Susie’s Christmas memories

PUBLISHED: 11:34 29 November 2016 | UPDATED: 15:03 29 November 2016

Susie Fowler-Watt and her cousins

Susie Fowler-Watt and her cousins


Memories of Christmases with her cousins are recalled by the BBC Look East presenter

Samantha Kerr with Susie Fowler-WattSamantha Kerr with Susie Fowler-Watt

Our daughter recently had to do a “life map” for a school project, showing the events and the people that have been most important in her life so far. One of the things she was adamant about including was Christmas - because it makes her so happy. She didn’t mean materialistically, but emotionally.

When I was growing up, we used to have massive family Christmases. My parents ran a boarding school, so there were plenty of beds, and we used to have up to 30 relations staying for a few nights. Those bonds forged with the family over my childhood have stayed, even though we are spread out across the country - and the world.

This year one of my younger cousins got married - a wonderful chance to reunite with the extended family. My niece took a photo of four of us cousins together at the reception. It was only a quick snap, but I love it. I grew up with these girls. We went on childhood holidays together, we put on plays at Christmas, we remember each other’s trials and tribulations at school. And here we all are, in our 40s, with different trials and tribulations - but still caring and supporting each other.

Now our children benefit from those bonds. They have a whole network of extended family members who are invested in them and will always be there to help if need be. None of us can host the huge Christmas sleepovers we used to have, but people still travel long distances to see each other - even if it’s just for a long lunch.

First and foremost, Christmas is a religious celebration – that goes without saying. But it is also a way for us to show our love for each other - through presents, food or even shared laughter at the TV. Nothing beats the love of your family. It definitely warrants a place on any life map!

Time to remember

While celebrating what we are lucky enough to have at Christmas time, I am always acutely aware at this time of year of those who aren’t so lucky, or who’ve suffered a terrible loss. Christmas for them is an agonising reminder of what they don’t have.

A few weeks ago I interviewed the mother of Corrie McKeague, the serviceman who went missing. Nicola Urquhart is around the same age as me, and was desperately worried about her child. Sitting opposite her, I could literally feel her pain.

Families do interviews like this, however harrowing they may be, because it can help in the search for people. Nicola and I both knew this, but instead of asking her questions, what I really wanted to do was put my arms around her as she cried.

Shortly afterwards I spoke to the parents of Stella Kambi, one of the teenagers who drowned at Thorpe Marshes last year. They did an interview after the inquest so they could pay tribute to their daughter. They have a very strong faith, and when I asked how they were coping, Stella’s mother said very quietly “I am trying my best, but it is so hard”.

People endure such dreadful things, and somehow manage to carry on. Some we know about, others may be suffering a private agony they’re hiding from view. Let’s hold them in our thoughts this Christmas, and pray they can find some joy in the festivities and, most importantly, some peace.

Last December, I met a young woman from Norwich called Samantha Kerr. I was handing out certificates to people who’d completed the BBC Make it Digital course at City College. Sam impressed me straight away with her personality and enthusiasm. I found out later that she’d suffered from depression and anxiety after a number of tragic events in her life, and was finding it hard to work.

Well, what a difference a year makes. Sam got involved with the Prince’s Trust, and with their help, she’s turned her life around. She became one of their young ambassadors, and was even nominated for a Pride of Britain award. While she once found it difficult to get on a bus, she has recently travelled to Azerbaijan and Hungary as a team leader on youth projects.

Now she is in a new job, helping other young people who are struggling to get work. Go Sam! You are an inspiration, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.

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