NEW! Diary Of A Modern Gran | Getting Ready For Christmas

Lady chasing pram Illustration: Istockphoto

I’m sitting in what we used to call an old people’s home but which is now generally referred to as a “residential home”. There are about 30 little boys and girls from the local primary school trooping into the communal lounge followed by their teacher. And then the carol concert begins! It’s as though sunshine has suddenly started to stream through the dark afternoon outside.

These little cheery voices along with the enthusiastic teacher is wonderfully uplifting. Some of the staff begin to gather at the doorway and you can see joy on their faces. I happen to be visiting an elderly relative on the day that a local primary school is singing carols to the community, and my heart is uplifted too. It’s wonderful to see the mixture of ages, all enjoying each other’s company.

The little ones are clearly excited about being the stars of the show although you can see they are a little nervous. One or two older members of the audience are saying things like “I remember singing that as a child” with nostalgic smiles on their faces. At the end, we all sing “We wish you a merry Christmas” together. It’s a lovely way to spend the afternoon and I get the feeling that the performers have got a lot out of it as well.

After all, there’s nothing like spreading kindness at Christmas or indeed at any other part of the year, is there? But on my six-hour journey home, I found myself reflecting on how we could all do with a bit more age-interaction throughout the year.

Wouldn’t it be nice if schools visited older people every month instead of just at Christmas? Are your grandchildren involved with any schemes like this? Meanwhile, later this week, I’m off to hear my granddaughter singing with her classmates in the local church for their carol concert. I can’t wait!

Talking of bringing together different ages, I combined my trip to my elderly relative with a writers’ Christmas party in London and then a trip to the theatre with my youngest son and his girlfriend. They prefer to spend December 25 on their own so I’ve started having Christmas with them early instead in the form of a show and a pub supper beforehand.

My son and his girlfriend said they were happy for me to choose so I booked tickets for Crazy For You. I love musicals! Like the carol concerts, they lift my heart and get me swaying around in my seat! I wasn’t quite sure what my youngest son and his girlfriends (both in their thirties) would think of Gershwin but they absolutely loved it!

In fact, the entire audience rose from their seats in a thunderous applause. It was a wonderful trip but oh dear, I had a bit of a panic afterwards. I was staying with a friend of mine who lives in London (we have known each other since we were journalists in our early 20s) and she’d lent me her key as they were going to be back after me. But to my horror, I got the key stuck in the lock! What should I do?

It was nearly 11pm and the rest of the London street was in darkness. It also started to rain – quite heavily! But then I noticed a light going on in the house opposite and a figure hovering at the window. Hoping that I hadn’t fallen into a psychological suspense novel (rather like my own!) I went over and knocked on the door with my heart thumping. Then I explained my dilemma to the friendly-looking woman who opened it.

Luckily, she knew my friends and came over to see if she could get the key out. Yes! Even better, she managed to then open the door. Even so, I was a bit nervous about asking a stranger to help let me in to someone else’s house but when my friends came back, they saw the funny side.

But rather like the carol concert, the subject of keys got me thinking. My daughter and son-in-law had a key cut in case I needed to get into their house but I simply can’t get the hang of the Yale bit. It sticks for me every time. Do you have any stories about keys? Do you have one to your children’s places? Are your grandchildren old enough to have their own?

Finally, I’d love to tell you one more thing about my week. During the virus, my children and grandchildren gave me a DNA testing kit. Through it, I discovered two second cousins, one of whom is a librarian in Seattle. We have an uncanny resemblance! She had also read my novels without knowing we were related. This week, the Seattle Times interviewed us both. You can read the interview here. Have you connected with relatives this way? Do send us your stories to

Ask Agony Gran

“I know I shouldn’t say this but I find Christmas very noisy. I always spend it with my daughters at one of their houses. Their children are a mixture of ages from babies and teenagers. There’s lots of loud music; sometimes arguments in the kitchen; and Christmas lunch often isn’t served until the middle of the afternoon. I don’t want to sound ungrateful but I often wish I could go and lie down somewhere. I know that if I had Christmas Day in my own, I would miss them all.” Name withheld

Jane says:

I think you’ve solved your problem yourself, possibly without realising it. Why don’t you tell one of your daughters that you’re feeling a bit tired and would love a bit of a lie down. You might also ask if you could have a snack before Christmas lunch because you’re feeling hungry – or ask in advance if you could have the main meal a bit earlier. As for the loud music, we all have to make compromises but maybe there could be some give and take on this. Perhaps you could suggest some music that you like too. In this age of Alexa and iPads, it’s quite easy to play almost anything. I would also tell your family how much you love being with them. Your last line also says it all. Good luck.


Family photo tips

Thanks for your tips on this! Here is a selection:

“Don’t take posed photos. I use my phone to snap them when they’re not looking! I just delete the ones that don’t look good.”

“Get them to do something they’re interested in and then ask them to look up at you. Quickly take the picture before they become self-conscious.”

“I do selfies with my grandchildren. One of them has longer arms than me so I get him to hold the phone and take the picture! We all make funny faces!”

“Once a month I print out fifteen photographs of my grandchildren and get them printed on an app site. Then I put them into albums with captions. It’s also a good way of showing how they grow during the year.”

Giving to Charity Instead of Christmas Presents

“I was interested to read about the reader who is doing this. Our grandson has been in a wheelchair for some years and we always donate to WhizzKids. You can find out more through” Carol, Devon

Grandparent Tip

“I make my own crackers at Christmas. You can get lots of ideas from YouTube. I also put each person’s name on the outside so I can place a small gift I know they’d like.” Jan

The Funny Things They Say

“I have twin grandsons of six. They always get really excited about putting out their stockings. But this year, they’ve suggested putting out a pair of their mum’s tights instead. ‘It might be easier for Father Christmas to do ours at the same time.'” Gillian

We think that’s very thoughtful !

Family News

Grandparents are expected to spend £140 on each grandchild this Christmas – £14 more than in 2022 according to a recent survey by SunLife, a leading financial services company.

Days Out With The Grandkids

This week my suggestion is Crealy Theme Park and Resort, Sidmouth Rd, Clyst St Mary, Exeter EX5 1DR.

This fantastic award-winning family theme park has plenty of rides and attractions including a Santa Meet and Greet. You can also stay at beautifully equipped hot-tub lodges on site if you want a longer break. I tested it out with my grandchildren and loved the water chute!

Children’s Book Of The Week

Getting Read For Christmas sticker book cover

Here’s a great choice for a last minute stocking filler.

National Trust: Getting Ready For Christmas by Tara Lilly. Published by Nosy Crow, £5.99.

A timeless sticker book to help keep your grandchildren amused in the run-up to the big day. Help the family prepare for Christmas by decorating, building snowmen and hanging up stockings.

This will be my last Diary Of A Modern Granny for My Weekly. Thank you for all your lovely emails over the years and the many friendships I have made. 

You can keep in touch through

Very best wishes,


Coming To Find You book cover

Jane Corry is a journalist and award-winning author. Her latest novel is Coming to Find You.

When Nancy’s brother goes to prison for murder, she runs to the old family holiday home Tall Chimneys to hide from the press. But the home has its own secrets, going back to the Second World War. This Sunday Times bestseller is published by Penguin, £8.99. Available in print, digital and audio. Published by Doubleday from December 19 in Canada and the USA.