Well today the NT has gone up a notch even in my estimation. Why? Santa. In Birmingham city centre today, people were queuing for two hours to see the big man in red. Last year it cost £3.50 for a cheapie plastic toy and then extra for a photo. I know, I was one of the poor suckers who paid - yes, even for the photo. Santa wasn't even particularly warm, and you were in and out in less than 2 minutes; a Christmas conveyor belt, if you like. So this year, having reduced funds yet still wanting some of that Christmas magic for the boys (even if they know it's all a rather wonderful game) I opted for the National Trust version.
I don't know what I expected. For £2 per child, which was the cost, I don't think I really expected very much at all. How wrong could I be. Of course, if we'd been non-members it would have cost much more but as fully paid up chaps and chapesses we got into the property for free and just had to hand over the princely sum of £4 for our two bigger boys to see St Nick. This is what we got:
- We saw the deer being fed in the deer park. This was wonderful. They came bounding over the ridge of the hill, following a tractor which intermittently dispersed food. It was like being on the Serengetti plain - except much colder I suspect.
- A free Christmas trail around the beautiful festivally adorned house, including lots of Christmas information bulletins - very educational.
- A free performance of Carols by a childrens choir in period costume.
- A visit to Santa. We queued for about 20 minutes before entering through a fur coat laden wardrobe (very Narnia) into Santa's grotto. He was a fantastic Santa. Very warm and engaging. He asked the children lots of questions and seemed genuinely interested in them.
- A free photo opportunity with SC.
- A lovely selection of small wooden toys to choose from.
It was great. Totally uncommercial and fantastic value. I feel a Christmas tradition coming on. Long live the National Trust.