Dear Reader: Outsmarted by school's youngsters + Niddfest goes with a bang

Pupils from Key Stage 2 Newspaper Club at Brackenfield School in Harrogate with the Harrogate Advertisers Graham Chalmers. (Picture courtesy of Brackenfield School)
Pupils from Key Stage 2 Newspaper Club at Brackenfield School in Harrogate with the Harrogate Advertisers Graham Chalmers. (Picture courtesy of Brackenfield School)

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.

It’s always simultaneously heartening but slightly alarming when making an occasional school visit to talk to youngsters about journalism to discover that the little newspaper they produce without years of training or experience is rather good.


An enjoyable afternoon at Brackenfield School in Harrogate the other week brought it home again for the umpteenth time since I first volunteered to do one of these things more than 25 years ago.


Polite to a fault, sitting behind wooden desks that reminded me of my own schooldays, the class of seven to 11-year-olds facing me asked some very smart questions.
Well, the person in charge of Key Stage 2 Newspaper Club, Mrs Amy Wardell, head of English and Year 6 Form tutor, was there watching.


Worse still or, sorry, better still, was the newspaper the children write and put together before selling it to fellow pupils and parents to raise money for this school on Duchy Road.
Put simply, the Brackenfield Blabberer (great title!) was/is very good.


So much so that when asked by one youngster to lend the full weight of my experience for ways to improve it, I was left at a loss.


Still, it wasn’t as embarrassing as the time long ago in the pre-internet era of journalism when I was explaining how things work to a group of 16-year-olds on a visit to our offices.
Those were the days of arcane sub-editing techniques and myriad typefaces and fonts.


I’d only turned my back for a second or two but turned round just in time to see a burly student beginning to nod off before finally fainting.
I guess I must have gone into too much detail.

Dear Reader: Proud to be Yorkshire + my embarrassing towel fiasco


There are worse places to be stuck on a warm afternoon in summer than Pateley Bridge.
I was in this lovely Dales town as part of Niddfest, an annual festival of words and nature held in the Pateley Bridge Playhouse, a truly fantastic building which began life as a Primitive Methodist Chapel in 1859.


My role in the whole affair was to interview Harrogate writer Rob Cowen whose Common Ground book set in the town’s last surviving wilderness at Bilton fields and Nidd Gorge has set the world of nature writing alights ince it was first published in 2015.


Rob is a real Pandora’s box as a public speaker.
Once opened, shutting him down is difficult. Not that anyone would want to.


An inspirational figure, he’s also the king of tangents but always with a purpose and always accompanied by an amazing piece of knowledge or surprising fact.


So, yes, driving to Pateley towards lunchtime it's fair to say I was looking forward to the talk.


So much so that when I spotted him as I drove into town looking for somewhere to park, I waved out of the window.


Seconds later there was a loud bang and my front tyre burst with a vengeance.


I did well to bring my car to a thudding halt against the granite of the kerb.