Paul Workman: Locked down in London, Day 24
LONDON, U.K. -- Arise, Sir Tom.
This entire nation is in a state of rapturous affection for a 99-year-old war veteran, last seen in his backyard, stooped over his metal walker. He didn’t even seem winded.
On a day when we learned of a young NHS nurse who died of coronavirus in the final stages of pregnancy—her baby Mary was delivered safely by C-section—Britain woke up mourning its dead, and marvelling at an old man’s need for a little exercise.
I guess you could say it’s a story of triumph in an age of terrible tragedy.
Everybody in the U.K. was talking about or reading about Captain Tom Moore, veteran of India and Burma, who by early this morning had raised more than £12m (CAD$21 million) in support of Britain’s National Health Service. We’re talking big money and God knows where it will end.
Captain Tom, white hair, white moustache, will turn 100 at the end of April. His original idea was to circumnavigate his back garden 100 times before his birthday—hoping to raise £1,000 for the NHS.
And what a pittance that turned out to be.
For those of us who will likely never know what it feels like to be 99, Tom’s goal seemed ambitious—remember, this is a man who has survived war, cancer and a broken hip. And every time he needed treatment, the NHS took care of him.
One lap around Tom’s garden is 25 metres—he lives with a daughter her family, by the way. And once he got started, well, there was just no stopping him. It was never about the distance, of course. It was about something intangible. Let’s just say, human spirit.
Captain Tom, who proudly wears his service medals, completed his last lap this morning—two weeks ahead of schedule—with a guard of honour from the 1st Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment there to witness it. He is after all, a Yorkshireman.
Afterwards, Tom announced that he felt fine and was happy to be surrounded by the “right sort of people.”
He obviously has an extraordinary outlook on life and a talent for expressing it.
“I’ve always been one for having a future,” he told a British TV network. “We’ve fought so many battles and we’ve always won and we’re going to win again.”
When I checked into the donation website, called “Just Giving,” it was sitting at £12,467,787.90. Money was still rolling in, and by then, Tom had already finished his final lap.
Think for a moment about the scale of generosity on display here.
The U.K.—the world for that matter—is facing a recession, a depression, perhaps the worst economic downtown in a century. Millions are out of work, and yet, people still clicked on line to support Captain Tom and the NHS—which by the way has been underfunded for a decade by successive Conservative governments.
I wonder if Prime Minister Boris Johnson, after his own close call with coronavirus death, made a donation. He did try to call apparently, and Captain Tom was too busy to speak to him.
Doesn’t matter I suppose. A lot of other people donated. People with a lot less money to spend.
So now, if you scroll your eyes across the Internet, you will find a nation gushing and praising and adoring Tom’s very humble act of helping out.
“Sir Tom,” one person wrote. “He deserves a knighthood.”
Who could argue with that?