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Monday, December 17, 2012

It's every girl's dream to meet Russell Brand...

I'm joking, of course. That's clearly not Russell Brand. It's Santa's Grotto. No, seriously. I think they're going for a subtle religious subtext by celebrating Christmas with a bloke who looks like Robert Powell in Jesus of Nazareth. Albeit with a red spotted hanky and a cutlass.

Anyhoo, just to prove that idiots don't know when to quit, and a fool and his money are soon parted, we followed up Saturday morning's treat-fest with a festive trip to meet Father Christmas. Obviously there's only one Santa, but as I explained to Amelie, he's capable of appearing in various locations across Sussex on any given day, as part of his extensive market research to find out what kids want for Christmas.

The most logical place for us to meet him would be at the Churchill Square shopping centre in Brighton, but sadly in the run-up to Christmas, it's about as crowded as this train...

... only the occupants are less cheerful, and you're unlikely to get anywhere.

Fortunately, Santa's a keen horticulturist, as is proven by his regular personal appearances in local garden centres, where he's presumably shopping for Christmas trees and black welly boots, so we decided to look further afield for a more peaceful location. The local garden centre had opted for an upmarket all-ticket 'Breakfast With Santa' option, which was not only expensive but sold-out, while the branch near Lewes was charging so much to meet the red-suited sugar-daddy that you might as well buy a ticket to Lapland and knock on his door yourself.

So we opted for the South Downs Nurseries near Hassocks. I'd read glowing reviews of their Santa on the 'Burgess Hill Uncovered' Facebook page (consider yourself plugged, Mr C) and they were only charging £3 per child, with all the money raised going to the Burgess Hill District Lions Club, which supports local good causes.

At that price, there was obviously a risk that they might be putting the grot back into grotto with a shabby, low budget affair, and let's face it, three quid is more than a family trip to the cinema (even if you stay for the whole film), but I like to do my bit for charity - it's why I buy lottery tickets - and the idea of a drive into the countryside appealed more than a walk into a shopping centre, so we decided it was worth the risk.

And we weren't disappointed...

Well, actually we were disappointed. But only by the queue. That photo was finally achieved after AN HOUR spent in line. I know it's for charity, but frankly people should have been sponsoring me to stay there. Climbing Kilimanjaro would have been a breeze in comparison. At least you get some kind of view. I was stood next to a lawnmower display for thirty minutes.

But just when I thought I couldn't take any more, we reached the front of the queue, had a lovely chat with an elf, and with much excitement were shown through the curtain and into...

... the pirate display. No, I don't know why either. It was quite nice though, and featured a wooden ship, plastic cannon, various buccaneers, and a sign to the Lost Boys' Den. Or the customer service desk, as it's also known.

From there we were eventually called into Santa's inner sanctum, which was decorated with framed photos of reindeer, and granted an audience with the big man himself. He asked Amelie about school, so she told him she's at nursery, which prompted him to ask her age. Upon being told, he looked at me and Lisa for some kind of denial, and having confirmed that she really is only four, he then asked us what we're feeding her. It's a conversation we're used to.

Within a minute, she'd got her hands on a present, I'd taken five photos, and we were being ushered out through the exit. It was a brief experience, but a good one. And Amelie seemed to think it was worth it. She had that present open within thirty seconds (it was a Winnie the Pooh wall chart and book), and before we knew it, we were back at the main entrance, checking out the garden centre's Christmas display...

I think that's what the pre-school meant by a Nursery Winter Wonderland. Although they'd never let that Baby Jesus in.


Phil's Mum said...

Your family definitely enhance the garden centre's Christmas display.  They should have paid YOU to be there - or at least let you jump the queue.  Although I thought Father Christmas was coming to Nursery on Friday, so you could have saved yourselves the bother.

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Santa is going to be delighted with this report!

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