The impact of Covid-19 on the NHS, our economy and our freedoms has left everyone with a sense of gloom at the moment. On Sunday though, we remembered those who lived through something much worse – and the fallen who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Across the UK, Remembrance ceremonies were held in a very different format and most took part online. But the message was the same. We remembered the fact there are many still alive today who were part of a worldwide effort to defeat fascism; and we commemorated the sacrifice they made for our freedom. It was the first war in which civilians far from the front lines risked losing their lives in bomb attacks. Whatever tribulations we face now, they are nothing compared to what that generation endured. We shall never forget.
In some good news, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced billions of pounds of support to try and keep the economy going into the spring. I do not have the space here to set out the plan in full. But there will be a major extension of the furlough scheme until the end of March, more money for self-employed people, and a huge increase in funding for the Welsh Government and other devolved administrations. The UK government is also increasingly confident that the roll-out of a fast turnaround saliva test, together with the ever growing possibility of a coronavirus vaccine being readily available early in 2021, means we can look forward to a new year which will be far better than this one has been.
Finally, and on a lighter note, I was delighted to hear Monmouth’s magnificent Catalpa tree won second place in the ‘Tree of the Year’ award. This much-loved natural landmark in the centre of St James Square was at risk of falling down 15 years ago but has withstood the test of time and is now thriving. More commonly known as the Indian bean tree, it is said to have been planted c.1900 and proudly stands beside the town’s war memorial. A special thank you to local resident Mary Kennedy for nominating our “old majestic giant” and to everyone who voted on the Woodland Trust’s website. A £500 care award towards its upkeep will help to ensure the tree lives a long and healthy life for generations to come.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 11 November 2020 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 12 November 2020*