Did a quick check.
Still in the same place I went to sleep?
Still got all my hair and eyebrows?
Arse virginity still intact? (no blood in the underpants, etc)
I’d been right to trust Dancing James.
Sun streamed through the little window of the attic bedroom.
It was going to be a hot one.
Tweed wasn’t the best choice of clothing.
It was the most stylish, however.
Tweed it would be.
I got out of bed.
Footsteps thumped on the stair outside my room.
“Lucifer? Lucy? You awake?”
“Yeah. I’m awake.”
James staggered in.
His brilliantined hair was sticking up, his eyes were bloodshot.
He still wore a crumpled Rapha undershirt and a jaunty pink neckerchief from the night before.
He looked more like a rapee than a raper.
I tried harder to remember.
No, I’d been a good boy.
“You look like shit, James.”
He glanced up.
“Well we’ve got a lot of work to do then, haven’t we?”
“Yeah. Let’s get the kettle on.”
An hour later we were transformed.
Tea, coffee, bacon and a shower like a riot hose had scoured away the street grime of the previous day, leaving two dapper gents, ready for action.
James: Tweed three piece, cashmere shirt, jaunty scarf, brogues, Tweed Run cap.
Lucifer: Tweed mix and match, Mustard waistcoat, Argyle socks, plus fours, cravat.
We left the house, saddled up, hit the traffic.
James is an expert fencer.
In Yorkshire that means knocking up wooden panels to keep the neighbour’s dog from shitting on your lawn, but down south it means sword play.
He rode like he fenced.
Refusing to give ground to traffic, keeping up a constant defense, lunging through momentary gaps.
I hacked along in his wake.
I had the speed, but not the skills.
Just follow that wheel, keep him in sight.
We were only half an hour late.
Jacqui seemed to expect it.
With only the faintest arch of an eyebrow she told James where he was needed.
He sauntered away with a wink, casually rolling a cigarette.
I was free to mingle.
The late morning sun glittered across old chrome, chestnut leather, scarlet lips.
The painstaking efforts of the Tweed Runners was instantly apparent, from choice of steed to personal attire – a sure sign of gratitude and respect to the organisers.
Nobody wanted to let Jacqui and Teddy down.
The vintage clothing shops of London can hardly have believed their luck over the past two months, as it was obvious they had been picked clean for the finest examples of gentlemanly clobber.
The bright white courtyard of the Rootstein Hopkins Parade Ground became an impromptu catwalk, giving ordinary men the rare chance to preen and strut.
Caps were doffed, moustaches twirled and ties straightened, proving that in the heart of even the drabbest sparrow, a proud peacock is straining to be noticed.
However, the men didn’t have it all their own way.
As usual, the women stole the show.
A flash of stocking almost gave fifty men whiplash.
Ruby lips and pencilled brows had men mopping their beaded brows with silken kerchiefs.
Who among us didn’t secretly fall in love with the girl in the yellow floral print dress?
Her husband was most proud, and most attentive.
Quite right too.
There were bounders present…
“Hi James. What’s that you’ve got there?”
His eyes frisked the blonde in the yellow dress before replying.
“Hmm? Oh! Gin and Tonic! The Hendricks people have set up shop!”
“Far corner of the parade ground. You’ll have to hurry…”
Before long, I was furnished with a G & T and cucumber, served in a very convincing faux glass highball.
I sipped and strolled, swerving snappers as they stopped people in their tracks in search of the perfect picture.
They were spoilt for choice.
Everyone was happy to oblige, ready to look noble, smile sweetly, grin rakishly.
The hour approached, and after a brief photo call on the steps of the Tate, we were ready.
Ollie had somehow found me in the crowd.
He’d gorged on roast meat with me the night before and now we stood, strangely nervous, waiting for the signal.
A bicycle bell sounded.
Suddenly the air shimmered with trill ringing as scores of bells were sounded simultaneously, and slowly, ponderously, hundreds of cyclists flowed from the parade ground onto the open roads of London.
We were off.
Describing the ride is like describing a strange dream.
It didn’t make a lot of sense, it was very pleasant, very beautiful.
Details swim to the fore, but drift away again, as if they might not really have happened.
The girls on stretched-out chopper bikes wearing fifties finery.
Serene tandems gliding through solo bikes like pike amongst perch, piloted by majestic couples and larking lads.
The proud father with the tricycle tow-along attached to his Pashley, daughter aboard, attentive wife alongside.
The achingly beautiful little Parisian girl aboard the miniature vintage Peugeot, sombre and dignified in her concentration, reminding me of my own daughter back at home.
I remember reading a story about time travellers who would visit other eras on sight seeing trips, observing the ways of people from the past, from the future.
That is how I felt. We had adopted the attire of an era, but somehow adopted the manners as well; we were visitors to the roads of the twenty first century from a bygone time, courteous and genteel, a splendid example of how things might be again if only we would allow it to happen.
There were those who we passed who loved it, and a tiny minority who loathed it.
London traffic ground to a halt under the firm but polite insistence of our brave marshals.
Shepherded by these fearless guardians, our tweeded train wove through the capital without injury, not for wont of trying by some members of the public.
An unnoticed cabbie tried to ease his snout into the flow of riders, only to feel the full force of Jacqui’s wrath. He nudged her with his car, and two dozen riders pounced to her aid.
Marshals explained to drivers why they were being asked to wait with the tact and grace of trained negotiators. I lift my tweed hat to them.
James rolled into view.
“Hey! Lucifer!” He giggled. “I’ve just been attacked!”
“Bloody Hell! Are you alright?”
“Of course I am! Some meat-head in a stag party decided they didn’t want to wait for us to pass. He charged off his bus screaming, and grabbed my bike!”
“He got so much grief from the crowds that he crept back to his bus with his tail between his legs!”
Then he was gone, racing ahead to block more traffic.
We stopped outside Trumpers for the moustache competition.
While those taking part nervously preened their facial furniture, others ducked into the Red Lion for a crafty pint.
The camaraderie of my fellow competitors was exceptional, with tobacco offered and hipflasks passed around.
I had my suspicions about a willowy chap called Derek, who’s high voice and exceptionally dark whiskers seemed somewhat bogus,but she/he won a prize, so to air my suspicions might smack of sour grapes.
I didn’t win.
I was secretly gutted.
Things took a further surreal twist with tea in the park.
Bikes abandoned, we fell into groups, chatting as we queued for a taste of the tea blend created especially for the day.
It was worth the wait.
I was handed a china tea cup and a selection of sandwiches.
The heat had been merciless, but in the shade of budding trees and with the sound of the string trio wafting around, who could fail to be refreshed?
The tea was terrific, the sandwiches superb.
All too soon, we mounted our steeds and headed through the park.
A vast snake of cyclists wove along the paths of the park.
It was easy to lose concentration after the tea break, but Clefty’s firm bark of ‘keep left!’ ensured nobody came to harm.
As we hit the main roads once more it dawned on me that the marshals might be starting to tire slightly, so, feeling refreshed, I decided to lend a hand.
It was harder than it looked.
After a sprint to the front of the pack I was asked to block a junction with another marshal.
The Tweed Run sailed past with a friendly wave, and we tagged on the back.
Then we had to fight to the front again.
I raced after a marshal called Clara.
She had already worked tirelessly at the task for three hours, but I still had trouble keeping contact.
At the front of the ride again, she wasn’t even breathing hard.
It’s hard work chasing Clara, but it’s a lot more pleasant than following Dancing James, believe me.
We seemed to turn up a blind alley.
I was convinced we’d taken a wrong turn, but no.
It was the end of the ride.
There was an air of sadness amongst the riders that it was over, but not for long.
With a pip of the horn, the Hendrick’s gin pace car arrived.
The guys leapt out, opened the boot, and from the on-board bar started serving drinks in a frenzy.
Amongst the clamour, I heard them cry that there was more gin to be had inside the Bath House club.
I ventured inside.
Down a spiral staircase, around a corner, and I found myself in a den of iniquity.
The bar groaned under the weight of fizzing G & T’s, while cakes of all descriptions were piled high on the tables.
Teddy manned a stall selling Tweed Run merchandise, looking for all the world like a dapper black marketeer, hustling stolen goods.
The band played, couples took to the dance floor, the gin flowed endlessly.
Jim bob’s lovely girlfriend was good enough to remove fresh cream that had found it’s way into my moustache, I don’t know how.
My supply of moustache wax was also in great demand by fellows in need of a little spruce up.
Cries of ‘Lucifer! Lucifer!’ went up whenever a chap’s whiskers began to wilt.
I was glad to be of service.
Many brave Tweedsters nearly died in the suffocating heat of the prize giving, but it was all in a good cause.
Ruddy faced fellows could be seen pouring from the door of the Bath House in search of cool ale to regain their composure.
Crispin Glover, Villa Ru and I had already been wise enough to depart early, and the Timothy Taylor’s was flowing freely.
All too soon it was time to move on, but who was I to stand in the way of a continued good time?
Bikes were mounted, lights were lit, and we hit the streets, headed for the Green Man.
On the road we picked up Chainbreaker and East End Images (Kris), drifting along the cities streets.
Mob handed, we continued on our journey, Dancing James as our pilot.
Sure enough, he sniffed out the watering hole.
The railings opposite were laden with bikes.
The pub was packed with tweed.
I was going in.
“Pint of beer, pint of cider, large coffee (Kris was a bit fucked) and two of your biggest burgers, please. With cheese. And bacon. And chips. Lots of chips.”
We waited outside.
The air was still and warm, and the laughter echoed down the deserted street as we waded our way through the impressive selection of ciders that the Green Man had to offer.
Our burgers arrived.
James and I were suddenly irresistible to the opposite sex.
They draped themselves shamelessly over us, wanting nothing in return but a bite of burger or a chip dipped in sauce.
I’ll mention no names, but I hope the girls involved are heartily ashamed of themselves.
After our feast a small chap with a massive camera appeared, and gamely snapped away as we mugged for him.
The results were great, more a testament to his talent as a snapper than ours as models, to be fair.
Miss Kitty, resplendent in a cream vintage suit, made ginger moustaches the sexiest thing on earth with her knee trembling pronunciation of ‘russet whiskers’ – fuzzy lipped fellows stumbled forward, proudly proffering their titian-tinted efforts for her inspection.
They came away happy men, reassured in their follicular fecundity.
Well done you, Miss Kitty. Never has a ‘refreshed’ girl glided away from a kerb-side with such effortless grace.
And then, all too soon, it was time to go.
Dancing James and I were the last to leave.
The pub was dark, the street deserted.
With slightly heavy hearts we unlocked the bikes, saddled up.
Then I noticed that lazy smile.
“Fancy a kebab?”
We headed out into the night, two slightly shambolic gents, one staring with great concentration at the other’s tweed clad buttocks.
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