I had the great honour of being invited to represent Santa for our Little Bugs Club this week. Debbie Mackenzie, who is our Wildlife Trust education officer, bought me a very nice suit, wig, beard and hat and installed me in the willow mammoth where I was to lay in wait for the tiddlers.
Of course, you all know that I was just a stand-in for the real Santa; but the children were literally awed and agape in my presence. It's a huge responsibility being Santa, even for an hour.
I got the job because, allegedly, the real St. Nick had a problem with DEFRA over his reindeer. He needs a blanket livestock movement-order to take them around the country (the same as a circus) and this was applied for in good time. However, someone spotted that the animals were coming in from the EU and so they contacted Brussels to see what further permits were needed. Fortunately the people in Brussels knew all about Santa or St. Nicholas, having just celebrated his birthday. They pointed out that he's already been there, but without his reindeer. He arrives in Holland every year from Spain by ship with his dappled-grey horse which has a long-standing permit to travel within the EU. So, problem solved and back to DEFRA. We're still waiting.
Heaven knows what the bureaucracy will be like when they realise that these animals fly! NATO actually tracks the sleigh every year and is fully co-operative, but what about the chaps in the little house in Buckingham Palace Road? They run an operation called the UK Space Agency and their main job seems to be to try and control what goes on in space above our heads and over our territories abroad. Making sure nothing falls on us must be quite a big task for a such a small agency. I went there once expecting something hi-tec with dishes and masts on the roof, but it's quite ordinary, though the roof was being re-enforced when I was there. I phoned them up and they said that, as long as Santa didn't fly higher than 35,000 feet, they were not bothered. Thank goodness for that!
I'm pretty confident that all the paperwork will be in place and that the real Santa will be able to deliver his presents on time, so my job was to give the customers a once over to see if they had been naughty or nice. Well, I gave them all special cookies that taste really sweet if you have been good, but taste of pepper if you have been naughty. They all said theirs tasted nice, so I passed on a positive report to the North Pole. I'm guessing they will all get nice presents under the tree.
Whoops! I just found out the the Space Agency moved to Swindon. Their new building has two massive, oblong silos. Are these the ventilation shafts for a huge bunker or just the chimneys for the central heating? see The UK Space Agency