The House has risen for Christmas - ‘at last’ as you may well think; and I am happy to shake the dust of Westminster off my boots in favour of the Wiltshire mud. Rebellions, by-elections, allegedly illegal parties; Lord Frost – it’s been a difficult few weeks, and I am glad to see the back of them. I will be saying no more about the ‘parties’ until after Sue Gray (no relation) has reported; and I hope that some of the other stuff may well go off the boil over the Christmas break. I remain of the view that Boris is the right Leader – unless and until persuaded to the contrary. Winning the leadership, winning the General Election, getting Brexit done, keeping the economy strong; fighting Covid at least as well as most other countries- all of these are achievements to the PM’s credit. They should not be obscured by a torrent of vitriol, no doubt inspired by previous passed-over or sacked associates of one kind or another. Perhaps a little peace and quiet will enable us to cut through the peripheral verbiage and get back to the real heart of the matter - the good governance of the UK.

It’s been a bit of whirlwind in the Constituency too - the sad funeral of Little Somerford friend, Denis O’Brien, a one-time business manager for George Harrison and later the Monty Python Team. Michael Palin paid a (virtual) tribute ending with the Life of Brian epilogue “P….. off”; and all of us left the RWB Crematorium to the memorable - if un-funereal – strains of  “Always look on the bright side of life” from the Life of Brian. Then it was off to Michelle Donelan’s wedding reception in that great former home of local MPs the Neald brothers, Grittleton House. Six carol services all told, culminating in a simply beautiful one in Malmesbury Abbey; two surgeries and a visit to the Point to Point races at Larkhill, to witness Philippa handing out the trophies; all of these and more contributed to a generally jolly run-up to Christmas week.

Like everyone else I am deeply concerned about Omicron and do urge as many as can do to get the all-important booster jab. We simply do not want any further restrictions on our freedoms to prevent it spreading out of control. For even if Omicron is less deadly than Delta, its shocking transmissibility may well still have the consequence of an unsustainable number needing to go to hospital, or even sadly dying. So we will be enjoying Christmas in a thoroughly traditional way; but we will be as cautious as we can be. It may be much quieter and simpler than it often is; but that may be no bad thing.

After all, I have always felt that Christmas has become a bit over-bloated, over-egged (or perhaps over-egg-nogged). Do we really need all of the conspicuous expenditure (‘it’s the thought that counts’); vast consumption of alcohol and food; hugely extravagant table decorations; tinsel and Christmas sweaters, a total shut-down of the entire economy and country for up to two weeks as Christmas elides with New Year? Perhaps it is actually healthy, even if perforce, to see through the tinsel and the crackers, the booze and turkey; to look inside the wrapping paper to find out what its actually all about - a tiny baby born in poverty in a stable in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.

Perhaps simplifying our lives and our outlook; trying not to jump on every passing tabloid inspired bandwagon; Keeping Calm and focussing on the small simple things in life - family and friends in particular - would do us all a power of good.

So I wish you a Very Happy, if perhaps simplified, even purified, Christmas.