PUBLISHED: 21:58 26 November 2015 | UPDATED: 21:58 26 November 2015
The BBC Look East presenter looks forward to a musical start to Christmas
What do I most love about Christmas? Definitely the day itself, rather than the manic preparation beforehand. Definitely the giving rather than the receiving - as a child I never used to understand this point of view, but now I know the pleasure in handing someone a gift they’re going to like is immeasurable.
I love the food, the family gathering, the meals with friends - even the work Christmas party! I love the rituals that one falls into - Lola and I always decorate the tree together, Alex always takes a funny photo of our menagerie for our Christmas card. On the day itself, Lola and Hugo come and open their stockings on our bed, and we always pop round to our neighbours for a glass of champagne before lunch.
All these things are what make me feel Christmassy. But - more than the baubles, the lights and the presents - what gives me that special feeling most of all is the music. We have a lovely Christmas carol service in our village - the church is always full (and we know pretty much everyone there). We sing lustily and then mingle with mulled wine and mince pies afterwards.
Not many things stay constant in life. I have held on to a few - I still use some of my late grandmother’s Christmas tree decorations, alongside the more modern offerings from the 21st century high street. Christmas carols, however, never change. I have heard and sung the same ones every year of my life - they fill me with a warm glow of recognition and comfort. But it isn’t just the familiar music that I enjoy. I sing with the Norwich Philharmonic Chorus, and we have a Christmas carol concert in St Andrew’s Hall. It is always packed, and our conductor, David Dunnett, creates a wonderful atmosphere of fun and celebration. As well as the popular carols that we all know, the choir sings some music that I hadn’t come across before. Some pieces are poignant, some full of joy - all are absolutely beautiful. Last year my daughter’s school choir sang with us, which made it even more lovely for me. This year, my parents will be in the audience - which will also add to the special occasion.
For me, the concert marks the real start of Christmas. It’s not when they start selling decorations in the shops, or when I order the turkey, or when I finally get round to buying my long list of presents. It’s when that glorious music soars through St Andrew’s Hall, and fills me with a lifetime’s worth of happy, festive memories. w
The other day I met up with and interviewed Ed Sheeran, the young man from this part of the world who has become a global superstar. That week, his mega-hit Thinking Out Loud had reached half a billion plays on the music download site Spotify. He was, at that moment, the most successful recording artist in the world. But when I put that point to Ed, he looked a bit bemused. It hadn’t occurred to him; his phenomenal success was, in his words, “weird”.
I first met Ed when he was 16 - so much had changed in eight years, and yet so much hadn’t. He still had his feet firmly on the ground, his heart and home were still here in East Anglia, and to keep him right down to earth, his driving test was coming up (he passed). I wanted to know what he thought his stratospheric success was down to. It is a notoriously hard industry to break into, and yet he has made it look like a walk in the park. Ed said he’d learned that one of the key aspects of success was not talent, but drive: He looked up at his hand stretched above his head, and told me you have to see where you want to be, and push for it. He said he never listened to people who told him he couldn’t do something. He just did it, and proved them wrong.
I felt so inspired by him that I came back home and told my daughter that I thought I might learn the guitar, as I’d always wanted to. She looked at me in horror: “What? At your age? That’s just weird...”
Well - as Ed knows better than most - weird can be good!