The LIFE Family Album 2016
How the celebs are spending Christmas GEORGE HOOK
The highlight this year for me was when I was going to retire. I had every intention to retire [from my radio show] — 4.30pm to 7pm was just proving too much, but then to get the opportunity of a new time of 12, with a substantially different audience — that gives me a better social life.
Without a shadow of a doubt, it was the high of the year. For me, having had about 26 kind-of-low years from 1968 to 1995, every year since then has been better than the year before. I had another grandchild in 2016; I saw my first grandchild, who is 13, starting out as rugby player. So it’s been a phenomenal year for me, and it’s amazing, at 75, to have all these new things happening to me, so therefore I worry about it. I worry that suddenly it’s going to stop. It’s just been so good for me.
I haven’t had any health problems, my relationship with my wife is better than it’s ever been, and my children and eight grandchildren now mean so much to me. 2016 has been one of the best years of my life.
Now, at Christmas, we have other families involved. We all assemble on Stephen’s Day. This year, eight grandchildren, three children, three partners, [my wife] Ingrid and myself — 16 of us, and it’s just fabulous. I have two London grandchildren. I have three Cork grandchildren, and three Dublin grandchildren, and the cacophony of accents of these children is just fabulous. To have these cousins getting together, because they don’t meet every day, is just fabulous. They also have different upbringings — the two London grandchildren are just impeccably behaved children with beautiful manners, and then the other lot are just mayhem. It’s all great fun, and I love it.
I don’t get presents or Christmas cards or anything. I’m lucky that Ingrid organises everything, and she’s exceedingly thoughtful. I remember sending Ingrid a Christmas card years ago . . . bought it last-minute, never looked at it, and it said: ‘God bless you merry gentlemen’, so I’m quite bad at that.
There’s a great tradition at Christmas where I drink too much, then I have a fight with somebody at the dinner table, and then I’m sent to bed to collapse and have a sleep for the afternoon. I love the whole thing of the cold turkey for the next few days, and there are tons of different chutneys to go with it. I just love it. I love it without doing anything. The great thing is that I don’t wash, shave, shower, or change my underwear for about a week, so I just lounge about the house in a tracksuit, looking at ancient movies.
As a child, we were very poor, and only now do I realise what an extraordinary effort my mother made to get presents for me at Christmas. I must say a favourite memory is that childhood wonder of waking up to Santa Claus. I’ve never forgotten the magic of that, and I wanted to give that to my children, and now I encourage them to give it to my grandchildren. The miracle of Christmas, I’ve never lost that.
When I hear that children are being told not to say ‘Happy Christmas’ because they might offend the Muslims, I get absolutely mad. I go screaming mad. If anyone attempts . . . nobody has attempted it in my house as yet, but if anyone attempts to say that we’re not saying ‘Happy Christmas’ because we might offend the Muslims, I’ll knock their bloody heads off. It’s ‘Happy Christmas’ or nothing.