TIME waits for no man – not even Father Christmas…

For the past dozen years or so, I’ve played the part of Santa for friends and their neighbours in the pretty village of Croft-on-Tees.

It’s become a tradition for me to arrive in full costume, sit on a throne in the middle of their house, and chat to each child individually while the grown-ups drink wine and generally be merry.

When it all began, the children were small and innocent, but not anymore. Before my eyes, they’ve sprouted beyond the point of being believers, and yet they still came to see Santa this year.

This may have been because a) they still enjoy the fun of it all b) they didn’t want to hurt the jolly old fella’s feelings or c) they’d had their arms twisted by the parents. My money’s on ‘C’.

Whatever the truth may be, I turned up on Christmas Eve to meet Isla, 10, Jasmine, 11, Jenna, 13, Alfie, 14, Charlie, 15, Francesca, 17, Theo, 19, and even Genevieve, who’s now 23.

To be fair to Genevieve, she was already too old when my visits started, but she’s always been a good sport. As for the rest, I’ve seen them grow in annual instalments since they were toddlers or at primary school.

Thankfully, there’s been a recent addition to the neighbourhood, which meant that five-year-old Katie – helped by her baby sister, Phoebe – were there to help freshen up proceedings.

The other significant change for 2021 was a new setting for Santa’s throne. With fresh air a requirement amid the continuing pandemic, a makeshift grotto had been created at the entrance to the garage, along with a gazebo for the guests.

I’m delighted – and surprised – to report that all the big kids played along more or less impeccably. They chatted to Santa about what they’d been up to, what they wanted for Christmas, and agreed to have magic snow sprinkled on their heads.

The only slight exception was Charlie. “Do you feel the magic, Charlie?” I asked.

“Not really, you might need to give me a bit of help, Santa,” he replied with a cheeky grin.

And, so, I did – by chucking an extra-big helping of fake snow in his face.

“Do you feel it now, Charlie?”

“Yes, Santa,” he spluttered, spitting out what magic he hadn’t swallowed.

As in previous years, Santa had been provided with an advance wish-list for the children he was seeing. Books, Lego, mobile phones, computer games, earmuffs, and a Rubik’s cube all featured.

However, by far the most unusual request came from Theo. As well as cycling gear, he wanted everyone to sing “Donald where’s your troosers.”

And so it came to pass that the finale was Santa singing the verses, and the gathered grown-ups joining in the chorus.

It was all going well until the end when Santa got over-excited, and finished the song by flinging his arms in the air, then drawing gasps from the crowd by accidentally knocking off not only his hat but his white wig too.

I suspect that might be the last we see of Father Christmas in Croft-on-Tees – but it was fun while it lasted.


OUR little granddaughter, Chloe, aged five, called in to see us on Christmas Eve, hardly able to contain her excitement.

She was keen for us to know that she’d got her guinea pigs, Roly and Miles, a Christmas present: a bell that rings when they eat treats.

"Ooh, are they excited?" I asked.

"No, not really - it's their first Christmas," she replied.

SADLY, we weren’t allowed to attend Chloe’s first nativity play due to COVID restrictions.

Instead, the performance was filmed by her Daddy, and we had a family screening.

I think my favourite bit was when the narrator announced: “And so it came to pass that Jesus was bored.”

LATER, on the way back from Croft-on-Tees, Santa naturally called at Chloe’s house.

She was in the half-light in her bedroom, and happily chatted away to Santa about how good she’d been, and what she hoped he’d find room for on his sleigh.

“Do you have a special wish before I go?” Santa asked.

She thought for a while, then replied: “Just that we all have a very lovely Christmas together.”

And I’m delighted to say her wish came true.