Hugh Paxton’s Blog no longer believes in Santa Claus but many years ago I did. And I’m glad I did. My parents, bless them, did their best to keep this delightful illusion alive for as long as was possible and made a pretty good job of it. I can’t remember when I wised up and put childish things away and became slightly more realistic about Christmas, but my sister was younger and still believed and I played along and I’m glad that I did. Eventually, Jane, too, began to entertain doubts and the Santa Claus era died a gracious death.
It was a natural process and went smoothly. We, my brother, sister and I, loved the whole Santa Claus idea. A bit of a ritual, really. We’d borrow long Army issue socks from Daddy (they were the biggest in the house, all the better to squeeze more goodies in! Especially the satsuma at the bottom – although Doctor Who buffs will note that a satsuma saved planet earth after the good Doctor bowled it with precision on, and the alien warlord failed to catch).
We would raid Daddy’s drinks cabinet for Father Christmas sherry, Mummy would provide mince pies, and again these were destined for the jolly old gentleman.
We didn’t scatter lichen for the reindeer.
In my day reindeer didn’t have red noses, didn’t need stupid songs about them – they just hauled the sleigh got an encouraging whip and were reindeer. I knew, thanks to books, that reindeer liked lichens, but I didn’t want to strip our old apple trees of their lichens and leave them next to the mince pies and the sherry.
If they wanted to nibble away while Father Christmas came down the chimney then fair enough.
Santa Claus (Father Christmas) had a very good innings at the Paxton house – wherever it was located. England (the best for Christmas – our place has chimneys to choose from), Iran (the worst for Christmas), here, there, wherever we went Santa Claus kept coming to town.
Or a tent.
Or a Tuareg village in the Sahara desert.
This Christmas, Santa was faced with a serious set of problems.
My daughter, Annabel, aged nine, has some fairly iconoclastic friends – the sort of know it all brats who question the existence of the tooth fairy or global warming – and I sensed that Santa was coming under peer scrutiny.
The bite the hand that feeds you kind of scrutiny. Think it through, kids! If you bust Father Christmas he stops coming! Who is the winner in this scenario? You get to feel clever, smash a few younger kid’s pleasures. Santa Claus stops bringing you presents. Naughty or nice?
As we prepared to fly to India to go on a tiger safari I noted with dread that on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day we would be in a tent. Nothing wrong with being in a tent (I’ve had many wonderful nights in tents) but they inhibit privacy. If I were to take Santa’s bounty into this tent it would be discovered immediately. Annabel has an exploratory streak and nothing is more swiftly explored than a tent.
Santa would be a bust.
I thought then of hiding the presents in my hand luggage/carry on but these bloody security checks, now so tiresome and repeated at airports, hotels, restaurants etc. would, I knew, sooner rather than later, involve an Indian commando or special force opening my bag and running a metal detector over Santa’s Furby and the game would be up.
Commando: “What’s this, sir?”
Me: “It’s a (nervous giggle)…hee hee (lowering my voice to a whisper) ..a Furby. Please keep your voice down. Please???”
The Commando: “Why? What do you have to hide?”
Me: “Hide? Me? Hide anything?”
Him: “You are trying to hide something, sir.”
Me: “OK. Yes. I am trying to hide something. It’s a surprise present from Santa Claus. It’s a Furby.”
Him (the un-relenting fiend): “Please come this way. Place your Furby on this scanner.”
“Daddy, Mummy’s waiting! What’s the matter?”
Commando: Is this your Furby?
Annabel: Oh, wow! A Furby! I asked Santa for a Furby! Just like that one!
We decided not to take any of Santa’s presents to our tent in India and instead relied on various lame excuses and sops such as – “Maybe your Christmas present will be seeing a wild tiger or a leopard or a gaur or crocodiles?”
They would have worked on me. Blimey! I’d have heaved the Christmas tree out of the window, chucked Dad’s socks and run like mad for the plane to get a glimpse of crocs, Kipling’s Jungle Book, sambhur, leopards.
The forests provided. After a bit of bumping about and we saw a tiger. What a thing to see! A wonderful encounter..
BLOG ED NOTE: YOU CAN DO THE TIGER LATER. WRAP UP CHRISTMAS, PLEASE!
Hugh Paxton’s Blog: Yes, well, the tiger enchanted Annabel, and we saw so much more, enough to make anybody forget about reindeer and..andd.. but then came Christmas Eve and a rather pathetic looking little girl started telling us us how Santa had a special magic dust that could create a chimney he could climb down. Even in tents.
I had in a vague, roundabout suggestion-sort of way, said that maybe Santa couldn’t get into tents. And that he’d prefer to leave presents in Bangkok.
Annabel confounded this lame explanation by remembering (and reminding us parents) of the time Santa had not only delivered the goods in a remote wilderness area in north east Namibia but had also left a steaming pile of elephant dung beside them. (My idea) Africa being Africa, we had explained at the time, he had traded reindeer for flying elephants.
It was a rather uncomfortable Christmas Eve but we sang a couple of songs and after ten minutes Annabel keeled over. Being on safari for ten hours tends to take it out of you.
Christmas Day dawned and Annabel had a quick check of the tea biscuits she’d left out for Santa by her wish list which ended with the message
“Don’t worry if you can’t bring them because that’s alright. Thankyou love Annabel”
She tried a tea biscuit.
“These are soggy!” she said.
“No wonder he didn’t come” said I grasping at this straw.
“Did you phone your friends in Bangkok to put presents under my tree?” asked Annabel.
“Don’t be silly,” I said. “I would never do that!”
Honesty and sincerity were mine for a change. And Annabel knew it.
My wife did that. Midi is a Sphinx. No help for Annabel there.
We’re just back in Bangkok. Khun Den had put the presents just right.
Santa’s intact for the time being. But I doubt he’ll last another year. Too many children gnawing away at silly traditions and with not a lot to replace them.
But if Annabel’s had a nine year run of Santa Claus I reckon she’s done fine. When she has children of her own she’ll be up to it!