Sunday, 9 December 2012

Another Child is bored in the grotto

"Laurence Olivier was once asked to play Santa for a friend's Christmas party, but his portrayal was so frightening that children at the party ran screaming in terror into the street. My performance as Santa at a north-west shopping centre was not so Grand Guignol, but simply sitting there was enough to scare some of the children who passed through the grotto.
"I now have a good in-depth knowledge of the consumer habits of young children and as I have a two-year-old daughter I was able to trade knowledgeable banter about Peppa Pig and Bob the Builder. The intricacies of Game Boy and other computer games escaped me but I was able to turn the conversations with older children around by asking whether they enjoyed school or what was their favourite football team.
"Sometimes you could see the neuroses of the parent transmitted to the child. A rather grave little boy looked at the bench I was sitting on and declined to sit with me for his photo on the grounds that it was not safe. A future career in the Health and Safety Inspectorate beckons, I thought.
"The last time I played Santa was when I was an education welfare officer during the 80s. A school caretaker had played the part for years before being rumbled by one of the older boys. Looking into the old gentleman's eyes he blurted out: 'It's bloody Bill Bates.' I became briefly Mr Bates's replacement.
"This latest shift as Santa reminded me of my old education welfare job as it was obvious that many of the kids were playing truant with acquiescent parents and I felt like revealing myself as an undercover truancy officer at the right moment to the surprised miscreants.
"The most touching moment was when a woman with severe disabilities came into my grotto. She held my hand and told me that Abba was her favourite group, and her favourite track was Dancing Queen. I told her mine was Voulez-Vous.
"At the end of the day I caught the train and tucked into the novel I'd bought to read on the journey. Resurrection by Tolstoy: another elderly geezer with a long white beard."