Christmas was a time of confusion and excitement, which was as intense if you lived in the North Pole or in Ireland; if you were as old as Santa or as young as Amy who sat in her Dublin home, writing her letter to Santa.
Her daddy offered to help, but Amy had all the help she needed with her favourite beanbag ted, Gossip, beside her. She had nicknamed him Gossip because, after she returned from school each day, she told Gossip everything that happened in class. She was convinced that he wanted to tell her what all her other teddies did when she was away – if only she could understand the secret language which toys spoke in.
Sometimes Amy also didn’t understand some words her father used when he got lost driving around Dublin, but – from her mother’s tut-tutting – she suspected that she should not repeat them to her teacher. Daddy was a loving father and a brilliant bedtime story-teller.
The only thing he was poor at was directions, because the foreign country where he was born was very different to Dublin. Daddy got lost so often that Amy and her mother had chosen the perfect surprise Christmas present for him: a Sat Nav for his car. Mammy said it would improve his mood, his driving and his language.
Amy had been given the task of wrapping his present, but disaster nearly struck when Daddy unexpectedly entered the room. She covered his present with leftover wrapping paper and hid it in the fireplace alongside her letter to Santa.
But next morning – after an elf had gone around to collect letters for Santa – Amy realised that Gossip had also got wrapped up in all that paper, because the beanbag teddy, the Sat Nav and her letter were all gone.
She mightn’t know where they were but the elf in charge of Lost Property at the North Pole did. Elves were always bringing back other items they found in fireplaces by mistake.
“You’re lost,” he said, putting Gossip and the Sat Nav on a shelf.
“I’m not lost,” the beanbag ted said, “I’ve been kidnapped.”
“Don’t worry,” the elf laughed. “We’ll have you back down the chimney you came from on Christmas night, if Santa can find the way.”
“Doesn’t Santa always find his way?” Gossip asked.
“He needs to find his spare glasses first.” The elf sighed. “Rudolf sat on his new ones. Just like last year.”
Gossip hopped down from the shelf. The North Pole was in chaos. Santa wasn’t getting any younger and Christmas wasn’t getting easier. It was hard enough to pack the sleigh with elves falling about and shouting: “Who’s got the Sellotape?” But without his new glasses he would struggle, especially when it came to new streets not marked on the atlas that Mrs Claus had given him as a Christmas present, back in 1879.
Gossip wandered over to Santa. “Can I help you find your glasses?”
“Please do. They’re brand new, barely a hundred years old.” Santa peered at Gossip. “I don’t remember getting you as a present for anyone.”
“You didn’t,” Gossip explained. “I belong to Amy in Dublin. And this…” He struggled to hold up the Sat Nav. “…is Amy’s dad’s present. We shouldn’t be here.”
“Neither should I. I should have left by now. Damn and blast,” he looked around, sounding like Amy’s father when he got lost.
“I’ll have to leave with no glasses or children will never get their presents. We’ll pop you and that mobile phone in the Dublin sack.”
“It’s not a mobile phone,” Gossip said.
“What is it?” Santa sighed. “I try to keep up but they keep inventing new things – laptops and Ipods and Kindles. It’s hard because I’m 1,742 years old. I thought a Kindle was a new type of candle.”
“This is a Sat Nav,” Gossip explained. “It tells you where to go.”
“Like an atlas?” Santa asked.
“A speaking atlas.”
Santa nodded thoughtfully. “Can you work it?”
“I saw Amy and her mother try it. It has every city in Ireland and across Europe.”
“Does it need batteries? We never have enough batteries.”
“It just needs to be switched on.”
Santa laughed suddenly: a most magical sound. “You’re going in no sack – you’re sitting on my lap.” He shouted to the reindeer organising all the other reindeer before the sleigh took over. “Rudolf, meet our new navigator.”
Santa didn’t have his glasses but he had so many funny stories of mishaps of previous Christmas Eves that soon they were over the first country.
Prancer (the reindeer with the best memory) called out the first address and Gossip keyed it into the Sat Nav. Santa said he hadn’t delivered presents so fast since his 1,000th birthday. Next Christmas he wanted his own Sat Nav from Mrs Claus and not another pair of knitted socks.
The hours flew past until, suddenly, they were above the part of Dublin where Amy lived. The view was unbelievable, with Christmas lights in every window. Gossip didn’t need a Sat Nav. Once Prancer called out a child’s name, he knew where they lived from Amy’s stories from school.
Santa delivered Christmas presents for Sean and Maura and Chen and Jia; a Polish football jersey for Jadrek and a Brazilian one for Djavan. Gossip descended each chimney and acted as the official carrot-carrier for the hungry reindeer. He even sipped Russian brandy left for Santa in Antropiy’s house and nearly collapsed.
Finally they reached Amy’s house. Gossip could not believe he was home.
He knew that he was the biggest surprise Amy would get.
So on Christmas morning, with Santa snoozing in bed at the North Pole, Amy ran downstairs, excited to see what presents Santa had left but sad because Gossip wasn’t there to open them with her.
She never expected to find Gossip and a battered Sat Nav lying beside the presents, alongside a card on which Santa had left Christmas greetings for children in a dozen languages: “Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia”; Christmas Oma”; “Linksmu Kaledu”; “Krismas Mubarak”; “Merry Christmas.”