I am reliably informed by Romsey Rotary that the tradition of singing carols in the Market Place started in 1957. The pictures I have seen on facebook of last year’s carols, which I remember being absolutely wonderful, bring back to us all how much has changed this year. But full credit to Rotary, the Abbey, the Romsey Male Voice Choir, the Youth Choir, the Michelmersh Silver Band and everyone else who came together to make a socially distanced carol singing, live streamed, possible. Many charities have really suffered through a lack of ability to fundraise, and this event usually brings in huge amounts for local good causes. I was pleased to be there in person to make my donation, but it is still possible to donate online.
This ought to be a message full of festive cheer, looking forward to Christmas Carol Services in our many churches, to getting together with friends and family and enjoying the usual holiday celebrations. But 2020 has been a year like no other, and Christmas is, through necessity rather than choice, small this year. I know that has upset many, but the majority of constituents who have been in touch have understood the reasons, and in any case were preparing to spend their Christmas very carefully indeed. Understandably there is anger at the late notice, which was certainly very badly handled, but widespread acceptance that with the vaccine rollout having started it is better to be safe than sorry this year.
Equally the late notice to schools about the return arrangements in January was totally unacceptable. I know how hard teaching and support staff have worked since September to keep pupils safe, to manage bubble arrangements and to keep disruption to an absolute minimum. I argued in the Chamber months ago that they should be prioritised for vaccination and I stand by that view.
Finally – I shall spare a thought this Christmas Day for the care workers who are on shift and had planned to celebrate their Christmas Day on Boxing Day. Those plans may now be in disarray, and they are among the people who have worked hardest this year, supporting the elderly and the frail. I have contacted the Health Secretary to let him know that we need to find some sort of mechanism to recognise that there may well be shift workers simply unable to be with their families on Christmas Day and to find a rapid workaround so they too get Christmas. I would like to take this opportunity to wish them all a Merry Christmas, and to all readers.