Christmas Getting to Know You - Nicola Sturgeon
Holyrood sits down with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to learn about the true meaning of Christmas
Image credit: Lorna Miller
What’s your earliest Christmas memory?
My earliest memory of Christmas is getting a Tiny Tears doll – I wasn’t really a doll child – and drawing all over the back of it. So on Christmas morning I drew a nice pattern on the back of Tiny Tears.
Oh dear, how did that go down?
Not very well…
Was it a protest?
I don’t think it was a protest, it was just that I wasn’t sure – I was meant to dress it and put it in its pram and everything, but I decided to draw all over it instead. I was probably about three…
Ah OK, that’s quite young.
Yeah, the vandalism streak didn’t stick.
Have there ever been any other Christmas disasters?
Actually, when I was a bit older than that, and this wasn’t deliberate – I’m going to start sounding like I was a child who vandalised toys… This was accidental, OK? This was very accidental.
Sure. It was accidental.
Do you remember Sindy dolls? Well, I got Sindy’s horse, which I had really wanted, and that was great. I think it was Boxing Day, I left it sitting on the floor of our living room in front of the fire. So one side of the horse sort of melted. It was fine apart from that, and I actually loved that horse even more because then it had a dent. But that was an accident, it wasn’t deliberate, unlike Tiny Tears, which was totally deliberate…
I also heard a story that you once cut the hair off your sister’s doll…
Yes [pauses]. Yes, that is true [laughs].
Why does it keep happening, First Minister?
I just wasn’t a very girly girl, I didn’t like playing with dolls. But I think that wasn’t so much a protest against the doll as a protest against my sister. She would have been annoying me or something and I decided to punish her – she loved dolls.
So it wasn’t a feminist statement?
No, I should probably say it was – that it was the first manifestation of my political awakening – but no, it was just there. I was just badly behaved.
Can you remember how you found out Santa wasn’t real?
I remember a period of my childhood when I didn’t believe but had to pretend I did for the sake of my sister, who’s five years younger than me. I sort of have a vague memory of being quite sceptical for a while, and thinking ‘hmmm, they’re at it’, but I don’t remember that moment when I went from believing to not believing. I remember some Christmas Eves when you’d almost try and convince yourself again. You’d hear noises in the house overnight… I remember going through that process.
I am sorry. What’s your Christmas routine?
My favourite part of Christmas, and this might always have been the case, is Christmas Eve. Nowadays we have our families round to our house so usually Christmas Eve is a bit frantic, trying to get ready for that. Then Peter [Murrell] and I usually have dinner at home on Christmas Eve and that’s the calm part of Christmas. Then on Christmas Day, Peter cooks and I sit and read a book or something.
You don’t have a role in the cooking?
My role, as I keep saying to Peter, is entertaining our family.
More of a front-of-house role.
Exactly, while he does the cooking – he’s a pretty good cook.
How easy do you find it to switch off? Is that a challenge?
I find it easier to switch off at Christmas than I do at other points of the year, like in the summer when I go on holiday. I think I find it easier at Christmas because everyone switches off for a wee while – during the summer when you go on holiday, there’s this feeling that the world is continuing and that can make it quite difficult to switch off. Whereas at Christmas, it almost feels like the world stops for a wee while, so it’s a lot easier to switch off, even if it’s just for a couple of days, which is nice.
And what’s the best present you’ve ever had? Not Tiny Tears presumably?
Probably my Sindy horse, actually.
Because of how you customised it?
No, I think as a child that was my best present anyway, but then it became more special because it was an imperfect Sindy horse.
And what about the worst?
I don’t know… I don’t want to make myself sound like a paragon of virtue here, but I don’t really think of presents as being bad, if someone goes to the effort of getting you a present.
So what would be your perfect Christmas?
Well, I like spending Christmas at home. I’ve never really been into going away at Christmas, but even more now that I spend a lot of time away from home. So basically, what we do now is my perfect Christmas – having some time with Peter, but also having Christmas Day with the family round. I’ll get to see the family a bit longer than I normally do, until I get fed up with them around nine o’clock at night and make hints that it’s time to go…
Is there anything you hate about it?
Not really – I could say the obvious and I think everybody gets a bit annoyed and pissed off at the rampant commercialism of the whole thing, but I like Christmas, mainly because you get the chance to stop for a while. All of our nephews and niece are getting a bit older now but I always thought it was nice because of the kids.
I heard you had some favourite cracker jokes.
Who told you that?
It may just be speculation.
I have one – who hides in the bakers at Christmas?
I don’t know.
A mince spy.
[Laughing, repeats] A mince pie – a mince spy.
No, I get it…
How do you make Lady Gaga cry? Poker face.
Maybe we should move on, when do you put up a tree? Or do you put up a tree?
I do. We’ll go and buy it and put it up on Saturday.
And do you help decorate?
Well, on Saturday Peter and I will go and buy a Christmas tree. We will come home probably early afternoon and by tea-time on Saturday, we’ll have had a blazing row.
Over the tree?
[Laughs] Over the tree and the decoration of the tree. That’s now a bit of a Christmas tradition.
What’s going wrong here? Do you have separate decorations?
No, no… I’ll decide I don’t like how he’s doing the lights then he’ll decide he doesn’t like the fact that I’m having a go at him for how he’s doing the lights and then it’ll just deteriorate from there.
You seem to enjoy this process…
Yeah, it’s become a standard part of our lead-up to Christmas. In fact, he actually said to me on Saturday, it was about teatime, and he said, in all seriousness, ‘We’ll have fallen out by this time next week.’ [Laughter]
But is it OK after the tree is up?
Once it’s up, it’s fine. It takes a wee while to break the ice again, but that will be the process we will go through on Saturday.
Could you recommend any Christmas games?
I avoid playing games like the plague.
For the same reason the tree goes wrong?
I don’t really like party games. I also get very competitive, so I start off by saying I don’t want to play, then I get into it, then before I know it, I have decided I have to win at all costs.
You have to remove yourself from the situation.
Yeah, it’s best just not to start...
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