"I'm behind my drums, Tony is stone-faced on a chair in the corner, bass not yet out of its case, and it's four-and-three-quarter hours after our appointed start time."
the words are from the excellent biography of drummer bill bruford, a man who's percussive career spanned some 41 years, yet he's mostly renowned for having left prog rockers yes in the mid seventies after being their drummer for only four years. it's strange what folks remember. on leaving yes, he joined king crimson, and if that was your musical proclivity at any time between the seventies and the nineties, you may be familiar with his work.
the particular event to which bruford refers above was a recording session with american guitarist al dimeola. the tony mentioned is tony levin, a superb session bass player who has also played with king crimson and peter gabriel amongst many others. levin is not one to suffer fools gladly, and even less impressed with poor timekeeping, in both senses of the word. when once asked what the difference was between playing with bill bruford or session great, steve gadd, levin replied "one of them turns up on time."
in this instance, both bruford and levin had been booked for a recording session due to commence at noon. they'd both arrived on time, set the drums up, messed about a bit, then waited for dimeola to arrive. as mentioned in the opening quote, the guitarist was not the most punctual of musicians, a factor that had levin debating whether he might simply leave having played not one note.
"Al begins to run the tune down. Tony and I listen. I play a few bits, try a couple of options, ask him to repeat a section. Still not a word from the bass department."
to bring this to a satisfactory conclusion, at least from the reader's point of view, the piece of music in question is really tricky, involving a substantial number of notes that dimeola obviously wants levin to double on the bass. "Even if he practised what Al is proposing for a week, I doubt he'll remember it, let alone get it right." of course, on removing his bass from its case, levin simply instructs the engineer to roll the tape. He remembers the four-minute piece exactly, and produces a note-perfect bass part; no slips, no fluff, no guff. Then he doubles it."
would that we all had the ability of tony levin, and not necessarily just on a bass guitar. i am of a similar mind when it comes to personal time-keeping. i think it something of an insult to keep anyone waiting, and i have been in more than one band where certain members were renowned for their distinct lack of punctuality. and there are those who presage their start time at work by arriving five minutes late. where would the sunday ride be if everyone arrived at debbie's whenever they wanted?
it may even be pragmatic from time to time (pardon the double pun) to put a stopwatch over a specific length of tarmac. i have no time for strava; my lack of competitiveness stretches even as far as refraining from uploading my time for a particular route, for no doubt someone will feel honour bound to beat it. i am well past caring about such matters. and though it will not endear me to the folks at garmin, i confess that the greatest use their excellent gps units gain while affixed to my bicycles is offering a reliable method of telling the time.
saturday past, i had elected to take mrs washingmachinepost out to lunch, but not before riding to deb's for some froth beforehand. i would, to put not too fine a point on it, have seriously marked my copy book had i not returned home in plenty of time to change and nip out for some vittles. in a move that hearkens back to the days when people used phones for talking to each other, i would far rather rely upon a wrist watch than digital readouts strapped to the handlebars.
admittedly even a stylish timepiece such as the festina under review will not record my heart-rate, offer an indication of the gradient that has me beaten, describe my actual and average speed and many other questionable, yet seemingly innocuous digits. but i'd look a bit of a clown if i wore an edge 810 on my wrist (though i can see that day looming) rather than a solid looking, stylishly crafted watch. such as the festina, now that you come to mention it.
the less than snappily named f16667/1 has a stainless steel casing, offering waterproofing to a depth of ten atmospheres (very handy in the torrential rain we've experienced recently) a rubber strap, which i opted for, rather than the stainless steel version also available, and has a miyota quartz movement. as mentioned, this watch forms one part of festina's tour of britain range, and i figured the blue strap and matching chrono features against a white face, faithfully represented the scottish part of the equation. at least, it works that way for me.
of those three blue circular mini timekeepers on the face, the lowest displays the seconds. the other two form part of the chronograph functions; the centre offers the number of hours being timed, and the topmost takes care of the minutes. perhaps unintuitively, the large red second hand is also part of the stopwatch features, remaining steadfastly at twelve during normal time function. on the opposing half of the watch face is displayed the current date.
the right edge sports three substantial buttons. the centre allows setting of the correct time and date adjustment; the top button starts the stopwatch function when depressed once and stops it when pressed a second time. pressing it for a third time re-starts the stopwatch from where it left off. the lower of the three buttons resets all the chronograph functions to zero which, for no particular reason, is fascinating to watch (again, no pun intended). the outer bezel on the watch face is calibrated in seconds.
if there's a downside to this particular model it's in the siting of those mini timekeepers on the watch face. for no discernible reason, on receiving the watch from unique jewelry i timed my journey from home to debbie's, purely in the interests of research, you understand. on reaching my coffee cup and stopping the chrono, it was difficult to read the minute function due to the tail ends of the hour and minute hands obscuring the relevant portion. while the stopwatch function is eerily accurate and simple to use, i doubt it's the mission critical timepiece you'd use at the british time-trial championships or tour de france prologue.
festina, official timekeepers for both the tour de france and the tour of britain, also offer a range of tour de france edition watches, and it seems that the chrono features on those may obviate this problem. but in mitigation, those demand £100+ more than the tour of britain editions.
in case you're even remotely interested, my time to debbie's was orginally 34 minutes and 55 seconds, though a week later on a different bicycle and with better legs, i reduced this to 31 minutes and 53 seconds. even with gloved fingers, it's eminently possible to both stop and start the chronograph while cycling, though you may have to stop in order to read the numbers recorded. (and just on the off-chance that it's something you've needed to know for a while, a mundell's bus takes 28 seconds to drive from the bus stop at the foot of main street all the way to the round church at the top.)
in 2002, i bought myself a colnago watch with a carbon face to go along with my first c40. it told the time, date and nothing more, but it clearly stated the word colnago in white lettering as well as being engraved on the left side. however, if worn while riding, particularly if raining at the time, it steamed up to a disappointing degree of illegibility, remaining so for several days. i fear that this regular condensation brought its function to a premature end. the festina is made of far sturdier stuff.
however, if you're allied to the world of weight-weenies, it's quite possible the watch will considerably outweigh the advantages you figured had been achieved by using latex tubes or titanium bolts. in daily use, the watch feels neither chunky nor heavy, but i've often marvelled at the number of professional riders who have had their mechanic weigh every ball-bearing before fitting, yet race with a substantial chunk of metal and glass on their wrist. in regular use, the festina offers no discernible discomfort. not even from those three buttons.
though i'd not necessarily recommend that you try this at home (or maybe you should), i rolled back the left sleeve of my waterproof jacket while riding in heavy rain to expose the watch to the elements. 80 kilometres and heck knows how many litres of precipitation later, the watch face and chrono functions were still crystal clear.
unless you're a professional cyclist or perennial cyclo-tourist, you'll spend more hours off the bike than on, so it seems important to wear a timepiece that will not only function, but impress with its style. there is nothing outwardly tying the f16667/1 to the forthcoming tour of britain, but a bit like those sharp tanlines on thighs and arms, you'll know, and i'll know. and quite frankly, that's the deal breaker as far as i'm concerned.
the watch has already drawn several admiring glances and comments, and this on a personage used to being summarily ignored by civilians and pelotonese alike. festina is a name intertwined with modern day cycle racing for reasons both good and bad. the latter is well in the distant past (and not of their making), while the former is quite likely as good as it gets. £149 (s/s strap version is £169) is not an alarming amount to pay for a watch of this quality and function. by all means retain the gps on the handlebars, but treat yourself to a festina tour of britain edition watch, or even its big brother, the tour de france edition. yet another variation of the cyclists' secret handshake, albeit with a large swash of syle and pragmatism.
'either it swings with a steady tempo, or it doesn't.'
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sunday 16th june 2013