We heard this week that the Tour de France cycle race is coming to England next year, and the opening two days will feature some hard riding in Yorkshire.
Our local media have been going bananas. Well, why not? We’ve got plenty of steep hills for the riders to go at, and some lovely scenery and historic towns, and…OK, you get the picture. They’re only with us for two days, then it’s off down south, and onward to France itself for most of the tour. But that hasn’t stopped Yorkshire folk from rejoicing in the excitement of the sport and the prospect of many thousands of enthusiasts flocking here to spend their hard-earned brass.
I can’t help wondering what the French think about calling it the Tour de France when part of it happens this side of the Channel. York, Leeds, Ilkley, Sheffield, Holmfirth, Aysgarth…the names lack that Gallic je ne sais quoi, don’t they? Oh well, Sand-fairy Anne, as my Dad used to say in his Churchillian French. And he’d be right; it doesn’t – matter, that is, what they call the race, as long as the cyclists know which way to go, and the spectators know where to stand…
AND as long as they all ride a good clean race without dosing themselves with any naughty substances to help them along. They won’t need them, anyway, if they stick to a proper local diet: Yorkshire pudding with their roast beef, and Wensleydale cheese with their home-made apple pie. This last may strike some non-Yorkshire folk as odd, but we say, “An apple pie without some cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze.” To anyone who hasn’t tried this lovely combination, I strongly recommend it, but don’t do what a friend of mine in London did once, and add custard. Really, I despair of southerners sometimes!
I suppose we’ll all start brushing up on our French phrases to welcome the cyclists and their entourages and fans. My conversational French used to be quite good many moons ago, though it may be a touch rusty now. Still, I’m sure it would come back to me, although I’d struggle with cycle-related chats about punctures or dodgy brakes, or details of race stages. How do you say, “That hill’s an absolute stinker, watch out for the 1-in-4 S-bend near the top or you’ll go base-over-apex”?
Being a lover of puns, I always enjoy the spoof “fractured French” translations that go the rounds from time to time, and doubtless will again next year. Rendering “pas de deux” as father of twins, and “mal de mer” as mother-in-law, makes me smile, not to mention translating “Chateaubriand” as your hat’s on fire. And in our family we call Chateauneuf du pape “The Pope’s Newcastle.”
I wonder if the French have the same sort of jokes the other way round? If so, what can they make of “Ee by gum” or “Where there’s muck there’s brass”?
Well, bonne chance to the cyclists; rather them than me, flogging up and down all those hills. Let’s make sure they enjoy themselves in Yorkshire, and hope they can make time to look around them as they belt along and admire the beautiful countryside they’re riding through. However beautiful is La Belle France, there are bits of Yorkshire that beat the rest of the world hollow.