I was introduced to Fran’s intriguing book by sheer luck – my sister-in-law met and chatted to the author during another of Fran’s adventures – a very eventful holiday on the canal. Meryl found Fran’s story fascinating and put us in touch – it sounded an ideal book to take on my own (much less demanding) travels across America by train. It made perfect holiday reading as we rattled across the plains and deserts in relative comfort, and I shuddered at the problems that Fran, her two sons and their friend had to deal with. Cold, rain, bikes that refused to function as bikes should … the list was endless.
This was a book that had demanded to be written once Fran had retired from her job at Stroud museum. Always full of energy and with a great love for being outdoors, Fran had previously derived most pleasure from cycling around the Cotswolds with her sons. In time, inspired by a book by Dervla Murphy, who had cycled all the way from Ireland to India, she yearned to explore further afield; to take her boys on a cycling adventure abroad.
Money was tight and it took a very long time to achieve her goal, but Fran was determined to get to France. She scrimped and saved to buy the essential equipment she needed and cut corners wherever she could to be able to afford even the most basic of kit. Gradually the ideas came together, the boys were persuaded to come on board, and it was time to put her plans into action.
This is where I began to really get involved with the disasters that kept getting in Fran’s way. She clearly has an amazing strength of character and nothing was going to stop her from following her dream. Hideously rough sea crossings, bizarre meals, chilly weather, broken pannier racks and worse happenings still were on the cards. But in all the trials, the fun shone through. The irreplaceable family moments, the contentment when everything worked out and Fran’s sheer enthusiasm for life made me want to get the rusty bike out of the garage and set off into the great blue yonder. Almost.
Fran’s experience was so memorable that, the following year, she took her sons back for more (although in retrospect, she wishes she could have taken a self-inflating air bed to add a five star touch of luxury to the trip).
Travels on the Breadline is about those two, diverse, cycling holidays in Brittany. The evocative photographs paint a picture of a time, when life, for a little while, was just as it should be.