Katie Avagah has kindly put pen to paper and given us a fascinating account of her experiences of the Olympic and Paralympics' Parade through London in 2012.
How come, it always happens to me?
Monday 10th September 2012, we set off early for the Olympic and Paralympics' Parade through London. Arriving at Mansion House Station the streets seem mostly deserted so we head for the nearest Coffee House. Re-emerging we find people are now arriving, so after some small walk we sit down on the curb-side along Ludgate Hill to wait – there is still over 2 hours before the Parade starts. The crowds are now forming so we are pleased to have such good seats – though a tad hard. Then a lady says they are giving away 'those large sponge hands' across the way; a kindly curb-side neighbour offers to also get us some, and soon produces three each – they make excellent soft cushions – and not before time, we were beginning to suffer with 'bumbness' in our nether regions!
Time passes swiftly in 'Mexican Waves'; cheering and exchanging 'high-fives' with the police as they ride by on their bikes; in fact cheering and waving at anything that moves be it on the road or in the sky! Then with a roar the Motor-bike Police arrive, exchanging banter and more 'high-fives' as they pass. Now come the Mounted Police escorting the two red 'lions', shimmering and writhing in the breeze; the Parade has begun! The sounds of cheering, whistles, clapping, echo around the tall buildings as float on float pass by. Athletes, Swimmers, Weight-lifters; young, excited, proud faces gazing down at us; clapping us in appreciation for joining them on 'their Parade'. Young fresh faces we know so well – faces we've seen from our armchairs; from the road-side; and the lucky ones from within the Sports arenas; entertaining us with their skills and enthusiasm throughout these fantastic summer months. Faces now as familiar as our own family and friends. The love, the pride, the enthusiasm, rises in a crescendo from these hard, grey pavements enclosing these youngsters in joyous, loving adulation. Then along dance the Games Makers, young, elderly, and all stages in between; still smiling; with memories and friendships to last their lifetime! By now Doris and I are completely hoarse as we wave and cheer beyond all reason! Now the Mounted Police pass so we join the crowd following the Parade. Soon to be hemmed in on all sides with happy, tired, folk; wandering along the road knowing not where we are heading!
Here we are in Fleet Street desperately in need of a cuppa; I spot St. Dunstan's across the road and suggest it may 'do' refreshments. The church is gaily decorated with Union bunting and flags. We toil up the steps to find standing either side of the entrance, resembling the Giants of St. Dunstan's above, are the Vicar and Rector in their long black surplice, enjoying a glass of wine. I am just about to greet them when a hand clasps mine and a voice says, 'Would you like a cup of tea? (Can she read minds?) Answering to the affirmative, she instructs, 'Follow me, I'll show you where to go.' We gratefully return back down the steps, around to a small courtyard, and in at a back door. Our lady saviour unlocks and enters a door to our right, saying something to Doris, at which Doris opens a door to our left and invites me to - 'Go in first.' Expecting to enter a Refectory, I am confronted instead by a toilet! 'I'm not drinking tea in there!' Mary and I now collapse in giggles, retreating quickly back out into the courtyard; while Doris has a comfort stop. Our host rejoins us with a tray and our tea, and rather good tea it is; directing us to sit on the chairs placed in the courtyard, just inside the iron-railings. We gratefully drink our tea to the rather curious stares of folk passing by. I take this opportunity to chat to her, particularly concerning the three stone statues which are situated in the courtyard. They are King Lud – hence Ludgate Hill; with his attendant two sons. They are hoping to raise the funds to have them renovated, along with Queen Elisabeth (the 1st of course). Our new friend informs me that she has only been working there as an Administrator since May and is 'often doing things she shouldn't' – like making the odd cup of tea perhaps for distressed pensioners? Apparently on Tuesdays the church is 'open' and usually they serve refreshments in the courtyard for visitors; however due to building works next door they are unable to do so at present. I decide to visit the 'cupboard' before going round to the church. Entering I am greeted by a roar and a blast of heat; I have set off the hand-dryer. On rising from the throne I am again confronted by a blast of heat - the room is so small any movement sets off the ancient hand-dryer – perhaps like the King and Queen it is in need of renovation! Returning to the front of the church the Vicar is still in position on the steps; he affirms 'his enjoyment of both the Parade and his tipple, but must now return to work'. The church is well worth a visit, in particular the Romanian Orthodox altar screen brought here in 1966. Outside one can see the afore-mentioned statue of Queen Elizabeth 1st, dating from 1586; and King Lud and his sons. Leaving the church we take a last look at the famous Giants of St Dunstan's - referred to by such literary giants as Oliver Goldsmith; Charles Dickens; Walter Scott; Lord Bryon; and William Cowper who wrote:-
"When labour and when dullness, club in hand, like the two figures at St. Dunstan's stand,
Beating alternately in measured time the clockwork tintinnnabulum of rhyme,
Exact and regular the sounds will be, but such mere quarter-strokes are nor for me."