I know you’ll be on tenter hooks wondering how our trip into Leeds to witness the historic start of The Tour de Yorkshire, Tour de Yorkshire, Tour de Yorkshire went. So I’m going to take the unprecedented step of publishing a follow-up blog the day after the first one. I wasn’t keen on going at all but Mrs Summerhouse thought we should go as it is ‘a once in a lifetime opportunity’. How often those words have been used in justification of misery these last couple of days. Now I know after my Eagles blog that I run the risk of stereotyping myself as a miserable bastard but I have to say it – I was right, I didn’t want to go. It was an experience of dubious pleasure. Not that the crowd of a quarter of a million people that reportedly also made the trip seemed to think so. They were all cheering and hooting and honking and generally smiling away in a most untypical fashion. So be it, it’s just me then.
This is how it went for me. Admittedly we had a choice, get there ridiculously early and be bored out of our brains for hours or arrive pretty much on time and complain about being at the back. I chose the latter and here is my photo (above) to prove it. I had set myself for this kind of experience and so it turned out. The best view , i.e. the one were the crowds were the thinnest -relatively speaking – was looking through the glass of a bus stop. There’s an unintended irony there somewhere. Everywhere else, every ledge, nook, cranny, inch of pavement, top of telephone box, on the Headrow was jammed with happy, smiling people. How I ached with pride or was it just with standing on tip toe. Mrs SH said she thought it was nice that the community had come together for the event. I thought if I had been the only person on the Headrow witnessing the ceremonial start I could not have been happier. Miserable bastard, me? Mais, non. When we arrived it was to find that we couldn’t get to even the back row of the crowd because the crowd had been fenced off at the back as well as at the front. Strange. When I enquired ever so politely of one of the stewards how this could be so, he replied succinctly, “eeh,the’ve bin ‘ere ‘ours”. Can’t argue with Yorkshire logic. “Gu down theere, it’s still opun” and so we did and it was – just. And no, he wasn’t speaking French.
So we arrived at 10.45 and left at 11.15. In between we almost saw a lot of honking Skodas, British motorcycle police who seemed (as I later saw on TV) to be giving low fives to the front row of the crowd as they shot by (I enjoyed this bit and couldn’t help but speculate that if this form of policing had been employed in the miner’s strike or even at Elland Road, things would go much better for all concerned), and the French motorcycle gendarmes who shot by without any merriment whatsoever as if to say fuck you crazy English, get out of my merdeing way or I will mash you with my big French bike. Then the noise from the crowd swelled and it was what we had all come for – 20 seconds of bikes by in a flash, through the glass of the bus shelter and obscured by the backs of the heads of the people in front of me. See below.
OK, I admit I have never liked big crowds, I feel claustrophobic so maybe not the best person to judge an event like this and I’ve got worse as I’ve got older and in retirement I’ve got the rising feeling of panic at being trapped in a large crowd off to a tee, a fine art, you might say. Which is why we left as soon as the bikes had passed at 11.15. Yes.I know I’m not coming out of this well. So does it get better? Have a happy ending? Well, not really, we made an effort to watch the highlights on ITV4 just to see if I could get more pleasure through a second hand experience than the live one. Sorry, the answer is still a qualified no. We couldn’t recognise any of the route on account of it being covered by thousands of bleedin’ people, still at least that should have the effect of obscuring our beautiful landscape thereby reducing the likelihood of any unnecessary tourist type visitors after the race is over and consigned to the panniers of history.
You think I’m not trying hard enough to be a part of the magic? Well, look, Mrs SH spent a whole £1 on a special supplement from The Yorkshire Post. This is still Yorkshire despite all TV images to the contrary and we’re going to give it one more chance to see if we can recognise anywhere we know and if that doesn’t work today well then, let it go back where it came from and, if you’re a tourist, do not believe all this publicity crap you’ve been hearing about the hospitality of Yorkshire folk, we’re still as crabby as ever and I like it that way, suits me in my retirement. I’m weary of all this bigging up of my chosen home county “all of Yorkshire has really become a part of this Tour de France” – TV commentary, oh shut up. We never did see Kate and William or Dave Cameron. so not all bad news. Take care now.