My favourite part of Christmas, after the food and the presents of course, is the Queen's Christmas broadcast. Watching this was such an important part of my childhood Christmases that I am often quite surprised to find that most families don't do the same.
Please understand, this wasn't out of support for the concept of monarchy, but so that we could spend the rest of afternoon picking the speech apart and so that we could have a family sweepstake on what colour she would be wearing (last year was yellow, the year before was green, I'm plumping for red this year).
The best Queen's Christmas broadcast, in my lifetime at least, was her memorable annus horribilis in 1992. I wouldn't go as far as saying that it made the Queen seem normal, but it did at least provide us with a phrase that entered the public consciousness.
Conversely, last year's was one of the worst I have heard – a string of half finished thoughts about the importance of family and about how we must reach out to people on the fringes of society. It was almost mushy but pulled back from that. It was almost political but pulled back from that too. It was in fact how a Christmas broadcast written by David Cameron might have been – all the right topics but with no actual substance.
This year I won't get to watch the Queen's Speech when it is first broadcast at 3pm – my partner and I have cunningly factored in a couple of hours by ourselves between leaving my in-laws in the morning and arriving at my parents in time for our Christmas meal. We hope to drive into a deserted London and walk around the capital's landmarks pretending we are zombies and that everyone else has been wiped out by a mysterious virus or aliens. But I shall insist on watching a recording of it as soon as we arrive at my parents' house, not least to see whether my predictions for what the Queen will say come true.
This year I am predicting that she will speak about her son turning 60. She probably won't refer to him by anything as affectionate as his name of course, but by his title, the Prince of Wales. And of course there will be the usual reminder to think about the armed forces – perhaps a mention of William and Harry and their military roles which will then neatly segue into a reminder that family is the most important thing of all.
I visited Poundbury this year, the Prince of Wales's ideal village in Dorset. This is true by the way, not my guess at what the Queen may say, though I am hoping for an element of duplication. My goodness it was awful, thoroughly stripped of personality or quirk. It's designed to have all amenities accessible on foot rather than by car, which is fine until you want to leave, at which point you realise the village itself is only accessible by car. Anyone who was swayed by all the birthday coverage of Charles as a "good egg" with progressive ideas should visit too and be reminded of how reactionary he can be.
I think the Queen knows this and this year I am also looking out for hidden messages to her son – footage of Poundbury to remind her subjects that Charles is not the visionary some people think he is, and perhaps a photo of her mother in the background to remind him of her potential longevity. This may cause a family row at Sandringham, but after the food, the presents and the Queen's Christmas broadcast, surely that is the other essential element of Christmas Day.