An New Octogenarian

With this the day for the birthday boy’s cycle ride to match miles with years, it was wonderful to be flagged off from Fisherrow harbour by a friend wielding a Saltire the size of Scotland on a pole about 12feet long.
It was such a lovely thing for him to do, especially so early, and it cheered us on our cycle run down the coast.
It was a nifty fifty to North Berwick and back for me, but His Lordship had a weighty eighty to do in order to prove that age has no hold on him.

He arrived home rather earlier than expected, but in time to share some of his cake with daughter# 1 who had popped in with a birthday card.

And so with that milestone birthday and its attendant challenge out of the way, we can breathe a sigh of relief and get on with the rest of our lives.

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Farewell to Nantes

So it’s farewell to Nantes and the 75thSemaine Federale.
We are all packed and ready to cycle to find our Yorkshire Bikeliner bus.

It’s been a wonderful week, sunny and warm with little wind and only a few hours of rain on Thursday.
We are both much fitter, if not lighter, than when we arrived last Saturday, and surprised that we found the cycling not nearly as onerous as we had feared.
We have cycled every day bar one and enjoyed the company of friends on the way.
We have not felt the fattest or the oddest couple in our revealing Lycra, and sometimes we have even been colour coordinated.

Last night we ate a 4 course meal with unlimited wine in the company of 1000+ people, sitting at long tables of 24.
The noise was deafening as people spoke across tables and an accordion playing cyclist regaled us with music. It reached even higher decibels when the dance band struck up.
We danced, yes even His Lordship managed to shake a leg although he had to have several glasses of wine to accomplish that feat. He’s not admitting to a sore head this morning, but I suspect he is not firing on all four cylinders and he has reneged on the breakfast.

A bus journey to Ouistreham, an overnight ferry crossing to Portsmouth, a bus ride to Hull, a car journey to Edinburgh and we’ll be home tomorrow evening all being well.
Au Revoir until then.

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Vertou – Day 7 of La Semaine

This was our last day in the saddle and with the sun shining on our bare arms, we cycled through the Muscadet country of Sevre et Maine. Vineyard after vineyard with the grapes hanging heavily on their stems, but not yet ready for picking.

Our route went through the small village of St Fiacre sur Maine, where 40 years ago our family exchanged houses with another in the countryside just outside the village. It was at Easter time and was very cold with a little snow.
The photos taken at that time show the children muffled up in duffle coats and Breton hats.
We made friends with their French neighbours and hosted their student son at the Edinburgh festival time that year. When he left, he gave me a present of Mrs Beeton’s Cookery book. I think I got the message!

In contrast, today was hot as we cycled on to Vertou for the accueil in a park at the side of the river Sevre a tributary of the nearby Loire before chalking up our 45+ miles through the busy towns of Haute Goulaine and St Luce-sur-Loire back to the Permanence.

Tonight we are joining thousand of cyclists for the last dinner. We have never braved this before, but there has to be a first time and we have been told it’s a very festive occasion with unlimited wine…….. I can imagine! His Lordship has been well warned.
We are walking there!

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La Semaine Day 6

The sun doesn’t always shine in Nantes as we had thought, but as luck would have it, today we were off saddle and on foot and could dodge the smirrs of rain and miss the heavy thunder shower after lunch.

We took a bus into town and then hopped onto the little train that took us round the centre of the old quarter and down to the river, giving us an idea of the layout of the city.

We had an obligatory coffee outside under cover and looked at the beautiful Cathedral of St Pierre, and the Chateau of the Dukes of Bretagne with its moat.

Last night’s meal was a great success given the presence of a thousand other cyclists, and with the unlimited wine on the table, His Lordship was wont to strike up a rapport with his French neighbour.

Vivre L’Entente Cordiale!

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La Semaine Day 5

‘Amazing Grace’ played on the Breton Pipes just for His Lordship and me at the Semaine Pique-nique in St Sebastien-sur-Loire, because we are fellow Celts.

The picnic is a special accueil in a huge area with lots of entertainment for all the cyclists, and usually included in a cycle run that is not too long- 35 miles today.
We sat under a tree and ate our baguette with cheese and tomatoes carefully sliced with the knife in HL’s trusty Leatherman tool- it makes him feel like an intrepid back woodsman, the ‘him Tarzan, me Jane’ effect.

With 5 days cycling under our belts, we are having tomorrow off the saddle to have a look round Nantes itself. So far we have skirted the city, the rides being routed round the outskirts.

However tonight we are eating with the cyclists in the Permanence. We have never done this before, so it should be interesting but very noisy.

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A Celebratory Dinner

Instead of the prescribed Semaine run today, we cycled with our London friends east along the Loire to Champtoceaux, a quiet little village on a hill, with a white limestone church and with a panoramic view of the river east and west.

We had the roads to ourselves in the main without the hordes of other cyclists and few cars. In fact a lot of the miles were along a tarmaced path running beside the river.

The lunch in the village bar restaurant was a treat for His Lordship’s up and coming big birthday, and as you can see from the photograph, the helpings were in keeping with the 20 miles to get there and the 20 miles home. The wine of course was a bonus, as was the Irish coffee afterwards.

Our dinner tonight is a picnic in our room of bread, cheese and tomatoes, and that is when we feel hungry again.

The best day yet in Nantes, with friends, cycling in the sun through a landscape of river, corn fields and vineyards.
Nothing could be better.

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La Semaine Day 3

Gallic disorganisation struck on today’s cycle ride when the proscribed route had a ‘Route Debarre ‘ on it and although we managed to get the bikes past the huge lorries digging up the road, the coloured arrows stuck on the side of the road telling us which way to go were absent, and from then on until we got ourselves by the main road signposts to St Etienne- de -Montluc we were simply following the herd.

Thankfully we picked the arrows up again and found our way to the ‘accueil’at Vigneux where these lovely ladies dressed in Breton costume were mixing with the cyclists and seemed very happy to have their photos taken- well three of them were at least.

Although it was a shorter distance of 40 miles for us today, in many ways it seemed harder with more hills, more people, and hotter, so we were very glad to get off our bikes at the end and have that lovely cold ice cream.

But it doesn’t take long to recover, and we are entertaining our London friends to drinks at our hotel tonight.

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Le Depart – day 1 of La Semaine Federale 2013

I like the French cyclists; they are never too inhibited to insert their avoirdupois into colourful Lycra. Not for them the inhibitions of bulges in awkward spots: no, they are comfortable in their bodies whatever the shape, and goodness knows there are enough shapes to represent the whole of mankind.

There are the elderly gents who have been cycling since they could balance on a bike who are honed to nothing more than skin and bone, with sinewy limbs and Lycra that is loose.
There are the gentlemen who have espoused the good life over the years, whoseLycra is somewhat stretched over their paunches.
There are the svelte somewhat younger ladies with painted nails, looking fit and good in their colourful Lycra, sporting slender arms, no bat wings in evidence and tanned to per
There are the housewives of ample proportions and bat wings, dressed in Lycra to match their partner’s where every bulge is accentuated as only that most unforgiving of material can do.
And rarely seen so far on this trip, there are the Adonis lads, looking like substitutes for the Tour who do Lycra proud and who hobble about like professionals on their duck cleats.

I unfortunately belong to the housewife group, but his Lordship is somewhere in between the good lifers and the scraggy brigade.

Somehow it didn’t matter a jot as we sallied forth in the sunshine on our run along the Loire. We took photos and admired the view and sailed up any hills like the pros we are not.

We were distinguishable from the French by our mudguards, Carradice saddle bags, and heavy bikes, so much so that when we returned to the Permanence, were were interviewed for the Ouest France newspaper……… or maybe it was just our advancing years that did the trick.
Hold the Press!

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The Last Crumbs of a Cake

This is all that remains of the Lemon Polenta Cake which made its appearance at my book group last night.
It can be counted a success, due in no small part to my clever ruse of serving everyone with a glass of rose wine at the start of the evening, and then Lyn producing her homemade sloe gin later.

It’s wonderful to note the effect of a little alcohol on a group of ladies some of whom, but not all, are in possession of bus passes.

I see that this recipe of Nigella Lawson (she’s well out of that coupling if you ask me!) indicated that there were 16 servings in this cake: I must have been overly generous with the slices for the 7 of us ladies and His Lordship ( who was handed his plate through The Door, behind which he was hiding, thereby avoiding any chit chat with us women), seems only to have a scant 3 servings left.

His Lordship designated today as his day for packing. In the event he did it in 20 minutes at 9:30, while of course I have been fine tuning mine for the last week, paring things down to a minimum, while having an alternative to Lycra should we eat out. With two panniers, a saddle bag, a bar bag and a rucksack, it hardly appears to be a minimalist arrangement.

Now we have the rest of the day to put in before the off tomorrow. Just time to go mad cleaning the house to a standard which it never attains while we are in residence.

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Insomnia

What an exhausting night I have had.
I have counted dozens of sheep, I have walked along white sandy beaches with sparkling blue green water lapping at my feet, I have made myself aware of my breathing, I have counted yet more sheep, I have admired the view of Hamnavoe from the window of our holiday home, and still those pesky sheep keep escaping and need to be rounded up again.

I wrestle with problems no one in their sane mind would want to consider; they go round and round like a never stopping turntable in my brain with no solution.
I get up and prowl the house, looking out of the window at late night revellers on their way home, risking the Meadows at eerie hours.

I look at my clock….. a lot. It’s luminous face tells me it is 10:30 as I put my book down and turn off the light. I want an early night as His Lordship and I have planned a final sunrise training run on empty roads in the morning.
I look at my clock- it’s 11:OO -not a problem
I look at my clock – it’s 11:30 – a slight problem
I look at my clock – it’s midnight, mmm. I hope I fall asleep soon. I have to be up at 5.
I look at my clock at 12:30, 1:00, 1:30, 2:00, 2:30, 2:42, 2:57.
Ground control we have a big problem.
…………………………………………….
I awake with a start. Something has woken me. I look at my clock- it’s 4:30. I get up to find a man in Lycra standing in the hall. He has his name plastered over his chest: Banesto it says in big letters. It’s barely light, but I am not afraid.
He must be the superintendent of this lunatic asylum that I inhabit. I tell him I only got to sleep at 3am. He puts his cycling gloved hand on my shoulder and tells me I can’t possible do a 40 mile cycle run on so little sleep, (even though there are competitors doing much worse as they compete in the L E L* cycle race), but I let him guide me back to bed with little protest.

Now apart from the sheep, the beaches and my innumerable anxieties, which happily don’t include the cake for some reason, I have the added guilt of a training run cancellation and the need to obey the Lycra man who tells me to go back to sleep and have a long lie.

And do I fall asleep? Absolutely not. It’s such a relief to get up at 7:30 with all the sheep corralled and the anxieties cut down to day time size.

I do miss the white sandy beach though, with the white frilly wavelets tickling my toes… maybe tonight I’ll be back.

* London- Edinburgh-London cycle race which started on Sunday and has to be completed within 5 days.

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