The older I get, and believe you me my aching joints and groans as I rise from a chair tell me that’s a fact, the more I reflect on life, especially at this time of the year.
Going through a well-worn address book with fading writing, predating my iPhone, there are folks each year I have to delete as life has deleted them. They are still in my tatty wee book with a simple line drawn through their details because I am fond of that decades old address book; political colleagues, Margo McDonald among them, parents, distant friends.
I think back to Christmases as a child at Sighthill in that chilly prefab with the papier-mâché ceiling, homemade paper chains and Mackintosh reds polished till they shone like baubles. Tony (bruv) and me believing we could actually hear sleigh bells on Christmas Eve.
Fast forward to the teen years, and that little gang of us in Clerry sharing gifts on Christmas Eve, predating Secret Santa, and one snowy Christmas Eve walking hand in hand with my boyfriend in those innocent days in a Doris Day moment declaring to him and the world that this was the best day of my life. I was 16.
Now it’s with grandchildren, spoiling them rotten, and getting back in touch with old friends. My offices go on stand-by for nearly two weeks and my hard-working staff have a well-deserved break from the many cases we deal with, running into hundreds.
And that’s where I count my blessings every day. Politicians get a bad name, and sometimes deserve it too, but an aspect of their work, whatever party they represent, is the many individual problems they deal with day in, day out, and with the internet and e-mails, this makes us (rightly) very accessible and accountable.
Cases run from the trivial to the very serious. One day we can be dealing with a complaint that a bus that is ten minutes late and the next with someone on the edge of homelessness. Some cases appear petty but are not. I can’t count the number, over the last 19 years I have been elected, of noisy neighbour disputes. Often, though not always, the consumption of drugs and alcohol are the root cause but the system takes its time to come to solution.
Quite rightly tenants have to be protected but sometimes that protection is at the expense of the well-being of neighbours. I share their frustration. Party flats are a recent phenomenon in Edinburgh and elsewhere and can destroy the peace of a neighbourhood. Frequent open air barbecues and booze mid-week till 4am when every-one round about has work the next morning and babies trying to sleep needs sorted one way or another, be it by-laws or legislation. But for the next two weeks, those e-mails will gradually diminish, though the problems will not.
So while I celebrate with family and friends the ups and yes, the downs of 2018 and let the Christmas lights brighten these dark winter evenings, I think of all those people who are not as fortunate and never take a day for granted.
I’m sure you too pause and reflect at Christmas, so my best wishes to you and I hope 2019 is a good year for you.
Christine Grahame is the SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale