It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees

I’m on a roll, you wait for ages for an update and then a second appears without warning!  The previous revolved around mommy and daddy – for once – this one is back on track and is about the people you really want to read about:  The Baguettes!

As one would expect for a write up around Christmas there is an awful amount of Christmas related shenanigans in the lives of the Bagnalls.

As per last year, our local garden centre, Vermeulens, opened their Santa’s grotto.  This year it took on a little more of a personal significance.  Vermeulens run the grotto for free but ask for donations for local charity and the charity chosen this year was Sam Beare Hospice who were so supportive with our family through Granddad’s illness.  Indeed, it is the charity that we have raised money for on Granddad’s memorial page, (which you can find here).

Unfortunately, I was working on that weekend, so I couldn’t visit Santa with the girls and Ezra, but Lucinda met up with a couple of friends and their children so there was a big group of them going to ask Santa for all the gifts that you had no idea that they wanted and haven’t bought!

This first visit to Santa was the day after the first pantomime of the season.  The local amateur dramatics society, the Riverside Players, put on a pantomime every year at the Memorial Hall in Old Windsor.  This year was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Again, I was, unfortunately, working and so Lucinda took Éowyn and Amélie with Éowyn’s best friend Aaliyah (Ezra stayed at Nanny’s – he is a little too young to sit through a pantomime just yet).  Amélie spent most of the show hiding under the chair, frightened of the Evil Stepmother – yet said how much she enjoyed it on her return.  As with all of their performances, the Riverside Players pantomime was of an extremely high standard and enjoyed by all.

Since I was at work for both of those events, we needed to book up secondary events so that I could accompany the Baguettes, on my weekends off.  Therefore the following Sunday morning we headed to Bocketts farm in deepest, darkest Surrey (Fetcham, near Leatherhead to be precise), to visit the Santa grotto there.  Bocketts do not allow you to pre-book your visit to Santa; you turn up then allocated the next available slot to visit Santa.

Therefore, we set out nice and early Sunday morning to ensure that we were there as soon as Bocketts opened so that we could find ourselves in one of the early slots.  Indeed, we turned up at 0915 and the girls were on the tractor-trailer (this is a grotto on a working farm) at 0930!  The adults walked alongside the trailer for the short journey to the converted barn where Santa has set up his grotto.

You walk through to his straw lined room and plonk yourself on the hay bales arranged as seats in front of Santa.  It was very well done, and he called each child (or group of children) up and opened his big book of presents and wrote their names down (even if he had a slight issue with our children’s names) and what presents they would like, before handing out a little present to them.

One aside to our visit was an event, which was a little strange and highlights the smallness of the world. A work colleague was looking through his Facebook timeline, when his niece’s husband posted a picture of their child’s visit to Santa. He looked at the photo and thought why is Baggie in that photo?  Therefore, he reposted it on my timeline to confirm that it was indeed me.  There, sitting on a hay bale next to Santa was my good self.  His niece and her husband had taken their child to see Santa at the same time, and same place, as us.  Two sets of strangers linked by a mutual acquaintance, mobile phone camera footage and social media.  What a strange world that we live in.

So, two trips to Santa, one with daddy and one without; so it was with pantomimes.  A second trip to the theatre beckoned, this time a ‘professional’ pantomime, Sleeping Beauty at Woking theatre.  Again, Ezra stopped in with Nanny while Mommy and Daddy took Éowyn and Amélie, around the M25 deeper into Surrey.

The seats were up in the gods and although afforded us a good view was a little vertiginous!  This was my first professional pantomime at a theatre as an adult.  Apparently we used to go to the pantomime as children with my cousins, but I have to rely on Nanny Fran’s memory as I have no recollection of these big nights out.  Obviously, I have seen amateur ones, my dad’s employers used to put them on for the families of the workers when I was a child.  My dad was very much involved in the productions, indeed one year he was one of the ugly sisters in their production of Cinderella.  Therefore, I am no stranger to the Pantomime but since we have kids I have been working in the weekends leading up to Christmas and so have not been able to attend this family tradition.  Now, my job has changed and I am actually off at weekends there will be more of these in the future!

The other great tradition of this time of the year is the ubiquitous school nativity play.  With two children of school age then that means two nativity plays to enjoy.  However, Éowyn attends drama classes after school and thus there was an additional end of term performance to attend.  With a stroke of fortune, or just good planning on the part of the school we were able to attend performances of all three plays on the same day.

Neither of the girls had starring roles, Éowyn had been asked to be a narrator but had declined because there were too many lines to read, and she was the narrator last year.

Amélie’s play was based around a Christmas tree and the toys that come to life on Christmas Eve.  Amélie was a dancing doll and had a song to sing and a dance to perform – along with the other dancing dolls.  You could see the concentration in her face and she was obviously enjoying it.  With nearly 100 children, all with roles to play it is quite a testament to the teachers and staff that the play was so entertaining considering the ages of the children (4 and 5).  The main issue was the number of parents that stood up throughout the play blocking the view of everyone else.  There is an inherent selfishness in too many people.  By all means, stand up and encourage your child, and take a photo if you want but half a thought for the other 100 people who are also there to see their child and would also like to take a photo. Indeed, one of the mothers gave another mother a piece of her mind regarding her inconsideration.

Éowyn’s play was entitled ‘Behind the stable door’ and told the story of the nativity from the point of view of the animals that had been kicked out of the stable to allow Joseph and Mary to spend the night.  Éowyn was in the choir.  Now, I love my daughter dearly but she is not the greatest of singers so it was a brave move by the casting director.  Nevertheless, she sang her heart out and it sounded more than passable.  Perhaps because the parents watching Éowyn’s play have sat through a number of nativity plays by the time they reach year 2, there was very little standing and blocking of views; much more consideration.

The third play of the day was Éowyn’s Sense Theatre production of a highly abridged version of Annie.  Now I don’t want to be disparaging but considering that for an hour a week for the last 12 weeks they have been practising this, and the children there all want to do drama after school I felt that the two nativity plays that we saw earlier on in the day were much more polished.  Is that a testament to the teachers and staff of the school or a slight on the drama teachers I am not sure.  Saying that, there were some very good individual performances and Éowyn was definitely putting the effort in and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying herself.  Shame she didn’t have a bigger speaking part, but she was one of the youngest in that group.  It will be interesting to see if she wants to continue with drama and whether she wants to take it any further.  You will have to watch this space.

Therefore, after two quick updates, all before Christmas I had better leave you there so that you can look at the photos and put your feet up while you drink your mulled wine and eat your festive nuts.

Peace and Love


P.S.   As was the case last last year, the International Space Station will pass over the UK at approximately 1730 on Christmas Eve.  Therefore, if there are clear skies you can look up and wave at the British astronaut Major Tim Peake as he hurtles through space.  However, if there are any children reading, at 1730 Santa’s sleigh will be visible in the sky as he rushes to India to hand out presents to the good boys and girls in that part of the world.

P.P.S.   One more little astronomical note:  If you are younger than 38 this will be the first time that you will have seen a full moon on Christmas Day.  The last time this happened was 1977 and the next one will not be until 2034.  So, again, if the skies are clear take a peek at the moon after the Christmas festivities and marvel at its fullness.  Is it any coincidence that the first Star Wars film was also released in 1977?  Nah!

P.P.P.S.  Any guesses for this year’s Christmas Lyric title?  Award yourselves 25 points if you said River by Joni Mitchell.