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Secrets of the stars...

PUBLISHED: 13:07 05 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:26 20 February 2013

Secrets of the stars...

Secrets of the stars...

They live their lives in the public eye – but is that the way the star personalities of Sussex like to spend their Yuletide holiday as well? Angela Wintle finds out

Marguerite Patten
Marguerite Patten was the nations first TV cook and helped us manage our meals during wartime rationing. The doyenne of food writers, she has written more than 170 books which have sold 17 million copies worldwide. In 1991, she was awarded the OBE for services to cookery and has received four lifetime achievement awards


MY IDEAL Christmas menu is very traditional its turkey, with lots of different accompaniments. There are splendid birds around these days and if you baste the turkey well and cook it with the breast downwards so the fat runs into the meat, it shouldnt be dry.
About 15 years ago I started introducing sweet potatoes into my Christmas dish, which have a wonderful texture when roasted, and now Christmas wouldnt be Christmas without them.
I make my own Christmas pudding, usually around mid October to give it time to mature. I add dried apricots and prunes for a lovely balance of sweetness and fruitiness. And brandy butter is a must!
I used to do all the cooking, but nowadays Im thoroughly put in my place. Whenever my daughter and her family visit on Christmas Day, they say: Were coming to Brighton, but the cooking has nothing whatever to do with you! I do long to be allowed to do a little bit, though.
Christmas was a testing time during the war. I had a husband in RAF Bomber Command and a brother in the Royal Navy, so they were always in the back of my mind. But those of us with small children tried to make it as normal a Christmas as possible. The government helped issuing Ministry of Food leaflets outlining dishes for childrens parties and the like but war-time rationing meant there was very little available. Chickens and turkeys were scarce, so the butcher would let us save our coupons for a larger joint of lamb or beef on Christmas Day. We adopted all sorts of tricks to compensate for shortages, such as adding carrot to our Christmas pudding in place of sugar and nuts for sweetness. It blended extremely well. I am 94, but retiring doesnt occur to me. Im still writing, giving talks and doing the odd bit of TV. Sadly, so many of my dear friends are no longer with us that drawing up my Christmas list isnt an entirely happy experience. But Ill never tire of Christmas.


Best of British by Marguerite Patten
is published by Grub Street at 20



Lynne Truss
Brighton-based writer and journalist Lynne Truss is an award-winning novelist, dramatist and book reviewer, best known for the publishing phenomenon Eats, Shoots & Leaves the Christmas present of choice in 2003


IN SOME ways Im not a big fan of Christmas. Not only does it put an unnatural and unnecessary strain on people, but it encourages prolonged sloth, which Im not very good at. So the best thing about Christmas for me is the bit after Boxing Day, when Ive still got tons of food in the fridge, Ive got a nice big box of chocolate Brazils from my mum, and there is at least a week to go before other people are back at their desks.
Last year I finished my book Get Her Off the Pitch! between Boxing Day and the first Monday in January when everyone went back to work. I know people think this is sad, but it isnt. Every year before Christmas I re-watch The Muppet Christmas Carol and try to suppress a heretical cheer when the young Scrooge of Christmas Past says he doesnt mind at all being on his own at school over the holidays because he can get more work done.
Anyone involved in books is bound to be interested by Christmas. In 2003, Eats, Shoots & Leaves was the No 1 bestseller, and it was all quite stressful as well as amazing.
An enormous number of people bought the book as a gift and I had terrible (and not totally unwarranted) worries that the bookshops would open on Boxing Day to queues of people bringing back unwanted duplicate copies.
It was only after the book sold another 70,000 in the week after Christmas and went on selling and selling after that that I let myself believe it was a true success. In fact, it wasnt until March 2004 that I allowed myself to exhale.


Get Her Off the Pitch by Lynne Truss is published
by HarperCollins at 12.99



Alvin Stardust
Pop singer Alvin Stardust, best known for the 1973 hit My Coo Ca Choo, has had no fewer than seven Top Ten entries in a career spanning more than 40 years. Hes also a seasoned musical theatre performer, including such roles as the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium in 2005


CHRISTMAS has always been a major part of my life. When I was a kid, we spent Christmas with my nan, who was an East-Ender. Even though she had 11 children, she insisted everyone came to her house. I remember going to bed on Christmas Eve with 14 cousins and we all slept under blankets on the floor.
Ill be spending Christmas with my wife, Julie, and our nine-year-old daughter Millie at our woodland home in Loxwood, near Billingshurst. On Christmas Eve, well put out milk and carrots for the reindeer, and a mince pie for Santa. We used to leave a drop of whisky, but weve put a stop to that since Millie realised its not good to drink and drive!
We always buy a 21 foot tree for our galleried hall and well take Millie to Harrods again this year to choose a new tree decoration we have one for each Christmas.
Ive performed a lot at Christmas over the years, either with my band performing rocked up versions of classic Christmas songs or in panto. In 2003, Julie and I starred in Peter Pan at the Pavilion Theatre in Worthing, and it was wonderful for Millie, who was just four then, to see her mum as Peter and her dad as Captain Hook. But these days I prefer being at home for Christmas.
Ive had two Christmas hits. In 1985, I had a single called I Wont Run Away which reached the top five. It wouldnt stop selling, so we held back my planned Christmas single, So Near to Christmas, until the second week of December. The title proved prophetic. It shot up to No 17 and then Christmas came and everyone stopped playing it! We might have had a bigger hit if wed released it earlier, but it was still a very nice Christmas present!



Dame Vera Lynn
Forces sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn, has had an exceptional year, even by her standards. Her autobiography, Some Sunny Day, looks set to top the Christmas bestseller lists and her collection of wartime songs, The Very Best of Vera Lynn, stormed the charts in September, making her the oldest living artist, at 92, to make No 1 in the UK album chart


I NEVER expected to make it to No 1 again after 70 years. People of all ages have been buying my album and Im overjoyed, but sanguine. I think its because of the problems and the fighting thats going on. Our Boys are away and the music is significant again the whole thing has come back to the beginning. And Christmas? I love it! My husband [saxophonist Harry Lewis] died ten years ago, and that was a great loss, but I have a very close family and Ill be spending Christmas with my daughter, Virginia, and her husband, who live next door to me in Ditchling.
Every Christmas we swap venues one year we have lunch at my house, the next at my daughters but she always cooks the turkey because she has a lovely big Aga.
The Christmas pudding is always down to me. Ive been doing it for years ever since my mother landed me with the job. I havent turned it over to my daughter yet! Its a special recipe, handed down through our family.
I never sang to the troops over Christmas, but I did perform concerts at the homes of many ex-Service personnel. I was fortunate. I didnt have any close relatives fighting overseas, although I did have an uncle on the Russian convoys and I lost a friend, who Id known from a very young age, in the Battle of Britain.
I love the songs associated with Christmas. I brought out my own Christmas album in 1976 entitled Christmas with Vera Lynn, which featured many of my favourites, including Sleigh Ride, Lets Have a Merry, Merry Christmas and The Little Drummer Boy.
At 92, my life is as full as ever. Im involved with several charities [she is president of the Dame Vera Lynn Trust for Children with Cerebral Palsy], so I need to keep fit. I just hope I can keep going!


The Very Best of Vera Lynn is on the Decca label at 9.99
and Some Sunny Day by Dame Vera Lynn is published by HarperCollins at 18.99.



Robin Cousins
Figure skater Robin Cousins was an Olympic and European gold medallist who went on to carve a highly successful career as a professional in shows such as Holiday on Ice and Ice Escapades. He has also produced, directed and choreographed international ice spectaculars, performed in West End musicals and pantomime and is head judge on ITVs Dancing on Ice


CHRISTMAS was never a time for much self-indulgence when I was a competitive skater. The first major championships were in January, so I had to stay in shape although Ive made up for it since!
The run-up to Christmas is always busy as Im the director and choreographer-in-chief of Holiday on Ice, the most visited ice show of all time.
My winter season starts in October when rehearsals begin for the impending tours. My company Cousins Entertainment will also be installing the ice rinks at several venues, including the Brighton Centre which is staging the show in January.
Ill be spending Christmas at home in Brighton, but it will be a brief respite because Im performing in Santa Claus and the Return of Jack Frost at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton, alongside Roy Barraclough and
Stephen Mulhern.
I got into training at an early age because all the children in our family staged a panto when our extended families got together at Christmas. It was huge fun and the adults always ensured they got in on the act, too! They are among my happiest Christmas memories.
My saddest Christmas was the first without my parents. They left a huge hole that is now filled with happy memories. Its not quite the family time it used to be, but I always try to catch up with my brothers and their families over the holiday season.
I never anticipated that my Holiday on Ice career would continue in the way it has. Spirit, an exhilarating fusion of fire, earth and water, is my ninth production and the skaters really keep me on my toes. And who could have predicted that ITVs Dancing on Ice would reach
a fifth series?


Holiday on Ice will stage Spirit at the Brighton Centre from January 7 24. Tickets start from 14.50.To book, ring 08448 471538 or visit www.holidayonice.co.uk



Lord and Lady Healey
Baron Healey of Riddlesden Denis was defence secretary from 1964 to 1970, chancellor 1974 to 1979 and deputy leader of the Labour Party 1982 and 1983. He has been married to Edna, an award-winning biographer, for 64 years and they have three children. They live in Alfriston


Lady Healey: Christmas has always been central in our family. Every year, we have a large Christmas tree at the bottom of the stairs and we have an elaborate present-giving ceremony in which I bring out all our presents in a large decorated basket.
Lord Healey: Its a great family occasion and our three children and four grandchildren always spend Christmas with us.
Her: Books and records are the only things that Denis likes to receive. He usually asks for something very remote and difficult on Christmas Eve, which necessitates much last-minute searching in bookshops and record stores.
Him: Edna likes chocolate gingers or something to do with the garden.
Her: Yes, I bought my very own field with my first earnings from writing and now we own about ten acres.
Him: We were married a week before Christmas 1945. Id just left the army and we were married in London. We spent the first night of our honeymoon in my old home in Riddlesden, before taking a bus to the Yorkshire Dales. The Buck Inn at Buckden was full of evacuees, so we were offered a converted stable next door.
Her: As we were settling down by candlelight in the loft, a grey-haired old lady popped her head through the trap door and said: Im a poet, would you like to hear my poems? Gently, we declined her kind offer and she disappeared, never to be seen again!
Him: There wasnt much chance to celebrate Christmas during the war [Lord Healey served with the Royal Engineers in the North African campaign, Allied invasion of Sicily and the Italian campaign, and was the military landing officer for the British assault brigade at Anzio]. The Anzio landing took place in January and I was planning that the whole time.
Her: I had problems of my own because I was teaching in Bromley when the doodlebugs landed and had to shelter under the staff room table.
Him. Were both 92, although Edna is a few months behind me. We keep each other going, though we also give each other space, which is vital. Once the children left home, Edna began writing and did an enormous amount of public speaking, including a lecture tour across America for the English Speaking Union.
Weve also written six books each. Ive just started a new volume entitled Healeys People about the people Ive known, which will be packed with my own photographs. And Edna is writing another book about the Darwin family this time its about Charles
Darwins uncle.
Her: Weve had a lovely life. We say it many times: AWL Arent We Lucky!

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