A weekly column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers
The most disappointing thing to me, and many other people I know, about the current titanic battle over this nation’s possible Brexit is the sheer amount of hot air that’s been expended by both sides.
Actual facts seem to have been thin on the ground in the run-up to next month’s EU Referendum, swamped in a sea of passion and piffle.
It’s not as if the information about the pros and cons of leaving Europe isn’t out there.
The Office of National Statistics has plenty of figures on:
The number of EU nationals working in the UK.
What percentage of those come from eastern European countries and what percentage come from western European countries.
What they pay in tax and national insurance.
How their presence in the workforce affects job opportunities and wages for UK-born workers.
The reality of just how bad-natured the battle between the two sides has become hit me unexpectedly last week as I was chatting to a friend in one of my favourite cafes.
Without so much as a by-your-leave, an agitated, white-haired man tapped me on the shoulder as he walked past the coffee machines and cakes.
He’d obviously been earwigging on our conversation or, perhaps, my voice carries further than I thought.
“Do you know there’s going to be 1,500 migrants coming to North Yorkshire soon?
“They’re taking all our jobs. We’re ruled by Europe,” he blared at me, or words to that affect.
He looked like a man with too much on his mind.
“Rubbish”, I replied, “check your facts.”
At that, the stranger repeated the whole of what he’d just said, turned round and walked straight to the exit.
I was given a lesson in the secret of eternal youth by a man in his late 80s on Monday lunchtime.
This was no ordinary man. Brian Greenwood once co-owned the biggest chain of menswear stores in the UK.
The Harrogate branch is still trading away happily on Parliament Street, though the company is now owned by the Chinese.
At a time of life when most people are content to take it easy, Brian still plays tennis once a week and remains the president of a renowned Yorkshire school.
Oh – and he likes to write books. His latest work is called Use It Or Lose It, an entertaining self-help guide for older people in which he distils all those years of experience into 112 pages.
A man who doesn’t act or think his age, this long-term authority on education, as well as suits, puts the secret of his longevity down to just that – not acting or thinking his age.
The most important thing of all, he believes, is staying active - that and good health.
The word ‘chipper’ could have been invented for him.
“I’m one of the rare people who made a lot of money, then lost a lot of money,” he tells me at one point with a broad smile.