So we’re sitting outside the local cafe, about half way through lunch (course three of five, coffee and wine included)* when the rain rolls in as it has been rolling in at regular intervals since the weather gods got wind of our whereabouts on about day three of our trip. At first the other diners simply huddled closer until the wind started flinging the rain water that had pooled on the canopy onto the outer tables and then, one by one gave up and fled indoors. All except us, of course, although fortunately we’d bagged the one relatively rain-proof outdoor spot, and besides I was in my everything-bar-the-apocalypse-proof jacket. The proprietor even came out to apologise for the weather but I managed to summon enough French to explain that we lived in Scotland and this was normal where we came from.
Actually, the real reason we were sitting outside was that the other half has been doing a bit of impulse shopping. We had gone back to the bike-rental place to return one bike (I’m borrowing my sister’s) and discuss extending the rental on the other one. As we walked into the office we couldn’t help but clock the beautiful old-school racing bike leant up against the desk and asked if it belonged to the guy behind it. No, he said, it was for sale. How much? “Cent Euro.”
Well, what would you have done? Given that renting a fairly plodding mountain bike for the remainder of our stay would have cost 70 Euros, the fact that we have absolutely no idea how to get it home on the TGV and Eurostar, not to mention Virgin Trains, paled into insignificance. The bike is as close to weighing almost nothing as it’s possible for a bike to be, it appears to have barely been ridden, at least recently, and it looked as out of place among the rest of the rental stock as a thoroughbred in a field of donkeys. We couldn’t leave it there. I was reminded of the holidays as a child when I had spent all week befriending some appealing-looking stray dog and pleading with my parents to let me take it home with us. So now we are the owners of a fine French racing bike and a bit of a logistical problem, but at least the bike won’t have to spend six months in quarantine and the other half has suddenly rediscovered his interest in cycling.
The one fly in the ointment is that we don’t have a decent lock (apart from anything else it would double the weight) so that means all our dining will have to take place al fresco, rain or no rain, while we keep an eye on it.
Oh, and it has magical properties too: it makes the other half disappear into a rapidly-diminishing dot on the horizon.
*This came highly recommended as the place where all the local workmen gathered for lunch. It was certainly good value, but I wonder if French tourists eagerly seek out the sort of greasy spoon which would be the English or Scottish equivalent, and what they would make of it if they did**
** That said, the egg, bacon and black pudding roll for £2 at the cafe at the Bigtown industrial estate not only comes highly recommended but probably also costs about the same, calorie per calorie, as our lunch. Fine dining indeed.