As mentioned in my previous post I have been away on a short country holiday. I hope you are imagining me away at some sort of 19th century health spa for the well-heeled, I always dreamed of being a man of means frivolously spending my aristocrat families fortune. Unfortunately it’s a dream I’m not sure I can realise.
One of the nice things about my time away was that I was far away from any news of the outside world.
I find it so invigorating to be away from the day to day twaddle that really only serves to complicate our lives. These days things seem to be presented to us with lashings of garnish to make them seem more significant than they really are. How many times have you seen a current affairs program presenting “a story which no parent can miss” or the endless communication I seem to get from my superannuation fund, updating me on how much of my hard earned has been lost due to the economic meltdown and why I should voluntarily contribute more of my dollars so that I may secure my future "lifestyle" (more likely secure some white collar criminals lifestyle as he luxuriates on his three tiered yacht at anchor off Positano).
Lifestyle... What do they mean by that? That word is bandied about like nobodies business these days, I assume its being used with positive connotations but isn't living the life of a derelict alcoholic still a "lifestyle"? A great piece of garnish I saw today was the "Lifestyle Apartment" for sale around the corner from my non lifestyle townhouse. What does it have that is so different to my humble abode. Will I be a happier consumer if I buy it? Any good chef will tell you that garnish should be edible and this linguistic decoration is becoming increasingly unpalatable to me. Maybe I'm just getting old and crotchety. Maybe I just need to go for a ride.
The positive side of coming back to civilization is that the Ronde van Frankrijk is well and truly underway and after missing the first few days I just had to stay up and watch the cobbled mayhem of stage three. Many pundits as well as competitors voiced concern over the inclusion of the pave in Le Grande Boucle citing safety concerns and fearing the damage it may cause to the fragile GC contenders.
I can see their point but don't necessarily agree. During the most televised and hotly followed race of the year its great to show those once a year cycling fans a little taste of what they have been missing during those other races Lance didn't compete in and therefore they never knew existed. This surely must be the tour organisers rationale because rumour has it that next year the traditional final time trial is to be replaced with a cyclocross stage to help generate interest in road racings country cousin. Now that is really going to shake up the GC in the final few days. Cyclocross is the steeplechase of bicycle racing and personally I'm really looking forward to its inclusion into next years tour.
Its the little things that make cycling so enjoyable for me and by far the highlight of stage three was the Ned Flanders flag I spotted being waved along with all the Vlaamse Leeuw (Flemish Lion) flags on the final section of kasseien (Flemish for cobbles). I will endeavour to hunt down the appropriate footage for your amusement.
Incidentally the symbol of the black lion on the yellow background has been the emblem of the counts of Flanders since the Crusades and became the symbol of Flemish emancipation after achieving independence from those warmongering Dutch to their north. More recently the lion was appropriated by Belgian right wing political party Vlaamse Belang (formerly Vlaamse Blok) much to the chagrin of moderate but patriotic Belgians. The red rooster flag (not to be confused with the popular Australian fast food outlet) was borrowed from France as the cultural symbol of the Walloon region. The two regions are culturally very different and have never really been able live comfortably together as part of the same country as can be seen in the reenactment below.
Those madcap Belgians. When will they ever get it together?
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