The Christmas and New Year break always brings with it a curious mix of emotions. On the one hand it provides an ideal and overdue opportunity to escape from the daily routine and to live for the day. That might include spending time with loved ones and friends (or in other cases relishing the opportunity of getting far away from family commitments!). Yet the festive season comes at the end of the calendar year and usually provides an opportunity to reflect seriously on the past as well as looking forward philosophically towards what the year ahead may bring.
Nowadays it seems that we all have such busy lives that it is sometimes difficult to have even a few moments in a day to gather our thoughts without rushing from one engagement to another. I must admit that my first six months as your Member of Parliament have flown by in a flurry of meetings, speeches and events which are of course, the meat and drink of political life.
Although I like to console myself with the thought that I have a permanently busy diary, there are moments when I wonder just how much I am really able to achieve whilst zooming around at this pace. I suspect these are sentiments that will be readily recognisable to anyone who works with overseas customers and clients or has the sometimes dubious pleasure of being linked to the internet, to e-mail or via a vast array of websites where the concept of a nine-to-five working day has been long since forgotten.
Even those of you who find yourselves happily in retirement are in my experience increasingly linked into this global world of information technology. Certainly I know from the political work I have done in the last six months that the most frequent concern I hear from elderly folk is that the punishing schedules that their children and grandchildren have to put up with as a way of life.
Indeed, all in all it seems to me that all too often we have enabled technology to take control of our life rather than using it as a tool to make living easier. This is a real challenge that faces all of us, politicians included, as we face the future. What is essential is for us to stay in personal touch alongside the technological contact.
Here in this wonderful part of central London that I am so lucky to represent in parliament, we have an array of residents associations and amenity societies doing their level best to maintain a village feel to central London living. Such organisations play a very important part, in my view, in maintaining the social links between all of us and in countering the brash, rude and highly pressurised environment that many feel is an inevitable part of urban living.
Whether it is acknowledging strangers as you pop out on a Sunday morning to buy the newspapers or engaging in just a few extra minutes of relaxed conversation with local shopkeepers, I reckon it is these every day social encounters that make for a more civil society and can go a long way to enriching the lives we all live now.