Dear Reader - Pavement parking problems + missing Jay Rayner

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Wednesday, 4th March 2020, 6:20 pm
Has pavement parking become a serious problem on Harrogate's streets?

It says a lot that when a reader got in touch with this newspaper the other week complaining that Harrogate had become a “pavement parking hotspot” the reader felt the need to emphasise his or her concern that the complaint should remain “anonymous.”

It’s difficult to be critical these days of such an attitude in a Britain where bear baiting has undergone a major revival, well, in terms of social media at least.

Besides, there is a serious side to the claim that the town has turned into a “pavement parking hotspot.”

It’s no laughing matter when a large car, SUV or 4x4 blocks an entire pavement, forcing pedestrians onto the same busy road that large car, SUV or 4x4 has just come from.

And the smile falls from the face when the pedestrian being forced onto the road is a mum or dad with a push chair.

The government in Scotland has reacted to its own pavement parking problems by tightening up the law.

In England, outside of London, it is not a legal offence to park your vehicle on the pavement - unless it’s double yellows.

I can almost hear the sigh of a relief from many of you at this moment.

There are selfish motorists out there for sure, even amid the refinement of Harrogate.

But most of the people I’ve seen parking their cars partly on the kerb in our narrow residential streets do so for a simple reason.

The choice is between partly blocking the pavement or totally blocking the road.

“I sometimes wish I would shut up,” food critic Jay Rayner told me over the phone the other day when I was talking to him about his new live show ‘My Last Supper’ which comes to Harrogate Theatre in April.

“Getting the tone right on social media is important,” continued the occasional Masterchef guest star who with his beard and bullish personality looks a bit like one of The Three Musketeers, Porthos, perhaps.

“The howl of irritation on Twitter against me last week got 5,000 likes. I was surprised that someone in America felt the need to point out my ‘mistake’ to me.”

What was being pointed out to the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s popular Kitchen Cabinet show was Rayner’s misuse of the word “effect.”

Good grief. Is there no fault too small not too provoke an over-heated reaction out there these days?

Although sometimes regarded as a bit of an intimidating presence as a writer and broadcaster, personally speaking, I found this Harrow-born, former Leeds University man who once spoke out in defence of Norse, the sadly deceased Harrogate restaurant, a pussy cat.

Honest but certainly not unkind. He was nice enough to overlook the fact I hadn’t kept to my allotted time of 10am for the phone interview that his press department had arranged almost three weeks earlier.

In fact, that morning was so busy I had forgotten to phone him altogether.

The ring on my mobile took me so much by surprise that when I heard the voice saying “hello, this is Jay Rayner,” I nearly replied “what are you doing phoning me?”