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the mighty dave t's words of the week

the mighty dave t

"i decided to be badass at home. it's warm and dry there."

©2017 the mighty dave t, is a prendas sponsored rider and le patron of the thoroughly decent fellows.


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this is cambridge

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ritchey logic ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

rapha city riding range insulated sweatshirt

rapha city riding range insulated sweatshirt

professional american footballer, benjamin russell junior's father (benjamin russell senior) fortuitously owned a clothing manufacturing company. for in 1926, when junior had tired of the itching and chafing engendered by his woollen alabama crimson tide team kit, dad was on hand to assist with the creation of something altogether less tactile. the loose, collarless jumpers that resulted went onto become the sweatshirt that we all know and love, advertising american universities that we've never even seen, let alone attended.

so successful did this clothing transformation turn out to be, that russell senior created a whole new manufacturing division to concentrate on production of sweatshirts which, in 1930, became russell athletic mills. though there have been one or two minor modifications throughout the intervening decades, the beloved garment has remained pretty much true to its alabama roots.

rapha city riding range insulated sweatshirt

however, in the 1980s it was less the sweatshirt that formed the basis of my daily attire, but a rather brightly coloured acrylic jumper. from whence this choice originated, i really cannot recall, but the attraction of wearing it until it eventually succumbed to disintegration, was principally at the proxy behest of probably the greatest bass guitar player in the history of great bass guitar players: jaco pastorius. on the cover of a long-forgotten music magazine was a picture of jaco wearing a jumper not too distantly styled from that of my own. despite my own leanings more heavily skewed towards the percussive side of the musical spectrum, pastorius was pretty much regarded as the epitome of cool; if the jumper was good enough for jaco (my reasoning went), it was more than good enough for me.

you will, of course, realise that nobody else was aware of this verisimilitude and mostly wondered why i couldn't have bought myself a less threadbare jumper. it's just as well that beauty remains in the eye of the beholder.

rapha city riding range insulated sweatshirt

as with pretty much every item of clothing, that brightly coloured acrylic jumper eventually reached the point where i was likely to be arrested for vagrancy if i ventured outdoors wearing it one more time. i have long lamented the demise of that garment, hoping against hope over the intervening years, that i might find a suitably styled replacement, but all to no avail. yet, it seems that patience may well be its own reward.

though no doubt yet another of my idiosyncracies, i have always found a delightful irony in the opportunity to review items from rapha's city riding range, predominantly based on the juvenile notion that i live at least 200 miles from the nearest city. why, i have pointlessly wondered, would you offer the connotation that any number of fine garments are directly conceived for the melée of the city, when my own experiences would demonstrate that they are every bit as worthy when worn in the rural idyll? it is, of course, a facetious rumination, for prior to the city-riding moniker, this particular set of clothing was known as the fixed range; in my own (and others') set of circumstances, every bit as invalid a description.

rapha city riding range insulated sweatshirt

however, the marketing of cycling garments that are less than appropriate for the speeding peloton have need of being categorised in some manner or other and city riding is no more nor less appropriate than any alternative i might think of by myself.

the tenuous connection with jaco pastorius, however, has been rekindled by the arrival of the insulated sweatshirt, nothing at all like the multi-coloured, stripey jumper as described above, but definitely the very garment that i will wear and wear until it disintegrates of its own accord.

the very description of this item as a sweatshirt may be playing fast and loose with the definition. it's certainly not a sweatshirt that benjamin russell junior would recognise; its collar quite defiantly predominates over the collarless original, while the chances of it ever becoming a shapeless lump of cotton are extremely rare. in fact, in this case, its burgundyness offers a quilted surface and polycotton side-panels, along with a quarter zip that can close the collar to keep chills at bay. it is endlessly cosy, but rarely too much so, the sleeves are of an ideal proportion to grab drop bars without exposing frail wrists and it looks every bit as cool as jaco's bass playing sounded.

rapha city riding range insulated sweatshirt

i have worn it 'neath a rapha shadow blazer, a rapha/raeburn thermal jacket and rapha's city-riding wool windjacket as well as a waterproof not originating from imperial works. in fact, i can think of few daily situations both on and off the bike in which the sweatshirt would be found wanting. lest you wish to keep your velocipedinal proclivities to yourself in polite company, the only outward nod to its perpetrator is a darkly reflective logo on the right of the collar. if you rest your chin on your right hand in the boardroom, nobody need ever know.

if there's any justice in the world, this will become as iconic as its 1930s predecessor.

rapha's insulated sweatshirt is available in sizes from xs to xxl and in a colour choice of dark blue, dark navy and rich burgundy (as reviewed) retail price is £140.

rapha city riding insulated sweatshirt

friday 20 october 2017

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rapha travel ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

woods. a celebration. robert penn. national trust hardback. 227pp illus. £20

woods - a celebration - robert penn

"...on an autumn mornings as the trees emerge from the mist, is to transcend centuries."

there is, but three miles distant from the croft, bridgend woods an agglomeration of leafy trees, once the 'playground' of the landed gentry and former owners of islay. those folks subsequently became the guardians of islay estates before selling the big house (now a hotel) to a former american airline pilot. islay house, added to by its several owners through the centuries, reputedly has 365 windows, but you will have to take that on trust as i confess, i've never had the effrontery to count them.

woods - a celebration - robert penn

the village of bridgend gained its name from the so-called dry-bridge that carried the track from islay house into the woods on the other side of the main road. this was reputedly to save the ladies of the manner having need of unwanted contact with the proletariat. subsequently, the latter were hived off to bowmore village in order not to sully the landscape as seen by those of title and social standing. an early example of ethnic cleansing by any other name.

some years ago, the bridge was unceremoniously demolished in an almost clandestine manner, presumably in order that no-one could object and bring proceedings to a halt. however, in mitigation, it had been the scene of one or two minor traffic accidents due to its narrowness and the ever increasing size of the articulated trucks servicing islay's distilleries. aside from that, the lords and ladies of the manner no longer had need of its services.

in a contemporary volte face, islay estates subsequently undertook some remedial work within the woods and opened it to the general public, its paths available not only to the many individuals who fancy a weekend perambulation, nor indeed, the myriad dogwalkers who enjoy its cloistered sanctity, but also the velocipedinally inclined. it is my favoured location to scrabble about on the specilaized 'cross bike of a saturday forenoon; its many linked gravelly and muddy paths offering an enticing parcours for the intrepid incompetent such as myself.

at the appropriate times of the year, those paths are edged with an abundance of snowdrops and bluebells, while the winter storms inveitably fell one or two ageing trees. sods law being what it is, these invariably fall across the very path on which i'd prefer to cyclocross; sven nys would love it.

woods - a celebration - robert penn

though i have frequented its leafy green-ness on many a happy occasion, i'm afraid that the trees on each side of the pathways are simply that: trees. i have over the years of my retreat to hebridean parts, attempted unsuccessfully, to learn a smattering of gaelic, identify even a miniscule portion of the island's famed and copious birdlife and maybe, just maybe, figure out just what type of tree has fallen in my path. i should probably have simply taken a photograph and asked robert penn.

strictly speaking, woods - a celebration has nothing whatsoever to do with cycling other than a means of cataloguing the background to my/our offroad cycling activities. however, robert penn is the author of it's all bout the bike, the story of his journey across europe and north america in search of the ultimate componentry choices for his bike of a lifetime. prior to his visiting portland, oregon, robert and i corresponded in discussion over that section of the book and i have watched with interest and respect of his knowledge about matters arborial.

and working on the perennial tautology, that it's my blog and i'll write what i darned well like, i thought it a wizard wheeze to review this excellent a beautifully illustrated book produced in conjunction with the national trust.

woods - a celebration - robert penn

the problem with trees, if indeed it can be classed as a problem, is that they are endemic to our existence. we pretty much take them for granted until autumn arrives when we can oooh and aaah over the resultant fabulous colours. the latter occupies chapter three of this four chapter book, dealing as it does with how trees and the inhabitants of our woods behave across the four seasons. impressed as i am with penn's knowledge and easy-going narrative, i cannot deny that the big attraction of this book is the sumptuousness of its illustrations, presented all the better for having been printed on quality paper.

penn's chatty style succeeds in bringing to life what many may see as knowledge purely incidental to 'real' life. travel back a few centuries in time and these are the sort of observations that would have been very much a part of real life, paying attention as to how the seasons pass and the effect they have upon the nation's wildlife and plantlife.

"Something that resembled a blue arrow had disappeared round a bend in the River Teign before I realised it was a kingfisher. This was my reward for rising early."

woods - a celebration - robert penn

however, were this merely a book of tree-based observations, it could arguably be passed over as purely subjective, quite likely the sort of acuity available to many, though it's doubtful the many could have encapsulated those observations with such a fluid narrative style. but robert penn is also the author of the book the man who made things out of trees; it's doubtful that any artisan could create anything without an intrinsic knowledge of the material(s) involved.

"Sap is the blood of trees. The fluid, comrising mainly water plus a few dissolved minerals, is taken up by a tree's roots from the soil. [...] Between the xylem and the phloem is a thin layer that forms a sheath round the tree, called cambium - a stem cell tissue that generates more xylem vessels inside it..."

all of us will experience some downtime between lubing the chain and straining to nab just one more strava sector, moments when rest and recovery demands we shut off from the pelotonic milieu and consider matters altogether more philosophical. when those moments present themselves, it's worth reminding yourself that trees are the new black. 'woods - a celebration' is an impressive publication, one made all the more impressive by the existence of a comprehensive index at the back. if you struggle to make the connection between trees and bicycles, just think of robert penn pedalling through the woods on his ultimate bicycle.

in the autumn.

thursday 19 october 2017

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wheelsmith ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

chamois butt'r original and eurostyle

chamois butt'r

i think i may have been the last of my generation in a long line of generations who had serious need of a handy tub or tube of chamois cream. the first few pairs of cycle shorts that i purchased from the late lamented mel bentley's cycle shop featured real chamois leather, a material that, when new, cossetted my posterior in a fashion that would be unseemly to describe in a family blog. suffice it to say, feather-filled cushions could scarcely have offered greater comfort. after a single washing, however, those feathers had metamorphosed into jagging thorns.

the traditional method, as handed down from a long line of flandrians and tour winners, was to massage a quantity of bona-fide chamois cream until those feathers once more forced the thorns to beat a hasty retreat. though i can hear sniggering at the back from those used only to the synthetic pads that never get jaggy, at the time, no-one really knew any different, so similar to inflating your tyres and oiling the chain prior to a bike ride, it was simply part of being a cyclist with sporting pretensions.

chamois butt'r

in the light of the vast improvement to be experienced from the man-made padding that inhabits the darkest regions of your bibshorts and/or bibtights, questions have been raised in the house as to whether the days of the chamois cream tub have been usurped. no longer is there the fear of having one's bottom worn to the bone when undertaking a longer than usual bike ride. nor, indeed, the worrying concern that one ought perhaps to have been a bit more liberal in one's pre-ride applications. but i, for one, feel that the day of the chamois cream is still quite insistently with us, that until the world's cycling apparel providers offer pre-impregnated chamois pads, you can never have too much of a good thing.

chamois butt'r

if you would indulge me for a few more smatterings of minutes, might i once more return to the case of the bicycle chain, that which features large in my (and others') velocipedinal life, if not solely because i like mine to be shiny at all times. after the hurricane formerly known as ophelia blew past only the other day, few would argue that it's downhill to winter from here on in. and though you may not inhabit a land where cows, sheep and tractors roam the atlantic-edged plains, i'm willing to bet that your proximitous road surfaces are decorated with their own localised crap.

when push comes to shove and sun turns to rain, that crap exhibits an uncanny propensity to attach itself to the nearest bicycle chain it can find. one day, it will be yours. in the halcyon days of yore, when bicycle chains fitted every chainset known to man, not only was the cost of replacement minimal, but there were but five sprockets with which to contend, none of which took the links too far out of line. nowadays, however, it's possible to find twelve pointy circles that will augment your wheelset, acted upon by a chain that nears half the width of those of yesteryear. they now have their lateral work cut out and any miserliness in the cleaning and lubrication stakes will see a hefty replacement bill over the course of a year.

chamois butt'r

bums are nothing like chains, but slather them in wet cow sh*t for an hour or two in the pouring rain and force them to sit on a saddle and they too will feel as if they've been sat on twelve pointy sprockets. to lessen such impropriety, i'm suggesting that a suitable dod (sorry to be so technical) of chamois cream before you leave will retain a smile in the face of adversity for a lot longer than the more neglectful members of the peloton. and because we're pampered cyclists, we demand choice in everything we do or buy, chamois cream being no exception.

ticking every one of the boxes alluded to above is the latest range of creams from the world renowned chamois butt'r, the fellows with a penchant for purple and yellow tubes. i was sent three options from which to choose, though being not a member of the fairer sex, those options dropped to two.

having waxed lyrical for many a long year as to the heritage of the hebridean cyclist being perilously close to that of the flandrian, i cannot deny a distinct favouring of the continental style butt'r, mentholated as it is to chill the nether regions. granted, it's not a preference i intend to discuss at length within the sunday peloton, but already it has inculcated a certain smugness that probably borders on the annoying. for those days when the road surface is bereft of belgian toothpaste, or my commuting requirements are a tad less onerous, i have no compunction in opting for the original flavour.

chamois butt'r

the third option, specifically formulated for the alleged ph requirements of the opposite sex, is not one that i feel particularly qualified to review, so i have passed it on to a lady cyclist of my acquaint. while the efficacy of such preparations is hardly something about which one converses during the sunday morning echelon, the fact that no complaints have reached my ears would, i think it fair to say, indicate at least a modicum of satisfaction.

each tube of original and for her, retails at £15.50 per 235ml, while the eurostyle adds a couple of pounds to sell at £17.50. this means there really is no excuse either to ride sans butt'r or to restrict your choice to only one. unless, of course, you're female.

chamois butt'r is distributed in the uk by 2pure of edinburgh, who kindly supplied the review samples. | chamois butt'r

wednesday 18 october 2017

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yonder journal ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

brooks weatherproof cambium c17 carve saddle

brooks cambium c17 weatherproof saddle

whatever else the annual rouleur classic might achieve, for folks like me, it's the ideal place to network, as i believe is the preferred industry term. folks that i've been e-mailing or contacting on twitter all year can now be witnessed and spoken to in three-dimensions, when they can ask why on earth i said that about their product or perhaps why i didn't say anything about their product at all.

last november's edition was the very point in time where a conversation with ace mechanic and campagnolo service whizz, graeme freestone king, led to my being loaned a campagnolo neutral service bicycle for this year's hot chillee london-paris ride. though travelling with bike is undoubtedly a tad less iniquitous than was once the case, there's still the possibility that the citylink coach driver at kennacraig will inform me that the bicycle i have carefully packaged and taken from islay by ferry is not going on his bus.

while this is a relatively unlikely scenario, the fact that it could happen (and i have seen it transpire), means that my journey to paris could have been undermined at the first hurdle. add virgin trains into the equation followed by a stilted rail journey from waterloo to hampton court and you will recognise why the 500km to paris would likely have turned out to be the easiest part of the equation. being able to borrow a top quality machine for the trip made the whole enchilada far simpler than it might have become.

the only two items i was asked to bring along, were a pair of pedals to match the cleats on my shoes and my preferred saddle. the latter, adding but a few measly grams to my luggage, was a brooks c13 cambium carbon railed edition which, disappointingly, did not fit the clamp atop the record carbon seatpost. fortunately, the bicycle was already equipped with an alternative and quite comfortable saddle from a manufacturer that wasn't brooks. the cambium went back into my luggage and my bottom managed just fine, thank you for asking.

brooks cambium c17 weatherproof saddle

as coincidence would have it, the review bicycle currently residing in thewashingmachinepost bikeshed arrived with that selfsame saddle bolted to an fsa seatpost and though a highly respected make, it contrived, as it turned out, to make a fairly stiff carbon frame appear even stiffer. and that's where brooks re-enters the fray.

the cambium range, currently encompassing the c19, c17, c15 and c13 saddles, either with our without the cutout in the middle (the carve option) originated as an alternative to their substantial range of leather saddles. the original cambiums (cambia?) consisted of a cotton canvas upper, married to a gum rubber base, all formed around a metal frame and though the canvas upper was less affected by water than their trusty leather saddles, it would still absorb both precipitation as well as perspiration. unfortunately, neither leather nor canvas respond immediately to a wipe with a dry cloth when coffee time is over and done with.

brooks leather saddles frequently arrived with waterproof covers to keep them warm and dry when leaving them to their own devices in the great outdoors, but these never quite seemed to stay in place, or even be designed to fit the saddle on the bike. i figure that there are at least two of these brooks monogrammed edifices currently floating across the atlantic to newfoundland, having escaped in the wind while left sleepless in bruichladdich.

brooks cambium c17 weatherproof saddle

keen to address both potential problems in one fell swoop, brooks have introduced the weatherproof cambium in both standard c19, c17 and c15 fare, as well as the carved options. though i am possessed of a narrow bottom, i opted for the slightly wider c17 carved version which, albeit temporarily, replaced the stock saddle on my review bike.

there can surely be little doubt that a cutout in the middle of the saddle alleviates pressure where pressure is less than welcome, but overall, i have no scientific means of determining whether this is entirely favourable or not. after all, since the rider weight doesn't alter, that pressure conceivably has to move elsewhere. however, my posterior seems rather taken with the hole-in-the-middle arrangement and i can but report that the c17 in this case, made a stiff frame seem decidedly less so.

perhaps the next time i ride a bicycle that appears overtly rigid, i'll fit a cambium to determine if it's the frame or the saddle.

brooks cambium c17 weatherproof saddle

the waterproofing of this latest cambium variation has been achieved by replacing the cotton canvas with its verisimilitude crafted from nylon. this will doubtless raise the hackles of those who revere brooks as the curators of naturally-sourced bicycle seatery, hackles that will probably be further strained by noting the absence of the shiny metal frame featured on the original cambium models. it appears that brooks have replaced this with fibreglass reinforced material; less stylish, i'll admit, but in practice i noticed no real difference. and to those who find this to be the harbinger of the world's end, might i be the first to point out that most of you are to be found riding carbon fibre.

and that doesn't grow in fields. however, the purists might also wish to note that the saddle is manufactured in italy and not smethwick.

over the review period, the c17 weatherproof has had the luxury of sitting out in the rain, as well as being punished by perspiring buttocks, neither situation seeming to have had the cambium pause for distraught thought. if weather features large in your velocipedinal life, it would behove you well to outfit at least one of those n+1 bicycles with just such a saddle. the c17 offers a smidgeon more leibensraum than the c15, but less than the c19. however, if unadulterated speed in the search of strava sectors is your jam, a few less millimetres on the width may well aid those ambitions.

the brooks cambium c17 weatherproof edition retails at a most amenable £95 | brooksengland.com

tuesday 17 october 2017

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hot chillee ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

muc off s.c., 15. and a.b

muc off shaving - athlete performance

on saturday morning, having sent a text to number one son to ask if he fancied tagging along on a bike ride to ardbeg distillery (he claimed to be otherwise engaged), i set off in a southerly direction, fully prepared for the forecast rain of which there was little outward sign as my front wheel headed onto the low road, followed by the rest of me. in anticipation of an ultimate soaking, i had taken the trouble to clean and lubricate the chain; as far as i know, the only significant indication that i might be on the fringes of obsessive compulsive disorder. however, my rather laissez faire attitude to everything else in life would probably mitigate against it being something worthy of concern.

the girl serving at ardbeg's old kiln café provided a double-espresso worthy of the name and on enquiring in which direction the rest of my bike ride would take, announced that my riding from bowmore to ardbeg for a coffee (about 22km) was the best thing she'd heard all day. is it really that unusual to ride such a distance for a double-shot?

muc off shaving - athlete performance

at any rate, the rain duly arrived on the outward part of my journey, heading towards debbie's for lunch. as i have informed on previous occasions, islay is still largely an agricultural island, frequented by tractors, pickups, sheep and cattle trailers and at present, one or two combine harvesters. for both bruichladdich and kilchoman distilleries have made great play of their 100% islay single malts, featuring ingredients sourced entirely upon the isle, with the possible exception of the yeast. for this reason alone, the island's arable farming has taken to the growing of golden barley at their behest.

hence the combine harvesters.

but when those combines, tractors and pickups enter and exit the fields, they frequently leave a trail of earth and mud, added to by the presence of livestock which refuses point blank to remain behind the fence. i think you can probably see where i'm heading with this; a seventy kilometre round-trip across many of the island's singletrack farm roads all adds up to a bicycle and particularly the chain, splattered with stuff that leaves it in a less than pristine condition. so on return, the chain had once more to be cleaned and lubricated.

in this, i'm probaby no different than many other velocipedinists across the country. we like to maintain our significant carbon fibre investments in order that they remain at our service for as many years as possible. but, and in my opinion, it's quite a sizeable but are we not guilty of failing to maintain the rider; you and me?

muc off shaving - athlete performance

take a look back through the annals of cycling history and you'll find it highly unusual to come across a professional rider displaying even a five-o'clock-shadow let alone a fully-featured beard. fausto coppi allegedly sent any of his team back to their rooms were they to have the temerity to arrive at breakfast unshaven. aside from the fact that i figure i'd look positively ridiculous with any facial hair, i have great sympathy with coppi's stance and thus ensure that aside from every weekday, i also make time to shave prior to any and every weekend bike ride. even on sundays.

to accomplish this daily chore and to ensure that i maintain that windswept face in a tip-top state of freshness, these ministrations have been carried out with the assistance of some excellent products from muc-off's athlete performance range. shaving cream would appear to be the most obvious necessity here, but in order that my face and legs take on the tactility of a baby's bum, shaving has been followed by liberal application of their luxury aftershave balm. and though not expressly directed by muc-off, i have ended my day by slathering that very same face i described to you earlier with a luxury moisturiser featuring spf15 for uv protection.

you would be correct in pointing out that uv protection is hardly required as a preparation for a good night's sleep, but if you looked out my sitting room window at present, the last thing you'd be concerned about would be ultra-violet light. i have, therefore, employed muc-off 15. principally for its avowed moisturising properties.

muc off shaving - athlete performance

until the arrival of muc-off's shaving cream, i had made use of another shaving preparation which required a shaving brush. not unnaturally, i'd assumed that muc-off's preparation would do likewise, but in point of fact, that shaving brush has become surplus to requirements. it is now a case of scraping out a quantity of muc-of shaving cream from the sizeable tub (which arrived in some very impressively designed packaging) and spreading it all over the desired portion of my face prior to subsequently shaving it off with my trusty, multi-bladed razor. trying to forth up the cream with a shaving brush was something of a redundant exercise, though muc-off do also offer theirown shaving brush, so perhaps i'm not doing it right.

the cream is possessed of a slathery thickness and an uncommon aversion to being diluted by water, a very handy state of affairs when shaving those sculpted legs in the bath or shower.

however, after an entire week of shaving with the cream, slathering my shaved face with the after shave balm and ending each day with the moisturiser, though i'd be loath to have myself described as metrosexual, i may just have found a method of slowing down the ageing process. my only wish now would be that muc-off additionally provide the shaving cream in a smaller, more convenient travel pack. generous though the quantity within that large tub is, suitable for a three week stage race, i'd like something for the one-day classics.

muc-off's 250ml tub of shaving cream retails for £14.99. a 120ml tube of aftershave balm also retails at £14.99, while the 50ml can of spf15 costs &19.99. fausto would have been impressed.

muc off athlete performance

monday 16 october 2017

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rouleur magazine ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

inviting friends round for tea

go battle mountain

on islay's west coast, lies loch gorm, a small inland loch much favoured by fisherman and but a stone's throw from kilchoman distillery. allegedly this coastline and the surrounding area was the point of landfall by ravaging vikings who would sail down the west coast of scotland and invade where they thought it worthwhile so to do. fortunately, it's a darned sight more peaceful there nowadays.

go battle mountain

the loch is bordered by a single track road on which it is possible to perambulate the entire body of water, though the majority of road users are either farmers or visitors intent on visiting yet another of islay's ever-increasing number of malt whisky distilleries. overlooking the loch from on high is a collection of white houses known as carnduncan, sitting a few hundred metres higher than the roadway which is itself, well above water level. as you head west past carnduncan, the road forks to the right, leading to sanaigmore, a farmstead that currently houses not only an art gallery and café, but an adjacent pony-trekking centre.

just on the point of the aforementioned junction stands a red telephone box, one that can be seen in graeme obree's training manual, though if i recall correctly, it is mislabelled as being on jura. however, in the early part of this century, when the velo club consisted solely of the mighty dave t and yours truly, we often jested that the aforementioned phone box was the chosen venue for the annual velo club dinner dance, a humorous aside that generally elicited no response whatsoever.

fast forward to the present day, however, and there are now sufficient velo club numbers to hold a proper dinner dance, should we be so moved to organise one in the first place. not that i've ever conducted a survey amongst the peloton, but i fear few of us hold anything approaching a convincing ability to dance, no matter how many series of 'strictly come dancing' we may have inadvertently watched. in fact, such a bunch of anti-social misfits are we, that we've never even broached the subject of a night out on the town as the winter months approach.

in this, we are quite probably alone, for the season's end, such as it is, inevitably brings on the round of club dinners with their obligatory raffles and after-dinner speakers. it's the sort of event where you recognise none of your fellow riders when bereft of sportwool and helmet and nobody has the faintest idea what the speaker is reputedly famous for.

however, organising an evening for club members or possibly even potential club members while raising money for charity would almost seem the seasonal thing to do. and should you need a viable excuse or point of interest on which to base such an event, offering a public screening of graeme obree's battle mountain would seem like something of a wizard wheeze. yes, we all have a copy of the dvd on the shelf under the television, but as with all such purchases, these have been sold solely for private use; inviting half the village (or town) round for a look-see would generally be considered an iniquitous offence.

but for the surprisingly affordable price of £60, any cycle club in the uk can license two years' worth of screenings. paying those three-score of pound coins includes the double dvd of battle mountain and the making of the beastie as well as a pdf poster to help you advertise the event and a community screening guide to make sure you're doing it right.

we are currently checking the availability of carnduncan's phone box and whether the surround-sound system will fit on the shelf.

all the information you need to set up a community screening can be found here gobattlemountain.com

sunday 15 october 2017

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specialized bicycles ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

showers pass imba hardshell waterproof jacket

showers pass imba jacket

"At the last moment, the rain jackets are taken off and thrown to team helpers, skinsuit zips fiddled with, cheeks puffed out, fingers waggled. Gradually the crowd of officials in front of the grid dissolves until there is only one man left holding the white tape across the road. When he winds the tape back between his hands, then jumps through a slim gap in the barriers, there's nothing but tarmac in front of the riders. The traffic lights go red, then green." rainbows in the mud-paul maunder.

i've used the above quote from paul maunder's excellent introduction to the world of cyclocross principally because the very bright green jacket under review from portland's showers pass was created with the international mountain biking association (imba) in mind and i don't own a mountain bike. if that seems a tad more contradictory than usual, it's sort of meant to be. the nearest i could manage to recreate the circumstances under which an espoused mountain bike jacket ought surely to be reviewed, was to clamber aboard the specialized crux elite, itself every bit as bright as the showers pass jacket and head towards the undergrowth.

showers pass imba jacket

the quote is relevant insofar as i have no real idea of the start-line protocols in force at the beginning of a mountain bike race. do they emulate the cyclocrossers and divest themselves of extraneous garmentage prior to attempting a blinding start to proceedings? or do they hang tough and plough a muddy furrow, still dressed in whatever weather protection seemed necessary on leaving the camper van or sponsor decorated gazebo? or are mountain bikers simply too cool for skool and none of the above applies?

i will have to make further enquiries.

however, what is most likely the set of circumstances surrounding those of us who merely disappear into the woods to play, is that we continue to wear whatever it was we dressed in on leaving the comforts of home. locally, farmers have struggled to bring in the barley because the ground's too wet for the combine harvesters and at least two of the distilleries are experiencing similar difficulties in cutting and collecting peat for similar reasons. both travesties would tend to suggest that precipitation has achieved a comfortable excess over the past month or so, precipitation that harbours no special considerations or respect for the intrepid velocipedinists amongst us.

showers pass imba jacket

and that, boys and girls, can mean only one thing. we need waterproofs.

aside from the odd baselayer, gloves and jogging pants, portland, oregon's showers pass don't do anything else other than fashion particularly effective and desirable waterproofs of varying constitution. where there are softshells there must, by logical implication, be corresponding hardshells, of which this bright green example is one. given that it's expressly designed for the energetic mountain biker, as attested to by the imba initials atop the right sleeve, it does not, in one manner at least, commend itself to the roadie or, indeed, the (very) amateur cyclocrosser. that failing if it can be classed as such, is a complete lack of rear pockets, necessitating the wearing of a regular road jersey beneath its green mantle.

while this may seem considerably less than iniquitous, because, hey, that's what you'd do anyway, when the weather's wet but unseasonably mild, it's not too much of a stretch to consider wearing only a long-sleeve showers pass baselayer under the jacket's breathable green-ness. but so doing leaves nowhere for the minipump, spare gloves, digital camera, multi-tool and spare inners and the like. yes, there are a pair of zipped front, hand-warming pockets, with one delightfully concealing a cloth to wipe clean a pair of mucky lenses, but those have serious cargo-carrying limitations.

showers pass imba jacket

but as i hinted at above, mountain bikers are different to us and not just when it comes to pocketage. it is immediately noticeable, after shielding your eyes from its brightness, that donning the imba hardshell provides not quite the second skin that the majority of road cycling outerwear affects. in fact, the jacket edges towards baggy, the sort of constitution that disappeared from the drop bar fraternity some considerable time past. that, however, is not of undue concern, particularly if you practice the art of cyclocrossing, where an aerodynamic persona is of secondary consideration.

however, if you're willing to accept the above 'restrictions', what we're all desperate to learn is whether the jacket does exactly what the tin says it should do. and perhaps unsurprisingly, it does.

once again, a lengthy bout of over-exertion will test the mettle of its breathability, though the latter is better than the majority of its peers. should you find it slightly wanting in this department, thee are two, full-length zipped vents on the jacket's front that let the breeze blow freely about your straining torso to great effect. sadly, though at least two of their road-going waterproofs feature a zipped vent just below the collar at the back, the imba hardshell does not. however, in mitigation, the existence of a removable hood may well have precluded positioning of just such air-conditioning. the cuffs feature velcro'd straps to help regulate ingress of cooling air.

showers pass imba jacket

the hood is suitably enormous to accommodate both head and helmet, something it achieves with aplomb and without looking particularly 'dorky'. and should you have need of wearing the hood while the helmet hangs disconsolately from the handlebars, there are adjusters on each side to avoid that ungainly drogue 'chute look. personally, i prefer to leave the hood at home, but a smidgeon of versatility can never go amiss. i've left the waterproofing factor till last, because, to be honest, it was never in question in the first place. throughout persistent heavy rain, the only thing to be noticed was a constant stream of water rivulets pouring down its bright green-ness and a comforting dry-ness come froth supping time.

in short, the showers pass imba hardshell could well fulfil the majority of your weatherproofing needs throughout the coming winter months. it's more than bright enough to dazzle oncoming or following motorists and will fend off the worst the weather can provide during the average weekend in the woods, whatever your preferred genre of cycling. and if you've a penchant for riding with a backpack, the shoulders are reinforced to suffer the slings and arrows of strapped discontent.

the showers pass imba hardshell jacket is available in medium, large and extra-large in very bright green or charcoal. it sells for £150, 5% of which goes to the international mountain biking association.

showers pass imba hardshell jacket

saturday 14 october 2017

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symbiosis

trio da kali - kronos quartet

i have a great deal of difficulty making up my mind as to the type of music i'd like to listen to at any given point. the catalyst in this undecided differentiation can be encapsulated by the oft repeated, less than humorous statement "i used to be undecided, but now i'm not so sure." the ipod can be once again be squeezed beyond its available capacity with yet another twist in my ever-changing musical appreciation, much of which is defined by a pervasive need to decide how i figure i'd like to approach my itinerant percussive career.

following on from september's islay jazz festival, i have concentrated on learning tony williams' cymbal technique, as espoused when with miles davis' 1960s quintet. while most of us would have the right hand play dotted eighths on a trashy sounding ride cymbal, williams style consisted more of straight eighths and quarter notes played at speed and incorporating many a five-stroke roll. the latter aspect has formed the bulk of my study, principally on the basis that it's darned hard to do.

but then, reality dawns; though i consider myself a jazz drummer, in truth i play very few jazz gigs each year, the bulk of my noisiness being concentrated on more rock and pop based meanderings. this is scarcely out of choice, but when one lives in the rural idyll, one has to accept the few disadvantages (musical) life presents. therefore, it is frequently necessary to consider alternative tunings, less complex rhythms and a not particularly subtle increase in volume.

after a few days of endless rumination, just when i think i have things settled in my head, along comes a curve ball to upset the applecart and one of those arrived in my inbox earlier today.

though none of my percussive outings have encompassed the classical idiom and the nearest i've come to african patterns was a brief dalliance with conga drums several years past, the interruption to my train of thought was brought on by the announcement of the recent world circuit records release from africa's trio da kali and the kronos quartet. the latter has an enviable reputation for being a bit 'out there' when it comes to musical exploration, but as to trio da kali, this was the first time i'd come across their entrancing music.

just to complicate matters a smidgeon, the only percussion midst this musical marriage between the seven musicians is a balafon, a wooden instrument that resembles the western xylophone or marimba. tuned percussion is most certainly not an arrow that i have in my quiver, but the combination of a western string quartet and an african trio of whom one is singer hawa kasse, is undeniably captivating.

and as one with a reputation for being able to digress almost at will, while figuring out just how the snippets of this fabulous music might impact on just whether i ought to tune my snare drum loose or tight, i digressed.

if three african musicians playing distinctly non-european instruments and who appear not to speak english can work so well with the kronos quartet, maybe, just maybe, i can get on with car drivers. though my digressive tendencies may be on the verge of legendary, it's possible that my dislike of motor cars remains a close second. of course, much of the latter centres on the acknowledged fact that i'm actually not a very good driver. nor, indeed, am i particularly quick. in fact, during the years in the wilderness when thewashingmachinepost household owned a motor car, i was forever apologising for potential lateness by pointing out that i'd had to take the car as opposed to the bike.

but now that diageo are soon to begin the revitalising of port ellen distillery, i fear that islay's ferries and roads can but become even more full of motor cars, more than just a few of which will have the steering wheel on the wrong side and featuring small, inscrutable number plates. in the pursuit of the ultimate dram, bicycles may become of secondary consideration. but in he interests of international magnanimity, i intend to cultivate a serious level of courtesy towards my motoring compatriots of whichever nationality, hopefully creating the ultimate vehicular/velocipedinal symbiosis.

either that, or i'll just sit for longer in debbie's listening to the trio da kali and the kronos quartet, supping froth, casting disdainful glances towards passing motor vehicles and considering just how loose that snare batter can actually go.

trio da kali and kronos quartet - ladilikan

friday 13 october 2017

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dockless in port ellen

dockless bikes

in the late 1990s, when several of us had acquired a dial-up internet connection, few saw the potential of e-mail or, indeed, the web. i recall being a misunderstood prophet in my own land (only the misunderstood bit still persists), enthusing over an aspect of contemporary life that remained beyond the comprehension of many. some twenty years later, an internet connection is regarded every bit as essential as hot and cold running water and satellite television; it's taken completely for granted.

it's no longer necessary to click the connect button and listen to (hopefully) a few seconds of white noise and beeps before attempting to view a slowly-loading web page, or perchance contact nobody in particular via e-mail. technology, as we are all well aware, waits for no man, but along with that has come the dawning realisation that neither is it comprised of any compassion. for while the layers of digital government openly discuss the instigation of a gigabit internet infrastructure, some of us are (im)patiently awaiting any sort of fibre connection to lift us kicking and screaming above the current 8mb ceiling.

islay forms part of the highlands and islands digital fibre rollout with currently the majority of the island receiving some sort of fibre connection along with a surprisingly yet sporadically available 4g mobile connection. in my home village, however, the majority of homes are connected directly to the exchange, an institution that has been on the fringes of overloading for many a long year. thus, it will take a complete network re-design to accommodate high-speed fibre in the village. disappointingly, they decided to leave this work until last.

i'm well aware that there are still pockets of the mainland that are similarly bereft of anything close to a hi-speed internet connection, but it's a notable fact that the geographical fringes are generally the last (and most expensive) regions to enable with any modern technology. oh yes, we can and do complain, but if we wanted everything on a plate, we'd wouldn't have lived here in the first place, no matter the picturesque advantages.

there are many who would delight in such relative isolation, in theory at least, but when the outside world begins to impinge with the full force of its own technological superiority, it can leave us somewhat floundering on occasion. i believe i may have regaled you with the persistent influx of ever-larger motorhomes during the summer months, followed inevitably by more and more cars. it's hard to remember the days when islay was served by a single ferry; we've had a two-ferry service for the last eleven years and a new, larger ferry for the last five, yet frequently even with an increased number of sailings, they struggle to cope with inbound traffic.

there were several weeks during this past summer when local residents were unable either to book a departure or return when desired due to fully-booked boats.

add to the above, a noticeable increase in the number of locally owned motor cars and what were once almost traffic-free roads are now frequented by growing numbers of the blighters. the news this week that diageo are to resurrect port ellen distillery, means that within three years, islay will be home to ten single malt whisky distilleries. one can only imagine the concomitant increase in whisky tourism that will result. so it may not be solely britain's inner-cities that will experience untold traffic congestion.

as it currently stands, the perceived solution to inner-city congestion is the advent of the fully or semi-autonomous vehicle. with an interconnected network of such vehicles, all of which will talk to each other in order to avoid accidents and potential snarl-ups. however, even this yet-to-be-fully-realised technology might already have become 'so last year' with the encroachment of the 'dockless' hire bike.

though we all love our bicycle(s) dearly, even when they're equipped with electric gears, hydraulic disc brakes and gps, it still seems a tad optimistic to describe them as hi-tech. yet already there are dockless bike-share bicycles featuring modems, gps units and monitors that can assess road-surface conditions and measure the ambient air-quality. in the light of this potential 'dockless' revolution, it's not hard to see the attraction to city planners and transport consultants in preference to space grabbing motor cars, autonomous or otherwise.

but what i'm currently asking myself is when the rural idyll might find itself in line to participate. ten distilleries ought surely to make that an economic possibility?

thursday 12 october 2017

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rapha core winter jacket and bibtights

rapha core winter range

either mrs washingmachinepost and i have become hardier over the past year, or this autumn is a tad less iniquitous than those of previous years. for at the time of writing, we have yet to switch on the central heating. i know you all have mental pictures of us collecting bags of peat from the peat bank to stoke a glowing fireplace, but even the life of the crofter is no longer that idyllic. in fact, not that i wish to overly emphasise my point, when i arrived home from the office on monday afternoon, the sitting room window was open.

rapha core winter range

on the other hand, it reinforces my point to a greater degree that hebrideans are the flandrians of the west; this far west, rule#5 is an integral part of everyday life. yet, while this year's autumn climate may be seen as more amenable, the prevalent wind shows no real signs of following suit. ferries have already been cancelled, delayed or re-routed, not only on the islay passage, but on those further north. time was when cancellation of the ferries indicated to the intrepid velocipedinist that a heightened degree of caution ought to be invoked, but in this age of health and safety, the boats frequently stay berthed while we echelon to our hearts' content.

rapha core winter range

traditionally, too, autumn would be the start of a carefully curated training programme, exertions that ought to provide a head start to a potentially successful 2018 season. trials and tribulations in the face of adversity while one's alleged competitors are still opening the free toy along with their mcdonalds happy meal. at least that would probably be the case if training were the targeted objective, which it may well be for more than just a few of you. in fact, introducing their latest core range products, rapha state "...proving that winter training is about getting the basics right..."

rapha core winter range

receipt of their core winter jacket and core bibtights therefore gave rise not only to feelings of inadequacy, but of possible misrepresentation. for, in truth, i have no intentions whatsoever of indulging in any form of exertion that might be misconstrued as training. cycling will keep me fit as a matter of course, always assuming i'm doing it right in the first place, but the ride itself is paramount. you can keep your stravas, go-pro heros, heart-rate monitors and power meters; i just like riding my bike.

but however much i may like to promote the sturdiness of the average hebridean, i'd be fibbing if i denied that looking forward to a hot shower at ride's end is often a convenient means of separating the art of riding a bicycle from the autumnal weather that accompanies doing so. the central heating might not yet have kicked in at the croft, but in wishing to keep cosy and warm, i'm no different from any others. and a rather obvious precursor to that hot, steamy shower, is maintaining an accurate semblance of comfort and joy while in the saddle. the only way i know of doing so, other than riding on the limit, is to clothe oneself both appropriately and stylishly.

rapha core winter range

after all, when the physique is in the process of being dismantled pedal stroke by pedal stroke, it is altogether necessary to remain presentable to the civilian population (even though there is a scarcity of the latter in some of islay's more remote parts).

the core bibtights share several features with their shorter-legged brethren, most notably by way of the same pad and the straight-line waist adjoining the bibs. though the latter are not stretchy mesh like several of their more expensive siblings, there is no danger of incurring any hint of shoulder discomfort. while this top part is fabricated to be stretchy and breathable, the legs are meanwhile cosily ensconced in fleece-backed comfort, the fit of which is well-nigh impeccable. throughout the review period there was no discernable bunching at the knees, either fore or aft.

the ankles, featuring reflective stripes, are close-fitting enough to offer a modest degree of difficulty in getting a pair of richard sachs socks under their tenacious grasp. as far as i'm concerned, that is a good thing.

rapha core winter range

the jacket is little short of marvellous. as with almost all of rapha's clothing and equally pertaining to the core range, the fit is impeccable, with superb arm length, a collar that exhibits both comfort and wind protection and an overall stylish fit that contrives to flatter the honed physique. the drop-tail features silicon gloop to keep draughts from troubling a merino baselayer while the front ends at a point that prevents bunching when (s)training in the drops.

the three integral rear pockets, though bereft of scalloped outers, proved easy to get stuff both in and out: mini-pump, multi-tool, core rainjacket, essentials purse, spare pair of gloves and a digital camera. the fabric kept those safely in situ with no hint of discomfort and no swaying from side to side while i was swaying from side to side. there's also the mandatory fourth zipped edition within the rightmost rear.

rapha core winter range

rapha claim that the three-layer front panel offers a modest level of weather resistance, from both wind and rain, the latter being a promise with which i would usually treat with a healthy degree of circumspection. what passes for weather resistance in the deep south frequently fails to pass muster on the atlantic's edge. though the online weather forecast prophesied no rain, once again, they were completely wrong. allied to strenghtening winds, the resultant precipitation proved rapha's assertions to be not without foundation. in fact, the weatherproofing of the core winter jacket turned out to be quite impressive; i experienced several showers in the space of a couple of hours and though none were torrential, there was enough wind-blown rain to test the core mettle.

rapha core winter range

though currently the season has proved less chilly than expected, the relative mildness showed the jacket's breathability to be up to par, though i still figure that nothing ever breathes as quickly as a cyclist perspires. that thin fleece lining probably doesn't help, but even in situations such as this, i'd prefer to have that soft core (see what i did there?) than be without.

rapha's core range has been referred to as consisting of their more budget-level products. that may arguably be the case, but ignore the price tag and there's really nothing even remotely budget about either of these two garments. my only superficial disappointment with the jacket is, unlike every other rapha jacket i've come across, it has no collar loop with which to hang it up. but bearing in mind the purported flandrian nature of the hebrides, i confidently expect to be still wearing the core winter jacket and bibtights up till next easter.

rapha's core winter jacket is available in black, navy, pink and red (as reviewed), in sizes ranging from xs to xxl at a retail price of £120. the core bibtights are available only in black both with or without pad, in sizes xs through xxl. retail price of the padless tights is £95, while the padded version (as reviewed) adds £25 (£120).

rapha core collection

wednesday 11 october 2017

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it's an engine 'ere

electric motor

robert millar (as was) once claimed that over the age of 30, it was necessary to train twice as hard simply to remain at the same performance level. if thirty-plus riders had need of demonstrating improvement, the incumbent training regime had better reflect that requirement. i once harboured notions of emulating robert in the uphill stakes, albeit not at world tour level but merely amongst my velocipedinal peers. for a while there was every indication that i might have achieved this parochial simulacrum, but it took only one rapha travel trip to provence in order to prove otherwise.

while i thoroughly enjoyed every hard-won kilometre of that trip, particularly the reality that french hills are a tad longer than the speed bumps we have on islay, i'd be fibbing if i told you i was always the first to the top. in fact, when riding with rapha continental rider, ben lieberson on any form of gradient, while i was trying to ignore the black spots in my field of vision and breathing through my ears, he was still riding in the big ring and carrying on a one-sided conversation.

that's when you learn the realities of your own mortality.

later this month, i'll become a darned sight older than millar's originally stated cut-off point and well past the point of training for anything. i still enjoy going uphill, but when my son simply rides away from me at the foot of any incline without even the decency to make it look slightly hard, it has become necessary to re-assess my place in the firmament. this second-look, so to speak, has involved concentrating on the art of the one-man echelon, the ability to bang my head off a stone wall (so to speak) by hammering as hard as jens voigt into any galeforce headwind that happens across my path.

this may, in truth, may be a knee-jerk reaction to being left behind by number one son on the hills, because currently he is still slightly intimidated by an impending gale-force and definitely when experienced as a cross-wind. i, on the other hand, constantly espouse the headwind to be your best friend, though i get the distinct feeling that not many believe in my proselytising.

fortunately, as i see it, i do not intend to, nor have i ever, pinned a number on my back for competitive purposes. therefore, the only reason i'd have for indulging in a bout of training, would be for the saving of an injured pride or the bolstering of a wounded ego. since i harbour neither, training remains an academic subject to be read about in books or the weekly edition of the comic, though i do like to ride my bicycle often enough to retain the last vestiges of fitness before they head off to pastures new at some point in the (near) future.

which brings me to the delicate subject of secreted motors in the frame seat tube. forty-three year-old french amateur, cyril fontaine, who was caught using just such a device in a recent uci sanctioned event, claimed that he had not thought to win lots of races, but had 'cheated' purely to feel better about himself once again. i would contend that the very act of cycling in the first place would have engendered that sensation all on its very own, so methinks his protestations are in vain. perhaps if he'd made it plain to his fellow competitors that leaving them trailing in his electric wake was simply a case of enhancing his self-esteem, they'd have been less inclined to moan.

however, for those of us struggling to maintain sunday morning credibility, well away from the prying ipads of the uci, maybe it's not such a bad idea. after all, if the same member of the peloton is guilty of taking the sprint at bruichladdich, maybe he needs taught an electron-assisted lesson. and i promise that i'd explain all over coffee and custard creams afterwards.

maybe.

tuesday 10 october 2017

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tell them we sent you

quick mention for those intending to visit islay's shores on a bike during the summer. velo club d'ardbeg recommended coffee/tea stops - in no particular order.

club headquarters at the old kiln cafe, ardbeg distillery. excellent food as well as designer coffees with froth. the single malt is apparently just ginger peachy. open monday to saturday from easter to september, seven days from june to september.

debbie's cafe

bruichladdich mini market (debbie's cafe), a few hundred yards from the distillery. highly commended designer coffees with outside tables. we like. open all year round with a cycling wall in the coffee corner.

welcometogreatcoffee.co.uk

port mòr bistro. now that the original debbie's is run by her mum, aileen, debbie has taken over the catering franchise at port charlotte's port mòr centre, where you can have some of deb's famously wonderful coffee as well as a wide range of foodtsuffs. highly recommended.

braehouse gallery, portnahaven. sited at the entrance to portnahaven village, the gallery also offers takeway coffees and a range of cakes. there's also quite a wide range of photos, islay souvenirs and other desirable odds and bits. though you can't sit in for coffee and cake, there is a table and chairs outside along with an adjacent bicycle rack for parking.

and recently opened in islay house square, bridgend in the islay studios photo gallery, a fine selection of designer coffees are now available while you admire the surrounding imagery.

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as always, if you have any comments, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.

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.......................................................................................................................................................................................................... thewashingmachinepost

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book reviews

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