A parkrun birthday and more foxy visitors

This Saturday it was the first birthday of Ellenbrook Fields parkrun so it was time for some celebrating.

But first- the week leading up to it: I had a sore throat on Sunday and Monday, so on Tuesday I did a little run/walk on my own instead of going to the club run. On Wednesday I sneezed a few times and wondered if a cold was on the way, although yoga seemed to help as it was a very calming session (and nothing came of the sneezing). I did another short run on Thursday which was fine, but by Friday I was sneezing lots and had very sore sinuses. I didn’t want to miss out on the  birthday celebrations so I told myself I could keep the tail runner company if I felt bad still.

Even though the weather that week had been total pants, the sun shone on Saturday morning and someone had gone around putting balloons and bunting up.

They had asked for cakes, so on m way home from work one day I stopped to get some baking supplies and made a tea-bread and then a raspberry and almond tray bake- basically the raspberry cake from the CCC book, with ground almonds subbed for some of the flour, and then topped with white chocolate and flaked almonds.

Loads of people turned up! They were trialling a pacer event and I think had pacers from 22 to 32 minutes.

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From the Ellenbrook Fields facebook page

Dennis and Eleanor Draper (our “local celebrities”- they were the oldest couple to run the London marathon this year, and have been interviewed on MT before) set everyone off.

I actually felt loads better on Saturday morning, but was being very sensible.

I started near the back but actually felt OK (after having an early night and having a mixture of peppermint, lavender and tea tree oil to help with breathing)- I stopped to take some photos as it was gorgeous out there.

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I always love the end of the first little loop as all of the timers and RD’s and funnel managers etc. are all there to give you a little cheer as you go past.

Even the km markers had balloons! I ended up running with a friend who was being the 32 minute pacer (although I think I distracted her somewhat as near the end she realised she was going a bit too fast- I ended up just over 31 minutes). It was very enjoyable and I felt fine when I finished.

There was still plenty of cake when I finished, although all the raspberry and almond cake had gone. I had a little piece of lemon cake and then hung about cheering everyone else in and chatting to lots of people in the club.

The rest of Saturday was fairly boring (school work with a little walk into town to break things up), but our fox cubs did visit our garden on Saturday evening- around 9.30 pm each night now they seem to come and are hilarious- chasing each other about, jumping in the bushes and hanging from the branches by their teeth.

On Sunday I didn’t set an alarm, and so didn’t head out on my run until gone 9am. It was warm but with a breeze so actually fairly nice for running.

I had decided to add on some distance to my run from last week (I did 7 and I wanted to do 10 this week), although I thought going further would add on 3 miles but it only seemed to add on about a mile and a half. I could have run past home and gone on a bit, but I was so thirsty by that point that I decided 9 miles was enough.

After more work (and spending ages getting very annoyed emailing my MP and the other local candidates about education, fox hunting -I am very against this and do not want to see it voted back in again- and how they will support the rights of EU citizens) my brain was frazzled so I headed out into the garden for some pottering.

I found that the fox cubs had been digging a hole under the willow tree so I filled it in and put a stone in the way- I don’t mind them digging but I don’t want the tree to become unstable.

The fox gloves are starting to flower too! (This post is very fox-heavy it seems!). This is the only patch of garden that I have added plants to as we are going to plan it all out properly. There are cornflowers and poppies there too.

I felt so much better after that- just an hour or so of pottering around lifted my mood.

Goldilocks running, gardening and baking

The weeks are flying by! So here is a random catch up of thoughts (which turns out to be a lot of baking).

A sunny walk

St Albans Abbey in the sunshine. Weeks ago we had parked outside St Albans and then walked into town via a flooring shop to look at some samples. We were going to visit The Pudding Stop but it was very busy so we got a takeaway instead (peanut butter salted caramel brownie..).

Baking

I have their recipe book so I decided to make them for work the next week- they went down very well. Although in the recipe book you add the caramel in the middle, with more batter on top, but I think next time I would just put the caramel on the top with the pb.

Last week I made a raspberry and white chocolate loaf cake, and it was very well received. This week I used the same recipe but made it into a lemon and blueberry cake instead. I doubled the mixture and made a tray bake for work, topped with a little lemon icing, and then a loaf cake to take around to Sunday tea, with the rest of the white chocolate melted and poured on the top.

The loaf needed longer to bake, hence the more browned appearance!

Sensitive skin products

I have been sent some products for dry and sensitive skin, including some lovely What Skin Needs soothing skin gel (which is good for wind burn- I have not tried it yet as it hasn’t been as cold, but I do have a problem with this after a long run in the cold so I know it will be useful), and skin balm (I love this stuff). It contains plantolin, which (from their press release) “is a patent-protected active plant extract, scientifically proven to soothe, renew and protect. This key ingredient is derived from the Australian indigenous plant, centipeda cunninghamii, and is internationally patent protected for its novel active compounds that provide a natural synergy of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activity. Plantolin extract is used in Australia on wounds to speed up the healing process and stimulate tissues regeneration“.  It also smells lovely (it contains lavender and geranium oil which I love as a combination (we had that on our foreheads at the end of yoga last week). I do get dry and itchy skin, and I have trouble finding creams as body butters tend to feel too greasy and thick, some very scented ones irritate my skin, and others don’t seem to sink in very well. Before this one I was using a Body Shop almond milk and honey one, and this one works just as well.

I was also given a massage candle. (I didn’t know what that was either)

It turns out you can use the melted candle wax as a moisturiser- it has a pouring lip at one end, so once a bit of the wax has melted, you blow out the candle and then pour carefully onto your skin. I haven’t been brave enough to try that yet, but the candle does smell lovely- a fresh citrus smell which is perfect for spring (grapefruit and tangerine).

 

Running

I’ve had a real mixture of running recently. As I haven’t been training for anything specific (eg the Wings for Life was just run as far as I fancied) I’ve just been going out as far as I would like. Last Tuesday our running club started the tradition of the 8 (and a bit) mile route on country roads and paths around Essendon- a tiny village near Hatfield. We only do it once a month in the summer, when it’s light enough to finish before it gets dark, as we have to cross a dual carriageway, and some of it is on country roads. We usually do around 4-6 miles on a Tuesday, so to push it up to 8 always sounds hard, plus this route has some big hills, but it’s so satisfying once it is done.  I skipped a run on Thursday in favour of going to the cinema- we went to see Guardians of the Galaxy 2- I thought it was quite fun, and I am not usually into the comic book films. The end did drag on a bit though, and I lost patience with the extra bits in the credits, so we left after the third one!

Last Sunday I didn’t set an alarm, and I’d been out for a meal the night before so had a fairly late night (for me- midnight!)- I decided to run to the lakes and back, but when I got there the route I usually take was cordoned off.

It said helicopters were using the area so I was taking no risks! There was some sort of car show going on, so I had to run up a hill, along the top and back down again before getting to the lake. I had no idea how long the run would be- I guessed around 6 miles, but it turned out to be just over 7. I think 7-10 miles is a good Sunday morning Goldilocks run- not too short, not too long.

Brunch and free jam

The day before my birthday (weeks ago now) we went out for brunch at Bill’s- my favourite place for brunch (or sweet potato fries!)- I have been using the app to pay for the last few visits (you link it up to paypal or a credit card) and I had enough stamps for a jar of jam- they wrapped it up so beautifully too.

Furniture

A while ago we ordered a new shelving unit from St Albans Wood Recyling co. – they use recycled wood to make bespoke furniture. (A side point- this is a bit like parkrun for wood as it is a not-for-profit, run by volunteers and works to support people getting back into employment). We’d been for a look around their “ideas hub” (a sort of show- room, but it more shows things they could make with the wood, and then you give them the exact specifications and they do a quote) and seen something similar that we liked, so they made one to fit perfectly between the dining room and living room doors. The bottom shelf is a metal grid so it can be used to store shoes. I just need to actually put some books or something on it- the thermostat is a little lonely!

Do you have many loyalty cards? I feel like I have so many (I even have one for the Montezuma’s shop in Brighton- even with 3 visits a year it will take me a long time to earn a free bag of truffles!). I do quite like having it on the app but then if I can’t get internet (or remember my password…) it’s more complicated. Have you been to the cinema lately? I still haven’t seen Beauty and the Beast, but as the cartoon is not my favourite Disney film I haven’t been that bothered. We did watch Moana last Friday as I was given the film for my birthday- that’s more like it! What sort of distance do you like to run? I do prefer a slightly longer run (because I would rather run slower but for a bit further than have a short and gasping for breath run), but up to half marathon is long enough I think.

*I was sent the sensitive skin products in exchange for a mention on my blog. All opinions are my own.

The podcasts we listened to on our northern road trip

I love a road trip. We have had some brilliant ones over the years, and this Easter was no exception (and no long haul flights either). When we have a long drive we load up the podcasts and head on out.

This time we had classics like Wittertainment/ Kermode and Mayo’s film review (BBC Radio 5’s film podcast), Pop Culture Happy Hour (they discuss TV, films, books, music), and More or Less (from Radio 4 -they look at numbers in the news and discuss how factually accurate they are).

A few years ago we loved listening to Serial (although later the series 2 wasn’t quite as gripping as we weren’t aware of the story- whereas it had been big news in the US)- they had made a new podcast called S-Town so we listened to all of that. It was released in one go, like Netflix do, so you could listen to one after another instead of having to wait a week. It was a very interesting story, and it kept going in different directions. If you have listened to it, the Here’s The Thing podcast (hosted by Alec Baldwin) had the presenter Brian Reed on it, and that’s worth a listen too.

I’d seen on Joy the Baker blog a recommendation of The Accused, a podcast by the Cincinatti Enquirer newspaper, where a journalist investigates an unsolved murder from the 1970’s. Very well done and very interesting- this reminded me more of the first season of Serial.

We started to listen to the BBC podcast Murder in the Lucky Holiday Hotel, but I found the first one very complicated (not helped by having a complicated journey that day with lots of sat-nav directions). I think I need to start it again and listen from the beginning, but on first impressions it wasn’t as well put together as the US ones.

Some of these are very serious, so when we needed something more light-hearted, the Adam Buxton podcast was brilliant for that. I have mentioned it before, but I used to love the Adam and Joe show when I used to babysit, and then I loved their radio show and podcast. Adam Buxton on his own is different (obviously)- still the same funny jingles, but he intereviews a different person each week. Sometimes I have heard of them (Louis Theroux, Zadie Smith), other times I haven’t (Mark Maron) but they are all so interesting. One of my favourites was an old one with Michael Palin, but they have all been great in different ways.

We didn’t have time for any others, but I did hear an advert for the second season of Someone Knows Something (a Canadian podcast investigating the disappearance of a 5 year old child in the 1970’s)- so I shall have to add that to our list of road trip podcasts- we are off to Scotland in a couple of weeks so maybe we will get around to it then.

Which podcasts do you like to listen to? Any recommendations for me? When do you listen to them? I listen to some when running, some when I drive to work, and some when I am just pottering around the house, baking or gardening. I don’t tend to listen to them when I work as I can’t concentrate on them. We also listen to ones we both like at dinner, and in the car.

 

Rickmansworth parkrun- closer to ticking off the Hertfordshire events

Rickmansworth parkrun only started in March this year, but it is regularly attracting 300+ runners each week. Since I heard about it (I think at the parkrun volunteer celebration evening) it’s been on my list, and Dad quite fancied it too, so we had penciled in this Saturday as a date we could both do.

Although it’s in Hertfordshire, it’s around the M25 a bit (I don’t think I have ever been there before, I’ve just seen it on signs when I am coming back from Heathrow etc.). As it was on my way I would be picking up Dad, and we aimed for around an 8am pickup, as google thought it was 25-35 minutes away. It was raining slightly when I left, which I wasn’t expecting, but thankfully it stopped as I drove over.

The satnav on the course page took us right to the car park at the Rickmansworth Aquadrome, which is where the event takes place. We arrived at around 8.40am, and despite there being loads of runners, the (free) car park had plenty of space.

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One of the lakes- from their facebook page

The meeting point was right next to the car park- very easy to find, and also handily next to a cafe and toilets. It was a bit chilly and we both regretted not waiting in the car for a bit longer.

The new runners briefing started at about ten to 9, and we had a very friendly welcome (as usual)- the lady asked where we were from, explained the course (two laps of the lakes basically, and through some woods), and then wished us well before talking to the first timers. What I particularly loved was that they mentioned this:

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(From their facebook page). We didn’t use the cafe as we wanted to get back to see Mum, but lots of people did, and how fantastic that they raise money for charity.

We ended up chatting to two tourists from Longrun Meadows- we commented that it sounded like a lovely place, and it turned out to be in Devon. They asked us where Panshanger was, as they had family close by so tried to visit a different one each time they were up here. A lot of parkruns take the name of the town or city (St Albans, Rickmansworth, Tring) but then so many of them are more specific to the park or the area, so you have no idea where they are from without looking it up.

At around 5 to 9 we were lead to the start, which was a bit further back along the path. Everyone turned and faced the way we had come so we worked our way back a bit.

With 375 runners it did feel a bit congested at the start- we had started a little bit too far back and spent the first mile trying to overtake people as the paths widened. We ran a fairly comfortable pace because of this, and managed a good chat. Dad had been away on a cycling holiday in Croatia, Montenegro and somewhere else, so I enjoyed hearing about it. We also enjoyed the scenery- especially on the second lap when we didn’t have to be constantly looking for gaps between people. He’d said to me that if he felt good he quite fancied pushing it for the second lap. After a mile or so, it did feel less crowded and we picked up the pace a bit, but at the second mile I told him to go ahead if he fancied it as I didn’t think I could go much faster (I had 8 children off in my class on the Friday due to stomach bugs, and I had been up a bit in the night with stomach pains- all fine but I didn’t want to push it too hard).

I did nearly keep him in sight (it’s fairly twisty so often you couldn’t see that much further ahead), and I felt like I slowed towards the finish- I was steadily overtaking people during the run, but in the last little bit a few people overtook me. In fact when I looked on Strava it was a royal flush negative split- 9.45, 8.52, 8.49, 8.11.

I was dripping in sweat when I finished! It was turning into a fairly warm day, an despite it being overcast at the start, it was quite sunny.

I finished in position 158 with a time of 28.43, Dad had managed to finish 21 places ahead of me in 27.42. I double checked later but that was my 19th UK course too- nearly there!

We watched the runners come in thick and fast, and attempted a selfie in front of the cafe to commemorate the tourism.

The parkrun was really enjoyable- I liked running around the lake and through the woods, and because it was only two laps I didn’t get lapped at all. It is a busy one though, so if I was to revisit aiming for a pb I would start a bit further up if I could. It’s so hard to judge though.

The good thing about going to a lapped course for the first time of course, is that you get a “PR” and a second place on all the Strava segments!

After driving home, Mum made us pancakes with blueberries and mango- delicious, and a great start to the weekend.

There are still two Hertfordshire parkruns that we have not been to (Cassiobury and South Oxhey, both around the Watford area) so we need to visit them at some point. There’s another St Albans one starting around August too- the list keeps getting longer!

How many parkruns are local to you, or in your county? Have you visited all of the parkruns in your county? Do you tend to always do the same one or switch between ones that are close by?

 

Wings for Life Run 2017

I had read about the Wings for Life run a few years ago, when it was held at Silverstone. Last year and the year before I couldn’t make the date, but when I saw it advertised this year I was free for the weekend so decided to go for it.

If you are not familiar with it, I shall try to explain. The Wings for Life charity raises money for spinal cord injury research, and as the event is supported fully by company sponsors, all of the entry fee goes to the charity, which is a major bonus point.

The events happen all over the world (Australia, Florida, California, Chile, Dubai, Norway….), and start at the same time, so the UK one was to start at midday. Basically you start running, and half an hour after you begin, a catcher car starts driving. The car gradually increases in speed, and when it overtakes you, your chip records the final distance that you reached. The person who runs the furthest wins. There are then buses to take you back to the start area. (If you win your country, I think the prize is to do any of them next year, so there were a lot of previous year winners in Australia this year!).

They didn’t send out packs in the post, although they did send out a can of red bull (which annoyingly came the day before our holiday, did not fit through the letterbox, so when I got the note through the door I thought it would be our National Trust membership pack- I was very confused when I opened up a tube and found a can inside..)- not sure why they could not send out the numbers with the can of drink? Anyway, you had to collect your number on the day before 11am. I had originally looked at trains (the 8.30 one got in at 9.30, but the 9.30 one got in at 11.05..) but in the end Andy said he would come with me and drive, so if we could not find parking at least he could drop me off and then find somewhere. We ended up parking fairly centrally and walked to the start (a big park in the middle of Cambridge) at around 10.30.

There was a lot of conflicting information- some said you would need your registration and ID, whereas other info said you just needed your number. The numbers were emailed out, but also they had a large board in the park with all the numbers on it. Anyway, the queues were sorted out by number, although before that you had to queue up and sign a disclaimer (not sure why the sign up didn’t count as this?). Of course they told you not to use headphones, but also in the information they told you that if you had headphones you could keep up to date with where the car was.

I was in a bit of a grumpy mood I am afraid! I think the build up was strange as I wasn’t sure how far I would run, and then I didn’t know what to do about food- I ended up having breakfast at around 8.15am, and although I packed a small nakd bar to eat before the start I didn’t fancy it.

Also, I don’t normally need the toilet before a race (well I do, but I know it is just nerves, and I really hate port-a-loos, so I usually just distract myself and once I start running I am fine). The atmosphere here led me to really panic- it was meant to be “buzzing” and “lively” with a big screen showing the events around the world, but also a person live on a tannoy (which made it hard to focus on one or the other). The queue for the bag drop was huge, and even at 10.45 the guy on the tannoy was shouting about how huge the queue was, and how we had better hurry up, and how we needed to be in the start pens by 11.30, and that the time would go by in no time…. Andy decided to keep hold of my bag (even though he had his own rucksack as he had some work to do while I was running) because we thought that the queues would be equally as long when I finished (correct). I also really felt like I needed the toilet (grrr to the tannoy man). I’d seen some toilets at the corner of the park so we walked back there, but they had a huge queue too by this point. There was a hotel opposite and some guys headed there, but I wasn’t brave enough to be that cheeky. I was totally panicked at about 11.30 when I still had 2 people in front of me in the queue, but of course it was fine and I had loads of time in the pen.

David Coulthard was driving the catcher car, so he was on the start line, and I could hear the tannoy man announcing that he was taking a selfie with the crowd.

The race started at 12 exactly (they had to be co-ordinated as there is a global champion) and as I ran past the car I was a bit peeved that it was empty, only to realise too late that DC was stood on front of it, high fiving people as they ran past.

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From their facebook page.

The first section of the race threaded through Cambridge centre, and it was very narrow so it was quite stop-start. Normally with a chip timed race this wouldn’t matter, but of course here if you crossed the line later you would be closer to the car. I was still feeling fairly grumpy at this point, although there were lots of crowds out in the centre of the city which made me decide to smile a bit and try to enjoy it.

As we ran out of Cambridge, it became more rural. Some of the route was on country roads, but it also went through little towns and that was great as there were a lot of people out watching and cheering. I like the races when local people are supportive of it, and it makes it more interesting when you are running too.

We kept passing km signs (which also had the miles- eg 6k, 3.7 miles. This didn’t help me, as I much prefer miles. Yes, the kilometres go by more quickly, but seeing that I was still on the same mile for the next sign made it drag a bit.

There was a pace calculator on the website- you could slide along the bar to show the distance, and it would tell you how long you had to run each distance (something like 35 mins for the first 5k, 62 mins for the first 10k)- I couldn’t remember the first few, and when it got to 12.30 and I realised that the car had only just left, my enthusiasm waned a little (told you I was feeling grumpy!). All I could remember was that I had 90 minutes to get to 15k. I’d looked at longer distances but the 20k was something like 1hr50, so I knew I would be overtaken well before then.

Motorbikes kept driving past, some with cameras on them, so you kept looking over your shoulder to see what was approaching. At one point we ran through an airbase, and although it was good to run by fields, there were no members of the public allowed so it felt fairly lonely. Lots of people were running in groups so I listened to the conversations going on- it seemed that a lot of people had run it last year and were aiming to beat their distance.

At around 12 or 13k, we were told that the car was around 800m behind us. I was surprised and decided that at least I had run a 10k so it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t get to the 15k point. However, the car took a long time to catch up. It was weird because some marshals were telling us time (e.g. the car is 10 minutes behind) and some distance. It’s hard to work out as they know the speed of the car, but they don’t know our speed I suppose.

I had a very dry mouth and I was hungry, so I decided to stop at the next refreshment station (which, by the way, also stocked Red Bull, and some people were actually drinking it in the race…)- I was going to have some water and a bit of orange, but I chose the wrong side, so I only got water- it was on a wide bit of the course and it seemed too much effort to cross the runners in the middle to get one bit of orange.

I’d passed the 14k point and thought that the car was right behind me, so I sort of gave up on the distance. However, one of the motorbikes pulled alongside and talked to me (the person on the back talked to me, it wasn’t a Knight Rider situation), saying that I could get to the 15k point if I pushed on. At that point a wave of people started running past me- as the car was getting closer people were speeding up for the end, so I joined with them. I got to the 15k sign, but the car didn’t go past. It felt weird as in my mind I was aiming for that sign as a sort of finish line, but of course the finish  line was constantly moving.  The faster you run, the longer the race takes to finish! As the car went past I tried to take a photo, but as you can see I was a bit slow!

My official finish was 15.17km. I don’t think you get a time but it was around 90 minutes.

Then it was time to find a bus stop. I had passed a couple, and every now and then you would pass a sign saying “nearest bus stop now ahead”. Now, I didn’t think I had seen one of those signs since the last bus stop, but there were so many signs (loads in the air base saying “stay on the route through airbase”, loads about drinks stations), so I wasn’t sure if I had just missed one. Everyone stopped after the car went past, and followed the route forwards. I ended up running fairly slowly, as I didn’t know how far it would be. Annoyingly a bit later I saw the sign saying “closest bus stop now ahead”- I should have trusted myself! I think I was right in the middle though so it wouldn’t have made much difference.

Lots of people were taking selfies next to the signs.

I ended up getting to here (17km) before I saw the next bus stop, so even though my race had finished earlier, I had still run over 10 miles. I was glad of my top then- they had recommended bringing something warm to wear when you finished, and even though I was super sweaty, I started to cool down as it was fairly windy.

There were loads of buses lined up and it was really efficient- as soon as one bus filled up, it drove off and they started loading people onto the next one. Bottles of water were available as you got onto the bus so I gladly took one and had a drink. By this point it was probably around 2pm, and of course the bus had to drive back to the centre of Cambridge. I looked on google maps and it thought it was around 25 minutes away, so I messaged Andy so he knew when to expect me.  The bus ride was rather stinky! Someone joked that they felt sorry for the next people who would use the bus!

Andy had offered to get a drink, and I was fairly warm when I finished so I said some kind of iced drink would be good- he met me at the finish area with an iced tea, but by then the wind had picked off and my sweaty clothes were making me really chilly. I had to queue up to get a finisher pack, but after that we didn’t hang around (I was wishing we had shared a hot drink instead!).

A quick photo and then off to find something to eat- we’d seen a Nando’s close to the car park (and they validated parking to make it cheaper) so we headed there. Once we had ordered I went to the toilets to wipe my face and change into the top from the finishers pack. I went for a beanie wrap and sweet potato wedges- the wedges were so good, and very much needed as it was probably gone 3pm before we had some food- that toast was a long time ago!

After walking back to the car and driving home, it was about 4.30 before I even got in the shower!

The finishers pack was OK- a weird magazine, Red Bull, bottle, beer token (which I would not have used, and as Andy was driving he couldn’t have it either), a technical top (in fetching yellow), a pretty pants medal and a Meridian peanut butter bar (which I should have eaten on our walk to Nando’s really). But as all of the entry fee went to charity, all of these bits were provided by sponsors so it isn’t too bad. I think it only cost £25, which compared to some races (e.g Brighton half at £37 for 2018) isn’t too bad either. Also, I will get some use out of the technical top, so that’s always a bonus.

All in all, I am glad I did it. I don’t think I would do it again as it felt more pressured than other races (for example when I did the Cakeathon the finish distance was up to you, but if you ran slowly you could still carry on). I think if I lived closer it would be more tempting, but the time made it a bit more awkward too. Pretty cool to see DC in the flesh, and be part of a global running event.

Have you ever run something like this before?  Would you be tempted by it?