Old People’s Home for Four-Year-Olds: Christmas

Few TV shows in 2018 left cockles as thoroughly warmed as Old People’s Home for Four-Year-Olds, in which a bunch of preschoolers were paired with the residents of a Nottingham retirement village, with eye-moistening results.

This festive special captured the emotional moment when the two groups were reunited for Christmas, with the kids literally running back into the arms of their new playmates (though, in fact, many of the inter-generational friendships had continued in the intervening months).

Among the most touching bonds is that between Beryl, an 86-year-old widow, and Scarlett, who lost her mum to cancer a year ago. Since the original experiment, the pair have become as thick as thieves, and Scarlett knew exactly what she wanted to give Beryl for Christmas: ’A golden bracelet and golden necklace with a love heart on it’.

Widower Ken, 87, spoke movingly of the ‘empty space’ left when the children had departed six months earlier. Like many older people, Ken finds this time of year a struggle – watching home movie reels of Christmas Day 1964, he said: ‘If I had a wish, I would go back to that Christmas’. But a trip to the toyshop to buy presents for the kids ended with him and pal Fred goofing around in giant animal heads and laughing themselves silly playing Pie Face.

Dunkirk veteran Victor, 97, was a singer who met his late wife Marjorie at a Christmas dance. When the music stopped, they found themselves under the mistletoe, kissed – and were together for the next 66 years. He’d also found Christmas difficult in recent years, but meeting the children had made it ‘something new again’.

At the end, everyone got dressed up for a Christmas party, where all the kids responded to a performance by special guest Alfie Boe by jamming their fingers in their ears. (Everyone’s a critic these days.) As Britain’s bestselling tenor dissolved into laughter, it was left to Victor to steal the show with White Christmas.

And then it really was a white Christmas, as young and old went out to play together in the snow. That look on the residents’ faces? Comfort and joy.

TV extra:


Sir Cliff Richard: 60 Years in Private and Public

No prizes for guessing why this behind-the-scenes doc – tracing the Peter Pan of Pop’s return to the fray after his recent trial-by-media – was on ITV. Still visibly angry about his treatment by the BBC and South Yorkshire Police, the defiant 78-year old said admitted there’d been times when ‘I thought I was going to die’. His loyal fans stuck with him all the way, though, and we saw one group being rewarded with individual selfies – all 1,400 of them.


I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!

Things we learned from this year’s I’m A Celeb: It can survive without Ant (partly because Holly Willoughby was so great) but would probably struggle without Dec. It’s more fun watching the campmates getting along and forging unlikely friendships than seeing them at each other’s throats. Noel Edmonds was surprisingly adorable, and the decision to boot him off first was baffling (have a word with yourself, Britain.) Same time next year?

Published in Waitrose Weekend, December 13, 2018

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