Friday, 27 July 2012

Big Ben Chiming

This morning T and I got up early so that we could go to Parliament Square to hear Big Ben chiming at 0812 (exactly 12 hours before the start of the games, which will begin, of course, at 2012 (i.e. 8.12 PM).

t's the first time that Big Ben has chimed out of its usual schedule since the funeral of King George VI in 1952 and it would chime over 40 times.

We knew that there would be diversions with many roads closed. And so there were. Look at the policemen outside usually peaceful and deserted St. James' Palace. (See the the guardsmen in their bearskins in the background?).


Heavy rain was threatened so we didn't leave ourselves TOO much extra time and just kept fingers crossed that there wouldn't be too many diversions. But help - there were! Miles of them! And for quite a bit of these diversions, we had to walk the bikes, which slowed us down even more. .

Here's The Mall, outside Buckingham Palace, flags at the ready and also large video screens which will come into their own later.

Crash barriers everywhere, and more waiting for later use. See them behind this screen?

Many wonderful soldiers about. Is anyone is still unaware of the disastrous G4S security fiasco, when this gigantic company announced a couple of weeks before the opening, that their stewarding arrangements were a catastrophic shambles? Plan B was activated right away, and troops and police were drafted in. How reassuring, and good to see them. They were massively polite and helpful, and what's more, they called me "Ma'am" ! (The only other person I've heard called "Ma'am" is the Queen. I could get used to it. )
:)


Further and further afield we went, diverted first one way and then another. Time was ticking on, and we would be very lucky to make Parliament Square by 0812 now.

Faster and faster we pedalled, till I felt we could have given Bradley Wiggins a run for his money. Finally we skidded into Parliament Square. Woo hoo! Two minutes to go. And although the weather was misty and strangely dull, a ray of sunshine broke through like a congratulation..




Everyone was waiting patiently with bells at the ready. The crowd wasn't huge - the idea is that everyone should join in with Big Ben and ring bells all round the country for three minutes.


I took a video of the countdown and the chimes, and I spent about half an hour trying to upload it to Blogger. But it just comes out blank. Well, I'll keep trying...

Anyhow, the clock began chiming exactly on time, and it was wonderful. I felt so glad to be part of it, even though I only had a tinkly little bike bell.

The atmosphere was good humoured and friendly. There were lots of TV crews, but none of them wanted to talk to me. Oh well!

Afterwards we saw some interesting things on the way home, and I aim to write about them soon. And, hurray, the rain held off until we were outside the Marble Arch branch of Marks and Spencers. They happened to be opening their new cafe that day, so staff were giving away free cake and vouchers for cups of coffee. So we went in and admired Marks & Spencer's new cafe


while the heavens opened and the rain bucketed down. It hadn't spoiled the ringalong, hadn't spoiled our visit to Big Ben. And by the time we'd had breakfast, the sun had come out again.

I found it all thought provoking. I hadn't been that interested in the Olympics before it started happening. But now I am so, so, so impressed at the oganisation and efficiency. Hundreds if not thousands of well trained people who all knew what to do, and were as cheerful, friendly and polite. I was astonished at the complexity of it.

Call me stupid - but you know, I really had not realised what an immense undertaking it is in a huge city like London. And I'm so glad that I didn't leave the city for the Games - something I had been tempted to do a bit earlier in the year.


I still hope that heads will roll at G4S after the Olympics is over. Nobody wants to spoil the party, but I still can't get over how they have let the whole country down in such a high profile way. Not just the soldiers and police who had leave cancelled but it was also such a let down for all the people who have obviously worked so hard to make sure that all does go well.

Happy Olympics!

40 comments:

  1. It sounds such fun....
    We'll be watching on the box for a lady with a bicycle bell....

    I hope that the monies due to be paid to G4S are paid over instead to the members of the police and army who have been drafted in to cover for their incompetence.

    What a dreadful picture to paint of British business in front of the whole world.

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  2. Happy Olympics indeed form an ex-pat in NY who is looking forward to the whole thing!
    Good to go along on your bike trip with you!

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  3. That is so much fun to read your post about Olympic fever...hahahhha, excitement. Ma'am and mum..so confusing for Americans. Hahahhaha.

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  4. Happy Olympics indeed - glad you were around to ring your bell. (I even had a tinkle in deepest Wiltshire, so to speak ...)

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  5. I'm glad that you show us some of the backstage!it's so interesting to discover what we won't see on TV screens. Thank you! ANd Happy Olympics to you too! I'm waiting for the opening ceremony, for once we're in the right time zone!

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  6. These special details make it all so exciting, especially for those who couldn't get tickets or just can't be there.

    The Mall outside Buckingham Palace brought back such memories...we were there the year the Tour de France started in London. We experienced some of the same frustration of closed streets, detours, can't get to the other side--but the Police were oh so helpful and kind to us (we were walking) and we got to see the sponsor parade.

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  7. While reading this I'm watching a show called 'Selling London' and I am amazed at the prices they are quoting! So much for moving there to live ;o)
    Loved reading that you use a bike to get around town. Even in our larger cities, people use their cars around here or walk but only a few blocks.

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  8. My partner is at the opening ceremony tonight, and it doesn't finish until 12.30pm. I bet that's gonna be a fun journey back to the hotel. :D

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  9. Jenny, I can't thank you enough for bringing this to us. It's making me super excited! I'll be back to hear the bells!

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  10. So enjoyed this . . . what a thrill it must have been to hear Big Ben and the tinkling bells of the visitors. I can't wait to see Opening Ceremonies tonight!

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  11. I know that I'M looking forward to the Olympics, except for the change in outfits for the female beach volleyball players. I guess London is too cold for bikinis.

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  12. This is super exciting Jenny, and how lucky are we to have our very own personal on-site cyber Olympic Reporter!? Thanks for braving the elements and the crowds to bring us these ground-breaking stories. I'll be tuning in daily to see what you have for us! (ah the pressure...) ;)

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  13. I don't really care much about the Olympics, but I bet it would be fun to see all the action surrounding it like you did.

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  14. Hi, Jenny! All this sounds and looks fantastic! Thank you for sharing this so I can by part of the Olimpics in London too :o) Tomorrow will show your post to my Family as well :o)
    Enjoy the Olimpics atmospher
    Love
    Natasha

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  15. Sounds like such a nice day out. Glad it didn't rain on the people waiting for the bells to ring at 8:12. It must be pretty exciting where you are - it can be felt through your post!

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  16. What fun to get a glimpse of behind the scenes, on the street, common folk happenings around the Olympics. As much as I poo-pooh it, not being a sports enthusiast, I inevitably get caught up in the emotion and sheer scale of the thing...to say nothing of the gargantuan undertaking of the opening spectacle (which I just finished watching on tv). And I do like the look of that new Marks and Sparks caf!

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  17. I enjoyed every word of your wonderful adventure...and the photos too...thank you, Jenny!

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  18. A very interesting "On the spot" blog Jenny. The Opening Ceremony was today and we in NZ watched it on TV today, Saturday (Friday your time - we are 12 hours ahead). Thanks for this - Dave

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  19. Jenny,
    You thoroughly conveyed how exciting and thrilling the event was!! It is wonderful that people could share and cerebrate the opening of Olympic Games together. Whenever I join some festivals or events or rituals, I feel joyful sensation of belongings among strangers.
    I watched the opening ceremony on TV with my husband. It was far beyond I expected!! The amazing sequences of wonderful surprises! I loved that humor! Congrats, Jenny!!
    keiko

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  20. Love the picture of the clock tower with the sun just coming through - how symbolic! I guess if I were in England, I'd be quite infected by the whole thing, too :-)

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  21. We didn't hear a single bell, in fact we didn't even know about the bellringing idea. I thought the opening ceremony was spectacular.

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  22. Lovely pictures and post, Jenny. We had church bells ringing here and I felt quite emotional! Small grandsons in Reigate made do with bicycle bells and their own front door bell. But I did find the opening ceremony a bit puzzling....

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  23. Thanks for sharing this little adventure with us. I watched the opening ceremony on TV last night, four hours - I had only intended to watch "a bit" but remained glued to the TV until the end. So impressed with all the work that must have gone into it. I'm not much of a sports fan but the opening show I really enjoyed.

    By the way - with videos I think you have to upload them to YouTube first, and from there you can share them on the blog.

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  24. No ringalong here in East Belfast. We were thinking the parish church at the top of the road might ring some bells but they didn't bother. I've got no problem with the Olympics themselves, but I find all the elaborate foreplay like the endless torch relay and the opening ceremony all rather tiresome. I look forward to watching the gymnasts though.

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  25. Now i'm glad you didn't leave, too! Thank you for sharing some of the on the spot excitement with us.

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  26. How exciting! Enjoy the Olympics! I watched the opening ceremony yesterday on TV, it was quite impressive, personally I loved all those Mary Poppins falling from the sky :)

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  27. Thoroughly enjoyed that little jaunt. Good calling staying in town during the Olympics. My sis is there on a trip, and she tells me the Games have completely taken over the city. Happy Olympics!

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  28. Oh lovely. I think I heard your bicycle bell above all the rest! Being called Ma'am aways makes me feel special - though it hasn't happened for years, since husband was in the RAF.

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  29. Thanks for your take on what's happening during the Olympics Jenny - you've always got interesting bits and pieces in your posts! Loved how you joined in the tinkling with your bike bell :D)

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  30. I have to confess that the Olympics leave me cold. I have zero interest in the sporting events. What I do find interesting, though, is stories like this about the periphery: Olympics-related but not sports-related.

    Oh. Wait. I lie. I was rather happy when Nadeshiko beat Spain. So ... oh heck ... OK ... I'll join in! ^^ I look forward to more stories!

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  31. My interest in the Olympics was only triggered five minutes in to the opening ceremony.

    So glad I'm not down there though!

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  32. Loved the opening ceremony, but I don't think I'll be watching much more. Since they included synchronised swimming as a "sport" I've lost all interest.

    Exept the womens' Beach Volleyball...always good for a laugh and a letch.

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  33. So exciting! I am so in love with London!

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  34. It is the smaller background things, like the ringing of the bell, that interest me. Thanks for telling and showing things we wouldn't know about unless we were there. Personal experiences are so much better than what you get on the news.

    Darla

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  35. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It somehow feels more real having a friend tell me what it is like instead of the tv.

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  36. How exciting to be there for opening day -- or anywhere, for that matter! When we were in London in May they were getting ready and now and then as I watch, I see something I saw before and it feels all the more real to me. To be there in person -- now THAT's real!

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  37. I'm not sure what has happened to Blogger but I've only just realised how many of your posts I've missed. I can't find them on my Dashboard. Anyway it was good to read your commentary on The Bells. Even though I have little interest in the Olympics overall I can appreciate (having been involved in helping organise things in various national and international events) the organisation that has gone into it.

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