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Secret Santa

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December. A month of magic, festiveness, lights, chocolate, family and of course the ever-elusive Secret Santa.

In all honesty, despite having known each other for well over two decades, the game of Secret Santa had, somehow, never really made it as one of the bands’ Christmas traditions. So this year was a first. But then again, over the last year, there had been a few of those – first’s that was; not new Christmas traditions.

So here they were, picking each other names out of one of Mark’s many, many hats; all hoping that, whoever they got (though, let’s bit frank, their options were slightly limited), they would be able to find something for them. After all, twenty-five years is a long time, surely they knew each other well enough for this.

That was until someone had come up with the brilliant idea of setting a price limit. Getting a gift was fine, but the moment someone decided that no more than £15 could be spend in the process (or whatever the dollar equivalent was, considering Gary was spending a lot of the time in America at present), meant that what should have been easy, became slightly less so.

So anyway, here they were, having picked each other’s names out of the hat. They had until Christmas Eve to find something with a value of £15 ($22.76, if you were wondering); how hard could it be?

The answer?


Oh, and just in case you wanted to know: Gary got Howard, Howard got Mark and Mark got Gary.

It was Howard who had done it first. He had been sat at home, typing on the keyboard of his laptop ferociously, trying to search the web in the hope of stumbling something that he could possibly get Mark for Secret Santa. Yet, the whole task seemed futile; which is when he decided that, the only way he was going to find anything was to get outside help.

Clicking on the start bar and clicking on his email app, Howard quickly created a new message. The person on the receiving end? I’ll let you work that one out yourself:

‘Hi Jay!
Hope you’re okay, hoping to up and see you at some point over the holidays, but you know what it’s like this time of year. Anyway, I was wondering, if you weren’t too busy, could you help me with something? See, someone clever (let’s not get into who) decided that it would be a good idea if myself, Gary and Mark did Secret Santa. Well, I got Mark and I have absolutely no idea what to get him! I was thinking some hat and scarf set (cos, well, it’s Mark), but then realised that that is probably the most obvious thing to get him and, quite frankly, the man doesn’t need any more hats or gloves! (I think Emma would kill me if I helped him fill an entire wardrobe). So yeah, any ideas would be much appreciated. Oh, and the price limit is £15.
Cheers mate!
See you soon (if not at Christmas, then hopefully in the New Year)

Much to his surprise, it took Jason less than an half an hour to reply to Howard’s email. And in true Orange style, it wasn’t exactly the shortest reply:

‘Hey Doug!
I’m good thanks, what about you? And yes, we definitely need to catch up. Think I’m busy over the holidays so sometime in the New Year would be brilliant.
Oh God, the three of you doing Secret Santa… I dread to think who’s got you. Anyway, in some ways you’ve got it easy, Mark shouldn’t be too hard to find something for – he’ll be happy with anything. But I can understand about not wanting to buy him something that obvious (and yes, Emma would probably kill you). I think, if you wanted to try and find something that was slightly different and still Mark, you’d probably be better off wanting to get in contact with Rob. You could also ask Gary, but I guess you don’t want to tell each other who you’ve got, so Rob is your best bet. If you drop him a line now, he should get it by morning where he is. I’m sure he’ll be happy to help.
Anyway, hope you find something. When is the deadline?
Good luck and see you in the New Year!

As Howard read the email, it struck him at how obvious Jason’s answer was. Of course Rob would be his best bet when it came to Mark.

Howard closed down the email from Jason and began a new one to Robbie:

‘Hi Rob,
You alright, mate? Knackered after the tour this year? I know we are from ours.
Anyway, I am in need of your help. The three of us have decided to do a Secret Santa this year and I got Mark and I have no idea what to get him. I emailed Jay asking if he knew, but he told me that you would be my best bet. Why I didn’t think of that straight away, I have no idea. But anyway, I don’t want to get him something completely obvious, but I do want something that is him. So if you have any ideas please let me know… we have until Christmas Eve and the price limit is £15.
Cheers mate

All he had to do now was wait.

When the first email came into his inbox that morning, Robbie couldn’t help but smile. The lads, doing Secret Santa, and he was being asked to help out. As for what to say in order to help, Robbie hadn’t got a clue. Yes, he knew Mark well, but he had never been the best present giver in the world, but he knew he would feel bad if he didn’t try and help Howard out somehow; after all, he had been asked.

He had just opened the email and was about to start his reply when there was another email coming through to his inbox.

Clicking on it, he saw it was from Mark. Was he, too struggling to get something? Who did he have?

‘Hey Rob!!
I feel awful for doing this, but we’re doing Secret Santa this year and I have no idea what to get Gary! Should I get him something Star Wars related since the film comes out this month or should I go with something different? As if so what? Could you help me with some ideas? I’m really struggling and could do with some help.
Thankyou in advance if you can! (The budget is £15 and we have until Christmas Eve!!)
(Oh, and hope you’re okay! We really need to catch up at some point. Not seen you much lately)’

Robbie smiled at Mark’s email. He could hear the…urgency, almost, in the email. He knew Mark hated to give in and ask for help, so he was clearly struggling trying to get Gary something. Robbie liked the Star Wars idea though.

It was then that he suddenly had an idea pop in his head. Why it had popped in his head, he had no idea, but he couldn’t help but smile to himself at the thought of what it might look like on the day the three of them opened the gifts. All he needed was to make sure that he could try and help out Gary as well as Howard and Mark.

Clicking the reply button at the top of the screen, Robbie sent Mark back an email saying that he had had a similar email from Howard asking the same question and that he was more than willing to help and that, yes, they should meet up sometime soon because it had been a while since they had last seen each other properly.

After having clicked send, Robbie then sent an email to Jason, explaining his plan and that if he got an email from Gary he should send him in his direction but this was an opportunity too great to miss.

If this all went to plan, then Robbie couldn’t wait to see the next photograph of his friends.

The day after, as Robbie had expected, he received an email from Gary asking for help on what to get Howard. He had also received an email from Jason that, under any other circumstances, he wouldn’t usually be a part of trying to make his friends look silly without them realising it but, because it was Christmas and because, quite frankly, what Robbie had suggested made him just laugh, he went along with it – he had even helped Robbie pick out what to get.

Robbie replied saying that he would be more than happy to help and that he already had an idea of what to get Howard and so would email him within the next day or so with his idea. It was then that he emailed Jason saying that they had all emailed him asking for help and that this was going to be the best Secret Santa ever (providing that Gary, Mark and Howard didn’t find anything else in the meantime, that was).

Eventually, Robbie emailed all his friends the respected links to what he had thought of as an idea for Secret Santa. Surprisingly, it didn’t take the three of them long to reply saying the exact same thing (well, thereabouts):

‘Cheers Rob! That’s that sorted! Can’t wait for [insert name] to wear this on Christmas Eve!’

Robbie was so glad that his friends were lazy and had gone with him on this. Otherwise, he would, how else would he get his annual Christmas amusement?

He then sent an email back to all of them telling them:

‘He better wear it on Christmas Eve! I want photographic evidence and I’m pretty sure Jay would like to see, too!’

And now, all he could do was wait and relax, wondering what their reactions would be when Christmas Eve came around.

Eventually, it was Christmas Eve and the lads had decided to meet up in order to exchange gifts and to celebrate the achievements that they had accomplished throughout the year one last time before spending the rest of the holiday period with their families.

They met at Gary’s house while Dawn had taken the kids out to do some (very) last minute food shopping.

Upon arriving Gary offered both Mark and Howard a cup of tea before the three of them made their way into the living room where their gifts lie.

Knowing that Mark wouldn’t be able to contain his excitement for very much longer, Gary and Howard let him open his first. Within seconds there was paper everywhere and Gary grimaced at the fact that he was going to have to clean this up later; plus there was also the small issue that within the process of unwrapping, Mark had nearly managed to knock his mug over at least three times, making Gary feel more on edge for his beloved carpet.

Mark laughed loudly when he saw what had been wrapped up in the festive paper.

“Haha! This is awesome!” Mark said with a smile on his face. “Thank you whoever got this.”

“That would be me,” Howard owned up, silently thanking Robbie for this. “You have to put it on, by the way.”

Without a word Mark dashed off into the next room and came back a second later wearing a bright yellow minion onesie (hood up and all).

“Oh my God,” Gary laughed in disbelief. “Where did you get that?!”

“I may have had a little help.” Howard said with a smile on his face. “I’m just glad it fits!”

“KING BOB!” Mark yelled much to Gary’s horror and Howard’s amusement. “Howard open yours next!” Mark said coming over to them dressed as every child’s favourite character this year.

“I take it it’s from you.” Howard gathered.

“No, I just want you to open yours next.” Mark said smiling.

“This one’s from me.” Gary said, his calm completely juxtaposing Mark’s current mood.

Howard shook his head, still laughing at Mark’s outfit, as he picked up his present from the table and started to open it. Thankfully, this time, Gary was less worried of tea mugs flying everywhere.

“Ha! Oh my God!” Howard laughed as he took his gift out of its paper. In his hands he held a Donald Duck onesie with a wide smile on his face.

“I tell you if I had known what you were going to get Mark, I would have got you something different. I had help see.” Gary said.

“Nonsense, this is awesome!” Howard replied.

“Put it on!” Mark told him, gleefully.

Howard didn’t need telling twice and immediately slipped on the onesie over his trousers and t-shirt, zipping it up and pulling up the hood. He then proceeded to start walking around the living room like a duck, trying to chase after Mark who had started running away from Howard in fits of giggles.

Gary watched in amused despair as a minion and Donald Duck were chasing each other around his living room. Well, he thought, this is something I never thought I’d see.

“Right, opening mine now.” Gary called to his friends who stopped and made their way back over to where Gary still stood watching them.

“Yay! It’s from me, by the way!” Mark said.

“I kinda gathered.” Gary smiled. He couldn’t help but find his friend amusing to look at as he stood in front of him with the brightest smile on his face. Shaking his head, Gary started to unwrap the paper, Mark constantly looking at him as if to say ‘hurry up’.

Eventually, Gary got it open and he tried to contain his laughter as he pulled the gift from his paper.

“Oh my word, Mark, what is this?” Gary laughed.

“It’s a onesie and look, it’s Darth Vada! Go out it on!” Mark smiled (not that he had actually stopped, that was).


It was clear that Gary was reluctant to put on a onesie, but he slipped in on regardless.

“Hood,” Howard said. Gary groaned while trying not to laugh, but put up the hood regardless, standing in front of Mark and Howard with mock annoyance written all over his face.

“How come we’ve all got onesies?” Gary asked.

“I don’t know.” Howard said. “Wait a second… did any of you ask for help from a certain someone who goes by the name of Robbie Williams by any chance?”

It was then that Mark heard his phone ping on the table. He walked over to get it and saw that it was an email from Robbie.

“It’s from Rob,” Mark said walking back over. “It reads:

‘Hey Mark,
read this to Howard and Gaz as well:
Hope you’re all enjoying your presents. I guess you’ve probably figured out by now what’s happened. Just a little fun, hope you’re all laughing.
By the way, I still want to see photographic evidence of this (as would Jason – yes he too was in on it)
Merry Christmas!
- Rob
(Oh and, also, I’ll be waiting to see these outfits on the next tour.)
Get photographing!’”

“So that’s who we can blame for this!” Gary said. “Should have known that asking Rob for help would lead somewhere like this.”

Mark laughed. “Maybe next year we’ll try and be less lazy and buy the presents ourselves.”

“Wait… Jay was in on this as well?” Howard asked.

And as if by magic, Howard’s phone buzzed with an email from the man himself:

‘Hey all,
Not sure if you’ve received anything from Rob yet, but yes, the onesies were his idea and I just went along with it. Couldn’t help but find it funny.
Anyway, hope you like them. Rob’s also asked me to tell you to wear them on your next tour as well if you can. He thought it might be a laugh.
Oh and Mark and Howard, you apparently have to wear them on the way home (I’m assuming you met at Gary’s) and Gary, you’re just to keep yours on.
Can’t wait for the photos!
Merry Christmas!
- Jay’

“Oh we have such good friends. They leave the band and then make us wear funny clothes.” Gary laughed.

“Oh year, because it’s not like we have the most normal of style advisers.” Howard said, looking over at Mark who seemed to be inspecting his onesie, oblivious to what Howard had said.

“Aww, at least they’re still involved.” Mark said, having not known what Howard and Gary had said previously. “Do I have to wear this home though?”

“Apparently so.” Howard said. “As do I.”

“Ah well, at the kids will be happy. Emma on the other hand…”

“…Will probably think you’ve lost it.” Gary finished.

“Nah, she thought that the day she met me.” Mark laughed. Howard and Gary just smiled and laughed.

“Anyway, how about we watch a Christmas film in our onesies?” Howard suggested putting his arms around his friends.

“Good idea, what shall we watch?” Gary asked.

“Let’s really freak out Dawn and the kids when they get back. We’ll watch a RomCom. Can’t hurt.” Mark suggested smiling to himself.

“Love Actually it is then.” Howard said.

And so the three of them sat down on the sofa once Gary had found the DVD; a minion, Donald Duck and Darth Vada all watching Love Actually on Christmas Eve together.

Now there’s an image you never thought you’d see.

Merry Christmas.