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I want to hug people, go to parties. They’re part of what makes life worth living

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What does Christmas look like at the homes of some of the people who took part in our Parenting in My Shoes series over the past year? Can you still enjoy a Christmas that looks very different from festive seasons of old? And what might 2022 have in store? We asked the broadcaster Ciara Kelly

“I absolutely adore Christmas. It’s my very favourite time of the year,” says Ciara Kelly, adding that this year, like last year, she suspects Christmas Day will be an immediate-family-only celebration.

“We’re a bit of a crew anyway. There’s six people here – myself, my husband and four kids. It’s not like it’s a kind of sorry, miserable affair. It’s fairly raucous and riotous even with the immediate family alone,” she says cheerily.

“My kids range from 12 to 21. The older ones … they’ll be very good. Everyone will help. But also they’ll whip up a gin and tonic before dinner, or a glass of mulled wine, and it will be quite festive and celebratory.”

It’ll be lovely to have lie-ins, because I do get up at 4.30am. Lie-ins are massively important to me. They are such a treat. I’m like a teenager

In fact, Kelly is really looking forward to having all her children under the one roof again this Christmas. “My eldest, my 21-year-old, who’s in his final year in college, has moved into town into a flat with two of his pals. So he’s not here all the time at the moment. I’m really looking forward to having him back and us all being together.”

She’s also really looking forward to the break this Christmas. “My work is very plugged in to the news. I’m very plugged into that news cycle 24/7, and it will be very nice to have probably just over a week of actually giving my head a rest from it.

“It’ll be lovely to have lie-ins, because I do get up at 4.30am. Lie-ins are massively important to me. They are such a treat. I’m like a teenager,” she says, laughing.

Kelly enjoys all the Christmas customs – “the fire, the movies, the too much food, the couple of drinks, the bottle of Baileys” – and if you’re wondering who to blame, she says she’s “singlehandedly, almost, responsible for the shortages on the national grid”, thanks to her love of Christmas decorations and lights.

She prefers to work Christmas Eve, as she likes the “deferred gratification” aspect. She also gets her hair done and collects the turkey, and the family have a late lunch together. And there are no especially early risers on Christmas morning in her house. “I think they’re just like their mammy – they love their sleep,” she says, adding that the family agree a time to get up at, instead of 4am rousings. Then “we go downstairs and open the livingroom door to see if Santa arrived.”

Ciara and her daughter.
Ciara and her daughter: ‘I think my kids are just like their mammy – they love their sleep’

The family spend a bit of time opening Santa’s gifts and exchanging presents with each other. Then, while the rest of the family is “supposedly tidying up”, Kelly makes an “enormous fry”.

And even if it is just the immediate family, she says that dinner time, which happens in the late evening, is still a dress-up affair with an elaborate table.

Even though Christmas 2021 looks as though it will be similar to Christmas 2020, she’s still looking forward to it. “I feel extremely lucky that I will spend Christmas with my family, whereas some people would have their kids abroad or whatever and it may be not possible.

“In a way, the pandemic, despite the fact that I had Covid and my daughter had Covid and we had a few rough patches during it, because neither of my elderly parents are alive, in a funny way I was spared a lot of worry that I know other people experienced. You’re not ever lucky to not have your parents, but I feel I was lucky that I didn’t have to worry about something horrible happening to them.

“I wasn’t overly worried about my children getting Covid, because the reality of it is that the chances of that going wrong for them is so low, so I recognise that I’ve been luckier than an awful lot of people, so I am still looking forward to it [Christmas] in whatever shape it takes.”

Kelly says 2022 is a blank page. “I don’t know what’s coming. I believe that Covid is endemic now, which means that it’s not going to pass. We don’t seem to be hanging on to our immunity – be it through infection or vaccination – long. It looks like it’s waning. It may change – it may be that subsequent vaccine shots change things. It looks to me like we are living with Covid in more than just a sloganeering type of way, that Covid is here to stay.

The Kelly household. Ciara Kelly says: ‘2022 is a bit of a blank page, but I live in hope. I’m an eternal optimist’

“I don’t know what that is going to mean for our new normal. I don’t think society can function going into national lockdown on an ongoing basis. I think there will be an element of shielding and personal responsibility, where people will say, ‘I’m wary of doing this, so I won’t do it,’ and other people saying, ‘I’m happy to do it, so I will.’”

Kelly is hoping 2022 “will be as close to our old normal as possible, because I still miss our old normal. Some people are more risk-averse than others, and I’m not very risk-averse. I want to hug people. I want to go to mass gatherings. I want to go to crowded pubs. I want to be able to go to parties. Some people don’t mind not doing those things, but I think they’re part of what makes life worth living. The joy you get from those things, I don’t think it’s unimportant. “So, yes, 2022 is a bit of a blank page, but I live in hope. I’m an eternal optimist.”

Read: I was pregnant, unmarried, a junior doctor and I got old-school comments

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Liverpool ONE welcomes Tessuti (GB)

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Grosvenor has announced that designer retailer, Tessuti, has opened its new global flagship store at Liverpool ONE, demonstrating the brand’s ongoing vote of confidence in the destination. The new location on Paradise Street follows Tessuti’s consistently strong performance at Liverpool ONE and spans two floors measuring 22,000ft². Boasting Tessuti’s biggest store to date, this is four times the size of the previous Liverpool ONE site. The store interiors have been styled with a subtle nod to classic Italian architecture whilst incorporating state-of-the-art technical features, combining classic design with an industrial-chic colour palette and cutting-edge digital screens. Working with local Liverpudlian digital and production agency Liquid, the new Tessuti store has exclusive instore stills and videos showcasing exciting campaigns; the first of which is rumoured to feature Liverpool stars Stephen Graham, Abbey Clancy, Miles Kane and Chelcee Grimes.

 

Aligning with Liverpool ONE’s community ethos, Tessuti’s new global flagship will also support the vibrant community in the heart of Liverpool, championing local businesses through collaborations, pop-ups, and in-store events.

 

Alison Clegg, Managing Director, Asset Management, Grosvenor, commented: “Tessuti’s commitment to Liverpool ONE, through its relocation within the destination and decision to make the new store its global flagship, strengthens our position as one of Europe’s leading retail and leisure destinations. The impressive growth trajectory of Tessuti within Liverpool is a great indication of the potential for success and expansion of other brands that join Liverpool ONE.”

 

Chris Rowan, Director of Brand & Customer Connection at Tessuti, added: “The opening of our global flagship at Liverpool ONE is a huge moment for us. Liverpool is an urban hub for international fashion retailers, so upsizing and relocating within the city’s leading retail and leisure destination was a natural next step. We feel confident that it is the ideal home for our flagship location, and are excited to offer Liverpool ONE’s visitors our most stylish project yet.”

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What you need to know about having a home swimming pool

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This summer, it’s not just sales of rosé wine and ice cream that have rocketed during the heatwave. Interest in swimming pools has also surged.

‘This sweltering summer has undoubtedly inspired people to install swimming pools,’ says Sallie Leslie-Golding of the Swimming Pool and Allied Trade Association (SPATA). 

‘There are now 270,000 in-ground pools in the UK, with about 65 per cent of them in the southern half of the country.’

There is something incredibly glamorous about a Hockney-blue pool. But how does the reality match up to the imagery?

Refreshing: Church House in Potterne, Wiltshire, is on sale for £1.95m. Interest in swimming pools has surged with the hot weather

Refreshing: Church House in Potterne, Wiltshire, is on sale for £1.95m. Interest in swimming pools has surged with the hot weather

‘It’s been wonderful to be able to take a swim at the end of a long day,’ says Felicity Cooper, 55, who in 2006 installed a 12m x 6m pool outside her country house in Potterne, near Devizes, Wiltshire. 

‘It has also been great for the children, Lily and Ryan, who learnt to swim here.’

Felicity stresses the importance of finding the right setting for a new pool. 

She ensured hers was west-facing to catch the evening sun; then she went to the trouble of digging out a mini-amphitheatre so that the displaced earth formed a windbreak around the pool itself.

‘The pool is the optimum distance from the house, being not so near that it detracts from the garden and not so far away that anyone in trouble would not be heard by those inside.

‘It is far from trees so few leaves blow into the water and, with the children in mind, it has a top quality safety cover. Felicity’s six-bedroom Jacobean stone house standing in 1.7 acres is for sale for £1.95 million.

Opinions vary as to whether an outdoor pool helps or hinders a house sale. Some think that the hassle of maintenance may be off-putting to buyers. However, the property buying agent, Jonathan Harington, disagrees.

‘I have had many clients come to me with a pool on their wishlist of luxuries,’ he says. ‘But I have never had anyone say they wouldn’t buy a house because of the pool. If they felt strongly they could easily fill it in anyway.’

Yet owning a swimming pool is an expensive hobby. An above-ground pool — like a giant paddling pool — costs from £1,500 to £15,000. These pools may not quite cut it in terms of glamour, but their lower water capacity means maintenance costs are more reasonable.

For those looking at a more substantial in-ground pool, one with a liner finish of PVC will cost about £75,000. A concrete pool, finished with mosaic tiles, marbled plaster or paint will be about £125,000.

Larger projects can easily cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. 

You may opt for an infinity pool — a pool designed with an edge that gives the illusion that the water is overflowing. 

Those who want to improve their fitness may have a counter current device installed; the equivalent of swimming on a treadmill.

Many pool owners are interested in sustainability and heating the pool with solar panels is popular, as are covers that help heat retention.

Maintaining an outdoor swimming pool is expensive. The cost of heating and chemicals has increased so buyers should budget for at least £8 to £10 a day, dependent on the weather, according to SPATA.

Anyone fancying a workout in their own home may be interested in Ivy Cottage, Grendon, Northamptonshire.

Outside, the four-bedroom cottage is a 10m x 5m pool neatly positioned in the north-west corner to catch the sun.

‘After swimming in the pool, you could go running, riding or cycling on the countless trails nearby,’ says Ian Denton, of Jackson Stops. ‘It’s a lifestyle amenity in your own garden.’ Ivy Cottage is for sale for £825,000.

On the market… splash out 

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Radisson launches new resort in Greece

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Radisson Hotel Group has launched its latest Greek resort in Skiathos. Skiathos, the westernmost of the Sporades islands, is known for its stunning coastline of more than 60 beaches with soft sand and clear blue waters, as well as sea caves, impressive rock formations, and hiking trails on the tree-covered hills along the north shore made famous as the location for the filming of Mamma Mia. The island’s Byzantine churches and monasteries, Venetian-style Bourtzi fortress, and Papadiamantis House with its typical architecture are important parts of the island’s rich history.

 

The resort’s 84 rooms and suites are decorated in a modern, minimalist style, and most of them offer views of the hotel pool or the sea. Private balconies or terraces are available in select rooms, and the resort’s biggest suites feature private whirlpools for ultimate privacy and relaxation. The resort is ideally suited for weddings with its own on-site orthodox chapel and versatile outdoor pool area that offers receptions with stunning views. The main all-day dining restaurant celebrates Greek and Mediterranean flavors on its lunch and dinner menus. The poolside bar offers breakfast treats and late-night snacks as well as a wide selection of drinks and an extensive wine list. For guests looking to keep up their fitness routine, a well-equipped gym is available.

 

“We are excited to offer our guests a fantastic resort experience on the beautiful island of Skiathos, as we continue to expand our Greek resort portfolio. Radisson Resort Plaza Skiathos allows guests to switch off and relax surrounded by stunning natural beauty,” said Yilmaz Yildirimlar, Area Senior Vice President at Radisson Hotel Group.

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