"Are you sure you're not already regretting letting me come?" I asked as we wended our way from the car park, through a back street, past a pub sign that ominously read 'Dogs Welcome!', and towards the city centre of York early on a blustery morning in December.
"No" he replied "I don't regret it. You're not spoiling anything, you're invited. I've invited you to my Christmas lunch."
And, though slightly breathless in the blowy morning air, I smiled one of those smiles that despite trying to keep a lid on your pleasure [for 'playing-it-cool's sake] somehow manages to escape through the side of your mouth anyway.
I'd asked the question because, for the last few years, James has gone to York to do Christmas shopping on his own.
Over those years, he's also anticipated and enjoyed the prospect of a long, leisurely [and no doubt, quieter than usual] lunch in his favourite restaurant on his own. [Without me I suspect he feels something of the relief of a parent securing for themselves some 'me time'].
And, normally, I'm otherwise engaged, but not this year. Plus we'd been planning to go 'somewhere nice' to get some shopping done and ... well ... it just made sense for me to break with tradition and join him in York. And so ... there I was, invited to his Christmas outing, with a free lunch thrown in!
And so we did the kinds of things people do on a festive staff day out in York*.
(* This is purely conjecture. I can count on my hands the number of staff parties I've ever attended. My jobs have always been rather peripatetic and I've never spent time with the same colleagues day in day out. Although actually, now, when I'm doing self-employed stuff I spend lots of time with the woman I work for and I know her pretty well. But hang on ... we're meant to be talking about York ...)
Here's how our staff Christmas party unfolded...
(1) We took a wind-blasted 'stroll' around the Minster grounds:
Isn't he splendid?
Minstergate isn't exactly a bridge - you can walk under it.
Since taking this photo I've learned that you can actually rent it out! Oh goodness!
(4) We squeezed ourselves into a five storey second-hand book shop:
|James, engrossed in the history section at Minstergate Books.|
(5) Some of us tried on hats.
In the interests of completeness the viewing of this next photo should absolutely be accompanied by this music because ... the game is on ...
Here's James and his big sea bream:
this post will clarify that for you ...] ;-)
And, finally ...
(7) We exchanged 'Secret Santa' gifts:
Kind of ...
"We should have done a Secret Santa" I said.
"Ha!" he replied acting out a scene: "Mmmm ... let me guess who this came from!"
And then ... he paused ... leaned back in his chair ... and reached into the pocket of his coat which was hanging on a hook behind him ...
And I laughed and laughed at the timing of it, of the serendipity of it, of the brilliant 'punchline' of it all.
Then I had an idea.
And I turned to my own inside coat pocket, rummaged to the bottom ... found what I was looking for ...and then placed my contribution to the 'Secret Santa' moment on the table in front of James.
But I guess I had my answer to that; I was keeping it there so we could share with one another two perfect, spur-of-the-moment, serendipitously pocket-sourced gifts!! We couldn't have chosen better if we'd had weeks to plan and shop!
So that's how you do a staff Christmas lunch when you don't really like other people ...
- you go with someone you do like
- you do the things you both like to do
- you eat well and pretend you're Sherlock
- you rummage in your pockets and find the perfect gifts* [*used tissues not included.]
- then you return to the car and eat pork-scratchings on the way home while one of you reads aloud from a novel [using a head-torch because it's dark] while the other one drives [true story].
- no one gets drunk
- no one is forced to dance with strangers while wearing tinsel
- no one gets trapped sitting next to that colleague who finds a party the perfect time to discuss the worst, most anxiety-making, work related issues ... [we've all been there right? Even my limited experience of staff parties involves this one!!]
- no one photocopies their bottom [not sure if that's a pro or con ....]
- and no one carries out any form of infidelity in a cupboard! Result!
And I for one am hoping Team No.1 gets to replicate this little festive outing in December 2016, I guess have to check with the boss* first. [He's not my boss. I don't even call him Boss. Not even for Christmas.]
I'm making a note right now to have something interesting in my pocket on standby ...
Feel free to take inspiration from our party any which way you fancy!
[FYI James recommends the sea bream. And the deer-stalker.]