About now, there is a myriad of events to celebrate the festive season, and I’ve already done a few evenings, shaking hands (the active tense, not getting them…) eating lumps of unidentifiable pastry shaped like ear-plugs and loads of those miniature sausages, which are about the size of a baked bean. Also there are the drinks, which are pouring from huge industrial buckets suspended from the ceiling, and channelled constantly through the little hands of frighteningly young and very pretty attendants, with names which include at least three ‘Z’s and a couple of ‘XC’s.
So far, I’ve trodden on a very tall blond lady, so tall and lissom, that I couldn’t quite focus on her face! … Nobody knows I’ve been to a party, unless I’ve sent a tray of drinks crashing over the balcony rails at least once, or upset a pile of peculiar looking sushi all over the floor (best place for it at these events…or any other time for that matter…). Conversation goes something like ‘Oh Hi, …(Stamp) … Aaaaargh …Oh, I’m so sorry…What do you do…. Fantastic … Give me a call…etc etc… (Crash) ...Oooops... No problem; SIR...’
I’ve even spent a pleasant half hour discussing terrorism with a senior guy from the Met. (Why is it impossible not to keep on getting refills when talking with an officer of the law? I had about three more, and every tip I gave him, like getting nerds to screen world-wide emails for hidden clues on attacks, was pleasantly responded with a concise term, usually ending in ‘ics’, and a patient explanation as to how they do it. It was a fascinating chat, and of absolutely no use to me in my business.)
Luckily I’ve bumped into many old chums, and we’ve compared injuries, and promised to meet again next year; just like we said in 1987. Yesterday, I think I went to sleep listening to someone explaining Spanish pensions, which again was useless for me.
When I used to organise these bashes, I invented the ‘Three Pace Rule’. This involves making lapel badges with printing which is large enough to be able to read from ten feet. That way, you can cruise through the crowd, and approach the people you want to meet, like attractive ladies from investment banks or names from respected property organisations, but better, you can also avoid the ones with a company name like ‘Septic Drains’, which will not really do very much for one in the short term.
I do try and stick to the adage that I must be judged as capable of talking to anyone, irrespective of the value of the conversation, but when I’m only at an event for an couple of hours, I really must work the floor, and listening to someone describing a ‘soil back outflow’ he installed in 1990 is – well – not a good accompaniment to a wisp of smoked salmon and a chilled Sauvignon.
Another problem is that most of these parties are going on in almost complete darkness! I can’t even see where I’m going let alone read someone’s card, and if some girl band is shrieking rubbish from a speaker close by, it’s practically impossible to say or do anything except yell your name, completely misunderstand what the other person is saying, and wander off with a vague expression of ‘who the f*** was that?’
Actually, the evening parties have been enjoyable and useful for good business, but getting home late is not really what I like doing, and it begins to make the system creak when they’re back to back. Tonight, I have yet another binge to attend, but I’ve decided that I’d rather sit comfortably at home with Mrs S, than discuss bridge construction in The Andes with some wild-haired engineer waving his arms all over the place and dribbling design calculations and orange juice...
There’s just no contest!