Saturday, December 15, 2007

The ghost of Christmas Dos past

Ex-housemate S came round today with baby Tungsten. She needed to get out of the house because her Young Man was so hungover after his work Christmas Do that he couldn't stand the company of other human beings. There was free-flowing (and indeed free) champagne, apparently. Always a bad idea.

We don't have free Christmas parties at NGO X. And fair enough -- that's not what little old ladies knit all those blankets to fund. But once the Babycham's not on the house, you do have to ask yourself if you really want to go there. Increasingly, I find the answer is no.

But I have not always worked for NGO X. My first Christmas do was in the function room of the Queens pub in Lytham, which is where I was working at the time. It was on a Sunday, which was one of my nights, so I was behind the bar downstairs, but from time to time someone would come down and cover for me for a bit and I would go up and get myself a vodka and lime. It was busy, and we were running short of glasses... I was drying a 'ladies half' (surely they don't still have those?) which was still steaming from the glass washer when the base of it twisted off and into the base of my thumb. There was a lot of blood. I ran it under the tap and the water ran red. There was a big flap of skin flap flap flapping. I went a bit funny. Maureen the landlady appeared, gave me a beer towel full of ice to grip, made me swallow a double brandy and sent someone off to make me a cup of sweet tea. Once I'd drunk that, she said right, you're off duty, and I wandered upstairs with a woozy head and a big wodge of paper towel held on with a bandage. At some point in the evening there was a Lambada competition. No one from Lancashire can dance the Lambada, it's a known fact, but there were a couple of Australians working in the pub at the time and one of them asked me to dance. He wedged his thigh in between mine and moved us around the floor in great flamboyant style. I was out of my tree and just smiled a lot (and indeed it's strange I can remember it, but I can) and as a result we won by a country mile. The prize was a bottle of Pomagne, which we proceeded to drink. I don't remember getting home, but I do remember waking up the next morning not sure which was worse, the bruise on my pubis, the pain in my head or the dull, deep ache from my still-bleeding thumb, which, it was perfectly obvious by then, I should have had stitched. I still have the scar.

About eight years later I was working in the House on the Hill. Three hundred and sixty four days of the year the Management wouldn't have cared if you lived or died, so busy were they extending the brand, extending their egos and indeed extending their offices. But they did push the boat out, in a banal sort of way, for the Christmas party. They would send taxis for anyone who didn't want to drive, and we would all have dinner in a hotel, drink too much and dance until the taxis arrived again to take us home. One year we went to one of the Four Pillars Hotels. There was turkey with all the trimmings for the carnivores, and what was described as 'oriental vegetables in puff pastry' for the rest of us. With all the same trimmings. What arrived was actually a heap of stir-fried carrots, cabbage etc in, or in the Lizard's case, merely near, an empty vol au vent case. 'Well,' she said, 'it was nice of them to give us a bin for our Brussels sprouts', and proceeded to pile hers neatly into it. We had to move rooms for the disco, which was shared with other Christmas Dos. That year, if memory serves, it was Thames Valley Police and Oxfordshire Mental Health Trust. We thought we could party. We had nothing on them. At the end of the night there was a big circle on the dance floor, holding each other up and kicking legs in the air in sort-of-time to New York, New York. I ended up dancing in the middle of this circle, and got kicked soundly in the legs many times as a result. I then had a bit of a fight with one of my colleagues while waiting for the taxi, and we fell over into the rockery. I was black and blue all over the next day.

The year after that they splashed out on the Randolph. Nigel the sales manager ended up coming home with me and M. I think we thought he had some coke on him, he usually did, and we'd got to that point in the evening where we thought coke would be a great idea (I now know of course that the point in the evening when you think coke would be a great idea is exactly the point in the evening when it's the worst idea possible, but I guess you can only find that out the hard way). He didn't have any coke on him, at least none he was prepared to share, but he did try to get off with me while M was in the bathroom. There was something very apposite about the bleakness of this.

In a way I think NGO X does us all a favour. I'm sure things are less messy when you have to fund your own hangover, though the state of some of my esteemed colleagues the morning after this year's shindig might suggest otherwise. Me, I'm living a bit lower, hanging out for the more select mulled wine and mince pie gatherings. I have no wish to sustain physical injury.



Blogger Ben said...

Ah yes, the infamous "Table of Death!!" evening.


9:17 am  
Blogger Ben said...

Me again. I also gather the law is about to change on corporate liability, such that if you do something really stupid / injurious / lethal under the influence of freely supplied company alcohol, it's the company's fault. So, no more free booze, at least for the companies with good lawyers. Probably a good thing.

2:26 pm  
Blogger Jo said...

I am genuinely glad to hear this. I didn't mention the post-House on the Hill pre-NGO X Christmas Do where a quiet young man drowned in the river, trying to walk home after missing the last bus. I am not saying it was Company Z's fault -- I believe we got a certain number of free drinks vouchers and it was buy your own after that -- but it was a genuine tragedy that nobody tried to get him in a cab or even remembered him leaving.

2:42 pm  
Anonymous Justin Ruffles said...

Christo drinking tiny glasses of cherry brandy whilst everyone else downed pints...

Memories indeed...

Lizard is a genius. I still use her 'I don't mean to stamp on your flower...' as a put down even now.


10:20 pm  

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