It's been a hectic, kaleidoscopic whirlygig for the last few weeks, from which I will try to extract some themes in (as they say on Strictly) no particular order.
North Wiltshire. Thursday to Monday in the Constituency. Surgeries in Calne, Royal Wootton Bassett, Malmesbury and Box. 40 or 50 ‘cases’ are often more easily solved face to face. Meeting with Chief Constable to discuss (questionable) investigation into late Ted Heath. Two appearances on Sunday Politics, and umpteen BBC Radio Wilts interviews. Several recces for the hot air balloon flight over Malmesbury which we are planning to commemorate Walter Powell MP’s tragic demise. (More about that later). Read a lesson in the wonderful Malmesbury Abbey Carols alongside Jilly Cooper, Ellie from Countryfile and High Sheriff David Hempleman-Adams. Dinners in Compton Bassett and Didmarton, Receptions in Hullavington, Bowood, Pewsey and Neston, Carols in Bremhill and Corsham; Ladies Luncheon Club at Watley Manor and 35 political supper clubbers to our house for a Christmas chat and supper (Philippa is a marvel). To DPD in Royal Wootton Bassett to observe their Christmas rush of parcels. And that is just some of it.
House of Commons. Try to speak, or intervene or ask a question most days (not always successfully), and chair committees and Westminster Hall debates on behalf of Mr Speaker. Have a bit of a barney with a Labour Whip who will not accept my ruling on some obscure matter.
Defence. Defence Committee meets twice a week- especially annoyed by the ambulance-chasing lawyers who have made 4000 veterans life a misery by their disgraceful hounding of them. Also ask a question in the main Chamber about it. As Chairman of All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces, chair two dinners for briefings by Generals, and as Chairman of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme see students off on all kinds of military educational visits. As Patron Elect of the charity which sends boxes off to all our service people deployed overseas on Christmas Day, launch this year’s 7500 box effort. Defence is my main interest- partly from a constituency and partly personal standpoint.
North and South Poles. Another interest is the world’s cold places through my Chairmanship of the Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions. Welcome Sir David Attenborough, HSH Prince Albert of Morocco, broadcaster and explorer Ben Fogle to a briefing in Parliament on Antarctica. Huge security and other fuss, but we seem to get through it without dropping too many googlies.
Brexit. Is everywhere. Most Parliamentary business has paled into insignificance beside it. I wonder how long it will be before people get thoroughly bored with it. I have to say I am increasingly of the view that we should just do it – next Tuesday seems like a good date – and sort out the consequences afterwards.
Private Life. And in amongst all of that still manage to see Philippa (probably sufficiently often from her catering standpoint!). But she also works for me, so we are in non-stop electronic communication, and she spends a day or so a week in London as well. And still a little time to ride my old horse out from time to time. It’s a hectic old life; but I love every minute of it.