Gunpowder’s first episode, shown on BBC One on Saturday 21st October, 2017, leaves nothing to the imagination, nothing at all. In some of the most brutal and graphic scenes I’ve ever witnessed on british television, Gunpowder promises to push the boundaries and promote a high degree of storytelling and drama. Within the first quarter of an hour, not long after the watershed we see a woman stripped naked and crushed to death and a young Priest hung, drawn and quartered in a bloody and yet utterly compelling scene. It’s impossible to look away but the executions only serve to solidify how savage and bloodthirsty 17th Century Britain was.
England, 1603. Elizabeth I is dead and King James of Scotland has taken the throne. With the country at war with Catholic Spain, English Catholics are persecuted and priests caught saying Mass are punished with death. Several attempts have already been made on the new King’s life. All so far have failed. But deep in the heart of the Warwickshire countryside a new plot is brewing. A plot that will become legend, and leave a mark on the country that will still be felt over 400 years later.
We learn early on in the episode the terrifying persecution of the Catholics and the lengths of those tasked with hunting down the Catholic sympathisers would stoop. Shaun Dooley, who plays Sir William Wade gives an outstanding role and for me the actor of the episode. Determined to find his pray he is ruthless but it’s his sinister mannerisms and sheer arrogance that come to the fore. He’s not a man to be messed with and although he shows a touching side to his personality at the gallows – albeit briefly – he carries out his duty with a unwavering ruthlessness.
Some have questioned if the drama is too gory for British television but for me, the BBC got it spot on. In Gunpowder they have given us a violent yet classy drama, a true reflection of the times and believe you me, there’s more to come in episodes two and three!
Gunpowder – all three episodes – is now available to watch on the iPlayer.
A few weeks ago Wattbike kindly sent over the new Wattbike ATOM for me to test for a few days and although I was still setting up the home gym, converting the garage, I managed to move a few things around and create enough space to accommodate the bike.
Indoor cycling has developed a great deal over the last couple of years, especially with the popularity of Zwift (and other third party software such as Trainer Road, Sufferfest) going from strength to strength – more on Zwift in future posts but it’s an incredible piece of software that truly encourages hard work and sweat! Nothing like watching your very own avatar ride up to another cyclist and benefit from the draft!
My first impressions were incredibly positive, it’s a lovely bit of kit and although not a finished model (number 26 I think) it looks sharp and aerodynamic! When I first saw it, my first thoughts were I hope this is good – I want one! It looks a lot sexier than the Pro or Trainer models.
Setting up the bike is simple and anyone used to cycling indoors will know individual measurements, seat angles, height and such and get to it. Adjustments are made by the supplied Allen keys. You may also need to change the pedals, they come with basic key pedals so buying clipless pedals is a must.
Connecting the iPad (you have to supply your own iPad/Tablet/Phone) with the bike is straightforward and following two rides on the first morning, one with Zwift and the other with the wattbike app. The connection worked well, seamless in fact however I did feel as if there were a couple of niggles with it a) it took a lot more effort to get the same wattage I have been getting with the Pro or Trainer b) there is a slight delay in gear shifting and c) I found the resistance slightly strange in that there was more when I didn’t expect it i.e. 0% and when reaching the top of a gradient the resistance grew for a couple of seconds before tailing off. This was using the Zwift application.
Connections with the bike itself and heart rate monitor are very easy.
Given the small issues I had with the bike and Zwift I thought I’d try it out using the updated Wattbike App – I tried Winnats Pass to see how that was and to see the resistance! I wish I hadn’t! As a rookie, and I mean rookie, I struggled! I managed it in 12 minutes but it was tough going. The app starts on gear 6/22 and I quickly found once the gradient kicked in I’d have to knock it down – ended up at 1/22 (shows how bad I am I guess!) but it appeared more responsive to me. The resistance was tough, I think it went up to 17 or 18% but I might have missed it if it did go higher! I stopped twice!
Feeling a little more confidence from a more responsive connection I did a few more generic rides (just ride) and it definitely felt better and more tuned with the official app than Zwift but this I’m sure is down to the Zwift software. The one thing friends have commented on when they’ve been around is how damn sexy the bike is! It’s very aero looking and definitely has a smaller profile than the original bikes so if space is a consideration then this may suit your needs over the Pro. It’s very sturdy and didn’t move when I went from side to side either in the saddle or standing up doing the Winnats pass climb.
Although I’ve mentioned the gearing above one thing that I’d like to see in third party software is an indication of what gear you are in. When using the Pro or Trainer this isn’t as important because the gearing is visual but with the ATOM, apart from when using the Wattbike App, there’s no way you can tell an given the delay in response time from shifting the gears you can quite easily think the instruction hasn’t made it through and you end up with too high or too low a gear on anything but the inbuilt app. I’m hoping this is something Wattbike and third party software developers like Sufferfest, Trainer Road and Zwift will sort out sooner rather than later.
The main thing about this bike is that Wattbike are developing it purely for the home market, this isn’t a gym bike and you can’t compare the ATOM with the Pro model but the fact that it comes with a 2 year guarantee from Wattbike should alleviate any fears over workmanship. Would I buy one? Definitely, this is a lovely bit of kit. There is currently a 15 week lead time with the ATOM, an increase over the 6 week lead time a month ago. It’ll be interesting to see if cyclists used to direct drive training will jump over to the ATOM, only time will tell.
Smart trainer control: ANT+ FEC and Bluetooth Smart Control
Gradient: Range 0–25%
Third Party Connectivity: Via ANT+ FEC/ANT+/Bluetooth Smart Control
Height: Max. 150cm (fully extended tablet holder)
Feet: Rubber feet
Rollers: Transportation rollers fitted
Seat: Racing seat fitted as standard
Pedals: Flat pedals with toe cage fitted as standard
Tablet holder: Can accomodate from 70mm–240mm in height
Handlebar fore/aft adjustability: Range 0–7.5cm
Handlebar height adjustability: Range 53.5cm–76.5cm
Saddle fore/aft adjustability: Range 0–8.8cm
Saddle height adjustability: Range 57cm–83cm
Power range: 0–2000w
Power required: Mains adaptor
Don’t forget to take a look at Ray’s hands on experience over at DC Rainmaker.
The ATOM is priced at £1,499 – £1,559 including postage.
I can promise you one thing; my days of making snowmen are over. No more! Winter isn’t far away and if one of my neighbours decides to build a snowman in our quiet, secluded street, I’m booking the first flight to Barbados and running! I’m not kidding; this is one hell of a creepy crime thriller! – They don’t have snow in Barbados do they?
Psychologically it scared me to death; I guess it had the desired effect!
“We’re going to die” a young lad proclaims in the back of his mother’s car.
Jo Nesbo’s “The Snowman” is without doubt one the best books I’ve ever read, it has everything. A tight storyline; electrifying pace and imaginative prose; all morphing together to produce a magnificent on the edge of your seat Norwegian thriller. You won’t know who to trust!
I read The Snowman a few years ago and thought I’d revisit the book now that Tomas Alfredson’s movie of the same name has hit our screens. Starring Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson I had great expectations.
Soon the first snow will come. And then he will appear again. The Snowman. And when the snow has gone, he will have taken someone else. What you should ask yourself is this; “Who made the snowman”? Who makes snowmen? Who gave birth to the Murris? For the Snowman doesn’t know.
Jonas wakes to a house filled with silence. His father left the night before to catch an overnight flight and when he went to bed he only had his mother and a snowman in the garden for company – A creepy snowman he hadn’t built. He cries out for his mother but when no one answers he walks out into the garden; the snowman is there and so is the pink scarf he gave his mother for Christmas. His mother is missing.
Comparing the book and movie is difficult but think chalk and cheese – they don’t go. The movie is such a disappointment, it went nowhere, lacked any direction or tension. There were no scary points in the film, it didn’t make me jump and even the death scenes lacked any punch. Universal Pictures who distributed the film definitely missed a trick here. They had every chance of building a terrific Harry Hole franchise but with this, arguably the strongest – for me at least – Jo Nesbo book, there’s nowhere to go. Only time will tell if they produce another.
The book on the other hand is magnificent and filled from cover to cover with explosive tension.
My Final Thoughts
Buy the book but leave the movie, it’s not even worth a rental unless you want to see some breathtaking Norwegian landscape and scenery – now that was magnificent!