About two weeks ago, the lady in charge of the Bretons of Mayotte Association sent a collective e-mail out, asking for people to become "ambassadors" for the tyre race which was to take place on the 29th of June. I responded, asking what would be involved, and she obviously transferred my e-mail on to the guy in charge of the Breton tyre-racing team because the next thing I knew, I was told that the only difficult thing about the race would be running with your arms together to hold the tyre straight. Come on Saturday morning, he said, we're going to practise together. What have I got myself into this time?




Come on Saturday morning I did, and three of us took tyres and sticks and set off trying to balance everything and actually move forward at the same time. It's not a difficult exercise: the hardest part is actually the running itself, never mind the tyre! The tyre is balanced by means of two sticks, which are stuffed into a plastic bottle or yoghurt pot to keep them together. The inside of the tyre is sloshed with soapy water to help the sticks and pot slide better. We got our tyres set up and started walking around the car park with them, whereupon we encountered several Mahorese ladies who took it upon themselves to teach the M'zungus (white people) how to manage a tyre. Hold it like this, not like that, they said. Put your hands the other way round. Higher. Don't stick your arms out like that. Hold the sticks closer to the tyre. Put your elbows on the stick. Don't bend forwards. Stand up straight. Now run. Oh, come on. Pick your tyre up. Start again. We also learnt that years ago, instead of using soap to grease the inside of the tyre, people would put pieces of breadfruit in there and wait a few days for them to rot. Once said breadfruit was rotten, it was apparently wonderfully efficient at greasing the tyre, much better than soap... although probably smellier.


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I liked practising with the tyre, and as it was only a week away from the grand tyre-race, we weren't the only ones practising. The following morning, I went to the stadium - on my own this time - and tried again. At one point, three little girls started running alongside me, giggling and whispering to each other. I caught the word "m'zungu" several times, but that was about it. A couple of laps later, the group of three had turned into a group of ten boys and girls, of whom the oldest couldn't have been over six or seven. I lent the bigger ones the tyre to have a go, but it was a car tyre, not a scooter or wheelbarrow tyre which is what kids usually use, so quite hard work for them.

The race was on Saturday, it was great but I haven't got the photos yet. I'll tell you about it next week.


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For a reminder of last year's madness: