The run up to Christmas for many working parents can be slightly stressful and we all have our different ways of preparing for the big day. Christmas itself can be very different for different families so Parental Choice spoke to one very well-known working mum, Nicola Horlick, on what Christmas means to her and her family.
“I have always loved Christmas. One of my earliest memories as a child is of decorating the Christmas tree with my mother. On one occasion, I remember putting the finishing touches to the Christmas tree and then settling down to read a book curled up on the sofa in the next door room. Suddenly, there was a huge crash. One of the dogs had chased the cat, who had climbed the tree and toppled it over. Half the glass balls were smashed and my mother had a serious sense of humour failure.
My mother always insisted on having real glass balls and she hated the tawdriness of tinsel and the lights had to be clear, not coloured. I have stuck to these basic rules of tree decorating and am always on the look out for new additions to our stock of glass baubles each year.
Christmas is really a time for small children and when my first child arrived, the excitement increased, even though she was only a couple of months old when she experienced her first Christmas. She was an exceptionally good baby, but I soon discovered that when she did become fractious, placing her bouncy chair in front of the Christmas tree instantly calmed her down. The twinkling of the lights seemed endlessly fascinating and, with Christmas songs playing in the background, it was the ideal environment to send her off to sleep. Over the years, five more children appeared and Christmas became a bigger and bigger event for our family.
We managed to maintain the pretence that Father Christmas delivered the presents for many years. On Christmas Eve, the children would carefully pour a glass of sherry and place it in the huge 16th century fireplace in our Hampshire farmhouse. They would find some carrots in the fridge to leave for the reindeer and then a mince pie would be placed on a plate for Father Christmas to enjoy with his sherry. They would then run upstairs and place their stockings at the ends of their beds.
The other great thing about Christmas is the opportunity it gives to prepare food for your family. As a working mother, this presents a major challenge as it is difficult to find the time to make the Christmas pudding and cake and homemade mince pies, but I religiously do it every year. I still have two-thirds of last year’s Christmas cake in a tin in the cupboard as the children don’t like it and my husband, who can normally be relied on to consume it, has been watching his weight this year. On Christmas Day itself, I climb out of bed at 7am and start peeling potatoes and preparing sprouts. As only a few members of the family will eat Christmas pudding, I make a large pavlova and this year I will be making brandy snaps and filling them with cream. We eat at about 2.30pm and there is a frantic rush to load each plate up with turkey, stuffing, sausages, sprouts, carrots, cabbage and rich gravy. A large bowl of cranberry and orange sits on the table with a cinnamon stick poking out of the middle and spoonfuls get ladled onto the already overcrowded plates. The feast begins and there are sighs of contentment as hunger is sated.
Days of cooking and washing up follow and I generally go back to work after New Year for a rest. The Christmas tree stays up until 6th January and then I spend an evening carefully taking all the glass balls off and putting them back neatly in their boxes. I unravel the lights and then the tree gets put on the pavement outside the house to be taken away to the tip. Christmas is truly over for another year.
Many thanks to Nicola for contributing this article to us.
Nicola read Jurisprudence at Balliol College, Oxford. In 1983, she joined S.G. Warburg as a graduate trainee. She worked with Leonard Licht, one of the leading fund managers in the City during the 1980s, and together, they built up the Specialist Equity team of what became Mercury Asset Management. Nicola was appointed a director of Mercury in 1989.
In 1991, Nicola moved to Morgan Grenfell Asset Management and she was appointed Managing Director of the UK business in 1992. Over the following five years, funds under management increased from £4 billion to £22 billion and Morgan Grenfell became recognised as one of the leading managers of UK pension funds.
In 1997, Nicola left Morgan Grenfell and set up SG Asset Management for the French bank, Société Générale. The initial target for funds under management was £5 billion in five years. This target was reached after two years and within three years, funds under management had reached £7 billion.
In 2004, Nicola set up Bramdean Asset Management LLP with Sir Derek Higgs and the business was launched at the beginning of 2005. Bramdean ran a number of alternative investment mandates before selling the bulk of its business to Aberdeen Asset Management at the end of 2009. Bramdean continued to create and structure innovative new investment vehicles, primarily for the film industry through Derby Street Films.
Nicola is now the CEO of Money&Co, a new crowdfunding business aiming to connect investors looking for a better rate of interest on their cash, with businesses seeking finance to grow. The online platform will enable investors to finance a loan, which will be repaid with interest. Investors will be able to select the kind of business they want to invest in, based on factors such as geographic location or industry. By providing a new entry point to access finance, investors will be able to play a direct role in supporting UK business at this crucial time for the economy.
Nicola is also the Chairman of Rockpool Investments LLP, which raises private equity for companies, primarily using the Enterprise Investment Scheme.