Ross O’Carroll-Kelly in Lapland: Johnny goes, ‘My daddy says we’re going to eat a reindeer’

A fair few of the kids burst into tears. And the face on Mrs Claus...

I’m getting serious filthies. I’m guessing the boys made it a long flight for everyone

I’m getting serious filthies. I’m guessing the boys made it a long flight for everyone

 

“Boys and girl,” the air hostess goes, “we have arrived in Rovaniemi, Lapland – home of Santa Claus!”

There’s, like, an excited cheer from everyone on-board – except my children, of course. Leo shouts, “Santa’s not real!”, which is obviously not what the other kids want to hear. Or their parents, who have handed over serious shekels for this Christmas in the North Pole Adventure.

I’m getting serious filthies. I’m guessing the boys made it a long flight for everyone. I had three gin and tonics, threw on my noise-cancelling headphones and slept most of the way, awoken occasionally by members of the cabin crew, telling me that children aren’t allowed in the cockpit, children aren’t allowed to open the emergency door and if I can’t control my children the captain will be forced to make an emergency landing in Trondheim.

'Keep the life vests,' the air hostess goes, 'just get them off the plane', and she gives me a long, hord stare that feels – I’m just going to come out and say it – judgy?

As we’re disemborking, Honor goes, “Boys, you’re going to have to give back those life vests,” because – yeah, no, I forgot to mention – they’ve been wearing their life vests since take-off.

“Keep the life vests,” the air hostess goes, “just get them off the plane”, and she gives me a long, hord stare that feels – I’m just going to come out and say it – judgy?

Half an hour later, we’re on a coach on the way to a place called Joulukka, which a dude in an elf costume tells us means – literally – “Christmas everywhere”.

“My name is Balsam, ” the dude goes – he’s gas-looking in the suit with the pointy ears – “and I make toys in Santa’s workshop!”

“Santa’s not real,” Johnny, this time, shouts.

I just stare out the window. There’s, like, snow falling and the place looks – yeah, no – like a Christmas cord. I end up getting a tap on the shoulder from one of the other fathers, who goes, “Your children are obnoxious.”

I’m like, “Dude, it’s not my fault that they gave them goodie bags on the flight. All that sugar? They might as well have given them each a kilo of cocaine.”

I suddenly notice that Brian and Leo have grabbed a hold of Balsam – one leg each – and they’re lifting him up into the air.

I go, “Don’t forget, goys, you have to return him safely to the ground”, because I’m never not thinking about rugby.

They turn him over and dump him on his shoulder. I think a lot of referees would have allowed it, although I’m bound to be biased. The problem is that Balsam’s ears fall off as his head makes contact with the floor and this upsets a lot of the other kids.

We eventually arrive at our stop. We all pile off the bus and poor Balsam – holding his busted shoulder – hands us each a set of overalls, boots and mittens to wear for the sleigh ride through the Fairytale Forest to Santa’s actual gaff.

I’ve got literally butterflies in my stomach when I see the reindeer lined up in the snow. I ask Balsam if they’re actual reindeer or just horses with antlers glued to their heads. He says they’re actual reindeer and – nice to be nice – I suggest Deep Heat and Solpadeine for his shoulder.

Ten minutes later, we’re quite literally dashing through the snow, although – hand on hort – we’re definitely not laughing all the way.

“Why aren’t we flying?” Johnny goes – never satisfied with mediocrity, like his famous namesake.

Honor goes, “These aren’t flying reindeer, Johnny. These are energy-saving ones they use for shorter journeys”, which is poor from Honor and I think she knows it.

“This is s**t,” Johnny goes.

I’m like, “Come on, goys, let’s get into the spirit of it – let’s sing Jingle Bells!”

But Brian and Leo are trying to throw each other off the thing while it’s moving. Honor goes to separate them, but I’m like, “Leave them to it, Honor. They’re ruining this trip for me.”

“Daddy,” Johnny goes, “can you eat reindeer?”

I’m there, “I don’t know, Johnny”, seriously fed up at this stage. “We’ll see do they sell it in Cavistons when we go home.”

Bear in mind, Mrs Claus must meet some complete s**ts in her line of work

We eventually arrive at Santa’s gaff. It’s a seriously impressive pile and the former estate agent in me wonders what he paid for it.

We follow the others up the pathway, which is lined with giant candy canes. Brian pulls one of them out of the snow and smashes Leo over the head with it. I have to admit, it’s funny.

Into the gaff we go. It’s, like, warm and cosy inside and it smells of fir trees and cinnamon. A woman walks into the room, dressed in a Santa costume, except it’s, like, green?

“Hello, boys and girls,” she goes, “I’m Mrs Claus – and my husband is very much looking forward to meeting you!”

She’s not bad in terms of looks. Santa’s done all right.

She goes, “Have you all been good boys and girls?”

A little girl points her finger in our general postcode. She’s like, “They haven’t! They’re evil!”

Leo’s there, “You focking grass.”

“Oh, I’m sure that’s not true,” Mrs Claus goes. I stay quiet. “I’ll just check that on my Kindometer!” and she points what looks like Sorcha’s hand-held clothes steamer at them.

Johnny goes, “My daddy says we’re going to eat a reindeer.”

A fair few of the kids burst into tears. And the face on Mrs Claus – and bear in mind, she must meet some complete s**ts in her line of work.

I decide to take a step or two backwards. It’s at that exact moment that I notice Honor silently gesturing to me. She’s discovered a secret door set into the bookshelves.

“I read about this online,” she whispers. “Follow me.”

So me, Honor and the three boys slip through the door into this, like, oak-panelled office.

Leo goes, “This is focking sh-” except he doesn’t get to finish his sentence. Because the door opens and in he walks – we’re talking actual Santa Claus.

The suit. The boots. The beard. The lot.

I’m like, “Please don’t spear-tackle him, goys!”

But I’ve got nothing to worry about, because they’re just, like, rooted to the spot.

“Hello,” Santa goes, “Brian, Johnny and Leo, isn’t it?” and I’ve no idea how he knows their names. Maybe he heard about the flight.

All I can hear in that moment is the sound of Leo breathing, Brian trying to say the word, “S. . . S. . . S. . . Santa”, and a stream of piss dribbling down Johnny’s leg on to Santa’s wooden floor.

And this, I just think, is the magic of Christmas.

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