Our Christmas is traditional with a capital “T”. I’ve spent every Christmas at my parents’ house. And yet, every year, my mum lays on the guilt.
She calls, while playing little violins: “I presume you won’t be home this Christmas, you’ve probably got better offers,” knowing full well there’s never been any suggestion that I would spend it anywhere else.
I stay on Christmas Eve, although my room got turned into a study a few years back, so I sleep on a sofa bed next to a load of filing cabinets.
My little brother still wakes us all up early to open his presents. He’s 24 now. Uncle Neil’s always knocking about, too, although he’s not actually our uncle. He’s an actor friend of my dad’s. One year he gave me Duty Free, the sitcom he was in in the 1980s – on video.
I hate buying presents. My brother and sister send me links to the increasingly outlandish stuff they want. But my dad is impossible. It’s hard to buy for a man whose favourite gift was a taxidermy owl.
My dad would probably like us to dress up for lunch but I don’t. I ate in my pants one year. Afterwards he always insists we watch the Queen’s Speech. He doesn’t actually make us stand for it, that’s something I embellished one year and then the next I took it a step further and went upstairs to put a suit on.
I personally think it’s boring and she needs to mix it up a bit – maybe get the corgis in training for a performance like Britain’s Got Talent winners Jules and Matisse doing a tightrope walk. I think everyone would appreciate that.
My wife Hilary called Jack to check he was coming home for Christmas a couple of weeks ago and he snapped, “What do you mean, am I coming at Christmas? Where do you think I’ll be going?” Jack’s got a lovely girlfriend, our daughter Molly has a very nice boyfriend and our other son Barney has a very nice girlfriend. But if they said, “We were thinking of spending Christmas with, in Molly’s case, Toby’s family,” it’d be, “I beg your pardon?” Oh, I’d be fine about it. But it’d be disappointing.
Jack complains about sleeping over, of course. A few years ago we downsized. Jack’s reaction was: “I can’t believe you’ve sold my home!” Then he wanted a room in the new house. “You don’t live here any more! You live in Notting Hill Gate with your girlfriend,” I tried to reason. “Yes, but when I come back, it would be nice if I had my own room,” he sulked.
Jack’s an absolute nightmare to buy for. I always want to give him a nice watch but he doesn’t wear one. He, in return, is extremely generous with his presents. I collect paintings and he has given me one or two really lovely paintings over the years.
We have lunch at the right time: one o’clock: the drinks, the lunch, the Queen. I was brought up watching the Queen’s Speech – and we always stood for God Save the Queen. So I make the kids watch it and stand for the National Anthem.
One year Jack exaggerated that story, which he does tend to, and went upstairs, put on a suit and insisted we stand for the whole speech. Fine by me, it was nice to see him properly dressed for once.
Backchat End of Year Show, Boxing Day 10.30pm BBC2 (11.15pm NI)