My happy place: Santa Claus

Santa Claus waits  at a reindeer comfort stop.
Santa Claus waits at a reindeer comfort stop.

There are so many happy places in this great world of ours, but for me there's nothing happier than when I'm on my sleigh, delivering presents around the world on Christmas Eve.

Setting out from the North Pole is a delightful rush. It's a great feeling knowing the hard work of list-checking and present-wrapping and reindeer-training is done, and it's just me and the reindeer out in the elements for the next 24 hours or so.

It's amazingly quiet up there, with just the rhythmic puff of reindeer breath, the swish of the sleigh through the air and the odd Christmas carol drifting up from below. One year a bang from a fireworks display catapulted me off my seat and the reindeer did some tricky aerobatics to catch me before I went splat on to the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

The play of light and dark below is beautiful - the endless oceans all silvery in the moonlight, great black forests and deserts, sprinklings of light marking small towns, and sparkling cities.

Of course, it's not all about sitting there enjoying the views. I'm working to constant deadlines, and dealing with fluctuating time zones and see-sawing temperatures - the big red coat comes on and off more times than I can count. And with eight reindeer, there's always one needing a comfort stop or bleating about needing water, or complaining it ate too many carrots at the last chimney.

Mrs Claus is always warning me not to over-indulge on the treats people leave out - I make sure to bring some home for her, to save her letting out the Santa suit again.

In the old days we navigated by the stars and the keen sense of smell of the reindeer, but technology has made things easier, especially on cloudy nights. My on-sleigh computer links up to the Santa Satellite, to keep me on course and in touch with base at the North Pole. It's synced up with the Naughty and Nice Database to give me GPS co-ordinates for my young present recipients. I'm linked into Nasa's Santa Tracker and air traffic control systems in each country, and I get constant weather updates from my elf meteorologists. This year, one of my elves has developed an app that will tell me whether children are awake or asleep, so I'm looking forward to trying that out.

By the time we finally land back at the North Pole, the reindeer can hardly stand and my hair and beard are matted by the wind, but it's a buzz knowing we've brought so many families together around the Christmas tree. I can't wait for this year.

- as "told" to Bronwyn Sell

- Herald on Sunday

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