- 28 Sep 07, 01:39 PM
Lyon, Friday morning - “You know what?” said Ben this morning, as he stared forlornly out of Le Bloggernaut’s windows at the sleet whacking down outside. “We’re halfway through our trip. We’re officially on the back nine.”
At some points – as when looking forward to this weekend’s series of massive crunch matches – he’s been as maniacally animated as a tipsy Sue Pollard.
At other times, reduced to munching morosely on sliced bread, prone to long periods standing silently outside the van with hood up, tugging glumly on another soggy cigarette, he has appeared to be auditioning for the Ian Curtis role in a biopic of Joy Division.
It didn’t help that, in a Lyonnais bar last night, we witnessed a smashed Australian fan pull off one of the most outrageous pieces of pulling either of us has ever seen.
Bearing an uncanny resemblance to the lead singer of woeful post-Britpop group Toploader, the leering boozehound had been firing off slurred proposals in the direction of any woman that came into range, no matter whether she looked like Beyonce or Brian Moore.
It was the chat-up equivalent of firing a blunderbuss, with the unfussy Antipodean as happy to bag a bristling wart-hog on his silver-tongued safari as a graceful gazelle.
Ben and I were starting to guffaw openly in his face when suddenly, with the bar staff shouting last orders, his last tug on the trigger brought him spectacular rewards.
Open-mouthed, we watched as a leggy lioness wandered willingly into his crosshairs and threw herself into the spray of bullets.
At any other time, we might have been able to laugh the incident off.
But last night, as we trudged back to a frozen Bloggernaut through puddles the depth of rockpools, the mood was gloomy.
With less than 36 hours to go until the Scotland-Italy humdinger, we still don’t know whether we’ll be dancing merrily round the Stade Geoffroy Guichard with the invading Scottish army or standing despondently outside in the rain like the guests no-one wants to let into a party.
What is certain is that we’ll be watching the England match in a bar in which almost every other nationality – Scot, French, Australian, Irish – will be raucously rooting for a Tongan triumph.
For Dirsy, who this week has been told by various people that he looks exactly like exponentially-expanding Hollywood star Jon Favreau and the No Jacket Required-era Phil Collins, the burden is a particularly heavy one to bear.
So long have we now been living on the road so that we’ve started to refer to each other by CB radio call-signs.
At the last count, we’d completed 2,807 miles on the trip, of which only 960 were the cumulative result of frantic three-point turns after wrong turnings up residential cul-de-sacs.
Like a long-married couple, we’ve started to complete the other one’s sentences and subconsciously mimic each other’s body language.
When I came back from a trip to the toilet to find Ben chatting to a Scotland fan named George, it was all I could do to restrain myself from throwing a fit of jealousy and storming off in tears.
Give it another week and the cracks will inevitably have started to appear.
One of us will have developed a hobby that involves long periods alone in a shed-like construction at the rear of Le Bloggernaut.
The other will be letting himself go to seed, slouching round in unwashed tracksuit bottoms while making catty remarks about the other one’s driving and DIY skills.
Before you know it, one of us will come back from a night of mirthless solo drinking to find the other sobbing uncontrollably while clutching a photo of the two us larking around happily in the first week of the trip.
As always, all words of advice and consolation are hugely appreciated.
Tom Fordyce is a BBC Sport journalist travelling around France in a camper van with Ben Dirs. Click here to search for all of Tom and Ben's blog videos.