I can’t be sure, and I have no proof, but I think a Frenchman might be wearing my shades.
The very moment I took them off mid-way up the Col de Grosse Pierre – a lovely little climb in the Vosges Mountains in France – and stuffed them inelegantly into my jersey pocket, I thought to myself: “they’ll fall out…you’ll lose them.”
But I decided to go with the flow and enjoy the climb. My mental trip-switch managed to override what I knew to be the truth and I pushed on to the summit.
When I got there the sun was shining, and I reached round to my jersey pocket to find the gooey residue of an empty energy gel, a sticky iPhone, and no shades.
I did what I had to do: rode half-way back down the Grosse Pierre and back up again, scouring the gutter for my trusty Giro’s, but to no avail. It seems hard to believe that they won’t have been spotted by some sun-tanned local and are now perched atop his (or her) Gallic nose.
If I were the paranoid type I might be wondering whether, here in the Vosges, following the Englishman with the shades tucked haphazardly into his jersey pocket is considered a perfectly acceptable method for acquiring a pair of second hand shades.
Of course, in the interests of fairness and the avoidance of any xenophobic connotations, the acquirer of second hand sunglasses (thief is a strong word at this point) may not have been French.
The Alsace-Lorraine region of France famously straddles cultures – it has a strong Germanic feel, and seemed to me to be awash with holidaying Belgians, Dutch, Germans, and Austrians. The glasses could be in possession of someone from any one of these nations.
They might even be on the face of a fellow Englishman.
And who was the nearest Englishman at the time of the incident?
My cycling companion of course: the very man with whom I was sharing this Vosgean cycling trip.
Come to think of it, he was riding right behind me at the time of the incident – is it plausible that the glasses would fall from my pocket and he wouldn’t notice? When we reached the summit, and he was quick to insist “there’s no chance we’ll find them…we might as well just push on,” was he a little too quick? A little too insistent?
(But as I said, I’m not the paranoid type).
Maybe it’s some elaborate practical joke and, at the optimum moment for comedy purposes my (trusted) friend is going to whip them from his own jersey pocket mid-ride and say, “oh look…fancy that!”
For the remaining 50 miles of the ride my eyes streamed with the tears that come with being a hay-fever sufferer, and riding a bike quickly in the sunshine without shades.
Although the Giro’s have lasted me a good 3 or 4 years I do have a history of leaving sunglasses in cafes, by roadsides, and half-way up minor French cols, and so there is no sense in me spending £180 on a pair of Oakley’s. I will lose them. So the next morning I went to the local bike shop to select a somewhat cheaper replacement pair.
It turns out that trying to discuss the technical specification of a pair of sunglasses in French, when your grasp of the language extends to ordering a beer and requesting butter on your ham baguette, is not easy.
In the end I just bought the ones that looked nice.
Coming out of the shop I heard myself wittering to my riding companion, “I might as well just buy them, you see, because I can’t ride without shades and they’re as reasonably priced here as anywhere else, and there’s no chance I’m going to find the Giro’s, and…”
He rolled his eyes: “for goodness sake, I’m not your wife, just buy the bloody things!”
Fair point….or guilty conscience?
Let’s just stick to the Frenchman theory, eh?