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As the Christmas season draws near once again it is time to prepare ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ for his annual ritual. It is a novel idea to have Father Christmas travelling around on ‘Thomas’ instead of his usual sleigh, but it has worked well for the many years we have been doing it and the youngsters are as fascinated by Thomas as much as Santa.

Generally the drivers are responsible for selecting the routes to be covered and thus it is important that they are familiar with the area – where they can or cannot get with Thomas. If driving into a tight spot it can often be difficult to turn or back out, even sometimes having to break the unit and turn individually. Again knowing where the young children are is helpful to catch them before bedtime. Invariably there are times when older groups of children start to track Thomas and shout “’ere mate, can we get on Thomas”! – Bite your tongue before you answer to assure them that they can’t!

Trying to control the flow can also present difficulties – Santa has disappeared behind you, you know not where, collectors are in front calling “Santa” – just be patient and stay

still until it all comes together again. Unfortunately Santa cannot rush when he has young children to meet and to experience the excitement and look of awe on the young child’s face when he or she meets Santa is a very pleasant and unique experience.

On one occasion Roddy decided to have a little fun with Santa and called him over. Santa did not meet the delicate young child he was expecting but a rather large but jolly lady of later years - what to do? - Shut your eyes, give a kiss and a sweet!

But it is not just the youngsters who look forward to Santa and Thomas’s pilgrimages. Several old folk have told me that ‘we always look forward to Santa and Thomas because that is the start of our Christmas’. One elderly couple said they were disappointed when they didn’t see Thomas this year. They had placed a donation on the side ready for when we called which did not happen. After explaining why time constrictions had prevented us covering their street I said that I would be happy to take their donation and place it in the funds whereupon the wife promptly produced her purse and gave me a fiver – every little helps!

As usual the tours around our district with Santa and Thomas have gone smoothly, if not sometimes a little wet. We have brought a lot of pleasure to the young children and the public have generally given generously to our charity fund.

Ray Avenell

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