The Big Smoke

I find a tiny write up about an exhibition at the QUT. Wood: Art Design Architecture. In our price range too – free. All we have to do is find the location.

Brisbane River
The QUT end of town, note bridges and gardens

What’s different in Brisbane city? So long ago 1977-78 I worked on Eagle Street, adjacent the river, but back then I had no idea about the surroundings. Even though I know back then I used to alternate which train station to alight, and walked various roads to the office, all those years which have passed, all those different cities in which I have lived make me more aware to take a good look around.

From Kari Gislason’s The Promise of Iceland…the ‘left bank’ of Brisbane, and it was actually rather lovely. The Story Bridge was lit up on our right, right, and the sky rises of the city stood close to heater on the other side. It was warm and hazy, as it always was in this town, even in winter. Only later would we really appreciate gaining warmth would be. I enjoy the turn of phrase about the sky rises, and take on board the description of this city, refreshingly brazen in the sun.

Still more – Brisbane is all about liquid aroma- the heady comforts of the Pacific…I welcomed the heavy fragrances of the coming summer…I asked if we could stop by the river and take in the air…recall just how enveloping the atmosphere was. It picked you up ad carried you away with the pollen. There is no doubting Gislason captures the aroma, would we pay as much attention to the details?

Brisbane: Our first impressions included – crowded, traffic, lights on intersections and more expensive petrol. The latter we put down to a new Cosco supermarket and garage close-ish to Bribie with some extreme cost cutting. Locals might have reason to be nearby and can fill up, or take advantage of reasonable prices on Bribie Island Road – the one road from the Bruce Highway to the Island.

Back to Brisbane: They are opinionated, especially about Rugby League and the State of Origin tests.

Wood exhbits QUT
Lavish works in wood, worth the city trip

Finding QUT confirms my thoughts that no matter where they are universities have a particular insular ambience. There are always people milling about with purpose, non-threatening, personal space intact, totally engrossed in their own tasks. Universities always have interesting books shops and cheap cafes.

I see Bay of Fires in the QUT bookshop, with a label ‘brilliant Australian Debut” – takes me back to our Tassie adventure.thXA0LMQHQ

But a challenge to being a visitor on a university campus is to find a particular building, thank heavens for signs to point out the directions to our target exhibition.

The exhibition title was about art and architecture, very apt as some pieced are whole buildings, even an entire concert hall. The Tree of Knowledge (featured image) which is a memorial to the beginnings of the Australian Labour movement, in a place called Barcaldine. Apparently this is also the site of a shearers strike, the original tree was poisoned so they build an Architectural tree. These pieces are wonderfully detailed, thinnest plywood cut into lace, great recycling efforts to minimalize wastage.

Outside the surrounding botanical gardens have random deck chairs under giant fig tree.


Girls Night Out

My elder sister has already created a strong support network after only a short time on Bribie Island. TOBIs – Territorians on Bribie Island, being one group with obvious common background. Seems those who used to live in the Northern Territory quite like the low-key lifestyle and capped population to be had on Bribie Island.

Another group is known ironically as “the Young Chicks” – a group of women from a certain age who meet monthly for dinner. Apparently my big sister was the instigator, originating the group with emails to inform where and when to gather, she usually books.

To pad out that selected lifestyle is WIRE – another woman’s group. This group is more sports orientated; Golfers, tennis players, swimmers who gather to discuss issues relating to local council, politics (main focus being a recent huge increase in rates, particularly for canal-side houses) travel destinations, small business and grand children’s activities. These women share problems and strategies.

During several different visits and our housesitting members of these networks certainly took pains to be inclusive and probably kept an eye on the home-minders.

Returning home after a lovely evening I encountered another infestation, our biggest; a mouse pitter-patting down the hall. Rod is keen to blame all of these visitors on my sister’s garden mulching – composting system.

Finally we have success on the beach weather front. Walking the dog on a picturesque morning with early sunbeams and less wind, but eventually even this minor resistance makes us turn around. The terns on the beach have a head-bobbing mannerism that makes them look like little old ladies or kids with a funny little dance. Sea gulls wash on the surf edge.

Long established rule of swimming come to mind. Never swim alone, in the early morning, in the presence of bait fish, or in clouded water. I try not to shift into panic mode too quickly. At least I couldn’t see any bait fish.

They do have a winter

Yes it does rain, winter (relatively speaking) is part of the Queensland experience. Best part of the morning spent exploring the foreshore in Bongaree. This location named after the aboriginal who travelled with Matthew Flinders while he mapped the area. Names aside, while the sun shone we did plan to go to the beach but by the time we got home clouds were gathering and it was much too cool. Some good, some bad – non beach day. Our plans included going to Mooloolba but a minor medical emergency meant sampling the excellent support services on the Bribie Island.

Bongaree Jetty
The Bongaree Jetty, many a pleasant afternoon spent here

We are enjoying – as part of house sitting- the joys of a fully equipped gourmet kitchen. Instant heat under high-tech stove top hot plates, homemade yoghurt, obscure products, seasonings, garnishes and gourmet, organic or even freshly gathered, locally sourced food. The surrounds provide us with papaya, passionfruit, mint, herbs, rouquette and spinage. So I can be creative. Results include a mandarin slice and green papaya salad.

Another grey day and we drive north to Mooloolaba, apparently holidaying. What used to be little more than one bakery, plank footpaths and a caravan park, largely surrounded by swampland is now an up-market, bustling café strip. More crowded, more resort towers than we are used to, this is a bonsai Gold Coast. Still some shabby areas though, the Aquarium centre, or down on the spit where the fishery/ seafood area. The adjacent foreshore has a sheltered swimming area but the chilly air puts us off.untitled (320)

Being deep in Maroon territory when the State of Origin Rugby happens is a new experience. Many in the neighbourhood deck out houses, buses, offices in their team’s colours. Queensland having won eight years on the trot are very popular. They are definitely walking the walk of winners. The whole state rivalry is much less noticeable south of the border, or perhaps we just live in the wrong area.

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While Queensland has adopted the Cane toad as their emblem, and with no love lost those from south of the border are aligned to cockroaches, we have our own invasions to deal with: tiny ants along the hand basins in the guest’s bathroom and perhaps kindred NSW cockroaches. House sitting does have its down side.

Cane toad
Great invader, taking over so much.

When we eventually explore the coast Cotton Tree and Maroochy Surf club do not live up to the hype. Much of the foreshore is being rebuilt and heavily dressed in construction site garb.

A garbage truck stalks us northwards. My memories of a lovely family lunch in the Surf club on a previous business are destroyed by insistent jack-hammering.

Much of the façade is the ‘same-same’ as all along the coast. Why do people come here? Scratch just below the surface, behind the shops, sparkling businesses, and gleaming towers are still garages, back alleys and waste areas.

Much changed Mooloolaba foreshore

A favourite up away from the coastal strip is the Kunrana Organic Supermarket – Brownies worth the drive. (featured image) They have bulk bins and paper bags for customers to fill, mark the product code and you are charged accordingly. The range is enormous, everything squeaky-clean and good for you. Now the complex has been extended to include café, garden centre and even an organic butcher. I notice a sign indicating they now sell, “Grass fed Lamb”, and wonder; is there another sort? Do they eat something else?

We are frequently asked, ‘how long we’re staying or what are we doing here?’ Which leads us to feel we are being judges as clearly not locals! As far as I can see the only evidence to support this assumption is that we are clothed in shorts and T shirts, obviously damming evidence, when others around us are in more wintery outfits. When we get a chance to respond to this curiosity any mention of house-sitting is greeted with platitudes.

No beach day — again

We drive again, this time to explore along the Bruce Highway to the south. Around parts of the Moreton Bay Drive. Scarborough and Redcliffe add to our waterfall and pool chasing.

From Peter Carey’s Jack Maggs, …Three years of that time I had the misfortune to be in a hell called Morton Bay…

Moreton Bay
Doesn’t look that bad?

Things aren’t as bad as Carey implies, even if the demographics indicate that some ethic groups; Samoans and Tongan especially, not that this evident on our drive tour. Except for an insignia to mixed cultures and a plaque to the first Samoan/Tonga meeting house outside these countries. We do however notice some very worse-for-wear bayside cheap housing which looks like state housing. This whole area was probably a crowded sea-side destination that is now a tad shabby.

Mangrove edged beaches on the edge of Morton Bay which has greyish and choppy water. Tide is high with occasional glimpses of minimal yellow sand. Further out onto the Cape the coast looks more scenic. Scarborough is definitely out of the wind, but rain still threatens. The Dugong symbol indicates Morton Bay Drive, or North Morton Drive. untitled (315)We pass marinas on one side, seafood outlets and a tiny caravan village with pastel cottages, trimmed white. They’re so cute and doll-like. Expensive multi-story houses next to run down fibro shacks. A few old Queenslanders, tastefully restored. Then resort towers reminiscent of Waikiki, tacky in places.

From here the Ferry departs to the Bay Islands – Morton and Stradbroke. We promise to do that one day. No doubt the red cliffs are more statuesque out to sea.

Another no beach day! It has now been five days since we felt a beach swim was possible. We soak up the sun’s warmth away from ridge tops, but know the southerly wind will be worse on the beach. To counter this lack of swimming we spend time looking at real estate, fascinated by the range of goods and chattels we can get in price ranges far more reasonable than Sydney. Media rooms dominate.

I explore the fire trails behind the Bribie Island Arts Centre, watched by Kangaroos that stare down in response to my whistling.

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Day Trip to Eumundi Markets

Any trips off Bribie Island mean the initial 19km to the Bruce Highway; tedious process of several sets of traffic lights and more changes of speed limit than should occupy such a short stretch of roadways.untitled (309)

Once on ‘the Bruce’, we are still becoming accustomed to the scenery, pine plantations, swampy paper-bark tree stretches, and long open highway with adjacent strawberry farms (yet to harvest). We have decided that Queensland drivers are the worst encountered in our travels, most noticeable is their ignoring major road work speed restrictions. 4 Wheel drive enthusiast lumber though the unsealed side roads which appear to be worn and puddled as a result.

Caloundra features much more high-rise apartments and busy city streetscapes – with small businesses and hardware shops. untitled (310)

We head to Noosa beach which is perfect. I make the mistake of asking about my husband’s memories of the area when the parking area at the Noosa River mouth was a caravan park where a council worker with cigarette hanging from his bottom lip would give the boys in their panel van a ticket for camping overnight costing $1. My queries were treated with typical up-market Noosa sourness, ‘there has always been a council car-park here!’ I am told.

Featured image is Noosa street art.

Later I find a wonderful evocative poem Only in Places Like This by Cindy Keong–

…Only a scatter of stores to tempt the ladies who

are more at home on Noosa streets, with their

gold mesh and white linen. Here some things

never change: the caravan park that waits patiently

for its regular families to set up camp,…

Thought the “gold mesh and white linen” image was apt.

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Hastings Street with its retail reputation, up there with Lygon St, Carlton or Toorak Road, South Yarra, and apparently commercial rents are the most costly in Australia. I wonder why I don’t find it at all interesting and other things catch my attention. Like several decades of Miles Franklin Award winning books in a window. My every ice-cream laden window shopping move is watched by snobby managers. Finally I stumble on a food court where I thought there was nothing affordable.

Construction is underway for the Noosa Food and Wine Festival, something we searched prior to leaving Sydney finding that tickets were way too expensive. Seriously overpriced dinners and luncheons ranged from $108 to $250 each. Access to the fair was $40 with what looks like additional $9 to purchase samples from food stalls. Even that was beyond our budget.

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Another unexpected cost was parking at Eumundi Markets, all sorts of restrictions were in place for market days, or you could park in the Primary school for $5. Don’t blame this small town for attempting to make a bit of profit from tourism.

Mother’s Day

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We decided to book a table at Bribie Island R.S.L. which with hindsight was a mistake as the club was very busy. Our meals took over two hours to arrive. We spend a little time showing Ben and Natasha some of the sights including some of the canal frontage mansions, and a neat as a pin new house we liked.

By mid-May we are really enjoying the warm evenings and relaxing into Bribie Island lifestyle.

Bribie Island Queensland
Jocco’s pals Duchies and Rose, at the dog beach.

Impact of dog inheritance:

  • A routine that involves a walk before breakfast
  • Repeated activities, you throw, I fetch, you throw, I fetch, you throw
  • Waste removal duties – carry it until a receptacle can be reached
  • Social awareness, other dogs (on lease or off) people walking them
  • A means to get people active
  • Walk on the beach rather than an afternoon nap
  • Discussion about variety – Jocco’s mix of Border Collie, Staffy and Kelpie always draws a comment. We meet a neighbour with a wire coated Vizula and are told to get photos.
  • Show off with party tricks, mostly of the fetch variety
  • Shopping now includes searching for dog bones.
  • Where are the doggie treats kept?
  • There is no such thing as being solitary as everyone is going to say hello, ask what breed, or trade walking notes.
  • Learning his foibles; Jocco doesn’t like getting his feet wet on damp grass, but is happy to trundle alone the surf edge, especially if there is a need to wash sand of any throw toys.
  • Apparently Jocco doesn’t like being washed. This much is evident when after researching the tides we walk him along Pumicestone Passage and he quickly sinks in the mud. Although he is more than happy with this skin treatment we feel bad about putting him into our host’s car in that condition. So attempts to remove the mud are treated with a great deal of distain. But when we want to return Jocco to black and white instead of black and grey, the warm water and doggy shampoo treatment is much easier to manage. Do dogs really need to be washed?untitled (307)

Control burns are being conducted near Glasshouse Mountains, making for smoky, spectacular extended dusks. We stumble upon a local tourist attraction – The soldier crabs of Pumicestone passage. Rod recalls, “the first time I saw them I was scared, had nightmares, never saw anything like it before.”

The mud flats, sand banks appear to be moving as there are so many of the tiny creatures, they crackle and creek as they scurry away. A group of tourists are pleased, “we’ve come all the way from Victoria to see this phenomena.” After taking Kenny down to Beachmere we begin to find the low tide infestation quite commonplace.


Bridges 11

untitled (297)Burdekin River near Ayr at Homehill. Water, Ayr and Home, I am sure poets would do something with that offering. This is a covered bridge like used to be in Nabiac. Being that this is the dry season we have seen more sand than water in many of the other rivers, but this one is major and full.

Over Johnstone River coming into Cairns. Joseph Mcavoy Bridge. I finally get a pen and paper to preserve the name. Some indications that he may have been a keeper of the bridge from sugar cane growing areas in late 1800s. But this could just be someone with the same name. Other noteworthy items include crocodile sightings upstream and that major road works are happening. No surprise on the croc thing, it’s close to the coast, wide and with mangrove banks.untitled (300)

Same, same over Mulgrave River, also coming into Cairns, near Gordonvale. This time named for a Desmond Tranamore. This time I am able to google that he was a police officer, killed in the line of duty in 1964, at the cost of $48 million this girder bridge replaced the low-set bridge, at an increase height of some 5m. Understandably many of these bridges used to flood in the wet season, people in the early 1970s used to say, ‘if someone spits upstream the Bruce Highway floods’, things have improved since I lived in Brisbane with my first husband.

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Lucky not in flood for us.

Over the Barron River multiple bridges. We crossed this river in Kurunda, Mareeba and Malanda. Each bridge equally as impressive with height between water and roadway. I think they have floods up here. We were both on the Captain Cook highway and on the way into Freshwater for these crossings.

Over the Annan River Bridge and causeway – Near Keatings lagoon. Kakadu like wetlands. Labeled with a “Big Annan Bridge” sign, but is really an old ‘pick a plank’ wooded construction with roadway covering. The car jerks across, with us wondering what would happen if the tyres get caught in a gap? The causeway has a chasm at the top of some falls, and is made of sections of concrete. We are really heading in the beyond.

Before Palmer River Roadhouse North of the Bverstown Range and lookout. Workmen and stock the only other moving things.

FAr north queensland
Called a development road , heading towards Cooktown on the inland sealed road.

Rollo Gallop Bridge was it a gully or waterway? Rivers in this area flow into the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Palmer River. While we make an effort to get a view of the bridge and river we are chased by the Road House owner who is wondering what us city drongos are up to wandering about with backpacks. “yar not going bush walkin, are yars?’

The river has steep sides with minimal water, but flood flotsam is in the trees. WA registered caravan waits while we cross (The bridge is only single lane.) In the roadhouse is a museum filled with tales of people and how they traversed the river and travelled in past decades.

Near palmer River road house
Even this river can flood.


On being House Sitters

A southerly swings in, it is autumn after all, but this ruins our beach plans. We catch up on shopping, even with its small population Bribie Island even has an Audi Supermarket. A reflection of the demographics that is top-heavy with retirees, I suppose. We find it crowded – must be pension day – and we are unfamiliar with trolley and entry systems. But they do have familiar products – almost.

Bribie Island Aldi
Free standing but a bit too far from the house

The case of the missing recycled fabric shopping bags is still not solved. Very frustrating – I know they were packed.

House sitting:

  • We have access to stocked cupboards – full of gourmet products
  • Our day is filled and dictated by pet activities. Not that we mind.
  • There are garden duties.
  • Hidden secrets are discovered – like the yoghurt maker.
  • Wish we’d paid more attention to how to operate the bread maker.
  • Access to books and Dvds but forbidden from the record collection.
  • Much better than cabins and or serviced apartments
  • Friends, support, neighbours to help and keep an eye on us. The possibility to have our own friends and other family members visit.
  • Arrangements have been made for payment of the utilities.
Bribie Island Arts centre
Arts, crafts and activities

At Tai Chi classes held at the local Arts Centre I feel alarmingly uncoordinated. Someone else has flexibility and can stretch much better than me. How dare he? What kind of person can afford to spend from 8.30am until 10am during the week at Tai Chi? Early retirement – Part timer – Night shifter – Works at home???

“We’ve researched everywhere now,” Rod says about our shopping expeditions. Our best winner is the Banksia Beach Woolworths which features fresh made, cook at home pizzas as well as great home brand curries.

Banksia Beach Shopping centre
All we needed and closer to the house- note how flat Bribie Island is!

More cold weather house-binds us. We enjoy the new open back deck and eventually decide to wash the car.

There is an orchid show @ Ningi. This is a tiny hamlet just off the island. So many stunning blooms. “I prefer the small delicate ones,” Rod says, “the big ones don’t look like orchids to me.” I notice that Bonsai wire is used to keep blooms upright. “Seeing those competition blooms makes your birthday one look fantastic.” We do have a little collection of specimens at home, but nothing on this grand scale, which we are told can be induced to flower 2 or 3 times a year. This must be part of living in the sub tropics. We are reminded that part of our house-sitting duties is the requirement to feed the orchids.

Ningi Hall
Ningi Hall – site of the annual Orchid show

Day trip to Maleny

Mt Tibrogargan
Can you see the Gorilla?


We are getting into the dog-walk habits, and the day is not really beach suitable, so may as well tour.

The Glasshouse Mountains are suddenly on the road-side. We turn off along Steve Irwin Way as indicated by a silhouetted sculpture of the man with a crocodile. ‘We should visit the Australian Zoo,’ says rod. ‘Yes and do some walks.’

Mt Tibrogargan looked like giant Silverback Gorilla. We are passing our first pineapple plantation. Then the big mower at Beerwah comes into view. Why? Really don’t know, but hey, it’s a big thing. The roadside has a passing parade of fresh fruit stalls, we’ve made a decision which one to visit on our return. Turned out that they were giving away custard apples, which needed to be eaten right now.

Maleny shops
Typical of cute crafty shops in Maleny


I wander into every bookshop in Maleny, including Rosetta Books. Oops missed one. Eventually managed to swap but not before I am told, ‘we have to make money, pay bills, you know.’

Part of this day trip was a visit to Rosetta Book shop – dust jacket information, from the Accidental Terrorist said the author was one of the owners. Apparently not anymore, and was told that he is even overseas, so there would be no chance to meet Steven Lang. But did learn from the shop to note down authors and add them to the search-for titles/authors at the library list.

David Linton timber gallery takes much of my time. All items are created by local artists, many of whom reside in Maleny or around the beautiful Blackall Range. Come top up your soul and experience the wonderful qualities of our exquisite native Australian timbers in this magical gallery in the beautiful hills of Maleny. Advertising speak aside, I felt as if my soul had been topped up. untitled (283)

There is art, exhibitions and fine food everywhere. Even a fromagerie! Wonderfully handcrafted shoes, but way too expensive. So much like Leura in the Blue Mountains. We dine at Colin James Fine Foods – bread and soup for me. Ploughman’s lunch for Rod.

Recent cold snaps have put the temperatures down into single figures. Further west is even cooler only 5 or 6 degrees Celsius overnight. So out comes the scarfs and cold clime clothes. We’re still in shorts, but with long sleeves, lightweight but still – the locals seem softer. We’ve found going into the mountains, or rather hinterland in April much warmer than our January in NZ, or February in Tasmania.

Heading back down the mountain heavy rain washes away any chance of a view.

Mary Cairn Cross Park
Typical trails in Mary Cairn cross park

Even with limited signage we make sure to take the turn off to Mary Cairn Cross Park. The view back through the nodules Captain Cook likened to glass smelting towers was stunning. (featured image) We can see control burns underway. Sunlight makes the rock faces sparkle, truly do look like melted gems. Had my sister not taken me to these gardens on an earlier visit I’d have been ignorant of their existence.

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There is also a giant barrel winery close by, but we decide to make tracks down the hills to get time to ask some questions at the Bribie Island tourist centre. Nope, no such thing as 4 wheel drive tours, ‘a guy thinks he might run tours and has approached the council, but he still needs to buy his 4WD bus.’ Fishing charters cost $230 per person, not in our price range.


Problems back home

We discovered, thanks to throw away comment from my, previously worked in insurance, sister, that the empty house back in Sydney may not be insured. Turns out that if left unoccupied for longer than often 40 days, many home insurance policies become null and void. We concede that insurance assessors would have their ways to confirm a house was occupied. So our attention may be needed back home.

Bribie Island library
More than just books at this library

But there is the distraction of Bribie Island library with shelves full of history, travel and even a section for westerns plus free tea and coffee for my ‘I don’t do books’ husband. Interesting in this realm of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease books have an insert pack to initial when you have read, meaning users can always avoid taking something home to discover they’ve read it before.

Last Christmas we were constantly frustrated with the blustery winds, wanting to swim but being forced off the beach by stinging sand and choppy swell. Here mid-year it is much less tempest. And we have a dog to give us an excuse to walk down the beach. Note: As 4 wheel drive cars are another reason to be on Bribie Island, watch out for vehicles on the beach, and deep gullies formed by wheel tracks.

Bribie Island storms
Typical damage, lucky Banksia Beach missed out.

In the week before we arrived Bribie was struck by very bad storms. It’s a wonder damage wasn’t more extensive with vegetation right up to the windows of many houses, ‘to keep the home cooler’, we are told. Now the streets are alive with landscapers spreading piles of mulch made from broken trees. Being that Bribie is a sand island the soil needs all the help it can get. Aside from the necessity to add organic material to the soil, this is all part of the beautification of the habituated end of the island.

We tour some of the canal developments, marveling at the spread of mansions and what can be purchased for the real estate dollar. ‘Make sure you don’t tell them you are from Sydney,’ was a shared secret. Apparently house prices are automatically jacked up if it’s suspected you have a larger purse because you come from ‘down south’.

Caboolture train
Get on that train!

To check on our insurance issue, we head to the city on the Caboolture train. First problem; purchase of a go-card train ticket. ‘It’s just a new system you aren’t used to’, I tell Rod. ‘Embrace the change.’ There were several attempts made to explain the deposit which does not add value. This is the same system being used in Victoria, West Australia and now in place in Sydney, so why does he have so many problems? ‘But what if you don’t tap on…’ he begins to make suggestions about routing the system.

Why on earth can they have the air-conditioning turned down to such a freezing temperature?

We get plenty of samples at the Queen Street Mall grower’s markets, note the buses moving in and out of an underground terminal. The whole city seems to be a forest of cranes, building everywhere. Preparation for the 2016 Commonwealth Games, or as a tart-up for the G20, or just a city with a purpose?

Our answer is yes, our home will be uninsured if vacant for more than 60 days, someone must occupy the premises. Could be a family member, or friend, but Rod is uncomfortable with that.