Contrary to what certain media commentators suggest, the summer recess is not a 6-week holiday for MPs. I took 1 week off and went to the Lake District, but was otherwise working. The reasons that people contact their MP don’t cease just because proceedings in the House of Commons do. But the absence of parliament seemed to me a good time to try and visit as many local individuals and organisations as I could to find out how they were getting on as we get back towards normal.
I met with the founders of innovative companies like Rosemor and Aquobex, whose cleaning and flooding solutions respectively attract custom from around the world. I visited hotels like the Bear and Milton Hill House, hotels being one of the sectors of the economy that has been particularly badly hit by lockdown, with some people being more reluctant to return to their previous way of life. At gyms like tfd Health and Fitness and Fitness Space people are keen to get back their previous way of life – and as a gym-goer myself I understand them! – they just have to book in advance and adhere to a higher standard of hygiene than perhaps they did previously. No bad thing, in my book.
At Farmer Gow’s I saw not just what a great family day out the farm is for young and old, but also met the proprietors of successful businesses that Anne Gow has as tenants on the site, from LissieLou, the cake decoration business, to Bark and Berry Dog Grooming and the Oxford Yurt, a pretty impressive glamping site – I’ve never been glamping myself, but if you like doing so I’d check them out. I was pleased to make my first visit to the Westmill Wind and Solar Farm and delighted they were successful in their bid for Government funding for a new visitors’ centre that will increase the number of visitors 6-fold.
Along the way there were lots of other independent businesses, like Didcot Glass and Glazing, Emma’s Vintage Style, 30 Something and Bob’s Butchers. Charities too, like Children Heard and Seen, which supports the children of prisoners – more on that in a future column. On my Facebook page you’ll see I’ve started ‘three questions’ with the owners of different organisations to spread the word about organisations people might not have heard of.
The two biggest things that ran through my visits were how every organisation had used tape measures and technology to make themselves ‘covid-secure’ and their optimism. People are understandably concerned about a second wave of the virus, but they’ve found a way to operate differently and they’re determined to keep going with a spirit that is truly admirable.