Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Red, White & Blue. And You?

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Tides Inn (10) 14-7-06C

Fourth of July. Family Reunion time.

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It felt surprisingly familiar to be back at The Tides in Irvington, Virginia. It’s been four years since we were there last, the 14 of us. But time seems to stand still at The Tides, in the most graceful way. The rooms are still gracious and welcoming, with touches of luxury. The grounds are lovely: the winding drive through the Par 3 golf course is still bordered by American flags, Fanta-orange lilies blaze in the sun along the croquet court,

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and the sparkling turquoise pool can still be glimpsed through fuchsia crepe myrtle trees.

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And the water, the ageless river – Carter’s Creek stretching out to the Rappahannock – encircles everything.

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There’s always a warm welcome at the front door, the meals are local and generous – with cheese grits and biscuits among the offerings at the breakfast buffet, and Southern Fried Chicken at dinner. Yes, they still offer lemonade and cookies under the front portico on summer afternoons.

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What’s new? More bikes for a lazy ride through town,

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and along back roads through wildflower filled fields.

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More kayaks,

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and pedal boats, for a self-propelled tour of the creek. And an enormous chessboard on the lawn, which totally transfixed several generations of the family, and resulted in prolonged, hotly contested, and laughter-filled matches into the evening.

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And we were new. Sort of. Because we all came back at different ages. Especially the grandchildren.

The youngest was 8 in 2010; she’s 12 now. Still full of dance and laughter, and a little snark. The eldest grandchild is 31. The majority of them are out on their own. They have always been wonderful, but four years have allowed them to flourish. They are fascinating. Grown, fully themselves, yet elusive as adolescents and young adults can be, to adults, to us ‘grownups’. I determined to get to know them all better. (Even my own children, if given the chance.)

So I sought out conversations over the breakfast table, or around the fire pit in the evening after dinner, about their burgeoning careers in law, finance, and real estate. Their ambitions for college, or for graduate school, a mention of a girlfriend. At first they might have been surprised I asked. That may be my new role, listening.

So bike rides, kayak trips, Par 3 golf

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(we rechristened it Par 7, which gives you some idea of the mixed skill levels…),

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the Fourth of July Parade,

 

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fireworks, the beach,

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chess matches, music by the pool,  visit to the local vineyard for a wine tasting,

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drinks and meals at The Tides, and out along the Rappahannock.

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(Okay, and maybe a few hours in front of the TV, or following Twitter, to find out what was happening at Henley, and at the World Cup in Brazil, and at Wimbledon

Family Reunions. So great, so sad. Just when you get really comfortable with each other, it’s time to go home.

Red, white & blue.

Tides Inn (180) 14-7-04

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Summer First

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Nantucket (129) 14-6-21

Saturday was the first day of summer.

Time for the firsts of summer:

First trip to Hyannis.

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First ferry ride out.

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First sight of Town.

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(The cloud even looks like a whale…)

First roses,

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Roses,

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Roses,

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Everywhere.

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First walk along the harbor.

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First visit to the Patio.

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First Farmers’ Market:

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First cobblestones.

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First walk through Town:

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All’s well with the world.

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First goodbye.

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Oh, the joy of knowing I will be back….

Hello, summer.

Nantucket (163) 14-6-21

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Wedded Bliss

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

A family wedding over a long weekend in the Adirondacks.

You were thrilled when you heard they were getting married. They’d been together for years.  Kids these days – no one seems to get married until they are in their thirties. Yes, yes, back when you were a young woman friends often married in their mid twenties… Yes, and in the Middle Ages they married in their early teens. That was then, and this is now. So it was with a complicated sense of relief, pleasure and surprise that you heard the news. Wedding bells were going to chime.

It was a delight to get their Save the Date card. Yes, you are going to be invited to the wedding. You’re cousins of course, but they are half a generation younger, and family gets stretched pretty thin these days, with generations divided and family members spread  around the country and around the world. Shared occasions  are fewer and farther between. So you wouldn’t have been surprised not to make the invitation list, though you would have been a bit sad.

The  invitation arrives, with a silhouette line of pine trees printed across the top. A wedding theme is emerging. They are going to be married in the Adirondacks. A destination wedding, and yet not too far for you to travel. Lucky you. The couple’s wedding website promises all kinds of entertainments and activities for those who can join them in the forested mountains.

You RSVP happily, and send a wedding present from their online  registry. You may never see your gift, except virtually.

Other  invitations are generously showered upon you now that you are attending the Wedding, Rehearsal Dinner, Wedding Luncheon, Wedding Dinner and Dancing, and Sunday Brunch. You RSVP to all offers through email and in the affirmative. The Club offers tennis and golf. You can take out a canoe on the lake. There will be an organized hike. Your suitcase logistics are going to prove challenging.

As the early fall date approaches you start to anticipate. You collect all the invitations, dress code guidance and scenic driving directions into a folder. You start to plan your wedding attire. Even though they are getting married in the mountains there are cocktail attire expectations in the evenings. Yes, you are really pleased to be able to wear that navy dress with the graphic rick-rack trim and the fit and flare shape. Perfect for the dance floor. And the black heels with the sparkle plenty buckle on the pointed toe. A brightly colored pashmina in case the mountain air is cool at night.  And your “good” jewelry, that  doesn’t get out enough anymore.

Blue jeans and Patagonia fleece for hiking, Merrells for the trail, short sleeves and long, because in the mountains of upstate New York in September who knows what the temperatures will really be.

The weekend arrives, and car loaded with finery, outdoor gear, and a bit of trail mix to get you in the mood, you head off for the unknown north. You are getting in the mood for a good party.

Up 93, into New Hampshire and then Vermont. There are scarlet edges to the leaves along the roadways. Into the Green Mountains, and off onto a country byway. Red barns, fields that have been hayed, and here and there the last of the feed corn still to be harvested. The wedding weekend is already an adventure.

Across mighty Lake Champlain and into New York State. A quick stop at the ruins of Fort Crown Point. Because it is there, and it’s a piece of American and British history, and after all, you spent all those years in the UK.  You’ve always liked a little bit of history with your travel. Besides, you have a little more time than you’d thought. You don’t want to arrive too early, when the family is still sorting out the final wedding details, and possibly dealing with nerves. Or even having a last minute melt down.

Back into the trees, leaves flickering around you, the road and its bridges winding alongside and over boulder strewn riverbeds that still give evidence of the watery destruction of Hurricane Irene. Nature rearranged.

Your wedding weekend directions say to turn left at the Club’s painted wooden sign. You recognize the quiet logo just as you drive past the driveway. Drat. Up the road a piece, to where you can safely make a u-turn, and back to the discreet driveway. It’s the kind of place you have to know is there, or you’d never find it. Up the steep switchbacks of the roadway-driveway. And this is still the valley. In the summer. No wonder every other car you see is a four wheel drive.

You round the next sharp corner and there before you is the emerald green grass of a rolling fairway, edged by forest. Ahead, past a cluster of apple trees bearing a heavy crop of scarlet fruit, is  the sprawling Victorian era hotel-clubhouse.

Around you like sleeping giants are the granite faced hulks of the forested Adirondacks. It’s a grand place. Building, valley, forest, imperial mountains. You catch your breath. Oh yes, this is going to be special.

There is already a party going on at the entrance to the Club. Lovely flowers in Adirondack pack baskets to welcome you,

vivid balloons to mark the way, suitcases piling up at the front door. Arriving guests, cousins, hostesses are embracing and jesting with one another on the broad veranda of the hotel. The lobby is an historic masterpiece, with twin fireplaces to ward off the mountain chill. Over one there is a stag’s head, over the other a moose head.

More flowers, sepia photographs of visitors in this same lobby, circa 1890. A tray of warm chocolate chip cookies the size of small plates.

You register at the mahogany front desk, and head off with the keys to your room, to settle in and, even better, to keep out of the way. The room is simple and pristine. No telephone, no television, no radio. Off the grid bliss. There are thick white towels to welcome you, a ribbon tied bag of granola, a map of the grounds, with instructions for the weekend.

Once your weekend finery is hanging in the closet, you head off to explore. Cottages, a bowling lawn, the golf course, and the inviting wooden gate leading to the trails of the Adirondack Mountain Reserve.

You will have to come back for a hike later in the weekend. Now to the business of dressing up.

Beneath a tent off to the side of the main building tables are laid for the Rehearsal Dinner. The groom, like his father before him,  enjoys nothing so much as mucking about in boats. The tent is hung with nautical flags, each table is identified by a boat marker, and there is a navigational chart instead of a guest book to write your best wishes to the bride and groom. At the entrance to the tent is a bar, and a canoe serves as its cooler.

Once the party begins it goes by too quickly. A festive gathering of old friends and new acquaintances, the smiling bride and groom surrounded by their young wedding party, providing the evening’s wattage. There’s a raw bar, and champagne, a buffet dinner, intense conversations, hilarious toasts (with incriminating photographs), and -did I say- champagne, and music and dancing.

Next thing you know, you are gathered around one of the fire pits out on the lawn, your pashmina wrapped around your shoulders, the night dark and huge around you. A mountain chill that speaks of vastness. It is perfect. You don’t want any of it to end. Thank goodness there is still tomorrow. Hike. Lunch. The Wedding.

If anyone who spends any time in the Adirondacks invites you go on ‘a walk’, get out your hiking boots. And your day pack. And your walking poles. Having packed none of the above, you find yourself early the next morning striding along the road to the trail head. You feel winded by the time you get there. Luckily your friend and guide informs you that your ‘walk’ will require you to climb and descend ‘only’ 200 vertical feet, over the course of several miles. Actually, you amaze yourself, as you scramble up and across boulders, finding toe and finger holds, getting moss under your fingernails and bark in your hair, clinging to trees as you edge along the top of a steep ravine, or striding over a maze of tree roots, because you are enjoying your walk in the woods. Suddenly you can see yourself with hiking poles. Even gaiters, like your leader.

It is undeniably beautiful in the forest, with light filtering down through the trees, a puzzle of moss and lichen decorating the forest floor,

and the water of tiny streams finding its way over rock faces and through tumbled boulders below you.

It’s a scene right out of the Sierra Club calendars you used to keep on your desk. An Eliot Porter photograph come to life. No, rather it is the life that Eliot Porter found to photograph.

When you reach the top, and yes, there is a top, the view takes your breath away. In more ways than one. Down there, way down in the wooded valley, lies the club, that tiny little building.

You don’t want to get too close to the edge of the granite outcropping that you are now standing on, but you feel the thrill of both fear and accomplishment, standing here at the summit. The high peaks of the Adirondacks rise up all around you, so much higher, but you have made it here, to the top of this. Now, just to climb back down, and in time for lunch. You guess you will be wearing your blue jeans and Patagonia fleece to the Wedding Lunch….

Lunch for the grown ups from out of town is a miracle. You drive down a rutted road on the valley floor, past red barns and a field of autumn wild flowers, to an organic farm. The farmhouse is a white clapboard classic from the late 1800′s, set beneath towering trees.

On the clipped green lawn beside the farmhouse an endless table has been set up, a gleaming table cloth, cutlery, napkins printed with red roosters, and chairs along both sides. Fifty chairs?

The centerpieces along this magnificent picnic table alternate vases of local flowers with piles of fresh produce. The September sun gilds the glasses, sparkles on the silver, illuminates the leaves and the lawn, the crab apples on the trees, until the colors and the day seem to vibrate. Never has a luncheon table been so beautiful. You cannot take it in, enough of it, this visual feast. You just cannot get enough of this moment.

But there is also company to share, and a glass of warm cider to enjoy. A demitasse cup of cream of tomato soup, with a garnish of chili cream, and roasted pumpkin seeds, sipped standing up. You’ve certainly earned your lunch with the morning’s hike. Chicken salad and sliced tomatoes, warm corn pudding to die for, salad dressing with a hint of the farm’s maple sugar in it. Delicious company too. For dessert, yes, dessert at lunch, there are miniature apple turnovers with raisins and a drizzle of maple syrup. Your luncheon partner takes one bite of his turnover and immediately lifts his hand to gesture for the waitress to return with the tray. Go on, have two. They’re worth it.

All good things must come to an end. It is now time to return to the hotel, to the delights of a warm shower, and a change of clothes.

The wedding is to be on the bride’s family’s farm. There are shuttle buses to transport you all, in your wedding attire. Along the valley floor, beside the rushing streams, through a couple of towns, to the farm. There is the farmhouse, with painted red trim. A barn, a kitchen garden, a chicken house with busy inhabitants scratching about.

Beyond the fence, in the mown field, is the church.

The pews are made of hay bales wrapped in cloth. The aisle is edged with arrangements of field flowers in jars suspended from metal garden stakes. The altar is formed by two tree form hydrangeas. Beyond, across the flat of the valley, are the distant blue mountains. God’s church.

You sit in the sun of the September mountains, the breeze lifting your hair and shivering the leaves on the distant trees, and the dome of the cloudless blue sky arches overhead. A guitarist and a violinist provide a musical score. There are grasshoppers in the grass at your feet, and roosters crowing in the distance. Enchantment. And then it begins.

The groom and his best man are at the altar. The bridesmaids and flower girl process. The bride glides down the grass of the aisle on her proud father’s arm, bringing a glow of amazement to her waiting groom’s face. And you remember, and yet, you know… Every bride is the only bride. Every wedding is the first wedding. An original miracle.

You listen to the words of the ceremony, and they resonate. You heard and repeated many of the same words the day you were married. But perhaps it was harder to hear them then, harder still to absorb them, overwhelmed as you were with the present moment of being, attending so closely to each individual word that you could hardly hear the sense of the phrases, and feeling the responsibility for getting it right, saying it all correctly. You knew it was momentous.

You have heard the words many times since then, and perhaps they mean more and more to you. The vows are no longer words for the future, goals to reach, guidelines for your ambitions for a life together. No, you have lived them all by now, to have and to hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until… You know the rest.

When the minister asks “who will support this bride and this groom in their married life?” you all answer loudly, from the hay bale pews of church in the field, “We will,” and of course you realize that this is why you are here, and this is what it is all about.  Family and friends gathering, feasting and ceremony, tradition and kinship. The celebration of marriage, so much more than  just a wedding. Because it turns out marriage is for family, for friendship, for community. We must all say loudly “we will” and hold each other up, together, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until… You know that part.

That’s what it really means, this family wedding weekend. We will.

And did I say, champagne?

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Summering

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

Where have I been?

Away.

Outside, in the sea.

Out there, under the sky.

Or visiting the beach.

Actually, quite a number of beaches.

Sometimes I started early.

Sometimes I stayed out later.

I was busy pretty much all of the time.

Even if it was only busy taking in the world around me.

I was busy summering.

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Emma

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Reunions.

Do you go back?

I’ll be honest. I have not been a great Re-uner  myself. But I thought I should give this one a try.

40 years.

Emma looks great. In fact, it crossed my mind while I was there that the Emma Willard campus is more beautiful than we are. Almost.

It is an ‘interesting’ experience, heading back to a boarding school you attended 40 years ago. A school where you spent three years of your teenaged life, from ages 14 to 17.

14 to 17. Yes, in many ways we grown and capable, and yet we were so, so young, looking back. High school, and boarding school, and the ’70′s. It was such a period of transition; years of angst and empowerment both.

Our immediate context was hippies to prototypical preppies. Landlubber jeans and bell bottoms, to painter’s pants and Levis 501′s. Hiking boots, clogs and Dr. Scholl’s to Kork-Ease’s platform sandals. Flannel shirts and sweater vests to Fair Isle sweaters. Indian print t-shirts, and embroidered peasant blouses. 13 button wool sailor pants from the Army Navy Surplus stores, and 50′s circle skirts from Goodwill. Layla, The Dead and Bread. The Firesign Theater. All ‘vintage’ now, as we are.

(Not to mention The Vietnam War, The Pentagon Papers, Nixon in China, the voting age to 18, Watergate, and Roe v. Wade.)

In those years, you knew your classmates by the childhood nicknames they no longer use. You have to remind yourself, case by case, if you’re allowed to call out “Kitty”, or “Bucko”, or “Dimmie.” Sometimes you are allowed, because you knew them when…

But here’s the amazing thing, having just spent three days and two nights in the company of those supposedly vanished girls: we were then who we are now. The consistency of personalities and outlook is astonishing to me.

The optimists are optimistic. The critics are critical. The elusive are still pretty darn hard to pin down.

Here’s the thing, ladies. You are great company. As you were then, as you are now. You are honest. You are brave. There was sadness and joy in the sharing.  And empathy, understanding, encouragement, approval, and safety. There was love.

I enjoyed my time with you.

I may turn into a re-uner after all.

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Elsewhere

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Sometimes, when you have been though more than you’d like to admit, it is important to go elsewhere. It was time to see more of the world, beyond Boston.

I was definitely due for change of scene.

New York was a great beginning.

And I kept on going.

I was charmed all over again by the variety of comestibles on offer at the Lancaster County Farmer’s Market. I love a good Farmer’s Market, don’t you? And our local market, in Copley Square, has not yet opened for business this year.

At the Farmers’ Market in Pennsylvania you can count on Clyde Weaver’s cheese selection,

and a rainbow cornucopia of seasonal vegetables,

and an eye opening selection of proteins…

Once we had finished with the groceries, it was time to sample the other local delights of spring. A trip to the Jenkins Arboretum to enjoy their deservedly famous azalea and rhododendron walks.

It was late afternoon by the time we arrived, and the sun was shining through the pale green lace of the newly emerging oak trees overhead. Pathways beckoned through the forest of azaleas. One could honestly say there were sun-dappled byways…

where the language of flowers was spoken.

We even stopped to lean on the split-rail fencing around the pond at the bottom of the hill, to remember how the children used to love to come here to watch (and to count) the sunbathing turtles.

I guess some things never change.

There’s nothing like a lovely walk in the spring woodland, elsewhere.

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Botanical Travels

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

Another sunny, chilly day in Naples, Florida. We headed to the Naples Botanical Garden, and proceeded to tour the world.

We started out in the Brazilian Garden,

a technicolor marvel, glowing in the Florida sun,

and a wonderful tribute to ‘the father of modern landscape architecture’, Brazilian naturalist and  landscape artist Roberto Burle Marx. (A fact I learned while touring this garden.)

From Brazil, on to the Caribbean.

From the Caribbean, we wandered through a sea of grass and encountered a series of circular mysteries, from this ritualistic water landing,

to a ring of Saw Palmettos, planted four deep, and reminiscent of a natural Stonehenge,

all enclosing a vividly colored circular garden known as the Wildflower Meadow.

From here we traveled on to Asia,

where we found both landscapes and artifacts to contemplate.

A watery Zen meditation….

and an exotic vista.


The local wildlife seemed very happy indeed, among plants of every nation.

So were we….

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Playing Tourist

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

We went on  holiday in Naples, Florida recently. (There’s my 12 years in the UK showing up again – as word choice: ‘went on holiday’ versus ‘had a vacation’.) Anyway, it felt like a much needed holiday.

We left the lingering snows of Boston and New York behind, for Florida’s white bleaches and blue waters. And, drat, for Florida’s cold (for Florida) temperatures. Yes, 54 degrees in March in Naples is pretty darn cold. Ironically, that same 54 degrees in Boston in March would be welcome indeed this year.

So when the temperature is in the 50′s and 60′s in Florida you might want to walk the beach, and explore the Town Pier, but you’re probably not going to want to pretend to sunbathe. I did get myself into the Gulf for a brief swim one afternoon. The verdict? Brrrr.

Luckily the beaches are beautiful, the blues of water and sky inspirational after a New England winter, and the shell-strewn sands still magical even without small children to gather shells with.

The sandpipers continue to zig and zag along the sea front with frenzied steps – ‘little birds in a hurry’, my sister calls them.

It is charming, and there is still a touch of wildness to the Gulf beaches.

Luckily there are other things to do around Naples when the winds are brisk and the Gulf waters more reminiscent of Maine than Florida. So we decided to go exploring beyond the shops, restaurants, and golf clubs of downtown Naples.

We decided to take a day to play tourist to Florida’s under-appreciated history.

Before Florida was a resort destination it was a wild and rough natural world. Early inhabitants traveled through the jungle of mangroves and rivers of grass on the waterways, instead of highways. When you visit Everglades National Park you can still experience the vastness of this original wilderness. It is unique, both beautiful and harsh; it needs protecting.

The early settlers in this watery landscape had to be tough individuals to survive. Down south of Everglades City, on Chokoloskee Island, sits Smallwood’s Store. This historic general store, Post Office and trading post, operated by Ted Smallwood and his family since 1906, bears witness to the life of Florida’s traders, trappers and the families of early inhabitants of these islands.

Customers arrived at Smallwood’s by boat, bringing pelts and artifacts to trade,

departing with essential supplies and the occasional luxury.

Life must have been a challenge for the Smallwood family,

who operated the Post Office and Trading Post and General Store, and who lived, slept, ate and schooled their children on the premises for years.

Smallwood’s Store was also the scene of a sensational murder, the subject of author and naturalist Peter Matthiessen’s outstanding book, Killing Mr. Watson. The novel tells the story of Edgar J. Watson, a prominent and successful local farmer whose neighbors had the habit of turning up dead, and who was gunned down in 1920 by more than 20 armed men, his ‘neighbors’, from the assembled community.

Gorged on local history, flora and fauna, we headed back to Everglades City, for lunch at the famous, if slightly down-at-the-heels, Rod and Gun Club.

On the menu:

I settled for Garlic Shrimp and romaine salad.

Oh yes, and a piece of Key Lime Pie.

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Hedgemony

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

If “Hegemony” means:

\hi-ˈje-mə-nē, -ˈge-; ˈhe-jə-ˌmō-nē\

Definition of HEGEMONY

1 : preponderant influence or authority over others : domination <battled for hegemony in Asia>
2 : the social, cultural, ideological, or economic influence exerted by a dominant group
Can “Hedgemony” be said to mean “The influence or authority of Hedges?”
Apparently people love hedges, especially privet hedges.
Interestingly (I was going to write ‘weirdly’), one of the most visited blog entries I have written is on privet hedges in Nantucket.
So this summer while I was back in Nantucket, I thought I would keep a photographer’s eye out for really good examples of privet hedges.
How about the M. C. Escher-like optical illusion stepped hedge above?
There are some real doozies in Nantucket.
It helps that these hedges are beautifully maintained, trimmed regularly by experienced gardeners with extending ladders and electric clippers on long poles.
I love a good privet hedge.
Don’t you?
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Penny Candy Too

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Have a sweet tooth?

Me too.

In the summer, when in Nantucket, I know how to slake that candy thirst.

Repair to Force 5 Water Sports.

Walk through the store, past walls and standing racks of bathing suits and flip flops,

past boogie boards, and skim boards, and surfboards, past life vests, back packs and back-to-school shoes, to the secret room at the back.

The penny candy room.

Take a basket. Come on, man, make some decisions.

Not so easy, huh?

Now, stop at the small painted wood table by the door to ‘the room’. Let the amazingly capable kid cashier (Is she 12 even?) spill out the items in your basket and total it all up on the old-fashioned adding machine.

Pay up.

Take your white paper bag in your hand, exit ‘the room’, find a quiet spot, and enjoy.

Mmmmm….

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