Sunday, 1 July 2012

The Olympic Torch, and A Moment to Shine for a Dear Friend

I never promised that this blog would ever be "pure ukulele" - it is, after all, "Life for a Lady with a Ukulele or Two".... and I am thankful to be able to say that life is never boring. For one thing, I don't "do" bored... LSH (Long-Suffering-Husband) and I have our health and plenty of interests, and can do much as we like, within the constraints of our budget.

But yesterday was pretty special by any measure. The Olympic Flame passed through our region on its way to London, going through the nearby, ancient towns of Lichfield and Tamworth and traveling on to the Black Country towns of Walsall, Wolverhamptom, Dudley and Tipton before going through Birmingham to finish on the south side at Cannon Hill Park.

We had particular reason to be excited. One of our oldest and dearest friends, Pete Woodfield, was honoured to be carrying the Torch for a stretch in Wolverhampton. As soon as it had been announced that the Olympic Flame would be carried by members of the public, who would be chosen on merit after nomination; many of Pete's friends, including LSH nominated him as deserving "A Moment to Shine" as a Torch Bearer. Pete has done a huge amount of fund-raising charitable work over the last 25 years, and also he is just a great, great friend, the sort you can depend on totally. No-one in our social circle was more deserving.

Everyone was thrilled when he was chosen as one of the 8000. Eventually he was given the date and the area where he would carry the Flame. The surprise was that it would be Wolverhampton, furthest away from where we all live.

Of course, we had to go and witness this great event! The Olympic Flame, proudly carried by our own Pete... but what time to leave the house? Which route? The Torch was being carried into Wolverhampton from the north and would continue south... roads would be closed - and where to park? But after much scratching of heads we made our plans, took a wide circular route into Wolverhampton and found the designated car park. We were VERY early.

Then passed an interesting couple of hours in a rather seedy public house, we not being able to find anywhere more promising... but when at last it was time to go to the 300 yards/metres stretch where Pete would carry the Torch, the atmosphere was building by the minute. Excited families of all creeds and colours, all lining the roadside, eager to witness a little bit of history, the Olympic Flame passing by, once in lifetime - once in many, many lifetimes. And our much-loved friend would be carrying it, so proudly for this 300 metres.

A hovering police helicopter gave away the position of the Flame as it made its way down the Birmingham New Road. And suddenly, the road ahead was growing flashing blue lights... it was here! As they slowly approached, even the police motor-cycle outriders of the "Met" were enjoying the day, waving cheerily to the folk roadside.

Hoots, cheers, a shrieked salute and puff of steam from the antique vintage steam engine that had been brought to witness the occasion... and Pete was coming, dressed in his white Olympic tracksuit uniform, flame held aloft, smiling proudly from ear to ear, flanked by a cheery but watchful police escort of young officers jogging along in specially designed sports kit uniform.

LSH, Pete's oldest friend from the earliest school days, had given me charge of the video camera, half-way down his route. As Pete jogged passed me with the Torch, I yelled just as loudly as I could - "Pete!" He turned and saw me and waved, and I'll never forget that moment as long as I live.

Then, after photos back by Wolverhampton Civic Centre, for celebrations it was off to Tipton to Mad O'Rourke's Pie Factory, a public house and eatery like no other you've ever seen - it really was once a pie factory.... their speciality is Desperate Dan Pie, a huge meat and veg pie with two pastry horns sticking out of it. It had been a day that called for such a pie, even for the likes of me.... but all the clientele wanted a photo with the Torch Bearer, to shake hands with the Torch Bearer, a photo with The Torch... Pete's Moment to Shine lasted the whole day. And rightly so.

And who's that with him? Someone I know...

If you want to check out the route for the Torch on its way round the country to London, click here ... there are links to all sorts of information about the Torch Relay, including info about the Torch itself, and a link to follow the Torch live on video on its journey. I might even get Olympics fever after all......

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HI! I hope you enjoy this blog and I'd love to hear your comments! But I know you'll forgive me if I read them over before I click the "publish" button! Thanks!