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A factional hero by Nigel Roth

In the last few weeks, Tom Moore was given the honorary title of Colonel and the Freedom of the City of London.

He received these prestigious honors because he has been deemed a hero. In a time of pan-global panic amid pandemic pandemonium, Tom Moore - pardon me, COLONEL Tom Moore - is the hero of the moment. His heroic deed was walking; he walked around his garden and raised money (a sum of money that would have been less than 0.7% of Richard Branson's net worth), for the NHS.

The British Islanders have always liked a good hero, and Moore has a couple of unique notches on the UK hero stick that have the beating of some other heroic impostors.

First, he actually exists.

In the middle of the eleventh century, Crusaders galloped headlong to free the Holy Land from a millennia of scholarly learning and scientific progress and replace that with a man slaying a dragon. As a result of their drunken storytelling, a hero was raised from nowhere really, crowned as a king, and given the name Arthur.

Thomas Mallory, with nothing else to do but count the crows in the Tower, and Alfred Lord Tennyson, with nothing better to do than walk the corridors of my house reciting awful poetry, worked to inscribe this legend in our historic record, giving it the flesh that wrapped the bones of their lizard-lopping idol.

The fact that no single reference to a King Arthur of great deed in antiquity has ever existed in any form anywhere seems not to have stunted his heroic growth, and he remains to this day, romantic lover of Guinevere, puller of swords from rocks, and presider over a piece of round wood.

Second, he can spell his own name.

The greatest playwright of the English people, who wrote with an heroic eloquence of refined phraseology rarely matched in his age, was never once able to sign his name the same way. What’s in a name, you may ask. But there is also no portrait of the great man anywhere on the planet confirmed as his likeness. And yet, Shakespeare / Shakspeare / Shakespere /.. etc, is a national hero with a market town dedicated to his ‘memory’.

Not a hero, of course, to the unknown French playwright crouching in his Paris hovel in 1580, cursing the English rosbifs, and repeating his own name (which he could spell) over and over again, while nibbling on stale bread .. “Jacques Pierre! Jacques Pierre! Jacques …”

Third, he isn’t a peodophile (as far I know).

Take Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, as many a young midshipman was aghast to be instructed. A man whose exceptional leadership qualities, unique warring instinct for winning a good fight, and decisive strategy far outweighed his rather robust love of young men aboard his ships. ‘Little’ Nelson put the vice in … anyway, the Brits don’t care.

Fourth, he wasn't stolen from Turkey (as far as I know).

Arise the heroic Saint George, who slew a dragon, no less. Or Theo, as he was originally called. Saint Theodore Tiro lived in 9th century Euchaita with his Roman and Byzantine mates, and killed those terrifying dragons at least two hundred years before the marauding English grabbed him, turned a Theo into a George, and conjured another fake hero, this one with his own day of the year.

Fifth, he had a very concrete career.

If I even mention merry men or Maid Marian, you know where we are. Under the dense canopy of Sherwood Forest, crouching with our bow-bending, arrow-aiming, green-garbed hero Robin Hood, or one of the other seven aliases he was known by, if he'd ever existed, which he probably didn't.

Moore hasn’t had four dubious careers, like Hood. He wasn’t a yeoman, or an archer, not a nobleman, or a parkour champion. Moore was in fact managing director of a concrete company, a job choice respected by all, except Jimmy Hoffa, of course.

Moore is, therefore, an interesting choice of hero. He didn’t slay a dragon or romance Guinevere. He didn’t write those great plays or invent a vocabulary. He didn't fight sea battles to secure dominion over the oceans. And, he didn’t steal money wearing a hood in Nottingham (as far as I know).

No, he’s old Tom Moore. Real, literate, clean-handed, British, and lawful. And a hero to boot.

Nigel Roth, 2020


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