Thursday, 29 April 2021

Dalesfolk: Vanessa Barkley, Swaledale postie

 "I have worked for Royal Mail for 21 years, based in Darlington, on collections (emptying the boxes and post offices). I have been on the upper Swaledale round for 7 years and in my opinion it’s the best collection in the office. I can honestly say that I love my job. Even though I do the same thing every day, each day is different.

When people ask me about my job, they often say, “oh, summer must be fantastic.” But in all honesty, I prefer the winter. I see the tougher driving conditions as a challenge to be taken on. I have had a few scary moments in the snow and ice, but it makes the day more interesting, especially in the depths of winter when it’s dark by 4.30pm.

Since I have been working “up the dale” I have rediscovered my love of photography. I now spend quite a lot of my free time in Swaledale with my camera and my long suffering partner (who also works for Royal Mail). I always have my camera with me in the van on my round, just in case the light is perfect, or if something interesting happens. For the past two years I have produced a Swaledale calendar, which has been sold in Reeth Post Office.

I enjoy being able to have a chat with the locals and tourists about my job, and the role I play in the community.

I do think that whatever happens in the future, this place will always be in my heart, because the people are great, and it’s just a beautiful part of the world, regardless of the time of year or the weather."


Vanessa Barkley works for Royal Mail and drives from Darlington each day to collect the mail from Swaledale and Arkengarthdale.

This is an interview from my 2019 “Dalesfolk” book. For more information, go here:


Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Covid National Memorial

After going to the Stop New Normal march, we went for a relaxing stroll along the South Bank. Unfortunately, that stroll was intruded upon by the new “Covid National Memorial”, alongside St Thomas’ Hospital.

150,000 stencilled hearts.

I have several problems with this installation, but I’ll just touch on one particular thing that I found ironic:

The curious little plaque in the middle about vCJD.

For those who don’t know, a certain Neil Ferguson – the man who brought lockdown to the world - was responsible for the modelling on vCJD (“Mad Cow Disease”). He predicted between 50 and 50,000 deaths in the UK (rising to 150,000 if sheep became infected too). There have been 177 deaths to date. Exports of UK beef to some places were still restricted until 2019.

On a related note, farmers might also be interested to know that it was Neil Ferguson’s strategy to cull herds during Foot and Mouth in 2001 – over six million animals were killed. It has since been concluded that his doctrine was incorrect and unnecessary.

“…there was concern that vaccination would lead to animals becoming infected at a very low level without displaying symptoms, and that these animals could in turn have infected animals in other farms.

The new research, however, suggests that this kind of subclinical infection is not a worry. It indicates that if an animal does not show symptoms, it is not infectious.”

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Enjoy your stencilled wall.

Monday, 26 April 2021

Followup to Stop New Normal

I feel a bit of a followup about Saturday’s Stop New Normal march is important, largely due to the press coverage it has received.

The BBC, as far as I can see, still hasn’t uttered a word about it on their website. Finally, those papers that I used to read (before they utterly shamed themselves in the last year) gave it a mention: the Graun and Indy ran effectively identical stories about scuffles with police (that happened long after the march had finished). Most of the rest of the coverage thought it was journalistically acceptable to paint everybody who attended as a conspiracy theorist.

The estimated turnout is between 500,000 and one million people, making it one of the largest protests in British history.

Not only that, but as others have pointed out, it was perhaps the most eclectic crowd of protestors ever. One person described it as if Tesco had conducted a fire drill, and a cross section of society was out in force. Couples looking like they were heading off to a music festival marched literally alongside people in military uniform. There were old and young (some very young – there were quite a few pushchairs being pushed along for the seven miles). There were people in wheelchairs. All ethnic groups. There was at least one monk. I think there were some off duty police officers marching along too. There were definitely nurses and doctors. (Probably some of the ones who are utterly sick of the NHS being used as a quasi religious totem in support of ludicrous policies.)

It was the radicalised normal: people who had never been to a protest before felt angry enough to make themselves known. Contrary to what press reports have said, the march was entirely peaceful. Up to one million angry people, going for a purposeful walk around the capital. Clearly not news, I guess? Sadly not a surprise, in a year when the media has been a large part of the problem.

Dissent from the new orthodoxy is not allowed. Anybody who does dissent is selfish and callous with blood on their hands. Apparently. (Even when those dissenters include some of the foremost experts in the world.) I would just suggest that people take a long, hard look at where we are currently heading, and ask yourself: do you want to become China? If so, then crack on, mask up, keep on testing, track and trace, and never forget to stay safe!

Antonia Rolls has written a very sweet description of the day. It’s worth reading.


Saturday, 24 April 2021

Stop New Normal protest, 24th April 2021

I’m not great at estimating the number of people in a place. But when you’re balancing on top of a bin at one end of Oxford street and the entire width of the street is filled with people for its entire length, I think it can be said that there are quite a lot of people there.

Which makes it all the more interesting that the BBC and most other news outlets in the UK totally failed to even mention in passing the anti lockdown protest that occurred in London earlier today.

I’ve seen all the comments already being made on social media: “They should all be fined.” “Use the water cannon on them!” “We’re all trying to follow The Rules and these covidiots are going to cause the next wave!” And my favourite trope of the day: “But lockdown is ending! What are these idiots protesting about!”

The articles in the media that did appear seemed happy to describe the entire crowd as “conspiracy theorists”, while pointing out that they were not “social distancing” or wearing masks. (It was extremely refreshing to see a whole crowd of people and actually see all of their faces, given that more and more people seem happy to go about all their daily lives while muzzled up.)

There were, unfortunately, banners with Bill Gates inspired vaccine conspiracies. There were also banners from obvious QAnon believers. But the vast majority of banners were from people opposing vaccine passports, and asking for an end to restrictions, and I can only guess that most people there were rational, decent people.

So here we come to my favourite complaint from the Happy New Normals. This idea that “lockdown is ending”. Lockdown is not ending. Johnson has somewhat bizarrely stated that lockdowns have more of an impact than vaccines, and I’m fairly sure that this autumn – when the seasonal and endemic virus known as COVID19 begins to rear its head again – we will be heading straight back into lockdown. Because death has been outlawed, in the new Covidian Death Cult. (Or at least, death within 28 days of a positive PCR test. All those deaths from cancer and heart disease are fine. Let’s ignore all those, shall we?)

None of the restrictions are going to go away. What government ever gives up power that it has acquired? Especially when to change tactic would be to admit the tactic (and all the collateral damage it has caused) was entirely wrong to begin with. No – you’re not going to get any politician going down that route, given the newfound enthusiasm for authoritarianism among the British public.

I find it utterly baffling and depressing that the cult of COVID19 has managed to become the dominant culture in one year. Those of us who put forward an alternative point of view are painted as a cult of conspiracy theorists. It isn’t true. I expect the majority of us are just people who can think for ourselves and aren’t afraid of being ridiculed by those who just want to parrot the line that they’ve been told to repeat. Or perhaps those people are just too lazy to think for themselves. Perhaps, eventually, the truth about the last year will be more widely known and accepted, and the world won’t tear itself apart over a mild illness again. Sadly, I am not hopeful.

I am not under any illusions that today’s protest will have made any difference in the slightest, not least because the government has already committed to vaccine passports by mid-May. Nevertheless, I think it’s important to stand up and be counted among those who oppose such things.