Old stager Santa threatened with sack

IT'S THE second day of Christmas and Santa is as sick as a partridge. He used to adore Boxing Day. It was his favourite time. His labours over for another year, he needed only to sort out a few final chores before sinking into a vast bath foaming with many varieties of bath salts and with a large bottle of malt whisky in his hand; both the bath salts and the bottle having been inadvertently left in the bottom of his sack.

The reindeer would be back snug in their stables, Rudolph plugged into the battery charger and the sleigh put into the garage to have its runners greased (a little trick he'd picked up from the Olympics).

Then he'd put away his shiny black boots, fold up his heavy red suit and daft hat and slip into something warmly nondescript before popping out, incognito of course, to watch a bit of sport. He didn't mind which. Football, rugby, a race meeting...anywhere where there weren't likely to be many kids or women to be heard moaning about their presents.

Say what you like about the men in those days. They'd stand around happy on the terraces in their new caps, scarves and gloves, sipping contentedly from their new hip-flasks. Now, they're as demandingly grumpy as the rest and he knew the e-mails piling up in his computer would contain as many male complaints as the others.

But that wasn't precisely why the silver-haired old Yule supremo's face was as long as a Wembley architects' report. For a start, he was still dressed up; with his tight boots niggling at his tired toes and the thick red serge hanging heavy about his shoulders.

Far from bringing relief and relaxation, Boxing Day was now FIFCA de- briefing day and he was due on closed-circuit conference-line link up. FIFCA? As his Chief Elf was fond of reminding him, this was FC's own fault. If he hadn't been persuaded to franchise the Father Christmas idea worldwide, he'd still be the one and only Santa and there would be no such organisation as the Federation Internationale de Father Christmas Associations.

As much as he favoured the spreading of the load of responsibility for the delivery of billions of presents, Santa wished that he'd remained the sole provider. It was tough but he'd proved over the centuries that he could handle the job and, moreover, he could please himself how he did it.

But, as with many things in this woe-begotten century to which we are bitting good riddance, once you start sharing good ideas with the rest of mankind it usually rebounds on you. He thought of football, rugby, cricket, tennis and the many other British activities over which an ungrateful world had gained control.

"By the way," said the Chief Elf, breaking through FC's reverie, "you've been cited by FIFCA for not announcing your final reindeer line-up by midday on Christmas Eve." An even deeper cloud of gloom descended upon the normally genial countenance as he remembered the days when it was up to him when he selected the trusty team of reindeer who would power his loaded sleigh through the Christmas skies and when he could take his time with the deliveries.

He didn't have any rivals to care about, or what tricks they got up as they bent and twisted the rules of traditional present-delivery. FIFCA didn't help by bringing in electronic timing and fudging the strict laws on chimney descent and silence. They even did away with the red card for waking up the kids.

Neither was he helped by the fancy formations his competitors introduced. He stuck rigidly to a straight 2-2-2-2-2 of solidly muscled reindeers willing to put their antlers down and go like hell. Others, however, discovered cunning variations. The Italian, Santissimo Clausini, put in an extra reindeer at the back to form the now infamous Staganacio system.

The twinkle-hooved Brazilians, under Santa Natale, discovered a new breed of deer called antelopele and set a new standard for rooftop nimbleness. The German, Gerd Giftflinger, brought in a more rapid way of depositing the presents at the foot of the bed.

Poor old FC was being out-thought and out-gunned. Then, there was the problem of Rudolph. When he of the glowing proboscis first hit the scene everyone thought that our worries were over, that old FC could recover his place as Christmas top-dog. Erratic as Rudolph was, he had that essence of brilliance that could inspire any team of reindeers and was soon a world-wide favourite.

But, being a star in one-off fog situations is one thing but to maintain high standards for a prolonged period is another. Sleighing is a cruel, demanding game and, when one mistake means that FC is stuck with 10,000 Teletubbie jigsaws, you need more than a reputation for the unexpected.

Under all that pressure, it was not surprising that Rudolph spent too many nights on the wrong tiles. Even his own team-mates turned against him. Prancer, reindeer captain and veteran of 500 consecutive Christmas appearances, commented in his column in the Jingle Times: "It's about time people knew the real facts about Rudolph. They'd think less of him if they realised that the red nose comes from being pissed most of the time. Even then, he'd be all right if he could pull a sleigh as well as he pulls birds. The only position he's fit for these days is rear light."

Not that Rudolph would admit his failings. He was too busy bemoaning his absence from the New Year's Honours List. "I'd have been better off as a brown nose in Downing Street than a red nose in Lapland," he complained. FC's renowned patience was close to exhaustion. His only hope was to flog Rudolph to the Americans who had long been trying to put together their own Santa operation. But even they couldn't be that daft.

He shivered as a sudden chill ran down his back. He threw a Yule log on the fire and cursed as the smell of burning chocolate filled the room. Then the telephone rang. It was his agent with even more bad news. FIFCA had found a claus in his contract that stipulated they could review his performance at the end of every century and refuse to take up his option - "and they're not very happy with your record of gift selection", he said.

"A new survey has shown that children can be inluenced for life by what they get for Christmas so FIFCA have set up a new Xmas Stocking Control and some of your fillers over the past 100 years have left a lot to be desired," said his agent, who found it difficult to be pleasant even to his clients.

FC didn't protest. He'd admitted to himself a long time ago that the dispersement of Christmas presents had lost its innocent fun. Had he been too generous? Was he partly responsible for the greed and petulance that dominate the winter scene? Did an extra handful of chocolate coins in a stocking set a boy off on the road to becoming a Premiership chairman? He had to think twice about every little gift. For instance, all what he'd been reading in the lurid tabloids about what players get up to had given a whole new meaning to Blow Football. Worst of all, did he have anything to do with the present refereeing problems in football and rugby? Twenty or so years ago he stuffed whistles willy-nilly into stockings when he acquired a job-lot of Acme Thunderers. The power contained in those piercing notes can twist the impressionable young mind...FC shuddered at the thought.

What else was he responsible for? Did he really give a toy microphone to young David Mellor? Was it him who chose a money-box for Roy Keane? If he'd given little Mike Tyson a tennis racquet instead of boxing gloves, would John McEnroe have been better behaved? As these questions blazed around his brain, the Chief Elf poked his head around the door. "The Press are on, they've heard about the FIFCA problems," he said.

"Tell them I'm considering my position," was the gloomy reply.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice