To the peals of church bells, the assembled crush of disorganised bodies parted a little to allow our Colliers Wood torch bearer, Susan, to light her own Olympic flame. In the event, a grey tracksuited helper was necessary to conjoin the two torches to ignite the fire, and Susan held it aloft with such an expression of joy, that it would have been difficult to remain unmoved. After posing for the media, amid many cheers, chants of “Su-san, Su-san!” and one photograph-hunter’s insistent call of “Lady in grey, can you move out the way so we can get a picture?”, Susan headed off, leaving an untidy, but jolly, sprawl of Colliers Wood residents in her wake.
It wasn’t exactly what we were expecting. Thankfully, the weather gods had relented from the summer-long smiting by rain and graciously let us have some sunshine for the event. This obviously lifted the mood, but that, of course, did nothing for any sense of decorum. First some corporate buses arrived, carrying torch bearers and quite a few torches, causing some confusion amongst the crowd. Susan descended from the bus, to be immediately mobbed by onlookers. Grumpy, who had taken his camera, muttered “Trust Colliers Wood to be the most chaotic”. Some people thought that was it, and wondered why she wasn’t running anywhere, while others explained she was waiting for the handover. When it came, the crowd went crazy obscuring pretty much everyone’s view so we all held our phones aloft hoping that a decent photo might arbitrarily result. Grumpy and I were being accompanied by a visiting Political Activist, who had decided, much to our relief, not to intervene in the event, but who did make us think about this contemporary random approach to photography by wondering, “When did everyone become paparazzi?” We had a little walk around afterwards, and partook of a beer in the evocative surroundings of Merton Abbey Mills, listening to some not half bad drum ‘n’ bass rhythms from a contemporary fusion jazz band. As one bystander observed, “Well, it has got us all out, hasn’t it?”