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An exclusive interview with Father Christmas.

PUBLISHED: 10:27 18 December 2017

Father Christmas. Picture: LJM

Father Christmas. Picture: LJM

Archant

Could Father Christmas be persuaded to part with any of his secrets?

Father Christmas at the Lowestoft Christmas lights switch on event, this year. Picture: NICK BUTCHER Father Christmas at the Lowestoft Christmas lights switch on event, this year. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

I am greeted at the door of the wooden chalet by... an elf?

“You must be Lynne Mortimer,” he said, “Come in.”

“You must be... one of Santa’s little helpers,” I hazarded.

“I’m one of the Christmas list managers, responsible for quality control... and not so much with the sizeist comments, if you don’t mind. My name is Frank.”

Father Christmas at Nowton Park Walled Garden, talking to Jake. (2016)

Picture: MARK BULLIMORE Father Christmas at Nowton Park Walled Garden, talking to Jake. (2016) Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

“Sorry, I said, chastened. “I am so looking forward to seeing, I mean interviewing Father Christmas...”

“He’s expecting you,” said Frank. “But first, switch off your mobile phone; there is to be no recording and no photographs.”

“But I’ll need pictures...”

“Oh, come on,” said Frank. You must have masses of pictures of Father Christmas. He’s in all the big stores and grottos.”

Honestly, I came all the way out here to Lapland and I can’t even take a picture? I could have stayed in East Anglia and done a phone interview without the need for thermals.

“It’s warm in here, Frank.”

“We have eco heating, fuelled by reindeer poo,” he said, matter-of factly. Hot chocolate?”

“Thank you, yes.”

“I’ll bring it through to Santa’s study for you.”

“We call him Father Christmas.”

“I know. He has lots of names, depending on where you are in the world. You should see how many passports he has.”

“He has passports?”

“Joke.”

I wondered if the elves did the gags in crackers.

“This way,” said Frank and led me to a door. He knocked briefly and opened it. “In you go.”

“Hello, Lynne Mortimer!” a voice boomed from a chair at the fireside. “Come in and sit down.”

Suddenly, I felt embarrassed. As a cynical journalist, should I really be reinforcing the myth of a mystical gift-giver. I sat down and tried to form a sensible question.

“Father Christmas...”

“Yes, the beard is real − have a tug if you like.”

“No, you’re all right, thanks.”

“I shave it off after Christmas and start growing it again in August.”

“Do you? I assumed you look the same all year round.”

“Not at all. This is simply my professional outfit. I can cut quite a dash in a dinner jacket.”

“Does that mean you have a name you use when you’re not doing Christmas?”

“It does but I’m afraid I can’t tell you what it is. Now, what do you want to know?”

“We’re coming up to your busiest time of year. How do you prepare?”

“I need to take on a lot of calories in the weeks before Christmas Eve because that night I have to work harder and faster than anyone on the planet. I am usually depicted as a rotund person but by Christmas morning I’m back down to my normal right-for-my-height weight. Fortunately because I am magical and immortal, it does no harm.”

“But surely all those sherries and mince pies can’t be helpful.”

“Well, it’s only one night a year and I do drink a lot of water as I whizz around so I don’t get dehydrated.”

“Do children always get what they want?”

“Pretty much but sometimes it’s just not possible. There are occasions when supplies simply dry up... I think that happened to you in... er... (He checks a notebook) 1986... the À la Carte kitchen your daughter, Ruth, wanted. There were none left.”

“She hasn’t got over it yet,” I nodded. “Okay and, what about accessing homes in the absence of a chimney?”

“I’m afraid that information is classified under a number of directives around the world. I can’t reveal my methods because it could constitute a breach of national security... But I can confirm that the lack of a chimney has never stopped me,” he smiled.

“What about naughty children?”

“Children are so good in the run up to Christmas that I have never had to withhold presents although it remains an option,” he twinkled... and he really did twinkle. Most disconcerting.

“And, now, Lynne, I have to get on. There’s a lot to do between now and Christmas Eve.”

“But...” And in that instant, he was gone but a piece of paper fluttered down in his wake and settled on the floor. I picked it up.

“My Christmas list 1962 by Lynne Mortimer,” it read. And there, at the top of the list, above Bunty Annual, tick, and selection box, tick, was: “I would like to meet Father Christmas.” And as I read the words, a tick appeared beside them.

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