The power of good by New Forest Mark and Hugh

The power of good

Antithesis to the publicity seekers - New Forest Mark and Hugh with reflections on our times and a moving tribute to Captain Tom  

Mark and Hugh signoff 600x400Introduction by Mark this week:  Captain Sir Thomas Moore was a determined and modest man who did more than raise a huge amount of money for NHS charities. He galvanised a nation which, during this crisis, had been beset by conflicting advice and political point scoring. He gave us life and optimism by his example. As is always the case with these stories there were many that suddenly popped out of the woodwork to publicly praise him. The nation ignored them and concentrated on this magnificent fellow by opening their wallets. The man was a beacon.

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Rest in peace Captain Tom

By the time this goes to print the media brouhaha over this quiet and determined man will have evaporated like mist on a summer morning. I suspect that most of us having reached the age of ninety-nine might have muttered to ourselves, ‘Well it’s downhill all the way now, nothing but Radio 2, ready meals, Andy Williams and Countdown to look forward to.  I’ll just totter about using this frame to support my weary joints. Now it’s just three meals a day and endless daytime telly whilst I await the arrival of The Reaper’.

Not for this man, far from it. This ex-soldier (sometimes I am actually proud to be ex-army) decided that he should do something practical, something worthwhile. He certainly wasn’t the type to sit back in his armchair chuntering away about immigration, ‘kids these days’ or litter. I suspect he would have been the type of person least likely to have a silly little ‘no turning’ sign outside his drive way and certainly not one who would say ‘of course, in my day……’. In short, Captain Tom was a good man. Publicly he neither moaned nor complained. His life was a metaphor for positivity and an upbeat outlook. Speaking as one who has been in some pretty grim situations where the soul has been thoroughly tested, I can attest that this is the kind of fella that you want on your team.

Let me ask you this. If you were in his position, approaching your 100th birthday and you had decided you were going to something, what would you have done? His options were severely limited because of the plague so he thought carefully about his goals. He decided that his aim would be to walk the 27 yards of his garden 100 times and in the process earn £1000 for NHS charities. He broke it down into ten laps a day for ten days. Dear reader, this is someone who depends on a walking frame to move. Consider it for a moment because it’s worth the time.

As many of you will know he surpassed his original targets by some considerable margin.

Proud to be English

They do say that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Well, first of all I have never quite understood that expression. Secondly, I reject it as I am actually rather proud to be English. Our two regular readers might recall that I am a bit of a bookworm and I find that a great deal of our most endearing national characteristics materialise in the printed word. Some of my favourite books are on the subject of war. This can be a hideous topic but the content is worth perusal as often the most desperate situations can bring out the best in us. Some of the most enjoyable were on the topic of Colditz. There were stories that reduced me to tears of laughter especially those covering ‘goon baiting’. Whilst on exercise prisoners would stealthily pocket a number of small stones. Then, at night, they would lean out of their cell windows and with perfect timing drop a stone that struck the steel helmet of a patrolling guard. In the night-time silence the resulting loud ‘tang’ had two immediate effects. One was that of fury, the other of hysterical laughter. I don’t think I would have liked to be imprisoned in Colditz for one minute but I would have enjoyed that sound and to have sensed the apoplectic fury of the poor guard. As another example of the English thirst for silliness it was their contingent that invented a game called ‘stool ball’. They played it for the fun of the game and as a means of passing the time. Other nations adopted it but, dear reader, it simply wasn’t the same. European nations would stop the game to argue tooth and nail over a minor infringement. The Brits simply played for fun, ignored minor infringements and carried on.

A stroll is good for the soul

I walk from time to time; it’s a balm for my troubled soul. A while back, on seeing Upham church and the sandwich board outside advertising the fact that the church was always open for those who needed it I took a detour. Carefully scrubbing my work boots on the mat I entered. I am not religious at all but as you might remember from previous scribblings, places of religious devotion often have a profound effect upon many of us and I am certainly no exception. After what has become my customary ten to fifteen minutes of peace and reflection, I made my way to a table up at the eastern end where a small electronic candle flickers and left another one-pound coin. I am sure that the small pile will find its way to the church coffers eventually. As I walked away up the narrow road I glanced back and I noticed that a lady who had parked outside the church was walking up to the door with a very obvious familiarity. I suddenly had a very brief snapshot of her character. I imagined that she was probably not unlike Captain Tom. Stolid, uncomplaining, full of vim and a joy to know.

Goodness, the life blood of this country

 Dear reader, if you magnify this scenario thousands of times, up and down this country, you might get some idea of the power of good that flows through this nation. Just sit back for a minute. Rest your eyes, engage your thoughts and consider. These vacuous attention seeking politicians that scrabble for on-air time are nought. The heart of this nation lies in the quiet determination of the many who labour for no reward. These are people who would rather run from fame than seek it and who crave anonymity instead of recognition. In short, these are the kind of people who delivered us from fascism. I personally feel that these characteristics are the life blood of this country. Yes, there are those that carp, those that read awful right-wing rags and believe everything within them. There are those that take rather than give, those that have been able to use the benefits system to their advantage. But these are in the minority. Those that care in a quiet way will always outnumber the swines. The late, great, George Michael was the classic example of the unselfish anonymous donor. There are many stories of his generosity (which was achieved covertly through his pub landlord) including IVF treatment for a desperate couple. These heart-warming accounts shame those who, with consummate vulgarity, advertise their generosity and themselves through the media.

Our proud army of volunteers

Captain Tom was a fine example of what it is to be English. He started his crusade alone and unknown. This man didn’t crave fame at all. He was a completely unselfish person who, at his advanced age, decided he was going to do something. Our media is hungry for interesting tales and scenting a good story they swarmed all over the poor fella. Because of this our modest Captain reluctantly became a national figure of adoration. The sight of this elderly man, clearly close to the end of his own span determinedly shuffling up and down his garden for the benefit of others moved a nation. The funds simply poured in. He had become the antithesis to those talentless nobodies with plumped lips, fattened hips and vacant minds that seek publicity at every turn. The public has had a bellyful of those who seek fame for fame’s sake. Captain Tom became a lodestone for the thoughts and deeds of a public who were sick to the back teeth of this dreadful plague and for what must often feel like house arrest. There are accounts of those in hospital who before breathing their last breaths as they succumbed to the hideous Covid, were able to speak to their loved ones using an iPad which had been purchased thanks to the efforts of Captain Tom. One victim in particular was able to enjoy the sound of birdsong from his own garden as he bid goodbye to his son.

The example set by Captain Tom should be an example to us all, the world is a poorer place without him.

captain sir tom and seagull with respect


More tales and cartoons for Lymington and the New Forest from Mark and Hugh

If you'd like to read previous articles on diverse subjects written by Mark and illustrated by Hugh's cartoons here they are, click the links embedded in the titles:

Dreaming of holidays
Miracle or monster? Modern communications

RNLI and Lymington Lifeboat

Happy New Year Resolutions and Revolutions
Merry Christmas 2020
What our cars say about us
The litter pickers of the New Forest

A roof over your New Forest head

Richard St Barbe Baker

Our star, our sun, our salt!
To Lymington or Cuba
The Auld Mug

Seeds of success

Moonlit meeting with cetaceans 

Trees and what they tell us
Cartography and trig pillars

Pony drifts and pannage in the New Forest
A journey from the New Forest via Lymington
The brilliance - and persistence - of Marconi

Equality in the skies
Bees pollinators par excellence 
Cordless home entertainment

The joy of sheds

When the Isle of Wight was just Wight
Bucklers Hard

Salisbury Cathedral 
Pond Life in our Forests 
Bombs Away 
Baileys Hard 
Rufus Stone and Sir Walter Tyrrell
Graffiti through the ages
Freedom of the roads
Heath fires
Lymington Lido
Watch the birdie
Unstoppable momentum of nature
Socially distanced socialising
Calshot Spit, a curse for mariners...



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