"What the blazes is a Santa Express?" I hear you cry. Well...... it is a steam train with Father Christmas on it. Sure, the entertainment possibilities associated with this particular pairing did seem somewhat limited, but I was willing to give it a go.
We duly plugged the postcode into the Sat Nav and set off. Forty minutes later, the comedy Michael Caine voice announced. "you have reached your destination." We were on a housing estate with no steam train to be seen.
Yep, we had accidentally put the postcode of the ticketing office into the Sat Nav instead of the train station. It was quarter to two and we had been told categorically that we had to be at the station for 2pm. What a muppet. I needed to act and fast - I found the correct postcode and the journey time was 13 minutes - we could just make it. A mad dash through the Oxfordshire countryside ensued (but I didn't break the speed limit of course) and we finally arrived at 1.59pm. Phew! That was close.
Pic.No.1 Izzy at the train station
So imagine my disgruntlement to discover that the steam train hadn't even arrived at the station. A further fifteen minutes later, the thing eventually chuffed into sight, and I almost missed it because I didn't get my camera out in time. Not being much of a steam train enthusiast, I can only describe it as a Thomas the Tank engine without the face or the heroics.
Pic.No.2 The steam train
We found our carriage and proceeded to board, when a guard appeared and declared that we all had to wait on the platform whilst they cleaned the inside of the train............ which took a further 20 minutes and by which time, everyone was getting cold and tired of standing on a crowded platform.
Finally, we were allowed to board the train, by which time Izzy wasn't looking too amused by the proceedings.
Pic.No.3. Me and 'I am not amused' Izzy
Once seated, the train staff started walked down the carriages handing out mince pies and hot drinks.
"Excuse me," I asked after taking a sip of the insipid liquid, "is this tea or coffee?"
"Coffee," frowned the pensioner in the elf outfit.
Thirty minutes later, after the coffee, mince pies and impromptu Christmas carols were long gone, the steam train was still stationary and the passengers were starting to get restless. Just at the moment I thought a mutiny was going to take place, the engine stirred to life at we finally chugged out of the station at walking pace.
"Can you feel the adrenalin?" I shouted at Steve.
"No, but I think I am pulling serious G," he replied, just at the moment that a bell sounded, signifying the arrival of Santa. Finally, Izzy's moment had come.
Pic.No.4 Izzy meets Santa
"Ho, Ho, Ho!" said Santa. "Have you been a good girl?"
"No, I got told off at school for putting toys down the toilet," Izzy replied sincerely, whilst I groaned in dismay.
Santa looked a little thrown by her answer and began straw clutching, "but you have been a good girl since then?"
"No, I spat out my spaghetti and Naughty George ate it," she answered. I needed to intervene, and quickly.
"Actually, apart from those two fairly minor incidences, she has been pretty good," I stammered. Santa saw his chance and took it.
"Well, all good girls get presents," he said, motioning for 'pensioner elf' to give her a present from his sack, and then beating a hasty retreat.
Pic.No.5 Izzy mood changes once a present was on the table
Finally, after a short (twenty five minute) journey we were back at the station where the next
"Right, shall we go and get something to eat?" I suggested.
"Yep, let's go," Steve replied and we jumped into the car, putting the heating on full blast. As we pulled out of the train station, I spotted a car with a numberplate that I would simply die for dahlink.
Pic.No.6. A Range Rover with the number-plate 'L3DY M'
We located a pleasant looking gastro-pub called the Cherry Tree in a village near the station and had a rather tasty meal before I drove home.
Pic.No.7. The Cherry Tree Inn
So would I recommend the Santa Express? Well it had its own rural, haphazard charm, and did make me feel Christmassy in a way that heaving shopping centres and tacky festive TV programmes fail to achieve.
So it is now Christmas Eve, and I am hoping that you are all excitedly waiting for Christmas to arrive.......see you tomorrow!