There was a bit of a reminiscence of the Military Repatriation ceremonies down Royal Wootton Bassett High Street on two occasions this week. (Can it really be ten years since the town was honoured with its ‘Royal’ soubriquet to mark its respects to our fallen servicemen and women?).
On Tuesday it was the sad funeral of dear Mr Enam Chowdhury. Enam was the proprietor of the first-class Ganges Restaurant in Bassett High Street. He played a central role in the Bassett Community - especially with regard to the Rotary Club and other charities. For example, he very often gave use of his restaurant to various local groups for fundraising activities; and more recently he had been highly active during previous lockdowns delivering meals to those who were vulnerable or shut in. Is it not ironic and tragic that he himself was then struck down by Covid, and after some weeks in a coma, sadly succumbed to this horrible disease.
His hearse stopped behind the old Town Hall on stilts, and across the road from his beloved restaurant; and the people of Royal Wootton Bassett - led by their Mayor and Deputy Mayor and by the Lord Lieutenant, Sarah Troughton, and me - paid our respects to this much loved local hero.
Then on Friday we will similarly be paying our last respects to that other local hero, Chris Wannell. I will tell you about it next week. Both Enam and Chris were pillars of the community, and without breaching any protocols or confidences I can now let you know that I was hopeful that both would soon have been recipients of some national honour to mark their huge commitment to local people. It is a shame that it could not have been before they were so sadly taken from us, but it may be of some little comfort for their families and friends to know that the Nation was slowly moving towards some suitable honour for them. We will remember them, and we will honour them both in our memories.
Who cannot welcome the glimpse of the end of this nightmare which the Prime Minister’s Road Map offers us. I was given my ‘jab’ by Dr Sanjeev Popli at the outstanding Yatton Keynell GP’s surgery last week joining so many thousands of my constituents. Its looks as if all age groups will be done before the summer; and that as a result of that and of the sharp reductions in infection, hospitalisations and deaths, we really can start to look forward to a gradual lifting of the unwelcome restrictions on our lives. It cannot come too soon, although we must not rush it. Schools are back next week, and then step by step we can start to move towards some kind of ‘normality’ on 21 June. (Perhaps sooner if vaccinations and pandemic figures keep moving in the right direction.)
So as we mark the passing of two dear friends and pillars of the community in Royal Wootton Bassett, we must also do what they would have wanted us to do - to focus our minds not on the past but on the future. Both Chris and Enam were optimistic, cheerful people working for the future of their community. And so must we all.