Saturday, December 15, 2007

The accidental Santa


And then there was the time the local priest got me drunk and convinced me I was Santa Claus.

I'm not messing you know.

I think I was about 19 at the time and coming close to Christmas, I came back down to Cavan from college for the weekend. I passed the community hall on my way down town to the pub on the Friday night and noticed the local priest struggling to take boxes of toys from the boot of his car. Having idled my way through the previous summer's student jobs scheme, working for the same priest - i.e. talking about football with sporadic bursts of painting breaking out before we'd come to our senses and sit down again - I stopped for a chat.

I made the mistake of mentioning I was going to the pub and asked what he was doing carting boxes of super soakers around in the dead of night. He explained that the local youth club was finalising arrangements for the annual visit of Santa Claus to the village, and there was a small gang of young folk in the hall inside wrapping presents in a frenzy. I shot the breeze a while more but himself made me promise to drop in on my way back from the pub to help wrap a few presents.

"No bodder, fadder," said I, "if it was anyone else I'd tell them to fuck off but I wouldn't use such language in front of a man of the cloth."

"Go and shite," he says back laughing.

Anyway, six or seven pints of lager later, a somewhat wobbly McDanger was making his way back home and spotting the lights still on in the hall, wandered on in. Or 'dandered in' as was the local term for drunken rambling back then, which confused me somewhat as dander always suggested willies to me but then again, I was at that age. Sure I was an innocent, I hadn't even discoveredSmithwicks.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the local Padre was a right crafty so and so and was still at that stage searching for someone to fill the crucial role of Santa Claus the following Sunday. And knowing I was the worse for a few jars, he proceeded to 'persuade' me that I was just the man for the job.

And so it came to pass that twenty minutes later I was convinced that dressing in a big red suit, shiny wellies and sticking a pillow down my vest was, all things considered, really quite a marvellous idea and in no way damaging to the street cred of an urbane young student trying to impress local ladies with high jinks stories from college. Naturally I woke up the next day and was immediately seized by terror; at both what I had done and how many people I would be letting down if I welched on the deal a day before the big event. I believe the word "bollocks" was muttered more than once.

The day itself passed off largely without incident. I was lead into the village on the back of a small pony after some more persuasion from Fr. McFecker, to rapturous applause from the assembled kids - which stopped abruptly and melted into giggles as the animal paused to take a lazy, indifferent crap on the road. His business done, he moved me on and with a few Santa-like flourishes, some booming ho-ho-hos and a flurry of head ruffles on nearby children, I theatrically turned on the local Christmas lights after a countdown, and they duly fizzed and flickered into life to polite applause.

Then it was off to the hall where the real business began, that of talking with fake enthusiasm to a seemingly endless stream of snotty-nosed kids all breathlessly rattling off demands for playstations and scalextric and dolls and what have you. While the parents stood behind, wide-eyed and shaking their heads as a warning to me not to promise anything neither they or I could deliver.

Strangely, there were about ten really odd kids who simply refused to say anything. I mean anything. Wouldn't even tell me their name. Little bastards, I thought, in no mood for acknowledging shyness or whatever, this is hard enough without having to employ telepathy into the bargain.

And of course about six or seven recognised me as soon as they sidled up on to my knee, most of them my nieces and nephews who were curious as to why the uncle who normally roared at them to keep it down to hell because he couldn't hear the telly, and stop kicking the feckin' dog as well, was suddenly all breezy charm, ho ho hos, head ruffles and winks, and even gave them a present to boot. They looked at me funny for weeks afterwards.

Most memorable of all however was the sweet-looking one who farted audibly and resonantly on my knee (no relation, honest) and then started crying horribly to fill the awkward, embarrassed silence that followed, before running bawling from the hall with his mother chasing hard behind. Thanks be to Jasus, because I hadn't a clue what to do with a crying child back then. Still don't actually.

Eventually the line came to an end, after about an hour and a half of my earnest enquiries as to who was naughty or nice and trying to pretend I knew what a Tellytubby was. There's a picture of me somewhere in the dressing room panned out on a couch with my jacket off, smoking a cigarette and looking absolutely knackered. But in a weird way, despite the slagging I got from my mates and family, I was kinda happy I did it. I knew it'd make a good story I guess.

I didn't come home from college the following year though.

Now, how many of you think I made this up? Because I didn't.

24 moos and woofs:

Adullamite said...

Brilliant post!
Your own nieces especially! :)
Great stuff.

Susan said...

Three cheers for Father McFecker! I always wanted to be a priest...this is just the sort of thing I'd've loved getting up to.


Now THAT's a Christmas story.

Baino said...

Well Terrence, it's odd enough to be true! Lucky he only farted on your lap! My father-in-law took on the role once at my kid's kindy. They didn't fully cotton-on but wondered why Santa looked suspiciously like Grandad!

'Dander' = Willies? What an interesting mind you have . . I thought dander was the flakey skin stuff that comes off pets and makes you sneeze!

Terence McDanger said...

funny enough I looked it up myself and discovered it's a precursor of dandruff but I guess it's the expression about getting your dander up - which means to get angry - that made me think of willies.

But that's just me.

@Susan, he was some character. It was like being in an episode of Father Ted.

Spudley said...

I almost calved at the thought of the donkey taking a shite with you aboard. Quality stuff.

Terence McDanger said...

Cheers Spudley!

Sigh. How I love it when a really old post like this gets a comment...

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