The Thrill of a Christmas Lunch!
Posted on December 20, 2012
I have been doing quite a lot of work for one particular client this year, assisting them with not only their recruitment process but also with sales, marketing and sending apology letters to clients who have just paid £1.19 to receive a Christmas card. It has been an enjoyable six months, as the thrill of working somewhere that isn’t my kitchen table, is one that only a person who has ran their own business for fifteen years can experience.
So, imagine my surprise, when as an act of generosity, the said client not only invited me to their Christmas lunch but also bought me gifts and even invited me to partake in a game of Secret Santa, a jovial event that I have never experienced before where you pick a name from a hat and purchase a gift at a cost of around a tenner that must, as the title suggests, remain a secret. My inexperience at these festive office games meant that I fucked it up a bit by forgetting the very basic task of remembering the name of the person I picked but I got there in the end…it’s all a learning curve you see.
Anyone who has spent a lot of time working home alone will know that the build up to Christmas is quite a lonely experience and a period when the obvious benefits of being your own boss feel somewhat diluted; in fact, it has in the recent years of austerity, become a time to dread rather than anything look forward to. The thought of other people enjoying themselves when I am not, fills me with unreasonable bitterness towards them, especially when they are clients who are so busy having a great time or entertaining others, they can’t find five minutes in their hectic schedule to pay my invoices. Take note would be business owners…Christmas is a real bastard when it comes to cash flow.
Not that my track record of office Christmas parties in my previous life should be anything to yearn for; my catalogue of erroneous behaviour whilst at the AWE a lifetime ago included a smashed up skittle alley (imitating an Ian Botham yorker) a pornographic magazine sent in the internal post to my God fearing boss and an ill-advised and cumbersome sexual debacle with an admin officer who had been beaten so badly with the ugly stick, she made a night in the sack with Clare Balding appear like an erotic novel. Let’s call it Fifty Shades of Remorse. What a day that was, resulting in me bestowing shame on my father (who had been there as a scientist for an unblemished 35 years) as I became the first civil servant in the 20th century to receive a written warning.
The funny thing was that in the 1980’s this kind of outrageous behaviour was the norm at Christmas parties, not just for me but most other staff too, in fact, as I recall, the people who were the best source entertainment were those who throughout the year were so impeccably behaved, riding a push bike home on a summers evening after half a bitter shandy would be regarded as a severe act of anarchic rebellion. Civil Servants were the masters of this, for 364 days of the year they would make an evening with John and Norma Major appear like a raucous event, then suddenly from nowhere on a mid-December afternoon, a bit like the cartoon character Mr Benn, they would change their clothing and descend into chaotic and highly entertaining drunkenness which would ultimately end in anything from a black eye to a Lada Riva car staved into an unsuspecting lamp post. No more would be said and it would be another twelve months of sobriety before the chaos unfolded once again. Some say “There is nowt stranger than folk” I say there is “Nowt stranger than a Civil Servant.”
Christmas parties of yesteryear…I wonder what the fate of the girl on the end was?
What was what was so stark about my first Christmas lunch since the early 1990’s was that no-one drinks anymore, the restaurant was awash with orange juice and lemonade. It is a cultural change that has been quite dramatic and testimony to the police that drink driving advertising campaigns have struck home and rather than the acceptable gamble it used to be, it is now the act of a social inadequate who will feel the force of peer humiliation and the likely loss of their job.
At Christmas parties I used to go to everyone drove and ran the gauntlet back to the office as a matter of entertainment, to a younger person reading this, that must seem inconceivable but you must remember that this was a time in history where places like the AWE and the AA (the Automobile Association…oh the irony) had licensed bars within in the building that were packed to the rafters with staff not just at Christmas but throughout the year. The Castle pub in Basing view was just the same when I worked nearby, rammed with staff from IBM, Snamprogetti, Sun Life, Mercantile Credit and Canon. We were once a nation of lunch time piss artists.
So anyway, being a maverick, I had two pints of 3.6% bitter over a three hour period, there were no ill advised sexual encounters (I’m too old for that nonsense) I didn’t send a pornographic magazine as a secret Santa gift and I didn’t attempt an in swinging yorker with a skittle ball, not least because there was no skittle alley. However, I did have a really good time and as someone who is fully aware of the cost of running a business, I am gushingly grateful for this gesture, it was a really good spirited thing to do.
If you do work for a small business and they treat you to a Christmas lunch, remember the struggles they have had in recent years of austerity and at least drop them an email to thank them for their kindness.