By Susan Traherne
CHRISTMAS isn’t Christmas without a trip to a Winter Wonderland held on a patch of waste ground behind the local B&Q. I’ve been taking my family for ten years and we always have a fabulous time, despite what the kids mutter about animal cruelty.
We all bundle into the car after school and drive to a poorly lit and badly signposted area at the back of the local trading estate. But that’s all part of the atmosphere, isn’t it? There aren’t any lamp posts in Lapland, after all. A few strings of fairy lights create a festive atmosphere, and almost stop you seeing the scrap metal yard just over the fence.
First we like to visit the animals. There’s a donkey, which is definitely festive, and a goat, which certainly could have been present at the nativity. The growling dog chained to a gate adds a frisson of excitement, and the horse with a pair of plastic antlers tied to its head is as close as we’ll get to a reindeer in this country.
My eldest said she’d be calling the RSPCA, but teenagers are terribly oversensitive when it comes to this sort of thing. I blame Greta Thunberg.
Then we go and see Santa in his grotto. If you squint a bit you can’t tell it’s Roy from the chippie moonlighting for a bit of extra cash. My youngest Josh claims the elf is a boy from his school who’s been pressed into the role against his will, and there’s no denying he’s not the cheeriest of Santa’s helpers, but it’s all good work experience and certainly not modern slavery. That’s just Josh being silly.
The last part of our Winter Wonderland experience is the festive food tent. Well, they call it a tent, and they’re not wrong really, as a tatty old tarpaulin strung between two rusting transit vans is basically a tent. Here we are served cups of steaming mulled wine, which they’ve cleverly spiced so it tastes just like hot Ribena, and a plate of churros. My husband Stephen always moans that paying the best part of £15 each to eat four bits of undercooked dough and a smear of chocolate sauce is a rip-off, but he’s just being a Grinch. Bah humbug, Stephen!
Once we’ve eaten we’re back in the car for the journey home, usually accompanied by some lively debate on the merits of our evening and, as Stephen jokingly asks, ‘why the f**k we bother’. Because it’s Christmas, I reply, when getting fleeced by opportunistic money-grabbers is a tradition.