Dear Reader: An epiphany about homelessness + supporting Harrogate Town FC

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Friday, 14th December 2018, 3:37 pm
Updated Friday, 14th December 2018, 3:42 pm
Trying to help  Harrogate homeless - Former Greenwoods menswear shop chain co-owner Brian Greenwood.(181212AM4)
Trying to help Harrogate homeless - Former Greenwoods menswear shop chain co-owner Brian Greenwood.(181212AM4)

I tend to do most of my face-to-face interviews for this newspaper during my lunch hour in a café in Harrogate town centre to avoid eating into work time.

Over the years I’ve met scores of people of all backgrounds and professions in this way.

But earlier this week I met the youngest one so far.

Mr Brian Greenwood is 92, by the way.

He told me he had had what sounded to me like an epiphany about homelessness, and epiphanies don’t come along often.

“The situation is a disgrace,” he told me with a hint passion in his otherwise restrained and precise voice.

As a result, he continued, he’d decided to try to set up a new charity from scratch this winter to create a pop-up haven in Harrogate for people sleeping rough.

Before he retired, this remarkable man co-owned the famous national menswear chain whose Harrogate branch was located on Parliament Street until July of this year.

As a respected businessman who once ran hundreds of properties, it seemed to me he had all the right credentials to have a chance of turning this idealistic vision into a reality.

But that wasn’t what impressed me.

It was the forceful honesty and boyish look of enthusiasm in his eye.

A man truly young.

I sat in the stand at Harrogate Town’s ground on Saturday along with nearly 1,400 other fans sandwiched between the man who played a major role in last year’s anniversary celebrations for pioneering local road builder Blind Jack and the current mayor of Knaresborough.

CNG Stadium is the place to be these days since Town won promotion to the National League and raced to the top end of the division.

Harrogate’s mayor is usually seen there on most match days, too.

I first attended a match at Wetherby Road in 1985 when I was a young sports editor at the Goole Times.

I’ve never been a week-in-week-out fan but, as the decades have gone by, I’ve been drawn back at regular intervals.

Without doubt what I witnessed while watching a skilful Harrogate Town beat a streetwise Aldershot on a wet and windy afternoon was the most striking changes I’d seen at the club in all that time.

I was very impressed. Confidence was in the air and it felt like a club going places.

It reminded me of my days as a youngster watching my hometown team of Falkirk, a club which, not so long ago, played their football in the Scottish Premier League.

Mind you, CNG Stadium felt so civilised and family-friendly, I felt obliged to tone my act down.

Well, except for one moment during a fractious first half before Town got on top when I leapt out of my seat arms aloft to shout out loudly “referee, you’re an idiot.”

Perhaps I haven’t travelled so very far from Falkirk?