A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers
No one likes complaints. Maybe that’s why the temptation is to get defensive, an affliction I’m not immune to myself.
But my second thought more often than not on these occasions is “what if they’ve got a point?”
Which is what happened when an email landed in my inbox last week about Hampsthwaite Action Group’s campaign against new housing developments.
Although the email existed purely in the digital world I could almost feel the heat as I opened it.
The angry correspondent, who wished to remain anonymous, wanted to make the case that HAG didn’t represent every villager in Hampsthwaite.
Why, the email wondered, were the protesters receiving so much coverage when, in fact, it continued, HAG only represented 10% of residents?
Mmm. Perhaps the reader had a point, though how the sender worked that figure out is something I don’t know.
Judging public opinion is never straightforward for newspapers.
But,to a degree, no form of assessing public opinion can be entirely accurate.
Last year’s vote on Brexit saw a turnout of 72.2% out of a total electorate of 46,501,241.
That means there are more than ten million voters whose views on this important issue are still not known to this day.
I think it was the late disgraced US president Richard Nixon who first talked about the ‘silent majority’.
If it was ‘silent’, how did he know?
Nostalgia for the 90s
Incredibly, it’s now a quarter of a century since the Montpellier Quarter in Harrogate was set up by a far-sighted group of independent shops, galleries and auctioneers.
As part of the anniversary celebrations, a street party and late night shopping event is being held shortly to raise funds for Beat, the charity supporting people with eating disorders.
This particular story matters to me partly because when I first joined this newspaper in the late 1980s, it was still based in a labyrinth of narrow corridors and small rooms in an old building at the heart of Montpellier.
The driving force behind the Montpellier Quarter’s charity efforts has done something it’s unlikely she would done back then in the same situation.
In an act of enormous bravery, Antonia Sutcliffe has spoken openly for the first time about her long battle with anorexia.
It’s a sign of how times have changed that she feels able to take this courageous step.
My memories of those days are a lot more frivolous, which may in itself say something.
What I remember of the old Ackrill’s building are things like sneaking into our front window after dark with the deputy sports editor to help ourselves to a nibble of mince pie and a minor sip of whisky in the Christmas display.
But even I was surprised once to see a senior member of the paper’s advertising department sprinting after a man in a crash helmet who’d just tried to rob the jewellers next door.
And surprising my colleagues at work with a carefully planned ‘spontaneous’ custard pie fight with the late deputy chief sub-editor, Rod, God bless his soul.