I’m writing this week's column for the Herald and Petersfield Post just before attending the funeral of a great local volunteer and leader, Jeff Williams, of Dementia Friendly Petersfield, The Royal British Legion, the rugby club, and much else besides.
At such moments, you can’t help but be reflective.
Since the first local Dementia Friendly event in 2016, the brainchild of Jeff, our paths crossed many times. At each meeting, Jeff amazed me with total commitment to the cause - and his energy, despite being a man of senior years, and later his deteriorating health.
Jeff taught me multiple lessons over these years - about service and community and the ability of individuals to change things for the better.
The most important practical lesson I got from him was about helping people live well with dementia. His legacy manifests in great initiatives like the East Hampshire Dementia Festival, and in changing perceptions of what it means to have a dementia diagnosis.
In my life as an MP I meet many interesting and engaging people. Some, like Jeff, have made an enormous impact in their community, and will continue to do so even after they have gone.
It is one of the great things about being an MP. You meet so many different people, of all political stripes, with varying backgrounds and cultures, but the thing they have in common is the motivation to make a difference.
And I can think of few roles that would have more variety. Friday was a case in point. On a busy constituency day, I met constituents from across the spectrum, and no less diverse subject matter.
The day started in Bordon, meeting with the management team from Farnborough Airport. Although Farnborough isn't in the constituency, the subject of aircraft noise is significant in some parts of East Hants, and this is something I have been following now for several years.
It was a productive meeting on the latest airspace changes. The Civil Aviation Authority’s 42-day feedback window has now just closed so we should hear the outcome in a couple of months' time. I will keep you posted.
This was followed by a dash down to Petersfield to meet representatives from Women of This Town (WoTT). A group of informed and passionate women (and a few men!), all beating the drum for the same cause – that we need to do more to protect our planet.
The discussion ranged from fossil fuels to restoring peat bogs, to food security for East Hampshire to the health benefits of encouraging people to become more mobile, through walking and cycling schemes. I’m very grateful to all who took part, and to Anna Hepworth and the Town Mayor for hosting.
After WoTT, it was Grayshott, to the primary school for a session with the pupils and a team from Google on how to be safe online. The children were brilliant, totally engaged and even allowed me to take part in their interactive session to crack the code. Hopefully they took away the messages of being alert to the dangers of being online and what they might do to protect themselves, and how a message or video uploaded in haste today can stay with you for the rest of your life.
It really made me think about some of the things our children are going to face in the future, that those of us growing up before the internet age never had to worry about.
I ended the day meeting my team to go through the week just gone, and the week ahead, and generally catching up. Which brings me onto my final point.
Working as an MP is one of the greatest privileges I can think of. I am also fortunate to work with a small but brilliant team. The team cover many things, but the two biggest are managing correspondence with constituents, and taking on casework.
Casework is a central part of an MP's role: trying to help people, who, for whatever reason, have found themselves in a situation that they can’t get out of and don’t know where else they can turn. I'm currently recruiting for a senior caseworker. If you think this might be for you, do please click on the link below.