I remember it well. I was teaching RE in a Catholic School and had been talking about the conclave all day to my students. At lunchtime, Fr. James Clark (our priest chaplain) had popped into the staffroom, and the two of us tried to see what was happening on various internet sites, hampered by painfully slow internet connections - there was a bit of a scare when the report of "white smoke" was mentioned, but it soon became clear that the smoke was a definite black.
Immediately school was over, I drove back to the parish... I didn't have cable or satellite TV at home, I didn't trust the BBC's coverage of Catholic news even then, and Fr. Tim had said that, as nothing was booked for the evening, I could go in and watch the TV in the large hall for a bit... he was at the seminary at Wonersh, I think, but I met the parish secretary, Bridget, at the door, and she gave me the key to the hall.
I was pretty sure nothing would happen for a while, but it was a luxury to be able to hear what the different TV stations had to say about the whole process... so I arranged my books for marking, turned on the TV and went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. As I was fishing out the teabag, I heard the announcer state that black smoke had gone up. I was disappointed, but not terribly surprised - it was only the second day of the conclave, after all - and I decided that I'd just drink my tea, do some marking while listening to the news in the background and then go home.
As I sat down, consternation seemed to be breaking out among the announcers. They were absolutely sure that the smoke was black... but it did look just a little bit grey. The crowds were cheering wildly... so the presenters were explaining that the crowds had to be wrong, because the smoke was black... well, ok, grey... but it was meant to be black... and anyway, to prevent any mistake the presenters had been told that bells would ring as well as white smoke, and there were no bells... but that smoke did look a bit pale... no, it was grey... but the cheering crowds had definitely gotten it wrong because there were no bells... but... oh, look, white smoke... but what about the promised bells...?
...and then the bells started up!
As you can imagine, I abandoned the marking...
A group of people suddenly appeared in the hall - they had assumed that the hall would be empty, and they wanted to set up the tables for refreshments after a funeral on the next day... did I mind? I explained that I was just watching the TV, so I didn't mind, as long as I wasn't in their way.
I had jokingly commented the day before that it would be great if Cardinal Ratzinger was elected, but had been told firmly that this just wasn't possible, though he might turn out to be influential as "kingmaker." I continued to watch, determined to see the moment when the name of the new Pope would be announced...
That wily old Cardinal Estevez was milking it for all it was worth... When I heard "Josephum" I screamed and jumped up and down... I didn't know that there was another Cardinal called Joseph, but the "Ratzinger" which followed after the pause confirmed the good news.
Phone calls and furious texting to friends ensued. The other people in the hall seemed a little bemused by my behaviour. "Errm... it's good news then?" they asked, a little hesitantly. "Very good indeed!" was my delighted response.
I stayed until the new Pope had appeared on the balcony, and then went home, deliriously happy. After an evening phoning friends and being phoned, I heard that Fr. Patrick Burke (whom I know well through the Faith Movement) was to be on Newsnight...
A wonderful day. I also remember the disgruntled comment made to me in the school car park the following morning as I clambered out of my car clutching several laminated posters of the newly elected Pope ready to be plastered all over my classroom. "See the result of the election last night? I suppose you're happy then?"
To which the reply was "Yes. Very!"
So, where were you, and what were you doing when you heard the good news?
Happy Anniversary, Holy Father. Ad multos annos!