Author Archives: barstep

About barstep

Founding Director of Restore (York), Digital Storyteller, cyclist, runner, walker, journalist, photographer, grandfather, Christian, churchwarden, and tech head esp. Apple stuff

An appeal to my MP to back the EU’s deal – from a Labour Party member

I have written to my MP Rachael Maskell appealing to her to, at this late stage, vote to accept the deal offered by the EU. Here’s what I wrote:-

Dear Rachael
I am a member of the Labour Party and an enthusiastic supporter and admirer of you as my MP. I voted wholeheartedly to remain in the EU in the referendum. I also think the PMs podium speech last night was totally inadequate. She said nothing new and did nothing to win over her opponents – most of whom are in her own party.
This is a straightforward appeal to you, as my MP, to now back the deal the UK has been offered by the EU, to save the country from further uncertainty.
It may only be the best a set of bad options but the alternatives are much worse.
Doing nothing and crashing out without a deal is unthinkable and unacceptable, but by default it could happen next week.
A delay, if the EU leaders accept it, only kicks the can down the road. A long delay leaves us with so much uncertainty that business and Brits living in the EU, to name just two groups, would be left in an unacceptable position of uncertainty.
The repeal of Article 50 would, in my opinion, lead to civil unrest and a denial of the democratic process.
As a remainer I have reluctantly come to accept that we are leaving and as a believer in democracy have to accept the outcome of this tedious process of leaving the EU. I don’t think I’m the only one. I don’t believe in underhanded or filibustering techniques to make it impossible for us to leave the EU. A deal has been offered, it’s clearly not going to be renegotiated, we should now accept it, so that we can move on to the next stage of negotiation.
The party may say that it will not vote for a deal that threatens Human Rights and jobs – but the alternatives to the deal are a bigger threat. The party may say it would have done things differently. The fact remains that as a party we couldn’t and didn’t do things differently. Our attempts to bring down the government failed and the PM is still in power. I’m not convinced that Labour in power could now change the deal, it’s too late, but we can stop the country crashing out without a deal by voting in parliament to accept it.
I’ve heard too much rhetoric; too many MPs saying the same thing over and over again; too much sarcasm about the ability of one side or the other; too many trite jibes. None of these will now change the predicament we are in.
For the sake of National Unity I appeal to you vote to accept the EUs deal, and in your influential position, persuade the parliamentary party to accept the deal too.
Yours in good faith
All the best
Barrie Stephenson


Let’s get out of this BREXIT stalemate

I’m weary of the continued and mindless negotiations for a BREXIT plan. They appear to be going nowhere. Our Prime Minister Teresa May has dug her heels in and is making no progress with the European Union, Parliament and even her own party. She has clearly lost the support of her back benchers and she seems to have lost the plot. Nothing magical will happen by simply repeating her monotonous mantra. Without imagination there will not be a miraculous change of mind either in Brussels or Westminster. Imagination is something Mrs May seems to lack.

So how do we proceed? May I humbly suggest.

Parliament takes back the process – snatching it out of the hands of the PM and the government. And then put the various options to the vote.

  1. No deal – if that fails then …
  2. The negotiated position from the EU complete with backstop (because that’s all we’re going to get) – if that fails …
  3. Remain – if that fails Parliament has to concede it is unable to reach a decision and asks for …
  4. A People’s Vote offering the above three options on the ballot paper – let the people decide. The two leave votes would be added together – if the total exceeds the remain vote then leave wins and the option with the largest support is accepted as the winning option.

It may appear long winded but it won’t be as drawn out as the stalemate we have at the moment. It would deliver a result based on where we are now – a result is something the PM will never achieve. The parliamentary vote could happen immediately. A new people’s referendum would obviously take time to organise.

I commend my process to anyone who will listen.

May I also recommend regular listening to the BBC Brexitcast. The four contributors have opened the windows on this otherwise stifling process. Thank you Laura Kuenssberg, Katya Adler, Adam Fleming and Chris Mason for your wit and insight. No imagination lacking there.

For a week I’m a 49er


Approaching the end of a Parkrun on York Knavesmire

I ran my 49th Parkrun this week. Before I reach the milestone 50th I’ll reflect on how I reached this point.

Two hundred and forty five Parkrun kilometres ago (153 miles) I was a ‘first timer’ having just completed a ‘Couch to 5k’ programme because I had never run for fitness before. I’d cycled but running engages another set of muscles and techniques and I didn’t want to damage my ageing limbs.

I registered on the Parkrun website, printed my unique barcode and stood with the crowd of runners at the start line on the Knavesmire in York.

The first surprise was the range of people standing with me. They were not all athletes in the Olympic Games sense. But they were all up for the challenge. A great briefing from the run director preceded the starting countdown. Those reaching milestones were congratulated; first timers welcomed; ‘tourists’ shouted out their home run; applause for everyone; countdown and we were off. That was in October 2016. In reality it’s not a race. The only person I run against is myself. Can I beat my PB (personal best time). It’s some encouragement that on the first week everyone gets a PB –  incentive to return next week to beat it.

I’d completed a few 5k runs before joining the York Parkrun so I was confident of reaching ‘The Funnel’ in reasonable shape. As you cross the finish line the timer clicks the watch. “Stay in order” calls a marshal as we are lined up in the funnel. Staying in order is vital to preserve your finishing position until you reach the first volunteer handing out the position tags with a barcode and a number; your finishing position. Mine was 392 (out of 496). Next another volunteer scans your position tag and your unique barcode. Later a bit of computer number crunching matches your position with the stopwatch click and spews out your result.  It’s sent to me by email and text. My first Parkrun result – 30 minutes and 47 seconds. Since then I’ve knocked off over 4½ minutes. My PB now is 26:07.

It has to be said that York Knavesmire is a route to which many Parkrunners flock to set a PB. It’s flat, has a good surface with no odd bends or obstacles. I have run other Parkruns where the paths are narrow leading to congestion; sharp bends slow you down; hills, mud, puddles, underpasses, narrow bridges, tree roots – all kinds of handicaps for the determined PB setter.

But the pursuit of a good time is really secondary to the main benefit of running. Fitness. I’ve lost weight, strengthened my heart, improved my lung capacity and visibly toned my leg muscles. Running has driven me to discover exercises and stretches to warm up and warm down to avoid injury and to generally make sure the rest of my body keeps up with my legs! The sense of wellbeing after a run is worth all the effort.

All this has prepared me to be more adventurous. 10k runs, 10 mile runs and the odd half marathon. This September I will run the Great North Run for the second time. Half a marathon (13.1 miles) on roads from Newcastle to South Shields in a crowd of 57,000 other runners. I’m running for Shelter. You can sponsor me here.

Lots of people ask when I’ll run a marathon. I won’t. I’m 70 next year and I’d like to keep running for many years yet. I think a marathon takes its toll on any body – and mine probably hasn’t many tolls left to take. So I’ll stick to 13 miles as my limit. Having said that there are half marathons and half marathons. In October I’m going to the Lake District to run the Langdale Half. That’s likely to be tougher than a run in the park. But it’s where I was born – returning after 69 years to run the roads my father knew so well seems like a challenge I can’t refuse even if some of the inclines are 25%.

[Talking to a friend who shares my birth year I realised I’ll always be a 49er because I  was born in 1949]

On Saturday 1st Sept 2018 I run my 50th Parkrun. Will it be a PB? I’ll run it at York’s Knavesmire to be in with a fighting chance.

(49er was the nickname given to speculators who flocked to California in 1849 for the Goldrush. It generally became slang for any miner and an American Football team in San Francisco the city founded as a result of the goldrush)



I don’t just run to end homelessness

If you follow me on any of the social networks you will know that I regularly undertake running and cycling challenges to raise funds to help homeless people.

shelter-logo2I am running another fundraising half marathon on the 9th of September when, along with my brother Mark, I will run the Great North Run. For this run we are looking for sponsors for Shelter. I make no excuse for asking you to donate again because as long as there are people without a home there’s a need to raise funds. I know many of my friends, contacts and former work colleagues gave generously when I ran the Great North Run last year. I’m asking again because there are still people homeless. Shelter’s tag line, printed on the back of my running shirt, says “Until there’s a home for everyone” and the last time I looked not everyone yet has a home.

logo-sigBut I don’t just run. Eight years ago I was one of the founders of a charity in York called Restore. It houses people who, without support, would inevitably be homeless. Today I am that charity’s chairman. We employ 6 staff, run 8 houses and provide supported accommodation for up to 30 people.

Three years ago I became the chair of the York Homeless Forum. Hosted by the City of York Council it brings together a wide range of providers in the city; statutory, independent, voluntary and charity providers. This group helped produce the city’s five year strategy for preventing homelessness. You can read it here, including my forwardYES - Below Zero Vol Flyer

I am now supporting the formation of a team of volunteers to staff a new overnight service for people sleeping rough on winter nights. It will provide a bed, showers and food on the coldest nights this winter.  YES Below Zero is a joint venture between churches, voluntary groups and the council.

So while I often run or cycle to raise funds for these projects and more, I’m directly involved in solving homelessness, not least for those who still remain with nowhere to live. Most of those people are hidden. For each of the people you may see sleeping rough around cities and towns there are many more, sofa surfing, in overcrowded and unfit houses and flats, in temporary hostels or even camping illegally on someone’s land.

So I unashamedly ask. Will you sponsor me and my brother as we run the Great North Run this September for Shelter – one of the national charities researching, campaigning and offering advice to end homelessness. Together we must fight the injustice of homelessness. In one of the richest countries in the world people have nowhere to call home. It’s not right is it. So please be generous –   donate here




No Direction Home

I was running and listening to Bob Dylan on my headphones. “Like a Rolling Stone”. The run was  longer than usual, part of the build up to the Great North Run in September.

The words of the refrain alerted me to the pertinence of this song to my training.

How does it feel?
How does it feel?
To be without a home?
Like a complete unknown?
Like a rolling stone?
Barrie at the start of the Great North Run

Great North Run 2017

I am running the Great North Run for the charity Shelter. One of the leading charities campaigning to eliminate homelessness.

I don’t know how it feels to have no home, but I speak to many people who have experienced the raw edge of homelessness. I am chairman of a charity called Restore (York) which provides supported housing for people who are homeless.

Dylan’s words were penned in the 1960s – I was a teenager. Now, over 50 years later the problem of people being homeless is still with us. I don’t think homelessness figures were collected in the 60s to tell us how many people were without a home. Homeless people were ‘a complete unknown‘. Today we do count them but that doesn’t solve the problem. To be a number is hardly progress from being ‘a complete unknown‘ unless houses are built and affordable for the people who need a home. We are not building enough houses. We are still not providing enough care and support for people who are homeless. The numbers have increased year on year for the last 7 years. This is unacceptable.

Shelter has been offering advice, researching and campaigning on behalf of homeless people for almost as long as Dylan has been singing his song.

Subsequent refrains in the song use the line With no direction home. My sat nav has a HOME button which is programmed with my home address. One press and the route home is displayed on the screen with an estimate of the time I will arrive there. Homeless people have no address to preset that button. No direction home, like a rolling stone

I’ve been listening to this song since my youth – but it took a moment in time on a training run for the cry of the refrain to touch my heart. It’s just a small thing, but a helpful one, to donate to Shelter so that they can raise their game to end homelessness.

The shirt I am wearing for the Great North Run has the Shelter logo front and back with a tag line on the back until there’s a home for everyone. That’s why I’m running. Donate here



Ten o’clock miracle

Deb Stephenson and Alice Newsholme

Deb Stephenson and Alice Newsholme

At ten o’clock they started to pray. Earlier in the evening the family had been called to the bedside of my father as he lay dying in hospital in Preston, Lancashire. They had been summoned by the doctor because he wasn’t expected to survive the night.

The illness had started a few days earlier as he rode his Panther 600 motorbike home to Ambleside from Coventry where his fiancée, later to be my mother, lived. As he battled against driving rain on the old A6 towards the Lake District he developed a headache which intensified as the miles passed. By the time he arrived home it was so bad he went straight to bed to ‘sleep it off’. Next morning the pain was worse and his mother persuaded him to see the doctor who admitted him to hospital.

“TB meningitis” the consultant told his family, “there’s not much we can do. Patients reach a crisis point; some get better, others don’t make it.”

This was before antibiotics were in general use to fight the infection revealed in the tests on his ‘lumber puncture’. I remember my dad describing the lumber puncture process with relish when he retold this story. A long curved needle was inserted between the discs in his back into his spinal fluid. A sample was drawn off for tests. His hands and fingers used to describe the arc and length of the needle whilst his face grimaced as he recalled the experience.

So they waited. The crisis came and passed with no improvement. He hadn’t eaten for days, he was thin and weak and had only slept through the intense pain with help from medication.

After the family returned to Ambleside there was little conversation. My mum’s family, the Newsholme’s, were strong in their faith. Grandad Newsholme was Pastor of a large Pentecostal Church in Coventry. They actively believed in miracles. On my father’s side the family was divided. Some were believers, some not. Grandma Stephenson had helped to start the Pentecostal Mission in Elterwater but her husband hadn’t been involved. All four of dad’s younger siblings were believers too. The four older one’s, I was told, weren’t.By ten o’clock only the believers were left in the room. Grandad Newsholme suggested they prayed for healing. So they did. Thirty five miles away, a dying man went to sleep naturally for the first time for two weeks.

The next morning my father sat up in bed – pain free – and startled the young duty nurse. “What’s for breakfast?” He asked. The nurse left the bedside without responding and called the ward sister. He asked her the same question. “What’s for breakfast, I’m starving?””I think you’d better get him something quick.” The sister said to the nurse. That morning he ate a full English breakfast and waited for the puzzled doctor to arrive. He ordered another lumber puncture and then another one.The doctor had reprimanded the lab staff for mixing up the samples because they reported that there was no trace of the infection in my father’s sample. Convinced there was a mistake he ordered the second procedure with the same result. No infection. He concluded in the light of my father’s surprise recovery that it must have been a miracle. The miracle explanation was confirmed when he was told about the impromptu prayer meeting in Ambleside the night before.Within days dad was discharged from hospital and steadily gained strength and weight to be restored to his family. It was 1947. A few months later, in March 1948, he and my mother, Alice, were married in her father’s church in Coventry. I arrived the following summer.

I often reflect on how my existence is due to a miracle of healing two years before I was born and thank God for answered prayer.

Minster Carols – honoured to have been there

I’m still glowing after last night’s Minster Carols – what a great team – so many people working together to create an event so moving and relevant. I can honestly say it ignited the spirit of Christmas in me for the first time this year. The sheer enormity of it all – God being born on earth to be our Saviour – is truly overwhelming. The impact of the Riding Lights theatre, the simplicity of Alyson’s preaching, the music from the choir and the slick work of the technical team all played out in that magnificent building – stunning. Not to mention all the stewards, welcomers, fetchers and carriers, pray-ers and all the rest of the people behind the scenes. Thanks St Mike’s for being a great church. Honoured to be part of it all.