Over the weekend I flew to London with the in-laws, Sue and Richard, to attend Royal Ascot and witness Australian horse, Black Caviar’s 22nd win (from as many starts) in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. We were located in the Grand Stand Enclosure, where a full suit and tie (for blokes) and a hat with a minimum 4cm wide brim (for ladies) were strict requirements of entry. Unfortunately for her, my beautiful wife could not make it, stuck in Lyon with her broken foot.
And miss out she did (sorry Jaks). I flew into London Gatwick airport 7:30am Friday morning, initially worried that I would have some serious time to kill before my 11am check in at my hostel. All these fears were allayed however when I saw the enormous queue for passport control. After around an hour or so in the line and a fairly rigorous grilling from the customs official as to why I was travelling with an emergency passport (upon hearing the full story she couldn’t contain her laughter) I was on the way to my hostel in Earls Court. Friday was a chilled affair which involved obtaining a UK sim card and meeting up with my good mate Ryan, who is living in London, for a couple of cheeky lunchtime beers. As I had only got 2 hours sleep the night before these 2 beers all but put me to sleep so I decided to have an early night in preparation for the big day ahead.
On Saturday morning I got ready and travelled to Marble Arch to meet up with the in-laws, Sue and Richard. We had intended to get on a train to Ascot at around 11am, however somewhere between finding a shop to buy supplies (wine) for the day (which we weren’t allowed to take in) and spending around 45 minutes in the queue just to get a train ticket, we didn’t end up getting on a train until 12:50pm. After surviving the harrowing experience of the hour long train ride, crammed in shoulder-to-shoulder like sardines, we arrived at Ascot Racecourse just in time to see the Queen parade down the home straight and into the mounting yard in her horse drawn carriage.
We watched the first two races, all the while planning the best spot to be in for the 3rd race main event, Black Caviar’s run the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. While I went to fetch some beers Sue and Richard held our prime spot right on the fence of the home straight about 150m from the finishing post. As the runners came down the home straight Black Caviar was starting to get a lead and by the time she passed us it appeared as if she was going to romp home. Then the unthinkable started to happen, Luke Nolan (the jockey) eased up and the chasing horses began to close the gap. Right at the death Nolan kicked her back into gear and she won by the faintest of margins. After the photo finish was displayed on the big screen we began to celebrate with the other Australians who had also been up on the fence with us.
I noticed one particular bloke who looked like he had just seen a ghost, not celebrating, just trying not to fall over. So I went over to check he wasn’t going to faint. When I asked him “So by the look of your face you must of just had a fair bit on that” he smiled and said, “Yeah you could say that” and showed me his ticket; £20,000 on Black Caviar to win! I can see why he was shitting himself!
After the race I bid adieu to Sue and Richard went on a mission to find Ryan who was also at the races but in a different section. After speaking to three different security guards who all told me I wouldn’t be allowed into the section he was in with the ticket I had I realised that some major sweet talking/sob story creating would need to be involved. I had a beer while creating my story, attempting to also think up viable answers for the possible questions that would be asked of me by security. I made the short walk down the road to the entrance to the Silver Ring section and firstly attempted to casually hand my ticket over and keep walking. This was an instant failure; I made it 2 steps before the security guard who took my ticket called me back and told me I wasn’t allowed in. I began to tell him my story and he told me to go and speak to the head security guard lady, gleefully informing me that her answer would no doubt be the same. Unperturbed I strolled on up to her and launched into my story again; phone not working, all alone in London, sleeping at my mate’s place whom I needed to go inside to find. When it became clear to her that I wasn’t taking no for an answer she gave up, ripped my ticket in half and told me to go inside. If you are playing at home the score currently stands at; Dan 1, Ascot security team 0.
After finding Ryan we hit the bar and took a seat with his mates at their table. By this stage the last race was about to be run and hence it was nearly time go. After a couple more cheeky drinks we walked to the bus that Ryan and his mates had bought tickets for to take them back to London. As I didn’t have a ticket we decided to bypass the bus that was currently being loaded and jump on the unattended bus behind it, which was due to leave next. After what can only be described as a rowdy bus ride we ended up in Shepherds Bush at the bastion of Aussie sport in London, The Walkabout. We consumed a few more beverages before Ryan decided we make the most of it and embark on a pub crawl in Camden Town.
We made our way along Camden High Street to the nightclub Proud, stopping at 3 or 4 pubs along the way, all the while getting considerably merrier. Proud was impressive, what I remember of it anyway, and it is definitely somewhere I am keen to revisit. At some point in the night I decided to go out for a cigarette which turned out to be a bad move. You see Proud is akin to a labyrinth, many rooms all lit in the classic nightclub fashion (i.e. dark), with hard to find entries and exits (in the state I was in). After struggling to even find the exit for a cigarette I struggled some more trying to find where I had left Ryan. By this stage of intoxication searching was fruitless so I gave up and went outside again to call Ryan. It was then that I discovered my phone was on the fritz so I couldn’t get hold of Ryan, worse still I was stuck in Camden with no idea of how to get back to my hostel in Earls Court. Eventually, after much turning off and back on again, I got my phone to hold reception long enough to Google map my journey home, found the bus stop I needed for the correct night bus line and off I went. By the time I made it back to the hostel it was 4am, I was very drunk and dreading one of my most hated activities, hung-over travelling.
Needless to say the next day was gruelling. Underground, Stansted Express, airport security and plane flight all while fighting the urge to vomit/fall asleep/kill anyone that speaks to me, was an effort. I eventually made it back to Lyon, regaled my lovely wife with the events of the weekend and nursed my hangover the way hangovers were meant to be nursed; lying on the couch with cold water, making the sounds of a dying giraffe.
Published on: Jun 27, 2012 @ 16:02 #12monthhoneymoon