A real Christmas tree
For me, Christmas kicks off in earnest when we head to Cannock Chase to collect a real tree from the Forestry Commission. There’s nothing wrong with an artificial one, of course, but I love the whole rigmarole of choosing the ‘perfect’ specimen, (then having to cut it to fit into the house, natch) before dusting off the decs.
A team effort
In our household, Christmas dinner is a team effort and we’re not precious about making everything from scratch. Happy to scour the shelves of every and all supermarkets, me, and definitely not a control freak when it comes to the Big Day.
My mum is the turkey expert. She cooks the bird at home and brings it with her on Christmas morning, along with the gravy. My father-in-law, who turned a very sprightly 85 this year, grows and prepares the veg. My daughter supplies a Christmas pudding made by the college she works for. My dad is the entertainer and we provide the venue, the trimmings and the Christmas cheer of course.
My dad’s jokes
So, I said my dad was the entertainer… he has an amazing memory and can recall all the people he went to school with, his childhood neighbours, complete with anecdotes about each of them. I can’t even remember what day it is sometimes. Every year, we hear a fresh story from his youth. Some are funny, some sad – or both. His jokes, however, can be way past their sell-by date and occasionally have me and my daughter running from the room in horror.
Silly Table Presents
My latest release, A Perfect Cornish Christmas, focuses on Scarlett, who is determined that her family will have the ultimate Christmas holiday, centring on a unique gift that unfortunately, turns into a nightmare. She spends the rest of the year, trying to bring her fractured family together.
Hopefully, our celebrations will be less dramatic. Our highlight is the exchange of ‘table presents’ after lunch when the mayhem has subsided and the port is flowing. These gifts must be inexpensive, preferably hilarious and always very silly. My favourite was when my father in law had had a rat problem (how he laughed!) in his garden. My joker dad bought him a cuddly rat from IKEA and made it a cute little carrier. Yes, that’s the sort of level I’m talking about.
Delightful though my family is, I always enjoy waking up on Boxing Day with a fridge crammed with leftovers, time to appreciate our presents and a day of relaxation stretching ahead. If Aidan Turner is in a festive telly special, so much the better.
A surprise …
My favourite Christmas ever was when my daughter’s godmother phoned to say that, after multiple rounds of IVF treatment, and at the age of 43, she was finally pregnant. I cried with joy and was hyper all morning. Christmas dinner was late that year.
This year my daughter and partner have finally moved into their first home, and are about to collect another new arrival: an adorable rescue cat called Tilly. There’s just one problem: my husband is allergic to furry creatures. I’m not sure how he or Tilly will cope with Christmas at our place but I expect, like most families, we’ll muddle through somehow…
A Perfect Cornish Christmas by Philippa Ashley is out now