Friday 14 May 2010

Holding out for a hero

Tomorrow is the annual meeting of The 1805 Club, the only organisation which conserves monuments and memorials to Georgian naval heroes, including Nelson, on whose Council I proudly serve as Honorary Press and Media Officer.

This has occasionally resulted in my being seen lurking around graveyards armed with a camera and a tape measure- and probably looking a bit self-conscious/shifty. This is simply so the Club can identify those tombs of fallen seafarers which need a bit of tlc. And well, a girl has got to have a hobby!

It all started when for seven glorious years, I had the privilege of being public relations officer at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, the best job ever, and while there, and countless press trips around HMS Victory, I heard his story so many times and well, the little chap really had something going on there.

The one thing which really inspired me was the fact he came from the wilds of Norfolk, which even now is a four and a half hour drive from Winchester. So it was not just a case of strapping the Ford Focus to his derriere and hotfooting it down to the Admiralty every time a call came through to do something spectacular in the Med. There are no motorways in Norfolk even now but then... well, 18 hour amble in a horse and carriage down to the metropolis was as good as it was going to get.

That's something of the background, but the man himself. Simply a mass of seething contradictions, which makes him incredibly human and there's the initial appeal. Brought up as a parson's son, he had a premonition early on that he was destined for great things and gave a polar bear a run for its money when he was 13.

Vertically and later optically challenged - and a bit of a weed, he never had to refer to "Leadership for Dummies": he just had that gift. And as for his love life. He would have knocked Katie Price off the front page of the Sun on a regular basis and no mistake. Got caught up with the femme fatale of the age, put her in the family way and ended up living in a menage a trois with her and her ageing husband in the affluent surroundings of Merton, south London. It has all the hallmarks of one of the great tabloid stories. And there was much lampooning of his circumstances notably by the caricaturist James Gilray... especially when he started believing in his own publicity after he kicked the French into touch at the Nile.

Anyway, I digress. Well, he certainly went out in a blaze of glory, bless him, and the theory still persists that poncing around on the poop deck in your full admiral's uniform in full view of some Froggy sharpshooter is not a good career move - as it proved on this occasion. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Well, I was looking at the man high on his perch in Trafalgar Square last night (having seen a mocked up pic of him hours before sporting a scarf which said "Back the bid"). And on that theme, imagine all the headlines about to be written for the World Cup. I think you will find every other one will be along the lines of "England expects"! So he provides us with the national strapline if nothing else!

And that isn't the half of it....

To be continued...

1 comment:

  1. I am inspired by Nelson. I have never been so committed to learning about someone's life except Jacqueline Kennedy. But Nelson is different for me. I am dedicated to him, just ask my sister LOL. I have many books, joined 2 clubs, have visited his birthplace, HMS Victory and resting place, and am not finished yet !

    The life aboard ship in the 18th and 19th centuries was brutal to say the least and am intrigued by it