365 days watching me decay

A year ago, you got on a train to Guildford and sat on the steps outside a pub, with a ginger girl you’d matched with two weeks earlier on Tinder. You didn’t know then that I was mad. Would you take it back now? Go north to London after work that night instead of south to me?

I broke the rules of dating-in-2017 and spoke to you first. IMG-2688We’d matched somewhere before; hardly anybody seems new on apps these days. We talked about High Fidelity and Springsteen and The Graduate, and two weeks later we were sat on the ground, finalising our top 10 songs of all time. That first time I heard your Sheffield accent, it was broader than it is now. I suppose that must be a trick of memory, or maybe I’ve just become more accustomed to it since your vowels have corrupted mine. You kissed me on the way to get dinner, we drank whisky until the pub closed, and that was it, the last first date.

I liked dating, generally. I can do first dates. I’m the tiniest bit too loud, too fast, too drunk, too manic, too eager to appear fun, compensating for everything inside, but I can survive them without too much anxiety. I was that way with you, unrestrained and unapologetic. I don’t remember when or how I first told you I was unwell. There were allusions in those early days, passing comments where I was breezy and made out it was no big deal. We never had A Talk because I didn’t want to give it weight. I love those first days of not being this girl, pretending I can keep living that life. I don’t know when you first realised what you had taken on.

Maybe it was 2nd June. I know the date of the first meltdown. Why is it this the anniversary I’ve committed to memory? I had to look up the day we matched, check a calendar for our first date, plot the days and weeks for the dates that followed and the first night I abandoned my car in a multistory in Surrey to stay with you in London. 2nd June, instant recall. I don’t know what triggered the panic attacks but sat in a Camden pub on a Friday night, I was too quiet. You hadn’t learnt yet how many meanings could be translated from quiet. You would become fluent in time. Now you know that quiet means peace, that quiet means contentment, but that quiet is the eye of a storm, that in quiet I’m waiting to implode and disappear into myself.

That night on the northern line, I crumbled away in front of you somewhere near Warren Street. It was the first time I ran from you, back up to the surface and you followed at a distance as I stalked around unfamiliar streets unsure what to do next, unable to breathe. I knew that night you would leave me. Of course you would. Not even two months in and you were witnessing the full extent of my irrational panic for the first time. A terrified girl you barely knew, running through the city in the dark. It took us three different tubes down one stretch of track to make it back to south London. The following morning I asked resignedly if that was it, if we were done. You laughed and said of course not, that these things happen. Oh god, these things would happen.

Six weeks later, I decided I loved you in a cinema in Wandsworth. You were about to walk across the Lake District and I’d dutifully accompanied you to buy supplies. A friend phoned to advise you on walking shoes and you said “I’m just with Alix. My girlfriend. You haven’t met her yet.” It was the first time I’d heard you say to someone else that I was your girlfriend, and while we watched Planet of the Apes (your pick, I presume), I watched you. I’d never seen somebody able to lounge and twist so much in a cinema seat, like a monkey yourself, and the whole way through, you didn’t let go of me. You never broke contact. How could I not love you? A girl so terrified of being left, with a boy who couldn’t seem to let go.

There have been so many days where I’ve cried and told you to go, desperately wanting you to stay. I always want you to stay; it’s just easier to think this will end on my terms. Only love can break your heart, as Neil Young sings. Sometimes I need the space to breathe, sometimes I need you to hold me tighter to you, and so you make your guess. We don’t have a failsafe answer and even you for my love, I don’t have enough words to explain what is happening to me and what you should do. Some days I fear it’s an impossible test that neither of us can pass and I despise myself for setting it.

We settled into a routine over summer, and life could have become easy, so I left my job. I came back to law and to working in London, things I’d swore I would never do again. I got worn down by the commute and moved here. I knew I was coming back. Not from the moment we met, but from far earlier than was practical. On the day that I moved, I closed the front door behind me and within 30 minutes the phone rang. Ripley was gone. I immediately got darker. That night was the opposite of my first-date-self with everything you don’t want me to be at its most heightened state. In the weeks after her funeral, I would lie awake until the early hours, sobbing until I was exhausted and telling you I couldn’t go on, I couldn’t, I wouldn’t. How could there be any point in a world where cancer will rob a two-year-old of the years ahead. You offered to come to the funeral, or to therapy with me if I needed; was that a thing we could do you asked?

My mental health diagnosis shifted, both our careers got tougher, we struggled on. We kept working towards arbitrary dates, time after time when things would notionally be better. Every time we arrived, a new set of challenges meant the world fell away from under me. It’s always me that falters. In the toughest moments, I repeatedly told you to go. You’ve had long dark conversations with a girl who is not quite me, a shadow version of myself, and I’ve watched her try to tear us apart like an out of body experience. The next morning you’ve had the rational version of the same conversations with me. You’ve repeatedly told me you’re staying.

A whistlestop tour of how my broken brain has affected us reads as a calamity, but there have been far more days where you’ve been in a relationship with me than days where the relationship is with my illness. We’ve gone on road trips and sung Thunder Road. We’ve taken ridiculous photos with alpacas. I’ve twirled around on the Southbank under the lights and scrambled down onto the shore in the dark with you. You took me to Bristol in the snow and walked for miles in a city where everything had stopped. We’ve stayed up until the early hours with one earphone each, challenging each other to the next line of Dylan lyrics; Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts the impossible challenge. We’ve watched the sunset over the Lidl, which you assure me is the finest view in all of south London. You have made me laugh and laugh and laugh until I’m in pain. I have a hundred other moments I could recount where I have been amazed at the depth of my love for you. But there are dark parts of my mind that are an unwanted third party and a shadow, an ex, a mistress, a threat.

You will never understand; my practical, enduring, wonderful Yorkshireman. You worry about things later, always later. To your complete astoundment, I will worry about wild hypotheticals based on hypotheticals. I would claim you’re unemotional but really that’s hugely unfair to you, I’m just effusive and that gap in our styles is frustratingly marked. Every occasion, every card, is an opportunity for me. A declaration. A reminder. A reparation. A compensation, that in giving you so many words on how I feel, it can somehow make up for all the times I have no words and can’t explain at all.

I tried to tell you about kintsugi once, on an early date in the British Museum. How they fixed the cracks with gold lacquer so the repairs became part of the history and the strange beauty of broken things. I wanted you to love a broken thing and now you do. I don’t know where we go next. (Lisbon, soon, is the literal answer). We can’t weather my storm forever. I need to get better but can never “get better”. You have been a wonder, and I love you with all the madness in my soul. One of the Boss’s more romantic lyrics, not like that travesty in Thunder Road. Happy anniversary darling.

What really matters is what you like, not what you are like… Books, records, films — these things matter. Call me shallow but it’s the fuckin’ truth, and by this measure I was having one of the best dates of my life.

High Fidelity (the screenplay, not the book although I have since given you the book and you said you enjoyed it)


The first time I met Ripley, she was about six weeks old. I went to their old house in Epsom for the day and not being particularly comfortable around babies, mostly observed her with fascinated terror from a safe distance – from the other side of the room. After some time, I asked quite seriously, how they had known they wanted a baby instead of, say, a kitten. Fiona laughed and told me that they weren’t exclusive, you could have a baby AND a kitten. I asked why – in that scenario – you would not just get two kittens. I think we played this game up to five kittens.

I did become increasingly fond of her each time I saw her, although she largely remained entirely indifferent to me. Ripley was the first baby born to people I really consider friends, and I’m lucky that both her parents are friends I’ve now had for well over half my life. And I say lucky because it meant I had the privilege of seeing just how much they both contributed to the small person she became. I grew up with Fiona wanting any excuse to try on her mum’s old dresses from naval balls, and then watched as Ripley tottered about in her mum’s shoes that lit up or were covered in applique ducks. She’d already settled on a boldly alternative style, wanting to wear a princess dress with a Batman nappy, or a head to toe Minnie Mouse outfit with ears and a tutu just because it was Tuesday and she could. She had this tremendous attitude sometimes where you could tell she didn’t care what you thought of her, and in those moments all I could ever see was Ben. She had more books, and far more words than you would expect of a child of her age, until you looked to her parents and realised she was them. There were a collection of expressions on her tiny face that I’d seen play out on Fiona and Ben’s own faces a hundred times over the years.

And for 24 years I have found Fiona’s stubbornness hugely frustrating but now I forgive you it all, because it was another quality passed on to Ripley. That stubbornness, determination and refusal to ever fail or let anything go, meant that over the past 9 months we all continued to know a Ripley so full of personality, rather than her ever fading to a shadow of herself. Ripley who even at her most sick, you would call a monkey only for her to protest – almost insulted – that she wasn’t a monkey; who insisted on creating a castle within her hospital room for her incredibly grand wedding to her new toy koala; and who when she would only eat a few bites of food a day, was still all too happy to be bribed with chocolate buttons. And that is how on a cold wet night in January, I ended up running down the streets of Bristol in completely inappropriate shoes, searching for somewhere to source her third packet for the day, because she had promised us she would eat a little more pizza if only Auntie Alix could buy more buttons. And she had the audacity to claim she wasn’t a monkey.

During her time at Bristol Children’s Hospital, it became clear that Ripley would need a stem cell transplant. A lot of people here today immediately joined the various donation registers. That’s not surprising; any of us would have done anything we could to help and it was an easy gesture when we were all feeling helpless. What has surprised me is that number of people that I’ve talked about Ripley to this year, who have then told me later that they signed up to a process that many have misconceptions about. People who never met her. People who have never met Fiona, or Ben. Signing up for something that they thought might be scary or painful. Doing that for a toddler they had no connection to. I don’t know what the exact probability is of being picked off the register over the course of your eligible years, but it seems likely that with the number of people Ripley inspired and educated about donation, that eventually she’ll be the direct catalyst for saving someone’s life – or multiple people’s lives. Ripley, an overachiever, even now.

I do still feel that kittens are an entirely valid, and possibly superior, alternative to babies – but I am incredibly glad that Fiona and Ben felt differently. Because as excellent as kittens are they probably won’t go on to save anyone’s life, and they haven’t had near as much of an effect on my life as Ripley.

Ripley was the daughter of my oldest friend, and her husband, himself an old friend. She passed away on October 14th 2017, at the age of 2 years 8 months, exactly 9 months after she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. I wrote and read the above at her funeral and managed not to cry even though my heart is a little bit broken.

If you’re between 16-30 and in good health, you can join the Anthony Nolan stem cell donation register here. DKMS UK will accept new donor registrations until age 55, and you can register here.

“And will I tell you that these three lived happily ever after? I will not, for no one ever does. But there was happiness. And they did live.”
― Stephen King, The Dark Tower

Bad things coming, we are safe

Having recently been signed off work due to my anxiety, I thought I should probably start writing again. I remain overly-open about being quite mad on social media, but 140 characters sometimes just isn’t enough. I had purposefully let this blog go quiet for a long time. This was ostensibly because I’m not really running much and am rather less mad these days. And that, dear friends, is what we call hubris.

Towards the end of January, I had a serious panic attack at work. It’s the first I’ve had in this role, triggered by a specific event rather than my general state of mind. Panic attacks aren’t new. Unfortunately, this one happened in front of my manager; to her, it was new. Before I knew it, there was a whole paragraph in my appraisal concerning my mental health. Notes made that I had been medicated, that I had received therapy, that perhaps I felt too muddled for the role. (Nobody, but nobody who has ever met would say I come across as “muddled”.)

A selection of our trustees read our appraisals. I was, understandably, I think, rather unhappy (read: really fucking angry) that people were going to be told that I have been dealing with this since my teens. Since I was legally a child. Telling them this, without my consent. Cue phone calls to Mind’s Legal Line,  to ACAS, to the ICO, anybody who might be able to confirm I should put a stop to this. Having a law degree really helps with knowing what not to stand for. The advice was yes, it was unreasonable but there was little I could do except ask for it to be removed from the report. When that request failed, repeatedly, I gave up.

I phoned my mother in tears who immediately drove to Surrey, to have lunch with her finally beaten daughter. Poor woman, I think she’d hoped to be free of me by almost 28. Hurrah for being signed off work and back on drugs!Over lunch, I phoned my GP.  When he asked what I wanted, I begged he declare me unfit for work for a fortnight. He wrote the certificate immediately, without even seeing me (quote: “well, we can close our eyes and pretend we’re in the same room if you like…”). It was that easy, from that moment I was signed off work. I went back to the office, packed my bag and went home for the next two weeks. Before those two weeks were up, I resignedly phoned my GP again and asked for a prescription for any drugs to get me through my return.

Being signed off work sounds serious…

It does, but the severity of it is somewhat negated by the fact that I chose it. My problem for a long time was that I didn’t recognise how ill I was until it was too late. Now I can recognise that bursting into tears at work isn’t normal. That having a meltdown because I can’t bear to answer my phone or open a letter is no way to live a life. Anxiety is going to be a part of my life forever. There isn’t going to be a day where I wake up and finally, I’m over it. What I can do is mitigate the damage and removing myself from damaging situations is part of that.

My day to day mental health is probably the best it has been for years but that doesn’t render me immune. I still struggle to find enough resilience in difficult situations. True crisis and I’m fine, something deep in my brain kicks in when I know that I simply have to cope. The rest of the time, I’ve worked out a finely tuned balance of various triggers to keep me level. I need to account elsewhere in my lifestyle for each little slip.

The 5 Pillars of Mental Health
  • Exercise: The first pillar to crumble when I’m starting to struggle but it probably has the most pronounced effect. It doesn’t need to be running, a walk will do. But at least twice a week, preferably three times, ideally four. More than four and a different sort of burnout takes hold which in turn affects…
  • Sleep: Seven hours. Functional on six. Five and under and we’re really struggling. Don’t try to make up any deficit at weekends, too much sleep is no better. Nap if needed, but don’t use sleep to escape the way you’re feeling. Try not to need…
  • Caffeine: Minimised. The occasional cup of Earl Grey. I can’t have coffee despite adoring it.
  • Diet: Low carb, high fat.Lots of oily fish, lots of avocado. Running friends are currently gasping at the idea of not eating all the pasta the night before a race. My body can’t handle the blood sugar/insulin changes. It converts me to a toddler on a sugar crash.  Similar to…
  • Alcohol: Despite being famed amongst my friends for my love of a drink (and a correlating talent for spilling them), my boozing days are now largely over. Partly because I’ve always been a lousy drunk. The classic drunk crying girl, a lot of parties have ended with me wailing on the kitchen floor. These days, it’s that my resilience suffers for days afterwards like a lingering after effect to my hangover.

I think this is how everyone’s mind works. Plenty of runners start to feel antsy when injured. Caffeine leaves many of us too wired. We’ve all spent mornings hungover and fragile. Mental health is a spectrum and I’m further along it than others. Life requires balance and mine has always been notoriously bad. Seriously, I fall over a lot. Can’t be surprising that my mind falls over too.

Race Report: Romsey 5 Mile Run (2017 edition)

The Romsey 5 Mile Run seems to be my traditional first race of the year. Organised by Offbeat Events, the race consists of three short laps (plus an additional straight out and back section halfway through the third lap) on the Broadlands estate in Romsey, Hampshire. It’s where the Queen spent her honeymoon (Broadlands, not the race) and it is a very pleasant, if somewhat uninspiring race. Whilst I’m not a fan of laps, it does at least breed familiarity.

I haven’t really “run” since the Valencia 10k in November when a hip injury meant I limped around the course and then took several weeks out after. Since then, I’ve turned up for a few tracks sessions with Guildford & Godalming AC and have steadily subjected myself to a mix of swimming, strength and conditioning work, and a number of treadmill runs. I haven’t been out and run, though.

My plan was to bimble along and see what I could do.  A field of 672 made for a slow start and the first two miles were spent trapped in small crowds and dashing around people. It did mean that I couldn’t misjudge my starting pace which allowed a steady increase as I progressed. The second half of each lap has a more uneven surface and a noticeable camber, possibly only because the course feels so perfectly flat for the most part that you notice very slight changes! This made for trying to overtake slightly more annoying during this part of the course.

By the time I was completing the second lap, the frontrunners were speeding past us, the winner finishing in 25:42. Despite repeated shouts, a lot of runners didn’t really seem to comprehend instructions to “keep left” and hampered faster runners. Shortly after the 3-mile marker, I attempted to have some water at the first water station and promptly poured most of it down myself (cannot wait to see my race photos…).  As I wasn’t concerned about time, I took the opportunity to pause at the second water station. Cups, they somehow baffle and outwit me every time. With only the second half of the final lap to go, I tried to keep my pace fairly measured until the finish line was in sight. Looking at watch data, it seems I really reigned myself in before a steady acceleration with a few hundred metres to go.

My chip time was 51:13, so somewhere between 3:30 and 4 minutes slower than last year. Despite that, I think I ran better today than last year. I’m currently about 14lbs heavier than I was for this race in 2016 and I am uncomfortably aware of the excess. Last year I was midway through a dedicated regimen of Sunday long slow runs in the approach to Bath Half; a practice that has been dropped while I desperately try to rehabilitate my hip. In 2016 I raced, struggled to hold a steady pace and found it difficult. This year I held back, purposefully keeping my breath steady and controlled throughout. I tried to stay aware of my hip and my form.

Could I have run faster today; almost certainly, but gains made in running aren’t just about speed. All in all, I’m happy with today’s performance. I think I mitigated a surprising amount of damage to my result given how different my circumstances are from last year.

Romsey 5 Mile Run – Is it worth it?

Offbeat Events must be given huge credit; they have only improved a race I already thought of fondly. A greatly improved medal, a new finisher’s t-shirt, a near automatic text with my chip time, live web results. It all made the event feel bigger than it is. At the same time, it hasn’t lost anything that makes it feel such a local, homely event.  Local clubs still play a prominent part. A man with a microphone still shouts your number as you finish and enthuses about how well you’ve done. The goodie bag is reassuringly standard and devoid of rubbish: water, banana, Haribo, medal, t-shirt; a flyer to the Romsey 5 Mile Beer race handed to you separately. Should that appeal, there are still places in their Winchester 10km Road Race in February.

I have every intention to keep up my tradition of making Romsey 5 Mile my first race of the year and will drag more people with me each year.

But if you’re all about the destination, then take a f*cking flight

I am injured again. No saga, it wasn’t even a running injury. I’m just a grown woman who manages to fall down the stairs with alarming frequency and on this occasion, rolled her ankle in the process. screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-19-36-40It took a couple of days for reasonably severe swelling and bruising to show but almost two weeks later that swelling is still refusing to fully recede. I’m not in pain but am occasionally getting odd twinges of shooting discomfort through my foot. It’s going to be a while longer before I risk running.

All runners despise being injured don’t they? Injuries cause stress and complaints and we think of nothing but when will we be able to run again. HA, no, not this girl! I’m ace at being injured; I practically revel in it. Lazing around in the warm, watching Netflix instead of putting in the miles in the cold? I’m amazed more of us aren’t self-sabotaging; I probably subconsciously throw myself down the stairs so I can justify not running.

I’m (mostly) joking but we do have a tendency to catastrophize and treat injury as a death knoll instead of an inevitable part of our journey as runners. Considering it’s likely to come to us all, I try to view injury as a detour rather than a delay. I do wonder if several years of shoddy mental health has helped me develop this attitude. Running is usually my coping mechanism for anxiety and so you would expect me to fall apart without it. The thing is, I’ve had years of not being able to do the things I ought to, or want to do. The days of not being able to get out of bed, of missing work, of flaking on social commitments because leaving the house is too terrifying a prospect. It’s frustrating and misery-inducing but it’s also a part of my life and so I’m bizarrely calm and practical about not running. Would I like to have run today? Yes, but what’s one more thing that I can’t do because of my health? It’s an odd sort of resilience that I wish I didn’t have but it saves me that additional layer of angst.

“I’m awful at not doing anything” is a common refrain from injured runners but there’s still a lot you can be doing whilst injured. Here are five things contributing to my running during any period where I can’t physically run (because remember, it’s only a detour to your journey):


I know, it’s difficult. You’re terrible at doing nothing. Sometimes it can be beneficial to take the pressure off of ourselves. There’s a physical toll that comes from the endless procession of races. Not only that, but I find that I experience an emotional toll of constantly training for something, of constantly feeling that I should be aiming for a PB. This mindset matches up with when injuries induced by running seem to occur. I suspect lacking motivation and feeling tired means I neglect strength work and let my form slip and before long, I’m injured and have taken myself out of contention.

With the pressure of racing or attempting a PB gone, I then tend to do my best running. My favourite races and PBs, they’ve come on days when I expected nothing. A good chunk of running is mental exercise – the will to carry on when it hurts, dragging ourselves out in bad weather, and yes, not caving to pressure on race day. That last one is a particular weakpoint for me and so being set back by injury and thinking there’s no chance of getting a PB? That can be just what I need to prosper.


Running gets to be a reasonably intensive process, doesn’t it? We’re training 3-4 times a week, if not more frequently. Throw in the odd bit of cross-training and the strength work that we all know we should be doing and you find that you’ve run out of time to pick up anything new. I’ll admit to being resolutely unimaginative with my cross-training; you’ll find me in the pool. The majority of friends supplement their running with a bit of cycling. Very few of us are venturing out of that box of triathlon components.

Unless you’ve had surgery and are waiting for stitches to heal, there are reasonably few injuries that are going to fully put you out of action. Throwing yourself into something new can distract you from the frustration of not running, keep your cardiovascular fitness up, and strengthen muscle groups that perhaps you’ve unknowingly neglected with your standard routine. Try something new and it could become an important part of your running routine.

In the past year I’ve been bouldering, rowing and kayaking and on one particualrly ridiculous day attempted aerial yoga, but I’m blessed enough to have lived in London and had the capital’s resources at my feet. There are still far more activities that I’d like to dip a toe into when running isn’t taking up my time. And that is how I very recently signed up for a course that is legitimately titled “Ballet For Grown Ups”. Hilarity to follow.


I’ve written before about the benefits I experience from volunteering at parkrun. I definitely don’t volunteer often enough; when I get into a good rhythm with my running it’s too satisfying to watch the times fall week on week.

southwark parkrun

Volunteering at Southwark Park

Injury is a good reason to fit in a block of volunteering and do your good deed for the year. We all know that parkrun can’t take place without the volunteers who selflessly give up their chance to run that week and we’re all incredibly thankful for them. Yet every week, emails and twitter appeals go out from parkruns up and down the country in search of more volunteers just so that events can take place.

Similarly, if injury keeps you from a planned race, then races also need volunteers. They are huge logistical events and we should give more thought to the people who hand us water and push shiny medals into our sweaty little hands. An increasing number of races offer a free race place for the following year if you volunteer in some capacity so you can console yourself that you’re just delaying the race rather than missing it.

It’s also a sneaky way to watch other runners. How often do we do that? Stand back and properly take in what other runners are doing, how they hold themselves, how they move. You’ll spot behaviours that you think look awkward – for me it’s always how other runners use their arms – and give more thought to what you do yourself.

Volunteering has kept me actively involved in the running community when I could easily curl up at home and isolate myself. Friends deserve my support even though I can’t run, and it makes you all the more appreciative of what goes on behind the scenes to allow you to run at these amazing events. Next Saturday I still won’t be running but I will be volunteering at Guildford parkrun, my new local.


Most of what I know about the human mind, chemistry and happiness has been discovered through anxiety, depression and sobbing in my therapist’s office. Similarly, most of what I know about physiology and how running “works” is from physio appointments, trying not to scream during sports massages and staring at diagrams of muscles, trying desperately to understand exactly why pain is occurring. We only look at the mechanics behind something once it’s broken and we need to work out how to fix it. This is why I’m repeatedly amazed every time that an injury is actually caused by a weakness elsewhere.

The human foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and tendons. The 52 bones in your feet make up about 25 percent of all the bones in your body. That’s an awful lot of numbers without even considering your legs, what your arms are doing, how your core is supporting all that. There is so much happening with every step we run and we don’t necessarily give that any consideration. Maybe we don’t need to, but I do think that the more I learn, the more self-awareness I gain. That now when a niggle hits, I (vaguely!) understand what’s happening and as a result I can counteract it and prevent more serious problems from developing. It doesn’t always work and it will never be foolproof but I’m still learning.


The moment I most want to go for a run is precisely 25 seconds after I’ve realised an injury is going to stop me running. I’m contrary like that. The human body is an incredible, terrifying, wondrous thing and we should applaud it and revel in it, even when it’s not behaving quite as we’d like. I’m spending a lot of this current injury period trying to be thankful that I’m just being set back from something amazing that I’m capable of doing 90% of the time.

When I finally get back to running, I know that my fitness will have been annihilated and all the speed progress I was making will be lost. Again. But that first run back is going to be glorious and freeing and I hope I can capture that feeling for a while longer. Appreciate what your body can do, because it may not always be able to do it.