Grimly we ploughed through the neated rows of vines, ignoring the howling wind and the horizontal rain, focusing only on our Goal – a good view of the Tour de France as it shot through A Village Near Us! Rarely does the opportunity come this close – close enough to hear the wheels purring smoothly, to see those muscles pulsing... pulsing, to feel the wind in your hair as the bikes whoosh lycra’dly past - it's an opportunity not to be missed!
‘A bit of exercise’ – walking instead of driving – had seemed a suitably sporty idea to reach the spot… But one row of vines looks very like another. Our water tower marker suddenly appeared on the wrong horizon, then disappeared completely...
George was still sticking to his 'half an hour at most!' forecast; I was losing hope. “Let’s have a sandwich!” I suggested. George frowned and pointed out that it was nowhere near lunchtime, and if we just went back along this track until we reached that treeline, we might be getting near the main road...
Some time later..., we did by chance hit the main road, and soon cars started passing us and joining cars already parked along the verge. People opened their boots to unleash padded coats and canvas chairs (we're generally alone in flinging a jacket on the grass), then strode along to the wide viewing bend, where a crowd shuffled in small clutches, gazing expectantly up the road and muttering, "Should be here any minute...".
After about a week, someone with a mobile yelled, “Caravan in five minutes!” (Oh thank god!)
And Loh! It did verily heave into view – 45 minutes of colourful, musical and demented publicity vehicles (of which this is but One - look out for Heroic Gendarme saving child-wanting-hat):
This is George's proud camera-work, and not even our voices are in it, but we were There. I specially loved the veritable Ethos of the Tour, portrayed in giant yellow Balloon Sculpture.
I read that for many people, the Caravan is best part. (So I'm not the only one...)
Anyway, after It, there follows a lengthy pause before the actual Cyclists arrive. This can be quite handy for erecting foldy chairs, (or brollies as the rain has no doubt set in again), and for shuffling about bagging a better view. Several people had their eye on my lamppost for example, planted as it was on a small hillock.
I leaned menacingly.
Then I had to relinquish my claim because George had gone and bagged a better view down the road a bit - loads of space, perfect outlook, ditch very leapable - we knew we'd be happy there...
I'd eaten my inadequate sandwich ages before, and was very sorry I hadn't made more effort to grab a flying publicity biscuit. Messages had got through on the progress of the race, and it was now running an hour late. Children were getting bored with their death-defying ditch games, and holiday-makers were wishing they'd gone to see another chateau instead.
And then! A rustle in the throng, an excited murmur and fingers-pointing, the thrub of the TV helicopters (oh god - how's my hair?!) And they're HEEEERE!
What a Thrill as they burned rubber round that long bend and shot up the Straight towards us! Such a densely packed crowd of nearly two hundred bikes, looking very like this:
(In fact, this clip was the youtube end of Stage 11, which Mark Cavendish won).
Our snippet of The Tour was just the same, but without the Pirates of the Caribbean music and the finish line. It was fabulously exciting and very quick. What a disappointment when the bringing-up-the-rear van came past...
Yes - a Disappointment! Obviously for George the Tour-junkie, but why for a dedicated Unsporty such as I? The enforced hanging around Anticipating, perhaps..., the frisson of Live Action...
Should I start accompanying George to football matches, one wonders...
The Fenland Reed
19 hours ago