Departing the Row, we headed into Regent Street, which we navigated in a northerly direction. It was around this point that I was witness to some decidedly inappropriate intercourse between a chap on the front of a tandem, and a lady not three yards in front of him. The lady was wearing a skirt that was really rather provocative in its Lilliputian minisculity – quite unsuitable for ladylike activities, let alone cycling. I couldn’t miss the acreage of décolletage she had on display either. Neither, it seemed, had the chap behind. The conversation went something along these lines.
“Well, hello!” said the chap.
“Good afternoon!” replied the lady.
“Is say, is your husband about?” said the chap.
“No, he’s not. He is away. Flyfishing!”
“My wife is away you know, what!” said the chap, who was rapidly adopting the tone of a caddish predator. “I say, is that a ladder in your tights? Or could it be…”
A groan emanated from the cad’s companion on the back of the tandem.
“Could it be,” the cad continued, “A stairway to Heaven?”
Snorting with derision, I gave the Dursley a couple of firm strokes on the pedals to distance myself from the cad and the hussy – I can’t abide such ignoble, base behaviour. If I ever see that chap in my club, I will have a few firm words with the management!
By now, I was definitely running on the reserve tank. It had been hours since I had enjoyed the sustenance of tea and tobacco, and so it was with great relief that we rapidly navigated Gower Street and Bloomsbury to present ourselves in the leafy environs of Lincolns Inn Fields, which was to be the site of a break for refreshment.
A queue of Brobdingnagian proportions had formed across the square, which suggested that I was not the only chap who had developed pangs of hunger and a frightful thirst. Without my man to take my place in the queue, I endured it myself, and a jolly friendly queue it was too. After I had sucked down a thoughtful cup of tea, I gobbled some hard-earned cucumber sandwiches and considered the spectacle. A minute later, I was approached by a photographic Johnnie who politely requested that I pose in front of a large rhododendron whilst he captured my image. I was led to believe that he represented one of those gentlemen’s magazines – you know the sort – the ones that provide sartorial guidance as well as reviews of shaving soap and details concerning popular hotels on the Cote d’Azur. I was perfectly happy though, not unaccustomed as I am to having my likeness reproduced!
The marshal Johnnies then instructed us to mount up yet again, and we were directed in a necessarily convoluted fashion towards the Borough of Clerkenwell. We passed the noted velocipede-themed hostelry Look Mumsie No Hands! in front of which was gathered a crowd of jolly well-wishers. Onwards we rode, over the Old Street circulatory, and up through Shoreditch, where we witnessed some of the local characters, attired in their much-lauded whimsical outfits – pink and black striped smocks, eyeglasses fashioned from iridescent Bakelite, and clown-like shoes with India rubber soles. They seemed to be mostly in high spirits, though some of them appeared to be suffering from a nasal allergy, sniffing repeatedly and twitching slightly. Others had a decidedly inebriated air, clutching bottles of ale.
As we approached Bethnal Green Road the pace slowed. Some local urchins had seemingly procured themselves bicycles of their own, and they attempted to ride alongside us. One particular fellow was trying to raise the front wheel of his bicycle aloft! He was right in front of me, so I had to take action to prevent his actions causing harm to any of my fellow riders.
“By Jove! You obstinate devil! Take that!” I yelled, and gave him a shove. He fell into the path of an oncoming vehicle – I think it’s safe to say that’s the last time he will cause any such trouble again! So dashed absurd, don’t you know, that kind of behaviour. There’s just no call for it.
And then, dear reader, we reached the finish! Our ride was over, and we were invited into the most impressive-looking Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club to celebrate the conclusion of our adventure. I felt a bit of a fraud, having never done a day’s work in my life, but no-one seemed to noticed the delicacy of my hands, untroubled as they are by the coarse callouses of manual labour, or the ink-stained digits of the professional classes.
I must admit, after a full day on the Dursley, I cannot for the life of me remember a previous occasion when I’ve been quite so infernally uncomfortable, although I should also perhaps draw attention to the fact that I had not been to the lavatory since leaving much earlier in the day. Suffice to say that the old chap was very much relieved at being taken off duty.
The Working Men’s Club didn’t have much of a cellar unfortunately, so rather than celebrate with champagne and St Emilion, I found myself toasting the Tweed Run with some quantity of a rather fine ale, hailing from the Orient. I do not recall laying my eyes on the aforementioned moving picture actor, who has subsequently been the recipient of a lot of attention in the cycling gossip columns. Apparently he was quite a prominent personage.
The Oriental ale was potent to say the least, and it had the effect of creeping imperceptibly into your system so that, before you knew know what you’re doing, you’re starting out to reform the world by force if necessary and pausing on your way to tell the large man on the Pashley that, if he looks at you like that again, you will knock his head off. I had enough sense to make my excuses and leave before I ended up knee-deep in the bouillon so to speak! Wobbling off down the road, I considered what had been a most agreeable day! The Tweed Run was a wondrous success. And what’s more, I’m going to do it again! I’m going to do it every day. If ever you see me tweed-less, tap me on the shoulder and say, ‘Tut! Tut!’ and I’ll apologise and remedy the defect.