Saturday, 12 July 2003

All Staff BBQs

Its the season - towards the end of the academic year, summer term, when someone from the finance or admin team suggests an all staff party (for the education/regeneration department). The weather is nice so it becomes a barbeque. They hire a marquee in case it rains. They get in lots of alcohol and invite everyone from the department. Tickets cost £5 and include 3 alchololic drinks vochers and food. My line manager bought all her staff team a ticket so we went. Somehow CC and TQ even with the offer of a free ticket decided they didn't want to come (poor show).

Generally at these things the staff from the finance and admin departments have a really great time - they can let their hair down, have a few drinks and relax together. They know each other well because they generally are in their jobs longer, and work in the office everyday together and theres quite a lot of them. Line managers try to have a good time by taking off their suit jackets and rolling up their sleeves. The post room staff are popular because they are the jokers and everyone knows at least one of them - they were in charge of the music - we had all the greats from a certain era - red red wine, tainted love, bit of Madness (they were an islington band after all - of course we love 'em), couple of soul classics, hotel california to name but a few. So these largely late 30s early 40s admin/finance/postroom staff get on down and have a rip roaring time.

Tickets said 4-9pm, I arrived at 5.00. The man who was in charge of the barbeque was wearing a huge red and white plastic apron and had only just lit the charcoal which in my opinion was very poor planning. I got a huge plastic beaker full of white wine and decided that out of 40 people I probably knew 3 of them.

Which brings me to my point. When you work off site (as I do) and you are lower management (which I am) and from your direct department the attendees are your line manager (who I like) and the finance officer (who you get on with but have to goad into doing the work you need him to) you find that you are standing around with your bottle of beer or plastic beaker of wine feeling uncomfortable trying to prise snippets out of the strangers who you see fleetingly when you drop into the department (to pick up petty cash, come for a meeting etc). I don't know these people, we have no interest in each other and its very different from opening a conversation in a bar with someone - what to say? whats an acceptable opening line (you work with these people)? can you tease, joke? So you to resort to tactics like talking about the spread and why are they called hamburgers when they are always made of beef (the lady asking this was lost for words when told it was actually a lamb burger).

So you slip off at the earliest possible convenience after eating your designated 2 veggie sausages (barbies can be rather uninspiring sometimes for a vegetarian and because the cook was slow they took a damn long time to get ready) to the nearest possible bar to wind down from the pressure that it all was. So I found myself in the Hen & Chickens across the roundabout. Phew.

Much later in the night I found myself at a colleague's house party in Finsbury Park (this is a colleague I share office space with). House parties are the things of legend and we all have stories to tell about them.

The one where rival gate crashing gangs were let in at different doors and met on the stairs at which point a huge fight broke out and the trifle was thrown all over the house. Ending with the teenager's parents lining everyone up and giving them individual lectures on respect for other people's property.

The one where RM snogged everyone in sight.

The one with the CHEESE GRATER and the bindi bitches. Oh ALRIGHT I'll tell you if you won't hold my misspent youth against me. Olly, GS and I were at a party in Kings Cross, the house was swarming, we moved from room to room and kept bumping into these girls with matching bindis who were very stuck up and would push past you all the time. Finally we took refuge in the kitchen just to keep away from the rest of the people. We found one of those cheese graters that I have never seen anywhere else but at my house - the grating part is on the outside of a short cylinder with a handle to wind round with your right hand, there is a jointed handle part for the left hand which has two ends that go together - a compartment to put the cheese in and on the other end something to press the down over the cheese - when you grip it firmly with the left hand the cheese is held against the grinder and you wind with the right hand so the cheese is finely grated and comes out from the middle of the aparatus (I'll take a picture to add later cos this explanation is really too complicated). The cheese grater became the source of all our amusement that evening as we discovered that the toilet was through the kitchen (bad conversion). A steady trickle of people came through the kitchen asking where the toilet was. If they were male we would say its here but you can only use it if you put your penis in the cheese grater. Some left. Some told us to F off. Eventually as the light was coming up someone agreed! And he did and GS poked said willy and he got a hard on... (Like I said - DON'T HOLD IT AGAINST ME, we were young, it was very late, we had all been drinking).

The oriental themed one where we danced all night in a tiny courtyard garden and they let fireworks off the roof of the outhouse and we all got covered in hot ashes - very dangerous but quite exciting.

Anyway, enough reminiscence, the current house party was very much like a student party - the original invitees were there by about 11.00 but when the pub chucked out everyone from the Faultering Fallback (pub) arrived and quite a few more besides. It reminded me of the time that GS & flatmates held a party in their flat in Brighton and stuck a poster on the wall at college to advertise it - nobody (even the hosts) knew who most of the people were, and all sorts of oddballs whiled away the early hours of the morning there. So once again that evening I felt like I had nothing to say to anybody and slipped away as soon as was possible.

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