My Week: Gage Williams Cornwall County Eclipse Planning Co-Ordinator

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The Independent Culture
Sunday

I will be watching the eclipse on Wednesday from Pendennis Castle, Falmouth. I drive there today, arriving at 12 noon. There are about 60 to 70 TV crews setting up in preparation for Wednesday and generally a lot of activity.

I meet up with Philip Turner from CNN to help build up the excitement for the eclipse in a live interview. I am being broadcast to 240 countries world-wide. I then drive to Truro to be linked up for an interview with Edwina Currie on her Late Night Curry show on Radio 5 Live. She is very professional and polite, asking sensible questions. I get home just before midnight.

Monday

My wife Liz and I pack frantically. People start arriving in dribs and drabs for an eclipse party that my eldest daughter is planning. There will be 19 people staying in our house.

Liz and I set off for Falmouth, where we will be staying for the next few days. We have a good drive, despite the large numbers of people on the roads. We get to Pendennis Castle in time for me to do afternoon interviews and leave at 7pm, hoping to get away from it all at our hotel, only to find that half of the BBC TV crew are staying there as well.

Tuesday

I spend the day doing interviews, trying to counter the media's negative view of the eclipse. They do not understand why there is such a fuss for two minutes of darkness and are pessimistic about the weather prospects.

It is cloudy and gloomy, but I insist that an eclipse can dramatically affect the local climate. There is a good chance that it will clear the cloud. I feel frustrated, as a lot of people have followed the advice of weather forecasters and have headed to Devon instead of Cornwall. As a result, many of the temporary campsites we have set up for short-stay visitors are empty. It is tough as this has been the driest July in Cornwall for 40 years and then the weather breaks in August just before the eclipse.

Wednesday

Some 2,500 people gather at Pendennis Castle. There is a spectacular view overlooking Falmouth harbour and the surrounding beaches. As we approach 11.11am, there is a mood of gathering excitement, fun and fascination. It is cloudy and drizzly, but it doesn't dampen our spirits.

At 10.50am, we all start to look out to the west. There is an odd, rather gloomy light. Everyone goes very calm. Liz and I stand close together. We see the incredible envelopment of darkness taking place. There is a hushed silence. We actually see the silence as, at the moment of totality, everyone, all along the coast, takes a photograph. We can see thousands of sparkling flashlights everywhere. It is very cold.

Out to sea, we can see the dawn racing along beside us. We are in the middle of a black 70-mile-wide circle. To the east, we can see the blackness moving away as the lights begin to come on again. Everyone starts clapping.

I am wet eyed, and moved. Then suddenly, exactly three minutes after the moment of totality, we hear a cry: "Look up!" We see the sun for first time this morning and for 14 seconds we enjoy the sight of the eclipse.

All the cynicism surrounding the eclipse has evaporated. In the evening, there is a big celebration and a wonderful fireworks display in Falmouth.

Thursday

Liz and I drive 15 miles or so, to Earth Station, Goonhilly, the BT centre for satellite communications. There is a big press facility set up and the morale is buoyant. We all gather in groups in preparation for a press briefing, which goes well.

We all agree that we could have coped with bigger numbers of visitors, but I suppose these kinds of events are always subject to the weather. Fewer people than we expected turned up yesterday as a result of the weathermen's conviction that there was only a 10 per cent chance of seeing the eclipse. Of those that came, however, not a single person has any regrets.

From Goonhilly we drive home, arriving at 5pm. It is lovely to be back.

Friday

I sleep today and rest. I feel exhausted. The pressures of the past few weeks have been considerable. I have been building up for the eclipse for 18 months or so, and have done 62 major interviews over the last week. There is a slight sense of anticlimax.

I dust off my golf clubs and go for a game at Saint Enodoc, my favourite golf course in the world. I leave Liz to catch up with lots of watering in the garden.

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