- 22 Oct 07, 09:44 PM
Calais ferry port, Monday morning - C’est tout. Seven weeks to the day that we set sail from Dover, hope in our hearts and three clean pairs of socks apiece in our luggage, the time has come for Ben and me to go home.
It’s a very quiet Bloggernaut the pair of us sit in today. For once the well-known brand of mp3 player is silent, the rugby ball motionless on the floor.
The rear of the campervan, as always, looks like a cross between an abandoned refugee camp and an explosion in a pant factory.
At times like these, a man must take comfort in the words of one of the great poets of our isles:
"We nearly made it
We nearly found the perfect combination
The road was right, we must have read the signs wrong
And now it’s all gone"
When Nick Berry penned those famous words, the World Cup was but a distant twinkle in the IRB’s finance department’s eye - yet somehow he summed up perfectly how two tired young blades would be feeling on a cold Monday morning more than 20 years later.
Ah, but what memories we have.
At least, what memories I have – Ben finds it difficult to remember his own reflection, let alone which towns and matches we went to.
Where to begin?
Welshmen in white Speedos and green wigs covered head to toe in red body-paint; roaring Irish fans crammed into trams on a steamy night in Bordeaux; kilted Scotsmen dancing in the rain after the win over Italy, and that insane, never-ending Saturday night in the Vieux Port in Marseille, when English, Australian and French fans partied so hard that even Keith Moon would have made his excuses and left.
Games so tense that we could hardly breathe, tackles so hard we could hear them the length of the pitch away and fans so loud the rafters rattled.
Blue cheeses for Ben, mountain-top cycles for me. Charcuterie platters, cold campsite wash-blocks, Calvados night-caps and chemical toilets.
Stale baguettes, festering duvets, waterfront muggings and recycled t-shirts.
Quaffing in Cognac, swimming in seas, Monaco motoring and piling through pressions.
Three days ago, as we sat in a Parisien café watching the world hurrying by, it hit home: we’ll never have another adventure like this as long as we live.
I don’t think either of us can believe it’s over.
A special nod must go to my compadre through all those escapades - the Oscar to my Felix, the Thelma to my Louise – Dirsy.
From way back at the start of September, when we sat in board shorts and flip flops and watched Wales wriggle clear of Canada, we’ve been perched next to each other through rain and shine, in stadiums the length and breadth of the country, cheering, chanting and cavorting.
Like an unwashed version of Paul and Linda McCartney, we’ve spent every single night there has been in each other’s company, albeit with a minimum six-inch gap between us on all occasions.
We’ve woken up together on freezing industrial estates in St Etienne, in deserted car-parks near Montpellier and tucked away behind the lorries in autoroute service stations.
At times, when I’ve been rudely disturbed in the middle of the night by his thunderous snoring, or had to watch him stuffing down half a saucisson for breakfast while standing there in nothing but his E LeClerc boxer-shorts, it hasn’t been easy.
Yet not once has he complained about being stuck with a man who eats dry cereal directly from his hand, wears running vests as a fashion statement and ruins every song that comes on the stereo by bellowing along to it like a wildebeest in a mine shaft.
Of our 4,800 miles on the road, he didn’t drive a single one. Of the 800,000 words of French we spoke, he was responsible for less than 10. Yet without Ben, this trip would have been nothing.
In a few hours’ time, Le Bloggernaut’s engine will be turned off for the final time. Ben will be tucking into a homecoming feast at his mum and dad’s; I’ll be carving the fatted cauliflower at mine.
Before we go, a salutation and salute to everyone who’s been part of this blog – reading, watching, writing, arguing, criticising, debating and ranting.
To those who’ve enjoyed it, email our bosses with suggestions of where we should go next.
To those who’ve accused us of wasting the licence fee: I’m sorry. Next time I’ll turn a gig like this down, and make sure the money goes to Celebrity Sword-Juggling On Ice instead.
To all of you: sante. And remember:
“There is some part of a foreign field, that is forever Bloggernaut.”
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.