University taught me many things to prepare me for the life of a journalist.

My three years there saw me learn the likes of shorthand, how to sit through council meetings, and how to do a weekly shop for less than £10.

One thing it failed to prepare me for, however, was standing in for the man himself – Father Christmas – for a group of one to three-year-olds at Hexham Community Centre.

I was informed of the task at hand around two weeks ago, when a colleague told me that her friend, who happened to be the new manager at the community centre, was desperately searching for a volunteer to be Santa Claus for the playgroup which is held there.

It transpired that my agreement in the arrangement wasn’t required – my colleague promptly signed me up for the task, and I found myself given a choice – refuse, and let down a group of small children, or agree and suffer the ridicule and embarrassment that would surely come with it.

Naturally, I chose the former, and then I was told it would make a ‘brilliant’ Christmas article.

So, last week I found myself at the community centre, while manager Clare Mwande showed me the (admittedly wonderful) costume I would be wearing.

At the same time, she warned me that at least some of the children would cry – others would make a break for the door, and more just wouldn’t come near me.

I should at this point mention that I’m not exactly wild about performing. In fact, I actively avoid getting up in front of a group of people.

Even the prospect of handing out presents to children was causing me some concern.

Clare’s warnings of terrified children did little to help these fears, and what followed was a couple of weeks of what can only be described as ‘freaking out’.

Even the sight of the man in red on TV was enough to get my heart racing, which is quite inconvenient at this time of year. I’ve even watched YouTube tutorials – spoiler alert, they’re not much help.

Nevertheless, I swallowed my fear (and some of my pride) and headed down on Tuesday morning to perform my task.

The first thing to mention is that I now understand why Santa lives at the North Pole – his outfit is INCREDIBLY warm. It’s like wearing a sauna.

Secondly – and perhaps more importantly – I managed to keep the tears to a minimum. Only one child cried, when she was popped on my knee for photography purposes.

In the end, I was left wondering what I was worried about. I went into the room, did a few “ho, ho, hos” and handed out some presents to some slightly apprehensive children, and then had my picture taken a few times.

The one issue I did have was parts of my costume coming off. I already have an abnormally big head, so when a white curly wig is jammed on top of it, it makes it quite difficult to find a hat that fits.

All in all, I actually quite enjoyed the experience. And the biscuits and fudge that were presented as a reward did help to sweeten the deal.