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Carrying a Torch for Ceremonial

Olympics Alert

Hundreds of people have turned out in the town to watch the Olympic torch arrive for the night, on its journey northwards. They line the streets, waving little flags and looking excited. I have had to take the same route as it is the way back from the beach, where I have been walking the dog, to my house. They cheer as I drive by in my little red Alfa Romeo, and I wave back, and smile, hoping not to be recognised.

All day, helicopters have been clattering overhead and music and unintelligible announcements have been booming out of a small marquee on the football field. Jolly women policemen are everywhere, in their fetching stab vests, moving people on and directing traffic. Sponsored by a tooth-decaying fizzy drink manufacturer, the sacred flame will rest the night in a cricket pavilion before being borne on to the next anonymous little town in the morning, forcing me to walk to work as the roads will be closed.

People everywhere seem to have a desperate yearning for ceremonial. Even this ersatz, overcommercialised spectacle has few detractors, despite the appalling cost and the extraordinary security measures the Government feels are needed to show the world how tough Britain is on terrorism, even while their economy is collapsing. The little knots of townsfolk are out to enjoy every moment, flush-faced pubgoers spilling merrily out onto the pavement with pints in hand, as the blazing sunshine of the past few days gives way to sultry, lowering clouds from the West, and no-one seems to notice the irony.

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