A festive tale of mirth, woe and shameless references to lady-love
Hoe. Hoe. Hoe.
Nineteen Eighty-Five, nineteen years of age, straight out of college and the world was my oyster. So why in the name of God did I end up getting a job in the dole office? The answer was simple. The lower rungs of the civil service is the career of choice for the world's low flyers, and I was lazy, living at home and it was easy beer money.
I would be lying if I said I hated working there. The place was full of characters (mostly ultracrepidarians on the other side of the glass, smelling like a dead goat), you could spend three hours at lunch and nobody would notice, and being in charge of the outgoing mail, you could slip all your personal post into pre-paid OHMS envelopes and save yourself a fortune. I also looked myself up on the computer system and changed my previous work details from "layabout" to "gigolo". Nobody noticed. I also managed to pass on instructions to the guy who was fitting my bathroom as he came in to sign on one morning. How handy.
The management was almost entirely female. Sandra was the head of New Claims a notorious lesbian with an enormous chest, whose department seemed to be staffed almost entirely by leather clad dominatrices [I actually had to look this up] and a former milkman called Roger. Julia, my manager was a never-been-touched sweet thing, a career civil servant of indeterminate age anywhere between 25 to 55, resembling a maiden aunt who always gave you a book token on your birthday. The downtrodden men of the department speculated that she'd go like the proverbial shithouse door given a jump-start, but no man was brave enough to go there. The whole set-up made a young lad like me, just emerging into the world, a tad... confused.
We had just got round to discussing the finer points of Differential Geometry and its implications for the Flat Earth Society when Julia commented that we really ought to be organising "a nice meal or something for Christmas". So, with Yuletide approaching, we sat down and asked ourselves the question: "How can we, with misery stalking the streets and four million on the dole, consider getting stupidly drunk and party like it's 1999?" Then we said "Fuck 'em", and ordered in the booze for the party of them all.
Okay, so a bunch of drop-out civil servants in Top Man jumpers and Chelsea Girl outfits weren't exactly going to tear up the office with bazzin' sounds and lines of Bolivian Marching Powder, but armed to the teeth with an Amstrad stereo and cheap cider, we were going to give it our best shot. In the grand scheme of small civil service parties, it was going to be the spangliest spangly thing that ever spangled.
It was Friday afternoon when we pulled down the shutters on the public floor, kicked out the last of the vagrants, mutterers and an old boy who'd having raging nonsensical arguments with himself ("....so I said to him, "So I said to him, 'watch it, Graham, you'll knock the crust off'... That's nothing, jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz") confiscating their bottles of Woodpecker for "future reference", and it was upstairs to the office for the big shindig.
The party had obviously been planned by men. The music was the hardest bad-boy rap available, and a thoughtfully provided tape of soul classics was thoughtfully thrown out of the window onto the roof of a bus. The desks heaved with lager, wine (for the ladies) and cheap cider (for any vagrants that happned to be passing). The buffet, on the other hand, consisted of a catering-size sack of salt and vinegar crisps, some biscuits and four sausage rolls. Expecting a feast, we had all skipped lunch. Arse. Still there was always alcohol.
Nothing for it. Drink? Why thank you! Drink? Ooh, ta very much! Another drink? Wa-hey! Drinkie? Yesh mate hic! In a homage to Grommit, I managed to contrive an apparatus, where drink and food could be passed to me on the trolley normally used to ferry claims around the office, without my having to move from my seat. A triumph of alcohol-driven inspiration that a) attracted admiring looks from the dominatrices and b) prevented my booze-fuelled collapse by a good hour.
This went on for a good couple of hours, and before I knew it, with my teenage drinking muscles not yet fully developed, I was as pissed as a little beetle. And with my stomach sloshing around with beer, cider, the odd dash of girlie wine and fistfuls of crisps, it would only be a matter of time before I yarked it all up again.
It had all started so well. I wasn't the slightest bit queasy as I found myself deep in conversation "I always use a rotavator - hic!" with one of the New Claims dominatrices, one Ms Belle de Jour, rather fetchingly attired in a low-cut red leather number with lacing up the side. I had just finished buttering a Jacob's cream cracker on both sides when she kindly suggested that I stop talking to her heaving bazoom, whilst rubbing my thighs in the Vic Reeves stylee, that things took a turn for the worse. The entire contents of a small branch of Threshers was welling up inside me. Grim.
Drunk, head spinning and confused, I completely forgot where the gents' toilets were. I staggered through the first door to hand, which just happened to be the ladies', a bizarre mirror image of the gents only with a comfy sofa where the pubic hair-encrusted urinal trough should have been. And there was Julia, my sweet, lovely never-been-touched manager who had pictures of fluffy kittens on her desk. However, she wasn't paying too much attention to my drunken appearance, mainly because she was indulging in a bout of frenzied tonsil-tennis and up-the-jumper fumbling with Sandra the Evil Head of New Claims. The sort of girl-on-girl action that would make even Edwina Currie blush, and she's been round the block a few times, the old slapper.
"Brup", I said in surprise and alarm, then lost for something civil to say, "Isn't it lovely in the Brecon Beacons at this time of year?"
Now, as a feckless teen, I had a plentiful supply of gentlemen's interest journals hidden in the bottom of my wardrobe, and even in my drunken fug, knew what to expect in the circumstances. To whit, an invitation to join in, a long exhausting evening of "curing" the wayward ladies, followed by a letter starting "Dear Fiesta, you won't believe what happened to me the other night..." My mind worked overtime at the possibilities this scenario could produce, mostly involving myself as stud and office horn-meister.Those Fiesta sub-editors wouldn't know what hit them: "I couldn't believe my luck.As she sucked on my chipolata, I enjoyed a bit of lovely stuffing." I glazed over with a dreamy smile on my face, but by the time the three of us were naked, the moment had passed.
Instead, I bowked rich brown, crispy vomit all over their legs, which rather put a dampener on the whole occasion, and the resulting screams made me fear for my life. "Dear Fiesta... ah forget it."
In an attempt to sleep it off an a nice, quiet office, I managed to mark my card further by bowking rich, brown vomit over the office manager's Territorial Army uniform, which featured far too many leather straps to be strictly official, just hours before she was due at the annual Christmas service. To make things even worse, this occured literally seconds before she arrived with some strapping chap on her arm saying "We can do it on my desk, nobody will find ou...".
I fled, staggering off into the night, bowking rich brown vomit all over the 18.12 to Twyford. I must have arrived home in the Beer Tardis as space and time became a complete mystery, as was most of the weekend, was was spent shouting to Huey and Rolf down the big white telephone, looking like I had been dragged through a tunnel full of turds and wasps. Repeatedly.
The vow was made. I'll. Never. Drink. Again. Ever. I'm shit at vows.
I returned to work on Monday to embarrassed looks, enraged managers clutching dry-cleaning bills and a certain anti-hero status. I managed to stay in that job for another six weeks before the shame and the dreadful scenes of lust and woe I had witnessed (all subject to the Official Secrets Act) forced me to resign. The civil service could stick it. So I went to the job centre, and got another job. In the civil service. Bumhats.
Edit: My first ever b3ta front page! Woo! Yay! Houpla! Panowie!