A glimpse of THAT TORCH
The Olympic Torch was due to pass our house this morning at about 7.00 am. After arriving in Cambridge yesterday, being run around Trinity College Great Court at 6.00 am ish (a strictly invitation only event -- just when we're trying to show the nation's young that Cambridge Uni is ACCESSIBLE....errr?), then loaded on a punt for a hundred yards or so, it was due to be relayed up Huntingdon Road, just where we live, before being put back in its bus to whizz along the A14 to St Ives.
You can't say that we weren't well prepared.
The local council had filled a good few web pages with nanny-state advice to local spectators:
"Check the local weather forecast on the day of the Relay," they advised, "and come prepared – big brollies or sun-cream and hats may be in order!" (Thank you council, we might have forgotten the brollies I guess...that's us on the right!)
"Bring a bottle of water if you think you might be standing outside for long periods." (Another thing we might foolishly have forgotten.)
"Bring your camera and mobile phone to capture the moment" (... oh come on...).
And then the local paper carried a message from the Prime Minister, to commemorate the great occasion. "The Games give us a fantastic opportunity to sell the East <that's the East of England, not China> to overseas tourists. I want people to come to the UK and see what you have to offer: a walking tour of the university colleges and punting on the River Cam.'
Presumably someone in the PM's office adjusts the template of the leader's message for each local paper on the torch's route. In this case s/he scored a bit of an own goal: the last thing Cambridge needs is more tourists in central Cambridge, and more potential victims of the local punting touts; it's already full to capacity... and we need to get the tourists a bit more widely spread.
Anyway, not to be put off by all this (it was a close call), we trooped outside at about 6.45, and crossed the road, so as to be on the left hand side, where the free gifts were to be distributed to the cheering throngs from the Olympic sponsors. I was rather hoping that Samsung might be chucking out a few free mobile phones.
So what was the verdict?
Well I have to admit, killjoy that I am, that quite a few people did turn up even though it was before breakfast on a Sunday morning, and peeing with rain. And it was a nice good humoured mixture of types. Glad I didn't miss it. But....
It was all a bit heavily policed. A police surveillance vehicle (above) was already installed in the lay-by outside our house, filming the potentially dangerous crowd. And there were an awful lot of boys in yellow... Metropolitan police officers zooming up an down on their motorbikes (again to be fair, they were quite jolly types...minding the public in leafy Cambridge must be a change from crime fighting in the smoke).
And it was all horribly commercially tacky... the torch-carrying bit was OK, but the "convoy" was really an advertising opportunity for the sponsors. (Dream on about the free mobile, but the junior member of our party did get a small bottle of coke.. and we had a handful of flags, advertising Samsung.)
Actually, we probably missed the best bit. One of our neighbours biked down to the church at the crossroads, at the bottom of Castle Hill. And there she found something a whole load better than the piped music blaring out of the Coca Cola bus: free coffee being dispensed in the churchyard, and a Sally Army band, leading some communal hymn-singing.. "Guide me oh Thou Great Redeemer" to the tune of Cwm Rhonnda and "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind" (though I'm not sure how appropriate the bit about "earthquake, wind and fire" is..). And they received blessings from Luton, where the torch had last been, and sent them on to St Ives and Huntingdon.
It probably broke all the rules about no-one else apart from the official should be allowed to profit from the Olympic torch relay. But -- God or no God -- give me a live band and hymns any day, rather than a bus advertising the kind of fizzy drinks that we're trying to discourage kids from consuming.