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Hilarity in the Hills
The Cycle Ride As part of their itinerary for their original holiday in the Alps, the families had envisaged some mountain biking. They were obviously not in the French Alps but were still in need of a good cycling adventure. Jerome and Pierce had been to the nearest town and located a cycle hire shop. Frances and Ann would “chill-out” with Phillip at the lodge, catch up on some reading and maybe go for a short walk. Phillip was too young to go out cycling and as he could not cycle yet, he would not enjoy the experience. The plan was for the three eldest boys, Sophie and the dads to have a cycle around the many routes the surrounding area offered. The bonus was that the bikes looked in good shape and the price was very reasonable. ‘They are only six Euros for the day per bike and we need six of them so it should be a good day’ Jerome remarked. ‘Yes, with enough for a nice spot of lunch and maybe a swift beer?’ added Pierce. ‘Very civilized, let’s go for it…’ The cycling team jumped in the seven- seated vehicle and headed for the nearby town, in readiness for the next adventure. Parked and excited, the six made their way to the little cycle hire shop just off the main boulevard. Pierce now addressed the gent behind the counter as they admired the blue mountain bikes they hoped to mount after a few minutes. ‘Je voudrais seize vélos s'il vous plaît’ ‘Je suis désolé, je dois seulement quatorze’ the man responded. Pierce took a moment to consolidate what he said and looked at his phrase book to construct his next attempt at communicating in French ‘ Je ne veux seize vélos’ he replied, frustrated at the reply he had been given. ‘This fellow says he only has fourteen bikes, I don’t really care about that, I just want six…’ he said to Jerome. Bruce tugging at his arm in an attempt to interrupt his dad but was firmly told ‘let me concentrate, this man is not making sense’. Pierce again addressed the attendant ‘je voudrais seize vélos s'il vous plaît’ The same answer was forthcoming ‘Je suis désolé, je dois seulement quatorze’ the man responded. Bruces percerverence paid off as he finally got his frustrated father’s attention ‘Dad, you are asking for sixteen bycicles – not six’ ‘Oh, well, in that case…’ Pierce replied embarrasingly This now made perfect sense and he re-phrased his statement ‘Pardon, je dois seulement six vélos’. ‘Okay’ the man replied, now fully aware of what the cause of the misunderstanding was as he issued them with padlock keys and the corresponding numbers for the cycles. After paying their deposit plus the cost of the hire and getting a few route maps, they decided on a fifteen mile ride around the town and surrounding area. This would take them a few hours; they would take in the French landscape and use a few calories up. They planned a route that would take them through the local park and eventually end up back in the shop in a few hours. They were now about to embark on their next voyage of discovery. The bicycles were all metallic blue in colour, good tread on the tyres and the breaks all worked. They were well kept and clean, obviously a reputable hire shop, no rubbish dispensed on them. They unlocked the chains and sited them under their seats, tidily out of the way, placed the cycling helmets neatly on their heads and climbed on their bikes, a new adventure was about to start. They followed the route on the map through the town which brought them to a quiet, picturesque country road surrounded by beautiful trees, on-going sprawls of purple lavender fields and green pastures dotted with cows and sheep. The panorama was serene and inspiring, coupled with the heat of the warm summer sun and the tweeting of the myriad of birds on the trees, it was heavenly. Fifteen minutes in: The cyclists regrouped at the top of a hill and were reading themselves for the next stage of the route which would see them glide down a steep hill and up another. Pierce and his boys descended at speed, the cooling breeze they created as their free-wheeling velocity increased was welcoming. Once at the bottom, they had gathered speed to accelerate up the sharp incline, their free-wheeling enabling them to pound at the pedals to get them up the demanding slope. Pierce was at the back and heard Sophie shouting ‘Uncle Pierce look at me’. He turned as the smiling young lady was proudly accelerating down the hill with her father behind her in the trailing bike. At that moment, he saw the front wheel wobble, making the handle for Sophie’s bike shudder. Her expression changed from excitement to worry and before he could shout any advice she was on the tarmacked road. A stunned Sophie lay on the floor as the two adult cyclists dismounted urgently in aid of the dismounted and traumatised cyclist. Thanks fully she had not sustained a head injury but the injured left knee that had taken the brunt of the fall was now bleeding profusely. The graze was approximately 5cm in area and there was a deep cut to the outer aspect of the knee. Sophie cried, tears of pain and embarrassment as Jerome and Pierce attended to her. They had a few tissues in pockets and a bottle of water which they used to uncover the mega-graze that was now present. Between them, they managed to stem the bleeding at the side of the country road and cleaned the gash / graze to a point where it looked red, angry and sore, but no fresh blood was gushing from the area. ‘I’m going to have to take her into town and find a pharmacy to get some plasters ‘Jerome stated in-between consoling his distraught daughter and brushing the small “gravillons” off her palms. ‘We’ll come with you’ replied Pierce as his boys arrived by their side. ‘No, you carry on, it’s not too long a walk back, we will meet you in town in a few hours, back in the cycle hire shop, shall we say six o’clock?’ ‘That gives us three hours of riding around; if you are sure you won’t need any help?’ ‘We will be just fine, we will take it easy and sit somewhere and have lunch eh?’ Sophie nodded in agreement as she sobbed out of despair and pain combined, she had so looked forward to the bike ride, alas it was a short one. Jerome headed back to town, pushing both bikes as Sophie held on to her dad and limped away into the distance in search of sticky plasters and solace. Pierce and his boys now headed back up the hill, with renewed effort and focus, determined to complete the route on the map. They cycled and chatted as they went, enjoying the scenery and making a pit stop for a quick lunch of French bread, cheese and salami from a little vending stop near the park. They were now cycling beside the river, muddy but off-roading was something they had looked forward to. The bikes were scattered with a deep brown mud that had flicked all over their backs as there were no mud-guards on these cycles, in order to make them lighter. The fun they had was evident as the boys were riding into more obstacles, jumping off logs and generally putting the bikes through their paces. It was some time after their lunch that the Gastro-colic reflex hit Pierce and Bruce! ‘I need to use the toilet urgently, I need a poo’ said Bruce. ‘Me too, there must be some here in the park’ added Pierce. ‘you could always go behind a bush’ Simon said, to which both potential users declined and opted to find a convenience and utilise it. Dean had been the map reader and he looked at the route map the cycle shop owner had provided and identified where the lavatories were. ‘There are toilets about a mile down the embankment’ he remarked. ‘How long will it take to get there?’ Bruce enquired worryingly ‘Hurry up, I’m about to “touch-Cloth” soon’ he added. ‘It should take us about ten minutes or less, if we race there’ his dad reassured. At this point they headed pretty fast towards the sanctuary of the toilets, in the hope they would get there before they had an accident of a different type to Sophie’s… They were soon at the side of a small building that stood in the middle of the parkland, the toilets were open so Pierce and Bruce threw their bikes on the floor and run in. There were three cubicles and some urinals in the men’s toilets. They were not the most sanitary of toilets but they would provide a suitable place to go! Bruce headed straight into one and sat on the toilet just in time as Pierce could hear the plopping of the faeces hitting the water in the bowl and the relief on his voice. Pierce, being the responsible adult and although desperate to use the toilet himself, checked both vacant booths for toilet paper. One was disgusting as the previous incumbent must have had diarrhoea and left a trail of it on the floor and on the seat. No toilet roll in that one, he checked the next booth. Again, no toilet rolls there either! ‘Have you got any toilet paper in your booth Bruce?’ he inquired in the hope of an affirmation that there was a means to wipe after their evacuation. ‘Erm, no dad, there isn’t any but Dean has some spare tissues in his pocket’ Bruce assured his desperate dad who was now getting colicky cramps that needed to be relieved. He darted outside and was about to address his sons who were minding the four cycles only to find Dean cleaning the mud off the hire bike with a wad of tissues that he had hoped would have been used for their more urgent needs. ‘Bruce, are they the only tissues you have?’ he asked in a stern voice. ‘Yes, why?’ the youngster replied. ‘Why are you cleaning the bike it’s not a priority is it?’ the needy dad retorted disappointingly, now in cramp-like pain from the call of nature ‘Why, because we need them to wipe our sodding butt, that is why, have you got any other tissues?’ ‘No, sorry’ was the answer Pierce did not want to hear… ‘Right, give me the blasted map’ he asserted as he pulled the map of his young sons hand and run back into the disgusting and poorly provisioned toilets. ‘Bruce, you will have to scrunch the paper and use it, you can have the green route map, I will have the red route map and make sure you use both sides, there are no more maps… ‘ Catastrophes averted, they were now able to enjoy the rest of their cycling adventures. Six o’clock was when the family regrouped as arranged. Sophie was smiling, still limping and sporting a big plaster on her knee. They stopped off for a drink, coke and Fanta for the children and a well-earned glass of beer for the men… ‘It’s time to return to the nest’ Jerome stated and they made their way back to the house of wood.