Welcome to the Christmas edition of the Oldie. I know how lots of readers dread Christmas coming round earlier and earlier every year - so there’s a delightful mix of articles: some about the big day; others have nothing to do with it.
Alan Johnson, the former Labour Home Secretary, remembers Christmas in Notting Hill in 1959. As a nine-year-old boy, he was suddenly switched on to the glories of pop music by the Everly Brothers and the Light Programme.
Many readers will know Brough Scott as a racing presenter. Before he took to our screens in 1971, he won over 100 races as a jockey. He recalls the icy thrills of riding on Boxing Day at Kempton Park - home to the King George VI - and the day he almost got wrapped up in France’s biggest racing scandal.
The Oldie is a blissfully Brexit-free zone but Valerie Grove makes an exception in her charming interview with Marks and Gran, the TV scriptwriters who are turning 70. If only their creation Alan B’Stard - and his brilliant alter ego Rik Mayall - were alive today to tussle with the chaos of Brexit, they say.
Remember Dick Van Dyke’s appalling cockney accent in Mary Poppins? Well, now he’s returning in Mary Poppins Returns, the new film starring Emily Blunt as the magical nanny. Don’t attack him for his bad accent, says Californian actress Misti Traya. British actors can’t do American accents either, she says.
Elsewhere, the Rev Peter Mullen recalls dealing with a Christmas ghost at his Wren Church in the City of London. Olinda Adeane takes us on a walk round hidden Venice in the depths of winter, when the city is at its loveliest - and emptiest. Our very own gentleman of the road Wilfred De’Ath meets Rowan Williams and is overwhelmed by his saintliness. And Lynn Barber salutes the Wizard of Oz, Germaine Greer, as she turns 80.