Oh Joy! The kids are coming home for Christmas!

front roomChristmas is coming and for women and parents all over the country that means one thing and one thing only – the kids are coming home!  Quick!  Change the bed linen, fill the fridge and get the washing machine warmed up!

But don’t worry if there are arguments in your house at Christmas, research shows this is normal. One good thing about the Nigella Lawson case is at least we now know: there’s no such thing as a domestic goddess!

Marie Postles with son Hector (25) and daughter Freya (15)

Marie Postles with son Oscar (21) and daughter Freya (15)  “It’s chaos but I wouldn’t have it any other way!”

All those lovely images in advertisements of warm, cosy fires, families gathering round to play games and roast chestnuts can be far from reality. This is the time when your lovely offspring arrive with bin bags full of dirty washing, an empty stomach and an equally empty wallet.

But it can be a difficult time for families,  and police regularly report a rise in the number of domestic disputes around this time.

“We get a lot of calls to homes at this time of year,” said community support officer with South Wales Police Tony Tanti.  “Families are thrown together, they’re not used to it, and alcohol just fuels the situation,” he said.  PC  Arabella Rees from Llanedeyrn police station in Cardiff agrees.  “Christmas is a lovely time for families but, unfortunately, sometimes there are tensions and alcohol can add a lot to the problems,” she said.

"There can be a lot of domestic incidents at Christmas."

“There can be a lot of domestic incidents at Christmas.”

"When she leaves homes it's as if someone has turned out the light."

Rose Green and daughter Elena “When she leaves homes it’s as if someone has turned out the light.”

It can be a time of tension for families in difficulty.“Christmas can be a very difficult time for family break-ups,” said Philip Nicholas from Family Mediation Cardiff, a charity which helps families during divorce or relationship breakdown.  “At this time of year all you see are images of happy families, this can cause a lot of distress to adults and children who are going through a tough time themselves,” he said.   “Very often couples stay together until after Christmas for the sake of the children, this can lead to a lot of tension in the home,” he said.

But  Christmas can also be a wonderful time for a reunion with family members who are away from home. This is particularly true in the case of parents who have recently packed grown-up children off to universities around the country, it can be very lonely without them.

I spoke to students at Cardiff university in Wales about going home for Christmas.  I also spoke to mothers who are preparing for the return of their grown up children for the Christmas break. The students had all one thing in common:  every single one of them said what they missed most was their mum’s cooking!

"I am really looking forward to my mum's cooking"

“I am really looking forward to my mum’s cooking”

“I can’t wait to have my mum’s roast dinner,” said 22-year-old Francesca Gillett from Southend in Essex.  ” I can’t wait to see my brother, and I am looking forward to some home comforts and  home-cooked food,” she said.

22-year-old David Gazet from Esher in Surrey is looking forward to a hot bath!  “Student accommodation is so rubbish,” he said.  “Nothing ever works properly, it’s always cold and the shower is never hot enough.  I am also looking forward to my first roast dinner for a long time,  and my mum’s bread sauce.” (See the full interview with David in the accompanying clip)

"I love my mum's bread sauce.  Our family fight quite a lot"

“Our family fight quite a lot at Christmas, but we always make up.”  he said. ” I am really looking forward to my mum’s bread sauce.”

It seems most students have an image of home which includes unlimited food, heating and hot water. For parents, having the children home, wonderful as it is, can add to the domestic workload!

Listen above to interview with David

Marie’s Story

“I love having all the kids home at Christmas but it’s bloody hard work,” said mother-of-four Marie Postles from Bath.  “It’s always crazy, unpredictable, lots of comings and goings at all times of the night, the mess, the empty fridge, the fights, the washing, the queues for the shower.  It’s mad but I wouldn’t have it any other way, I don’t like empty houses, ” she said.

Christmas with the Postles

Christmas with the Postles

"It will be nice to get out into the countryside."

“It will be nice to get out into the countryside.”

22-year-old Luke Sproule is from a small village in Northern Ireland, about 20 miles from Belfast.  “I really love living in Cardiff, but it will be nice to get back to the countryside again, to get some fresh air and to see my dog,” he said.

Most women also have high expectations of a happy reunion,  and some spend a lot of time preparing for the return of their  children.  Some women suffer from what is commonly known as “empty nest syndrome”.

“When my daughter leaves it is as if somebody has turned the light out,” said Rose Green, mother of 23-year-old Elena, who lives in London.  “I love all her friends coming round when she is here, the house is full, it’s noisy, they all come round for a meal and I love to see them,” she said.

For Rose, one of the most enjoyable preparations is the posh food shopping. “When I am here by myself I don’t bother so much with special food,  but when Elena comes home I buy Parma ham, butternut squash and and all the lovely delicatessen food,” she said.

Students can also face challenges about going home for Christmas.  “Sometimes it can be hard to have to account for all your movements when you are used to being independent,” said 22-year-old Anna Fearon from near Basingstoke in Hampshire.  “I love going home for Christmas, the cooking, the warmth and I am so looking forward to getting into my own bed!” she said.

"I am looking forward to getting into my own bed!"

“I am looking forward to getting into my own bed!”

David Gazet admits there are rows in his house at Christmas.  “We are all very strong-willed in our house, there are always fights at Christmas, everyone stands their ground, but we are all best  friends again within a few days.”

22-year-old Katrina Turrill from Knaresborough in north Yorkshire is looking forward to going home.   “My mother is half-Thai and she cooks the most amazing traditional Christmas dinner,” she said.  “I am really looking forward to some home comforts, especially the heating on tap, I am always cold!”

"I love my mum's cooking."

“I love my mum’s cooking.”

One of the challenges for Katrina, after living away for so long, is trying to get used to her mother’s tidiness.  “I know after a while this will get on my nerves,” she said.

22-year-old Jack Clare from Wells in Somerset is looking forward to his mum’s roast duck with cherry sauce.  “What I am really looking forward to is seeing all the family, the grandparents and all my friends.  We don’t really argue and there aren’t really any challenges or worries at this time of year,” he said.

21-year-old Patrick Madden from Crewe in Cheshire is looking forward to going back to see his friends and family.  “I miss them all when I am away from home, I am looking forward to some clean bed sheets, nice food and a  bit of ‘TLC’ ,” he said.

Patrick Madden

“I’m looking forward to clean sheets, good food and some ‘tlc’.”

"My family doesn't really argue"

“My family doesn’t really argue”

Whatever the pitfalls it seems most students really look forward to going home at Christmas.  Parents, and mothers in particular, look farward to having the children home, despite the extra washing, cleaning and cooking!

Mona’s Story

Mona’s Story

Mona Connolly, my mother, was born in Belfast on Dec 1, 1925, one of six children.  After being burnt out of their home in  Old Park Road because they were catholics, the family moved to Lisburn Road and eventually to Iveagh Crescent, Falls Road, Belfast.

Mona’s first job was as usherette at the Hippodrome Cinema and Theatre in Belfast’s city centre.  Dressed in her uniform of standard black suit,  her duties included showing people to their seats by torchlight, and selling ice-cream at the interval.  She got to see all the big movies, and ended up knowing  most of them by heart!  (Perhaps it was here that her lifetime  love of cinema and theatre was born?)

Mona on her big day!

 

Mona on her big day!
 
Mona and Mat's Wedding

Mona and Matt’s Wedding

Mona met my father  Matt on VE day in Belfast.  The war was over and everyone was in the street, singing, celebrating.  “There was a great atmosphere, everyone was on the streets, the war was over, we were celebrating, ” recalls Mona.

Matt had been working as a fitter for Harland and Wolff at Belfast’s shipyard, and was staying in digs around the corner from Iveagh Crescent on the Falls.

Shortly after getting married, Mona and Matt moved to Dublin where they were to stay for the rest of their married life.

Six children followed in quick succession; Margaret, Joe, Bernadette, Albert, Mary, Nancy.

Although money was tight,  it was a lively and happy home – it was never dull!

Mona stayed in close touch with her family in Belfast, especially her beloved sister Patsy, and brother Terry.   That bond still exists today.

But Mona loved her adopted home in Dublin, and never looked back.

When Mona and Matt moved to Portmarnock, a seaside village on Dublin’s northside, their history was set – they would never move.

” I just loved being by the sea,” says Mona.  Portmarnock was, and still is today, a very strong, close-knit community.

Mona and Matt’s  is a story of much folklore;  there are far too many stories to recount here!

Mona still lives in the house in St Anne’s Square, Portmarnock,  where I was born. We grew up surrounded by friends and neighbours who were to become lifelong friends.

Famously, Mona’s father played the lead in the 1959 Walt Disney classic  “Darby O’Gill and the Little People“.

Tales of Hollywood, Sean Connery, Ronald Reagan filtered through to us slowly in the old village  of Portmarnock.

Although one time a taxi pulled up in our square with a basket of fruit from old Walt Disney himself!

We were the talk of the place! Not because of the basket of fruit,  or even old Walt, but because a taxi had never been seen on the square before!

The film was premiered in Dublin, but Mona was not on the guest list!  “I got the 32 bus into town, I saw my mother and father and all the stars on the red carpet, there was a huge crowd.  Afterwards I just went home on the bus, it was lashing rain!” she said.

Nowadays Mona is like a village elder in her beloved Portmarnock.  Most of the family still live in the village, and her extending family now consists of several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Matt, famous for his wit and anecdotes, as well as his adored fiddle-playing, sadly passed away 20 years ago last August.

This weekend Mona celebrates her 88th birthday and will be doing what she likes most;  enjoying a Chinese meal with family  at The Orchid in Malahide,  washed down by a nice few glasses of red wine!  Happy Birthday Mona!

The Connollys with Mona's mother Madge in our back garden

The Connollys with Mona’s mother Madge in our back garden

Mona and first baby Margaret

Mona and first baby Margaret

Mona enjoying a great day out in Howth, County Dublin

Mona enjoying a great day out in Howth, County Dublin last summer

Bath, Somerset, where I live….

https://www.wevideo.com/hub/#media/ci/116722109

Check out my first video!  I’ve been experimenting! It’s all about where I live, Bath in Somerset.  Be patient, it’s my first home-spun video so I will get much better, promise!  I wanted to learn how to do it as I have some really great interviews lined up for you, and I want you to be able to hear the voices involved, and animate the interviews.  We will be coming to you live with some wonderful interviews with very engaging women. Watch this space!