Dear Reader: A regular column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers
I was given a rare look inside the closed world of the Police Treatment Centre in Harrogate in the build-up to its doors being opened to the public in the forthcoming district-wide Heritage Open Day.
But there was a bit of a shock on my arrival in this grand-looking facility off Harlow HillI.
In the centre of the room stood two small brown horses. Or they might have been bears.
After I calmed down I realised they were a pair of giant dogs, German Leonbergers to be precise, designed to cheer people up, something of vital importance in a place where serving police officers come to recover as quickly as possible from physical or pyschological injuries.
Although fully two-and-a-half feet tall and weighing nearly 10 stone each (or 76cm and 63kg in modern measures), Riot and Rummy were friendly and peaceful, as ‘therapy dogs’ should be.
Happy to have their long, soft coats stroked by one and all, the two giant dogs moved with calm and grace.
Still, if they happened to nudge something be accident, you certainly knew about it.
None of this worried the half-dozen or so policemen officers keen to return to the frontline renewed and refreshed after their short spell at Harrogate’s Police Treatment Centre . They have to be braver on a daily basis than the likes of you and me ever have to be.
I suppose even in the fluffiest of situations it takes big beasts to comfort big men
Harrogate may look like a town of tradition, though it’s overshadowed in terms of actual history by both of its closest neighbours Knaresborough and Ripon.
But, as anyone who may have read my occasional ‘Retro’ feature on well-known pop and rock acts with Harrogate links will know, contrary to appearances, it’s also had its more rock n roll moments.
I came face to face with part of the town’s other heritage when I met Howard H Smith last week one lunchtime over a coffee amid the wooden floorboards of the Blues Bar.
The London-based lead singer of UK thrash metal legends Acid Reign doesn’t get back often to his hometown.
But he still remembers the days when he worked in McDonalds on Cambridge Road alongside fellow Harrogatonian Hugo Speer before he made his name in the late 1980s.
“I wanted to be in a rock band and tour the world. Hugo wanted to be an actor. We both followed our dreams.”
Smith’s also been a successful stand-up comedian for years in the guise of Keith Platt ‘Professional Yorkshire Man’, though he hasn’t lived in Yorkshire for a long time.
Not that I pointed this out to Howard. He has a sharp mind and an even sharper tongue.
Still, when he talks about Harrogate there is a warmth in his voice. There’s one thing this rock n roller doesn’t miss, however. The traffic. “It’s appalling, Much worse than London,” he says.