Column One: Gushing dignitaries gather to give Queen a light

IT MUST be hard to maintain your dignity when you're a Guardsman of the Queen, you're having a bad bearskin day, you're too big to fit through the automatic sliding door and you have to wave one arm in front of yourself like a blind man to open it in the first place.

But that was the delicate mission given to two of the Army's finest, and tallest, yesterday as the millennium flame made its most bizarre transfer on its progress to the Big Event. The light which began life in Sunderland in May arrived at platform eight of King's Cross Station in London on the 15.43 from Durham.

As the two very large men in red stood at attention, it emerged from the train in the hands of a rather small man in red - Ross Wares, the mayor of Sunderland.

The flame will tomorrow be used by the Queen to light the blue touch paper for the "biggest beacon in the world" at the climax of a nationwide orgy of pyromania. But how the flaming thing got this far is positively baffling. It was paraded through the streets of Sunderland before being used to light a beacon at the Christian Millennium Celebration at the Stadium of Light (geddit), home to Sunderland Football Club.

It was then used to light a miner's lamp, before being taken to the Durham headquarters of the National Union of Mineworkers, where it has remained. Actually, two lamps were lit for caution, which was just as well because one was blown out by a stadium worker.

In the meantime, a number of lights have been cadged from this source to be distributed around the realm for lighting many of the 1,300 beacons that will burst into life on Millennium Eve, according to the organiser, Beacon Millennium.

London will have the Mother of All Beacons. Sponsored by British Gas, the 25-ton monster the height of two double-decker buses and the width of a tennis court will float on a barge near the Tower of London. But this centre-piece will not be lit by the flame. Her Majesty will light a fuse with it that will symbolically activate a laser beam that will fire across the Thames notionally to ignite the beacon. Only it will not. The process will be completed by electronics. "It's theatre," confessed Bruno Peek, of Beacon Millennium.

Never mind. In the background yesterday Eddie Baker, keeper of the miner's lamp flame, explained that the Stadium of Light was built on the birthplace of the Venerable Bede who established the Christian calendar that is ultimately responsible for millennium madness. "It is the birthplace of Christianity in this country," he said.

At least someone seemed to know what was going on.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Agency Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Network Support Engineer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Network Support Engineer is r...

Recruitment Genius: Account Director - Tech Startup - Direct Your Own Career Path

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Sales Advisor - OTE £35,000

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telephone Sales Advisor is re...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent