THE NEWSDESK: Forget George Osborne, here are my Britons of 2013
GEORGE Osborne may have been given the accolade "Briton of the Year" by The Times, but I can find few who would agree.
The man booed at the London Olympics would not be on top of many people's lists, regardless of whether or not there is now growth in the economy.
Because 2013 has seen some remarkable things done by Britons, which make Mr Osborne's title awarded for a job for which he is very well paid seem hollow and crass - and the newspaper which awarded it hopelessly out of touch.
I am going to mention just five Britons I believe are truly worthy - people who for me all deserve the honour far more than the Chancellor.
The first is someone who has achieved a first, Vale of Glamorgan woman Maria Leijerstam, who became the first person to cycle to the South Pole.
The 35-year-old beat two male rivals in a 500-mile (800km) challenge to ride across Antarctica in 10 days.
She faced snow drifts, white outs and crevasses during the journey on a purpose-built recumbent cycle.
Her mother Adrianne Leijerstam said the achievement came after "meticulous planning, super fitness both physically and mentally, and pure determination."
Miss Leijerstam set off from the Novo Russian air force base on December 16 taking a shorter steeper route than her rivals - American Daniel Burton and Spaniard Juan Menendez Granados.
The former management consultant's route took her over the potentially treacherous Leverett Glacier.
Her mother said: "From the time she was 12 years old and announced she wanted to be an astronaut, Maria has always been an adventurer."
My next three candidates are, again, all women - and I believe they showed the best of this country in the most horrific of circumstances.
The “Angels of Woolwich” faced up to the men who savagely killed Drummer Lee Rigby with little thought for their own safety.
TV footage showed two of them fearlessly tending the already-dead soldier’s body, just yards from knife and meat cleaver-wielding murderers.
Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, 48, was hailed a hero for remonstrating with the men and trying to help the victim.
The single mum from Cornwall tried to reason with the killer to take his attention away from other potential victims as crowds gathered.
She said as mothers and children were in the area, she thought: "Better me than a child."
Gemini Donnelly-Martin, 20, and her mother Amanda, 44, walked up to the bloodied, knife-wielding killers and asked if they could comfort the soldier.
Gemini simply said: “It had to be done”.
Her mother knelt by Drummer Rigby's body and prayed, her daughter by her side.
Her son later told reporters his mother felt that it could have been her son lying there.
The last Briton I want to mention is Mitul Shah, the man with dual British and Kenyan citizenship, who died trying to save children at the start of the Nairobi shopping mall attack, offering himself as a hostage.
His bravery gave some of the victims time to escape from the al-Shabaab gunmen, although he was gunned down with a number of children during the siege.
His employers, the cooking oil company Bidco Oil, and his work colleagues hailed Mr Shah as a "born leader and an inspiring soul love by one and all".
Mr Shah, 38, was born in north London. After going to school in Kenya, he studied management science with computing at Kent University in Canterbury, Kent and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree.
He then joined Bidco Oil Refineries in Kenya as a management trainee and worked his way up to become a team leader in the marketing department.
Mr Shah, who left a widow, Rupal, and one-year-old daughter Sarai, was killed moments after he was helping 33 children taking part in a TV cooking contest on the roof of the Westgate centre in Nairobi. The event was being sponsored by his company.
One of the directors of Bidco, Dipak Shah, told reporters: "He was trying to negotiate the freedom of the children in order for him to be taken as a hostage.
"Some had managed to save their lives, but unfortunately he, and others, did not.
"It was a heroic and brave act - a true reflection of his soul. He was a wonderful person who always went out of his way, beyond the call of duty, to help others."
These five people all deserve all the accolades we can give - sadly Mr Shah is not here today to receive them.
Now look around you at the people in our towns and communities, and there are so many volunteers helping others, making their lives better, caring for them, speaking for them, all without pay, and all of them, too, deserve our praise far more than those who are handsomely rewarded for their efforts.
Ironic, isn't it, that someone from a government which so extolls the virtues of the "Big Society" should be so lauded and so well rewarded while these people are not.
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