Watching the sun come up behind the bare trees and frosted lawns seen from our windows brought home the fact that we will be acutely aware of the changing seasons in The New Forest.
We set off early this morning for another trip to London. This was for the purpose of fulfilling a promise to appear as Father Christmas and Santa’s Little Helper for Merton Mind in St. Mark’s Church Hall in Mitcham. We had a brief diversion to The Firs to collect my Wellington boots that were to be part of Santa’s outfit. The bright sunlight on the foggy frosted fields of Hampshire and Surrey created such beautiful scenes that had we had time to stop for photography we would probably never have arrived in Mitcham. As it was we were a little late and I had to explain that it had been foggy in Greenland. Dan was more specific about where we had come from. He knew it had been The North Pole.
Someone had locked the side doors to the building, so I had been unable to sneak in wearing my civvies. I had to go in the main entrance and pretend to be a potential purchaser from the stalls, hoping no-one would recognise me when I emerged from the gents wearing the outfit Jackie had been provided with. Our friend Sheila, the Director of the organisation, had lurked outside whilst I changed into my red and white garments, so she could show me my station in the hall.
There was a bit of a queue, so I had to get straight into the business of what people wanted for Christmas. As soon as two likely accomplices arrived I said that I just must get out of my boots because my feet were killing me. Dan and his sister Lisa eagerly heaved away to relieve me of my cumbersome footwear. This revealed the socks Becky had given me last Christmas which have the merit of not going with everything. For some reason this caused the children and their mother great amusement.
These two became firmly attached to Father Christmas and gave him and his Little Helper a share in all the spoils they managed to win on the various stalls at the fete. Dan, in fact, gradually usurped Jackie’s role, rendering her somewhat superfluous. This bright little lad sussed that I couldn’t be a real Santa because he had seen another one the week before, but he played the game well, including asking me lots of complicated questions. Lisa didn’t really know what she wanted, but he did. He wanted a PSP. As Father Christmas didn’t know what that was he delegated the task of Googling it to his original Little Helper.
Other children came along at intervals and had conversations with Saint Nicholas’s impersonator. It was lovely to experience their wonderment. One little girl had said she wanted a little doll. A little later a man brought along a musical doll which he said was surplus to his requirements. He thought Father Christmas might want to give it to a little girl. Dan had the bright idea that the child who had asked for a doll might like it. Off he went in search of her. This, unfortunately was in vain, for she and her mother had left. However, it naturally wound up with Lisa who was delighted with it.
The last time I played Father Christmas was almost fifty years ago when one of the children being entertained was my three year old brother Joe. Feeling rather complacent about having pulled off the disguise and fooled my little sibling, I returned home to be advised by my mother that when he had come home he had asked her: ‘What was Derrick doing there?’
After the fete Jackie and I visited Becky, Flo, and Ian before driving back to Ringwood for a Curry Garden meal accompanied by draught Kingfisher. Then it was an early night.