I was early, I’m always early for everything, and on arrival at the farm I was too early for the 9.15 meet-up in the car park. I’m a bit nervous as it’s a long time since I’ve done anything quite like this. I had a brief word with some of the cows, who looked at me as if I was mad and I went over to the duck pond, where the ducks were happily splashing about. It was cool, but not too cold, dry, and a watery yellow sun was rising over the duckpond. A perfect day for being on the farm, if not exactly festive.
In our dressing room, Santa and some of the elves had got there just before me. Our transformation was swift – in minutes we all went from ordinary looking people to magical characters. Each elf has a character of their own: one elf is a tailor, one is in charge of the post room for Santa, one is full of mischief and loves stealing candy canes. The young people who are playing the elves are an absolute delight, and it turns out that it’s a pleasure to work with them all. Within half an hour I’m feeling a lot less nervous! Santa looks enchanting, a traditional old-fashioned Father Christmas in a rich red coat with golden embroidery. His grotto, complete with sleigh, is positively magical. I find myself wishing that I had small children to bring to meet him, and I’m starting to feel a festive tingle in the air.
I put on my own costume. I have a crinoline skirt and I’m secretly delighted. I’ve always wanted the opportunity to wear a crinoline, and I love it from the moment I put it on. I have a full length, wide-skirted coat which goes over the top, in a beautiful shade of dark red, trimmed with gingerbread men. I utterly love it! I was born to be Mother Ginger, I decide as I twirl my skirts. Mrs. Claus tells me that if it rains I won’t love it quite so much, because it will get wet and weigh about as much as several reindeer all put together.
I’m excited as the gates open for the first time. It’s a beautiful day for December, not too cold, not too wet. The lights on the Christmas trees twinkle, and before long there is a steady stream of children arriving with their parents. I realise quite quickly that my elaborate backstory isn’t going to work – there just isn’t time to tell each child all that. By half-way through the morning, I’ve shifted to asking them not to eat my gingerbread cottage, please, because I don’t want any holes in the roof of my house.
One little girl eyes me up speculatively, and eyes up the gingerbread cottage; I suspect she will be a lawyer when she grows up, she’s remarkably clear sighted for someone so young. She can see quite plainly that I’m not going to fit into the cottage, crinoline or no crinoline. ‘You don’t really live in there do you? It’s just pretend!’ she says, quite rightly. I agree with her. Yes, it’s just pretend, and make a mental note to alter my story. From now on, I don’t live in the cottage, which is clearly much too small for me; it’s where I keep my gingerbread men, and I don’t want them to get soggy if it rains. Nobody will see through that one, will they?
The day absolutely flies. We sing carols, we chat to children, the elves get up to mischief, Mrs. Claus tells stories and Santa gives out presents to shiny-eyed little ones who really, truly believe in him. Before I know it, the sun is setting and the lights shine out in the dusk. It’s time to go home, and change back into my normal self in jeans and a jumper. I wonder if Mrs. Claus would notice if I sneaked the crinoline into my backpack to take home with me?
I think she probably would.