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Clutter

When big things go wrong, and one feels powerless to do much about them, small things in one's life can become surrogates for one's anger. And there are quite a few big things around at the moment; COVID-19, No-Deal Brexit; A US Presidential Election where the incumbent leads with racist statements.As the end of the current session rushes towards us, many of my colleagues are concluding that they will not be putting themselves forward at the forthcoming election. A couple of our younger colleagues are placing their families first. But most are looking at being in their eighth decade, as I already am, at the end of the next session.
When the two leading candidates for the US President are both older than I am - seventy-four in five week's time - it may seem surprising that retirement may be beckoning for me and others a lustrum younger than I am. But it illustrates the profound differences between being a back-bencher in our Parliament and the political life of a US Senator …
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Train time

After one hundred and seventy-four days, I resumed sitting in our Parliament's debating chamber. It was the first time I have seen how members dialling in by video-link look and sound at the "business end".

I found that I was a bit rusty. My only oral contribution this week was to ask a question. As I approached the end of it, a sound from a mobile phone totally distracted me. Worried that it was my own phone, I paused and for about a second, lost the thread of what I was saying. I wasn't that pleased with my neighbour when they returned to their seat. Their phone, not mine.

It just shows that one can travel backwards in one's abilities. Like an athlete who has had an extended layoff and loses muscle tone, my brain had retreated from its previous peak of perfection.

Next week will be our first proper three day week. I think I will ease myself in by participating in the two Member's debates scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. That will be about eleven hundred…

Local matters

As we inch towards new normality, some parts of it reflect the past world.

This week sees the Program for Government which is generally delivered on the first day back after the summer recess. Previously that would have been the first day back in September. And this year despite our not really having had a recess, that's the date it happens.

After many months of physical absence from the parliamentary Chamber, my last attendance there was on Thursday, 12th March, I expect to take my seat for the first time in one hundred and seventy-three days. That is about three times as big a gap as any in my nearly twenty years in Parliament.

But while I have spoken in fewer debates than usual, only three since you ask, and these were all video contributions, I have asked six questions in the Chamber by that same means. My Committee appearances have increased over the previous norm with thirty-four dial-in participations. Last year over the same period saw my attending four fewer meetings over…