AS the schools prepare for the end of term, teachers, parents and carers are deep into a round of carol services, nativity plays, concerts and mufti days.

I myself am looking forward to traditional Christmas engagements – including the blessing of the crib at the Refuge and, hopefully, a spot of last minute shopping in Salisbury’s Christmas market, which is once again doing the city proud.

Salisbury really needed a Christmas market to help our retailers compete with the lure of cities like Bath and Winchester and I am delighted that ours is now so firmly established – attracting visitors and enjoying strong support from local shoppers.

As the festive invitations come in, my normal routine still continues apace. Parliament sits right up until the week before Christmas this year and, it just so happens, that it is my department’s turn to take questions on the floor of the house on the 21st, which will keep me busy right up to the last minute.

After my well-documented, disastrously-delayed dash north last Thursday to announce Coventry as the UK’s next city of culture, I am heading north again this Thursday, this time for a ministerial visit to Wakefield. Hopefully the logistics will run more smoothly this time because Friday is given over to a packed day of meetings in Salisbury, kicking off early with a breakfast briefing with local councillors.

This is a welcome chance to catch up with city and unitary councillors, to hear about the issues that have been dominating their casework in recent weeks and to share perspectives on local priorities.

I have a full advice surgery, a meeting with the Head of Highways about local transport infrastructure, a charity to visit and a tour of Wessex Archaeology to look forward to.

I will be joined for the day by a student, taking the opportunity to test their interest in politics by sharing a typical day. Students never fail to be astonished by how varied my days can be and by how few people who come and see me actually want to discuss politics!

It is the things closest to home that resonate most strongly with many people – as our local councillors will no doubt be reminding me!