“We will need more than comic relief in the year ahead”

A Conversation with Santa Claus

 “Sure, some things are in the genes and get passed on. But you don’t have to be fatalistic. Genes account for only 30% of what happens to you, so you can still change things if you want to. Nurture can trump nature”


As we did last year, this time too we decided to have a chat with Santa Claus. He is a wise old man, although he is made to look younger than his age. He has been around and seen lots – people, places, events – good and bad. Yet he manages to maintain a jolly spirit and does not seem to get tired, although he admits to needing rest in between distributing Christmas gifts, though he will soon be running short of chimneys. It remains to be seen whether that will cut from his aura, but we hope not. This chubby guy has got quite a few tricks up his sleeves, and is an astute observer of some ground realities around the world, including our small island. There are no secrets for him. Incidentally, for the first time he enjoyed our juicy litchis and ananas. We pray that he comes for more next year. Until then, read what he has to say…

* Hi there! It’s always a pleasure when you come visiting at this time of the year. How are you doing, dear?

Thanks for giving me this break! The pleasure is mine, to sit down and get some of my breath back before I whirl around some more. You could say I am doing fine, except I do not know why they conjured me up as a mound of lard! Getting heavier and heavier you know…

* Good to see you in your usual jovial mood, nevertheless…

Gotta put up the show what to do, it’s mainly the kids that keep me going, see. Children like a good story don’t they. Yes I know that soon enough they grow up and get to know I am make-believe, but it’s fun for them while it lasts – the few days that I exist around this time – and I’m glad for them.

* Guess this is the place you like visiting best, right?

Aye, you could say that again! So nice and warm – you guys don’t know what’s it’s like to get away from subzero temperatures in the freezing north, grrrrr…!

* I’d have thought that you would have preferred a white Xmas anytime…

Looks very good in a picture postcard, with me being dragged in the sleigh through the snow, but on the ground out there it’s quite different. And all this effort for just the one day and then I’m forgotten! Most people spend the day indoors there anyway, so it’s not as romantic as you guys imagine it to be!

I guess some of your chaps who used to make a hop to London for their White Christmas have come to the same conclusion too! In any case, much better for everybody around, right?

* You mean to say one without snow is better … we tend to think otherwise, you know. The pasture seems greener on the other side of the fence…

Whiter you mean! But come over and tread through the slush with heavy boots on and you’ll tell me some! Yea, there are some fun moments no doubt – not for me of course, for those who go shopping and the kids who really believe that I’m the one who brings them the presents. Like I said, I’m happy to remain a fiction. And run away to the warmth of the tropics, your pleasure island why not. Just one more fiction, what, but wow so expensive this one! 30 million of your rupees that slogan cost isn’t it? I could have bought so many more gifts with that money!

* Indeed, indeed! Anyway, putting up the Santa act is no easy thing at all, isn’t it? I mean how did you land into that job, Uncle?

Just told, dude, didn’t I? Am a figment of some fertile imagination. Don’t know how long this will last though, what with the snow melting so fast at the poles. Another fifty years and I may be done for all you know. But for the time being perhaps I should not be grumbling, with employment rates being so high in some crisis-hit European countries. At least I have a job even if it’s transient! I have had to spend more time there, because parents are hard up and I have to literally fill in for them, otherwise the kids would be so disappointed. That’s why I have been late coming this time around.

* I did not mean to offend, dear. Forgive me if I did. What I meant to say was that what with all the preparations that you go into for your world tours since I do not know how many decades now – the shopping around for the best deals and discounts on toys and other gifts, writing so many Xmas cards, going down and climbing out from the chimneys, staying awake for so long… goodness me, what a life!

That’s also pretend, but yea I guess you got it there. It does indeed get tiring, exhausting in fact, and that’s why I enjoy this little conversation with you. Delicious, these litchis, make my cheeks redder still… ho ho ho! Know what, there’s gonna be no chimney in the years to come. Here, I got this cutting for you from blond Albion as I was passing by.

What it’s saying is that, according to a survey carried out by Rightmove, around 4 in 10 UK homes do not have a chimney, presenting me – Father Christmas, you know! – with a major delivery headache on Christmas Eve. Rightmove surveyed 1,230 home-owners about this key yuletide issue and discovered that a further 7 in 10 of those whose home did have a chimney said that the tubby present-giver’s bulk might prevent me clambering down it to deliver presents. The most common reasons were that it is a gas fire (27%), just plain too small (14%), boarded up (13%) or it is an open fireplace (15%) which raises safety issues especially for fur on my hood.

Alex Johnson of The Independent goes on to report that of those parents with young children and an unusable/missing chimney, a quarter of parents said their children were “concerned”. However 69% explained that Father Christmas would enter thanks to his ‘magic key’. A further 13% say they will simply stay up to let me in on Christmas Eve, while 5% assumed I would get in through a door, window or perhaps even an air vent.

“As the UK housing stock has changed over the years,” explained worri ed Rightmove director Miles Shipside, “it must be getting harder and harder for Santa to deliver his Christmas gifts. The surge in new flats and modernisation of older houses means the proportion of people benefitting from the traditional chimney is on the decline. But where there is a will there is a way.”

* Wow Santa, times are getting tough for you too isn’t it? Will you be out of a job too! What will happen to Christmas then? Time for people to start giving you gifts instead!

Well, the possibility is there, no doubt. But let’s not think about it shall we. But you’re sure a joker aren’t you! Who will give us gifts old boy? They only take, no give!

* Spot on, got it. But let’s get on and continue the pretend. I am pretty sure it’s getting a lot harder every year with all those guys feigning to be Santa Claus and sit in the commercial centres’ department store toy departments?

Am a ploy to attract business dude, didn’t you see that yet? There’s little of Christ left in Christmas. He sure would have a jolly good laugh if he came down and looked at all the paraphernalia!

* There are also those who are indeed putting up a hard act competing with the Lord for attention from the kids and adults alike…

Christ would not recognise these guys for sure. That’s why the kids look away too. At least the toys are for real – till they last, that is!

* I do not know what Christmas means to you, but I suppose you must be feeling very bad about its increasing commercialisation, don’t you?

Dude, Christmas is just another money-spinning opportunity didn’t I tell you. Me feel bad? Sometimes, yes. But it’s all right, people need a break from the drudgery – and the recession — and I am as good an excuse as any other I suppose. Even though I end up with heavy feet and some extra pounds – I can’t help it because I have to feed on these fast foods what with no time to have proper meals.

* I am at a loss to understand why the men in robes do not care to caution against this business that goes around such a solemn occasion… but I guess there are quite a few things that you would like to change about Christmas, don’t you?

First you’ll have to change these guys. My advice is better not to try! Lemme have my fun too, and let them remain stuffed up.

* Again, no offence meant, Uncle, but never thought of retiring?

When the snows have melted, I will probably disappear too. That’s how real I am. But I guess I will live on, snow or no snow. After all, here I am isn’t it, sitting in your green island. Here, pass on that anana thingie, yummy I say. I will take refuge here what say you, come the time!

* An eternal optimist indeed you are, Uncle. As usual. I always wonder how you keep your spirits high with all the insanity all round?

What else to do, got to fight on with all these crazy guys around. Been like that since the beginning of times, old chap, these dark forces keep springing up. But now they have gone modern, they master electronics which they can use to deadly effect. That’s why you don’t find me in those places where road-side bombs and human bombs proliferate. All these maimed children, don’t they have eyes to see, don’t they have children of their own?

* Sorry if I spoilt your mood. But new dramas and the same insanity are churned out year after year, and we seem increasingly unable to arrest this downward trend…

Some people want to remain medieval, don’t want to use their brains, don’t want to open their minds and use their common sense and reason. But mind you, even those who are supposed to do so can be as crazy. Heard of the apocalyptic movement in the US? Saw the shoot out in Newtown, Connecticut, killing over 20 kids? It’s a regular feature on the American scene, been happening over the past several years. Something seriously wrong there too isn’t it, despite all the modernity and advancement.

* It’s said the real culprit is a virus that lives entwined in every person’s DNA: the insanity virus. Now, what do you think of that?

You’re speaking about nature and nurture isn’t it? Sure, some things are in the genes and get passed on. But you don’t have to be fatalistic. Genes account for only 30% of what happens to you, so you can still change things if you want to. Nurture can trump nature. Look at me, am I not all made up?

* I do not know what are your feelings about today’s world leaders, but I’m sure even a fairly cursory reading of newspapers these days would give you a rather damp feeling about that tribe and the so-called elite…

So-called is the right word. Yes, they’re a tribe, closed in upon themselves and disdainful of others. I prefer to be in denial, in any case I’m around for only a short while so I don’t waste my time poring over what your leaders are getting at each other’s guts for, if you excuse me…

* It’s that virus that has struck there also, don’t you think?

Mightily so, but they are a harder nut to crack. The virus grips them more firmly I am afraid! They refuse to be nurtured. Look at the mayhem in your National Assembly the other day, I saw some headlines and pictures in your media. But I stopped there. Sorry, I absolutely refuse to go down to that level of indecency, not to say depravity. That what you call progress here?

* Totally agree with you Santa, that’s what we have come to, sadly. But tell me, I am sure you also look up those astrology columns from time to time, don’t you? So what do the stars tell you about your fortunes during the coming year?

Oh don’t worry about me! I fold up and let the reindeers loose, the sleigh lies dormant too, and I am awakened only a few days before I have to get into gear again.

* And what about the rest of us? Let’s start with the good news, if you do not mind…

The world hasn’t ended for a start. It’s a nice world man, you guys should stop destroying it and instead enjoy what it has to offer. You can sure find that out for yourselves.

* Forget about the bad news, Uncle, but my own astrology forecasts for 2013 tell me that my “conscience and values might be put to test as the year progresses. There would be a period which would be devoid of any sort of inspirations as well…” I really do not know what to make of it?

With all this verbal pugilism, loads of it, and corruption, where will inspirations come from? It’s the same all over, look at what happened in the Ukrainian Parliament some time ago, they were also at each other’s throats — a bit more literally though! You may see more of this coming too for all I know. Sorry, I do not seem to foresee any better news for you guys either…

* Perhaps we must await to hear from ‘Madame Kok’ — sure you know whom I’m talking about, don’t you? soon… about the fortunes of our own big chaps down here. We’ll wait until then, but you do know the ‘Old Fox’ has come back with a vengeance – no pun intended, Uncle – to, as he says, save the country, certainly not his sibling, and he has joined hands with the Lider Maximo to that end. Interesting, isn’t it?

I saw a film in which zombies spring to life for a short while before they sink down into the earth again. That makes two of them.

* The other fellow has been quite cocky about his “win” at the latest polls – he lost four of the five strongholds he held earlier, which reminds me of the definition that Humpty Dumpty gives to his word — “it means just what I choose it to mean neither more nor less.” Really cocky, isn’t it?

Make it 3 zombies. Or one fox and 2 zombies, whatever.

* We’re in for a real cockfight in the days and months to come. I don’t know if that is good news or bad news, but it sure will provide some entertainment for the lesser mortals that we are…

We will need more than comic relief in the year ahead. There is serious work to be done. Masters at and of distraction will try to divert attention from real issues, so beware. Ok old chap, take heart. I hope that next year there’ll be enough water around for me to bathe and clean before I leave. Cheers to you guys, enjoy me while you can and I am around. Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…

* Published in print edition on 21 December 2012

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