Another week, another project

Hello everyone,

For the past two weeks, a lot has been going on at Woodland Cemetery. For us, we decided to start another project that would take us until the end of the summer. For those of you that know the cemetery well, in the northeast corner, there are approximately thirty stones that are lying down on the ground. These stones have been here since before anyone can remember, and they’ve been deteriorating over the decades. Likely, they’ve been lying down since the 1880’s when they were moved from the St. Pauls cemetery (where the Western Fair Grounds are today) to Woodland. When we decided to tackle them, many were in a severely deteriorated stage, but some we identified as excellent candidates to repair.

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Before we began taking them out of the ground, we first had to decide where we would place them. We considered standing them just behind where they were found. However, we quickly scrapped that idea because the ground is slopped and we didn’t want to deal with the lean the stones would develop. I mean, they will develop a lean within a few decades, but it would happen on the sloped ground much faster. The other option was to either find an empty plot nearby or use an old walkway where no one would have been buried. After a lot of searching through plot books, we eventually decided on an empty plot that is close to our Scottish cemetery display.

Once we decided on a place, we started to bring the stones up the hill, clean them off, and then start the process of placing them back on the ground. Since we are not using keys or bases, we have to bury the stones quite deep in the ground. Depending on the stone, that can be anywhere from a foot to two feet. Its truly exhausting having to dig two feet down, especially when you constantly hit tree roots and layers of clay. Once the hole is dug, we place the stone in, level it, then fill the hole with a bunch of lime shale to make it stable. It’s a long process, but it’s worth it in the end.

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We are nowhere near finished, but it is starting to come together. It almost looks like a mini cemetery within the larger one. We’re trying to keep the rows as uniform as possible and keep a good distance between them, but everything is working out!

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In addition to repairing the stones, we’re also trying to find information about the people they belong to. The archivist at St. Pauls Cathedral recommended we go to Huron University College because they hold the Diocese of Huron Archives, of which St. Paul’s is included. Last Friday we went and with the help of the staff there, we were able to find a lot of information. They had the original burial, baptism, and marriage registers. They also had a lot on what previous researchers had found about the history of Woodland. It was very informative, and we’re planning on returning tomorrow to see what we can find.

 

One other interesting development is that we were shown the old vault that they have at Woodland. It was originally used to hold money since Woodland was nowhere close to anywhere, but over time it has turned more into storage for old documents. It was really interesting to see what they keep, such as receipts for plots and stones that date back to the 1880’s. We also found the old transfer receipts for when graves and stones were being moved from St.Pauls, which was a cool find. Plus, some old photographs, one was even from Victory in Europe day, 1945.

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Well, that’s it for today! Alyssa should be back on Friday for a continuation of her “History of Cemeteries” blog from a few weeks ago, so stay tuned for that!

MacKenzie

 

Edit: In my original post I simply referred to The Diocese of Huron Archives as the archives at Huron University College. The blog has been changed to reflect their true title. If you are interested in researching at The Diocese of Huron Archives, located at Huron University College, their email is as follows;  archives@huron.anglica.ca.

Byzantine Catacomb Art and Victorian Symbolism

The Victorians and the Byzantines were both vastly different societies, yet to compare the ways in which they approached death and mourning is extremely interesting. The Victorians, the English who lived during Queen Victoria’s reign (1837-1901), were very strict about their funeral customs. The Byzantines, on the other hand, were the Eastern part of the Holy Roman Empire that surrounded the Mediterranean. This empire lasted significantly longer than the Victorian era, from 330 CE – 1453. While extremely different in their methods of burial, especially interesting was just how similar they were about the decoration of their loved one’s final resting places.

Whereas Victorians predominately buried their dead similar to how we would today, cremation was the principal method of burial for the Byzantines until the 2nd century. The transition to inhumation (to inter the dead) only came when it became difficult to find fuel for the fires. When cremations ‘died out’, the development of catacombs became important in the Holy Roman Empire due to lack of available surface space. While cremation was the most efficient and space-saving method, catacombs were the next best choice. The Byzantines hired individuals to dig their catacombs, called Fossors, and they very quickly transitioned into quite elaborate burial spaces. The surface area of the walls allowed for loved ones to create elaborate funeral art for their deceased, art that would represent the ideals that were most dear to them. The artwork used primarily depended on their religion and while it was possible that multiple religions would use the same catacomb, each chamber would often be dedicated to separate religions.

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A Fossor at work. 

Byzantium’s beginnings were not in Christianity, but in Paganism and Judaism, but all three religions are represented in their catacomb artwork. As Christianity was illegal in Rome until the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, Christians would often have to hire Pagan or Jewish artists and ask them to paint scenes from the Old Testament, as they followed both the old and the new. They would also adopt pagan motifs as a way to not raise suspicion. The fish (Ichthys), had been used by many religions prior and had therefore not risen suspicion. The story of Orpheus was often used to represent Christ. One of the most famous aspects of the Orpheus myth is the story of Orpheus’s  descent into Hades to rescue his love Eurydice, who had been snatched from him by an untimely death. While he was ultimately not successful in recovering Eurydice, he himself emerged from the underworld alive. This particular aspect of the myth resonated with early Christians, who saw this as an allegorical reference to Christ’s descent into and return from the fiery depths of hell. Orpheus thus became a symbol of victory over death, and a symbol of eternal life.

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Orpheus as Christ. Catacombs of Marcellius and Peter. Rome.

Once it was legalized, scenes from the New Testament, such as Jesus and the Woman of Samaria at Jacob’s Well, became popular. Also used were the symbols of the dove, the anchor, and the cross (Christos). All of these symbols had profound meaning, often taken from scripture. For instance, the anchor a symbol of hope in future existence because the anchor was regarded in ancient times as a symbol of safety. In other words, it represents Christianity’s firm belief in eternal life, their hope of their future existence in heaven.

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Woman of Samaria at Jacobs Well – Via Latina Catacomb, Rome. 
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The Fish and the Anchor – St. Pricilla Catacombs

Another central theme to Christian Catacomb art was death and resurrection. Through the use of Old Testament imagery, they focused on alluding to post-death salvation. An example of this is the story of Jonah being swallowed by the fish, then three days later being vomited back out. This was seen by early Christians as a resurrection story. The message being: “Save me [Lord] as you have saved Jonah from the belly of the great fish.”

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Jonah being Vomitted from the Great Fish – Resurrection Icon. Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter. 

Jewish frescos would often depict a Menorah, the Arch of the Covenant,, the Shofar (horn), the Lulav (branch/twigs), etc. They would also use scenes from the Old Testament, often making it difficult to tell the difference between a Jewish and Christian tomb.

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Typical Jewish scene from the Catacomb in Villa Torlona. Two Menorahs flank the Arch of the Covenant. The Shofar, Lulav, and etrog (fruit) are all depicted. 3rd Century CE. 

 

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Jewish Catacomb Art. Villa Torlonia.

 

 

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Jewish Catacomb. Vigna Randanini.

Pagan artwork would use the symbols of the Putti, the peacock (immortality as the peacock’s flesh did not decay, or so they believed) and the phoenix (rebirth), while also taking scenes from Roman/Greek myths and legends to declare their beliefs. For instance, the scene of Hercules leading Alcestis to her husband Admetus in the Catacombs of Via Latina. This scene is commemorating a wives loyalty to her husband during his illness, that she would have given up her life to save him, as Alcestis does for Admetus in the legend (see below). Though it should also be mentioned that both Judaism and Christianity took pagan symbols and shaped them for their own, as can be seen in the photo above this paragraph where a Jewish catacomb is showcasing icons of the peacock.

 

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Hercules leads Alcestis to Admetus. Via Latina Cubiculum N. 

 

As can be seen, unlike Victorian monument symbols, there is no virtually no reference to sorrow or mourning in Byzantine catacomb art. The majority of the focus is on the religiosity, the life that the deceased lived, or their death and resurrection (which was not considered something to be in sorrow about).

The Victorians, however, seemed to do the opposite. Not much of the artwork decorating their monuments is overtly religious, though much of it has religious connotations. Icons such as the willow tree, the rose, the laurel and clasped hands are extremely common at Woodland Cemetery, and each of them has a separate meaning. As Levi mentioned in an earlier post, the Victorians were fixated on symbolism, and when they erected a gravestone for a loved one, they wanted to make sure it reflected something of that person’s disposition, their career, their relationships, or their life. The willow tree, symbolizing mourning, is an example of how much Victorian death rites focused on the mourning and loss that the loved one’s family was feeling. A broken column stands for an individual who was cut off in the prime of life, often the head of the family. The clasped hands were religious as well, showing the hope of re-unification in the next life.

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Clasped Hands
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Willow Tree

Overall, although the two societies lived centuries apart, there are commonalities in their mourning customs. Byzantine art, while overtly religious, often has hidden meanings about the deceased’s life. Victorian symbolism, while not usually obviously religious, also was carved in the belief that the monument should reflect not only the life of the deceased but the sorrow of the loved ones. Both used artwork as a way to depict a life lived and lost, and to show their dedication even after death.

Sidenote: Thanks for reading this blog post! I know that it’s different from other weeks, but we spend so much time with Victorian symbols that I thought it would be interesting to see how a different culture would approach mourning artwork.

MacKenzie

 

Mobile Tour and New Stones

Another week, another mobile tour. Yesterday we had the pleasure to be welcomed by Chartwell Riverside Residence. As usual, it went swimmingly, and the residents were extremely interested in the stories that we were sharing. These mobile tours are fun because it gives us a chance to continue to share our research with the public, and it also gives us a bit of a break from the heat!

Speaking of working in the heat, Alyssa, Sunny and I have been working on uncovering and repairing another stone that we found broken in section R. At first, we thought it may be an easy fix, as it seemed to be already uncovered and a clean break. When we set out to level out the base, it seemed that our assumptions were wrong. The proper base of the stone was a little more than a foot underground, and a substantial part of the inscription was with it.

Once we were able to get the base out of the ground, we added limestone screening to the whole in order to properly level out the ground underneath. One issue that we typically have with this step in the process is that the sections that we work in there are a lot of hills. This makes it a little bit of a longer process to level.

After placing the stone into the levelled hole, we were able to begin repairing the stone. Since it is relatively thick (more then 2 inches wide), the team was able to practice our skills in pinning. Peter explained this in a previous week, so I won’t go into extreme detail, but pinning just allows the stone to become more stable then it would be if we just used epoxy. While this method is widely used in the monument restoration community, it is not one that we have utilized a great deal over the summer. Therefore, I was not comfortable with it at first, especially since we have to use power drills to make (3) two-inch holes into each side of the broken pieces. I am always nervous that I will break the stone. Thankfully, we were taught how to do it correctly and we haven’t had any issues yet!

You also may be wondering why the stone in the above-far-right photo is slightly red – we use lipstick in order to make the holes on each side of the stone in line with each other! It was a funny experience asking Eric, who is in charge of the grounds-crew to pick us up some. We kept insisting on specific shades and brands, so much so that he didn’t believe we actually needed it at first!

The final step of the process after drilling the holes is to put the fibre-glass rods into place. The combination of the fibre-glass rods and a bit of epoxy allows the stone to become stable and it won’t fall down once placed upright. See photos below. The clamps on the stone just hold it in place until the epoxy can completely dry!

Last bit for today, we have completed another step of our Scottish Cemetery project! For the walking tour, we had to quickly place the stones into the sandbox, as we wanted as few tripping hazards as possible. Unfortunately, that meant that we would have to go back and move around the stones enough for us to fit seven more stones in the box. It took us awhile, but we finally got it all done! The only step left is to place the seven stones that we wanted upright into the area of the mass grave site. For this, we have to wait until proper keys are made, and that is the part that takes the longest!

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Anyway, that is it for today. Thanks for following along with our weekly adventures!

MacKenzie

Canada 150!

Happy Canada 150 everyone, we hope you are enjoying your long weekend! Our weekend starts tomorrow but for a very good reason, we had our first mobile tour today at Royalcliffe Retirement Residence. At first, I was very nervous for these mobile tours as I was not really sure what to expect. I’m confident enough with walking tours, as everything has a logical path and it’s very interactive with the audience. I thought that the mobile tours would be more like the team lecturing a room full of people, which is a bit more nerve racking. Thankfully, it was nothing like what I expected. The people were absolutely lovely and were very happy that we were able to make it out to them. In addition, our main contact there, Sarah Urquhart, was nice enough to show us around the residence a bit before we began our segment.

Overall I think the talk went very well. There were a few small bumps, like someone asking me about Fred Kingsmill (the penultimate owner of Kingsmill department store) and I had no idea who they were speaking about. I guess that’s what happens when one concentrates more on the distant past. I will definitely not be making the same mistake in the future! It was also nice because many of the residents knew the Kingsmill family and were able to educate me on their more recent past. Another aspect that is routinely popping up when we give these tours is that people tend to ask where something (a building, bridge, etc) is in relation to another landmark. These questions are very difficult to answer when you are not a native of the city, but thankfully we have three native Londoners on our team that can head of those questions for me.

Getting back to the Canada 150 celebrations, make sure you check out our documentary that is airing on Rogers at the following times this weekend;

Saturday July 1st – 12pm, 7pm, 11pm
Sunday July 2nd – 12pm
Monday July 3rd – 12pm

It’s similar to our walking tour so those of you who weren’t able to make it out last Saturday can get a bit of a sneak peak into what we discussed!

Once again, enjoy the Canada 150 celebrations and have a wonderful long weekend.

– -MacKenzie

Walking Tour

SO yesterday was our Confederation Walking Tour. It started out a wonderful day, it wasn’t too hot, almost perfect weather. The guides arrived to Woodland a little early to make sure that everything was in working order for the tour, that no groundhogs had created holes for us to trip in and that all the stones looked their best. We also went through the entire tour once to make sure that it would remain approximately an hour and that no one would be out in the heat for too long.

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The first tour began at 1:00 but people began showing up as early as 12:00. It was nice to have a little time to interact with the crowd and to see how excited they were about our work. Its nice to hear that the London community seems to be as passionate about history as the four of us are! The closer it got to 1:00, the more and more people arrived. We probably ended up having over one hundred guests for the first tour. Luckily, we had four guides and we could split the group in half. Each group had over fifty, so it was a bit difficult to stick to the hour tour. It turned out very well though, and the first tour went better then I anticipated. I spoke to some guests afterward and they had nothing but amazing things to say. They complimented us on the tour and on our public speaking skills. They were also very happy that we included some scandalous stories as well as spent a lot of time at our Scottish cemetery site.

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The second tour went just as well as our first with only one small hiccup; it started pouring rain towards the end. Luckily, the rain did not last long, only about 10 minutes, and people didn’t seem to mind getting a bit wet to stay and listen to our stories. Just like the first, people stayed behind after the tour to congratulate us on our find and to rave about the tour. I was happy to hear that a lot of them are following our blog and are interested to see where the summer takes us next!

We only have a little bit more to do at our Scottish Cemetery before we move on to other projects in July. Although I am sure we will not find anything to the same extent, I am sure whatever we do will be just as exciting as the last two months have been.

As a final note, I would just like to thank everyone that came out to our walking tour on Saturday. We really hope you all enjoyed yourself and that you walked away having learned something new and exciting. Thank you all for your support, we really appreciate it.

– MacKenzie

London in the 1860’s and the Curious Case of Slippery Jack

As Sunny explained in her blog yesterday, we have been doing a lot of research as of late in preparation for our Canada 150 Walking tour. Although at first we mostly concentrated on the individuals, I decided yesterday to concentrate more on general London history, what was happening in the city during the 1860 era?

  • 1860: Royal Visit: HRH Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. It was a very brief visit, but the people of London were overjoyed to see a member of the royal family.
  • 1861: Beginning of the American Civil War. There was a period of immense prosperity for Canadians. Prosperity came in the demand for Canadian products such as beef. This was also a time of immense fear for Londoners. An event called the Trent Affair came about, in which tensions between the USA and Britain were extremely high. Many were worried those tensions may become violent and spill into London, Upper Canada.
  • All throughout the decade, ‘Oil Fever’ was hitting Canadians. Many Londoners were making a lot of money through the trade.
  • 1865: There was an epidemic of burglaries – no one could cope. A civilians’ vigilance committee was formed to defend the city against itself.
  • 1866: Fenian Raids – there were threats of an invasion of the area now known as Southwestern Ontario. These raiders hit British forts in the United States in Canada in an attempt to force the British out of Ireland.
  • 1867: Mayor of London is Frank Smith and, of course, CONFEDERATION!

Also, since I know military and political history isn’t for everyone, I also found a very curious and fascinating criminal case from the year of Confederation.

Picture it, it’s 1867 and you’ve been sleeping for awhile when a light tickling sensation on your feet startles you awake. You see a strange man at the foot of your bed, and he just runs away! You run around the house and then notice that all of your furniture is upside down! Terrifying I am sure, but slightly confusing as well.

From 1867 to September of 1868, there was a string of break and enters in the city. A man that went by “Slippery Jack” was breaking into peoples home and piling the furniture of the house in the middle of a room, or turn it all upside down. The criminal made a lot of noise while breaking in on purpose. Eventually ‘Jack’ escalated to waking up the homeowners by shaking them or shouting in their ears. Eventually, they would tickle the homeowner’s feet, but they found it more fun to wake the young women with this method. The entire event made the London Police into somewhat of a laughing stock.

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Image from the book; “This was London” by Orlo Miller page 125.

He remained on the loose and was never caught, but in September 1868, after lying dormant for a while, ‘Jack’ sent a letter to the London Advertiser. The letter explained that he had made a bet with his friends that he could enter into homes without getting caught once a week for a year. Since he had won a considerable amount of money, he offered to pay for any damaged caused by his shenanigans. It was latter discovered that ‘Slippery Jack’ was a member of the Hellfriar’s club and a member of the Imperial Garrison. He was assisted by a London Cabinet Maker, however, did most of the work himself.

While terrifying for the citizens of London at the time, it is a story that is slightly amusing to read 150 years after the fact. It is nice to know that practical jokers still existed 150 years ago.

Time Management and Hard Decisions

Hello all,

Since yesterday was the holiday Monday, we haven’t achieved as much as we would usually have by this point of the week. Today was mostly characterised by planning, what are the next steps for both the St. Andrews cemetery project and a few other side projects that we have on the side. One of the most difficult aspects of this position is juggling the multiple projects that we have been assigned. The major two are first recovering and restoring the stones from St. Andrews Cemetery, and then we are also in the process of developing a Canada 150 Walking Tour. Today involved planning the route we want to take for the tour, the stories we want to include, and what we thought would interest the public the most. However, we also have multiple other smaller ‘projects’ that take up some of our time. For instance, we have been asked to return to St. Pauls Cathedral and continue to discover what treasures lie under their grounds. We are also creating a video log of our experiences, with the hope to turn the tapes into a documentary towards the end of the summer. For now, all of these projects pile on top of one another in the race to the Canada 150 celebrations on July 1st. It is turning out to be a fun exercise of a skill that we have been honing the past four years in University; Time Management.

Another very important decision was discussed today; what will we do with the stones that we have found from the old St. Andrews Cemetery. Several options have been thrown around; stand them upright using keys (cement blocks with slots in the centre where the memorial is placed), laying them on a bed of limestone filler, moving them to rest where the large monument honouring all the individuals who were moved to Woodland in 1955 stands today, etc. Of course, with each option comes a number of logistical issues. Standing all 143(ish) stones upright would take ages, as only a limited amount of keys can be made during each week. Further, a number of the stones were broken very close to the inscriptions when they were moved in 1955, so to place them in keys we would lose a valuable part of the stone. Moving them to the Scottish Memorial is what my team would love to do in a perfect world. However, this option would also take significant time and effort, and there may be a greater chance of the stones being damaged, having to move them such a great distance. The third option is to leave them where they are, but lay them on a bed of limestone filler. The limestone will allow for water to run off the stones, and not be as damaged during the winter freezes. The issue with this option is that it is a temporary fix, in 10-15 years the monuments will once again begin to sink into the ground.

To be frank, there is no perfect option. No matter what we do, it will always be a temporary fix. If we place all of the stones upright, they were still sink into the ground. What we are hoping to do is a combination of the three. The team would like to place a small number of the stones upright and stand them around the Scottish Memorial. These would be the stones that have writing on both sides, as we do not wish to choose whose name deserves to be displayed. Others would be stones we have done significant research on or ones that we have a particular attachment too. The rest we are hoping to lie on a bed of limestone, on a slant, where we originally found them two weeks ago. The slant will allow water to run off the stones. The limestone will almost be shaped like a triangle, and the stones will be in two rows on either side. This will allow visitors to read the writing without having to step closer (and potentially on the stones themselves).

While this is an option, it is still not confirmed. We still have a lot of work to do on the cleaning of the stones before we can figure out how we want to place them after the work is completed. Hopefully, by the end of this week, we will have a firmer idea of what we hope to do! Have a fantastic day, and don’t forget to follow our social media platforms to get regular updates on the work that we have going on. In particular, the Instagram is run by the amazing Alyssa, and there are some very interesting photos there.

– MacKenzie

Instagram: @woodlandcemeteryhistory

 

Rainy Tuesdays and Group Dynamics

One of the most inconvenient aspects of working outdoors is the inevitable occurrence when Mother Nature decides to pour her eyes out. Today the original plan was to begin the process of moving all of the monuments out of the dirt. The point of this is to dry the stone as well as to get it away from any pooling water so that we could begin the cleaning process. Unfortunately, with the rain, the front-end loader that was going to help us lift the stones was unable to make it over the muddy grounds. Plan B would be to clean the stones, but the biodegradable cleaning solution we use – D2 – was empty and we are waiting for another shipment to come in from the USA. Therefore, the four of us went immediately to our plan C…research day! We tried to have a half research day last Friday, but it went downhill when we realized that the London Room had been closed for renovations. We thought we should try again and thankfully, the second time it was open. The London Room has a vast amount of sources that are perfect for individuals who are interested in researching their genealogy. Of interest for us is their collection of documents from cemeteries, of which St. Andrew’s is included. The book on St. Andrew’s was compiled by a historian by the name of Leslie Grey and allows us to have a complete list on all of the stones that were moved from St. Andrews to Woodland in 1955. It gives us a preliminary view into the lives that we could be spending the summer researching. Another resource the library allows us to access is Ancestry.ca and for free. Ancestry is basically a one-stop shop for all the basic documents we need to get a good idea of the lives that our individuals led.

Another aspect of the job that I thought would be interesting to touch on this week is the team dynamic of the group. I was very lucky that the other individuals who were hired to work at Woodland this summer were all people that I know from University. We all have taken similar classes and traveled in the same social circles during the last school term. While I did not know them extremely well prior to the first day of work, this is definitely the perfect chance to strengthen those relationships. Also, every day that we have worked together, so far, has been filled with laughter. We tease, we gossip, we are all passionate about our work and it definitely helps that we have a lot in common. It is always interesting when another Woodland staff member comes and works with us for a while because they always look a bit confused by our relationship. However, they always catch on quick and join in on the fun. I should stress that even though we are having a lot of fun together, we also work quite hard and the fact that we are friends doesn’t stop us from working hard. I think the summer will only bring us close together.