Or The Search For Santa
Despite the rooms climate control it was distinctly cool when Chris aka Nena headed to the loo on Sunday morning. The tiled floor in the bathroom didn't help matters and the visit was cut to the minimum, Chris quickly scurrying back to the warm nest of the bed. Six forty and the light of dawn was still some way off, the lights of the street below providing the meagre light at the window.
At least it was a later start today; boy that beer was flowing last night! He stared at the ceiling, bum, have to get up soon if Nena is going to make an appearance today – not that that was much of an option. So okay his uniform was clean again thanks to the girl on reception but there was no way realistically that Chris could appear as male today after two ‘Nena' days. The alarm clock announced seven o'clock and with resignation he crawled out from the warm covers and headed for the shower.
“It's damn cold this morning.”
“The forecast looked like snow later.” Nena noted by way of reply.
“Just what I need.”
“We'll have to play it by ear I guess.”
Ding! The lift announced by way of notice of arrival.
“Yep.” Den agreed following his colleague into the box.
Down in the restaurant most of the passengers were already tucking into their breakfast at least it was warmer down here. Well there's no way I could go a third day in the same stuff so I'd dressed in the long skirt and blouse that made up my second outfit, mind you the blouse was a bit um figure hugging.
We didn't need to rush this morning, there's only one stop, Aachen, and that's barely an hour up the road.
“Nena?” a little voice enquired from by my elbow. I turned to find one of the sprogs stood there.
“Well hello Kylie, what can I do for you?”
“Jake says there's no such thing as Santa there is though isn't there?”
“Hmm, I think Jake is being silly, I bet if we all look carefully today we'll find him.”
“Are you really Santa's helper Nena?”
“Of course I am, if we don't find him I'll have to get a new job!”
“There you are Kylie, sorry Nena I told her to wait but you know what kids are like.” The rug rats' mother mentioned.
“Nena says we'll see Santa today Mum.”
I winked at the woman who rolled her eyes by way of reply before escorting Kylie back to their table.
“What are you looking so smug about?” Den enquired once they were out of earshot.
“Well Santa, I think we need to break cover before the ferry.”
He sighed deeply; “I see a red and white suit in my future.”
“Hey you're lucky, I get to be an elf again!”
“It would be easiest I think, then if the weather turns we can make a run for the coast.”
“Yes we'll need to keep an eye on that weather.” He agreed.
Our timetable gave the passengers an hour or so in Köln before we depart at ten thirtyish so Den and I got the cases loaded on Betsy then plotted the afternoon entertainment. It meant a bit of shopping for me when we got to Aachen to supplement the stuff supplied by Global but I think it'll be worth it. The cold seemed to keep most of the passengers from straying far, being Sunday the market doesn't open until twelve and most of the shops that do open today respect the morning too.
The watery sun just about managed to form shadows by the time we had everyone on board although it was still perishing cold. One thing for this time on a Sunday, the traffic was pretty light so we were soon heading west on the autobahn towards Aachen.
“Morning Nena!” came back quite a chorus; I noted Kylies voice loudly amongst them.
“Well it's time to head for home but not before one final stop at Aachen Weinachtsmarkt. We should be there about twelve o'clock but we must leave at two thirty so we can catch our ferry! We shall only be making one brief toilet and fuel stop after we leave Aachen so I suggest you grab a snack while we are there. This evening we have a meal on the ferry again so a sausage in a bun should do to tide you over.”
We were already at Kreuz Kerpen, the 4 was pretty quiet as we headed on towards Düren although a steady stream of coaches were heading the other direction.
“We'll drop you as near as we can but they do try to keep buses out of the centre. I'll shut up now and let you enjoy the ride.”
I did a quick coach walk then returned to my seat at the front.
“That sky's looking a bit dodgy.” I noted. The weak sun was starting to lose out to dark clouds and the external temperature was now out of the blue.
“Lets just hope it doesn't come to anything, I don't fancy a couple of hours driving through blizzards.”
“Don't even jest.”
Just over half an hour later we were pulling up in Aachen, several streets were allocated to coach parking just a few minutes walk from the market area – in truth closer than you get in Köln. The sky was pretty ominous and looked snowier by the minute.
“So if you can all be back on the bus for half two. Have a nice time.”
Den opened the door and I descended to help them disembark.
“Remember to look out for Santa kids.” I told Kylie and her brother.
“I will.” The little smurf replied.
“So we having a walk?”
“Why not.” Den agreed.
I slipped my jacket on, I thought Den was over doing it with his ski jacket but I guess he wasn't wearing an elf costume under his street clothes! We walked down to the inner ring and joined the already fairly high numbers of people heading to the markets, the two areas linked by a string of stalls up the side of the Rathaus.
I found what I was after up in the Rathaus Markt where we paused for coffee and waffles.
“Is it me or has it gone dark?” Den enquired joining me after a trip to the lav's.
“You wouldn't think it wasn't even two yet would you?”
I know the lights of the market made it look darker but even taking that into account it was dark and I'm sure there have been a few flakes of snow floating around.
“Time to head back and get ready I guess.”
“Yeah.” Den didn't sound too enthusiastic.
We hurried back to Betsy; Den got the heating going while I used the back seat area to transform myself from Nena tour host to Nena the Elf, Santa's little helper. Den soon joined me and was soon all set bar the beard and stuffing.
“Damn, some of them are here already.” I noted glancing out of the window.
Thank heaven for centre doors! We got Den clear, I watched him scurry a short way up the road to a bus shelter where he hid himself. Okay lets open up girl!
“Hi everyone, get yourselves on and warmed up.”
“It's the Elf again!”
“Give over Derek.” The other half of that couple instructed as I blushed.
I could hear them before I saw them, Kylie and Jake.
“But Nena said he'd be here.”
“Told you he doesn't exist stupid!” Jake returned.
“Stop it you two, now get on the coach.”
I opened the door.
“Well hello you too.”
“Are you an elf again Nena?”
“No such thing.” Jake interposed.
“Yes Kylie, I thought I might find Santa here but no luck so far.”
“Told ya!” the little horror stated.
They shuffled along to their seats and it wasn't long until the only person missing was Den. A minute later we had an extra passenger. I flicked the microphone on.
“Ah there you are Nena! I've been searching all these markets for you.”
“Sorry Santa I've been showing these people around.”
Glancing down the bus I could see Kylie and her brother goggle eyed.
“Who are these people Nena?”
“Well they've come all the way from England to see your markets.”
“How very nice, hello everybody.”
They all played along.
“I'd like you to meet some of my new friends Santa.”
“Friends eh? Of course Nena but I don't have much time.”
“Quickly kids, come down to the front.”
It wasn't quite a stampede but the front of Betsy was soon quite crowded! Den did his Santa bit from the comfort of his turned about driving seat. The kids were agog and when Santa gave each of them a present even young Jake became a believer.
“Well everyone, I've got lots of shopping to do and I think you are heading home now too, are you coming Nena?”
“I'd best wait until their driver arrives Santa, I'll meet you at the reindeer.”
“Well okay. Goodbye everyone, have a pleasant trip and I'll look out for you when I do my trip in a couple of weeks.”
Den got down and headed off much to the amusement of some passers by.
“Okay kids shall we sing so Rudolf can find Santa in all this traffic?”
I got everyone singing Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer primarily to distract the kids. The buzzer sounded briefly as Den clambered back in the side door.
“What's going on Nena and why are you dressed like that?” Dennis asked from behind the kids a minute or two later after a hasty costume change.
“Oh Dennis you just missed Santa.”
“Santa was on my bus? Was it really him kids?”
“Yes,” Kylie stated, “he gave us presents and everything.”
“I wish I'd seen him, ah well. Gosh is that the time, we'd best make a move or we'll not get home tomorrow.”
“Okay then, back to your seats kids. And put those seatbelts on.”
I glanced at the clock, five past three, close enough to what we planned.
“Ready Nena?” Den enquired setting Betsy up for departure.
I checked for moving bodies but everyone was seated, “roll ‘em Den!”
It might as well have been nighttime now, the black clouds were dropping a few more flakes of white stuff too as we headed towards Maastricht. I slipped some seasonal tunes into the CD player and pulled my jacket around me.
“That went well.” Den stated.
“Yeah” I agreed with a slight tremor in my voice.”
“You want to get some clothes on.”
“Let the kids settle down first.”
“Whatever, they're showing heavy snow up around Antwerp.” Den noted.
“Lets hope it doesn't settle too quickly.” I watched as our headlights started picking up more and more white flakes falling.
We pulled into the docks with barely five minutes to spare. Although it was pretty much clear here on the coast the drive the previous two hundred k's were almost entirely driven through sometimes heavy, almost blizzard, snow. Three hours should have been more than long enough to do the distance but when you do nearly fifty k's at not much more than a crawl the time soon slips by.
I did get changed when I did the first of several drink rounds, I'll kill whoever picked out that Elf costume! We did make the short stop, necessity really as Betsy was using a bit more fuel than usual with everything running and crawling along but nevertheless I could see Den was exhausted when we finally locked Betsy up on the car deck. Geez it's embarrassing carting round this pink case! It was the Norsea on Thursday and it was the same ship for our return trip. At least it was a different purser!
I decided to put my cleaned uniform on for the last leg home, I still apparently looked like Nena, apparently all the passengers had forgotten the start of the trip when I was me, Chris. Was it really only four days ago? It seems like forever. Last nights crossing was a bit choppy but the snow didn't make it across the North Sea, instead Hull greeted us with a few spots of rain from a grey sky.
I don't know who took the pictures but Bill acquired some pictures of Santa and his little helper that I discovered on the notice board a week later. If I didn't know I'd think I was a girl! We did get some nice letters from some of the passengers, including one from Jake and Kylie thanking Nena for a wonderful time.
© Maddy Bell 30.01.07Want to Comment? click here to Email me