When Gregg Wallace burst onto the screen and shouted ‘It’s Christmas’ I had to look twice to make sure Noddy Holder hadn’t had a head transplant.
On closer inspection though this was not Slade but Sleighed as Gregg, star of MasterChef and many programmes telling you how to suck eggs, was on an adventure and a Grand Christmas one to boot.
Channel Five had given Gregg the chance to go and see Santa Claus and he arrived excitedly at Finland’s Rovaniemi Airport where a stag party was in tears having not read the small print on what was available in this Lapland.
For the next hour, Gregg was let loose, but his boast that ‘we have seven full-size Christmas trees in our house’ isn’t just as impressive when you have a grotto, elf workshop, a team of huskies and more reindeer than you can shake a stick at.
He admitted he wasn’t sure of the latter, the authentic London geezer telling us that ‘anything nature makes me nervous’.
Not as nervous as the reindeer who, as well as being muckers with the big beardy fella, are also rather delicious, but as the lady in charge of them told us ‘reindeer with names don’t end up on a plate’.
These beasts can reach speeds of up to 50kph — unnamed ones can probably go even faster — and they did a cracking job in getting us to Santa Park, where the Elf Academy was based.
This is part of the complex, not a new Simon Cowell reality talent show.
“This is special even for an old adult like me, for children it must be magical,” Gregg beamed and it was something that did hang over the show, you just felt this was a bit wasted on him.
With this in mind he got a shot of ice-cold vodka from an ice glass in an ice bar and then it was, very n-ice and then it was off to the woods for more grown-up pursuits.
A bit of fishing in a stunningly beautiful location produced not a sausage but that was okay because his guide had some with him and sliced off a bit of some fungal growth on a tree for a cup of tea. Yummy.
“When I walk through a forest I just see trees and sky, you see a supermarket,” Gregg told us before devouring the sausage and mushroom brew.
“I’ve been around food and drink all my life and I never experienced anything like that,” he added and he was then naked in a sauna with the guide and hitting each other with twigs as a stag party’s ears pricked up back at the luggage carousel.
Then it was out to the back garden, dressed only in a towel, for a beer — Budnotweiser — presumably, and just when we though the effects of the mushrooms had worn off, a now fully-clothed Gregg met an elf at Santa’s Secret Forest.
It turns out she was there to take you to Santa, a facility offered by the Finnish government, the National Elf Service… OK, I made that up.
We had to call in on the way to see where all Santa’s letters are kept and where two Finnish Post Office workers are permanently employed — I did not make that up.
And finally we got to the crux of the matter.
“I’m 57 years old and I feel very excited to meet you,” said Gregg and we were all relieved that he was talking to a man with a white beard and hadn’t found the other Lapland.
“It’s a long way away and it’s not cheap, but it is special,” he concluded and it was the same message from his MasterChef chum, Monica Galletti, who was also off on her travels as part of her Amazing Hotels: Beyond The Lobby.
Along with Giles Coren, she travels the globe looking at places where none of us are ever going to be able to go to, this time the Grand Park Hotel in the Croatian resort of Rovinj.
So as not to totally alienate us, they are put to work during their stay, Monica cleaning ‘Europe’s biggest single piece of glass’.
This is bit like Cookstown saying it has the widest main street in the world: it may be true, but are we going to measure it?
The hotel is lovely, very plush, has a secret art gallery, infinity pools, glorious views and white truffles galore, but does it have a bag for your dirty pants and somewhere to stash your duty free and giant Toblerone?
You can also hire a speedboat for £325 for two hours to try and see some dolphins, which isn’t that hard as they can be quite clicky.
And with that, I am off, have a good Christmas... how do you get this reindeer into the oven?