IT'S THE WEEKEND: Santa's helpers across Gwent get in to the festive spirit

South Wales Argus: Pictured dressed as Father Christmas at the Celtic Manor Resort Santa Grotto is Paul Jenkins from Newport. (3029165) Pictured dressed as Father Christmas at the Celtic Manor Resort Santa Grotto is Paul Jenkins from Newport. (3029165)

SANTA is coming to town next week. So SOPHIE BROWNSON meets a few of his 'helpers' across Gwent ahead of the big day to ask them what Being Father Christmas is like.

WITH Christmas just a few days away many children will be eagerly visiting Santa Claus to tell him their last minute wishes before he come round.

Ken Davies, 59, is one such Santa bringing smiles to children’s faces at St David’s Hospice Care grotto in Newport’s Kingsway Centre.

“I have been doing it for four years now,” he said.

”I got in touch with St David’s Hospice as I wanted to help raise some money and they were looking for a Father Christmas so I said yes!

“It’s not bad and the kids like it.

“All the parents bring them in and I just ask them what they want for Christmas.

“I have done it at Nant Celyn School before and the kids look at you and say ‘you’re Ken aren’t you?’ and I have to say; ‘how can I be Ken if I’m Father Christmas?’”

Mr Davies said that he has had some funny conversations with the children who visit him.

“The kids are fantastic,” he continued.

“In Newport I once asked a four year-old what they wanted for Christmas and they said that ‘I want a £10 note please.’

“So I said I would have to see what I can do!

“They are marvellous-they ask me things like ‘where’s Rudolph? and can they have a look at my beard.

“They also say to me ‘you can’t be the real Father Christmas’ and I say ‘where do you think Father Christmas is from?’

“They also say things like ‘I saw you last year when you were at my house’- so I say to them they must be fast asleep!

“I also ask them what they are going to leave Santa and they say beer!”

Mr Davies reflects on what children want in their stockings these days and has found that it’s not books and pens-its iPads and computers.

“You say to them what about an apple or orange and they don’t want any of that rubbish.

“One of them asked me for a motorbike for Christmas-a little one they said!

“Some of them are wary of you and you have to coax them in to see you.

“I ask them things like have you got any brothers and sisters and one little girl said ‘I have one in my mummy’s tummy.’

“I think her mum was a bit embarrassed about that.

“I also ask everyone what they would like Santa to bring them for Christmas, and they often say things like bikes and electric motor scooters.

“So I say that if Santa can’t bring you these things what would you like, because parents might not be able to afford those things, and I don’t want them to be disappointed.

“So I ask them whether they would like surprises.

“None of them go away disappointed.”

Mr Davies said that some of the most touching part of the job is meeting children with disabilities and those who are fostered.

“But it doesn’t matter who they are they all want the same things and that is a present in that bag,” he said.

Mr Davies also works as a lollipop man at a secondary school.

“Being Santa is a fantastic job- I would recommend it!

“It is great to see the smiles on their faces.”

Retired accountant Phil Pugh, 63, also helps Santa out during the festive season at the Kingsway Centre Grotto, and agrees that it is a fantastic job.

“I retired from being an accountant ten years ago now.

“I took up the role as I just thought that it would be nice to put something back in to the community and so I contacted St David’s and they asked me if I would be Father Christmas.

“I have been doing it for three years now doing it one day a week.

“At the end of the day it is just seeing the children and the look on their faces.

“No one has said to me that you are not the real father Christmas- they do believe.”

Mr Pugh who has two children and three grandchildren added: “You have to be careful that you don’t promise the children things that they can’t afford, so I say to them that we have had a big demand for whatever it is they want, so as not to get their hopes up too much.

“I had one little girl who wanted a ‘new mummy’ but I didn’t go in to what that was all about.”

Other Christmas present requests Mr Pugh has received include dinosaurs, budgies, and puppies.

As well as these requests children also ask questions such as how the reindeer keep warm and how they get into the house.

“They say things like; ‘how do you get in to my house?’ and you cant say through the fireplace these days as not every one has one so I say that I have a magic key.

“I don’t think that you can underestimate them.

“Most children still believe, which is fantastic in this age of less innocence than there was.

“I think that they want to believe in Father Christmas and I think if you emphasis that then they are good all year round.”

Celtic Manor Santa Paul Jenkins, 55, is enjoying his first year in the role.

“My other part time job is at the warehouse for Smiths News.

“I was contacted by the Celtic Manor for the job as my oldest boy is friends with the community events manager there.

“It has been a great experience and the kids are absolutely brilliant.”

“One of the funniest things a child has said to me was how Rudolph got his red nose- so I have to make up some stories.

“I said that when Rudolph was little he couldn't see very well and kept bumping into things and then when he got older his red nose didn't disappear, do I thought it would be a good idea for him to guide my sleigh!

“I even had the parents baffled.”

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