WARD’S WORLD: By John Ward
As the festive season is all but upon us, remember it started in some retail outlets at the end of July, so they knew a thing or three about possible shortages of Christmas cards and festive-themed decorations even then – apparently.
A form of “festive fun” can be the firm’s Christmas dinner, sometimes linked to a dance as well.
These can be either really jolly events or perhaps the biggest disaster since canoes with damp rot, but either way, it’s always something to remember – for either the good reasons, or as a warning not to attend any more in the future if you value your life or whatever passes for it.
Having attended a few over the years, with great anticipation before going to them, one or two come to mind as being not quite as one expected them to be. The following example may be something of an eye-opener, and a lesson in that all-that-glitters is not necessarily something that was sold in shops from July onwards.
This event was at a company I worked for a few years ago that had everything going for it. This must have been right as our boss/head honcho person said it had, and she was never knowingly wrong about anything. Or at least, if it was on paper, it could be rewritten but if given verbally, she must have been clearing her throat and was clearly misunderstood by those who heard her utter the offending speech, or threat.
The venue booked had a 50/50 reputation on the catering side, although there were no known or reported cases of the clientèle being removed on stretchers after dining there – yet.
There was the usual banter in the weeks leading up to the event as to what we could – or would – expect by way of the meal and the service, although, oddly, most of the comments seemed to be in the negative mindset. Some even suggested it was some form of staff initiative test or survival course dressed as a social event but I took it all in good humour – ha ha – and assumed the worst anyway.
That way, if I was wrong, it would be uplifting and we could heave a sigh of relief, or at least, just be alive to tell the tale. (I also believe a man can fly, but he is yet to find the instruction manual and then it’s a safe bet it will be written in Chinese)
The Great Night arrived. The eighty-odd, and I do mean very odd in some cases, people who arrived were greeted by our delightful boss with the best plastic switched-on smile she could muster.
She was dressed in a wonderful creation that fitted where possible to her body. We were to find out a little while later, when the lady with no name who worked in the accounts department turned up in the very same dress, that it was on sale in a major High Street shop.
So what could be worse than two people in the very same dress turning up at the same event? You are streets ahead if you said: “Three people” – but that is exactly what happened. In this case, it was the cleaning lady who wafted through the door next and to be fair to her, she looked a million dollars in hers, unlike our boss, who may have been tempted to wear it for a bet. During the evening it emerged in conversation with Mrs Mop that she was given the dress by her sister, as it didn’t fit her all that well and she couldn’t be bothered to return it.
Once we got settled as such, we were guided through to the dining room and how grand it looked – were the stories just that, stories? – but this was a false dawn, as we were yet to see the actual festive fodder brought out.
There was the novelty of some of our number being given quick lessons in what knives and forks were for, as it would appear that since leaving home and their mother or social worker, they lived on meals “cooked” in microwave ovens and ate with spoons – I kid you not, sadly. This minor hiccup passed, and the soup was brought out. “What flavour?” was asked of us, plus, did we want one or two squirts in our bowls? Once this intro to gastronomic delights was past, the main course was delivered. A neighbour to my right wondered about a chipolata sausage that seemed to be moving on the edge of his plate as it was being s-l-o-w-l-y put on the table, but it turned out to be the waiter’s thumb. I made a mental note to make sure he kept away from the bar afterwards if this is what half a shandy can do.
Table Three won the prize for the most solid gravy, as Ian from Wages stood his knife upright in it, and it looked a bit like King Arthur’s ‘sword in the stone’ from where we were sitting. To be asked if you wanted gravy, one or two slices, has quite a sobering effect.
Once the ordeal of the main course was dispatched as best as could be, depending on who owned their own teeth, and if those with false ones had remembered to bring them along that evening, the announcement that the Christmas pudding was on its way was greeted with much smacking of lips in anticipation from some, and others looking through the phone book for solicitors who specialised in ‘No win- No fee’ cases.
The said crimbo pud arrived and, surprisingly, was quite good, although one on our table was not sure if the custard was being served at the right temperature to complement the pud – it’s a hard life for the food fanatic.
The evening thereafter went as well as could be expected – much akin to being an innocent bystander swept up amid a protest rally, in aid of banning the opening hours of drive-through porridge parlours.
One by one we vanished into the night to go back to the real world and be thankful that the next bash was 364 days away.
I just couldn’t wait.