Passport: Father Christmas - 'Nobody recognises me in my swimming costume'

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The Independent Travel
I travel a lot, especially at Christmas. It's one of the perks of the job, though I never have any time for sight-seeing. Too much work, too much stress for that.

One of my problems is population growth. People never think about that when they are eating their turkey, but I have four or five times as many presents to deliver now as I did at the beginning of the century.

And running up and down tower blocks is never the same as popping in and out of chimneys. Where am I supposed to get in? Modern air-conditioned buildings are too tightly sealed. The people who build these things never think about the problems they are creating for me. And in the US the security is a pain. Can you imagine having to disable 30 million burglar alarms in half an hour?

There are also the difficulties of religiously mixed populations. I'm supposed to deliver to people who celebrate Christmas. Generally speaking that used to mean Europe and the Americas but not Asia. The bane of my life these days is the fact that the Japanese and the Chinese have decided to start celebrating Christmas as well. There's another billion customers to keep happy.

Then there's the liberalisation of Russia, which means yet more work for me. I'm one of the few people who wasn't happy with the demise of Communism. At least the Russians have the decency to celebrate Christmas 12 days late - it means I get a breather - but delivering presents is still the last thing I want to be doing in January, which is supposed to be my time off.

Then there's Castro. I've always been his biggest fan but not now that he's legalised Christmas in Cuba. Everyone is expecting extra rations there now, of course.

I love Saudi Arabia, where celebrating Christmas publicly is a crime. There's no need for me to bother faffing around in Iran or Afghanistan either. You love being able to tick off an entire country without having to go there. India, in theory, should be a fairly easy job, except that the Christians of Goa go ballistic if I forget them.

Don't you just hate it when people take you for granted? Like kids who think I'm their parents. And people who complain, as if I'm responsible for choosing everybody's present myself. Who do they think I am? Superman?

People always ask me where I go for my holidays. Don't believe all that rubbish you read about me living in Greenland: that's just Nordic propaganda. I do spend a short time each year in Finland, but only to do the admin for my reindeer, and to make sure they are being looked after. I never go near the place in winter except at Christmas. The darkness depresses me.

My favourite city is probably Rio. Nobody recognises me in my swimming costume, so I don't get hassled for off-season presents.

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