My Santa hell: sacked after 30 years of ho-ho-hoing

When Father Christmas asked for a throne to sit on, the store told him to get on his reindeer
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The Independent Online

Sunday. Got up midday, feeling not very festive, I'm afraid. The day before I had been sacked from my job as Santa Claus from the John Lewis store in Norwich. The shop had promised to give me a throne to sit on, but, in the end, they refused. The managing director accused me of having the wrong attitude, and of not living up to his expectations. This seems a bit harsh. I have been a Santa on and off for more than 30 years, since making my debut at the Park Hotel in Diss. I have been told by a lot of people that I am the best Santa they've ever seen, and I don't think it's boastful to say I can claim to be the best Santa in Norwich, and possibly all of Norfolk. I was John Lewis's Santa last year, and agreed to do it again on condition that they give me a proper seat, which they promised me.

Monday. I spent the day mulling over what I might have done to avoid what happened, and considering my options. I might take out an unfair dismissal claim. I had been checked out by the police and so on, so there was no problem there. On the first Saturday I had carried on despite there being no throne because, even though I had to drag an enormous sack around for five hours, I didn't want to let the children down. I have always prided myself on my professionalism, since making my debut as a redcoat at Clacton in 1961, so I carried on. They later promised there would be a throne, but still none was forthcoming, so I got a bit abusive with a girl assistant I thought was being rude and demanded to see somebody in authority. The person in authority said I could go. They say their policy is to have a "roaming" Santa and that I could only have a seat to have an occasional rest.

Tuesday. Decided to carry on with my book for children, based on stories from my performances in parks and on local radio. I am adding a chapter about a Santa who gets sacked by a department store and goes back to Lapland, which might help me find a publisher. I'm unable to do much on it, though, because of the media interest. It became the most hectic day of my life as I rushed to and from radio and TV interviews in my Santa outfit. At least they gave me a seat to sit on. On the way I met lots of people in the street who said they loved me and couldn't understand why John Lewis said my attitude was wrong. What a day. I had to have a small sherry at the end of it.

Wednesday. Yet more photoshoots, this time with lots of people outside John Lewis with a placard saying "Save our Santa". How lovely. Helped my son, who lives with me, to redesign my website. He was in the local paper just last week after our house got broken into and he chased the burglar. I hope that all this fame won't go to his head!

Thursday. The media calls are tailing off. In a broadcast I did, I reassured the local children that Santa would still be bringing presents as usual on the night of the 24th. It's just that he would not be buying them from John Lewis. Did some writing, and in the evening made a personal appearance as a compere and DJ in Great Yarmouth. It's wonderful the support people have given to me. To show I have no hard feelings, I offered to go back to work for John Lewis on Saturday if they gave me a chair, but they've now got someone else in to drag his sack around for five hours. The local media keeps the story going by interviewing other Santas about my case. I think most of them are too frightened to speak out.

Friday. I do some of my (unpaid) work as East Anglia's Equity representative, dealing with membership applications from a theatre in Great Yarmouth. I was due to do another night's compering, but, sadly, they haven't sold enough tickets, so the show is off. Had a shock when my ex-wife rang up, having seen all the publicity. I thought she was after money but it was just a friendly call to support me.

Saturday. Curiously, for a Santa, I have to go shopping myself, to buy a Christmas present for my 94-year-old mother. Spent the afternoon listening to the Chelsea vs Norwich game and preparing for an evening of stand-up comedy - they want some Santa gags - at a local pub. It beats lumping a great sack round an ungrateful store.

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