Labour MP Guy Barnett (seen here with George brown) dies suddenly at home

Christmas Eve – Recovering at home in front of the fire and television from the colds and illnesses of yesterday as Thatcher is angry about her Ulster reception, 300 Irish are stranded by a ferry fire and are flown home, Labour MP Guy Barnett dies suddenly at home and now there will be a bell-weather election to aid Thatcher’s election decision

Slept better last night and we awoke with the family in much better health. Lay in bed for a while with my tea thinking about ancient Little Paxton and then went down for breakfast in my dressing gown and pyjamas. As I went up to shower, I noticed that some drunks had been past the garden last night, pulling up a lot of wallflowers and one laurel bushling. I quickly turned to my shave and shower, thinking that I would have to spend a while out in the garden putting things to rights, but then Pete turned up and planted them all again for me and they will probably be all right. He had a few more hours to work to make up his time and I was grateful for that. Then Di went into town to go to the dental hygienist and catch up on the shopping that she missed the last day or two. I had to keep Della happy and it was quite a trial. She is over the worst from her illness, but is still temperamental and Daniel and I only just managed it. My cold is also worse and I got a call from my Dad to say Mum is worse and they are thinking of not coming over tomorrow after all, but at least I managed to persuade them to think about it in the morning, in the hope that Mum might perk up a bit.

A nice lunch of sausages etc and then, this afternoon, I lit the fire and got Di to bring in some Christmas goodies and we spent the rest of the day drinking, sitting and watching TV, with even Diana joining in once her chores were done. She had a shock earlier when a pipe came loose under the sink and the kitchen began to flood, but I soon fixed it. At least the informal nibbles meant that she did not have any more meals to make or washing up to do. I read half of a heavyweight handbook of guidance to archivists for manorial records and it was tough going indeed. This afternoon’s film was The Wizard of Oz, which the whole family watched, but only I had never seen before. Tonight it was Dallas. No snow today, nor chance of it tomorrow and so this year, at least, it will not be a white Christmas. News today is of the release of one of the two French hostages held by Muslims in Beirut, as a ‘goodwill’ gesture. Thatcher is angry over the publicity attached to her Ulster visit and orders an inquiry into security there. Over 300 Irish are stranded by a fire in a ferry as they were returning for Christmas and they had to be flown back after a landfall in the West Country by a special Air Lingus flight that was laid on. A Labour MP, Guy Barnett, their overseas development spokesman from 1982-3, had died suddenly at home and the election in his marginal seat next year will give Thatcher a good test of opinion. My hunch is still that she will stay on in office until early 1988 to achieve the longest service record for a post-war Prime Minister with safety, rather than chance it. We set up the Christmas presents for the morning – or rather Diana did, as I drank the Father Christmas sherry and we shared the mince pie between us.