat in the whole of central London and we'd been to them all.  We've recently been to Wahaca twice so I didn't fancy that this time.  We've done Wagamama's to death over the years so didn't fancy that.  We've been to Bodean's a few times too so didn't fancy that.  I was tempted by the thought of the non-dog side of Korean cuisine but not knowing where any good ones are meant we weren't brave enough to try.  Ditto Japanese or Thai although you can't really go too wrong with Thai.  Didn't fancy curry.  We thought about Yauatcha but it was a bit out of our budget.

In the end we settled on good old reliable Kettner's.  We've been here several times over the years and I've always really quite liked it - the menu was always a bit like a glorified Pizza Express but served in a tart's boudoir with added champagne bar.  We trotted along there, getting there at about 12.30pm.  The place was deserted apart from one table of four and the staff!  It's also had a makeover which I didn't like very much.  It looks like someone got in a job load of garden tables for some outside Mediterranean trattoria - cold grey marble - and some white chairs.  It has lost its atmosphere, which was a shame.  And they'd revamped the menu and taken all the reliable stuff off - the pizzas and pastas - and gone more 'modern'.  There was only one thing on it out of the half a dozen main courses they now offer and that was a burger which, frankly, I could have gone to Burger King for.  It was nice enough but no great shakes. Kind of explains why the place was so empty:

See how empty Kettners was, on a Thursday lunchtime.

Still, we had some wine and sat watching a colossal twat in a leather trilby and suit with stitching hanging off it parading around outside the Coach and Horses in Romilly Street, making sure everyone saw him, so we got some entertainment out of it all. Sadly we didn't take a photo of him.  Still, good to know there are still Grade A preening cockmonkeys about - the world would be a much less interesting place without them.

We got out of there at, I dunno, about 1.30-ish and made our way to the British Museum.  As I'm a Friend of the BM, I get free entrance for two people to all their paying exhibitions - they're usually pretty good and worth seeing.  The current one is called Fra Angelico to Leonardo: Italian Renaissance Drawings for which the Uffizi has lent some exhibits. I couldn't take photos in this particular exhibition, but there were some very beautiful scribblings indeed.  We then had a quick look at the Treasures from Medieval York exhibition that's also running which had some very desirable things - I did take some pics of these (by the way, all the photos in this post are taken on my iPhone, for reasons I shall explain later):

Reconstructed Anglo Saxon helmet

Carvings from a cathedral or church or summat.  Sorry, forgot to check, I just liked the lighting!

Then it was time to head over to the Royal Academy.  Every year they use the entrance courtyard to show really big pieces of sculpture.  My favourite ones in recent years were the Chapman Brothers' huge rusty metal dinosaurs in 2007:

Can't remember what there was last year so I obviously wasn't impressed.  Just some big shapes, I think.  I quite liked this year's ones though - big sinuous metal Hares (apologies for picture quality):

As you can see it was a grey and overcast day so the pictures are a bit too dark but hopefully you can still make them out.

We went in, up the stairs, I presented my invitation, we bought a catalogue, and into the Summer Exhibition we went.  I'd already decided I was going to try and sneakily take some photos this year specifically for a blog posting.  With that in mind I left my proper camera at home (as that would be a bit obvious really) and decided I would use the camera on my iPhone, which I actually think is quite good at taking photos plus (and this is the big plus) I could turn off the 'click' noise it made and pretend I was texting or answering a call from someone while trying to take pictures that give the impression of what it's like inside and also of anything that particularly caught my eye.

Let's go then:

These 3 pics above show a bit of the Weston Rooms which is where the smallest (and often most affordable) pictures are crammed in, floor to ceiling. These rooms get the biggest crush of people and it gets very hot in there, so it's not somewhere you want to stay long, which is a great shame because there are literally hundreds of pictures in there.

This is the picture I was most taken with in the little Weston Room, it's an oil painting called 'Headlights near Padbury' by Lance Fennell.  Obviously this picture doesn't do it justice as I was being Mrs Ninja Photographer but I hope it can convey the misty pinky-greyness of it.  Very atmospheric but, sadly, at £600 it'll have to stay atmospheric somewhere else other than in my house.  I'm loathe to describe myself as an artist but I do make jewellery and my own fused glass so I'm aware how much time and effort goes into creating something so, realistically, the price is probably not that much for the work involved but it's still more than I can easily place my hand on just now.  I'll just have to settle for this little photo. The artist has a website and there's a larger picture of it here.  Actually, some of the other pictures on his site are very nice indeed....

Onwards, then, 

In the next room along we spotted this really rather fabulous vase by Ms Katyboo's favourite, Grayson Perry.  I took these pictures especially for her as I know she's so fond of him that she once made Grayson/Claire his very own handbag in the shape of his/her teddy bear, Alan Measles.  And once I'd spotted that the picture on the vase shows Grayson/Claire having just given birth to Alan in the manner of a nativity scene, with various ne'er-do-wells queuing up to see him, I just knew she had to see it.  Even if you don't 'get' Grayson Perry, his workmanship is gorgeous - the painting is well excuted and the glazes used and metallic loveliness achieved make this an incredibly desirable object.  It was not for sale.  Not that I'd have been able to afford it anyway.

Colourful paintings - sometimes you get colour overload from walking around these rooms but this is a good thing. 

See the religious semi-circular painting in the first of these three pictures?  With the street scene below it?  I think these are the pictures by John Bellany RA that the insufferable Brian Sewell slates in his article.  He can't even get the artist's name right.  Admittedly £150,000 is a lot to pay for a diptych but I think he's being a bit harsh to call the street scene 'rubbish'.

A couple of the Norman Ackroyd's on show.  The top one is another view of Tory Island, but I think I prefer my one of the same island that I bought from last year's show.  The one of the rock - 'St Kilda in Sunlight - Stac Lee' is a big picture with the equally large price tag of £650 for a print.

Two general views of the gallery that has the bar in the middle of it.  I don't know if this bar is still there when it's opened to the general public.  As you can see it was quite busy but not oppressively so.

I liked this.  It's by Mark Alexander and it's a 'cover version', if you will, of Van Gogh's sunflowers but done completely in monochrome.  He also showed one either last year or the year before called 'The Blacker Gachet XIII' which was, again, a copy of the Van Gogh portrait of the same name but done completely in black - you had to stand at a certain angle to see the brush marks and then it was obvious what it was.  Very clever but a bit overpowering.  I liked the flowers better, but not enough to mortgage my house to raise the £40,000 that it costs.

This is 'Silver Streak' by David Mach RA.  It's completely made out of coat hangers.  It's sort of very silly but kind of impressive at the same time.  It's huge and also £265,000.  Which is a lot of money to fork out to ensure that you've always got a spare coathanger around.

By now I was getting a bit blase about taking pictures and had forgone employing guerilla photography tactics in order to photograph the gorilla and I got nabbed by security.  They're quite sneaky, the security chappies at the RA, because they don't really wear a uniform so they're not easy to spot.  He came up to me and said, 'You're not allowed to take photos'.  I put on my best contrite face, put my phone down by my side and mumbled something non-descript like 'no, sorry' to which he replied 'Because I saw you'.  I felt like such a naughty child!  And, yes, I know it's an appalling example to set all those millions of people who look to me to set an example in how to behave in civilised society, but it's only because the RA would rather you buy the postcards (or the actual artwork) afterwards.  Who's actually losing out by me taking a few snaps to put up on my blog?  I should charge them for the free advertising!!!

Anyway, I wasn't bothered too much as we were coming to the end and I hadn't taken nearly as many photos as I would've liked.  I waited until he was out of the way and then took one last snap because I've always been a complete sucker for a large oil painting of a grumpy cat in a cowboy hat:

'Cowboy Joe from Mexico' by Angela Lizon (£3,800).  I did buy the postcard of this and now have it framed at home.  It's much better than the £125,000 Tracey Emin graffiti below it.

So that's it for another year.  I didn't buy anything this time round as everything I liked was just too pricey but TLH and I always enjoy going to have a look.  

Hope you've enjoyed this vicarious wander round - same time next year?

 *Errata  - TLH has pointed out to me, after reading this, that the preening cockmonkey wasn't, in fact, wearing a leather trilby, it was a bowler hat.  Which is actually worse.  The headwear had obviously been so comedic and try-hard that I'd attempted to wipe it from my memory but only partially succeeded.  He also informs me that we actually went to the British Museum before going to Kettner's. Being a scientist he demands accuracy in all things.*

Pictures from the Poppy Field

"We usually think of the poppy as a coarse flower; but it is the most transparent and delicate of all the blossoms of the field ... the poppy is painted glass; it never glows so brightly as when the sun shines through it.  Wherever it is seen - against the light or with the light - always, it is a flame, and warms the wind like a blown ruby".  (Ruskin, "Proserpina - studies of wayside flowers", 1874).

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Conversations with the new Messiah, aged 4

I have a close male relative, R.  He is 4 years old and a fizzy bundle of a small boy.  He is bright, curious, funny, bossy and loves his two older and one younger sisters.  He also has a very vivid imagination and is the only child I know who doesn't just have an imaginary friend, he has Mr Solomon, his very own imaginary Rabbi.  And we're not Jewish.  His mum, S, related a recent conversation she had with R.

R: Mummy, mummy - I have protectical eyes and protectical ears.

S:  Do you, dear?  That's nice.  And what do they do?

R:  I can see a long, looooong way with my protectical eyes!

S:  Really?  How far can you see?

R:  All the way to Africa!

S:  Goodness!  That's a very long way indeed.  And what do you see in Africa?

R:  All the animals - elephants and giraffes.

S:  That's lovely!  And what can you hear with your protectical ears?

R:  I can hear people talking to me from a looooooong way away.

S:  Wow - and who can you hear talking to you?

R:  I can hear God!

S: .....umm......really? And what does God say to you?

R: He said (in wispy, ethereal tones) "I am your future".

S: ..........oh..................

S has promised to keep me updated should God choose to make any more pronouncements to R, and she's keeping an eye out for any signs of stigmata.  We're wondering how much we should charge the pilgrims.

UPDATE - I've just been informed that R now has an imaginary country! It's called Appopedia and it's on the other side of the planet. We're keeping an eye out for them in the World Cup.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Breaking radio silence....

So, the thing is, I'm aware that it's halfway through June and I've not posted since the end of May.  This doesn't mean I've been doing nothing, no siree.  I have been pretty busy but doing fairly mundane stuff that doesn't make for interesting blog posts.  Well, I say that but only because I'm a very lazy blogger - if I was as good a writer as, say, Katyboo or the very fragrant Jaywalker, then I could make the opening of a crisp packet interesting and insightful, but I'm not that great and I've found, after pestering the blogosphere with my mediocre ramblings for about 18 months now, that I need to have a proper, um, 'thing' to write about - my everyday pootlings are boring enough for me to live through, never mind inflicting it on any other poor sod.

My current daily timetable tends to run like this:

Anytime between 7am and 8am - wake up, or, rather, be woken up by Large Hungry Cat trampling over feet demanding to be fed.  Which bed I wake up in depends on how well I slept the night before.  I don't sleep well when it's hot or noisy outside, and if I wake in the small hours and TLH is lying next to me doing his One Man Band impersonation or Large Hungry Cat is snoring underneath the bed, then I find myself lying in the dark listening to them which is useless for getting back to sleep.  So I take myself off to the spare room which is quieter, darker and cooler than our room, and I shut the door so Large Hungry Cat or Smaller Stroppy Cat can't try and get in bed with me and dribble all over my neck.

Morning - Have breakfast.  Feed cats.  Feed garden birds.  Check how seedlings are doing in the plastic-houses.  Check Google Reader for updated blog posts.  Do stuff that needs doing like food shopping, going into town to pay bills, that sort of thing.

Lunch - any time between 12.30 and 3pm.  I have a weird inability to 'do' lunch.  Although I like food (there's a surprise) I hate having to think about what to make and panicking if there's nothing in the fridge.  I'm not a natural list maker but the one list I do make is the week's menu.  I learnt this from my mum - I thought it was a brilliant idea and so, so sensible.  On Sunday (or the day before you do the weekly shop, whichever day that is), get a notepad and decide what meals you're going to have for the next 6 days.  You can decide this yourself or you can try and rope in everyone else in your family to give ideas about what they'd like to eat that week. You can chop and change the meals around when you actually have to start making them, i.e., swap the Tuesday and Thursday meals around, or if you feel like just getting a pizza in, or going out for an Indian, then that's fine.  But you only buy the ingredients for the 6 meals you've planned.  Then you go and buy them.  Pin the week's menu up in the kitchen and Robert's your mother's brother. No more having to decide what to make, or last minute rushes to the shops.  TLH admitted that when we started living together and I instigated this regime (I'd always done it and wasn't about to start changing now), he thought it was a bit weird and cut out any spontaneity.  Yeah, well, spontaneity is fine if you're not the one who has to prepare the meals and go and get the ingredients.  Plus, like I said, you can mix and match and change your mind.  But he's now realised that it means you only have to go food shopping once a week, everything you need will then be in the house, you don't have to think about what you're going eat that evening, it really cuts down on impulse buying of stuff and, theoretically, keeps the food bill down.  Admittedly, there are plenty of times when I have to go back later in the week because I've forgotten something, or I really just fancy something else to what's on the menu, but it's a method I've used for about 25 years that works really well.  Except that I can only do it with evening meals.  I just can't seem to get my head around lunches.  I suppose this is probably because for most of my working life I worked full-time in offices so lunches were always bought from sandwich shops or staff canteens, I never had to think about making my own.  I've worked from home now for, ooh, about 6 years or so but I still can't get my head round it.  It's a case of when you're hungry, head to the kitchen and see what there is - it could be scrambled egg on toast, or ryvita with something on it, or perhaps sarnies.  Maybe a spot of salad if you can be bothered.  Perhaps just a couple of readymade Swedish meatballs straight from the packet with a lump of cheese.  But you then have to share the Swedish meatballs with Large Hungry Cat who knows the sound of the packet being taken out of the fridge and will wrap himself around your legs and howl at you until you give him one. So, yeah, lunch is done.

Afternoon - For the last couple of weeks, if not longer, I've spent most afternoons at my allotment.  This is because (a) it needs looking after anyway at this time of year but mostly, (b) the council come round to pass judgment on everyone's plots at the end of June.  This year they're coming round on 21 and 22 June and they have to be neat, grass cut, be as weed-free as possible and at least 50% cultivated with vegetables. And the only way I can get mine to the standard demanded is by sheer graft.  Everyone at the site is the same - there's a distinct air of panic and anxiety in the first weeks of June and everyone's there all the time.  The air is thick with the smell of petrol fumes from the strimmers and woodsmoke from the bonfires while plots are frantically beaten into some sort of shape.  Once the inspection's taken place and those not up to scratch have had their wrists slapped, everyone more or less downs tools, starts breathing again and relaxes back into the leisurely business of pottering around and not getting stressed out about a weed or two.  But, until that happens, it just gets a bit mental down there.  So that's where I've been.  I will spend an average of 3 hours there, and then stagger home, hot, sweaty and filthy to collapse on the sofa for half an hour or so before falling into a reviving shower.

Dinner/Tea/Supper - I come from Northern working class stock so in our house our evening meal was always called Tea or Dinner.  Mostly Tea.  Only posh people had 'supper'.  This is where the beauty of the menu comes into its own.  I try to make sure we eat at about 7pm, so anytime from 6pm onwards I'll head off into our kitchen, check what's on the menu for that day and then make it.  Sometimes it's something very quick and easy, other times it takes longer.  For instance, tonight I'm doing Beef Curry using Anjum Anand's recipe for Classic Northern Indian Lamb Curry but subsituting lamb (which I don't like) for beef.  And cooking it for at least 2 hours on a very low heat until the meat falls apart. It's an extremely easy dish to make but cooks for a long time.

Evening - This is spent, as in every decent British household, in front of the telly.  At the moment we're working our way through the entire Lost back catalogue, 2 or 3 episodes a night.  We're up to halfway through Season 4 I think.  Mind you, this is being put on hold as the World Cup has just started and we quite like a bit of footie in our house.  Unless England are playing in which case I quite like a bit of footie in our house - TLH can't cope with the tension of watching England fail again so runs away.  Literally.  I'll sit there, doing my Old Woman's Crocheting (I'm making a blanket for our bed for the winter), swigging beer from the bottle and making my own comments to myself about whether or not Rooney was onside and just what the feck the goalie thought he was doing.

Bed-time - Can be anytime up to about 1am.  Last night I hit the sack at 9.30pm but that was because we'd just done two outdoor craft fairs in two days and I was absolutely shattered.  These were the same fairs as we did this time last year, but I forgot to take my camera this year.  Having said that, village fetes don't change much so you could read last year's posting and just pretend it was this year's - except for what I got off the bric-a-brac stall in Chiddingfold this year.  It was a bit disappointing really - no animal skulls or stuffed piranhas, but I did manage to pick up a couple of DVDs for £1 each - Werner Herzog's 'Nosferatu' starring Klaus Kinski -

This is a deeply atmospheric film with an amazing soundtrack.  I remember taping it on VHS off the telly way back during the 1980s but left the tape with The Artist when we split up.

The second film was Kinji Fukasaku's film 'Battle Royale' -

This is a cult Japanese film about a class of unruly High School students who are carted off to an island and have to kill each other until there's only one left. I do love me some Japanese film and this one's great.  As you might have guessed, I don't 'do' chick flicks. I would rather have worms than sit through something like 'Marley and Me'.  Give me something shlocky by Vin Diesel or Jason Statham any day.  Or something Scandinavian and atmospheric ('Let the Right One In'), or Asian and violent ('Audition', 'Sympathy for Lady Vengeance' and, of course, 'Oldboy').  Or science-fictiony, especially if there's space travel involved.  But, please, nothing "heartwarming".

I'll read a little bit, then fall asleep.  Then wake up to start it all over again.  So, as you can see, there's nothing much to write about lately - admittedly last week we did go to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and I'm planning on doing a post about that very soon, but, in general, my life's not worth writing about at the moment.  But don't despair, I'll report back once I've got something interesting to say.....

How's your life going these days?