Tuesday, 16 December 2008


The first we knew of it was when two invitations addressed to my youngest girls appeared in the cold ash in the fireplace. They were stuck down with a wax seal and sent from Father Christmas. Apparently he’s very busy and was therefore requesting their help in getting the rocking horses finished as his elves were flat out.
I didn’t know what to make of it until dad came in for his morning coffee and gave me a wink.
“It’s all very well winking”, I said, “But ...” Before he had the chance to reply, two hysterical girls hurled themselves at him with such gusto that he was knocked onto the sofa.
“Steady on”, he protested gently.
“But granddad, look!” squealed the six year old, brandishing her invitation under his nose, “Look, we’ve got to go to Lapland to help Santa. We’re going soon but Mummy hasn’t got a clue how to get there.”
Dad read the information on the invite, “Well, well, sounds like a serious mission. Mummy may not know how to get there, but I’m sure if I put Lapland into my SatNav in my car, then it’ll find the way”.
She looked most relieved, “Will you come with us then?”
“I thought you’d never ask”.
The following day however, a Lapland imposter sent shock waves around Britain. Dad was on the blower a.s.a.p.
“Don’t panic dad. Crapland wouldn’t send wax-sealed personalised invitations would it? Let me Google it and see”. I spent the next forty minutes searching for a website that might divulge the whereabouts of that jolly old soul and lo and behold, I found him, hidden in a deep and mysterious forest in, er, Kent.
The day arrived, crisp and even; Kent is a bloody long way away and so, along with the girls, we piled in duvets and pillows too. As we approached Newton Abbott however, the youngest informed me that she had forgotten to go to the loo that morning. It made me nostalgic for the days before four children, when I too had a bladder of steel; nowadays I can’t sneeze without repercussions so the idea of ‘forgetting’ to wee is anathema to me.
We made it to Exeter services, where the Red-Head piped up, “At last we’re here. Now then, where is Santa?”
After another four hours we approached London and the six year old suddenly realised where we were.
“We’re in London! Where are the Tudor houses”. Poor little thing, her disappointment was palpable as her eyes scanned the grass verges of the M25 desperately hoping to see higgledy-piggledy rows of black and white, wattle and daub establishments. I prayed that our destination would not be a similar disillusionment.
Ten minutes before our ‘slot’, we pulled into the car park. I could see dad’s face fall and his pallor pale so, linking his arm I whispered, “C’mon dad. It’s only a car park and car-parks are renowned for being pretty unprepossessing places”.
A parking attendant came up to us, his smile as broad as his chest.
“Hello there! You here for the 3 o’clock?”
We nodded and he pointed us in the direction of an enormous canvas tipi where we found to our immense delight, several elves waiting for us.
What follows can only be described as quite possibly the most magical day I’ve ever spent with my children. From the tipi we and about fifteen other people were led out of another exit, down a gravelly path until we rounded a corner to find an enormous, old, wooden gate. Several bells had to be rung to wake the notoriously sleepy gate-keeping elf, but to no avail, it took yelling, pantomime style to rouse him and finally his little face peeked out of one of the teeny windows. Once the gate opened we entered a truly enchanting pathway through a snow covered forest with twinkling lights, sprites and all manner of things, Narnian.
After the girls had worked up an appetite attending to the aforementioned rocking horses whilst being pestered by one or two naughty elves (easily identifiable as they’d had their bells on their hats removed) they went into Mrs Christmas’s kitchen where, waiting for them on a long wooden counter was a gingham apron, chef’s hat, a gingerbread man, a paintbrush, runny icing and Smarties. Having decorated their biscuits, the lights were dimmed and they all (about 8 children) gathered around for a story.
Eyes as big as saucers from spending quality time with the main man’s other half, we emerged into a dark sky, made breathtakingly lovely by the ice-rink, snow covered fir trees and national-costumed Sami wandering around with their husky dogs. It was dinner time then which was wolfed down so that the girls could run through the thickly covered snowy forest to meet the reindeer. Soon we had to return along another magic path for our rendezvous with Father Christmas. The girls were called by name and I thought we’d just walk into an ante-room, but another elf came and took their hands and skipped down yet another snowy path with dad and me bringing up the rear until we found a dear little wooden cottage, where finally, FC called them in.
It was so unexpectedly moving and magical that I burst into tears. It must have been like meeting God; they had so many questions to ask him, all of which he answered thoughtfully and oh, so kindly. He knew their hobbies and their best friends but as we left, he handed me a hard backed copy of The Night Before Christmas and with a wink, suggested I ask my eldest daughter to read it to the girls on Christmas Eve. How did he know her name? It will always remain a mystery.On the long car journey home the six year old informed us that “It has been quite wonderful to see him in his natural habitat”. I’ll second that.


Eloise said...

What an enchanting story, Alice. You captured the magic of the moment so beautifully. It would make a wonderful book.

Alice Band said...

Eloise! How lovely to hear from you. I seem to have been deserted of late! Where the hell is everyone?

Sally's hubby said...

How absolutely lovely! Lucky girls, and lucky you.

Happy Christmas to all of you.

D. :-)

Sally said...

Oh wow!! My eyes welled up. how amazing......

Sally said...

Happy Christmas!!


Anonymous said...

You haven't been deserted - we've just been overwhelmed by the STUFF of Christmas and somewhat devoid of the magic you have just written about so beautifully. It is a lovely read on a pre-dawn Christmas Eve morning.

Merry Christmas to you & yours!