I attended my first Christmas Party of the season last week and a great time was had by all. I’d agreed my outfit with my fashion consultant and despite being out all day, I had been drinking sensibly. I was following all the rules as set out in my previous blogs.
Unfortunately there was one important blog I hadn’t written; this one.
And some people really need to read it.
How to behave.
You would think that I may have covered this in my blog about what to drink and whilst the two subjects are very much linked, they are not always entwined.
I’ve been to many Christmas Parties over the years and we’ve tried all the variations from a simple Italian meal to the abject horror that is a Medieval Banquet. (More of that later.)
The one that usually works is the tried and trusted Turkey Dinner and a Disco. You know what you are getting and can rarely go wrong so we headed off to a familiar venue on Friday night.
‘Rarely going wrong’ is of course dependant on two very important factors.
As organiser I will admit that I didn’t check the timings for the evening and assumed a 7.30pm start. I was a little surprised therefore to arrive and find the party in full swing, people on chairs singing and the DJ doing a great job in getting people warmed up.
There is a very fine line between a DJ helping people to enjoy themselves and a DJ inflicting what I like to call ‘Enforced Fun’ on people. This one seemed to have the balance right, allowing people who didn’t want to get involved (me) to enjoy their drink in peace and getting those that enjoy that sort of nonsense to humiliate themselves in various different ways.
There was a moment when this all came crashing down (literally) but I will get to that.
Despite the DJ’s best efforts in keeping balance, other people always come into play.
We’ve all seen images of chain gangs in America. Prisoners chained together, off to God knows where. The picture of misery. Imagine being in that chain gang but every few steps you are forced to perform a move like a dancing bear in a circus. Depressing isn’t it?
But set it to music and it is no longer depressing, it’s a bloody conga! What could be more fun? ‘Look at me. Not only am I holding the waist of a stranger in front of me but I’m cocking my leg like a dog taking a piss.’ Nothing odd about that at all.
The really weird thing about conga participants is that they genuinely can’t see how other people wouldn’t enjoy it. From playful taps on the shoulder to aggressive demands to know why I wasn’t joining in, strangers thought it perfectly acceptable to try and enforce their fun on others. At times it was like avoiding a team of charity muggers on Northumberland Street.
I think the DJ had an opportunity here. Our venue was next to the river and he could have led them all off, Pied Piper style, and hoyed the buggers in. Natural selection at its finest.
I don’t blame the DJ for this, it’s easy money for him getting once a year drinkers involved in a conga. What happened next was altogether stranger and he has to hold his hands up.
We’d had our turkey dinner and it was just the job after a day on the drink. I was catching up with friends that I hadn’t seen for a while and having a great laugh.
Then there was a crash.
A waiter had dropped his tray and was in the middle of a fight with another waiter. A party goer, unwilling to allow unruly staff to spoil his festive fun steamed straight in and rugby tackled them in an attempt to break it up. The DJ then waded in, shouting about it being a party and tried to drag the man off the waiters. The man who was initially trying to break it up was dragged off kicking and screaming.
It was chaos.
Then the two waiters disappeared behind a curtain and returned with microphones singing ‘Crazy little thing called love.’
It had all been a set up.
Apart from the unexpected intervention from the audience member, a teacher who now feared for his job, and his headmaster who put in an official complaint about the venue and the DJ.
Even without his intervention, what possible reason could there have been to stage a fight? What was the link to the singing? Surely there are other ways to grab attention. What next? Terrorists smashing through the windows?
I’ll admit to being entertained by it but I doubt that it was the way it was intended.
The one Christmas Party I have attended where I was very far from entertained was the Medieval Banquet at Lumley Castle. These have been a popular fixture in the North East for many years but for the life of me, I can’t see why.
You have to sing for your supper; literally. You have to stand on your chair and sing whatever rubbish they insist on before they feed you. Call me old fashioned but if I pay for entertainment, I don’t expect to do the entertaining.
I’m not sure how they used to say ‘taking the piss’ in the days of King Henry VIII but Lumley Castle have mastered it over the years. The food when it arrived was nothing short of a disgrace. I’m a simple man and easily pleased when it comes to food. Medieval banquet conjures up thoughts of them slapping a roast pig in front of you and you getting to bite bits off. Look how happy I am when someone lets me do that.
Instead we were given a bowl of soup with no spoon, a chicken drumstick and a jacket potato with a plastic dagger to eat it. Disappointed doesn’t go anywhere near what I was feeling.
Add to that more enforced fun where you had to shout responses to what some fat pantomime dame was shouting out. People were lapping it up. What sort of twisted lives do they leave if being shouted at, being made to sing and being fed rations (without any cutlery) that would be considered meagre during the war is fun? There is a very good reason why the daggers are only plastic. Someone is going to go on the rampage there soon.
On Friday we were the smallest group in the room with a few larger work groups spread over the other tables. The two tables surrounding us seemed to be mainly filled with elderly women, enjoying themselves by scowling at people and complaining about the price of drinks.
Amongst their group was someone who was obviously the self appointed Minister of Fun. Going round demanding to know why people weren’t dancing, pulling their seats away if necessary to force them to get up. She was going to have fun with a capital F. I would probably put that capital F to better use.
These women, once Tina Turner had tempted them onto the dance floor, didn’t look happy, they looked like they were desperately trying to remember the moves which were far more important than the actual enjoyment of dancing. I was reminded of holidays at Otterburn Hall where the Friday night had a dance called ‘The Slosh’. I now realise that it was so named due to sound made by overfilled incontinence pants.
A lad in is thirties started dancing with a woman who was probably on the far side of sixty. My female friend commented on how nice it was that he was doing that but I recognised that he was in the Last Chance Saloon. His colleagues had gone home, his beer goggles were turned up to maximum magnification. He was about to make a terrible mistake.
Romantic misdemeanours at Christmas Parties deserves a blog all of their own and I will leave that up to somebody else to write.
If you wake up with the beer fear this Christmas, remember we have all been there. Try and learn from your mistakes.
I really do hope you all have fun this Christmas, just don’t try and force your fun on other people.