Wow - here I am, I've just created this blog, my first, ready to tell the story of Chantelle, our beautiful 1963 Bedford Marshall bus that is going to take us on some wonderful adventures. I'm going to write this for fun, for all those people whose eyes lit up when we told them about her, and for anyone else wanting to do the same thing, so we can share what we find out. And maybe because just because I'm so excited about the whole thing !

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Back online

The great adventure to Wales is temporarily being blogged here, while is activated properly. Cant believe its 16 days since the great adventure started, and we're loving every minute. Lots of news to follow, but heres a quick picture I love.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The original reappears

________1970 Guilford_____________________________2007 Kent______

_____2007 Kent_______

With great gratitude to Ian for the original picture of Chantelle taken in the early 70s - the paint job is unbelievably similar to the original.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Long time, no post

But today we got our Glasto tix which marks the start of summer, so, like the flip flops and camping gear this blog will get dusted down, and brought back to life.
Starting with a pic of Boudicca in the garage just before restoration gets underway

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Just for alfie

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Shes back - shes gorgeous

Lots more to follow, but heres a taster - doesnt she look amazing ?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Much to catch up on

So much news, so much to catch up on, but to give you a taste, heres a video

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

So, we arrived safely at Elvey Farm on Sunday lunchtime, after our late start, and the farm was looking beautiful. Tried to drive Chantelle into the cow shed - disaster, shes an inch or so too tall. So shes sitting in the tractor shed, with her new best friend, the blue tractor, while we think of plan B. Meanwhile, we're planning the move of the new bus to join her.

Took Chantelle on a trip to Suffolk this weekend - what a wonderful county - so beautiful, and some of the best delis I've ever seen ! We collected her from the Salisbury storage on Friday around 11.00, and she drove beautifully on the way up getting there by late afternoon. She was completely well behaved on a great day out to Southwold (the best pier I've ever been too) on Saturday, then, for the first time since we've had her, refused to start on Sunday morning. The battery was just too flat to start her in the very cold weather. A "very nice man" came out and got her going really quickly, and we off down the East side of England to Kent. Now planning on buying a 700amp battery and jump leads for winter starts.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The project starts here

Just had a wonderful day in Norfolk seeing our new Embassy for the first time. She's all ours now ! Have had some thoughts about what we're going to do with her, but she needs a lot of tlc.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Look at our new baby !

Here she is, Chantelles baby sister - a Bedford Embassy 1965 - name still being hotly debated

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year !

Hope all your dreams come true xx

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Headed back on Sunday, lovely easy journey, it really is a great way to travel. We spent the afternoon doing the clearing up of all the left over building materials. Gave Chantelle a really good clean inside, and left her really tidy, and fragrant.

Cant wait for the next trip at the end of July

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Work in Progress

Woke up and cooked a great breakfast, which we ate outside, lovely. Then, set to work to fit the new seat. Life was sweet, and the current one we reversed, and reused the holes, so only had to drill 4 new ones. We did a bit of experimenting, and got just the right space, with a nice gap behind the seat for storage. Took about 30 mins, all to the soothing accompanyment of the guitar from the tent next door. It really looks fab now.

The beds worked really well, we all had the best nights sleep we've ever had at a festival.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The first trip

We are seriously excited this morning. Drive down the M3 in the car, just under an hour, as usual, and start to get Chantelle ready for her first holiday. She's looking pretty good, we put the fridge on, then tuck the provisions in the cupboards- still waiting to have the doors fitted, so tape the up with the crucial duct tape. Do a clever bit of maneouvering to get her out of the drive, and we're off, to do exactly the same journey in reverse. I've written down the times, to try and get a feel of how slow she is. It takes exactly 90 minutes, which means we need to allow 50% more time for a journey. The kids were really thrilled to be picked up by the bus, and we showed a lot of interested kids around. Then, back down the M3 for the third time today ! We stopped at Fleet services, and had a major family debate over where to park.

Seating worked out well, took turns to sit at the front, or in the bus, both quite comfy. Arrived at the festival to many smiles and waves, but we were too long for the flat area reserved for campers, so had to park in the sloping car park. Tried to use the planks we'd brought as wedges, but they just slid out, so we ended up angled for the weekend.

That first beer out of the fridge was truly the best I've ever tasted - I love my bus xx

Thursday, June 29, 2006

End in sight

Or more precisely, the end of the begining. This will be the last weekend of working on Chantelle this summer, whats not done by Sunday night, wont get done this year. Just working out how to close everything down; I've offered the old cooker and fridge to anyone who wants them, and worked out where to dispose of all the rest of the building left-overs, mainly going on the wood pile for winter fires. We've got the magic gunge to clean the oil off the drive, and hopefully Chantelle will leave no footprint.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Fun at Twickeree

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Getting excited about the big trip

Well- its only 11 days till the first trip, so time to get organised with the comestibles. The beers are sorted, we need to take the odd nibble too. We'll be loading up this weekend, and packing a notebook, for the inevitable list of what we're forgotten. Its sort of a dry run for the big escape at the end of July

Sunday, June 25, 2006

We're through !

What a fantastic weekend ! Brilliant day of progress yesterday Chantelle yesterday - Boys have had a wonderful weekend at Twickeree, scouting on Marble Hill, Chantelle is safely delivered to Ace Caravans for the gas plumbing to be done, the England victory, and then the unbelievable, and highly entertaining Poland/Holland match. Bring on next weekend, we're all prepared !

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Up early today - this promises to be a wonderful weekend. OH shot off to his HGV driving lesson early this morning, while we headed off to Twickeree, the weekend scout camp on Marble Hill. Once the boys were settled in camp, I headed down by train - to be met at the station in Chantelle which was great fun !

We examined the work we did last weekend, and realised the sealing of the cupboard should be fairly straightforward by using a combination of duct tape and alimunium tape. Got stuck into this, and was quite pleased with the results. We also made a modification to fit the new cooker, which is a bit wider, deeper and shorter - so work all round ! The kitchen just looks lovely with the appliances in, just the shabby retro look I really wanted.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

We've won the group

Great night out in the Eel Pie in Church St, but devastated by last minute goal - but we've won the group !
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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Down Time

Today has been a bad day on the project - we've been fitting the fridge vents and building the fridge cupboard, and its hard work, and I'm not happy about making something airtight, when you're dealing with rusty metal, and nothing is square. Feel very despondant. Also, we've realised we not going to get to the end of the phase one plans by the time we go to Blissfields. If ever I felt like giving up its now.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Gas rack door

We bought a door to access the gas rack, and as soon as we saw it, and it just looked too plasticy, so we hummed and hahed, and decided the answer would be to cut a hole in the side, and make and make a door. We asked Dick, the welder who has helped already, and he and his son came over, and made it in a couple of hours. Looks great - and ties in with the fuel and water access doors.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Cut the kitchen to size

Saturday, June 03, 2006


Went to see Gas man - need to get new cooker.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

cut up foam/made bunk bed

Had gas cradle recut

Monday, May 29, 2006

Made floor for bathroom to cover wheel arch

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Under the bus

Gas tank doesnt fit
Put wires underneath

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Weekend off for family life

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Let there be light - not quite !

Well, brilliant weekend - stunning rugby sucess by the boys plus Chelsea winning the league and the Quins promotion celebrated - it doesnt get much better than this. And May Day working on the bus - Hurray. Got down there in good time, ready to work on the electrics, to be greated by a pile of goodies that had arrived.

Well, first off, the new bulbs - stupidly I'd ordered the wrong ones, bayonet way too small. Will need to sort this out ASAP, as it will be so lovely to see her lit up.

Next, the door for the gas bottles, which are going in the cradle under the bus - once I saw it I began to really hate the idea of cutting holes in the outside of her, so far needed for; gas door, toilet cassette and air vents for fridge. I'm going to look at whether it might be possible to hinge a side panel, instead of a cut-out door.

Thirdly, the Sterling charger, gorgoeus clever little box - went to try in the under bed cupboard we've built and the cupboard is an inch too short - nightmare. Will have to build it up all round with some 1"by1".

Lastly, the sleepers have turned up - brill. After the usual problem of trying to cut with a blunt chain saw followed by the inevitable trip to B&Q to find the new chain, which is never simple, we made some chunky ramps so we can get under the bus - these came together really well. 80cm on the bottom, 60cm top, and we've nailed some chucks on. Will try the cautious drive up onto them next weekend.

After some very good advice about wire crimping, we've connected the 4 leisure batteries to each other and made the wires to connect to the sterling charger and to the fuse box. We read some sage advice on inline fuses this week, and have built them in. We bought a fuse box from eBay, didnt much like the connectors it used, so rewired it, and now feel really happy about the electrical design. I've got loads of diagrams, logical and physical, all in the precious black book, so I'll be OK when Mr Chantelle leaves me in sole charge.

Good weekend all round, once we'd overcome the usual snags

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Buying the bits for the weekend

We're down again on Bank Holiday Monday, I'm really keen to get the electrics working, as I can't wait to see the pretty roof lights working. I've sourced the 12v 12w bulbs we need, from a marine website, so we're going to put them in, and keep our fingers crossed.

The next job is to build the back to the fridge, so we can fit the vents.

We're going to take the bedding down this weekend, so we can be properly set up for sleeping in her each time we go.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Happy St Georges Day !

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Tackling the gas

Decided we need to work on the bits of the project with lead times, as we have about 10 weeks before she needs to be up and running. The gas is to be housed under the bus, and we need to make a cradle to put it in, and a door to access it from outside. Mrs Chantelle had to go under the bus to measure up, and after a few re-measures we worked the max space available. We'd printed out the sizes of the gas canisters available, and came up with a size that would fit nicely, and accomodate two canisters.

Put the first coat of varnish on the bathroom, one of many.

Sorry, no photos - the camera battery was flat. This has prompted an eBay purchase of a 12v charger, now we just need to get the Sterling charger installed, so we can start to use the battery of batteries.

Had a moving moment meeting Laurie McMenemy, the manager who took the Saints to their 1976 FA cup victory, which was very special and a real link with the past.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Finishing off

Our last days work till next Saturday, so we took a good hard look at what needed doing. We lined the inside of the bathroom with more ply, which was a real pain of a job, as there was so much already there to work around, but we now have a firm smooth base to stick the vinyl to. We going to get some one in to apply the sealant, as this will make all the difference to the water resistance. I fancy decorating the door with newspaper and magazine cuttings from the festivals we go to, we did this in our last house, and it looked great, and was pretty tough after several layers of varnish.

Did a final clear-up, and another few hours of washing down the inside paintwork, and then set off on the train journey home - still no car thanks to the bank holidays. I was really sad to say goodbye to her, even though it will only be a few days till we're back.

This has been a great start to the project, despite the setbacks.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter

Happy Easter to you all. Went to a beautiful service this morning, came home and raised our glasses to many special family anniversaries, then back to work !

We hummed and ha-haed about putting arms on the sofa - it has walls at either end already, but padded arms would make it much more comfy, so we redesigned the hinged lid, to give some clearance either end for the arms and padding. We used piano hinges again, along the length of the sofa about 40cm from the edge, which will give us good access, and hopefully we'll still be able to lift it with the cushions in place. I cleaned the floor before we screwed it down, after several buckets of water, it now has a lovely smell. We designed the sofa largely on the fly, as it grew, we saw better ways of doing it. We going to keep it low, and make sure the back is level with the window, to minimise the disruption to the external look of the bus.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The sofa

Next step is to build the sofa, which was also be the bottom bunk on the kids beds. Its going to be big and comfy, around 210cmx70cm, which should be fine for adults or kids to sleep on. I'm going to have big feather cushions secured to it eventually, but probably reuse an old foam mattress for now. It will also be one of the main storage units, and will house the batteries and charger, so the first job was to secure the 4 leisure batteries. Fortunately, there was space on the cradle under the bus which houses the starter battery for one of them, and the other 3 fitted in nicely. I secured two metal rods, and some L shaped brackets to hold them in place.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The first real fit out

Ready to start to build the bathroom today - we've showered in various places over the last few months, and have worked out the mininum size that we could cope with. We want to keep the external view of the bus as clean as possible, so the bathroom has to be contained within one window width. We marked it all out on the floor well and good but what we'd forgotten was how low the bus is, especially under the curves by the window, but it still should be OK, as long as we have any tall visitors. We put up 2 supporting strutts, then cut a front wall to fit. We cut out a door, fixed it back in with piano hinges.

The side wall was a bit more tricky - we had to cut to fit the curve, and other bulges along the side of the bus. We tried the extended pencil method, to trace the shape, and made a reasonable, but not brilliant job of it. Next time we'll spend longer making the marking tool, so the line is a bit better. We'll be lining the inside with vinyl, and the outside with tongue and groove, so its not critical to have the ply perfect.

We love Norm on the "New Yankee Workshop" show, and thought he'd be proud of our skateboard feeder for 8x4 sheets through the circular saw.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

2 steps forward, 3 steps back

Disaster struck last night - we were heading out for dinner in the evening, pleased with ourselves after a great days work, and clunk - the car broke down. The recovery man tutted and took it away to the garage, and I've woken up this morning, with no car, and no materials. No probs, I think - I'll use the bus and head off to B&Q for wood etc. But carefully backing out of the drive, I managed to smash the rear light cover. Just how many vehicles can you lose in 24 hours ? I was now getting seriously frustrated as this is my precious few days off work, and I'm sitting here spending it watching a Harry Potter video. I rang round, hired a transit for 2 days, and went off to pick up the ply to start on the bathroom. This is going to be very slow progress.

The OH turned up tonight, went to fetch her from the station in the transit, and had a good evening planning the next few days work. Enjoyed a very good bottle of wine from Galilee in honour of Maundy Thursday. Got a sudden urge to sleep in the bus for the first time, so the four of us piled in on a random arrangements of mattresses, and had a really good night, the first of many. Woke up quite warm, so think the insulation wont be too much of an issue.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The seats

We discussed at great length the priority order of the jobs. We know we cant get it all done in time for the summer getaway, so we've divided it into

. Must have now
. Must have next year
. Would be great to have some day

And top of the list was front seats with belts, so the kids can travel up front. We toyed with putting a L shape seat configuration in the front so the three of us could sit together, but were advised against it, so we bought a double seat from eBay, with belts. One of us will have to sit in the back - we'll see how that works out.

When I tried the new seat in situ, the wheel arch came in just the wrong place, so I chopped some of the leg off, took it round to a friendly welder who welded a plate to join the legs and provide a mounting point. Tried to get under the bus to bolt the seat in place, but I'm - um - too "generous around the chest" to squeeze under. Tried various wedging techniques, but nothing worked, so I called on the services on a grease monkey, who slid under and did the biz.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The clear out

Had a really good day clearing out the inside - began to get a feel of how big she is, and gained some confidence that our much discussed paper plans will work.

We salvaged as much of the wood as possible, to use for our fit out, and had a nice fire in the evening with the scraps. We're going to use ply for the construction work - which I'm not happy about from an environmental point of view, but it is so much easier to work with. We will be using reclaimed wood for the kitchen, and the table top, and at least the ply is a one-off, and hopefully will last for years.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The trip to Monmouth

Got up early, and Dad I headed off across the seven bridge to Monmouth to meet Mark, and collect Chantelle. Mark had done a great job of fixing her up, and getting her through the MOT.
She was easy to find, "across the mini roundabout, look right, think bus !" I had a quick driving lesson - big, old, noisy and great fun - I'm going to enjoy this ! It took 3 hours to get home, and had taken 2 hours to get there, so we've got a benchmark for future journeys. It was very indulgent of Dad to pretend his new car would only do 35 mph as we drove in convoy up the hills on the motorway !

Friday, April 07, 2006

She passed !

Oh Joy Oh Rapture ! Chantelle passed her MOT and we can go and collect her on Monday.

We're taking her to Mums, where she can live in the drive, and we can put in a good weeks work, and get started. Not sure how many weekends work will be needed after that, but once phase one is done, and shes ready for this summers hols, we can move her to more permanent storage.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Fingers crossed

Well - she goes in for her MOT test on Friday morning, so fingers, toes and everything else crossed. If she makes it, we'll be collecting her on Monday, then its all systems go for the start of the fit out.

Bit shocked to see the camper van tickets for Guilfest are £70 on top of the weekend ticket/camping price ! Maybe sleeping under canvas for that one after all.

We've done some more work looking for the right campsites for the mid-week fill ins between festies - some nice ones out there, even some that allow campfires, which would be great fun. As soon as we can get some good pics of Chantelle, I'll start emailing round, and get an itenery sorted.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Fit out plans

Every time we think about what we want in the bus, we realise how much there is to do.

We started with a floor plan of the bus, what we wanted in it, and how we wanted it laid out. Then we went onto some technical plans, elecrical, heating, water etc. Now, we've made a project plan, in some kind of priority order, and think realistically wont get it all done this year, so have to decide between "must have" and "would be nice". Its all a steep learning curve - we discovered from the DVLC, that children can't travel in the front of a vehicle that doesnt have belts fitted, so seats for the kids is the first priority.

We've booked mums front garden for a few weeks around Easter, to start the fit out work. This will be a crucial time, when we get to really inspect the bus for the first time, and work out how to put the paper plans into practice.

Electrical fit out

We think we've planned the electrics now - in essence, when driving, a battery of batteries will be charged up. When parked, if available, these can be further charged by the mains, or by solar and wind, once this is installed. Our overall consumption will be very low, so hopefully a good long drive will give us enough oumph for at least a weekend of camping. We think we need to power

  • lights
  • a couple of 12 volt sockets for mobile phone chargers etc
  • ignition for the heating and fridge, which will then be powered by gas
  • and when they work, the original bell, and automatic door opening

A sceptical friend thought we'd underspeced the requirements, till I convinced her I dont use a hairdryer/microwave/kettle in London, never mind camping ! We've got no plans for IT or TV provision at the moment.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Finding Chantelle a home

One of the biggest worries we've had is where to keep her. We live in a very compact victorian terrace, in a compact street, in a town with no space ! So there would be no way we could keep her here. Whenever we drive out of London we always marvel at all the spare space, which seems to just sit there. We tried loads of places to find parking, ideally hard-standing, less than an hour from London, and not too pricey. Initially we got very despondant, as there were no spaces at anywhere we tried, but finally got a call, to say there was some room in a place not too far away. Went out to visit on Saturday, and it would be fine, less than an hour away, and secure, and best of all, we'd be able to do a bit of work on her while she was parked up there, if necessary.

Good - another step closer.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Low impact living

We've been into the idea of low impact living for some time, and experimented a bit last year on the camping trip. Its self-evident that over-comfortable lives make us wasteful, when you have to walk to collect water, you use less. On the bus, it will make practical as well as environmental sense to be as spartan with everything as possible. When camping we had a small solar panel, which we fed into leisure batteries, which kept the phone chargers and minimal lighting going, but not much else. I learnt a lot about electricity, and realised if I'm going to take this seriously, I may need to learn a lot more.

We're planning this time on 3 main sources of fuel.

  • Biodiesel, for travel, electricity, and the water and heating. We've sourced some biodiesel, but this will be an ongoing search.
  • Gas for cooking, as it still the most efficient method
  • Wind, we hope, for powering the batteries. This is totally new to us, and something we're starting to investigate.

We're planning that once we've parked the bus at the site, we wont move it again till we leave, so we're taking bikes for everyday travel ; - great news, I acquired one locally yesterday, and managed to ride it straight off, not having ridden for 10 years !

The 60s project

We've thought a lot about the inside feel of the bus, my favourite is the one we saw at a festival last year, where you couldnt see through the window for bottles. Unfortunately, this is a family bus, so we had to look further afield for inspiration. We went to a big Motorhome show and this clinched our decsion to convert a bus, rather than buy a tourer, because of the naff suburban interiors which seemed to be the only options available. So we needed to make the bus feel fab, in keeping with its era, while adhering pretty strictly to the reduce/reuse/recycle mantra. We're equiping it almost entirely with second-hand stuff, where possible from the mid 60s, even down to the cleaning products we're planning to use. We have a head-start, with our loft full of hand-me down household stuff, and of course, for everything else, there's eBay.

We've managed to acquire the heating system, and the cooker. A fridge, water tank, shower and toilet are the biggies we're still looking for.

Meeting Chantelle for the first time

After the disappointment of realising we couldn't go ahead with the Thames Burlingham, we scanned eBay many times in the hope of finding what we wanted. Mostly, they were either too new and characterless, or too precious, and deserved to be preserved. We were over the moon when we saw the Bedford Marshall, and made arrangements to go and see her as soon as we could.

We drove down to Gloucester on a bright but cold day. As we got closer, we started to wonder how we'd find the house in the very pretty village we were in, when Alfie shouted "Look, over there !" She was parked up a little drive; a beautiful bus sat in a beautiful setting.

We got out, and knew immediately we wanted her. Especially we loved, in descending order, the bell, the cab, the wooden floor, and the old sock ! We could see how this could be just perfect for all our summers. We were made really welcome, and rushed home to place our bid. We were absolutely over the moon the following evening, when we were the winners, and Chantelle was ours.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Finding our bus

We started our search for a bus with a trip to see Mike Nash at British Bus Sales at Cobham. We looked at a Denis Dart, a Bedford OB and a Bristol LHS, which was just perfect. Unfortunately, Mike wanted to keep this particular one for preservation, but promised to let us know when one came through. We went home really excited about getting hold of one.

Unfortunately, there didn't turn out to be many around, so we spent a lot of time on eBay, and elsewhere looking for something similar. It's definately getting much more popular to do conversions, so buses are going to be harder to come by.

We spotted a little advert on a bus preservation site advertising a Thames Burlingham needing lots of tlc, and we arranged to go and view it in its home in the York bus museum. She was really special, and would have been beautiful when restored, but it was just too big a project for us to take on, as there was so much body work to do. We had a most enlightening day, talking to the bus enthusiasts, and we really began to understand whats involved in a full historical vehicle restoration. We soon realised we needed a vehicle that wasnt so precious, which we could personalise without feeling like vandals when we did it.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The begining of the dream

This year all hell broke out in my life, worst of all, I lost the job I'd lived for and loved for the whole of my adult life. To cheer myself up, and to try and believe there was life outside work, I fulfilled a dream and took the kids away camping for the whole summer school holidays. We had a wonderful time, ambling slowly from West London, to the very edge of the country, in a fantastic camp site at Sennen Cove. We learnt a lot in that 6 weeks, in some order of priority

  • I'm never spending August in London again, I want to work in the winter, and escape in the summer, and thats way I'm going to organise my career from now on
  • I just totally love the West Country, the beaches, the countryside, the pasties.
  • Outdoor life is perfect for us, and I really hated coming back to living in a house
  • But, the tent doesnt work for all of us, the airbeds werent comfy enough for Mr Chantelle, theres nowhere to keep anything, and there were too many days when we couldnt cook at all 'cos the wind kept blowing the cooker out, or the tent leaked all night, and we woke up soaking.
  • The weather finally killed our tent by buffeting her so much all the poles broke, and she tore, and leaked and had to be buried at the end of the summer, so something had to be done
  • We went to 5 festivals last year, and 3 campsites, so lost count of the number of times we put up and took down the tents, which got quicker as the summer went on, but no less tedious.

We'd often seen ramshackle hippy buses at festivals, and thought they were brill, and suddenly that just seemed to be the answer, an old beautiful bus, converted inside to our perfect summer home. We could still live outside with our tables and chairs, but have a real bed to retreat to and the proverbial hook for our hats.