Olympic Torch Relay

9 June 2012

I know, I know, the Olympic Torch relay is a load of old hooey, right? Right? Actually: no.

I’d been toying with the idea of taking the minxes to see the relay for ages. It would be an excuse to go somewhere different for a change. It would be a fun thing to show Maxi, as we’d been talking a lot recently about Ancient Greece*. Who knows, as adults they might feel that they missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime event just because lazy Mummy & Daddy hadn’t bothered taking them to see it. Whilst that’s unlikely, you never know! So I checked out the published route. Now, I know I don’t live in a heaving metropolis, but I kind of expected it to get a little closer than an hour’s drive away. On a school day. Or just before Minx Bed-time on a Saturday. Hmmmmm…

*Ancient Greece: Maxi was troubled that the original Olympians hadn’t allowed girls to compete. So I told her about Sparta, and how the women there were so cool, tough and able that all the Greek men were terrified of them. This perked her up and brought more Maxi-balance to her young perspective. Just wait till I tell her about the Amazons…

The Saturday dawned cold and drizzly. We spent the morning at the local school fete being taken very good care of at the tea & cake tables, buying books (18 – well, I only bought so few because I only had £1.80 left in cash!), being facepainted, bouncy-castling, and munching hot dogs. So by mid afternoon we had 3 tired girls on our hands, probably too tired to walk back into town to watch a member of the Royal Family open one of the shops. So what did we do instead? Pack them all up in the car with a picnic lunch and get in to Inverness.

We decided to stop here, in Bank Street, in front of the dramatically swaying suspension bridge. If you’ve never been on it, beware! It swings like a ship at sea. That’s fine during calm weather, but you can feel distinctly seasick when it’s blowing a gale and the rain’s coming at you horizontally. Anyway, we thought we might be the only muppets sad enough to go wave at a person holding a brandy snap cornet with a gas flame out the top. Indeed, when we arrived with half an hour to go, there was only one other family loitering around.

From maybe 15 minutes to go, the police started to arrive. Midi had never seen so many flashing blue lights and her little eyes turned into saucers. The police motorcyclists were a happy, jolly bunch who were all riding slowly along the edges of the rapidly-swelling crowd, giving everyone high 5’s at waist level (“slip me some skin!”) One of the last cars to go past before the road shut slowed to let out 2 men with waist money pouches and an armful of little plastic flags each. Yep, they nipped down each side of the road, selling flags. As a proper Spoilsport Mother, I refused to shell out for flags that would be waved for 10 seconds then discarded#

#At 2 minutes to go, some outrider runners raced past, handing out free flags to the crowds. Obviously to make sure there was enough atmosphere! And funnily enough, the same kind of flags the wide boys at 15 mins to go were selling. Hmmmmm… recycling discarded flags from one town to the next for cash, I wonder…?

Maxi was just too tired to get excited. Whilst her sister Midi whooped, hollered and waved at anything that moved, Maxi just looked sullenly on. She’s gotten into a habit of emulating Marvin the Paranoid Android, or Dobby from Harry Potter: silly stuff like, “Ooh, I’ll just go to sleep in the most freezing cold cupboard I can find then. Oooo, I’m so miserable. Ooooooh, I deserve to have no dinner tonight. In fact, I deserve to eat slugs for dinner. Actually, I’ll eat slugs that have eaten sharp, spiny thorns. Ooooooh woe!” So we got a right earful of that while we waited. Cheerful stuff.

We could see over both road bridges left and right of us, so watched the little convoy of sponsor buses get closer. It was hard not to inwardly snigger at the young, hip things in the sponsor buses trying hard to look cool. In shades. With fake, orange tans. And big hair. On a blowy, wet, freezing cold evening. In Inverness. Ach well, they were probably wondering who the old crone with the purple hair and rainbow wrap was, and whether I weaved my own yogurt out of flax.

A troupe of bendy and acrobatic people sped past: hopping on bikes, flick-flacking down the road, generally adding a bit of “Oooooooooo!!” to the procession. All 3 minxes perked up and started cheering, clapping and waving. From studying my Dad’s excellent photos from the Liverpool relay leg, I knew the runner would be between the yellow and white horsebox and the BMW. Sure enough, we could just make out a little runner in white. I abandoned all pretence at nonchalance and waved and ‘hooray!’d like a loon. For a brief few minutes, no-one cared what they looked like to anyone else; no-one wondered whether the cost of the Olympics would or could ever be justified; no-one considered why we were cheering a woman in white, flanked by serious-looking runners in grey – we just joined in the communal happiness at being part of something a little bit different and out of the ordinary of normal life.

As soon as the runner was out of sight, the crowd bomb-burst: half across the suspension bridge to catch another glimpse, half to McDonalds. Guess where we went…?

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