Goodbye to a year of mammoth challenges

"START by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." This quote from Saint Francis of Assisi sums up the mammoth effort I have witnessed from hundreds of thousands of people in North Yorkshire throughout 2020. I could not let this year of trials and tribulations, overcoming adversity and incredible team effort pass, without saying thank you to each and every one of you.

Like many, I am humbled by the sacrifice and resilience of the people, businesses and workforce of our magnificent county in one of the toughest years. While we know there is still a tough road ahead we also know that we will get where we need to be – because that is what we do in North Yorkshire! We just get on with it.

2020 began with four storms in four weeks, flash flooding, rising tides and sitting expanses of water. Storm Dennis whipped up almost tidal type erosion of the causeway which supports the A19 at Eggborough. The damage was catastrophic and the repairs are complex and costly but we are getting on with it.

The coronavirus pandemic, continuing at pace in its second wave, has crept silently through our communities, targeting the most frail residents and scarring our globally renowned hospitality industry. Sadly, we have lost hundreds of loved ones, witnessed very many of our local businesses struggling, our high streets decimated in lockdown and job prospects for many of our young people put in jeopardy. But North Yorkshire has faced these challenges with the sort of strength and honesty we are famous for.

Thousands of selfless volunteers, key workers going the extra mile, neighbours fulfilling countless acts of kindness that may be small – but mean the world to the recipient. So thank you to the people and businesses of North Yorkshire – for everything you have done and will continue to do to help us recover, grow again an prosper as a county.

Cllr Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire County Council.

Covid vaccine

MY husband and I were privileged last week to have our first Covid vaccination at Tenants Auction House.

We were very impressed and grateful for the superb safety precautions in place, and for the friendly, accommodating volunteers helping doctors and nurses to ensure that everyone was asked about their medical issues. We had to wait some time after our injection for any possible side effects. During that time I observed how all patients were given individual reassuring chats by staff and made to feel at ease.

We were helped in and out of the lifts by courteous volunteers – again – everyone was just so understanding. We would also like to thank the Tennant’s family and their staff for allowing their premises to be used to deliver such an important service to us all.

This pandemic has brought great sadness to so many and especially over the Christmas period with ever new restrictions. But it has brought out much giving and understanding by so many, people who have helped and cared for others lovingly and gone out of their way to comfort others – including total strangers.

A big thank-you to all those helpers – and especially to the Covid-19 injection team at Tennant’s.

Ursula Bussey, East Witton.

Not the time

THIS has been a terrible year for the world. No country has escaped the impact of Covid-19 and as we enter 2021 there looks to be a final flourish of the virus to deal with.

What has really depressed me is the way some people in this country have only seen the events of the last nine months through a prism of what they see as British failure, seemingly relishing the opportunity to do this country down.

Sometimes the motives are clear, as with Baroness Harris of Richmond in her letter earlier this month. She invites us to draw a political conclusion about why our economy has been so badly affected and why so many people have died.

I'm no blind patriot or supporter of this government but that is just cheap and unworthy of a peer of the realm who one would have thought might curb her party instincts at a time of national crisis.

She throws some statistics about which anyone can do to support an argument.

Here's some that I came across this week.

Britain, which long had the ignominy of having the second worst death rate in Europe, after Belgium, is now seventh on 963 deaths per million residents, behind Belgium (1,574), Italy (1,101), Slovenia (1,074), North Macedonia (1,053), Spain (1,039) and Montenegro (971) – with France (908) and the Czech Republic (936) not far behind.

This country can’t claim to have handled the crisis well, but no longer does it stand out in any way, other than that it suffered an especially bad peak early on, perhaps as a result of being more exposed to the virus early on.

As this country is one of the most densely populated countries in the world – with proportionately more of our population in cities than many G20 countries – it is hardly surprising that the virus has thrived here.

Our economy has suffered more than others because it is a service economy – we make our money by providing services – and not because it is inherently an inferior economy.

As the pandemic moves into what we all hope is its final phase, with science – in many cases British science – providing the vaccine breakthrough, we need to maintain a collective resolve and stopping wasting energy on the blame game.

Of course there has to be a reckoning in the fullness of time but now is not the time for it.

Jo Stevenson, Catterick Village, Richmond.


NOW I understand. Buying champagne on your way home on your last day at work is not usual, especially when you have been ignominiously bundled out by your best friend.

Now we know. Mr Cummings was hugging to himself the secret knowledge of his £50,000 pay rise. (That's right Boris. Reward bad behaviour.)

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Years ago there was a highly entertaining series called "Shameless" about a family somehow breaking every convention going yet somehow surviving. Time for a remake, with a lead character called Dom?

Why not set it in a small town in the north, something with a castle?

Alexandra Bailey, Darlington.

Introducing U3A

U3A is aware that so many older people are likely to be alone this festive period and that is why the 1,000-plus U3As across the country are doing all that they can to keep their membership of over 400,000 people engaged and in touch, whilst at the same time being open to accept new members.

The U3A is a self-help charitable organisation run by and for its members. In the North-East, there are more than 50 U3As in towns and villages up and down the region whose members enjoy social interest groups ranging from walking to languages and crafting to singing and everything in between.

At Stockton U3A, we have a membership of 320 and we are still open to new members, right now. Your readers can see what we are up to on our website at

During the various lockdowns we have made efforts to keep in touch with all of our members through phone calls, emails, letters and our bulletins full of original articles by members themselves.

We have already enjoyed a virtual Christmas social as well as various speakers each month who have entertained us with stories from Burma to Beamish.

We have been delighted by our ability and willingness to use technology to keep classes going, with members becoming expert in Zooming.

In the New Year, the classes that have moved onto Zoom will continue, such as Italian, movement to music, science, French, local history, mindfulness, quiz and a weekly coffee morning.

We look forward to resuming our much wider range of groups as soon as we can, as everyone is missing the social contact U3A provides.

Right now, all of us are busy planning our programme for 2021 and organising special events online and in person, when possible. If you are interested, look on our website for details of our next monthly meeting (Tuesday, January 5 at 2pm) and feel free to contact us, zoom in and join us.

Patricia Marcus, Stockton U3A.

Virus control

QUANTAS insisting on a vaccination proof certificate will obviously become the norm if long-haul travel is ever to amount to anything.

The danger is the requirement becoming the norm for every situation – ships/hotels/pubs etc and on global scale.

Totalitarian, supposedly temporary, rules can soon give governments ideas about permanence.

GB Butler, Stockton-on-Tees.

Sport awards

I DIDN’T and had no intention of the watching BBC's Sports Personality of the Year.

I couldn’t see the point when sport has been restricted so much this year. It would have been fantastic if the Olympics and Euro 2020 had gone ahead, but effectively sport was cancelled from March.

Why did it take four presenters to do a two hour show? It is just a money earner for the chosen few.

I understand awards were given to Marcus Rashford and Kevin Sinfield and deservedly so, but the winner was so obvious that's why I didn't bother.

John Brant, Darlington.

Pretty trees

WE hear on the news or in the press how it is good for the environment to plant a tree.

Speaking as someone who loves trees, can you tell me why when we construct new car parking facilities as in Teesside Park or any new other parking places a number of trees are planted for cosmetic reasons, in the knowledge that the trees will only be allowed to grow a short time (until the parking spaces need re-vamping) then they will be dug up and destroyed.

Surely this is so wrong not to mention expensive. How many of the public agree with me?

Susan Frank, Yarm.

Milk bottles

THE pandemic has obviously been a boon to providers of doorstep deliveries, and at the start of the pandemic, as well as my usual dairy’s milk bottles other bottles from dairies not far away began appearing.

Then, quite surprisingly, I received a bottle with a Welsh dragon logo from Tomlinsons Dairies, fresh from Wales. A few days later, I got another bottle from Tomlinsons – or was it the same one, washed and returned? – and then came bottles from Hereford, Manchester, Sheffield, Southport and Knutsford – I’d never heard of Knutsford before, but now I know it is in Cheshire.

The Welsh ones were my star turns until the arrival of one from Mossgiel Organic, which is in Mauchline in Ayrshire. The legend on it reads: “One single pint of tasty non-homogenised milk made by AWESOME cows grazing the historic national lands of Robert Burns.”

So now I’m really looking out for my milk bottles and the different messages and adverts on them – I’ve had an ad for a gymnasium and another for a Tyneside monumental mason who does bespoke memorials.

I wonder if readers can tell me what the word might be for a collector of milk bottle information. There are impressive names for various collectors, such as numismatists, philatelists, autonumerologists, but none refer to milk bottles. The Latin for bottle is lagoena, but that doesn’t give much inspiration.

I asked my nearest and dearest, but his suggestion of “nut case” did not appeal to me. Can anyone suggest a word?

E Watson, Aycliffe Village.

Mean spirited

IT is Christmas time when food donations are appreciated the most so I found it rather mean to read an article in a national newspaper about a Tory millionaire Jacob Rees-Mogg blasting UNICEF for offering a gift of £25,000 to feed hungry kids in South London.

Rees-Mogg argues UNICEF should not be ''faffing around in England'' adding the UN agency should be ''looking after people in the poorest and most deprived countries in the world''.

He fails to mention that Britain, with over 2,000 food banks to its name, is fast becoming one of those ''most deprived countries in the world'' mainly due to the unfair distribution of the nation’s wealth.

Stephen Dixon, Redcar.