The Rising Sun is a lovely pub, and after it’s busiest week of the year the bar staff were still smiling and the place had a relaxed vibe, basking in the aftermath of something momentous passing through town. It has a failing however, or at least it had during my stay – the wifi is appalling.
I asked in the bar after I arrived on Saturday evening. “Oh yes, nobody’s been able to get on all day!” she said helpfully, before adding “It’s not us, it’s the cloud.”
I presumed she meant virtual rather than real. Without a 3G signal either, I was marooned from the electronic world with no means of posting my Uttoxeter blog. I suppose there are worse places to be marooned, but that wasn’t the point – I wanted to keep to a schedule, maintain the structure before everything unravelled on Day 3.
Little was I to know quite how unravelled things would get on Day 3.
I didn’t sleep well, and was awake to hear my Racing Post ‘schlap’ onto the carpet outside my door at 7am. With breakfast not until 8.00 I jumped from my bed to luxuriate in an hour of unfettered form studying, something which bizarrely I hadn’t managed to do thus far.
Disaster. In a small and personal sense, utter disaster.
Ffos Las did not appear in the Racing Post. Surely such an esteemed organisation could not have forgotten about one of the few meetings on this Sunday? I panic found my phone in the detritus of a hotel room and at last got some semblance of a signal. After an agonising wait for the page to load, my fate was sealed in a ghastly slow-motion reveal of pixels.
If you take the ‘o’ from the first word of the racecourse you will sense my mood. I sat deflated for a while before my fight came back. I must keep going, find a way. Friends and family texted soothing and positive messages: “all part of the challenge!” and “#part of the journey”.
I rifled through my file to the by now well-thumbed printout of fixtures and quickly located some small crumbs of comfort – Ffos Las has four further meetings in my eighty day window. Two were immediately ruled out, but two others give me just a shred of hope. Sunday 12 April if I can successfully juggle Market Rasen without the house of cards collapsing, or Saturday 23 May in the middle of my Scottish Swing. I could do a day trip from Edinburgh in between racing at Musselburgh and Kelso. A day trip, I would suggest, that has probably never been done before.
Several weeks ago I had indeed, as I promised myself, phoned Graham Sharpe of bookmakers William Hill to see if he’d like to take a bet on me achieving my dream. Just a small wager, I proffered, any winnings split between our two charities? Graham didn’t like it. There was nothing in it for them, he opined, because it was a done deal. Of course I could watch racing at all the British courses in eighty days. Where was the challenge?
Well challenge number 1 is the British weather, it being an outdoor sport and all, Graham. And here on Day 3 the weather Gods were already taunting me with their chaotic powers. I drove home to get a welcome bonus day with my family, but as I skimmed along the M4 I knew that of the two chances I had to complete this crazy venture, Slim was saddling up and about to ride out of town…..