“A man favoured by the gods,” is one. That would be the definition to apply to my artistic heroes, John Lennon, Graham Greene, Elmore Leonard and Morecambe and Wise. Their genius can be embraced and enjoyed through their work.
Then there is “illustrious warrior”. In this category I place Douglas Bader, the RAF ace who flew missions during the Second World War despite having lost both his legs.
I met him in the 1960s when he flew to Blackpool from his home aerodrome in the south of England to open a BLESMA home (British Limbless Ex Service Men's Association). His trip had caused a bit of flak because, when he discovered his own aircraft wasn't ready, he simply took one that was without permission. He was friendly, charming and witty.
We were chatting when a mechanic ran across the airfield to join us. He was Maltese and explained he had worked as ground crew once for Bader during the war. The former air ace chatted with him warmly and then the conversation dried.
“You push off now, old chap,” he said.
“I can't, sir.”
“Because you're standing on my foot, sir.”
Bader laughed louder than any of us and ensured a niche in my memory.
The dictionary's final entry about heroes is: “A person who is greatly admired because of his special achievement,” which is where my Uncle Eric from Yorkshire comes in. He had a squiffy eye and a hair lip and a permanently amused outlook on life.
He retired early from the Post Office and was a moderately successful horse racing enthusiast but almost came a cropper when he was 70. This happened during a bookmakers' charabanc trip to Paris for the famous Arc de Triomphe race at Longchamp.
Uncle Eric never saw the race. He collapsed on the Champs Elysees and woke up in hospital. The problem had been French cuisine. He had steadily imbibed but had been unable to eat anything during the entire four day break.
“They don't cook their meat. They serve it raw.”
The experience did not deter him from going again the following year. This time, Auntie Doris made sure he was well prepared: he took a small cardboard suitcase filled with Marmite and dripping sandwiches to provide proper sustenance for a Yorkshire lad.
Truly food for a Yorkshire hero.