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Laura Craik on satisfying the Christmas diva in her belly, how Topshop has bottomed out and the tablet getting grans surfing at last

I’ve always loved food, but it took the coronavirus to realise how much I needed it. Chicken soup might have the rep but all food is comfort food, a fact that resonated when the immense privilege of being able to eat exactly what I wanted, when I wanted, was taken away.

When it comes to meal times, I’m not a ‘whatever’s in the fridge will do’ kinda girl. My stomach is the gastrointestinal equivalent of Mariah: capricious, demanding and definitely Queen of Christmas.

Alas for my family, its diva-like tendencies mean my stomach can be difficult to live with, particularly over the festive season.

In addition to a very specific type of pork pie, a particular type and glaze of ham, a certain brand of trifle and six types of cheese (Époisses, truffled Brie, Mrs Keen’s Cheddar, Stilton-like Stichelton, four-year aged Gouda and Swiss raclette — not French raclette ’coz it is bogging) there must be a plentiful supply of crisps on tap, including Tyrrells Naked, for when it gets bored of all the other flavours and simply craves potato.

“My stomach
thinks peas are a Wednesday night vegetable, too meh for the big event. It prefers baby corn”

Divas or not, we all have our culinary deal-breakers at Christmas. My husband is an easy-going human, but if you forget to cook peas for Christmas dinner, it’s divorce. My stomach thinks peas are a Wednesday night vegetable, too meh for the big event. It prefers asparagus and baby corn, which go with duck, its bird of choice and woe betide anyone who wants turkey.

Only this year, it wants turkey. It’s a turkey kind of year. Nothing can be too trad for comfort when comfort is in such scant supply. So turkey, roast potatoes, chestnut stuffing, pigs in blankets, Brussels sprouts, parsnips and carrots it is. And peas. Lots and lots of peas.

My stomach needs to remember how lucky it is; how privileged it is to feel full. So on its behalf, I’ll be donating to my nearest food bank, my local paper’s Christmas hamper appeal and The Childhood Trust’s Big Give charity campaign. It estimates there are 700,000 children living in poverty in London. That any child should go hungry at Christmas is a tragedy that none of us should stomach.

Home comfort: this year is definitely a turkey kind of year

The digital aged

My mother, 87, is finally online. After years of feeling left behind, she can now access what she calls ‘the double-u-double-u-double-u’, googling Edinburgh house prices and M&S winter coats with wild abandon. Only she can’t.

It’s hard to explain the internet to someone who hasn’t used it before: simple instructions like ‘scroll down’ or ‘click the link’ make little sense. So thank goodness for the Grandpad, a tablet for seniors designed to simplify the process. It’s been a lifeline during lockdown: the kids can send dog pics, we can all video-call her, and there’s 24 /7 support. Now if only I could get her to read her emails…


Like anyone who shopped there over the years, I’m sad about Topshop. That such a storied part of British fashion culture may vanish is yet another discombobulating change in a year too full of them. But I don’t agree it’s a casualty of the switch from fast fashion — Retail Times reported that ‘cheap clothes’ searches rocketed by 46 per cent last spring.

It’s a casualty of its owner’s failure to listen to his team. Many brilliant women have worked for Topshop, Jane Shepherdson and Kate Phelan among them. If Philip Green is as difficult to work with as people say, then maybe the best place for him is his £100m yacht. The real tragedy is the 1,000s of staff cast adrift into a sea of worry that this greedy billionaire will never comprehend.

sophia loren

At 86, looking even more the icon in Stella McCartney’s faux-fur coat than she ever did in real fur, and proving it’s never too late to change your ways.

festive face masks

Come back, Christmas jumpers — all is forgiven.