The celebration of VE Day last Friday has put us all in mind of the extraordinary heroics of the Second World War.
Men and women, young and old, British or foreign-born allies, by land, sea and air, at home and abroad, combatants and civilians, the extraordinary feats of administration and procurement required to support the war effort – all are remembered. Still more so in Herefordshire.
There are so many heroes of that time. For me, it has been a moment to celebrate the life and work of my grandfather, Nigel Norman.
After Sandhurst he served with the Royal Garrison Artillery during the First World War.
In the 1920s and 1930s he designed the first London airport at Heston, and numerous other airport projects.
But during the second war he was an air commodore closely involved in the development and use of paratroop forces, including numerous paratroop operations in France and Italy, before dying in an air crash on active service in 1943.
But in this time of lockdown, I also think of my father, Torquil Norman. He flew Seafires off aircraft carriers in the Fleet Air Arm, was too young to serve in the second war, and missed being called up for Korea by just two weeks. But he too has been a great hero throughout his life.
He built up his own business from nothing, Bluebird Toys, giving employment to many hundreds of people. He designed and developed dozens of toys and game – in particular Polly Pocket, delighting millions of children and dismaying their endlessly pestered parents.
He rebuilt the Roundhouse in London, one of the UK’s most iconic arts venues, and made it a creative centre that has trained and inspired many thousands of less well off kids. And, now at the tender age of 87 years young, he has developed a revolutionary new eco kit car, the OX.
So let us celebrate the heroes of old. But let us also seek out and celebrate the heroes of today: people who pour their energies into projects that help others and make our society better.
And let us encourage the same high energies, the same can-do attitude, the same kindness to others and sense of honour and buccaneering spirit in our children and grandchildren.
This period of lockdown will not last for ever, and when we emerge from it we will need all those qualities, and more, to renew and rebuild this country in the years to come.