I spent a total of 452 hours in the UK. For 400 of those it rained. Or was blowing a gale. Or was covered in slate grey cloud. Or was just downright miserable.
I know what you’re thinking. ‘Oh and France is so damn great is it?’
Well actually no. From all accounts the weather was pretty lousy here as well. England felt tired though. Needy. Like an old man sitting in a plywood box care home waiting for the nurse to arrive with yet another sugar coated pill to make him feel better. I wanted to get out my paint box and daub it with colour. Speckle it with silver and blue. Whitewash the grey areas. Varnish the roads. Gloss over the chain stores and the closed down shops. Give a circus style veneer to all the road signs to make them look more like lollypops rather than red letter warnings of impending doom.
Apart from that though, it was great. The ale was on free flow, the football season started (I went to see my local team Chesterfield lose 0 – 1), the fish and chips were fantastic, the steak pies delicious, the company top notch. All that was missing was some sunshine. Then I’m sure my country would look glorious again.
I did what I set out to do. I saw family and friends. I ate well. I drank well. I saw Derbyshire. I ate a stodgy pasty. I saw some football. I connected and then I came back to Queaux. Back to open space, silence, nature, solitude, peace and quiet. Back to the writing, which is what I’ve missed the most. Sitting alone in total silence at my desk. Gazing at the elderberry trees that line the stony track that leads down to the river. The cows snacking on clover and burdock in the fields to the right of me. For four weeks more at least before I head to Bordeaux.
I see my life as a long drawn out Tour De France. I reach the top of one hill, enjoy the view, and then cruise down the other side before ascending the next. And so on.
At the moment I’m at the riverside café in the valley in-between the two peaks gorging on toasted sandwiches, syrupy pancakes, red wine and tarragon fried chicken before I launch myself up the pass to the summit finish at Bordeaux.
The Tour De France typically has twenty stages. My race started in Durham on 3rd May 1974 before heading to Leeds, Chester, Belper, Chesterfield, Provence, Bracknell, Nottingham, Warsaw, Granada, Plymouth, Salamanca, Exeter, Falmouth, Bristol, Lyon and Queaux.
Bordeaux will be stage 18. So there’s two left. And the last stage of the Tour de France is always Paris. So stage 19 could be a difficult choice. I might be some time in Bordeaux thinking about it. Where to go for a final fling before the road snakes back to Paris and a yellow jersey.