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The Suffolk women who make Christmas special

PUBLISHED: 11:45 22 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:19 20 February 2013

The Suffolk women who make Christmas special

The Suffolk women who make Christmas special

Not everyone spends Christmas Day pulling crackers and arguing over the remote control. Georgina Wroe meets the Suffolk women who have chosen to stuff the turkey and, whether for work or pleasure, do something else

Not everyone spends Christmas Day pulling crackers and arguing over the remote control. Georgina Wroe meets the Suffolk women who have chosen to stuff the turkey and, whether for work or pleasure, do something else




RUTH WATSON, hotelier and the star of televisions The Hotel Inspector and Country House Rescue


With guests at the Crown and Castle in Orford numbering 38 and a staff of 30, Christmas Day is no time for relaxing. Ruth Watson said: I know I sound like a grumpy old woman, but you do grow out of Christmas. I am always the provider so I have to be sensible at Christmas. When you run a hotel and restaurant you see a different dynamic there are young couples madly in love and then there are others who seem to have been forgotten about, my job is to make it as nice an environment as possible.
I let the chefs do all the swanky cooking but I have a belief middle-aged women make better Christmas puddings and mince pies than young men, so I do all that.I also make sure theres a picking table available to guests at all time. The worst thing about staying away at a hotel is not having access to food all day long, so we always have a table full of nuts, apples and a pannetone lots of Christmas carbohydrate.
Even though Im not a Christmas person, it doesnt mean my staff arent. A lot of them are sacrificing time with their families to work, so I do everything to make sure they have as good a time as possible. We give out presents and hampers, although I have stopped doing stockings for the guests. One year I dressed as Santa with bright red lipstick, which was very funny.
My best-ever Christmas was in Venice with my husband when we were younger. We stayed in bed all day and then got up to go to a dinner of lobster at the Gritti Palace Hotel and then wandered back to our room.




LINDA GRAVE,director of East Green Energy, sloping off to France skiing for a week




This year on December 19 rather than working her way through a shopping list longer than Santas, Linda Grave will be on a flight to France for a week on the slopes with her husband and two sons.
She said: Christmas Day will be spent skiing with a glass of vin chaud (though not at the same time). We might take a small gift for the evening meal but, other than that, there wont be a Christmas.
She said: Ive hosted a family Christmas, cooking for at least 14 people, for the past 25 years, I deserve some time off for good behaviour. Who knows? This year I might miss them enough that next year I cant wait to host it again.
Instead, Linda and husband John have decided to take off with their sons 21-year-old Ben, in his final year at Newcastle University, and Jake a 22-year-old software designer who lives in London.
Its the expense as much as anything. Were talking four extended families for up to three days. So its not just Christmas dinner; its the breakfasts and all the lunches and all the bits in between.
For Linda, who works full time as the director of the Kelsale-based renewable energy firm East Green, time off is important.
I dont feel guilty about going on holiday, with the boys being the age they are it might be the last chance we get to go away as a family. As regards how the rest of the family will react, I dont know I havent told them yet. The first indication things are not going to be the same this year is when they read this!




CECELY SMITH,from the Oasis Camel Centre near Halesworth, who will spend the day feeding livestock




When you are the owner/caretaker of seven camels, six llamas, six alpacas and more goats then you can mention, Christmas takes on a very different aspect. For Cecely Smith, from the family-run Oasis Camel Centre, the day starts early.
Its on with the wellies and starting the feeding by 8am. If youve got animals then, whatever the day, you know they come first. On Christmas Day well give the animals a treat with a few apples and carrots. Wed give them tinsel but the camels would only eat it.
After the animals are fed, its time to concentrate on the human diners. Cecely is helped by husband Ray and their three children 28-year-old Larissa, 22-year-old daughter Corina and 20-year-old son Leon.
Were normally nine people altogether and I try to make it so we sit down at 1pm because, when it gets dark early we have to be back out feeding the animals again. You have to play it by ear because, when it comes to animals anything can happen.




The Very Reverend Dr FRANCES WARD from St Edmundsbury, working on Christmas Day



Being the Church of Englands fourth female dean, and a mother of four, means Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year.
She said: Christmas for me really starts the previous evening at Midnight Mass, which is a really magical service. It might be the only time some people come to church so I want to make it as welcoming and special as I can.
I get home at about 1am and I hope I would have wrapped the presents so I can just go to bed, because I have to be up and ready for the first Christmas Day service at 8am.
For me the run up to Christmas is very frantic, so in order to get things done its important to divide tasks. My husband Peter, who is a consultant paediatrician at West Suffolk Hospital, is a great help because the festive season is busy for him too. All the family (including Matilda, 23, Jonty, 21, Theo 18 and 13-year-old Hugh) come along to the 10am Eucharist service.
The children are used to this sort of Christmas and this year, as we have done on previous years, well hopefully open our house to vulnerable or lonely people over Christmas. Its nice to be in a position to extend hospitality and really think about the true meaning of the day.
Back at the house well celebrate with a glass of bubbly and sit down to eat at 4pm. Hopefully my father and step mother will join us. I try to relax, but I am aware Ive still got evening prayers to think about.




PAULINE BARR, swimming in the North Sea to raise money for the hospice that cared for her mum



About the time most of us are starting on a lazy breakfast, Pauline Barr is stripped down to a swimsuit about to dash into a freezing North Sea.
We lost mum to cancer two years ago and this will be the third time Ive taken part in the Christmas dip for St Elizabeth Hospice. My mum, Pat, who died aged 60, was a volunteer at the hospice from the day it opened, so long before she ever knew she would one day spend time there as a patient.
Even when she was diagnosed with eye cancer in 2002, she continued to volunteer at the hospice. She spent 10 days there towards the end of her life before she came home and then returned for her final day.
My first dip was 2008, the year my mum passed away, and a fantastic group of 12 friends joined me in the water to remember my mum. We continue to take part in the dip as a family. My dad is there with the mulled wine and my sister takes the plunge with me.
I think of mum everyday but doing something for her on Christmas Day is special. We set up a memorial fund for her, which has so far raised 12,500. We go down to the beach at about 9am, the exact location depends on the tide. This year its up by the amusement arcade. I cant lie, its absolutely freezing. I just go in and come straight out again. Others, like the organiser Peter Burt, actually swim but Im not tough enough for that!
A lot of dippers are remembering people they have lost but its not a sad event; in fact its a really cheerful occasion. If mum could see us doing it,
it would really make her smile.


To take part in the Christmas Day dip visit www.stelizabethhospice.org.uk or call 01473 727 776.

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