A long time ago, even further back than last Friday, one of the significant indicators that Christmas was on the way, along with darkening nights, cold, the smell of coke burning, and the compulsory memorising of carols, was the annual “Visit to Santa”.
One dutifully admired the elves and gnomes in the little yellow lit windows of the “grotto” and then sat on Santa’s knee and received the almost inevitable red double-decker bus.
The best option though was to go to the Co-op, a huge ugly building in the precinct.
They had a “ride”. Whichever parent was on duty paid the astonishing sum of sixpence and we entered a dark interior with benches. The door closed and after a compulsory Yo ho ho from the darkness, the floor lurched into life, the walls rattled and moved, with a sound I know realise was canvas on rollers and we rode Santa’s sleigh though the star spangled darkness. Stepping out, we had traveled continents and time zones to the Grotto, where after dutifully admiring the working models of elves at work, the inevitable red bus awaited.
(There was also a post box for letters to Santa but ours went up the chimney…)
So there is some very primitive part of my mind that remains convinced that what happens when you step on to an aeroplane is that "THEY" shut the doors, make a lot of noise, and what claims to be your window is in fact a projection screen on which runs a very pretty film while outside, on the tarmac, near the unmoving plane, the goblins are working frantically to rearrange the scenery so that when the ride stops, you have gone nowhere but the stage setting has completely changed. The time you spend in the plane is directly proportional to the amount of time the goblins need to change things.
So I’m not sure if I went to Townsville or just sat in a highly elaborate version of Santa’s sleigh ride on the tarmac at Brisbane airport. Which would also raise the question: does Brisbane airport exist of is just another stage set….or does it all mean that at some stage of my life I read far too many Harlan Ellison stories?
I do know that during the ride, instead of sitting by my mum or dad enjoying the silliness of the recorded Yo ho hos, I shared a row …(Not a row but a row of seats) with two guys whose shoulders were even bigger than mine, and while I was listening to Heaney recite Squarings on ye magical ipod, the guy beside me takes out a magazine called Zoo and thumbing though the pictures of women explains to his friend exactly what he would do to which body…and since the ipod wasn’t cranked to head bursting levels I have this strange aural experience of Heaney saying “what use the held line that cannot be assailed” etc mixed with some highly improbable discussions of sexual antics, or acrobatics…or aerobics… or even stunt flying…… his conversation interrupted by a hostess who managed to not look at his magazine in a way that made it obvious she wasn't looking at his magazine, but who looked more like a stick drawing than a human, which threw me back to Moscow and Olga saying ”Russian men are confused by the western stick woman; they say ”are we dogs to gnaw bones” but I was saved from terminal nostalgia when Zoo man managed to spill his third vodka mixer over both us..but he did it affably and with an endearing “I’m such a clutz” performance… so I switch to Paul Brady singing “The world is what you make it”…and hope the goblins have got the Townsville scenery sorted….