Visiting Santa at the North Pole – only to find he’d gone home

Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

On the scale of life’s great disappointments, it had to be right up there – you make the effort of trekking through air, snow and ice to make it to the North Pole for an audience with Santa Claus . . . only to find that he has gone home for his tea.

In truth I was way too old – and indeed arguably way too naughty – to be honoured with a trip to Santa’s inner sanctum, but, even as a grown man in his mid-forties, the distress was akin to that of a small child.

Of course, Santa is only for children, not for middle-aged men ‘fresh’ from the most popular pub in the town of Rovaniemi which – to the absolute delight of the visiting press team – was then called the Irish Times.

This week, thousands of lucky Irish children will make that trek to Northern Finland to visit Santa’s Kingdom and meet the great man himself, stopping along the way to post a last-minute letter at the North Pole’s post office and pick up a few very special souvenirs for the tree back home.

And lest anyone get apprehensive, at this time of year, Santa will be in situ at all times. Our visit was out of season and the great man was blissfully unaware that a group of well-upholstered Irish journalists were in town for an audience late one afternoon.

I can, however, still see the expression on the marketing lady’s face when she bounced into Santa’s gigantic grotto with her press entourage in tow – to find that Old Nick had made an early exit to spend some quality time with Mrs Claus and possibly feed the reindeer.

But even allowing for Santa’s unfortunate ‘no show’, it was one of the most memorable and exhilarating trips I ever had the privilege to make.

Because, having arrived into Helsinki – and we’ve mentioned the joys of the Finnish capital here very recently – we took a smaller plane to Rovaniemi to arrive in a land of snow.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.