Going home at Christmas can be enormous fun, particularly for your relatives. If you let them know in advance that you are coming then they can make a plan. If you live a long way away from your family then you can fly there, in fact using aeroplanes can help you get to many places faster than you realised, and flying can be great fun.
It's always best to get a ticket for a flight before you travel. You can buy tickets at the airport, but Christmas can be a very busy time of year, so by buying a ticket in advance you can avoid the problems of queuing at the airport! Tickets can actually be bought up to a year ahead, so why not buy one for next year and keep it in the freezer until you need it?
If your family lives in a colder country, don't forget to pack something warm to wear: red and white can be very festive colours, although any autumnal pastels can light up a festive evening. We always wear coats at my home when we go outside, you could think about doing that too.
Many people forget that it is traditional to give presents at Christmas, well it is a very busy time of year. Don't worry though, the clever people at the airports have already thought of this. All over the world you will find that despite being airports, these buildings are also full of shops! This is a time to be adventurous and look at what is available: don't just buy the sandy coloured Toblerone, you can buy the black one and the white one at the same time. Just imagine how much fun that could be when you arrive at your home with not just one, but three Toblerones, all in different colours!
Some manufacturers actually put Christmas logos and special wrapping on their stock at Christmas: just think how much time you could save if you buy presents that are already wrapped!
Some people find Christmas very sad, particularly if they have recently lost a close relative or friend. Why not find a photograph of the recently deceased, cut out the face of the person from the middle of the picture using a sharp pair of scissors, and mount it on a piece of cardboard with a Santa Claus hat on it? In that way you can cheer you relative up by helping them to feel as though the dead person is actually there with you celebrating! If it has been a particularly sad year you could make several and stand them together in the middle of the Christmas table. Cotton wool placed around the pictures will help it look as though it has been snowing.
It's wrong to kill animals on Christmas Day, that's why my in-laws always wait until Boxing Day. For many families this can be a problem. If you are torn between a fox hunt and a pheasant shoot what should you do? Well the choice is yours! But make sure you wear the right clothes: nobody should shoot pheasants in hunting pinks, even if the colours are gorgeous.
Many families drink at Christmas, I know we do! But some relatives drink too much and behave in embarrassing ways. The best thing to do in that situation is ignore them, or keep drinking yourself until you're more pissed than they are. Try getting them to dress up in silly costumes, and then it's harder to take them seriously. Anything with ermine or a crown should do it.
Whatever you do, make sure you do go home for Christmas, I know I will!
How on earth can regulation by a single state prevent abuse by the press in a truly globally-connected world? The unconfirmed news about the suicide of the Royal prank nurse is very distressing, but fining British newspapers a million pounds, with or without State regulation, would do nothing to prevent that. If Australian DJs can conduct mis-fired pranks that circulate on-line and result in the untimely death of a wife and mother then I really don't see what Leveson is for. People criticised his lack of attention to the web and global news reporting, and sadly this afternoon it seems that they were right.
The cheers could be heard across DC as the news networks finally summoned up the courage to fight the demons of recent election misfires and say what we all knew by then anyway: Obama had won. The party that I attended was suddenly empty as people left at once shouting, 'Let's go the White House'. And they did. We followed, jumping into a cab and heading down to the square in front of the White House.
The District of Columbia takes elections very seriously, but as the Federal District has no elected representatives in Congress there is something special about an election where they do have a voice that counts. The population here is overwhelmingly Democratic and so it was no surprise that over 90% voted for Obama, but what did surprise me was the sight that greeted us outside the White House.
I expected a crowd of people celebrating, but I did not anticipate the scale and noise and reckless enthusiasm that awaited us. It was as though Obama had just won the FA Cup. Car horns were blaring, cars with seven or eight occupants sitting out of the window were magnets for crowds of people screaming, whistling and waving Obama-Biden badges, scarves and hats. Directly in front of the White House a procession pushed through the crowd led by cardboard cut-outs of the President and First Lady. It received a rapturous welcome and the flashing of cameras and phones would have caused seizures in any epileptics in the crowd. There was singing, there was hugging, and there were tears of joy. I felt privileged to share some of that goodwill and love.
But as the dawn light breaks over Lafayette Square I'm wondering what all the fuss was really about. The celebrations here last night were real enough, as were the young men dancing on the roof of their car, but has America changed at all in consequence of the most expensive election in the history of mankind? Sadly, I'm not sure that it has.
Six billion dollars ago we had President Obama in the Oval Office, a Republican House and a Democratic Senate without a large enough majority for anything contentious to be passed. This morning I have to wonder, what has changed?
America is still clearly a country that is divided in a way that the gentlemen scholars and generals in Philadelphia over two hundred years ago failed to visualise: a country that is so exactly split that it provides those famous checks and balances in such perfect harmony that almost nothing can happen. And of course to change the Constitution requires such a scale of majority assent across the country as to be inconceivable in the current climate. Congress can't even offer the District of Columbia a seat in Congress: good luck Puerto Rico.
The shining beacon of hope that came out of last night for me was the conciliatory tone of Obama's acceptance speech. He stopped the rhetoric of change that was so captivating in 2008 and instead spoke of one nation, and working beyond the labels of red and blue that are so stark on the news channel maps. Of course if he wants legislation for 'change' to pass through either House in Congress he needs to compromise, but I sensed a deeper desire.
Is this a moment to try with real vigour to seek common ground? Elections are by their very nature polarising, but there are many areas on which the candidates and the people of America agree: starting with the deepest sense of national pride and public duty, words which sound quaint and almost pompous to British ears. When Obama meets Romney in the next few days and weeks, as he said he would, I think he should be asking Romney to work for the American people by leading a commission into the policies that could attract bi-partisan support. We know that they disagree on same-sex marriage, so that would not be up for debate, but could a group of politicians from both sides come together and effectively make two lists; the black list of areas on which we will never agree, and the white list of areas for potential compromise and debate?
Let's take Obamacare. It is clear that many Americans do not think that the Federal government has the right to force an individual to buy health insurance, or that increasing taxes on the wealthy is the right way to pay for it. Romney stood on a pledge to stop the programme, and he lost. In four years time tens of millions of Americans will depend on Obamacare for their treatment, and paying health bills is the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in the USA. Can a Republican candidate hope to stand in 2016 on a manifesto pledge to withdraw that insurance?
The reality is that Obamacare has much that is good about it, and much that is flawed. The provision of universal access to affordable healthcare should be a principle that both parties support, but where they can disagree is about about the methods and delivery. A Romney-led commission (a man who introduced his own version as a state governor) could be asked not to abolish the system, but to make recommendations on how it could be improved to meet the concerns of half the American people.
I find much of Paul Ryan's common sense approach to taxation appealing, but he is a divisive figure. The post election news is going to be filled with drama about the renewal of the Federal budget, and there is the remote prospect of an Inauguration during a Federal shutdown. Could Ryan be the man to make proposals on how both parties could agree to the spending cuts that are so obviously needed? That might be a pipe dream too far, but if there was ever a moment to seek compromise and agreement it is now.
The likely reality of course is that nothing will change. Talk of compromise will fill the air, but a newly polarised and energised Capitol Hill will block and parry every move and thrust from a Democratic White House. I hope I'm wrong, but despite the singing last night in front of the White House, I think the next four years are more likely to show us that, in answer to the prayers I heard last night for hope and change, the answer will come ringing back, 'No We Can't'.
Of course the Conservative Party Conference has brought the Dave v. Boris drama to head. An outsider could even be forgiven for assuming that November was likely to see a Tory Party leadership election as well as the poll to choose a new US President. Of course that isn't the case, and we won't be having a series of Conservative leadership debates in which we can watch the candidates stumble and fall - although I bet they'd get some decent audience figures if Boris's cracking speech was anything to go by.
I supported David Cameron's election campaign to become Leader financially and with my shoe leather, and I also stalked the streets of Hackney and Earl's Court leafleting and knocking-up for Boris. Now whilst that that may mean that I suffer from some form of split personality, I think it could actually mean that I like both of them.
Boris is a cracking Mayor of London, and although I think his island airport plan is as dotty as his public speaking, he will continue to get my vote. (We already have an airport with Tube trains, real trains, buses, three motorways and even canals. The Thames estuary has geese. You choose the site for a new runway.) Nevertheless he has kept a string of campaign promises and for that alone deserves Londoner's support.
David has managed to keep a grip on our Government, make a decent start to scything the horrendous deficit left by the Two Eds, and done that when we don't actually have a majority in the Commons. He's even managed to swerve a few curve-balls and policy bouncers without becoming a YouTube and iTunes laughing stock, unlike his beleagured deputy. I want to see him after the next election in Office AND in Power. That's why I'll be out again supporting him next time around.
Of course you can't agree with all of the people all of the time, but despite the rhetoric of Grub Street, I think you really can be Dave's man, and Boris's too. The simple truth is that half the Boris v. Dave drama is a result of the shock felt by many people under 40 in discovering a Tory politician that they actually like; that truth, for many of my Leftish friends, feels like the beginning of the end.