Each year, end of November, he arrives, a cherished, benign and well respected man, Saint Nicholas. Yes, each year I take my kids to the quays in Antwerp to witness him arrive on his steaming boat. Together with his trusted horse ‘badwethertoday’ and his trusted employees coïncidentally all called ‘Pete Black’.
And each year, after the mandatory parade to the city’s town hall, he gets up behind a microphone and proclaims: “There have been no naughty children this year!”
I now witness my kids getting giddy like little schoolgirls. (Come to think of it, one of them actually is a little schoolgirl). But that’s entirely beside the question. Really, who’s job is it to provide Saint Nicholas with proper intel on these kids? Exactly, Pete Black! Pete has certainly not been paying attention to my little rascals throughout the year. What has he been doing all year? I’ll tell you what he’s been up to; no good, slacking off, that’s what! And really, my dear dear Saint Nicholas, how can you be so gullible?
I remember a time when I was little, the coming of Saint Nicholas and the Petes, instilled us with quite a bit of anxiety if not plain fear. Kids who had been naughty got the scourge or worse got put into a jute bag and got taken back to Spain, not to return to there respective families until they learned how to behave themselves. I specifically remember a night were Pete Black came through our chimney at night, taking my wishlist of carefully selected toys and leaving me my first treat of the year; a rod of branches. The worst morning of my life, that was. I got absolutely manic, panicked beyond my wits thinking I had been naughty and got the scourge. Only a few moments later did I notice the small pieces of candy hidden between the branches. Together with my parents convincing me this was an actual treat, I managed to eventually pull myself together again.
Now those were the days! Recently, there has been a recurrent discussion about the perceived politically incorrect nature of Pete Black. Some community interest groups feel offended as they regard the Petes as a racist symbol of suppression by the white-bearded Saint Nicholas. Others state that the working conditions for the Petes are beneath standards and far from acceptable as they never seem to get a chance to wash of that nasty chimney soot from their faces. However that, my friends, is entirely irrelevant. These men are just doing a piss-poor job! And let’s face it, the old saint isn’t getting any younger. He’s in need of proper, dedicated assistants. That’s it, case closed.
Sack Pete Black, stop messing around and find yourself some decent applicants for the job. Actually, dear Saint Nicholas, I believe I might have already found what you should be looking for. If I might make a suggestion; up in the Austrian Alps you’ll find a horde of horned mountain dwellers with quiet some relevant experience. These groovy ghoulies descent from their caves once a year, start of December not to reward but to chase after the town’s sinners. Yes, ain’t no rest for the wicked this time of the year in Austria … Krampus is coming!
Have these demonic disciples show our kids the true meaning of discipline again. Have them throwing your tangerines to a crowd of goody two-shoes and give a good ol’spanking to the naughty ones. Have our kids trembling in their beds again to the sound of the Krampus’s hooves on the roof while they’re skulking from one chimney to the other. Our little darling toddlers will be chanting carols of the Krampus and putting out schnapps to please them. No more brats, complaining they didn’t get the high-tech robot-dog or pink smartwatch they ‘ordered’. Only relief they didn’t get face to face with the Krampus that whipped them!
However, dear Saint Nicholas, do take into account that this workforce isn’t acclimatized to the overwhelming Spanish heath. If your employment benefits include room & board, do find a residence resembling their natural habitat. And you might want to keep the commuting traffic to a minimum. After all, living close to the workfloor is one of the most appreciated and welcomed perks nowadays, you know! Again, if I might make a suggestion here; in the Southern parts of Belgium there are plenty of abandoned coalmines left where your minions can hibernate and await your return from Spain each year. A perfect home base of operations, your intel-headquarters where they can gather sound data on our kids’ behavior throughout the year.
Let’s face it, this could be a win-win situation for everyone. And as long as the Krampus don’t form a syndicate, you’ll be fine again.