The i-Team abroad - Loire Valley training Camp: 11th – 19th May 2012
“Pedals, Ping-Pong and Poker”
“Fangs for the Memories”
Roger 'The Grinder' Forest
Paul 'Rip Yer Legs Off' Morris
Terry 'Cafe Stop' Hammond
Phil 'Pedigree Chum' Chandler
Jon 'Granny Ring' Skidmore
The i-Team Abroad – France, May 2012 - Read at Your Risk!
No names have been altered in this account to protect the innocent. The use of the oxymoron ‘Garmin global positioning system’ is done so with diminishing degrees of accuracy. Readers with photo-sensitive regurgitation should be aware that there are images of dog attack and drunken poker players. Readers may progress at their own risk – the management states that what you read shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth (as moderated by the management).
And so it begins …….
Day 1 – Friday 11th May 2012. “Advance Party Sortie”
38 Park Road, Purbrook...
With Roger due to pick me up at 0830 hours, I waited with bags and bike a-ready at the front gate waiting for this genius of military precision and logistics, to hove onto view. Sure enough, at 0829 my mobile rings, no doubt as a precursor to him looming round the corner.
“Roger here” the voice entreats, “I’m outside of number 38 Park Road – where are you?”
“I’m outside of No: 38 Park Road, – I’m the one with bike, 2 bags and a sleeping bag – where are you?”
Momentary pause …..
“Do you have a sports field and a Marks and Spencer, by you?”
Confused pause …… before replying
“Are you close by Gunwarf?”
“Sh*t……… f****ng Sat Nav, it’s never done this before”
I am only mentioning this now, due to the not insignificant fact that Roger is the architect of all the Garmin Route Maps, that we are destined to follow over the course of the next few days. As you will soon find out either: a) Garmin is not all that it is cracked-up to be
or: the users of Garmin are not all their cracked-up to be
A dark cloud suddenly looms over la petiteville, Purbrook.
As the ‘advance party’, our duty is to prepare the accommodation and catering in time for the arrival of the serious athletes. The journey down is relatively plain sailing, that is, if you take away that modern feat of mediaeval torture, “le peripherique”. Whoever is the founding father of this calamitous piece of tarmac should be spread-eagled in the outside lane and suffocated with his own emissions. When we entered, I was clean shaven, by the time we left; I was Ben Gunn with a craving for cheese.
Shortly after 8.00 in the evening, we arrive at Chez Rogerin the tranquil hamlet of Le Châtelot.
Roger, ever the perfect host, asks various quiz questions about curios around the house. Of these one seems to remain ingrained on my pshyci as he thrusts a packet of Potassium iodide into my hand.
“What do you think that’s for?” he enquires with the deft nonchalance of a quiz-show host.
I mumble a couple of incorrect replies.
“No” Hughie Green responds …….. “It’s for treating radioactive fallout when the nuclear reactor blows”.
I feel instantly at ease and at one with my surroundings.
There is still timeto forage into the local town of Alligny-Cosne (al-knee-cone) to grab some vittles’ from the Friday ‘Pizza Van’. No ordinary van, mind – Pizza-Hut, this is not. This one had a full-blooded, wood burning oven to produce one of the most mouth-watering pizzas I’ve had in long time. Washed down with a few glasses (well, quite a few really) of very passable claret, the odd bierre and a chew of the cud beside Rogers wood burning stove - the periferique, imperfect navigation and impending nuclear Armageddon, areall but a distant memory.
Foot note to day 1:
Wine addled reprise of Rogers Hamlet – Le Châtelot – as slurred by the man himself and as recorded by his slightly ‘tired and emotional’ diarist.
Dateline – some time past midnight on 12th May.
Imagine, if you will, a pitch for the latest prime-time, serial drama
(This will probably make the cast of Dallas appear as but bland caricatures)
Le Chatelot - The Players: Roger
Lord of The Manor
Who has been cultivating his fiefdom for some 25+ years
The Grass Cutter
Rogers oldest ally, friend , confidante, maker of jams and une jollie, bonne oeuf
The Walnut Pressers
Who own the adjacent property (south) to Roger and are very keen on Rogers nuts
Indian Lover and borderline psycho
Who has built a red Indian reservation in the centre of the village; has a dog that looks like a ferret and – if a resident of the UK – would almost certainly be institutionalised by now.
Every village has one and this one lives opposite Roger. His main hobby is reporting villagers to le local Marie, he looks like a cross between Bob The Builder and Super Mario and wears the same dungarees 24/7/365.
Dennis(as in Blondie – ‘Denis, Denis’)
The Wine Connoisseur
One time good friend of Sam – but the two fell-out big time over the non-returned of a borrowed screwdriver and have never spoken since. Dennis has not eased the situation by bringing a constant string of ‘shady ladies’ each le weekend, to his country pied-de-terre. … he samples their body …. they take his Gevrey in their mouth … some spit, some swallow.
He arrives Tuesday with his latest ‘squeeze’ – Monique, which causes much salivation in the house.
The Couple Next Door - (Jacques and Christina)
They have owned the property next door to Roger (north) for 25 years, but have never put in an appearance. As Roger has habitually used their garden as an unofficial municipal dump, he is understandably concerned at their sudden re-appearance- and …. this very weekend (deep organ chords resonate in the background). They just arrived, opened the barn doors and disappeared – anyone seem “The Burbs”.
Will Sam and Dennis make good their friendship?
Will the walnuts fall this autumn?
Will Le Branleur be incensed by the influx of the unruly ‘Le RosBiffs’.
Will Roger pluck up le courageto confront ‘the invaders’?
Stay tuned to next week’s exciting instalment of……“Le Châtelot we don’t Chat a lot”.
Day 2 – Saturday 12th May
A day spent house cleaning and jungle clearing in anticipation of the arrival of “le chemin der fer rouge”. – We break bread and sardines for lunch, after which Roger summons le courage to greet ‘the invaders’.
“What a charming couple Jack and Christina are …” the relief dripping from Rogers words is palpable.
Day 3 – Sunday 13th May – Route A to “Les Ormes” 123km ….. Or “Garmin My A**e”
We rise early, enjoy a leisurely petit dejourner are treated for dessert to the site of Paul shaving his legs (just the kind of digestive you need). The weather is set fair, if a tad chilly: John, Terry and Roger go for full artic gear and I am ridiculed for going sleeveless. Paul is due to ‘chase’ us half an hour later.
We depart at 0928 (it would have been 0900 if it hadn’t been for all the Garmin setting, then failing, then resetting, the re-failing etc.,). With the Garmin finally set we roll outat 0928 – Garmin fails at 0929. (You sense a recurring pattern here that is set for the week – on this form, we’ll be on the outskirts of Torquay by Thursday.
The beauty of cycling in France is the unspoilt and lightly used rolling roads that take us swiftly to St Amand-en-Puisaye and then on to picturesque St Fargeau.
'So where's D'Artagnan?'
Le Bar du Centrum - Yum
This mediaeval town has an enchanting Chateau, and more importantly a nicely presented town centre bar – imaginatively named “Le Bar du Centre”. We enjoy a well peddled coffee served in truly elegant Gallic style by a most agreeable and ultimately professional waitress - in fetching ensemble of tight fitting jeans, low cut jade green top and lace etched pink and grey, half-cup bra with a tiny lace charcoal bow in the centre. The coffee wasn’t bad either – served with chocolate coated almond. We sat and generally rubbished the organising committee of the Olympic Games of whom both Jon and I had had sub-optimal experiences.
Post coffee and waitress, the roads rolled on through Mezilles then on to Toucy were – thanks to Garmin - we get lost (again). Thankfully, the technophobe which is me – pulls out my folded Map – we are swiftly re- routed and join the correct highway.
Wrong turn at Toucy - Roger berates his Garmin
At the top we are greeted by Paul, tanking in the opposite direction … “You’re going the wrong way” he yells, which causes much re-checking of the Garmin’s once again. Paul continues onward and is back at the house by 1330.
Result …. The Garmin’s start working again –John shouts “Garmin says Les Ormes, next left” just as we reach a road sign which says …… Les Ormes next left. How did it know???
We arrive in Les Ormes and view the memorial which proved to be extraordinarily emotional.
I include here a short extract from Derrick Harrison’s book ‘These Men Are Dangerous’. Derrick was in the SAS during the Second World War and the book is his account of the action he saw:
In August 1944, the SAS had dropped into the countryside of central France in an operation code-named “Kipling”. The mission was to disrupt stiff German resistance and to provide information for the advance of General George Patton’s US divisions. At that time the only “behind lines” Special Forces in the world were British, and they were much in demand.
On August 23, a two-jeep SAS patrol was on an administrative move when it encountered a distraught French lady outside Les Ormes. She warned that the SS were in the village and about to shoot 20 French hostages as they sought to curb SAS activity. A Canadian trooper called Fauchois, fluent in French, was the first to insist they did something. Lance Corporal “Curly” Hall agreed the right thing to do was to “have a crack”.
So, living up to the regiment’s motto “Who dares wins”, they set off at high speed, the French lady screaming at them to turn back with the words “There are hundreds of them!”
As they turned into the village square, they saw drawn up in front of the church the hostages and mobs of SS. The first to die was the SS officer who, pistol in hand, turned to stare in disbelief at the jeeps. He had found the SAS he was searching for. In seconds, the square was a charnel house with dead and dying SS troops moaning as the captives made good their escape.
But it was not without cost. One jeep came to a halt, shot to pieces by the Germans. As the wounded SAS men made for the other jeep, Curly Hall slumped over, dead. As the last surviving jeep left the village, the remaining Germans crowded around Curly. Sixty SS lay dead or wounded. We will never know what they did with his body.
This summer, I took a quiet moment in front of the memorial at the spot where he fell. The bullet scars are still visible on the village hall. Curly’s nameis also on the village war memorial, recorded as one of their own.
It is so easy to be complacent about the past, but I for one find places like this to be almost haunting. The valor of those concerned (both French and Allied Forces) is impossible for me to relate to. It was probably normal back then …. It would be off the charts today. I think that the French have the right word for it …. Formidable.
At this point Roger gets his leg over and starts engaging with a very young lady...
We all retreat amidst imagined accusations. Apparently however, we learn the location of the “War Cemetery” – but alas, no sign of Curly.
Time then for the return journey and it’s undulating terrain to Grandchamp where we were going to stop for cake (Terry’sinsistence). However, the town is having a car boot sale, which is well attended by the Gallic equivalent of “The Giro Brigade” – there is a distinct feel of Leigh Park about the place. Fearing for the safety of our steeds – we beat a retreat.
Onwards to Champignelles (Garmin tells us that we are (not for the first time – off route) where we are getting desperate for water. Phil tries the village water pump (which doesn’t work). Locals view this anglicised eccentricity with some humour at which point a gallant gent and his wife offer to replenish our supplies from their house – well done Champignelles.
More rural rolling roads and buzzards, as our now wearying legs (with best part of 100Km in them) track back to St Fargeau where we democratically decide not to stop for cake, by a majority of 3:1 (Terry, Phil and John want to stop – Roger doesn’t and as he is the majority share holder – we press on).
There follows a delightfully gentle road to Le Bourdon Reservoir –I spot what I initially thought to be a local deer frolicking amongst the rape. As we get closer, it is in fact an enormous hare(another local epicurean delicacy – but alas, travelling too fast). We then cross the dam to a biker’s café where for some reason;the landlord accuses us of Being Irish?
Anyway – great cake and coffee then it’s off on the final (and most excruciating) leg. Hill after hill is becoming more like mountain after mountain and then, with 73 miles in the legs – the steep climb out of St Amand – then the less steep but longer climb out of Bitry.
At 1758 – the last leg (downhill) to Le Châtelot and Beer and Gin.
Roger prepares a delicious evening repast of Malay curry, Bombay (or is it Mumbai) potato, sag aloo, poppadum’s and chutney which for some reason Terry (the Dining Room Orderly) embellishes with Nutella and Marmalade.
Lazy chat over beer, ping-pong and roaring log stove …. And then ….. to bed
Day Four - Monday 14th May - Route “E” The Loire Circuit (80 km) or as we prefer to call it “Les Legs ripped off by Mr Morris” session.
Brilliant sunshine, a light breakfast, tired legs, but that sterling willingness to commit saw John, Terry and myself depart at 0938 (Roger’s sitting this one out) with an air of trepidation, but a firm plan in mind. Nice and easy, work the legs loose, stop when we need to for coffee, cake, photo-ops ……. What could possibly go wrong?
After a few mis-fires, direction-wise, we were soon enjoying the gentle undulations and shade of the forested road though to Arquian. The track rolled majestically through a mosaic of arable land and we certainly took the opportunity to document such through the artistic direction of i-teams own David Bailey.
Rolling roads to Arquain
We kept a gentle pace going until entering the quiet town of Arquain where Paul (who had set-off 30 minutes after us) caught up and joined the party. Thankfully a rather nice café opportunity presented itself at this point – it would have been churlish to refuse.
We sat in the sun chatting convivially about how poor Trek (Phil) and Giant (Paul) are when it comes to honouring warrantees. A passing pig truck only serves to deepen the despond as its aroma stays with us like a fix of Terry’sbrut aftershave (only more pleasant). We were not to know at the time, but this was to be the last moment of respite – our carefully crafted plan was about to be ripped asunder by the prodigious bike talent that is Mr Paul Morris.
After the café break we set-off on the road to Bonny. It was a fairly busy road (by French standards) but Paul assured us that any passing lorries would give us a wide birth. The first passing lorry whisked by within a fraction of terrys handlebars, causing his less than clingy lycra shorts to balloon in the updraft – to the world he looked like an orange Chinese lantern.
The pace was “gentle” – Paul … or “frightening” – Terry, John and me; as we sailed along to Bonny.
At Bonny, we crossed the Loire and took time to marvel at nature’s bounty.
To the north, the green banks and wide expanse of soft flowing waters – you could almost hear the strains of Smetana in the background. To the south, a nuclear power plant (now, did I bring the potassium iodide).
We roll on though countryside which Paul assures us it’s flat …. (it wasn’t) towards Santranges. It is clear that John is struggling and only catches up at a roadwork’s just outside the town. We take the opportunity to look at his gearing for this ‘flat section’ - he’s on largest sprocket at the back and granny-ring at the front - sadistically we record this by photograph for prosperity (and in case of any subsequent denials.
John's gearing for that tricky, sharp 0.25% incline!
We saunter along to the turning point at Sury-sur-Sauldre (everything is ‘sur’ in these parts - just like my nether regions). This is the last point we will see John for the rest of the ride.
The return to the Loire contains more ‘undulations’ but they are beginning to seem more like alps. Still, Terry and I take shelter behind Paul. We finally reach the town of Boulleret, where a rather nice café presents itself.
“Not enough chairs” says Paul
“I’ll lie on the pavement” I suggest
Anyway, the decision is taken not to stop and Terry has to content himself with leering at a cohort of young schoolgirls. We put the pedal down before the Gendarmerie can be summoned.
We motor along to Cosne-sur-Loire (which the French pronounce ‘Cone’; Cosne’s fine) at which point, I have acute engine failure. We pull over at Cours, I collapse on the pavement, Whilst Terry terrorises the local wildlife. I am well and truly – what’s the word, oh yes …. “f***ed”.
Terry and Paul become increasingly smaller figures, disappearing over the horizon as I continue abjectly, scarred to look down at the computer in case it tells me that I’m going even slower than it feels. One thing I do now know – when you ‘bonk’ it is both spectacular and instant.
The scorpions sting in this route is the last 2km from St Verain up to Rogers house – try it, it’s purgatory. Many times I fell like just pulling over and lying down on the side of the road.
I arrive at Chez Roger, it would seem, only a few minutes after Paul and Terry –but in much worse shape. Roger offers lentil soup – I go upstairs to puke.
John arrived back about forty minutes after us –we shared much the same stories about the return journey. In parting he says;
“Well, at least the plan lasted 10K”.
The evening was spent watching a half-decent French Farce DVD and rubbishing Rebecca Brookes, David Cameron and that spinelessly, character-empty labour non-entity that is Ed (or is it David – quite frankly, who cares) Milliband. Roger, informs us that Milliband is currently ‘living in sin’ with his partner – we all have the same thoughts; ‘who could fancy that’. We muse about his bedroom antics (well we had had a glass or two) …… the lights are dim ….. She’s in bed and ready for action …. Yet dear old Ed can’t raise the necessary and tries to explain ….. “this is symptomatic of two years of Tory mis-management causing complete collapse of my fiscal system”….
DAY Five - Tuesday 15th May - Route ‘B – Lucy-sur-Yonne (100 km) …… “Le Rage”
This was the day when I was going to sit-out the ride after the trauma of yesterday. Ironically I felt fine and decided to join the group – I must have been ‘barking mad’. Roger, Terry and Myself rolled-out at 0930 – dropped down the hill and turned left on rolling roads towards Bouhy. With a slightly uncomfortable undercarriage, I swayed from left to right in the saddle in search of a sweet spot. Then, just as we were rolling through ‘Les Coquilliers d’en bas’, catastrophe struck.
I’ll remember the moment vividly, it’s one of those things that remain with you; the moment you lose your virginity; Liverpool winning the FA Cup and being savaged by a rabid farm dog.
We’d experienced noisy canines before, almost an expectation en-route. There was little reaction in the pack therefore when the baying of the Baskerville hound started up.
We sauntered past a cream coloured farm house with a steeply, downwardsslanting; flint driveway from which a growling blur of black, white and foam emerged.
Even at this stage, I recalled an incident on a recent ‘tour’ and was more concerned with the thing buckling my front wheel – so paid it little heed. Roger and Terry (eminent caninophiles) were quickly bypassed before the thing honed in on the only cat lover of the bunch. Terry reckons it was attracted by the more attractive meal that my ample dimensions offered.
It wasn’t until its fangs were sunk deep into my thigh and thick globs of mucousy, bacteria ridden saliva dripping from the gaping hole in my shorts, that I realised the thing meant business.
Roger suggested that I should ride back to base and get it cleaned up. I was not greatly enamoured by this idea, meaning as it would, a second pass of Le Rage. Still it made sense. So, with a sense of trepidation I re-trod the scene of the crime, right leg unclipped from the cleat (I wasn’t going to give up without a fight this time). The hound however had no doubt satiated its hunger pangs and was, in all probability, at that moment, bragging to the bitch and pups about the day it broke its ASBO.
Roger scarred me into going to hospital with his tales of rabies, Streptococcus bovis and inevitable death through heart valve failure – he is a sure-fire loss to the Samaritans, is our Roger.
Anyway, the hospital was great (less than an hour wait, no drunks or injecting junkies in the waiting area and friendly, competent staff). Dosed-up and €38 lighter, I was free with the re-assuring verdict that I’d have to wait 24-48 hours for any sign of rabies or worse.
Having by-passed the ride, Roger, John and I drive over to Lucy-sur-Yonne and the graveyard at Crain. The memorial to Captain Bradford and his team is immaculately tended – with a recent tribute from the SAS and quite an emotional place to visit.
Both Roy Bradford and William Devine were deployed in 1st Special Air Service Regiment
on Operation HOUNDSWORTH that took place in the Morvan.
The Squadron had been
inserted by parachute, with their jeeps, to operate with the French Maquis in the area.
The jeeps normally were armed with two twin Vickers .K. guns and manned by three men,
but on the day of the incident Roy Bradford.s jeep was carrying a Maquisard as well.
On the 20th July 1944 Roy Bradford.s jeep was patrolling in the area and on rounding
a bend they were confronted by a group of Germans on foot, with a convoy of
vehicles drawn up at the side of the road with their occupants debussed. He made
a snap decision to drive through and did so, opening fire as they passed the convoy.
As they cleared the last vehicle the jeep was hit by a burst of machine gun fire from
the rear vehicle that hit three of the jeep occupants and badly damaged the jeep.
Roy Bradford and William Devine were killed and Sergeant Chalky White, who was
operating the rear twin Vickers, was wounded in both hands. The jeep continued
along the road until it came to a halt where you saw the Memorial. After checking
that Roy Bradford and William Devine were dead, Chalky White assisted by the
Maquisard escaped into the woods nearby with the Germans in pursuit. Chalky
White was treated for his injuries by a Maquis Doctor and remained on the operation,
although his hands were severely disabled.
The monument stands at the place where the jeep came to a halt and the road
was later named .rue du 20th July 1944. in honour of Roy Bradford and William
We learn on our return that both Terry and Paul missed the graveyard, though apparently not a massive lunch at a local Tratoria.
We also learn that Terry:
- Has baggy lycra (already known)
- Wears Y-fronts under said lycra
- Wears his lycra back-to-front and has to change it mid-ride (a new spectator sport?)
Day Six – Wednesday 16th May – Rest Day - “as if…”
In the morning we visit Cosne to see the market (which takes 6.5 minutes). Roger purchases his spring onions whilst the rest of us marvel at the ease of purchase of fire arms. Terry is suffering from a sore-throat (though over indulgence at café stops) and performs an elaborate Marcel Marceau mime to the delight of the staff at the local pharmacy. Five minutes later, he emerges with a carton of pessaries.
Patient Update - 24 hours on, I have temperature spikes with chills, a raging thirst and a penchant for pedigree chum – but I think I’m alright.
Roger has a habit of dropping ridiculously unsubtle hints about ‘around the house’ chores that he expects his captive labour force to engage with. The latest of these concerns the re-wring of his house. With a subtle allocation of rolls and responsibilities, we set too. Terry is in charge of disconnecting from the mains and promptly proceeds to unscrew an existing socket. It is when the screwdriver starts to glow and melt that we realise all is not well. I’m charged with hammering out the wall with a chisel last used by Noah. Paul rewires the new socket and I fix it with sand (well, gravel) and cement (which Roger assures us he bought recently – c1986). Needless to say, the fixing crumbles, the socket box doesn’t fit, The supervisor (Terry) is incompetent – so we just leave the wires hanging out the wall, turn the power back on and have a beer – who’s going to notice?
This evenings cornucopia is a Stir Fry of Prawn, Mango and Gingerwashed down with more political small talk and our first engagement into the dark arts of poker (after a 90 minute eulogy on rules and technique from our host). The game is rigged from the start – Pauls chips never seeming to diminish (skulduggery afoot – me thinks).
Day Seven – Thursday 17th May – “Les Jours Des Grande Knockers” – Route “C” Sancerre (97 km)
At 0932 Roger, Terry, John and I hit ‘le rue. Terry and John are once again equipped for arctic warfare in spite of sunshine and an ambient temperatureof 18oC. Paul is going to catch us up, so, understandably goes back for a couple more hours in the sack.
We hit some very pleasant country lanes, helped by a tail wind and are quickly in the quaint little town of Dozny.
We take the D1 downwind to Narcy and then it’s a swift sprint into La Charite where we are due to have a leisurely coffee and lunch. Before crossing the Loire. En route we stop for another of Terrys many bladder-breaks. You’d think that this would entail a short stop, the seeking of some roadside shade and then a remount and off. Nothing so simple for Terry. To protect his modesty….. or as we describe it ‘ a gnarled remnant of a once great structure’….. this involves a thirty kilometre trek into the forest in search of a portaloo, followed by severalminutes of dress adjustment, re-adjustment and re-re-adjustment, copious belches and tweaking’s of lycra. On the upside, this gives the rest of us chance for our second shave and petite dejourner of the day.
Imagine Terry’s consternation, when we by-pass several suitable café-stop candidates only for Roger to say “There’s a better one further on”. Now, we are beginning to catch onto this ruse …. As we all know, there is not going to be a coffee stop. Before we know it, we’re over the Loire and back out into the countryside.
Terry’s indignation is palpable: “thirty bl**dy miles we’ve done. All we want is a coffee and we never bl**dy get one …..” This insular diatribe goes on for the twelve kilometres. We get used to tuninghim out and then, all of a sudden the attack on the ears recommences “…… for a piece a cake and a drink. I’m gonna tell my f***in’ MP; I’m gonna tell everyone on the forum, just you see if I …….”.
Roger manages to counter with a carefully chosen epithet of great impact and cutting wisdom: “stop f*****ng whinging, you fanny”.
Just short of Sancerre, Paul catches us and ironically, the pace begins to climb. On the outskirts of Sancerre, we pass a well-endowed female jogger who has Roger instantly enthralled, “Christ, did you see the kn***ers on that”. He then becomes unhealthily embroiled in a graphic description from shoelaces to headband, if it wasn’t for the tailwind, I’m sure he would have turned back. We pause a while to wipe away the drool from his jowls and then press on to the climb.
The climb to sancere
The climb to Sancerre is only a couple of kilometres, not exactly demanding and very picturesque, culminating in a small (pricey) village square at the summit where we finally stop for coffee. Terry is first there and he’s going nowhere. We try to order food but apparently (as we’ve found) France shuts between 12.00 and 2.00 – without exception – no wonder their economies up the swanny.
We at least get a coffee and Paul raids the local patisserie, pressurising them into selling us some cake (let’s face it, would you say no?). We sit, drink and eat. A passing local inspects the bikes and decides that Roger’s is the best. He engages Roger for a short while before tapping his way off with white stick and attendant Labrador.
With all these miles in my legs, I’m beginning to feel pretty healthy and am considering how much weight I’ve lost on the trip thus far as I sip my coffee. I’m feeling fairly contented, that is until Paul yells; “Hey Phil, with that cap you look just like Billy Bunter”. Deflation is only ever a few short words away.
The decent of Sancerre is both swift and chilly, where we hit the headwind that will torment our homeward journey.
The ride splits with Terry, Paul and I in the vanguard and John and Roger being more sensible. At the first small roundabout Paul does a circuit whilst directing Terry and myself onto the correct exit. He then re-joins me and asks “Where’s Terry?” Only Terry can get lost on the world’s smallest roundabout (perhaps he was following Garmin).
The pace drops post Cosne as Paul and Terry accommodate my slowing and it’s a bit of drag back to base where a welcome shower awaits.
We get engrossed in possibly the worst film ever made “Pashiondale” which somehow has won ‘best picture’ though at what, we can’t work out. As a consequence of this Paul is late lighting the barbecue and receives a bitter rebuke from Roger who stands there with half a cow in his hands. Still, our carnivores supper was great, followed by a much more controlled game of poker and a heated debate about thebenefits of riding in groups.
Day Seven – Friday 18th May – Lunch at Bohy
After a leisurely breakfast, the advance party sets off for St Amand to dump the rubbish – but, it being France, the dump is closed.
We return in time for our journey to the restaurant at Buohy which necessitates a traverse of ‘the incident of the dog’. Paul kindly offers to drop me off at the scene of the crime – the offer is politely declined.
The restaurant is actually one of France’s hidden gems (and also the first day where we’ve actually managed to stop for lunch). A fine first course of salmon mouse with hard-boiled egg and lightly marinated tomatoes’ is a joy. This is followed by home-made chicken chasseur and pasta, a selection of cheeses and freshly made vanilla ice-cream to finish it off. All of this accompanied by a bottle of local burgundy. And the cost …. €16 a head.
The Golden Lion
Terry is so taken by the whole experience that he gushes his approval in French “ trays bayonne” he says. The waitress wears a resigned smile, yet the underlying thought process is clear “what is this drooling, geriatric old English dodderer, trying to say?” Yet Terry is undaunted in his praise “bonnet de douche” …. We manage to get him back to the car before he falls asleep.
We have a quite (yet wet) evening and an early night for an early departure … the holiday is waning yet the memories will not …… so:
- Put not your trust in the genie of the Garmin – Paper drawings of topography is the way forward
- When Roger tries to sell this to you as gentle riding with a civilised lunch break at the half-way point; you should respond ……. “get thee behind me Roger”
- Terry is the worst chooser of DVD’s on the entire planet
- Rogers G&T’s are all G with very little T
- Watching Jon’s dongle can be an edifying experience
- Never leave Paul near the poker chips bank (and on no account, ever play Indian Poker with him)
- If you’re coming to Roger’s, brush up on the following topics: lawn mower maintenance; mortar mix ratios; The French electrical wiring system; how to light barbecues; handling of rabid wildlife
- Seriously – this is a great opportunity for convivial cycling amongst like-minded enthusiasts (and Terry) on roads that you can only dream about in dear old blighty. The rides are demanding (but in a nice way) and the hospitality is relaxing (in an even better way). If you get the opportunity, grab it with both hands.
I will sign off now and go chase a few cats.