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28 Oct, 2014

Bedpans and Bicycles

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The telephone rang late one evening. The home phone this late can only mean one thing ... problem. Usually it is one of the kids who makes one's heart stop but this time it was a call from France. My parents live on a small farm in an isolated part of the Dordogne, a beautiful area. My father had just turned 80 and my mother is not far behind.

- by Marie-Anne Meijers

The telephone rang late one evening. The home phone this late can only mean one thing ... problem. Usually it is one of the kids who makes one's heart stop but this time it was a call from France. My parents live on a small farm in an isolated part of the Dordogne, a beautiful area. My father had just turned 80 and my mother is not far behind.

So with trepidation, I answered the phone to hear a Dutch voice tell me my mother had slipped in the town of Perigeux and had broken her femur. She already has two artificial hips!

Anyway, to cut a long story short, two days later I flew to France, the country of The Tour de France. (Pity the timing was out because the Tour came very close to the farm this year ...) And then it was hospital visits, operation, feeding sheep, ducks, chickens and dogs and looking after dad.

But in the barn, I found my dad's bicycle. It was covered in dust and quite a few cobwebs, but I happily noticed off-road tyres, front suspension and gears! So I hauled it out for a better look. It also has mudguards! Gear changes were done by twisting a ring on the handlebars like revving a motorbike but it worked.

Now I needed riding gear, and who doesn't like shopping for French clothes! I found padded shorts with matching shirt, helmet and gloves. And, for the bike, some chain wax. I'm sure the poor bike had never seen that before.

My sweet father had pumped the tyres and cleaned the bike for me and I was ready to ride out into the local forest. Luckily I do know the area a bit from walking the dogs there over the years. So up the hill and over I went trying to get a feel for the bike. Hit a bump and nearly lost it. Tyres had been pumped to about 4 bar! Let some air out and off I went again.

It was lovely to be back on the bike. It is not a MTB but a sort of cross road/off-road bike. So for forest paths it is ideal. And the forests here are stunning, dense branches overhead, shoulder high ferns and wonderful dappled light. For a girl that has just come from a Gauteng winter, the green almost hurt the eyes! One small drawback were the midges, there are millions of them. If you stand still, you can grab handfuls of them just like that. They go for your mouth, eyes and nose. I am not so keen on extra protein when riding!

Dad took me round to show me some nice routes and some serious hills, up and down (one called L'Abyme). There are plenty of routes to ride here as you can just ride on any road or path you see, unless it says private. Unfortunately, hunting season had started, so riding in the forest can be dangerous at times. The hunters here all have to wear orange reflective jackets as they tend to shoot each other, what chance would a lone cyclist have?

A week after my mother had her operation, she came home. And then, I with the queasy stomach, had to become nurse, lifting her in and out of bed and into her wheelchair and, worst of all, BEDPANS!

The saving thought was that, in between all my chores, I could get on the bike and escape. Also the Amashova was coming up and the three “50 Shades/Non clip-ons” are going to ride this, so I had to do my road training as well to get fit enough. So I pulled out the map and found a nice circular route. This area is criss-crossed with roads so getting lost is very, very easy. (I know!)

Life is never simple, because just as I was getting the hang of this bedpan thing, my father, yes wait for it, tripped over a ramp he was making for my mother’s wheelchair. He broke his femur! Same place, same leg, worse break … so we started again, hospital visits, operation etc. Luckily, by this stage, my sister from the States had come across too and we could share bedpan duty (she is not quite as squeamish as I am).

The Amashova is not going to happen for me this year. But I will keep trying to ride my dad's old bike around the countryside here. Early mornings here in September are beautiful. Mist lies in the valleys, the mielies are standing proud, the cows move along the meadows, the birds are twittering, the fields are glistening with dew and the bike is squeaking and rattling beneath me. What more could a girl want (besides a decent saddle)?

I'm still here in this beautiful part of France. I am missing my riding buddies, after all with some company, we could ride from village to village and drink wine on the terraces in the local squares. Well, another time, now duty calls and I'm off to do some more bed-panning … Ábientôt!

Marie-Anne Meijers

Marie-Anne Meijers

50 Shades Contributor |

Marie-Anne Meijers is one of the original 50 Shades of ... Mud riders and is also a keen photographer.