No more heroes anymore? (5 April 2020)

COVID 19, for most people in the developed world - though not yet those in the Global South, living in refugee camps and urban slums, for whom the consequences may be even greater when coronavirus hits them - is the main focus of our lives. Avoiding catching it, being exposed to it, we social distance and self-isolate as we can, and hope. How long this will go on for, no-one really knows.

One positive - the only positive? - has been the recognition, and indeed celebration, of those who choose to stand at the frontline and try to make life (and death, alas, in many cases) bearable for the many. From health workers, doctors and nurses, pharmacists; to those who try to maintain food supplies and other life essentials for fellow citizens, to enable us to get through it and be ready for the many challenges that will no doubt face society on the other side.

In the UK, we have instigated a Clap for the NHS ritual, every Thursday at 8pm. Those who work in the health sector, and other essential workers, are now celebrated at heroes. There are many stories of how such people have risked their lives to help others, and continue to do so every minute of their working days. 

They are all heroes; and we all need heroes, to help us in troubled times, to inspire us, and to act as roles models for us to aspire to. Having a hero is not a weakness: it is a recognition of something we want to achieve, some standard of behaviour or skill, something that keeps us going in times of crisis, or drives us on against complacency or excess self-satisfaction.

I have listed some of my heroes below. Who are your heroes?

And as this virus continues now, clap for the everyday heroes that are saving lives now

all the best


My heroes:

  1. Patti Smith - still my most influential musical inspiration, someone who truly never seems to follow the trends of others
  2. The mother of Ivy - I met Ivy, a six-year-old girl, in a rural area of the Philippines in 2018. She has cerebral palsy, can hear but not see, talk or walk. Her mother has five other children. Even now I wonder: how does she keep going
  3. Maria - another mother, of the Filipino squatter family I lived for two years with in the mid 1980s. She spoke no English, and very little Tagalog (her natural language was Bicolano, a Filipino regional language; but she cared for me and welcomed me, and I miss her (she died 10 years ago)
  4. Nelson Mandela - I took my boys, then three, to Trafalagar Square in London, the location of the South African Embassy, when he died; I somehow wanted to be part of saying goodbye to this man who suffered so much, through so many years in prison, to emerge without anger and change the world. Everywhere I have been in Africa they know him
  5. The Tank Man - the Chinese man with the shopping bags who stood in front of the tanks in the immediate aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989; the image never ceases to amaze and move me
  6. Helen Jimenez - my VSO counterpart if Manila, defending workers and trade unionists, and returning each day to her slum home to be with her infant. She always fought for the rights of the oppressed workers
  7. Lucy in Tanzania - her local goverment decided, with no consultation, to site a huge rubbish dump near her village; and her hard life became even harder. She became a village committee member, and advocated to the local officials, while caring for aix children and a`blind husband
  8. Sokny - I met Sokny in her native Cambodia, working for a trade union representing women textile workers. Her first leader was murdered; she has recently been on the run with the second leader, trying to stay ahead of the secret police. She is warm, funny and brave
  9. Mervyn Peake - the author who has had the most impact on me; from his Gormenghast novels, to his extraordinary, moving and lyrical poetry - thank you
  10. Joyce Brown - my colleague at the Aberconway library in Cardiff, we started on the same day. Everyone loved her, she was so kind and friendly. She died of cancer in her 30s; I was the last non-medical person to speak to her, on the phone when I learned she was dying. She told me she would die that night, and she did, before I could see her (I was then in London). Her goodness was unwavering, and I am thankful to have known her - email: - tel: + (44) (0) 7890 360 806 - skype: tigercoaching1