23 November 2010

Of Heroes & Villains

When I were but a small lad, like most small lads I wanted to be a hero. You know the sort of thing, riding up on a white charger and rescuing a damsel in distress. That was all very well and good but there are inherent problems with rescuing flaxen haired, beautiful Princesses in distress who reward their hero with a soft kiss on the cheek, signaling the beginning of a life lived happily ever after.

Rescuing damsels or Princesses, requires a certain amount of bravery. That's fine, I learned to be brave from the moment I first set foot in a hostile environment full of weird looking strangers boasting about how they won the war single handed, wanting to hurt, belittle and control my every thought - in other words, a typical Welsh school.

However, there are limits to anyone's bravery and the annoying thing about damsels in distress is that they are invariably held in castles. Not on the ground floor or a nice little basement flat mind you - oh no. They are always held captive high in a tower. Therein lies the problem.

For one thing, I am so terrified of heights that I wouldn't even be able to mount the white charger. The last time I tried my hand at anything equestrian was when I went to Spain to celebrate my impending trip to Australia. It was only a donkey for God's sake and getting on the damn thing was hard enough but getting down even harder! I seemed stuck until I informed everyone within earshot, "I can't get off my ass." Upon hearing those words, a party of holidaying British trade unionists who had managed not to fall of any hotel balconies or lose any children, immediately surrounded me and offered me a place on their committee.

Assuming I did manage to get astride my snowy white charger, (which for the record, in my childhood imagination, was always called White Lightning) I would never be able to get up the castle walls. No point in using a ladder as I once got stuck for two hours on top of a step ladder, so anything longer would be out of the question. I could of course prop the ladder up against the wall and let aforesaid damsel clamber down on her own - carefully avoiding looking up to save her blushes and prove my credentials as a gentleman and a scholar. Somehow though, that doesn't seem quite as effective as tossing her over my shoulder and suavely assuring the grateful yet sobbing maiden, "Soon have you down love. Weather's nice for the time of year innit?"

To appease any animal rights activists who may believe that getting White Lightning involved in the daring rescue of a beautiful Princess, would somehow be traumatic for an animal I had rescued from the glue factory, perhaps I should substitute the horse for something more mechanical - a motor bike perhaps?"

Good idea. Just one tiny little problem. Leaning into bends to go round corners has always seemed, "are you out of your mind?" to me. Even with video games I tend to do the same thing as I did on that trip to Spain, when I also hired a small moped - slow down and sort of crawl around the corners. One of my favorite movie scenes is Steve McQueen in the "Great Escape" as he roars across the countryside evading pursuing German soldiers. However, the nearest I have come to doing that is riding a Raleigh bicycle across the field at the back of the house where I lived - and that was in a straight line! I eventually managed to evade the imaginary pursuers by telling them, "I have to go in for tea now."

So as you can see, my childhood desire to be a hero like the ones you see on telly, was fine as long as it didn't involve heights or leaning into bends.

Still, I suppose that is better than some mainstream journalists who tout themselves as heroes - as long as it doesn't involve telling the truth or asking too many hard questions; leaving the betrayed and distressed to cry unheard and unseen.

Wherever you may be - be safe

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