• Vers la flamme

Well, ‘The Flame’ has come in and gone out.  Liskeard hasn’t seen so much excitement for years.  By all accounts, the morning and afternoon in Liskeard were great fun.  There was an open stage with all sorts of entertainment, the main street was closed off to traffic and there was an air of unforced anticipation.  At 17.30, way too soon, with friends from Cardiff and from here, I positioned myself on the steps of The Book Shop.

An hour before ETA, the official cheerleaders were handing out sponsor-branded beat-boxes and trying to whip the large crowds lining Barras Street into a state of pre-arrival frenzy.  But Liskeardians see through the artificiality of such tactics and remained cheerfully indifferent, despite darkening skies and the odd drop of rain.

We are made to wait.  20 minutes to go.  Distant cheering.  Could this be the runner with the flame already?

Oh joy, just what we’ve been waiting for – a Royal Navy Bomb Disposal Unit.  A fat lot of use it’ll be if anything goes off during the main event.  Then an ambulance.  They must be a couple of miles ahead of the runners.  Off they go, and we all wish that they’d not been there in the first place.

Police vans, cars and outriders come and go, long pauses in between.  Who had come to see police drive past?  The coppers on the ground were more than capable, unobtrusively, of ensuring law and order in this Wild West town. Besides, the parading police contingent went through long before the runner appeared and would have been useless in an emergency.

Virtually empty Olympic buses trundle past.  This is so exciting.  Three separate cyclists, long black pouches on their backs, race through.  I swear it was the same guy each time doing a quick round-the-back-of the houses circuit.  The pouches were just the right size for a rifle or a spare torch.  More police outriders lead to nothing.

Faint cheers from around the corner.  Could this be it?

I’m not being a G.O.M. – my friends, aged 19 upwards, all said the same: who wants to see overbearing sponsors’ floats muscling in and trying their commercial best to steal the limelight?

All we wanted were a few police motorcycles ahead of the runner with a back-up ambulance behind.  These other vehicles could have continued along the bypass and met up with the torch after the in-town leg.  Scale it back, guys; you’re a dampener on the festivity.

We were waiting to see 81-year-old Frances, who’d been given the honour of walking the flame through Liskeard’s main street.  Incidentally, there were five ‘runners’ in the Liskeard part of the day’s Cornish relay, and not one of them was from the Liskeard area.  So, 15 minutes late, and 35 minutes after the Bomb Disposal Unit had come through, here came the diminutive Frances, in white and grey, flanked by six watchful minders in case anyone made a dash for the flame.

These few seconds were all very good-natured.  A few steps further on, and the shop logo opposite seemed pale and wan.  But then Santander’s got other things on its mind.

For my money, the best Olympic display was in the window of Liskeard’s book shop behind me: an imaginative selection of topical titles and an exuberantly fiery torch made of paper.

Five minutes after the Olympic torch and everyone else had disappeared, The Book Shop‘s window display was still there, its flame still glowing.

4 Responses to • Vers la flamme

  1. Michele Laouenan says:

    Fantastic account Adrian. A true humorous picture of the event. I agree that it was clouded by the over the top demonstration of Security and Sponsors.

  2. Jan Koeman says:

    Beautiful paper Olympic torch in The Bookshop! Much more creative than the Coca-Cola and Samsung sponsortrucks.

  3. It was, indeed. Have enjoyed looking at your long-exposure photos today. I think I have seen an example of your work taken quite close to here! Brilliant.

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