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U3A Writing: Santa And The Magic Sledge

In this delightful Christmas tale for children, Mike Eastwood reveals a secret.

Now most people think that there is only one Santa Claus. But I have to tell you that this is just not true. Indeed, even with magic, could we really expect one person to be able to deliver presents all over the world?

No, there is a Santa for every country and our Santa (real name Archibald Brightbells) lives in a remote corner of Ipswich – far away from any prying eyes or peeping children.

He is responsible for delivering presents to all those English children who are entitled to have them. This means even to those children who no longer live in England but have moved to be with their parents in a foreign country.

When not delivering presents our Archibald sits back in his armchair, puffs slowly on his magnificently carved wooden pipe and waits for his wife, Wilhomena Brightbells, to bring him a steaming mug of tea. Sometimes, if he is lucky, it is laced with brandy and accompanied by a large mince pie.

He occasionally wanders into the backyard to check that the elves and pixies are working hard on preparing next year’s presents. Sometimes he will pick up his special telephone and talk to the Santas in other countries in order to find out if there are any English children there.

In the year 2001 Archibald dressed himself up in his red coat and breeches, called in his reindeer from the woods and prepared his sledge for his annual journey.

He was in a particularly good mood this year because the sledge makers had managed to fix a new gadget to his sledge. This meant that if he had forgotten anyone he could make a present on the spot by just pressing a large green button on his sledge. The new present would be made in the twinkle of an eye, and when you put it on the back and pulled another small lever, it would become wrapped up in Christmas paper and tied off with a nice colourful bow of ribbon. This saved a lot of time but it cost lots and lots of money for each present.

Before setting out he had checked with the other Santas and knew that he had to visit most of the continents to deliver to English children, and so he urged his reindeer into a gallop and quickly delivered all his presents in England, Australia, India, China, Russia, America and all the countries in Europe. To be fair he cheated a little bit because he kept bumping into the local Santas, and they usually agreed to deliver some for him.

When Archibald got to Africa, there was no sign of the local Santa at all. He asked at the elf station, looked for him in the pixie park and even went to his home to see if he could find him.

Finally Archibald found him, sat under a solitary tree in the middle of a desert drinking brandy straight from the bottle. He looked up at Archibald, and tears ran down his face and into his beard.

“I have no presents to deliver this year,” he said. “There is a famine and no money, and all my dear little children are starving.”

Archibald got off his sledge, sent his elves and pixies off to build sand castles, and let the reindeer loose to wander and rest. He put his arm round the sad Santa and comforted him as best he could.

Suddenly he had a brilliant idea. He showed the sad Santa his new addition to the sledge. “Don’t worry,” he said, “we can make some presents with this. How many do you need?”

“A million,” sad Santa said.

“No problem,” said Archibald. He pressed the button and the magic sledge went to work.

Soon they were surrounded by presents of all kinds, shapes and sizes, all wrapped up and ready to deliver. They were just waiting for the last one to be made when, in a puff of blue smoke and with a large bang, the present machine blew up.

“Oh what a pity,” said sad Santa. “That was to have been for a particularly poorly little boy who is near to death from starvation and disease.”

“We can soon deal with that,” said Archibald, and he looked on his sledge. Soon he found a whole bundle of presents intended for a boy called Tom.

“This boy has not behaved very well this year,” he said. “He has been rude to his mother, naughty at school and has bullied his little brother. He does not deserve these.” And without more ado he took off the label and changed the name.

Sad Santa smiled. “You have been very kind to the children of Africa,” he said, “but who is going to pay for it all?”

“Just let me worry about that,” said Archibald and sent sad Santa on his somewhat merrier way.

And worry about it Archibald did – all the way home. When he had put everything away, paid the pixies and elves and sent the reindeer off to the woods, he went to sit in his chair and lit his pipe.

Wilhomena came in with his mug of coffee and mince pie and smiled, glad to see her husband home once more and relaxing in his chair. Suddenly she noticed that all was not quite right. Archibald looked worried. “What on earth is the matter?” she asked.

Archibald explained that he had broken his new present maker and that he also had to find the money for a million Christmas presents - and that these were not even for English children.

“We must have a collection,” Wilhomena said immediately. “We can use this new e-mail thingy and ask all the English families that have had presents to give some money to the children in Africa.”

And that is exactly what they did.

Archibald’s boss, the real magical Santa Claus, was very cross at first. But he soon came round when enough money came in to cover the cost of the sledge and the presents. However he will not let Archibald have a present maker on his sledge anymore, because he says he is too kind-hearted and can’t be trusted not to make presents for other countries.

So it turned out well for everyone. The African children got presents, Archibald felt good for having helped, sad Santa was happy again and lots of English families enjoyed their Christmas knowing that they had helped some African children.

Everyone, that is, except Tom. He did not get any Christmas presents, but he did learn that it pays to be good and to help other people. And you never know; by next Christmas he may have learned his lesson.

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