It’s funny how you change in your ways as you advance in years.
There was a time when spontaneity was my middle name. Very often I would finish work on a Friday afternoon and go straight to a travel agent (yes that’s how long ago I’m talking about, the Internet hadn’t even been thought about in those days) and see what flights were available to any European destination that evening and within a few hours I would be jetting off to visit some random city for the weekend.
As I have “matured” I have become more organised and more of a planner, there is still some spontaneity but I like to be more organised.
For example I know, weather and unforeseen circumstances permitting, where and when I will be racing for the remainder of this year.
My Cheltenham “routine” has changed over the years. There was a time when I would begin my ante-post punting the previous December. Sometimes it would be spectacularly successful, my best ever being Voy Por Ustedes in the 2006 Arkle who I backed at all prices from December until the day of the race, giving me my biggest winner ever. For the rare successes it also turned out to be an expensive long term approach, not least due to the seemingly increasingly large number of multiple entries and it’s impossible to second guess plans. Consequently I no longer bet ante-post.
My routine nowadays is not to start looking at Cheltenham until the weights announcement, usually the last Wednesday in February.
The first week in March I look at the early closing races then the week before I put three days aside to look at the remainder of the card.
That was my approach this year but it almost went completely wrong. The Championship races went fine but part two came off the rails.
I had put Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday aside to look at the non-championship races and finish my preparation for the festival, followed by a day racing in Carlisle on Thursday.
Monday morning I woke up to a rare mild, sunny day – such a relief after the depressing weather of the past few weeks. So lovely it was I decided to be spontaneous, I forgot the racing and decided to have a day at the seaside.
Unfortunately I live in one of those rare places in the UK which is miles from the coast, so it was almost three hours later I arrived in Cromer, looking forward to some lovely fresh crab. It wasn’t to be Cromer was closed, with only a handful of eateries open and then came the devastating news that the crab will not be “in season” until the end of the month.
So there was little else to do than walk and get some sea air. I do love the Great British Seaside but, having said that, there can also be nothing more depressing than a seaside resort off-season.
After Cromer it was a case of following the coast, through equally desolate, closed, resorts until Hunstanton at which point I gave up.
So I still had two days to finish off the Cheltenham prep. Granted it would be two long busy days but hard work never hurt anyone.
Tuesday was an early start, at the laptop by 07:00 but by the time I finished at 22:00 I had done all the non-handicaps and had done one handicap as well.
So Wednesday was just a matter of doing the fearsome handicaps and second guessing the trainers plans.
That’s when the fun started. I powered up the laptop to be greeted with a message telling me I had a hard drive fault and Windows was trying to repair the problem.
An hour later Windows told me it had done its best but there was still a potential problem. I soon found out what the problem was when I, unsuccessfully, attempted to open the software I use to run my website. It wasn’t playing.
In the immortal words of James Lovell “Houston we have a problem”. The next two hours was spent getting backups of all my critical files.
I needed a new laptop and fast. Now that was annoying as normally I am very fussy with my requirements and have my laptops custom made to my requirements but that takes time and with Cheltenham less than a week away, time was something I did not have on my side.
Whilst the backups were running I made a scouting mission to the dreaded PC World to see what they had in stock and built a shortlist of possible candidates.
Luckily I was still able to get online on the ailing laptop and I checked out the specs of the candidates online and I narrowed the choice down to two.
Back to PC World just after lunch to find, since I had been in the store earlier, they had sold the last remaining first choice laptop – typical as it was a bargain. So it was down to the second choice.
Here is an edited version of what ensued.
Me: I would like one of these laptops please.
Salesman: Fine. Would you like any software with it?
Me: No thank you.
Salesman: What about anti-virus?
Me: I already have anti-virus thank you.
Salesman: What anti-virus do you have?
Me: That’s irrelevant – I have anti-virus and I am not interested in the one you are selling.
He then went off to get the laptop but was gone for nearly ten minutes. I was about to walk out when he re-appeared.
I knew what was coming next.
Salesman: Would you like an extended warranty?
Me: no thank you.
Salesman: Why not?
Me: Because I don’t want one.
Salesman: What happens if it goes wrong?
Me: If it goes wrong in the first year it is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, after that I can either repair it myself or get a replacement.
Twice more he asked me if I wanted a warranty after my final curt no I think he got the message.
He then scanned the laptop into the till.
Salesman: Can I have your name and address?
Salesman: For the warranty.
Me: I’ve told you I don’t want a warranty. I am happy with the manufacturer’s warranty.
Salesman: But I need your name and address for the manufacturer’s warranty.
Me: No you don’t, all I need for the manufacturer’s warranty is a proof of purchase.
Salesman: If you don’t give me your name and address I cannot sell you the laptop.
Salesman: because the law says you have to provide your name and address.
Me: I’m only legally obliged to provide my name and address if the laptop has a TV tuner which it doesn’t.
Let’s just say the conversation progressed to a level I cannot repeat in a family forum and needless to say I did not purchase the laptop from PC World and apologies to the person who does buy it if the salesman followed my advice as to where he could stick his laptop.
Luckily there is a Staples nearby and they had the exact same laptop but out of stock. However with a completely different level of customer service they said they could get one in for me by 16:00.
The laptop duly arrived and, guess what, when I paid for it there was no offer of an extended warranty and no requirement for me to provide my name and address ….. strange that.
By 22:00 I had a near working new laptop, although it still needed some work, so the trip to Carlisle had go but by mid-afternoon on Thursday I had a fully working laptop again …. but unfinished Cheltenham prep.
So I’m still going to Cheltenham without having assessing the handicaps in advance.
There is one consolation though – at least the laptop went into terminal decline the week before, rather than during, The Festival.A final thought, isn’t it frightening just how much we depend on technology nowadays?