David Parkin starts to feel normal again

I DON’T know about you, but it’s been nice to get out and about a bit over the last few weeks.

We are definitely not back to normal, but inching closer to it certainly does the world of good to how I feel.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been to the Ebor Festival at York Racecourse and the Test Match at the Emerald Headingley Stadium.

And one of them involved a bit of work, other than lifting a glass to my lips.

When successful entrepreneur Simon Chappell asked me if I could conduct and arrange some video interviews with his senior leadership team at Assured Data Protection, I was delighted to be involved.

When he said it coincided with a company trip to York Races and invited me to join them, I was positively ecstatic.

I don’t think I’ve been racing at York for over two years.

This time I was determined to do it differently – I was going to try and see a horse.

Actually, I’m joking, part of the fun of racing at York is wandering around and looking at the horses, jockeys, trainers and owners as well as some decent people watching opportunities amidst the ranks of the massed spectators.

But first it was an early start to head to Harrogate to meet the Assured Data Protection team for the video interviews.

Based in the lovely surroundings of Harewood Yard close to Harewood House, Assured DP also has a US office in Virginia near Washington DC run by Simon’s business partner Stacy Hayes.

Stacy and three colleagues from America had flown over for a strategy session with their UK-based team, the first time in over 18 months the two teams had been able to meet, other than via video calls.

Many companies have faced similar challenges.

It helped my job that all of the Assured team were good communicators with an enthusiasm for what they do.

After selling his last business, Backup Technology, Simon took some time out but is back focusing on what he knows: backup, disaster recovery and business continuity solutions to large SME and enterprises all over the world.

His old business was a huge success – his new one is already even bigger and growing fast, less than six years after it was founded.

Assured had held a strategy session at the Yorkshire Hotel the day before and all were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed despite a debrief session in the bar that went on long into the night.

We did the interviews in a wood panelled room at the Fat Badger in Harrogate before heading off to York, where Assured had a box and sponsored a race.

When a tipster arrived to give guests some thoughts on what horses to bet on, he invited Simon, who owns several racehorses, to join him and the pair performed something of a double act.

I think the horses Simon tipped did better than those backed by the professional tipster.

There was only one of Simon’s tips I wasn’t sure about and that was a horse called “The Flying Ginger”.

When I asked Simon what he based his assessment of its chance of success on, he said: “My son is ginger so that’s why I picked it.”

I decided to give it a swerve in the betting.

It won at 33-1.


I OFTEN use this blog to reflect on the lives of people who have died.

They could have been friends or a well known figure I had never met but all had added something to my life in some way.

I met Harriet Dow several times and probably couldn’t call her a friend, but I was a huge admirer of this quite incredible woman.

The mum of one from Knaresborough died last month aged just 44.

Harriet was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in 2014 which later spread to her lungs and liver.

After chemotherapy treatment Harriet was told that the disease was incurable.

But that didn’t stop this energetic, bubbly character from living her life in the best way possible for several more years.

She used this time for two things: to enjoy her family and friends and to help raise enough money to make the vision of a Maggie’s Centre to support people with cancer in Yorkshire a reality.

Harriet was an ambassador for Maggie’s Leeds and without her I doubt that beautiful building which transformed a grassy triangle next to the multi-storey car park at St James’s Hospital in the city would have been created so swiftly.

I hosted and organised several events that raised money for Maggie’s and Harriet spoke at all of them to tell those present her story.

It was a story of hope, of pain, of love, of joy, of positivity…and to be honest, of the sheer bloody-mindedness of this Yorkshirewoman and her devoted Scottish-born husband Robin not to be bowed by the challenges they faced.

It was guaranteed by the time Harriet had finished telling her story that those listening had laughed and cried in equal measure.

When she came to speak at an event I organised with my colleague Liz Theakston called the Big Ticket which brought together the corporate finance community in Leeds, I was guilty of initially treating her a little delicately given her condition.

“Is there anything I can get you?” I asked, thinking she might want a glass of water or a cushion for her back.

“A large gin and tonic please,” replied Harriet.

She was accompanied by a friend and I kept the pair of them topped up with large G&Ts all night.

It cost me a bit on the bar bill but what she said raised a large amount of money for Maggie’s and listening to her words was priceless.

Thanks to Harriet Maggie’s Leeds is providing free support to people in Yorkshire with cancer and their families.

Prior to it being built, Yorkshire was the largest region in the UK without a Maggie’s Centre.

Thanks to Harriet it now has one of the best.

I’ll raise a glass to you Harriet to thank you for your incredible work and your fortitude, humanity and sense of fun.

And don’t worry, it won’t just be the one G&T either.


ANOTHER person who left us over the summer was restaurateur Martin Pickles.

Sir Gary Verity, who grew up in the same Leeds street as Martin, messaged to pass on the sad news of his sudden death aged 65.

I first met Martin when he bought The Flying Pizza in Roundhay – a Leeds institution – from longtime owner Adriano.

When it came to running restaurants, Martin had an excellent pedigree.


He had started out I believe at Mario and Franco’s Terraza in Leeds, somewhere I never got to visit, but I know I would have enjoyed it.


After moving to London Martin’s career progressed quickly, probably down to his bonhomie and his unique combination of charm and Yorkshire bluntness that allowed him to deal with customers that ranged from royalty to rogues.


He worked for renowned restaurateur Richard Shepherd and after his time at the Flying Pizza ended he ran The Garrick Club in London commuting from his home in North Rigton near Harrogate.


In recent years he was a consultant to Convive restaurant at Weetwood Hall Hotel in Leeds and for the Caring for Life charity at its fantastic farm, cafe and restaurant near Bramhope.


Martin’s best stories came from his time as manager of London landmark Langan’s Brasserie owned by white-suited bon viveur Peter Langan alongside acting legend Sir Michael Caine.


Customers included Princess Margaret (she drank White Horse whisky) and the Rat Pack and it was the place to dine for any visiting celebrity.


I’ve told this story here before, but it is worth repeating.


Martin once told me that Christopher Reeves, when he was playing Superman, was sitting in a booth in the window of the restaurant.

Four builders in hard hats and hi-viz jackets walked past and clearly seeing Reeve dining inside, walked back staring in the window.

They reappeared moments later with three of the burly workmen holding their colleague above their heads in the famous Superman flying pose.

One of Martin’s friends recounted a story at his funeral from his days at Langan’s.

One evening Joan Collins arrived with a group of friends to celebrate her birthday.

Martin welcomed them, showed them to their table and returned shortly after to take their orders for dinner.

He spoke to the birthday girl first: “Miss Collins, what would you like to order?”

Joan, wearing a large hat, turned to her male companion who was considerably younger than her, and whispered something.

“Miss Collins is not ready to order yet,” he told Martin, who went on to take the orders of the others around the table.

“Miss Collins, are you ready to order now?” he asked politely.

She whispered to her male companion.

“Miss Collins would like the soufflé and the duck.”

“Can you tell her the duck’s off,” replied Martin politely.

After he bought the Flying Pizza, Martin became a friend and it was there that he first introduced me to Gary Verity, his old family friend.

That was well before Gary went to the old Yorkshire Tourist Board and transformed it into Welcome to Yorkshire.

A successful business executive, Gary’s wife Helen had been diagnosed with cancer and we met just as he was about to embark on running the first of several marathons to raise a huge amount of money for charity.

Gary met Martin when the Pickles family moved from Keighley to West Park in Leeds.

What he learned later was that as a young boy, Martin had witnessed the death of his younger brother in a traffic accident outside their Keighley home.

At his funeral, a friend said that Martin often talked about the loss of his brother at such a young age.

I remember my parents visiting me one Christmas in Leeds and I had the bright idea of going out for a walk on Christmas Eve and ending up at local pub the Roundhay Fox.

Most other locals had clearly had a similar idea and there was a queue to get into the pub.

We headed dejectedly back to my house until I saw the sparkling lights of the Flying Pizza on Street Lane twinkling through the gloom.

Despite the restaurant being absolutely packed, Martin welcomed us into the bar, poured us a glass of Champagne on the house and took time to chat to my parents and recount some of his wonderful stories.

I’ve already realised I’ve got a heavy weekend ahead.

As well as raising those glasses of gin and tonic to Harriet Dow’s memory, I’ll be doing the same with Champagne remembering Martin Pickles.


I MISSED the best day’s cricket at the Headingley Test Match between England and India last week, but I’ve always said that a day at the cricket is more about who you are with rather than what you are watching.

I was a guest at Headingley last Friday of Robin Johnson, partner at international law firm Eversheds Sutherland.

Robin is head of the firm’s Chicago office, but given he lives in Leeds, hasn’t been able to travel to the States since the pandemic started 18 or so months ago.

Robin has always struck me as a great enthusiast about what he does.

He likes his clients and loves doing deals for them.

He displays as much excitement for a huge corporate finance transaction that involves legal work across 70 jurisdictions around the globe as he does completing a small deal for an entrepreneurial SME business.

He even takes a keen interest in deals involving businesses that aren’t his clients.

When I met Robin at the Headingley gates we walked into the stadium where a security guard in a G4S blazer gave us directions to our seats in the Executive Suite.

“Did you know your employer G4S is now under new ownership after it was recently acquired by the American group Allied Universal?” Robin asked the security man.

He mumbled something and pointed us in the direction we needed to go.

Well, I found it interesting.


IT was nice to bump into Martin Wolstencraft, the chief executive of fast-growing bar group Arc Inspirations.

Martin said it was the first time he had spent a day at the Test Match rather than running hospitality from his nearby Manhatta bar.

Martin has been one of the few prominent personalities from the hospitality industry to highlight the challenges they have faced during what has seemed like endless lockdowns.

His comment that: “I’ve had to borrow five million quid to stay closed!” puts things in perspective.

I said I hoped that his entire industry now gets the time to recover after a very damaging period.

Martin was at the cricket with a lively group all celebrating the stag do of a prominent lawyer.

“That sounds like it could get messy,” I said.

He looked at me like I’d told him something he already knew.


I GOT a train back from York Races after an enjoyable day with Simon Chappell and his team at Assured Data Protection.

As I relaxed into my seat just as we pulled out of York Station I saw a chap wearing a hoodie and carrying a Tesco bag nodding at me.

“Have you been to the races?” he asked, as I was removing my lapel badge.

I confirmed I had been.

“You know who I think you are?” he grinned at me.

He didn’t look like a reader of this blog so I said I didn’t know who he thought I was.

“You’re Michael Tabor.”

I said I wasn’t.

He asked if I was sure.

I said that if I was the businessman, bookmaker, gambler and racehorse owner quoted to be worth £550m in the Sunday Times Rich List, then I probably wouldn’t be getting the train home from the races.

It didn’t seem to convince him and he launched into a conversation about race horses he had recently bet on.

I pretended to fall asleep and eventually he phoned a friend to tell them what a “sh*t” day at work he’d had but he was looking forward to “a few scoops” in the local later.

After I got off the train, I Googled Michael Tabor.

He is nothing not successful and I wouldn’t mind being a few quid behind him in the Rich List.

But he’s also 79.

These lockdowns must have aged me.

Have a great weekend.

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