left behind

pinion e-bike motor and gearbox

yesterday saw the final day of the 2023 eurobike exhibition held in frankfurt, germany. it's one of the largest cycle exhibitions this side of the far east at which, traditionally, manufacturers show and demonstrate the technology on which they've been spending their research anad development pennies over the past year or so. the appearance of such must surely be at the behest of some sort of contrivance, unelss all cycle and component manufacturers extrapolate their build timelines to end near the final week of june.

not particularly unusually, cycle broadcasters and youtubers find themselves overly occupied by visiting the extensive exhibition halls so that you and i don't have to. several of the videos that result have the intention of bringing us the latest tech from frankfurt, but, in the absence of anything particularly heart-stopping, the content of many are, to put it mildly, underwhelming. though i confess i haven't watched every minute of every video, i can't help noticing that what once described completely new technology, has now been diluted to mean simply new. to place that in some sort of perspective, if the carbon machine on display features even a few differences from last year's model, it qualifies as new technology, even if the only visual difference is that of colour.

it is many a long year since i visited any cycle exhibition in the uk, principally because the last that i did attend, seemed only to present acres and acres of carbon bicycles which looked pretty much identical, aside from the name on the downtube. for years and years, seatstays joined the frame on the seat tube at the same level as the top tube. then they moved to a position more or less half way down the seat tube. try as i might, i have been unable to glean any technical advantage from so doing, though almost every major manufacturer has followed suit. perhaps there is a genuine structural reason, but so far it appears as nothing more than an aesthetic choice, sheepishly followed by others sourcing from taiwan.

that said, it's eminently possible that we are as close to velocipedinal perfection as it's possible to reach. there have been sportive frames that placed more emphasis on comfort than out and out speed, a development that appears to have evaporated as quickly as it arrived, in favour of frames that have been wind-tunnel tested to within a millimetre of their constitution. eventually, there is going to be nowhere else to go, a moment that might already have arrived, judging by what those youtube videos describe as new tech.

the same would appear to be the case with reference to cycling apparel. granted, there are still developments being made in respect of aerodynamics applied to time-trial skinsuits, but for the sort of jerseys and bib shorts that you and i have the wherewithal to purchase, it's pretty much already been said. jerseys are pretty much as good as it gets; the last notable development which i can recall, was the addition of a fourth, zipped security pocket; the only changes of late seem to be last year's jersey in a new pattern or colour, while bibshorts appear only to have acquired external pockets on each leg at the behest of the bikepacking/gravel craze.

so, in short, the world of the roadie has, it seems, reached its pinnacle, the benefits of which may well be that fact that yesterday's cutting edge has now become a tad more financially approachable. but where there does appear to be tangible development is in the area of e-bikes, perhaps no longer the new kid on the block, but one ripe for so-called improvement. the trajectory of electric motor manufacturers would appear to concentrate on weight and size reduction, both of which make a great deal of sense, but receiving a eurobike gold award this year is pinion's combined motor and gearbox, allowing the use of a gates carbon belt drive and sidelining of the derailleur.

that too makes a lot of sense. following a quick poll of local e-bike riders, the majority seem inclined to pop the chain in the smallest of rear sprockets and let the motor take the strain, unless, of course, faced with a particularly steep incline. pinion's award winning design offers the option of nine or twelve internal gears within the same bottom-bracket unit that contains the motor, reputedly requiring only an oil change every 10,000 kilometres. there seems a distinct possibility that the days of e-bikes featuring the motor in the rear wheel are likely to be numbered, given that bosch, mavic and pinion offerings provide beneficial weight distribution sited in the bottom bracket region.

a pre-select feature allows the gearbox to automatically place the bike in a suitable gear following a freewheeling descent and it would be a confirmed optimist who'd bet against a fully-automatic e-bike gearbox arriving sooner, rather than later.

as for the rest of us, though we should probably console ourselves with what we already have, it seems likely that there won't be very much that qualifies as completely new for some time to come. how many recall the days when the announcement of availability of rapha's spring/summer or autumn/winter ranges was guaranteed to crash their e-commerce servers? nowadays, it seems there are no longer any such ranges in the making. that may well be due to greater awareness of the carbon footprint engendered by continual availability of new product as opposed to consolidation of a core range, for rapha are not the only cycling apparel purveyor to have taken this step. but new tech, unless you're in the market for an e-bike, isn't what it once was.


monday 26 june 2023

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the heat is on

sunny sky

billy connolly is somewhat infamous for having reported that scotland has but two seasons: july and winter. while that has proved largely true in the past, mr connolly may wish to update his humorous asides to take account of climate change. the latter has descended from a great height over recent weeks, blessing (depending on your point of view) the hebrides with pretty much wall-to-wall sunshine, accompanied by the sort of heat usually experienced by mediterranean countries at the height of summer. while this meteorological happenstance no doubt favours the island's visitors, it has been prophesied that, with scottish schools breaking up for the summer holidays this coming friday, the following six weeks should replace sun with wall-to-wall rain.

i am not one who favours this level of heat.

friday evening saw a few downpours that reputedly deluged the principality with around 24mm of rain, so we're probably still some distance from any potential hosepipe bans. i'm led to believe that at least three of the island's distilleries have little or no water for production, but as this is traditionally the beginning of the shutdown period, i don't believe this is considered a great problem. however, on my solo saturday bicycle ride, despite my average speed being more or less 'in the pocket', so to speak, i found much of the ride more of a struggle than usual, even having need of supping from my lion of flanders water bottle; a very rare occurrence, i'm (almost) ashamed to admit.

as i descended the col du rspb (blame strava, not me), a glance at my garmin indicated the temperature, not taking into account the cooling breeze, was a smidgeon under 30 degrees; very much not a common sight round these here parts. and to think there are those heading off to erstwhile sunnier parts for their summer holidays. i have been informing all within earshot, that i crave galeforce winds and driving rain; i'm sure they still think i kid, but i'm really not.

if i might circle back to the consumption of water from my bottle, advice to do so appears in the early chapters of pretty much any training book you may care to mention, but contrary advice would contest that continually supping from the bottle, irrespective of apparent need, is an unnecessary diversion. a well-respected nutritionist has pointed out that such is what thirst is for. though forgetting to eat on a lengthy bike ride will have uncomfortable results, fluid replenishment is all but instantaneous. therefore, thirst will indicate when and how much liquid to consume, even if, like yours truly, forgetfulness generally rules the day.

on friday afternoon, i was invited to attend the local secondary school's celebration of achievement; in effect, the annual prizegiving ceremony. it has become common practice for the school to invite a former pupil to address the current school roll, implying or stating that any success they may have achieved in adult life began during their school years on islay. the fellow invited this year was tom coughlin, a lad who once joined the merry throng on the sunday ride, before he headed off to further education, through which he has become a nutritional consultant to several rugby teams and individual sportspeople.

though i jokingly asked what sort of gel i ought to consume on the sunday ride, there was no time to provide an answer as he was in great demand from one or two of the pupils to find out more. i confess, i was highly surprised to learn that he had spent a sizeable portion of his early career preparing nutrition schedules for the scottish rugby team, purely on the basis that i was of the (obviously mistaken) assumption, that rugby teams tended to favour only beef flavoured crisps and as much ale as could be consumed following the match. we are all aware of top professional cyclists who follow strict dietary regimes in order to maximise their potential, lowering weight while maintaining or increasing their power output. that rugby or soccer players might follow similar trajectories seems, to me at least, just a tad bizarre.

sport is, in essence, entertainment. many folks may watch the upcoming tour de france, perhaps as much for the dramatic scenery as for the racing, but were that not the case, there would scarcely be so much money invested in the sport as would be the case if the only souls concerned were those participating. and that could be an intrinsic part of the question.

though it cannot be denied that you and i quite probably would struggle greatly to complete even a stage of le tour, it seems highly likely that nutrition plays a great part in ensuring that all those taking part have the physical wherewithal to endure all three weeks of velocipedinal purgatory. and aside from the technological advances reputedly made in bicycle design and construction, it would be naive to think that the improved speeds witnessed in recent years were not also at the behest of nutritional changes. but, just to play devil's advocate once again, can we honestly state that cycling has become any more exciting as a result?

personally, i would be inclined to answer 'no'. in some aspects, increased speed may equate to greater excitement, but with one or two exceptions, that speed is now subject to far greater control. only a matter of years past, come the high mountain stages in any of the grand (or lesser) tours, we would anticipate the serious contenders making several moves towards a summit victory. however, evidence would suggest that those days may have gone for good. we all learned that pure climbers such as marco pantani possess the ability to continually vary the speed of their attacks to ultimately break those without pure climbing ability.

that might still be the case, for all i know, but it's not often that we see it in action these days, where attacks seem essentially to be controlled by the directeurs sportifs in the team car and those contending for victory are inclined to stick together in a small group, reaching the summit finish altogether. waiting for a final time-trial often appears to have become the default stance. i confess i'm guessing, however, based mostly on anecdotal evidence and chapters of james witts' recently reviewed, 'riding with the rocketmen', where we learned just how far professional cycling is willing to go in order to achieve victory, including every aspect of riders' nutrition.

but while team budgets have become inexorably larger, and spending on every marginal gain tries its best to deplete those budgets, i would still contend that modern-day cycle racing is no more exciting or entertaining than it was in the fifties, sixties or seventies. in 2003, i purchased a campagnolo chorus equipped colnago c40hp for the princely sum of £2,500. i realise that there has been a financial meltdown since then, a worldwide pandemic, brexit and currently, unbridled inflation and rising interest rates, but the modern day equivalent will lighten the bank balance by at least four times that amount in only twenty years.

achieving success, even in the local ten mile time trial comes at a price, a price, i'd suggest, is somewhat divorced from the fun of doing so.

sunday 25 june 2023

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do it yourself

cycle repair logo

while i would dearly like to give the impression that my days are filled with velocipedinal activity, particularly given the current decent spell of weather, in truth, i am usually tied to a desk the same as a large percentage of the population. in the light of such a sedentary means of employment, i am in the habit of taking a two kilometre walk every morning, whether rain, hail or shine, blowing away any overnight cobwebs and releasing my increasingly fragile back from the torpors of sleep.

yesterday morning's meditative stroll was effectively derailed by meeting a friend also intent on walking the same parcours, though with effervescent dog in tow. the latter was kept satisfied throughout the outward and return trip by having a ball thrown in its direction at regular intervals. i returned home prior to mrs washingmachinepost having departed for her daily travail, a return that was met with a tongue-in-cheek admonishment for having had the temerity to have left the croft so early in the morning (i'm generally out the back door by 07:40, returning usually by 08:10 at the latest).

it transpired that her faux chastisement was as a result of a phone call prior to 8am by a german cyclist apparently most upset that i was not at home to provide either advice or mechanical repair to his bicycle which had apparently suffered a malfeasance, stopping him short in his tracks. my better half had informed the gent that i was not at home, having indulged myself with a morning walk, following which he'd indignantly replied he would phone back within five or ten minutes.

all this would have proved more acceptable had i been employed as a bikeshop mechanic and had no other daily objective than to repair indigenous bicycles, or those of the visiting masses. but, as i may have mentioned previously, my bank balance is augmented by different means, employment that respectfully requires i arrive at the office around 08:30 each weekday morn.

however, having performed my daily ablutions and prepared self and kit for the day ahead, that telephone had remained ominously silent. as mrs washingmachinepost had reported his location as the village square, directly in front of the tourist information centre, i had every expectation that he would have consulted within and been subsequently directed to my place of employ. however, the expected knock on the front door failed to materialise and i never heard from nor saw my intended interlocutor at all.

later that same day, however, her indoors reported that colleagues had collected (presumably) yet another estranged cycle-tourist with a blown tyre and helpfully (?) dropped him off at a motor service location.

the early morning caller, i surmised, may have discovered the cycle workstation located adjacent to where he made the original call, thus able to repair whatever cycle malfunction had originally ailed him. if so, that would have been statistically out of character. i am assuming the gent dropped off at a car repair that morning had simply suffered a punctured inner-tube, rather than a destroyed tyre, in which case, replacing the tube would have been the obvious means of restoration. that he had to be taken with bicycle to a potential repair outlet would tend to suggest a lack of such opportunity. but from personal experience, a touring cyclist without recourse to a spare inner would not be at all unheard of.

there are free-to-use, public cycle workstations in various other locations within argyll and bute (according to newspaper reports), and i've no doubt these exist at points across the country. however, the tools provided are of little use if you've no idea how to use them. the two (and soon to be three) on islay also include integrated track pumps. so, aside from advising that, if you do suffer from a mechanical problem on your bicycle, not to telephone even a bona-fide bike store prior to 8am, ensure that you at least have basic knowledge on how to mend relatively simple problems.

scotland's west coast and supporting islands feature many wide open spaces in which few people live. it's this ability to commune with the peace and quiet of nature that attracts many visitors, including cyclists. however, small populations (jura has only around 160 permanent residents) tend to mitigate against the existence of many facilities that urban and city-dwellers take for granted. nobody is going to make a comfortable living offering bicycle repairs/sales to so few potential customers. therefore, if or when the bicycle breaks, you may find yourself, quite literally, high and dry, reliant solely on your own ministrations, such as they might be.

i realise that we have broached this subject on several previous occasions, but sadly that doesn't mean that the problem is no longer front and foremost. it's perfectly understandable that you would refrain from tinkering with campagnolo's wireless super-record groupset (like you'd tour on one of those), but i'd think it a fairly safe bet that there are no dealers across the entire west of scotland capable of assisting.

if you intend heading in this direction, prior to leaving home, try and adopt the mindset of being able to 'do it yourself'.

friday 23 june 2023

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many years ago, the local leisure centre received a grant to allow the purchase of an e-bike, and early model that resembled nothing more than a chunky mountain bike, but with an enlarged rear hub to contain the motor. in line with the required legislation, the cycle adhered to the pedelec requirements, capping the pedal-assist speed at 25kph. however, when asked to take it for a test-ride, the gent responsible for its delivery pointed out to me that, were i to depress the two buttons prominent on the handlebar-mounted display for five seconds or more, this speed limiter would be disabled, immediately converting the e-bike into an s-pedelec, capable of 48kph. and, as if to add insult to injury, the bicycle also featured a handlebar throttle, negating any need to pedal at all.

the two distinct legislations that separate the pedelec from its s variant, do not, in any way, offer any visual distinction between the two.

thus, assuming there to be no noticeable law-enforcement in sight, in this particular case, there was nothing to stop a wholly inexperienced cyclist from travelling at 48kph along public roads, possibly without the ability to control the machine at such speeds. and should a representative of law-enforcement come over the brow of the hill, a bit like truck drivers with mobile phones, it's a simple matter to hide this extra speed from sight, until clear to resume. and that assumes that the police would realise that 48kph is an unreasonable velocity for an e-bike in this country.

i am led to believe that thee are many examples of this situation all across the country.

s-pedelecs, as far as uk legislation is concerned, come under the moped category and thus should be insured and taxed, while the rider requires to wear an appropriate helmet. currently, there is no requirement to tax or insure pedelecs or acoustic bicycles, nor is it compulsory to wear a cycle helmet. already there have been reports from both germany and the netherlands, of elderly persons riding on cycle tracks aboard the faster of the two types, but without the necessary reaction times, balance or skills to handle the added power.

one european e-bike manufacturer has already been seen to lobby governments in countries where the s-pedelec remains effectively illegal, and it would be an optimistic individual who would bet against them succeeding.

however, across the pond, there exists a three-class system for e-bikes, promoted by peopleforbikes and adopted by many states and land managers. e-bike manufacturer quietkat, principal supplier to hunting and fishing enthusiasts, who frequently make use of e-bikes to get to their desired, offroad locations, has added a feature to some models in its range, allowing users to switch between the three modes, one of which offers unrestricted access to motors of up to 1000 watts via a throttle, as opposed to pedal-assist.

according to quietkat, some of their customers might require that level of power for hauling gear, or on land where no restrictions exist. when riding on mountain bike trails, riders can drop to class one or two. the different speeds can only be accessed by stopping the bike and using the bar-mounted control pad. it would be a naive individual who denied that this technology is available elsewhere, but in north america, it seems to exist (within limits) with governmental approval. and, on the basis that it does exist, it will likely prove very difficult to put the lid back on pandora's box.

in which case, are we heading towards a situation where cycling is no longer strictly cycling, as we understand it? this has nothing to do with what we decide to call it, but a distinct differentiation between real categories. the existence of the e-bike has brought mobility and pleasure to many who otherwise would live a more restricted existence. but it seems that the dog is soon to run away with the bone, and, in the process, may do a disservice to those who currently consider themselves to be cyclists.

like you and me.

if the category of cyclist extends from a rider aboard a raleigh chopper, through to several thousand pounds worth of aerodynamically formed carbon fibre, to 25kph e-bikes, all the way up to those featuring 1000 watt motors, it strikes me there is a danger that any iniquities practised by the latter, legally or otherwise, may well have a trickle-down effect to those with three hub gears and a chain. it's very similar to the tainting of all the professional class with drug misuse because lord voldemort did so for seven consecutive tours de france.

the rate at which e-bike developments arise these days, probably means there will be a clash of the titans sooner, rather than later. i have already found myself being pressed on apparently irresponsible behaviour practised by those on hired e-bikes.

thursday 22 june 2023

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there's a convincing case to be made for my having invented the word that heads up today's monologue, but one that i feel expresses the situation i'm about to discuss far better than the arguably more popular use of conundrums. this particular discussion bears similarities to my local query some years past, as to why there is more housebuilding taking place on islay at present than at any time over the past thirty plus years, yet, according to the powers-that-be, our population is in decline.

though the following may not be directly applicable to every nation in the universe, i have only statistics from north america with which to work. however, anecdotal evidence would tend to suggest that european numbers do not necessarily vary a great deal from those across the pond, since the circumstances surrounding them bear remarkable similarities. and those figures concern the number of people riding bicycles versus the number of bicycles being sold.

from the outset, those north american figures would suggest that the largest increase in velocipedinal participation can be directly apportioned to bmx (+23%), though road riding, (not necessarily confined to 'roadies') comes off quite well with a reputed twelve percent increase. according to the report from which these figures are drawn, these are the best numbers on display since the turn of the century.

from the point of view of you and i, learning the significance of those figures may not impinge greatly upon the day-to-day, but for those involved in demographics and, more importantly, the bicycle industry, it is no doubt of great import as to why, if there are more folks riding bicycles than ever before, cycle sales are in the doldrums all across the world. that latter point, superficially, makes as little sense as increased housebuilding against a background of diminishing population in argyll & bute region. the answers, however, are as different as you'd expect them to be.

considered opinion has explained the velocipedinal conundrum with direct reference to the covid pandemic of 2020/21, when many took to the bicycle as a means of transport regarded as inherently more safe than using public transport. the contention is that, while the numbers probably don't lie, many of those now riding more often, purchased bicycles during the pandemic and, perhaps partially due to the current cost-of-living crisis, have little or no intention of buying new.

and that in itself, and on a wide scale, might be something that will prolong the amount of new inventory that cycle dealers are finding all but impossible to shift. i own several bicycles, but the principal two are my steel ritchey logic and a carbon speclaized crux cyclocross bicycle. both perform today every bit as well as they did on arrival at the croft (which is more than can be said for their owner). to purchase a new model of either genre would surely point to my wanting a new bike, as opposed to needing a new bike? if you combine a need to conserve both personal financial outlay, with a heightened need to conserve the planet, riding the same bikes for longer, in tandem with minimising formerly more frequent apparel purchases, probably marks us out as environmentally aware, whether via intellectual awareness or social peer pressure is really of no nevermind.

but irrespective of reasoning, it's a situation that hardly supports the hard-pressed bicycle retailer. i hold off from including the industry as a whole, if only because the current predicament of over-inventory is largely at the behest of their quest for larger profits (though i'd be willing to accept accusations of generalisation).

it's a state of affairs that has many repercussions. for instance, the infamous peloton, purveyors of indoor bicycles coupled with online training classes, are experiencing the results of a dramatic downturn in sales anad profits. though probably few of us identify as captains of industry, it strikes me as a tad naive to ramp up staff recruitment and production of a product that was quite plainly a beneficiary of lockdown. why any business would base its immediate future on those exaggerated sets of circumstances continuing ad finitum, with an honours degree in hindsight, hardly seems the personification of business acumen.

likewise the bicycle industry at large; they are no less guilty in such matters, having increased production orders in advance of feared (and actual) supply chain issues, once again, apparently on the basis that, even if the pandemic ameliorated, sales would continue at their artificially heightened levels. as i have mentioned previously, the hopes that the bicycle's finest hour had irrevocably arrived, always seemed more than just a tad over optimistic.

yet, here in scotlandshire, increased velocipedinal activity, combined with governmental support for active travel appear to have brought an unexpected downside for the scottish branch of sustrans. the charity in scotland looks to influence policy development to ensure more people have the choice to walk, cycle or take public transport for more of their journeys. its remit includes the promotion and development of the national cycle network, in partnership with local and national roads and planning authorities.

yet, along with the announcement of continued funding towards those aims, sustrans scotland has been asked to make adjustments within its behaviour change programme. this work is delivered in communities to include training children on safe cycling, supporting people to walk and cycle to work and offering marginalised communities the opportunity to access walking and cycling.

according to a sustrans scotland statement issued to trade website, "it's crucial that this work continues so that we can encourage more people to get about by walking or cycling for everyday journeys.
"while we understand the pressures the scottish government finances are under, it is the case that with less funding we have had to make cuts which will reduce our impact on changing the way people travel every day. as a result, 21 of our sustrans colleagues in scotland are now at risk of redundancy and there will be an end or reduction to programmes across scotland."

so there we have it: conundra. the inexplicable confluence of increased numbers of cyclists, flatlining cycle sales, lack of foresight by portions of the industry, and redundancies where redundancies ought not to be.

just another day in paradise.

wednesday 21 june 2023

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here's what happens next

bikepacking wales

mrs washingmachinepost and i are not amongst the large numbers who count themselves as regular film-goers. but to qualify that particular statement, it well behoves me to point out that it's a description applicable to the majority of islay's population, given that we have no resident cinema, either here, or on the neighbouring isle of jura. what we do have, rather infrequently, is the screen machine, a mobile cinema that tours the islands and several of the more remote villages across scotland's west coast.

and even during those occasional visits to the principality, neither of us can be counted amongst its audience, predominantly on the facility's reluctance to travel. existing as an extendable articulated trailer, pulled by an independent cab unit, the screen-machine is in the habit of arriving on the morning ferry to port ellen, setting up shop a few hundred metres from the harbour, before reversing the procedure a few days later. for those of us who do not live in port ellen, a village some 16km from bowmore, the lack of personal, motorised transport, and a bus service that ends at 6pm each day, means too many hoops through which to jump should any specific movie prove to be of interest.

mrs washingmachinepost does not cycle, and that 16km gap is across open moorland, not always conducive to an evening bike ride in the dark, and certainly not when the wind blows and the rain drives. taxi charges on the island would make for a somewhat expensive evening out before movie tickets have even been thought about. for those who live in portnahaven on the southwest tip of islay, they're looking at a round trip of well over 100km.

however, my gripe is not with the vagaries of a mobile cinema that refuses to be mobile, but concerned more with the trailers produced to entice the unwary to subsequently view the purported cinematic experience on the big (even if mobile) screen. i'm sure i cannot be the only individual convinced that those carefully constructed snippets culled from the entire film, comprise pretty much the only good bits of the extravaganza, implying that the entire two hours (or more) are carried out at the same relentless pace.

this may be the reason why so many reputed blockbusters end up with less than enthusiastic reviews. it's not that the movie is, per se, less than invigorating, simply that, in comparison to the two-minute trailer, it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.

one might wonder, therefore, whether the practice of issuing a trailer for forthcoming books, might offer a more reasoned approach, aside from the quotes that commonly appear on the back cover, gleaned from having sent the great and the good, advance copies of the manuscript. as an aside, i might helpfully point out that i have frequently been on the receiving end of such advance notice, and on occasion, have even had my comments appear on the book cover. i can advise that i am not in the habit of offering those few words unless i have, in fact, read the entire book.

so, in a small, experimental way, today's scribblings form a trailer for the upcoming publication of emma kingston's bikepacking wales, kindly provided by vertebrate publishing. a full review of the book will appear in these very pixels closer to the release date of 6 july, but in advance, here's a taste of what you can find and decidedly every bit as intriging and enjoyable as the entire book.

bikepacking wales preview - emma kingston

tuesday 20 june 2023

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