That was the year that was: July 2007

July arrives. Mr TLC soon has no work to do. The mud has been shovelled into an seemingly endlessly set of skips. The insurance company has sent in a team to clean the machines. There is no sign of production restarting. Mr TLC spends his days at work reading books and listening to CDs. He is bored out of his mind and getting a tad tetchy. He starts to book a few odd days leave from work.

***

The Tour de France arrives in London. So do we. Our hotel is filled with journalists from L’Equipe, some people from Team Rabobank and us. We attempt to spot cyclists among the Rabobank contingent in the hotel but conclude that they are either in hiding or lodging elsewhere. His Royal Ken-ness has evidently booked glorious summer sunshine for the event and we bask in it. I am remarkably over excited about this event, after years of watching Le Tour “a la television”, this year we will see four stages from the side of the road. Normally this is not possible because the Tour usually finishes on the same weekend that my summer holiday begins. This year, not only there is there a week of overlap so we can see it in France, but Le Tour has also obligingly come to visit us in Blighty. Brilliant.

London is crowded and full of a mixture of cycling fans and those who have turned up for the hell of it, but it is all very good natured. The Caravane du Tour includes a Green Line bus showing Romford (my Mum’s original hometown) as its destination. For no real reason at all, this makes me feel ridiculously happy.

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We choose a spot on Constitution Hill for the prologue time trail, I’ll never forget the noise and the atmosphere when David Millar was approaching from one direction whilst Bradley Wiggins went in the other. A cycling know-it-all stands next to us and gives the crowd the benefit of his opinions; his friends laugh, joke and take the mick slightly. We are all somewhat amused when another spectator asks Mr Know-It-All which team Bradley Wiggins rides for and he is unable to answer. We are all somewhat irked when Mr Know-It-All’s prediction about the winning time is exactly right.

At this stage I’m feeling good about Le Tour, hoping that Vino does well and looking forward to seeing it again in France.

***


“Erm are you busy tomorrow?”
“No, why?”
“Would you be available to come to Paris?”


Oh yes! One of my colleagues was unfortunately taken ill, just before the school trip to Disneyland and Paris set off. For me, this meant an unexpected two days in France. Not good for my unfortunate colleague but a treat for me! Strangely, everyone kept thanking me for stepping in at such short notice; I was just pleased to be asked.

I followed the Tour de France via the papers in France and even caught a bit on French TV. I was disappointed to discover Vino had fallen off his bike and injured himself, but I was getting ridiculously excited about my next roadside view of Le Tour.

***

July ended with a trip to Angouleme. According to a couple we met it was the worst summer for 15 years, only 30 degrees… Which was still more than hot enough for me. We watched two stages of the Tour de Farce France. By the time we arrived, riders (including Vino) were being thrown off the race so fast it was hard to keep up with it all.

We were astounded at the spectators’ reactions to the publicity caravan; lineouts and scrums formed over everything that was thrown to the crowd; you can see that the French love their rugby. Since everything on offer was just promotional tat, I could understand kids being desperate to get their hands on it, but I was mystified by the reactions of the adults. Anyway, we made one small boy from the family standing next to us very happy by handing over a giant green hand, a cheap biro, a Bart Simpson mask and various other bits and pieces; he was clutching his new possessions as if they were treasure.

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I still don’t know what to think about all the controversy surrounding this year’s Tour, but fortunately the two stages we saw were really competitive and it was worth going for that alone. Add in the friendly people, medieval town, Comics Museum and murals and we had a great holiday. I even managed to talk to people in French and have conversations that I actually understood – a great achievement for me!

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