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.
Last year, I was part of the chorus that sang at Taplow Court for a performance of Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem in D Minor. The arrangement between the senior choirs of the Royal Borough’s schools and the Berkshire Maestros (formerly the Young Musicians Trust) has been a long one: they’ve staged concerts together like last year’s for the best part of two decades, in venues including the Royal Albert Hall.
This year was no different and, after it was announced that the work we would perform was Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms and that the venue was to be Eton School Hall, we were left with just four weeks to rehearse the score.
UPDATE: I later found that I passed this exam after all, with a mark of 112/150.
"You’ve brought the sun with you," was the examiner’s cheery welcome, as I walked into the music exam room at Windsor Music Centre today, just as the weather was brightening up outside. I’d been told he was a laid-back kind of chap, which certainly helped me to relax a little, but even still, music examination nerves were getting the better of me.