‘I’ve finally started to enjoy Christmas again’ Sue Cleaver shares festive plans and opens up about family loss

Coronation Street's Sue Cleaver talks to Richard Arnold about her festive plans and why this year is more poignant than ever.

Do you love Christmas?

I am a fan – I wasn’t for many years because I lost my dad at Christmas but yes, I enjoy it, I do. I just love having a houseful.

Christmas for you must be an emotional time then…

When Dad died, and of course for a few years after that, it would always hit me – like for many people – at this time of year. It was tough. But we’ve really started to enjoy it more in recent years.

So, do you decorate the house from top to bottom?

I have a tree – a couple of them, in fact. I was one of those awful mothers who made my son, Elliot, have a separate tree, so he could put on all the things he made at school and mine could be colour co-ordinated.

When do you put your tree up?

I used to put it up on Christmas Eve so that it would only be up for two weeks, which I still think is so much better because you don’t end up with pine needles all around the house. But I have taken to putting it up earlier now because I like the smell. Unlike some people, Richard, who I know get the tree delivered on the 1st, trimmed, and taken away.

I have no idea who you are talking about. What’s a typical Christmas Day like for you and the family?

We don’t have a big breakfast. We might munch on a croissant and we chill out, have a few presents and then I cook non-stop. No one comes to us – except immediate family – until about 4pm.

So you eat late then?

About 5pm, which means it’s just one big meal and the cheese board comes out later so I don’t have to do a buffet. We sit around the table until about 4am playing games, eating, drinking port. We tend to stay at the table until my head hits it and I start snoring, and people take that as a cue to get a taxi.

You’re exhausted, of course, because I know you do all the cooking.

I do. My friend brings the oysters round and I do the main event. It’s either goose or turkey, depending on how many people are coming. I love prepping everything on Christmas Eve, listening to carols, parboiling the spuds and I’ll cook the carrots like they do in restaurants and plunge them into ice so they stop cooking and are just ready to reheat on the day.

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I love it! So who cleans up afterwards?

Everybody who comes cleans up. I don’t go near the kitchen afterwards. Nobody is allowed to leave my house until they’ve filled my dishwasher. I have a mortise lock on the front door for that purpose.

Do you bother with gifts?

The other half and I like to share experiences because we are both at an age where if you see something you can afford, you tend to buy it. We like a long weekend away together before Christmas, and afterwards we might take a bigger holiday. We always end up with some presents because if he didn’t get me any I would be furious, and I always get cookbooks.

Do you get a chance to switch off at Christmas?

We’re lucky because we all get two weeks off at Corrie. We go away with friends. This year we’re all going to a cottage for a week. Anywhere from Cornwall to North Yorkshire, and we’ll just spend a week walking, cooking and playing games.

I know this Christmas will be all the more poignant for you after you contracted sepsis earlier this year.

Whenever you’ve had a health scare you look around and appreciate what you’ve got more and how lucky and fortunate you are. I count my blessings every day. I thought I had IBS and a bad case of flu but that’s the problem with sepsis. You don’t realise how bad it is and things can take a turn very quickly, so it’s important that people know the signs.

Have you fully recovered?

It’s one of those things that takes a while with all the follow-up appointments, but I am back to my old self and just very grateful to our NHS, who have been amazing.

Does this mean you’ll be back on the dance floor for the Corrie party?

I always miss it because it coincides with my own charity, When You Wish Upon A Star, on the day when we take them to Center Parcs. So, I’ll be there with the kids and the families. It’s my favourite weekend. And it really gets you in the mood for Christmas.

For information on sepsis and its signs see sepsistrust.org.