This post on the blog is really not be suitable for young children. It’s not that it contains lurid tales of sex or violence, but could destroy a little of the magic of Christmas if it fell into the wrong hands. After all, there are now quite a lot of children who KNOW that they have met the REAL Santa Claus – me!
In a recent post here, I wrote about my first experience (this year) of being Santa when I went along to the party for older people at Snapewood Community Centre in Nottingham.
However taking the role of Father Christmas was hardly a spur of the moment thing – I had been growing my beard since the autumn in readiness for this opportunity. I had also promised that I would volunteer on a couple of Peak Rail’s Santa Special trains during December and I fully expected to be asked to dress up for the Christmas party at work.
Also, Sue had made me a fabulous Santa costume, based on the same pattern as she had used for our legendary Halloween cloaks.
My experience at Snapewood had whetted my appetite for getting more into the role, but I did feel a little apprehensive about Santa’s real target audience of young children. I really shouldn’t have worried, because my first session at Peak Rail was great fun. I was only able to spend half a day on the train for my first shift, but I was able to do two trips on the train, so spent a very exciting couple of hours chatting to children, helping to construct and maintain the special mystique that Christmas holds for them and having a wonderful time myself.
Peak Rail’s Santa Specials are superbly well organised by the indefatigable office and shop team at the railway, led, as ever, by Jackie Statham. The bookings are well planned, the presents carefully selected for the children’s age and gender and the mulled wine and mince pies for the adults are all ordered and ready to go. On each of the trains, two “train managers” look after the volunteer teams who serve the wine, mince pies, sweets for the children and who organise the sack handlers who look after the huge pies of presents. Runners collect the children’s colour-coded tickets from each table or compartment and fetch the appropriate presents from the sack handlers. The train manager then passes the presents to Santa as he moves along the train spending a few minutes talking with each child or group of children.
The really clever part of the organisation is in having not one, but two Santas on the train, one in each half. This is why there are two train managers and two sets of sack handlers. It may well require a lot of volunteers to run, but it makes it possible for Santa to spend a reasonable amount of time with each child because he has to have all his visits complete before the train completes its round trip.
Managing two Santas is one of the most important part of the whole exercise, however. Only one can ever be seen at a time by the passengers, and one goes out onto the platform to greet arriving and departing families while the train is stopped at Rowsley South station for the change over.
After that first half-day, I was looking forward to yesterday’s full day on duty and once again, I had a great time, although it proved quite difficult to find time to grab a drink because I was either on duty or in hiding for almost all the time I was there. Fortunately, Sue had made me sandwiches, so I was able to grab some lunch while I was in hiding for half an hour or so.
It is a real shame that I don’t have any photos of myself in action on the railway, although lots of photos were taken by parents and grandparents . If you were at Peak Rail on 23rd December 2008 and have a picture of Santa in action, please would you email me a copy to put up here?
As well as the comments about the suit itself, one of the things that I brought to the role was my real beard. On more than one occasion, I am sure that a child or two went away convinced that they had met the real Santa Claus, rather than just some bloke dressed up.
Steam railways are notoriously dirty places, and the white fur of my Santa suit suffered a little. However, Sue came to the rescue by proving that the whole suit is washable. Thanks to her hard work, each of my public appearances was in a pristine costume.
I made two other appearances in character this year. One of these was at the Christmas Party at Nottingham CVS. This appearance was my second annual one to distribute the Secret Santa presents that most of us had been part of. However, this year, I was also pictured by the Nottingham Evening Post because, as part of the pary, the staff of NCVS has given and wrapped presents for some of the homeless people who will be visiting Emmauel House
My final fling for Christmas 2008 was just this afternoon when I dressed up while my three sons, my mother and Sue’s mum shared and opened our presents. Over a number of years, it has become a tradition that we get together on Christmas Eve, Sue cooks a sumptuous and very traditional meal and we have our main family celebration. This is because the boys want to spend Christmas day with their mother and with girlfriends’ and partners’ and families, so Christmas Eve has become established as “our” day. Of course, the suit came out again and pictures were taken. I’ll just put one of them on here.
Have a great Christmas and a wonderful 2009.