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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, September 07, 2008
    Au revoir, La Princesse

    Franco-Scouse relations are pretty, pretty good at the moment after the past five days we've spent in a sort-of wonderland wandering around the streets with the giant mechanical beauty which is La Princesse. Tonight's finale, watched by tens of thousands on and around William Brown Street, saw the Spider disappear in a blaze of light down into the mouth of the Queensway Tunnel. The fireworks shooting from the roofs of all the grand buildings framed what Ellen rightly described as a perfect ampitheatre in a scene of wild sound and colour (lovely to stand on the Museum steps watching this with a blogger-friend: we somehow connected in the vast crowd). But the very end was gentle, the notes of a solo harp stippling the surface air around our heads as the red light in the tunnel entrance faded slowly into black. A fittingly calm finale because the whole production has been graceful - the Spider was massive but was no monster, she moved slowly and wondrously through our streets and thousands took her into their hearts.

    The French do this sort of show often, of course, that's why this whole Spider experience was so good. Struck me that part of the joy of the past few days has been the permission given to those following the Spider, to break many of the usual rules of the city - we walked down the centre of wide highways rid of traffic, we climbed walls, bus shelters, telephone kiosks, trees, without censure or reprimand, we smiled at each other a lot. Not unlike the experience of the rolling roadshow which is Le Tour de France, and its less lauded but equally thrilling sister shows of sporting subversion where the cycle rules the road, at speed and in glamour. La Princesse has disappeared (waiving, I'd think, the £1.40 tunnel toll), but these very roads will be closed again next Sunday when the cycling Tour of Britain 2008 takes its final laps around Liverpool city centre. Vive la difference! Is right!