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Friday, 23 December 2016

Doing The Christmas 'Do'

This month's Derby Telegraph article is all about a Christmas Social in the early 1970s.  Here's the Derby Telegraph link, but here's the article in the meantime:

I'm focusing this month's article on the accompanying photo as this is a prime example of the 'Christmas Do' at its best (or possibly worst).  The year must be 1973 or 1974 and we are at The Newton Park Hotel for Harold Wesley's Christmas Dinner and Dance.  This is a surprisingly 'posh' venue for a company that was not known for its generosity when it came to its employees.  For the avoidance of doubt (as all good solicitors say) the person on the far left, who looks rather like a Cocker Spaniel sniffing a woolly caterpillar, is me.

Having seen the photo, you may wonder how I managed to inveigle myself onto a table where the ratio of attractive women to men is 2:1?  In all honesty, it had nothing to do with my dazzling good looks and everything to do with being friends with Colin, at the other end of the table. 

I'm actually squirming with embarrassment, in the photo, on two counts.  Firstly, I have been encouraged to put my arm around the lady sitting next to me, which is fine but we're not actually together in any sense.  In fact, she is heavily pregnant (a condition which has been cunningly disguised by judicious arrangement of the tablecloth) so I'm feeling more than a little bit awkward.  She is, in fact, the elder sister of Colin's girlfriend, sitting on his right.  Secondly, you may note the half-bottle of spirits on the right hand side of the table, near to a voluminous handbag.  The size of the handbag is important because this was used to smuggle it in. The girls had all taken this precaution, as they clearly had a good idea of the likely cost of drinks at a hotel in the run-up to Christmas ,and had ordered an orange juice each at the start of the evening and then proceeded to dilute same with vodka thereafter.  As a fully paid up 'goody two shoes' I found this excruciatingly embarrassing and was constantly waiting for the Management's hand to fall on our shoulders and escort us from the building.

You may also notice the three-piece suit I'm wearing.   The suit was one of my first investments as a wage-earner and I rather think that this was its first official outing.  I had never owned a suit until I went to Burton's Menswear one Saturday and allowed myself to be talked into this made-to-measure, flared trousered, creation, for a small deposit and regular weekly payments.  I was even sold the accompanying shirt and tie on the same easy terms.  Unfortunately, it didn't have the most auspicious of beginnings.

Having taken pre-Christmas delivery, I was keen to christen it.  It was Saturday night, which was traditionally a night for getting dressed up and going out on the town, but the suit might have been seen as a little OTT, as I was only going down to The Coopers' Arms with my mate, Kevin.  For reasons that escape me, Kevin was getting ready at our house and was having a shave using our kitchen sink (bathrooms being an unimaginable luxury at that point).  I had already changed into the ensemble you see in the photo and was standing chatting to Kev, with me leaning against the draining board.  What I didn't realise was that Kev had the curious habit of lighting a cigarette and leaving it burning, whilst shaving, propped up in the corner of the draining board with the lit end uppermost.  The first I knew about this was when my arm became uncomfortably hot and I realised that smoke was billowing from my sleeve.  Kev's cigarette had burned a neat semi-circle into the sleeve of my brand new suit and shirt!  To say that I was a bit miffed would be understating it somewhat.  That we're still friends some 40+ years on, says something about the healing spirit of Christmas.

Thanks to all of you for taking the time to read my witterings throughout the year.  May I take this opportunity to wish you a peaceful and pleasant Christmas and a wonderful 2017.

Fancy treating yourself to a last-minute stocking filler? Philip's collection of Christmas stories can be yours for just 99p on Amazon Kindle: