This week’s activities can only described as difficult and emotional at times, but also a time for reflection as I reach a certain milestone in my life.
Before all of that, I thought I would start by mentioning a very powerful and thought-provoking article that appeared on the BBC News Channel this week about the escalating level of threats and abuse that MPs currently face in the UK.
Some of the incidents including sending pictures of decapitated bodies, being surreptitiously filmed and having dog mess smeared on their doors.
It does clearly show that there is a lot of anger in the UK and a growing separation between the 650 elected Members in Westminster and many of their Constituents – but is that simply because of Brexit, parliamentary games or political parties not fulfilling manifesto promises…?
I enclose a link to the BBC article and the video, which is well worth watching, but you are definitely left questioning the behaviour of those involved.
We are very fortunate to live here on the Isle of Man. On occasion as MHKs we do get heavily criticised for the decisions we make from time to time, and it is hurtful when you read factually incorrect statements or comments posted online. However, this is nothing like on the same level as our colleagues in Westminster at the moment.
We do have good political system here on the Island. If a Constituent is unhappy with the manner in which a Member has voted or represented them, then they are certainly entitled to an explanation.
Our job as the elected Members is to represent the majority view of our Constituents wherever possible, so it is very very rare that we actually represent 100% of our constituents on any particular decision we make.
Our role as MHKs and Tynwald Members is to explain those decisions if challenged, as I was over the Steam Packet Company etc last year.
Anyway, let’s move on to this week’s activities … With no Department meetings or Tynwald briefings scheduled this week, I was able to focus all my energy on the Area Plan for the East and other ongoing projects.
I went into the office for around four hours on Sunday and I also spent all day Monday and Tuesday glued to my desk putting together a 15-page submission to the Cabinet Office ahead of the planning inquiry that will get underway on Tuesday, 10th September 2019.
Stepping back to Monday morning for a moment, the day started with the worst possible news when Ellen received a phone call from her mum, Lesley at around 7am. It was the call that the family have been expecting over the past couple of months, but it still doesn’t make it any easier.
Unfortunately, Ellen’s dad and my father-in-law, Steve had passed away in Sheffield just before 7am on Monday.
Steve had suffered a brain haemorrhage about six years ago but had never fully recovered from that incident. Over the last year or so he was receiving more specialist care but his overall condition had deteriorated in recent months.
I guess it is during difficult moments that we take just a little time to reflect on the happier memories that we shared together.
I first met Steve on a very cold December teatime just after Christmas in 2003, when he collected Ellen and me from Leeds. We had spent a couple days with my mum who had property in Leeds at the time and then had a couple of days with Steve and Lesley, along with other family members in Earby.
I do remember that Christmas being bitterly cold, although still a wonderful trip.
It seems fitting that I share one of my favourite pictures, which shows Steve and my brothers and best man jumping behind Ellen and me during our wedding at the Whitewater Hotel in Newby Bridge in 2006.
Steve is the gentleman just right of Ellen with both arms in the air, showing so much energy and life – a wonderful memory from a very special weekend. He also delivered a fantastic speech without using any notes at all, unlike Shane (my best man) and me.
I also remember boarding the coach on the Monday after the wedding and Steve touching my arm and saying, ‘You look after our lass, I know you will….’
It is surprising how clear those little things still seem after almost 13 years.
Steve and Lesley celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary towards the end of last month with a very special themed cake based on their honeymoon back in 1969. I still have great memories of celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary at Aynsome Manor in Cartmel, back in 2009.
He was a fantastic father-in-law and he will be missed greatly, I just wish I could have spent a little bit more time with him.
As I said, I still went into the office on Monday and Tuesday, in order to finish drafting my correspondence relating to the Area Plan for the East, but even that took several hours to put together.
I must have spent around 25 hours on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday finishing off my research and drafting the correspondence. I am just relieved that it is finally finished ahead of schedule.
On Wednesday morning I dropped Ellen off at the airport just before 8am as she headed off to Sheffield for a few days.
I still went into the office to catch up with a few things, along with drafting various correspondence that has been sitting on my desk over the past couple of weeks, along with having a general tidy up.
I left the office just after 12 noon and once home I needed to go though several reports. I also took the opportunity to go through all the Tynwald Day Petitions over the last six years, before finishing early at around 16.00.
Thursday marked my 50th birthday and I am not entirely sure if I should laugh or cry at this particular milestone….
Over my 50 years it has been a roller-coaster of a ride at times. On occasion I have hit rock bottom, but I have also achieved so much due to the support of so many other people, who I thank from the bottom of my heart….
As for my birthday, I had a further dentist appointment at 8am, which only lasted around 15 minutes, but hopefully just one more treatment next week and we should be done.
I then went into the office for a couple of hours to work on a few things.
I left the office at around 11am and went into town to do some shopping and to take the rest of the day off.
We were originally looking to go on the Steam Train but we cancelled that, given circumstances and the fact of Ellen being off island.
I am sure that we will get plenty of opportunities to celebrate in the next couple of weeks, but I will certainly light the candles on my birthday cake on Sunday when Ellen returns home.
The Isle of Man was hit hard by heavy rain on Thursday evening and Friday morning, which made the conditions difficult for a few hours, but I was still in the office before 8am.
I took advantage of a very quiet day, so I headed home for 12 noon after calling in to see a couple of Constituents on the way home.
Nothing really scheduled for the weekend other than maybe some chores around the house.