Out to lunch

‘Tis the season to get legless. Apparently.

Ah, the Office Christmas Party. That once-a-year event that affords the opportunity to see your work colleagues in an entirely different, and almost certainly unflattering, light. Clandestine assignations in broom cupboards, obscene misuse of photocopiers and puking in the potted plants: you know the sort of thing.

Not guilty on all counts, by the way.

Being now retired, I no longer have the opportunity to attend one of these functions. I have to say that my life is no less fulfilled as a result. At the best of times I could never have been accused of being a party animal, and certainly not of the office variety.

Indeed, in my view there are only two good things about office parties.

One is the salutary lesson they offer in how ludicrously people behave when heavily inebriated.

The second is the free bar.

In fact, I haven’t been to a works Christmas ‘do’ for many years. They weren’t very big on that sort of thing in Abu Dhabi and only tried it once. It was not a success, as for some reason they chose to have it on a hotel beach in a very cold force seven gale.

More to the point, there was no booze, so they patently had no clue as to the true meaning of Christmas.

Even before that, though, it had been pretty much downhill all the way for the previous twenty years, from the zenith of my office party career: the Wood Mackenzie Research Department’s Christmas Lunch of 1982.

This monumental event was rather like the Sixties. If you could remember it, then you probably weren’t there.

While my own recollections of the event itself are somewhat hazy – a condition only partly explicable by the lapse of time – the fact of my attendance, and the condition that my participation visited upon me, are things that I have not been allowed to forget.

In a scheduling error of truly colossal proportions, this event was held (some would say ‘perpetrated’) on Christmas Eve, at a restaurant whose name I do not recall and which, for reasons unknown but quite possibly related, closed down shortly thereafter.

Drink was taken, as is only to be expected on such occasions, and there was much merriment, ditto. In fact, it was all good, convivial fun.

However, the post-prandial provision of a case of port by the partners led to matters getting really out of hand. I remember hardly anything at all after that, other than vague awareness of increasingly Bacchanalian scenes unfolding before me and a stocky junior analyst called Pamela plonking herself – unbidden, I hasten to add – on my knee. I was not so far gone that I couldn’t take this as as a good sign that it was time to make tracks.

In my somewhat confused condition, however, this proved to be a less than straightforward exercise.

In normal circumstances, jumping on a bus to South Queensferry from the stop right outside ought not to have proved too taxing. However, the predictable effect of emerging in an already inebriated state into the cold evening air, and the fact that it was late afternoon on Christmas Eve, meant that I waited a long time for a bus. Or at least one that would pick me up.

I am reliably informed that at some point I made a very slurred telephone call home from a public box (no mobiles in those days) complaining that no buses were stopping for me. I believe that the response was somewhat unsympathetic.

Finally, a driver must have taken pity on me and I climbed aboard a number 42. Fortunately, it was one that terminated at exactly the stop I needed, because having slumped into a seat I promptly fell asleep, to be awoken by the driver shaking me roughly and pithily intimating that this was as far as he went.

I still shudder to think how close I came to having to spend the rest of the festive season in a bus-stop in Bo’ness.

By this time, whenever that may have been, a few green shoots of comparative sobriety were beginning to appear, enough at any rate for me to grasp that my current state was not one that was likely to stand me in good stead if I turned up on the doorstep in it. I therefore diverted to the garage to wait it out in the back of the car, where I promptly fell asleep again.

Finally, waking once more, I decided to man up and went inside to face the music. The wholly deserved tirade having been duly delivered and received, it was suggested in no uncertain terms that I should take myself off to bed to complete the recovery process. It would have been the utmost folly to argue.

I awoke next morning rather gingerly, but at least I found myself in the marital bed, which is more than at least two of my colleagues did, having been banished – in one case for a period of no less than two months – to sleep on the sofa.

This unfortunate was not even the one who, having liberated a bottle of the port to provide sustenance for his own bus ride, arrived home and was tersely instructed by his wife to make himself useful and put their two small children in the bath. Which he promptly did – and threw up all over them.

It should come as no surprise that the Wives’ Collective categorically forebade having the department lunch on the 24th the following year.

And there was to be no port either.

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