Christmas Lights Riot

Baths Christmas lights switch-on seemed to go swimmingly, but these occasions are not always as jolly as they should be.

Some years ago we were booked to perform a musical show in an arts complex in a northern town that will remain anonymous. Not a single person turned up, save for the janitor who popped in to borrow some chairs for the foyer, which was jam packed with people enjoying a trad jazz gig.

We changed out of our costumes and mooched into town where it turned out the Christmas illuminations were being switched on by no less than Santa Claus. Santa’s helpers were gathering en masse to distribute the goody bags supplied by the local newspaper (not a cousin of the Chronicle, I hasten to add). They were wearing all manner of fancy dress costumes but we felt one chap had gone too far. He was dressed as Adolf Hitler. Hardly appropriate to the season, but perhaps it was the last outfit left in the hire shop.

Anyway, Santa duly arrived accompanied by a Post Office van full of the free gifts. The helpers, including Hitler, started giving them out but then all hell broke loose. A mother complained that some kids were getting goody bags plus colouring sets. Others shouted in agreement. There was a surge in the crowd and mums, dads and kids started grabbing the presents from the startled helpers. The air became blue as the insults flew. Kids were in tears all around. Fights broke out between the have and have not families and at least one shop window was stove in from the sheer pressure of rioting people.

Meanwhile, Santa sought refuge in the back of the Post Office van. You could just see him through the back window, beard askew and wearing a look of sheer terror as a group of formidable mothers rocked the vehicle back and forth.

The police arrived but could do nothing. They were no match for the angry mums. And the last we saw of Hitler was him narrowly avoiding being trampled underfoot in the melee.

At this point we made our excuses and left. I did actually manage to get myself a goody bag, but between you and me, it wasn’t worth having. What I really wanted was the colouring set.

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