A Christmas Tale: Learning on the Job

Learning on the job

It’s between eleven pm on Xmas eve and one am the next morning, those two magical, stretchable, flexible and time warped hours during which Santa and his elves manage to “deliver gifts to every single child, both good and bad, in the world”[1]. But very few people ever catch a glimpse of this industrial scale undertaking, and of those that are lucky enough to do so, none can imagine the planning and effort that go in to making it all happen. The selection of gifts, the letter reading, the loading of the sledge and the map reading are all things we probably know about. But behind the scenes we would find the offices, the engineering workshop, the stables, the reindeer clinic and fodder barn. And there is also the recruitment and training of reindeer handlers and the elves and the giving of the requisite knowledge and skills as well as advice on career paths and pension schemes.

But it’s the coalface of the Santa narrative that really interests us, and so to our story.

With his pulse racing like the clappers and with his brand new training certificate carefully sewn into the lining of his pointy hat, young new recruit, Belgnir, second son of Landaer and Rodwen, stood next to the brightly painted gates to Santa’s Xmas warehouse, watching the sleigh skis being waxed, the stable elves preparing the reindeers, with everybody ready to cheer the moment they see Santa step out of his snow-covered log cabin to give the traditional go go go to get the show on the road. “This is such fun,” he said.

And within minutes of Santa’s go go go, the teams were flying through time and space doing everything they had been trained to do and doing it like clockwork. Gosh, they were efficient.

And at fifty three seconds to one o’clock on Xmas day Santa stood up in his sleigh and roared, “Ho ho ho, all done and in record time. Well done everyone. Mince pies all round”. And all the elves laughed and cheered in delight. And the stars shone brightly in the clear night sky and everyone was jolly.

But suddenly young Belgnir pointed to a cluster of dwellings on the outskirts of Sheffield and shouted, “We’ve missed them. Those there. They haven’t had anything.”

Everything went quiet apart from a few snorts, a snigger or two and some muffled laughter. Santa just shook his locks and looked slyly at a few of the senior elves. ”Help him out, will you. He must have missed one of his lessons.”

And so one of the more experienced elves took young Belgnir aside and put his arm around him and said, ”Don’t worry about the others, let them laugh. It’s not really bullying, just some gentle joshing.

“Now those children there, you’re right, we haven’t visited them. But you see, they’re Roma children and we don’t give to Romas. They’re not like the rest of us. They’re just trouble.”

“Yes, they cause riots,” said another senior.

“And sell their babies,” said a third. “And they meet on street corners and speak to each other.”

And young Belgnir looked shyly up at the three seniors with his big wide eyes and said, “Golly, there’s so much to learn on this job.”

[1] Clause S, The Santa Manifesto, Rudolph Press, Elfland, 1266, p.4

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