Well, apart from being P&W dependent (plague and weather) as succinctly described to me the other day by a friend, the festive period is once again firmly on the horizon. Plans are being made for travels and visits, and this year feels extra special after the restrictions of last year.
At the weekend I made a weather dependent trip to Argyll, in the company of my elder daughter and grandson to visit the Santa Workshop Experience at the Fyne Den at Cairndow. It was a beautiful clear, frosty winter day as this photo from the top of the Rest and Be Thankful shows. I promise I was stationary at the time!
For those paying attention, you will remember that Fraser had his third birthday party at the Fyne Den, and its location also brought back memories of my girl-guiding days from 50 years ago. This time, it conjured up previous Santa experience memories, but more of those later.
The venue had been totally transformed into a winter wonderland with craft stations offering gingerbread decorating, serve-yourself reindeer food, write and decorate your letter to Santa, a special Santa Post Office and of course a shop where you could exchange your snowflake token for a great gift.
But wait for this! No garish grotto or fibre optic strobe session at the Fyne Den. Instead you were led through a wardrobe door into Narnia, past snow-covered fir trees and hey presto Santa was seated at a large desk with a ledger and fountain pen ready to discuss your Christmas present list.
Santa was particularly well-informed, and he knew thatFraser had been to the Fyne Den before. He also knew that he loved construction and building and that diggers were his favourite toy.
These were all duly ticked off in his ledger before a having a quick photo and being given his snowflake token.
Most of the gifts were traditional wooden toys, and Fraser exchanged his token for an alphabet play tray from an impressive selection.
For me it was a lovely experience – and brought to mind Santa experiences of my own childhood, and those of my two girls. In these uncertain times, there is an added dimension to the familiarity and traditions surrounding the festive period, highlighting their ability to provide reassurance and grounding.
When I was about 5, I have vague memories of visiting a “department store” in Greenock to see Santa, and dipping into a large sack to pick my present. I think there were also separate sacks offering what were considered gender-appropriate toys for girls and boys.
My own girls’ Santa experiences were more varied in number, and centred around the local playgroup, garden centre, Brownies and Rainbows.
There was also the immense excitement of Santa actually coming to the house before Christmas Eve, courtesy of the local Round Table. The only year that was a bit awkward was when it was their dad’s turn to be the big guy with the white beard!
So, back to the Fyne Den, suitable for any child who “still believes” sessions are running on 11, 12, 18 and 19 December. They had taken great care and trouble to decorate the venue and it was very well staffed with helpful and attentive elves at each of the workshop stations. The big sand area was still available for free play so there was something for everyone.
Decorating my Gingerbread Man...do I really need to use the jelly tots as buttons?
But for me the highlight was Santa’s “office” in Narnia. From the real wardrobe and the snowy landscape through to the benches with sheepskin rugs, the thought and attention to detail that had gone into its creation were truly magical.
So, thank you Fyne Den for giving my memory bank a third generation Santa experience. I only have one complaint…on closer inspection of our photo I believe Santa may be a few years younger than me!
Then again, that is balanced by the quote below from C S Lewis, the author of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe .
“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairytales again.”
C S Lewis
This is our last blog and newsletter for 2021. We wish you all health and happiness for 2022 and beyond.