|Dolly has now been promoted from the buggy to riding pillion|
When we’re on the road, our little band of five can seem less like a family and more like a travelling kindergarten or zoo. Sometimes I lose track of who I’ve got with me at any one time. Still, on the plus side, my ability to uproot my family and take them with me on cycle tours seems to be an aphrodisiac to Italian men in lycra, who quite often screech to a halt at eighty miles an hour to chat, whistle, clap or look longingly at me with an eye to marriage. Have they never seen a woman pedal all her children over the Alps before?
|Have they never seen a woman cycle a child over the Alps?|
But then I remember. Women don’t cycle in Italy. It would mess up their hair.
But the latest promotion of Hannah’s dolly from the trailer to the back of the bike has been a bit of a passion killer. Somewhere before Bassano Del Grappa, Cameron spotted a very small baby seat abandoned by the side of the road. Just right for Hannah’s treasured dolly, ‘Baby Findley.’ It was quickly cleaned up and attached, and Baby Findley was strapped in. Now we look like two adults and four children travelling together, which wouldn’t be so bad if Baby Findley was a rag doll or a teen Barbie look-alike with breasts and hips. Instead he looks like a newborn. And I have become Myra Hindley.
Since the acquisition of the baby seat, it goes like this. Stuart cycles past and men nod with respect. A guy and two kids, off cycle touring. Great. And wow, a tent; guy camping with kids, Bravo. Then they see me and fall in love. Strong woman with eight year old boy cycling companion, and cute little bambini in the buggy. Wonderful, wonderful. But then their eye is drawn to the baby seat. Newborn tot strapped haphazardly onto luggage, and lolling listlessly in forty degrees of midday sun. Not heroic, but criminal. “It’s not real, it’s just a dolly,” I want to shout, but it’s too late, they’ve passed, without the look of love in their eyes. The next vision of testosterone and lycra is fast approaching and I can’t reach the baby to stuff it into a pannier as it would unbalance the whole bike. A few days ago Baby Findley’s head fell off and that’s the best I can hope for as another Italian stud approaches. Yesterday as we cycled into Padova even the nuns were giving me the evil eye.
|Look carefully, it’s not real it’s just a dolly|
And if this weren’t bad enough, Matthew has decided I really need a Chihuahua to improve my street cred. He is lobbying Stuart to buy one for my birthday. “You could fit it in a barbag and sneak it into hotels at night, they’d never notice,” he pleads. No way. Getting a family room in a hotel for five is hard enough as it is. Tourist information has been known to shut up shop when they see us coming. And that was without dolly or dog. We have a routine with hotels. I go in first, with Cameron, who is briefed to look cute and say nothing. I tell them we have two children, and also a baby, and could we all share three or four beds in a family room? Quite often they agree, particularly if they see the bikes or its raining, and they show me the room. By the time I have the key it’s too late for the owner to backtrack when a strapping three year old ‘baby’ jumps out of the buggy demanding to know whether there is a TV in her room as she hasn’t seen an episode of Mr Bean for days. But now Baby Findley has scuppered any chances of this system working, as they catch sight of him first, assume he is the baby, and want to know why we are trying to cram six people into three single beds.
|There’s quite enough nonsense in this family, we don’t need any more|
From now on, we’ll have to go back to camping, where it didn’t matter how many people, dogs, animals or dollies we crammed into the tent. And I’m not having a dog for my birthday and that’s final. Although if it would fit into my bar bag .