Derbyshire grandad dreams of Christmas during lockdown by building Advent calendar

A loving North Derbyshire grandfather has been dreaming of Christmas during lockdown – creating a wooden advent calendar as a family heirloom.

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 1:14 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 1:36 pm

Inspired by Netflix film The Holiday Calendar – where “a photographer inherits an antique Advent calendar that may be predicting the future” – Mal Harper decided to make one for his grandchildren.

The grandfather-of-seven, of Heath Road, Ripley, said: “I thought how nice it’d be to make something similar, as a family heirloom. I’m happy with the result.”

Mr Harper is a retired caterer, spending 13 years in the Royal Navy, two years in Saudi Arabia and three years as head of catering for London Weekend Television, as well as running his own restaurant.

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However, the keen golfer said he likes to be busy in his retirement and, with golf courses shut, set about the calendar, using a sepele bar top.

Mr Harper, dad to IT director Matthew, aged 48, and 45-year-old fireman Jonathan, said: “I didn’t get it right all the time and had to redo some things, but that’s what you do.

“I watched the film on December 31, started to make it on January 13 and finished on March 4, but then started to do a clay Santa – you have to have a Santa – and finished that on April 7.”

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Mal Harper has used lockdown to build a wooden advent calendar as a family heirloom.

Making the best of lockdown

Mr Harper said his grandchildren – Matthew’s stepson Sebastian, aged in his 20s, son Finley, 18, and 16-year-old twins Harriet and Isobel, and Jonathan’s daughters Charlotte, 16, and 14-year-old Grace – were yet to see it in person, as they live in Kent and “it’s been many months since I’ve been able to see them”, but have been impressed by photos.

“The first thing they said was can I make another one,” he said, adding he will let his sons decide which grandchild inherits it.

“My wife, Marilyn, and I are looking forward to the day we can drive down there.

Gramps, played by Ron Cephas Jones, presents the antique Advent calendar to his granddaughter Abby Sutton, played by Kat Graham, in The Holiday Calendar.

“We miss them, but FaceTime regularly. You have to make the best of it.”

And he said the end of lockdown will have special poignancy for the couple – Mrs Harper turned 70 on March 23, 2020, when Britain first entered lockdown, while June 21, 2021 will be a double celebration, with Mr Harper tunring 75 on the day the Government plans to remove social contact limits.

A message from Phil Bramley, Derbyshire Times Editor…

Mal Harper and his wife Marilyn with the calendar.

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Mal Harper;s completed wooden Advent calendar.
The antique Advent calendar in The Holiday Calendar