Allowing us near an event of such national importance was a bold move by the government, so you can imagine my surprise at receiving a personal invitation. Understandable though, in light of our new found fame having recently featured in the St Helens Reporter. Between us and John Parrott, we'd definitely raise the profile of proceedings.
This is just the sort of event that should get right on my nerves - feigned patriotism tempered with tuts and muttering about the state of the country. A skeletal turn out of half hearted pensioners and a few of their more committed carers waving flags from Poundland. But as a local celebrity, there's a certain expectation that we will offer our support, so along we reluctantly went.
Now you're probably at the ready for whinges about how we only saw the thing for two seconds, that parking was horrendous and that my shoes were rubbing me. You're craving details of the twenty six stone man parked immediately in front of us who stunk of sweat and chip fat and how I managed to snap the arm clean off my sunglasses in a rather over zealous opening of them. All of which, sadly, were par for our inevitably accident strewn course, but they, for once, were not the focus of my attention.
After finally parking up we made our way to the relay start point. And where I imagined a handful of casual spectators and a good few balls of tumble weed, there swelled crowds of people. In order to limit our ability to ruin the experience for all involved, we stationed ourselves well back from the roadside, so that should our usual level of calamity rear its head, we would only wipe out the general public and not the torch bearer or the Olympic Flame itself.
Throngs of red, white and blue school children, shift workers, babies, mums, students and workers who had managed to wangle an early dart were there to be part of this once in a lifetime opportunity. Face paints, flags and cameras at the ready, people waited animatedly; united in their smiling, chatting, genuine pride at just being part of the celebration. It was a wonderful atmosphere of shared pleasure and eager interest. After various announcements to encourage further excitement, it appeared, resplendent. Carried by local resident Kelly Whalley, the passionate crowd cheered, whooped and were utterly delighted to witness a tiny part of sporting history.
|The Olympic Torch, and my ginormous hand.|
In this country, we are not brought up to be proud. We are not brought up to rejoice; to make merry; to have fun. So this massive outpouring of jubilation, from a small mining town steeped in the resilient working class aversion to all things loud and showy, was fairly extraordinary. Never in my twenty eight years of inhabiting the town have I witnessed such acceptance, nay, appeal, of an event so exuberant and frivolous. Not since that day in 1993 when Keith Chegwin, Elton Welsby and the woman from The Beautiful South all appeared in their home town on the same day has there been anything like this level of hysteria.
It can't just be about the Flame, can it? Surely not?
Maybe the good weather? No...we have good weather once before, and no one reacted like this...
Four day bank holiday weekend any...*crushed in scrum of plebian elation*
Yeah. That'll do it.