A Bad Day At The Office

At my age you would have thought I had learned not to build expectations too high because from a height there is usually only one way to go and it isn’t necessarily higher.

Last week I was saying how much I was looking forward to the Derby meeting, well by the end of Saturday afternoon I was beginning to wish I was anywhere but Epsom Downs.

It was the classic “bad day at the office”!!

Actually the day started pretty well, setting off from home at 7:15 for the 65 mile journey to the course, I was there by 8:30 with the added bonus that the car park allocated for the press was one which facilitated a relatively easy escape after racing.

After a quick bite to eat it was time for one of my Derby Day traditions, walking the course. This year I thought I would try something different and record a podcast describing the characteristics of the course and trying to explain just how steep the initial climb from the start is.

It is actually quite surreal walking the course that early in the morning, with very few people around – it is hard to imagine a few hours later there would be in excess of 120,000 people on Epsom Downs.

The course was the best I have seen it on Derby Day and as I reached the half-way point it was amazing, even at 9:45 in the morning, to see most of the prime positions by the running rail had been taken. Already there was the chap, who seems to be there every year, who puts boarding across his car’s roof rack, onto which he puts a garden chair – giving him an excellent view  of the action.

By 10:15 it was back to the media centre to edit the sensational podcast – it was unusable. The equipment which had worked so well when tested on Thursday afternoon had decided not to cooperate on the day and there was an incessant buzz in the background which would have taken hours to edit out.

Anyway a stroll on The Hill, where the Derby Day atmosphere is fantastic soothed my demeanour – it has to be one of the best “free” days out of the year – especially when the sun is shining.

Back to the media centre for a spot of lunch – salad, knowing my luck it will be a German salad, no beansprouts though so I may be in luck, then it is off to see a potential winning Derby owner arrive.

Normally it is just Her Maj and Phil the Greek who attend Derby Day, this time she has bought most of her family with her.

I felt sorry for the young lady who was singing the National Anthem, earlier in the morning, during rehearsals, he dulcet tones could be heard across the Downs singing the anthem again and again – when it came to the real deal there seemed to be a problem with her microphone and she could barely be heard – perhaps they had borrowed the microphone I had used for my podcast?

Anyway I, at least, managed to get a decent photo of The Queen.

It was back to the press room which was now beginning to resemble a glasshouse – jackets had long disappeared in the glass fronted, non air-conditioned, media centre, full of sweaty hacks (and hackettes)  not to mention a couple of hundred laptops throwing out heat.

The Racing Post’s Paul Eacott had Tweeted “it’s going to be like Tenko in the media centre by the afternoon.” He wasn’t far wrong and the security around the place was just as tight as well.

Trying to get to the parade ring to view the runners was proving to be a nightmare. Firstly you have to get past the police / security cordon between the media centre and the parade ring then, once through that, you have to find a spot where you can actually see the horses.

Normally the racing media can usually go into the parade ring if all else fails but at this meeting that was a no-no, partly because of the number of media present and the fact The Queen was going to visit the parade ring so they did not, understandably, want the riff-raff in with her.

In the end I had to settle for either seeing the runners on the horse walk, which conveniently passed behind the media centre, or just settle for watching them going down.

It was just as tricky watching the racing itself. This year they seem to have added some new marquees in the centre of the course. As a result the only starts you could see were the 5f straight start and, if you leant over the barrier and if you squeezed yourself into the far corner of the viewing area, you could just see the back of the 1m 2f start.

Watching the racing itself was little better, the only parts of the track visible were a 1f section of the far side and approaching Tattenham Corner before they swing to approach you head on. It did not make race reading at all easy.

I managed the best I can doing updates for the web site, or at least thinking I was doing updates. Just after the Dash I received a text asking me “if everything was OK?”

I replied “yes, why shouldn’t it be?”

Only to be told there had been no updates on my web site since just after the first race – which was news to me as I had been sending regular updates, seemingly without any problem.

So right in the middle of preparing for The Derby I was having to try and sort out what was, or rather what was not, happening with my updates. I could have done without all that and I would like to apologise to all those sitting near me for the profanities that passed my lips during that time.

I spent so long trying to find out what the problem was with the updates, by the time I went out to watch The Derby all the viewing spots on the Media Centre terrace had gone and I was resigned to “watching” the race from by the running rail after the finishing post.

I somehow managed to cobble together a report on The Derby, plus a couple of photos but I still had the problem of getting the updates online.

In the end I had to log directly into the web server hosting my site and manually apply the updates – so an update which is normally applied in seconds, at the press of a button, was taking up to five minutes a go – not to mention having to apply all the updates which had not been applied.

I completely missed the Surefooted Stakes.

So all in all it was a very trying afternoon, the sort of afternoon where anything that could possibly go wrong managed to go wrong. The sort of afternoon where you seriously question why you do what you are doing.

For me the only consolation was, sorry M'aam, I backed The Derby winner.


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