Friday, 17 December 2010

Rate your Santa

Dear Father Christmas

It isn't often that I write letters of complaint - and perhaps my thirty-something years should have made me world-weary enough to let this pass - but I can't help thinking that it's not too late. With a few pointers there is still time before Christmas to keep the magic alive for hundreds of other girls and boys.

You might think that I'm not your target audience, but as one who paid your £5.50 entrance fee on Tuesday you would be wrong. I don't expect you to be RADA trained, just convincing enough so that a three year old can't see right through you.

It has to be said that you've got a lot going for you – the willing suspension of disbelief has already been created. Most performers don't have the benefit of such a receptive audience, but unfortunately this comes with a certain level of expectation. I've spent a long time building you up, and you've got a great back story, lots of magic powers (always sells), a warm and jolly persona and a fine intellect to match. You can break and enter into any house without chimney, and best of all, you are the image of selfless and bountiful giving. What I'm trying to say is that you're trading on an elaborate cultural lie and your job is to enhance it. The last thing we want is to tell our children the truth, or who can say where it will end?

Allow me to enter into specifics:

1. Your 'grotto' was frankly grotty and your 'elf' was entirely without any elfin features (a hat and rosy cheeks really would make all the difference. The diet can wait until January).

2. £5.50 for a five minute interview and a tube of bubbles did not leave me feeling bountiful and full of festive cheer.

3. I didn’t see a list of your convictions pinned up outside, so you really didn't need to discuss your CRB checks with us at such length, nor launch a tirade on taxi drivers the world over who do not require such paperwork. The Impster was totally befuddled, but mercifully on this occasion was sufficiently distracted not to request her customary chapter and verse explanation.

4. Your parting shot should not be 'Goodbye! If you liked it, Merry Christmas, and if not you can see Santa at Debenhams.'

5. Don't ask a three year old the kind of question that would fox an adult. They are probably feeling rather shy and in awe of you (particularly in light of your passionate feelings regarding the necessary police checks) so starting a conversation with 'Now how many reindeer do I have?' won't put anyone at their ease.

6. I know that in this era of globalisation it’s probably harder to get your story straight, but you really should decide on where you live and stick to it: is it the North Pole, Greenland or Lapland? It doesn't help to give the impression of being hazy about geography when you have to cover the world in a single night.

I don't mean to be picky, but it is clear that you are not a man who enjoys his work. Perhaps you dislike children? Or consider parental expectations to be wildly excessive these days?

Anyway, you can take heart from the fact that the Impster still thinks you were 'better than the Father Christmas with the bell' who was outside the cathedral last week. I, too, was unconvinced by the cut of his jib. There is something altogether wrong about a skinny Father Christmas (though that is one accusation I would not lay at your door).

Well, I wish you the very best of luck for the remaining festive season, and let us sincerely hope you find more satisfying employment in the New Year. Should you wish to persevere with this career path, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am now actively engaged in launching The Father Christmas Consultancy in time for next Christmas.

All best wishes

This Father Christmas was found in his Ice Cave at the Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market. If you've had an encounter with a good, bad or indifferent Father Christmas this year then please leave a comment about it.

By the way, as long as you’re not too fussy about where your letter ends up, little people can write to Santa Claus, Reindeer Land, SAN TA1 and the Royal Mail will try their best to deliver it in a timely fashion. (Just for the record, the real Father Christmas lives in the mountains of Korvatunturi in the Finnish province of Lapland but then you have to rely on the chimney method of delivery which is somewhat fraught with hazards.)

Also, don’t forget you can track his movements around the world on Christmas Eve here (they need Disney or Nintendo on the case with their animation but it’s clever enough to impress a three year old).

Merry Christmas one and all!