It's a 12% incline on the mountain road that takes you past Glen Shee ski station in Scotland's Cairngorms National Park. I need to get over it because somewhere over the other side is my destination, The Fife Arms in Braemar, but the photographer has just slo-mo glided out of my rear view mirror and into the opposite lane. Now, I'm not the type to belittle the underdog - even if I am sat in the posterior-heated comfort of Maserati's Levante S Gran Lusso - because many a fable proves that words can indeed be eaten - but the photographer has attempted the journey in a Smart Car, the likes of which corners like a nitro-infused go-kart in the dry. Unfortunately for him, it is not dry. In fact the road looks like the wall of a padded room and the mental patient has just slid across the road as if he were being controlled on a babyfoot table. Back to my windscreen, where the snow is falling so heavily that the high-speed wiper setting sounds like it's getting angry. Just up ahead, three men are stood about a Skoda saloon, while one (there must be a joke in this) struggles to attach tyre chains. In the distant, which isn't actually that far away, but visibility is shocking, more experienced road users have parked their lorries on the side of the road and are eating sandwiches from white paper bags, watching, chewing, watching.
Quite what they must have thought a well-preened Italian 4x4 was doing on its way to a Scottish ski station is anybody's guess, but I didn't hang around to take a vox pop. When I picked the car up in Slough, the press office and I guffawed all too sincerely that I would not be requiring the off-road setting, but here I am, engaging muscle mode on a freezing Scottish hillside while all around me (including the now industrially enhanced Skoda) fail to make any headway. I must admit, I felt a pang of guilt as the photographer slowly disappeared from (rear)view (don't worry, a Land Rover would soon shunt him up the mountain) and the lads in the Skoda, shoulders scrunched up to their freezing lobes, waited for a grit lorry to clear the road. Turning up the underseat heating made me feel better about myself.