More extracts from the Bounder’s account which appeared in the Clarion, 31 August. Through September and into October 1895:
Half way to Havre we came to a place called Bolbec, where we had intended to bait; but –
It is a sort of small Sheffield, where they have foundries and factories … after the piercing clearness and glorious keenness of the tablelands it is like dropping into hell. Only more so.
It was Sunday morning when we rode through this dull, drab, smear, this frowsy, feculent fuliginosity.
So, 25 miles on in a ‘picturesque little village’
…they had tables and chairs brought out from the ‘Chasseurs des Lapins’ cabaret and we assimilated 47 litres of rum and milk.
Approaching Havre we ran into a lot of chaps who had been out all night. They had measured a distance of some three or four miles on the road, and were holding a long distance race, the competitors riding to and fro, each distance counting a lap. Poor devils, they were baked. Haggard, with straining eyeballs, and the perspiration baked upon them, they humped almost blindly along after their pacemakers … clothed in bright green, red, and yellow &c ‘as Jockeys‘.
And finally we came to the Havre End of the distance where we found quite a group of cyclists, with a bevy of the fair sex in rationals, grouped upon the wayside waiting for the verdict.
The Bounder then extolled the wearing of ‘rationals’ and expressed great disdain for the prudish attitudes of many English people. Then he turned to Le Havre itself.
Havre is a fine lively town, with the best system of electric tramways in France. Fine broad streets and magnificent public squares, and on this particular Sunday bands were in full blast, and all the inhabitants were out in the streaming sunshine. There is no churlish, sour-eyed Puritanism in France.
That was at the end of September. Rejoining the Ondine they proceeded up the Seine to Paris. On 5 October the Bounder reported reaching ‘the dream city of Rouen, The Capital of Chivalry and Romance’. At which point, since there’s no cycling interest any more, we will leave him. At least for the moment.
Next time: ‘The First of the Mohawk-Cans’. A London to Brighton ride before the British Heart Foundation was heard of.