COLM O'REGAN: Tour de France makes me wish I had a telly again

It’s six years since we had a telly in the house now., writes Colm O’Regan

Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those hymns to a TV-free house. We are not sitting around each at our escritoire, resurrecting the dying art of letter-writing or making daisy chains and whittling Andean musical instruments.

I am not for one minute going to say, “Yeah we’d just rather little Chathdhdabach was kept away from screens. We want her to learn through touch and smell, not passively. Have a chia seed biscuit.”

We’re still watching things just in a more intense way. Instead of “Ah shur have a look and see what’s on”, it’s more a case of “Right, we have an hour. That should give us enough time for one episode of The Series That Everyone’s Talking About plus ten minutes to read a recap of it on the internet to tell us what we thought of it.”

If there was a telly there, we’d wear it out with watching anything at all — things like the Tour De France.

The Tour De France was itself a stage on the Tour De Summer, the list of sporting and other events that marked the traditional wet months between May and September. It started with a football championship if it was on, the French Open Tennis, Wimbledon, the Tour, some golf on a bleak windswept coastline, and as you were putting wallpaper or election posters on your schoolbooks, the Dublin Horse Show with the Quality Folk.

I tried to emulate each of those events apart from the Horse Show, but nothing was emulated like the Tour De France. The next time you were on a bicycle you just had to attack an imaginary Pedro Delgado. Handlebars side to side, out of the saddle, horsing the sherbet into you in lieu of steroids (ok I made that last bit up). Watching Le Tour again, some things are different. There are new things like officials scanning a bike to see does the bike have a hidden motor because you couldn’t be up to the scamps; an English fella winning it; teams that I don’t recognise because they are not the same name as the brand of blank tape that were four for a fiver in HMV.

But some things haven’t changed: looking at a time trial and seeing if you can recognise a landmark to know whether Yer Man is ahead of His Nibs at this interim stage; the outlandish helmets with the pointy ends that some of them wear, like spacedancers in a futurist music video; the way you can only really appreciate the steepness of the hill they are tearing up when you see how the trees are angled to the road like a setsquare.

Then there’s the real star of the show the French countryside. How glorious it looks, like a tidied up version of Ireland.

I remember noting how they didn’t seem to have hedges in France. You’d never see a cyclist getting stung by a nettle bowing halfway across the road, weighed down with a recent shower. Of course the cyclist will get stung by some complete mentalist trying to run alongside in his underpants, but c’est la vie.

The roads still look enviably smooth. Watching it back then, my father would remark that “They couldn’t go that fast on the roads around Dripsey anyway”, jerking his thumb in the general direction of whatever monumental sinkhole of a pothole had been opened up on a road that “had no stuff in it at all because they didn’t do it right from the beginning”.

It makes me want to get a telly again. Or it could just be a stage I’m going through.


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