This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
yourselves on the 5th floor atrium balcony and start throwing down the sweets as a distraction so we can get Santa in without him being swamped by the crowds, this should help things run more smoothly. Instructed Hamaad, the food and beverages manager, now appointed as Santa Ops. Manager, to the assembled crew. Santa, looking very ordinary in his everyday civvies raised his hand, Throw sweets from that height, are you sure that s a good idea? Think of babies eyes, we don t want a law suit , interjected chief, head of security, better we drop them maybe From the 1st floor balcony, piped up elf number two as elf number one nodded in agreement. Soft centre too! chimed in Kareem from behind the bar of the basement room dance club that was acting up as Santa Central 2010 this evening. Right then, that s elves one and two, 1st floor balcony with soft centre sweets, dropped not thrown, everybody in agreement? A rumble of approval echoed around the empty dance floor. I, as the central character of Santa in this whole affair was finding the meeting somewhat surreal and just a tad amusing; this was serious stuff and the team had been to regular meetings since September, I on the other hand, was the new boy, even if my role was pivotal it was clear that I was to tow the line and respect the gravitas of this meeting. When asked to give a sample laugh I risked a full pirate Har, har, just to lighten things up, no one noticed my subtle joke and the meeting continued. It was then I remembered I was in the Middle East and the nuances of a good Santa belly laugh are perhaps not within the cultural dialogue of the region. How does when end up playing Santa in a five star luxury hotel in a city lying on the edge of the desert known as the Empty Quarter? Well, it all started a few days earlier as the parents arrived at my classroom door to pick up their children at the end of the school day. Ah, Mr. Terry, said Mr. Azeem as his daughter ran into his waiting arms, how is it you fancy a nice meal and room for night time at my superb hotel, we even give in some complimentary meal at our most wonderful restaurant Sounds lovely Mr. Azeem, but what have I done to deserve this honour may I ask? We need a small favour, for a man like you this will prove but a trifle Mr Azeem s teeth glinted beautifully in the afternoon sun. A man of your stature is ideal for what we have in mind, do I have your ear, Mr. Terry You do Mr. Azeem, you do Then if you do not mind, would you do us the honour of being our Santa this year for the lighting of the tree and giving of presents , we can think of no one more suited to the task , I am sure I saw his eyes
flick down to my expansive belly at that point but I can t be sure. Anyway a good meal on the house is always a sure way to get my attention, so naturally I said yes. I will be calling you soon, it is only a week away , with this parting remark he stepped into his awaiting Mercedes and sped off down the road. Two days later the call came and I found myself with Mr. Azeem in the ambience of his Hawaii themed cocktail bar with a glass of chilled white wine and a bowl of dates and pistachios on the table between us. The grand plan it seemed was to have Santa roll up on a seasonally decorated horse drawn carriage. Earlier ideas of bungees and abseiling had already been discounted much to my relief; as I consider myself the Bentley of Santa models, built for comfort, nicely padded and sedate in operation, the extreme Santaboy models have nothing to fear from my entering into the Christmas entertainment market. I was beginning to feel that I catered for a different clientele altogether, though quite who they exactly were I was not too sure. Mr. Azeem outlined the plan as he saw it. Arriving at the entrance to the hotel, behind whose doors would be awaiting the expectant crowd, I was to sweep in bellowing with laughter, sack slung over shoulder, ringing my bell and generally make a spectacle of myself .Shouldn t be a problem, I ve done it many times before without a carriage and costume-mostly after a few beers on the way into the curry house, but let s not split hairs. Here in front of the grand tree, unlit, in a darkened lobby I was to ignite the lights with my magic wand as the crowd counted down. At this point Hostess and MC latifa was to meet and greet me , a short interview regards the journey from the North Pole conducted , a few more ribald ho ho s thrown in for good measure and then I would be guided through the crowds to my Grotto at the pool side. Here I would be stationed until the last child and left. The expected crowd was estimated at over five hundred people and three hundred gifts had been purchased and wrapped by elves one and two, that s a lot of sellotape! Mr. Azeem s features took on a more sombre expression as he continued to discuss security aspects of the operation as he related to me the legendry story of another Santa at a less well appointed hotel just down the road who had been forced to run for his life as baying parents dragged their children towards him trampling over one another to be first at the grotto. Santa s are at a premium in this part off the world and a little aggression to ensure a place on his knee is not unheard of. But of course, this will not happen at our esteemed establishment , you will at all times be surrounded by security, every Abdulla, Noor and Kareem will have to wait their turn , please do be assured of this, said Mr. Azeem in his most reassuring tones. I smiled weakly and followed Mr. Azeem to the laundry room where Santa s outfit had just received its annual dry clean. Everything fitted beautifully except the hat which was to be widened and Mr. Azeem was delighted that the red silk tummy cushion would not be required. I looked at the reflected image in the full length mirror and was quite amazed by the transformation! Looking back at me was the resplendent figure of
Santa, generous curly beard , hair of snow white ringlets, gold rimmed reading glasses on end of nose and the usual mix of arctic fur and deep red satin. I was Santa! Then, as if by its own accord came a deep and rolling HO, Ho, Ho, man, was I in role. Bring on the crowds! Santa for a day, Cinderella eat your heart out. So it was that two days later I found myself at the Santa Ops. Meeting discussing sweets and trajectories. Santa, You will await the carriage by the kitchens out of public view, upon a signal from the Chief you will then get on the carriage which will be guided and walked by Suroor, and please, you must stand holding the ...what are they called?, reins, shouted out the Chief, Hamaad then continued, Yes, reins, you will hold the reins with one hand , ring the bell with the other while standing on the carriage ho hoing all the way until you reach the main entrance. No other traffic will be allowed Well, that sounded a doddle, such multitasking to a seasoned teacher like myself was a daily expectation of the job. The Big day arrived. Upon arriving at the hotel after avoiding collision with yet another lunatic driver, fifth near miss of the week, I was escorted through the lobby in which a small party of Austrian tourists were checking in, it occurred to me that what with the ginger bread house, grand tree and holly and ivy strewn all around they must have felt like they had never left home. I was taken to my room with my wife as costume maid and general helper. Laid reverently across the huge double bed was Santa s costume, hat enlarged, magic wand and bell in sealed plastic bags. This it then, I thought to myself, my moment has arrived. OK, it was time for some serious Santattude! On went the trousers, then the shiny fur rimmed boots, then the nifty concealed zip top and big black buckle belt. Finally, on with the hair, hat, beard and glasses. A little feminine adjustment of the curls, hat set at a jaunty angle and I was there once again. Santa Claus is coming to town , I bellowed, well, I just could not resist it and anyway I couldn t think of anything original at that moment. The rest was just a matter of waiting for the knock at the door, so my wife turned up the air conditioning and I sat still in the comfy arm chair trying not to perspire all the way through my costume. The knock came; I was escorted down the rear fire escape stair well and led outside to the awaiting carriage where upon a crackling exchange on the walkie talkies between Abulla and some unseen colleague I was ushered onto the carriage.Suroor started the horse on a gentle trot and I braced myself, legs in a wide stance, reins in hand, ringing my bell for all I was worth whilst bellowing out seasonal greetings to people I couldn t even see yet.
The multi tasking was not going as I had expected, I am a big fellow and this carriage seemed to have suspension of not yet set jelly. I was teetering and jerking with every step of the horse, hardly a dignified entrance- the bell had to go! Twice around the mini roundabout in front of the main entrance, every step of the horse was a challenge to balance and decorum but finally we stopped. You try laughing through something like that; Santa s life was clearly not the doddle I had thought it to be. Guided gently by my elbows by two huge security men either side of me I was led through the entrance to the awaiting crowds and Latifa and her huge microphone. I am told that over five hundred people had squeezed into reception, but I was unable to get a visual impression of this as all lights were dimmed, flashes burst all around me and the only faces I could see were of beefy security men. But I did hear the crowd, and I mean really hear the crowd, the din was enormous. In that brief moment I knew what it was like to be a celebrity and sent a little prayer upwards to thank the man up there for my usual obscurity of identity. We exchanged a few words, though I would challenge anyone to have heard them, then it was elbows and guard time again as I was led out to the pool area to my awaiting open plan Grotto built upon what was formally the babies paddle pool area. Elves one and two greeted me, stood as they were in front of a mountain of presents ready for the off. I planted my satin encased posterior upon my golden and throne like chair, the black suited backs of security surrounded us like a castle wall. It was there that I sat for the next two hours in my boiling suit of velvet and fur, the desert just a stone throw away, meeting and greeting over three hundred and fifty children. It was somewhat uncomfortable but I remained cool inside and kept my smile firmly in place. Unlike Frosty the Snowman I did not have the option of just melting away! At last the final child and present bounced on and off my knee and just as the clock struck at midnight for Cinderella, so too was it my time to return to my life much more ordinary. Onto the carriage, off with the suit and into the shower. As I stepped into my jeans and tee shirt I felt a little sad as I took a last look at the Santa suit thrown across the bed. But no worries, bring it on next year!!!
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.