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A room with a view

As Londoners we always get excited when an opportunity rises to visit one of its many monuments, however it is not every day that we get invited to visit the Mayor of London’s office…This was the 2nd time for us; the 1st time was in 2003, just a few months after it opened. This was a collaboration with a customer and we exhibited a large print showing an image of Tower Bridge.

This time it was a bit different. London’s Air Ambulance have invited us to take part in an event hosted by Caroline Pidgeon, member of the London Assembly and Deputy Chair of the Transport Committee and Joanne McCartney, Deputy Mayor. It was held at the London Living Room on the top floor and the 200 guests included donors, charity trustees, business and corporate partners, ex. patients, doctors, paramedics, pilots and consultants from the team.

June 19th was the hottest day of the year which meant the doors to the panoramic viewing balcony were kept open!

In the first image, if you look closely (click on the images to open them in a new window, then click again to zoom in), you can see the Royal London Hospital, to the Left of Tower Bridge. If you move a few cm to the Left again, yo can see the Red helicopter, just between the Hospital and a couple of big cranes. It took off and made a flyby along the river just above City Hall.

Jonathan Jenkins, the Charity’s new CEO, gave a fantastic, inspirational speech that was followed by Dr. Anne Weaver, Clinical Director of Trauma @ Royal London MTC & Barts Health NHS Trust (@AnnielondonAA) talking about the charity’s recent activities durning the terror attacks and the great Grenfel Tower fire, and also about the new initiative: The Institute Of Pre Hospital Care.

We then all watched a short video which was filmed a few weeks ago by the amazing Pro Create team (click on the link below the image to watch the video):

Needless to say that there were a few tears that were shed by more than a few people in the audience. We stayed there for a few hours, chatting to people, telling our story to donors and trustees, and sharing and exchanging experiences with fellow ex. patients and their families: A guy who lost his Left arm in the 2016 Croydon tram derailment, A guy who was involved in a motorbike vs brick wall accident less than a year ago, who suffered a severe head injury and was in a coma for a few days, A lady who had lost her leg in a car accident and young Victoria, who nearly lost her life at the end of 2014 when she was hit and run over by a lorry while riding her bike in London. She met “her” driver in court a year later and forgave him.

It was a very special night that we will remember for a long, long time. Being there with a group of people all joined by the same misfortune on one hand, but that are also fortunate to still be around and to be able to participate, support and enjoy being part of the Charity’s family.

In our continuous efforts to help the charity, we picked up a fun and an educational way to raise some funds. Our children have organised a couple of cake sales at their schools and between those two sales we have managed to collect just under £700. This sort of money covers the jet fuel costs of Two missions of the London’s Air Ambulance helicopter, so in a way we have helped saving two lives in London. Who knows, maybe one of those are the lives of a fellow cyclist?

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A reminder

I think this image tells a lot

This was 12 months ago. In the morning after seeing the doctors and hearing that they were ready to let us go home, Yael was on a mission to get us out of the hospital, not an easy task on the weekend when you need all the paperwork sorted, drugs supplied, follow-up appointments set up, arranging transport and of course preparing the house and the kids!

We eventually got on the ambulance at 9pm and had a very painful, rough & bumpy 1 hour journey through the streets of London.

The kids were at a friend’s house. The guys from the NHS transport service helped me transfer from the stretcher to the wheelchair and used the special ramp that Yael had someone make to wheel me into the house. They also helped Yael get our mattress down the stair and onto the sofa bed she had organised in the lounge.

I was completely drained when they parked me in the living room. All the emotions of being home again after a long, challenging month at the hospital, they all came out…we both sat there, laughing and crying at the same and I tried to get myself together and to put on a brave, happy face for the kids. They came in a few minutes later and we all hugged and cried together, they said goodnight and went to bed. Yael then helped me prepare for sleep, in what was going to be my bed for a long time…little did we know that that home visit was not going to last long and that we were going back to hospital less than 2 weeks later…

Going back

Last Thursday I was at the hospital again, and for a change this wasn’t another scan or another follow up appointment or consultation, which I’ve had many of since the accident.

This time I was there to visit a fellow patient. John was riding his motorbike on my birthday earlier this month when he collided with an articulating lorry and sustained some pretty bad injuries, perhaps even worse than mine.

He was treated and was taken to hospital by the London Air Ambulance. Stayed a few days in ITU and now he is up in the 12C ward, where I spent nearly two months. He’s in the bed next to the one I was in. 

This was the first time I’ve visited the ward since mid-June last year. I had mostly bad memories obviously, but also some good ones. 

I sat with John for an hour and a half, sharing our experiences from the accident, the helicopter flight, surgeries, drugs, pain, meltdowns and the daily routine in the ward. I also gave him some tips on what to watch when he leaves the hospital (hopefully soon) and what to expect in the months to come. 

We’ve never met before but John seems like a tough and determined person and him and his wife are already making plans for fixing their house so that he can have an easy settling-in and prepare for the long recovery process.

I think that he was very encouraged to see me walking around and to hear that things are not as bad as he expects them to be. I hope this will help him cope with what’s coming and we both look forward to staying in touch as they will surely benefit from our advise going forward.


I was expecting so see some familiar faces and was actually looking forward to say hello to the nurses, however only one of those I knew was there and she didn’t remember me at all. I did stop to take a photo of the door of the room I spent 4 weeks in though.

A big thank you to Frank at the London Air Ambulance for arranging this visit. You are a remarkable person and Londoners are lucky to have you as one of the gardian angels.

One year on

Woke up early last Friday and went to get some groceries. At 07:50 as I was pushing the trolly past the bread aisle I felt a sharp twitch in my right hip…these things have become almost normal in the last 12 months but this one was special.

12 months ago, on Thursday, April 7th at 07:50 that Blue Skoda had hit me.

How do you mark that moment? How do you process everything that had happened since that moment? How do you take all the bad and place it in a drawer, and how do you choose all the good, respect and cherish it?

What about the driver? He said sorry when he stood there next to me, but that was the last we’ve seen of him. The poor guy had 3 points added to his licence and had to spend a whole afternoon doing drivers awareness course. Is that enough? Will that make him more careful when he sits behind the wheel? Was he on the phone? Was he texting? Not enough coffee? Did he do something special on Friday? Does he know what happened to us since the accident?

Do we really care about him? Should we be angry with him? We all make mistakes and we all want to move on. Maybe he’s moved on and had chosen not to deal with the consequences.

What could have happened had I not decided to stop & turn Right at the junction? Maybe he would have caught with me 2 minutes later on Crew’s Hill and hit me from behind?

Would we be going on holiday during spring break as we were planning to? Would I be in Paris and Copenhagen for work on the following week, as I was supposed to? Would we all be having the Passover Seder with our friends like we always do? Would we be flying off to Florence to watch the MotoGP race? Would we be celebrating Alma’s 4th birthday in our garden? Would I be riding the #RideLondon 2016 for the BHF? Would we be going on our summer holiday? What about work? What about the most basic things such as going to the toilet or not having to rely on huge amounts of pain killers just to get through the day?

And how do we thank all the people who have supported us through this journey? Family, friends, colleagues, neighbours…what about the doctors and nurses? Where do we start?

In my dreams I saw myself celebrating that 1st anniversary on my bike, on a nice spring day ride. But as I realised this was not going to happen I came up with a different plan.

My brother-in-law, Doron, came over with two of his boys. Over the last year he has been a tremendous help and was here to support us in the worst moments.

They’ve made some very special t-shirts for all of us, with our names on the back. The weather was fantastic and we set off on a family walk from our home in Finchley the the junction on Theobalds Park Road in Enfield where the accident took place.

16km through the streets, parks and fields of North London.

A couple of ice cream stops, some snacks and sandwiches and we made it to the junction!

But the main event came on the following day. The London Air Ambulance has recently signed a 3- year partnership with the Saracens and to kick it off they’ve chosen #DerbyDay. We were invited to play an active role and to help raise funds and more importantly, awareness. Of course we had our own fan club who had joined us! 4 families who have all been there for us, visiting me at the hospital and helping Yael and the kids in maintaining their daily routines, cooking, babysitting and keeping Yael’s sanity as much as they could.

The charity had put a piece about the event on their Website with a cool short video on it.

For us and for me this is all about payback. I owe my life to them. Without them the kids would remember me only from photos!

This is Dr. Simon Walsh who treated me at the roadside. I’m one of hundreds who were saved by Simon. We want the charity to continue saving lives and keeping families together


These are some of the images that were displayed on the large screens at the stadium during Simon’ interview with me.

This week we had 12 months follow up appointment at the Royal London Hospital and we jumped on the opportunity to go up and visit the helipad one more time:

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Little Alma brought her class’s mascot, Lex, along. There’s a school tradition where every weekend and holiday another child takes Lex home and get his album updated with his adventures and pictures. We think that after this holiday they will have to look for a new challenge as he’s been on live TV and on a helicopter !!!

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As I wrote to the team after the game, we have never met a group of people who are so professional, so dedicated and passionate about what they do and who provide such an amazing support not only when they treat you, but also in the long months following that, when you and your family go through such tough times.

In the coming months, as part of my on-going physical and psychological rehabilitation I will be seeing patients who sustain injuries similar to mine, who are starting their journey to recovery and who can benefit from my advice on what to expect and how to cope with these difficult times.

After the accident, because we did not fully understood the situation and how long it was all going to take, I told the London Air Ambulance that I’ll join their #RideLondon 2017 team. As we now realise I will not be cycling on the road for a while, Michael Marks, my friend, has taken it up and will be riding and fundraising for the London Air Ambulance. It requires £7M each year to run their services, so every penny and every pound count!

Michael’s LAA fundraising page

Part V: Exploring your pain threshold 

On November 1st 2016, the night before I was booked in for the urology operation, I had the honour to join the London Air Ambulance team at a very special event. It was hosted by Mr. Boris Johnson at the Houses of Parliament, with 50 other MPs and more importantly, 25 fellow ex. patients, paramedics, doctors, pilots and the wonderful events team. I got to meet in person and speak to people who, like myself, had their lives change in one unlucky moment but who are still alive thanks to these flying angels and who are willing to share their experience with the public and to raise awareness for the amazing work done by the charity. Some were in wheelchairs, some were using crutches and some have a prosthetic leg or an arm. I had to wear a suit, which in itself was a challenge and I had to travel on my own by public transport…just me and my walking stick…used for support and also as a safety measure, allowing people to notice my temporary disability (and even have a seat on the train with some luck).

A couple of days before that, Yael and I were invited to the LAA office in central London, to do a talk with their office staff; the good folks who take care of sponsorships, finance, marketing, volunteering and events and who rarely get to meet patients in person and to hear their experiences.

We talked about the accident and our individual as well mutual experience on the day and during the months that followed it. This was quite emotional for both of us and at the same time very satisfying…we both felt that this was just one way to show our appreciation and gratitude.

Just a few days ago, on March 22nd, we all witnessed the horror brought on by the cowardly terrorist attack in Westminster and saw how quickly the Air Ambulance team arrived at the scene and helped the wounded.

We went into UCL hospital on Nov’ 2nd 2016, prepared for a relatively simple procedure and a few days stay…sadly, the procedure had turned out to be a little more complicated than planned and after a week in bed with a lot of pain, more bleeding and some other complications, we realised that this was going to be yet another testing experience…for me but even more so for my family.

Walking and sitting were pretty much impossible, and as I once again had two catheters fitted, the dreadful blood clots and blockages came back (those were described in the first chapter of the story)…I can say that that month was actually worse than the previous times in hospital…more pain, blood loss, 3 blood transfusions, drugs, weight loss…and that horrible sense of despair…

We finally left the hospital at the end of November, I left 7kg there that I shed during that month and I also left the two catheters behind!!! Free at last!!!

The hole in my tummy had taken a several days to heal and to close down…imagine having to change dressings every hour or two and waking up at night, lying in a puddle of your own urine…At one point I bought it was never going to close!

They’ve replenished the stock of hardcore pain killers and equipped us with a morphine weaning plan that lasted 2 weeks. I was anxious to gain back my mobility and freedom to walk outside free of tubes and bags. I also wanted to drive again and to see if I can reduce, or maybe even give up all these medications.

For a few weeks I had to carry an inflatable inner tube that I could sit on. Slowly and gradually I extended my short daily walks and tried to make the best out of the holiday season by taking the family out on some of my walks

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on New Years Eve we decided to brave the elements, got in the car and drove down to Brighton on the south coast of England. We stayed the night, the kids got to do some ice skating and we saw the fireworks at midnight. We even had a late night feast at Burger King and invited a homeless guy that was sat outside to enjoy a meal with his little dog.

Brighton

It wasn’t until the beginning of February that I was able to start physiotherapy again, working on regaining muscle strength, flexibility and stability, a painful process yet satisfying as I was getting a little stronger every week.

My cardiologist has recently checked us up and done an Echo scan and all seems OK. in his words “what you have been through over the last few months was the ultimate test for your heart and it has done very well”…

We also had the “pleasure” of meeting my bike and to realise the damage it had sustained. The force and the weight of the car over me while I was on it had managed not only to shatter the carbon frame and squash the saddle but also to bend and break the chainrings and crank arms…that also explained the hole I had in my right ankle!

Fast forward to this day, March 28th 2017; life is starting to look a bit more normal. I’m stronger and I have some of my fitness back. I cannot cycle outside yet though – this will take several more months.

I’m seeing a psychologist once a week, to help me deal and hopefully overcome the bursts of anger, lack of concentration, lack of patience and general moodiness resulted by the post traumatic stress disorder. I still take a neuropathic drug that takes the edge of the random pains and aches and that helps me sleep a little better. I’ve chosen not to use any stronger drugs since I’ve had so much of those and I’ve been teaching myself how to handle pain and how to live with it. I’ll be seeing some pain specialists in the future as I go along.

Last Sunday we ticked another box: we took part in the British Heart Foundation Olympic Park Run and in doing so managed to raise close to £600. It was not easy at all but I was keen to finish the 10k course and crossing the line holding hands with Arielle was something very special. She’s 11 1/2 and this was her first 10k! My fundraising page is still active should you wish to donate. We would also wish to thank everybody who has supported us and who has donated so far!

QE park

Next month brings with it a few special occasions. We’ll be celebrating my birthday and a few days later we’ll meet the orthopaedic surgeons again, to follow up and perhaps to be finally discharged. On April 7th we will be marking the first anniversary of the day of the accident (I have a cunning plan for that day) and on the day after that we will be taking part in a very special event, together with London Air Ambulance and with some of our best friends who have helped us so much during all those months. I will comeback with an update after that so stay tuned!

3rd time lucky, or not so…

Summer. The nicest season on this island. We usually try to enjoy the long days and warmer weather and spend as much time as possible outdoors.

For me as a cyclist it allows getting the miles in early morning…I mean really early…or use the long evening to the same effect.

At the weekends we often load our bikes on the car (mind you there’s 5 of us so it is not so easy) and go somewhere where we can all explore the woods and trails.

But not in 2016…the summer of 2016 will always be remembered as the one we did very little in, if anything at all. To begin with I was on crutches and had a tube stuck in my belly, about 10cm bellow my bellybutton that was about 40cm in length and that had a flip-valve on it. Going to the toilet was very frequent and involved some gymnastics so if it was in a public place I had to use the disabled toilets.

I was supposed to be part of the British Heart Foundation’s team riding the Prudential RideLondon 100 mile at the end of July…sadly I had to call them up and to ask that they keep the place for me for 2017 and that they allow my friend Michael Marks to take it, which he did and raised more than £1,000. Unfortunately I will not be able to make it for this year’s ride but on that later…

Initially I was only able to walk around the house, then gradually extended it to short walks outside…we remember the first time when I came to collect the kids from school, which is only 600 metres from the house! Sitting upright was practically impossible so the sofa bed was permanently open in the living room where I was spending most of the time, lying on my back. Wearing normal clothes was another no no so the newly discovered fashion for me ended up being a mix of pyjamas and tracksuits.

I stayed on strong antibiotics for a few weeks after leaving the hospital and carried on taking strong painkillers and gradually reducing the dose. When I say song I mean bottles of Oramorph, a controlled opiate drug that is highly addictive and that has some strong side effects…it was later replaced with Tremadol and Codeine…just different names at lower doses. For weeks I was falling asleep a few times a day, but could not sleep at night because of pains and aches when trying to turn or move in bed. Common side effects like itchiness and constipation are something you just have to cope with…

It was only at the end of July when I was given a Green light to start physiotherapy and I only started driving in September but only on short journeys as the seatbelt and the bumps were causing great discomfort and my instincts were (and still are) rather slow.

Hopes that the urology side will resolve itself out with time were lost in August, when a fairly uncomfortable exam called Urethrogram showed that it will need to be repaired with an operation. Date was set for 2nd of November and my mission was to try and get as fit as possible, which would hopefully help coping with yet another trauma and support a speedy recovery…So that’s what I did: As my road bike was smashed by the Skoda I took one of our old mountain bike-come trainer, which I’ve built before the heart surgery in 2014, and rigged it up again on the turbo trainer, set it up for an upright position as I could not bend forward and placed a small stepladder next to it so that I can climb on/ off without falling over. It proved very difficult at the beginning but with painkillers and some persistency I was able to sit and pedal for 30-35 minutes at a time. I found it less painful than walking and it allowed for some decent cardiovascular work. As I was gradually weaning myself off of the stronger painkiller, I also gained back my appetite and had slowly put on some weight and muscle.

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One of the biggest moments of last summer was August 3rd. We had a follow up appointment at the Royal London hospital to see the surgeons and the guys from London Air Ambulance had invited us to visit the helipad and meet the team. For me this was another milestone…I grew up around planes and helicopters and the unique smells of jet fuel and oily bits are something I’m very familiar with, but there is something very special in that place. Sitting, or more like floating on top of the 17-story building, the helipad is a fenceless platform. You could walk over and step off the edge easily and it allows easier takeoff and landing approach for the choppers. It was a nice day and allowed for some amazing London cityscape views, but we were more interested in the team and their machine. The two images on the Right show the tiny safety label that is affixed above the patient’s head, which I remembered as being a massive sign that I was struggling to read when I was lying there.


Today we’re nearly in March 2017 and when I look back and as much as I try, there are many details that escape me but luckily we have pictures, piles of medical letters and trails of emails and WhatsApp messages to remind us of what was going on every single day. One of those moments was the day I got back to making pancakes…

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With all those drugs I’ve found myself spending days and weeks on the sofa watching reality shows with the favourites being American classic car restoration and hotrodding, and of course bike races…trying to concentrate on anything more involving or more challenging was very much impossible on most days.

In October, the London Air Ambulance Patient liaison nurse, Frank Chege, an incredible man, had organised for Yael and me to visit their headquarters in the city and to have a 2-hour talk with all the people who work behind the scenes at the charity, taking care of events, marketing activities, social media and fund raising. This was the first time this has been done and both of us shared our own experiences in the most open way. I swear I could see a few tears being shed 🙂

A few days before that, we had a bit of an emergency when one morning the suprapubic catheter had decided to come out. I thought I was going to explode as we rushed to A&E at the local hospital, and where lucky enough that there was a urologist on call there that was able

Later that month, a team, headed by Dr. Simon Walsh who saved London cyclists Victoria Lebrec’s life the year before, had won the Pride Of Britain Award and following that, I was invited, along with another 25 ex. patients, to a Parliamentary Reception at the House of Parliament, where politicians had gathered to pledge their support for the charity. It took place on the evening before my urology operation…I had to wear a suit…huh!!! I couldn’t remember when was the last time I wore a suite…could not even remember where my ONE suit was!!! This was an amazing and a very emotional experience but I had a very good time and it helped me get through the last few hours before I had to put on a hospital gown, say goodbye to Yael and go under the knife again. What was supposed to be a reasonably simple procedure that requires just a few days stay in hospital, had turned out to be yet another challenging, life threatening nightmare…I’ll discuss it in the next instalment.

Part III: Seriously? Again????

We were all so happy to be home again…we already figured that it was not a matter of days or weeks before I could be back on my feet, but we certainly did not expect what was coming next…

The week after we came home, we went to the hospital to meet the surgeons and review the wounds. When I say “went” I mean lied on a stretcher in an ambulance transport for an hour in London traffic…But a few days before that I started feeling feverish…temperature gone up and we had to get the GP to come and visit as I was not mobile. She prescribed some antibiotics and when the surgeons saw me and the state of the wound they’ve decided to double the dose and said let’s keep an eye on things.

AND this was the first time I stood up! Seven weeks after the accident, I pulled myself up onto a walking frame. It was exciting, scary and shocking all at the same time. I was able to stand but could not let go of the frame because my legs were so weak and were not used to bearing any weight!

Two days later we had to come in again, this time for a urology follow-up and I  was feeling worse…a lot worse! They took a urine sample which immediately showed that there was an infection. At that point the doctor that was there suggested that we re-admit and the quickest way in was trough A&E…later that Friday afternoon I was again on the 5th floor in ward 12c, with an IV antibiotics and with another operation booked for the next Tuesday. They could not operate me on the same day because I was not strong enough to withstand it.

So a long weekend and a bit, lots of blood tests, another night of fasting and there I was…on the trolley, being wheeled into theatre…bye bye to Yael, a couple of jokes with the anaesthetist and I was in dreamland. 3-4 hours later I woke up in ITU with some serious pain…again that sharp, pressing pain in the lower abdomen. They removed the fixation metal plate from the pelvic bone, which was infected, and performed a “washout”, scraping and removing tissue, blood collections and all sorts of gunk that filled up that area. This meant that I’m back to being “non weight-bearing” since the bone is not strong enough and has not healed yet, so I was again lying flat on my back, connected to a VAC machine and a huge dressing that was filling up with blood in a few hours…blood that then turned into a 20x10cm raw steak (or that’s what it looked like to me at least) and was removed after a few days, leaving a long stitched cut and a few suction holes.

The next 3 weeks were a bit of a rollercoaster for us…blood tests kept showing that the infection was not really going away and at some point the doctors thought they were going to operate again and do a 2nd washout!!! But we stayed positive and as soon as they gave us the ok to start mobilising again I jumped into the wheelchair and when they said it was safe to use my legs I asked the physiotherapists to help me get up. I tried the walking frame for a few minutes and felt it wasn’t right for me…I wanted more control and more freedom so they’ve let me try crutches. Initially I was hobbling around the room, then up and down the corridor and then I wanted OUT…that day was both one of the hardest and the happiest in my life!

They showed me how to climb up and down the stairs. This was hard, painful and with the catheter still in my tummy, very uncomfortable, but I was determined and it did not bother me wearing my pyjamas out in the street outside the hospital.

But the infection was still there and I still needed loads of antibiotics to be infused twice a day…the problem was that because I lost so much weight and because I’ve had so many needles put into me, my veins had started collapsing and it was not possible to use cannulas any longer. They’ve had to switch to oral antibiotics, which are less effective and can have negative effect on digestion etc.

However this also meant that I no longer had to stay at the hostiptal and 4 weeks after readmission, we were again making our way home, this time I was on my feet at last!!! No more sleeping in the living room, no more being locked inside, no more wheelchair…and it was SUMMERTIME!!!


I still had the catheter in my belly and there was the question of if/ when/ how I’ll be free of tubes again, but I didn’t have to carry the bag any more (instead there was a valve I could open at will) and while the pain & discomfort were very much still there, I had my family and friend to support me, I had free access to the strongest painkillers and I was looking forward to making the best use of the good weather and to continuing with recovery and rehabilitation.

I remember posting on Facebook “looking for the FFWD button”…well I’m still looking and the following months had loads happening in them…I will get to that in the next installment, but I wanted to share this:

Yesterday, Friday 13th of January (I know I know), we had an appointment with my cardiologist…basically we wanted to know how my heart had coped with the last 9 months…we will have to go through some tests but so far it seems like it had survived one of the toughest stress tests…

The hospital is only a few miles from that place…that junction…they say that every person has got to face their demons at some point. I faced them yesterday…Yael and I stood there for a few minutes. It was cold and it was snowing and we were looking at the cars going through, stopping, turning and suddenly it was totally clear…I walked across and stood exactly where I was standing, on my (now RIP) bike just over 9 month ago when that Blue Skoda driver made that horrible mistake.

I rode and drove through this junctions maybe a hundred times before and somehow, yesterday, it looked a lot, lot smaller than I remembered it.