04/12/2013 07:44 GMT | Updated 03/02/2014 05:59 GMT

Bad Santa - a Very Modern Christmas Story

Oh Bad Santa, it could have been so good. The Grotto, the elves, the sitting on your knee. Rudolph.

But sadly it was not to be. No. Instead there was screaming. Dear God, the screaming...


So we went to visit Father Christmas in his grotto (Knightsbridge outpost). A lovely day out for my daughter and her best friend, were it not for the terror.

It all started in 'Santa's Library'. Santa's Library has crowd control barriers that slice up the room. It also has TV screens, fluorescent lighting and one of those large plasma globe things. It crackles with electrical activity. Essentially, Santa's Library is a kind of super-charged, festive passport control.

We are all happy, though, and Santa's helpers are sweet - waving and chatting to the toddlers. Excitedly we imagine how the grotto might be: a cozy place, full of presents and cheer, a kindly old man holding court. Damn, it's gong to be BRILLIANT!

There are several doors leading from Santa's Library. Several doors to several rooms. Hmmm. This can't be right; this can't be right AT ALL. There are several doors to several GROTTOS! Just how many Santas are there in this place?

Still, the little ones are, of course, oblivious to this disturbing turn of events and we are ushered through to meet a Father Christmas. Which is when the screaming began.

The grotto is bare and appears to be fashioned from molded plastic. On a plastic pew sits a Santa. He is lovely and twinkly and just as he ought to be. The toddlers wail. Begging for mercy, they scramble wildly to put distance between themselves and the guy with the beard.

The Father Christmas is crestfallen. This is the third time in succession his appearance has elicited such a panic response, he tells us. We leave, consoling our babies and the Santa too. We forgo the photograph; it wouldn't have been very celebratory, what with all the screaming.

The exit is on the opposite wall of the grotto from the entrance, leading us far away from the children waiting happily in festive passport control. This way, presumably, they will not be freaked out by the ashen faces of frightened toddlers.

My dear friend is muttering darkly that the whole set-up reminds her of a brothel. She's right: all those doors and rooms and wipe clean surfaces. I shudder.

But you know what? We're in Knightsbridge. Maybe we'll just shop to forget, yes? It's Christmas; there's that fabulous food hall. Oh, and look at that, there's a doggy grooming parlour too.