“In the bleak mid-winter, frosty winds may moan,” wrote Christina Rossetti back in 1872.

This winter has been very bleak indeed for many people at home and abroad, with increased living and heating costs, very cold weather and the war in Ukraine.

Who would have thought that in 21st century Scotland we would be living in conditions more akin to Victorian Britain?

Are we not supposed to leave the world in a better state for the next generation? Yet is seems as if our adult children will be living with us way beyond the ages at which they would wish to be independent.

Despite the bleakness of the times, communities are responding in imaginative ways. In recent years food banks have, sadly, sprung up in several communities, including here in Helensburgh and Lomond, and now ‘warm banks’ are becoming a feature of many communities too.

In our own area, Centre 81 in Garelochhead provides a warm space in the form of a soup and sandwich lunch on a Thursday between 11am and 1pm. On a Tuesday at St Modan’s Parish Church between 12 noon and 4pm you can have a soup lunch and keep warm and have a chat with other people. While Centre 81 will be closed over the Christmas holidays, the warm bank at St Modan’s Church will remain open.

As well as providing some relief from the austerity from which we are suffering, I also strongly believe we should be campaigning for an end of the need for food and warm banks.

Yes, I am aware that much of the rising cost of living is due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, however, I believe that there is much more our politicians, both north and south of the border could be doing to help people survive this winter.

While both our MP, Brendan O’Hara, and our MSP, Jackie Baillie, are in opposition in their respective parliaments, the more pressure we can put on our governments, in Edinburgh and London, the more chance we have of bringing about change.

Rising costs mean that Christmas is going to be different this year for many of us, but at least we will be able to meet with our nearest and dearest, unlike in 2020 and 2021 when Covid imposed so many restrictions on our lives and our festive celebrations.

Perhaps in having a more simple Christmas, we will learn more about the true meaning of Christmas. Whether or not you believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, the message he brings us is one of peace.

That message has profound consequences for how we should live our lives, for if I want a world that is at peace, then I have to live in peace with those around me.

In the words of the old song, “let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me”.