Why Captain Tom and the Queen remind us what really counts: Christa Ackroyd

Arise Sir Tom Moore, Yorkshire’s finest, Yorkshire at its best and my favourite happening of the week, the news that this wonderful gentleman is to be knighted by Her Majesty the Queen.

Captain Tom Moore was knighted this week. He leads by example. (PA).

I do hope he gets his day at the palace. That is the photograph we are all waiting for. The day these two fine examples of all who put the ‘great’ in Great Britain finally meet in person will signify the nightmare is over, or at least that we have learned how to manage its devastating effect and pick up the pieces and carry on.

Both the Queen and Captain Tom epitomise a lifetime of service without question. They remind us we have had dark days in the past as a nation and have still come through smiling and thankful. They give us hope. They show us how to remain humble whatever your station in life.

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They teach us that fortitude and positivity will see us through. And that no matter how our lives differ, one born in a palace, the other in a small northern wool town, that we are all in this together. That we can all play our part.

Both Captain Tom and the Queen both danced in the streets 75 years ago when we finally emerged battered and bruised out into the sunlight at the end of the Second World War.

But they, like everyone, did so with a determination to rebuild a nation without cynicism or anger, bitterness or hatred.

And that is how we must now view this terrible pandemic. If it has taught us anything it has taught us who – and what – matters in life.

Think about all we have learned and who we have met these past few months, the people who, when the chips were down, answered the call. The neighbours who for the first time in years stopped their busy lives to build a community spirit we thought belonged to another era.

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We always had time to care; we had just become too preoccupied with other, less important, things.

Above all, these long, and often lonely, few weeks have given us a sharp reminder about what really matters, that it is time to go back to basics and accept this as an opportunity to start all over again. Just as Captain Tom and the Queen had to do, along with millions of others who shared a common purpose all those years ago to make things better.

We can, and must, triumph over adversity. We have done so before and we can do so again.

Out of the Second World War came the National Health Service and a recognition that the poorest deserved our help and not our judgment.

Women, who had stepped up and answered the call for the war effort, such as the wonderful ‘Women of Steel’ in Sheffield, brought equality one step nearer for all those who have reaped the benefits of their determination.

No longer would they accept staying at home with housekeeping money delivered on a Friday by the man of the house, many of whom sadly didn’t come back from the war.

While some had to rebuild a life alone, those who did see their loved ones return discovered a newfound respect for the ‘little woman of the house’ and all she had done to keep home and country together.

Just as they are doing now, whether it’s organising hot meals, making face masks or sewing scrubs.

I have thought a lot about Captain Tom these last few weeks and why his mantra of “tomorrow will be a good day” has resonated so strongly, and I have come to realise why his simple act of putting on his best bib and tucker and walking the length of his garden came to mean so much.

I have cried often, but he has made me cry tears of joy and pride because he reminds me of my dad. Perhaps he reminds me of yours, or your grandfather, or someone else you have met along the way.

The kind of man who would stand when a woman entered the room, who would leap up to open the door, or walk on the right hand side of the pavement to protect you from danger.

The gentleman who was also a gentle man, who always said ‘thank you’ to you when it should be you saying ‘thank you’ to him. The man who wore a hat and would touch it as he said ‘good morning’ if you passed him on the street.

The kind of man who would keep his medals in a drawer and never talk about how he got them because it appeared boastful, would rarely wear them, but when he did, he did so with pride, like my dad did when the Queen came to open ‘the Tyrlls’, Bradford’s now demolished police headquarters.

Captain Sir Tom Moore is one of those men, a man who was brought up to remember that manners cost nothing and kindness is everything. He will never gush about all he has achieved and remains genuinely surprised by it.

Despite life’s troubles he still manages to keep a twinkle in his eye and a spring in his step, and that is how we must come through this – with his sense of fortitude and humility.

Captain Tom, Sir, we salute you and look forward to the day when you stand, even two metres apart, from the Queen for us all to say ‘thank you’.

I hope hundreds of other ordinary men and women who have given so much stand alongside as we honour them all.

So ‘thank you’ for reminding me of my lovely dad, and his generation and for reminding all of us of what really counts: family, friends and service.

Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

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Sincerely. Thank you.

James Mitchinson