Today, we did it. We got up at the crack of dawn and packed a picnic and headed for Windsor and Eton Riverside, Queen Victoria’s favourite station, where the shuttle bus awaited us to take us to The Olympic Games.
Specifically, rowing at Eton Dorney.
Oh, the atmosphere. Trailing off the train, even the rail staff were detailed to be accommodating, cheeky and chirpy. There was a most un-British welcome, and the opportunity to be photographed with a bona fide Olympic torch, and slick organisation which bussed us, on large comfortable double-deckers, to the venue itself.
There were welcomers. People smiled and looked you in the eye and waved flags. Everyone bade us good morning as we went through security. This was pretend-Britain but it was jolly nice.
We were ushered to our seats and watched and cheered two GB wins, taking note of the Big Brother screen, fed by the most ingenious cable-car camera which followed the rowers down the course.
We watched two GB wins but it was the Niger entrant who had been sculling for precisely three weeks which got the crowd behind him. God Bless Hamadou Djibo Issaka, the 35-year-old West African who was permitted to take part to ”strengthen the principle of universal representation.”
He was slow but the crowd got behind him and roared him home. He was not a winner: but he was the star of the day.
The weather held, sort of: there were a few spots of rain, black clouds and ominous thunder. But it was sound and fury, signifying nothing.
The wildlife might be forgiven for being spooked by the proceedings, but it seemed to be celebrating too: the black headed gulls would fly just ahead of the rowers and then do breathtaking acrobatics , swooping and soaring with every bit as much alacrity as a gymnast on the asymmetric bars.
I must not ramble. I have much more to tell you. But for now, here are a few snaps of this rather unexpectedly glorious day.