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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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I’m thrilled by torch – or is it the chance of a toast?

Never one to allow a special occasion to pass without note, it was with some excitement I strode into my local Spar shop.

“Do you know what today is?”

With fetchingly vacant expressions, two lovely ladies behind the counter gazed at me without registering anything approximating interest.

“It’s World Gin Day,” I announced. “I’ve only just found out – from Cumbria’s public health director on Twitter, no less – and so here I am!”

One glanced towards the other. She looked back at her friend – saying nothing.

“I never know when she’s having me on,” the first complained, as though I wasn’t there. Or maybe not all there.

The other one shook her head. Slowly.

“Me neither.”

“There’s more. It’s also Worldwide Knit in Public Day and Cycle Naked Day. But I can’t ride a bike... so I’ll have a bottle of gin please.”

The man standing behind me laughed and nodded agreement.

“Good choice,” he said, in a tone that made me wonder whether he’d actually meant to be uncomplimentary.

But since he’d just knocked over a stand of newspapers and spent several minutes on hands and knees tidying up the resulting mess, I think he’d been glad of the distraction.

“World Gin Day? Is that in Brampton as well?” The counter girls were still unsure of the significance of the occasion.

“Us so close to a World Heritage site? I should say so. On second thoughts, make that a big bottle.”

We’re awash with special days this summer. Which is helpful since June has turned into November.

Next up is Father’s Day, which should be fun because my parents are due to arrive for their Cumbrian holiday on Sunday. There’ll be a whirl of heritage sites and historic landmarks, tearooms, inns and restaurants. Maybe the Lakes, certainly Rheged, probably Birdoswald and with any luck – another gin day with Dad.

Then comes the torch. The only flaming aspect of June we can actually rely on.

Just a few more sleeps before the Olympic flame hits Carlisle and takes to the road in the proud hands of community champions doing their bit for the national relay, in front of a street-lining cast of thousands.

Exciting stuff. Or stirring, anyway. Even if you’re not a big fan of running, jumping and throwing sports.

Olympic organising officials – who have anointed themselves as a collective Oracle of Delphi on all matters London 2012 – reckon more than 2.5 million people have already seen the torch pass through their home towns. And every man Jack of them has been thrilled by the spectacle.

Already having been ticked off this week for failure to fall in love with football, I hesitate to own up to not being hugely fond of running, jumping or throwing – other than on extremely rare occasions in the privacy of my own home.

Might as well get all the bad stuff over at once. Cricket doesn’t push my buttons either. Tennis? Well, I can take it or leave it. Quite like rugby, not at all fond of knitting, used to be a keen swimmer, played hockey well and when I sew I always get my thread into a knot.

But the torch – well, now you’re talking. This flaming thing has taken on a life of its own.

It is a torch with a sense of occasion. Good looking too. Like an ice cream cone on lighter fuel. Heck, it is an occasion.

A VIP of such magnitude hasn’t been seen in Carlisle since Lady Gaga pitched up. And its demands are pretty similar.

If in need of a rest the Olympic torch has to have a hotel room to itself and all non-smoking policies put on hold. When travelling, it needs a row of aircraft seats and guarantees of no charges for hand baggage or scratch-cards. And on arrival in Cumbria, it will be met by flag-waving, cheering hordes – and maybe even me – working up a thirst for some running, jumping, throwing success.

See? More special summer days than anyone could decently shake a stick at – or indecently, for that matter.

And all of them more worthy of celebration than Cycle Naked Day or Worldwide Knit In Public Day. So, you’ll not be surprised to learn, I’ll raise a gin to that.

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