1) It is my considered opinion that The Muppet Christmas Carol isn't just a great Christmas film. I think it's one of the best films ever. I watch it every year without fail. If you don’t laugh when the mice start to sing "This is my island in the sun...” you are made of stone.
2) One of the many quirks that I instantly fell in love with in our house was an oval window between the kitchen and living room which, when I first saw the place, framed a Christmas tree to perfection. The next Christmas couldn't come around quickly enough and we bought 2 trees. 1 for the children who were aged 4, 4 and 5, to do with as they wished in the kitchen, the other, for the main event, in the sitting room. We dumped the box of home-made decorations, some shitty tinsel and a brand new string of battery powered lights next to their tiny tree and left them to it, retreating to the 'grown up' tree in the sitting room armed with achingly tasteful silver and glass.
On first inspection of their handiwork it genuinely looked like all of the Christmas elves had thrown up over it. It was devoid of taste, it was multicoloured mayhem and it screamed Christmas so loudly that we instantly hated our own tree with its stupid silver and glass theme. We vowed never to return to single colours. And we never have.
We have a fabulous collection of baubles and ornaments including a few of these which I hope you'll buy one or two for your own homes right now (no affiliation with them, just think a worthy cause). We obviously display this one very prominantly 😁 although I've been known to turn it around when my mother in law visits (she loathes the entire range - I don't know why).
3) I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas, which, I think, is how most people feel about it.
4) I used to suffer terribly with fevers as a child and would often hallucinate - genuinely terrifying experiences including the belief that I had eaten the Christmas tree; spiders the size of my head crawling over me and a long train of warriors on camels trailing toward me carrying knives. But one magical, feverish Christmas Eve I hallucinated Father Christmas in the sky from my bedroom window. Obviously I didn’t see him as it would have only been about 6.30pm and he doesn’t arrive until after midnight but I’m taking it as a win.
5) I can’t stand dried fruit - if I'm going to eat something sweet and full of calories then shrivelled chewy/sticky stuff is going to be a long way down a very very long and extensive list of alternatives. At Christmas, my mother in law makes a chocolate yule log which is highly addictive. I’m hoping she’ll make two this year. She honoured us with the recipe a few years back. If you can read it, do give it a go. After it's cooled, cover it with a shit-tonne (yeah, it's an official measurement) of whipped cream and roll into something that resembles a log. Or just eat it as the sweetest/most delicious open sandwich you're likely to eat this decade.
6) I desparately wanted to play Mary in the school nativity but wasn't allowed on account of having very blonde, almost white hair. My mate, Tracey played Mary which I thought was doubly unfair as she had curly hair that I coveted.
7) Sam here is almost the most difficult person I know to buy for. If it’s clothing, it’s the wrong cut; if it’s a plant pot it’s the wrong colour; if it’s food he’ll imply that if he’d wanted it, he’d have bought it himself. The only person more difficult to buy for than Sam is me. So it’s genuinely a Christmas miracle that my nearest and dearest manage it so brilliantly every year.
8) We listen to a very specific Christmas album when we dress the tree. It’s “Christmas with Nat and Dean”. I only fully listened to the words “The Little Boy Who Santa Claus Forgot” a few years ago and it hurts my soul a little every time I hear it. If you don't know it and fancy shedding a tear or two you can find it on YouTube here.
9) I don’t like turkey but will eat it, which, I think, is how most people feel about it.
10) The Christmas Yearbook really is the best product I have ever come up with. I had 3 babies in 12 months (really stupid, although, to be fair, the second egg split so not all our fault). I consequently had very little time to do anything but keep them alive but I wanted to keep memories easily.
I called an old friend who is a very talented graphic designer and briefed her my idea whilst we both made shepherds pies in our respective kitchens. It is testimony to her incredible design skills that, after 18 years of my family memories, it has not dated in the least and, although battered and covered in splatters, is still a thing of beauty. Click here if you'd like to read more about it.
11) One Christmas, about 7 years ago, I was on a very high dose of an anti-psychotic drug that can make people a bit ‘snacky’. I would sneak down to the kitchen multiple times a night to stuff my face with chocolate panettone that I’d slather with salty butter. I put on 9lbs of weight in around a week. Sadly, I'm yet to shed those 9lbs.
12) I started a tradition on my own as a child (I was not an only child). Every year I would write out the entire “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” poem onto big pieces of paper and pin them to my bedroom wall. I did it every year until I was about 15 when it dawned on me that it was a really weird thing to do. When I had my own children, I read them the poem every Christmas Eve before they went to bed. They now read the poem to me every Christmas Eve before I go to bed (I’m not kidding). Because of this, I have lots of copies of the book, so, for added fun, someone gets to choose which copy to read from. As I'm sure you can imagine, the 24th December is a fucking riot ‘round our gaff.
13) The decorated Christmas tree has never made it to 12th Night. It’s lucky to make it past the 27th December. I run a retail business, a home and a family - Christmas needs to get TF out of the way so I can get on with the rest of my life. #bahhumbug Yeah. I know how it sounds.
14) I remember the "Merry Christmas Ange" Eastenders episode and honestly nearly pooed myself with fear.
15) I find walking the high street when it’s dark (and especially if it’s wet) a little overwhelming. The lights from the cars and the shops are too bright and the noise feels amplified and the contrasts of walking in from the dark to over-bright shops fucks with my head. I realised, only the other day, that I sing Christmas songs very quietly to calm myself. I guess it’s because it’s that time of year. It’s usually Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
16) One of my best Christmas memories was spending Christmas Eve with extended family in Blackwood, South Wales. I was 3 and fell asleep on a camp bed in my parent's room listening to the party going on downstairs. I have a very vivid memory of the dressing table and mirror as I fell asleep because it was reflecting lights from the road outside. So when I opened my eyes again it had magically transformed and the mirror was covered with the most beautiful white dress in my size and, sitting there, propped up, was a rag doll with a matching dress. I'm not sure I've been that girlie since but I thought it was pure magic.
17) The “Merry Fucking Christmas” range came about because a very good friend and I message it to each other every Christmas Day. It’s not anti-Christmas. It’s a cry of relief/exhaustion/shared experience that makes us laugh every time.
17) The strangest present I've ever received was a Georgian silver pickle fork. I opened it on a very miserable Christmas Day when I'd spent many hours sitting in my parent's bedroom trying to get my screaming newborn to feed whilst everyone ate their meals downstairs (my father was squeamish about bodily functions). I was extremely sore, exhausted and, quite frankly, mightily hacked off with the turn of events. I then opened the gift my mother had given me and I highly doubt I hid my disappointment. For years after, I'd mutter to myself 'what new mum needs a fucking Georgian pickle fork?'. It wasn't until a few years ago, in a flash of understanding, that I realised she had actually bought it when I was still pregnant and it had been a commentary on pregnancy and cravings. I hadn't craved pickles... it had been orange juice, by the litre. But still; it wasn't as entirely random as I'd at first assumed. It was actually quite a sweet gift in hindsight.
18) When I was 15, my new boyfriend told me that he'd never had a Christmas stocking before. They'd done the pillowcases at the end of the bed thing. I was shocked (they'd seemed such nice people) and set about making him a Christmas stocking. I embroidered his name on the front as well as stitching various festive symbols in felt over it's expanse. It wasn't until I had finished sewing that I realised I'd hugely overestimated my gift budget. I remember very clearly filling it with huge bags of shelled nuts, satsumas and some choice gifts including a wooden heart that we still have somewhere. Yeah! Turns out a very opinionated nerdy kid with sewing skills was a keeper after all.
19) Thinking back on the 'Christmas' films that were always on the box every year when I was child, I now wonder if they have somehow contributed to my crippling claustrophobia - "The Poseiden Adventure" and "The Great Escape" spring immediately to mind.
20) I went to a comprehensive secondary school that was a bit church-ey. We were affiliated with Westminster Abbey and had services there a few times a year. Because I was one of the posher kids, I'd often be asked to do a reading but one Christmas I was in the choir and we were up in the loft where we sang harmony for 'Oh Come All Ye Faithful' - a more dirge-ey song you'd be hard pushed to find. The harmony is beautiful "siii-nnggg choirs offff ayyyyyngels". We did it proud and I feel honoured to have been up there belting it out - give credit where it's due, those Godly people know their acoustics. And a well sung "Carol of the Bells" will give me goosebumps.
21) My father died just before Christmas a few years back. I was with him when he died and although relieved that he’d had a ‘good death’ was devastated at his loss. The phrase "speak comfort to me" just kept on playing in my head for some reason. I wanted to request it of every one I met in the following days. I thought it might have been Shakespeare and I Googled it in vain for a few months before giving up in frustration.
The next December, I settled myself in front of the telly to wrap presents and to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol and within the first bar of the tune in the opening credits I said out loud "speak comfort to me". I’d like to say I remembered it from the original Dickens text. But no, it was Michael Caine pleading with some puppets.