OPINION: Annual catch up with Santa finds plenty to mull over

Santa's got plenty to moan about this Christmas

Santa's got plenty to moan about this Christmas - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

My annual rendezvous with Santa Claus over a bag of steaming chips on Cromer Pier found the old boy surprisingly jocular despite a list of seasonal misgivings much longer than his beard.

We kept our social distance as he chuckled over taking great care not to be responsible for introducing the “Lapland Variant' to exotic spots on his extensive rounds.

He must have noticed lingering economic and social woes in a plethora of second home sales in the Burnhams, poor Winfarthing falling into negative equity, Brooke waiting to be mended and Sloley coming to a standstill over threats to be forced to take overspill from Attleborough.

I reckon he knows by now that NDR no longer stands for Nelson’s Delightful Refuge on the poop deck of the good ship HMS Quality of Life and that plans to completely single and then cobble the A47 have been thrown into doubt by armies of men in orange hats.

There’s every reason to believe Santa is working overtime to cut down his carbon footprint and so play a key part in the biggest eco-friendly festive season since Bing Crosby started dreaming of a Green Christmas and reindeer went vegetarian after the bitter winter of 1947.

Indeed, Santa’s cheery greeting underlined a bold approach to the old challenge of making do in a new era of austerity. “Ho – ho” he twinkled . I realised immediately the other “ho” has to be held back in case it’s needed when things get really bad.

While that sort of forward thinking symbolises the need for downsizing operations across the land this year, he still feels able to strike a confident note or two in his message to constant believers either side of the Waveney.

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“I did wonder if electricity supplies would hold out as so many places decided to light up in November, but perhaps that was no more than impatience to embrace the true spirit at a time off doubt and sorrow for so many across the globe” !he mused.

“People tend to forget how many dark nights I have flown through to dispense little parcels of hope. And they don’t realise how my annual exercise is subject to the same fluctuations in fortunes as any business below.”

He forced himself to talk of redundancies just as one of those lazy old winds from Scroby way via Sheringham rattled the newspaper holding rest of his chips .”A dozen little helpers in the grotto present – wrapping department have been laid off .. a massive blow to their elf-esteem… but I’m confident they’ll be back next year. So will that silly young reindeer from the Thetford Forest Youth Opportunity Scheme – with his provisional licence endorsed for speeding.”

Sadness mixed with annoyance gave way to optimism mixed with caution. “We have to get used to those nippy winds. Same with the economy as it blows away so many of our habits and plans. Wrap up warm, keep on the move and don’t fall foul of a massive overdraught.”

He chortled at his own play on words. I quoted John Betjeman’s line about “hideous tie so kindly meant” and asked if we’d all be well advised to tread more carefully in the annual rush to prove it really is more blessed to give than to receive. Santa switched to Dickens mode.

“I’m not advocating a complete break from Great Expectations to concentrate on Hard Times and Bleak House … but a few hours of gentle nostalgia in The Old Curiosity Shop with Little Dorrit and David Copperfield could prove mighty good for the soul.” He pointed out he was telling anyone who would listen that “stressed” is just desserts spelt backwards.

I took that as subtle forgiveness in advance for my traditional insistence on slowing down to savour a season packed with reminders of good old days when a little had to go a long way.

That means avoiding shopping wherever possible, not because I am a tight old misery but to allow more room for those who profess to enjoy it and know where things are. There are far too many novices wandering up and down the aisles in December.

“Good job they’re not all like you” laughed Santa as he checked his list for Cromer and district. “I see you are down for DVD versions of Never Mind the Bedsocks. Dragon’s Denture and Who Do I Think I Am? - plus a few books for more reflective moments”.

Time for the annual swop of best (or worst) cracker jokes before our fond farewells. I could see the old boy was keen to go first in defence of his Christmas crown. He unwrapped his little shred of paper and held forth: “What do you call a bunch of chess players bragging about their game in a hotel lobby. Chess nuts boasting in an open foyer!”

I groaned appropriately, offered a short Nat King Cole impression as another icy gust sought out my seasonal sensibilities and snatched this witty bauble from the tree of no shame: “Two snowmen standing in a Norfolk field . One turned to the other and said, “Dunt know abowt yew, bor, but I kin smell carrots”.

Santa shook his wise old head in disbelief, stroked his beard for solace and disappeared into the Cromer night with reputation and title intact.

Skip's Aside:
Contrabrand, a new Norfolk group of marketing experts, is busy coming up with ideas to embellish some of our towns and villages with a fresh coat of selling paint.

Creative force behind this timely venture Is Horatio P, Carte – Blanche, formerly known as Horry White of Bornagin Towers, Borrow Mews, Upper Dodman, formerly known as Little Shud Down Bottom of the Yard.

“With our fine city of Norwich clearly in safe hands, we have been brainstorming over a working breakfast and extended fourses season in the afternoon to find fresh images for a number of our other vibrant communities “ he told the official Norfolk Revamp website last night.

“We are seeking the witty, perhaps a trifle cheeky, but highly individualistic, flexible, subtle, thought provoking and appealing to residents and visitors alike. Our prices are very reasonable if bills are paid before the Western Link is fully operational.”

Mr Carte – Blanche is no stranger to controversy. Only last year he put forward proposals to revive the local bakery scene by building ovens in village pubs. However, his “Innbread” campaign was dismissed as of dubious taste and unfair competition to well-established gastronomic hostelries.

“We must reinvigorate the ordinary and reinstate the right to local pride and reinvent the rest” trumpets a poster on his office door. This kind of fervour characterises a list of slogans –“marketing miracles” according to reliable sources – due to be unveiled on opening day of the new year.

A s a true Norfolk radical constantly pushing back barriers marked “yesterday “I have been granted an exclusive preview “to test the waters of uncertainty,”

Contrabrand emphasises these may not be the finished article but they are ushered forward with the full blessing of all locations concerned. Slow down and read carefully:

Attleborough – We’ll soon be double the fun!

Baconsthorpe – Please don’t streak through our village.

Bodham – Still twinned with Gomorrah.

Cromer - Sparkling gem of North Norfolk coast.

East Dereham – Heart of Norfolk – with occasional cardiac arrest.

Diss – We have a mayor and a mere

Fakenham – And they used to call us boring.

Frenze – Be good neighbours

Gorleston – helps make Yarmouth Great

Guist – We rhyme with sliced

The Happisburgh village sign. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Happisburgh village sign. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

Happisburgh – Just ask a local

King’s Lynn – It’ll all come out in The Wash

Little Snoring – Wideawake community

Long Strattton – A bit wide too

Hunstanton -Spend your munny in Sunny Hnny

Salle – We rhyme with ball

Scole – soon to be an akademy

Sheringham – North Norfolk’s other premier resort

Swaffham – Last stop before Cockley Cley

Weybourne – We are a Major attraction

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