“Mr. Dodds, the Inverness Santa, loses it in Greenock…”

Date: 17th December 2021

“Mr. Dodds, the Inverness Santa, loses it in Greenock…”

Donald Stewart’s latest entertaining SFSA creative piece .

“It is the season to be jolly…

Santa is in his grotto and the elves are all ready to make amends for a naughty year in which they forgot to socially distance…

Or at least two of them ignored the socially distancing rules 12 months ago at an illicit – in more ways than one – party that was supposed to be banned. Two supermarket workers got together in a clinch, which ended up in a fumble, and tumbled headlong, though neither were thinking with their heads, into a night of drunken passion. The result twelve months later has left one at their cramped two bedroom flat looking after their new and not so shiny product whilst the other, feeling trapped is at work, having to calm down this year’s Santa….

Where did it all go wrong wonders, Gus, the Festive Elf.

Picture the scene…

We have the festive season for the weans in sunny Greenock by the sea. The local supermarket, after a tough year for the instore staff who could not drive the delivery trucks, have decided to try and cheer everyone up with a Christmas Grotto, complete with Santa.

Just what everyone needs, they thought, after COVID, an opportunity to rediscover the joys of Christmas – family, togetherness, actual contact between human beings – and to remind us all of why togetherness is so important.

And after the first weekend in the run up to overindulgence, selfish present complaining and a groaning sense of why you should never have invited Uncle Jack, or fed him brussel sprouts, like every festive season before itself, we realise far too late that it is a time when tempers become frayed and people are fed up, even before the parties begin.

And now Naughty Nicola and Blustering Boris are threatening the route to such misery for every family by possibly banning it. Everyone, including Santa’s wee elf who is now enjoying, on average about 3 hours sleep a night and has been doing so for the last 3 months are in no mood, for anything.

Gus, the Festive Elf is standing at the entrance to the grotto at 7am Saturday morning.

Santa, Mr. Dodds, has arrived for his shift.

Mr. Dodds is a new Santa.

Last week’s Santa a Mr. Hopkin had left after a weekend shift. There was some debate as to whether his leaving was more to do with Gus, the Festive Elf than anything because Gus, the Festive Elf was not in a great mood that day but the incident with the snotty nosed kid and the fight with his mother outside the front door was enough to send Mr. Hopkin packing.

Now Mr. Dodds, was here and having come from the Inverness store for the day was in less than festive mood.

The journey down was not a pleasant one. Gus, the Festive Elf wonders who has peed in his cornflakes, mainly because that morning his bundle of joy had done precisely that…

What Gus, the Festive Elf was not ready to hear was that Mr. Dodds had standards.

This was Greenock. Standards in Greenock were clearly not in vogue in a Grotto in a supermarket…

In the supermarket the standard, standard was get them in through the front door, round the shopping as quickly as you can without them stealing anything and then out into the wilderness from whence they came. Nobody suggested it was any different anywhere else until Mr. Dodds came calling.

Mr. Dods was all about the experience.

And he was not a happy man.

He called for the manager to come and see him.

It was 7am. There as not a manager in sight so Gus, the Festive Elf was getting a right earful.

“It’s disgusting,” insisted Mr. Dodds.

He was holding something he had found by Santa’s chair. “I don’t even know what this is?” he complains. Gus, the Festive Elf just smiled in a crooked manner. He knew what it was and when it had fallen off the child and exposed his backside he could not help himself from laughing out loud the weekend before.

“This is not fit for vermin,” Mr. Dodds cried as Gus, the Festive Elf started to wonder if he could nip out for a crafty fag before the store opened at 8am. He manged a wee look outside and saw that there were hardly any people round the entrance so he could reasonably get out and back in before any kids arrived, but Mr. Dodds is on a roll. Gus, the Festive Elf is being forced to listen though sympathy is a long forgotten emotion at the minute.

Gina, his erstwhile Christmas squeeze, 2020, has wrung all the apologies and all the sympathy right out of him. Accompanying their tryst, the birth of Wayne, their wean (he thought it was funny at the time), has been difficult. They have a child in a cramped flat and they now live on top of each other after only working together for a fortnight previously, which was the background to a bit of fun which was not meant to end in anything other than cheeky grins – life was simply no fun at all.

And now he had to contend with pint sized, irate Santa. Was life ever going to get any better?

“The grotto is a disgrace, is it a portacabin?” Before Gus, the Festive Elf can answer Mr. Dodds is off again with, “there are no lights, I could not see the stairs, that is a health hazard, the toilets are a disgrace, the lights went on halfway through, I had to do my visualisations in darkness. I wouldn’t put vermin in there, it was that bad. This store should be better than this. It’s a shambles. It’s not acceptable and I was sitting there freezing. For health and safety, it is a disgrace. It’s not so bad in the summer but in the winter, it is a disgrace to be treated like that. I have never in 36 years seen anything like that.”

Gus, the Festive Elf wonders how bad you have to be at your work to have to spend 36 years as a Santa but before he can say anything, Mr. Dodds flounces off into the store to try and rescue what he can as Gus, the Festive Elf is clearly going to be no help at all.

By the end of the weekend, Mr. Dodds has left the store to return to the Highlands, there is talk of a new much jollier Santa from Arbroath, an ever so cheery Santa type called Mr. Campbell and Gus, the Festive Elf is on the phone to Mr. Hopkins, sympathising with his plight as he too is sacked from his post. Gina is sitting at home wondering where it all went wrong realising it was that last Sambuca that should never have been drunk and vowing never to drink again with the earnestness of a woman who knows and the commitment of a woman who easily forgets.

And Greenock keeps on going.

Whilst the author asserts his right to this as an original tale, there is no evidence that a Gus, the Festive Elf has ever existed, unless you know differently, therefore this is clearly a work of fiction, though many of the words of a Mr’ Dodds have been used.

After the game between Greenock Morton and Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Jags manager, Bill Dodds bemoaned the state of the facilities thus, “One of the portacabins has no lighting, which is a health hazard and I couldn’t put the players up there as you can’t see the stairs. The toilets are a disgrace, the generator went off at half-time and I have had my team talk in darkness. I wouldn’t put vermin in there, it was that bad. It’s not sour grapes but Scottish football should be better than this. It’s a shambles. It’s not acceptable and my boys are sitting there freezing. For health and safety, it is a disgrace. It’s not so bad in the summer but on a winter’s night it is a disgrace to be treated like that. I have never in 36 years seen anything like that. The Morton staff are good people and they apologised but it is disgraceful and disgusting. I don’t think any team should be treated like that.” It obviously has no bearing upon his outburst but Morton had just put Caley out the cup on penalties…”

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