Despite having been warned about it for some time, the snow that fell on Friday, 18 January still caused havoc and brought the nation to its knees. For me and my fellow students at Furze Platt Seniors – along with schoolchildren across the country – it meant an afternoon off school, as the site was deemed increasingly unsafe to be kept open. Ms White, Furze Platt’s Headteacher, would always be the last to take the drastic action of sending students home early (indeed, some other schools in the area didn’t even open their doors that morning), but she was left with little other decision than to start locking up – for the safety of the 1,200+ students, and scores of staff – at 11:30am.
As the last of the snow begins to melt, enjoy this gallery of pictures, taken over the first few days of the wintry weather.
In precisely 24 hours, the Olympic Opening Ceremony is due to get under way, as the world’s eyes (an expected 4.8 billion people will watch) turn to London to see our capital city stage these 2012 Games.
For so many involved with the Games so far, it will in fact very much mark the end of their ‘Olympic journey’: the architects have long-since closed the files on the brilliant designs for the stadia, most of the builders have hung up their high-vis jackets and safety hats, while the final temporary signs are being tie-wrapped to lamp-posts and fences.
Now, E20 (the fictional EastEnders postcode officially issued to the Olympic Park by Royal Mail), along with all of the other venues, is ready. It’s now up to the athletes to do their very best. Team GB are already smiling: Andy Murray, of course, performed brilliantly on the lawns of Wimbledon just a few weeks ago, and last Sunday a Briton won the gruelling Tour de France competition.
Tom Daley, who was the subject of a truly excellent documentary that went out on Monday night, was eleven years old when Jacques Rogge announced the word ‘London’ (to the great delight of the thousands that had gathered in front of a big screen in Trafalgar Square) on 6 July 2005. Daley is now a man. Olympic organiser Seb Coe is now also seven years older and, unlike Tom, seven years greyer. But, despite all the headline-making “cock-ups” (not least last night’s Korean flag mix-up) and extreme costs of the Olympics, Seb and his team have done a great job.
Making hay of the good weather, the four of us (my brother Matthew is currently away in France with the Taize community) thought we’d take an afternoon’s bike ride to Windsor. We decided to follow The Green Way, a waterside corridor that goes from Cookham, through central Maidenhead, and out to Bray. We joined on York Road (near the Maidenhead Library); followed it past Stafferton Way, the sewage works, and the Nature Centre to get to where it crosses at Hibbert Road; then continued on until where it finishes. We then found our way to Summerleaze Footbridge (the bridge, of course, was built to take away extracted gravel from Dorney Lake‘s construction on a conveyor belt), where we caught our first sight of the lake (known as Eton Dorney for the duration of Olympics) through a clearing in the trees.
But that glimpse of blue, sparkling water was to be one of actually very few views of the rowing centre. Such is the security operation of the Olympic venue that when Mum harmlessly took out her camera, she was challenged by a soldier patrolling the perimeter fencing. (Fellow Maidenhead blogger Paul Baker, however, took a number of interesting photographs from inside the venue just a week before it closed to the public.) Mum and I at least thought this was a little extreme, given the lack of visibility to the venue anyway.
Further along the edge of the venue, though, we met a G4S worker and we began talking through gaps in the fence out of sympathy for his inevitable loneliness and boredom. On breaching the subject of the personnel scandal, he replied: "It’s the military boys I feel sorriest for," he said, "they had their leave cancelled at the last minute; roped in to help out my boss’s bosses. You know, loads of them have just got back from Afghanistan – two weeks ago, some of them – and they’ve had to miss holidays with girlfriends to spend it here, in long, boring days. They get paid less than us too. It’s not fair on them." This put our complaints over the restrictions on photography into perspective.
One of the things that most interested me was the presence of two 93-metre high towers at either end of the course. The cables that linked them instantly gave away their purpose: they’ll provide a high vantage point for the television cameras, with the wires being used to suspend a Flycam from, thereby providing global audiences with aerial tracking shots of each race.
As we continued cycling, we spotted rather attractive multi-coloured bunting embellished with Olympic icons adorning the side of Court Lane. Then, as we pedalled down Boveney Road in Eton, flags of every nation participating in the Olympics could be seen in the distance.