There has been rather a delay with this blog update caused through a number of minor events. We had guests poised for imminent arrival and had been working like things possessed to ensure that the property is up to muster. In addition we had yet another storm appear out of a clear blue sky. It rumbled and groaned for the best part of an hour before settling into a lively light display close above our heads. Then during one overly theatrical episode a flash seemed to fill the kitchen where we were standing. The upshot of this event was that our Orange Live-box had been electronically disembowelled and the telephone/internet for Puymangou and the close villages was amputated from the National network. So that was it, the end of our communication with the outside world.
Thanks to our friends at the edge of the devastated region who have been able to offer us support and succour. Of course good luck to those still without phone or internet.
The Tour de France has been on-tour once more. I am sure that everyone knows that it set off from Yorkshire back on the 5th July. Now the riders and their speeding entourage have careered around France and through the Dordogne. They have not come very close to Bon Abri and to Puymangou but the ripples from the race have been seen here in the northwest of the Department with a great increase in overweight and vividly clothed riders out on the roads.
I shall own up now and admit that this Tour holds very little interest for me. However I have been reading about the history of the bicycle in France and of their love of push-bike racing. Some of it is fascinating. France took to the bicycle very readily and racing, especially endurance racing seems to have been of particular interest. It must, therefore, have been very irritating that the Brits along with other nationalities seem to have regularly won a number of the earlier races to the point that French-only events were introduced on occasion.
The impact that the bicycle had in opening France to its people was stunning. It gave personal mobility to a huge section of society. The country had been a series of poorly connected Pays held together, on occasion, by force or religion, or even force and religion. One social scientist has suggested that the bicycle was responsible for increasing the average height of the population by reducing the number of blood-related marriages. The bicycle made it possible to travel fairly easily to another Pays and therefore meet ‘new’ people. The bicycle, relatively cheap, easy to maintain, and not needing much grooming or feeding was quickly adopted by farm-workers, commuters, postmen, priests and indeed by the army.
The race we know as the Tour de France was created as a publicity stunt by the journalist Géo Lefevre and his editor. In the first tour, in 1903, they covered 1,518 miles is six stages and each stage was more than 24 hours. Of the 60 riders who set off 21 arrived back in Paris infront of a crowd of 100,000 people. The winner had been born in Italy but had been naturalised a Frenchman.
The following year, 1904, during the second stage as the first four riders reached the summit of the Col de la Republique near St Etienne at 3:00 in the morning a mob was waiting for them in the forest. They cheered the local boy on as they laid into the other three riders (including the 1903 winner) beating them up. One of the three had to retire from the race as his fingers were too badly broken to continue. All along the route the atmosphere of true sportsmanship, of fraternité etc. was continued with spiked drinks, bicycle frames sawn through and broken glass across the road.
As we have been driving about, occasionally crossing the route of this years race, we have noticed an increase in the amount of high quality road works and especially re-surfacing that is being carried out. This has been accompanied by a lot of very impressive planting, verge trimming and general grooming. All this will be wasted on the riders but will look really good on the television. It might also help to explain why the Chuckle Brothers French Cousins, Le Glousser fréres, are STILL disrupting working in our nearest town, St Aulaye; there is no one else available.