Last week I went to a memorial service for somebody you have never heard of.
His name is Chris Martin. He died of a rare cancer at all too young an age.
He was a civil servant. You’ve seen him and his ilk on Yes Minister and The Thick of It and The Men From The Ministry.
You know the type of person I mean. The spenders of your tax. The bureaucrats and pen-pushers with cushy lives and gold-plated pensions.
Those whose main goal is to wander in to work about 10, get to morning coffee, then a long lunch and afternoon tea. The politicos, hangers-on, and wastes of space whose sole purpose in life is to thwart, obstruct and prevaricate.
The type of person who can turn a short story long.
Or, to put it another way – the people who let you get on with your life.
Who arrange for your bins to be emptied, your roads to be gritted, your buses to run and the schools and hospitals to educate your kids and care for the sick.
The backroom team behind the bin men, gritters, teachers, jannies, porters, nurses and doctors – and all the others in public service – who serve us hoi polloi.
The administrators and helpers who get all the brickbats but little of the praise or thanks they are often due.
The civil servants who make it all happen, whether in the town hall or the dusty back corridors of power in our national parliaments and governments.
Chris was the principal private secretary to my old boss, David Cameron.
He was his “Bernard”. Before that he served Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like all good civil servants, a man for all political seasons.
What drove him was an unflinching sense of public duty. For Chris, to serve your country is an honour.
Keeping the cogs oiled and wheels of government turning is a vital part of democracy, and an essential public good.
Helping our society to function is an honourable profession.
Chris rose rapidly through the ranks in Whitehall but never saw himself as better than anyone else in the civil service army. He valued what he did, and all those who did it with him.
They were not, as some may argue, a necessary evil, but a force for good. Not a waste of space, but the all too often unsung heroes and heroines who keep our government functioning.
They let life go on and keep the world turning. It’s not sexy, but it’s necessary.
So on that crisp autumn day last week, in a chapel beside Westminster Cathedral, hundreds of Chris’s family and friends gathered to say goodbye, but mostly to say thanks.
Some were household names, but most were just like you and me.
Ordinary people who were blessed to have known an extraordinary man.
We were there paying tribute not just to Chris, but to all he believed in. He was civil and he was a servant.
But he was not alone.
Chris was one in a million, but also one of millions.
Because this article is not really about him. It’s about you, or somebody you know.
The person who goes to work every day and pushes that pen, spends our tax and yes, enjoys a cup of tea.
But whose lunch break is probably short, whose inbox is full of hassle and who serves our society, mostly with civility.
And to whom we should say thank you.
Scotland out in front in world of fashion
Did you know that Harris Tweed is the only fabric to be protected by an act of parliament?
I mention this because, sadly, I had to miss the Scottish Fashion Awards held in London last week.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t nominated.
Run by the force of nature that is Tessa Hartmann, they are a celebration of all the best of Scottish fashion.
At an event graced by Pixie Lott, Alesha Dixon and Judy Murray, the winners included Christopher Kane, Charles Jeffrey, Pringle of Scotland, Burberry, Holly Fulton and Kestin Hare.
The evening was a showcase of one of our country’s big international success stories, where Scotland punches way above its weight.
It’s not just Macintosh raincoats and tartan kilts which mark us out as world leaders.
Every day, we export £1million of textiles around the globe. Sales worth £225million go to the rest of the UK annually. Nearly 9,000 people owe their living to the industry.
So move over Paris, Milan, Tokyo and New York.
The Scots are here. And we’re in Vogue.
‘Red card’ for Lineker
What on earth has become of us?
Gary Lineker voices an opinion about the Calais migrant camp and there are calls for the BBC to give him the boot.
Apparently he should stick to football. We can’t have anybody paid by the Beeb to have an opinion on anything else they say.
What utter garbage and tosh. And I only wish it was an isolated incident. But it’s not.
But let’s stick to GaryGate. Yes, he like anybody else should put their hands up if they make a mistake. But that’s not the real issue angering the thought police. For them, he should just shut the proverbial up.
They are the self-important, self-elected guardians of propriety. They know best. It’s up to them who can speak and what they can say and where and when they can say it.
That is totalitarian nonsense on steroids. The man who never got a straight red in his career should get one now?
You see, it doesn’t matter what his opinion is. That really isn’t the point.
But attempting to gag or sack someone for having an opinion contrary to theirs and voicing it on Twitter is too much for some jumped-up little idiots. Well, they can go to hell.