It’s Christmas Eve and I hope you have the presents wrapped, tree decorated and friends and family around to share the festive season.
It can be a fraught time of year, but for me it is also the best time; carols on Christmas Eve or a packed service on Christmas Day, the placing of the tree bauble bought to celebrate “baby’s first Christmas”, unpacking the battered nativity scene, making a pudding (mine was only done last week, sorry Delia) and chats that come more easily with friends and strangers alike.
I even like the darkness. The celebrations give hope and light in the middle of the darkest season, just before the nights begin to lengthen and I have spent several Christmases down under where the festival falls at the height of summer and beach going sits uneasily with turkey and fake snow.
I spent many years in America where Thanksgiving easily beats Christmas as the nation’s big holiday leaving the latter a little adrift.
Even the decorations were wrong, for while the public buildings were gloriously adorned, the basics like crackers were missing and when I tried to take some with me from Britain, they were confiscated on the airport on account of the gunpowder in the snaps.
This is also a time to catch up and reflect on the past year as your MP.
High points have included getting the importance of our local rail links recognised with a commitment to electrify as far as Great Bedwyn and securing a good long distance service for both Bedwyn and Pewsey stations, and it was also fantastic to see more health care services put back into Savernake hospital for which many of us have campaigned.
I also welcomed the 20 per cent fall in local unemployment over the last year and was pleased to play my part in supporting those who have been out of work longest by offering work experience to people on the Work Programme.
My campaign for a safer Internet has delivered more than I could ever have hoped for, and personally it was challenging and satisfying to be made part of HM’s Government as a Whip and to finally move into the beautiful Pewsey Vale with my family.
I will set out my priorities for 2014 in my first column after the break but for now I would like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
It remains my greatest privilege to continue to serve you as your representative in Parliament and please let me know how I can help in 2014.