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Part 1: The Clementine conundrum.

It’s not a well known tale; in fact, we all try to keep a hat on it; for obvious reasons.  But, it is a fact that one of the reindeer herd, a most beautiful, nubile young doe was taken by ET.  It happened a while ago.  Mrs S was taking the younglings for a ramble and Clementine, attracted by the spring blossoms, wandered of and dawdled, admiring the wonders.  Poof – a flash of greenish light; and, gone.

Santa was off doing the six proficiency checks – one per failed reindeer – which, with six up front and as many again in reserve is a lot of check rides; and then, there was sled proficiency to consider; so all in, despite the tech elves best efforts, Santa had spent a lot of time at Flight Safety.  On the plus side he did get the shotgun appearing just before power unit failure practice stopped, replaced by a subtle, but audible Click and a “deleted” warning on ECAM.

On one of Santa’s rare visits home last year, coincidentally, his birthday, there was an e-mail, signed ET –  waiting patiently in his inbox.  The missive was polite and explained that their world was enamoured of Santa’s reindeer flock – celebrity status – and a young ET had “borrowed” one (just a little one) to satisfy an insatiable curiosity.  The missive informed Santa that although it was to be returned completely unharmed, by way of recompense, the young ET had exploited and developed the dormant hyper space genome and now Clementine and her offspring could achieve warp speeds.  ET begged Santa’s forbearance and said that although he was acutely aware a liberty had been taken; he was quite prepared to reverse the modifications, should that be desired; but also mentioned that the ‘mod’ may be a desirable thing.  Now, Santa’s FO and cruise captain has rarely seen or heard ‘the boss’ loose it; but loose it he did – completely, totally and utterly.  Worn and wearied by the ‘hassles’ of ‘qualifying’ for the annual gift drop arranged; and, shall we call them ‘operational’ difficulties, of an officious nature, from a large, wide brown land – it was only a matter of time before he went postal.

Going Postal; it means many things to many folk – but in Santa’s case it means the Styx river house boat park.  He whistled up Dotty (his own elephant) jumped inboard; and, in the blink of an eye turned up: just in time for afternoon tea as it happened.

I saw him land: that elephant of his really can do it; elegant airborne, graceful on return to earth, a pleasure to watch.  I waited a beat; and, sure enough, there was a great stir from the houseboat elephant crowd. Many Oooh’s and Ahh’s as the inestimable Dotty did a difficult three point pirouette landing.  I sent down for a pint, reckoning that Nick would be a while; for he has many friends amongst our elephants.  He loves ‘em and it is fully reciprocated. He (for his sins) never misses a chance to show off to and chat with ours.  Wrong – the old soul beat my new pint by a full two minutes; so, I ordered two more – trouble methinks. Of the large, red, bearded variety.

Ever seen a large, red, bearded tornado steaming up to the dock?  It’s scary.  “Hurry that ale along Minnie” says I – “Santa’s vexed”.   The clatter of glasses reassured that ale would be here soonest.

“Well sir: what do you make of it all?” quoth’d this worthy.  “The nerve of it, the outrage Sir – and her to be wed with Rocket junior – what now?”

Thank the gods. Minnie arrived with a full tray (six pints).  Santa can resist neither Minnie or a good ale.  His inherent good manners and natural nature overcame his anger, he hoisted Minnie up into a huge hug (tiny is she) and enveloped a pint of ale in his spare hand – the hint of a smile around the edges of the lines of anger.

“Cigar?” say’s I.

Part 2: Diplomacy, houseboat style.

“Why yes, thank ye” says the good old soul, as the hat, belt and jacket are discarded; I took a very long, discrete look at the bright red braces with brass clasps (sigh – I really covert a pair).  Santa parked in a large comfy rattan chair and knocked the top inch off his pint, lit his cheroot and looked out over the river.  I could see his BPC dropping like the glass in a typhoon, over his shoulder, I could see the Gobbledock coming down the pathway at a fair clip – he does like Nick.  But given the present situation and the Claus ire; I wondered how an alien appearing at the elbow and helping itself to a pint would go.  No worries as it happened; the two old mates shook hands, Gobbles, with his usual, canny knack read the situation correctly wisely said little.  So there we were, then three of us, sitting quietly, sipping ale and letting the smoke find it’s own way home.

With a great sigh, Santa looked at me “you’ve heard?”  “Yes”, says I, “I have”.  “Well, it’s the dizzy limit” says he “knocking off a blokes reindeer and ‘adjusting’ it, I mean what’s to be done? Eh.  The remaining ale was and magically, GD whisked the empty away and put a new, cool one in his paw.  Silence.

“I know this young ET” say the Gobbledock, in a quiet, thoughtful tone “and before you blast me Santa, hear me out” – a beat, then a great sigh and a nod.  “It was supposed to be a Christmas present for you, we both knew”.  “The youngster wanted to give you a present as no one else seems to ever do it; lots of cake and booze left out but no one ever gives a present; he thought that unfair”.  “So, he ran the idea by us and was most persuasive, but it was the offer of hyper-drive that tipped the scale; you can do more with a lot less flight time logged – anyway, right or wrong, we agreed”.  “You were not to know until Christmas eve and had some of the bad boys of the galaxy parked a bloody great big 777 outside of his spaceport exit, Clementine would have been home a week before you”.

One of the houseboat dancing troop appeared with a new, full tray.  Thirsty work this confessional stuff.  Another silence followed, the birds were settling in to roost for the night a gentle breeze wandered in carrying the smell of the river; and, the sunset was going to be a thing of beauty.  All balm to a troubled man.  I stole a glance at the Gobbledock, he winked and we sat back watching the cogs in the Claus brain do their stuff.  Then victory, I knew we’d won when the third pint left the tray and:-

“Well that’s all well and good – but how the devil am I supposed to requalify, this close to Christmas?

“Don’t have to”  says ET.

Where he’d popped in from or even when was beyond me, GD looked a little sheepish, Santa masterfully managed not to spill his latest; and, I managed, just, not to yelp.

“I know” says ET “that you only have the Easter Bunny for crew on Christmas eve”.  That scored points straight away SC and EB are nor comfortable stablemates.  ET continued “however, seeing as it a new modification, I had a word with the ‘powers that be’ and I have obtained permission to provide on-the-job tuition; if you’ll accept it all a gesture of good will”.   That sealed the deal, a message was sent to the EB giving him time off.  Turns out the tech elves were already in the loop (which shows you that nothing is ever a ‘secret’ for long) and Clementine had been practicing with ET junior as was very good at entering and leaving warp speed.

Well, it’s night time now, Santa introduced Dotty to ET and gave him a couple of circuits before they headed off home, both well pleased with the ‘new’ arrangements.  If, children, you have ever wondered where the expression ‘in-the-pink’ come from, I can tell you.  ET is not an ale man and after three pints of houseboat special, he turns a soft shade of pink and glows a little – he claims it’s the sunset.  But we know better, don’t we.

So if a little green man pops down your chimney on Christmas eve; don’t be alarmed if he turns pink after drinking whatever was offered; perfectly natural occurrence

So that’s the Christmas crewing sorted; Santa and ET road testing a Clementine led team at warp speed.  Perhaps the time saved will be used to visit some places, I know ET is keen to explore and is particularly fond of the long, thin, shaky islands with the long white clouds – turns out he did a consult there once, some rubbish to do with ‘air law’, and wanted to go back to see how it all worked out.

Well, the river is murmuring it’s night time lullaby, the birds are settled, the elephants quiet, dinner smells great and there are about two swallows left in this glass.  I’ll whistle up the dogs, take a turn about the old place before dinner.

MTF? – tomorrow: if you all stop writing to Santa asking “where’s me bloomin bike”?