Dear Reader: Failing to come to rescue + praising Joan Bakewell

The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers. (Picture courtesy of Marconi cafe, Princes Square, Harrogate)
The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers. (Picture courtesy of Marconi cafe, Princes Square, Harrogate)

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

I now regret hanging up my walking sticks. Life was so much easier before.

Pensioners would give up their seat on the bus.

Strangers would open doors for me.

The police would stop the traffic to help me cross the road.

Actually, that last bit isn’t true.

Despite the brilliant efforts of NHS staff and my regular own huffing and puffing in the gym at Harrogate Hospital, the gulf between the idea of being normal and the reality was made clear by a minor incident on Saturday afternoon.

I was standing on Station Parade waiting for a lift when I spotted a shopper tripping and falling to the ground near the railway station car park.

I thought about running to the poor woman’s aid but she was fully 20 yards away and I can’t actually run.

It didn’t look that bad, I told myself, before deciding I had to make some sort of move to help, albeit in slow motion.

Too late. At that exact moment there was a swish of air and a young man sprinted past me towards the fallen shopper.

Thankfully she was was soon back on her feet thanks to this speedy good Samaritan.

“You did well, there” he wisecracked as he sped past me again.

“I’ve got a bad hip,” I replied.

I might as well have blamed an old war wound.

Age will not wither...Joan Bakewell!

All roads seem to be leading to the Harrogate area at the moment.

Last weekend saw esteemed cultural critic and BBC documentary filmmaker Jonathan Meades bringing his dark shades and trademark neck scarf to Harrogate at the exact same time as the guitarist of iconic 1990s Liverpool indie band The La’s.

I was lucky enough to chair a special ‘In Conversation’ with the latter which was nearly as thrilling as seeing the band for the first time in 1988.

Both were independent events organised by far-sighted individuals at two fantastic Harrogate galleries – RedHouse Originals and 108 Fine Art.

On a broader scale our district is increasingly awash in major arts events.

The last month alone has seen: Ripon International Festival (the 25th), the Wetherby Festival (the 40th) and Ripon Poetry Festival (the 1st).

The best of the lot, perhaps, starts today – Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival (the 6th).

It’s thanks to the latter that I got the chance to chat on the phone to Joan Bakewell, who gives a talk today at the Crown Hotel.

If it hadn’t been for a slight croak in her voice I would never have guessed this veteran writer and broadcaster’s age.

If I, too, manage to reach the ripe old age of 84 I sincerely hope I am in as fine fettle as the likably plain talking, intellectually sharp as a pin legend that is Joan.

Like a fool I told her at one point that she would always be 50 in my mind.

And like a fool I meant it.