Dear Reader on wearing face masks on buses and sadness over Henshaws

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Friday, 19th June 2020, 4:38 pm
Updated Friday, 19th June 2020, 4:39 pm
Face masks at the ready - The Harrogate Bus Company have taken great measures to ensure travel on their vehicles is safe amid the coronavirus pandemic, as chief executive Alex Hornby is demonstrating.

I had to make a serious decision at the weekend.

Should I get back on a bus for the first time in 13 weeks?

I was aware that Harrogate Bus Company had introduced an intensive cleaning regime for all their buses as lockdown starts to ease, including a powerful anti-viral mist, among other things.

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My dilemma was this. Was I the sort of person who, as national opinion polls revealed last week, thought it was simply to early to embrace the ‘new normal’ and venture out?

Perhaps I should add that ‘embrace’ may not be the right choice of word.

Decision made, I put on my face mask, walked to the bus stop and got on the 1c bus from Forest Lane Head to Harrogate town centre.

It has to be said wearing the mask felt a little odd. And it was a bit hot,too, so much so my spectacles steamed up and my vision became a bit blurred.

Other than that it was a pleasant journey and nothing untoward happened, almost but not quite like being on a bus before lockdown was ever introduced.

Mind you, I was the only passenger on the outward journey.

By Tuesday when the shops had been reopened for more than a day, I noticed there were more people on buses arriving into the town centre, all of them in face masks.

The likelihood is I will be going back on the buses again even if my glasses do mist over.

Wearing your own bit of PPE kit seems a small price to pay to get our old lives back and help the economy recover, even if the gauze face mask did make make me feel like a surgeon in Carry on Doctor begging for a “swab, please, nurse.”

If asked how many times have I been at Henshaws Arts & Crafts Centre, I’d have to reply “too many times to remember.”

I’m sometimes there as part of my job as a reporter but it’s usually because of the music.

There’s either a live band on or I’m doing a spot of amateur DJ-ing with vinyl records or MC-ing at Bed Fest held at the centre in Bond End in Knaresborough each year in Bed Race day.

There’s usually an element of fundraising involved for this northern-based charity which supports people living with sight loss and a range of other disabilities.

But the real reason I go there is because I like it.

The atmosphere at Henshaws Arts & Crafts Centre is always special and what makes it special is the crowd always includes the clients themselves or ‘art makers,’ to give the correct title.

Most places make a song and dance these days about being ‘inclusive’ or ‘open’ or ‘friendly and relaxed’.

But the much-loved arts and crafts centre doesn’t need to try.

In a world of tick boxing, it just is ‘inclusive’ and ‘open’ and ‘friendly and relaxed’ by nature.

Although aware the centre had to close during lockdown, news that it may never reopen because of the charity’s overall financial problems, came as a shock to me, much as it did to everyone else touched by its work.

Should the worst happen, and it’s impossible to know for certain, it would not only be a tragedy for distraught art makers and their families, it may also serve as a worrying sign of where this country is going next.

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