Well, the Tour de France has left England. We have had great fun in Leeds with all the preparations in the weeks prior to the Le Grand Depart. Multi-coloured bicycles appeared in random places. City statues were suddenly adorned with yellow t-shirts. Bunting appeared seemingly out of nowhere. More importantly, various roads were repaired – something that has desperately been needed since winter!
The TV coverage showed Yorkshire at its best and its greenest. We were fortunate to have glorious weather (especially on the Saturday) and the crowds came out in force. The enthusiasm for the race was almost tangible. EVERYONE was talking about it. I was lucky enough to see the riders as they left Leeds city centre on their way to Harewood House for the official start. They were not racing as they passed by – well they were only going at about 25 mph – so I got a fantastic view of them. They were so close you felt you could put out a hand and touch them! I arrived early at my selected viewing point to get a good position. This did mean that I had over 2 hours to wait before the riders arrived but we were kept amused and the crowd was very good humoured. A couple of promotional “caravans” came along. Music was being played, souvenirs were thrown out of vehicles as they went past. In fact, if you weren’t careful, you were in danger of being hit by flying objects as they were vigorously hurled into the crowds! Police, ambulance, sponsors all came past both French and British. Every moving vehicle was greeted with great cheers from the crowd! The atmosphere was very lively and the anticipation grew as we waited for news that Le Grand Depart had officially started. Then suddenly they appeared! It was brilliant and well worth the wait! I very much doubt I will ever see anything like this again in my lifetime.
This photo was taken by my husband.
Last night we heard of the passing of Nelson Mandela. It was no great surprise because he had been ill for so long but nevertheless it was sad news.
We all know his history and background so I don’t intend to make any comment on his life or his achievements.
I do, however, have two personal memories involving Nelson Mandela.
I remember so very clearly the day he was released from Victor Verster prison. 11 February 1990. I was in hospital awaiting the birth of my daughter and watched coverage of his release on television. It was a day to remember. My daughter was born the next morning. Another day to remember!
I consider myself very fortunate enough to have seen Nelson Mandela when he came to Leeds in April 2001 to be made freeman of the City and to officially open Millennium Square. It was such a significant event that the Manager of the charity I worked for at the time closed the office so we could witness this historical occasion. There were thousands and thousands of us waiting in Millennium Square for him to arrive. There was slight confusion about when he was actually going to arrive and we seemed to be waiting for ages. Jon Snow did a brilliant job trying to keep the crowd both informed and amused. We were entertained by children from a local school and the wonderful Ladysmith Black Mamboza. Then suddenly he appeared on stage. The great man himself with a beaming smile. There was wild applause and a rising sense of excitement and expectation. On his arrival, the choir sang Nikosi Sikelel, the South African national anthem. It was very moving and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. We didn’t even mind when he referred to Liverpool even though he was in Leeds! Although in his 80s, he looked well if a little frail.
I am so glad that I was able to be there on that day and to witness that beaming smile!
RIP Nelson Mandela