“Noodling Time”

“Noodling Time”

Just been thinking about this after reading the "Sessions Variations" thread.

I’m sure this topic will prove controversial but…….. :-P

The act of "Noodling" is frowned upon by most musicians and, in most cases, justifiably so. It can be damned annoying and distracting.
However, I suggest that it could be a useful thing to do between sets providing there’s a reasonable pause and the other musicians are in agreement. I often think that’s a good time to go over a new or tricky phrase of a tune which we’ve just played before it goes out of our heads. Otherwise, the same issue will reoccur next time around.

A similar principle could also apply to workshops and music classes. Nobody dares(It’s at their own peril) to play a note on their instrument between playing tunes. It’s a case of just waiting until the tune is repeated again and again, often ad nauseum.
One SMG tutor in Edinburgh (Only one I can think of to date) allowed such "Noodling time" although she didn’t refer to it by that name. She just allowed the class a few minutes from time to time to work out the tune for themselves including the trickier notes and phrases. In my opinion, it’s helpful to do such things early on rather than having to continually encounter the same obstacles over an extended period.

Of course, many here will maintain that "sessions" aren’t the place for learning tunes and to a great extent, they are correct. I certainly wouldn’t advocate such behaviour in a good going "high level" session but in a more laid back environment it might work. There’s no reason why it couldn’t be acceptable in workshops or classes though if the tutors had the will.

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There is a very good reason why we don’t noodle between sets: once someone starts noodling it prevents anyone else from starting a set without rudely playing over the top of them, so the noodling just goes on and on and the session disintegrates. Allowing students time to work though a difficult passage on their own in class is a completely different thing to noodling in a session.

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Good point, Mark.

As I say, it wouldn’t be appropriate in most good sessions. I certainly wouldn’t advocate the noodling just going "on and on" either. In most cases, a few seconds would be quite enough(for me, anyway).
Obviously, I wouldn’t wish to prevent anyone else from starting a set either.

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My comment in the first post "providing there’s a reasonable pause and the other musicians are in agreement" is also relevant I think.
If a player asks the others "Is it OK if I(we) go over a particular bit again?" or similar that might be an acceptable situation… Again, it depends on the type of session and how well you know the company.

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why rules? It’s an organic thing. I’ll often see good players talk with each other about a just played tune , especially if someone was doing an interesting variation or if some knows the tune except for a measure and wants to hear it played. These conversations end quickly so no rules needed.

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Curmudgeon Alert!

Noodling is synonymous with "really annoying". Even when I do it. (Go on. Admit it. We all do it sometimes.) Whether it’s ever acceptable depends on how tolerant you are of annoying. Yeah sometimes it’s a player trying to get a missed phrase (barely tolerable in small doses) but mostly it’s just self indulgent showing off. My way of handling excessive noodling is to roll my eyes, put my instrument down, put my hands in my lap, and wait ‘til the noodler is done. Hopefully they’re aware enough to stop. If not I might smack them with a package of Ramen.

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I don’t find that it’s showing off, usually. In fact, the problem with it is that it often reflects a complete unawareness of the presence of other people. I find guitar-players in particular to get lost in noodling that goes on and on and on … and gets nowhere.

Having said that, I do noodle at times, in company, but I consciously try to limit it, or do it as surreptitiously as possible, and keep an eye and ear out for someone officially starting a tune. But from what I’ve seen, a lot of musicians don’t have that capacity; it’s all or nothing, and that’s part of why they’re usually better musicians than I am.

Something to bear in mind, though, is that some musicians habitually need to run over a couple of phrases from a tune before they are ready to jump in. I’ve occasionally seen otherwise superior musicians not get an opportunity to show their stuff because the others around them wouldn’t allow them the time to prepare themselves.

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It’s less a "rule" than a convention. The problem with noodling is that it can be indistinguishable from someone trying to remember how a tune goes, in order to start a new set. At our local sessions, a certain amount of time is generously allowed for someone trying to remember how a tune starts. Especially for us older folk, whose memory isn’t what it used to be.

But if you’re just noodling instead — working on a phrase from the last tune or whatever — then there is nothing more embarrassing than being asked "Have you got something for us?" and having to say "Er… no, sorry." That particular phrase is a good way to shut down a noodler who isn’t aware that they’re annoying others in the group.

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This is a joke, right?

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For me, just the word "noodling" is negative. My definition is someone playing a series of notes that really have no sense of line or phrasing. From my jazz background this word was equivalent to someone who played prescribed scales in their improv without "ideas" - synonymous with someone who rAmbles in conversation. I know it’s not what you meant but I find it humorous.

You should not noodle in a session - I am one of the worst. I try to stop myself but often I can’t resist. I also play in a pretty loose session and I do this practicing ("noodling") extremely softly which is easy on the flute. When I’m in Chicago though I don’t make a peep! I should really think over these ambiguities.

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Yes, noodling is a right pain, whether in class or sessions. In those sessions designated "jump in" format, it leaves no gap for anyone to jump into, and the more timid members may just not get a turn as they keep waiting for that brief silent moment that never comes.
And as a side issue, and while I’m being a grumpy old woman, it seems classical musicians do it too now, while sitting in the orchestra pit waiting for a concert to start: and what a cacophony it can be! "Back in the day" when I was a young orchestral player, the rule was silence after you left the green room, until the oboe gave the A for tuning!

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Michael,
Not a joke. Just a conversation.

What I was suggesting, in a session situation at least, was something very subtle and only what many of us here have "fessed up" to doing already. I’m talking about a few seconds at the most and not a performance. Of course, many can’t stop once they start. :-(

As CB says, it sometimes helps to play the first bar or two of a tune to remind you how it goes before you start. I don’t see too much harm in that.

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Sessions are for playing tunes. I would never dream of holding up 6 other people so I could noodle around, for any length of time.

There are so many better options that I could/would use and then practice at home. Write it down, ask to record, pull somebody aside afterwards, ask to play again a bit more slowly etc.

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On the same vein, why do u talk between sets? I find it extremely annoying. What’s there to talk about? I thought you went to play music. What r all the words for?

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If you need to practice a tricky passage or something, you can probably do so inaudibly. I often do just that, holding the flute up to my mouth and blowing slightly, but not enough that a noise comes out while I finger the notes. Same feel, and doesn’t annoy anyone (I think). You can do the same on a whistle, mute a mando, banjo, or guitar with your hands, slightly push/pull an accordion so the reeds don’t engage, not fill/press a pipe’s bag, or use a mute on a fiddle for a similar effect.

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If you’re a whistle player it’s best to avoid noodles at a session - or eating any other kind of food, for that matter … ;-)

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"Talking between sets"? Most of us go to a session to meet friends and play music with them. It seems to me a rather arrogant idea to only allow us to play, because one person doesn’t agree. A music session is NOT a concert.

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Noodling is bad, m’kay… Don’t do noodling.

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Talk breaks, comfort breaks, re-charge your glasses breaks? One session I go to does this, for 5-10 minutes every hour. Seems to work quite well.
Biggest disruption of sessions is at festivals where long-lost pals suddenly spot each other, lots of hugging and kissing and loud talking goes on - even worse than noodling…..but guilty as charged too!

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We could also have a "tuning break".

Sometimes I have to give the strings on my mandolin or fiddle a "wee tweak" and it’s better to do this between sets for obvious reasons. Just to make sure I’ve got it in tune, I usually play a few notes as well. Is this "noodling"? :-P

So, I reckon we are all guilty from time to time of releasing stray notes here and there for various reasons. Depending on the situation, I’d suggest that this can be tolerable. "Noodling" away for minutes at a time obviously isn’t.

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Before I joined thesession.org everytime I heard someone mentioning "noodling" it was a generic reference,
often used in passing, rarely used to describe anything disruptive to what the other musicians expected.
Up until then ‘noodling’ covered several different things ~ faking it, variation, improvisation,
messing around, messing up, etc.

All of that changed each and every time noodling was brought up on the forum. From that point forward I realised noodling is one thing and only that one thing in the mind of many (most?) Irish session musicians.
In that context it is considered disrespectful and one must never do it.

Noodling is the third rail of Mustardville.

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"Biggest disruption of sessions is at festivals"

Most of these are unofficial and harder to control. Also most musicians and singers tend to be a lot more tolerant in such situations whereas they might not put up with such nonsense at their regular "home" festivals.

As for people talking, this also varies from session to session. Some sessions have lengthy breaks between tunes for chat, nipping out for fags, vaping, or something stronger. In other session, the musicians don’t speak to each other at all although you might get a nod and a "Cheerio"(Not necessarily..some just depart without fuss) at the end of the night.
So, the best approach in most cases is to "do as The Romans do" but still err on the side of caution.

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"regular "home" festivals."

*regular "home" SESSIONS* I meant to say.

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There’s a difference?

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Here’s the analogy that leads me to believe noodling is a show off move. Back a long time ago I used to race motocross. A constant problem was the "pit racer", someone who lacked the skill or courage to enter the race but wanted everybody to know that he could do wheelies. Dangerous and annoying. That’s how I think of noodlers even when I know that many noodles are skilled, if unaware or impolite, players (yeah it happens, skill doesn’t equate to good manners). Of course there are times when someone doesn’t know the name of the tune and starts by "let’s play the one that goes like this". I do, from time to time, jump right in on the tune being noodled as a "put your money where your mouth is"moment. There oughta be a 12 step program.

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" someone who lacked the skill or courage to enter the race but wanted everybody to know that he could do wheelies"
For most people, such behaviour is just a phase until they become more experienced with the music and sessions generally. Unfortunately, some never grow out of it.

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One player who I love to find the tunes she knows sometimes can recall ‘just a snippet’ of a tune as she tries to remember how it goes. Typically she plays a part brilliantly and I know the rest is somewhere in her memory.
She is shy and not one to disrupt a session. But when I pull her aside to pick her brain and she opens up it’s no longer noodling. That’s when she remembers things and I love hearing her bring out all the tunes she knows.
I give her some gentle prodding and then she’s right back into her tunes.

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"For most people, such behaviour is just a phase until they become more experienced with the music and sessions generally. Unfortunately, some never grow out of it."

I disagree. I believe that noodling is a lack of social ettiquette, and has more to do with the person than with the music. Plenty of new people have social skills and do not noodle. In fact, I don’t think newness has much to do with it either.

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Aaron, you drive home my point about noodling being the third rail here.

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Yes, AB, and I have plenty of ‘lack of social etiquette’. Just not noodling. ;-)

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Now that is funny.

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My modest proposal of no language was salty sarcasm, Damn Noodlin hating baked potato dead heads. Get off my lawn. I’m seeding.
More salty jokes

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"a lack of social ettiquette"

Normal "social etiquette" and "session etiquette" aren’t exactly the same thing although they do overlap. Most reserved and polite people will likely behave the same way within a session. However, a minority may get excited and exuberabant when visiting sessions for the first few times. I used to be guilty of getting "carried away" at times and still like to enjoy myself although I DON’T noodle indiscriminately or bother other musicians.

What I mean to say is that most of us "settle down" although a minority don’t. I agree that it’s more to do with the person than the music. Some don’t even realise that they are being rude either. They are just in a world of their own.

Yes, plenty of new session attendees are well behaved from the start. Some may be naturally polite or even shy. There’s also more awareness of what’s expected from younger musicians many of whom have been playing since childhood. There’s a lot less of the punter in the pub with the "I play a bit guitar. I want to join in" attitude these days. :-)

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Isn’t the third rail the one which carries the power?

Re: “Noodling Time” (third rail)

It is indeed, Chris. The third rail conducts electricity to drive the train. Electricity is necessary to keep things rolling. However not all third rail systems are the same. The original design is potentially more hazardous
than later designs which significantly reduced the risks.

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Personally, I prefer steam!

Re: “Noodling Time” (steam)

Lovely.

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What’s wrong with the good ol’ horse-and-buggy, that’s what I want to know? Everyone is in such a rush these days. Modern technology, ruining everything, grumble, grumble ………

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Not me, meself. I just have a nice pair of boots and a donkey.

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This discussion puts me in mind of kids in the school playground who will often spend far more energy discussing the rules of the game than playing the game itself.
Let’s get over ourselves.

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I don’t think kids do that.

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If they do I’ve never met one. Anyhow, this is the discussions section, not the actual playing section.

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When a primary school teacher maintains kids commonly behave in a certain way it is wise to give that opinion the same weight we give to experienced fiddlers and pipers when they tell us about what it takes to play the instruments. If you believe children don’t dwell a lot on structure, rules and what’s ‘fair’, you haven’t been around kids very much. Enough said.

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How are we supposed to know who is a primary teacher from a couple lines of text?

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Fair enough.

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Thank you, Jack. Your second post gives a bit more information about children which I agree they do that.
The first post was too brief for me to grasp your full meaning.

When I responded the first time I was thinking about how play can be beneficial for children in many ways,
especially if they have time for free, unstructured play.

Here is an article which has more detail about how I think about play.

2. Be an Advocate for Active Learning

"In your child’s schooling, advocate for recess and physically active learning in the classroom. Active movement in the classroom can help kids experience deeper learning. During out of school time, take your child to museums and play spaces that promote movement and physical activity."

http://bayareadiscoverymuseum.org/blog/physical-activity-boosts-creativity/

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"If you believe children don’t dwell a lot on structure, rules and what’s ‘fair’, you haven’t been around kids very much". Well of course they do. I was once one myself you know, and I remember it well.
But what do you find analogous between that situation and this thread that makes you say, "Let’s get over ourselves"? What’s to get over? Surely you see that discussion and theory is as important to playing the game as actually playing it? And as I pointed out earlier, these pages are for discussion. and we do dwell on our playing. So again, I ask, what’s to get over?

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Kids get that from us adults. Parents set rules, schools set rules, teachers set rules, governments set rules. It’s the kids who are acting like us, not the other way around.

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Hi,

Thanks for all the responses.
As has been mentioned, this is the discussions section which is actually visted and utilised far less than the tunes section. According to comments from Jeremy a few years, this always seemed to be the case even when the forum was much livelier than it is today with Llig, Will, Dow, Zina and all the old time greats. So, I suggest most of us are still more interested in playing the music than talking about it.

I was also well aware on my first post that there would be little agreement or support for "noodling" in general although the term also seems to cover a multitude of sessions. I certainly wasn’t advocating the practice in a full going or even an average session. However, I thought there might be some scope for allowing such activities in "slower" or "training" sessions or during extended breaks but only with the agreement and permission of other musicians present. It would all depend on the circumstances. Basically, I’ve never really subscribed to the "One rule fits all" approach even in life in general.

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"multitude of sessions" ….Multitude of SINS.

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@Johnny Jay:
"However, I thought there might be some scope for allowing such activities in "slower" or "training" sessions or during extended breaks but only with the agreement and permission of other musicians present."

Just my opinion again, but I can’t conceive of that situation being fun or useful even in a slow or beginner session. With this idea of "noodling," you’re really talking about personal practice, not a group activity. If you’re trying to re-hash a phrase from a tune that just ended, how effective is that going to be, amidst the cacophony of everyone else in the group noodling simultaneously? Use a recording device instead, to capture what’s important for later study. If there is a group consensus in a slow or beginner session to re-visit a tune just played, then play the tune together again as a group. Not as individuals doing their own thing. Even a beginner session needs some structure.

Unless we’re in that "searching for how a tune starts" mode, then noodling is either aimless or it’s personal practice apart from the group, and personal practice is best done at home. And yeah, I guess I’d call that a one-size-fits-all rule, defining the type of session I’d enjoy attending.

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@Johnny Jay, can I be the one to tell Llig, Will, Dow, and Zina that you called them ‘old’? ;-)

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Noodles represent long life, longevity, prosperity and good luck. Noodling promotes these values and helps creative ppl access parts of the brain that u don’t know exist in ourselves. Your lack of noodles makes your soup baseless and your music as well. I’m a noodling snorting coconut tradsterlero. Potatoes will starchen your stockade and disintegrate. Otherwise switch to seaweed if you are worried about my tradition.

We are not arguing like children. I think they r winding ye up. Now, fetch me a bowl a noodles lad.

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And a bar a chocolate for the kids

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Noodling is like masturbation -a wonderful thing but best done on your own and in private :-)

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Trad music is family friendly as is this website. Your note, Mr Jimmy, is very classless and shows your true character.

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Noodle Discussion (2017)

" … this is the discussions section which is actually visted and utilised far less than the tunes section.
According to comments from Jeremy a few years, this always seemed to be the case… "

Which comments from Jeremy does this refer to? Does the tunes section receive more hits (vists)?

I know Jeremy posted this roundup for 2014, "Almost 40,000 comments were added to the site in 2014.
Just over 33,000 of those were in the discussions section alone (just over 4,000 were comments on tunes,
just over 800 were comments on recordings, over 1,000 comments on sessions, and just over
400 comments were on events)." ~ https://thesession.org/discussions/35272

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@Beid , sorry but I can’t help saying that I think your admonishment of JimmyManley for his ‘joke’ was a little harsh and perhaps even a bit prudish. Sure this is a family friendly site but firstly I seriously doubt that anybody old enough to be visiting it wouldn’t know what ‘masturbation’ means, and secondly but more to the point, ‘masturbation is neither a swear word nor an unnatural activity. Kids talk about it in sex education classes, as they indeed should.

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And much better that than noodling in sessions.

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yeah Cheeky… so I have been told!

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AB,

That was many years ago when, if I recall correctly, the discussion section appeared even busier than now.
I think Jeremy was probably referring to to "activity" in general rather than the number of comments but he’d had to clarify that himself.
Back then, The Session already had many members only a few of whom regularly posted in the discussion site.

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"And much better that than noodling in sessions"

Careful though, I’ve heard that’s how O’Carolan went blind, and that the whole smallpox story was a coverup.

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Please accept my apologies Bied. It was an attempt at humour -though I thought my choice of words to be quite mild, however if you feel it to be inappropriate for this forum I shall consider myself told and moderate my comments from now on.

I think noodling is best kept for when one is alone. It has its place as a practice technique. Having a more focussed ‘diddle’ in an attempt to remember a tune is, to me, a different thing but in a session I attend we have a guitar player that breaks out into random blues solos in between tunes. Drives me mad :-). I usually start a tune by playing loudly over the top of said blues impro
The ‘Have you got something for us?’ strategy mentioned earlier in this thread sounds like a good one. I shall be giving that a go

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"Having a more focussed ‘diddle’ in an attempt to remember a tune is, to me, a different thing "

I was thinking along these lines, of course. Also, the location, type of session etc would have to right and it would only work with the agreement of the other musicians. I realise that even that is probably not acceptable to the majority here but I thought it might be worthy as a discussion.

As for your other comments, Jimmy, I thought they were relatively harmless and humorous. Therefore, I don’t really "give a toss". :-)

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What is, " "activity" in general rather than the number of comments" ?

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I suppose it could be could be considered to be anytime that a page is accessed, and I would reckon that there are more folks looking up dots than reading discussions.

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Thanks, Cheeky. Is that what you were saying Johnny Jay?

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I think so. I’m not sure if that is what Jeremy actually meant though or how he measured it. It was a long time ago.