The Bloke, November 18: It’s five weeks to Christmas. The trauma has already begun.

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We have three Christmases before the game’s up. Every chance to fill their lives with festive sparkle has to be seized and wrung dry.

IT’S still five weeks until Christmas, but in our house the trauma has already begun. The other night, tears greeted the discovery that the Father Christmas widely acknowleged to be the best within a 20-mile radius of our house (by the people who live down the road, at least) is now fully booked.

Once the Missus had stopped sobbing over her own inadequacy (her word, not mine) for not booking him sooner, she was scouring the internet for other festive-related activities she could take the twins to.

When I respectfully suggested that £50 might be a touch too steep for a theatre production that was a) a bit too long for their short attention spans and b) would probably scare the bejesus out of them, I was informed that I should shut up because I wasn’t invited anyway.

For a supposedly joyful occasion, Christmas does have a habit of bringing a unique level of stress and tension to our house. This has now been intensified by our calculation the other night that we have three Christmases left before the game’s up and they realise Father Christmas would never fit down our chimney, especially given the fact it’s been blocked off. It means that every chance to fill their lives with festive sparkle has to be seized and wrung dry.

But even something as seemingly straightforward as a trip to Santa is fraught with danger. Firstly there’s the question, mentioned earlier, of which Father Christmas you go to. To say they’re a mixed bag would be something of an understatement.

We lucked out the first year. He was stout, in receipt of his pension, and came complete with his own, real, grey beard. The trouble was that the twins were only five months old at the time so don’t remember a thing – despite my son’s insistence otherwise.

Last year, we went to see two Father Christmases. The first was at least 60, the second a 20-something with a high-pitched voice who had clearly been drafted in at the last minute.

During their meeting with the first Santa there had been an unfortunate mix-up when my son informed him that he wanted a “big drill” for Christmas. This came out sounding like “Big Jill”, which caused Father Christmas to look at us and mouth “Who’s Jill?” with a worried expression as though we had allowed our son to flick through a brochure from an escort agency to select his Christmas present.

By the second visit, clearly bored by the whole exercise and perhaps smelling a rat, both my son and my daughter informed the young Santa that they wanted to unwrap poo on Christmas morning, repeating the word at considerable volume when he and his disbelieving elf queried it. We had scurried away, desperately trying to avoid eye contact with the other parents.

We’ll just have to wait and see what joys this year brings.

WATER TREAT: The river at Otley full of people in pedalos and rowing boats.

Neil Hudson: Hire boats return to Otley’s river for first time since 2001