Dear Reader on the return of cars in Harrogate plus never go outside again!

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

Friday, 22nd May 2020, 3:07 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd May 2020, 3:08 pm
What was normal now looks abnormal - The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers in Marconi cafe in Harrogate prior to the coronvirus pandemic and social distancing which have caused all this to look like history.

I got excited the other day over something which, at first glance, may sound a bit barmy, perhaps rightly so.

I saw a bus go past me on Knaresborough Road with seven people on board.

It doesn’t sound much but it’s the most ‘crowded’ bus I’ve seen with my own eyes in Harrogate since lockdown proper began 60-odd days ago.

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Admittedly, it’s not much but it still came as a relief to feel there was life out there.

I was beginning to think the Government had done almost too good a job of telling us to stay at home.

The floodgates may not have quite opened since the Prime Minister’s switch of slogan from “Stay at home” to “Stay alert” but the trickle towards normality is picking up pace.

For a start, people no longer rush home to watch the health minister’s ‘Daily Briefing’ about coronavirus on national TV.

Yes, I know most of us are at home anyway...

The biggest change thus far is the sheer number of cars on the road.

With most businesses and shops still closed, I’ve got no idea where they are all going but there are quite a lot of them.

It means the days when I could step out onto the road to keep a safe distance from other runners and walkers without even looking are a thing of the past.

The peaceful calm and freedom of a car-less world is no more.

That eerie emptiness of the early weeks of lockdown that I hated so much at the time has gone.

Now that the Government has decreed we are allowed to drive to a different location for our daily workout, I headed into the countryside for a seven-mile hike last Saturday.

It made a pleasant change to do a bit of exercise in the beauty of the great outdoors and I was curious to see if any of those stories about missing right of way signs and blocked public paths and angry farmers were true.

I scarcely saw another soul as I set off on foot across wondrous green grassy slopes dotted with trees which, from a distance, looked like florets of broccoli.

I felt like a little boy again in shorts as I scurried along the paths and trail which criss-cross the edges of a crag.

The view at the top as the wind whipped around my ears was joyous but there was no ignoring that buzzing noise in the distance - the sound of traffic.

No escape.

At one point I bumped my head like a fool on the low hanging branch of a tree.

Otherwise all was tranquil.

No missing signs. No blocked paths. No angry farmers.

The only blot on an idyllic afternoon was when I was harried by an angry dog.

Perhaps I was I doing the wrong thing?

The dog’s sharp teeth and mongrel yell suggested it thought I was.

Thankfully, after 50 yards or so of snapping at my heels, it backed off.

Still, this tame incident was enough to make me wish I’d stayed at home.

For a moment I even thought I might never go outside again.

Walking in nature is to return to childhood in more ways than one.

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