Wednesday 22 October 2014

Who needs money? We've got Santa!

I received my final warning on Saturday morning, and as usual I only had myself to blame.

Our two young sons had joined us in bed, uninvited, and were happily flicking through a Lego catalogue, because they really love Lego.

Even though the two-year-old is too young to play with the stuff, while the five-year-old seems to regard his role in construction projects as very much a managerial one.

I live in dread of some evil person telling them that there is place called Legoland. Almost as much as I fear the day when they get to hear of Disneyworld.

On the whole I'd even rather be at Chester Zoo

For now, though, I merely felt the need to dampen expectations of what might be in their Christmas stockings, so I made a light-hearted reference to the dire state of the Hann family finances.

The comeback from Charlie (5) was instantaneous and lethal. “For the last time, Daddy! You don’t need ANY money to buy presents. Father Christmas makes them!”

I should have known better as I had already received an almost identical put-down earlier in the week, when I foolishly raised the subject of presents as the world’s worst distraction technique.

The pair of them were sitting on the kitchen sofa open-mouthed during an ad break in Channel 5’s Milkshake, the commercial rival to the BBC’s CBeebies, and something had just been described as “an ideal Christmas gift”.

If only they had this on CBeebies ...

I realise now that it is worth every penny of the licence fee not to have their minds poisoned with the desire to own yet more battery-powered plastic tat, to add to the skip-load of it they already possess.

I casually asked if they had anything in mind for themselves and thought Charlie said, “I’ve made a wish,” which sounded suitably modest. So I replied cheerfully: “I hope your wish comes true.”

He gave me a penetrating look. “No, Daddy. I’ve made a LIST.”

“Well, the thing is, Charlie, Mummy and Daddy have just bought this house and we haven’t got any money, so you might not be able to get everything on your list this year.”

He brought his face unusually close to mine and wore a pitying look as he very clearly and slowly spelt out the above-mentioned facts about Santa Claus, which I was clearly too dim to grasp. It must have seemed scarcely credible, in the circumstances, that I should need telling again within 48 hours.

I have no desire to mar his innocent enjoyment of the coming festive season by bringing him face to face with reality. Any more than I propose to book a visit to an abattoir to solve the puzzling question of “how the cows make the beef”.

I am regularly charmed by his inability to distinguish fantasy from fact and by his total lack of historical perspective, resulting in the belief that there may be a fairy circle, dragon or jousting match just around the corner.

We took him to ride his bike around the grounds of the local castle the other day and he was massively excited when told that people still lived there, but deflated when we had to admit that they weren’t knights, or at any rate knights as he pictures them.

I have already introduced him to two absolutely genuine knights, who were pronounced “rubbish” because they weren’t riding horses or wearing armour.

I suppose we’ll just have to do our best with his present list as the last people who tried to give him a nice surprise were the friends visiting from Australia who kindly bought the boys their very own prehistoric kingdom in a large box. Charlie looked at them coldly and said: “We don’t even like dinosaurs.”

For half term next week we cannot stretch to seven days in the sun, unless it happens to shine on north Northumberland, but I intend to make the most of the theme park full of genuine fairy tale castles on our doorstep.

I feel that I may as well also draw up a Christmas wish list of my own and shove it up the chimney with Charlie’s. Statistically, it must stand about as much chance of success as my alternative strategy for financial redemption by winning the National Lottery.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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