For the second Saturday in a row I enjoyed some free entertainment in Birmingham City Centre with friends this weekend. We strolled to Victoria Square in the afternoon to catch the end of Armed Forces Day and enjoyed a snack in the sun whilst listening to a female vocalist singing swing and boogie-woogie. After her, a marching band took centre stage in front of the council house and had tunes from The Italian Job and Thunderbirds amongst their repertoire.
We then headed to the most secluded spot we could find at Paradise Circus to ready ourselves for the Olympic Torch’s journey through the city. It was fascinating watching the masses piling up along the most well known parts of the route and we were pleased to find ourselves a far better vantage point in a quieter spot out of the thick crowds.
After a bit of a wait and lots of hooting from passing taxis and limos, police bikes began to block off the road and the first torch bus approached. Now I am a bit of a hermit writer and confess to having no idea what the buses in the parade were all about nor who was going to be on them. I had presumed it was members of the community that had some connection to the ceremony or concert that was taking place afterwards.
So the first bus went slowly by and the select crowd around us were waving and I had a brief moment of thinking one of the passengers looked familiar. A second later the woman next to me erupted into screams. That and the hyperventilating that followed triggered my brain into action and I realised I was looking into the face of Sir Cliff Richard just a couple of feet in front of me on this bus looking ever so slightly preened. I think the beautifying accounts for why we didn’t recognise him straight away.
So laughter ensued and the clear excitement and near-heart attacks of the female contingent in our little crowd lifted everyone’s spirits. About five minutes later the torch came through and yes there was cheering and enthusiasm and a general sense of community spirit, but I’m afraid after our hilarious, somewhat shocking close encounter with Sir Cliff, the torch itself, which was held aloft with pride and accompanied by a cheerful entourage, was nonetheless a bit of an anti-climax. Unfortunate timing perhaps for consideration – I think we needed the torch first to really appreciate the moment.