He chose the highest room in town. Which, I suppose, is fair enough. What it doesn’t explain is why he chose Hastings, a seaside town on the south coast of England. His wife explained it by telling everyone that he was obsessed by history, and more specifically by the Battle of Hastings. Okay, to be totally accurate, the battle wasn’t exactly at Hastings but then the Norsemen weren’t caring that much back in 1066.
He knew what to expect with a Lapland winter, but it was the summers up there that really got to him. Lapland in July to August was humid and full of mosquitoes. It didn’t seem to bother his wife or the helpers – although to be honest most of them took their yearly vacation around about that time, letting them rest up before the onslaught of Christmas and all that entailed.
So, Santa decided he’d have a little break of his own (a break that Mrs Claus wasn’t unhappy about) and planned to go to Hastings and study the invasion of William the Conqueror. The highest room in the town was the only one available at the time, but it seemed to him that it was meant. The room and the views were perfect.
He had taken the sleigh all the way to a little airport in Tornio, then he’d given Rudolf and the other reindeer a few dollars to enjoy themselves. Santa told them he’d see them soon and then he went into a bathroom, cut down his beard, gelled back his hair and placed his red clothes in a locker. He flew from Lapland to Helsinki and then onto London using a cheap airline. Santa wondered if maybe cheap airlines were the future of Christmas and that the reindeer were perhaps past their sell-by-date.
He loved the seaside and the beaches, although the seagulls could be annoying, especially the ones that realised he was Santa and therefore would keep swooping down and asking him for Christmas stuff. Santa, like most folks in Hastings, just threw the birds a hot potato chip, and told the gulls that he’d put their request on a list.
There were somethings that he wouldn’t (or couldn’t) tell Mrs Claus – after all, what happened in Hastings, stayed in Hastings. He hadn’t actually tried beer in the past and before he knew it, Santa was being arrested by the cops for lying drunk under Hastings’ pier, and shouting out the words to ‘Jingle Bells’. He used the name Mr Claus at the Police Station, and he was sure that he hadn’t imagined hearing a couple of the police folks sniggering at the back.
As for the other thing – he was definite that those men on the beach (he had befriended) had told him that ‘breaking into a bank’ was another name for a party in Hastings. Luckily Santa had escaped before the police had shown up. One of the older guys had stuffed some of the bank money in Santa’s pocket – money, which Santa had given to several homeless folks on the front of the town.
But the thing that he really remembered about that summer, was the lady who had lived in the rooms below him. He had literally bumped into her as she was climbing the steep steps to the second highest room in the building, and he was sliding down the bannister. He picked her up off the stairs, apologised and then continued sliding down the shiny slide.
A few days later, Santa was passing one of the many fish and chip shops in town when he saw the lady sitting on her own. She was playing with the food rather than eating it. Santa knocked the window. She didn’t recognise him at first – then she put on her spectacles on and eventually gave him a little smile. Santa took this as an invitation and went in the tiny shop and sat next to the lady.
It seems that the woman and her husband had been married in Hastings and had honeymooned there. Her husband was long dead, they’d had no children and now she spent a few weeks in the summer reliving the old days in Hastings.
Santa and the woman met a few more times in the days and weeks ahead, and when Santa asked what she wanted for Christmas – she replied that apart from her Bert coming back, nothing much else. She lived in a little village in Hampshire with her dog, Cheeky (who her sister was currently looking after) – and both she and Cheeky would eat everything in sight and then watch Christmas television. That was her Christmas day and that was enough for her.
She never got to say a proper goodbye to Mr Claus (he told her it was a well-known Finnish name) but several days before she was due to return home water started coming through her roof from the rooms above – the ones that Mr Clause had stayed in.
The man who came to fix the leak was called Bertie (just like her husband) – he was a widower who had a little dog called ‘Rascal’. The last few days of her holidays were a whirlwind. She and Bertie (and Rascal) went for walks along the beach, they even went for fish and chips – and this time she ate them rather than just picking at the food.
As Bertie walked her to the train station for her trip back to Hampshire, he told her that he had a break over Christmas and wondered if the two of them could perhaps meet up.
She smiled at Bertie and said she would love to.
bobby stevenson 2017