Let me begin by sending my very best wishes to you all for a very Happy New Year. As I send greetings, I am aware that New Year is often a time of mixed feelings. The optimism of New Year is so widely celebrated that it can leave some people in low spirits as they look forward to the year ahead. As a New Year begins, I try to anticipate with optimism what we can achieve.
We should think of all those who volunteer across our society and provide valuable services to our communities; we take them for granted at great cost. In 2017, I was grateful for the opportunities set before me. For example, the chance to thank and help a number of individuals including medical charities focused on a wide range of illnesses both physical and mental. I also gave my support to ending the threat of closure of Chiltern Edge School and to trying to secure more funding for our schools.
As I look forward to 2018, I hope it will be a happy time for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as they marry at Windsor. I will be playing my part in the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in April, travelling to Nigeria as the Prime Minister's Trade Envoy to the country and to Strasbourg as a Parliamentary representative on the Council of Europe, playing a part in the successes they can bring for the country.
Nearer home, I hope to see the continuation of important activities such as Neighbourhood Planning, and to engaging with constituents at a number of different levels. Most of all though, I look forward to everyone enjoying a peaceful and prosperous time. The Henley Constituency is beautiful, with thriving communities and much goodwill. I hope we will all focus on things that can improve life for those who live here and ensure that they can take advantage of the opportunities that life has to offer.
Some people say we live in 'interesting times'. In truth, all times are 'interesting' and I hope that together we will be able to have constructive discussions about how we can make the most of the opportunities they offer.