Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Visit Back to Wing

     This is one of those times when I feel led to interrupt my current story for a couple of posts, just to keep you up to date on current events. I will finish telling you about Norway and Denmark a little later. I am hoping I can talk Barbara into posting some of her totally beautiful Norway pics then. She can do it, but I could just never do something like that. This computer generation just mostly passed me by, except for just what I have to be able to do to blog and write my stories. Hope you don't mind this interruption. Thanks for your time, and your attention. Oh, I almost forgot. I told another of my stories at Tales from the South, in Little Rock Tuesday night. It went well, at least they laughed an awful lot. But I couldn't tell for sure when they were laughing with me about the story, and when they were laughing at me, about my hillbilly talk in general. I told about my city cousin, Mike, and I protecting our corn patch from the raccoons and the crows, as twelve year olds, in 1956. One lady even came up and asked me for my autograph. Now THAT fired me up for a while. It will come out on National Public Radio in a few weeks. I'll keep you posted about when.

      I went to Wing to see my oldest brother Harold this week. Harold is 82. He's getting around pretty slow, as he has for some time. He survived a ruptured aneurysm in his brain a lot of years ago while fighting the Yellowstone Fire, but survive it he did, partly because he was so big and strong, the doc said. It was an eight hour operation, and he had to be cooled down to stone cold, stop his heart to empty that blood vessel. Then a lady surgeon had to reach those tiny, slim fingers into the brain stem and clamp that now empty blood vessel. Then his heart was started again. When he woke up, I shook his hand, which was still stone cold, and headed to Arkansas. I was not needed there. His wife Lou was on guard. Lou was a powerful force in that Intensive Care Waiting Room. Just the kind of person one needs, looking over them, when they are at death's door. That started slowing him some, but fortunately, his brain is as sharp as it ever was. Harold has said for the last 25 years or so that he would love to meet someone who is also a survivor of that same kind of operation, so he could compare notes. But so far, he hasn't found anyone.
      Harold always keeps a project going, though, and he thinks through each step very carefully. This time, the project was to get rid of a very `intellectual pest. Harold's house has a small room off the porch where the cat's sleep. But it had been invaded by some sort of mysterious animal, which continues to eat up all their cat food. He expelled the cats for the duration of this project, and comes up with one idea after another for catching this unwelcome visitor. The room has access to the house underneath area, but closed off from the outside.
      The first idea was to put out his homemade armadillo box trap, with lots of cat food as bait. The next morning, the bait was all gone, but the trap was not thrown. Seeing this was not going to work, Harold got a wire box trap from Walmart. The next morning, all the bait was gone, the trap was thrown, but no animal inside. There had been enough cat food inside these traps to feed an army, and every bit of it was always gone. This is where I came into the picture. We discussed this problem in great detail, for a good part of the day..
      Since the animal had already defeated the two traps designed for relatively large animals, such as a stray cat, coon, or possum, we determined it must be smaller. And since it carried off tons of food, we decided it was carrying it off and hiding it. We put our heads together and came up with the logical solution, a pack rat! Once we agreed on this, we spent the rest of the day on strategy.
      We got a rat trap, just a glorified wood and wire mouse trap, but much larger. We discussed bait. I recommended a chunk of cheese, as it would be harder to get it off the trap without throwing it. Harold wanted to stick some pieces of cat food around on the cheese, as this animal had already shown an affinity to cat food. I tried to convince Harold that everybody, and everything, just loves cheese, and a good round chunk of it, alone, would be sufficient. He finally gave in. We set the trap right beside the two useless traps already there, topped by a really nice chunk of ripe cheese. Harold suggested we had to tie that trap down, because that animal might get a leg or something caught, and drag his only rat trap off. I said the trap didn't need that, because once a rat was securely in it, it was going nowhere anyway. We debated this for a good part of the afternoon, and by sundown, Harold had won out. It was his trap, and his house.
Big Dan, Harold's youngest son, was there, temporarily recovering from some medical issues, and he was not to be left out of this discussion. Dan allowed as how, in case it didn't get caught, it might circle the trap a time or two, to inspect the cheese, and we should sprinkle flour on the floor in the whole area, and that way, we might at least see a track or two, and get some idea about what we were up against. We discussed the merits and shortcomings of this idea, we each had our say, but in the end, nobody came up with a good reason why we should not do that, so we did.
      As bed time approached, we were all anxious to see what the morning would bring. I wanted to peek in on the situation at bed time, but Harold said leave it alone. This animal never stirred before midnight, he said.
Now, I didn't really understand how Harold knew that, as he is always asleep by eight o'clock. But, I didn't mention that, because I knew it would only trigger a new round of discussions on that point, and we were all pretty well worn out from debating all day, as it was..
      Big Dan has had a wild and adventure filled life. But Big Dan has now found the Lord, and was anxious to talk about it. He and I probably talked more that night at Harold's than we had ever talked before in our lives.
      I lived for a time with Big Dan, in the Gas Fields of Western Oklahoma. I was working one summer on a large gas well, and Big Dan roared up one day on his Harley, and easily got a job there, when the boss saw how big and strong he was. He made my life there a lot easier. The other Roughnecks stopped throwing large chunks of iron off the tower at me, just to see how well I could dodge, once Big Dan was on the scene. And life was sure a lot simpler in that roughneck town, also, hanging out with Big Dan. He was just a skinny kid then, about 270 pounds or so. Nobody messed with Big Dan.
      When I headed for bed that night at Harold's, I turned and held Dan's eye for a moment across the room. “I'm proud of you, Dan. You're a good man.” Dan flashed a smile. “Thanks, Uncle Pat. You've ALWAY'S been a good man.” That was a good exchange to end that visit on. I slept well.
.                     Continued

Friday, August 24, 2012

Norway - Part five

      We got into Bergen, on the coast, with lots of cruise ships coming and going. Downtown we had a very hard time finding a place to park, but we finally found a spot in a parking garage. The town was all it was made out to be, and we walked and looked all day. We headed back to the very tall building I had memorized that was only a few hundred yards from our parking garage, but I now had no idea in which direction. Looking proved fruitless, so we found an old man, who had obviously had a stroke, and asked him if he knew where a parking garage was. He got up with great difficulty, and said follow him. As we followed him through building after building, he told us, “Because you have asked me, I must do right by you.” That about summarized the attitude of these nice people. When he, at last, after much difficulty for him, pointed to a parking garage, I knew it was the wrong one. However, we didn't wish to cause him any more agony, which he was obviously in, so we thanked and thanked him, and went back to the tall building, our reference point. We made a number of forays out, all dead ends. On the last one, because we were running out of directions, we found it. Didn't look a thing like we remembered it.

      The way out of town was hard to follow, doubly hard when I realized I was going out the wrong side. But we finally backtracked through town and got on the right road. Oh, but what I would give for just one highway sign I could read. Back at the Guest house, we hooked up with a young woman, 30 something, from Singapore. She was a tour guide by profession, but she takes weeks off each year and travels the world alone, and we soon came to realize she had been about everywhere. But asked if she had been to America, she was horrified. “I wouldn't dare!” I told her the whole world watches too many American movies, all with guns and killing.  And she was watching too much TV. She admitted she might have, but I could see we had not changed her thinking. We have seen this attitude, over and over, on many different sides of the world.

      After we made breakfast, we cleaned our room and headed for Godvagen, where we would board a boat for a fjord trip.
There were a couple of Chinese tour groups around, and, I'm sorry to say, they were still pushy. Barbara was about to pay at a gift shop, when a Chinese woman stepped in front of Barbara, and pushed her out of her way with her head and shoulders. The cashier was as shocked as Barbara, and insisted on waiting on Barbara first. The woman never acknowledged Barbara's presence.
On the boat, they were pretty civil, and some even swapped taking pictures. One guy had a big, top of the line camera, with a whole bag full of lenses, and Barbara, as always, offered to take their picture with it. He looked pretty doubtful, until he saw how well she handled his camera. Like the pro she is. She posed them in detail, and he then got very excited. He just ran up to see the picture when she had finished, and thanked her over and over. It was a good picture.

      The scenery was awesome, the best we have seen. Many little towns along the fjord seemed to be reachable only by boat, and some houses up on the mountains only by helicopter. Rich people. Melting snow still produced waterfalls from everywhere. We were in agreement. Norway was the most beautiful country on Earth. And the most expensive, except, maybe, for Monaco. But we had blended into Monaco society like a sore thumb, sticking straight out. We finished our one way cruise, and got on a bus to go back to Godvagen. Barbara went to sleep, and when I told her it was time to get off, she did not do it gracefully. We had passed Godvagen while she was falling out into the aisle because of a step down she missed, and when it stopped, it was a little past. When she got off, she was in panic mode. “Where's the store!?” I told her, “You were flat on your face when we passed it.”
      After a nice picnic lunch, We headed on north, making a big circle back to Oslo. Soon, we were up on a very high mountain, with very scattered houses, and well above the tree line. Lots of sheep and cattle. We stopped to photograph some sheep, and use the toilet, The Shoestring Traveler's bathroom, beside the road. That never seemed to get routine with Barbara. It was more complicated for her, and it's just something a classy lady never wants to have to do, but it can't be helped.

      We came down the mountain, and got in line at a ferry, a voyage of many miles. We ran onto a couple of other Americans, the first we have seen. They were old also, and were traveling for a month also, but she had every night booked along the way. That sounded nice, with all the time we spent looking. But one just has no flexibility, booking everything ahead. And the cheap places are never mentioned in the travel books. They looked rich, and I doubted if we would ever see them at one of our Poor Man's lodgings. And I was right.               Continued         Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Post 153 - From Sweden into Norway

      Getting into Norway, we soon arrived in Oslo. It was very large, and confusing. Near the north side, we stopped for lunch, and a tall, blonde,slender guy showed us how to get on the road to Bergen, the city we were angling for, since it was supposed to be the most beautiful area.

      A pair of french youths hit us up for a ride when they found we were going that way, and the girl was well spoken, but we explained our little car was full. And it was. Very full. It was only 150 miles or so away, but, as it turned out, it took us days to get there. Not far out of Oslo, we passed a giant pile of flowers along the road, with lots of people stopping. Looking out into the lake, we recognized the Island where so many young campers were shot recently. We pulled over at a grocery/diner there, and the owner, who seemed to still be somewhat traumatized by the event, told us all about it. He said the people living in the trailer park there got in boats and saved 200, many in the water. He went on about “That's just what happens when a country allows so many foreigners in,” seeming to ignore the fact that this was a home grown terrorist. Ironically, He seemed to be expressing the same sentiments the shooter stated at his hearing. His anger seemed to be pointed at a group that supported allowing more foreigners to move into Norway. These gentle people just could not seem to wrap their minds around the fact that one of their own could ever do that.

      Travel was very slow, crowded with a lot of construction. That was a very well-worn path, constantly along the very large lake. Near the end of the day, we saw a motel advertised on a convenience store, but the motel was closed. He did tell us we had just passed a Pensjonat, and then I remembered. A Pension was a place to stay in Germany. We decided to stay there two days, reasonable with lots of side trip possibilities.

     We saw the Flam Railroad was advertised ahead, with a very steep track up to the top of a very high mountain, so we decided to take a paying side trip, very rare with us. The rails looked awfully steep to me, but we were assured the train had five different braking systems. Surely one of them would work. On the train, we talked a lot with a couple who were from the far north of Norway, and their description sounded a lot like the North Pole. We would not go up that far. Housing was scarce up there, and very cold.
     We were approaching a stop at a beautiful waterfall, and we were warned of an evil maiden, who often appeared near these falls, singing a beautiful, darkly seductive song, attempting to lure unsuspecting tourists to their deaths. As we looked at the beautiful waterfall,  she suddenly showed up in the mist, singing her beautiful, dark song from different locations around the falls. Good thing we had been warned. We now knew better, and held our position. Amazingly, all the other tourists did too. Our group was just too smart for that beautiful maiden. Did I tell you she was slender and blonde? How could anybody so tall, blonde and beautiful be so evil!  It was a very scenic trip, well worth it.

      To get from Oslo to Bergen, the route used to involve many ferry rides in that fjord country. But Norway got very rich in oil, and they set in to drill dozens of tunnels through the bottoms of those tall mountains, and now one can drive straight through. The longest, and the worlds longest tunnel, was 12 miles. Sorta scary. I think they must be well ahead of the rest of the world in that technology. They originally brought up Italians, who also were pretty good with tunnels, but they decided Norway rocks were too hard, and soon left. Then they just went ahead and figured it out for themselves. We seemed to be, more often than not, in a tunnel.

      We drove into Voss, where we had gotten wind of a guest house, reasonable. Having no luck finding it, we went into a grocery store. A tall, thin, blonde guy told us to follow him. He walked to a window, pointed way up on a mountain, and identified it. Though there were other houses up there too, it seemed pretty likely that we could now find it, since we had already seen it. But it was not that simple. There were many dirt roads heading up the mountain, and it was a while before we found the right one.
The guest house had a variety of interesting people, but as always, we were the oldest. As always, Barbara would be friends with all of them before we left. It had a self help kitchen, and a clothes washer, but toilets and showers were few, and they stayed pretty busy. Since we had already heard that Bergen was very touristy, and very expensive, we decided to stay there for two nights and make a dash to Bergen and back the next day.

Continued     Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wandering Sweden - Part three

      After driving and looking most of the day, I'll have to say the country was beautiful, lots of lakes and forests. Parts of it had tons of wheat fields, too, and I must say they looked sorta short and scrawny. But it was mostly all the same, as far as scenery goes, so I see no need to tell you that over and over. Let's just stick to the people, mostly. We called and found a B&B, then started looking for it. The man spoke little English but he did say he had a spot, so we headed there, stopping at a grocery store near it for help on the directions part. I showed the owner the phone number, and he agreed to call it. It didn't take long. Then he said, “The man said he had no room for Americans” Well, I never! And here we drove 40 miles to find him. I asked if there was any other lodging, in this small town. He first said no, then told us of a hostel, sounding doubtful we would want to stay there. But about anything beats sleeping in our little car, so I went for it, with Barbara beginning to look very doubtful.
      It turned out to be a huge building, 3 floors, but nobody was home. After waiting a while, we started to just go on when a woman drove up. Her name was Barbro, Barbara in Swedish. Yes, she had a room to spare. Turns out, all of them to spare. We fit in between the busy seasons for hostels, and we had it all to ourselves. She took our money, and left. We never saw another person, until Barbro came back to collect for the next day. I figured out about that time that I had given the grocery owner the wrong phone number for that B&B, and the one we reserved is, I guess, still looking for us. I felt bad about that.

      The thing was, with most hostels, you bring your own sheets, cook your own meals, haul out your own trash, sweep before you leave, and lock the door behind yourselves. As were every one of our stays, it was spotless, and we left it that way. Couldn't have all these civilized Swedes thinking badly about Americans. The only Americans they will see all year are the ones we are all judged by. So we made them think highly of all you other Americans, too. No need to thank us. You can do the same for us some day, at least you other weird ones who travel around alone like we love to do.
      Since it is getting cooler, we went around to other rooms and picked up an extra blanket or two. I don't mind sleeping on a bare mattress, but Barbara did, so she slept in one of my long shirts and her pants.
Barbro was very nice to Barbara the next day, she had finally made the name connection. Barbro-Barbara. And she loved our money for another night, since that was all she would get. Alone again, Barbara insisted on leaving a lot of lights on, she was getting pretty spooked by this quiet place out in the woods.

      Looking at more of the countryside I have already described for you, we stopped for lunch at a McDonalds. One of the guys was just in love with American Indians, and I had to describe them in detail. Wanted to know if we had actually seen one. Seen any Cherokees? What were they like? On and on. He should have matched up with the woman at our last stay before flying out. She actually had teepees in her yard, but unlike him, she regularly traveled to America to see them, and gave them money.

      We went on and looked around in more small towns than I can count. Finally, we found a tourist info site, and she booked us a B&B a ways out of town. Arriving at a house that looked exactly like what she had described, we knew we had found it. She had said nobody would be home, just go on in the cabin and make ourselves at home. But the cabin was locked. We knocked everywhere, but no luck. After a while, we just sat in our car and waited. Finally, a very timid little woman stuck her head out the door, and asked what we wanted. Wrong house. Next one down. It was unlocked, so we made ourselves at home. Turned out to be the right place, and a good stay, but we had to walk across the yard in the rain to the toilet in the main house.

      The next day, we came across a very large event, boat races. Most of them seemed to be a bit smaller and slower, driven by young drivers, many not old enough to drive a car. They sure could drive those speed boats, though. After we looked that and the town over good, we started looking for the hostel (Do you get the idea we spent a lot of time looking for a place to sleep?)  that we knew was in here somewhere. It turned out to be a series of Railway cars remodeled, and strung together. They turned out to be right in the middle of the crowd. And they had openings, the price was right, but the sleeper cars were pretty small and crowded. Barbara finally put her foot down here, so we headed on. The hotel we found later was more expensive, but did have a place to wash clothes. There just seems to be no public laundries in Sweden. We figured out that a loppis was a second hand store, and we bought used sheets, since it seemed we would need them often.

      We angled off toward Norway. The next hotel we found was nice, owned by a very young man, 25,
and Barbara just had to know how he got to that position so early. He said he had been on his own, working, since 13. He worked in a grocery, then bought it, then bought others. Finally, he sold them all and bought the hotel. He said all he did was work, though. And that seemed to be the case.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Post 150 - Wandering Sweden - Part 2

      We headed north along the coast, and stopped for a National Park. It was all fogged in, but we could only imagine what beautiful sights we would have seen. We must find a B&B tonight, rumor had it they were cheaper. Barbara's rented cell phone, one we could also call home with, was messed up. One could barely hear. Plus, the ladies at the B&B's were speaking only partial English, so we didn't have very good directions, but we got a town name. We walked into a service station, manned by a good looking tall, blonde young man, of course, and he found it quickly on his computer, and printed us off a map. We drove right to it. The lady at the farm was in her 70's, very nice. She even lowered her price into our budget range, when she saw us. (Clean, well groomed.)

      She told us thousands of Swedes, during the 1800's were running out of land. Farming was the way they lived, and after you divide a farm half a dozen ways just so many times, something's gotta give. Hearing about homestead land in America, these now well off people, looking toward their children and grand children's future, sold it all, and went. We heard many stories along that line, and they all had some things in common. They went to the north, with climate similar to here, (70 degrees in the summer) and they were adapted to the cold. They all told of visiting their kin in America, with nary a story about a return visit. I guess most of us Americans just like to stay home, like my family did, when they got settled. And, they already knew what Sweden looked like. When they showed the first homes of the emigrants, it was invariably a small log cabin in the wilderness, beset by Indian raiders. Those older folks gave up an awful lot, leaving this beautiful land so their offspring would have room to expand later.
      Our room was fine, shower in the basement. The lady came in later with half a five gallon bucket full of mushrooms she had picked. This was a good year, with a lot of rain. She made a great mushroom quiche. That was a wonderful little farm, full of loaded fruit trees and weird looking cattle.
      On the road, The mushrooms had a quick effect on Barbara, and she quickly needed a bathroom. Excuse me, a toilet. That's the word here. Anyway, the sign showed a cafe was ahead, but I located a nice, wooded pull out for her, just in case. The cafe was closed, so I quickly ran back to that nice little pull out, with a well worn path into the thick woods. Barbara was hesitant, but I told her to get use to it, I expected many more little woods paths in our future. And many didn't have the nice woods, just open both doors on one side, make our own toilet. At least, three sides of one. Cuts down the chances of peekers 75%.

      We got word there was a convent stay ahead, and who could resist spending a night with the nuns? But the hotel was behind the convent, with no chance to talk to the nuns, and $200 +. Now, seeing a nun was not worth that much, and we had already talked to the nun trying to rent us a stay, so we settled for that and forged on.
      We found if we put the phone on speaker, one could actually hear. Not just that tinny rattle. So we found a little B&B, $120, and booked it for two days, to rest up and wash clothes.

      Heading on north, we were bound for Stockholm. A big city, and I dreaded it. My fears were well justified. We made 3 loops through the city trying to follow directions to a ship in the harbor made into a hostel, then wandered around lost for a while, knowing nothing about the road signs with those long, strange words, or the customs of the road. Many people tried to help us learn, with their hand signals and honking, but I'm a slow learner. We finally found a road north, and got out of there.

      Many miles north, we found a hotel, looks about like $80. but no, $217. Free breakfast, and we were experts at turning a free breakfast into a meal that would last all day. It also had internet.
      Up for the big breakfast early, we thought we were too early, because the dining room was absolutely silent. When we opened the door, it was filled with at least 100 construction workers, absolutely silent, eating with not even any crunching sounds. These are really quiet, civilized people. In the US, that many construction workers in one room would have at least two or three fist fights going, along with a ton of loud swear words. Perfect gentlemen.

Continued.      Thanks for reading!  Heading for the Gillum Reunion today. Maybe I can get a story out of that. I can guarantee you, you will NOT find a large group of Gillums eating with nary a sound! I may need ear plugs!:)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Wandering Sweden

      We left Little Rock at 4:30 A.M. August 10, 2011, youngest grandson Carson's fifth birthday.
The flight to London was long, seven hours, and we arrived late. The London violence was not all over yet, and as the long subway ride was not recommended at that time of night, we looked for a hotel near the airport. We already knew London was not like many cities of the world we had flown into, who usually have at least one inexpensive hotel near the airport, and we knew we would be stuck royally, and we were, of course. But folks our age can't start out on such a trip staying awake all night. Nearly $400, and half the night was already gone. They didn't see that as an angle to consider, however.

      We took the subway to the city the next morning. I learned what the “Mind the Gap” sign meant, as I stumbled off the subway. I asked Barbara where we were, and she thought that was funny. “Just look up.” Big Ben stared down at me. We spent most of the day walking around, seeing the sights of London, and a large police presence, keeping a sharp eye out for the now dwindling homegrown terrorists.

     The flight to Copenhagen was shorter, only 1 ½ hours. We still managed to arrive late at night. We did find the office that held our little hire car. They asked for $1,200 to cover the insurance for 34 days. How she did it, I'll never know, but Barbara instantly pulled up our mileage account number from her head. We knew our credit card had provided us free hire car insurance in Ireland. Maybe they would here too. We couldn't call them from here, but we knew Mickey, our son-in-law, could from Little Rock. We called him, He called them and called us right back. “Don't pay them a dime, we'll cover any damage you might do,” they instructed. Had they known me, they would have said, “likely to do.” See why I bring Barbara along, have Mickey waiting in the wings? Left to my own devices, I would have just been begging them to accept my IOU for those big bucks. Fat chance. Nice to be highly thought of by Citibank, even when we never paid them a dime except the $50 yearly fee. We have never in our lives paid them interest, and we have ridden that card all over the world on our bonus miles. I keep expecting them to drop us, but they just keep raising our allowable limit. Maybe that's their game. Give us enough rope, and the temptation will eventually make us hang ourselves. Could that be?

      The tall hotel on the edge of town wanted over $200 for a piece of a night too, and I asked Barbara if she still had the number in her head for that Pore' House in Ireland, because if this kept up, we would probably be headed there, as my dad liked to say. I had still not found reverse on that cute little VW Polo. It just wasn't like anything I had driven before. How could I be expected to know one must push the stick shift down while moving it sideways? Turned out, that cute little VW  wound up being our salvation, because the gas gauge just kept sticking on “full” for three days at a time.

      The long bridge into Sweden cost $30, of course. And when we stopped at the Sweden visitor's center, there was just no way to open the trunk. A stranger came over and turned that little VW insignia, and it popped right open. Wouldn't you just know it.
      We found the right young man at the Visitor's Center, though. Tall, slim, blonde, good looking – weren't they all? He had lived in Chicago for four months, and spent a lot of time with us getting us lined out on southern Sweden. I learned a new trick when we entered Malmo, a big city. Just get on that road that says City Centre, don't vary, and one winds up there. We tried to park the car, but the parking meter wouldn't take our credit card, and we had no Swedish money yet. But, a nice couple just stepped up and filled the meter for us. Just the first hint of what was to come with these wonderful people.
      A banker girl, tall, thin, blonde, and beautiful, swapped our US money for Swedish, and pointed us toward the grocery store. Nothing there was in English, but by now you know Barbara – before long half the customers and most of the employees were gathering up the right food for us. We toured about that highly populated part of Sweden that day, learning the ropes and the road. The late afternoon was frustrating, as we searched for lodging. The first place wanted $210. Good grief! Our allowed daily budget was $200, including the $40 we had already paid for the car. Finally, we found an old hotel for $117. No commode or shower in the room. Dorothy, you're not in Kansas any more!

      We awoke the next morning to very loud music coming in our window. It seemed to be an Antique Car Show, with loud music being the emphasis. Our free breakfast had good coffee, so things were looking up.