Coming Home to Winter Island

Coming Home to Winter Island

It starts with the tree! I love Christmas trees and how their smell fills the house. It is one of my favourite smells and is what Christmas is all about to me. Of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas if there wasn’t the annual Christmas tree choosing ‘discussion’. We all go to a Christmas farm near us and walk around for what seems like hours, each choosing our favourite, and then narrowing it down to a couple and then choosing the Thomas Family Christmas Tree. It’s just like the Griswolds in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. And every year, I buy one too big and we end up having to cut the top of it off to fit in the living room. Every year! You’d think I’d learn! They always seem so much smaller in the open air. But, I love it when the tree is decorated and the lights are on. We have a decoration from all of the places we’ve visited and where I’ve set books and stories, Iceland, Holland, Sweden, Crete, Sicily. It brings back lovely memories. I like nothing better than in the dark, with the lights on and the smell of the tree…that’s Christmas to me.

We have two wood burning stoves, one at each end of the house and we use them all the time but at Christmas, when all the family are here, they come into their own. I love getting up in the morning and opening up the door, riddling through the ash and then putting on another log and watching the flames lick up. It feels like the heart of the home and they keep ticking over all over Christmas. So, it’s essential we have a big wood delivery just before Christmas. When the wood arrives, it’s all hands to the deck to get the woodpile stacked. I love to have plenty of wood. Even enough to light a fire, turn on the fairy lights and toast marshmallows outdoors.

Fairy lights! I love them. You can’t have enough of them! I love fairy lights on top of the dresser, woven in between offcuts from the Christmas tree, over the piano, round the mirrors and over the woodpile. Everything feels better with fairy lights.

Okay, this one might seem a bit daft, but my family know it’s Christmas when I buy kitchen roll. Don’t ask me why, but I don’t buy it the rest of the year. I’ve always told the kids a piece of toilet paper will do the job or a hot cloth. But I do love a Christmas kitchen roll. Can’t resist! It feels decadent!

My kids are teenagers now, but every year they still get a stocking. Well, more of a hessian potato sack that they used to add decoration to every year. And every year, they wake up to find it full of teenage essentials; new toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, and new pants and socks. It isn’t Christmas morning unless you’re smelling sweet and have new pants and socks on!

The turkey is my favourite part of Christmas. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love to cook for family and friends. I love cooking Christmas dinner. I love getting up early to stuff the turkey and get it in the oven. Me, BBC Radio 2, the dogs and cats and an early morning cuppa before the house wakes. I love the smell of the cooking turkey as it starts to fill the house. I even love standing in the kitchen peeling the sprouts with a glass of bucks fizz. It’s my favourite place to be, especially at Christmas.

Boxing day. I really love Boxing Day. It reminds me of my Dad. Every year, when we were growing up, Dad and a few friends would go for a morning run on Boxing Day to work off the Christmas lunch. We would meet them at the village pub afterwards. And then it was back home for cold turkey and ham, roast potatoes and pickles. Delicious! The boxing day run grew and grew and now has over 200 people running every year. When my father died, they had a winner’s cup made and presented in his name and, when the entrants pass the graveyard on their run, they all salute and say ‘Morning Terry!’ even those who never knew him. Boxing day, we always go for a good walk with dog and back home for cold cuts. It’s my time to remember and to count my blessings for what I have today.