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
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 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.
And if this weren't bad enough, Matthew has decided I really need a
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 .