Collins runs a children's Christmas party every year for kids aged 0-11. It has done for about five years now. It is particularly good for smaller kids - especially about 3 to 7 or 8. For a very small ticket price, you get copious sweets, drinks, bouncy castles, a disco and a visit to Santa. Who would choose any other way to take their kids to visit Santa given the option? No long queues, nice gifts, and they even let you take a photo of your kid on Santa's knee and don't try to charge you a tenner for their photo like many of the shops in town.
The one drawback is that when you put your name down for tickets the application form makes you state name, age and sex. No problem there unless you have a child like Charlotte, who is 8 and female, but who wants me to fill in the form with Charlotte Gautier, Boy, age 11. For at least 3 of the last 5 years the one low point of the party for Lots is the Santa visit. He invariably gives her a Bratz doll or a Barbie which she keeps in the packaging, gives to charity or keeps for whichever friend's birthday comes round first. She has never 'done' girl toys. She sees no use for dolls... Tell a lie, she once shaved a Barbie's head - it was the only 2 minutes of pleasure she has ever taken from a doll in her life.
So Santa came round again and she received the usual doll (left) and was considering whether to give it to Amy (Carol's daughter) or leave it behind. She was a very sad girl. But Léon had received three cars and a loop track so she was fairly upbeat at the thought of playing with that. At the end of the party as Santa was packing up she noticed he had 3 leftover boy presents for the 9-11 age group. She moaned how she wished she'd got whatever was in that instead. Chancing my arm I asked Santa's elf what was to become of the leftover presents as the rightful owners hadn't shown up. She didn't know - figured they'd just return them. I asked if Santa would be offended if she traded her Bratz doll for a boy parcel and after a little consideration the elf handed over a package whispering to me: Are you sure? - I think these are footballs. Lots opened up a leather football and beamed from ear to ear. I had become her hero. I had traded the doll from hell for a football that even matched her football boots.
Strange child! It takes all sorts to make up the world I guess. I would have been so devastated with a football from Santa when I was 8!