Now then, as I remarked just previously, the Dursley is really quite beastly at slow speeds, and as we pulled away from Paternoster Square, well, by jove were we crawling. I tried to keep the bicycle upright, but the bally thing was rocking like a jelly in a high wind. The crowd was treaded to a curious display of bicycle manhandling by yours truly, no doubt sporting a face writ large with concern at impending doom and the mangling of soft-soldered steel. Suffice to say, I began to worry that, if the Terror of the Dursley were to continue unabated, I might end up the subject of the wholly unwelcome Tweed Runs.
But before too long the speed increased to a rate commensurable with less problematic Dursley navigation, and my concern became delight – feelings of dread rapidly transforming into a realisation that I was tolerably full of beans. Quite hot under the collar too as it happened, for the sun was beating down like a prizefighter – quite how some of the three-piece tweed Johnnies were not breaking out with heatstroke was beyond me!
We pedalled on, full of merriment and good cheer, over Blackfriars Bridge, and then west towards Waterloo. I brisked it up a bit here and there, and the Dursley responded with an eager surge that belied its one hundred and ten years. If I go half as well as that when I am that age (or as well as that when I am half that age) I think I will justifiably be able to award myself a decent pat on the back.
The sturdy young fellows whose job it was to marshal the event proceeded to take us north again, across the fair River Thames, and up to Big Ben. The crowds here were considerable, mainly it seemed made up of our colonial cousins and our continental neighbours. They appeared curiously dressed, with collared shirts and ties noticeable by their absence, and instead clothed in brightly coloured fabrics, with similarly gaudy haversacks hanging from their personages. You cannot judge a book by its cover though!
I doffed my cap, and cried, “Tally ho!”
On Parliament Square itself, there were a number of wizened types sitting outside what appeared to be rather shabby-looking tents. I took them to be explorers, probably just back from the jungles of Malaya or the Arctic wilderness. What charming individuals – back from the ends of the earth and here to support us in our own little adventure around London. I must admit, if I had just arrived home from such a journey, I would immediately take myself off to recuperate on the coast – possibly St Leonards-on-Sea or Bexhill – but these chaps were clearly made of sterner stuff, and their support was both touching and invigorating.
We continued on our merry way towards Buckingham Palace, where we gathered the troops for an assault up the Mall. A cab driver called out to me through his open window.
“So what’s the point of all this then, mate?”
I tried to think of something to say, but nothing came. A chappie has to be a lot broader about the forehead than I am to handle a tricky question like this. I strained the old bean till it creaked, but between the collar and the hair parting nothing stirred. I was dumb. Dumb, but saved by a much cleverer Johnnie than myself.
“It’s the Tweed Run!”
“What’s that then?”
“Umm, it’s a bicycle ride. With tweed.”
“Oh, right. So when are you all going to piss off?”
Soon enough we were on the move again, saving us both the indignity of conversing further with the tiresome cabbie. I really do wish that the impudent little buggers would stick to driving and leave the talking to chappies like us.
Onwards then, past my club and into St James’s, where some of the chappies had their facial hair assessed (I think) by some sort of moustache aficionado. Quite what the judging criteria were is beyond me. I assume the victor was sporting a hairy combination, with a shapely configuration, well-waxed, bushiness trimmed to an appropriate level and an overall degree of follicular magnificence. Either way, I was much obliged to take the pressure off my backside for a few minutes!