- 18 Oct 07, 08:24 AM
Paris, Wednesday night - Suddenly, I feel as if I’ve fallen into the plot of a cheap, tear-jerking melodrama.
After seven weeks, 12 matches and 4,500 miles together in Le Bloggernaut, Ben and I are about to be split up on the eve of the biggest sporting event we’ve ever experienced.
Two men, one ticket.
I never liked maths, and I like that particular sum about as much as Bernard Laporte likes shampoo.
Despite having been to more matches, travelled more miles and watched more minnows than anyone else we can think of, only one of us has been given the nod by the organisers for the World Cup final.
And it’s not me...
Now, there’s a range of responses you could give here, starting with, “Who cares?” and “I haven’t got one either,” and continuing with “You want a real problem? Try global poverty/ killer diseases/ the singing of Chris Martin”.
I would agree with each and every one of those retorts. I consider myself laughably lucky to have barrelled around France for the past 46 days, to have witnessed so many whoop-inducing matches and to have been spared the falsetto whingeing of Martin for the entire period.
At the same time, I’ve got to be honest with you. I feel like a man who’s had the door slammed in his face to a party hosted by Helena Christensen and her younger sisters, where the house band is the re-formed JBs, drinks are being poured by Che Guevara and a wild-eyed Richard Pryor and David Icke are deep in conversation by the vol-au-vents.
You should have seen Ben’s reaction.
“That’s no good,” he said. “You have my ticket. You’ve done all the driving.”
With a lump in my throat the size of a croissant, I told him not to be so ridiculous.
He was in; I wasn’t. C'est la manière que le biscuit s'émiette.
“We’ll buy one then,” he said. “I’ll pay half. I don’t care how much it costs.”
You’ll have to excuse me a moment while I wipe away the tears. That man Dirs…. gulp. I’m sorry.
That’s what 46 days and nights in a campervan does to a chap. And they say the age of chivalry is dead.
Right now, after eight hours of frantic searching, we have yet to find a single solid lead.
But you know what? The Bloggernaut Boys haven’t come this far to be denied at the death.
While the kick is still to be offed, there is hope. If I have to disguise myself as a French riot cop or smuggle myself in in George Chuter’s beard, I’ll do it. And if you happen to have a spare ticket – well, we’ll make you Bloggernaut life president in the blink of an emotional eye.
This evening, in an attempt to lift the faltering spirits, I jumped on the stinky-seated, sloth-steered Metro and journeyed from one end of Paris to the other to watch one of England’s final training sessions.
How did they look? Well, if Brian Ashton’s boys are nervous, they’re not showing it. If they haven’t got the faintest chance of winning on Saturday, nobody’s told them.
With Ashton marching around with hands behind his back like a stern-faced schoolteacher and assistant coach Mike Ford barking the orders, the boys looked as bright-eyed as lemurs and as bushy-tailed as a pack of permed squirrels.
As defensive drills turned into close-quarter passing moves, Andy Gomarsall practised steepling box-kicks to Paul Sackey, Simon Shaw threw the ball around like Phil Bennett and Mathew Tait flashed the heels of his red boots as he fizzed past the tackle-pad of Mark Regan.
And Jonny Wilkinson? Was he sitting atop a gilded throne, with England supporters queuing to kiss his sacred feet, or lying motionless in a titanium crate lined with cotton wool?
Of course not. He was right in the thick of it, shouting encouragement, yelling instructions and slapping into tackles like a man born without pain receptors.
“JONNY!” I shouted. “JONNY! YOU GOT A SPARE TICKET?”
I joke, bien sur. But I was mighty tempted, I can tell you.
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.