HOW lovely to read in the Telegraph & Argus about kind-hearted Lynn Parker, who is putting on a Christmas Day dinner for people who would otherwise be alone.

The Bradford gran will spend much of her Christmas Day serving up lunch for 30 people, and is planning games and entertainment too. She has hired a room at St Theresa’s Catholic Church in Queensbury and is enlisting the help of family members and other volunteers to help out on the day.

Mrs Parker said: “I have a friend who is a carer and goes into people’s homes and looks after people who otherwise wouldn’t see anyone else. I come from a huge and very supportive family and I can just empathise with people who don’t have anybody at all. It’s not just for older people, I want to aim it at anyone who is going to be on their own on Christmas Day.”

Mrs Parker said she was inspired by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, highlighting and helping people in need.

It’s easy to forget, in this time of over-indulgence, that for many people the festive period is far from “the most wonderful time of the year”. We’re so used to images of grinning families gathered around enormous Christmas dinner tables that we see the big day as something to live up to, and often end up facing it all with a kind of forced jollity.

In the pre-Christmas whirlwind of shopping, partying, trimming up, present-wrapping, card-delivering, food-prepping and all the other stuff we become preoccupied with, we often lose sight of the season of goodwill.

I was in London at the weekend and it was all lovely and festive, with gorgeous window displays, delicious smells wafting from hip restaurants, and streets filled with well-dressed shoppers clutching expensive gift bags and tourists soaking up the festivities. It all clashed horribly with the homeless people I saw in filthy sleeping-bags, trying to shelter from the rain in doorways and under bridges. I walked past what I thought was a pile of rubbish, until I saw a movement and realised it was a woman crouched beneath some cardboard packaging.

It goes without saying that Christmas won’t be cosy for these people. But thanks to volunteers up and down the country, who spend their Christmas Day serving up food and festive treats for those less fortunate, there are some homeless people who don’t feel entirely abandoned at this time of year.

It takes a lot to give up your nice, privileged Christmas Day and spend it helping the homeless, (and I confess I’ve never done so, although I once did a lunchtime shift at a day shelter a few days beforehand). But there are various ways of spreading goodwill to people in our own communities. For whatever reason - bereavement, divorce, distance etc - many people end up alone on Christmas Day and while some are okay with it, for others the loneliness must cut like a knife.

My mum invited an old neighbour for Christmas dinner one year. Her only daughter was away for Christmas and she was entirely alone. I’m ashamed to admit I was a bit resentful of the idea of the old lady from across the road sitting at our dinner table, but even as a selfish teenager I knew my mum’s simple gesture had more to do with Christmas than slumping in front of Top of the Pops in a paper hat. Now my sister always invites a neighbour who’s on his own round for Christmas dinner.

The Jo Cox Commission is a great legacy left by the late Batley and Spen MP. As Lynn Parker is showing, it is inspiring people to reach out to those who need a touch of human kindness.

* ANOTHER year, another sorry tale of a Christmas 'winter wonderland' failing to meet expectations.

Every December we hear of families turning up to festive theme parks, geared up for something magical and Lapland-themed, only to be bitterly disappointed when the grotto turns out to be an industrial unit off a motorway junction, with Alsatians instead of reindeer and foul-mouthed elves smoking behind a tin foil sleigh.

Maybe it's best to leave Father Christmas and the North Pole to children's imaginations, rather than trying to create an experience that is never going to be as exciting as it sounds.

Each child dreams up their own version of where Santa comes from - and that is as magical as it gets.

* IT seems everyone has a "passion" for something these days, including Dame Judi Dench.

In BBC1's Judi Dench: My Passion For Trees, the Oscar-winner followed the seasons over a year in her six-acre forest. Assisted by an arboretum expert, she discovered how roots make up an intricate underground network of fungi connecting trees, and she used a device to listen to the sound trees make behind the bark, including the 'popping' of water travelling from root to leaf. A fascinating reminder of the wonderful mysteries of Mother Nature.