Santa Comes to Town

It’s Secret Santa time at The Stationery Store and Harold, the acting manager (standing in for John who is off work for the duration of the festive season due to hernia surgery), calls everyone into the office to exchange gifts. Rita, the manager’s personal assistant, brings out a bottle of cheap Cava and sets about pouring everyone thimble-sized amounts in plastic cups so they can toast one amother’s good health.

Stacey walks into the office, her impressive breasts squeezed into a tight Christmas jumper that has a Christmas pudding placed strategically  over each nipple. She clocks Mick and takes up a position at the opposite end of the room (everyone knows Stacey and Mick had a clinch in the stationery cupboard at last year’s party – everyone except Mick’s wife, that is – though Stacey swears blind it’s a figment of Mick’s overactive imagination).

“So,” says Alan, the company’s resident social commentator, “which poor bastard got landed with being Santa this year?” The question is answered when a sheepish looking Ron – the gawky work experience boy with luminous ginger hair and violent acne – appears in the doorway in an ill-fitting Santa suit, holding a tatty red sack.

“Come on then,” Harold says clapping his hands together, “let’s get this over with. Time is money after all.” Alan laughs and digs Mick in the ribs. “Bedside manner’s not our Harold’s strong point is it?”

Rita hands the thimbles of fizzy wine to the assembled employees and Ron circles the room proffering his sack. When everyone has their present they open them in unison.

“Well that’s just hilarious,” Stacey scowls across the room at Mick, brandishing a pair of pink handcuffs. He shrugs.

“Ooh!” Rita squeals with overstated enthusiasm, “socks! Just what I wanted!”

“That woman’s feet haven’t seen socks since the day she was born,” says Alan. “What a bloody ridiculous present.”

“Open yours then Alan,” Rita says breezily. He obliges, holding up his Christmas tree shaped ice cube tray and grimacing.

Harold gets a comedy tie, Mick a joke anti-cheating device and Ron a tube of Clearasil.

“Well,” says Harold once all the presents have been opened, “that concludes this year’s office festivities! Merry Christmas, and get back to work!”

“Thank Christ for that,” says Alan, dropping his ice cube tray in the bin on his way out.

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Never too old

Aside

Never one to turn down a free ticket (or, let’s be honest, a free anything), last night I went along to a gig at Barfly in Camden. In truth I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it. Despite my dad having been a talent scout in the music industry when I was a teenager I’ve never considered myself to be part of the in-crowd where new and emerging artists were concerned. Whenever I went to a gig I’d stand at the back in my River Island jeans and H&M top, clutching a pint of cider and feeling beyond awkward as I watched all the hipsters in their drainpipe jeans and black-rimmed glasses bopping away at the front, collectively pouting as their directional hair valiantly fought the forces of gravity.

It wasn’t a conscious decision to stop attending gigs, more of a natural progression. So when I was offered a free ticket to last night’s event I was forced to re-examine my position. Was I really up for spending three hours standing in a dingy room above a pub, face-in-armpit with a bunch of hairy hipsters? Did I really want to re-live those awkward memories that had long since been buried? Surely now I was at an age where I knew what I liked and what I didn’t and this just happened to be something that I didn’t? Was it so wrong to admit that?

So, after considerable soul searching I went along to the gig. And it was dingy. And it was full of hipsters with directional hair, drainpipe jeans and black-rimmed glasses (has the trend not changed in a decade? Maybe I’m not so behind the times after all). But you know what? I had a fantastic night. The bands were brilliant, especially the last one, Slow Club, whose lead singer was just mesmerising. At the end she jumped into the crowd and sang a song standing directly in front of me. She didn’t have a microphone to amplify her voice but it didn’t matter as the crowd were so silent you could have heard a pin drop. It was quite, quite beautiful. And utterly inspirational – I even started formulating a character in my mind for my next story.

Afterwards we went downstairs for another drink (at 11pm on a school night – I really was pushing the boundaries!) and ended up dancing until midnight, casting off the restrictive shackles of ‘age’ (that I’ll admit I impose upon myself) and simply having some good old fashioned fun.

I learned something about myself – and life – last night. When you pigeonhole yourself because of silly things like age you close yourself off to new – and wonderful – experiences. And it’s only through new experiences that you can grow as a person (and, in my case, develop as a writer). Getting older doesn’t make us old, telling ourselves we’re too old to do things makes us old – so from now on I’m going to try and hold that in mind.

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