So here it is, in the words of Sir Nodward Holder, Merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun. Here’s to the future, he continues, but for now I am reflecting and – just for a change – raising a glass.

First on my list is my dad. He left us nearly four years ago now and I last saw him in Ottawa two years before that. I never really lived with Anthony Johansen and we had a slightly distant relationship for a long time given that he lived in Canada and because of emotion, mainly mine. By 2004, at his 75th birthday, the relationship was no longer distant and by 2009 at his 80th, I finally saw him as my dad, properly, able to talk about stuff, able to feel close to him. And able to take him to the Scotiabank Arena in Ottawa to see John Fogerty in concert. This was truly the high point in out relationship for me. I took my dad to a gig. He didn’t really do hugs but beneath the tough veneer was an old softie. He didn’t like to let it show, but I just knew. It will be a Scotch for my dad tomorrow.

My mum died in 1999. The former Neeltje Verburg from Rotterdam had done an awesome job as a stranger in a strange land, always working, often complaining (though only usually under her breath) and never claiming benefits, never unemployed. Nigel Farage despises the foreign blood that pumps round my English body but I am proud of my mum who really did make something out of nothing, brought me up and protected me but never gave up smoking which made her life a painful misery and destroyed the meaningful bits of her life before she was 60. I never knew what to buy her for Christmas because she wasn’t really interested in anything. She came from nothing, lost everything several times over in the War and material things didn’t matter to her. Except for cigarettes and later on Scotch Whisky. I’ll raise a Scotch tomorrow, mum.

I shall raise a Sherry to my grandad Alfred Johansen of Gjovik, Norway and my grandma Nellie Louisa Ladd of Somerset and my grandad Marinus Verburg, who died before I was born and my grandmother, my Oma, from Rotterdam who may have been called Anna, but I can’t be sure of that. She was Oma. Her name didn’t matter.

All my older close relatives dead and gone now and I am the oldest of the brood. It’s a strange feeling, as I always say, being confronted with your mortality.

Christmas has no religious meaning to me and in any event I would hate to be answerable to a remote celestial dictator, especially one so unpleasant as the one in the bible. I do not need a religious book to provide me with a design for life, nor for morality (and I never understand how anyone would want to live by the example of the god of the old testament, who is undoubtedly the worst person in all fiction). I cannot guarantee that there is no god any more than I cannot guarantee there are no fairies at the bottom of the garden but each scenario remains equally unlikely. We are all atheists about most gods but some of us go one god further!

I was never brought up with a clear religious belief system and of course what happens is when you are able to make up your own mind you realise that the idea of a Sky god is absurd. My dad didn’t believe in organised religion, I doubt that it even occurred to my mum that there might be a god and there, laid bare, is the non belief life I led.

I shall raise a glass to the dead and the living because that’s what christmas means to me. I am pretty sure that I shall not survive my own death and meet my dead relatives again so I make the best of what I have and what I have is a lot.

Enjoy your christmas, whether it’s a religious one or simply a time to be with family, to chill out, relax and have fun.

It’s probably true that christians really did steal christmas from the pagans (and everyone else) but so what? Let’s call it christmas and be done with it.

Happy Christmas, but please no Mistletoe and Wine, eh?