Many will recall his visit in April 2000. It is said that a photograph taken then was the model for the statue in Parliament Square in London.
Carole Ellis was mayor of Bedford that day, and I know that she is immensely proud of the occasion, for no other place in the UK can so be linked with him and Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, so fundamental to the anti apartheid cause.
Carole very bravely and publicly battles a serious illness. That such a special occasion was hers, and that she and Bedford will be forever a small part of that extraordinary story of Mandela, pleases all her many friends who wish her well.
So the world turns again, on another year. We will all look back on the triumphs and disasters, on the things which made national and international news, and on those personal things which give our lives meaning. Some will recall joys; others will have had things harder and may recall losses and disappointments. I suspect most of us have a mixture of both.
For politicians too it is a time to reflect. It has been tough economically, but I hope new growth will get stronger offering a better new year. Our forces, having served so well in Afghanistan, are heading home, and we will share the joy and relief of many local families.
At Christmas, billions celebrate the birth of a child who lived a human life which included difficulties but ultimate triumph, a life of inspiration to many, including me. I wish you a peaceful Christmas and much hope into 2014.