Cousin J is one of those public-spirited, community-minded people who never sits still. If there’s a committee to be sat on, a magistrate’s hearing to be heard, a village fete that needs a helping hand, she’s there.
J is also a cycling super-fan. She knows her Merckx from her Indurain, the two riders whose exploits first drew her in. And she approaches her race-following as enthusiastically as she approaches everything else. When J told me that she and husband Bernard would be following the whole of last year’s Tour of Britain by car, I thought she was bonkers, but delightfully bonkers: a true English eccentric.
Here’s a prime example of J’s ultra-fandom. She knitted miniature Tour leader’s jerseys in a bunting style and posted them off to Bradley Wiggins for his kids, wishing him all the best for the upcoming race, then a following letter commiserating with the former Tour winner on his non-selection, suggesting the children might want to throw the jerseys in the bin.
Then the phone rang. It was Brad himself, calling to thank J for the lovely gift, despite not making it to the Tour. The mini jerseys may have rubbed salt in the wound, you’d think, but the man has more humility than the public give him credit for, and made the effort in person where many would not have bothered. Chapeau, Sir. Never was the phrase more appropriate.
Cousin J was, understandably, delighted and thrilled, almost as much as when the Grand Départ in England was announced. The proud Yorkshirewoman obviously signed up to become a Tour Maker, and spent Saturday’s opening stage organising her team of volunteers in one of the many picturesque villages along the route.
So far, so good. Only things took a turn for the worse as the afternoon progressed. The thousands of cyclists clogging the Tour route seemed hell-bent on having races of their own. Once the peloton had passed, it was every man and woman for themselves: a chaotic two-wheeled melee with little regard for anyone else’s safety.
Cousin J was mown down by a kid on a bike, their parents some way behind. She spent Saturday evening in A&E with a badly cut hand and a nasty bash to her already dodgy knee.
She will have to slow down a bit for the next few weeks, which doesn’t come naturally. There are things to be done. Stuff to be organised. Lazing around does not sit well with her.
Cousin J deserves better, don’t you think?