Anton Rippon: Works meals, office fuddles and Santa in October. Bah!
“ARE you ready for Christmas?” asked the man at the bar. I said that we were well prepared. Not having an extended family in Derby helps. There is then no need for catering on an industrial scale.
We have relatives in several far-flung parts of the British Isles and everyone does their own thing locally.
In our case that means spending the festive season in the company of close friends, “the family you choose for yourselves” as the saying goes. Not that we don’t get on with our kith and kin but it’s nice to be home at Christmas.
“It’s all the trappings in shops and on television that get to me,” said the man. “Checkout staff wearing antlers – what’s that all about?”
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He said that he had recently obtained a library book entitled I Hate Christmas: A Manifesto For The Modern-day Scrooge and was looking forward to reading it.
Me? I like Christmas, but I had to agree that the season starts far too soon. I was taken aback in mid-October this year by the sight of a Father Christmas figure hovering in the door of the Co-op in East Street. It startled me. For a moment I thought that I’d lost a month.
The man warmed to his theme: “When I was at work, I used to hate the Christmas outing meal. We finished up having to eat what amounted to an overpriced, badly cooked roast dinner served by poorly trained temporary staff.
“I once asked why we couldn’t just go out for a meal in January or February, but any suggestions for an alternative were shouted down by people who felt that my computer monitor needed tinsel around it.
“And don’t mention the Christmas office fuddle. That brings back the horrors of people turning up with more food than anyone could eat, just to prove they had some cooking skills, or shopped at Waitrose. The result was waste and mess.”
I had to agree there too, although my worst memory of office food isn’t of Christmas, but of one Easter when someone who thought they could cook brought in homemade hot-cross buns that would have been entitled to weigh so heavy only if battling the gravity of Jupiter.
At this point, I should say that the man at the bar does exist. Some readers have suggested that he is an alter ego, a device that I’ve invented to press home points of view. But he is real and all the words are his. I’ve offered to identify him but he prefers to remain anonymous (it’s not Alf, by the way).
Just then, Alf did come in, complaining about being late because “there’s a lot of traffic on the road”. After suggesting that this was the best place for it, I pointed out that Alf was himself contributing to the heavy traffic. And I recalled a distinguished sportswriter from these parts who came into my office one Christmas, affronted that the Eagle Centre was “full of the general public” as though he didn’t count.
But the other day I found myself chuntering about “pensioners wandering around Tesco”. Then I realised that I was describing myself. It’s so easy to forget that the world doesn’t revolve around oneself.