I woke up in Italy this morning. The sky was blue, the sun was shining. I was in quiet little Egham running away from problems, at the Café Nero for a cappuccino, noodling on the net.
There’s a University and a sixth form college in the town – during the summer when they are shut they are rented out for summer schools. This week one of them was home to a swarm of Italian teenagers, so everywhere I went there was a buzz of Italian.
There was style, there was Peroni and Asti. Campagnolo and the Azurri. Lambretta, Vespa, Campari.
Hot dry Limoncello days. Tutti Frutti cool evenings espresso-ing into endless summer nights.
Amacord and Grappa.
In 1987 I was staying, pennyless, at Tignalle, on the shortest, hardest, cheapest coach trip holiday you could ever imagine. It was a burning hot day, like today. I walked along a path on the side of the mountain that runs high above Lake Garda to the next village, which in those days still had no road. All around me was the striking aromatic smell of wild herbs in sunshine. In my pocket a sun ripened peach. In one of the houses, a woman sang in beautiful Italian, making pasta by hand.
That’s where I went this morning.
Early at Tesco’s – seem to be buying far too many carrots. And Mr Freeze’s popsicles. Good diet.
This afternoon it’s the awe inspiring Alpe d’Huez on the Tour de France, the highlight of a magnificent race this year – the high alps.
Stage 13 – racing wind echelons on the flat.
The ride up Mont Ventoux, the bleached white moonscape that means so much to british cycling as the road passes the monument to Tommy Simpson, who died there. Now Chris Froome’s incredible ride will be remembered for a long time too.
Today, two ascents up the Alp – that’s where I should be; at the roadside, watching the caravane publicitaire go by, the silly advertising cars, the glamourous models, the shady businessmen, the CGT lorry, Monsieur Bibendum, L’equipe.
Waiting for the sound of the helicopters coming, the Presidential Guard motorcyclists, the leaders, the yellow jersey, Le Peloton, the team cars, the medics, Le Directeur Sportif, the Broom Wagon.
Allez! Allez! Vites!
Ah, Le Tour.
C’est La belle France. C’est La Vie.
(a don’t stop till you drop production)