You may not have heard this but I have it on the very best authority that Santa is seriously contemplating going over to Click and Collect as from next Christmas.
it's not so much Santa (who has only just worked out how to use the I Pod which the reindeer clubbed together to buy him last Christmas) but Mrs Claus, better known to some, if not many, as Mother Christmas, who is keen to haul the Red-Coated One into the
Modern Age. She is starting to believe that there has to be a Better Way (yes, I know, she would make an excellent politician, would Mrs C) to handle the annual task which has reached absolutely monumental proportions in recent years.
Did you know, for example, that in Britain alone, old Santa has to visit 26.4 million households in the space of just six hours. That's 73,333 chimneys to climb down every single minute. There's no way he can afford to get stuck, which
is why Mrs Claus has recently introduced him to a Mediterranean diet and has been strictly rationing the sausage rolls and mince pies which are so much a part of seasonal food, in the North Pole every bit as much as here. When Santa hurrumphs in the exasperation
which only a Man Who Loves A Meat Pie can understand, his devoted wife reminds him that he is not getting any younger.
While that is true, he retorts (a trifle crossly), it is a fact universally known that,
while he never gets any younger, nor does he ever get any older. It's one of the advantages of being a Legend.
Anyway, you are doubtless wondering why I am so sure of my facts that I am prepared to broadcast
this Breaking News on the Daily Blog. The thing is, I am pretty sure that I found myself sitting next to Mrs Claus only yesterday in Argos when I was waiting in a queue to collect Young Morgan's present which I had ordered just the previous evening with just
a click or two, or three. She looked just like any other harassed mum but I could tell, from her detailed questions about my Click and Collect Experience, that she was undertaking a serious piece of Consumer Research.
The reason she was in Argos, I suppose (and I am sure it was just one of the many outlets she will have visited) was that it would be rather too much to expect everyone to collect their presents from the North Pole on Christmas Eve - even though it
would do wonders for the tourist trade in the Great White Wastes. But think of the expense of travelling there, not to mention the hassle at the business end with 73,333 households queuing up to collect their goodies - and that's just from Britain. How many
more elves would be needed to handle the situation, with all of us waving our receipts in the air and trumpeting that our number had been called twenty minutes before and here we still were, waiting at Collection Point B for our chosen toy to arrive by lift
from either the depths or the heights of the store?
I could tell that Mrs C was thinking it all through in her head because she went all quiet for a bit until her number was called and she approached the counter
to protest that the box in which her new hostess trolley was encased was clearly damaged. The Elves in charge - better known as shop assistants - kept their cool despite all provocation, dealing with the Case of the Damaged Box and the ever-increasing crowd
of shoppers with a sweet patience which made it impossible for even the most hardened Christmas shopper to be cross with them. I hope Mrs C was making a note of this because, let's face it, this is the kind of issue which doesn't crop up with the normal delivery
arrangements. Have you ever heard of anyone returning a damaged parcel to Santa? No, I thought not. If Click and Collect is to be the New Way, then for every problem solved, another will present itself. If you'll excuse the pun.
I would love to have asked her why, after so many years of following the traditional pattern, she had suddenly decided to give technology a chance. Is it that the reindeer are getting increasingly unpredictable and difficult to steer,
despite the fact that Mrs C installed a sat nav in 2012 and is now providing training in the use of Googlemaps? Have they all, perhaps, failed their Elf and Safety exam? Rudolph never has been able to answer the question about how many carrots you can safely
eat in a single night - just think of the temptation if even half of the 73,333 households in Britain leave just one carrot! That's, well, a LOT of carrots. Hold on while I add a calculator to my Christmas gift list...
I wonder how she fed back the results of her research to Santa and how he reacted? She will have waited until he was feeding the reindeer, knowing that this always puts him in a good mood. Prancer and Dancer, Donner and Blitzen, Dasher and Vixen, Comet
and Cupid - not to mention the Red-Nosed One - have been his stalwart companions on his mad dash around the world since the legend began, too long ago for anyone to remember. Despite the dangers of slippery roofs, twisty chimneys and a surfeit of carrots,
somehow or other they always get through. Too many people are relying on them to even consider the Awful Alternative.
"I just thought it might make things a bit easier for you, dear," explained Mrs C later,
as they sat by the fire drinking their hot chocolate and sharing a slice of Manor House cake. "I know you did," Santa responded, trying in vain to shake the cake crumbs out of his white, curly beard. "But, if truth be told, this was never meant to be easy.
The whole point about it is that it really is completely and utterly impossible.
"As good old Walt Disney once said (now there is a Man After My Own Heart) it's kind of fun to do the impossible!" he finished
with a contented smile.
And with that, Mrs C had to be satisfied. At least for this year...