Louise Allen on the Christmas of a lifetime

Louise Allen on the Christmas of a lifetime

Author of His Housekeeper’s Christmas Wish, Louise Allen caught up with us to spread a bit of Christmas joy alongside the chance to win her book, plus a year’s supply of wine from Naked Wines in our 12 Days of Christmas competition. She tells us all about the best Christmas ever (and we’re still jealous!)

The best place I have ever spent Christmas? No contest, really – it was a tiny desert island in the middle of the Indian Ocean where I spent Christmas morning last year.

I was on a dream trip, travelling from Mauritius to Madagascar, Mozambique, Zanzibar, Aldabra and on to the Seychelles. There were just a hundred passengers on board our small ship and at one fabulous location after another we would drop anchor, the Zodiacs would be swung out and off we’d go to discover something new and wonderful – Tamil temples, volcanic craters, giant tortoises, fish markets on the beach, sultans’ palaces and flights of birds we couldn’t name.

I should have been working on His Christmas Countess – and I did take my laptop with me, honestly. And I wrote just two hundred words, despite my best intentions and a looming deadline, because trying to lose myself in the cold Scottish Borders or a snowy London was almost impossible with dolphins riding our bow wave and tropical birds overhead, pure white against a deep blue sky. And then there was the lure of the sea and learning to snorkel while trying to believe our naturalist’s assurances that the reef sharks around our feet weren’t the slightest bit interested in biting us. It is extraordinary how a snorkel mask fogs up with panic when a triangular fin slips by…

On Christmas Day we dropped anchor off Rolas Island, a minute dot in Mozambique’s Quirimbas Archipelago. While some passengers basked on deck with festive cocktails in hand three Zodiacs full of swimsuit-clad revellers hit the beach with sun shades, water bottles and a heap of snorkel gear.

The tall, rather gorgeous, Swedish captain took the morning off and came too and promptly stretched out on the white coral sand for some serious Scandinavian sun-worshipping. The rest of us put on goggles and flippers and dived into the milk-warm sea to say Merry Christmas to curious fish who seemed as interested in us as we were in them, or strolled along the beach and watched the fishermen out in their canoes from the larger islands in the far distance.

Yes, there was turkey and mince pies and a tree and crackers in the evening, so we did bring the traditions with us after all. The problem is, I am finding it hard to plan a proper English Christmas this year. No dolphins? No ex-Royal Marine security contingent? No carols from the crew? I’ll just have to hope for snow.

Enter here to win a copy of His Housekeeper’s Christmas Wish and His Christmas Countess by Louise Allen and a year’s supply of wine from Naked Wines.