Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans welcomes the successful roll out of the vaccine, pays tribute to those who developed it and looks forward to raising a glass outside his local pub
This month saw the sad passing of three people who touched my heart, two I met and one I sadly never did. John Caldon I was privileged to meet about three years ago in Australia. He was the partner of my great friend and Aussie celebrity chef Lyndey Milan. Each on their own were formidable, but the two together were dynamically supercharged. I watched John’s recital on Zoom with many tributes paid, but my offering was simple and heartfelt – I wish I had met him earlier in my life.
The second sad loss was Julia from the tearoom in the House of Commons. Julia has been a feature in that tearoom since before I arrived in 1992. She had six years on me, I believe she must have joined straight from school. Julia never aged, had long blonde hair with a lovely warm casual demeanour. She always asked me about a former MP who lost his seat, because simply put, Julia cared for others. Unlike John, Julia won her battle against cancer, but sadly she succumbed to the other ‘big C’ – Covid. The team in the tearoom have been shattered by the news, so I was delighted when the Speaker announced the tearoom is to be renamed after her. A fitting and unique tribute.
The third loss is Colonel Sir Tom Moore. A man who shone bright and like a firework, dazzled all our lives. Raising almost £40 million for NHS charities by walking around his garden, in anticipation of his 100th birthday, was just the tonic lockdown-Britain needed. He became an international celebrity and a beacon of hope to millions of people.
Talking of accomplishments there are two which stand out which should never be under-estimated. The first is the vaccine manufacture and rollout programme. Each in itself is nothing short of a miracle and has given an enormous boost to the hope that we will soon be getting back to some form of normal. Nothing better sums it up than the front page of leading German newspaper, Bild, which stated, ‘We envy you’, referring to the UK vaccine programme. I could not believe that by the end of February we had smashed the 20 million first-dose mark.
The easing of the lockdown in stages has been announced and I will do all I can to support local businesses which have suffered greatly. It’s been tough for them so let’s do what we can to support our community.
The other achievement is truly out of this world. The US landed a rover on Mars and sent back amazing pictures. It took seven months to get there and so much could have gone wrong but the aptly-named Perseverance made it. Perseverance has to be how I will remember this period in my life – never giving up and standing together. A motto for our time.
Finally, I couldn’t be more optimistic about our future. Spring is definitely making me feel very positive about the coming months. My walks around the Ribble Valley and London are keeping me fit but also showing me nature’s strength and beauty. The display of flowers in the fields and the birdsong are a tonic we all need. The only thing I’m missing is the chance to celebrate in a pub – but in just a few weeks’ time, I’ll be standing outside my local in Pendleton raising a glass to dear friends and to say well done to those who have achieved enormous gains for us and the world. Hello to better weather and good times ahead, ‘A pint of your best British real ale landlord – Champagne will simply not suffice!’