Mark Daniels: Turn off the lights, or Santa won't make it...!

Related tags Santa claus North pole

If, like me, you're a Publican raising children in a pub - or, indeed, one of the many who have already raised little ones in such an environment -...

If, like me, you're a Publican raising children in a pub - or, indeed, one of the many who have already raised little ones in such an environment - then you'll be more than versed in some of the trials and tribulations such family life can chuck your way.

There are many advantages, of course. We're always at home and always available to help and chat. One of us can always find time to help with homework, talk through problems at school, or simply prise away another piece of Lego that has mysteriously found its way up a left nostril.

And even when we're busy they can come and see us at the bar just to say hello, chat with the other customers or generally just make sure all is well.

There are disadvantages, too, of course. Sometimes they have to be left to their own devices in the flat, where they fall under the spell of the Electronic Nannies. Sky TV, Sony PlayStation and Nintendo DS all help keep them occupied at times when we can't, but they are a bit like a drug and trying to separate them from their favourite television programme can sometimes be a bit wearing.

I have two boys, one aged nine and the other six. They're great fun, and do their best to help with stock counts etc. (read: bugger everything up so I have to start again), but the nine-year-old has become a touch truculent of late, and more than a little sarcastic. I don't recall speaking back to my parents like that until I was at least sixteen.

His letter to Father Christmas this year is less of a polite request for some toys with a promise that he's been quite good this year and more of a Final Demand.

Honestly, it really does read a bit like that song by Kevin 'Bloody' Wilson...

At school, they're learning about the 'environment', and Malachy's knowledge of this subject is made up of everything he's learned from me and from the wise teachings of Jeremy Clarkson.

Unfortunately, this has lead to him putting his hand up in class and saying, "Miss, my Dad says that Climate Change and Global Warming are two different things. The first is apparently a naturally occurring phemummynon that we can't do nuffin' about, and the other one is yet another bloody taxation policy thought up by that muppet in Number Ten."

His teacher has told me that it's very difficult to educate him on the real risks of climate change if this is how I'm going to talk to him about it, but it's made worse because he appends his statement with a quote from the Book of Clarkson, pointing out that, if England warms up, oranges will grow on trees outside our balconies where we can sip Gin and Tonics at any time of the year, just like in Spain.

"So what's wrong with that, Miss?" He asks.

Of course Jacob, the younger one, hasn't yet managed to grasp the element of irony or, at the very least, copy it verbatim so has listened to his school's teachings on the subject religiously. "Global warming means the North Pole will melt," he told me with a frown the other day.

This information has proven to be quite handy, actually. As any parent will know, especially Publican ones, kids left to their own devices never switch anything off and this usually means that when I go up in the early hours of the morning, long after they're in their Transformers pyjamas and snoring under the Doctor Who duvets, all the lights will still be blazing, the PlayStation 3 will still be whirring away, and the television will be blaring out one of the omnipresent children's channels.

Getting them to turn everything off in a room when they leave it is proving to be an almost impossible task. Until now.

"Jacob," I said to the six-year-old recently. "If the North Pole melts, what will happen?"

"All the Eskimos will die," he said seriously.

"Probably," I said with a dismissive wave of my hand. "But if the North Pole melts, Father Christmas and his reindeer will have nowhere to live, and Christmas will be finished forever."

He now follows his older brother around devoutly. Not because he worships the ground Malachy walks on, you understand, or that he's trying to see what game on the DS the older one's got his nose buried in this time, but instead he's studiously making sure every light and electronic bit of wizardry is switched off each time it's put down or they leave a room, and then he's snuggling himself in to bed with a satisfied smile on his face.

"I hope Father Christmas's house is nice and cold now," he yawned as I tucked him in bed last night.

I have no idea whether Santa and Rudolph will survive Gordon's Taxation Policy, but it's doing wonders for my electricity bill...

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