Article - West Dorset Carols at Waterloo Station

Brexit -- about the substance of which I have never written, and have no intention of ever writing anything in this column -- has already had many effects on various aspects of our national life; but the main effect for Parliamentarians has been the innumerable hours during which we have debated clauses of the various Bills that the process has necessitated.

One of the saddest consequences of this legislative ferment is that I was detained in the Chamber of the House of Commons at the time when the Gryphon School and Sherborne Girls School came up to Waterloo Station for their annual carol singing.

This charming event, which takes place on the main concourse of the station, must send thousands of Londoners (and a number of intrepid travellers from the south west) home with a song in their hearts.

It is a jolly occasion, and one that I would not lightly miss.

But it also has a serious and benevolent purpose, as it raises funds for the food banks not only in Sherborne but also in Waterloo -- thereby bringing to the capital some of the enthusiasm for voluntary effort and for the Big Society that is so much a feature of life in West Dorset and which all too often seems to be obscured by the hustle and bustle of the metropolis.

It is heartening, also that the railway company enters into the spirit of this event, providing not only the transport required to bring these massed choirs from Sherborne to Waterloo but also (more surprisingly) the organ, to furnish the instrumental background for the singers.

All in all, the carols are a splendid example of the south west doing its bit.

Like royal weddings, albeit on a much smaller scale, the singing of carols serves also to bind us all together. As with the monarchy, the modern edition of a fact with such historical resonance serves to remind us of a history in which we all share because it has formed us all. When, as in the case of Prince Harry's engagement, and in the case of the carols at Waterloo, the modern version of the historical fact also brings together people of different kinds from different places it's unifying power and hence it's symbolic significance is intensified.

The eye is pleased. But there is more to it than meets the eye.

These things which, in their differing scales take us both back and forwards serve to remind us also that our culture and our history are in the end more constitutive of what we are, even than the necessities of economic life and the institutions which provide the framework for that life to continue.

In this sense (though in this sense alone) there is a connection of ideas between the carol singing at Waterloo and the debates in the Chamber of the House of Commons that so sadly prevented me from attending the singing this year.