The Olympic Torch is coming to Southgate. To be more precise it is literally coming to within 200 yards of my house so there’s no excuse other than I should be at work at 3-15 this afternoon when the torchbearer and the cavalcade of corporate sponsors passes Southgate Green. But hey one of the benefits of being self-employed is that I can escape and having decided that the ambient air temperature of 30 degrees C on Euston Road was not enough I plunge into the 40 degrees C air temperature of the Piccadilly line.
Emerging from the Art Deco masterpiece of Charles Holden’s Southgate Station the crowds of locals are waving their flags in anticipation of what I already knew is a brief glimpse of the flaming torch itself. Not going wild yet, but then the Torch was not due to arrive from neighbouring Barnet until about 3-30. Groups of people lined the High Street but there was plenty of room once you left the immediate vicinity of the station. Half a dozen people from a care home allowed me to take their picture as they sat in wicker chairs with their carers behind them.
The atmosphere certainly changed as the High Street widens to Southgate Green. It was very hot and humid and I was glad to take a picture of a waving lion standing under a tree which gave me a few minutes shade. Now where were the rest of my family? Spotted, on the other side of the road and waving their flags, my wife, daughter and one of our closest friends. And the neighbours were there too! Unlike the rather quieter crowds at the Station, the thousands who had gathered on the Green were intent on having a great time and making a lot of noise.
Unlike my family who had prime positions on the front line I had to content myself with a spot with about four people deep in front of me. I tried to find a group of short people so I could at least get a shot of the Torch holder. Then the crowd tensed, excitement mounting as first the motor bike riders sailed past followed by a grey track suited bike rider-the front of the security diamond that surrounds the Torch bearer. And then she was there-all in white, unfortunately for me barely visible although I did catch a glimpse of the golden torch. Just by the junction of our road the Torch bearer passed the flame to another who then began moving down the High Street towards the crowds waiting at Southgate Station.
Following the Torch bearer were the loudly painted trucks of the corporates-Samsung, Coca Cola and Lloyds TSB all blaring music and to my mind cheapening and ruining a great event… And suddenly it was over and I was walking back home having enjoyed a small bit of Olympic history and a small bit of 2012.
It was the second time I had seen the Torch relay as Mrs. Londonmanstan and I had been in Rye in East Sussex on July 18th my mum’s birthday-the very day the Relay reached this beautiful historic little town with its cobbled streets, and walls and gates. Rye really went to town. All ten thousand of its four thousand inhabitants turned out- with flags, painted faces, costumes and so much excitement. We stood in The Mint outside a fish and chip shop owned by a Greek chap with a young family who came from… you guessed it… Palmers Green. The Green is quite a pretty place but compared with Southgate even if I am prejudiced towards my home town I have to say that the twisted medieval streets decked with bunting had the edge. And unlike at Southgate I had a great view and as the white tracksuit of the runner appeared took some good shots. And no corporate sponsors trucks killing the atmosphere.
Behind the runners was a colourful parade of primary school children interspersed with paper mache giant figures-everyone from Maggie Thatcher to Woody from Toy Story. There was a great atmosphere although I couldn’t fool my mum when I told her that I had arranged for the Torch to swing through Rye especially for her.
So after a journey of 12,000 miles, watched by more than 9 million people and the torch having been passed between 8000 individuals -some of them nationally known figures , many just locally nominated and all of them heroes, one question remained. Who was going to be the final torch bearer? Of course as you read this blog you like me know who they were. And a brilliantly innovative and future looking choice it was too!