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Cycling uphill (Oct 22)

Shropshire-based producer and award-winning columnist Roger Evans is surprised by a Lycra-clad visitor and enjoys some Irish craic

It’s a Tuesday morning and I am trying to write this, or rather I am trying to think of something to write about which is completely different. The editor has given me a deadline, but I always try to send my copy to her before that. To be honest I’m just a bit frightened of her.

I’m sitting at our dining table, which is just down a few steps from our kitchen. This is where my laptop lives. I didn’t switch it on yesterday as it was a bank holiday so now, when I do, there’s a lot of junk mail that needs deleting. I select everything I don’t want to keep and press the delete button, but nothing happens. So I press it again, same result. I press it again and again, nothing happens, and then the laptop springs into life and deletes four or five emails, some of which I wanted to keep.

It’s best to keep your head down here on Tuesday mornings. A friend comes to give the house a bit of a clean and she gets me into trouble. No, not that sort of trouble. She is like me – she likes big old cars.

My wife will be going shopping soon and, as soon as she is gone, we will be looking online to see what’s for sale. She drives an E reg Range Rover, which is immaculate, and outside the kitchen door is my car – a Volvo estate we bought online, about a month ago, for £1,500.

My wife reckons that we spend so much time on my laptop that I should pay the cleaner’s wages. That’s why I am keeping my head down. I’m on my own except for the dog who is asleep by my feet, as he usually is. And then I hear a knock on the kitchen door followed by some voices that I don’t recognise.

I don’t move, assuming it is someone selling something. I hear footsteps on the steps, and then there is a big man, clad in Lycra, standing next to me. He has a woman with him, who I correctly assume is his wife.

He explains that he is a retired dairy farmer from Donegal and he is cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats. His wife is driving one of those camper vans as a sort of mobile base camp. They explain that they spent the night about six miles away, that they knew I lived locally, that they had read all my books, and that they thought they would look me up to say ‘hello’.

He explained that they had a son and daughter but neither of them wanted to be a dairy farmer. So they’d entered their farm into a scheme where they let it to someone who was not related to them. He didn’t say as much, but he gave me the impression that he wouldn’t have been able to afford these adventures if he hadn’t joined this scheme.

What a great way to bring new people into the industry and, at the same time, give those who are retiring some time to enjoy themselves. That scheme would have been available to UK producers if we had stayed in Europe. There were lots of questions I would have liked to ask – why go to Land’s End, to start with? If you started at John O’Groats in Scotland it would all be downhill. Going south is downhill – everyone knows that. But they didn’t stay long, I expect they had a schedule to keep to. I know that they wanted to get well into Cheshire before the end of the day.

When my wife returned she said: “Did you give those nice Irish people a drink?” I hadn’t, which is unlike me, but I told them they were very welcome. Just an hour ago I didn’t know what to write about and now I have had an Irish dairy farmer to interview. As the man said in the film ‘Notting Hill’, when he stumbles across Julia Roberts in his bath: ‘Thank you, God’

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