I’ve had a lot of weird gigs in my time as an actor; I’ve opened a garden centre as Scooby Doo with Fred Elliot off Coronation Street, I’ve switched on the Christmas lights in Winchester (I think it was Winchester) as Marge Simpson, and I’ve been a corporate whore for Specsavers as a violin-playing sloth. Natch. But I’ve never had a Christmas Santa gig before.
Until now, that is. For the last couple of weeks I’ve donned the red suit to read stories and bring festive cheer to the kids of Sunderland. (Well, the kids of Sunderland whose parents bring them to Liberty Brown’s restaurant for pizza and pay an extra £8 for the privilege of meeting the big man.)
Mind you, I can’t be doing too bad a job for a novice. Just read this review published in the Sunderland Echo recently. (Yes, my Santa was actually reviewed!)
SANTA has arrived … And it really is him, just ask our Isaac.
After a storytime session with the bearded one, our eight-year-old, clutching his special gift, pulled me to one side and confirmed: “He’s this year’s Santa.”
I expect the “this year’s” bit is our Isaac’s way of explaining to himself how Santa appears to change depending on which Santa he’s confronted with. I mean, there’s so many of them about.
At Liberty Brown, the build up to the meeting probably clinched the deal.
As part of the Liberty Brown Santa experience you have face-painters and balloon modellers plying their trade before you embark on a carrot hunt with the elves. That hunt leads you to Santa’s Magical Grotto where you’re greeted by Santa, and yes, he is warming his bottom on a log fire.
All very Christmassy, particularly Santa’s booming delivery laced with plenty of throaty “ho, ho hos.”
You can read the full article here.
The big surprise for me is what the kids are asking for. I’d expected to be promising to load up my sleigh with sackfuls of iPhones, iPads, Kindles, and god knows what other techy gadgets you can get these days, so it’s been heartening to discover how many girls are asking for dolls and how many boys want lego. Bikes and scooters are as popular with both sexes as they were when I was small enough to sit on Santa’s knee.
And the sheer delight that’s inspired by reading aloud a story in a funny voice warms the cockles of any man’s heart. I’ve been feeling very down recently – mugged as I was by an attack of depression – but the sound of laughing children has been the perfect antidote. Soppy I know, but if you can’t be a bit soppy at this time of year, when can you?