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Early Christmas Message

Robin Copland

You know, it’s not all sweetness and light in Lapland.  People think (and to be fair, why shouldn’t they?), that all the work takes place on 24th December.  Santa gets on his sledge and travels the world distributing largesse hither and thither.  No one ever asks though what happens for the rest of the year.  What – do they think that this mammoth distribution happens by magic?  Well, I’ll admit that there is a bit of the magical and mystical about the whole operation; the reindeer-drawn sledge, for example, is a bit of a mystery, but for the rest – well, we’re talking slickness and speed and management of change and…

But I’m ahead of myself.

Years ago, Claus enterprises used to employ carpenter-elves.  Clue’s in the job title.  Sad to say that their skills did not extend to the manufacture of iPads and Scalextric, so they had to be scaled back.  You should have heard the fuss.  The unions got involved and all hell broke loose for a while.  There were threatened walkouts and works-to-rule.  Eventually, Santa got a hold of a Mrs. Thatcher and asked her to “do a miners” on the carpenter-elves.  She and Mr. McDonald did a bit of a number of them if we’re honest and the problem was solved but not without some long-term consequences.  Some of the carpenter-elves did the dirty on the rest of them by agreeing to some more flexible terms during the dispute and they were immediately christened “Skelfs”.  Presumably because later, they turned into “scabs”, but that was a whole other story again and needn’t concern us here.

Then there were the wrappers.  Mechanization; all I’m saying.  Same problem again and by now, the whole of Lapland is festooned with discarded elves, wrappers, skelfs and scabs.  When you talk about a herd of flying reindeer just adding to the mix, well - you couldn’t walk for fear of disturbing something nasty.

Normally, Santa eschews contact with the rest of us (unless we are under 10 – then he drops wee hints like using bells that are pitched only to be heard by young people).  In recent times, the bells have been replaced by mechanical horns and this led to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry losing their biggest and longest-standing client.  Result?  They’ve gone out of business.  Nightmare for the rest of us, of course; where else are we going to buy that bell we always wanted to own, but haven’t yet bought?

Then there are the commercial negotiations with the toy manufacturers.  Some of these fellows have been around the negotiating block a few times and were taking Santa for a ride (which, when you think about it, was quite an apt thing to be doing).  So much so that he has moved that whole operation to the Amazon (hot and sultry and, again if we are being honest, a bit a nightmare if you are a flying reindeer from northern climes); he thought that problem was solved, but you see, it wasn’t.  Turned out that the toy manufacturers were unhappy that he had introduced a middle man and so threatened to withdraw supplies from the Amazon.  An innocent internet-based shopping site, of whom Santa had never heard, was a bit concerned and threatened not to sell said toy manufacturers’ products on line.  More problems; more negotiations.  Worldwide shortage of toys; price of said toys goes up; Santa buys lots of toys – you see where this is headed.

Which is where China and Russia came into the picture.  Turns out that for quite a while, the two biggest Communist states in all of the world did not really like each other so – and this is the important bit – banned flying between the two countries when the plane (or other flying object) was en route to another country.  I mean, you couldn’t really make this up and it was all a bit of an issue until Santa discovered that the Americans were developing something called “stealth technology”.  So that was OK until he discovered a condition in the so-called treaty between Russia and China that very specifically referred to the TOTAL ban on using US-manufactured stealth technology to get round the problem.  Do you know what he did?  He supped a large whisky, smoked an even bigger Cuban cigar (bit of an issue there with the purchase of the US-manufactured stealth technology that we’ll just gloss over for the moment) and then said, “Sod it.  If the US-manufactured stealth technology fails to hide me as I make my way from one country to the other, I shall feed Rudolf some roughage the previous night so that he will be able to expel decoy flares at will.”

So that was OK.

Which brings me onto the animal handlers.  And the Baggage handlers.  And the animals themselves.  And then he had Mrs Claus nipping in his ear every night about “maybe taking some time off”. 

Who’d be Santa?

Merry Christmas one and all!

Robin Copland



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