Wednesday 23rd May 2012
BEND in the road, just above a bridge over the canal, on Bathwick Hill. I stake my claim to a slab of pavement, next to an enclosure of armchairs outside a children’s nursery. Those across the road may have shade, but we have the wider view.
There’s a goodly gathering already: school-bag-bearing children still in uniform; pensioners with flags, flagging in the heat; shrill-voiced teenagers with cones of ice-cream, shaped like torches.
“Which crew are you then?” asks a day-gloing steward, seeing the T-shirt.
“I’m one of you!” proudly revealing my Bath & Northeast Somerset Council pass, doffing the top hat. Maybe he thinks I’m important. “An embedded writer, me. I’m called that because I spend most of my time in bed.”
“It’ll be twenty minutes late,” he whispers, confidentially.
The heat is getting to me: a summer suspicious in its suddenness; sweat on the brow of the hill; the weight of waiting.
The only traffic now is outriders, highways department vans, and a sponsor’s red bus, from which emerge lively youngsters, distributing frisbee-like plastic discs for us to hit with our hands, thus making a sound that sounds like hands hitting plastic discs.
Toddlers and bonneted babies come out of the nursery. The crowd presses on to the road. The first coach passes to loud applause. Those waving from inside must be the later bearers: kept cool by air conditioning; coolly attired in smart, matching tracksuits.
Still we wait, in the still heat.
“I’ll get my husband to tell that policeman to push them back,” chuckles a local resident.
You hear the cheering before seeing anything. Then the vehicles behind the runner. A keen surge of noise, an eager edging closer.
She jogs at an easy pace: broad of grin; proud of moment; honour in every stride.
The flame shimmers in the heat and moves on down the hill.
I fashion another haiku:
Torch-lit sun-flamed Bath
Where history meets today
And waters greet fire
It’s that kind of a day: short lines for short glimpses of feet passing by… fleetingly.