“Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes’ says one of dear Berthold Brecht’s characters, and one immediately knows the person who thinks that cannot be British.
I, as a British child, was raised on daring stories of noble heroes, who I was supposed to use as role models if I ever found myself, for instance, lost in the Antarctic with no supplies and frostbite (Captain Oates) or in command of a lighthouse and rowing boat (Grace Darling).
The problem was that opportunities to be heroic were somewhat limited in Hemel Hempstead, and any opportunities on the Isles of Scilly would have probably involved swimming, which would have counted me out anyway.
Society, school, church and my parents supported the role of heroes in my life and many weekends were spent visiting museums or homes of heroic figures.
(I did the same with my poor children, I think my son has never got over visiting Nelson’s Victory and seeing the very spot where Nelson breathed his last, graphically illustrated, not to mention the barrel in which Nelson was pickled, on his last journey home to England).
One place my parents took me to quite often was Claydon House, where Florence Nightingale, the Lady with the Lamp, sometimes stayed.
Find out more about Claydon House here: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/claydon/features/florence-nightingale-and-claydon-house
You may have heard the word ‘Nightingale’ recently as the emergency hospitals opened in England for Covid-19 patients are called ‘Nightingale Hospitals’.
Florence had everything you need to be a hero – she turned her back on a life of comfort and ease, put herself in danger to help others and through her lasting work in the fields of hygiene and nursing changed the lives of millions of people.
It’s the 200th anniversary of Florence’s birth this year, May 12, which is now International Nurses day.
There were so many events planned in her honour, all now cancelled. But here is one to visit, virtually:
And, amazingly, we can hear her speaking in a crackly recording made in 1890:
The Cabin Fever part
Captain Oates: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpcZmuz2LGY
Grace Darling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCL1x7wHQLY