Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Being Together

I will be the first one to admit that I joined in all the complaining! Yes, that was me muttering under my breath. It may not have been the word “Humbug!” but it was certainly the kill joy attitude!

The notice came around work sometime earlier last week. Some bright spark has suggested a fundraising event that involved everyone piling out into the car park beside the canteen and doing a giant conga.

I could think of better things to do with my time, and more useful ways to raise funds for things. A litter pick up wouldn’t go amiss. Why not issue everyone with a pair of plastic gloves and black bin liner? Get sponsored for the weight of bin liner! But no – a conga was deemed to be just what we needed.

Our union man wasn’t impressed. He thought it might be a health and safety issue – all those people packed into the car park. If someone fell over, who’s to say they might not get trampled to death?

I prayed for rain, knowing that it would be postponed if the heaven opened and drenched us all. It was possibly the sunniest afternoon we have had all year!

The people lined up, the music blared from loudspeakers, the boss directed operations using a megaphone and someone stood on the roof of the building recording the event for prosperity. We moved in dribs and drabs. Some people laughed because they were outside and the sun was shining. That had to be better than being inside sitting at desks.

The music changed. What was it called? “Popcorn” Do do do do - do da do – OK, so that does absolutely nothing to give you a clue as to the tune.

There are some tunes that come with memories attached! In my childhood days, our family was firmly committed the village amateur dramatic society. Every year they put on Christmas pantomimes. My first stage appearance was at the age of six or seven in the village production of “Robinson Crusoe”. I was part of the children’s chorus. I was a pygmy. I was certainly just the right size. Come to think of it, I am probably still the right size to be a pygmy – the PC phrase is “vertically challenged”.

As pygmies we hopped, jiggled and shimmied our way through a dance routine to “Popcorn” dressed as skeletons!

So when “Popcorn” blasted out of the loud speakers that sunny afternoon, I was back to being six again! I joined in, not just with my body hopping this way and that, but with my heart!

Looking back over the event, I have to confess, that despite all the grumbling and complaining that went on among the less-young, there was a sense of community that we have not seen in the workplace for quite a while. It’s not often that we are all the same place, at the same time, involved in the same frivolous activity. Too often we have our only cliques and hidey holes for tea breaks that we don’t often spend that much time together.

Don’t ever under-estimate the value of being together!

The Going-Nowhere Rut

Don’t jump to the conclusion that just because I have been silent on the blog, that I have been leading a boring life. That just isn’t true! Well, some people might dispute that – I may be active, but what I have been doing some people might consider to be boring!

A couple of weeks ago I went for a really long walk. In the local Inverness Courier they usually include a route for walking or a bike route. The bike is in the shed with tyres that require pumping up. I have finally conceded that the bike and I are never going to be great friends. Sometimes the walking routes are not nearby, but this time it followed the canal path and then just outside of Clachnaharry it headed up into the forest. It was do-able, I had downed a very hearty breakfast fry up in the morning and was conscious that the scales on Monday were beckoning!

I don’t seem to be able to follow a route! I managed the first bit - the bit that followed the canal. I managed to find the path up to the forest. I managed to find the yellow path marker, and a little way along the route, the blue path marker. The instructions went on about a steep path but failed to say whether it was steep uphill or steep downhill. Having gone up hill already, I deemed it time to go downhill. I chose wrong!

I found myself in a lovely shady glade. Through the trees I could see glimpses of Inverness basking in the sunshine, and took myself off the path I was on to have a better look.

When I first moved to Inverness, the forest was a favourite haunt for myself and the friends I had made. We used to climb up to a prominent place and pray over the city. In our less “spiritual” moments we used to play hide and seek in the dark! When Joe and I first married, the flat we rented was a stone’s throw away from the forest. That was a long time ago. I was younger then and I was much fitter then. I think I have always struggled uphill, but I don’t seem to remember sweating such copious amounts of fluid in those days. So, yes, it was a bit like a trip along memory lane!

Turning back to find the path I had strayed from, I almost walked into a huge spider’s web. The web was huge, but the spider wasn’t! The web was stretched across two trees that were more than my arm’s lengths apart. I have absolutely no idea how the spider did it. Did it drop to the floor, walk across the space and then climb up the next tree dragging the slender line behind it? Did it wait for just the right kind of breeze and drift across from one tree to the other? This was one spider with a degree in architecture! I had the camera with me, with a flat battery inside, but “took” a photo, just in case. Just a few steps, and obviously with a different angle, the web was not visible.

This morning I was thinking about the spider’s web. Had I not left the path, I wouldn’t have seen it. It was worth seeing, and if I had stayed on the path, I would have missed it. The man that wrote the route told me to look out for deer, and for red squirrels – neither of which were in abundance that afternoon. He didn’t mention spiders’ webs.

Sometimes our daily path through life follows a familiar route. We have our blue markers and our yellow markers and we walk the same path day in, day out. We maybe see the same people, perhaps feel like we have the same conversations with them and deal with the same irritations usually in the same way each time. Life takes on a predictable hue. We get the rare glimpses of the deer and the red squirrel – but we stick to the familiar trail. We almost know in advance what’s coming up. We know how to deal with the familiar because we are used to it. Our lives are perhaps in a rut – not a positive rut, but a kind of going-nowhere rut.

You don’t find spectacular spider’s webs on well trodden paths! Sometimes we need to invite the Holy Spirit to take us off the familiar path, the going-nowhere rut we have found ourselves walking, teach us to let go of our usual responses and reactions to things and take a different trail.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Getting to Know Me

For no apparent reason our Sky digital receiver box has decided to stick on standby and nothing we can do, or the nice support staff on the end of the help line can do either. We have been advised to get a new one. The man on the end of the line suggested we try a local dealer rather than have one of their men come out and see us. We did think for a moment of taking the opportunity to upgrade to a HD package but it was more than we could afford right now.

So last night was a quiet night. I might have switched off the TV and found something else to do anyway, but I didn’t like the decision forced upon me.

I decided to pop along to Blockbuster to see if there was Mel type DVD I could chill out with. I picked up one or two that sounded interesting. I wasn’t looking for girly romance. I wasn’t looking for scary horror. I’m not sure I was up to grisly murders and who-dunnits. That kind of narrowed the list. What really put me off many of the ones I picked up was the box on the cover that informs you of strong language, level of nudity and sustained violence. Just about everything I thought I might like had lots of strong language and violence and stuff. I actually stood in the line for all of five minutes before I realised the one I held in my hand also included “sustained torture”. I put it back in the shelf.

I lived for a while with my parents after returning from working in Cyprus for five years. It was a mixed faith kind of street. The corner shops were owned and run by Pakistani gentlemen. One of the shops was a video rental place. We used to hire videos quite often. The man in the shop got to know my tastes over the months. It was nothing I said, but the comments from my mother, “Our Mel wouldn’t like that film…too much swearing.” He used to carefully select a half dozen or so films just for me and keep them aside until I visited the shop. I never really needed to browse because I would be presented with this pile of videos he had vetted! I have to confess that they were mostly PG certificates with the occasional 12 certificate thrown in. 18 certificate films never made it into the selection.

I missed that last night! I missed popping around to the corner shop to find out what my Pakistani friend had decided was suitable for me! I miss someone knowing me that well and looking out for me.

We seem to live in a society where people don’t seem to know people. I bought a book a couple of weeks ago. “Just Walk Across the Room” by Bill Hybels. I shouldn’t need a book to tell me that I need to walk across a room and talk to people. I certainly shouldn’t need one to tell me how to walk across a room. Having said that, I have been trying to walk across a few rooms in my work place. I have joined a couple of working groups looking at aspects of our working day. Partly it is because I feel strongly about the particular issues, but also it is to do with allowing people to get to know me better. Whether these connections I am making will lead to deeper relationships and challenging conversations I don’t know. It just feels good.

Incidentally, this morning I was complaining to my husband about the over abundance of films with too much nudity and swearing. His reaction was to fling off the covers, swing his arms and legs about, in the bed, dressed in very little, and chant “Bugger, bugger, bugger.”

“You mean, like, that kind of nudity and swearing?”

It maybe doesn’t come across so well in writing – but it was a very funny moment.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Caterpillar With Wings

This time last week I dashed home from work to put the washing out on the line. I was planning to be gone just for a half hour. I don’t know what I drove over, but there was a horrible crunching sound. I thought it was the sound effects on the radio play I was listening to – but, no, it was a flat tyre.

It has taken a week to organise a replacement. I drove the car over to garage near to where I work and told them to do whatever needed to be done and I would collect the car at the end of the day.

The garage was a fifteen minute walk away. It had rained most of the afternoon. It was the kind of rain that was so light that it was almost not worth putting up an umbrella. About five minutes into my walk back to the garage I realised that my shoe was letting in water. I squelched into the garage ten minutes later to discover that they hadn’t been able to do anything about the tyre because they couldn’t find the wheel nut.

It had occurred to me that they might not find it, but I assumed that seeing as they had a phone number, they could always call and ask. don’t do that! They don’t ask. It’s not macho to ask!

The man at the reception desk assured me, once I had opened the little compartment between the front seats, retrieved the wheel nut, and placed it in his hand, that as soon as there was an available ramp free, they would sort the tyres.

In the space of one and a half hours I had read every paper and magazine on the coffee table in the waiting room. Why is it that garages always buy the Sun?

In one of the papers it had the story of someone seeing an upside down rainbow in Cambridge. There was a picture of it.

I remember once upon a time I was on a train journey. I think I was heading south at the time. The woman opposite me was gazing out of the window with a very puzzled expression. She had that kind of intense stare about her. I twisted around in my seat to see what she was looking at. It wasn’t a rainbow, upside down or the right way up, but a blob of colour. It was as if someone had reached into the sky and gathered up the rainbow’s arc and scrunched it up. You could identify the red, and yellows, the blues and the greens – but they were all mixed into one blob instead of lined up in an arc shape. We both stared at the blob, trying to work out exactly what we were seeing.

You know something about rainbows? No two people see exactly the same rainbow! It’s all about angles and things. You have to bee looking up at a certain angle to see the rainbow. I don’t know – something like 42 degrees. My 42 degrees will be different from someone else’s 42 degrees depending on how tall you are and where exactly you are standing.

Anyway, back to the upside down rainbow. Remember if you will, that I have squelched into the garage with wet feet, the tyre isn’t repaired because of the missing wheel nut and I have read my way through everything on the coffee table in the last hour and a half. I think that entitles me to a less than positive response!

“Oh yeah,” thought I, “It’s just an ordinary rainbow printed upside down.”

I apologise for my cynical thought. It reminds me of a comment made to my husband, long before we were married. He was sharing a house with another fellow. There was a beautiful butterfly, wings splayed out on the window. My husband pointed it out to his flatmate,

“It’s just a caterpillar with wings.”

He apologised swiftly recognising it to be a cynical remark. His day at work had been a bit of a bummer.

My day, also, had been a bit of a bummer! But that is no excuse not to marvel at natures little idiosyncrasies.


There is a stain on the bathroom floor. It’s kind of reddish brown colour. It could be blood – but it isn’t. It’s hair colour! Belle Colour by Garnier 5.5 Natural Light Auburn to be precise. I had been feeling very conscious of the grey roots and decided to tackle them myself and save a couple of hours in the hairdressers and a hefty bill at the end. This is my second attempt to do it myself and it looks OK, as long as you don’t scrutinise the underneath layers of my head!

There is a stain on the bath mat beside the bath. It’s a kind of reddish brown colour. It could be hair colour – but it isn’t. It’s blood! Not a huge amount, so those of you who haven’t seen my husband for a while need not worry that I have done away with him. It is his blood incidentally. He cut his toe in the bath! We had a new bath put in a while ago. The previous one was leaking and it was unsettling to see the light bulb at the back of the hallway filling with water every time someone had a bath! This new bath has a stopper rather than a plug. Once the stopper is pulled out, there is a jaggy edged trim to the plug hole. I have shredded my finger on it clearing away the build up of hairs. Quite how my husband managed to cut his toe on it is beyond me.

However he managed it, he is a little bleeder. There were bloody footprints from the bath, along the landing and into the bedroom. There may be bloody footprints all the way up to the bed, but it is a dark blue carpet, so it is well camouflaged.

It took most of the plasters from a travel pack to bind up the broken skin.

He hates anyone touching his feet. He was a brave soldier!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Game of Two Halves

It was just bad planning by the Union bosses to organise a meeting in Glasgow for a weekend where Celtic were playing away to Motherwell! My better half being a Union man was at the meeting and took the time to catch up on family. I joined the party on the Friday night.

We planned to watch the Celtic match in a bar that had Santanta. We were somewhere near Glasgow Cross I think, just a few hundred yards away from the Barras.

We watched the first half of the match in a bar diner. There was a huge screen, with a couple of big sofas parked in front of it. Being a bar diner, there were menus everywhere, appetising aromas and plates wheeled in with carefully arranged food on them. The sound from the match was turned off.

The times that I have watched football matches without any kind of commentary have not been good times. I don’t know who has just kicked the ball to whom, or who had committed what foul, or who had just scored the goal. They run around in enforced silence hugging one another and I am trying to get a glimpse of the name on the back of the jersey.

Football is not the number one item on the menu. It may be up on the big screen, but the food on the plate takes precedence. People are not really involved in the game, it is just background flickers and is not allowed to interfere with conversation – and eating.

We were there simply because there was a blackboard perched outside the door telling us that they were showing the game. Showing was all they were doing. We decided to find another place showing the game for the second half.

A hundred yards down the road we went into the Sarecen’s Head – or the Sarry’s Heid. The same game was playing – a different audience was watching. There must have been a half dozen small screens in addition to the big one, so that no matter where you sat in the bar, whatever direction you faced you could see the game.

The volume was definitely switched on, but you couldn’t hear it so well on account of the commentary given by the watchers. The commentary was sprinkled liberally with choice swear words most often aimed at the Celtic players for not scoring in the second half.

Eating and drinking played second fiddle to the game. Every kick of the ball, every throw in and every corner was scrutinised. The game was centre stage and every person watching was drawn in. It mattered who won and who lost. Somehow there were no spectators in the room, but everyone was a participator.

Two places, involved in exactly the same activity and yet two very different experiences. It made me think about church. You can have two churches involved in exactly the same activity – worshipping God – and yet end up with two very different experiences. I have been in churches that have been very well-behaved. There is order and structure. Everyone knows what happens next – like the menu on the tables. Sometimes, although it says so on the poster outside, God is not really at the centre. The minister might put Him there, but the congregation might there for other reasons – they always go because they have always been.

And then you get churches like the Sarry’s Heid. God is centre stage and there are no spectators. You cannot help but be affected by the enthusiasm and the involvement of the people around you. I admit that there isn’t a sprinkling of choice swear words, but people are not quiet either. They allow what is on their hearts to spill out.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tears in the Town Centre

I wouldn’t say that it takes a lot to make me cry! I wouldn’t say that I do it all the time! I would have to say that it is not often I cry in public – I usually save my tears for private.

At the weekend, in the middle of Buchanan Street, I cried!

John Innes, who calls himself the Peoples Tenor (note the absence of the apostrophe – we discussed later on, after I had done mopping up the tears, where it ought to have been placed, on the cover of the CD my husband bought his mother) was doing a promotional event. He was not quite your usual busker. There was no guitar, no open guitar case with a sprinkling of change, but just a mike and a backing track.

He started off with “Ave Maria”.

I am not sure whether I like classical music but it was hard not to appreciate the quality of his voice. He will be having a concert later in the year and was drumming up a bit of interest and giving people a foretaste of what they could expect.

It was his next song “You raise me up” that caused all the tears. Was it Westlife that took it into the charts? Sometimes you take a song for granted without having listened to the words properly. I suppose to that the really well trained tenors know how to really enunciate the words.

When I am down and oh my soul, so weary
When troubles come and my heart burdened be
Then I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit a while with me

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

Wouldn’t you like to know who the “You” is? I suppose that all of us have different “you”s depending on our circumstances. For some it might be a parent that had always been there to inspire. For others it might be a husband or a wife that sees them through the difficult times. Perhaps it is the child inspiring the parent.

For me the person that raises me up to be ”more than I can be” is God. He is the one that comes and sits awhile with me. He makes the journey to come to me and doesn’t always wait for me to make the first move.

Luke 15:4-6 says "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.”

We all have times when we simply need to be carried and God loves to carry His children in His arms.

Embarrassed as I was at surreptitiously wiping away the tears, I rejoiced that my heart was, and is, soft enough to be touched.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Tossing Down the Gauntlet

We all meet people that rub us up the wrong way – some of us meet more of them than others. Our church leader made an interesting observation the other week that sometimes people rub us up the other was because we create an environment by our approach to them that makes it happen. The tone of our voice, the set of our shoulders speak as loudly to people as do our words.

I don’t often deal with just individuals. I deal with groups of people. As much as I mind the tone of my voice and the set of my shoulders as I deal with an individual, I always have to consider the good of the group. They are watching me to see what I do that creates for them an environment where they feel looked after and protected. In order to do that I have to take on the challenge of the individual, pick up the gauntlet as it were that he or she tosses to the floor. I am the top banana, and one or two would love to pull me off my tree!

Some times it wears me down. The fuse that was a long one at the start of the day gets a little bit shorter with each and every encounter. One lesson I have learned is to blow well before you have run out of fuse! Blow early and you are in control, you are pretending to be angrier than you really are. It’s an act, scary as it is. Wait until the fuse runs out, and then blow - well, who knows what you will do or say because you are out of control.

There was one such encounter recently where the fuse was short. The person in question had been most aggressive – not only towards me, but towards others. I could well understand if someone punched him soundly on the nose. He had pushed us all well beyond the limits.

I could hear the voice in my head saying, “That is it! You have been so obnoxious! You know what I would really like to do to you?” At this point I confess to visions of the person being mowed down by a lorry – Oh, come on, don’t you sometimes feel that way too?

Before I could answer my own question, the Holy Spirit darted in and answered it for me.

“Pray for you!”

Talk about tossing down the gauntlet!

Before I could argue the point and say that I preferred the lorry scenario, the Spirit continued…remember all of this is in my head, not said out aloud…

“And do you know what will happen when I start to pray? You are going to change! And do you know why you’re going to change? You are going to change because the God that I pray to can do anything.”

It was said so seriously, almost like a threat! I have met people who in dealing with others that have caused harm to themselves and others, have resorted to cursing them – not just your the angry flow of expletives kind of curse – but the spiritual kind! The Spirit made it quite clear that the kind of prayer he was looking for on behalf of this individual was the wholesome kind, the building up, the edifying, the intercession kind where I held in my heart love for the individual and looked for the best for them.

Make no mistake, I am know that often the change happens in the person that is praying rather than the object of the prayer. The situation doesn’t change, but their attitude and reaction to it does. This was not one of these times. It was not my words about changing the person – but the Spirit’s. I have every expectation that I will change anyway as I get involved in the praying process.

Later that night, the Spirit reminded me of those unspoken words. Just because they had not been said out loud did not make them any less binding.

So I prayed!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Stepping On Landmines

That sounds like it ought to be the title of a book! It isn’t! It is, however, a rather apt description of part of my afternoon! We are not talking about real landmines just proverbial ones – but they can do just as much damage. They may not rip off a leg or anything, but they can rip a large hole in your heart.

The thing about landmines, so I gather, is that you don’t know they are there until you’ve stepped on one. The landscape you are walking through looks harmless. It may be that you have walked the route often without injury!

I got into conversation with some young people this afternoon, talking about the existence of God. We were batting back and forth opinions about whether there was a God or not. I suppose there is a tendency to take out the usual reasons from the back of the mind, dust them off and present them much like a conjurer talking a rabbit out of a hat! I talked about the precise nature of the universe. If it all begins with a Big Bang – don’t explosions create chaos rather than order? The world is too full of balance and mathematical details for it to have come about by chance.

One young lady talked more personally and spoke about prayers she had had answered, and for her it was proof that there was a God.

“What about the ones that don’t get answered?”

The young man who asked the question shared a heart breaking story of his grandmother who had been a devout church goer. She never missed a Sunday. A wonderful lady who gave herself unreservedly to God, she got sick. He prayed for her to recover, but she died.

“How come God answered your prayers, but he ignored mine?”

There is no answer to that one. It seemed to open the floodgates. Other young people who had been happy to sit back and let the loud ones speak suddenly came up with their own unanswered prayer experiences. One young man shared about his mother’s pregnancy. Up until quite close to the birth everything was going well. Suddenly there were difficulties and she was in hospital. He prayed for the safe recovery of his mother and the baby, but she miscarried.

“Where was God then?”

You can’t be a Christian for long before you encounter these hurdles. Things just don’t add up the way they should. Good people go through hell on earth. Why isn’t their goodness somehow a vaccination against bad stuff happening? Bad people make our lives a misery and yet they sail through life apparently immune. It wouldn’t be so bad if these were just little issues – but they are huge! They are mountain sized issues. Those with faith are just as much liable to flattened when they fall on top of them.

I have learned over the years to live in a state of paradox. Things happen that cause me personal heartbreak, but my underlying faith, although bashed about, remains very much intact. There are times I ask “Why?” Sometimes I get an answer, most times I don’t and I remind myself that one day I will know. One day there will be no more of the “though a glass darkly”. For now, not understanding, I try my best to trust in the character of the God I know, love and follow.

I have come to that place in life when I realise that I don’t really need to know the answers. I don’t need a neat and tidy box, although that does help! I just need to know that God is with me in it. I have found my rock.

Helping someone else to find their answers is a challenge.

“I don’t know” might well be an honest answer, but it is not the answer they are looking for.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A Fishy Tale

We were talking about pets in work today. I didn’t tell any horror stories about our pet gerbil, Larsson’s Hairband, though one of my colleagues has a daughter who has asked for a couple of gerbils for her birthday!

I told them my fishy tale instead!

I cut my teaching teeth in the east end of London. The last stop on the Victoria line on the underground is Walthamstow. I lived in the nearby district of Chingford, right on the edge of the Epping Forest. Being new to teaching, and new to London, I lodged with a family. It was a big three story house.

The landlady was a social worker. She had separated from her husband and was bringing up a daughter by herself.

This particular daughter had asked for a tropical fish tank for her birthday. She filled it with the usual selection of sunken wrecks, anchors and such like. The fish were guppies. They swam about and looked peaceful.

One particular guppy seemed to get bigger than the others and started to bully the smaller fish. It would quite viciously bite big chunks off fins and tails – or rather, little chunks seeing as they were so small. Little essential chunks. There were even times when the remains of guppies floated on the top of the water.

Now remember the landlady was a social worker! She decided to do something about the bully. She fished him out of the tank with a net and dropped him into a bowl of cold water! It wasn’t freezing cold. It just wasn’t tropical temperatures.

She left him in the bowl, by himself for a week.

Then she returned him to the tank with the rest of the guppies. Perhaps it was that chance the other fish had to grow a little quicker without his bullying behaviour that caused the change, and not the week in solitary confinement. The returned guppy behaved perfectly and gave up him bullish manners!

Telling the story, there is always a ripple of laughter. There is always the sceptic response too. I mean, don’t we all know that fish have a two minute memory? They swim around the tank, see the same scenery, but they just don’t remember they have seen the scenery before. Two minutes and everything is new.

I know what I saw because I was a witness, and yet in telling the tale, I am haunted by the fish’s apparent two minute memory. The bullying guppy could not possibly have remembered the solitary confinement and the cold water!

I have been rescued! Apparently fish are not as dumb as we make them out to be! Granted, some of them may not be the card carrying MENSA’s of the marine world, but they do remember for a lot longer than two minutes!

According to a newspaper article, anything a rat can do in being taught to learn to negotiate a maze and get rewarded with treats for its endeavours, the same is true of a fish. They have been given a bad press.

It makes me wonder about information that we heard somewhere, once upon a time and we – in fishy terms – swallowed, hook line and sinker! What other information do we presume to know as undisputed truth, but it is just isn’t true at all?

Someone once told me, and I believed them, that God was watching me. He had a little black book in which he recorded all of my misdemeanours. Maybe it wasn’t such a little book as I was not angel. I fretted about that book and tried hard to be good. I put myself under intense pressure and eventually cracked up. I could never be that good, so why keep trying?

What a relief it was to discover the truth. There is no black book! Yes, I am being watched, but watched in love. I don’t need to be good enough because Jesus has been good enough on my behalf.