Hamilton

Things are going swimmingly, however that goes. Truth be told, I am just beginning to get a little bit smug. Despite my haphazard approach to things and my flagrant disregard for timekeeping, I have actually managed to plot my way around all the British racecourses in eighty days. All that has to happen, now that I am well on my way to Hamilton, is the mere formality of Stratford on Friday evening. That’s quite an achievement Neil! Congratulations – add your name to the list of great latter-day pioneers!

Then the A74(M) stops about a mile short of Junction 14, and a long way short of Junction 6 for Hamilton. No worries, I think, as we could only be a mile from the exit and then the trusty satnav can be creative if needs be (even though it was still saying “No traffic ahead”). So I turn off the engine and busy myself with the detritus of an eighty day tour – what’s left to plan? Do I have 3G to update the shop? I need to get back to the guy about the taxi on Friday. Have I read that interesting article on page 17 of the Post from three days ago?

I look at the time. 20 minutes gone, and the first race as well. Some people are getting out of their cars in the pouring rain to see what’s going on. The ground at Hamilton will be turning softer. Busy yourself Neil, use the bonus time productively. Police cars and ambulances go up the hard shoulder. Could be a bad one.

Half an hour gone and we literally haven’t moved an inch. Beginning to get a little worried now, but surely this is just the Gods of Probability having their last laugh “We’ve rolled a six! Excellent! Let’s make all the traffic stop before his penultimate racecourse, just to wind him up a bit!” Still raining, persistent stuff. I think the second race could be in doubt now.

Forty five minutes. Fire engines have been going up and down the other carriageway. Only now do I realise that there has been absolutely no traffic coming the other way in all this time. This could be a really bad one. The motorway could be shut for hours. Now I can hear a helicopter, but it’s pretty murky out there and I can’t see where it is.

Okay, no panic. Veteran of the Great Fire Of Newcastle 2015 (that’s the year, not the time), these little things don’t phase me. I just need to make some cool and rational decisions. Suppose we are stuck for 3 hours and I have the choice of making the last race or catching the plane from Edinburgh back to my family. I know what The Wife would say. She’d tell me to do Hamilton and catch a later flight. She’s been brilliant.

One hour. If we don’t get going soon the third race will be gone. Now a new thought occurs (I’ve plenty of time for thinking, after all) – it’s still pouring it down, what if they have to abandon Hamilton? What’s the soil like there? Does it drain well? Would it still all count if I got there after they’d abandoned but paid two Glaswegians to race over the last furlong? Would I still then have seen racing at all the British courses?

70 minutes. Not funny any more. Missed the third race now. Work out the times Neil, keep the mind active, before you burst into tears and start thrashing Tiny with a branch on a stationary Scottish motorway a la Basil Fawlty. If I miss the fourth race as well, do I have time to watch the fifth race and get to my flight? The fifth race is at 4.15, get away by 4.25, no traffic in 34 miles to the airport 5.10, faffing with hire car and long walk to the terminal 5.30, security 5.50, gate 6.00, flight 6.15. That’s cutting it fine, even for you Neil. Could be another Kings Cross moment coming up.

So the summary is:- if we don’t start moving in the next ten minutes I’ve missed the fourth race. If I watch the fifth race about eighteen things would need to go right for me to make the flight. If I watch the sixth…..

Woah! Hold on! Yes! Yes! Yes! We are moving! And my elation immediately switches to guilt as we pass the accident on the other carriageway. It looks like two lorries, they could be okay, hard to tell. All the traffic on that side has turned around and gone back to Junction 14. Perhaps we had been held so that the helicopter could land on our side. I chide myself for putting my stupid journey ahead of the people possibly injured in the crash. I now know the answer to my earlier question – if there are any more hold ups I shall go straight to the airport. There are more important things in life than tours of racecourses.

Hamilton - a lovely racecourse to spend 32 minutes

Hamilton – a lovely racecourse at which to spend 32 minutes

But there aren’t any more hold ups. The lady on the gate of Hamilton racecourse is surprised to see somebody emerge from the rain to pay their entrance after missing the first three races, but still takes the cash. I’m at the course about half an hour. It seems really nice; I wish I could give it more time. I have a random bet and watch the fourth race which is won by an 18/1 outsider. Then I’m in the car and heading to Edinburgh, hoping for a smoother passage, and I get it. I shall see my family tonight.