No more heroes

So sung the stranglers. They sung something about Trotsky getting an ice-pick in his head too; all very ‘Basic Instinct’, there’s really nothing original about these Russians. Still, it’s better than OMD singing about the atomic bomb, or Boney M’s homage to Rasputin.

But back to heroes. I reckon that anyone when asked to name someone they consider to be a hero would be able to do so without a second’s thought. We all have heroes; some last a lifetime, and others come and go. So how to define? Well, admiration must be a good start-point; either admiration for the person themselves, or for their achievements. Then comes the divergance: some people are heroes because we aspire to be like them, others we realise that we’re never going to get close to, and these we tend to admire from afar. People we know would tend to fall into the former category, whereas famous figures might tend to fall into the latter.

For me, two from the latter category are David Gower and George Orwell. I’ve taken such an interest in both at one point or another that I actually do feel like I know them, or at least that I’d be comfortable in their company. Gower was the batsman I most wanted to watch as I grew up, and I didn’t really mind that England were hopeless through much of the 1980s and early 90s, because Gower made it all worthwhile. An elegant 30 from Gower was worth a ton from the austere Victorian look-alike Graham Gooch, in my book at least. Gower never seemed to lose sight of the fact that cricket was entertainment, and he provided that in spades. The fact he was a hapless captain, enjoyed his wine, did the Cresta run drunk and ‘buzzed’ his team-mates in a tiger-moth bi-plane only served to make me admire him more. I could never aspire to play like that. Even at the very moderate standard at which I play, the elegance eludes me. Orwell is a writer who draws you in like no other, and his own passion, conviction, vision and dichotomous personality all come through strongly in all his writing. He’d hate to be thought of like this, as he believed that not a glimpse of the writer should come through in the story, but what did he know? I went on a solo pilgrimage once to Sutton Courtenay, the Oxfordshire Village where he’s buried. He has a simple stone, marked with ‘Eric Arthur Blair, 1903-1950’, nothing else. There was no-one else there the whole time, and I got to spend some time with one of my heroes, albeit I was the only one gaining anything from this meeting.

Do I have any heroes from the former category? It’s not a term I’d use readily. My friends aren’t heroes of mine (perish the thought) and to use it for family almost seems to distance me from them. Admiration: certainly. Hero-worship: it just sounds a bit wrong to me. Having said that, we can find heroes in what people used to be. When my Grandfather died in 1998 (I was 21), his funeral drew in a whole lot of people that I’d never met. Nothing unusual in that, as I saw my Grandparents less regularly since I’d been away up North at university. Many of the crew that had flown Lancaster bombers with him during the war were there, which proved the strength of the bond that had existed between these men for over 50 years. Stories were told of heroic deeds that had been done by my Grandfather all those years ago, and suddenly the old man with the handlebar moustache, who used to serve up easy half-volleys in the garden and who tried to keep a lid on things as I smashed another plant pot with a clumsy sweep, became in my eyes the hero he had been to them all those years ago.