Today is the day that the media spotlight will briefly pause on my home village. There have been a number of major events making headlines in the UK over the last few weeks, but the Olympic Torch Relay is the one that will cause national attention to pass through here today.
I have chosen ‘ambivalence’ for the title of this post as that seems to summarise my feelings regarding many of the big media events of late.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubliee Celebrations: I may have been happy enough, and proud, to swear allegiance to protect her, the country and all heirs and successors, when I was in the TA – but that was more to the concept rather than the person. I wouldn’t wish to have the life of a member of the senior royal family; I would rather not be dictated to as to how I should live my life, but I have no particular problem with them doing so – it just seems so remote from my everyday experiences that it might as well be happening on a different planet. In many ways they have so few real freedoms, for example could any of them ever get up in the morning and simply decide to go take the Tube to Camden for a walk around the Market and enjoy watching the world go by, without anybody fussing about them or their security?
Euro 2012: I have no real interest in watching a game of football, but the concerns about violence and racism seem to have grabbed my attention and watching scenes of crowd trouble makes me think that I’ve entered a ‘time warp’; add to this, the continually fluid situation at Ibrox, and football certainly seems to have a lot going on off the pitch just now. Who would ever have thought that a club with such a long proud tradition would have gone into liquidation and be faced with the real possibility of having to start as a ‘newco’ in the Third Division next season?
Then there is the Olympic Torch Relay: The Olympics may well be the London Olympics, but when I first heard about the Relay, I was impressed by the aim to provide a focus for the whole UK population to get together to support the ‘local heroes’ that would share the carrying of the torch. Seeing the photos of such people as they revel in their ‘once in a lifetime experience’ did a lot to reassure me, even if it does smack of the organisers being a bit condescending by ‘throwing scraps’ to the ‘little people’. The growing concerns about the oppressive presence of corporate sponsors, however, has caused me to have second thoughts. Too many negative stories have started to circulate about corporate control of images and logos etc. Then, the reality began to sink in; living on the route, I began to experience the heavy-handed way that the local authority rode roughshod over the local community as copious amounts of ‘No Parking’ signs suddenly appeared without any consultation or explanation. Massive piles of brand new crowd control barriers and no parking cones have magically appeared even while the local authority is supposed to be cutting costs – the Council are, however, in a ‘no win’ situation as they would certainly have been heavily criticised if they hadn’t taken sufficient precautions and many people did turn up to watch the torch being carried through the village. Local businesses who expect regular major deliveries on the day the torch passes through have been warned that delivery vehicles cannot stop after 11am (despite the torch not being expected until around 3pm), and the Council will be sending trading Standards Officers along the route to seek to identify anybody who may be seeking to ‘profiteer’ on the back of the torch coming (never mind that they had no say as to whether or not all the expected extra people would be turning up on their doorsteps).
In around six hours’ time, the torch will have completed its whirlwind tour of Scotland and be back in England heading for the Olympic Stadium at Stratford.
For the record, just in case anybody tries to accuse me of seeking to profiteer on the back of the Olympic Torch Relay when it passes through Greenlaw today – I am commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of the liberation of The Falkland Islands in 1982, it’s just pure coincidence that the torch happened to arrive here on the same day!