PEOPLE OF THE CITY

Journalist and political editor at Sky News, Beth Rigby on co-ordinated gift wrapping, making festive chutney and why she has to have two Christmas trees

02 December, 2019

 

What epitomises Christmas in London for you?

Emptiness. I really like the fact that everyone leaves the city for Christmas and you go from living in this insanely busy place where people are Christmas shopping to quiet streets. The roads, in particular, are so quiet on Christmas Day.

 

What’s your earliest or best Christmas memory?

My earliest and best was when my parents bought me a wooden farm. The box was bigger than my body! It was this ginormous present, with a field and different partitions and a wooden farm building. I’ve still got it, still love it, and now have given it to my children.

 

What smells and tastes do you associate with the festive period?

Every year I make a piccalilli and pickled onions for Christmas. It’s a northern tradition to make pickled onions, and I’ve adapted it. To be honest it’s got a bit out of control as I have to give it to certain people who expect it now, so it’s become a massive endeavour to get all the pickling done in time. Then there’s mulled wine, of course – you never have it other than at Christmas. And we always buy a cheese board from Neal’s Yard Dairy; that’s our special thing.

 

Do you prefer Christmas pudding, Christmas cake or a chocolate Yule log?

I don’t like any of them. I like trifle. And we always have a panettone. It’s an Italian thing, as my husband is Italian.

 

What’s on your Christmas list to give and/or to receive from The Royal Exchange?

I’m a journalist, so I love a Smythson notebook. I’ve got an embossed one and I’d be happy to have new one. I also think that Fortnum’s is a great place to get something delicious for someone, like Turkish delight or tea, or scented candles. And we always take my dad away somewhere as a Christmas present. Last year it was Naples, the year before it was Rome and before that it was Seville.

 

What’s your Christmas gift-wrapping style?

I’m very into Christmas gift-wrapping; it’s a very important part of the whole thing. When I was a kid, my mum and I would even set up a wrapping station. She would wrap the presents very neatly and I would decorate them with bows. We’d have colour themes, so everything was coordinated. One thing I’m unhappy about this year is that because of the General Election, which I have to cover, I could get so pushed for time that my wrapping might suffer!

 

Do you have any special, unique or unconventional Christmas traditions?

The more conventional ones are that we always go to a Christmas show with the children, and we always go for a walk on Hampstead Heath during the holidays. But I suppose what I have become known for among my friends is that I like to have two Christmas trees. They call me “Two Trees Rigby”, like John Prescott was known for his two Jags! I have one massive one, as well as a smaller one. This is to accommodate all the Christmas decorations we have. I absolutely love Christmas trees – when we were children my mum used to play O Christmas Tree on the piano as we marched into the house carrying our tree. I have inherited all the family Christmas tree decorations, which stretch back for decades. That means our trees are a gaudy mash-up of everything we have collected over time. This is exacerbated by another tradition, which is that wherever we go abroad we find a Christmas bauble to buy and so at the end of the year we have new ones to add to our trees; the more outrageous, the better. That’s why you’ll find a Leaning Tower of Pisa on there along with an eye decoration I bought in Greece this year. Finally, I have a copy of The Night Before Christmas my mum used to read to me when I was a child, and now I always read it to my children on Christmas Eve.

 

Do you own a Christmas jumper?

I don’t, but I have to buy them for the children. However, I have noticed that the House of Commons has its own Christmas jumper this year and I think I’m going to buy one for myself. It’s green and gold, with the design of the crowned portcullis of the House of Commons.

 

What’s your favourite Christmas film?

When I was younger I would religiously get the TV listings and highlight what I was going to watch over Christmas. I liked the vintage films starring people like Audrey Hepburn, the ones that you would only get at Christmas. Now that’s mutated into watching vintage Christmas children’s films like Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory – but always the originals. In other words, I’m making my children watch the films I watched when I was a child.

 

Do you have a favourite Christmas song?

I do like Christmas carols – The Holly and the Ivy is a favourite – and Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl is great.

 

What signifies the start of the festive season for you?

For me, it’s when I do my Christmas shop order online for Christmas lunch. I did it in October. I’ve got a delivery slot already.

 

What do you think is the best way to help others at Christmastime?

At my local church they have a night shelter so you can donate to that or donate your time. I always donate food.

 

Beth Rigby has worked for Sky News since 2016 and became political editor in April this year. She has previously worked for The Financial Times and The Times newspapers