And I was largely successful. The most excitement came this morning as I was dozing in my armchair, when I thought I heard something coming from the snow dunes. What can I say: it’s a thrilling existence. Hell of a racket, though. It sounded like something was shaking the ground like it was a shag-pile rug, and scattering the snow like debris. Did I hear it? I think we’ve established that I’m getting old, and every sensory organ is packing up one at a time for the old folks’ home, so maybe I didn’t. Besides, when I heard this noise – that may or may not have been of phantom origin – I was still straddling the gulf between Sandman and Snowman, Barbados and Lapland, asleep and awake, so I wasn’t even in possession of the sound, deductive powers of Eamonn Holmes, never mind Sherlock Holmes. I thought maybe Margaret had dropped another tray of mince pies in the kitchen. She hadn’t. She suggested that my own nightmarishly loud snoring had woken me up. It’s possible. My snores sound like a plane-load of panicked, parachuting pigs making an emergency landing onto a passing convoy of motorbikes, just as God squats over their faces and roars out a planet-chewing fart.
Conditions were pleasant in the living room this morning, though, I can tell you. The fire was roaring and spitting by my side. Lovely, warm and stress-free. Screw excitement: there’s nothing quite like dozing off in your favourite chair in-front of your favourite hot fire, the newspaper crumpled on your lap and your slippers clinging to your feet like two tufts of toasty cloud.
Well, unless it’s that fantasy of mine where a naked, voluptuous model on a reclining chair awaits my descent down the chimney, legs akimbo, a cigarette dangling seductively from her ruby-red lips, greeting me in husky tones with the words: ‘So, Santa, let’s see if I can help you empty that bulging sack of yours.’
The fantasy always hovers in the air above my fire-toasted armchair, waiting for me to sit down and slip it on like a virtual reality sex helmet. Hey, I may play the part of Santa, but I’m still a man, right? I’m Frank McGarry: as red-blooded as I am red-jacketed.
It’s just a shame that Margaret’s idea of sex these days is extra clotted cream on our scones. There’s a euphemism in there somewhere, I’m sure.
‘Aw, look at you,’ Margaret’ll say as she catches me daydreaming (she thinks I’m daydreaming!), and spots the beaming grin plastered across my features. ‘What’s making you so happy, my love?’
‘I’m just thinking…’ I’d purr, ‘…of the happiness I bring… to the children of the world.’
As I mentioned at the beginning of this entry, my vow to remain cocooned in peace was only largely successful. I can always count on my bosses at Coca Cola to get my heart beating like the samba. I waited until Margaret was at the shop, and then tried phoning the bastards multiple times to discuss this Dwerg Neuken situation and how they’re treating the elves, and to vent a little of my anger (nobody calls me Mickey Mouse and gets away with it!), but if the phone wasn’t just ringing out, I was being assured by some automated arsehole that ‘my call was very important.’ So important that they completely ignored it about eighty-five times. A day of reckoning is upon them, let me assure you of that…
‘This is Frank McGarry calling,’ I said in my sternest, boomiest voice. ‘I need to speak with management.’
I always use my real name when I’m angry with them. They know I mean business when I cast off my Santa branding and let my Glasgow show. It didn’t work though. The receptionist told me that the big boss was in meetings all day. I asked for the man under him. Surprise: he’s in meetings too. And the man under him. I think I went through the entire list of staff, top to bottom, trying to find someone to take my call. It turns out that even the guy in the fucking mail room is in meetings today.
Next I called the management at Dwerg Neuken. They’d speak to me, alright, but I’d’ve been better talking to a brick wall. Christ, I’d’ve been better talking to Margaret. I got through to their CEO, some whiny-voiced arsehole by the name of Jorg Griswald, and told him in no uncertain terms that what he was doing to the elves was immoral and deplorable. That the elves were a loyal, decent and hardworking lot who didn’t deserve to have their meagre pay slashed even more. And, besides, if anybody is going to make their lives an unending misery, it should be me!
‘I am full of large apologies today, Mr madam,’ he said, his reedy Norwegian accent going up and down like an asthmatic mouse on a pogo-stick, ‘but what does our business with the little people of the snow have to do to you?’
‘What does it have to do with me?? I’m Santa Claus, motherfucker!!!’
From what I was able to piece together from his terrible command of English, Jorg will answer only to his masters at Coca Cola. I was a mere puppet, a mascot, a breathing piece of branding, scarcely a human being. His exact words were: ‘Sooner I would be taking orders from Mickey Mouse, yes?’
Which is why I’m posting him a big bag of reindeer shite. First class.
It looks like I’m getting a visit from those suit-wearing, soul-sucking sons of bitches at Coca Cola. They claim to have photographic evidence of corporate vandalism, and want to ‘have a little chat’ about my ‘plans for the future’, and discuss the ‘ins and outs of my contract.’ I know euphemisms when I hear them. That’s like when a mafia boss kisses you on both cheeks and tells you he’s always loved you. The piano wire and cement shoes can’t be too far away. So I could be getting the retirement of my dreams after all. And all it took was an unwholesome quantity of alcohol, and a heap of reckless abandon.
I wondered, though, exactly what evidence they might have, so I assembled the elves for a meeting. Gundal, my head elf, told me that on the night of his birthday I ordered thirty of the elves to trample ‘FUCK COCA COLA’ into one of the snow dunes, a message that has now frozen in fifty-foot-high letters. Not only that, but I made them pour thousands of vats of Coke into the trenches, which also froze, leaving a big brown message which apparently is visible from space.
Also, one of the elves got the pictures he took that night developed, and from the evidence it looks like I traveled way further than Glasgow on my drunken tour. This picture was taken in Bulgaria, and they say I was responsible for most of the painting. I believe them. Pretty good, if I do say so myself.
Drinking’s a young man’s game. I still feel a little out of sorts after Gundal’s birthday bash. My neural pathways are like never-ending corridors in a vast hospital; thoughts staggering down them like heavily-medicated mental patients with their dressing gowns open. I keep finding clues to my drunken behaviour. Trying to remember the other night is like piecing together a jigsaw made out of fog. Maybe some things are better not knowing. Like how the Jesus from Glasgow’s George Square nativity scene ended up in my bathroom. In May. How in the name of Hell’s bum whiskers did I manage that?
I might have a bit of magic at my disposal, but I thank all that’s good that time travel isn’t among my talents. Think how much worse it would have been if I’d managed to snatch the actual baby Jesus. I guess that’s why Doc and Marty McFly don’t get pished up before they hammer the DeLorean up to 88. I dread to think what Marty would have done to his mum if he’d downed a few bottles of vodka on the way to that dance. Anyway, I’ve wandered off the point a little. It serves a purpose, though. Nonsense talk about time travelling incest is distracting me from the fact that I can hear my heartbeat through my fingers. I’m even sure I can smell my blood, and it smells like Jack Daniels on burnt toast. Blasted bloody hangover! Margaret says I should clamp the reindeers before I start drinking. Or stop drinking. A novel idea. Perhaps I’ll consider it.
It might improve staff relations. Doritch, my most reliable elf, had to fly back to Greenland with Rudolph to pick up the elves I’d left behind. Apparently I kidnapped them. That’s a strong word. I’d like to think I invited them on an adventure against their own will. They weren’t too happy, the boring little buggers, but I’ve given the five of them a week off work, plus a bonus, so all’s fair in rum and war. On the home-front, the conversational cold war between me and Margaret finally has ceased, and relations have warmed. I’ve graduated from being a loutish brute to a lovable rogue again.
My friend Ronald phoned today. He’s flying out next week for a visit. We used to have a wild old time back in the day. We would’ve made Gundal’s party look like an Amish disco. Seems like we’re both slowing down. Age has done it to me, a new-found sensibility has done it for him. Was talking to him about my desire to retire, and he thinks it’s a good plan and I should really push it with Coca Cola. He said we can talk about it when he arrives. I’m looking forward to that. Haven’t seen him in years. Last time I saw him he was a natural fluorescent red. Now I gather he dyes it. Ah, well. I just hope he doesn’t bring with him that drippy friend of his; always gabbing on about this stamp collection and the mating behaviour of woodland insects. I can’t stand the Hamburglar.
Last night’s party for Gundal was so good I woke up in Greenland. The flight home was a bit shaky, because the reindeers were still a bit pissed, too. Six of them vomited into the Arctic Ocean, and I caught a bit of splash-back. I’m sure we’ve left a few elves behind. I might send one of the more responsible elves back with Rudolph later in the day to do a reconnoitre/search-and-rescue thingy.
Margaret was pretty furious with me. Worried sick, she was. She left the community centre quite early in the evening complaining of a headache, and I said I wouldn’t be too far behind her. By this point, however, I was dressed as a polar bear and roaring at elves, so maybe she shouldn’t have put so much stock in my promise. I guess I’m just trying to rationalise in light of my shenanigans. Margaret said to me this afternoon that I should start acting my age and have a bit more respect for myself. Especially since all of the elves look up to me. By the time she uttered that line I was too hungover even to do the obvious and cruel elf-related height joke. So I vomited into a bucket instead.
‘You should be top of your own naughty list, Frank McGarry!’ she told me.
That’s my real name: Frank. I’m not supposed to reveal that information for fear of contractual reprisals. ‘Brand continuity’ and ‘image integrity’ are the relevant buzz-words here, I believe. But I come from a long line of Santa Claus’s. We’re not immortal; just ordinary Joes living in extra-ordinary circumstances, working for a bunch of extra-ordinary arseholes. There are rites of succession, sort of like what they do with Popes. We die, and another Santa takes our place, and so on and so forth, ad infinitum.
No more journal today, though. My skull feels like it’s filled with explosive eels. And I’ve got a dear wife to crawl to, and sick to scrub.
Spent most of the morning revising my ‘Naughty List’. Coca Cola told me I couldn’t use one anymore, that no child could be excluded from Santa’s services no matter how bad their behaviour. I’ve got the memo here somewhere. Ah, yes.
‘It is not your responsibility as one of our major brand representatives, nor the responsibility of Coca Cola itself, its subsidiaries or shareholders, to comment on or offer judgement upon the behaviour of individual customers or to create criteria under which customers could be excluded from our services based on arbitrary and often subjective codes of conduct. Coca Cola is a profit-driven company, and those profits, and indeed our brand, would suffer if we were to behave in this manner. Moral positions are best adopted and enforced by the church, and penalties best enforced through the legal system. It is not in our interests to attempt to fulfill the roles of either institution.’
So, roughly translated: ‘It doesn’t matter if some wee cunt’s put a brick through an old disabled woman’s window, doused her beloved pet-cat in paraffin, set it alight and then taken potshots at its screaming body with a pellet gun; so long as his parents are prepared to spend more money than they have in their bank accounts on Christmas presents, and continue to encourage their Hell-spawn to glug Coca Cola in quantities that would obliterate an elephant’s pancreas, then who gives a flying Yeti’s bawbag?’ I’m no legal eagle, but I do have a first-class honours degree in Reading Between the Lines, and a doctorate in Advanced Bullshit Detection.
Margaret took my blood-pressure again today. It’s high. My heart’s smacking around in my old chest like a jet-propelled pin-ball.
Anyway, Innis Snelling. He’s definitely top of the naughty list this year. I won’t go into too much detail and defile my memoirs with a record of his disgusting misdeeds, but suffice to say he got up to some sickening, sexual, banana-related ethnic tomfoolery. And what’s with the lad’s name? He sounds like a rejected Harry Potter villain. No toys for you, motherfucker.
Wee Gundal the elf’s birthday bash tonight. That should relax me.
Scrunch, scrunch, scrunch. I was walking back from the shop when it really struck me. Scrunch, scrunch. That noise, that sickening noise of boot on snow, like a rat gnawing through my skull. Snow. How much I hate it. White, endless white, it’s all the eye can see. I’d punch it if I thought it would make a blind bit of difference.
I’ve been thinking about it since yesterday. Escape. Screw the threat of legal action and the loss of pension. That’s what I should do, just escape. Get a hold of some false identities, shave off my beard, scoop up Margaret and then the pair of us bugger off to Barbados or somewhere equally sun-kist, to be collected by the Grim Reaper replete with burgeoning melanomas and livers gone wonky through one too many beach-front cocktails. Sounds like bliss to me. Fuck Christmas, fuck children and an extra-special fuck reserved for those sharp-suit wearing sons of dogs at Coca Cola.
I used to really enjoy my job, the status of being Santa – it used to really mean something. And the snow didn’t rankle so much when I felt like I was making a difference. Not now though. It was around the conclusion of the six-thousandth snowball fight that the malaise really kicked in, and shortly after the construction of the nine-thousand-and-fiftieth snowman. How I despise snowmen now. Now, at Christmas time, when I go on my deliveries, I take great delight in decapitating those I find in children’s gardens. Sometimes, with a hearty laugh, I sculpt sets of biologically intricate genitalia onto their icy bodies. The snowmen, that is. Not the children. To pass the long, bitter and freezing days here in the North Pole I’ve taken to erecting rows of snowmen, blindfolding them and mowing them down with an industrial strength hairdryer. Sometimes I douse them in petrol and set them alight. I swear that sometimes I can even hear them scream. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking.
I really want to retire, that’s the truth. But I won’t let those bastards at Coca Cola force me out. When I go, I’m going with my pension. So if they’re unhappy with my performance and general attitude to the work, and I’m unhappy being locked into this uninspiring life of snow and misery, then so be it. We’ll just have to be mutually unhappy; but happy that the lawyers too will be unhappy.
They are a shower of bastards, though, Coca Cola. I asked if I could relocate my North Pole base to the Southern hemisphere throughout the winter and spring months, but they said ‘no’. Gave me some shit about ‘brand coherence and continuity.’ So I’ve got to freeze my balls off like Nicholson in a hedge maze just in-case some kid breaks down in a heap cause they’ve seen Santa sauntering through Spain with a fucking Hawaiian shirt on. As if they’d recognise me. I even said I’d shave my beard, but, no, they said. ‘Your beard is the property of Coca Cola, Mr Claus.’
That’s why I’ve switched to drinking Pepsi. It’s not much, but it feels to me like the first strike of a guerrilla war. I can’t even change this coat, or deviate from the Coca Cola corporate colour scheme for fear of a law-suit. That’s definitely something I don’t want to be wearing. Every time I look down at the blood-red of my sleeve I feel more and more like I’m wearing a strait-jacket.
I remember when I used to be happy here. Where did it all go wrong?