Full beam dazzles other road users, and she occasionally deigns to indicate off a roundabout, all the while calling me ‘daahling.’
She is taking me to a Lancashire village, for a hearty meal with her daughter, Judith, and Judith’s husband, Tom. Again, I’m not sure what sort of a relation Judith is – a cousin twice removed, or something equally convoluted, I expect.
Judith has a super house – a sheep farm, actually – that is a seventeenth century wool store on an old packhorse route. All is going swimmingly – animals clucking and baaing – until I’m not allowed a beer because I have to cycle later this evening. Tssk is what I say to that, and the decision is overruled. Tom joins me in a bottle of strong “Black Sheep“.
’See light yonder?’ asks Tom, in his broad dialect, while a feast is laid before us. The pub he is pointing at, on a distant hill, is where The Hollies wrote ‘The Air That I Breathe’. Judith gestures in the opposite direction to where the Bronte sisters lived. I butter another slice of damson bread, and wonder if I can get away with a second bottle of ale.
In yet another direction, across the Yorkshire border – it was moved in 1973, and the dispute continues – lies the ‘rhubarb triangle’. Under the cover of darkness, rhubarb is grown in an area pinned by three major towns.
It is picked by candlelight. When rhubarb is pink, it is ‘forced’; when green, it is ordinary. And there was me thinking that it’s grim up north – we’re surrounded by beauty and history.
Judith’s spare room is offered as a base for exploring, but, sadly, as you may have forgotten, I am actually on tour with AC/DC, requiring attendance to move a truck far more often than I’d like. As I’ve said before, the job would be great if it wasn’t for all the driving. Oh, and the loud music.
Back in Manchester today, we’re parked, for logistical reasons, not at the Evening News Arena but at the National Cycling Centre. Inside, seven days a week, as might be expected, cycling training or racing is held. Bikes, helmets and shoes can be hired for taster sessions, but I opt instead for a spot of safe spectatorship from the upstairs gallery.
After following a few circuits, I traipse downstairs again with a furrowed brow. A staff member attempts to explain the aspects of cycling that I don’t understand. Such as, why is part of the track at an angle of 45 degrees, and not flat?
And why do those lycra-clad chappies have filled-in wheels? She blushes and shrugs, but has a reasonable stab at answering my questions.
Just then, a man in a leotard emerges from the changing rooms, pushing a racing cycle. Ah, the very man to ask. I didn’t notice whether he shaves his legs to gain extra speed, but let’s assume that he does.
He tells me that the steep slope is for sprint races, to gain acceleration – though surely time is lost ascending it first? – and that the ‘disc wheels’ are an aerodynamic feature, to eliminate air between the spokes. ‘There y’ar,’says the staff girl, ‘I told yer it were summat t’ do wi’ wind.’ ..