WHEN YOU WERE A CHILD, visiting Santa’s grotto was one of the signs that Christmas was well and truly here.
You’d written your letter, but here was a chance to talk to the man himself, face to face.
It was ultimately a trying experience though, with so much to get through before you could chat to the man in red.
Inevitably the queue stretched back halfway through the shopping centre, the grotto itself only a tiny dot on the horizon. But you fought through the boredom to be on best behaviour, because you never know what the elves might see.
Entering the grotto
Finally you were close enough to stand among the fake snow and toy reindeers, even catching the occasional glimpse of Santa as other children took their turns.
It’s nearly time!
Oh. This guy doesn’t really look anything like Santa, does he? The beard’s all wrong. And Santa’s hair is grey, not brown. What’s going on?
Getting on with it anyway
You came here with a job to do and you’re going to do it. Here’s the deal, Santa. You give me what I want, and I won’t tell anyone your beard is made of cotton wool.
Alternatively, you were so overcome by the sight of your biggest hero that you cried, refused to get on his lap, and spoke to him only when a parent prompted every word.
“Now you have to be very good for your parents, and be nice to your little sister, or else I’ll have to put you on the Naughty list!” Yeah yeah, sure Santa. If that IS your real name.
Your mother would fuss around with your decade-old film camera, or an elf would take a Polaroid. Either way, an awkward photo of you posing uncomfortably on this strange Santa’s knee would appear when the Christmas photos were developed in January.
Now here comes the best part. You hop down from Santa’s knee and a helpful elf thrusts a goodie bag into your sticky paws. Jackpot.