I t was 1948. I had just sailed home from RAF service in India and needed to do something quite barmy. I suggested to my friend John a cycle trip to Paris. He asked if I was feeling OK. I said I was and what about it? We went. Off the Calais Ferry and on to towards Paris, we came to a magnificent straight, narrow road, lined with tall and magnificent Lombardy Poplars (a far more lush and lavish sight than in my drawing). Somewhere around the Bethune region my barminess struck and I sang out to John, ahead of me, ‘Lombardy Poplars in Picardy Lane!’ He swung round in his saddle and repeated the words. This duet lasted for the next half mile.
In the comforts of Paris we mellowed and became ordinary layabouts again: with our bikes in the Guard’s van, we boarded the Calais train.
Cycling Holiday Lombardy Poplars in Picardy lane! Laughing, we said it again and again; squeaking of pedals and sweating of brows, passing of shadows and staring of cows. singing in bright yellow waterproof rain, Lombardy Poplars in Picardy lane! Boys with old bikes and a road map of France, boys on the loose making most of the chance; coffee in kitchens from black metal pots, guy ropes entangled in mystical knots, back on the road with that silly refrain, Lombardy Poplars in Picardy lane! He with the tent and the pannier bags, I with the haversack smothered in flags; suburbs of Paris and smells of good food, soft feather beds and a changing of mood, forgetting to sing on the cruise down the Seine, Lombardy Poplars in Picardy lane! Strolling the boulevards, seeing the sights, comforts unleashing two young sybarites; flambéed the crepes, lightly garnished the snail, quietly agreeing to go home by rail, sleeping too soundly to see from the train Lombardy Poplars in Picardy lane.