Christmas Getting to Know You: Patrick Harvie
The co-convener of the Scottish Green Party sits down for a moment of festive levity with Kate Shannon
Patrick Harvie: Picture credit - Lorna Miller
What is you earliest Christmas memory?
Probably ripping wrapping paper off presents. I’m told I used to have a habit of hiding behind the television when I was very small so I imagine I grabbed some wrapping paper and tinsel and took it back there to play with. I don’t remember anything very specific, I’m afraid.
How early do you put your Christmas tree up?
Around about this time of year, I um and ah about whether I should have a Christmas tree. I live on my own so it would just be for myself and I’ve never quite got around to it. Who knows, I might get one this year.
[In a distressed tone] Did you have one last year?
No, I’ve never got around to it.
[Clearly still thrown by the lack of a tree] I’m not sure this will apply if you don’t have a tree but do you have a favourite Christmas decoration?
We do put up Christmas decorations in the Glasgow office, so I’ve got some lovely little painted wooden reindeers and they get scattered around in random places.
Have you ever had a Christmas where something went really wrong?
Not that I can recall. There was probably one year when I was a student when we decided to have a Christmas dinner before we all went home. There was about a dozen of us trying to cram as many tables and chairs into the hall, which was the biggest room in the house, to have our dinner in. I’d say the cooking reached a tolerable amateur standard but I expect some things were slightly raw.
Where do you spend Christmas?
I usually go to my mum and dad’s. Once or twice, we’ve all gone to my brother’s but normally I go to my mum and dad’s. They’re in Dumbarton where I grew up, it’s normally just the three of us and it’s always a fairly cosy, boozy day.
Who does the cooking?
My mother commands the kitchen but we’re each allocated tasks. We’re her underlings.
Do you have a go-to Christmas recipe?
Not really. The only contentious one is bread sauce. My mum and I quite like it but my dad hates it. I think if there was anything which my dad would ban, it would be the bread sauce.
What’s the best present you’ve ever received?
That’s a tricky one. The one which has the biggest memory for me is when me and my brother both got plastic lightsabres. I think we probably managed to keep playing with those more than most presents. It maybe stands out because Star Wars has stayed with us so long and is back again. I think that was one particular year when most of the kids on our street got lightsabres.
Have you ever had a terrible present?
There’s always a few ill-fitting socks or rubbish jumpers but I don’t think there’s been anything gratuitous.
Do you plan ahead or will you be shopping and wrapping on Christmas Eve?
I’ll probably do some wrapping on Christmas Eve because I’ll be heading over to my parents that night or if the weather’s nice, I might cycle out on Christmas morning. I’m generally rubbish at buying in advance. My mate Billy did all his Christmas shopping before the end of November but I haven’t started mine yet. I’ll keep telling myself that it’ll be in the next couple of days that I get started but I’ll probably leave it to the final week.
What would be your perfect Christmas?
I would want to resurrect Douglas Adams in time to write the Dr Who Christmas special. His brief moment of Dr Who stories were before my time but one ideal Christmas present would be for a Dr Who Christmas special written by him.
Is there anything you really hate about Christmas?
Most of the telly is terrible. The obsessive desire for every programme to have a Christmas special and every set to be decorated with the same things. I also don’t like cheesy, mass-produced Christmases, the John Lewis advert and the wall-to-wallness of it for a whole month. John Lewis had their Christmas trees for sale in October! It’s too much.
Have you got any special family traditions you do every year?
I do pretty much the same thing every year. I go round to see my mum and dad at their house and my mum will normally go out for a run mid-morning and Christmas proper doesn’t start until she’s back from her run and showered and changed after that. I’ve been pretty bad at the running this year so I don’t think I’ll be up for it.
I’m impressed your mum goes for a run on Christmas Day!
My mum still does half marathons in her mid-70s.
After your mum is back, will you open your presents then?
Yes, while the food is starting to cook and there’s a natural break in the cooking, we’ll get around to opening some presents.
Do you have a favourite family game you play?
Well, not now but when I was growing up, a bunch of friends of the family would get together on Boxing Day. There was a game called ‘Stations’ where you’re all sitting around the edges of a room and one person is in the middle and someone calls out names of stations. We used to use stations on the West Highland Line and the people who are those stations had to swap while the stationmaster had to grab one of their seats. You kept going until everyone was bored or dizzy. It was a regular.
Do you have a favourite Christmas film?
Probably It’s a Wonderful Life. If you don’t cry at some point in this film then there’s something basically broken about you. I don’t remember it being on in the past few years but it’s the one I like.
Finally, and slightly contentiously, can you remember when you found out that Santa wasn’t real?
I can’t remember whether I gave up on Santa or God first. I think it was fairly obvious from an early age that they were both bluffs but I think I maintained the belief in Santa outwardly for a while to make sure the presents kept flowing.
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