CHRISTMAS comes in magic waves.

The first wave comes when you’re a child yourself. The second arrives when you have children of your own. And the third joyfully washes over you when you become a grandparent.

With our grand-daughter, Chloe, now three, this was her first real Christmas: old enough to be excited by the prospect of presents delivered by a jolly old man with a white beard and a red suit. And that meant an extra Christmas sparkle for all of us.

The Magic Truck came first, courtesy of my wife, who always worked so hard to make Christmas magical for our four children when they were still believers. The big red wagon has 24 numbered drawers, and, from the dawn of December, Chloe got to open them, day by day, and find a chocolate inside.

Already, I’m willing to bet that memories of The Magic Truck will stay with her for as long as she lives.

My own big moment came on Christmas Eve when I donned my costume for my annual Santa tour. All the way back to our own children being young enough to be fooled, I’ve been Santa – and that’s getting on for nearly three decades.

Over the years, it snowballed, with friends asking me to pay their children a visit. The Santa tour peaked at seven houses in 2015 but has gradually been reduced to just two – one at Croft-on-Tees, the other ten miles away at Aycliffe.

Sadly, the message from Aycliffe this year was that Daniel and Adam would no longer be requiring my services. They have simply outgrown me after six years of visits and I’m going to miss their happy faces.

Mercifully, they still wanted me at Croft-on-Tees, where several local families have traditionally gathered at a friend’s house for Santa’s visit. But I know in my heart that time is running out and this is the final year. With perhaps one exception, the children are merely going through the ritual to humour their parents. By next Christmas, it will be game over at Croft.

But, as one door closes another has opened, because I now have Chloe to visit. And, with luck, the magic will last for another seven or eight years.

On my way back from Croft, I called at Chloe’s house, taking extra care to hide my identity behind my bushy beard.

I was let in by her Mummy and shown upstairs to her bedroom, where was waiting with her Daddy in the half-light.

“Ho-ho-ho, Merry Christmas,” I said, softly, as Chloe pulled the covers up to her chin, and wriggled with excitement, as I sprinkled some “magic snow” on her head.

She said she was hoping I’d bring her a Mister Potato Head, and that she’d left me a drink downstairs, as well as a carrot for Rudolf. She also confirmed that Mummy and Daddy had both been good because they give her cuddles and read her stories.

She promised to be a good girl, and I assured her I’d come back down the chimney once she was asleep.

Then, as I turned to leave the room, she lifted her head and whispered: “I love you Santa.”

Can you believe it? I spend three long years as a doting grandad, desperately trying to get a few scraps of affection, and Santa bowls in for five minutes and gets an “I love you”.

I hate Christmas.


ISLA, one of the children at Croft-on-Tees, was asked by Santa what she was hoping he would bring her on his sleigh.

“I’d like a bike, a football, a goal…and a tiger!” came the reply.

Santa had to gently explain that the tiger would probably eat all the reindeer before he got to Isla’s house.

She agreed to make do with a toy one. Phew!

A FEW days after Christmas, my son Christopher asked his little girl: “Chloe, have you had breakfast?”

“Yes, me have my first breakfast,” she replied, eyeing the possibility of seconds in the kitchen.