“The West Surrey Cyclist” - January - March 2009
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Front cover - reproduction of a classic Cycles de Dion-Bouton poster
Inner front cover - Welcome to Our World - as in previous issue
CTC West Surrey 2009
Editorial front matter - very similar to previous issue
Riding Around - with Editor Geoff Smith
Notes From the 80th AGM - by Geoff Smith
Rico’s Last Rites - by Rico Signore
Bartali, Coppi and Me: the Tuscan l’Eroica - by Paul Gillingham
Organised Cycle Rides January - March 2009 - the Rides List
Much Binding in the Marsh - by Richard Ellis
... Barbara Cheatham Writes
How to End the Credit Crunch
Letters to the Editor -
... from Dave Williamson - about cycle shop discounts
... from Bob McLeod - about touring articles in the previous issue
... from Dane Maslen - about the Wooden Crank
Marguerite Statham (1942-2008) - obituary
Reliability Ride - 26 April 2009 - by Phil Hamilton
West Surrey Group Shirts - Off the Peg
Benstead Cup Results 2008
Benstead Cup Rules 2009
Dates for Your Diary
Group Personalities - Nineteen - Ron Richardson
PRESIDENT and CHAIRMAN Chris Jeggo 01483 870218.
SECRETARY Dane Maslen, 69 Arnold Road,Woking GU21 5JX 01483 721856 firstname.lastname@example.org
TREASURER Tim Bar 01483 825691.
RIDES SECRETARY John Murdoch, 38 Commonfields, West End, Woking GU24 9HZ. 01276 856712.
Additional committee members John Morris 0208 398 9694, Mark Waters 01483 238305 (CTC office) 01483 414307 (home).
VICE-PRESIDENTS Harold Coleman, Clive Richardson, Roy Banks, Phil Hamilton, Rico Signore.
AUDITOR (and RIGHT TO RIDE OFFICER) Peter Clint 01932 340564.
MAGAZINE EDITOR Geoff Smith, 2 Julian Close, Woking GU21 3HD. 01483 769051 email@example.com
GUILDFORD AND GODALMING WAYFARERS Peter Fennemore 01483 300689.
MIDWEEK WAYFARERS Rico Signore 01483 822240; Roy Banks 01344 842676; Barbara Cheatham 01483 760974; John Murdoch 01276 856712;
WOKING WAYFARERS Rico Signore 01483 822240; Paul Harris 01932 353695.
FARNHAM GROUPS Liz Palethorpe 01252 792187;
ALL DAY SUNDAY RIDERS Chris Jeggo 01483 870218
I FEEL I must record the somewhat bizarre routing of a Sunday group ride back in the Spring. By a disgraceful stroke of fate, it actually began to rain shortly after the doughty group ventured forth from Woking. Not that this upset these worthies. With commendable sense of purpose, they battled on through the untamed countryside before fetching up at a fashionable English tea room in Guildford that goes by the name of Starbucks.
Reaching this obscure outpost was not the end of the morning’s adventure. After refreshments, two of the group set their wheels against the elements and pushed on all the way to their next rest stop, Marks and Spencer.
Whatever next? Is there now a chance that Woking’s Wetherspoons, a popular rendezvous for many cycling groups from around our region, might at last get a look in from us?
I SUPPOSE we should sympathise with Conservative leader (I have to say that in case some readers do not know who he is) David Cameron. You may recall that he had his bike stolen, which made all the news bulletins and newspapers.
But this publicity obscured the real cycling issue, which may have passed you by. A short time beforehand there had been some concern about Dave’s hairstyle: he had been pictured at the Despatch Box with his hair parted in the middle instead of at the side as had been his habit. Consternation! What kind of policy change was this? The politicos and the nation demanded to be told.
The party spinners were up to the task. It was all the fault of Cameron’s cycle helmet, which he had been wearing on his way to the Commons. Oh yeah? Whenever I wear a helmet for more than ten minutes I find I have three partings - to the left, right, and centre - and I have less hair than Cameron.
So the Cameron mystery remains. We will probably never know the truth because, as I write, his centre parting has never been seen again.
:: CTC membership as allocated by postcodes within the West Surrey area stayed at around 1,100.
:: Benstead Cup for all-round excellence, support, and riding performance at DA events was again awarded to Clive Richardson. Other awards included: Ladies Benstead Shield, Roberta Shore; Keith Parfitt Pot (organisers and marshals), Mark Waters; Bill Inder Trophy (Sunday attendance), Clive Richardson; George Aylesbury Tankard (Midweek Wayfarers’ attendance), John Murdoch; Bert Bartholomew Plate (oldest Group rider in 100-miles event), Geoff Smith (snr).
:: The Wooden Crank for the biggest blunder of the year went to Geoff Smith (snr). He was cycling along a deserted 30ft-wide smooth-surfaced cycleway alongside the River Exe when he managed with great skill to collide with a centrally-positioned lamp post. Your Editor now has the distinction of being the only Group rider to have won the Wooden Crank twice. There are now moves around to award it to him in perpetuity should he blunder again. He will try his best…
:: Treasurer Tim Bar reported total assets of ?,146, an increase of ?84 on 2007.
:: On my count, 27 attended the AGM at the Bird In Hand, Mayford Green, Woking, on October 18th. Many dispersed at the end but 11 stalwarts were joined by four wives afterwards to make 15 staying for lunch.
:: Secretary Jeff Banks reported that overall attendance on regular rides was roughly the same as last year. He mentioned flourishing “competing” groups which may have a better formula for attracting new riders than has the Group. Their attraction may be that they concentrate on short trips around towns rather than rides of around 40 miles.
:: In her written report, Liz Palethorpe (Farnham Wayfarers) said a Saturday morning cycle maintenance course was held - “Surprise, surprise, all participants were ladies”.
:: West Surrey CTC Group riders also enjoyed a five-day trip to Normandy, May Day weekend on Exmoor, the Welsh Festival of Cycling, CTC Birthday Rides, and the Dieppe Raid.
In his written report to the AGM, Right to Ride officer Peter Clint said Woking area cyclists should naturally be pleased at the recent award of ?.82m from Cycle England, to be matched by Surrey County Council. This, with funds already earmarked, will make ?m available over the next three years.
Among plans to improve infrastructure for cycling, Woking Council intended to develop Basingstoke Canal path as a principal cycle route with access points being improved and added to throughout its length in the borough.
A continuous cycling link would be made available from Pirbright in the west to the point where the canal joins the Wey Navigation canal in the east. Ultimately it is hoped that this cycle route can be extended along the Wey Canal as far as New Haw station and West Byfleet.
The ?m-plus work will be in a number of phases, the first between Kiln Bridge and Hermitage Bridge having recently been completed. Design work and planning permission have to be finalised before the rest can be done.
BOB McLeod and I represented our group at the Lightbox, Woking, in September with a table and stand with a display of runs lists, magazines and various cycling publications and give-aways obtained from CTC Headquarters. When the exhibition opened to the general public and schools the attendance was unfortunately very poor - not much scope for attracting new riders and/or members despite our efforts.
The event was mainly geared to celebrating the winning of £1.82 million by Woking to become a cycling town, and presenting plans of how the money is going to be spent. At the same time the newly surfaced towpath along the Basingstoke Canal through Woking was officially opened. This initial fund is for three years, but both Woking and Surrey County Council emphasise that they are planning for the longer term and hope to attract more funds and input for the future, in close co-operation and consultation with railways, bus companies, developers, local businesses, schools and private households. The official wording is: “The launch of Cycle Woking is part of a wider strategy being developed to establish Woking as a regional hub - a strategic centre for shopping, employment and transport. The borough and county councils are jointly promoting a new partnership called Transport for Woking to improve travel conditions for all means of transport, and not just cycling.”
For more detailed information please consult the new website www.cyclewoking.org.uk. We are all holding our breath now to see the next developments. One laudable decision is that the dreaded “no cycling” signs in Woking centre are for the scrapheap. As one wag pointed out, at long last we are allowed to attack pedestrians. Quite!
I was very proud and honoured to be your president for the past three years. Many thanks for your support and for making my tenure an easy job. It is time for someone else to take over, not only the Presidency, but other posts as well. Luckily for our group, we have found new candidates for the committee who will no doubt give fresh impetus and ideas to our rides and activities.
“N’y touchez pas. C’est un dieu,” shouted an official as the crowd bore down on Gino Bartali as he struggled up an unpaved col on his way to victory in the 1938 Tour de France. Bartali, like his great post-war rival Fausto Coppi, was revered as a god - especially by Italians - at a time when super-human efforts on a bike were thought to be untainted by drugs and big money.
Every October Italians celebrate the mud, dust and romance of the Bartali-Coppi era with a series of one-day rides they call L’Eroica (The Heroic). From the Tuscan village of Gaiole in Chianti over a thousand riders, many on vintage bikes wearing goggles and merino-wool jerseys, with spare tyres around shoulders and cork-stoppered bottles in handlebar cages, tackle four routes ranging from 40 to 200 kms. It’s Italy’s equivalent of Paris-Roubaix, the ‘Hell of the North’, but instead of cobbles, the roads are ‘strade bianchi’ (‘white roads’) of unpaved gravel.
The occasion seemed as good an excuse as any for a short tour of Tuscany so, together with my older son Joseph, I signed up for the 75kms route. The idea was to fly to Pisa, cross Tuscany in two days, ride L’Eroica on the Sunday and head back via Siena and Florence. Joseph and I last cycle-toured together, along the Normandy beaches, when he was 12. He’s 30 now and has hardly ridden a bike since. But he climbs trees for a living in Toronto, so we thought this fair preparation for tackling the Chianti hills.
Our flight out nearly didn’t happen. I hit a high kerb cycling from the airport car-park to the terminal and went over the handlebars. Loaded panniers act as air-bags, so I was okay apart from minor concussion. Not so the bike. With forks bent inward and frame cracked it was a write-off.
Somehow we managed to retrieve the situation, getting the ruined bike back to the car and Joseph’s dismantled, packed and ready for check-in. There was a moment of panic when security confiscated the handlebar key and pedal spanner I had foolishly left (still dazed) in my jacket pocket. These seemed unlikely weapons for hijacking a Boeing, but their loss meant there was no chance of re-assembling the bike on arrival at Pisa.
It was nearly midnight when we arrived and taxi drivers refused to carry a plastic-wrapped bicycle. Except for one, a white-haired gent who remembered the Allied advance on Mussolini and drove us like a boy-racer to the Torre Pendente (Leaning Tower) campsite. It was the small hours by the time we’d got the tents up, but the Tower had to be seen, even if it meant braving ‘muggers alley’, a graffiti-strewn underpass which separates the campsite from the Tower. Seeing its white marble shape leaning in the moonlight, with hardly a soul around, made the ordeal worthwhile.
Next morning we had to face the problem of making Joseph’s bike roadworthy and finding one for me. The helpful campsite owner came to our rescue, summoning a worker with an allen key and spanner and arranging delivery of a rental bike. He even stored the kit we couldn’t carry.
By mid-day we were on our way, negotiating a route across the Arno out of Pisa and into the Tuscan countryside. The October weather was gorgeous and so was the rolling countryside. After the village of Casciana Terme it was getting dark and we luckily spotted an ideal spot to wild camp, a disused quarry.
Having rowed a birch-bark canoe across Canada, Joseph knows a thing or two about the outdoor life. Once we’d got the tents up he soon found rocks to build a hearth, rolled two logs into place as seats and collected wood for fuel. By nightfall we had a camp fire raging and were soon tucking into a feast of Italian delicacies washed down by a bottle of Chianti. With only the crackling wood and the chanting of the cicadas to disturb the warm, silent night, this was cycle-camping at its best!
Early next morning we were awoken by gunshots! A man was shouting and a heavy-chested dog was barking as they approached the tents. There’s not a lot you can do when there’s only a millimetre of canvas separating you from an AK47, as even Joseph realised. ‘Stay put’, he whispered from his tent as the footsteps of man and beast closed in. ‘Don’t move!’.
Then, amazingly, the shouts and barking began to recede. There were no more gunshots and in fifteen minutes all was silent again. We de-camped at lightning speed and were mightily relieved to be on the road again.
Five miles later we stopped for breakfast at a taverna in the ancient hilltop village of Chianni. The German waitress spoke some English. ‘Is there a gunman loose in the area?’ I asked. ‘There are plenty,’ she replied. ‘It’s the boar-hunting season and the hills are full of them.’
The countryside was rolling, the roads quiet and the sky was blue, and by early afternoon we could see in the distance the hilltop towers of San Gimignano, the medieval ‘Manhattan of Tuscany’. It once had 72 towers, but now only 13 remain, phallic symbols created by feudal Donald Trumps to impress the neighbours. It was a hard push up to the walled town and by the time we’d weaved through the crowds in the cobbled streets and squares it was time for the next pizza and glass of Chianti.
Across from the taverna in the Piazza della Cisterna is the legendary shop of Signor Dondoli, purveyor of the best ice-cream in Italy and holder of the prized Gelatissimo d’Italia. Photographs of past patrons ranging from Solzhenitsyn to Ulrika Jonsson adorn the walls of his tiny shop. Pride of place is a 1998 framed letter from 10 Downing Street thanking Sr Dondoli for creating a special ice-cream “...as an expression of gratitude for my efforts to obtain peace in Northern Ireland. Molto grazie, Tony Blair.”
By now we were running behind schedule and knew we wouldn’t make the start of L’Eroica. The aim, though, was to arrive before the finish, riding some of the ‘bianchi strade’ along the way and joining in the evening’s celebrations. After the big town of Poggibonsi we climbed through the vineyards and olive groves of the Chianti hills to the hilltop towns of Castellina and Radda in Chianti. It was there that we came across the first L’Eroica riders whom we now joined on the gravel ‘strade bianchi’ into Gaiole.
The road was treacherous, with ruts and rocks in the middle and gravel on the side camber, which made it easy to slip, especially on descents. Crowds were gathered at the bunting-strewn entrance to the village and we felt like imposters as we were cheered in with the ‘real’ riders in spite of being loaded down with tents and panniers. That evening we joined in the celebrations and were invited to join the slap-up pasta meal with plenty of Chianti in the marquee-cum-restaurant.
The Gaiole gymnasium next door was converted into a bike museum, with vintage machines from the 1920’s to 60’s, cycling memorabilia, old gear sets, books and an original jersey worn by Gino Bartali, a snip at 400 euros.
Of the thousand who took part we learnt that 90% were Italian, with the British the second largest contingent with 97 riders, followed by the Germans and around 26 Americans. The criteria for vintage bikes were that they must be pre-1970 with gear changers on the frame not the bars and brake cables looped over the handlebars and not taped into them. It was no disgrace to be on a modern bike, though, and plenty were.
One well-seasoned Essex rider, who’d previously done the UK End to End on a penny-farthing in 13 days, did the 75 kms circuit on his ‘Flying Gate’. We were surprised that a strong, thirty-something South African couple found the 75 kms route tough going even though they were triathletes and were moving on to run the Amsterdam marathon. David, an Isle of Wight man in his fifties, had ridden his 60’s jumble-sale bike to the start from the train station in Siena carrying a heavy backpack. He’d done the 200 kms ride, was camping overnight and would ride back to Siena the next morning. A true cycling hero!!
Joseph and I were sorry to leave Gaiole, but after a cold and damp night (due to altitude and condensation) decamped from the local sports ground and headed for Siena. The final climb up to the walled town was almost vertical and it was all I could do to push the bike up it. Cycling through the tiny streets and alleys of this medieval city made the climb worthwhile in spite of the crowds and we had a great picnic lunch on the tiles of the great piazza, with tents hung up to dry on the bollards marking the circuit of the biannual ‘Il Palio’ horse-race.
With time running out we caught the train to Florence and found the large campsite beside the Piazza Michelangelo overlooking the city. Riding around the town that night we loved the cavalier attitude of Italians towards cycling and cyclists. Nobody used lights or wore a crash helmet and it didn’t matter at all if you rode the wrong way up one-way streets. It felt perfectly safe and totally liberating.
The next morning we did all the main tourist venues, but one great advantage of using a bike in a city is that you get to places other tourists don’t reach. On the outskirts, marooned between two lanes of a ring road on the so-called ‘Isle of Death’ is the long-disused English Cemetery of Florence. Here were the tombs of Victorian luminaries like Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Walter Savage Landor, Mrs Holman Hunt, Anthony Trollope’s mother and the last descendants of Shakespeare.
This place of Victorian decrepitude suddenly came to life for us when, out of the gatehouse, appeared an English nun, Julia Bolton Holloway, who has devoted her life to the upkeep of the Cemetery, transforming the Mortuary Chapel into a library with books by and about the inmates. Exuding charm and knowledge, she gave us a guided tour, waxing particularly eloquent about her heroine Frances Trollope, a great traveller, female emancipator and opponent of American slavery.
Every good travel experience has its highlights and this was the final one in our short tour of Tuscany. If there is a heaven we could imagine the ghosts of Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi looking down on us with disapproval as we’d failed to complete L’Eroica! But that intrepid traveller Fanny Trollope would surely have approved, knowing that in five days, thanks to our bikes, we had experienced a slice of the real Italy!
LIKE the variable weather, there were many ups (hills) and downs (vales) in the picturesque Cotswolds on this annual August event as well as the good and not-so-good experiences.
First there was some grumbling - even before the event took place - about the all-inclusive-cost CTC package of route cards, accommodation, meals and entertainment, in the National Fire College just outside Moreton. Having already booked a B&B in Moreton with a South Bucks friend, I missed this experience - but I was able to hear all about it and do some of the CTC rides.....
Rumour has it that the tented “accommodation” in the grounds of the Fire College was mainly alongside the busy A44 road running outside the college guarded perimeter, and that the loos were some distance away, and there was some trouble with the showers.
Apparently many cyclists in college accommodation sneaked their bikes into their rooms, or in the corridors/hallways when there was heavy overnight rain - only to be ticked off by the CTC staff - and therefore the poor bikes ended up outside in further rains.
Possibly the highlight of the week was the early morning fire alarm which went off one morning, sending sleepy cyclists scuttling in their jimjams to the nearest exit. I’m told that it took the local fire brigade half an hour to come to the rescue of the residents, despite the presence of fire personnel in this training college. Say no more.
My own highlights of the week were....
A puncture caused by picking up a cycling badge pin in my tyre - which must surely be odds of several billion to one;
the strange B&B breakfast table set out with normal crockery - but then serving tea/coffee in mugs from the kitchen, and using a huge 2-litre plastic milk carton instead of a jug;
the stream and bridge in Lower Slaughter past thatched cottages leading to a lovely Coffee/Gift shop - complete with a squadron of ducks waddling between the outdoor tables, and the tamest of birds feeding on the cake crumbs;
the old railway cycle path leading into Stratford complete with old railway carriage serving food and drinks for weary cyclists and walkers.
Now I wonder what the 2009 Northants Birthday rides hold in store?
*Ancient BBC Light Programme radio show - Editor
CTC Birthday Rides are a week of cycling organised by CTC Holidays and Tours assisted by local CTC groups. About 400 cyclists attended the 2008 event centred on the National Fire Service College. Four riders from our group enjoyed the event. I stayed in the college accommodation - bed, breakfast and evening meal, sharing a twin room, costing £365. The Tanners were camping and Richard Ellis found a nearby B and B.
Audax events and cycle rides around glorious Gloucestershire filled the days. Various social events filled the evenings. All in all, a good week of cycling.
The 2009 Birthday Rides are at Oundle, Northants, between August 8th and 15th, centred on Oundle School offering single, double and family rooms with camping facilities nearby. The booking form is available from www.birthdayrides.org. See you there?
ON a bicycle you can travel up to 1,037 kilometres on the equivalent of a single litre of petrol - Exodus Cycling Holidays web-site
You probably all know that members can claim 10% off at Evans Cycles but here are a couple of other local places where I have flashed my own membership card and successfully claimed the same discount: -
Switchback Cycles in Knaphill High Street.
Cycleworks in London Road, Burpham.
Both are small but well stocked shops worthy of support. I usually get my card out and tell them I normally get a CTC discount although sometimes whoever is serving will go and ask the manager.
I am truly grateful to you and Derek Tanner for the article A Pilgrim’s Story. From time to time I like to dream about doing another nice long tour, cycling and camping in the sunshine. Fortunately articles like Derek’s bring me back to earth. All that rain, long exhausting climbs with laden cycles, closed campsites, howling gales, mosquitoes, slugs, and I have even been told of frogs sheltering in their tent as it was so wet outside… Hopefully the remaining parts of Derek and Anne’s trip will be just as off-putting and I will be able to stay at home next summer and watch the rain from the comfort of my armchair.
What a contrast was the Ballards Beer Bicycle article from Paul Holmes. It was obviously so good that at least two of our groups had it on their rides list for December 7th again this year. I hope to be there come rain or shine.
Congratulations on your Wooden Crank, but could you really do no better than copy Rico’s strategy of cycling into street furniture? Some of us might feel our past efforts were cruelly overlooked. Phil Hamilton needed the help of just a kerb to break a hip, whereas I demonstrated that incautious use of the brake lever sufficed to break an arm. John Ostrom’s imaginative approach of cycling into the Basingstoke Canal also went unrewarded. If we are serious about encouraging acts of self-immolation to win a lump of wood on the mantelpiece for a year, we must make it clear what sort of accidents and broken bones qualify. Perhaps another section could also be added to the Benstead Cup, say 50 points for a leg, 20 for a wrist etc up to a maximum of 100 points?
Marguerite Statham lost her battle with cancer on 12th October. She was a leading light in W Surrey DA for a good 15 years, during many of which she was leading riding groups - the Wayfarers, the Intermediates and the Midweek Wayfarers. She loved riding her bike, and was particularly good at getting others out on theirs to share that love - a great ambassador for cycling. Her enthusiasm, which was infectious, led her to promote new ideas within the DA, one or two of them causing a little controversy. She, and her husband Harry, have been missed since they moved to Dorset in 2001. Our thoughts go out to Harry and to their family.
Her other cycling activities included the ‘End to End’, many charity rides and Isle of Wight tours, and DA ladies’ weekends. She was on the DA Committee for at least seven years, including two as Secretary and one as Chair, and was a good organiser, reliable and caring. She found a new supplier of DA jerseys (with an improved design) and bought embroidered DA badges to go with them, and she was a prolific contributor to The West Surrey Cyclist. She won various trophies - the Ladies Benstead Shield, the attendance trophy (3 times) and, of course, the Wooden Crank.
Present and past W Surrey CTC members attending her funeral in Yeovil were: Owen (now 92) & Phyllis Brown, Barbara Cheatham, Chris & Lynette Jeggo, Anne Neale & Ken Reid, Roger Philo, Laurie & Joan Robinson, Rico & Christine Signore, Hamish & Gillian Smith and Geoff & Carol Taylor.
IT HARDLY seems possible that I should be thinking of events for 2009, but dates have to be fixed early and it’s never too soon to think about how one can “staff” the necessary ‘Controls’ - particularly when the showing of volunteers for the 2008 event was sparse, and I’m still unable to get out on regular rides to coerce helpers!
So, it’s over to you - note the date in your diary and prepare to ride the event or volunteer to help me make sure it is a success (I need marshals for starts at Pyrford and Godalming, refreshments at Wisborough Green and the finish at Holmbury St Mary). To volunteer, please call me, Phil Hamilton, on 01483 772008. Don’t delay - commit today.
To avoid disappointment ’Phone Peter Clint on 01932-340564
JANUARY 1ST : New Year’s Day rendezvous for all riders, rides groups, supporters and friends at Seale Craft Centre (all morning)
MARCH 22nd : Bicycle Icycle, 70 km, 9am from OS186/SU959434 Godalming (Mark Waters 01483 414307 or 07732 520819)
APRIL 26th : Reliability Ride, 50 miles, 8am - 9am from Pyrford Common car park or Meadrow car park, Godalming (Phil Hamilton 01483 772008)
MAY 1st - 4th : Bank holiday weekend away, Welsh Bicknor Youth Hostel (five miles south of Ross-on-Wye) Derek and Anne Tanner, 01276 474553
MAY 17th : Stonehenge 200 (207km), Danebury 150 (150km), and Elstead 100 (115km) 8.00am onwards from Elstead Youth Centre  (Mark Waters, as above). Full details in next issue.
JUNE 28th : Reliability Rides 100, 75, 50, and 30 miles, 8am - 9am from Pirbright Village Hall car park (Rico Signore 01483 822240). Full details in next issue.
AUGUST 16th : Tour of the Hills 110km, Tour of the Greensand Hills 53km, 10am onwards from Shere Village Hall (Tim Bar 01483 825691). Full details in a future issue.
Without a fuss
(We have now run out, so more clerihews are urgently required. We have plenty of new riders who should be subjected to this “accolade”. Anonymity of poets is always respected - Editor)
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Web page by Chris Jeggo. Last revised: 20 November 2009.