After the Olympic torch relay tweet mentioned in No Sex Please, a few people have asked me what prompted it, so here goes.
I was waiting with the children at a mini-roundabout by the Travelodge in Newbury (glamorous - n'est ce pas?), for the spectacle to arrive. We'd chosen the spot because a group of people had set up camp there hours earlier so we reckoned it must be a good viewing place. Not for nothing do people risk catching their fingers in collapsible seating, fill flasks and don kagouls.... As we waited, a lovely couple explained that everyone was there for one torch bearer - Emma Cope, a 16 year old local girl who had chosen to respond to her incurable kidney disease by fundraising for research. Her current total stands just shy of £38,000 and people were looking forward to publicly celebrating her incredible achievement.
The crowd got deeper and whilst I usually pride myself on my strength:size ratio, I couldn't lift both of my children at once without risking injury to one or all of us, and was struggling to give them a good view. This was picked up on by the 'lovely couple' who offered to move out of the way so the children could stand at the front. This little display of generosity sparked further gestures as other members of Emma's party handed the children flags and braved the throngs of people reaching for giveaways to collect gymnastics ribbons and other goodies.
When Emma did arrive, her torch was not lit. She had been dropped off to await the 'mother flame', and stood for a second like she had been teleported from another dimension - wide-eyed in a space age tracksuit complete with mystical symbol (or golden cheesegrater, take your pick) in hand. A moment later her mum raced to her side and hugged her, which made everyone hug each other, which made us all a bit teary eyed.
From having Thames Valley Police as a 'warm-up act' (I can't imagine I will see a policeman on a motorbike conduct a cheering competition then high-five spectators again), to the kindness of strangers, to a mother's hug setting everyone off it was a fantastic and memorable couple of hours of people being really happy together. It had the flashing lights and whistles - all it would have needed was some techno and people massaging each others shoulders to have made it feel like a rave c.1991. That and people off their faces - but it was the middle of the day in Newbury, so maybe like a rave held by a church group and the WI. Anyway, I digress - back to the point:
The feeling seemed to permeate the whole of the town. It even reached the man behind the voice that floated out of the parking payment machine - I had lost my ticket in the crowd and instead of charging me the £12 he should have for a lost ticket, he let me off. The good vibes of that day must have been contagious, I hope that it lasts way beyond the end of the Olympics.