Dear Father Christmas,
I realise that you may be snowed under with letters from children all around the world asking for the latest iPhone. I wonder, do you get requests for chessboards or colouring books anymore?
I know that I’m not the first grown up – or, more accurately, big kid – to write to you. I was touched by Benedict Cumberbatch’s letter in which he asks for “a little more time for children to be children”. He went on to ask you to “distract them from the realities of a world gone mad so that they can laugh with their breath rather than sob with their tears”.
But I do not ask for distractions: this Christmas I want a Solution. I know it’s a bit more expensive than the Gameboy I asked you for fifteen years ago.
I hate to be a diva, but I don’t want the first model: the Temporary Solution is outdated and unattractive. I want a state-of-the-arts Solution. A Solution that will dry the tears of Zahra, my nine-year-old cousin in Iraq, who fears that it is only a matter of time before Isis close in on her and her widowed mother. Only last week, I checked up on her. She cried down the phone: “I miss the days when all the family gathered in Jordan for Eid and you’d teach me all the bad words in English. I miss my daddy.”
A Solution that will dry the tears of 5-year-old Kamal, an Iraqi Christian forced to flee from Isis’ tyranny in Mosul. Give him hope that, one day, he will be able to style his hair with the cool waters of the Mosul Dam once again. Perhaps you might even assure him that in the fullness of time he will return to his hometown to find that churches and mosques stand side-by-side as they do here in Britain.
A Solution that will dry the tears of fourteen-year-old Haidar, an orphaned Syrian refugee who lost his family on the fatal journey across the Mediterranean. Sit him on your lap, embrace him, and tell him that, though things will always fall apart, they have an uncanny habit of coming back together.
A Solution that will dry the tears of five-year-old Mohammed, a Syrian living in Raqqa, too afraid to write to you: the Isis bigots will brandish him an apostate for reaching out to you. “Baba Noel is an apostate,” they will tell him. “And all apostates must die.” You may struggle to find him: Western bombs have driven him out of his registered address. But I know you can do it. Do not worry about standing out: your outfit is a camouflage that will blend in with the gallons of blood on the streets.
A Solution that will dry the tears of two-year-old Maha, a Palestinian paralysed, brain-damaged and blinded by Israeli airstrikes. She is one of the quarter of a million Palestinian children under 10. Give them at least one day of peace, one day to roam around the streets of Gaza without the impending fear of being struck down by an Israeli missile.
In short, I want a Solution that will dry the tears of children in Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, UAE, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Israel.
I anticipate your response, Father Christmas: you may tell me that I’m on the bad list this year. You will remind me that I haven’t taken out the recycling in weeks or that I always leave my housemates to do my washing-up. You may be dismayed that I have spent far too much money on gin and tonic.
You might be frustrated that I failed to fulfil all those New Year’s resolutions that I made – hungover, of course - at the start of the year. Finally, you will surely remind me that I haven’t been very kind to my mother.
And to that I say: you are right. Forgive me, Santa: I am so, so sorry. Please – only this once – will you make an exception? Let us not cry over spilt milk. I will change next year. I promise.
I know this one is a particularly momentous request. It is going to be a race against the clock this Christmas. If it makes your life easier, I’ll do Europe with the reindeers while you save the world.
All my love,
PS – I was also going to ask for a Sudoku puzzle but I suppose that can wait until next year
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