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My Christmas – Nick Dowling, Bird Garden Manager

NickBirdGardenBlog1.What is your earliest Christmas memory?

My earliest Christmas memory was looking at the presents under the tree and wondering which one was mine. My cousin (who could read) told me that a red lumpy oblong shaped one had my name on it and from then until Christmas Day I would pick it up and try to guess what it was. It felt like months until I was actually allowed to open it! I can remember the scent of the wrapping paper, but I can’t actually remember what the present actually was!

Another early memory was helping my Granddad put real candles onto the real Christmas tree and then lighting them. All the candles were top heavy and wonky in their holders- even then I remembered thinking what a fire hazard it was.

2. Do you have any specific Christmas traditions?

The tree goes up on 1st of December and that’s when I get the Christmas CD out for the drive to work. We aim to watch Elf, Home Alone 1 & 2, Love Actually and TV Christmas specials such as Gavin & Stacey and the Office. We also do Elf on the Shelf for our little boy and try to create more elaborate situations as Christmas Eve gets closer. On Christmas Day we normally go to see family for lunch.

During my career I have worked Christmas Day a lot of the time, as of course the birds will still be relying on us for their Christmas dinner of seeds, fruit, vegetables, mealworms, nuts, fish, meat and pellets among other things. It’s always a nice atmosphere at work as we have lots of Christmas goodies in our mess room and we have the run of Harewood to ourselves, apart from the security team of course!

3. Which period from history would you have liked to celebrate Christmas in?

I would have liked to celebrate Christmas in the Dickensian period, although it probably wouldn’t have been as fun as it looked on The Muppets!
I also would have liked to have been a bit older in the 1980’s so I could remember it better- it was a great era for Christmas songs and the presents always seemed cooler.

4. What’s the piece of music that gets you in the festive mood?

Usually its ‘Don’t Let The Bells End’ by The Darkness, although when we were frantically cleaning the Bird Garden kitchen at 7pm recently, prior to an upcoming Zoo licensing inspection, Shakin’ Stevens came on the radio which was the first Christmas song I’d heard this year and that gave me a bit of a boost as I mopped the floor.

5. What’s the nicest gift that someone has offered you / you have given?

The nicest gift I have given was a marriage proposal and the nicest gift I have received was being accepted….. or a book on pheasants, partridges and grouse!

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