IT WOULD be sadly ironic, but not completely out of the question, for a bloke running through Dewsbury carrying a burning torch next summer to find himself getting a truncheon round the bonce, with a bucket of water direct from the police station tap promptly administered to douse the flame. “Don’t think you’re getting away with looting Poundland on my watch!” would come the beefy assertion of PC Plod, as Sebastian Coe and Co. howled in anguish because after 2000 years (or whatever) the eternal Olympic flame had finally been extinguished. Dewsbury, back in the headlines again, for all the wrong reasons. Of course I’m jesting. There’s no way that’s going to happen – the first sign of trouble and an entire West Yorkshire Police Force watch would throw on the sick with bad backs or stress (only kidding, gang, lighten up!) Mind you there probably is half a chance that if the torchbearer strayed too far from his/her security detail, that he/she could find themselves ‘accidentally’ tripped and relieved of the torch. It would be weighed in for scrap faster than Usain Bolt with a dose of the trots. I know, I know. Come on, I’m only being playful. However, with TV cameras presumably following the torch on every step of its way, can I whisper a few ideas in the ears of whoever is responsible for planning our bit of the torch relay? I can already guess what the route will take in – and it won’t involve a lap of the security fencing and scaffolding around the Pioneer building, I can promise you that. There might be a glimpse of Sprinkwell Mill apartments, with the camera panning over the handsome ‘Machells Mill Shoddy & Mungo’ sign above the impressively converted Yorkshirestone edifice. It will probably parade past our awardwinning market and then along Longcauseway where hopefully we will have crowds of thousands outside our handsome town hall, cheering it on. Wonderful! A sanitised, feelgood public view of Dewsbury for once. Heaven knows the town deserves some good PR. And then the torch will be gone ... but cold reality will remain. The fleeting coincidence of Dewsbury being one of a thousand dots on the map of the Olympic torch relay is a nice gesture, but one which will not make a blind bit of difference, when it comes to it. The wonderful Streetscene crew of Kirklees Council, who have done such a fantastic job of revitalising Crow Nest and Wilton parks (and others) will have the town centre dressed up in its Sunday best. The floral displays will still look lovely when the next town on the parade is fluffing up its frills. But will it make a real difference? Will we still be the bridesmaids who stood in for the rehearsal but never got a wedding invite? I know it’s the ‘Jonah’ in me, but I’d like shout and bawl and make a bigger point to the watching world – so let’s take the torch for a jog off the beaten path, shall we? Let’s divert into Westtown and find some east European homeless men, sleeping rough and stealing bits of scrap metal to eke an existence. That might send a message that not only aren’t the streets of London paved with gold, but the streets of most ordinary English towns are just littered with fag ends and an occasional 2p piece. The torch might come in handy if it’s passing an electricity substation from which some scrotes have just nicked the copper cabling and turned the lights out on an entire neighbourhood. “Just hold the torch here a minute love while I root through this drawer for some old candles.” Maybe the torch carrier – hopefully clad in something patriotic with a Union flag on it – can nip through Savile Town (I suggest they sing ‘Jerusalem’ or ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ at the top of their voice on this stretch) and ask the mullahs of the Markazi mosque to bestow their blessing on the venture; to pray for a peaceful Olympiad, absent of terror acts. That should play well for the TV audiences across the middle east and subcontinent. And while it’s doubtful the torch will be around during twilight hours, if so it might come in handy to ward off some of the Night of the Living Dead characters who inhabit certain estates living off benefits and methadone. I know, none of that is the complete reality of life in Dewsbury today and come next summer we should celebrate the best of what we have. And we will too. But let’s not allow that to disguise some of the massive challenges we still face and which, for all the hot air, gets so little done about it. ALL of that said, we really should seize this opportunity to put on a party for the occasion. The idea of an Olympic torch relay dates back to 1984 and the Los Angeles games. I was living in California at the time and was honoured to be selected as one of two ‘security runners’ to escort the official carrier when it came through my oceanside village of Belmont Shore in Long Beach. The female carrier ran behind a limousine. The official Olympic flame was actually in what had been the boot of the car, with each new bearer lighting their torch from it. Me and my best mate Steve ran left and right of the woman, with police motorcycle outriders behind us – and a stunning 100,000 people lining our onemile route. Spinetingling doesn’t even come close to describing the feeling. What a street party we had that day (and night!) At the price of confessing to a little ‘white lie’ (well, I was only 25 and a bit frivolous) and being clad in my official Olympic teeshirt and a pair of spandex ‘Linford Christies’ I may have exaggeratedly professed to one or two ‘new acquaintances’ that night (of the female variety) that I was a member of the British Olympic sprint relay team. What, you (and they) never saw me on the telly? Flipping heck. That dodgy hamstring of mine… NICK CLEGG was right this week when he said that seizing powers back from the European Union isn’t as easy as taking the Eurostar to Brussels and packing a few cases of paperwork. No need to put yourself to such bother Nick – a simple Act of Parliament will do … we’ve managed to pass one or two over the past few hundred years. WHEN I wrote that the Dale Farm gypsies would still be there in 10 years I didn’t quite have the scenario in mind that transpired this week. Even as Essex council staff finished clearing the site, their caravans were queuing up to get back on, and start the whole palaver again. Dingaling, round 27… “FORGIVE me father, for I have sinned” … no, don’t panic, I’m not getting all ‘hallelujah praise de lawd’ on you. Though I shall touch briefly on spirituality. My clearest recollection of being in the pews at St Anne’s RC Church in Thornhill Lees as a kid was imagining myself abseiling through the high windows, Tommy gun in hand, and despatching of a dozen Nazi soldiers who had taken over the church (hey, I was 10, what can I say? Where do you think this imagination came from?) And by the way that is not a reflection on the sermons of Father Lilley. Oh for an escape route from St Paulinus after the Remembrance Service last Sunday, knowing Fr Nicholas Hird was standing at the door to bid farewell (as parish priest at least) after 10 wonderful years as the shepherd of that particular flock. You see, I’d interviewed Fr Nicholas on Thursday and promised faithfully (do fingers crossed behind your back still count?) that it would only be a small piece acknowledging his time with us. The article actually turned into rather more, as Tom O’Donovan paid fulsome tribute to a man who reinvigorated many people’s faith – and I’m not ashamed to say mine among them. I haven’t looked for Gestapo stormtroopers once in a Nicholas Hird service! Cue end of mass, the loveliest exchange of words between priest and his parish … and suddenly there was no avoiding it. We shook hands warmly at the door and the eyetwinkle was unmistakeable. “Thanks for the ‘obituary’ Danny!” “It was only a small fib, a white lie Father!” Well, as he’d said in bidding us farewell, “I was only doing my job!” And I was only doing mine Nicholas. So thank you for everything. PS: And I wasn’t kidding. I want you for my funeral, even if you have to rough it by Ryanair all the way from the Vatican.
Ed LinesFriday 18th November 2011
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