Going For Gold

Bradley Wiggins on the blocks before the bell in his record breaking hour cycle ride

21st Century knight in Art Deco helmet

It’s not long now you know. The full unedited padded crotch Lycra fest of the Tour de France begins on July 4th in Utrecht. These guys are my absolute heroes. They battle in the spirit of ancient knights on the slopes of mountains. They leave their skin skidded on the pitiless tarmac and gravel of 60 mph descents. The sprinters pound in stampedes of branded head-down buffaloes never forgetting to point out the logo of the guys who bought their shirt as they cross the line. Yes – it’s all a big show biz commerce orgy but what the hell? The pain  is real. The scars and bruises weep and sting through the nights in stark shared hotel rooms. Keep up or fail. There are no hiding places. Racing cyclists are the modern day ballet dancers in a Degas masterpiece.

Exhausted dancers behind the scenes in a Degas painting

The stretch and the groan – the muscular truth of poetry

I’ve begun my own preparation. I’ve got out my indoor turbo trainer and studied all the TV schedules. I know, I know I’m a glamorous perfumed lady Eroticon of the purple passion but you can’t beat a spinning session with Mike Michels to bring out the cadence kitten in a woman. Let me tell you now that Passion Patrol 3 will feature a sweating woman in a spinning class. Dudes – if you want authenticity, you gotta grind it to find it. Well, at least you’ve gotta get out of breath a bit.

Poster for the Art Deco film Rocketeer

Inspiration for cyclists

My other preparation was to head for the Olympic Park in London to be in the presence of a real royal knight of the realm. I was there at the moment when Sir Bradley Wiggins broke the record for how far a man could cycle in one hour. I was in the Mexican wave and shouting “Wiggo”. Even the weight of his gold hat and shoes didn’t hold him back. I must confess that as I saw him hurtling around the track my mind flashed to the 1991 film “The Rocketeer”. Man, there’s no bizness like fizz bizness.

And today sees the first stage of the Aviva Women’s Tour Of Britain cycle race. The first running of this event was a great success last year. This year we may well see a British winner in the shape of Lizzie Armitstead. If you’re reading this in the UK or can get ITV4 don’t miss the evening highlight show. And then you can switch to BBC 3 to see the England women’s football team play Columbia. All you’ll need then is a few cans of beer and a domestic Adonis to fix you a sandwich. Seriously though, I think the guys are starting to sit up and notice.

Last year I produced an audio book by Les Woodland all about the Tour de France. It was a real labour of love. If you wanna wise up – it’s all in here. To mark this year’s gruelling tour I’m giving away three free audio versions of the book:

CLICK HERE to enter.

Emma Thinx: Alchemy validated. It takes a lot of steel to get a piece of gold.

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Emma’s Spare Tyre Tummy Award Gets Spicy

Here’s one I took earlier while it was still under construction

My dear old Oscar remembers when you could drive your Morris Minor up to the stones at Stonehenge, get out your picnic and lean back against against a priceless megalith. Not even a wandering Chinese neo-pagan clutching a crystal key ring, druid mouse mat or coffee table book of mystic spells broke the calm. These days armies of security guards and scientists would have you hauled away to the visitor centre and make you pay £13.90p to see it from a distance. Ah, such is the advance of Heritage. Sadly, the pressure of modern day tourism would crush the whole place to sand. Beats me why they allow all this valuable stuff to stay outdoors.

Fame at last

Over the week-end I headed for that area of Wiltshire on our tandem. We made it as far as the town of Amesbury which is the home town of the stone circle. We decided to spend our ancient monument money on a trip to the local tandoori restaurant. We were in for a feast of truly pagan lip smacking scrumptiousness. 

While Oscar refitted a mudguard I popped in to make a booking. On arrival my name was on the table on a cute label. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. I felt like the  poor girl mistaken for the Honorable Lady Mountshaft in some kind of romance novel.

Romantic lamb balti

Since I had forgotten my specs and couldn’t read the menu, I asked the proprietor to make a recommendation. Mr Burhan Uddin, was most helpful and charming. He suggested the lamb shank balti. Oscar had the shaslik chicken tandoori. We shared naan bread and pilau rice, all aided by a very acceptable Australian Merlot house wine. The food was superb.

A feast awaits you

The service was friendly and efficient. The menu is almost a fantasy feast with items such as venison sagwalla, duck tikka massala and lobster pepper fry. Believe me, this is premier league cuisine but without the prices. The restaurant itself is unpretentious but with a comfortable ambiance. I have great pleasure in awarding the full five stars of the Emma spare tyre tummy award to Tandoori Nights of Amesbury, Wiltshire,UK.

If you’re coming this way to see the mysterious Stonehenge, get yourself to the town and treat yourself to a  fantastic curry experience. Oscar’s theory is that the fourth megalith lines up the yuletide midnight moonbeam with the front entrance. Archaeologists and mystics are working on it. 


Emma Thinx:  When did the prehistoric period begin?

Chinese Lantern

And here I am in France. The great cycle race ended in Paris on Sunday and like so many cycling fans and half the population of France a void has opened before me.  

This year has been one of the most remarkable ever. The two main favourites crashed out in the early stages. The eventual winner was Vincenzo Nibali, a somewhat enigmatic Italian. His top position on the Parisian podium was completely eclipsed by the greater victories of two French riders in second and third places. A French commentator interviewing the champion asked: “Well done for your win of course, but you have to concede you had the strongest team. I imagine you are very proud to have ridden with so many fabulous French riders…”

The diplomatic champion acknowledged their triumph. The studio anchor man told the Nation “We are not chauvinists! We are patriots!”

Chinese Lantern Ji Cheng

For now French cycling is on a high. I’m hoping more young folk will be pulling on their Lycra, shaving their legs and turning away from the cigarettes. Also, Chapeau to the guys who won second and third places -Jean Christophe Peraud and Thibault Pinot. To me they all are heroes and champions particularly the Chinese rider Ji Cheng who was the last guy home. Although technically the red lantern at the back of the field, he was a visible player, often in breakaways. He was a marvel and a credit to China. From my pinnacle of fame as a romantic novelist clinging on in invisibility at the back of the book-bashing peleton, I salute you. 

In my day job as an audio editor and producer I have also been immersed in the Tour de France. I have just completed an audiobook narrated by Oscar Sparrow entitled The Tour de France – The Inside Story. Written by Les Woodland, a consummate writer of the polished professional journalistic school, it reflects his own passion for cycling and shares the inside track on those great men who gave birth to the Tour and those who then sustained its legend. It is a fascinating nine-hour account filled with human flavour, foibles and falibility. We did a video clip to show our own way of working on such a project. It’s a great read and an even better listen.

If you want to get a free download of this insight into cycling (worth $19.95/£14.95), whether you’re a fan or not, in exchange for an honest review, leave a message below and I’ll send you your own code for Audible…


Emma Thinx: The French do have a a word for chauvinism




Press 1 for #Film Extras, Press 2 for #Cycle Adventures, Press 3 for The #Brass Section Press 4 For The Very Inspiring #Blogger #Awards


I would like to thank Caleb Pirtle for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award, which is the subject of my post today, as lifted from my post on Venture Galleries Authors Collection Blog.

Its purpose is both simple and important…
It was designed to introduce authors and particularly readers to other authors who are producing some of the finest blogs on the Web today.  In fact, you should first check out the work of Caleb Pirtle at http://venturegalleries.com/author/calebpirtle/


Here are the rules for the contest:

  • Thank and link back to the amazing person who nominated you.
  • List the rules and display the award.
  • Share seven facts about yourself.
  • Nominate fifteen other amazing blogs and remember to comment on their blogs to let them know you have nominated them. Also, follow the blogger who nominated you.

So, here are my Seven Facts:

  • My right thumb is double jointed and allows me to do some freaky reverse moves that totally gross people out. I discovered this skill when my paternal grandfather showed me his – genes will out!
  • I love the sea and could never imagine living too far from the coast. I always feel rejuvenated after breathing in the salty air. As a child I used to get terrible hay fever and our annual family week at the seaside was often the only respite from sneezing and itchy eyes for the whole summer.

    The prevailing winds on British south coast resorts are from the southwest – very little pollen makes it over from the Americas, so I always associate the sea with feeling healthy. I’m very lucky that both in France and the UK I can reach a number of beautiful beaches in under an hour.

  • Something that I rarely admit to….. in a previous life I helped introduce the UK’s first telephone switchboard with an “automated attendant”. You know and love these things: “Press 1 for this, Press 2 for that” etc. etc. We put hundreds of switchboard staff out of work and speared the way for frustrating “voice mail jail” where you just can’t get through to a live human being. The technology was so exciting and it seemed such a great idea at the time – although the voice-editing skills I learned whilst programming these systems are coming in handy now I’m producing audiobooks! It’s rumoured there is still a hospital in Birmingham, England, where I answer the phone…
  • My family loves cycling.

    But, there is a problem, one needs the right machine for the job. Between mountain bikes, road bikes and tandems we have 18 working bicycles, plus a static exercise bike for the bad-weather days. That’s a lot of lube and tube! My eldest son is cycling the Etape du Tour (the stage of the Tour de France that’s open to the public) in the Pyrenées

    on the 20th July. Bon Courage mon brave. Allez. Allez!

  • I learned to speak french listening to Edith Piaf songs and singing along, imitating her accent – she rolls her rrrrrs like no one else!
  • I play the trombone and appear regularly at local bandstands: I love live music – indoors or outdoors and particularly enjoy opera. As a noisy brass player, my goal is to get tickets to see Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle performed at Bayreuth – I’ve had my name down for 8 years but still no news…
  • I was a film extra in a British who-dunnit series: The Midsomer Murders, in an episode called “The Glitch”. They needed a specialist to play the part of the murder victim – a female prepared to ride on the back of a tandem – well hey now that’s my kinda acting! Unfortunately they said I was too young…. but I could still be an extra as part of a charity bike ride featured in the story. I whizz past a couple of times in the woods – in a yellow fluoro t-shirt. Don’t blink or you’ll miss me!

THE IMPORTANT BIT….


This is where I am listing my own fifteen nominations for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.  You need to find them and read their blog posts as well as their novels. You’ll be glad you did. It’s the most important discovery you will make this year.



Lunacy, Lance and Lycra

Hear all about it – lend me your ears.


Wow! What a Tour de France we have had in England. Dense crowds of cheering Brits lined the roadsides. Six million selfies were snapped with the hurtling peleton as a backdrop. 

I haven’t been blogging because I’ve been working at my day job as an audio editor for my company Gallo Romano Media. We picked up a fabulous job to do an audio book all about the Tour de France. I now know things a woman shouldn’t know about what riders used to do with Nivea Cream.(It wasn’t exactly applied where the sponsors intended). I also know a lot more about the history of France and Europe and the juicy scandals and skulduggery surrounding some of the old time stars. Lance has got some catching up to do believe me. 

The book “The Tour de France – The Inside Story” by Les Woodland is brilliant. My man – Oscar Sparrow, did the audio in his performance poet French Italiano mode. To get into the mind set he rode the Tourmalet and the Col de Marie Blanque on a Tacx simulator. Taking the heavy breathing off that track was tough. 

Dropped H – well what ever makes you ‘appy

Getting away from the editing desk on our tandem was wonderful. I had completed a whole twelve miles before I had to take a coffee break in the ultra posh town of Stockbridge in Hampshire. The dropped H from the sign is in honour of my French/Cockney accent. Well – it’s an ‘otel innit. I reckon they took it down for me so that I didn’t feel out of place.

If you’re in to politics, sex, scandal and bikes keep an eye out for out latest audio book which will be out soon. If you fancy winning a free copy click here.



Emma Thinx: Friends, Romans, Cyclists – lend me your rears





Tandemocracy – Vote With Your Feet

The following post appeared on the Loveahappyending Lifestyle Magazine on Friday 20th September 2013:
Once upon a time I had a male work-colleague who, in these enlightened times, would have been called a control freak sociopath with psychotic tendencies.  In those days he was regarded as a leader of men, a tosser-testerone role-model and destined for ultimate command of the galaxy. I used to call him Alpha Moron.  This gentleman had a deep seam of weakness which could be easily accessed through his trousers.  A good female friend was mining his fossil fuel when he astounded the world and fell in love with her.  Of course, I knew it was a mistake.  Firstly he could not love anything outside of a mirror frame and secondly she was far too good for him.  So, incidentally, was my cat and she had been squashed by a truck.

Your chance to give him the boot…
In any event, he declared his love and announced to his “friends” that he intended to marry her.  She did not receive a ring but instead a pair of hiking boots and an anorak.  I should point out that Alpha Moron was a health-food-Nazi, hiker and mountain scrambler.  He declared that his bride-to-be would be tested.  He arranged a weekend in Wales where she would have to climb two peaks in two days to prove her dedication.  In her leisure time she would be allowed to massage his muscles and wash his socks.  My dear demented friend had fallen so far under the spell of his rock-hard fossil that she agreed.  Alpha Moron then invited my boyfriend and me to join them for the test and suggested that I too could be tested if my man (Colin the Beta Moron) felt it appropriate.  He did not and to be honest his fossil had never hardened to the same extent.

Cader Idris, Wales
We set out for Wales.  The peaks were Pen y Fan and Cader Idris. We slogged and scrambled.  We slithered and slaved and that was just getting into the sheep-dung scented guest house. She surprised him by hiding her three kids in my car. Alpha Moron took one look and dumped them on me and Colin.  We took them to Llandudno and ate burgers on the beach in the rain.  He berated us as child abusers for feeding them non-organic junk.  She climbed and survived. Although surprised by the children he married her and took total command.  The kids ran away and she turned to drink.




Ladies – let me tell you there is another way!

Daisy Does Dieppe

Daisy Does Dieppe
You get a tandem bicycle.  If you want to test him – this is the ultimate denouement.  You need to know what sort of character he is.  By tradition a tandem bike has the larger (male) “captain” on the front and the smaller (female) “stoker” on the back.  This may sound daunting but it raises the potential for back-seat driving to ultimate heights.  Men like to pedal faster which can set the female bouncing on her saddle.  Too much of this behaviour can mean there’ll be no night of love to reward his pedalling.  Let him know this early on!
He cannot tell how much effort you are putting in.  If he is a world-conquering super-hero who wants to display his dominance and bionic uber-power – let him!

My Lycra-Clad Lad
Lycra is not necessarily flattering to the body.  If he doesn’t like what he sees now, he’ll like it less in a few years. If you are wondering what he’s got – Lycra, Time and Shakespeare tell all truth.  If you want to know if it’s in his kiss, simply kiss him and see if the elastic goes ecstatic.
If you want to check out his health, metabolism and social adjustment feed him a veggie curry, hold your breath and grip those rear handlebars.
Team understanding is essential.  Gear changes are moments of great stress but also enlightenment.  If you can’t sense your partner’s need for a gear change, your simultaneous harmonies may never sync up. Aaaaah……oh dear….another late change of pace!  Most tandems have twenty-four up to thirty gears so don’t give up on him too soon. The older male needs more time, so a bit of feeble fiddling and dribbling on his own levers can give you the secret time to lube up your own cogs.
His choice of language is a real game changer.  Long weary climbs are a metaphor for a whole marriage.  Any hint of tetchy sarcasm rules him out.  Anything like “I thought you’d gone home,” or “You’ve usually got enough breath talking to your mother,” you’ll be better off on your own.

Zinc & Castor Oil Bliss
My mother told me men only wanted one thing.  The truth is they only want the one thing they haven’t yet got hold of.  And, truth to tell, it’s probably not coated in antiseptic nappy-rash cream.  When you watch the glamour and swirling fashion-logo-fest of Olympic cycling, you’re probably not thinking of saddle sores or intimate blisters.  All those heroes and heroines are greased up like oven ready chickens.  If your man can’t face a bit of intimate Sudocrem he’ll never wield a bog brush. Ditch him!
Test his emotional intelligence. If you tell him twice it would be nice to look at the view and he shouts back that the football/cricket/golf has already started on the TV just stop pedalling and bail out.  It’s over.



However…

If you arrive at your destination, he kisses your fly-spattered gasping lips and tells you you were brilliant – it’s love. I’m a lucky woman – but……the test never ends. There’s always the return trip.
EmmaTandem

En-route to Hurstbourne Tarrant – 32 miles up the glorious Test Valley and still smiling.
I love our bike.  It’s a true harmony and a team sport.  If you are at two with your partner introduce them to the new politics. Tandemocracy – it’s a vote for the coalition of love or the dissolution of empire.  Chant the slogan of equality –

“Forever on four legs, together as one”


Visit The Loveahappyending Lifestyle Magazine to read more of my articles.


Emma Thinx:  Love on a bike has no reverse gear.

Passage to Taillebourg



There’s something so exciting about discovery. Imagine having the chance to find the source of the Nile or even America. Of course there were Africans and Native Indians who used to wander about such places on their way to work every day. I guess they didn’t know that anyone wanted to know about where they were. Nowadays, in the car at least I have Sat Naff. Huge satellites orbit the Earth some 12,000 miles away and they know where the source of everything is. Nevertheless today I got out my bike and set out to discover my own personal equivalent of the Northwest Passage. My aims were slightly more modest and amounted to finding a route from St Savinien to Taillebourg, not using the normal road. It was almost like stepping back into history as I encountered the little hamlet of Coulogné-Sur-Charente. I only have a couple of full days left here in France before I head back north for the madness of it all in the traffic with my bus. As I sit in the queues and bad tempered road ragers blare horns and shake fists I will re-live my moments of slightly woodsmoked  air and the whizz of my bike as I opened the South East passage of my own little world. If you are looking for a holiday in Europe and you don’t want the tourist trample come to Charente Maritime.


I do wish the Brits would stop belly-aching about Europe. OK – there are problems but all this “We want the trade and the advantages but we don’t want to join in” is getting tedious. I do not want to go on about politics but if you look at the World Atlas you will see Great Britain (The Disunited Kingdom) a few miles to the north of France. That’s where we are guys. Prime minister Cameron is sitting on a very sharp fence that threatens to slice right into his leadership regions. John Major called the anti European faction “The Bastards”. Oddly enough that was more or less what the French called William the Conqueror. 


If you are in France Leclerc supermarkets have some great prices for whole sides of French pork. They are also well priced for Boeuf Bourginon and other casserole beef  cuts. 


Emma thinx: United we stand, but only because there are no seats.



I Think Therefore I Spam



Oh what joy it is to be home, if only for a few days. My tanks are filling with that long shadow/warm sun mellow ecstasy which still lives on this far south. We arrived back in France to find that a friend was moving house today. The affair had been in the wind for a while and suddenly the dam of expectation broke, the lawyers dipped their quills and the peasant mob moved in to finish the job. It’s only when you live in France that you realise just how anal the Anglo Saxons are about everything. Here, one day things will unfold. No one knows which day but everyone lives and hopes. By the time it happens there are dozens of people who share the expectation. When the time comes, everyone moves into gear and somehow everything is achieved. No one is allotted any duty and no one is in charge. In rural France most people have vans. Those who do not have vans have trailers. This obviates the need for any furniture removal businesses. In fact, when you think about it, most of the services we think we need and have to pay for only exist because folk don’t know one another. Gilles gave a hand rebuilding beds and I suggested that I cook dinner since there would be plenty else going on. Sometimes things go wrong…….


At about 1 o’clock I was about to put a chicken casserole in the oven to cook slowly for a few hours. The guests appeared at the door. Yes – you spotted the problem. They had come for lunch, thinking that when an English person says dinner, they mean lunch – because everyone knows that the English get it wrong. Accordingly they had double guessed my supposed error. I had single guessed that they knew I did not make that error. Look – this is no problem. You take some tagliatelle, a tin of Spam, a jar of Dolmio  pasta sauce, a tin of chopped tomatoes, some garlic, some Parmigiana cheese and a baguette. In 15 minutes a dish of  Spamastia Fantasia a l’Anglaise was served. Very few people have served Spam to the French. The meal disappeared and plates were cleaned with bread. I kinda felt that my life had not been in vain. 

Later, I took a ride on my bike. There is a field nearby still filled with wild flowers. These days I can no longer do poetry. Life has kicked it out of me and the jingle jangle of road traffic, commercial pop radio, hair dryers, mobile phones, work schedules and world noise blunts me down to a stub. It does this to all of us and we call it getting by and survival. Writing Romance is a different state of mind. It is about escape. You have to see that from which you wish to escape. So, I went to the field of flowers. The sky was a perfect blue and the heavens a dome of azure over my head. Under that  same dome all things lived in the only ways they could. A hawk hovered, a mouse scurried and the flowers ….well, the flowers simply blew in the wind as the world turned and the vacuums drew in the pressures and the strong sowed the seeds of their failure in the defeat of the currently weak. And when all the hour glasses are turned again and all the cards are shuffled, the flowers will blow in the wind. I took a short video which is a kind of a poem. It says nothing but itself.





Emma thinx: Make a deal with time while you can still negotiate.

No Spare Tyre



I once went on an “extended interview”. The job was as a minor official with an eminent UK cycling organisation. I arrived in a room containing about 30 people. Oh yes – we were all there for the same job. We were going to spend the day in teams working on issues and projects whilst we were monitored by important assessors. Then, a final long list was to be drawn up and over the following month or so more interviews and tests would eventually lead to the appointment of the lucky person to a job at about minimum wage. During the day we all had to give power point presentations which we had prepared at home on the subject that “Cycling is seen as a posh middle class activity.” I think they meant people with “Stand Aside” 4X4’s with bikes on the roof for kids called Tamsin and Tarquin Foreskin-Smythe. Then we had to do role plays with other applicants, analyse pages of accident statistics and discuss areas such as strategies, marketing and presentation. Smug but smooth managers moved among us mumbling holy words like “Anticipated roll-out profiles within contexts of multi-layered platforms of social interactions.” In one of my own exercises I had to plan a multi-cultural fun experience transcending stereotypical attitudes whilst heightening ecological issues. I suggested a carnival procession without hydrocarbon entitled “Chilli con carnival” featuring a flypast  by the “Red Barrows” (The Red Arrows are the crack Royal Air-Force display team). Red wheelbarrows could be zoomed around by ethnically neutral persons making aeroplane noises. I thought the examiner was gonna choke. It’s been a couple of years now and it’s beginning to look as if I didn’t make the cut.


The above experience came to mind tonight as I had to solve a problem. Imagine yourself driving a bus loaded with handicapped children. The bus starts to steer a bit heavy and you know there’s a puncture. You can’t really leave the bus or wait on the carriageway when you know there will soon be toilet issues. I spot a service station which is about big enough to take 3 family cars. I attempt an heroic shunt onto the forecourt. People run for cover. The Air line is out of order. I decide to head for the bus depot and make it with the wheel rim rim intact. If only those clever assessors could have analysed my strategy development.


Emma thinx: Liberal authoritarianism -you are free to obey.

King Of The Fountains

By the time you get to my age you feel that maybe you’ve seen a fair bit. Well – you may have done but the fact is that so much changes so quickly. I arrived at the internet keyboard as a pure virgin only a couple of years ago and it is only recently that I had the courage to venture onto a forum. I felt like an apprentice wildebeest attempting to cross a crocodile infested river. I had always imagined cyclists to be  gentle grass eating creatures. I had clicked on a link to the magazine of the Cyclists Touring Club. I figured there might be some advice for the guys on positioning your winter flask in your shorts to avoid embarrassment or a few patterns to knit your own Lycra. I spotted a thread about bus drivers and their interaction with pedallers. As a member of both communities I read on. Suddenly I realised that I had unearthed a 2 wheeled Al Qaeda cell. All bus drivers were reviled as Morons. I decided to put the contrary case, pointing out that cyclists needed to understand the operation of big vehicles and of visibility/mirror issues. Dear Oh dear! Back came echoes of bile and hatred. MORON, MORON! chanted an accuser. I felt the tearing of flesh as the crocs tore into me and pulled me under. And that was a forum for righteous lentil gobblers.


So- looking at yesterday’s item about honey bees, I read some of the comments that readers had added on the Newspaper website. The professors were “feathering their own nests”. A counter opinionater declared that another correspondent was a “Mong” who should get back under his shell.  The fact is that this sort of behaviour is horrid.  Everyone in the writing game has come up against Trolls who abuse other people’s work in an unacceptable way. In my opinion some “forums” are Troll fronts where many correspondents are mentally ill. A few days ago a man appeared in Court in the UK for trolling on  memorial websites to  dead kids. If you do not know of this case check it out here.

The fact is that anonymity permits the very worst of us to emerge, uninhibited by fear of actual violence or reprisal. I know a lad whose life was turned into a Hell by cyber threats on Facebook. I feel myself lucky to have grown up before any such thing was possible. I have just a suspicion that I might have been cowardly enough to express my true vile self.

Emma thinx: You can snipe at rabbits but beware of the cross hares.