Dave's Diary: Stick in the mud
Have you ever seen the film Clockwise? I lived that movie today.
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Things started badly when my taxi arrived 13 minutes late meaning a camp jog was required to make the 0603 Fitzwilliam to Leeds train, calling at Sandal And Agbrigg, Wakefield Westgate, Outwood and Leeds.
Still I made it - only to sit outside the destination station for 11 minutes owing to a "train fire", thankfully not aboard our vessel.
Another camp jog, passing two branches of Greggs, and I was at work at 0700 - departure time. But there was no sign of my travel partners, Michael Shinners and driver Will Hayler.
The former pulled up in a taxi at 0709 by which time I'd dispensed with my tweed overcoat owing to an outbreak of back sweat, and at 0717 W Hayler in a black Mondeo rolled into view.
He was the bearer of bad news. The M1 was closed at junction 31. Fear not said I, for mighty dread had seized their troubled minds, alternative routes to Seven Barrows were available.
And WH took one. We went A1, A14. The most impressive stint of the journey was a half-mile stretch in the outside lane of three - even though the road had actually become two lanes half a mile before.
I thought the chevrons in the road might have been a clue for Sebastian Vettel in the driver's seat but it was only when the car began to shudder like an asthmatic faced with a hill that he took the hint and went back inside.
Our detour added an estimated 50 miles to the journey but I think we'd have still made it on time at Seven Barrows but for a 10-minute McDonalds stop just south of Northampton. I'm not complaining, I can McMuffin with the best of them, but it did mean when we arrived in Lambourn four minutes late all the car park spots had been taken.
WH, a picture of calm, merely steered the big black beast into the field where the other press cars were left and looked for a spot. He found one. Four square feet of pure mud and as the car stopped it slowly began to sink. And sink. And sink.
Whatever the great man did the car refused to move forwards or backwards, just downwards.
We left him to join the media throng in the main yard but I knew the problem hadn't gone away when WH was next spotted in deep conversation with NJH's tractor man.
So while the rest of the posse wolf-whistled at Sprinter Sacre, heard positive bulletins for Binocular and an ulcer-free Riverside Theatre, marvelled at the potential of Simonsig and My Tent Or Yours and ate sausage baps like they were going out of fashion, we took advice on the best way to remove a Ford Mondeo from quicksand.
To be fair WH did conduct an excellent video interview with NJH but the Watford man is a proud beast and refused help of the tractor - no we would push it out.
So, in my finest tweed, I joined Hayler, Marcus Townend of the Mail, the Racing Post's Tom Kerr and M Shinners esq at the front end of the stranded vehicle.
The plan was to bounce it out backwards. Well we bounced more than Michael Flatley in his prime - and despite M Shinners leaving the party early to put his coat in the boot - we did move the beast three inches backwards.
It looked a lost cause. Tractor man was already doing his warm-up exercises.
But then something magical happened.
T Kerr suggested a chance of policy - a frontal exit from the pit of despair. I, desperately sucking on my inhaler and seeing silver stars in front of my eyes, labelled it foolhardy.
M Townend didn't. With a final flex of his North Yorkshire muscles the Mail's racing editor put his shoulder to the wheel and the car was free.
It was the most impressive display of strength I've seen since Geoff Capes polished off 24 fried eggs for breakfast on a visit to a Wakefield pet factory.
Never doubt the power of the press.
Thanks to the heroics of the man from the Mail I've safely arrived in Wellington ahead of tomorrow's trip to David Pipe but still the Gods won't smile on me.
Upon arrival at our quaint Somerset inn the landlord warned the three of us that only two of the rooms had double beds - the other was twin singles.
"Don't tell us which - let fate decide" I pleaded.
So the inevitable happened and here I am - sat between two singles - typing over a bedside table that would fit a doll's house.
It's also the same room I've shared with Ben Linfoot for the last two years, the one in which he dreamt he was being attacked by a group of frogs with teeth.
His absence from this trip is one of the few small mercies I'm currently desperately clinging to.