I spent most of Christmas Day on Skype to my family

A fixed-odds gambling machine Picture: Daniel Hambury/PA Wire

NEWS COMMENT: A move in the right direction but still not a win for all

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Did you all have a nice Crimbo? It was the first time I’ve ever spent Christmas away and it was a good job that it was in Malaysia. It really wasn’t very Christmassy at all, so that made it easier to be away from our family and friends in Portsmouth.

If you’re a regular reader of my column you’ll know that, despite my love of an exciting lifestyle and trekking the globe, I am in fact a stickler for tradition.

This means I don’t like things changing too much, which means being away from my family over Christmas was something I would usually avoid like the plague.

However, this trip to film for a new TV programme on vegetarian food was a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity, so I had no choice but to suck it up and get on with it.

We’re in Penang now, which is an island in Malaysia, about an hour’s flight from Kuala Lumpur. I’ve fallen in love with the island, but not because it’s stunningly beautiful and pristine – quite the opposite.

You see, it has a very ‘shabby chic’ appeal. The buildings in Georgetown are mostly old, run-down and in desperate need of care – something their recent UNESCO World Heritage status will hopefully take care of.

The beaches are sandy, but often rocky and have lots of deadly jellyfish on them. But everything is so ‘raw’ and I love that. As much as I love Thailand (and I really do), you can see the changes made by tourism and Westernisation and it’s quite nice and refreshing to go somewhere that still retains its traditional heritage.

All around Georgetown, huge multi-national high-rise blocks and modern hotel complexes are being built. But not in Georgetown. Buildings there are being preserved and I love that.

We wrapped up filming at midday on Christmas Eve and spent Christmas Day by the beach. We had a massage and went parasailing, which was awesome, then had dinner at a Hard Rock café.

Not quite what you’d call a normal Christmas Day, but we enjoyed it all the same – even if I did spend most of the day Skyping family and friends back home!

Experiences enlighten you, but it’s family and friends who define you as a person. I certainly feel very fortunate to have mine.