Barry holds court over the assembled guests sprinkled around the dining room for breakfast. His clearing of the plates turns into an elucidation on Europe, via some strange balloons in the second world war and his time on the town council. It’s a bit like when I used to listen to my grandmother – if you drift off for just a few minutes suddenly it’s changed from Marjorie marrying the wrong chap to sherry glasses and you can’t piece the segway back together. He reveals that he is a regular on various talk radio stations, and we are not surprised in the least.
In the taxi to Ripon Simon begins what is to prove a series of lengthy phone calls to national rail enquiries in a vain attempt to book a ticket to take him home after racing. The lady in India asks him to jump through an extraordinary array of hoops before apparently securing his ticket. Simon is so exasperated by the whole fiasco that he develops TCB, also known as Temporary Cathedral Blindness, and asks the cabbie if Ripon has a cathedral as we sweep past an enormous old building with an abundance of stained-glass windows and pointy bits.
It’s been a festival of stairs recently and as we trudge wearily up to the top floor I consider requesting accessible rooms for the few remaining stops on my tour. However, we are rewarded by a stunning view of the big pointy building with colourful windows, and Simon is so impressed by the lodgings that he decides to change his train booking until tomorrow and the phone shenanigans begin all over again. Time passes, and he is told that the reference number he was given for his earlier booking and has already repeated 37 times does not exist.
It’s comforting that, despite my sparkling company not being enough on its own to keep the man in Yorkshire another day, my choice of accommodation is. Simon sits on the bed which immediately collapses, as do I in giggles. Then the fire alarm goes off and we are told that it is only the dust from some work going on in the room next door, and not to panic if it goes off again. I wonder how we would know if it was a genuine fire alarm next time, and visions of another Fawlty Towers scene come to mind.
The Old Deanery has a relaxed and friendly vibe, and as we settle in the lounge I feel as though I could spend the whole afternoon in the comfy sofas bantering with my old mate. We are told that the racecourse is a 15 minute walk, or 10 for us guys, as though being tall somehow increases your walking speed by 50%. Half an hour later we reach the racecourse and immediately bump into Richard again. Minty doesn’t recognise me in my authentic flat cap (Simon looks embarrassed when I put it on, but he goaded me into buying it a couple of years ago anyway so deserves all he gets).
Richard loved the first day of his walk over the Moors, but day 2 was interrupted by the A1 which, as he didn’t fancy a real-life game of Frogger, involved a 2 mile detour. Minty has coloured his route map to show the walks he has completed, and there still seems to be a lot of non-green left. I ask him whether he thinks there will come a time when he just doesn’t want to go walking again, but he seems pretty resolute at the moment. He dashes off to talk to Jack Berry when he spots him in the paddock, and Simon and I dash off to the bar, underlining the differing approaches to our respective quests.
Ripon is lovely. Only a small section of the zoo enclosure has made the short hop from Thirsk and they keep themselves to themselves, hollering from a corner of the terraces and leaving the rest of us to enjoy the brass band churning out the favourites. Bars and eateries offer a swift service and variety of options, and it feels like the venue lives up to its self-appointed title of Yorkshire’s Garden Racecourse.
Simon wonders if Minty is short for anything, and persuades me briefly that a previous girlfriend of his, Molly, was actually named Molleithia. Touché – it’s taken him several weeks to get me back for my AP McCoy balloon animals routine at Sandown, but he’s got there.
For reasons I can’t really explain I think it’s time for a big one in the sixth race and select a four year old filly called Rozene. She is making her seasonal debut and is the latest to test my ‘could have improved from 3 to 4’ theory, and I manage to get 9/2 before she is backed into 7/2. She flies out of the stalls and is never headed to secure the biggest payout of the trip so far. On the way back to the hotel, Simon and I start singing her name to the tune of the Toto track “Rosanna” which encourages us to YouTube the song and question why the American band used English comedian Bob Carolgees as their lead singer.
We head into town for some food and end up in Prezzo where I wait 20 minutes to be told that my chosen dish has run out. By this stage we are attempting to drink an awful bottle of wine but have to concede defeat, and when we ask them to change it they get really arsey and our replacement bottle and the food takes an age to turn up. This can’t dampen our spirits, though, and we celebrate my win late into the night…. “Ro-ze-ee-ee-ee-ene!”