'Drip, Sip, Drop, Plop' by Stan Usovicz

A constantly delivering poet to The Tribe's Creative Writing section, Stan Usovicz sent us his poem Drop, Sip, Drop, Plop - a poignant, emotional and thought-provoking plea from its author for not only safe, clean and accessible water for all, but for those with the privilege of access to clean water to reduce its wastage. This poem encourages us to think about what we consider privileges and draws us to uncomfortable and unsettling areas of both the world and our own thoughts that we choose to ignore. Thank you for your poem Stan!  Drip, Sip, Drop, PlopWe don’t even think when we leave on the sinkDrips hit the basin with a resounding, “plink”Drip, Sip, Drop, Plop, - Makes you thinkOur toilet water is better than what some people drinkPlants, animals, and the smallest cells have the same conditionGrowth and survival innately depend on nutritionDrip, Sip, Drop, Plop- ListenAll life would stop if hydration were deficientMaybe if all people of all nations would listenMaybe if the people on vacation would listenMaybe if those in high paid positions,Would take their mind off profit acquisitionWe could improve our current conditionWe’ve taken a basic human need and made it a commodityMeaning a man can sit outside a store and pleadFor a resource, which of course, he needs desperatelyBut will go without because he can’t afford the feeAt some point we have to stop and question-Is human life an important investment?Drip, Sip, Drop, Plop – Do I need to mentionThat capitalism doesn’t always have best intentions?It’s not a question of politics or profitsIt’s a choice of economics vs. coffinsDrip, Sip, Drop, Plop- Stop itNext hour long shower, you might put some thought inEight hundred million people desperately need itIt’s caused more deaths than wars and airborne diseasesDrip, Sip, Drop, Plop- pleaseOpen your eyes before our water depletesIf you are a son, daughter, or citizen of earthIf you recognize that human life has its worthIf you want to stop something bad getting worseRemember thatDrip,Sip,Drop,PlopThat some people have never heard.  Stan Usovicz

World Book Day: Growing up through stories

 I always remember at school what a treat it would seem to get that £1 World Book Day token each year. While most of my classmates swiftly discarded theirs under desks or at the bottom of bags - those more business savvy might even trade them for something they deemed more valuable - I was the kid who took the utmost care of that little piece of paper and couldn't wait to get to the nearest bookshop where I would inevitably wear my mum's patience thin by spending far too long choosing something to add to my already overflowing bookshelves.Between solving mysteries with Enid Blyton's Famous Five, giving myself nightmares from Roald Dalh's The Witches and, of course, wishing an letter of acceptance from Hogwarts would arrive in the post, books played a huge part in my childhood (and, it would seem, my young-adulthood as I now find myself almost halfway through an English degree in spite of ever dwindling job prospects). I would rarely leave my bedroom, let alone my house, without a trusty book to accompany me, and in light of last week's World Book Day celebration I thought I would take a moment to reflect on some of the stories that have stayed with me as I've grown up.As a child there are few things as thrilling as a good adventure story, and some of my favourites were Eva Ibbotson’s novels, in particular Journey to the River Sea, which I remember reading over and over again. Following the plight of orphaned protagonist Maia as she sets out for Brazil to live with her relatives, this book definitely ranks as one of my childhood favourites; I was always delighted by the twists and turns in the plot, and enthralled by the vivid Amazon setting. I was likewise enchanted by Ibbotson’s The Star of Kazan which left me with a (still unfulfilled) ambition to visit the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Although perhaps a tad idealistic to my now more cynical reading, I still think there is a certain charm in Ibbotson’s books, in particular in her knack for infusing the locations of her stories with such life that, aged ten, I felt as if I knew Vienna and Brazil so well I might have lived  in both places myself.Continuing down the path of mystery and adventure, it is probably unsurprising that Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden was another favourite of mine. Spoiled brat-ish Mary is a refreshing contrast to the entirely innocent heroines of Ibbotson’s books, and for kids I think there is definitely a grow-with-the-character aspect to this kind of protagonist. The garden itself is an alluring concept – what child doesn’t want a ‘secret’ place to hide out with friends and call their own? There is definitely something magical about this one that makes it appeal to children and adults alike, and it is thoroughly deserving of its position as one of the reigning classics of children’s literature.One final thing I find striking as I think back over some of the books I read as a child is how so many of them simply transcend time. Not only can re-reading a childhood favourite revive the delight felt upon first encountering it, but there are so many books marketed for children that are in fact quite complex if we come back to them when we’re older – take Watership Down, The Hobbit and even To Kill a Mockingbird. All three have been labelled ‘children’s books,’ yet that is certainly not to say that their readership is or should be restricted to children. Overall I think there is a lot to be said for children’s literature, and even more to be learnt from it, be it profound life lessons or basic literacy. In this so called digital age I can only hope that books won’t be neglected by future generations of children as they grow up, and this is exactly why events like World Book Day, trivial as they may seem, are really quite important.  Victoria Walsh

'Think Small' by Stan Usovicz

In light of this week's student elections, Stan Usovicz's next poem Think Small seems particularly relevant. It continues the theme of consumption from Drip, Sip, Drop, Plop and reminds us that while thinking of others is a quality often taught to young children or espoused by us, through whatever means, we much prefer to indulge in ourselves and boost our own ego in a number of forms. In this particular poem, the need to 'think small' is not only apparent in the content but in Stan's lexical choice as he refrains from using flowery language or complex metaphors; the message he wants to get across is, evidently, and firstly, the most important thing.  Think Small Think about yourself- that’s what you need to doQuench your thirst with a Sprite, stuff your face with some foodFill your house with things, a TV for each roomWatch plenty of shows, but don’t watch the NewsFind a good paying job, complete with stock optionsYou’ll make a good wage, not as much as your bossesSpend it all quickly- swipe your card without cautionOr save up your money and live like a BrahminFind yourself a spouse, have a child or twoKeep everyone happy, and entertained tooGo on vacations and trips to the zooWhen you travel abroad, just sit by the poolLook inward, not at the world that surrounds youDon’t listen to logic, even if it sounds trueDon’t worry about problems that don’t harm youOther people can solve it, the burden’s not on youScrew all the others! they’re resource trapsThe water you need- it flows from their tapsThe poor they complain- forget all their yapsTell a shoeless man to lift himself up by his boot-strapsNever think about the way the world is constructedDon’t concern yourself with the world’s social justiceWhen you think macro its far too destructiveYou’ll have to tackle difficult discussionsOver population, Water depletionSecurity v. private freedom,God v. an atheist’s reasonBreaking a law for something you believe inThe less we read, the more we watch TVThe less we reason, the more we “believe”The less we talk, we’ll begin to seeThe less we think, the happier we’ll be.  Stan Usovicz

'50/50' by Tom Liney

We're so glad to hear from Tom Liney with his new poem 50/50. Inspired by 'glacier stalking' in Patagonia over the Christmas holidays, 50/50 touches upon chance and the game of life. If you have been inspired by any experiences you have had lately and want to write about it, please send your work to creativewriting@thetribeonline.com.  50/50

‘How heavy it is- this brokennesswhich couldn’t be helped.' (Esther Morgan, ‘Muntjac’)

My ears tune to the roar of toothpaste iceBooming between reluctant jaws as it surrenders to nature’s play.My eyes squint as winks of sunlight dance on its wrinkled surface-Blinding flares that go unnoticed.My hands grip the boat rail. I stand unmoved.Waiting for the show. Waiting for it all to unfold.I watch the ice shelf plunge even faster than he fell-Wondering, what if I had been there just a minute before?Screams of awe break out and cameras jostle for positionTo reduce it all to a digital mime - the sight of nature’s play; captured.And now staring at this gigantic mesh of ice,I feel like I’m staring straight at him.I look up from where he jumped and watch,Maybe I was looking for his other self, you know-The one that promised me I’d be safe.But I suppose the truth is- it could have happened to anyone.You know as well as I do that there are graphs and equationsTo prove this and that, but somehowI can’t accept that it all comes down to follied fate.A wasteland of secrets, a burial site for sanity-Life’s script is as cruel as stealing a dying man’s last word.So, unable to predict and unable to understandYou move to where that other wasteland lies.Far removed, yet so close it blurs into nothingness-Emptied of stoic chance but filled with understood goodbyes.You play god to this wasteland. No more 50/50.  Tom Liney

Book Review: 'The Shock of The Fall' by Nathan Filer

The Shock of the Fall has all the raw, essential elements of a first novel. It is tinged with angst, unapologetically gritty and yet holds a particular poignancy. Perhaps even more poignant is the fact that it is not only the narrator’s first novel, but the first novel of the author Nathan Filer, who won the Costa Prize for this book. The Costa Prize is relatively contemporary, and Filer maintains this mood within the novel – a contemporary and spontaneous approach through an unstable, haunted narrator recording his thoughts on a typewriter. This positioning of the narrator, Matthew, reveals that he is so much more than a diagnosis; thus, Filer combats common conceptions of mental illness. In actuality, there is not set point in the novel in which Matthew is formally diagnosed.Ultimately, life is felt not in the formalities, but in the complications of sensation underneath, and it is these sensations that the character of Matthew evokes to great depth, especially through the recurring return of the narrative to his childhood. The novel opens with a sense of impersonality as Matthew recalls his experiences of ‘the girl and her doll’ – how his boyish self in a burst of half-fear, half-curiosity pushes a little girl into the mud. In this light, the narrative could seem composed of fractured memories, but Filer instead writes with a cut-glass crispness that keeps the reader aware of something greater underneath. Underlying Matthew’s every sensation is the death of his beloved brother Simon, who was born with Downs Syndrome, and as the novel unfolds, so does Matthew's guilt and what he understands as the ‘shock of the fall’ – the belief that he is responsible for his brother’s death.The Shock of the Fall is ultimately an exploration of the indeterminacy of reality and how potentially terrifying it can be. We never discover if Matthew’s self-blame is wrongly placed, just as we never definitively know what he is afflicted with – but what we are led to understand is that the mind itself is a complex series of narratives and lasting impressions. Particularly profound is the interlinking of ‘the girl and her doll’ to the end of the novel, where the girl and her experiences with grief return to help Matthew come to terms with his own sorrow.Yet this is not only a novel of coming-to-terms but also one of coming-of-age with a young narrator whose wry humour and ironic observations on the treatment of mental illness it is difficult to dislike. As Filer himself observed of his complicated protagonist,  ‘I got to know him by spending time in his company’, and the reader is similarly invited into the confusing array of experiences affecting Matt - from his absence from school and subsequent isolation, to his living in a flat with a friend, to his later institutionalisation. We are invited to witness the human condition under various impressions of reality, just as Matt himself creates handwritten invitations in the closing pages, fondly addressing ‘To Nanny Noo and Grandad’. Here we see a young man haunted by impressions of infancy, yet increasingly building upon this past to construct what could be a better future. It is both unnerving and incredibly beautiful.  Emily Oldfield 

To Prove a Villain - Chapter 9

In the ninth installment of Catriona Scott's To Prove a Villain series, O Coward Conscience, even Richard’s threats cannot put paid to Harriet’s guilt. A few wrong words from Katherine, suspicious of the circumstances surrounding Hastings’ death, lead her to reveal more than she ever planned, putting them both in danger in the process. 

Dramatis Personae

Richard Plantagenet – Mayor of New York City.Harriet Stafford – Speaker of the New York City Council and confidante to Richard.Katherine Woodville – Harriet Stafford’s partnerWilliam Catesby – Richard’s chief of staffFrank Lovell – Richard’s aideRebecca Ratcliffe – Richard’s aide


O Coward Conscience 

It wasn’t until around nine o’clock that night that Harriet arrived home. It was almost as if she had thought that working late would help, in some small way, to put her back in Richard’s good graces – and, indeed, he had seemed pleased when she passed him in the foyer just as she was leaving City Hall. He had smiled, and she knew Richard's smiles were rare, even now when he was at the height of his power. But there was something about that smile that made her uneasy. Perhaps it was the fact that Richard rarely smiled in and of itself - or was it something more?When Harriet arrived back at her apartment, she found Katherine waiting for her. She had expected this, but what she had not expected was for Katherine to run over to her the moment she was through the door, embracing her in an almost uncomfortably tight hug. Harriet managed to extricate herself from this – with some difficulty – before posing her question.“Katherine, what the hell are you so pleased about? It’s not as though I was planning to stay at work overnight - ”“I know it’s a bit silly to be so excited about this, you probably get this sort of thing all the time, and I was going to phone you but I thought I’d wait, to tell you in person - "“Get to the point, Katherine,” Harriet interrupted, setting down her briefcase and shrugging off her coat, walking away to hang it up even as her partner continued to talk.“You remember that gallery in Brooklyn that commissioned some pictures from me?”Harriet nodded. She was feeling impatient – both with Katherine’s inability to cut to the chase, and with the whole idea of art galleries in general. She understood why they were there, of course, but that didn’t mean to say she enjoyed going to them – even if some of the paintings on display were Katherine’s. She just didn’t understand the art scene at all, or what any of it meant. There were too many meanings and too much to try and take in at once.“Well, it turns out The Times is doing a piece about the gallery, and they want to interview some of the artists – and they asked me. I mean, they asked me, but they also want you to be interviewed with me, the two of us together. Isn’t that great?Harriet frowned.“You didn’t agree to this, did you?”Katherine was too excited to even look crestfallen at her partner’s disapproval of the whole idea.“Of course I agreed to it, why wouldn’t I?”“You know I would much rather keep our relationship out of the papers, Katherine. Why does the public need to know - ”“But this would be a good thing, Harry, can’t you see that? Good publicity, for a start, you talking about something other than politics...”Katherine’s explanation faltered into nothingness as she saw the look Harriet was giving her – one which mingled her frustration with something almost like pity.“Good publicity? Katherine, darling, can’t you see that I don’t care about that? I want to keep us a secret as much as I can so that I can protect you – protect us. You don’t know what it would be like, to be put in the spotlight like that. You remember everything your sister had to put up with, with Edward in the papers all the time? I don’t want you to go through that.”It was now Katherine’s turn to frown. It had just been over a month since her brother in law had died, and here Harry was, speaking ill of him, bringing up his front page grabbing antics – and for what? To try and prove a point? She decided not to comment on how insensitive Harry was being – she was fairly sure her partner knew it as she had never much cared for Edward when he was alive, at any rate. “But I wouldn’t go through any of that with you, you don’t go out to clubs and bars every other night - ”“I know I don’t, Katherine, for God’s sake,” Harriet snapped. “That’s not the point I’m trying to make. If there’s nothing there the press will make up some lie, you’ve seen the sort of things they write – you see why I don’t want us in the centre of all that?”There was a brief pause as Katherine considered this. It was true - if there was no scandal to be found, some less reputable members of the press would be more than happy to make something up. But what caught Katherine’s attention more was not Harriet’s explanation, but her continued reference to the pair of them as a couple. She was so adamant about keeping their relationship in the dark that for some time now it had felt there was no relationship anymore, even behind closed doors. Why would Harriet suddenly care so much for them? No, this was all for her, for protecting herself in order to further nurture her ambition. Of course, Katherine could have misinterpreted Harriet’s words, and Harriet could have been genuine – but even if she was, at this point, it would have been difficult for Katherine to believe her. And the time had come to make that clear.“It’s not us you’re worried about, Harry,” Katherine said, her tone surprisingly calm considering her accusation. “It’s you - you and your ambition. You would have cared about us before, five years ago, when we first got together. But now? You’re different. You’ve changed.”Harriet had not been expecting Katherine to stand up to her, but this did nothing to lessen the derisive nature of her reaction.“For God’s sake, Katherine, you don’t understand - ”“I understand a lot more than you think I do, Harry, and I have done for years. I’m not stupid.”“Well, you could have fooled me.”With that, Harriet moved past Katherine and towards the dining room – Katherine followed just in time to see her remove the whisky decanter from its cabinet and pour herself a large measure. She was about to say something, to try to defend her position, but it was Harriet who spoke first as she turned back to face her, unsurprised that Katherine had followed her into the room. She even went so far as to sit at the dining room table, as though this were a staff briefing, although the fact she had brought the decanter with her somewhat ruined the illusion.“What do you think you know then, Katherine? What do you understand?”There was a long pause. Katherine wasn’t sure where to begin, or, indeed, what Harriet was expecting. But then, there was no point in looking back years, telling her partner all she understood of the scandals and cover-ups and misinformation of the past. Now was the time to focus on the present. She had been suspicious of events ever since the night of the elections and how easily Richard had been able to win his brother’s seat. And it wasn’t just the elections themselves, either, but the circumstances that surrounded them. Will Hastings had died just over a week after Edward, and his death had been suspected as a suicide. Katherine just knew something wasn’t right there, but that was not the place to begin.“The elections,” she said, at last, moving a little further into the room but continuing to stand, hoping this more powerful position would give her some advantage in this altercation. “Something about them was wrong – and you were involved.”Harriet had taken a drink from her glass as Katherine spoke, but she found herself spluttering with laughter mere seconds afterwards, as if hoping this would disguise her fear at how on the mark Katherine’s accusation had been.“Don’t be ridiculous, Katherine,” she replied, with a shake of her head.“I’m being serious,” Katherine replied hotly, moving further into the room. Then, changing the topic slightly, “And if we’re going to have a conversation about something like this, you shouldn’t be drinking.”“Surely if we’re having a conversation like this, that’s all the more reason for me to drink?” Harriet replied, without missing a beat, but there was a palpable note of relief even in this attempt at a joke, as she lifted the glass to her lips again.Katherine moved further into the room now, closer to her, and Harriet found it was all she could do not to shrink away, clutching her precious glass close to her. First Richard, now Katherine? Was it any wonder she had recently been finding greater comfort in the bottle than in the arms of her partner, or the words of her co-conspirator?“It’s been getting worse, Harry, you know it has. It’s not one or two that bother me, it’s when you have five or six that I get worried. It’s been getting worse ever since - ”“Ever since?”Another attempt at delaying the inevitable, another sip from the glass. Almost empty now.“You know when.”Harriet nodded, almost in spite of herself. Her voice was quiet when she spoke again.“Hastings?”“Who else? Something didn’t feel right about his death, and - ”“Nothing ever feels right about death!”Another sip.“You know what I mean!”Another. There was nothing left in the glass. She could no longer hide behind it. Unless...“Harry, what happened?”Harriet set the glass down, reached for the decanter again. But even as she did so -“Harriet.”She stopped just shy of reaching the bottle, retracted her hand. She could no longer hide behind the glass, nor could she keep avoiding, keep denying, the truth of what she had done. But she could not tell Katherine, she could not confess...Richard would kill her if he found out, and not metaphorically. But he wouldn’t find out, would he? Somewhere inside herself Harriet knew that he would, but at that moment she felt this strange, liberating feeling of not caring whether he did or not – she had to confess, she had to tell Katherine what she had done, or else she would start to go mad...“I can’t.”She knew she had to tell Katherine, but she couldn’t. She just couldn’t, no matter how fearful or guilty she felt. Everything would change between them, irreversibly – but then, hadn’t it already, even in Katherine’s unknowing? Katherine would no longer love her, Katherine would leave her... All these panicked thoughts and more mingled with her guilt and fear of confession, and she found herself struggling to hold back her tears, especially when Katherine moved over and sat down beside her, taking her free hand in hers, her manner gentle, comforting. Just what Harriet needed at the moment - and what she did not need.“Why not?”It was fear and guilt - plain and simple. Harriet began to reel off her list of excuses, her voice rising as her panic fully began to take hold.“Everything will change, it has changed already.  I’m not who you think I am, I can never be that way again and if I tell you I’ll be in danger, we both will be, you’ll stop loving me, you’ll leave me...”Katherine opened her mouth as though to protest, to question what this outburst meant, perhaps even to try and comfort her - to say whatever it was couldn’t be as bad as she was making it out to be - but Harriet cut across her, her grip on her partner’s hand almost unbearably tight, her voice suddenly quiet, almost a whisper.“Please don’t make me tell you.”Katherine, for her part, did not know what to think, how to react, at first. To say she was worried would be an understatement – she had been right in her fears about the corrupt elections, not to mention the circumstances of Hastings’ death. But what worried her even more was the fact Harriet had said she was in danger – but she knew it would be unwise to give into her fear, as Harriet was. She needed to stay calm for Harriet’s sake as much as her own.“Harry, please,” she said, after a moment or two. “Whatever it is, you can tell me, you know that. I love you.”It was at these last three words that Harriet snatched her hand away, shaking now with rage as much as with fear.“Don’t say that...don’t you dare say that!” she snarled. “It’s not true, it can’t be true, not when I tell you...but I can’t tell you, I can’t...”She got to her feet then and made as if to leave the room, but something stopped her. Perhaps it was the way Katherine was looking up at her, a mix of fear and confusion, but there was love there too. Even in her fury and fear, Harriet could not deny that. She didn’t want that expression to change, the love Katherine felt for her, and it would change, she knew it would. But she also knew she could keep this a secret no longer – not now. Richard be damned.  But even so she could not face Katherine as she spoke, instead looking at the opposite wall. It was almost as if she were giving some speech, confessing her guilt before a court.“Hastings’ death..."She paused and took a deep, shuddering breath. When she spoke again her voice was no longer steady, and the confession spilled out of her like the whisky from the bottle.“It wasn’t natural. It was unnatural. But it wasn’t a suicide, he was - ”“He did this?” Katherine was on her feet now too, but more from incredulity than fear. But then, why should she be incredulous? It made perfect sense, he had been one of Richard’s rivals for the position, and yet, the fact that this crazy, awful idea, the fact that this was not just an idea, a twisted theory, but the truth...“W-what?”“Richard,” Katherine exclaimed. “You’re saying that he - ”Harriet shook her head. If she was going to tell the truth, she would tell the whole truth.“He killed Edward. But he didn’t kill Hastings.”Katherine, stunned, sat back down again. What else could she do, when she was shaking so much it was too difficult to stand?“Edward....but he....Richard was his brother...”The slightest of pauses, as an even greater realisation dawned.“No....no...Harriet, what are you saying....you don’t mean...”Harriet did not say anything, but instead reached out a hand for the whisky decanter again. This seemed to be enough of a confirmation for Katherine, however – she got to her feet again and reached for the decanter too, pulling it away from Harriet but with such force that it slid across the table, falling onto the floor and breaking upon impact, shards of glass bursting in a bloom across the floor, the amber liquid swiftly following suit.You could say that this was symbolic, for any number of things – this new side she was seeing to Harriet, the broken-ness they both felt, the violence and destruction that had led to this moment. But now was not the time for such sentiments. Now was the time for cold, hard facts and facing the truth. It was a truth neither of them wished to face, but they had to.Harriet had looked over at Katherine as she stood, alarmed at the ferocity of her action. She flinched as the decanter hit the floor and shattered. Now she looked from the shattered glass to Katherine again, unsure of just how to arrange her expression, never mind what she could possibly say. But it was Katherine who spoke first.“That’s enough, Harriet. That’s it. I’ve had enough, I thought it was just the drinking, the lies but this....this is just... I don’t want to believe it...I knew something was wrong but I never would have thought - ”Harriet moved towards her then, moving as though to take her partner’s hand in hers, but Katherine recoiled even as Harriet said her name, desperate, pleading.“Don’t touch me!"“Katherine, please - ”But Katherine would not stay to listen to any more of Harriet’s words or her confessions and pleas. She had heard enough, more than enough. She was walking away even before she fully knew where she planned to go, out of the apartment and, more importantly, out of Harriet’s life. Now, more than ever, she knew she was no longer part of it.The next morning there was a headline on the front page of The Times, and every word clanged like a death knell, to Harriet’s relationship with Katherine, to her partnership with Richard – even now, she feared, to her own life itself.


Catriona Scott


Disclaimer:This serial is inspired partly by historical fact and partly by historical fiction (that being Shakespeare’s Richard III); however, as the setting (New York City) is very much a real location – as are other businesses and events I have used – I felt the following disclaimer to be necessary. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

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'Am I Real?' by Samuel Barley

Samuel Barley sends us another of his poems Am I real?  for this week's The Tribe. If you are inspired by any of the work in this week's issue please email your submissions to creativewriting@thetribeonline.com or to our creative writing sub-editor Olia at ok6@st-andrews.ac.uk.  Am I real?I did not exist in your world until now,Yet you did not conjure up these lines,Was I always here? Do you know? How?Do you not follow? Shall I explain? Fine. I have lived and so have you,But we have never met nor shall we,To my existence I have given a clue,Which end it achieves is yours; Torture or glee. By reading this you now know I'm here,In words alone maybe, but it shall suffice,All this can be seen, do not fear,For we both exist. Isn't that nice? Now you know, come seek me and find,If I'm here, or inside your mind.  Samuel Barley