Major Tim is a cause for celebration in a dark year

It is sadly not controversial to say that 2016 so far has not been the happiest of years, even in a world that is perennially plagued by conflict.

Continued atrocities committed by terrorist groups including Islamic State and Boko Haram now barely make a ripple in the national news, such are their regularity.

There has been a well-publicised slew of celebrity deaths, many unexpected.

And in the last fortnight there has been the horror of the Orlando nightclub attack, and the closer-to-home shocking shooting of MP Jo Cox. Many have sought to link the latter to the increasingly poisonous debate on the EU referendum – there may or may not be a connection, but certainly it cannot be argued that politics has taken a turn for the nasty and vindictive in recent months.

So amid this doom, it’s worth reminding ourselves of reasons for optimism. Portsmouth Pride – like many pride marches up and down the land, and indeed round the world – remains one. It’s not just a joyous event in itself, but a welcome reminder that prejudice can, slowly be pushed back.

And the other is the safe return of Tim Peake. There cannot be anyone who has not been transfixed by his updates from the International Space Station. His steady stream of pictures of globe – and many of his homeland, the south coast of England – at night are not just beautiful but are a reminder that, in the scheme of things, we are a small rock in the universe and would be better off working together than fighting each other.

And Maj Peake himself is an inspiration. While he has sprung to fame in the last six months, if you read our biography of him today, you will see that he has a distinguished career on earth – or at least in the air – behind him. His is not a fame without basis, or qualification.

And his work with schools – talking to them via satellite phone, sending out ‘space seeds’ for pupils to grow – is trailblazing. We have a real, old-fashioned hero on our doorstep... this good-humoured man and his legacy are bright points indeed in a bleak year.