Dear Reader: Back of a taxi to Harrogate + in praise of Starbeck

The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.
The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Despite the occasional, er, ‘unusual’ sight in shorts, all of life seems better in sunshine.
Even a casual stroll seems alive with possibilities, even if we’re not sure what to do with them.


The current prolonged heatwave isn’t so good for train travel, however, as I learned coming back from Edinburgh to Harrogate last week.


First, there was a 15-minute delay on the journey from Waverley Station, the slimline coaches of the East Coast’s premier service slowing down for long stretches along the gleaming North Sea coastline as if sheer exhaustion at the heat.
Next up the knock-on effect that my Harrogate connection had already departed by the time we pulled into York.
Then the 40-minute wait for the next train.
Finally, the coup de grâce. Just as the Harrogate train was due to leave a simple word flashed up on the station’s mighty LED larrivals and departures board - “cancelled.”
Welcome to 21st century Britain. I’m not sure what has changed from the maligned days of the 1970s and British Rail, except, perhaps, that we don’t have Jim Callaghan or trade unions to blame.


Oh well. The rail staff throughout all these minor trials and tribulations were unfailing friendly and helpful as if relieved to be out from under the yolk of the Virgin livery.
Okay, I was forced to get a taxi all the way home but it turned out well. I really enjoyed the ride and the chat with my fellow stranded passengers; the head of marketing from award-winning care home group Springfield, someone from a bank who’d been at a conference and a plain-speaking man from Knaresborough who, impressively, knew more about his town’s history than I thought possible.

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In recent years the Starbeck part of Harrogate has felt like a sleeping giant. An influx of new residents, often young professionals, as part of a rash of new housing developments means the character of the place is starting to change. Its essential community feel is the same, however, and it remains one of the few places where people still walk everywhere and are happy to stop and chat and share. I shouldn’t have been surprised, therefore, when Starbeck Community Day turned out to be a success on a scorching Saturday afternoon last weekend.


The aim was to raise funds for the Starbeck Christmas Lights and show in a fun way that we are all in this together.
There were local businesses, schools, charities, footballers and talented students from Summerbell Dance Academy.
I volunteered for a small role, too.


Picking the music for two-and-a-half hours was scarcely a chore. In the event, the nature of the PA meant that possibly no more than 50 to 70 people there actually heard the likes of Babies by Pulp and Sunday Walking Lady by legendary Harrogate band Wally.
Not sure it really mattered though.