Jeremy Clarke Jeremy Clarke

Low life | 26 May 2012

After a party the night before, those who had stayed the night were staggering around among the debris in a state of shock and disbelief trying to piece together what had happened. The headline news was that someone had driven his Land-Rover through a fence and abandoned it teetering on the edge of a cliff. The herd of bullocks being contained by the fence had all hoofed it and the farmer was displeased, apparently. The other news was that the beautiful young mother of the two beautiful little girls was still semi-paralysed and throwing up in the garden, and the Low life correspondent of The Spectator had been sick in a permeable wickerwork wastepaper basket. Then someone remembered that the Olympic flame was passing through a nearby village in half an hour’s time, and some of the walking wounded got together and organised a car and a driver and went down to see it.

The village high street, a picture postcard of thatched cob cottages and ancient walls, was decked out with Union Jack flags and Union Jack bunting. A sparse line of bleary villagers were waiting, eyes left, for the flame to arrive. I wished I hadn’t lost my glasses at the party and could see better.

The arrival in the village of the torch cavalcade was heralded by a policeman on a motorcycle flashing blue lights. As he passed us, he pulled out of his breast pocket a duck caller with a Union Jack design, raised it to his lips and blew a clarion quack. One of our hungover contingent had brought with her a Union Jack on a stick which hadn’t seen the light of day since the Silver Jubilee, and before that the Coronation. Its creased and etiolated condition was somehow highly appropriate for our banner, and she flopped it lugubriously after him.

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