Dear Reader on the dilemma of reopening Harrogate bars and restaurants

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Friday, 3rd July 2020, 2:41 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd July 2020, 2:44 pm
Fisk seafood restaurant at Montpellier Mews is one of the many Harrogate food and drink businesses opening again after lockdown.

Is the prospect of the reopening of cafes, bars and restaurants this Saturday for the first time in nearly four months with strict safety rules a case of a pint glass half full or a wine glass half empty?

I know this won’t help but I am in two minds about that.

One thing is for sure - there is still a lot of fear in Harrogate but that fear was there long before Boris Johnson ordered the nation into lockdown on March 23.

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As early as mid-February when the media began its daily coverage of the progress of coronavirus in other countries, I noticed footfall in Harrogate town centre start to fall off a cliff.

As mixed messages go, sending people back to the pubs now with the rules of social distancing still in place and a whole set of new precautions introduced so the food and drink sector can reopen in a safe and responsible manner may just be the daddy of all contradictions.

Not that I feel conflicted, speaking personally. I know exactly where I stand,

I’ve already booked my table at a cafe in Harrogate and a bar in Knaresborough on Saturday so I can join what passes for ‘normal’ life at this stage in the pandemic.

I hope it all goes well but I think it’s a tough act to reintroduce the ‘feel-good’ factor while re-advertising the risks involved with socialising before coronavirus is well and truly beaten.

‘Super Saturday’ may amount an attempt to square an impossible circle but it’s one I sincerely hope pays off.

No one is denying that the fear of the virus returning with a vengeance isn’t real.

But the fear of huge job losses and economic disaster is just as real and potent.

We all really should eat, drink and shop local.

Back to nature in Harrogate...

Harrogate isn’t known for its tough, urban streets.

Its leafy nature is part of its attraction and charm for all who live or move here.

Still, it would be a mistake to think we are at one with nature.

The sound of birdsong, the plentitude of trees and gardens and the occasional sight of a grey squirrel do not a wilderness make.

At times it has felt different during lockdown, especially during those early, deadly quiet weeks.

One evening I spotted a hedghog snuggled inside a pile of leaves outside my back window.

On another occasion as dusk set in, a fox darted across my back garden and I don’t mean one of those cute, small Basil Brush type creatures, I mean one of those big brown-red brutes.

Most recently a deer ran straight across my front lawn. I say “ran” but this graceful, lithe thing of beauty stopped and posed for a moment as if for a photograph before bounding off towards the fairways of Harrogate Golf Club.

It’s possible it actually came from the Nidd Gorge area - not necessarilty the gorge itself but the large tract of scrubland surrounding it where there are few houses or real civilisation, well, not at the moment.

I know that wildlife such as deer have lived in this part of Harrogate since it was part of the ancient forest of Knaresborough because Harrogate writer Rob Cowen wrote about it in his best selling book Common Ground five years ago before Brexit, before Covid-19, before anything.

Please note, this column was written in advance of 'Super Saturday'.

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