The annual party isn’t going as well as one might like
The waiter is beginning to look worn down by the jollity and cheer
The charity shop Christmas party is not going with anything that could remotely be described as a swing.
‘Well, I’m enjoying myself,’ says
Wendy, lying through her teeth.
‘It’s nice that we can all get together socially once in a while.’
We all nod and smile and say, ‘Mmm’, but without any real conviction. The problem is that we all get on so well in the shop. There is no gossip to pass on at our party, because we’ve already gnawed it to the bone at work. So we are reduced to polite conversation.
And, as any grown-up will know from bitter experience, there is nothing less exciting than polite conversation.
It doesn’t help that everybody around us is obviously having a whale of a time. (Are whales really known for their party spirit? As the highlight of a whale’s day seems to be slapping the water with its tail fin and creating a bit of a splash, I suppose a couple of drinks and a sausage on a stick must sound rather attractive.)
Let me set the scene. We are in one of those pubs that does a good line in food. Because it’s nearly Christmas, the place is heaving. A couple of tables away, I can see friends from the cricket club. They are wearing party hats and tinsel, and the waiter – who was also given a party hat – is beginning to look worn down by the sheer amount of jollity and good cheer.
On the table by the window, and surrounded by many waiters, is a party of young women all dressed as Santa, assuming that Santa takes a size eight and favours blonde highlights in his hair.
‘I hear you’ve been going to the gym, Rosemary,’ Mrs Beasley pipes up from the end of the table. ‘How’s that going? Have you managed to lose any weight?’
Well, that might have been phrased a little more sensitively. Suddenly my beef Wellington with all the trimmings doesn’t seem quite such a good idea.
‘I’ve been going for about a month now. Three times a week. Well, three times a week twice, and twice a week twice, and for two weeks we decided to have a week off because rest is as important as exercise.’
‘And have you lost any weight?’ says Wendy. (I refer you to the sentence above: ‘phrased’ and ‘a little more sensitively’.) By the window, the young-lady Santas are singing Jingle Bells. One of them is standing on her chair, and I can’t help noticing that her red skirt is rather on the short side. If Santa really dresses like that to do his rounds on Christmas Eve, it’s a wonder he doesn’t get chilblains.
‘Perhaps,’ says Ben, who is one of the younger members of our team and a gentleman to boot, ‘it’s not the sort of thing Rosie wants to announce in public.’
‘Nonsense,’ says Wendy. ‘I never knew you were so old-fashioned, Ben dear.
It’s years since a woman’s weight was a dark secret that was known only to herself and her bathroom scales.’
‘If you must know,’ I explain, ‘and there’s no reason why you should,
I have actually put on weight.’
There is a short silence as everybody round the table digests this important news. I – in for a penny, in for a few more pounds – set about the beef Wellington with a bit more enthusiasm.
It is perfectly normal, I explain, for people to put on a bit of weight when they start doing exercise for the first time. Our trainer was very reassuring, and says it will soon start to fall off.
‘It won’t start falling off if you keep shovelling away meals like that,’ says Wendy. ‘Shouldn’t you be eating salad, or something?’
She is, of course, perfectly right, but I have a weakness for beef Wellington.
And I was just about to explain, at some length, the merits of beef Wellington when the other young member of our team, Clare, suddenly says, ‘Oh! My! God!’
As anybody who has ever met a young person will know, this is an indication that something VERY SERIOUS INDEED has happened – such as receiving an unexpected picture of somebody’s lunch, or the news that another young person has posted an amusing message on Facebook, or Snapchat, or one of those other mobile phone things that nobody over 40 has ever heard of.
‘Look!’ she says in a stage whisper. ‘Look who’s just come in.’
‘Who is it?’ says Mrs B. ‘I can’t see. One of those noisy Father Christmas girls is in the way.’
‘It’s Alan,’ says Clare.
For the benefit of new readers,
Alan is currently the pantomime villain of this page (oh, yes he is). He is the manager of a new charity shop that has opened just down the road, and he and Mrs Beasley seemed to have a bit of a thing going on. Unfortunately, he also seemed to be having a bit of a thing with a lady called Beverley.
‘Oh yes, I can see now,’ says Mrs B. ‘Who on earth is that woman he’s with?’
‘That woman,’ says Clare in a slightly coldish tone, ‘is my mother.’
Sorry, new readers, but I forgot to mention that, as well as Mrs B and the lady called Beverley, and probably a list of other women as long as your arm, we suspect that Alan might also be having a bit of a thing with Clare’s mother, who is an old friend.
Mrs Beasley’s eyes narrow noticeably. ‘He told me he was going out with an old friend,’ she says.
‘They are old friends,’ says Clare. ‘I didn’t think he meant that sort of old friend,’ says Mrs B.
Suddenly, our party seems to have got a bit more lively.