Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Tuesday 1st August 2017

WHERE have all the Sunday morning golfers gone? From tee to saddle, that’s where. Gone to cycling many of them.

While golf clubs, once sniffy about who they let in, are now begging for members, the highways and byways are increasingly becoming the province of lycra-clad attempting to emulate Chris Froome.

Just take a trip into the Lakes and, particularly on Sunday mornings, you will spot hundreds of cyclists out and about, some just taking their time and enjoying the views, others pedalling furiously, head down as they train for time trials and the increasingly popular triathlon events. In these parts cycling is undoubtedly now a major participation activity.

We’ve got to learn to live together, the motorist and the cyclist. Generally drivers are considerate and give riders room or wait to overtake until it’s safe. But some pass too close without understanding the possible consequences, and there are still a few frustrated road ragers about. However, cyclists need to understand that they are part of the road system, too. That jumping red lights, undertaking dangerously and not signalling intentions gets some of them a bad name.

Cycling is a great activity, whether it’s for sport or leisure. There’s been a significant growth in the number of bike-related businesses in the Lake District. Coast to coast riders pass through in droves. Mountain bikers love the sense of freedom, although they aren’t always the most polite. And there is the serious racer element who are sometimes tempted to treat towns like Keswick and Ambleside as stages on le Tour.

There is a theory that the police are turning a blind eye to anti-social cyclists after a sharp drop in fines for red light offences, riding on pavements and failing to display lights. Figures obtained recently by the The Times show that penalty notices to cyclists have fallen by two thirds over the past five years despite a surge in bicycle use nationally.

Clearly the Government does not want to be seen persecuting cyclists at a time when there is much environmental pressure to encourage the activity and discourage the motorist. More cycle ways are needed where cyclists and traffic are separated.

Cycling organisations point out that the risk of being seriously injured or killed has increased, but countering that is the view that when it comes to offending, the police are soft-pedalling and giving cyclists preferential treatment. The police will no doubt respond that officers have other crimes to deal with on limited resources.

Meanwhile, we’ve all got to try and get along together, and that means not just the red-faced motorist, but that small yet vociferous cycling element who can be just as inconsiderate in standing up for what they see as their rights.

I’m simply amazed, when I see some of the stupid driving and the risky chance-taking cycling on our Cumbrian roads, that there are not more serious accidents. The cyclist and the driver may not be best buddies, but a bit of mutual respect would not be out of order.


AS one gets older one’s view of the NHS and its magnificent staff is a case of when they are going to be needed rather than if.

It’s almost inevitable that, at some stage, you’ll find yourself calling on the services of doctors and nurses. It’s a fortunate old-timer indeed who grows ancient without having something about their body drop off, stop working or demand a bit of urgent tender, loving care.

It’s not just the oldies with their replacement hips and knees, their dicky tickers and, cruellest of all ageing diseases, their fading memories. For many families with young children who become seriously ill, hospitals are a lifeline.

But here’s the biggest irony for, while a chap who pretends to be a nurse is the BBC’s highest paid actor, real nurses earn but a fraction of his salary, and in one health authority area they are currently being pursued through the courts for unpaid parking fees at the very hospital where they work.

Yes, staff at the University Hospital, Wales, frequently return to their cars to find one of those nasty little yellow packets stuck to the windscreen. The private parking enforcement firm hired by the hospital does not differentiate when it comes to dishing out tickets. NHS staff could be on call or working overtime, but they are fair game.

Some staff would need to work half a lifetime to earn what Casualty star Derek Thompson pockets in one year for his TV role. And they may have to work half a lifetime to pay back the parking fines now a judge at a civil court hearing has ruled they are responsible for meeting the costs.

I have no objection to the actor, who has played Charlie Fairhead in Casualty since the series began in 1986, getting paid as much as his agent can extract from the Beeb, a salary that happens to fall between £350,000 and £399,000.

Nor does it bother me that Chris Evans trousers £2.2 million for presenting a program on Radio 2 that I never listen to, or that Gary Lineker is earning funny money for doing Match of the Day with a certain insouciant charm while surrounded by some of the dullest pundits on the planet. Or indeed that the BBC, by revealing the pay of its top performers and by the omission from the elite list of the less well-regarded financially, has dug itself a massive hole with its historic sexism.

The entire BBC pay scale seems predicated on which actors and presenters have the most aggressive agents when it comes to negotiating pay. But it’s that extraordinary anomaly of the actor who plays a nurse and the real doctors, nurses and support staff in the NHS that makes me wonder what kind of a world we’re living in. Not a fair one, that’s for sure.

Charlie Fairhead may be just the man to take charge when there’s been yet another Saturday night disaster and the injured are being dragged into Holby’s emergency department. But never forget it’s not the real world and, as Charlie himself once said: “People come into this place full of the joys of spring and can go home heartbroken. I can’t fix everyone.” Remember, Charlie doesn’t actually fix anyone.

Personally I would not want to be a patient being wheeled into the operating theatre to be met by a surgeon who has just discovered a parking ticket on his car. I reckon even Charlie, with his 30 years’ experience at the sharp end of Holby’s major traumas, would get a bit shirty if he was ticketed.

It’s argued that staff could travel into work by public transport, but medics often work shifts when transport is either sparse or unavailable. Many hospitals are painfully short of parking for staff and patients. Staff should not be made to carry the can for that lack of planning.

For the nurses who must now find the money to pay their parking fines, simply because there are not enough spaces in the staff car park, it’s shabby treatment that is going to push some of them to the brink of bankruptcy. We need to attract more doctors and nurses to the NHS, not make existing staff feel like criminals with these exorbitant fines which now, it seems, have the full weight of the law behind them.


ONLY a couple of weeks into world heritage status and already the Lake District is attracting the attention of the influential national press.

The Sunday Times was quick off the mark with a “Going Places” feature, with an invitation to its readers to send in their own tips. And respond they did, with nominations for walks up Blencathra’s ridges, Black Sail hut, a drive round Borrowdale and Newlands, Remembrance Sundays on Great Gable and a recommendation for post-walk coffee and cake at Rheged near Penrith.

The ST’s original feature had good words to say for the educational standards of Keswick School and Penrith’s Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, as well as the cultural attractions of the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick. Great stuff for tourism and those already donning stout boots and cagoules for a ramble up Main Street to ye olde heritage chippy. But just hold on a minute. Isn’t this declaring open house to the well-heeled with its list of the most popular areas in which to buy homes?

Prices in Windermere, for example, have risen 17 per cent. in a year to an average of £403,000. For a “modest” terraced two or three bedder, The Sunday Times says head to Ambleside (average sale price £226,535) or Keswick (£275,284). I don’t want to spoil the euphoria and the party, but isn’t this more bad news for locals whose touristy jobs don’t pay them enough to get on the property ladder, and who will find it even harder now the likes of the posh Sundays are on the trail with articles in their home and travel magazines?