What it feels like to ... BE SANTA CLAUS

The Herald Magazine - - FIRST UP - DAVID AL­BURY

IAM the real Santa Claus. I know all San­tas say this but the marvels of time travel mean Santa can be ev­ery­where at once. That is the magic of Christ­mas.

When the chil­dren come into Santa’s grotto, you never know how they will re­act. Some can be overex­cited and won’t stop talk­ing – mean­ing you can’t get a word in edge­ways – while oth­ers are tongue-tied and starstruck. Then there are those who are ter­ror-stricken: we some­times for­get Santa is a weird-look­ing char­ac­ter with his huge white, bushy beard.

There are chil­dren who ar­rive with a note from their par­ents ask­ing that I tell them they need to be­have and do what mummy or daddy tells them oth­er­wise they won’t get any presents. Most of the gift re­quests tend to be quite stan­dard but I have had one or two ask­ing for a pony. You can see their par­ents think­ing: “Oh, my God”.

I was caught out a few years back when a child came in ask­ing for toys from The Avengers. Be­ing a cer­tain age, I im­me­di­ately thought of John Steed, Emma Peel, Cather­ine Gale and Tara King. I started rem­i­nisc­ing about The Avengers as I knew them from the 1960s and 70s. The child was look­ing at me quite puz­zled. Af­ter­wards one of the younger elves took me aside and ex­plained: “The Avengers th­ese days are Iron Man, The Hulk and Black Widow, they are su­per­heroes …”

When I am not sur­rounded by elves, I run pub quizzes. My cir­cuit is The Bailie Bar, The Cum­ber­land Bar, The An­ti­quary Bar and the West End Ho­tel in Ed­in­burgh. I do sup­port ac­tor work for col­lege and univer­sity drama and film de­part­ments when they need a ma­ture per­son. When I started, I was play­ing the ju­ve­nile lead, then the fa­ther and th­ese days it is grand­fa­ther roles.

My first part as an ex­tra was in the Os­car-win­ner Char­i­ots of Fire. I was ini­tially in some crowd scenes but I hap­pened to be wear­ing a flow­ing 1920s coat with the cut­away col­lar – I like wear­ing funny cloth­ing – and so they asked me to be a vicar. Ian Charleson is preach­ing from the pul­pit as Eric Lid­dell and I’m sit­ting below him.

This is my third year host­ing the Santa Break­fast at the Bridge Inn in Ratho. It is a slightly dif­fer­ent for­mat from the tra­di­tional grotto. One of the

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