I was Father Christmas once – well, that’s not quite true; I’ve been Father Christmas numerous times within the family circle – but I was once Father Christmas in La Feuillée, St Lucia. Well, that’s not quite true either; I was Father Christmas in La Feuillée more than once, but two occasions stick in the mind.
The Rotary Club of Gros Islet nominated me Father Christmas; the club was busy doing community work in La Feuillée; we helped them paint their Mothers’ & Fathers’ Hall among other things, and someone came up with the bright idea of having Father Christmas ‘drop in’ – literally almost.
A parachute jump was not really practical, so I hired a helicopter. The Minister for Aviation, Romanus Lansiquot, gave us permission to land in a field just opposite the Hall. If you have ever been to the Beausejour Cricket Ground or the National Tennis Centre nearby, you might have taken the road through La Feuillée and Caye Manjé instead of going through Gros Islet and passing the sewerage ponds. If so, you might have noticed the hall, next to a rum shop, and a field on the other side of the road just as you turn off to Beausejour. That was where Father Christmas landed!
The Rotary Club of Gros Islet had planned the event; there was food and drink a-plenty, but the gifts were in short supply because Santa had limited baggage space in the helicopter, and parents who had not signed their kids on for the free present-giving, suddenly appeared out of nowhere with dozens of eager young Santa-Fans – more than 100 more than anticipated.
Rotarians being Rotarians, the problem was quickly solved and presents galore appeared from nowhere as if by magic – and what is Santa, if not magic? We had a wonderful day; and nobody noticed when Santa discreetly took his leave in his wife’s car after shedding his disguise behind the hall.
The exercise was popular – naturally – and was repeated several times just as successfully in the following years, though without the helicopter. The fact that Santa’s skin colour seemed to change from year to year hazed no one.
The next time I appeared in La Feuillée as Santa, I adopted a different strategy. You know, it doesn’t matter whether you are black, white, red-skinned or brown-skinned, it is hell inside a Santa-suit when the sun is shining in the middle of the afternoon. Anyone who doesn’t believe that we are all the same inside, should try spending a couple of hours in the blazing sun cooped up under a long white beard. We all sweat de same!
The next time I appeared as Santa, as I said, I decided to try a different approach. With the sacks – yes sacks, we had learnt from previous years – of presents safely stored in the back seat, on the passenger seat, and in the boot of the car, I drove – in civilian clothes – along the back roads of Bonne Terre towards La Feuillée, hoping to find a nice, quiet spot where I could safely strip off by the roadside and change into my Superman – sorry Santa – suit and start performing miracles, like flying in without a helicopter.
You know, quiet, safe spots on roads are a bit like policemen; you can never find one when you need one; and the road behind Bonne Terre is a terror of a road: narrow, twisting, no verges to speak of, and immensely popular with people hell-bent on breaking some sort of speed record.
I was pretty close to the junction with the Monchy-Gros Islet Road before I made up my mind that I simply had to do what a Santa has to do and stopped the car, got out, stripped off, and proceeded to pull on my Santa suit. Numerous cars sped by, tooting, honking and staring. It was an untenable situation. The trouser legs were immensely baggy, this being a one-size-fits-all type of costume. The beard was unruly, and the hood slid over my eyes, which was a blessing because I was operating on the principal that if I could not see the world, the world could not see me. The long Santa boots did not want to accept my feet, let alone my legs. The inevitable happened, and I fell into the ditch and was eventually hauled out by a member of the search party sent out to find Santa. How are the mighty fallen!