As you can see, from this horrific image, I have been terrorising the good families of Kent in my guise as Father Christmas at Leeds Castle. It has been quite a couple of weeks...
It began with me driving down to Southampton on the 15th December to meet up with old friends from my days working at that most wonderful and cuddly of employers, Skandia Life. I had lunch with the lovely Sue Marsh at Piccolo Mondo, a wonderful little restaurant near Skandia House, and then it was a short walk to the Old Fat Cat Pub to meet up with Julie Beard and Matt Keane. After leaving Southampton I drove up the M3 to the M25 and shot over to Kent to head back to my sisters for another week and a bit being Santa at Leeds. It was a great week, but hard work. Now you wouldn't believe that sitting on your bottom and asking children if they have been good was hard work, but by God it is. After the first couple of hours your mind starts to wander and your bottom starts to feel like barnacles have been welded on to it. The rest of the people, as with everything I have done at Leeds Castle, were wonderful and it was so nice to be back amongst this group, who are now like a new family for me!
During the week I finally got to see the film "Borat". It was wonderful. I haven't laughed so much at a film for a long long time. Highly recommended. The rest of the week continued apace with some incredibly cute children coming to visit Santa. One little lad was sitting happily picking his nose while telling me what he wanted. His father said "Stop that, Jack!" Young Jack promptly removed his finger from his nose, with a nice big juicy bogey on the tip. "Oh, Jack!" admonished his father, "get rid of it!" Jack duly did, by smearing it down the arm of his father's jacket. In the words of Mastercard - priceless.
My sister Cathy and Julian had a burglary at their house in the early part of the week with Julian losing a motorbike from their front yard. He increased their security at their home with a new massive set of steel gates at the top of their drive.
I continued at Leeds Castle until Christmas Eve and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I would like to say a big thank you again to the lovely Darlene Cavill for organising the whole thing, and to her assistant Helen for frequent lifts from the Maiden's Tower back to the Estate Office. And for her wearing a silly hat. And giving my wife and I a nice box of posh biscuits for Christmas. And to Jeanne and to Barry and Carole and Ann and Ann and everyone who helped make it such a memorable experience.
Christmas Day was at my parents in Essex with my wife and son, and my sister Cathy and husband Julian. Amanda and I had a bit of a fright on Boxing Day when my left leg came up with a very sore area at the bottom of my calf. We were frightened that it might be a deep vein thrombosis brought on by too much sitting around as Father Christmas, so it was off to accident and emergency at Basildon Hospital for me. It turned out to be just a skin infection and I am now taking ibuprofen to help sort it out.
We drove back to Somerset on the afternoon of the 26th and are now safely ensconced here. Next Henry is on the 11th January at Friends School in Saffron Walden. Happy New Year!