Anyway, the tickets were booked and all was well. When I mentioned our trip to Bea she spent the next three minutes hooting with laughter and remembering our one and only visit to Santa's Grotto - I was three, she was seven and had to be restrained from telling me that "he doesn't really exist y'know, it's just a fat man in a red suit" by both parents and maternal grandparents all the way there.
It was torture. For me. And, I guess everyone else in the general vicinity. My collywobbles started when a man dressed in green and red lycra with a pointed hat on took me and Bea away from our parents and made us join a queue! Alone! Deserted! Bea took it like the pro she was (is) whilst I started whimpering. I could just see my parents salivating over a nice cup of coffee and a slice of cake in the adjacent cafe when the queue started moving closer to the ominous looking room where Santa resided. "I'll go first, I'm oldest" Bea informed me importantly as we reached the door and a rather sinister looking fairy took our names. In Bea went and I slipped under the bingo-winged fairy arm and shot in with her. Big sisters are supposed to protect you aren't they?
Bea proceeded to list her Christmas requirements while I was held back by yet another red and green lycra'd woman who told me "to wait your turn". Poor Santa was bewildered by Bea's list and obviously regretted asking her what she wanted for Christmas. She didn't look very impressed.
Then it was my turn. "Ho, ho, ho little girl" said the ruddy cheeked Santa. "Wail, scream, bellow" went yours truly. Bingo-winged fairy stuck her head through the door and said "do you want the parents?". Bea was quicker than all of them - she was clutching her unwrapped dolly (with change of outfit and bottle) and booming "Muuuum!" whilst dragging me away from my nightmare.
I had vowed that no child of mine would grow up with a Santa aversion. Mac was nine months old when he first had his picture taken with the Man Himself. He slept all the way through. The second time he visited he revealed Santa to be beardless with a rather fake looking beard by yanking the whole thing off. Last year he loudly castigated Santa for "not bringing me my bike!". What's best? A frightened child or a precocious one? Answers on a postcard please.
When I advised Amelia of our plans she went quiet. Which is unusual for her. "We will be back by about five won't we?" she queried sharply. I assured her we would be (our Santa train trip is booked for mid morning) and she exhaled noisily "Only, Jack's booked the table for 7pm you see and I want to shower and change."
Jack? As in Jack Next Door? Amelia's coy giggle answered my query and I hung up feeling rather lightheaded. I informed David of his mothers date with Nunhead's answer to Alan Titchmarsh and he dropped his hob nob in his tea.
I don't even want to think about what Amelia is going to ask Santa for this year.