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Tuesday, 31 March 2009

1834 TOLPUDDLE MARTYERS' DEMONSTRATION 175 years of union organising

Help mark the 175th anniversary of the grand demonstration
In 1834 some 100,000 people joined the Grand Demonstration that marched from Copenhagen Fields to Parliament and on to Kennington Common to demand the release of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. Six Dorset farm workers had been sentenced to seven years transportation into slavery to Australia for forming a trade union. The attack on early unions had to be challenged.
Join the march to remember those who fought for our rights. An afternoon of music, key speakers, procession and banners.
Put the 25th of April firmly in your diary!

Back to business

Back from France where I spend a few days with my closest friends. We stayed at my best friends hotel in Vienne a town south of Lyon and we had a relaxed time away from the busy streets of London. I would definitely recommend Vienne to anyone wishing to travel to France. Will download some of the pictures later on in the week when Rene manages to transfer them from his new digital camera! Just sorry I missed the march on the 29th but sure be other opportunities to participate.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

April changes to Employment Law

The government allows changes in Employment law twice a year. April and October. The April changes that could affect us all this year are:

Parts of the Employment Act 2008 come into force on 6 April 2009.
These parts of the Act repeal the statutory dispute resolution procedures set out in the Employment Act 2002. The Act also repeals the Employment Rights Act 1996, section 98A, returning the law on unfair dismissal to its position before the dispute procedures came into force in October 2004.

Revised Acas Discipline and Grievance Code of Practice

The revised statutory Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures is introduced. Where there is a breach of the Code of Practice a tribunal can increase any award made by up to 25%. The draft code can be viewed on the Acas website

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Put People First. March for jobs, Justice and Climate

Call for a Peaceful march

The world is in financial meltdown its time to tell world leaders gathering for the world summit in London that they cannot continue with business as usual, but need to take action for jobs, justice, equality and the climate. Join the thousands expected to march peacefully in London on the 28th as part of a global campaign to challenge the G20 leaders.

Assemble at Victoria Embankment at 11 a.m. (Temple Tube Station) and march to Hyde Park.

We want

Decent and sustainable jobs and public services for all

Ending of global poverty and inequality

Build a green economy

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Anne Fairweather prospective Labour MEP

Just a note to thank Anne Fairweather for getting back to me explaining why there wasn't enough time at the AGM when she did her presentation to mention the fact that the Labour party MEP's are involved with issues around the Cyprus problem.
Thought I should at least mention this and thank her for her reply. I know that Mary Honeyball has previously worked with the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities in London. My point was that it should have been mentioned as one of the Labour party priorities and the impression given was that it wasn't.
The message from me is for all who haven't registered for the Euro elections on June the 4th to do so as soon as they can.
I will report back soon on this.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Friday, 20 March 2009

James Taylor to leave Lambeth Council, or another one bites the dust?

I can now comment on the departure of the gentle to deal with (and nice to know) Mr James Taylor.
James is a real gentle person with high morals and genuine values I would like to take this opportunity to wish him the best of luck. He will me missed.

Unison AGM and Europe

I was amazed but not at all surprised to witness one of the key members of the Labour party prospective MEP's team, Anne Fairweather, making an otherwise excellent presentation on what priorities the Labour party has for the coming Euro elections scheduled to take place in June 2009.

I was shocked to hear (or not hear as it happens) that the impressive list of international disputes that the Labour MEP's have on their programme did not include the solution of the 34 year old division of Cyprus. I would have thought that given that Cyprus is a member state of the EU the EU (and I know this to be the case) would consider the occupation by foreign troops of part of its own territory to be a serious problem in need of a solution? In which case the Labour party would at least show some interest?

I will be inviting Anne Fairweather to London Greek Radio if she is interested in the 300,000 votes and interested in explaining British policy on the subject(British citizens of Greek origin)

Thursday, 19 March 2009

London Unison AGM elections

It was an interesting day at the London Unison regional AGM today with elections, a number of speakers and a few rule amendments but no motions. The meeting was well attended with around 180 delegates (my estimate)
The 3 major positions were won by Gloria for Convenor, Conroy for Deputy and John Gray for Finance Convenor (so no change) I do not know what the actual vote was but the detail will be going out to branches tomorrow, there will, no doubt, be a lot of talk about what went 'wrong' within the UL camp.
It is my opinion, for all its worth, that the UL candidates were not able to shake off the perception held by the floating voters (around 20%) who do not think that they have their interests as a priority. But this isn't the time to blame anyone and I would say that the best performers at Council today came from the UL with Andrew Berry making a good confident speech and M Campbell doing quite well. Didn't see much of Mandy though who is usually a good speaker.
Was also interesting to see how Linda Perks, Regional Secretary, held her nerve when attacked (heavily questioned) on a number of occasions at the section where rule amendments were being debated.
Very disappointed that we were not able to get to the section where motions are considered. I will do a more extensive analysis of the election when I know what the figures were.
Congratulations also to Jackie Lewis from Lambeth Unison who gave a very sincere and passionate speech in support of the motion on Palestinian Solidarity. Well done Jackie! And to Lambeth Unison for producing such splendid activists.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Regional Council AGM 19 March 2009

Good luck to all standing for election at the Regional Council AGM tomorrow Thursday 19th March 2009. I will be doing a full report following the big event tomorrow and will tell it as I see it, so best behaviour please or you will appear on here... lol

Great thanks in advance to the Unison staff for making it happen.

European Elections 2009

It is important that those from Greece and Cyprus living or working here in the U.K eligible to vote in the European elections do so. Here is a link explaining the process
Here is the PASOK in the U.K link also

Don't lose your vote!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Lambeth Unison Branch Committee meeting 17 March 2009

I attended the monthly Branch committee today and gave a verbal report in line with process and protocol. Branch committees take place every 3rd Tuesday of every month in the Town Hall. The meeting was well attended, another sign that Lambeth Unison is active, vibrant and can run its affairs correctly.
I cannot report in detail what happened at the meeting because the minutes of today's meeting are approved by the April meeting I am therefore not reporting the detail until the committee approves the minutes. But in general members were well behaved and the meeting ended at 12.59 which is a record for us.

United Cyprus

President Obama will be visiting Turkey shortly for talks with the government there. The new US ambassador in Cyprus has confirmed that the Cyprus problem will be one of President Obamas priorities. But there have been many discussions before and nothing has changed no solid or clear movement forward. There is however a bit of hope given the damage the Bush administration had inflicted with negative policies in Cyprus and the whole region.
A just solution to the Cyprus problem would have to extensively involve decisions made by both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot people. This would require Athens and Ankara to sit back and allow Cypriots to come to their own conclusions and London to stop their divide and rule approach.
Any solution would demand the demilitarisation of the island and the removal of foreign troops which includes British forces. Cyprus has suffered in the past, and present, because it has been used by imperialist powers for military reasons the Americans and the British see Cyprus as a large convenient aircraft carrier with very pleasant weather. What is for sure is that the current situation cannot be allowed to continue. It is ridiculous that we have part of the EU under occupation by foreign troops and Europe should do more to help find a solution.
A united bi communal federation is the only viable solution and the removal of all foreign troops a necessity. So the message to the external factors is very clear. Stop using the island for your own military purposes and let the people there decide and determine their own destiny.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Regional Council and the UL

There was some confusion around what I said about the Regional Council elections scheduled to take place on the 19th of March and as usual I was misquoted or comments I made were taken outside context and used for other reasons. This is, of course, to be expected. I also got some messages by email, text or comments appeared in other blogs. I will not publicly answer any of those. Any one wishing to say anything should do so on here.
I will be attending Regional Council on the 19th as a Lambeth Unison delegate and my mandate is to vote for the UL candidates. That is my role and my mission so there is no point endorsing anyone else as I am not into playing double games. I am voting for the UL.
My criticism of the UL does not mean that I will not be voting or supporting them but I am hoping that they take on board what I did say and do something to change the image they have. They need to forget how they see themselves and concentrate on how they are perceived. Either they do that or they remain in opposition for a long time.
But in general terms I am sure this is the time for change and I will be watching very closely how the UL conduct themselves on Thursday.
Good luck to all who are standing and a big thanks to all the Unison staff who always work hard to make the AGM happen I hope someone thanks them publicly?

Best wishes to all

Nick Venedi

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Greek Community (2)

I note with interest the comments I received on what I wrote recently regarding organising politically in the London region.

We are a 300,000 strong community of 1st 2nd and 3rd generation British citizens of Greek origin. We live and work in the Greater London region and have contributed to the success of this great city of ours together with other established and new communities. Yet we do not appear to be as well organised as others and that needs to be changing. I have found that whatever meeting I attend of Greek activists everyone agrees with that.
What we seem to be disagreeing with is what our priorities should be and I am clearly saying that we need to shift the priority away from our purely Hellenic centric notion to a more pragmatic one. In other words we must continue organising and support the battles back home (Greece and Cyprus) but we must also move some of our attention away from that and concentrate on how we win power, or have access to a mechanism, through which our voices and that of our 'very' British orientated children can be heard and our aspirations and demands are met.
We need to be thinking about organising to ensure that we are treated with the respect every other community is treated with and that our children and parents have equal access to services and opportunities.
I am meeting with Peter Drousiotis who is the current President of the Adelfotita and will be hoping to discuss a number of ideas in support of this wider aim. I am hoping that a large gathering will then follow to allow us all to have an honest debate. I know that we organise quite effectively socially and know of many social events but we need to do more to start the process that will allow us to develop our aims in a more coherent way.
I will be giving out information about where the event will be held. I also note comments re having a separate forum to have these discussions and not mix the Greek thing with my Union life but I started this blog for personal reasons and it is now developing into something I did not predict. I will consider having a separate space!
Enomeni Me Dinami


Saturday, 14 March 2009

Disturbance in Athens

Dozens of youths carrying sledgehammers and iron bars have smashed cars, banks and storefronts in an upscale district of central Athens (Kolonaki) in the latest outbreak of violence in the capital City. This follows a month of violence and rioting following the shooting of a youth by the police in January. The eruption of violence was seen as an expression of anger by the Young in Greece who are fetup with the current Conservative administration and the pathetic policies they are carrying.

But the violence and looting have been condemned by those on the responsible left and the Trade Unions. The best way to deal with grievances is at the ballot box and the sooner the conservative government of Karamalis is removed the better for Greece!

The United Left in London

We are a few days away from the 2009 Regional Council AGM and the United Left in London are preparing for a battle to capture key positions with Malcolm from Croydon standing for Regional Convenor, Mandy going for deputy and Robert for Finance Convenor. All 3 are nice fine people and hold genuine beliefs and are good Trade unionst but I think the UL has failed to make the impact it needs to have made to ensure that they win an election. On the other hand when I stood two years ago under the UL label we came very close to wining and I only lost by 3 votes.
The mistake the UL keeps making is that it does not appear or looks like a very inclusive product and is seen by some, who are involved with regional politics, as an exclusive drinking club. This is of course not true but whether it is true or not the perception needs to be challenged and real evidence produced showing that the reverse is the case. The UL also need to show that they can work with the 'office' and not be seen to be preparing for continuous battle with the regional Secretary a day after they win. I am sure I am right in thinking that elections are lost by the UL because the floating voters vote against the UL rather than in favour of the alternative ticket. So more work needs to be done to convince those who believe in ruling by consent that a UL administration will produce the result that we all want. I know this is to be the case as I was Regional Finance Convenor for 5 years. The UL also made huge errors of judgement when they managed to convince Geoff Martin (who was an excellent Convenor) not to stand in 2006 that was a big mistake a mistake that we are paying for today. The UL also underestimate how clever the current administration are and ignore the fact that Gloria is a vote winner and John Gray has an established following and is seen as someone who is not afraid to speak his mind...
The UL can win if they learn from mistakes made from the past.

Nick Venedi

Lamb Politic

I was recently asked by a new activist to explain the Branch policy of working with the Labour party in Lambeth. I replied by stating that Unison nationally allowed and indeed encouraged, through its APF wing, the development of a working relationship with local Labour parties and that our position wasn't that the Branch had a policy of working closely with the Labour administration it was more to do with the APF members of the Branch taking an active interest and trying to shape the policies of Lambeth Labour.

I also explained that I was the one who re started this approach in 1995 when I became more involved with the Streatham constituency party. It was clear that until then Labour was hostile to Unison and the local party had produced manifestos that were clearly anti staff. So I decided, together with a number of other activists, to get back in there and try to influence decisions relating to us at that level. Not only that but I also help promoted the idea of more activists doing a lot of hard work for the party. At the end this, in my opinion, paid up as the party started producing manifestos and policies that were more staff friendly. We have always, however, been seen with a critical eye and we have always made sure that we did not compromise Trade Union principles. The reasonable relationship we currently have with the current administration has helped us have that line of communication when things go wrong and we have a clear mechanism through which our grievances can be heard. No one will claim that we get everything we want but we are doing better than we would have done if we did not have a 'constructive' relationship. So I will defend Lamb Politic on the basis that it is better to have a working relationship with a party that was created by the Trades Union movement than not have one. The fight to change more of their policies will continue but we will be more effective in achieving this from within.

Nick Venedi

Friday, 13 March 2009

David Eggmore

I attended the after committee gathering of the faithful to say hello and good bye to David Eggmore who has been Branch Secretary for Cambden for as long as Queen Victoria was running the show. David was also Lay Leader of the Unison Local government committee. He reminded me of someone who was (not unlike myself) middle of the road socialist who was respected from both the left and some on the right (whatever that is these days..) He did a lot for London and worked closely with Jean Gelldard who was also another dynamic and fascinating true Trade Unionist. Jean was there as well as Malcolm from Croydon (I pay his salary as I live in Croydon) and Jon Rogers, the wonderful Marsha, Phiby, Mandy, Sonia and John from Barnet who is now growing a long beard (I don't approve by the way)

Anyway I put a very brief appearance there as I was busy back in the ranch dealing with the mess created by the CEL problem re Lambeth IT professionals and the supplement they get to reflect market level pay. It is a problem that will dominate my in tray for the next few months!

I would like to wish David a warm good bye and all the best.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Greek community

The last major census that was conducted produced some interesting results. More than 300 000 people living and working in the Greater London area classified themselves as being Greek. The first wave of immigration started back in the 1800's but the number of Greek settlers who chose to make London their home was relatively small. The second movement begun in the mid 50's when a large number of Greek Cypriots migrated here. Today the numbers include those who arrived in the 50's their children, who were born here, (second generation) and now their own children (third generation) who have very much assimilated into British or London life.

These 300 000 London Greeks live and work all over this great city of ours but there are areas where large proportions live and work such as Enfield, Haringey, Barnet, Hackney and Cambden, There are also smaller numbers in the south of London in areas like Camberwell and Croydon.

This group of British citizens are very much integrated into the London scene and life yet they retain their own distinct culture and follow (to some degree) the Greek traditions. Cheap travel to both Greece and Cyprus have also enabled this group of citizens to keep close contacts with family and friends back in the 'country of origin'. There are debates taking on right now within the Greek community as to whether the 3rd generation (those in their late teens and early 20's) will be able to do what those of us from the 2nd generation managed to do so successfully which has been to be fully integrated into the British way of life but also manage to retain a strong link with our Hellenic roots. I think that we are doing very well ensuring that we retain the interest of the 3rd generation and belive that LGR (London Greek Radio) has helped with that project.
We need to put more effort in ensuring that our agenda is not dominated by constantly talking about the problems they have back in mainland Greece or Cyprus. We must push the agenda for change and focus our minds on the fact that we are British of Greek origin. In other words do something similar to what the Normans did when they arrived after 1015 and talk more about what problems we have as British citizens of Greek origin and not just about what we can do to support causes back 'home'. And we can start doing that by organising politically knowing full well that as a Greek community we have the power to vote and influence issues and subjects that matter to us collectively. There are at least 12 constituencies I can think of in London where the Greek vote can influence election results so lets organise knowing that we have that power and learn from our brothers and sisters in other x immigrant communities who have already done that!
Lets make it real and lets make it happen!
Nick Venedi

Social entry

I am looking forward to visiting my best friend Mark in France at the end of the month. Myself Mary and Rene will be staying in Marks hotel for 4 days. This will be a good break and a chance to catch up with none face book type of 'real' gossip. Mark and I met in 1983 and we have remained friends since then. I was a fresh graduate at the time and he was a failed and aspiring actor. It is interesting that he has ended up owning and running a hotel in France!

Monday, 9 March 2009

More changes in HR?

Those of us who have been around long enough ( that includes myself) would have seen the centralisation of HR back in the early 90s followed by the decentralisation around 1997 which was then followed by the centralisation in 2002 which is now going to be followed by yet another decentralisation which I think should be called 'moving around in cirlces' version 2009 (something like the new versions of Microsoft windows) only this new decentralisation is partly devolving the day to day functions or in other words it is giving powerful Executive Directors more control over what decisions are made in their own back yard.

But would this work? Well all I can say is that an organisation that constantly needs to go around in circles cannot be very healthy? Corporate standards and policy need to be adhered to and policed by some central authority as Lambeth Council has a legal obligation to act consistently and ensure that there are no major deviations either in how policy and procedure are interpreted or indeed applied. But Lambeth Council has had a major problem coming to terms with educating Directors and getting them to understand and appreciate the need to apply consistency. A powerful central HR function will therefore, as is the case right now, be resisted and be brought down. I just hope that those who work in the area do not get more demoralised and start leaving by joining other organisations (which is what happened in the summer of 2008 - the exodus to TFL )

For our part in Unison we will have to ensure that we keep an eye out to ensure that corporate standards and consistency in applying and understanding policy are not sacrificed.

Nick Venedi

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Unison politics

Unison is perhaps the most dynamic and successful Trades Union in Britain. It represents 1.4 million workers in the public sector with structures that allow for freedom of expression and for democratic accountability. Unison strives to be a member led union and it has mechanisms that allow members to participate and be involved with shaping the future and deciding policy. Our strength, in my opinion, comes from the near robust structures that have evolved over the years with Self Organisation which is, in some way, a progressive form of devolution. Self Organisation allows for separate but compatible development and ideas are fed into the mainstream.

The above statement coincides with what most of us would like Unison to be. But,like any other large organisation, there are those who would like things to be done differently and those who would like the union to take a different direction. There are some on the far left who think that Unison is too close to the Labour party and those who feel that we should not be affiliated to any political party. That debate will no doubt continue and discussions will be happening at every conference every year. We should in my opinion be making strategic and tactical decisions allowing us as a movement to derive the maximum benefit and that way protect the interests of our members.

I am not that keen on some of the policies that the current government has been following but I am clever enough to know that the alternative to a Labour government is not a very good one. I would challenge anyone who thinks that a conservative government will do anything other than try to undermine the viability of the Trades Union movement. So my answer to those arguing for killing the link with Labour is for them to consider joining the party and fighting to change it from within and that applies both on national and local level. I do not accept, for one minute, that the Lambeth Unison Branch did not gain by building a closer relationship with the local Labour party and I am proud to say that I was the founder of that movement back in 1994. The Labour party can do better but we can influence that process and be part of that change by getting more involved. So go back to your constituencies and join the Labour party!!

Nick Venedi

United Socialist Federal Europe

I am always astonished as to why a large minority (if not a majority) of comrades on the left of British politics hold serious anti Euro Federalist views and often wondered as to whether these fine (in other ways) group of people retain elements of the little Englander mentality deep within them.

I understand the clear messages coming across from those who are so anti Federalist and appreciate the argument that at present the entire set up appears to be in favour of those who wish to perpetuate the oppression of the working class. On the other hand we all have to agree that any large scale movement will go through evolutionary changes and that takes a long time.

No one can deny the fact that there have been some serious and positive changes that have emanated from Europe and some (not all) European Directives have been in the interest of working people. These changes would never have been introduced by a British government. So the road towards a United Socialist Federal Europe is a long one but it will be better for those on the progressive left to be part of these changes and be more involved.

And its not all about economics. There are immense and major political gains to be made by having a United Europe. There is no need to refer to the two major wars we had in the last century or talk about current and ongoing disputes that are still unresolved. A United Europe will better protect smaller countries and the stability the union will bring will benefit all of us and will be a step closer to true and real internationalist aims and objectives.

Nick Venedi,com_alphacontent/Itemid,87/sort,5/limit,10/limitstart,60/

Lambeth Unison

As I said in my introduction I have given up ignoring those who have chosen to go down the road of continuous blogging and have entered (after long resistance) cyber space with my own personal blog. I will do my best to make this site user friendly and informative but will also ensure that my thoughts and opinions (and I have plenty of those) are also published.

I am Nick Venedi Branch Secretary of the most vibrant, diverse and exciting Unison Branch of the Greater London region. I am proud that I have been elected to do this job by the membership. The job requires me to perform a multitude of tasks and gives me a high level of responsibility. I could not perform my duties without the help of key elected activists and key officers especially Jon Rogers who has been my fellow Branch Secretary for the last 3 years. Lambeth Unison has a membership of approximately 2500 which makes us the 7th largest, out of 152, branches in London.

The Branch holds a monthly Branch Committee meeting (every 3rd Tuesday of each month) where all elected officers are accountable to a committee of about 40 locally elected representatives. Reports are published on the Lambeth Unison site after approval by committee.

Officers are elected at Annual General Meetings which are always held in January of each year.

Nick Venedi

Thursday, 5 March 2009

What is Employment Law? (edited by Nick Venedi)

Employment Law emanates (In the first instance) from several Acts of Parliament and subsequent amendments (these can be quite frequent) The Acts of Parliament set the framework and prescribe the rights and obligations but the courts then have to go and interpret what the Law means. When an Employment Tribunal (and more significantly an Employment Appeals Tribunal) makes a judgement that decision creates a legal precedent and is referred to in all future cases (case law). This is called the 'doctrine of precedent' and all judgements must be studied and examined before a new case is brought to a Tribunal. A defence should always take into account what decisions have been made in similar cases (following an assessment) This will strengthen a case and save time.

There are a number of significant Acts of Parliament that set the framework. The Trades Union Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 is, for example, one such Act that describes the legal framework within which the relationship between employer and employee (and the Trades Unions) should be regulated. This specific Act gives Trades Unions, and members of staff who wish to be members, certain rights. Another Significant Act is the Employment Rights Act of 1996 (and subsequent amendments) others include the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (and subsequent amendments) or the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995.

The most important thing to remember with this broad and generalised introduction to Employment Law and how it works is that whilst Parliament and the European Union ( through Directives) set the framework and prescribe conditions, preconditions, obligations and rules, decisions are made by Employment Tribunals who use case law to determine how to interpret previous decisions and how these decisions can be applied to the case in question. I have rarely seen 2 cases go to Tribunal that were exact or identical and I have 21 years experience in representing people.

As a rule you must make sure that you get good advise (Trades Union or legal practitioner) always ensuring that any case you may wish to submit is assessed carefully and that previous decisions are taken into account.

Nick Venedi

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Employment Law at Work (edited by Nick Venedi)

Welcome to this blog designed to give out some information and updates to those who want to know more about what rights they have at work. This user friendly site aims to be informative, proactive and helpful but it is not a substitute to expert technical support that can be provided by dedicated Trades Union officers or good legal advisers. Everyone reading this is strongly encouraged to join a Trades Union and if you don't have one where you work contact me and I will help you set it up!

I will be introducing and covering topics and matters of interest as these arise. Employment Law, and understanding it, can be difficult and complex but I will help you navigate through this field and whenever possible point you to the right direction.

As this is a personal blog I will also be devoting space to whatever I am involved with both in my Trades Union role and in my social outside work life. But I often find that the two often merge.

I hold some strong beliefs and will continue campaigning for freedom of expression, international issues, animal rights, Equalities for minority groups, fairness at work. I am a Reformist and 'sceptical' member of the Labour party. But I believe in discipline and know that reform is only possible from within. I am also a Euro Federalist and a Republican. I may respect some of the individual members of the 'Royal family' but I find the concept completely out of date, irrelevant and pointless as it is so much against every principle of Equality.

I have an extensive network of friends. People I have known for more than 10 years some for more than 20 years. I am lucky in that respect. I am also very lucky to have a good family and I am very close to my two brothers, their wife's, their children and my parents.

I also keep a balance between my Trade Union and personal life and enjoy being extensively involved with both. I like spending time with friends and love going out at weekends (yes even at my age..)