Wednesday 6 July 2011

The astounding power of crème de cassis

If you can't be in France for the Tour, the next best thing is to watch it with a French friend - especially if it happens to be passing through the part of France they once called home, as was the case yesterday when I watched with our Breton friend Virginie. Better still, Virginie had actually been to France two days ago and had come home with several bottles of decent Breton wine, crème de cassis, some sort of evil coconuttish liquor stuff and a jar of hare terrine which yours truly didn't eat ('cos I don't eat meat) but of which Mrs. Orbea took full advantage, declaring it "well nice."

Picking out one face among the Tour crowds
is like finding a needle in a haystack made of
millions and millions of very similar needles.
Now, plenty of us have been to France - it receives millions of tourists every year - and seeing the places you've visited is always fun, but it's nothing compared to what an expat experiences when they see the villages in which the grew up. "Zere is le church where Ah first received communion! And just over zere is le field where Ah first 'ad sex and smoked marijuana! Zat is le pub from which Ah am banned for life from ze days when Ah was le punk rockeur! Mon Dieue! Zey are passing through Trégornan! Zat is where my fazzer lives!"

So there we were, five of us looking out for an elderly Frenchman standing on a roadside verge somewhere in North-Western France - our chances of spotting him somewhat reduced due to Virginie being the only one among us with any idea what he looks like.

The riders arrived at Trégornan. "Eet eez so beautiful!" and then...adverts! Onoes!

Could it be that creme de cassis
confers psychic powers upon
those who sup of its blackcurranty

If you're lucky enough to live in one of the cycling nations - France, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg or the Netherlands - you probably get to watch the Tour relatively unhassled by people trying to sell you stuff, but here in the UK, where the TV channels haven't quite cottoned on to how popular cycling is becoming over here these days, the cost of buying the right to show live footage is offset by having commercial breaks roughly every five minutes. The Universe being the sort of place it is, this means that you can guarantee with 99% certainty that you will miss the bit of France you particularly wanted to see/the day's big crash/the peloton negotiating a hoard of zombies in the road and so on.

Virginie thought the moment has passed when the adverts were over, but decided she was mistaken. "Oh, wait, wait - zis could be eet! Oui!" It was a very long, straight road with literally thousands of people, further reducing our chances.

"There he is! There he is!" You'll notice that the - ahem - French accent is gone. The reason for that is that all five of us were yelling it, and since four of us are Brits we drowned out the Frenchie. We'd all seen him - an old man dressed in a long black coat and black hat - and Viriginie phoned him immediately for confirmation. We had been correct - but how in the name of Henri Desgrange had we all known it was him?

It's good stuff, that crème de cassis.

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