Its almost upon us and everywhere we go Christmas bells are ringing out letting us know there’s not long left, and this includes a visit to Santa to let him know what you are hoping he will manage to smuggle past the Dobermans, the State of the Art burglar alarm and the bird guard on top of the chimney.
My friend Kristal has left it too late this year to book a 24 hour express Santa Safari to Lapland. She blames her husband Steph for this as he has spent the money that she has prudently squirrelled away in a bank account named SS ( as in Santa Safari) as he thought (or so he said) it was an account especially for him (the aptly named Steph’s Surprise). Steph does up VW camper vans and sells them at extortionate prices to middle aged, middle class Festival goers and on seeing on Gum tree that someone not too far away was selling (for cash) a rare double door split windscreen 1962 van with original paint he raided the kitty and off he went. Now Steph thought that he could with very little effort-sell on this coveted prize for triple the price paid and put the SS money back before Kristal had even had a whiff of a mince pie, unfortunately the middle class, middle aged couple he was relying on had decided, on a whim, to ditch the Festival scene and had gone to an Ashram in India to ‘find themselves’. Steph has been left with ‘that pile of junk’ ( as Kristal politely put it to him) and the Santa Safari has been shelved for …well this Christmas at least.
Not knowing what to do and especially as she had been hinting to their 2 girls for some time now, that a visit to the ‘Real’Santa is on the cards ( and not one of his helpers like the Santa at the shopping mall is), Kristal needed a plan of action , in place, right now. Now most of us would just reach for the Gin and palm the kids off with the visit to the shopping mall and proclaim on seeing the bit actor from Eastenders as ‘ oh my look its the REAL Santa’ but no Kristal was not going to take the easy road but running out of time decided that something had to be done by this weekend or she may as well come clean and let the girls down gently.
Luck was on her side. Audrey their Au Pair was having an afternoon off having her nails done and so Kristal found herself doing the school run on Friday. Waiting in the playground she noticed an A3 sheet of paper on the Noticeboard proclaiming that the REAL Santa would be in the school hall on Saturday afternoon, along with a homemade cake stall, Tombola and a bouncy castle (weather permitting) in the playground.
As the girls came running out of school delighted to see their mum waiting for them and not Audrey ( she’s alright mum but she smokes in the car…….Kristal files that nugget of information in the back of her mind for future reference), Jemma whose 8, excitedly points at the A3 size poster on the Noticeboard. Mum, Mummm look, the REAL Santa is here on Saturday, can we come and see him please, pleeeaaassseee??? The younger daughter Evie ( whose only 4 and not really fussed whether Santa is real or not) hangs excitedly onto Jemma’s scarf and joins in the weedling.
Of course we can, Kristal is delighted, like Santa himself, her Christmas wish has just been granted at pretty much no cost and just round the corner (Santa Safari would have meant hours hanging around the airport and getting cold and listening to Steph going on about the cost , well he couldn’t moan now could he!) The remainder of Friday is spent with Kristal self congratulating herself for a) letting Audrey have the afternoon off and b) spotting the poster on the noticeboard. Jemma and Evie are allowed to stay up to watch Frozen for the third time that evening and Kristal and Steph open a bottle of Hendricks in the kitchen.
Saturday dawns crisp and frosty.Its like Christmas, Jemma runs around the kitchen shouting in excitement. – and we’re going to see the REAL Santa today! Evie has come down with a cold over night and sits sniffing in front of Frozen seemingly oblivious to Jemma’s excitement. Kristal has a hangover, no doubt brought on from the vat of gin consumed. Steph has not yet surfaced. Undeterred thoughKirstie makes it through the morning and with Audrey’s help gets the girls ready and by early afternoon o’clock they are off and out into the sunny winter day to go and visit the REAL Santa.
The school hall has been transformed into a Winter wonderland. There are cakes and craft stalls in the reception area and the teachers are providing mince pies and mulled wine for the parents. The school choir have taken up residence by the Headteachers study and belting out O Little town of Bethlehem at least twice an hour.Kristal nods at some of the other mums she doesn’t really know very well and heads off to speak to some of those she does know whilst Audrey shows her nail art off to the gaggle of other au pairs who are obviously adding a little extra brandy to the mulled wine on offer.
At 3 o’clock , the head announces that the REAL Santa has arrived and if the children wish to form an orderly queue they can all go and see him, parents and Au Pairs can also join in the fun and photos will be taken by Mr Spoon the History teacher during the visit -sitting on Santas knee is optional( no one wants a case of alleged unwanted attention brought to the school gates in the New Year).
Kristal, Jemma and Evie wait their turn, Audrey has disappeared ( around the same time as Mr Spoon showed up with is Leica). As their turn arrives, Evie hangs into Kristals coat and says in a little scared voice – i don’t want to go in there – Kirstie wants to agree with her smallest daughter, the school hall is dark apart from a plethora of twinkles lights in the corner of the stage. Come on lets go and see what the REAL Santa looks like. – We know what he’s going to look like mummy – Jemma says condescendingly – Santa has a big white beard and …….the words drop quietly to the floor along with Jemma’s chin as she stares in complete silence at Santa. Kristal turns from Santa to her daughters and back to Santa again, Evie starts to wail.
Santa , the REAL Santa, looks suspiciously like Din Quod who runs the 24 hour Polish booze shop on the High Street. He is a small man , probably only about 5’4” in his wellington boots , his Santa suit looks a tad too big and his rotund belly looks a bit lumpy like he has shoved a pillow or perhaps one of the head teachers cushions into his jacket. His beard looks like the real thing, but his black curly hair can still be seen from under his Santa hat. ‘Hello Jemma, Hello Evie, he smiles offering his Michael Jackson sparkley gloved hand out to them- and then he says tell me, the REAL Santa what you would like me to get you for Christmas. Well that’s what Kristal thinks he’s saying but he sounds like he is reading a call centre script asking about PPI and telling Jemma and Evie about the accident he knows they have had in a car last month and how to claim for their whiplash injury. Jemma – not a child usually lost for words, stares at Santa dumb struck, Evie continues to wail although this doesn’t put Santa off his stride as it now seems like he is working for BT and explaining how to reset the broadband. Mr Spoon in the meantime jumps around the stage like a demented puppet taking ‘arty’ shots of Jemma, Evie and Kristal ( who is now convinced she is actually halliucinating – vowing to never drink Gin again).
Finally the REAL Santa has come to the end of his script, passes two pink ribboned parcels to the girls, gives Kristal a cheeky wink and a pat on her backside as they make their way of the stage.mr Spoon makes one last attempt at gettting a snap of their happy smiley faces and then spots Tarquin and Henry looking aghast at Din Quod and heads back to Santas grotto.
Kristal and the girls make their way back home. Steph has made fishfingers and chips for tea but has forgotten the wine so Kristal pops out to the off licence to get some. Din Quod is at his usual place watching an Iranian game show on the black and white TV behind the counter. ‘Hello Kristal’ he smiles widely at her ‘ how’s your day been?’ Kristal looks at him quizzically. -‘oh you would know’ she says ‘ we went to see the REAL Santa’ . She pays for the wine , Din Quod smiles benignly at her- that’s nice he says looking for all the world as if he has no idea what she is talking about. Kristal nods knowingly at him and goes to leave. Just for a second when she shuts the door she hears Santa sleigh bells, Din Quod smiles and waves a sparkly gloved hand in farewell.