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The Man in Red b ln B te

By the time you read this you will no doubt be up to your neck in paper, sticky tape and gift tags – or else putting your feet up after eating too much turkey and too many mince pies. Either way, I think it would be kind to turn our attention towards those whose efforts make the Christmas holidays possible, and who comes higher on this list than Father Christmas? Putting aside all the necessary preparation, which

itself must take most of the year, the statistics of Father Christmas’ workload across Christmas Eve are staggering to say the least. It is worth looking at the facts and figures in order to realise just how gargantuan his task is.

There are an estimated 2 billion people in the

world who are under 18 years of age. Whilst all of these children technically qualify for a visit from Santa, many of them are of different religions. Most of these won’t have even heard of the man in red and so it is likely that Father Christmas only actually visits around 387 million children annually. The problem is that those who do expect a visit are spread all around the planet. Fortunately Father Christmas does not have to visit all of the children in a 24 hour period. Because of different time zones there is actually nearer 31 hours to complete the job, travelling from east to west. Nevertheless, this means that the reindeer must travel at a fantastic speed because he has to achieve 822.6 visits per second if he is to be finished in time. What this means is that Santa has about 1 thousandth of a second to park on each roof, nip down each chimney, deliver the requisite gifts and eat whatever snack has been left for him. He then has to get back to the roof, feed the reindeer all the carrots that have been kindly supplied, and move on to the next house.

Because of the diversity of places north and south

of the equator that Father Christmas must visit, he actually travels over 75 million miles in total and this means a speed for the sleigh of over 672 miles per second. On top of this we have to bear in mind the weight of the sleigh, which, if each present weighed only around 1 kilo, I am reliably informed could be in the region of 321,300 tonnes! Even Santa, despite his inbuilt magic, cannot defy the laws of physics and this raises some fascinating but also potentially horrendous facts. Because of the speed and the air resistance Santa

will personally experience forces 17,500 times that of gravity, which makes one wonder why he is ‘fat’ instead of ‘flat’. The reindeer are also subjected to unbelievable stresses. In fact they are travelling so fast within the Earth’s atmosphere that if they were not in some way protected, the heat generated would vaporise them in a tiny fraction of a second. Believe it or not, Rudolph, and his fellow leading reindeer actually experience 14 quintillion joules of energy in each and every second. It is clear that Santa has devised a way to harness this heat and to use it in some way as an extra motive force that can push him up to the 2,232,000 mph he must maintain


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if he is to get back to Mrs Christmas in time for breakfast. These figures are estimates of course. Actually it

does occur to me that Santa may travel even faster and because of his speed, may utilise what is known as ‘time dilation’. Is this the secret of his ability to get the job done? According to Einstein, the closer one gets to the speed of light, the slower time will pass. Whatever his speed, Santa must experience a fair degree of time dilation and this probably extends the 31 hours available considerably. It also accounts for why people don’t see him making his visits. His time reference is very different to ours and he would be, at best, a blur to anyone watching him from a normal time frame. All of this would be bad enough if poor Father

Christmas only worked on the one day each year but this is patently not the case. We see him everywhere, and he often appears first immediately after the summer holidays. Of course we all know he has helpers but there are still many millions of personal appearances to be made and these don’t even necessarily stop on Christmas Day itself. Take our own large family gathering for example. It did not take place last year until three days after Christmas and yet, as exhausted as he must have been Father Christmas managed to put in a personal appearance. Everyone met him, except for Kate’s eldest son Martin, who for some reason always seems to be missing when Santa arrives. I have to say that the poor man was not looking at

his best, which I suppose is not in the least surprising after what he had so recently gone through. His clothes seemed worn and he must have eaten too many mince pies because his coat and trousers were really quite tight. He clearly had not had much time for personal grooming because his beard was decidedly grubby and somewhat matted. Nevertheless he handed out all the presents in his sack and he had clearly done his homework because he knew each child present by name. Fortunately, unlike me, they were not askance at his dishevelled appearance and although somewhat overawed by this vision in grubby red, the children were clearly very impressed. All too soon it was time for Santa to take his leave.

Before departing he had a word or two with the adults and probably because he was tired, he sat down on a handy chair. That’s when it happened. Poor Santa’s trousers split from the front of his waistband to the back. Someone held a piece of discarded Christmas paper across him and all the adults present (I thought rather unkindly) dissolved into shrieks and fits of laughter. Poor Father Christmas departed with a face as red as his uniform, promising to get Mrs Christmas to repair his outfit before his visit next year.

What a story we had to tell Martin when he

returned – bitterly disappointed as always to have missed Santa’s visit. Ah well, I’ll get on with wrapping these presents.

Happy Christmas Saltburn, and do remember the man in red when you hang up your stocking this year.

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