Posts

Clog 8 – “some corner of a foreign field”

This is going to be a reflective and sad clog. It isn’t going to be at all funny.

So if you aren’t in a great place today, perhaps better to come back to it on another occasion or maybe just miss it out altogether. Clog 9 will be back to light-hearted.

 

I’ve spent 30 hours in the saddle so far and I’ve had plenty of time to reflect. Something that keeps coming back, is wondering about what has motivated people to contribute.

What we are here to do something about, cancer, has moved over the past couple of decades from something nobody wanted to talk about, to where we are now – something much more out in the open but still mentioned with slightly lowered breath. Fund-raisers who have gone before us have pushed this transition along, and hopefully we will achieve a tiny bit more. It matters, because, until it can be right out in the open – not just ‘ok’ to talk about but something really important to discuss – then we will lose opportunities. Possibly the key opportunity, maybe a young, brilliant mind who decides to make it his or her career and comes up with the next most important research insight.

One of the things that has made me get off my backside and try to do something, is the inspiration I’ve had from someone prepared to be very open about their diagnosis, treatment and feelings; to demonstrate willingness to get on with life; to accept help and encouragement and to do positive things for those who may suffer in future. Unafraid to challenge their consultant and ready to talk about the dedication and humanity of the nurses managing their actual treatment.

Another is my strong sense that this is a good moment to get behind the researchers, that the science, the technology and the information management capability has developed to a point where we have the chance of a major leap forward. Cancer is not one thing. It is as many different things as there are different people. Somehow, somewhere, in everyone afflicted, a control mechanism has broken down and their own body cells have started to run amok. It is devilishly complicated because the control mechanisms that we depend on to manage our life systems from birth to old age are staggeringly complex. I know that – I trained as a biochemist at the time when the genetic double helix of Crick and Watson showed us the “start” buttons and when other researchers were beginning to unravel how our life systems are managed by layer upon layer of feed-back loops involving hormones, enzymes, nerve transmissions and membranes. Our understanding of what could have gone wrong when a cancer develops is now much greater – but that doesn’t make it any easier for the researchers, because it is all so complex. You need a “brain the size of a planet”, as Marvin would have it. Well, we are close to that too, with the coming of age of AI, artificial intelligence, and its ability to see patterns where there is more information than our own brains can handle.

Yes, I think it is a good moment to make sure that there are plenty of funds for research teams, equipment, and scientific collaborations.

Of course there are lots of other things motivating me. Pedalling along, I have thought of those I’ve known who have suffered, are suffering, are frightened of suffering, and who have died.

I’ve been thinking about mortality.

 

At a crossroads out in the open Provençal countryside,  I came across this.

 

Memorial 1.jpg

 

A memorial to 6 young Maquisard members of the Resistance, Memorial 2and a civilian who were shot by the Nazis just 5 months after I was born and who hardly had a life at all. Yet whose lives are remembered with such obvious gratitude by the community all these years later. I found myself wondering whether there may be a link  between their deaths, as they sought to assist the American liberating forces, and my being here, or indeed having had any length of life at all.

On another day, I stopped for a drink from my water bottle in the 32 degree heat. Looking into the cluster of shady trees I’d stopped under, totally hidden from view, I saw thisUS Airman.jpg. A brand new memorial erected by the local community to a 20 year old US pilot. He was shot down in his P47 Thunderbolt just 6 days later than those 6 Maquisards were executed.

So now, even if thinking of cancer had not set me reflecting on mortality, I am thinking about what might have been and what the future may hold.

I’m thinking about how those 6 Frenchmen, this 1 American and 000’s and 000,000’s of others of many, many different nationalities, fought and died freeing us, me, from fascism and giving us, me, a life. And about how, when that war was ended, others sought to avoid future global conflict.

One of those ways has been to bring into existence a European union. I think the French, Germans, and other mainland European nations feel much more strongly than we do in the UK, the importance of that union in preventing future conflict.

But I’m not wanting to talk about conflict. I want to talk about opportunity.

Specifically about collaboration which could help to get on top of cancer. If we leave the European union, whatever you hear from our politicians, then access to funding and collaboration on scientific projects will suffer. Cancer is global, not national. Gaining on it needs input and collaboration from every leading research centre and every scientific discipline. Leaving the union will imperil communication and trust that has been slowly built up over many years.

This is one single example of what we shall lose if we walk away from the opportunities that those who died in the 1940’s created for us. It is our own ‘cancer’ example and it is a good example, because none of us was invited to think about it before we voted and yet it can be nothing less than a matter of life or death for all of us.

 

Sometimes, staring down from the bridge can cause an intending suicide to step back.

My tiny glimmer of hope is that, as more and more examples of things not understood or lied about before the referendum, emerge, we will realise that what is being perpetrated in the name of democracy will make lemmings of us all. Then perhaps we too will step back from the parapet.

It will need honest leaders, revolution from the people & massive change in Westminster.

Then perhaps, the talks with Brussels can be about opportunity, and not about conflict.

 

Please come back for Clog 9?       I promise to be back to my old ways!

 

Advertisements

Clog 7 – Mistral!

Cycling south through the farmland and vineyards to the south of Taulignan you will pass many isolated farm houses, but it may be some time before you see a window. You will see walls, much taller than you might expect, but no windows. Not even arrow-slots through which you could fire on hordes of barbarians surging down from the North. Barbarian wind

No, it is the wind from the North they are trying to keep out, and not just any wind. When it decides to blow, the temperature plummets and the puffer jackets and hoodies come out even in mid-summer.

It is called ‘Le Mistral’ and it is the honest answer to the question “Who’s in charge around ici, then?”. Fail to plan for it and the grapes will be blown off your vines, the olives off your trees and the horns off your billy-goats. That’s why East-West rows of poplars and tall bamboos criss-cross the fields and why ranks of Cypress trees looking like tall, thin men in Lycra, stand by the road-side to shield the traffic where the wind funnels & gusts.

Cypruses 2.jpg

(Don’t worry, after you’ve been overtaken as many times as I have, everything starts to look like tall, thin men in Lycra.)

Those Cypress trees have an amazing ability to deflect the wind. Even when it is really howling, their tops scarcely bend

Bent telepole.jpg……….. unlike this power-line pole that I regularly cycle past, which makes me wonder what it must have been like on that day!

The Mistral is, and has been, such a regular feature of life in Provence that it pervades the culture and the psyche. It is well known to drive people mad and after days of trying to get my 300 miles cycled in spite of it, I am well prepared to believe that!

 

What causes this Mistral to appear suddenly, to blow sometimes for days on end and to reach speeds of over 100 mph?

 

Well, my favourite diagram of explanation is this,

Mistral…….. not because it is the best, but because it reminds me so much of the very well scuffed page 182 in our second form Biology textbook.

 

Winds from high and low pressure systems wind each other up and funnel down the Rhone valley. Just what causes it to kick off, we will leave to the Met Office. Suffice to say that when it does, it can blow the tops off belfry towers, so around these parts they have learnt their lesson and now they leave them off.

IMG_4327.jpg

I am showing you this because I have a lot of bell-ringing friends who think they have a hard time climbing up all those stairs to the ringing chamber and being zapped by hungry chauves-souris in their belfry.

Bat no 2

 

I have now been trying to cycle on 10 days, and on 6 of them the Mistral has been seriously out to play. The first time it happened, I decided that no cyclist not in possession of a couple of ‘Domestiques’, a Peloton and a full set of Lycra would ever dream of riding. So I left the bike in the shed. But as the realisation dawned that Le Mistral is no respecter of ‘September 300’ deadlines (indeed it reckons September as prime-time), a strategy would have to be evolved.

  1. Navigation: we would travel along lines of  latitude only, studying the detailed maps to seek shelter from the contours, features and vegetation.

2. Technique: we would use low body profile, low gears, high pedalling cadence

3. Psychology: we would stuff earplugs into ears before going outdoors. It’s a trick I                 learnt windsurfing in very strong winds – if you can’t hear it you don’t fear it!

 

No problem then!  Ah but …….

 

1) means serious UP-hill if you start from Taulignan;

2) means making bad back worse;

3) means road-kill.

 

Yep!  OK.,  We’ll just have to Nike it!

 

So that is what we have been doing, paying respect also to the following, which are  frequently encountered by the road-side and which I shall interpret for you in ascending sequence of terminality.

Prickly Pear.jpg

 

 

“You would be ill-advised to be blown off sideways here.”

 

 

Dog Warn.jpg

 

 

“This is a picture of my sister. They did not want the one with the blood dripping from my jaws”

 

 

 

Chasse Warn

 

 

“Always read the small print”

 

 

 

Mon 3 June near Taulignan

 

“Stepping into here means certain death. We’re not joking. We are loaded and listening. There will never be a prosecution. Your body will never be found. The wild boars will see to that. We call it ‘Sustainable Truffle Culture'”

 

 

IMG_6938

Also read the LARGE PRINT

WHEN WE SAY ‘GIBIERS’ WE DON’T MEAN BAMBI’S – WE MEAN BOARS

WHEN WE SAY ‘CHIENS’, WE MEAN BASKERVILLES

AND OF ‘MERCI’ WE WILL SHOW NONE.

 

So, last Saturday, Le Mistral is blowing like the French Horns in a Mahler Symphony.         ( REM > Volume up to MAX and press stop after 56 seconds!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QLqwaQjYjI

I’ve done my navigation and heeded my warnings, and with Monsieur Mistral gusting to 45 mph I’ve bitten the bullet, and set off on a ride which will mean a climb of 1,200 ft through the forest, pretty much as soon as I’ve got warmed up. The forest will be my wind shelter. I’ve checked that the French hunting season doesn’t start till the second Sunday in September, so I’m safe enough there.

Off we go. Stone walls and sunken tracks shelter me for the first mile and a half and then – Wallop – and almost Splat

as I’m hit by a belter just as I emerge from behind a farmhouse. I’m going west, which means I get blown sideways into the path of the approaching tractor with the added disc harrow. Possibly time to think again? Well, I’m nearing the forest, so grit the teeth (it was so nearly the knees in that last squall); turn up the jolly old sang froid and the rigide upper lip.

All goes well as the climb starts, then I spot one of those aforementioned yellow and green BIG SIGNS, loosely binder-twined to a post by the roadside. That’s odd, but glad I checked. Half a mile on, I am rudely overtaken by a pick-up with a crude kennel in the back. Its contents are HOOOOoooowling ever so enthusiastically. I’ve seen such pick-up truck kennels before and they only mean one thing – hounds to the hunting ground. 400 metres further on and the worst fears are confirmed. Down a track and in a hollow, 8 or more similar trucks with swarthy, unshaven, hard-looking men milling around and shrugging into bright red high viz jackets.

I am not sure why I didn’t turn back but I reckoned they hadn’t started hunting yet and if I got a move on………  Then this crossed the road right in front of me.Boar I hope you will excuse my using someone else’s photograph – it didn’t seem quite the moment to try to find the camera.

Adrenaline is a wonderful thing. There was still plenty circulating 800 feet higher and around 2 miles later, when I realised I was a tad out of breath.

Well, I wasn’t going back down that way as originally planned, was I? And of course, the other way down was via the wrong side of the forest, which meant a long climb back over another pass. It turned into a long day.

It seems that you can organise a premature hunt before the official start of the season if the Prefect grants special dispensation and a notice has been put up. This is France.

Don't shoot

 

Today actually is the second Sunday in September, so across France the red jackets are OUT in force and I am firmly IN, safety catch on, and catching up with this clog!

 

 

 

To bring you right up to date, the tally so far is 205 miles cycled and 3,394 metres climbed, logged over 10 cycling days and 3 rest days. Some of the ‘Mistral’ days have been very sapping. The damages so far are: worse than normal complaining from the lower back, which I expected, and something in the right calf area which I am seriously hoping is not going to be to do with the Achilles tendon. The French bike shops have run down their spares in advance of Brexit.

Enough I think! Don’t want to bore you.

 

Click on ‘Follow Blog via email’ to keep up with the clogs as we tackle the last third of the 300 Miles of cycling ‘September 300’ for Cancer Research UK.

logo

 

To donate to Cancer Research UK, please click on “My Cancer Research Page” at the top of this post. It will take you to a secure Cancer Research donation page and will allow you to say if Gift Aid can be claimed on your donation.

 

 

 

Clog 6 – Where it really gets cycly

Mes Amis!

Before anything, I want to thank you all for your hugely appreciated contributions to Cancer Research UK, made even before I have begun to cycle.

Your enthusiasm and your messages of support have been great. I’ve often heard marathon runners say that the backing they have received has really spurred them on. Until now I’ve rather thought they were being nice in return. But I find it really is the case. Very motivating!

Un grand merci

 

Do one thing for me before we start to spin the wheels! Turn up the volume, click on this link, and join me on the starting grid!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsCRJkH4MKE

 

Grignan from afar.jpg

Grignan from far away

Allo again!     It is I, René!

I expect you are wondering why we are in Grignan. Well, to tell you the truth, so am I!

My wife, who, by the way is not called Edith and who is not madly in love with Leclerc, insists that we must ‘ave proper oignons and not oignons in fish-net tights and polythene. Yesterday, we went to Valréas, where Monsieur  Leclerc ‘as ‘is shop. It is a bit like Saynsberries. ‘Ere is ow zey treat zeir oignons.

 

Onions Leclerc.jpg

 

Well, as you know, I am travelling disguised as an onion seller, zo who am I to disagree wiz my wife? Not Edith, (who is not Edith, because she is my wife), ‘as brought us ‘ere to Grignan because it is market day, and I ‘ave to confess she is right, because we ‘ave found such oignons as any Frenchwoman would be pleased to ‘ave in ‘er cuisine.

 

Onions Marché.jpg

 

“When iz ‘e going to get on ‘is bike?”

Zat is my muzzer-in-law shouting.  Ignore ‘er; everyone else does!

I ‘ave more zings to show you from ze market, because, as we said at the start, sometimes there are times when time wishes to stand still. And when we are talking saucissons, zat is one of those times.

 

All sausage.jpg

Saussison.jpg   Saucisson 2.jpg

And ‘ow could you not linger when you ‘ave also ……

Pumpkin.jpg and Pains.jpg

 

Goodbye René!

We shall never get cycling if we do not shut ‘im up! René has a project to open a little café in Grignan but I fear it is a bit too, shall we say, ‘cultured’, for him.

Madame de Sévigné lived here in the 17th century and is renowned as a huge literary figure.

IMG_0212   madame-de-Sevigne-at-Carnavalet   IMG_0213.jpg

She it was who owned the palace atop the village – the one atop my Clogs. Grignan now leans heavily on her memory for tourist appeal and as a centre for the ‘arts’.

 

Grignan art 1.jpg

 

You can fully enculture yourself here, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_de_Rabutin-Chantal,_marquise_de_S%C3%A9vign%C3%A9 ……

but we must move on, as there is cycling to be done.

Well, indeed there is but unless you are actually doing it, there is little to be said for reading about it.

So here is just a flavour of the first 3 days, during which we rode for 6 hours, logged 54 miles and climbed 888 metres.

One of the ‘ups’ took us to Réauville, where we were glad to pause and sluice off the sweat in the lavoir (old French for ‘washing machine’). It was refurbished in 2013 with some fantastic trompe-l’oeil murals.

2017 Réauville.jpg

The next ‘up’ bit was a heavy slog to another hill-top village with the splendid name of Chantemerle-les-Grignans. Imagine an English village called Sing Blackbird the Hambledons. Wiping more sweat from the eyes revealed this stunning view and I hope it gives you an idea of the landscape, the vineyards, and the Romanesque buildings that are a feature of every ride.

Chantemerle.jpg

 

Returning we were able to cross the dried-up river bedLez dry.jpg

where I started to hallucinate in the midday heat of how I might be rescued from a flash floodRedShark-trimaran-bike-boat_tri-hulled-pedal-powered-bike-boat_RedShark-Sport-on-open-water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A little further along there were fields of sunflowers in prayer

Sunflowers.jpg

 

and a Swallowtail butterfly that had managed to swallow half of its tail.

2018 Pipevine Swallowtail (2).jpg

 

So there you are, we are on the bike and cycling……… but after these 3 days, the storm clouds are gathering.     The next Clog will see the return of the Mistral.

Click on ‘Follow Blog via email’ to keep up with the clogs as we run into strong headwinds cycling ‘September 300’ for Cancer Research UK.

logo

 

To donate to Cancer Research UK, please click on “My Cancer Research Page” at the top of this post. It will take you to a secure Cancer Research donation page and will allow you to say if Gift Aid can be claimed on your donation.

Clog 5 – 300 Miles, the Prequel

Warning!     This clog contains graphic descriptions of cycles and cycling, which some readers may find upsetting. So, if you are allergic to that sort of stuff, look away now!

I promise it will be short and the only time it will appear.

 

First, you should meet my other half.

Jekyll.jpg

Now 15 years old, in mountain bike years she is even older than I am, but, like me, they don’t make ‘em like that anymore! Unlike me, though, she has a flexible frame. By slackening a couple of bolts and winding a screw, her bottom bracket can be lifted and her wheel-base shortened.

Jekyll mech.jpg

Such posture control is a great asset when riding the rough stuff around the Drôme. She also has front and rear suspension to make up for the deficiencies in the lumbar region of her rider. The tyres are cross-overs, between full mountain-bike and gravel track tyres with added Kevlar liners to deter punctures. She is built like a tank, weighs only slightly less, and she came with a lifetime guarantee – it was never clear whether hers or mine. I am not sure why she is called Jekyll and I very much hope she has not read the book…….

 

What’s it like to cycle round these parts?  The key to it is the geography and geology.

The Drôme Provençale lies between the Mountains of the Ardèche; the high plateau of the Vercors; the Alps themselves, and their foothills. So it is pretty much surrounded by mountains.

2018 Nr Pont de Barret

Looking NE towards the Vercors

Taulignan, the village where we are based, lies at the foot of the southern slopes of forested, lower mountains, rising to around 800 metres. Behind them is “La Lance” at 1,338 m. You can get an idea from this picture taken from a local tourist information board.

Drome & Mountains

 

From the ground, the northern heights look like this. Mountains N of Tauli.jpg

The ridges in the foreground are of lavender, which has finished flowering and been pruned back.

To the south of the village lies the Enclave des Papes, mostly rolling country, until the mountains return with Mont Ventoux and the Dentelles de Montmirail. Enclave des Papes.jpg Looking SSE towards Mont Ventoux in the distance.

So, from Taulignan, anywhere North is UP and everywhere else is pretty much UP then down then UP again, most of the time.

Geologically there is a mix of limestone, marl and sandstone. Where the softer marl has weathered away from the limestone there are deep ravines cutting back into the mountains, called locally “serres”. In other parts there are un-eroded limestone pavements – great to ride over until you meet an unexpected edge.

Off road 1
Limestone pavement covered in a wild stonecrop

On the paths and in the stream beds the limestone weathers and breaks down into jagged rocks and stone chips. Fairly lethal to tyres and to body parts if you fall off.Off road 3.jpg

 

The sandstone in the geo-mix erodes to weird and wonderful shapes. The inhabitants have used it to build into, under and on top of, for centuries.

Sandstone outcrop 1.jpg       Sandstone outcrop 3.jpg

 

What all this geological stuff adds up to, is seriously technical mountain bike riding if you are really off-road. It is difficult to get traction on the stony tracks going uphill and difficult to get steerage going downhill; it’s easy to trap a wheel in a fissure in the limestone; it’s very easy to catch a pedal against solid rock; if you come off, the landing will be in thorny scrub if you are lucky and un-yielding if you are not. So, although it is very exciting, it’s not the stuff 300 miles are going to be made of!

I shall be riding mostly in the up-and-down country to the south, on tracks, minor roads & bridle-ways. The Jekyll is ideally suited for this, being able to switch happily from tarmac, to gravel track, to river-bed as the planned navigation demands, or the un-planned necessitates. Speaking of navigation, I have the excellent French equivalent of our OS maps on my iPhone attached to the handlebars and it looks like this:

 

Tauli Rough.jpg
Navigation.jpg

 

 

All very fine till you come across ‘helpful’ directions in the middle of the scrub looking like this!

 

 

 

 

 

Enough of scene-setting!        The next clog will be for real.

With Gallic disregard for the rules I’ve started riding 4 days early. Well, everything has been early this summer, so why not September? Anyway, I’m sure you’re tired of waiting for some action. Me too!

We have to leave France by the middle of the month so – let’s get on and do it!

 

 

Click on ‘Follow Blog via email’ to keep up with the clogs as we, bike & I, head out only a day or two early, to ride ‘September 300’ for Cancer Research UK.

logo

 

To donate to Cancer Research UK, please click on “My Cancer Research Page” at the top of this post. It will take you to a secure Cancer Research donation page and will allow you to say if Gift Aid can be claimed on your donation.

 

Clog 4 – Southbound!

This is not going according to plan!       Since the last clog, with its photo,

IMG_6744        I have had two enquiries for plaited ropes of shallots.

One even asked if they could be paid for through the secure donations page. That is the wonderfulness of the internet – step out into it and anything can happen. Rather like a visit to Aldi or Lidl.

Those shallots. They were grown under proper farm yard manure in an allotment in the village, hard by the site of the ancient manor house of Thomas Hardy’s d’Urbervilles. Tess, destitute, spent the night in the churchyard only 200 yards away. The person who grew the shallots wins prizes for her vegetables and championships for her flower arranging. She is being treated for cancer at Poole Hospital and Fortuneswell, Dorchester.

She remembered how to make the plaits from her childhood days in Purbeck. Her father lost his livelihood when myxomatosis devastated the rabbit population in Dorset. He re-invented himself as a strawberry grower and was regularly called upon to supply HM the Queen wherever she was, anywhere in the world.

RY Britan 2

“Send for one’s strawberries, Steward!”

 

‘Who’s afear’d!’ says the motto of Dorset Men.

But cancer is no respecter of courage and resourcefulness. That’s why we need to get behind the scientists in the white lab-coats, and why I find myself committed to following Henry V into the ‘vasty fields of France’. Not, though, on a 16 hands high, tuned-up plough horse, but on a 16 inch bike frame for very small people too wholesome to wear Lycra.

 

Well, we have set off, bike and I, and just as Henry V gazed fondly on Dover’s white cliffs as he left this Sceptred Isle, (hoping the saltēd air would not the mighty rivets in his armour rust), so gazēd we on Old Harry’s white remains.

2018 Barfleur off Old Harry – Version 2

 

It isn’t certain that the Harry in question was Harry Paye but I like to think so whenever I set off for France.

Old Harry    was a privateer from Poole who savagely raided the French and Spanish coasts 600 years ago, looting and kidnapping. That provoked a combined Spanish and French raid on Poole in retaliation, during which Harry’s brother was killed. Which of course only prompted Harry to wreak further havoc across the water.

 

Back to the present!

 

The MV ‘Barfleur’ bore us fast across a mirror flat sea to Cherbourg, where the nowadays friendly French had been making special arrangements to ensure we could phone home for new bike tyres, even if Donald T decided to flick the US satellites switch to ‘Off’, as a diversion from his little local difficulties.

2018 Cherbourg

 

I will say nothing of the 750 mile drive south, over which we took two and a half days, other than that it served to emphasise how long 300 miles can be…….

But, for my farming friends, as we passed through the Massif Central we saw the beautiful Aubrac ladies with their panda eyes and fluttery eyelashes.

Aubrac

And their not quite so appealing husbands…….

Aubrac Bull

It was a feast of bovine breeds as we rolled past fields of Charolais, Ferrandaise, Limousin, and the rugged Salers.

 

Now we have reached base-camp for the ride, the fortified village of Taulignan in the Drôme Provençale,

Tauli Walls

– only to be greeted by the icy blast of the Mistral, tearing down from the north at 70 kilometers per hour. So yesterday the bike stayed in the shed and we walked out into the country around which I shall be cycling.

La Lance-ettes

The Mistral can blow for days on end and as you can see the country offers little shelter. The cycling could get a little tricky. On which note of concern if not desperation, I will end this clog and hope for calmer days ahead!

 

 

Click on ‘Follow Blog via email’ to keep up with the clogs as we, bike & I, head out into the Drôme Provençale to ride ‘September 300’ for Cancer Research UK.

logo

 

To donate to Cancer Research UK, please click on “My Cancer Research Page” at the top of this post. It will take you to a secure Cancer Research donation page and will allow you to say if Gift Aid can be claimed on your donation.

Clog 3 – Allez Grand-Père!

Allo! mes jolly suiveurs!

I expect you are wondering “What is ‘appening, ‘e ‘as not been clogging for 2 weeks!”

Well mes amis, a lot ‘as been ‘appening inside mon bureau, as I try to mobilise ever more supporters. And not without success! One of them, let us call her ‘Madame Moy’, has even volunteered to come to France to line the route and stir the crowd to a frenzy as I speed past. Poor deluded girl! Does she not realise that I shall be riding in disguise? There is already enough problem with British Yellow Jerseys, British Brexit and British Beef without me getting involved.

IMG_6755

 

I ‘ave ‘ad a lot of fan mail to deal with. ‘Ere are a couple of examples:

Go Sid     Go Etta

Ze Postie, has already been complaining (but that is normal), of so many envelopes all marked ‘Allez Grand-Père!’.  I ‘ave ‘ad to promise to bring ‘im back a yellow Postman Patrice bike to quieten ‘im down.

It should be easy to buy one – nowadays zey have vélos électriques, so the old ones are Dix a Euro down the antiquaires.

post-bike-la-poste-french-post-office-mail-carrier-postal-service-AAM7GF

 

There have been two sorts of reaction to the “300 Miles” distance  …….

First, there are those in the Monsieur Alphonse camp – “Oh my God! If you ‘ave not a dicky ticker already, you will certainly ‘ave one after zat!”

And then there are those fresh from watching Geraint de Wales win the Tour de France. Such knowledgeable people regard 300 miles as just a couple of days in the peloton – a ball of chalk in the Noah’s ark, as my Cockney friends would say.

So where does the balance lie? Well, I’ve calculated that, to a reasonable physiological approximation, my ticker has so far ticked 27 hundred million times…….. So, those in the first camp are giving me plenty of alarm and I am wondering if I should be swallowing a little olive oil to keep things lubricated (along with the vin rouge of course).

I’ve also calculated, to an equally reasonable physiological approximation, that all those very thin men in Lycra pouring up-hill over the Alpe d’Huez in the Tour de France, are 27 hundred million times fitter than I am. Their bikes weigh 7 kilos, mine weighs 18 kilos; followers throw bags of food and drink at them as they go by; the huddle of the peloton shelters them from the wind and a masseur awaits them every evening.

Factor in that I will be riding 50% of the time on rocky tracks and paths over jagged limestone outcrops, and I reckon my 300 Miles will turn out to be a loooooooong way – très beaucoup looooongue in fact, maybe 30+ hours in the saddle.

Better do some training then, Jon!

Or (scrabbles furiously for an easier way out) could I rely on genetics?

Well, a diligent search of the ancestors has revealed that my father went bicycle camping in the New Forest in 1935. However, family history has it that he was forced to give up after 3 days owing to loss of way, pony strikes, and complete exhaustion.

NJ New Forest cycling

Looking further backwards into the gene bank reveals nothing, nada, not even two half-pennies and a farthing.  But, looking forward, what about the progeny?

Well, number 1 son did show early promise riding pillion on a Bamileke bicycle, when growing up in West Africa …….

Bamileke Bike 1974

and then revealed actual competence, racing en peloton from London to Paris to raise funds for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research whilst doing total immersion research for his third novel “Gold”. He’s the smiley one.

RidersDay3-515   Gold jacket

So I can have some hope that raw, innate talent will surface and come to my assistance. But I’m hedging my bets, and getting some training miles under my wheels.

I have to say that there is no finer country to pedal round than Dorset!

                       The last 10 days have seen me in Purbeck, round the edge of the                           Golden Bowl of Encombe:

Encombe

 

watching the harvest above Tolpuddle (and almost everywhere else besides):

Tolpuddle Straw

 

overtaking slow worms on the Wareham Forest trails:

img_6697.jpg

 

and facing down the military in Bovington.

Bovington Tank

 

Yesterday morning, knowing the hills and mountains that await in the Drôme, I pedalled north up the long, steady, 702 feet of climb from the village to the top of Bulbarrow Hill. When I was a lad, we knew Bulbarrow as the highest point in Dorset at 900 ft. But now, in the metric age, Lewesden Hill has been measured by satellite as 5 metres higher.           I feel forever cheated!

Anyway, here is the view from the top of Bulbarrow looking northeast, around midday.

Bulbarrow

Back to the village was downhill all the way from here!

A good point to end this clog – on a 702 ft roll home!

 

Click on ‘Follow Blog via email’ to register & keep up with the clogs as we, bike & I, continue to get into shape, then cross the Channel on the “Barfleur” and head south to the Drôme Provençale in time to ride ‘September 300’ for Cancer Research UK.

logo

 

To donate to Cancer Research UK, please click on “My Cancer Research Page” at the top of this post. It will take you to a secure Cancer Research donation page and will allow you to say if Gift Aid can be claimed on your donation.

 

Clog 2 – La Drôme Provencale

I expect you are wondering “Where is this Drôme Provençale” – well I hope you are, since this is where most of the action will take place!

The Drôme is French Département 26, and it lies in SE France to the east of the river Rhône, south of Lyon and north of Orange and Avignon.

250px-Drôme-Position.svg

The part of the Drôme called La Drôme Provençale doesn’t have exact geographical boundaries but roughly speaking it is the southern third of the département. You can think of it as the gateway to Provence.

drome-provencale

Rather strangely it includes a chunk of département 84, the Vaucluse, around the town of Valreas, which is known as the ‘Enclave des Papes’. So what’s going on there? The answer is plonk, good red plonk. Back in history a certain Pope John had a decent glass or two in Valreas and liked it so much he bought the place.

From 1305 to 1378, the Popes were based in Avignon for squabbly reasons you can read about here if you are historically minded  Avignon Papacy  . Or if, like me, it’s the red stuff that draws you in, you are probably putting Papes and Avignon together and coming up with Châteauneuf-du-Pape. And you would be right! Those Popes seem to have spent as much time improving their vines as their flock, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C3%A2teauneuf-du-Pape_AOC , so by the time Pope John XXII took his trip to Valreas, he knew a good wine when he drank one.

And so the Enclave des Papes grew up around Valreas as the Popes “acquired” further vinyards and hung on to them until in the French Revolution when the peasants, who also knew a decent rouge, grabbed the whole lot back in 1791.

Having whetted your palate, so to speak, it’s only fair that I should give you a tip for a good glug from the Enclave and it would be

IMG_4874

in Vinsobres, where Aurélien is now the family wizard of the wines. It’s just possible we may find ourselves there before the 300 miles are up!

The Drôme Provençale isn’t just about wine. It is about lavender, sunflowers, truffles, goat cheeses, hill-top villages, les marchés de Provence, Roman remains, cicadas, castles, Mediterranean food, olives, stunning vistas, and the mountains that harboured the ‘Maquisards’. But all that will have to wait till we have got there and jumped on the bike!

You can listen to Gilbert Bécaud giving you a flavour, here!

 

Click on ‘Follow Blog via email’ to register & keep up with the clogs as we, bike & I, get into shape (maybe) and head south in 3 week’s time.

To donate to Cancer Research, please click on “My Cancer Research Page” at the top of this post. It will take you to a secure Cancer Research donation page and will allow you to say if Gift Aid can be claimed on your donation.

 

 

Clog 1 – Phoney Ride

First steps

It seemed like a good idea to take a few lessons before getting into the training. Since we’re heading for the Drôme in France, what could be more appropriate than the Velodrome in London?

Train to Waterloo, then a long walk along the south bank of the Thames to London Bridge. The River Bus to the O2 Arena then the Emirates cable car for a flight across the river.

IMG_5700

Next, the Jubilee Line extension to the Olympic Park and finally a jog through the Park to the breathtaking ‘drome.

IMG_2611

IMG_3607

But then – bitter disappointment! They wouldn’t let me join the class, even though I’d taken off my stabilisers.

C2CBABED-87A0-4C2F-AA3A-DEF2206BD52C

Next time I will remember to take my helmet!

All this going up to London stuff can fair knock it out of you. Our Dorset poet William Barnes knew all about that that!

https://www.fontmellmagna.net/2012/04/john-bloom-in-london/

Next Clog – what’s this Frenchy Drôme you’re going to, then?

To donate to Cancer Research, please click on “My Cancer Research Page” at the top of this post. It will take you to a secure Cancer Research donation page and will allow you to say if Gift Aid can be claimed on your donation.