Life is never simple, is it? The poet Robert Burns had it right when he wrote that the best laid schemes of mice and men, often go awry… And, frankly, thank goodness for that because otherwise all motor races would long ago have been rendered deadly dull by engineers in pursuit of efficiency. It is the flaws and failures of motor racing, as much as the genius and the success, that make it a wonderful sport. You just never know… The top drivers know that all too often a nasty little gremlin with a grudge will leap out and detach a wire, stick a nail in a tyre or a dead fly in a fuel injector.
For me, today was supposed to be a nice easy drive home from the lovely English village where we stay, up near Daventry, to the arms of my wife in Paris. This meant a quite early start to avoid the chaos that the Tour de France brought to southern England today with squillions of fans driving to watch, road closures and no fewer than 1,100 support vehicles trying to cross the Channel to be in Le Touquet on Tuesday morning. All that was required for me was a whizz down the M40, round the M25 (south) and through the Eurotunnel to pop out in Calais and motor home from there, by way of Abbeville, Amiens and Beauvais. Easy.
So what am I now doing having a half-decent sit-down lunch on a Cross-Channel ferry, watching the White Cliffs of Dover slipping from view? The ship is filled with excited schoolchildren en route to field trips to foreign fields that are forever England or Rembrandt Museums in Amsterdam. The calmest place on a Channel ferry is always the “posh restaurant”. It’s an old trick we learned years ago when rushing back to England after countless Spa or Zolder races. If you want a little calm and decent food you don’t do the cafeteria… Ninety minutes is plenty of time for a decent feed and some coffee.
I heard on the radio on the way down towards London that there was something seriously wrong with the Eurotunnel. The people running it (always a loose term) were suggesting that passengers not even attempt to travel today. A broken train and the Tour de France arriving en masse, would create a right royal mess. You could not make this stuff up. I knew instantly that paying customers would be treated like dirt by Eurotunnel because ruining the Tour de France was an option they could not afford and thus they would give inevitably give priority to the Tour and other passengers would get screwed. I decided to bail out and rang my wonderful organised wife (hands-free) as I belted past the Gatwick turn-off on the M25.
Ten minutes later I had a ferry booking, while such things still existed. I diverted, by way of Canterbury, to the grubby old port beneath the White Cliffs of Dover, passing Bridge and Lydden on the way. The second is celebrated for rallycross and other such muddy pursuits, but the former is a bit more exotic, having been the home in the early 20th Century of Count Louis Zborowski, who created racing cars with his engineer Major Clive Gallop, including the celebrated Chitty Bang Bang, a car that was made into a film star by none other than Ian Fleming, of 007 fame.
Zborowski later died at the wheel of a Grand Prix car, as his father had done before him… Strange, but true.
So here I am, having a proper lunch on the ship as we sail towards France. I don’t even know the name of the ship but apparently that doesn’t matter…
F1 is far from my thoughts, probably a good thing after a busy busy weekend. The good news was that, for the Championship, it was a happy ending with Lewis Hamilton closing in on Nico Rosberg to keep the interest alive… Next stop Germany in 10 days.