John Nettles is looking forward to a traditional family Christmas. "I'm a huge fan of Christmas Day. I'm of an age now where I enjoy family. I like to be with people - ex-wives, wives, lovers, children, animals, that kind of stuff. I'll be in the Channel Islands and we'll sit down to a big Christmas dinner. I'm certainly not cooking, though, I've been associated with enough turkeys in my time!"

Among the guests around the table with John will be his wife Cathy, daughter Emma, who is assistant registrar for Jersey, and his five-year-old grandson Nathan. "I used to do panto every year and work all through Christmas but now I prefer the company of my grandson to being in panto. The last one I did was two years ago, playing Captain Hook in Plymouth. Like everything else, it's not what it used to be. The greats like Les Dawson have stumbled off into the wings, which is very sad."

MIDSOMER MURDERS: Ghosts of Christmas Past is one of the highlights of ITV1's Christmas schedule. "We're very proud of the Christmas special. I would say this, but I think it's a very good episode. It's a country house murder and it's got the great Haydn Gwynne and Mel Martin. Also one of the best actors I've ever worked with - Bruce Alexander. He plays Frost's boss in A Touch of Frost, and came in to play one of the houseguests in this. He's wonderful and makes us look rubbish!"

Ironically, John won't be joining the millions of viewers who sit down to watch Barnaby's festive investigation. "I've already seen it," he laughs.

Christmas and New Year marks a well-deserved break for John and the rest of the MIDSOMER MURDERS team. The cast and crew have been filming the latest eight-part series since May and filming continues after the Christmas break until March. A new, ninth series, is due to begin filming just two months later, which will see the drama reach the milestone of its 50th episode.

"MIDSOMER MURDERS now takes up 10 months of the year so it's impossible to have any serious plans outside it apart from survival!" says John.