I’ve lived in France for seven years, more or less, now. During that time I’ve worked in the UK every summer. Initially at a summer school teaching teenagers from all over Europe or the world general English and last year and this at a university (pictured left) teaching students, about to start a Masters course at the university, how Academic English is different from the general English they learnt before, or what they did to earn their qualification to get to the university. I do that because people in France go away for July or August so you cannot organise classes in those months and now, increasingly working at the local university, courses finish mainly at Easter with a few lasting into or to the end of May and not starting until the middle of September.
Over time I’ve increasingly become interested in cycling. Initially, as a result of working on it for my job in the early part of this century, in track cycling – I saw races at the Manchester Commonwealth Games and at my local track when living in Reading. Over time this moved to interest in road racing, particularly the Tour de France. I even got to the last two and had an interview to manage the administration for Team Sky three or four years ago. In 2012, whilst working in the UK, I followed the race every day, when work had finished obsessively watching the races as the first Englishman and the first English based team went on to win the Tour de France. It wasn’t quite as obsessive, I had a new job in a new environment so hadn’t the time available, but I still followed the race last year and the second victory.
In seven years living in France I had never seen the race in the country that is my home. I had hardly seen the French TV coverage of the race. My knowledge of it came from the UK coverage on ITV4 and the previous coverage on a number of channels. You would think the tour coming to Leeds for this year would make me excited. I would be happy to be getting a chance to see it at last. Not, at all, it seemed wrong. So, it was with an ambivalence about this aspect that I returned to Leeds just over a week ago.
Thursday and work finished and preparation for Friday done so I went shopping to get a few things. Before leaving work I had talked with a few colleagues about the parade of teams which was taking place that evening through the streets of Leeds before they were presented at the Firstdirect arena. Having finished shopping I noticed my route home was being closed off with barriers. I spied what would be a good spot to see the riders coming up from Millennium Square. So, I hung around in that spot and was joined by a flatmate and we saw the teams on their way from Millennium Square to the Arena. The one pictured are the Cofidis team. Whilst there I was given a ‘Spectator Guide‘ for stages 1 and 2 which led us to talk about the possibility of going to the ‘Grand Depart’ and possibly going out of Leeds to visit somewhere of interest and also take in stage 2.
On Friday further discussions took place and it was decided to go down to the centre of Leeds at 10ish on Saturday morning. Before that happened though I was wakened by a din from people playing popular beat combo music and talking French. But I’d left all that behind. was this some nightmare with my French living come to haunt me in Leeds? No. In seven years living in France I’d never seen the Tour De France and here the caravan was going past my window. As well as the music there were vehicles advertising Haribo, ibis hotels, sugary fizzy drinks (pictured) and, best of all I thought, Yorkshire Tea. The last seemed so out of place with the rest but quite cool that it was present, like a very English intervention in the Tour de France.