CategoriesHarrogate

Up and Out in Middlesmoor and The Dales

Thankfully and inexplicably, for a few days now, my health returned, almost back to normal. But how long it will last, I don’t know. So, let’s enjoy it whilst I can. No time to waste.

Without question, my favourite part of the Yorkshire Dales is the hamlet of Middlesmoor. I remember stumbling across it some years ago, puzzled – as I still am – that it wasn’t well-known. Plonked atop of a hill in Nidderdale, 8 miles from Pateley Bridge (where I used to run a free and never used law clinic!), its reminiscent of an Italian hill-town, but probably older, as a settlement has been here since 1200. And you can see why, for although there is no obvious fortifications, its position would have made it impregnable, with sweeping views all around.

Together with our new puppy, I just drank it up. Photographs do it more justice than my words ever could.

Given that the puppy ate every sheep poo within lead-distance, my stay was cut short. Therefore, I went exploring somewhere new, finding the reservoirs of Scar House and Angram, at the start of the River Nidd, a short distance from Middlesmoor. Building work commenced on these reservoirs almost a century to the day. They still supply Bradford with water.

Again, photos will do it more justice. What was pleasing to see is the number of new tree plantations, not far from my law firm’s woods just outside of Summerbridge.

As with Middlesmoor, though this area is stunning, it is largely empty of tourists, even on a Sunday basking in fine weather. Had Wordsworth ventured here, rather than the Lake District, perhaps Middlesmoor would have become like Ambleside, jam-packed with cars. My preference for beauty is always for awe-inspiring natural views, but only if accompanied by something man-made, like a castle or a reservoir.

I wonder what else is on my doorstep.

CategoriesLegalEnvironmentHarrogateThought of The Day

Lord: where’s the flies?

As a teenager, during the summer holidays I would wash cars with my mates, for cash. Never have I felt so flush, handling all those one-pound coins. Great times. Although knocking on the doors of strangers was nerve-jangling, without question the worst part of this job was cleaning dead flies from the front of the cars. Awful. My sponge would change colour, from yellow to black, so many flies had met their end at speed.

(That reminds me, my favourite joke as a child would go: “What’s the last thing to go through a fly’s mind as it strikes the bumper of a car at 70mph?…..It’s butt!)

When not washing cars, I was more likely to be found playing football, often until quite late into the evening. During balmy summer’s evenings, the midges – those buggers! – were so numerous that they would follow a player around, buzzing into the ear, ruining the match, attracted to the sweat. Players could be seen swatting the air with rage, their enemies invisible to everyone else. If the swarms went for me, then I would surreptitiously amble over to another player, in the hope that the swarm would latch onto them instead. Those were the days.

Cycling home, you’d better close your mouth, or else you’d swallow a few. Yuck!

I miss those days.

Take a look at any car bumper today: no dead flies. Go for a walk in the evening, even near the trees: again, no swarms of midges, just the odd one or two flies, conspicuous by their scarcity. Walking across The Stray in Harrogate – genuinely – I am more likely to see a bird of prey, usually a Red Kyte, than I am a swarm of midges.

Whilst of course inextricably bound-up with climate change, the decimation of biodiversity in my lifetime (I’m 41) should lead the news, on the hour, every hour. Like a boiled frog, as a species we don’t seem to notice the extinction event before us.

As Professor Dave Goulson writes in The Guardian:

“Few people seem to realise how devastating this is, not only for human wellbeing – we need insects to pollinate our crops, recycle dung, leaves and corpses, keep the soil healthy, control pests, and much more – but for larger animals, such as birds, fish and frogs, which rely on insects for food. Wildflowers rely on them for pollination. As insects become more scarce, our world will slowly grind to a halt, for it cannot function without them.”

As to the percentage of decline, he writes:

“In 2015 I was contacted by the Krefeld Society, a group of entomologists who, since the late 1980s, had been trapping flying insects on nature reserves scattered across Germany. They had amassed insects from nearly 17,000 days of trapping across 63 sites and 27 years, a total of 53kg of insects. They sent me their data to ask for my help in preparing it for publication in a scientific journal. In the 27 years from 1989 to 2016 the overall biomass (ie weight) of insects caught in their traps fell by 75%. In midsummer, when in Europe we see the peak of insect activity, the decline was even more marked, at 82%.”

This mirrors my own estimate of the decline during my lifetime. What is your estimate?

Goulson argues that we should urgently do the following:

  • Create a society which values nature, by educating the next generation.
  • Greenifying our urban areas.
  • Transforming food production, by reducing pesticides.
  • Properly funding groups, such as Natural England.
  • Improving legal protection for rare insects and habitats.

I’m no scientist, but I fear that we moved well beyond the tipping point some years ago. Whilst the political class catches up, on an individual basis, we all urgently need to do much more. I need to do much more.

CategoriesHealthHarrogateThought of The Day

A New Vocation

This chronic illness lark is like having a new job. So many appointments to attend. So many biological readings to document. So much research to undertake:   a never-ending, insurmountable amount of research to perform. So many Facebook groups to scour for information, lending support to others when I can.

So many medical experts to juggle. So many letters – yes, letters! – to write. So much evidence to archive. New tablets to collect, to ingest and then the impact thereof, if any, to document. All the while, my I-watch tells me how little movement I have done, how few steps. And food – did I eat the right stuff and at the right times? And is there an alternative medic – a witch doctor will do! – with the silver bullet, just waiting for me locate?

I could do with a break from this job. It’s knackering – and then there is the illness to contend with, and my obligations unperformed.

Of course, my chances of recovery are far higher than for any person in preceding centuries, but I do wonder whether all these burdensome, self-centred tasks are in some ways detrimental to a recovery. In years gone by, perhaps some people in my position would go to Harrogate to “take the water” just as Karl Marx did with his daughter, Eleanor, in November 1873, staying for three weeks. I’m already here!

CategoriesHarrogate

Return to the Office

Quite rightly, Covid has given us the chance to reconsider our lives. Nobody, it seems, wants to return to commuting. Environmentally, this is indisputably a good thing.

Home working – which my firm has been doing for years – has countless benefits. The negatives, however, have not enjoyed enough oxygen yet. A balance – a harmony – is usually optimal. For knowledge workers like me, it is our solemn duty to train the next generation. It’s a mistake to think that such training can happen remotely. It can’t.

I posted about to this issue on Linkedin. In response, one professional put it elegantly: “It’s difficult to replicate the on-the-job learning, snatched questions, observations and ‘ear-wigging’ of conversations etc. which all contribute to a lawyer’s development.” Indeed.

Although I have been back in the office for months, I appeared in this week’s Harrogate Advertiser, given that this is the week that Reckless Boris has pushed the return to the office. Here is my quote to the paper, though only a few words were used:

“The duty of any professional person is to train the next generation. Such training cannot all take place by Zoom, email or telephone. This training – often by osmosis – must take place in person. Too many employers are making the mistake – which isn’t easily fixed – of thinking that their junior staff can learn their profession adequately from their spare rooms (if they have them).

Pre-Covid, for most knowledge workers – particularly lawyers, for whom I can speak about – it was farcical that so many were forbidden to work from home. During and post-Covid, many businesses have gone too far. Harrogate businesses must find a middle-ground.

If all professionals are now home-workers, then the main factor which will determine for whom you work is pay. Many jobs will therefore be outsourced to cheaper countries. Though home-working, which crushes the curse of presenteeism, is perhaps more meritocratic, new people to an organisation will struggle to bed-in. Any existing cliques will continue. Through home-working, the culture of an organisation will slowly perish.

The pandemic reminds us all – should we need reminding – that we are all, from a health perspective, inextricably linked. What’s more, the pandemic has revealed that, economically, we are also inextricably connected: if some businesses collapse, then so will others. Harrogate is at precipice: we must act in unison to save it. Adhering to guidance, the businesses of Harrogate must return to the office, for our town needs our presence and our cash.”

Here is the story in the paper:

Harrogate Advertiser September 3 2020 A

Harrogate Advertiser September 3 2020 B

CategoriesHarrogate

Improved Online Schooling During Lockdown

My children have now been away from school for two months. Disappointingly and surprisingly, their teachers have not called to check in on them. Via email, we have received exercises to complete. It isn’t easy to home-school and work full-time.

Over the last three weeks (perhaps prompted by my letter), all they have had is one hour of contact, per week, with their respective teachers. It has been the highlight of their lockdown, as of course it would be. Simply, this isn’t enough.

I realise that my kids are privileged: I blogged (not bragged) about our life as a family here, my most popular post. My fear isn’t for my children, rather I’m most concerned for children who aren’t as fortunate.

After huffing and puffing, I decided to do something additional about it. Below is my petition, which I have sent to North Yorkshire County Council. I fear that their website will not permit online signatures. Let’s see what develops.

I want to record, for my kids, that I tried to do something about it.

Action required:

We, the undersigned, request that during lockdown, all North Yorkshire County Council schools provide 9-3pm optional online lessons for their pupils. We note that most private schools are providing optional online full lessons. State-educated children need more interaction with their teachers.

We thank the teachers, teaching assistants and support staff who have provided schooling in person to children of key workers.

We are concerned that disadvantaged children are suffering most during this crisis. We request that disadvantaged children are provided with the appropriate equipment necessary to take part in online lessons.

 

CategoriesHarrogate

Local Tory-Imposed Austerity

Conservative Councillor Skidmore, of Ripon, celebrated our council’s 16.7 per cent drop in funding by telling our local paper:

“Everybody is feeling the same pain, perhaps some more than others, but we have got to put the sovereign debt issue to bed and the only way of doing that is to stop spending,” he said.

“It’s like if you don’t want to get fat, don’t eat – stop eating cream cakes.”

Such economically backward thinking is going to cause a crisis; such a poor analogy. If you want to lose some weight, how about you do some exercise? Similarly, if you want to stimulate the economy, so that more people are in employment and the tax take increases, do some spending.

The Tory lie that this country is like a household seems to resonate with the public. But when a household cuts it’s spending, it doesn’t have to think about the wider economy. But when a Government cuts spending the net effect is the depression of the economy. The Tories, arch-clingers-on to the past, are making the same mistakes that were made in the 1930s.

And what makes me particularly angry with the likes of Councillor Skidmore is that he implies that he doesn’t want to see a reduction in the council budget, but this is political raison d’être: to reduce, by any means possible, the effectiveness of the state.

So, no crocodile tears, councillor; the people will see straight through you in the end. You know that the cuts are ideological. This is what you came into politics for.