Wednesday, 16 December 2009

On the 16th day of Advent ...

The serious festivities began in earnest last week, with the first of that wonderful institution, the office Christmas party.

First, we had the do that was arranged by the organisation's senior committee to thank us humble staff types. Not only was it the usual free bar (give me that G&T now!!!) and nibbles, but some serious entertainment had been arranged in the ample form of an Elvis impersonator from a holiday camp on the south coast.

Replete in spangly Vegas-era suit, he regaled us with half an hour's worth of The King's hits. Now I can't claim to be an Elvis fan – heaven preserve me from the schmaltz of Old Shep – but it was jolly good fun. And just as we had adjusted ourselves to such a level of entertainment, it got to be even more fun. Or cringeworthy – or something.

A fellow member of staff – a very formal-looking lady of a certain age, who reminds one a tad of a former British prime minister – decided to let her hair down by getting up and dancing with Elvis for around six numbers. Now this wasn't any sort of sedate dancing, but something completely whacked out: arms flailing like windmills, bobbing up and down, posing madly.

Think David Brent in The Office. What made it even worse – better? – was that the individual in question is spectacularly unpopular in the building (well, certainly in parts of it). Yet she seemed blissfully unaware of this – and simply kept giving everyone a ton of ammunition, while her own close colleagues insisted that she'd barely had a sip of sherry.

As a crowded room rummaged desperately in bags and pockets for phones to snap away and record the occasion (video footage exists too) for posterity (and future potential blackmail opportunities), Lynchburg Lemonades (The King's favourite drink, apparently) were quaffed at pace to try and cope with what was happening before our very eyes.

One individual was heard to groan: "Oh God, I'm going to have nightmares – it's what you imagine Thatcher would have been like at Tory conference socials after a line of coke."

It all went a bit flat after Elvis (and special friend) finished – except for the buzz of: 'What was she on?"

Our next spot of festive fun came on Thursday and was a considerably more sedate affair, as our printer insists (and we give in) on taking the editorial team for a slap-up lunch every year at this time. This year, it was Orso, an Italian restaurant in the West End. And jolly nice it was too, with thoroughly restrained and relaxed behaviour from all concerned.

After a glass of Prosecco with a measure of something else in it, plus pink grapefruit juice (boozy and refreshing at the same time) I started with a very pleasant salad of pears, walnuts and an extremely creamy and mild Gorgonzola.

I followed that with calf's liver, balsamic shallots and broccoli – very nicely done – and then a pear and almond tart, which was a bit stodgy and the weakest course by far. A return to the office had never been on the cards, which was a relief after all that food, plus a lot of red wine. So we adjourned to a pub just off The Strand and sat outside, under the heaters, smoking and supping more drinks until around 7pm.

Not that there was much time to recover before my birthday the following day, which descended into a variety of drinks in a rather sparsely populated staff bar, then my local and then home, where we decanted a lovely, smooth bottle of Languedoc Syrah into a jug, and The Other Half made potatoes boulangeres, served with a heated jar of cassoulet.

And so to today – our department Christmas lunch. In just over an hour, we'll head off to a decent gastro pub called Harrison's. Nobody expects us to return. I do wish we were going to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street instead. Built just after the Great Fire of London, it's just around the corner from Dr Johnson's house, one sits in the tiny, dark bar (the restaurant is above) and imagines him holding forth while Boswell makes mental notes. Voltaire, Dickens and Twain all visited. It's impossible not to think that Pepys might have raised a beer here too.

We've lunched here twice in my time and nothing so completely conjures a sense of the season for me. But not this year.

It's actually snowing outside; slow, steady flakes descending onto the bustling pavements. The office is a hive of Christmas spirit.

There's still the Christmas disco to come on Friday.

And no photocopier incidents.


There is still time.


  1. You're a delight to read, Syb.

  2. Happy birthday !

    Our company christmas "do" is next Wednesday, a lunch for everyone in a TGI Friday in Birmingham, oh yes, we're a sophisticated lot you know.

    And of course because I don't drink I'll be ferrying my brother and our service engineer down to Brum from Leeds, and them bringing them home late at night too, this time of year you are at a serious disadvantage being a non-drinker.

  3. Thank you, Still.

    Eeek! What a way to have to drag for a Christmas lunch! I hope it's worth the trip, JC.