I know exactly how the rider of Sunnyhillboy - who came second in Saturday’s Grand National – must feel right now.
For sportsmen, there’s a well trodden paddock of self-analysis where narrowly missing success amounts to little more than complete failure – a place where it’s little better to almost succeed than not to have taken part at all. It’s ground I’ve trodden myself this weekend.
True to my pledge, 270 KTA did make it to Penzance this weekend, and crucially, did make it back home again; but we didn’t take part in the running day.
A mysterious tick developed en-route and soon grew into a deafening bark which, frankly, worried the life out of me. It turned out to be coming from the exhaust manifold, which had worked itself loose and consequently blown its gasket.
Although it didn’t render our friend immobile, it made the ride sufficiently uncomfortable that I wasn’t prepared to subject passengers to the noise - or, selfishly perhaps, her driver to the shame of taking people out on a vehicle that clearly wasn’t right. So I decided she should spend the day resting at Long Rock depot in Penzance. We nearly tasted success.
Let me tell you, it’s thoroughly depressing and actually quite lonely when something like this goes wrong. There’s a feeling of letting the side down, of being a bad person; it must be like your child throwing up during the school nativity play. (Incidentally, I did that as a child, too – maybe I am a bad person?)
For me, the nadir of the weekend was watching all the other buses around 270 KTA peeling away, one by one, disappearing for a day of adventure in West Cornwall. There we were in sudden silence (ironic, given the problem), and there our friend would remain.
As it happens, I had a good day riding around on everybody else’s buses. But it wasn’t quite the reward I’d hoped for after weeks of late nights trying to get 270 KTA ready for her stint. I'm still quite sore about it.
But look. This was not a complete failure. By my reckoning, the 200 mile round trip to Penzance was the longest journey 270 KTA has completed in my entire lifetime – the last time she covered a distance like this was probably when she travelled west from Sussex in 1981. I was busy being born. Since then she’s not really been fit to complete a journey like this, until now.
It’s easy to forget that 270 KTA is only now emerging from years of neglect – of course we’ll have problems. And besides, all the issues I’ve been working so hard to fix over the last few weeks and months appear to have gone. Despite the noise, she actually performed well.
To celebrate all the above, I took 270 KTA for a lap of honour… well, perhaps not honour… but a lap of Penzance Bus Station at the very end of Sunday, so that at least it felt like we’d been able to join in.
These pictures prove we made it. To me, it was worth the effort just for them.
Bloody deafening, though…
(Next weekend 270 KTA is expected as a guest of honour at a friend’s wedding down the road in Plymouth. So this week I have the task of sealing up the manifold enough to quash the worst of the noise. Then, it’s the fiddly job of removing the manifold and changing the gasket completely; it’ll be a busy few weeks at 270 KTA HQ.)