Sunday 26th August 2012
DAVY – or miner’s – sounds much better than ‘modified Garforth GR6S Protector’… you know, when it comes to the lamps containing the flames that light the torches that have blazed a path across the nation this summer.
For the Paralympics, four flames have been kindled on the peaks of mountains. One has travelled by train to Bath Spa. It is now at the head of a procession lighting up Great Pulteney Street.
Small is its flicker, small the hands of the small woman who hands it to the tall man for whom every step is uncomfortable, having broken his back in a cycling accident earlier this year.
The lantern-bearers are followed by a carnival of swirling dancers, swaying musicians, darting spirits, glittering princesses, cartoon animals, a circus of cyclists, and the mighty machine that bore winds to Weymouth for those earlier games.
To the rumble of drums and jingle-jangle of bells, they rock and rumba past the broad-smiling faces of flag-wavers, hand-clappers, pavement-sitters and camera-clickers, bringing the brio of Rio to a Somerset summer…
…until, of course, when it reaches Grand Parade, a heavy downpour rains on the parade, reminding us this is an August weekend in Britain.
But do they care? or stop? or seek shelter? No way, José!
Across the bridge is a line of people, some in wheelchairs, wearing the matching blue tops of those chosen to carry the flame on its penultimate leg. You can feel the excitement in the shrill voices, the nervous gestures. This is their moment: the acknowledgment of achievement and endeavour.
A wheelchair swivels, pointing the occupant in the right direction, as befits the member of a relay team. The lantern is held tightly on the knee. Onlookers applaud and cheer loudly.
Still dancing, still smiling, still pulsating to proud rhythms, the procession arcs its rainbow colours into the waiting park.
The rain retreats into the clouds, no match for the enduring flame, bowing respectfully in the presence of the Paralympic motto: spirit in motion.