Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 628

7 8 DECEMBER 2022 and eight, but now they’re 15 and 18, they buy into it. Lunch, then gifts! Greenery instead of a tree Claire Ratinon, author and organic gardener Sincemoving out of London, we finally have enough space for a Christmas tree, but the practice of cutting one down, only to leave it on the pavement to die in the NewYear, has never made sense tome. My partner and I have created a new tradition of making a ‘tree’ of sorts by constructing a triangle structure fromhazel or beech sticks, which we decorate using evergreen and shrub clippings, gathered when tidying the garden. It’s pretty haphazard and di erent every year, but what it lacks in elegance, it makes up for in character. Adip in the sea David Baddiel, comedian and author My wifeMorwenna is Cornish, and for years we’ve gone to stay in a little Cornish village for Christmas. On Christmas Day, the whole village goes for a charity swim in the sea at noon. You’re supposed to go in without a wetsuit and sing at least one verse of WeWish You aMerry Christmas. To showwilling, I’ve always done it. Sometimes, my children have done it too. Morwenna, who’s the actual Cornish person, has never done it. Virtually Christmas (Harper Collins) is out now A family birdwatchingwalk Mya-Rose Craig, ornithologist, environmentalist and author Every year, we get together with our family – grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins – on 27 December. We go for a walk at a halfway point between our homes. We’ve always chosen a place that is full of winter thrushes, with fieldfare and redwing decorating the fields. Christmas is a great time for casual birdwatching, to help alleviate the stress of these busy fewweeks. Birdgirl (Jonathan Cape) is out now Inmy opinion There’s no disputing that many believe there is a northsouth divide in the UK. And one northern win that’s often cited is the friendliness of those living north of Birmingham. A trip down south will inevitably result in tales of emotionless faces barely grimacing, let alone smiling, when confronted with a “Goodmorning!” or “How are you?” froman exuberant northerner. Having lived in London for more than 20 years, and being an inhabitant of NorthWest England for the past six years, I speak froma position of authority when I say it’s time to put this stereotype of themonosyllabic southerner to rest. One of the accusations levelled at Londoners is that nobody talks to each other while travelling on a packed Tube. The reasonable response to this charge is: “Why should they?” The Tube ride from, say, TottenhamHale to Stockwell isn’t designed to be a jamboree of hugging and high fives. While the trams of Manchester may be a vehicle to enhance social interaction between strangers, the Underground is amobile sardine can of stress. So, if you do find yourself in the Big Smoke and in need of a chat, choose your venue carefully. We are not uniformly taciturn. I’ma southerner who engages in conversationwherever I go. Recently, I found myself in a London cab having an enlightening conversation with amanwhowas simultaneously keeping two sets of families going. He had two childrenwith onewoman, and threewith another. Three days with one family, three days with the other and presumably, just like CraigDavid, he chilled on Sunday. Bothwomen knewof each other and accepted the other’s children as their own. I asked, he shared, I listened. The next morning, back in theNorthWest, I chatted to a man as we both charged our vehicles. In that 25minutes, I learned about his teenage son, whomhe no longer livedwith, who had gone o the rails andwas in trouble with the police. In both instances, I allowedmy curiosity to open up a dialogue with a complete stranger. Whether it be north-south or east-west, never allow any pre-conceptions to shut down the chance to converse. We need to value face-to-face dialogue as we’re increasingly lured into a virtual world that can never replace the joy to be had froma proper chinwag – even one with a southerner. Nihal’s book Let’s Talk: How to Have Better Conversations (Trapeze) is out now. @TherealNihal ‘The Underground is amobile sardine can of stress. So, if you’re in the Big Smoke and in need of a chat, choose your venue carefully’ NIHAL ARTHANAYAKE The broadcaster and author airs his views Illustration: Gerhard van Wyk/Folioart, Photographs: © Matt Russell, Joe Magowan, David Loftus, Oliver Edwards Photography