Hair-raising end to retirement party

John Ward
John Ward
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WARD’S WORLD: By John Ward

From time to time I get folk getting in touch via my web site that has been brought on from seeing something by way of the various internet search sites that is now considered the way to go about such things and some can be a delight, some not so, but some recently triggered a chapter in the memory box that I will share with you and if nothing else, could act as a warning.

I was reminded by an old work chum and the subject of the company or firm’s occasional party/beano type things from the Christmas ones to Easter even, or basically anything or any excuse for having ‘a bit of a do’ really. The fancy dress ones were always classics in their own right and people would be laughing so much at some efforts you could see the tears rolling down their knees in some cases, even worse with the menfolk.

One event that is or was the stuff of legend is a fancy dress effort that was both entertaining and bewildering all in one go, but trying to work out which was which was the conundrum. Everything had been ordered, as in the food, drinks, anti-depressants and the venue, as it was for a crowd of about 60 invited plus anything they wanted to bring such as a partner, wife or girlfriend, husband or toy thing (or both in either case but don’t ask too many questions) or, failing all else, any reasonable or presentable next of kin would suffice, but hopefully with a pulse and good hearing plus a set of teeth – real would be nice – or even borrowed dentures for the occasion, if the meringues –“tis better to have sucked one part-way through than to resort to a chisel” – that were served up last time were anything to go by.

It was the usual thing: starts at 7.30pm, but most arrived gone nine, with some partly smashed, based on the idea that there might not be enough drink to go round – human life in its basic state, then.

For sheer attention to detail fancy dress-wise, if you didn’t know better, you would think that John Wayne had walked into that hall as we stared together as one. That swagger, that huge frame with those unmistakable shoulders, those muscle-fitted-out arms, those spurs jingling at every step taken in those size 14 boots. The hat tilted forward, the six gun slung low in its holster, with the leather that looked so weatherbeaten, as if it had just been worn along over 500 miles of dust bowl desert, instead of a drive down the A45 (with stop off to use the toilets in a well-known fast food and salmonella establishment and kicking up about the hand dryer not working), with that almost granite but sunburnt face, covered in slight stubble after three days without shaving on the trail that had seen more mountains and rivers in Arizona than a native.

Say what you like but our boss Brenda, she always put heart, soul and body – lots of it to be honest – into everything she did, apart from the day job as we knew only too well.

Another plain event I went to, purely to make the numbers up in truth, was a leaving bash for Brad, who was retiring and had worked in the stores section of one company I worked for. Each department was represented by a throng of assorted workers and in theory it was, or should be, a jolly event as after all, just what could go wrong?.

I got there midway through the event and I could sense there was something amiss as its not often you see “panic” – it’s like picnic but spelt different and means something entirely different and not a hint of a sandwich – on certain people’s faces.

I was in partial mingle among the others, and it’s always amazing to see those who know what soap and water can be used for, when the music came to a sudden halt in mid tune and our boss person clambered to the microphone and welcomed us all etc and then called for Brad to go to the stage or in real terms, that raised bit at the end of the room.

Brad strode up and you could see he was ill at ease as he wasn’t “party type” and this was not his thing as the signs were telling us onlookers. After much waffling on and such like, Brad said very few words in reply and was given a much decorated box and this was his leaving present and at this point I heard a muffled ‘oh no!’ from the back of the crowd as Brad was invited to undo the wrapping to see what the company had brought him and as he did, an even larger ‘OH NO!’ was heard from beyond. Brad stood there with a top of the range, salon size and stand model type hair dryer.

It was at this point that close harmony silence was heard. Brad was entirely bald but with flamboyant eyebrows and to be fair, he held his composure as our boss person went into stunned mode. It turns out that, as with a lot of companies or firms, one department has no knowledge of the others or more to the point, the people who work there and it seems the person I heard saying ‘oh no’ was the office ‘gofer’ who was sent out with a bag of money to ‘buy a retirement present for Brad’ but misunderstood and thought she heard it as Glad – there was a Gladys who also worked there but she was actually nowhere near retirement age.

So once again, a classic case of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing. Brad did get something that was more appropriate shortly afterwards but to give him his due, he thought it was a comical event and dined out on this happening for ages afterwards but at the time, it was a close call.

Another bash was that particular firm’s hundredth anniversary and so all those currently, and survivors, working for it were invited to a grand party.

The managing director, or as he was better known, the TCO as in The Clueless One, was in mid speech, doing his mindless waffle when he was disturbed by one of his minions who had the audacity to keel over from excessive in-taking of drink, and we are not talking tea or coffee here by the way, and to be fair TCO just carried a-waffling on while the poor chap was removed from his place at the table and taken outside to recover.

TCO was so concerned that he asked afterwards how he was but by no means least, who he was.

On being told the person’s name, his caring response was one of: ‘To be honest the name means nothing to me as they all look the same and perform the usual yessing and noing as required when asked anything’.

As one onlooker said: ‘Bit much when he didn’t recognise his own brother’

It certainly made us all proud that night, but another hundred years?