June 2014, and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings produced a story about doing your own thing, which could be viewed as archetypically British…
Bernard Jordan is a veteran of World War 2, and he went missing from his car home on the South Coast, after telling staff he was going for a walk. The police were called after the staff couldn’t find him.
In fact his ‘walk’ involved getting to the ferry port and buying a ticket to France, where he booked into a hotel. The first anyone knew where he was, was when a fellow veteran got in touch to tell them they were on the way to Normandy to join the events marking the anniversary.
The British papers were all over this story like a rash and the next day, alongside pictures of The Queen or the other heads of state who had been there, there was Bernard’s picture, with a headline along the lines of ‘The Great Escape’.
True British grit, the determination of the war generation embodied in an old boy who refused to be beaten by authority, right? The story also has the distinct flavour of British humour to it.
The care home rushed out a statement saying they had never ‘banned’ him, and were fully supportive of him attending the events. Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they!
Let’s look a little deeper, and in fact we don’t have to look that much deeper to find that care home wasn’t necessarily the dark side that it was being presented as.
It seems that the care home had indeed, *not* banned him.
He had asked to go on an official tour to the events, but had asked too late, and despite the efforts of the care home, his place on the tour couldn’t be secured, and that’s what he had been told.
There have been lots of stories about shocking treatment in care homes, too many of them, so it was easy to present this one as just another big bad nasty, but in fact this care home has regularly been praised for the way it operates.
So, with that side of the story taken care of, does it mean the whole thing was just a waste of column inches? Well, yes and no…
It could be argued that the coverage of Bernard’s story took away the focus form the serious and sombre nature of marking what happened 70 years ago on those beaches, where thousands of men arrived in crammed boats, sea sick from a rough voyage, seeing their friends mown down by machine guns, knowing they were next in line.
The heads of state from all the Allies were there, and yet the front pages were taken up by a pensioner who had become a news story by simply getting on a ferry. It could also be argued that blowing up the whole story was patronising ageism.
That’s probably over thinking it I reckon. Maybe the story was overdone, and it looks like Bernard is to be given the Freedom of the City for his display of determination, which definitely seems a bit over the top, but to me the story *does* sum up a certain Britishness, and there are elements to take note of.
The fact that the press knew the public would smile at the story shows our characteristic of laughing at ourselves. Whatever the circumstance behind the story, the fact that Bernard snuck out with his war medals under his raincoat does show a determination to do something despite being told it couldn’t be done.
It also reminds us that when we see old people, and maybe think of them as past their best or on the scrap heap, we should remember that it was people of that age that did fight in the war, that they are the survivors of a conflict that many of their own friends did not survive.
I certainly smiled at the story of Bernard Jordan, and found points worthy of note, I hope you did too.
Do let me know what you think, leave a comment below, and do feel free to share, like, tweet etc.
‘Til Next Time,
Health & happiness,
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