With the Christmas season in full flow, it is more specifically a case of 'In the Kitchen' for me. Just as well that cooking is, along with gardening, how I like to keep myself busy when work permits. How fortunate we are at having so many great local shops to provide the festive feast. Courtesy of the deli, bakery and fruit and veg stall in Heathfield, the fishmonger at Bexhill, the brewery in Battle, the vineyard in Beckley and having a butcher as my next-door neighbour, the fridge was stuffed before Christmas and the household thereafter.
Matters do not always go quite as planned. I had already worked out that I would need to be up at 4am to put the turkey in the hot oven for its first hour before moving it down for slow cooking. When the turkey dutifully arrived, it was nearer 20lbs than the 15lbs I had asked for. As a result, it moved to a 2am start and I was relieved to fit it in the Aga. I never get back to sleep during that hour, terrified as I am that I will fail to awaken to move it to the slow oven and it will be cooked by breakfast. So keen am I to make as many dishes as I can, and no one pointing it out for personal motives, I managed to find the red cabbage (which I had, as tradition would have it, fused together on Christmas Eve whilst listening to Carols at Kings) still sitting on the side whilst clearing up after Christmas lunch.
It's not just the red cabbage which got left behind at Christmas. It pays to recharge the batteries and take a break from work. The Today programme, on Radio 4, has been replaced by music, the news has been switched over and the daily paper has barely been read. I may be getting to a certain age, but I have not missed the constant flow of negativity and cynicism which our 24/7 news stream specialises in. Whilst not everything in our country is as it should be, we have much to be optimistic and proud about. We live in an age where information is available at our fingertips, where every child is given an education, where record numbers are in work (with almost as many job vacancies as there are unemployed) and with a free healthcare system which is rated the best in the world. No wonder that the average life expectancy for a male born in this country in 2017 is almost twenty years longer than for a male born in Africa.
It is for this reason that I think of the coming year as an opportunity to further improve our country rather than seeking reasons to dismantle it. On a similar note, I relish the challenge of the UK leaving the EU and look forward to the opportunities which can be taken rather than fight old battles or listen to those who would talk us in to failure and inaction.
My political priorities for 2018, outside of a successful departure of the EU, are to try and make some headway with my bill to deliver automatic compensation for delays on flights and trains, to get more homes built locally, help more of our remaining 500 constituency job seekers in to work and to try and find a cross-party consensus which will be needed to deliver better care for the elderly. I also want to help maintain the case for international aid which will help us close that shocking life expectancy gap between the UK and our Africa counterparts.
Whatever your own priorities, I wish all Observer readers a Happy New Year. I look forward to working in the year ahead with the constituents who help make our part of East Sussex the special place it is.