Authors tell of street life – a century apart

Mike Pannett saw some terrible sights as a police officer in the Met – he was first on the scene of the Marchioness disaster in 1989, and was involved in riots and dealt with terrorists.

“It was often a case of being in the wrong place at the right time,” the York-born author said at yesterday’s Yorkshire Post Literary Lunch in Harrogate.

“And as we’ve seen in Manchester, awful things happen to police officers too. You have to be able to see them, deal with them and know that the following day you might see something just as bad – or something really humorous.”

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After 10 years as a “pleb”, he said, he returned to North Yorkshire and found the pace of life somewhat slower.

Up Beat and Down Dale is his latest book chronicling life as a rural beat officer. He has also recently been contacted by the BBC’s drama department to discuss televising them – something he finds “quite terrifying”.

The second speaker was historian Ron Freethy. Yorkshire At War looks at the life of people during both the First and Second World Wars, with compelling eyewitness accounts.

“We know how many bombs fell and where, how many people were killed,” he said. “I wanted to tell the stories of those who endured war, who came through it.”

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“I had no idea what my father did in the war, I just knew he was never called up. When I visited the military museum in Millom, I saw a notebook with handwriting I recognised – my father’s. It turned out he was an engineer co-ordinating bombing raids – I’d had no idea.”

Third speaker Judith Flanders tells of Charles Dickens’s London in The Victorian City.

“The Victorians used their streets differently,” she said. “They weren’t just for getting from A to B – they had purpose.”