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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Slow down............your killing me

This week Joanne and I had a 'big tiff', and as its cycling related its permitted for blog exposure.
Two weeks ago I started up a cycling club at work for Thursday evening rides.
I wanted to try and promote cycling by getting people out of their cars and onto bikes.
My idea was to wean them in slowly through gentle, weekly, social rides - no more than 20/30 miles, with the odd visit to a country pub thrown in.
Despite the wide range of bike/ body types and fitness levels, I wanted us to pace ourselves at the pace of the slowest cyclist.
I guess that's fine in principal, but if your the slowest cyclist It cant be much fun, especially when you think your slowing everybody down.
On our first week we had lots of promises, but only the already committed hardcore cyclists turned up.
Joanne had decided to come too expecting a nice evening ride, rather than to watch 'road racers' in front of her, champing at the bit. She was naturally apprehensive about joining us again.
This week I was assured by many other riders that they too would come, making it a greater cross section.
Despite reassuring Joanne of this she was having none of it, and harsh words were spoken.
So she went her way and I went mine ......on our bikes that is.
The social ride was far better attended with numerous people fighting for the slowest pace position.
Half way through the ride we saw a cyclist dressed in pink ahead of us, who then made a right turn, away from our desired route.
The consensus of opinion was that it was Joanne, so I went racing ahead trying to make my peace.
As I got closer and seemingly in ear shot, the road started climbing and the distance between us steadied.
'Joanne' I shouted 'wait up'
There was no response, so knowing that Joanne probably had her I-pod on I pushed harder, shouting all the while.
'Look I am sorry......I do understand, but we are a lot slower this week'
Still no response, by this time I was getting a little bothered.
Not because I was being ignored, but due to the sudden injection of speed that I was now having to contend with.
Rather than the gap narrowing it started to widen!!!!
With my heart rate already up to 160, I had got it in my head that Joanne had been deceitful and leading a double life.
She was a secret speedster, a true 'Ms Velo' probably competing with Victoria Pendleton during the week, when I thought she had a steady office job.
Frustration turned to anger which increased my adrenalin output.
As I stepped out of the saddle, my heart rate rocketed to 185 - way into the red zone.
'For F*** sake slow down.......your killing me' I shouted in vain as this pink apparition was climbing away like the late Marco Pantani.
There were of course numerous other words that I used, but half are too obscene to feature hear and the others my spell checker does not seem to recognise.
Regardless there was still no response.
By the time I had pulled up alongside, my mouth was frothing, my face was as red as an over ripe tomato and I was sweating like pig in a sauna with an advanced state of malaria.
It was precisely at that moment that I realise it was not Joanne.
The timing was perfect, because It was also exactly the same time, that this lone female cyclist saw a mad, demented, stranger with a frothing mouth, riding alongside her.
As I braked hard, my pitiful 'sorry' seemed totally inadequate.
I could just have wrecked an aspiring cycling career.....the poor girl may be traumatised forever.
When I got home Joanne had done nearly 60 miles at a pace far greater than our group and promised to come next week.
When I recounted my story, she reminded me that 'judgement', like cycling is sometimes better served if it is considered at a slower pace.
This weeks training has been fantastic, I completed 284 miles in total, making 3,297 miles for the year. It included a 76 mile jaunt to York and back on Sunday (pictures below)

Months ago I set myself a personal goal. To ride a virtual route from Beverley to Houston (4772 miles) before the start of the Hotter than hell at the end of August. At that time I thought it a tall order and maybe just out of my reach. I still think that, but I know what I am like. Once I get a whiff of the finish, ill be cycling through the night.
Certainly with this increased intensity, I could just do it.
This week my virtual tour has had the benefit of a tail wind, I have flown through Massachusetts, New York State and am now in Pennsylvania.
Our 'Travelwithmymule' concept is still progressing slowly and we have finally ordered some shirts which I think are great. We are always looking for new riders, check out the website.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fridays Feature

Its been a great week training so far, and the Tour de France is just a pedal turn away.
It feels as if the sun is shining on my particular cycling world today both literaly and in spirit, so I have decided to beg for another day off and take my Camera out for a ride!!!!!!!!
I so love cycling.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

After a date with a young Filly I was soon bonking

After 77 miles of riding in 'Flat out in the fens' yesterday, I missed my undulations.
Don't get me wrong, I loved the opportunity to ride at a high Tempo for long periods of time, but this sort of riding felt a bit clinical.
I had total control, If I was hurting I could just slow down, it felt a bit of a cop out.
I missed 'The Devils Chimney' and its elevated cousins, I missed the clunk of the sound you get when you select a lower gear and realise you have no more left, I missed the combat, where some of the control belongs to the road and you have to fight against it to keep going.
When your climbing and it hurts, you cant slow down, you either work through it or stop.
To treat myself to my gradient deprivation I decided to venture out to 'Dalby Forrest' in the beautiful North Yorkshire Moors National Park.
Although I had been there with my girls, it had been in the car - I had never cycled there.
I reckoned the round trip would be about 100 miles.
The first part of the trip was great, a good fast pace from Beverley to the foot of the Forge valley, where the climbing really started.
When you are in a car you forget about most hills but do sometimes recall the more awkward ones.
The ones where your initial gear selection has been over confident and you stall.
Where you frantically scramble for first before you roll back onto the Range Rover behind you.
As I started climbing I had an awful sense of Deja Vu and then recalled some of the monster hills.
The Dalby Forrest Drive is a private Toll road and was principally created to service farms and the forestry commission, not for recreation.
Tarmac certainly was not wasted!!!
If there was a hill, the road just went straight up it.
After the first big climb I stopped at the top of the hill for a drink and to eat some dates
(Gels are all well and good, but with the packaging, and additives etc I see them as being a bit excessive. I try and use natural foods like bananas and dates etc)
As I was eating my dates a horse appeared next to me and looked at me with hungry, sad, and seductive eyes.
I was completely taken in and I gave her a date. She nodded her head in approval and flickered her long eye lashes. Before I knew it, I had given her the lot, after which she shunned me in exchange for some fresh dandelions.
By the time I had got through the Forrest I had completed 70 miles and countless climbs. The Fens were also catching up on me making my legs feels like they were stuck in one of their many bogs.
The homeward journey was a nightmare.
I have never 'bonked' before and just thought it was people exaggerating about a bit of tiredness.
How wrong I was !! I was totally 'F***ed' or 'cream crackered' as the cockneys would say.
The last fifteen miles I averaged 11 miles per hour. It felt as if I were towing a beer truck.
When I got home I had completed 108 miles with 7,000 feet climbing and over 7,600 cals.I guess those flat lands weren't so bad after all.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Flat out in the Fens - Event day

Getting up at 4 o'clock in the morning usually marks some key moment in my life and is usually met by some degree of excitement. Like catching a flight to some exotic location , chasing a burglar out of my house or being present at the birth of my daughter. Recently it has become synonymous with riding my bike in some far away sportive, only the excitement has been replaced by a sense of masochism.
When the alarm goes off, I always think that I only set it moments before, and wonder where I lost those weekend lie ins with the Sunday papers.
This year the 4 am awakening has occurred in Cheshire, Houston, and this morning in East Anglia for 'The flat out in the Fens' sportive.
I was joined by my Best friend Colin, his 14 year old Nephew Matthew, and two of his friends, Mark and Chris, the later two being triathletes.
We eventually elected for the shortest distance of 77 miles on account of Colin's concern about his lack of training and that he could not find an appropriate seat. He wanted something that was sprung like a sofa, but the only thing that cycle shop could offer were details of local furniture shops.I was volunteered to provide a wind break for him and set off pulling our mini pace line. It was a task I took on with much enthusiasm. Our line grew as quickly as a queue to a 'Take that' concert, and soon our multi coloured, wheeled, snake was scorching around the fens - flat out as advertised.
Colin was glued to my rear wheel and at our first drink station he was able to tell me how many hairs I had on each leg. Cheekily he also stated that because of my width, and the subsequent draft that it created, he only had to pedal one revolution to ten of mine and was also able to read 'War and Peace.
We completed the first 30 miles in fractionally over 90 mins.
The rest of the trip was not so progressive, it was interrupted by punctures (Chris and Mark) and fatigue (Colin). On the plus side there was some amazing riding by young Matthew.
At one of our puncture stops Colin was trying to devise new methods of cycling faster.
The best idea he could come up with was 'having bigger wheels'.
Like a 'Penny farthing' but with two big wheels, he even adapted an inner tube to illustrate his inspiration. His demonstration was not convincing and fell as flat as the tyre he was attempting to repair. The consensus of opinion was that he should just get fit !!!!

We eventually completed the distance in 4 and a half hours.............a very creditable performance considering our time spent with inner tubes and tyre levers. I must admit I loved the ride and the exhilaration at being able to sustain a high tempo for so long. I think next year I will try and get my new cycling buddies to take on the 115 miles.
Special thanks must go to 'Kilo to Go' its my second ride with them this year and they get a massive thumbs up for hosting such well organised rides.
Our motley crew will meet again next month for London to Cambridge at which point Colin may choose to leave his armchair. He has promised us some team shirts 'The racing Snakes' a description of our slim athletic appearance. Whose he kidding.

This week I have broken 3,000 miles for the year and riding is now a total joy.
My virtual ride now takes me into Massachusetts and to the town of Springfield.
This is also the name of The Simpsons Fictional home so in virtual reality world I could bump into Homer.
Springfield has other notable links it is also the birth place of William Marsh Rice the founder of Rice University in Houston.
It is the birthplace of basket ball and it is where Kurt Russell hails from.
Next week I move into Connecticut and New York state following my Journey South.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cycling proficiency Test

Recently the government have decided to really embrace alternative transport.
They have developed a new cycling proficiency programme for kids, to ensure that they have the necessary skills to combat 'cycling in the city'
Sadly only a few have passed.
Am I being a cycic, or was that was the idea?

Two days to go till Flat out in the fens........Im really looking forward to it

Monday, June 15, 2009

Flat out in the Fens

This coming weekend sees me completing in a new sportive called 'Flat out in the Fens'. It is organised by the impressive 'Kilo to go' team that organised 'The Cheshire Cat' amongst other national sportives. Most Sportives are characterised my their arduous climbs and technical terrains.This one has neither.
Taking place on the longest day of the year the event appears to be more like an audax, with the top distance being over 150 miles.
With long straight stretches of roads and 'No climbing'.........I repeat 'No climbing'.
The biggest challenge is likely to be combating boredom, or retaining concentration at average speeds that I expect will be far above peoples personal bests.
Normally a momentary lack of concentration might send you into a hedge, or at worse an introduction to the 'Road rash Society', however The Fens are different. You are likely to end up in a dyke, or stinking bog, wishing you had packed your swimming goggles, and some strong cologne.
The Fenlands of England are as flat as heavily rolled bowling green, with undulations no bigger than what a miscreant mole might create.
After being spoilt by my beloved Yorkshire, I do find this landscape boring, however it does produce the most incredible skies that seem to dominate your visual receptorsMy initial intention was to complete the longest distance of 153 miles, but I am now being joined by my best mate Colin and some of his friends who are all local to the area.
I am lead to believe that their idea of a long ride is to cycle to the pub and back after drinking a gallon of ale. Although I am not disapproving of such hydration methods, there are no hedges on route.........I will let you figure out the rest !!!!!
I have already been informed that I will be pulling the whole way, a loyal domestique. I expect some of those in our pace line may require pacemakers too, and cushions strapped to their seats.
Still, all miles are good miles, I will have the opportunity to talk, cycle and take lots of Photographs for my weekend blogpost. It will be novel not to change gear too.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

'St Tropez' in Yorkshire.

When I started riding Addy (My Scott Addict) I was very concerned about the feelings of my old bike 'Scott'. I did not want him to feel left out, or discarded, but he knew that my cycling ambitions far exceeded his own capabilities.
Scott has since showed me how fickle he actually is, as Joanne has now taken to riding him.
With a far lighter load he seems to have found some new life and is enjoying the female company. He no longer complains and seems to revel in new found attention. Maybe some of me has rubbed off on him? He has even allowed Joanne to dress him with new pink handlebar tape. Scott if you are reading this you are so Transparent!!!

During the week he asked me if Addy and I would mind going to the seaside at the weekend. He said the sea air was good for his 'derailleur'. Utter B***cks !!!!

However as he has been so good to me in the past, I let him have his wish and agreed. I knew really that he just wanted to show off his new pink livery. So on Saturday we cycled up to Bridlington
Bridlington is to Leeds what Coney Island is to New York. It used to be a fashionable Victorian resort, but has now seen better days. Guest houses once bristling with families enjoying weekend breaks, suffered at the hands of cheap package holidays.

The brooding North sea and inconsistent weather were no match for guaranteed of sun and the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean. Now a lot of these gorgeous buildings are full of Heroin users, choosing a seaside setting for there addictions rather than high rise tenement blocks in West Yorkshire conurbations.

As the ressesion has taken hold people have looked closer to home for holiday destinations. Bridlington like a lot of other old English seaside resorts are thriving again, and trying to attract new visitors as well as re-engaging the old ones.

I personally like Bridlington.

If you look beneath its somewhat shabby appearance, it has a real character about it. Having a local fishing fleet it also boasts hundreds of quality 'Fish and Chip shops. No good for diets but a great treat and beautifully British. The beaches are clean, and golden and provide enough space for everybody to build sandcastles. Bridlington is a million miles from the cultural appeal of the French Riviera.There is no comparison with Nice or Monaco, but on every Friday and Saturday we have our own St Tropez. The popular 'fake tan' adorns the local girls, as they sip on their Pina Coladas in Cafe bars. Wearing last years fashion they exude their own brand of Yorkshire sophistication.

A contradiction in terms, but a nice one all the same.

David Hockney also saw the appeal, he loved this part of Yorkshire as much as he did California

Training Update
This week there were No sausages, but the diet is not totally back on track and no further weight lost. I did however complete 270 miles for the week as punishment to myself.
In my virtual bike ride from Beverley to Houston I reached Portland, Maine in the week, where it was a very pleasant 20 degrees. I thought this state had outstanding natural beauty and it is somewhere I would love to visit for real. Joanne asked me to say Hello to Patrick Dempsey who comes from Maine. He joined me for a few miles cycling, but could not keep up. I told Joanne about this and that he was not as 'fit' as she had made out. She laughed and told me she was not talking about his aerobic ability.

2897 miles completed and 1875 miles to go. Next stop New Hampshire.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Non Verbal Communication

One of the things that I like about being part of the 'cyclist family' is the advanced communication systems that we use. Conventional dialogue is not always possible when in single file and when cycling in breathtaking countryside, with natures own orchestra playing in complete surround sound, it often seems rude to talk at risk of disturbing it all.
When I first started cycling my communication techniques were crude.
I would wave enthusiastically at other cyclists like an errant windmill.
As if they would miss me, appearing over the horizon, like a luminous blamonge on wheels.

In return I would receive merely a nod, smile or slight finger movement. With such a modest exclamation I used to feel 'short changed'. I thought that these riders might be arrogant or over restrained, but now I realise the subtleties of this 'Non Verbal' communication.

Minimalism is definitely the current trend.
I have recently mastered my own techniques where I employ 'The Parallel Finger raise' and 'The controlled head tilt'.

'The Parallel Finger raise'
This should be used in all forms of acknowledgement or to show mutual appreciation.
It is usually performed with the right hand where the grip is loosened from the upright position and all fingers are raised simultaneously to an angle of 90 degrees.

'The Controlled head tilt'
This translates as 'Its a great day to be out cycling and your bike looks really cool'
Visual contact is usually made with an oncoming rider, where eyes are locked.
A short 45 degree clockwise rotation of the head then takes place.This should be met with a similar anticlockwise acknowledgement.

I love it all and often spend hours thinking of ways to extend my vocabulary.
When riding in larger groups other signals are used. For the non cyclist reading you will now appreciate how clever we all are.
Here are some of the basic moves:-

1.One hand ‘gently patting an invisible dog’: The whole group should slow down or ease back.
2.Hand straight up in air: Group is stopping for a junction, puncture or because there’s an obstruction.
3.Left or right hand extended: Change in direction ahead or indicating the direction of a turn.
4.Elbow flick: This is more often seen on the track, but it’s sometimes used on the road. It indicates that a rider on the front has finished his turn, is about to pull off and that he would like you to come through.
5.Waving/pointing behind: Indicates there’s an obstruction that the whole group needs to move in the direction indicated to avoid.
6.Pointing down at road: Obstruction on road to avoid, such as road kill, pothole or drain cover.

After all of these basic communication skills have been learnt there is always the option of developing more advanced techniques. These are often very difficult to perform, and are not always appreciated to everybodys satisfaction.
However they can be very useful in heavy urban traffic and are very effective. But please don't try them in front of children!!!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday Blues can take a ride............

After my previous non-cycling week just gone, the guilt was still pumping through my veins, so 'after work' cycling was compulsory. Tonight I decided to do about 50 miles, but as fast as I could possibly go. I don't really know how it worked, but I felt like Pegasus and flew around the Holderness plain.
I completed 53 miles in all, at an average of nearly 20 mph.
I must point out though,at the end I was totally F***ed and felt quite sick.
Maybe the rest and all those sausages has done me some good after all.
After I had got my breath back, I felt euphoric, I guess a bit like how a cyclist should feel when he is running into some form.
Out of the good days and bad days that accompany cycling this was probably one of my best solo rides ever in my whole lifetime.It felt that Good !!!!!

When I saw this video it reflected everything, we can all ride a bike.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Crime and Punishment

I finally arrived back in Yorkshire on Friday evening with my tail firmly between my legs. Although I had performed well on my course, it was equalled by my performance in resembling the principal character from The Film 'Babe'

As well as visiting numerous watering Holes in London, I had to deal with the 'gastronomic gauntlet' that befell me each morning in the Hotel. As I was walking towards the fruit and Yogurt selections, I had to pass, eggs, bacon, hash browns, sausages......just typing these words is making me salivate.

The final weekly damage is as follows:-
3 cheese and bacon burgers and chips
5 cooked breakfasts including a total of 10 sausages
15 pints of various beers
7 packets of crisps
8 packets of peanuts
At least 20 biscuits
Basically I have 'offended' badly and have had to charge myself with excessive gluttony.
As with all penal systems, there are punishments that are exacted in respect of all crimes and with my offence there is no exception.
This morning I sentenced myself to climbing the 'Devils Chimney' five times.
All cyclists have their certain rides or areas that they avoid for a variety of reasons. When I first started taking cycling seriously I was taken up a hill called Trundlegate. This is an unclassified road that leads from the village of Newbald nestled in the bottom of a valley up to the Top of the Wold a climb of 400ft.This road is totally exposed to the elements and it often feels like it is taking you to the top of the world. Every time I go up it, I am reminded how mortal I am, as my heartbeat races into the 170 + region. I often encounter, steeper, and longer hills, but for some reason Trundlegate is my Nemisis . As such I named it The devils Chimney. Its testament to this gradient that the name stuck and spread, and many cyclist now know it as such. I would be really interested to know if other cyclist have made up names for love/hate relationships they have formulated with stretches of road.

I duly completed my sentence today and on the final climb felt I was climbing Mount Everest. Joanne came with me to ensure I did not cheat. She did the climb four times herself !!!!!!
(see below) When I had finished she gave me my Halo back, and I promised that I would not be seduced by sausages again.

Other News
No totals for weight loss or mileage this week due to a mixture of scale avoidance and embarrassment.
I have now started up a new blog called 'The Lost Muse'
It features my second passion in life writing in prose and poetry. I intend to share my work and the work of some of my favorite writers in a variety of different formats. Check it out.
Any feedback would be lovely.

Our website is still developing.
We now have our first design for our shirts.
The fellow Mules Love them I think it looks a bit demonic and might scare children.

Friday, June 5, 2009

London Pride

For years I have been castigating my Brother Paddy about his lack of will power in respect of his diet and training.
He says it is easy for me having a modest life style!!!
Admittedly he does have a point, eating less and using my bike rather than the car ensures that I can save money.
The saving enables me to buy the more important and often vital things that I need, rather than what I want.
Further more I am merely a stones throw from such beautiful and varied terrain where I can ride my bike.
To top it all, I also have a Gym in walking distance that offers a variety of exercise classes, including spin.
When Paddy is at home he is faultless, he eats sensibly and certainly trains as hard as I do.
The trouble starts when he is away, where he collects lbs with the same frequency as airmiles.
Living in hotels he piles on the weight and does very little exercise.
I always say to him. 'Why don’t you just eat sensibly and use the gyms that are usually available too you?'
When my questions are answered with what appears to be an array of excuses, I just used to switch off and think that he was just being weak and pathetic.
In a sanctimonious way I told him that he just needed to be better prepared and to have more self discipline.
The answer appeared that simple!!!!
He politely gave me a unique destination for my opinions.
On reflection I deserved much more, perhaps even a punch on the nose.

This past week I have been on a course in London.
Unless I am on holiday I would never stay in a Hotel for more than two nights, So this was to be the nearest to my brothers life I could get to.
So as well as completing the course, I tasked myself with an additional challenge.
To show Paddy once and for all that travelling should not affect training.
Before setting off I completed some research on the hotel and ensured that I was adequately prepared.
Instead of packing ‘Going out clothes’ they were replaced by Sports Gear.
Next to my toiletries I had placed assorted bottles of ‘slim-fast milk shakes’ and powders to make up hydrating sports drinks. This would be a breeze I had decided.
When I checked in my Hotel on the Sunday evening I was determined to go back to Yorkshire even fitter and thinner than when I arrived and to blow Paddy’s lifetime excuses right out of the water.
In fact I thought I could even call him whilst running on the treadmill, just to illustrate my opinion and give it more gravitas.

On inspecting the gym I was immediately struck by its position.
It was elevated on the fifth floor overlooking London.
Great view I thought.
It had a sauna, fantastic chilled water fountain and TV monitors at every exercise station. Thrilled at my discovery, I decided on a warm up on the tread mill, from which I could call Paddy in Houston.
The treadmill was broken................ and the one next to it, the third was occupied by a plump man walking slightly faster than and overladen snail, and reading the Financial times.
With my enthusiasm tempered I got on the only vertical bike.
The resistance button did not work, so it was like peddling down hill with a gale force tail wind.
The recumbent cycle was no better with the seat lock lever broken.
This meant that my movement was more akin to a rower than a cyclist and messed up my knees before the plump man had got to page 5.
Tactically I decided to delay my phone call to Paddy not wishing to copy those immortal lines of ‘Houston…..we have a problem’.
Having not even broken into a sweat I returned to my room thoroughly disgruntled.
So maybe a week of no exercise would do me good I convinced myself.
Besides there was always the diet.
Having decided to eat in the Hotel restaurant I observed the mouth watering menu and ordered what I envisaged to be a healthy, yet wholesome meal.
When it arrived it looked spectacular, and for a small child it might be considered an appropriate portion. For me it represented something I could eat in three mouthfuls without even having to apply a napkin to the corners of my mouth.
I was gradually getting very miffed.
From my swish hotel restaurant table I could see outside and over the road to the ‘Euston Flyer’ a Traditional Ale Pub.
People were sat outside enjoying the warm evening sunshine and smiling, an expression that seem to be avoiding my face.
They cheeky B******DS were drinking beer and eating food !!!!!!!
Portions that I could easily see from 200 feet away that included of all things chips.
Not those scraggly ones that you get in MacDonalds but big fat ones, with a crispy outer and soft fluffy inner. The sort you might pinch from anothers plate knowing that the outcome could result in physical violence.

Within 30 mins I had crossed over the other side of the road.
To the dark side.
Supping a variety of Real Ales, eating a Juicy Burger and chips I was as happy as a pig in a trough. To onlookers I probably resembled one too.
Paddy I am so sorry.

From my new location I watched, smelt, heard and touched London.
London surprised me.
I used to live in London 18 years ago and It was at least two years since I had last stayed there. When I lived there I used to cycle into the city from Lewisham every day for two years. Then commuter cyclists were a rare site, almost a novelty, and I would wave frantically on the rare occasion that I might see another cyclist.
It was not a warm recollection. I was knocked over six times and would exhaust all the bad words in the dictionary on a daily basis. Ultimately it was one of the reasons I left the city for a more rural lifestyle.
But things had changed !!! I was impressed by the pure number of cyclists especially the fix gear variety. They were everywhere.
People of all ages, shapes, sizes, colour and creeds, forming spoke wheeled processions along dual cycle ways.
Maybe it was just where I was, or my optimistic perception, but suddenly I was uplifted by the progression that London had seemingly made.
I toasted the liberation with my pint of ‘London Pride’
It all went down very well.