“Good evening,” says Hazza. “We’re collecting for the local Rotary Group. This year’s charities are the Nightingale Children’s Hospice, Noah’s Ark Hospice and Parkinson’s UK.” Hazza smiles winningly and holds out her tin.
As befits a groovy media student in Swinging London, my niece Hazza chooses her outfits with care. Tonight she is bedecked in a red and green elf dress layered with a fetching hi-vis tabard which has been printed boldly with the details of said Rotary Club. The look is topped off with a cheeky little elf hat. Take note, fashionistas – next year, we’ll all be wearing this.
The Householder peers at her suspiciously. “Do you have an identity card?”
“Well, not actually a card,” says Hazza, “ but our details are here.” And she points to her tabard. Householder still looks suspicious and seems about to close the door. “And,” adds Hazza quickly,” I do have Santa with me.”
On the street behind her, on the back of a small lorry, Santa’s sleigh and grotto is bedecked with fairy lights. The sound system is belting out “All I want for Christmas is You.” And there’s Santa, waving to her, giving the snow machine a blast, and doing a spot of ho ho ho-ing. Around the float, elves are dispensing sweets to pyjama-ed children.
“I’ll get my purse,” says the Householder.
To be honest, I’d been rather dreading the evening. On the back of a talk to the local Rotary group about the work of Parkinson’s UK, I’d agreed to get a team of elves together to support in one of their Christmas collections. But that was in the summer, and anything seems possible at six months’ notice.
As we got closer to the actual night, potential elves found that they wouldn’t be home from work in time, or had hospital appointments, or were otherwise elvishly engaged. The weather forecast for that evening was grim, the designated meeting point was a good car-ride away, and I couldn’t find any elf outfits in the loft. The whole thing threatened to fall around my ears.
My pleas for help were more than answered. Mrs Berry corralled her daughter and a friend into helping out, and she found them costumes, and she chauffeured. Hazza and my nephew Legoboy cleared their diaries to come and elf it. Mrs Karma and Ms Lightening just happened to have their own elf costumes which they were happy to lend. Their reasons for having such costumes seem flimsy to me (fancy dress party? I ask you!) but I am not about to look a gift elf hat in the mouth.
And it all went swimmingly. The handful of gentlemen from the local Rotary club really are angels. They give up every evening for about a fortnight doing these collections and throw their heart and souls into it. One of the chaps has granddaughters whom I’ve taught at Thrush Woods; and I hope they are as proud of him as he is of them. The lights and music of the float, the busy elves and the excitement of children on the route created such a brilliant atmosphere that the evening flew by and the rain didn’t matter.
ActorLaddie was met at one door by a lady in a wheelchair. She liked to support the Rotary Club, she said, because of the work they’ve done to help wipe out Polio, which she’d had. AL told her that his mum had likewise had polio and it turned out that the lady had known both GrannieBorders and GrandadBorders through the British Polio Fellowship, and talked warmly about them. Which was rather wonderful.
In one street, some families had heard us coming and the children were already sitting on the front garden wall ready to see Santa. “Are you really Santa’s elves?” asked one little ‘un, and seemed happy to be assured that yes, we were.
Of course, some people closed the door on us, or looked through the curtains, then ignored the knocks. Fair enough – not everyone has cash to spare, especially this close to Christmas. But other people gave generously and we all had some tens and even twenties thrust into the tins.
Just as we were reaching the end, a car pulled up near the float and out scrambled a woman and her dressing-gowned daughter. “I was just putting her to bed when we heard the sleigh,” explained the woman. “So we’ve been driving around looking for you.” The daughter passed over a bag of coins which they’d had ready. “This is always the start of Christmas,” smiled the woman. Eat your heart out, Black Friday.
The rain held off till near the end, which gave us the chance to pose for, in Hazza’s words, a quick ‘elfie, cropped to protect the innocent.
Thanks for your help, lovely elves, lovely colleagues, lovely Rotarians. May all your Christmases be bright!
Parkie Perk #3
Shaking a collecting tin is a piece of cake! (It’s the stopping that’s the challenge.)
Shopping at Amazon this week has made £1.39 for the Cure Parkinson’s Trust through GiveAsYouLive. A bit closer to a cure at no cost to me. If you’re not already signed up, do click on this link: it’s very quick, it’s free, it helps. Thanks.
The sleigh coming around the streets is always the beginning of Christmas here. Glad the rain held off.