Here’s a piece of advice, never, ever, drop the kids off at school with a hangover. Because if you do you’ll end up agreeing to do something you would normally run a mile from. Your defences are low, your judgement is shot and your ability to make up bullshit excuses off the cuff has left the building.
It was on one such morning, a morning where I was nursing a mild to medium hangover, when I got hung drawn and quartered by one of the Mums. There I was, minding my own business, when I heard “Ere Jay, can you do us a favva?” I knew that voice, it was a voice that could strip paint off walls, it was Josie, mother of Jody, Joey and Joely. It was with some trepidation that I turned around as I knew that whatever came next wasn’t going to go in my favour, and I was right, it didn’t.
She wanted me to be the Father Christmas for the playgroup she runs – Grubby Gits I think it’s called – a bunch of two year olds left to run amok and become mini Jackson Pollocks. I stuttered and spluttered as I tried to come up with an excuse, but she took my silence as acquiescence, told me the time and date to be there and marched off as fast as her tiny little legs would take her.
I cursed my stupidity, trudged out of the school and promptly forgot all about it.
Forgot until last Friday that was, when the dulcet tones of Herr Josie rang out with “Don’t cha forget about being Father Christmas on Monday, cheers darlin’.”
On the day of my ‘guest appearance’ I woke up early, drenched in sweat. Sweat caused by a nightmare in which Father Christmas was drumming into me the difference between him and a rapper saying ‘Ho Ho Ho’, whilst cooking reindeer burgers on a BBQ. This was not going to go well, I hadn’t even practised my voice yet.
Despite being told that I didn’t have to be there until 11.15, I spent the morning fielding calls and texts from Josie and her Michelle Minion, checking I was coming and asking where I was – there was no chance of me ducking out of this thing, so I got in the car and made my way there. On the journey I decided to listen and sing along to Eminem, it was probably best if I got all the cuss words out of my system before I got there. It would be poor form to open with “Have you all been good little f**kers this year?”
As I nervously entered the venue I could hear the collective screaming of 30 kids, it was all I could do to not join in the screaming myself to be honest. I was having such a bad feeling about this, what kind of idiot would ask someone like me to do something like this? I didn’t know what I was going to say and how I was going to say it and it was too late to practise now.
I walked in and had to rub my eyes in astonishment, Josie had turned herself into a real-sized elf. Then I remembered she was naturally that small and had gone to no real effort at all. The Michelle Minion handed me my costume, explained the running order and told me to get changed in the blokes’ toilets.
So I took myself off to the toilets and started to get changed, which was beyond awkward due to the size of the cubicle. The costume had obviously been bought at Scrooge’R’Us, it was the tattiest and sorriest looking thing I had ever seen. The pants had a waist Buddha would have been comfortable in, but the jacket had been designed for Ghandi. The black belt that was meant to tie the whole lot together was made from a rubbish sack and had an outsized buckle that would have been hard-pressed to keep rope tied together. The fake beard was over-used and fluffy and made me sneeze so hard that I turned the moustache green and white like a Pacer mint. With the help of the Minion and several safety pins, we eventually got the outfit together and I waited for my cue.
Now I’m sorry, but it doesn’t matter how pure of body and mind you are, there is something just plain wrong about hanging around in a toilet in a Santa suit, something I had to do for 15 minutes. I started to feel like Sleazy Santa and my “Come and sit on my knee little girl” voice was sounding more and more deviant. My big entrance had been delayed due to one of the little’uns being sick on the bouncy castle, which then set off a chain letter of puke amongst the rest of his play mates. Always a classic combo of destruction – sweets, cakes, fizzy pop and a bouncy castle.
Eventually the sleigh bells started ringing so I took my cue and made my entrance into the hall. You could have heard a pin drop as they all stared at me and I must admit that it felt quite good to hold the power of silence over 30 little kids. I gingerly made my way to the chair that had been put out for me, desperately trying not to tread on one of them (I do have previous on this score) and sat myself down. As soon as I did, the safety pin on the jacket gave way and I instantly regretted wearing my black Jack Daniels t-shirt underneath it. I quickly picked up my sack and put it on my lap and hoped that it would cover the gap before anyone noticed. Although judging by some of the Mummy stares I was getting, that was a forlorn hope.
It all went fairly smoothly, my “Have you been a good little girl this year?” was said with the correct timbre of joviality and deepness and the only slight hitch was when little Tony stepped forward. Tony had long curly blonde hair that obviously belonged in a Timotei advert, but it left me with no idea if he/she was a boy or a girl. So I went with a “Have you been a good…err…person this year?” Not my finest moment, but it had to do.
I had soon whizzed through the 30 monsters and to my credit, not one of them cried, a success then. I bid them all farewell and reminded them to leave beer and chocolate under the chimney for Santa at Christmas. Back at the toilets I made a quick change that both Superman and a flasher would have been proud of, then I made like a Shepherd and got the flock out of there. Job done.
Oh and Mummy’s, one last thing. When picking out your wardrobe, please bear in mind that you will be bending over and ushering your 2 year old child towards a seated Santa. Avoid low cut tops, Santa is only human after all.