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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Big screen heroes? No thanks, we have the real deal

This opinion piece is about 3 years old

Never mind Tom Cruise - ordinary people have been the true stars of the pandemic, says Christine Carlin.

It seems 2021 is going to be a good one for action movies.

Somehow, despite the pandemic, and thanks to clever camera angles and lots of CGI blue screen technology (plus some real stunts admittedly) Tom Cruise will be back to his role of Top Gun Maverick (35 years after the original!). After which, he will go on unscathed to save the world all over again in Mission Impossible 7.

Meanwhile, Daniel Craig will be back for the last time on the big screen as invincible James Bond in the intriguingly titled No Time to Die.

Yes, we all need a little escapism - perhaps this year more than ever given the real-life drama that has been playing across the world stage. After all, for nearly a year, without an Equity Card, we’ve been part of a movie in which every one of us has been both actor and audience. We’re all praying there is not a sequel and the cinema doors will soon be unlocked.

When I was very young, my great-uncle came to live with my gran and grandad. He was very quiet and kind. He bought me my first wristwatch and weekly comic (Twinklethe picture paper specially for little girls – don’t judge me, it was the 60s). Now and then, I used to sneak into the tatty old cigar box where he hid his medals and look at the pretty ribbons. 

Like so many others, he never spoke about the war, about lying about his age to enlist; and he never complained once about the nightmares that tormented him night after night in the years that followed. He was a quiet, unassuming hero. My uncle had no children and so his name, his face, his voice and his kindness are held only in the memories of a handful of people. My mum, me and perhaps the family of the man whose life he saved all those many decades ago. 

Now that the vaccines are here, there is huge hope on the horizon. There is talk about getting back to our normal lives. About pretending that 2020 never happened (anyone remember Bobby Ewing, a year-long shower and a bad dream?)

When this pandemic finally is over, each of us will have met at least one hero, probably several. Paid or unpaid. Heroes who walked into work every day in our hospitals or care homes where Covid was very real but where for a long time PPE was not. Those who worked in our schools. Heroes who came into our homes (where Covid may have been lurking) to provide personal care or support, maybe fix our gas, electric or water. Heroes who delivered our food, our medicine, our post, or who worked in our supermarkets and shops. Those who drove our public transport or emptied our bins. Heroes who responded without hesitation to our accidents or our emergencies. Or those who helped their family, their friends, their neighbours or people they’d never met before. Heroes who worked tirelessly to create vaccines and those thousands volunteering to test them.

Heroism comes in many forms.

But here’s the thing, after this is over, these heroes will still be walking among us, quiet and unassuming.  

Not the fake heroes of the big screen, paid millions to pretend. But real heroes, real people, real memories. Like my great-uncle.

And some of them will struggle then to reclaim their normal lives. 

Please let’s not forget them in our rush to erase 2020 from our memories.  

Christine Carlin is director Scotland for Home-StartUK.