Memories of Junior School – Cliff, Marc and Alice

Last time, amongst other things, I wrote about the film Gregory’s Girl which in turn led me to reminisce about my days at secondary school. This morning, whilst starting out on a project to declutter the house, I found a booklet that was printed around the time of the centenary of my primary school. A call had gone out asking ex-pupils to submit their memories, and many did, including myself – Unbeknownst to me until after publication however, most contributors stuck to a concise 150-200 words, whereas my “contribution” ended up being a good deal longer so kind of stood out like a sore thumb (nothing changes does it). I did notice however that the piece included a few references to the music of the day so I’m going to recycle it for this place – Hope you can forgive me this little indulgence.

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My old primary school

Extract from 1899-1999 Centenary Booklet (written in 1998):

If like me you joined the school in 1965, and spent the whole of your primary school education there, your memories of the experience will be very similar to mine. I spent an evening conjuring up images from the past and came up with the following whistle stop tour through the seven years.

In Miss Margaret’s Primary One class, courtesy of the Tom and Ann books, we all became literate. For many Aberdeenshire children this was no mean feat since these books were written in English and not in our native Doric. At the same time we were also becoming numerate courtesy of wooden rods number one to ten (or was it twelve in those pre-decimal days?). These rods came in the full spectrum of colours and I’m pretty sure that number three rod was quite an attractive lime green.

By the time we progressed next door to Miss Mabel’s Primary Two class we were ready to pick up on the finer points of spelling, writing and sums. Miss Margaret and Miss Mabel, being sisters and located in rooms next to each other, frequently brought their classes together. Sometimes it was for Music and Movement and sometimes it was to watch a film on the noisy school projector skilfully manned by Mr Anderson the headmaster. (Women in those days were obviously not to be trusted with advanced technology.) The film invariably had a Commonwealth theme (the young queen was very popular in the mid ’60s) and might have been about children on sheep stations in Australia or perhaps in African villages. At the time however I think I was more fascinated by the projector’s light beam picking up the slow moving mass of chalk dust that usually filled the air.

projector

For Primary Three we veered round the corner to Mrs Scott’s classroom next to the staffroom. I seem to remember that we were introduced to the wonderful world of “work cards” which dealt heavily with Stone Age man and the Romans in Britain. At age seven we were full of knowledge about the average Neanderthal or Centurion. Also at that time, it was very important for us to master the new metric system which would soon take over completely from the old imperial system of measurement. Over thirty years later and I still quote my height in feet and inches and order my curtain material in yards – What would Mrs Scott say?

Primary Four, back in 1968, was housed in a hut to the right of the main school building. Mrs Fraser was the teacher and although most classes at that time still had milk monitors, Primary Four was the only class that had a wood-burning stove monitor. A major turning point for the school came that year when the old wooden desks, complete with ink well, were abandoned in favour of new-fangled formica tables that had little plastic drawers on runners. Very much in keeping with the hi-tech furniture of the time.

There was great dismay however for me that year when Helen, my best friend since Primary One, left the village for a new life in Aberdeen (with her parents and younger brother Stuart I hasten to add). We lost touch for many years however met up again at University in 1978 and we both ironically became accountants in later life. Miss Margaret’s number one to ten rods must have had a profound effect on us.

As we come to Primary Five, my memories get more vivid. We were back in the main body of the school and our teacher was Miss Reid who impressed the girls at any rate, with her trendy crocheted waistcoats and short skirts. She also had amazing high hair usually adorned with elaborate accessories. It was now 1969 and great advances were being made in the world of Science and Technology. We were lucky enough to have Mr Bruce take us for science once a week and in one lesson he mass-manufactured bright blue eye-shadow for the girls (much to the anguish of our parents I’m sure). He also invited everyone to his lab to witness one of the first Apollo moon landings. To my eternal shame, not realising the significance of what we were to watch on the grainy black and white TV, I was so busy discussing with new best friend Sheena what a novelty it was to get off normal lessons, that I think I missed the whole thing.

Christmas time always was and still is an exciting time in the school year and as was often the case we performed a nativity play that year. I was the narrator, a major part that called for much learning of lines and constructing of angel wings and head-dress. If you were a girl however the most sought after role was always that of Mary (depending of course on whoever happened to be Joseph that year). The other event that made Christmas special was the annual Christmas party when before dances, the boys would line up on one side of the gym hall and the girls on the other as if about to go into battle. Nine year old boys and girls are not known for being socially at ease with each other but somehow we manfully made it round the hall on an annual basis mastering the finer points of the Gay Gordons, the St Bernard’s Waltz and the Bluebell Polka. To this day, every time I attend a Wedding or Dinner Dance, I thank my primary school for having taught me the rudiments of Scottish Country Dancing.

Incidentally, growing disquiet in the ranks over the choice of music for our annual bash (we were living in the psychedelic ’60s after all in the days of the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix) meant that the teachers had to take steps in acquiring some “pop” records for us as well as the Jimmy Shand perennial favourites. For some strange reason what they came up with was Cliff Richard singing When The Girl In Your Arms Is The Girl In Your Heart. It wasn’t until I was older that I realised it happened to be from The Young Ones filmed in 1961 – Not quite what we had in mind.

Primary Six was Mrs McPhee’s class in the room next to the “Higher Grade” girl’s cloakroom [this was a junior/secondary school that taught kids up to the age of 15 after which, unbelievably, they could leave school and join the adult world of work – A]. At age ten we were in awe of these “women” of 14 and 15 in their wetlook coats and boots, long sleek hair and chokers. Full decimalisation came about in 1970 and I remember the excitement on the first day about paying for our lunch tokens with the already circulated 50p and anticipating the change in shiny new pence. On receiving these new pence we hotfooted it to the local baker’s shop at break time where we regularly went to buy our sweets. Soon a dilemma was to be faced – Apparently during the transition period one new pence was to equate to both the old tuppence and thrupence. It was important to remember to buy a penny chew along with your tuppenny ice-pole or else you lost out bigtime. I think this was also the year that we broke some record or other by being the first school, thanks mainly to the endeavours of Mr Bruce, to have everyone over a certain age pass their cycling proficiency test. We were even photographed for the Aberdeen Press and Journal so fame indeed.

Educationally by this stage, we were covering the whole gamut of school subjects and even received extra tuition from the Higher Grade teachers. One of these teachers was Miss Jaffrey whom the girls at any rate, got for Sewing and Knitting. (I would have said Home Economics but at that age we were obviously not to be let loose with cookers, although when attempting to thread the needle of the electric sewing machine with my friend Lorna that year, we did inadvertently manage to stitch through the top of my finger!) Miss Jaffrey got married when we were in Primary Six and I remember the girls clubbing together to buy her a wedding present – Unfortunately for Miss Jaffrey this wedding present took the form of a pair of plastic ornamental bambis. Much to her credit however she seemed overwhelmingly pleased with her gift although I doubt if they ever took pride of place on her mantelpiece.

And so we come to Primary Seven, our last year in junior school. We were right along the corridor beyond the art room and the janitor’s cupboard. Our teacher was the heavily accented Miss Robertson [she was half German which often came about as a result of servicemen marrying local girls after the war – A]. I remember this being a really enjoyable year despite having to endure the dreaded 11-plus test at some point. Coming up to Christmas we feverishly collected for the Blue Peter Annual Appeal and were rewarded with a personal thank you note from Pete, John and Val. Brenda snuck in a copy of her big sister’s T. Rex LP to the Christmas party (Jeepster had been a big hit in the November of that year) and things were never quite the same after that. Roger and Stephen both got feather cut hairstyles and so ended the era of short back and sides for most of the boys in the class.

Also that year I suffered a nasty bout of appendicitis which took me into the Sick Children’s Hospital for quite some time and off school for about a month. When in hospital I received a box of fruit from the class (as was usual) and Scoop Bookclub paperbacks (remember them?). Unfortunately a schedule of schoolwork also came in the box which I conveniently mislaid and then pleaded ignorance when asked about it later. (Well, there had to be some advantages in having your appendix removed.) In the spring of 1972 both the boys and girls were heavily involved in football and netball tournaments which took us to distant lands (other villages 5 to 10 miles away) – Most of the time however I didn’t even make it into the first team which kind of put me off competitive sport for life although I discovered later that they just didn’t want me to overdo it since I’d been so recently in hospital. The grand finale of Primary Seven was School Camp in Abington, Lanarkshire. We had a great time and made lots of new friends from all over Aberdeenshire, many of whom we met up with in later years [in fact Mr WIAA’s predecessor was a boy I fell for at School Camp who hailed from a nearby village – A].

So there we have it. In the summer of 1972 Alice Cooper was topping the charts with School’s Out and our class went their separate ways. There were choices and some of us went to one nearby academy, some went to another and some stayed at the junior/secondary (although by this time the leaving age had increased to 16). I hadn’t really thought much about my school days until recently when it was time to enrol my daughter for pre-school [this was written in 1998 – A]. I suddenly decided that we would have to move house as I wanted her to go to a school like the one I attended. This must certainly be a testament to the time I spent there, the inspirational teachers and the friends I made along the way.

School’s Out by Alice Cooper:

Until next time….

School’s Out Lyrics
(Song by the Alice Cooper band)

Well we got no choice
All the girls and boys
Makin all that noise
‘Cause they found new toys
Well we can’t salute ya
Can’t find a flag
If that don’t suit ya
That’s a drag

School’s out for summer
School’s out forever
School’s been blown to pieces

No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks

Well we got no class
And we got no principles
And we got no innocence
We can’t even think of a word that rhymes

School’s out for summer
School’s out forever
School’s been blown to pieces

No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks

Out for summer
Out till fall
We might not go back at all

School’s out forever
School’s out for summer
School’s out with fever
School’s out completely

Postscript:

Interestingly, despite the fact we wanted more Beatles and less Jimmy Shand (MBE) in the late ’60s, it turns out that much of Jimmy’s success in the charts in the ’50s was down to none other than George Martin! Yes once signed to Parlophone, the master of the button box accordion was given George as a producer, and became the only leader of a Scottish Country Dance Band ever to enter the UK Singles Chart.

An Eclectic Mix of Anthony Newley, Nile Rodgers and Noel Coward!

Well it seems ages since I’ve written what I would call a conventional post – One intro, one song, one back story, one memory and one, “Wow, didn’t realise that back in the day” moment. Blame those very compelling Olympics, the fact that summer eventually came to Scotland and a lot of blog admin to be done (who knew that as time goes by there could be so much, but in for a penny in for a pound and all that).

I’m sure all bloggers are the same but even if I haven’t been posting much of late I’ve had plenty of ideas and I find myself scribbling these down on scraps of paper in the course of the day (surreptitiously of course when I’m at work and supposed to be thinking of very serious statistical analysis type stuff). I have now found these scraps of paper and the topics, if I can read them, are as follows:

  1. Random pick from music app – Visions by Cliff Richard
  2. Concerts at Capitol Theatre, Aberdeen
  3. Anthony Newley, Fiddle liddle I doh
  4. Songs from every Olympics since 1968
  5. Duets where girl is forgotten about – Cherrelle, Denise Marsa, Marilyn Martin
  6. Chic – “Don’t live in the past but it’s a nice place to visit” song 
  7. Songs from daughter’s time in musical theatre
  8. Inter-Oil Company Pop Quiz 1985

So lots to choose from there but the random picks of the day are turning out to be quite embarrassing and if from your iTunes library it means you’ve actually parted with hard-earned cash to own them. I can only confess to purchasing Visions because I sometimes struggle with sleep and discovered that Cliff‘s voice and the sentiment of the song are both quite soporific and lullaby-like (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).

Strawberry Fair by Anthony Newley:

Lots of stories to relate about the excellent concerts I witnessed in a small Art Deco theatre in Aberdeen in the ’70s and ’80s but will keep that one for another day. Anthony Newley‘s Strawberry Fair is our favourite novelty song as a family and if there is a chance to get the phrase “fiddle liddle I doh” into a conversation in the course of the day, we will. (Yes I know the actual phrase is “ri-fol ri-fol tol-de-riddle-li-do, but we never heard it that way.)

As for the Olympics, they have been great but as they end this weekend, anything related to all things Olympian will no longer be topical. I have already written about those very memorable duets, like Lucky Stars, where the girl is kind of forgotten about and wasn’t credited (Denise Marsa) then did it myself last week when I wrote about Saturday Love by Alexander O’Neal. As it turns out the song was actually a Cherrelle one and it was Alexander who was asked to duet with her later – My bad.

cherrelle

Chic, a band that epitomised the whole disco scene of the late ’70s, came back last year with I’ll Be There which was heavily played on the radio at the time. Not that their creator Nile Rodgers has ever been away, as he is the genius behind some of the best-selling albums of all-time which I often hadn’t realised until doing research for this blog. The track popped up this week on the radio and I do like that line, “Don’t live in the past but it’s a nice place to visit” especially when spending time on a project like this – Lovely to look back nostalgically but there is a whole world out there still to be discovered and experienced. Got to remind ourselves sometimes that the relationship we have with our laptops is never going to be as important as real-life relationships (and not being smutty here).

I’ll Be There by Chic:

I’ve mentioned before that my daughter was an aficionad0 of musical theatre and at some point I’m going to post one of her great recordings but to save embarrassment I will probably have to wait until she goes travelling, to a zone with no Wi-Fi. As an aside, anyone who wants to make a lot of money very easily – Set up a Musical Theatre school for little girls! Don’t put your daughter on the stage Mrs Worthington was told, but you know what, that’s exactly what lots of mums are intent on doing nowadays and from what I can see it’s money for old rope. You hire a church hall for a Saturday, get some music teachers to give up a few hours of their weekend, set yourself up with some fancy branding and logos and you’re away. Fees for the “term”, fees to appear in a show, fees for the costumes, fees for the tickets to go and watch the show and all the petrol for the running around. The “teachers” then get very generous Christmas gifts from some parents (which I always cynically thought was a bribe to get star-billing for their offspring – quite rightly it never worked though) and lo and behold come the teenage years they announce they don’t want to do it any more. Hallelujah.

You can tell quite early on however whether your progeny is going to be the next Barbra Streisand or whether they are more likely to make up the chorus. I remember well paying a fortune for tickets so that all the family could see our daughter appear in the local musical theatre school’s extravaganza. There are usually a few favourites that get the starring roles in any show but the vast majority of the other 200 or so make a very brief appearance and this time aforementioned daughter was in the chorus of Cats so no-one even spotted her or knew which “cat” she was! A lot of frustrated impresarios run these schools I feel and their students are not always given age-appropriate material – Fourteen-year-olds performing the Cell Block Tango from Chicago anyone? No I didn’t think so either. Anyway rant over but I still love my daughter’s singing voice and now she sings just for pleasure. Best way to go I think.

So, finally got to the last topic and I think I have used up too many words already so definitely one for next time – Yes the Inter-Oil Company Pop Quiz of 1985. A few funny stories about that one, a bit of of name-dropping and a few good tunes as well so will work on it over the next few days. In the meantime I will leave you with the sage and very witty words of Mr Noel Coward and his Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs Worthington.

Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs Worthington Lyrics
(Song by Noel Coward)

Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage
The profession is overcrowded
The struggle’s pretty tough
And admitting the fact she’s burning to act
That isn’t quite enough
She’s a nice girl and though her teeth are fairly good
She’s not the type I ever would be eager to engage
I repeat, Mrs. Worthington, sweet Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage

Regarding yours, dear Mrs. Worthington
Of Wednesday, the 23rd.
Although your baby may be keen on a stage career
How can I make it clear that this is not a good idea
For her to hope and appear, Mrs. Worthington
Is on the face of it absurd
Her personality is not in reality quite big enough, inviting enough
For this particular sphere

Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage
She’s a bit of an ugly duckling, you must honestly confess
And the width of her seat would surely defeat
Her chances of her success
It’s – it’s a loud voice, and though it’s not exactly flat
She’ll need a little more than that to earn a living wage
On my knees, Mrs. Worthington, please Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage

Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage
Though they said at the school of acting
She was lovely as Peer Gynt
I’m afraid, on the whole, an ingénue role might emphasize her squint
She has nice hands, to give the wretched girl her due
But don’t you think her bust is too developed for her age
No more buts, Mrs. Worthington, nuts! Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage

Cliff, Summer Holiday and a Red London Bus

Well it’s still raining and I’m still waiting for summer to begin – So much for getting all excited on 1st of June when I thought the song of the day should be June Is Bustin’ Out All Over from Carousel. And, so much for rethinking it all at the solstice when I redefined the start of summer based on “seasonal lag” (yes new to me too). No I can see it’s going to be one of those summers where we need Cliff Richard to come along in that red London bus in order to whisk us off to Athens.

If you’ve ever watched the 1963 film Summer Holiday, you’ll know that the title sequence starts off in black and white and shows scene after scene of miserable looking holiday-makers trying to shelter from torrential rain at Britain’s various seaside resorts and piers. A group of mechanics at London Transport’s main “works” are looking out at the rain and, apart from not looking very convincing as mechanics (but we’ll come to that), are not hopeful about their forthcoming holiday. All of a sudden through the pouring rain a bus emerges, colour comes to the screen (turning the bus bright red) and a very young looking Cliff Richard runs in to tell them, through the medium of song, that he’s got the go-ahead to convert the bus into a giant 1960s Winnebago so that they can tour the continent (a trial run for fee-paying passengers the following year).

summer holiday.png

Now we all know that Don (Cliff’s character) will never have picked up a spanner in his life nor will any of his friends (they are all talented dancers, actors and singers) but even in those days it must have been hard to suppress a snigger when listening to Don’s rallying cry to the “fellows” on the shop floor (in reality I know where they would have told him to go) but this is a musical so they get the job done on time and off they set on their travels. Cue the scene where Don/Cliff sings the very memorable title track, also called Summer Holiday.

Summer Holiday by Cliff Richard:

If ever you needed a song to lift the spirits, this is it and I remember well waking up to it one morning when working as a waitress the summer after leaving school. I was sharing a room with my best friend in a cottage on the grounds of a very grand country house hotel, but come the weekend, we had to get up at the crack of dawn ready to serve breakfast to unsuspecting guests. In those days we could burn the candle at both ends so had probably been out the night before, but at 6am were not exactly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Fortunately the gods of radio playlists must have known of our plight and offered up Cliff with Summer Holiday. Within seconds of the very jaunty, upbeat intro being played, a big smile crept onto our faces. Getting up and at it suddenly didn’t seem such an effort with this song playing in the background.

The film of course looks dated now but is still great fun to watch with some amazing performances from the cast – Una Stubbs is perfect as Sandy, lead singer with the girl trio they meet on the way and the dancer Teddy Green, although appalling at acting, can definitely move on a dance floor. The girls and boys all pair up pretty quickly leaving poor old Don (by far the most attractive of the bunch) on his own, just drivin’ the bus. Fortunately for him however they pick up a young runaway lad who soon ends up being his love interest (what?), this lad being thinly disguised American stage actress Lauri Peters, initially posing as a boy (ah that explains it). Even in those days it seems we needed an American in any film being pushed towards that market. Anyway, many adventures later they reach Athens and end up in the Mediterranean joined by The Shadows, Hank playing a Bouzouki rather than the famed Fender Stratocaster Cliff bought him in the early days.

If ever a post needed a postscript however, this is it – All about a happy, upbeat song with a few fond memories thrown in. As it turns out I can’t share any of these happy memories with the above-mentioned friend as she passed away over 15 years ago aged only 41. After being joined at the hip for at least four of our most formative years, boys and relationships got in the way and after a silly misunderstanding we had a falling out and subsequently lost touch. Writing to her parents after her death, telling them that she was probably the best friend I’d ever had, was a massive case of too much too late.

So, “What’s It All About?” – It’s definitely about making up with old friends before it’s too late, being able to share some really special memories unique to just the two of you. It’s fun reminiscing about the past, but much more fun when you are doing it with the people involved and not just typing it all out on a computer screen. Sorry to end on a sombre note but worth saying – As for me, I think I’m off to look for, and dust off some of my old address books.

Summer Holiday Lyrics
(Song by Bruce Welch/Brian Bennett)

We’re all going on a summer holiday

No more working for a week or two
Fun and laughter on our summer holiday
No more worries for me or you
For a week or two

We’re going where the sun shines brightly
We’re going where the sea is blue
We’ve seen it in the movies
Now let’s see if it’s true

Everybody has a summer holiday
Doing things they always wanted to
So we’re going on a summer holiday
To make our dreams come true
For me and you

Sandie, Cliff and Lulu too!

Well, it’s Eurovision week and like many others I end up reminiscing about those halcyon days, in the long distant past, when we used to win rather a lot and if we didn’t win we usually came in either second or third at worst. But that was back in the late ’60s when London was “Swinging” and all it took was a barefoot Sandie Shaw simply to turn up, in order to sweep the board. Our songs were usually written by the big-selling songwriters of the day and the artists singing those songs were generally international stars. It was in 1967 that the UK first won the contest with the Bill Martin/Phil Coulter song Puppet On A String and they went on to write our 1968 entry Congratulations, this time sung by Cliff Richard. Sadly Cliff didn’t win, although he came a close second, but the royalties must really pour in to this day as it is used whenever a big event is taking place where “congratulations” are the order of the day. (Not very original I know but true.)

Puppet On A String by Sandie Shaw:

Taking us up to the close of the ’60s was Lulu with the song Boom Bang-a-Bang by Alan Moorhouse and Peter Warne. She was the joint winner that year with three other countries, but you can see a pattern forming here whereby very simple pop songs with titles non-specific to any particular European language, became the big winners. The song that had pipped Cliff at the post the previous year was called La La La. The big change in 1969 was that the contest was broadcast in colour, so some of us could watch Lulu sporting her cute little pink dress. Sadly however, like in most homes at that time, I still had to watch in black and white but it is nice to now see, what could have been possible, if my parents had been a bit more cutting-edge with their home entertainment systems.

The philosophy behind the staging of the first contest in the late 1950s was a good one – To help a war-torn Europe rebuild itself via a light entertainment television programme. What would the founding fathers think of what the contest has become? There are now around 40 countries competing as opposed to the original 7 and it is the most watched non-sporting event in television’s annual calendar – A juggernaut of a show.

But when it comes down to it nothing has really changed – The big winners are still the international stars of the day, it’s just that these stars now come from Russia, Sweden or perhaps Serbia. Despite being well-known all over the continent they are pretty much unknown to us in the UK until they turn up at the contest. Our home-grown recording stars won’t touch it with a barge pole as it is seen as being desperately uncool and lacks credibility – To do badly can destroy a career. So it is down to our continental rivals to sweep the board nowadays.

Unknown

The songs that win are excellent and most are generally now sung in English as that is ironically the common language of Europe. Ironic because the songs we sing, in this common language, no-one votes for any more. Yes our heyday in the contest is well and truly in the past but we do still pay for a large chunk of it and many of us will still tune in to watch the whole extravaganza on Saturday night. The staging is now spectacular and having just watched the first semi-final last night, the technical people have done an amazing job this year. As the slogan for this year’s contest says, “Come Together”, but here we are having referendums on coming apart – Not what the EBU meeting in Monaco in 1955 would have envisaged for sure. Let’s hope the whole Eurovision philosophy will see this current episode in European relations through, but still not hopeful that we will see anything other than nil points on the scoreboard for us this year. I live in hope!

Puppet On A String Lyrics
(Song by Bill Martin/Phil Coulter)

I wonder if one day that, you’ll say that, you care
If you say you love me madly, I’ll gladly, be there
Like a puppet on a string

Love is just like a merry-go-round
With all the fun of a fair
One day I’m feeling down on the ground
Then I’m up in the air
Are you leading me on?
Tomorrow will you be gone?

I wonder if one day that, you’ll say that, you care
If you say you love me madly, I’ll gladly, be there
Like a puppet on a string

I may win on the roundabout
Then I’ll lose on the swings
In or out, there is never a doubt
Just who’s pulling the strings
I’m all tied up in you
But where’s it leading me to?

I wonder if one day that, you’ll say that, you care
If you say you love me madly, I’ll gladly, be there
Like a puppet on a string

I wonder if one day that, you’ll say that, you care
If you say you love me madly, I’ll gladly, be there
Like a puppet on a string

Like a puppet on a….. String