Monday, 23 July 2012

Flamin' 'eck!

I had no intention of getting up at the crack of dawn last Friday in order to nip to the park at the end of our road and see the Olympic Torch flash by. Why would I? I don't like watching sport, I rarely participate in sport other than bopping around the kitchen to the radio when no-one is watching (can be embarrassing if one is bopping to Radio 4 Gardener's Question Time - the tempo is very variable) and as you all know, I am crowd-phobic and spending half an hour in the company of the screaming masses at 6.30 a.m is about as far from my idea of fun as it can get.

But then I kept hearing reports of people who'd seen it go by in other parts of the country that it was a 'Once in a lifetime experience' (except for the oldies who had seen the torch in 1948, so for them it was a twice in a lifetime experience) and I thought, 'C'mon Denise. Don't be such a curmudgeon. Go see the torch! Have a patriotic 'hurrah!' It's the 'Lympics. In G. Brit. Hurrah!'

At 5.50a.m the crowds started streaming past our house. And when I say 'crowds' I mean 'crowds. Masses of people. Old people, young people, people carrying their own torches fashioned from the finest crepe paper and cardboard cones. School children with no idea of how to walk through a street quietly because some people might still be asleep. People parking their cars all over the pavements a la 'Race For Life' debacle two weeks ago.

The torch was due to leave the park at 6.37. Andy and I left home at 6.20 and joined the throng. Past the convoy of Olympic buses 'n' police cars 'n' police motorbikes 'n' sponsor's vehicles. The Coca-cola bus was very loud and whoopie. The Samsung bus was giving them a run for their whoopiness. The Barclays bus was quieter, but then given the Libor scandal they probably wanted to keep as low a profile as possible.

We got a good position, in the front row by the park gates. Some security men in yellow high-visibility jackets were clearly enjoying their temporary position of power by telling people to 'stand back on the pavement please,' and marshalling small children around in an unnecessarily officious way.

And then a ripple of excitement made its way along the line of crowd. The sponsor buses moved off. The police outriders moved off. The Official Olympic Camera Bus tried to mow down a swathe of crowd that had spread into the road despite the best efforts of the security guards.

And then a little flame could be seen in the distance, bobbing up and down through the trees, but with no great speed because the young man carrying it was walking and not running. I wasn't surprised when I saw who the torch bearer was. One of my ex-students. He must be 17 now. He was a little sod when he was 11. If you asked him to do something, like 'Can you close the door please?' his response would be 'I don't see why I should. I wasn't the last person to come through it. Why should I shut it? If you want it shut, then shut it yourself.' I imagined one of the officials saying to him, 'So, you're young and fit - are you going to run with the torch?' and him replying, 'I don't see why I should. If you want it to go fast, carry it yourself.'

Anyway, the torch ambled by. We cheered. Well, I didn't. Too early for cheering. And then the ambling torch 'kissed' the torch of the next torch bearer who proved more motivated by the spirit of the Olympics because once the photo was done he shot off like a greyhound to the next torch bearer who was waiting at the roundabout at the next junction.

A small child standing next to me looked up at his parents.

'It had real fire on top!' he said, much awe in his breathy little voice.

And for that reason, and that reason only, it was worth seeing the torch go by.


LynneFtWorth said...

What a wonderful sight that must have been. Something to remember forever.

Denise said...

It was, indeed. I think what amazed me most was the sheer volume of people coming out so early in the morning to see it pass by.