Maybe it’s because I’m the new guy, or perhaps they’ve spotted my paunch and greying Barnet and beard. Either way, when I’m asked to try out being Santa, the bells started ringing – alarm bells, not those of a jingle variety.
The task I’ve been given is to offer some unseasonable season’s greetings to the wonderful folk of Dubai. My brief is to “act normal” and go about my day as if it is any other. So, Santa suited and booted (thanks to my friends at Mr Ben’s Costume Closet), I head to the office and await the howls of derision.
Standing in the lift, I can feel the eyes on me, but I’m determined not to let my cover slip – even if it is insufferably hot in that outfit. After a morning of giggles from my colleagues, who revel in posting selfies with me on Instagram, it’s time to head out into the real world – McDonald’s in Media City. As I walk along the street, it appears the public think nothing of my ridiculous get-up. Person after person passes me by without even so much as a “ho, ho, ho” or a “why, why, why?”
Standing in the queue, scratching my fake beard deciding which combo to plump for, the mood changes somewhat. Now I AM the centre of attention. The bewildered staff try their hardest to keep a straight face while I order.
“Do you have anything for reindeer? What would you recommend for elves?”
My fellow customers aren’t so kind however, with one thinking it would be funny to steal my hat and toss it on the floor. Unfortunately for her, Santa knows where she lives and my lawyers will be in touch.
Assault charges pending, I decide it’s time to walk off my bellyful of burger. And where better to take a stroll than the sumptuous sands of Al Sufouh Beach? Despite it being a weekday, there is still a decent-sized collection of bikini-clad tourists sunning themselves while I casually remove my boots and saunter towards the water. Initially, not a single eyelid is batted as I splash about, before reclining in a deckchair. Within minutes, though, my absurd garb becomes a kid magnet.
“Hi Santa, where’s my present?” asks one.
“Well, dear boy, have you been good this year?” I reply.
“Yes, Santa. Very good.”
“Well in that case, what would you like?”
“I want an Apple Mac,” he states.
“An Apple Mac? Wow! When Santa was a little boy, he was lucky if he got an apple,” I quip, causing him to strike a very confused look. Thankfully his brother saves the day, and could well save humanity, with a much more humble request. “I’d really like some jelly. Raspberry jelly,” he says.
A smile the size of Lapland appears on my face, along with a little tear quickly passed off as sweat. In this moment, this beautiful moment, I truly feel like Santa. Several photos later, including one with a bare-chested hulk of man who’d clearly grown up on a steady diet of stroganoff and borscht, it’s time to head back to Time Out Towers.
For some strange reason, taxi drivers don’t seem to take you seriously when you try to hail a cab waving a bell while dressed from head to toe in a geriatric-inspired fat suit. Despite a steady stream of motorists beeping and giving me the thumbs up, no-one is feeling festive enough to give Santa a lift. Where are Rudolph, Donner, Blitzen et al when I really need them?
Finally, a kind-hearted cabbie pulls over (after I’d trudged along for more than a mile, perspiring like the proverbial) and judging by his grin when I say, “North Pole, please”, I might just have made his day.
I knew when I was set this task that there was little chance of me being a secret Santa (if anything, I thought I might end up being Little Saint Nicked). But by the end, I sincerely felt as though I’d become the big man – the closest thing to a pop star I’d ever be…
Four to try Getting into the spirit
A glorious den of the sublime and ridiculous, at Mr Ben's Costume Closet you can rent or buy your outfit and get it delivered to your door. The staff will have you dressed as your favourite superhero before you can say “Up, up and away”…
Open Sat-Thu 10am-9pm, Fri 10am-10pm. Al Ghazal Mall, www.mrbenscostumecloset.com.
His job would be impossible without a sack in which to carry the thousands of presents to the well-behaved children of Dubai. CB Designs offers a personalised one with a choice of red or green trimmings. A nice option if you’d rather give the craftsman your cash directly.
Although clearly not capable of accommodating someone with the girth of a Mr Claus, RMP produces a steel sleigh that would make a wonderful centrepiece for any festive front room. Ideal for displaying your family’s cards or for storing Christmas sweets, it comes in green or blue.
Celebrating 40 years of bringing flora to Dubai and beyond, Oleander is a great place to buy real Christmas trees. Along with its range of Canadian balsam firs, you can choose from selection of poinsettia and other decorations for delivery to your home (or office if you fancy cheering up your colleagues).