What would they find if they busted Santa?;Platform;Opinion

24th December 1999 at 00:00
When the police arrest the man in a sleigh for housebreaking he's sure to get off if the jury comes from P1, says Ally Budge

IT IS not entirely implausible that Christmas Eve could see the arrest of a Mr S Claus on suspicion of housebreaking. Gaining access to houses and exploring them while the occupants are asleep amounts to a serious crime.

Yet what hard evidence of criminal intent would Santa present if he was asked to turn out his pockets? A primary 1 class provided a glimpse of what Santa may keep in the enduring and spacious inner recesses of his red suit. A number of items would certainly be viewed as suspicious. "Santa would have a big bunch of keys so that he would have one that would fit everybody's front door."

Others disagreed, although the alternative of some form of special skeleton key was hardly any less incriminating. "No, Santa has only one key. It is a very special key which can open all the doors."

While a pair of gloves may be cynically viewed as a means to reduce fingerprints, Santa carries them in his pockets for more innocent reasons. "He would have gloves to keep his hands warm at night time. They'll be thin with finger parts so that he will be able to hold on to stuff and not let any of the presents drop."

Others felt that gloves alone were not sufficient to keep Santa warm. "He'd keep a scarf so that he could put it on if it gets cold up in the sleigh."

Working under cover of darkness requires some form of lighting, and there is an agreement that Santa's preferred choice is a torch. "He'd have a fancy torch with his name SANTA all round it. It might be a very, very dark night and then he puts the torch on so he can see the houses that he wants to go to first."

"Santa would have a torch because if he went into a house and put the lights on, it would waken the children. He has to keep the lights off but use his torch so he can see all the stockings and trees."

Children felt that items relating to the pristine personal appearance of Santa would figure significantly in his pockets. Images of Santa never have as much as a spot of soot on the white edging of his uniform. "Santa needs a mirror to see if he's dirty when he goes down the chimney. He might get black soot on his coat and then he'd want to brush it off."

"He would have a small cloth in his pocket and he would use it to wipe all the dust off his face and clothes."

Soot is a potential danger to Santa as it could lead to him being discovered. Fortunately he comes well prepared. "He'll cough because there's smoke in the chimney and it's dusty. He'll have some cough medicine in his pocket to help him not to cough too loudly because he could waken the children in the room."

"He'd need some tissues to blow his nose. When he goes down the chimney, he might get lots of dust up his nose. He might have to sneeze a lot and he'd need the tissues so he doesn't make so much noise."

The dangers of going up and down chimneys is not limited to soot inhalation. A forward-thinking man always carries an extra button for his suit. "When he goes down into houses, a button might hit on the wall of the chimney and he'll need a new one."

"He would have some spare buttons in case some fall off his coat when he is moving fast and then he'll just use the spare ones."

Santa's concern with his appearance strays into vanity at times. He is happy to spend some of his delivery time on slightly more contrived aspects of his appearance. "Santa will need a special brush to comb his head and his beard because all stuff goes on it when he goes down the chimneys. He has a very special brush and he can curl up his hair and beard all fancy with it."

Santa keeps very little in the way of gifts in his pockets. Notable exceptions are small gifts which may otherwise go astray. "Santa might keep some little toys for little babies because they're soft and small and they'll get lost from the sack if there's a hole and Santa's busy driving the sleigh."

A whole range of small toys specifically mention the term "pocket" and some of these also find their way into Santa's clothes. "He might put little Polly Pocket people in his pocket because they're teeny weeny small and they might get lost in the big sack."

Anyone who has been involved in the search for an AWOL Polly Pocket can bear testimony to the difficulty of locating one of these small figures. The children appear to be attracted to the smallness of these items. It allows them to exercise complete and total mastery over them.

As an aside, it can only be a matter of time before the Scottish Executive produces some 3-14

In Your Pocket documents. While actual gifts are relatively rare in Santa's pockets, he does carry specialised items for the repair and maintenance of gifts and their wrappings.

"He would have some glue and string to fix the toys because it might be a bumpy wind up in the sky and the toys may fall off the sleigh and break."

"He might have a roll of Sellotape because if it's windy the paper might tear and Santa would need Sellotape to fix it."

Santa is nothing if not versatile and his handy repair kit for presents can also be used in the event of serious transmission problems on the sleigh. "He would have a piece of string. If the reindeers are too big and heavy then maybe their ropes would snap and he could tie them back together with a piece of string."

Overall the contents of Santa's pockets are a mix of the practical and the personal. They may well raise suspicions in a police officer's mind but would not be conclusive proof of any wrongdoing. Santa would probably get away with a caution and some strong advice telling him to stay off the streets for a year.

Ally Budge is headteacher of a Caithness primary school.

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