The LIFE Fam­ily Al­bum 2016

How the celebs are spend­ing Christ­mas GE­ORGE HOOK

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - FRONT PAGE -

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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.

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