John McCullagh December 15, 2004
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As with most other unpaid, voluntary or occasional occupations, it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit suitable applicants to play the role of Father Christmas now deemed essential at this time of year for SMEs, institutions and the like.  Beggars can’t be choosers and you make do with whoever you can get.
 
I suppose it was fortunate he was addressing pre-school age children who surely must have been unaware that he was a little the worse for wear when he arrived.  ‘Water! Water!’ he gasped as he walked in.  Suitably refreshed, he advised the infants to instruct their parents to leave out some bottles of Guinness for Santa on the fateful night.  ‘Santa’s very fond of Guinness!’ he chuckled.  Then he settled into his role.
 
He veered recklessly from encouragement to admonishment when he learned what the children expected to receive from his Christmas Eve visit.  He told of his grand-daughter who expected a computer but it couldn’t be afforded.  She can want all she likes, he added.  Looking to the astonished teachers he began to discuss relative prices in various town shops.
 
He clearly took a shine to one little girl, whose demands were very modest.  
 
‘Wouldn’t you like a bicycle?’ he smiled.
 
‘Oh, can I? Can I?’
 
‘Of course.  I’m sure you deserve a bicycle!’
 
I don’t know why I found this amusing!  There’ll certainly be ructions in one Newry household when Santa’s promises are not fulfilled.  
 
I think the teachers were relieved when he finally left.  For anyone who works in a school nowadays, every word must be carefully weighted against the possibility of litigation.
 
Everybody bar Santa, it seems!

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