Saturday 28 November 2015

Guest Post: Debbie Johnson on her family Christmas

Me after too much Christmas spirit...

I have what you might politely call a strangely-shaped family.

Or, if you wanted to be less polite and more accurate, I have a completely bonkers family.

Me and Terry
Both of my parents are dead, and I was raised as an only child. If this sounds like it would make for a miserable family Christmas, then don’t worry – because I have inherited the most ridiculous set of Liverpool ‘in-laws’ from my husband, Dominic. There’s a distinct Irish thread running through them all, which leads to all sorts of shenanigans, a lot of music, and world-class alcohol consumption.


His parents, Terry and Norm, are both in their 70s, but you’d never know it from the amount of crazy energy they generate. They’re full of vitality, despite having the usual ailments that getting older throws at a person, and still amazingly full of a real zest for life. In all honesty, they put most younger people I know to shame.

I also have a sister-in-law called Tara, a beautiful woman who is a successful model, actress and presenter. This outward display of style and class, however, doesn’t stop her from indulging in some powerful performance belching, and being able to put away enough roast spuds to sink a battleship.

Tara, Norman and Dom
Uncle Dave with one of the dogs

All three kids
Her husband, David, is a successful businessperson who works doing something I’ve never quite understood that involves finance and a lot of travel. He’s obviously very good at his mystery job – but he’s even better at being an uncle, a huge bear of a man that small people can climb on, and who always has a party game ready to go.

Into this mix, on Christmas Day, we add ourselves, and our three children, aged 18, 10 and 8. We also – between the family branches – have five dogs between us.

All of this is not, as you might guess, a recipe for anything normal on Christmas Day! We all end up at Terry and Norm’s house terraced house in north Liverpool; we all get well fed, and we all inevitably find ourselves involved in some kind of outrageously daft game. Like lying on the carpet pretending you’re a snake; or trying to eat your pudding without using a spoon; or creating a hedgehog from mince pies and squirty cream. There’s always a lot of music – there’s a whole room full of guitars, banjos, ukeleles and even an accordion – and surprise guests who just drop in.

Terry modelling one of her gifts

One year, in fact, a Russian lady dropped in – she was welcomed, given food and drink, and was invited to join in a spirited round of that game where you have a famous person’s name on a post-it note on your forehead and have to ask questions to figure out who you are. Everyone assumed that she was the friend of someone else, and it was only about three hours in that we actually asked her why she was there – turned out she was selling jewellery door-to-door! She was probably terrified, poor thing!

Me, Dom and all three kids

It’s lively, it’s unpredictable, and it’s crammed with Christmas spirit – I can’t imagine anything more fun to do on the big day. In my new book, Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper, my heroine Maggie is facing up to her first Christmas alone – both her teenaged daughter and her father are going away for the holidays, and she’s expecting a sad, solitary affair involving an M&S ready meal and getting quietly drunk in front of the telly.

This being a Christmas romance, that doesn’t happen – she is literally swept off her feet by Marco Cavelli, the Christmas-jumper-wearing man in question, and ends up having the very best Christmas of her life.

It’s fiction, and more to the point it’s romantic fiction – so it’s sweet and funny and sexy. In real life, I rarely get swept off my feet by a handsome American. I’m more likely to be knocked off my feet by a fat labrador, and then get trampled by three over-excited children, and then mercilessly mocked by a bunch of half-drunk family members, all of whom are dressed as turkeys.

And you know what? I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Christmas dinner courtesy of Terry and Norm


Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper is out now. Debbie's full-length novel, The Birthday That Changed Everything, will be out at the end of January.

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