It was my father who watched sport on the telly, not we womenfolk, and certainly not my mother. Dad would fall asleep in front of Match of the Day, so we’d switch the TV off and he would immediately open his eyes and say, “I was watching that!” In the last 15 years since his death, Mom’s TV has been tuned to only a handful of sporting events
It was a good friend who pointed out last week that the TV coverage of the Tour de France didn’t just focus on the cyclists, but also showed the scenery of whatever area the Tour was passing through. The mere fact that I didn’t know that is probably enough to convince you of how seldom I watch sport, and that I have almost never watched the Tour de France.
Anyway, this same friend also explained the route, so as this was my mother’s native county, we decided to have a peep and see if we recognised anything. We did. The television stayed on all Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and my unsporting mother had her eyes glued to the screen. As it progressed, it wasn’t just the scenery and the great atmosphere that grabbed her attention but the actual event.
I must add here that in their youth, my parents had a tandem on which they explored most of the country within a 150-mile radius of their home. Up hill and down dale they went, sometimes with a Cycling Club, other times on their own to visit friends and family. Their trips weren’t a race, but must have demanded a lot of stamina and may well account for my mother’s excellent health even now. Her sympathies were very much with the lads, and the effort their legs were making.
As she followed the tour through the Yorkshire dales and into her hometown of Sheffield, she was full of questions. And comments
“Where will they stop for lunch?”
“What happens if they need the loo?”
“Have they got waterproofs?”
“I bet their bottoms are sore by the end of the day!”
and, best of all, accompanied by a big grin, “I wonder if there’s anybody on a tandem?”
To my surprise, she decided today that she wanted to watch the next stage of the tour, from Cambridge through Essex to London, an area which holds no personal associations for her. The sun was shining, the weather warm, and I had been busy in the garden, which usually also brings her out to see that I’m doing it right. Not today: the Tour de France received her full attention.
I think I know where the appeal lies. Mom has always enjoyed beautiful scenery, and in the last few years when she had visited me in Switzerland and France, has taken great pleasure in travelling around admiring the countryside. Over her lifetime, she’s travelled through most of England and Wales, too, and her memory for places is amazing: show her a view, and she’ll tell you where it is and often have a story to go with it. She freely admits that on the tandem, whilst Dad was steering and keeping his eyes on the road, she was merrily pedalling away at the back, taking in all the lovely views.
“I think they should do this every year,” she said.
I replied that they do.
“Yes, but they should do it all round Britain.”
I believe many would agree with her, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she volunteered to organise it.