Aah – office parties I have known....I could get quite misty-eyed about some of them – if only I could, ahem, remember them.
This year’s was a select affair – a bunch of us went out for a meal – don't get me wrong, it was highly enjoyable and really nice to sit down with colleagues and NOT talk about work for once but it was a pale and insipid creature compared with parties now lost to the mists of time and legend.
Most of the best Office Christmas Parties took place in the money-rich 80’s when the cash flowed and nothing was more important to the powers that be than to show their appreciation to their hard-working, hard-playing, high-maintenance staff. Usually, they were held in hotels and just the change of location from home turf gave endless scope for misbehaviour
. If you could manage to remain remotely sober, you would have seen every cliché imaginable taking place in front of your eyes as senior managers skulked behind pillars with secretaries and pissed-up, predatory, high-ranking women (there were only a few, most of them ball breakers) goosed the post boy.
There would be the inevitable disco where at least one wag (usually Keith from Engineering) would feel it necessary to request ‘Staying Alive’ and then give it his best John Travolta, complete with stomach-churning pelvic thrusts. Sadly, Keith is desperately unfit and, after a few struts and twirls the audience can see the damp patches growing under his arms and the rivulets of sweat trickling off his brow and being caught up in his over-sized moustache which he hopes makes him look like Tom Selleck. As if this were not attractive enough, Keith also begins to pant heavily as the physical effort takes its toll but, unable to back down now and lose face, on and on he goes, strutting like a maniac, trying desperately to keep up with the music but gradually falling a couple of beats behind.
To distract from his distress, Keith undoes his tie, pulling it slowly and (he hopes) lasciviously from round his neck. Even he realises that using it to mop his brow would be deeply unsexy so, instead, he ties it around his head like a bad-boy bandana. By now, his fellow drunkards have formed a ring around him on the dance floor and are clapping to the beat and shrieking their encouragement. The music pounds relentlessly on. The DJ can see that Keith has done his job for him and got everyone on their feet and he is not going to let the moment go. He segues seamlessly into ‘You Should be Dancing’. Keith is hovering perilously close to cardiac arrest and wondering how much longer these Bee Gee eunuch bastards can warble on for. He is really struggling now and wishing to God that, if it has to be the bloody Bee Gees, couldn't that spotty little shit behind the decks flip to ‘More Than a Woman’ so that at least he could grab Sally from Accounts and get her onto the floor to share his pain and cop a feel into the bargain.
Meanwhile, the crowd is sensing that Keith is flagging and they are having none of it. They redouble their efforts, whooping wildly to encourage him. Suddenly, all Keith’s dreams come true. Sally from Accounts joins him of her own accord, undulating across the floor towards him. She is a little heavier than Keith recalls, large bosoms oozing out of the sides of her ambitiously low cut taffeta ball gown but what the hell? He smiles a wolfish smile and pulls her towards him into a firm embrace. Sally recoils slightly as several pints of Keith’s sweat are smeared from his shirt to her dress (borrowed from her best mate and she was hoping to get away with a dash of Febreze to save on the dry cleaning bills). Sally and Keith then embark on a jive, each twirling the other and getting further and further out of time and more and more dizzy.
The finale comes when Keith, unable to cope any longer with the physical exertion, the overload of alcohol and the dizziness, vomits copiously during a complicated spin. It misses Sally but, as she screams in horror and tries to run, she trips and slides across the floor of the disco on a slick of chunder.
You may think the above is just the further workings of a twisted mind but, let me tell you, I went to a legendary office Christmas do where all the above happened pretty much as I have written it. Thank God this was before the era of camera phones.
At one of the best Christmas parties I have ever been to (thrown by the same company) the cabaret was Bob Monkhouse. Oh yes, you may mock but he was the consummate professional, had clearly taken time to research the company and the individuals in it (no mean feat as there were several hundred people there) and cracked in-jokes and was generally hilariously funny. Just about the best stand-up act I have ever seen and I’ve seen most of them before and after they became famous.
But then the recession bit and companies began to economise and ‘make do’ with a pared-down offering, usually consisting of drinks and nibbles in the office with the lights turned off after 9.30 and someone’s tape recorder offering some crackly disco music or, if you were really unlucky, Pete from Despatch who fancied himself as a bit of a DJ and yep, Pete, you really were only a bit of a DJ.
After one such, I went to collect my coat, only to find it in use as, ahem, a shall we say “resting place” for a tired, emotional and lonely couple who were taking refuge in each other’s arms. And elsewhere.
Did I wrench my coat from underneath them bawling “give me my feckin’ coat back you dirty bastards and I’m sending you the dry cleaning bill?” No, reader, I did not. I saw who was involved and took her coat instead. Then I wore it into work the next day and waited for her to ask me for it back. There is sense in sobriety!