I cannot imagine that this is the first time that someone has run through Morpeth with a flaming torch but this time it was different, it was the once in a lifetime opportunity to see the Olympic flame come through our own home town and so this is how we found ourselves this morning standing in Castle Square, in the rain in flaming June. With this torch there was no angry mob, no baying hoards and not a pitchfork in sight, just hundreds of well wishers and sightseers of all ages and all sizes who had braved the elements to see the runners go by. I had kidded my self that I would not get caught up in all of the razzmatazz and hype of this greatest of sporting events, which for me is a very London thing but nevertheless, there I was with my good lady waiting in the cold and the wind and the rain and when I say rain I mean full on bone numbing cold rain that seeped into my clothing and seeped into my joints and set my muscles.
We were advised to get there early to soak in the atmosphere and we did, too early and after half an hour we were well soaked by the atmosphere when the first trucks of the entourage sped past, a couple of Samsung liveried vehicles going too fast for the runners to keep up. But this was just an advance party making its way to a larger town on the route and it was not until the police motorcyclists arrived that the show got underway. You would have thought that it was their day. They drove slowly through the square waving at the onlookers and high-fiving any that caught their eye. They sounded the sirens and flashed the blue lights much to the thrill of the school children who were there in their hundreds and who squealed with delight and waved their small union flags at every motorcycle stunt. If the police motorcycle display team had been there I don’t think they could have got a better response.
But there was more, a Coca Cola lorry giving out small bottles of drink, a Samsung lorry with a giant video display on its side of a Galaxy smart phone (quite fancy one of these) and a Lloyds TSB lorry like the one in the adverts (must pay that cheque in) all with their backs exposed to the weather and filled with young sporty looking types waving enthusiastically at the dampened crowd. Oh, I forget that there was a bus with the Olympic mascots on board.
The lorries were OK but that was not what we had come down for and we could hear the shouting and cheering in the distance which told us that the torch was on it way. The excitement rose and the children shouted and waved their flags furiously and the onlookers waved and clapped and the dogs barked and then the flame appeared. A runner clothed in white holding a golden torch and a golden flame that flickered and danced in the wind as he jogged past us and made his way slowly up the bank, flanked by three or four out-runners in grey track suits and stopping at every other stride to have his photograph taken.
And that was it. It was all over and the traffic started to move again and the pavements were a crush of soggy people making their way back from where they came. A hot drink was what we needed and so we headed for one of the quieter cafés in the town to dry out and warm up from the inside. We’d stood outside for an hour in the cold and wet to see a few seconds of a hot and dry flame but was it worth it? Who can say but when we look back I guess that we will be glad that we had made the effort to see the Olympic torch come through Morpeth.