Bramble bash & #Keep Palace Pedaling:


bramble bash 3


I just wanted to say a few quick words about the Transition Town, which is something Hayley and I have recently be come in volved with. It is a movement that was started in Kinsale in Cork, Ireland. From the people I have been mixing with I have discoved that it is primarrily about building resilience, and re localizing the economy.

The idea then spread to Totnes, and subsequently to over 400 communities worldwide. Crystal Palace where we live is one of the 15 recognised Transition Towns. But there are examples in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Italy and Chile.

I’ve never actually taken the trouble to research in-depth online the history of the transition movement. Rather than tie myself in knots at the moment. I’ll just say what I’ve picked up from getting involved a bit. What transition seems to be to me is: It’s basically a loose association of people who live in the community who are willing to get together and give some of their time for free to community initiatives.

the tools come out at the Crystal Palace Bramble Bash

the tools come out at the Crystal Palace Bramble Bash

So, for example, the pictures above are of the Bramble Bash. That was an event the other week, where 40+ volunteers who lived near St John’s Church on Auckland Road, came out one Saturday and started hacking away at sapling trees that needed to be removed, clearing brambles and piling up rubbish that had been fly tipped in the church’s grounds. As I understand it in order to keep the church’s grounds maintained from now on, the church are going to give some of the space over two the community as community growing spaces for an initiative called Patchwork Farm.

This means that members of the local community who want to be involved will be able to grow their own food, keep some for themselves and then donate the surplus to the Crystal Palace food market, which is another ongoing and highly successful community project which takes place every Saturday at Haynes Lane, near the triangle. (Apologies if you’re not familiar with Crystal Palace terminology).

The thing I found most exhilarating about the Bramble Bash was that people who I had assumed were simply market sellers who set up stalls at the Crystal Palace food market on a purely commercial basis actually rocked up to help clear the grounds of the church. This had a hugely humanising effect, because the next time I was down at the food market. I actually recognise some of the traders who had been involved in the Bramble Bash. This made me feel instantly more positive about them as people, it’s amazing how involving yourself with something like this can immediately build trust and make you feel much more positive about the people around you.

Nice lade Moves large Tree.

Nice lade Moves large Tree.

The other nice thing about it is, for people mine and Hayley’s age, who don’t yet have children, it’s a great way to get to know other people in our community. I understand that once you start queueing outside the school gate. It’s easy to get to know your neighbours or people who live nearby. But if you are still a childless adult, you often feel like you want to get involved locally and give something back to the community and its nice to have an avenue where you can do this and your motives aren’t questioned.

Every month I go to something called Green drinks. This is another thing that is organised by the transition town and takes place in one of the local pubs. The grape and grain. To be honest, the best aspect of going to Green Drinks is that it’s a bit like being at university again. I don’t quite give the same time commitment. I used to give my drinking while I was at university, but it’s nice to know that there’s at least one night in the month where you can rock up at a pub unplanned and know that there’ll be plenty of friendly faces that you can chat to.

I first got involved because at a London Cycle Campaign protests I met Angus, another Crystal Palace local. He mentioned the cargo bike project, which was happening in Crystal Palace. And suggested that I might be able to help him with the maintenance of these bikes. I duly agreed that that would be an interesting and fun thing to do, and the next thing I knew I was at Green drinks. Before long, an idea struck me about how I might be able to help “increase resilience” and create more community engagement. I suggested that I personally would really benefit from having company while I worked on my own road bike. I tend to do most of the work on my road bike and while my customers are riding on Wine Rides, I’m the person who offers mechanical support. I’ve never worked as a bike mechanic, but I do know how to fix most things, or a least a generally know how to get a bike moving again. I knew that I would definitely benefit from speaking to other people who know more than me. So I decided what I would do is donate the use of my maintenance stand and tools for a couple of Saturdays at the Crystal Palace food market. Hence, #keepPalacePeddling was born.


Dorian attends to horrifically maintained road bike (owned by Alex Baines-Buffery)

#keepPalacePeddling at Haynes Lane is an event where, a couple of local people such as myself and Dorian in the pictures lend our tools and experience to other members of the community for free. The basic idea is that we get our jollies by helping other people get their bikes moving again. There’s nothing more frustrating than the thought of a bike propping up the inside wall of a shed when it could be out on the road saving people money which they can spend in the local community. We also get to meet other nerdy bike people who are happy to stand around on a crisp Saturday morning with a coffee in hand discussing the highs and lows of bicycle ownership in London.

Everything discussed in the post above is an open event. Everyone is welcome at any of these events. If you’d like to get involved then just follow the links which I’ve helpfully posted below. You be able to find more information about these projects and who to speak to if you are interested in contributing yourself.

latex gloves = man who knows what he's doing.

latex gloves = man who knows what he’s doing.



It transpires that someone who knows better than me, has called the figures that I plucked off Wikipedia into question.  I will trust that Joe Duggan, knows were to source reliable statistics on the transition movement. At some point, I will learn how to make this site auto update. Oh and some acceleration graphs of the growth of the movement,  how good would that be? Oh NERDGASM!

Until then people: Trust that Transition Towns is a fast growing movement.

As of September 2013, on this site, there are:

1130 initiatives registered
462 Official initiatives
654 Muller initiatives

In 43 countries”And that’s not taking into account that a lot don’t bother registering or becoming official.




If you’d like some help with your bike, and want to avoid disappointment, then please book a time slot on the workstand here:

Or you’re welcome to rock up at random, and if you have a problem we can fix without the workstand, you can borrow our tools anyway.


Other things mentioned above:
Transition town:

The Grape and Grain:

Crystal Palace Green Drinks:

Patchwork farm:

Bramble Bash:

Crystal palace food Market:


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Who are the real people?

American Eagle

Aerie Real campain

These guys:  have taken chunks out of US clothing firm American Eagle (AE) for claiming to show what “real” women look like. The main complaint is that AE haven’t gone broad enough. Yet: asking marketing to be inclusive is not really reasonable. A private company wants to sell you their product. So they take a risk and invest in a series of communications to achieve a return on their investment.

People are more likely to purchase an item if they think it will fulfil their aspirations. So while it would be nice for companies to spend time filling their ads with every body type that won’t generate more sales than simply using people who the rest of us aspire to be like. It however will cost them more and increase the risk of them losing their investment.

If I simply need a product then I will buy it from the person who can sell it to me at the lowest cost. If it is a discretionary purchase then I am more likely to buy it if the advertisements represent someone I wish to be like and implies that the product will get me closer to my ideal self. That feeling can’t be elicited by showing me images of people who are further from my ideal than I presently am.

Marketing it is mass persuasion. For it to work it has to represent people who are closer to an ideal than most people are. Therefore the more extremely rich and beautiful the people in the ads are, the bigger the pool of customers an ad can capture.

The “ideal” is an unachievable one, but none the less private companies are only going to make bets with their money they think will pay off. This company seems to be going as far as they feel they reasonably can whilst still making a calculated bet.

Being constantly bombarded with images of an unachievable ideal is corrosive and damaging. But it is irrelevant weather we pat American Eagle on the back or belittle their effort.

I doubt the marketing people behind this campaign are cynical. I bet they don’t want to damage young girl’s self-image and I am sure that many people in that organisation really care about what they do. Someone designed those clothes and another person worked hard to put them together as well as they could.

In order for them to get compensated for their time and effort they need to communicate what they do to the rest of the population and persuade us that their time was well spent.

We have to weigh up the damage this kind of marketing course the rest of us against the damage it will course that industry if we say: “you can’t use those kinds of communications, because it is psychologically injuring us”.

Even if you applaud them for raining in their marketing a bit, I don’t think it will pave the way for other companies to go further. It needs legislation and if the damage they do is worse than the benefit we get, then legislation is justified.

Wine Rides doesn’t yet have a huge marketing budget. I set it up because I wanted to run an ethical company that was genuinely good for my clients and good (or at least not harmful) to the environment.

At the moment we just use nicely shot pictures of people who come on our trips. But then again we are still small enough that when you contact this company you get to speak to me or Hayley. Large organisations become faceless.  That makes it easy to assume that they are full of evil “corporate types”. The more I work on my own company the more I doubt that is the case. I think most people want to be good. They want to be proud of what they produce even if it is just nice nickers.

With my TV eye, I noticed that some of the other cycling companies had posted images of customers, sat on their bums looking a bit dishevelled. I worked out that what happened was that the guide had photo’d them when they stopped, probably as the clients arrived for a break. That meant they looked knackered. I am sure in reality they had a great time but getting that shot of a client looking happy on their bike is really hard. It takes a skilled photographer. That’s why I told Hayley: “When you’re out, weight for people to have their break and water. Then photo them just before they set off again, so they look happy, rested and having fun.”

I know our clients have fun on our trips. Our marketing is low level and mostly gorilla at the moment. We only include images of smiling people. If I achieve my aspiration of making a large ethical company, it may get to a point where it becomes more anonymous and I wouldn’t rule out using attractive models as proxies for “real” clients.

Marketing is clearly a dark art, I am no expert. I have been advised by a friend to “tell people that I packed in my stressful job in the city, to do something I love.” because that is a story that people like to hear. The trouble is in my case it isn’t true. I packed in a stressful job in the city to do something as stressful because I wanted to build something great. I wanted the Wine Rides Holiday to exist so one day I could go on it.  My canned joke when customers ask do I love cycling is to reply, “No, I really love driving a van, moving other people stuff and setting up tents.”

Truthfully, I do love that because I see how much joy it brings people. Yesterday I spoke to two potential clients, and both were in love with Wine Rides concept. They told me they were booking on. When clients get in from a ride with a smile and give me an unsolicited update on how the saddle has made their bottom feel, and when I see them laying by their tent and taking in the glorious scenery I am really glad I set their tent up and moved their bag because I know that helped relax them. There really isn’t anything better than getting paid to work and having someone come up at the end of the trip and say “thank you”. That is amazing for me.

So personally I kind of feel for the designer, who designed American Eagle’s Aerie Real line of clothes No doubt in bedrooms across the USA, friends are showing each other their new nickers and saying that they really like them.  When you work for a big organisation, it is so hard to get to hear that kind of positive feedback.

If this debate is as big as I think it is the people in the American Eagle office will be hearing about it, and no doubt are pained by some of the comments. The trouble is it’s easy for someone to bang their chest publically and say they “don’t want to buy pink nickers!” but few people will have a platform to stand up for those guys, so I thought would….

Tweet @winerides and let us know what you think!

The Joy of Christmas Shopping

Unless I have forgotten something, my Christmas shopping is done for this year. For the first year in ages the tide changed for me.  I did almost all my Christmas shopping out in the real world, and not online. However there was one thing I got from the web. I bought this for my brother because it is awesome:

For the rest of my shopping I got up early yesterday and headed to Brixton to buy some gifts. I think in total I spent about £18 more than I would have done had I done it online. In the end though I now have all my presents for people and I don’t have the anxiety of wondering when the presents are going to show up.

After a good walk around Brixton, I established that I was not going to get everything I wanted there. In particular I really wanted to get my Mum a Book called “S” by JJ Abrams.  My local independent book shop had sold out of this. So I began to worry that it might be a little hard to get my hands on. With some trepidation about what it might be like in town I hopped back on the number 3 bus and headed for the centre of London.

(If you are wondering as far as I know my Mum doesn’t read my blog, so the surprise is still intact, I think….)

“S” caught my attention, because it has been specifically designed to not transmit online.  The concept is that it is a library book that was being borrowed by to people. So there are two stories: the central text of the original book and a narrative formed by correspondence in the books margins between two people who are taking the book out of the library. There is also a letter that has been folded up and placed in amongst the pages. Although you can get a kindle copy, to buy this book digitally means that you miss out on all that theatre.

It wasn’t that long ago that Waterstones was sucking the life out of small independent book sellers. Now they are making little videos mocking Amazon ( To me that seems like they are worried about being put out of business themselves. They do seem to be in an awkward nowhere land between my local book shop Book Sellers Crow and the internet giant. But I would say they are really good for one thing.

I used to go to Waterstones to get my holiday reading. I would leave it to the last moment and charge into the nearest branch and often not find the obscurer non-fiction title I wanted. At some point I worked out that they could check on the system and find a branch in London that had it in stock. At which point I would get it reserved, and cycle over to that branch and pick it up.

Now I have a Kindle I don’t need that. Researching and selecting something to read while we are away has become a pleasant way of passing time in the departure lounge.  It is also hard to deny, the internet has made the high-street a much more pleasant place to shop. The first Waterstones I went into in search of a copy of “S” thought it had two copies of the book. I was able to get a member of staff running up and down the levels looking for it for me.

Once they worked out they didn’t have it they rang several other branches, where presumably someone else had to run up and down stairs to go and find it for me, that is service. In the 90’s when my shopping career started if you couldn’t find what you were looking for, you basically had to beg the shop staff for help, so you could give them your money. Now they can’t do enough to help. I love that. I wonder if we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Are we now at last starting to see what shops and the web are for?

My personal feeling is that the web is great for shopping if you know exactly what you want. It is the most transactional place to shop. Almost always it is the best price. I didn’t buy “S” on line because I wanted to check it out first and make sure it was going to be a beautiful object (it is). I also knew that if I bought it on line, it arrived and it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be I would have an awful time getting it back to Amazon. Also when you buy on line you don’t always know who the carrier is. That can vastly affect your customer experience. UPS and Royal Mail seem to be the best. Other commonly used carries in the UK are totally rubbish.

Small local shops don’t carry a large amount of stock so they find it harder to cater to your whims if you want something a bit obscure. But for gift ideas, if you don’t know what to get someone then small shops are the best. The owners are like that friend with great taste in music. They have spent time researching and making great selections for you. You can get to know them and establish you trust their judgment. In Crystal Palace we have what I call “a Lovely Lady Shop”, South of the River. If ever we need a gift for a girl that is a great first port of call. We go there for their expertise.

Waterstones and chains like them work fantastically in big cities where they have several stores in close proximity. They are good because of the shear amount of stock they can hold in a manageable geographic space.  They are perfect if you use them that way.

If you know exactly what you want to buy, it isn’t perishable, you know what you are doing with it when it arrives and time is not a factor then yes you would be mad not to buy online.

The book is probably the best example of this process in action. I love my Kindle. It has put some of the world’s best literature at my fingertips for free. Booksellers do need to worry about the Kindle as it is going to take money from their tills. I will never again buy an out of copyright book from a shop because I want to read it, I will download it for free. But I don’t see how Kindle can kill the paper book. An e-reader file is not a gift. It’s not something you can hand someone and say thank you, I love you.

I once got a Kindle voucher in a card at the end of a TV job and I was really touched by that. It showed that they knew I loved reading and it was nice to get a little bonus that I had to spend on something fun. But vouchers are almost money so they work less well as gifts for people you are close to. You can’t give your wife £150 worth of Amazon vouchers at Christmas but if it meant something to them, you could spend £150 on a rare or beautiful book as an object.

The world has changed and it seems to me that the Christmas shop is now easier and more fun than it has ever been before. Please feel free to steel or share these gift ideas. And if you do have to leave the couch this year and brave the high-street, don’t worry. It is not as busy as it used to be, the service is better. If you eat before you start and wear comfy shoes then you might even enjoy it.

Well done to the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association


I love cycling and I care about its progress. So I hope it won’t surprise you to learn that I think that the UK should vastly increase the amount we spend on cycle infrastructure.

I am also a bit of a science geek, so I tend to love evidence, even if it doesn’t necessarily chime with my views. Last week, I had one of those moments where I had to smile. It was great.  The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, filmed cyclists at a selection of junctions, jumping red lights. I would like to thank them for this as I feel a weight has been lifted and the may have move the debate on a step by saying something we cyclists couldn’t until now say about ourselves.

Firstly, what I suspect they have done is “mined” their data. They have chosen junctions where they know many cyclists jump lights, rather than a random selection of junctions. Nonetheless it is shocking that about half of the cyclists jumped the lights. But we have to consider that, at a red light, only one or two cars have the opportunity to jump the light. But because they are much smaller, more bikes can get across.

However, I personally don’t think that is the point, and I am happy to leave all my doubts about their data aside. Let’s accept that they have found some fairly shocking evidence and they have demonstrated something that I think is true.

The cycling lobby, small as it is, does tend to portray cyclists as largely virtuous with a tiny minority of people who jump lights, and that clearly isn’t the case.

I’d like to be one of the first to take this opportunity to be frank and honest. I do sometimes jump reds. Not indiscriminately, and not at junctions. But I also drive a car and at times, break the speed limit. I break both of those rules for the same reason. As a rational person, I sometimes act selfishly and break rules when I don’t think there is any chance I will get caught. I do it for personal gain, I get home quicker. In fact I have an hours ride now and like every other day I will pedal my bike through a park with a “no cycling” sign.

The point is that we shouldn’t expect human behaviour to change. And we shouldn’t accept this view that cyclists and drivers are two distinct groups. They are all people and all equally virtuous. No one is happy with the status quo, but it is the system or more to the point the infrastructure that has to change. If it does, the proportion of cyclists behaving “selfishly” will fall. Science FACT.

When the infrastructure is made better and cyclists are safer, the attitudes amongst cyclists, against cyclists that jump lights will harden.

If you want proof just look at the sexual attitudes survey: It has been shown that both men and women are now less tolerant of cheating because, premarital sex and casual relationships are now acceptable. So there can be no justification to have an extra marital affair. In relationships, it’s fine so long as you are both informed and agree.

A similar thing will happen in the cycling situation. When cyclists are totally safe and not harassed by traffic, there will be no justification for “cheating” and jumping lights. The social contract will be renewed.

That’s why it is important that the infrastructure that is put in place is well designed and fair. If it takes you on convoluted routes or means fast cyclists can’t pass slow ones the cyclists will once again renege.

The battle here is that people who don’t use a bike see cyclists as a homogenous out-group. And when you make your case for better cycling facilities, and they agree, they move into the “they don’t help themselves” cascade. If they can’t blame other adults, they then talk about kids on bikes etc. until they can put you in the in-group with them and “bad” cyclists in an out group. This means the “bad” out group of cyclists become to blame and the status quo gets maintained. Its only when I have time to think about it that I get to realise that the out group is always, just another group of normal people reacting to their situation.

The red lights thing is the fastest way to close this discussion down, because it quickly finds the “bad” out group. If you say you do jump lights then apparently that takes away your authority to speak. It’s like saying: “I am a bad person”. But the truth is this evidence coming to light is great. It makes us face reality. No cyclists are pious; they lie and cheat and so does everyone else. But bikes are a mode of transport which should be available to everyone who lies and cheats, not just fit people in the prime of their lives that lie and cheat.

London in particular needs a dedicated cycle network. Not only to curb the air pollution but also to take the pressure off the rail network. The roads are saturated with cars. We can barely get any more on. If we want more people to be able to move around London at a reasonable speed, clean air that’s safe to breathe and transport that is affordable, then I would suggest that mass cycling is the way to go.

Taxi drivers and cyclists have interests that align. These two groups should not be at each other’s throats. Cars in London travel on average at 9mph. In that context they aren’t vehicles, they are just large polluting mobility aids. And to be fair, there are a lot of cars carting fat people around the capital.

Not everyone can get about on a bike. That’s why it is so tragic that at the moment only the young and fit feel they can cycle to work in London. There are lots of able bodied people in empty cars, spending hard earned cash, to clog up the roads. If we made cycling to work a really attractive offer, we could get most of the able bodied, onto bikes like they have done in Holland. I would love to see London’s roads left for talented professionals like our black cab drivers, delivery vehicles and those with a genuine need, such as the disabled.

What we need is a small amount of protected road space, a carrot to get more people on bikes, and a few rules that leave the majority of the roads to the pros and those with most need.

It’s already happening. Private car ownership peaked in London in the early 90’s, we now have zip car and people like me in their 30’s just rent cars as and when they need them. This is progress. Let’s not get in the way of it. Let’s work together to make sure it happens faster. Cab drivers will get more fares, cyclists have cheap healthy safer routes to work and fewer people will feel the need to haemorrhage their hard earned cash on servicing vehicles and petrol.

Tell me why that wouldn’t be better?

Can you be a MAMIL at 30?


This weekend I turn 30. It has kind of crept up on me, but to be honest I don’t feel too bad about it.  As it is winter and we aren’t running any Wine Rides Weekends till it warms up again next May. So I am back working in TV.  The Project is fantastic but sadly still highly confidential and in the early stages, so I can’t say much about it other than in order to get my head around a fairly complex subject matter I spent the day categorising sea animals so I could understand how they relate to each other.

The easiest group by far was the “Mammals” basically if it has nipples then it’s a mammal. As the weather has turned and I have once again started my Sisyphean daily journey into London and back each day, I have regained the thinking time that comes with cycling to and from work. This led me to wonder if I am now a MAMIL in the cycling sense.

The average commute time in the UK is the largest in Europe. On average we Brits commute for 45 minutes a day as opposed to 23 minutes in Italy or 24 minutes in Germany. In fact, our average commute is 20 minutes longer than the average American commute which may be a surprise to some people.

In addition to running Wine Rides Ltd I am a freelance Assistant Producer, so I work for several production companies. As a result my trip into London is generally 50 minutes to an hour on bike. The longest daily trip I’ve had to do is from my house in Crystal Palace to the BBC in Shepherd’s Bush at a whopping one hour and 10 minutes. I found that so draining that I only did it for days a week, and tended to take the train in on Friday.

If you have not come across the term yet: a MAMIL is a slightly derogatory term for middle-aged man in lycra. I do wear lycra when it gets cold, but I think my impending 30th birthday made me conscious of my age and for some reason this stopped me wearing lycra for my commute. The situation came to a head yesterday when it rained badly, and I really didn’t want to get my workload soaking so had to don the lycra once again.

I had a quick look at the reasons that cause such long commutes. A major cause of “extreme commuting” which is people who commute more than 90 minutes a day is the fact that most members of a couple now work. Certainly this has been a factor in mine and Hayley’s commutes. We’ve moved closer to Hayley’s work, but that has on average increased my commuting time.

I hate to keep having a go at the car as a mode of transport, but I was also horrified to see what effects commute time has on people who drive to work. Only 3% of journeys in the UK are made by bicycle. And, generally, any time you spend exercising ads, only the exact amount of time to your life expectancy that the exercise took. So if you don’t particularly like exercise then that probably isn’t worthwhile time you’re adding to your life. I tend to find I do enjoy exercise and the something about the monotonous action of peddling, which creates space in your head and time to think. I’m sure having your hands and legs occupied is a massive help. When you’re riding a bike, it’s very hard (though not impossible) to check emails.

According to Mark J Penn ‘Extreme commuters are at greater risk of dangerous behaviour like road rage as well as health problems. Dr John H Casada, the specialist in road stress has said that the longer people’s commutes are the more likely they are to suffer road rage, which can lead not only to violence, but also heart attack, stroke and ulcers’ and Researchers at Georgia Tech have found that every 30 minutes spent driving increases your risk of becoming obese by 3%. That’s not surprising given that In 2005 ABC/Washington Post poll on traffic found 4 in 10 drivers said that while in traffic jams, They eat.

Robert Putman also found that for every additional 10 minutes you spend commuting you have 10% less time for family and community activities. Which is particularly cruel as most of us who have chosen to live further away from work, did so to get a better quality of life.

Amazingly “the WHO, said that when it comes to cancer, it now considered air-pollution to be even more dangerous than smoking.” And it turns out that drivers are at particular risk from air pollution because of the amount of time they spend sitting in traffic directly behind the exhaust pipe of the vehicle in front. It’s also been shown that including physical activity in your commute reduces your risk of colon cancer by 34%.

So on balance, I’m inclined to think that commuting by bike, not only saves me money and gives me time to relax at the end of the day and think about what I need to do, but it also appears to be reducing the rate at which my ageing body is rotting.

I’ve always thought of 30 as basically being middle aged. When I say this, it normally causes consternation amongst my friends. But the way I see it if you live to 90 years old then, the first 30 years, are the first third of your life. The second 30 years, are the middle third of your life, and the last 30 are the last 30. So if you’re 30+ you’re in the middle period of your life. However, Wikipedia informs me that this is not the case. Middle age is considered to be the third quarter of your life. The first quarter is childhood, so that doesn’t count (??? I don’t quite know why).  And apparently because of the increase in life expectancy middle age has increased from 41 years to 53 years.

That being the case, I was slightly disappointed to discover that I have not reached “MAMIL” status yet. Unfortunately, it will be quite some time before I am officially, or at least biologically a middle-aged man in lycra. So if like me, you’re about to hit 30. Please stop flapping; don’t do what I did, there is no need for an age induced wardrobe crisis. And hey, in the mean time I am pleased to announce, that I do have nipples, so I’m still a mammal in the conventional sense.