8 of Norfolk’s notables talk about their perfect Christmas

PUBLISHED: 10:04 10 December 2019 | UPDATED: 11:11 11 December 2019

Karl Minns ahead of his one man show at the Theatre Royal. Byline: Sonya Duncan

Karl Minns ahead of his one man show at the Theatre Royal. Byline: Sonya Duncan

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Who froze the turkey by mistake, who doesn’t want any presents, and who drove Ken Dodd home for Christmas? Rowan Mantell asked some Norfolk notables about their best, and best-forgotten, festive fun

Karl Minns is, in his home county, one third of The Nimmo Twins, and to the rest of the world a comedy writer for television, radio and theatre, including Have I Got News For You, and for Charlie Brooker, Russell Howard and Al Murray. He will be appearing in Nimmo spin-off She Go Looks Back from Behind at 2019 With Friends at Norwich Playhouse from January 13-26.

Where is the most unusual place you have spent Christmas?

Other than Great Yarmouth? In plaster, recovering from getting beaten up in 2007. I was fantastically concussed and would veer between hysterical laughter and emotional breakdowns over the turkey carcass. It was oddly joyous.

What is the best present you have ever given or received?

About 12 years ago I treated close friends to holidays and large gifts. I spent Christmas Day driving round like a thin Santa. The looks on their faces as they saw what they'd got was the best present I've ever had.

And the worst?

I gave a hideous dressing gown to a close friend that I realised was a mistake when their face turned to permafrost as the wrapping paper was pulled away. When I was a kid, socks from absent aunties always cast a pall. Nowadays, socks make me punch the air with delight.

What would you really like to eat for Christmas dinner?

A curry with a few pints of lager. That or sausage and mash.

Do you have any unusual festive traditions?

I always try and watch The Lion in Winter. It's the perfect Christmas film because it's a dysfunctional family forced to spend the festivities together, while plotting to murder one another.

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Star Wars superfan David Whiteley. Picture: ANTONY KELLYStar Wars superfan David Whiteley. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

David Whiteley presents Inside Out in the East for the BBC. His wife Amelia Reynolds, is also a BBC Look East presenter and the couple live in south Norfolk.

What is the best present you have ever given or received?

Going back to my childhood, as a lifelong Star Wars fan, it would have to be The Millennium Falcon! I still have it to this day and spent a disproportionate amount of money on eBay, replacing the bits I've lost!

And the worst?

For the sake of family harmony, this one will have to go unanswered!

What would you really like to eat for Christmas dinner?

Now I really love Christmas dinner and it's one of my favourite meals. And I am slightly partial to a cranberry and brie parcel! In fact I could just eat those, the whole of Christmas!

Do you have any unusual festive traditions?

I think like most families, anything the children make at school, over the years, gets added to the tree. It can get a bit eclectic, but it charts the Christmases that have gone before. Oh and the kids call me 'Daddy the Christmas Squirrel' because weeks and weeks before I start to buy all the nice snacks and treats that we only get this time of year. But I squirrel them away!

What are you most looking forward to this Christmas?

Just stopping, being with Amelia and our girls and spending time together. Oh and the cranberry and brie parcels, mustn't forget those!

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Lisa Angel shop opens in Intu Chapelfield. Lisa pictured in the new shop.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYLisa Angel shop opens in Intu Chapelfield. Lisa pictured in the new shop. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Lisa Angel runs her hugely successful international business, designing, making and sourcing jewellery and gifts, from her home county of Norfolk.

What is the best present you have ever given or received?

My husband proposed to me on Christmas Day morning. He put my engagement ring inside a pair of boots and it fell out when I tried them on!

And the worst?

I once bought a neighbour a heartfelt gift. He came over to the house to thank me for the really expensive crystal decanter I bought him. I owned up and told him that it was not from me but another neighbour, and that I had bought him a hand painted sign. He said nothing! It was very obvious he hated my gift!

What would you really like to eat for Christmas dinner if you did not have to worry about tradition, guests etc?

I really love roast dinners! I gave up meat recently so something like a veggie wellington or nut roast with all the trimmings would be perfect!

Do you have any unusual festive traditions?

Every Christmas Eve I set up a bar with hot chocolate keeping warm, marshmallows, cream, gingerbread men and sweets. This year we are doing a Christmas jumper Secret Santa where we all buy each other a best/worst Christmas jumper to wear on Christmas Day.

What are you most looking forward to this Christmas?

Spending time with my family, watching Christmas movies and finally relaxing after such a busy period during Lisa Angel HQ's peak season. Our children are 15, 13 and six and all love Christmas so we'll be busy playing with games and toys and hopefully not doing too much!

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Lady Hurt, wife of the late actor Sir John Hurt. Pictured with their dog Pilchard.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYLady Hurt, wife of the late actor Sir John Hurt. Pictured with their dog Pilchard. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Anwen, Lady Hurt, who lives near Holt, is a film casting director, pro-chancellor of the Norwich University of the Arts and artistic director of Holt Festival. She took on many of her late husband's charitable commitments following him as patron of Project Harah, which provides surgery for Ethiopians with severe facial disfigurements (projectharar.org).

Where is the most unusual place you have spent Christmas?

Sitting in our small Norfolk farmhouse, four days after moving in, surrounded by packing cases with an old range that decided not to work and a turkey that John had managed to accidentally freeze by putting it in a dilapidated old fridge that we found in an outhouse. It was just the best Christmas ever!

What is the best present you have ever given or received?

I bought John a printing press for his linocuts - he was absolutely thrilled. The big telescope went down well too although we could have done with Professor Brian Cox to show us how it worked!

And the worst?

You know I can't actually think of anything really grim. I love buying presents and I spend a lot of time getting it right or perhaps nobody ever told me I got it wrong! There were disappointments as a child, of course, like the doll's crib I was given one year that had a rounded canopy and not the pointy, frilly one that I wanted and the brown jumper my great aunt knitted for me when my sister had a lilac one.

What are you most looking forward to this Christmas?

Being with my family, without builders and in an (almost) finished house.

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Theatre Royal chief executive, Stephen Crocker, speaks at the Sleeping Beauty Panto Carol Service. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYTheatre Royal chief executive, Stephen Crocker, speaks at the Sleeping Beauty Panto Carol Service. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Stephen Crocker is chief executive of Norwich Theatre Royal, where this year's pantomime, Cinderella, runs from December 17 to January 19.

Where is the most unusual place you have spent Christmas?

The hard shoulder of the M6! For many years, when I was still singing professionally, I would drive to my family after doing a gig on Christmas morning, usually arriving just in time for the Queen's Speech. One year I managed to get a puncture en route and, whilst waiting for the AA, I also got stuck in a huge tail back caused by an accident. I arrived at 10pm!

What is the best present you have ever given or received?

Since I was 18 I've always lived a long way from my family and, as my life has got busier, finding time to see each other has become harder. About 10 years ago my mother gave me an engraved bracelet that I've never taken off as it's like she's with me and inspiring me every day.

And the worst?

I am notoriously disorganised and last-minute with Christmas gifts and one year I had to resort to giving a relative a selection of handy items procured on Christmas Day at a motorway services. To this day, I still believe that anti-freeze is a vastly underrated gift...

What would you really like to eat for Christmas dinner?

My partner Michael's family have a Christmas Eve tradition of sitting down to a really hearty beef stew (my mother-in-law's recipe that's a kind of combination of Scouse and corned beef hash) and it's utterly delicious and my favourite meal of the year!

I secretly crave another bowl on Christmas Day instead of turkey!

What are you most looking forward to this Christmas?

Since Michael and I moved to Norfolk, one of our highlights of Christmas has become the annual Pantomime Carol Service at which I give the first reading and then the whole panto cast take part. It is just such a joyous event and so heart-warming for me to see St Peter Mancroft packed out and Theatre Royal playing its role at the heart of city life.

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Three Leopard cubs have been born at Thrigby Wildlife gardens and are handled for the first time. Wildlife park Vet Jess French with one of the cubs. Picture: Nick ButcherThree Leopard cubs have been born at Thrigby Wildlife gardens and are handled for the first time. Wildlife park Vet Jess French with one of the cubs. Picture: Nick Butcher

Jess French is a television presenter and writer, specialising in wildlife and environmental programmes for children. She grew up in Norfolk, trained as a vet and lives near Yarmouth.

Where is the most unusual place you have spent Christmas?

During my gap year I lived in Chile. It was my first Christmas away from my family and my first Christmas in a hot country. I went white water rafting and climbed a waterfall.

What is the best present you have ever given or received?

In a world full of excess and waste, I value the quality time spent with family much more highly than the gifts. I would like to have a blanket 'no gifts' policy to save the stress and be kinder to the planet.

And the worst?

I LOVE Christmas, so being ill and not being able to take part is the worst for me. In light of that, flu was the worst gift I ever received, leaving me tucked up in bed!

Do you have any unusual festive traditions?

We have built up quite a repertoire of silly games - which has become one of the highlights of my Christmas.

What are you most looking forward to this Christmas?

Spending time with my little girl and experiencing the magic of it all through her eyes.

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Humphrey Berney from classical trio Blake with the VIP tickets for the Last Night of the Blickling Proms
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAYrHumphrey Berney from classical trio Blake with the VIP tickets for the Last Night of the Blickling Proms PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAYr

Humphrey Berney, who lives near Mulbarton, sings with classical trio Blake.

What is the best present you have ever given or received?

My only Christmas abroad was in Argentina. I was given some riding lessons on the Boxing Day at a traditional estancia. Hot sun, amazing scenery and brilliant fun. I love experiences as gifts.

And the worst?

I was once given some hand sanitizer!

Do you and/or your family have any unusual festive traditions?

If drinking a lot of champagne from the moment you wake up is unusual then that would be it! Other than that it's pretty classic.

What are you most looking forward to this Christmas?

Being at home. I've been away a lot with touring so being with my wife, young daughters and family will be magical.

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Peter Jay, artistic curator, in his office at the Hippodrome Circus at Great Yarmouth, filled with circus and theatrical memorabilia. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPeter Jay, artistic curator, in his office at the Hippodrome Circus at Great Yarmouth, filled with circus and theatrical memorabilia. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Peter Jay owns and runs the Hippodrome Circus in Great Yarmouth, where the Christmas Spectacular runs from December 7 to January 5. His 1960s group Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers toured with The Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Where is the most unusual place you have spent Christmas?

Twenty years ago in Liverpool we did a Christmas show and slept in the dressing rooms. The highlight was Ken Dodd coming to see the show. I drove him home, asked him where to go and he said Knotty Ash. What a stupid question!

What is the best present you have ever given or received?

My black Gretsch jazz drum kit that Christine bought me three years ago. I was going to play for a friend's 80th birthday party and couldn't get my kit in the boot so I talked her into this smaller one which now sits proudly in my lounge at home.

And the worst?

Anything I receive that is not black.

What would you really like to eat for Christmas dinner?

A Burger King Cheese Whopper.

Do you and/or your family have any unusual festive traditions?

The most stupid is watching my family play Heads Up with the iPads above their heads. It's a game like charades which I have no intention of taking part in.

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