A trainee reporter found himself a “footnote to history” in a week where he faced everything the elements could throw at him.
The storm-force winds and 50mm of rain falling in a few hours brought flooding to the Tesco store in the Isle of Ely market town of March – and James in hot pursuit of a story.
While Wellington boots might have been the sensible attire in the appalling conditions, the 25-year-old had gone to work in his “expensive” brogues.
But he quickly slipped them off to go “barefoot in the aisles” as he quizzed the nonplussed grocery store manager Mark Steele about flood damage and the evacuation of 500 customers.
Photographer Steve Williams, who was with James on the assignment, said: “We got there, parked in a massive puddle, and suddenly James had removed his shoes and socks and was out of the car to find the manager.
“I was gobsmacked – but looking back on it I suppose it made some sort of sense”.
The floods kept the small Fenland news team busy until late into Friday evening, with editor John Elworthy and Steve cancelling their weekend plans to maintain a steady flow of updates to the papers’ websites.
Their efforts paid off with 100,000 web hits within the space of 36 hours and new web records for both titles. A ‘tweet’ for readers’ photographs sparked an avalanche of flood-hit Fenland images – more than 200 photos came in during the weekend and two thirds of them were sifted into on line galleries.
And the moral of the story – it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.
For after James’s barefoot bravery through the storm – the result of his NQJ exam proved a stroll in the park.
“James had further cause to smile this week when he received the news he’d passed his National Qualification in Journalism exams,” added his editor John.
“He’s been with us 21 months now and he’s certainly a good chap to have on board,” added John.