Variety is the spice of life, so they say. So this weekend I have been trying something a little bit different. Yes, I have been back at Leeds Castle again, and yes I am working for the lovely Darlene Cavill and Helen Budd again, but no, there is not a pair of tights or a cod-piece in sight! I am, Father Christmas! Darlene and her bods have put together a Santa's Grotto in the Maiden's Keep just inside the gatehouse and I hold court there all day as the children come and visit me! Superb fun!
I drove to Kent on Friday morning to go to my sister's as usual for when I am at Leeds. We settled in for the weekend with a couple of bottles of wine and a Chinese Takeaway. Saturday morning I was straight down to Leeds Castle via the Broomfield entrance as usual and then it was off to Helen's office to get changed into my Santa gear! The costume looks great. After a little bit of a hold up I was off via "Santa's Lapland Express" (one of the Land Trains from the summer months!) and up to the Castle and a short walk to the Maiden's Keep. Inside, Darlene and co had produced a minor miracle. A wonderful winter wonderland, complete with twinkling lights, fir trees, ice skating mannequins and even the odd Penguin or two! In the middle of this magical labyrinth was my "Santa's Study" complete with sparkling fire place and my own Christmas Tree! With the beard and wig, some red rouge for my nose and cheeks, I was away. The children were wonderful and come in some distinct groups. You get the just plain stunned ones, who spend most of the time staring at you in utter bewhilderment, or hiding behind their parents. You get the criers, who on the very first sight of me in my finery burst into tears and are beyond consolation, even if I do give them a present! You get the chatty ones who sit down next to me as though we are old friends and reels off their complete Christmas present wish list without pausing for breath once. And finally, you get the cocky little so-and-so's who probably would like 20 Marlboro's for Christmas and know full well you aren't Santa and are going to make damn sure the poor parent who brought them in knows this. But they, thankfully, are few and far between! The first day I probably had about 150 children in and I would imagine on Sunday we might even have surpassed that figure. I have been inundated with wonderful letters with requests for presents from Santa, each lovingly written out by the child. It is lovely! One letter on the Saturday was from a little girl called Tegan, whose Christmas list ran to three pages of quite small writing and who finished her entry off with the classic line of: "and that's it!" Brilliant!
Saturday night my sister Cath, her husband Julian and myself went to the cinema where we met their friends Darren and Karen. We went to see "The Covenant". I strongly urge you, with all of my heart to avoid this film like the plague. Thankfully my slumber was left mercifully undisturbed as everyone in the film hits everyone else a lot and the whole production resembles the final super-8mm film my grandfather shot of a Margaretting Rovers first XI home fixture. After this cinematic travesty we went to a Frankie and Bennie's restaurant for a largely disappointing meal in deafening surroundings, with a mixture of over loud music and strident cackling hen parties vying for the most annoying noise of the evening. I was recognised by a very sweet young waitress...as Terry Wogan. So that's her off my Christmas list.
Sunday was another Father Christmas day at the Castle and I drove home this evening through horrendous rain and wind, but home for a kiss and cuddle from my wife and son, and a frankly unwatchable episode of Torchwood. And so to bed.
HO HO HO!