IF not (quite) since Dickens was a lad, A Christmas Carol has been an integral part of this family’s festive approach road for very many years.

It should not therefore be supposed that the lady of the house viewed the latest adaptation reluctantly – anything but, really – rather that she is no great fan of Charles Dickens himself.

“Had about 11 children and then went off with his brother’s wife,” she says, reprovingly, and also wonders why the chap was so keen on long nocturnal ramblings around London.

We set her mind at rest on that one: he was simply checking on his DIY stores.

The latest incarnation is a one-man job by acclaimed actor Simon Callow, now on stage in London, but filmed at Woolwich Arsenal and beamed last week to The Station in Richmond. Its being 2018, the preamble includes a warning of “mild supernatural threat”, presumably for the benefit of those who believe A Christmas Carol to be something that happens annually at Kings College, Cambridge.

It might in any case be rather hard for old Scrooge to see a ghost, since there’s no one else in the cast to get into the festive spirit.

The Station’s a brilliant transformation of the former terminus of the passenger railway from Darlington through Catterick which closed 50 years ago next March – an anniversary which won’t pass unnoticed. The cinema screen rests on what remains of platform two.

Callow, who even played Dickens in an episode of Doctor Who, rather resembles a cross between a distant cousin of the late Frankie Howerd and the newsreader Sandy Gall at about half past ten. He’s very good, not least in prancing to the tune of the Christmas Eve party at Mr Fezziwig’s.

A Fezzijig, as it were.

The slightly curious thing is that, though the cast numbers just one, the credits at the end must run to 100 names or more. No matter, it’s Christmas – and as Tiny Tim almost observed, God bless them, every one.

IN Richmond back in April we’d greatly enjoyed an evening with Baroness Hale, the local lass who has become Britain’s most senior judge. Again centre stage, she appeared last week in a Christmas revue at Gray’s Inn wearing long ears and green make-up and playing Yoda, the Jedi-master, in a Star Wars spoof. It was sub-titled “In space no one can hear you sing.”

THE morning after the spirits did it all in one night, Durham Age UK’s monthly men’s breakfast included free mince pies, crackers and one of those A-Z Christmas quizzes.

Given the initial B, the gentleman who supposed Christ’s birthplace to have been Birtley may have been a little disoriented.

Another chap was flogging Christmas draw tickets for the Butterfly Conservation Society. Hodgy declined. “I don’t want the buggers conserving, they eat my cabbages,” he said, a little unfestively.

As ever, the highlight was the Christmas jumper competition, won by the familiarly Santa-shaped David Greener from Chester-le-Street sporting Frosty the Snowman and thus proving all that they say about the other man’s grass,

The column was again unplaced, protests deemed dog-in-the-manger instead.

WELL breakfasted, we head to toast the season to the glorious and multi-award winning Victoria, a Durham pub almost unchanged since first it slaked thirsts in 1899. It’s somewhat disconcerting to discover that what’s still called the Family Room has men in – as they say – yet more worrying to learn from Michael Webster, landlord for 43 years, that the old place is being modernised. “We’re changing the wallpaper,” he adds.

THE to-do over what to give teacher for Christmas – no more than £50 a present, an independent school in the south had suggested – has reached the letters pages of The Times.

A retired master recalled being given two sheep’s heads, prompting a response from Horrible Histories author Terry Deary, who lives in Burnhope, near Durham.

When his dad was a butcher in Sunderland in the 1950s, Terry recalls, the sheep’s head was a much valued bonus – satisfied customers invariably leaving with a jolly quip around the ear.

”I’ve left the eyes in to see you through the week.”

OUT of the rain, the column squelches into Sunderland Civic Centre and orders a £1.65 cup of coffee. The assistant examines the four 50p coins intently.

More fake news? No, she explains, she collects the Beatrix Potter 50p pieces – Mrs Tiggywinkle, Jeremy Fisher and Co – first issued in 2016 to mark the 150th anniversary of the children’s author’s birth.

It’s proving difficult. Jemima Puddleduck’s rare, she says – probably outside, going barefoot in the car park – while no one’s ever laid eyes on the Tailor of Gloucester.

The Royal Mint may be able to help. The website reveals that they’ll sell a Beatrix Potter 50p for a tenner. That’s the ten-bob bit, anyway.

SOMEWHAT unfestively, here’s an example of the parlous state in which the North-East branch railway network now finds itself.

After a night match at Hartlepool, the 21.32 to Middlesbrough – change at Thornaby for connections to Darlington – seems pretty perfect.

There’s a problem: the train from Hartlepool gets into Thornaby at 21.55 and the train to Darlington leaves at 21.51. The next train to Darlington – the last one – is an hour and 20 minutes after the service from Hartlepool arrives.

Back in May, we attended a meeting in Saltburn Conservative Club – picture of Elvis Presley over the fireplace – addressed by Pete Myers, Northern Rail’s stakeholder manager.

“It’s a horrendous time to be in this industry, but we’re on the cusp of something great,” he said.

Some have greatness thrust upon them, for others it takes a little longer. In the meantime the cusp overfloweth – and the lady of the house had to ride to the rescue, as usual.

STILL in Hartlepool, we hear of a change in the usual Christmas Day broadcast schedule. Immediately before the Queen’s Speech, Radio 4 will act out a new version of the Hartlepudlian legend of who hung – grammarians would say hanged – the monkey.

Stars of The Hartlepool Spy include Bafta award-winning actress Gina McKee, daughter of an Easington miner, and Jim Moir – otherwise Vic Reeves – who had his fetchings up in Darlington.

Set in 1804 during the Napoleonic Wars, the comedy drama centres around the relationship between corrupt town mayor Tucker Palmer (Toby Jones) and narcissistic vicar William Ferrier, played by Moir. Each, correctly, suspects the other of lining his pocket at the expense of the parish.

We’re saying no more. Until 2.15pm next Tuesday, and at the risk of spoiling Christmas dinner, the nation – like the poor monkey – must remain in suspense.

…and finally, Martin Vander Weyer – The Spectator’s celebrated City columnist – is back in Helmsley for the holidays and roped into playing Granny Harriet in Red Riding Hood, the local pantomime.

Since in that neck of the North Yorkshire woods, fracking is an even bigger issue (he says) than Brexit, Vander Weyer has been unable to resist some ad libbing.

“Fracking? I’m all for it. At my age, how else am I going to feel the earth move?”

The column returns on January 2. Merry Christmas.