GOING back 20 years or more, it’s been a Christmas Eve tradition for me to dress up and give the real Santa Claus a helping hand.

After all, he’s a very busy man with the whole world to cover in one night and he’s getting on a bit.

In a show of support, I go on a little tour of friends’ houses to spread some Christmas magic and, this year, I had an extra address on my well-established route. Our two-year-old grand-daughter, Chloe, has just moved into our village with her mum and dad so, naturally, she had to be Santa’s first stop.

Sitting on her Daddy’s knee, she looked a bit unsure when I arrived in my festive outfit, but she soon settled into the routine, confirming that she’d been a very good girl, promising to go to sleep, and even giving Santa a farewell hug. Ho-ho-ho ­– there’s a sack-load of fun to be had in the years ahead.

Next stop was a friend’s house in Croft-on-Tees, where a dozen or so local children always gather with their parents for an audience with Santa. First to step forward for a chat with the jolly old fellow was a little girl called Isla who’d asked for a “one-horse open sleigh and a drone”.

With all those shenanigans at Gatwick lately, Santa felt the need to have a quiet word with Isla about not flying her drone anywhere near an airport and, for the record, she promised she’d be careful.

Santa always receives advance information on each of the children and the notes on another little girl, called Jasmine, mentioned that she’s very creative and “loves doing pottery with Petra”.

Petra, one of the assembled mums, is an artist who makes very nice pottery. It’s her livelihood so, with hindsight, it might have been a bit naughty of Santa to say to Jasmine: “Oh yes, I’ve seen some of Petra’s work, but I always think it’s a little overpriced, don’t you?”

Jasmine nodded in agreement and I, therefore, look forward to a revision of Petra’s price list in 2019.

The last stop was Newton Aycliffe, to see two little boys whose names should probably be withheld for reasons that will become apparent.

“So, tell me,” I said to the younger brother, “have Mummy and Daddy been good this year?”

“Well, Mummy has,” came the rather enigmatic reply.

His dad, who was dressed as an elf along with his wife, immediately put his head in his hands. Santa smelled blood, and here’s how the rest of the conversation unfolded:

“Has your Daddy not been good then?”

“No, not really.”

“Why not? What’s he been up to?”

“I can’t say, Santa.”

“Come, come, Santa really needs to know about these things.”

“Well, he got cross in the car and I saw him give a man the finger.”

By this point, Daddy had gone redder than Santa’s well-worn cloak and Mrs Elf had a face like thunder.

“Thanks Santa, I’m in for a right rollicking now,” sighed Daddy as I made my way out.

And, dear readers, that’s what I love about Christmas – spreading good cheer wherever I go.


“WHAT was the weather like when you were flying over?” a little boy called Sam during one of my previous tours as Santa. I was going to tell him it felt a bit nippy around the Baltics but thought better of it.

AND one of my favourites from the Dad At Large archives came from Pauline Watson, of Carlton, near Stockton.

Pauline was teaching her little girl Virginia about oral hygiene: “It’s really important to brush your teeth,” Pauline explained.

“Oh, I do, Mum,” replied the little girl before adding: “And I brush Max’s teeth.”

Since Max was the family dachshund, Paul was understandably a little alarmed.

“You brush Max’s teeth?” she asked.

“Yes, every night,” replied Virginia.

Pauline asked the obvious next question: “And what do you brush Max’s teeth with?

That’s when the little girl pointed to her dad’s toothbrush.

Virginia’s a grown-up now but it was 30 years before they told her dad what had been going on!