It’s election night… 2015. I was in a very pretty portion of western France en route from Tarifa to Nordkapp cycling along La Vélo Francette that was part of the 7,776 km journey that would eventually become Spain to Norway on a Bike Called Reggie. It was cycling day 27, Thursday 7th May 2015:
On a macro level, the terrain was as flat as a boy band singing live, but I refrained from bursting into song myself as I trundled from one picturesque village to the next. This was a part of France that I had never previously considered, let alone visited, and it was rather nice. I was cycling through the Marais Poitevin, an area where the marshes had been drained in the seventeenth century by forward-thinking Dutch engineers. Forward-thinking because, whatever their motives at the time, it had provided me and all the other Thursday afternoon tourists with somewhere very nice to do what we were doing.
It was turning into an almost perfect day. Yes, Reggie was still making that annoying noise but after 85 km of cycling I arrived in Niort and booked into the Hôtel Particulier La Chamoiserie. We would call it boutique. The owners called it cosy-chic. With its modest prices, I couldn’t understand why I was the only customer. Of the 16 rooms, just one was occupied, by me. I was a prince in his palace. There was no waiting to be endured and no issue finding somewhere to store the bike – indeed, no problem that couldn’t be addressed immediately and to my full satisfaction.
After a meal on the edges of a vast square in the centre of Niort, I returned to my palace to follow events back in Britain via the satellite TV in my room. David Dimbleby was sitting in his usual place, looking no different to how he has looked for most of my adult life. His thick mane of white hair gave him a level of dignified gravitas of which the likes of me could only dream.
At 11 p.m. French time, the exit poll was announced and it appeared at the bottom of the screen below the unflappable Dimbleby:
CONSERVATIVES LARGEST PARTY
CON +9 LAB -19 SNP +52 LD -47
I had been hoping for a rather boring status quo. Consensus politics; agreement and compromise seemed the way forward. It might not have been as exciting as a landslide but at the risk of sounding like a wishy-washy liberal, the coalition appeared to be working well and had prevented the real political nutters from imposing their agendas. Perhaps that’s why I was also such a fan of the European Union: countries trying to get along with each other in a complicated, difficult world and, on the whole, succeeding.
As Mr Dimbleby, his colleagues and their guests spent the next few hours discussing a result that was already clear-cut, I fell asleep on my comfortable cosy-chic bed.