It is difficult for any politician to find a large helping of Christmas cheer when contemplating the state of politics in this country at the moment. Whatever your views about Brexit, there is no doubt that a country divided almost down the middle on the issue has led to a Parliament that faces paralysis now that it comes to making a tough decision.
But I am determined not to be driven into a Scrooge-like attitude for Christmas, so I will turn my and your attention to the latest excellent addition to the facilities available in Ashford.
This is the new six-screen Picture House which has opened up on Elwick Road opposite Debenhams. The building itself is a symbol of the new Ashford which is growing up, following the construction of Ashford College and the Commercial Quarter office building opposite. Anyone who has not visited the town for ten years would find the centre unrecognisable.
However it is not the physical changes that matter as much as the building of a range of activities which benefit the people who use them. I have no doubt that the Picture House will attract a large number of regular visitors to the town centre, which will benefit other shops, pubs and restaurants, as well as the ones built in the cinema complex itself.
Equally, the students at the College will now have another reason to stay around the town centre, which will again benefit the surrounding shops. At a time when town centres around the country are struggling, this will be a huge step forward for Ashford.
For those who still feel nostalgic for the old Ashford, look down when you are outside the Picture House. In an inspired move, a series of stories from residents are printed on the pavement, telling their memories of Ashford over the years. It was so cold at the opening ceremony that no-one had time to linger to read all of them, but they provide their own link to the past of the town.
This is the coming to fruition of another of the “Big 8” projects which those of us responsible for the town’s future have been working on for the past five years. It is always a pleasure to see ambitious projects come through successfully, and I hope all of us enjoy the films for many years to come. It’s a Merry Christmas after all.