CategoriesThought of The Day

Don’t Look Back in Anger

Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis captured the spirit of the mid-90s. At 15, I remember that time as one of optimism; we knew that something better was en route. Find me someone who doesn’t appreciate the magnificence of this song and I’ll show you someone who is anti my city: Manchester.

Just over three years ago, on 22 May 2017, terrorists hit my city. The bomb at Manchester Arena – a venue I had visited many times – targeted children and parents at a pop concert. 23 people were slaughtered, half of whom were kids. Hundreds more were injured. The horror is unimaginable. Targeting kids.

Yet this recent barbarism is rarely spoken about. But why?

Awaking to this news on 23 May 2017, as a Mancunian living here in Harrogate, I felt compelled to act. I just had to do something, but what. Assisted by social media, I organised a vigil at The Cenotaph. Around 30 people showed up. I handed out the words to Don’t Look Back in Anger. Led by the tour de force that is Michelle Beckett, we sang. It was beautiful, moving, cathartic. Kindly, staff from Bettys provided us with free teas and biscuits.

harrogate photo

When I consider acts of terrorism in my lifetime, I think of 9/11, 7/7, the first Manchester bomb in 1996, Dunblane of the same year and the Warrington bomb of 1993 which killed two boys. One of those poor boy’s names is burned into my memory: Tim Parry. But I’m afraid to say that I cannot tell you the names of anyone who died in the Manchester Arena, just three years ago. I should know some of their names.

Pondering this puzzle this evening, my conclusion is that the people of Manchester didn’t let this event define them. Internecine conflagrations did not commence. Months later, the Arena was used again for a concert. Manchester did not look back in anger.

CategoriesThought of The Day

Lockdown Weather and Pascal’s Wager

At the high risk of being ridiculed, I’ll write it regardless. The best weather in my lifetime, coincided with the only lockdown in my lifetime. During this weird period, like many people, I have never spent more time outside. And I love it.

Quoting the devout atheist Christopher Hitchens: “Coincidence is no accident.”

I don’t believe that God (if such a thing exists) has punished humanity with floods because, say, of gay marriage, but I don’t know why it feels (how unlawyerly, how unscientific) that this Great Pause has something otherworldly about it. The coincidence that we are compelled to spend more time outside whilst the weather is spectacular blows my little mind.

For me, never has nature seemed so bouncy, so effervescent, confident. I feel as if nature is saying: Look at us! Yes, us. Take care of this planet. We all rely upon each other. This is a warning. Humankind, make changes, now.

A few weeks ago, I walked around The Stray in Harrogate, taking routes that I wouldn’t normally use. I found myself down an empty road – a road which is usually a de facto carpark, hence in normal times it wouldn’t be a route to take. I may sound like an oddball, but at one point I had to stop and admire the majesty of the trees. They stood, well, proudly, perkily, commandingly. The photograph below will not win awards, nor does it capture the energy – the fizz – of the moment. It is my recording of that instant, for me.

photo of harrogate

Some of you will be familiar with Pascal’s Wager – that humans should believe in God because if they are wrong, then they lose very little, but if they are right, then they stand to gain a great deal. Deploying similar logic, regarding our environment I would say: if you take the view that humans aren’t causing climate change, or take the position that our activities have only a negligible impact on global heating, on the basis that you may be wrong, given that we are stuck here for the foreseeable future, wouldn’t it be optimal if we proceeded as if we are destroying earth? If you are right and I am wrong, we have lost little. If I am right and you are wrong, we have all gained immeasurably.

We must make changes as to how we coexist with nature. The planet cannot withstand our pursuit of perpetual growth in GDP. We know this.


99-year old Tom Moore shouldn’t have needed to do that 

Today, legendary Captain Tom Moore opened – virtually – the new nightingale hospital in my hometown of Harrogate. By walking, very slowly, 100 times around his garden, Captain Tom has raised £27m for the NHS. Just when we needed a fillip, here it came.

But Captain Tom shouldn’t have had to do this. These last ten years, the NHS has been systematically and deliberately decimated. Staff shortages and A & E waiting times are at an all-time high, whilst thousands of medics quit the scuttled ship. The donations are so numerous that I can’t help but speculate whether people who voted for the ruination of the NHS are those who felt compelled to donate the most. Buyer’s remorse, perhaps.

Who can forget when Tory MPs cheered as they voted down a pay-rise for nurses in 2017. Of course, true to form, Harrogate’s MP voted against that motion.

Whilst PPE shortages beggar belief, I can do no better than to quote Councillor Pat Marsh:

“Just as Captain Tom would not have been sent to the frontline without at least a helmet and a gun, then our frontline staff have to be given the right tools in their fight against coronavirus.”