As the decorations start to come down in the Bogsy household, it occurs to me that this festive season I haven’t been dressed up as Santa. Just to be clear, that isn’t an annual event for me, but every now and then I like to slip into a Mr or, more memorably perhaps, a Mrs Claus outfit to delight and scare friends, family and colleagues in equal measure.
The whole business started way back in Boots the Chemists on the high street of Bridgwater, Somerset. I’d been working there as a Saturday shop assistant, primarily in the cookware section, pretending I knew how to assemble a food processor, or what to use a palette knife for. Clearly I had made quite an impression, or perhaps it was me being the only bloke around, that led them to ask me to dress up as Father Christmas that year. My mission, should I accept it, was to wander around the store looking jolly and offering small children chocolates from my tin. These days I would probably have been arrested.
I cringe now to think of that lanky, spotty teenager, with the cheap Santa gown stuffed with a cushion to try to achieve the required level of portliness. What an unconvincing sight I must have been.
I wonder if this slightly traumatic experience led me, about thirty years later, to go for the female version, although what possessed me to bring her out at a works Christmas party I’m not sure. I have to say I scrubbed up pretty well in my short red, fur-trimmed sleeveless number, with matching red heels, and long blonde wig. Contrary to popular myth, I did not travel like that to work. I discreetly hid myself in a toilet to get changed. I had to get a little assistance from a little assistant, Julie, who was the only one in on the surprise. She nearly collapsed with laughter when I opened the loo door and beckoned her in to help me. I think she’d been expecting a slightly more homely, cuddly Mrs Claus, rather than the vision before her, which looked like it had stepped straight out of a strip club. She must have felt suddenly quite normal in her green elf suit, as she helped me along the corridor to the party. Thank goodness there were no students around – the sight of the two of us could have made them question their mental health.
Photographic evidence does exist and may well prevent any further promotions. It tends to be used as a kind of initiation for new staff. Normally within their first week, they get to see the legendary photos. The strong ones stay on, disturbed but better prepared for what may lay ahead. Perhaps next year I need to test that resolve.