Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Margaret Mahy, the Olympic Torch and Horsies

This will be a double-topic post, catching up from the one I meant to do in the weekend but never really got around to.

I was very sad to hear of Margaret Mahy's death earlier in the week. My copy of A Lion in the Meadow has a very good picture of a lion drawn in by the lady herself, and I remember standing before the Wellington Library steps as a small child, entranced by her rainbow wig as she read aloud. I loved her picture books, especially Seventeen Kings and Forty-Two Elephants, and her books for older readers of which my favourite is Alchemy.

I keep hearing about how much people love The Changeover, and wondering whether I've read it or not - I thought I had, but maybe not. I must investigate further. I think I might have to have a go at reading all her books... And watching Maddigan's Quest and Kaitangata Twitch, which I never managed to catch for some reason. She will be missed! If you've never read any Margaret Mahy, go and find some now. It should be pretty easy in New Zealand, but you might have to search a bit elsewhere. She was incredibly prolific, so there should be something for everyone :)

Last Saturday saw the Olympic Torch relay come near me, so I woke up early and stared at the live video of the torch making its way through Greenwich, aghast at all the people who'd got up before seven on a Saturday to see it go past. Their commitment inspired me in the end and I dragged myself out of bed and out the door.

I wasn't quite sure where to go to see the torch, so I just ended up walking until I found the route and then walking a bit further until it seemed like I had a good spot. There weren't too many people at first, but there were quite a few kids waving torches they'd made themselves and lots of police stationed or coming past. My spot was right outside the entrance to the Royal Artillery Barracks, and I didn't realise how good this was until the horses appeared.

Horses! A huge procession of them, pulling carts with guns on them! Horsies with guns! And soldiers all dressed up in red uniforms! The procession strung out along the yard and the horses stamped and fidgeted a bit as we waited in the early morning sun for the torch.

First past were the sponsors, singing and dancing and giving out free drums and the smallest coke bottles I've ever seen (250mL). That was amusing, and I tried to decide how I feel about sponsorship. On the one hand, I think it's slightly evil that these huge conglomerates get to brainwash people all along the way, but on the other hand, they're running a business and they are making the Olympics happen, and I appreciate that. After the sponsors came the traffic jam of normal people who were just trying to get around on a Saturday morning. After that was a bit more security, and then the runner with the flame and his bodyguards!

Everyone cheered and waved flags and snapped away with cameras, and then ran to follow as he went past. There was a changeover right outside the Royal Artillery gates, with lots of good photo opportunities while they passed the flame from one torch to the next. The torches are very sparkly.

The next runner set off, and the Horsies with guns followed dutifully behind, along with about half the people who'd been watching (including me). It was a great atmosphere, and I can't wait for the opening ceremony which I'm sure will be even better.

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