Santa’s Super Duper De Luxe Sleigh By ©Angela Dold (Creative Writing)

“Santa! You’ll have to go on a diet,” Chief Elf Tamzin said, as Santa Claus tried to heave himself out of the chimney. “Magic can only go so far, you know.”

“It’s not my size that’s the problem “ Santa grumphed. “It’s this chimney! It’s too narrow!”

Tanzin’s eyebrows rose. “Really? The chimney wouldn’t be a problem if you had changed the size settings on the Magic Chimney Spell to allow for the extra….bulk…” his voice faded, afraid to use the word ‘weight’.

“Extra bulk? Extra bulk?” Santa spluttered, but on reflection, quickly shut up. He knew Tamzin was right. The buttons on his Santa suit hardly did up and the elastic on his pants was really straining, but this was Christmas Eve; the night when everything should run smoothly but it had gone awry right from the start.

Santa had got stuck in the first chimney he had tried to go down. He squirmed and wriggled but he couldn’t move. “Give us a push, Tamzin,”Santa called in a muffled voice from inside the chimney. So,Tamzin jumped on him until he slid down head first into the fireplace. Not an easy task for a little elf.

Getting him out again, well, that was a bigger problem. The elf tried to push him up the chimney, but Santa’s bottom was far too big. Tamzin’s head simply disappeared amongst folds of red woolly cloth and he nearly suffocated.

But finally they got organised and worked as a team right through the night -Tamzin jumping on Santa’s bottom to go down each narrow chimney and Santa having to climb out himself.

Tamzin thought it fortunate that no sleeping child had woken up and seen Santa or heard him huffing and puffing or rolling around the roof like a big red ball after falling out of the chimney. But, at last, it was nearly over.

“You’ll be pleased to know, Santa,” Tamzin announced, “I’ve checked the ‘Naughty and Nice’ List and this is the last time this year you’ll have to get in or out a chimney.” Santa nodded absentmindedly. He was still struggling to get out of the chimney.

The little elf leaned against the side of the sleigh, folded his arms and tapped his foot, impatiently. His red shoes curled up at the end and they had a tiny bell attached which tinkled.

Tanzin watched Santa’s antics until he couldn’t bear it any longer. “Oh, for goodness sake….He grabbed Santa’s shoulders and using all his strength, pulled and pulled until finally, like a cork out of a champagne bottle, Santa popped out. He lay on the roof, exhausted.

After a couple of minutes, Santa hoisted himself up and, trying to regain a modicum of pride, waddled over to the sleigh. Unfortunately he tripped and landed in the sleigh, head first, his face squashed against the cushions, and his legs waving in the air like a two-headed monster from the deep. The elf grabbed Santa’s legs and with one almighty heave, got him sitting upright, behind the sleigh’s controls, ready to go.

“Okay, Tamzin, stop dawdling; don’t stand there like a fish with its mouth open,” Santa said straightening his woolly hat.” We’ll have to get a move on; it will be dawn soon and we don’t want the children to see us.”

Tamzin’s pointy ears went from red to scarlet. It was a wonder steam didn’t come out of them, but he counted to ten and swallowed hard.

To add to Tanzin’s troubles this year, Santa had bought a new sleigh and he couldn’t seem to get the hang of driving it.

The Super Duper De Luxe sleigh was the new breed of machine –keyless, with push button start, GPS, hands free phone and retractable glass roof it was the top of the range. But most important of all, it was reindeer-less - no more reindeer whingeing or complaining or going on strike; the reindeer had been given redundancy and a cosy stall with plenty of hay.

But this new sleigh wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. As soon as they had left the North Pole, the sleigh’s phone went dead, the GPS went berserk and sent them to all sorts of queer places; and the windscreen wipers couldn’t cope with the snow. Tanzin had to keep getting out to clean the glass so they could see where they were going.

But now their troubles were all behind them. They’d finished the job! They were going home.

Inside the sleigh, it was toasty warm and Santa was already thinking of Egg Nog and forbidden mince pies. He pushed the starter button… Whirr. Whirr. Whirr. Whirr. He pushed it again. Whirr. Whirr. Nothing happened.

Tamzin looked at Santa. “Something wrong?” Santa knew. “I’ve lost the key,” he said in a meek voice. “It was in my pocket and it must have dropped out when I went down a chimney.”

Keyless didn’t really mean keyless. You still had to have the key close to the ignition. The two sat there for a moment, stunned. not speaking. Disaster!

Already the sun was just peeping over the trees and cars and people were slowly moving along the road. Luckily, many of the houses were decorated for Christmas so seeing a sleigh perched on a roof wasn’t an unusual sight.

They both jumped when “Jingle Bells” squawked out of the sleigh’s speakers. Their emergency beacon had kicked in. “I’ve lost the key to the sleigh” Santa explained to Home Base.

It was agreed nothing could be done until dark. They couldn’t risk being seen flying over the town so the sleigh stayed where it was, perched on top of Tommy Watson’s house, its two passengers, hardly moving, trying to look like a plastic Santa with plastic Elf. It wasn’t difficult; they slept.

It was nearly midnight, when they heard the jingle of bells heralding their rescuers - the old reliable reindeer. Tamzin hitched them onto the sleigh and they were off!

"Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN! On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONNER and BLITZEN and Rudolph!

At home, Tamzin toasted his toes by the fire and drank a large glass of fortifying Elfin Brandy and Santa ate a mince pie (or two or three if Mrs Claus wasn’t looking).

When the shops opened again after Christmas, The Super-Duper De Luxe Sleigh was returned to the Dealer. Modernisation is okay, but some things should never be changed.

On behalf of the Executive and all members of U3A Tauranga, I’d like to wish you a Very Merry Christmas and a safe, Happy New Year. Take care when you venture out onto the busy roads. Please remember you are driving a car, not a Super Duper De Luxe Flying Machine! Thank you!