Monday 14 December 2015

How to do a staff Christmas lunch (when you don't really like other people).

"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?

(2) We had a mooch along The Shambles:
For those of you who don't know The Shambles it isn't some Harry Potter-esque Diagon Alley reconstruction .. it's a genuine medieval street [although most of the current buildings were built in the 14/15th Centuries]. And it's a 'must see' if you're ever in York.

(3) We then continued to fantasise about old buildings:
I have a serious love of buildings on bridges [I don't know why...] and while 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.
That is what other people do for office Christmas parties ... right?

(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 ...

(6) We had lunch and toasted 'Team No.1':
Just FYI ... we weren't being particularly boastful there ... that's actually our house number. #WeAreAlwaysNumberOne

Here's James and his big sea bream:
I had tagliatelle ... for good reason there are no photos of me eating it. [Scrolling to the end of 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, after some riffling, he turned and planted down on the table in front of me ... a caramel chew he'd bought earlier that day. [What? Did you think it was going to be diamonds or something?].

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.

And that's how we ended up exchanging the gifts of a 20p caramel chew and a glasses cleaning cloth that had been lurking in my pocket for weeks without me once being able to remember where it came from and, as I don't wear glasses, why on earth I was keeping it in there ...

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].
This way...
  • 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.]



  1. Lol!! Sounds like my kind of Christmas Party. I've always been a bit of a party pooper myself, can't see any fun in loud night clubs or drunken party pranks.

  2. What a wonderful sounding adventure. Definitely sounds like the best Christmas party ever. And the fact that you both had a pocket gift was perfect. I would go for the pasta rather than sea bream, I'm not much of a fish eater - can't stand the bones.

    1. Mine was seafood pasta ... but clams, scallops, squid etc don't have bones! His took forever to pick apart ... but he's more patient than me!

  3. Never shopped in a super big city. But I like going in those little specialty shop and even I can't afford them.
    Coffee is on

  4. Julie, I just love your posts - they make me laugh! (And this just happens to be the first time I have commented on a blog *ever*.)

    1. I'm just thrilled that you chose one of *my* posts to leave your debut comment!!

  5. Sounds fabulous. York looks wonderful. Especially 'The Shambles'.....loved the photos.... & the story/ies :):)

  6. The Brainy One works for himself (and therefore no staff Christmas party), so I shall be showing him this post!

    1. Absolutely ... see if you can get yourself a free lunch out of it ... ;-)

  7. Brilliant! You are so witty and a couple after my own heart, Jo x

  8. Perfect staff Christmas lunch! (and I especially like the dragon.) :)

    1. It's lovely isn't it? There was lots of great carvings on that bench. I would have taken lots more photos but I was being buffeted by the wind!

  9. Sounds like a lovely day and lunch out! Yok is really lovely, lucky you living near there. We used to do something similar when my OH was a freelancer. We had a limited company and we were the directors, so it was always the directors' Christmas do! Thanks for reminding me of those days:)

    1. That's one of my favourite things about reading other peoples' stories on blogs ... all the memories it triggers from your own life. Happy I could do the same for you Linda!

  10. What a lovely day - Mr P doesn't bother with his work do now that he has changed jobs and is working with a bunch of kids and I haven't worked for a number of years - thinking we should do our own Christmas do, sounds a lot more fun!! Something to think about for next year

    1. A Christmas do for two is a great way to spend an afternoon!

  11. Such a good Christmas party - wish I could get to York for ours (but it's a bit far from NZ)!

  12. Well done Julie.sounds like a perfect works do. Love York, especially at Christmas. Must get my OH to do a secret Santa.i do love surprises ESP from charity shops

  13. Love this post. My pockets only ever contain used tissues or at this time of year one glove ( the other has gone walkabout), but I could scrabble in the bottom of my bag - usually find the odd sweet or chocolate bar (squashed) or even some ribbon or trinket. Merry Christmas!

  14. This is a very uplifting read :). And as I look at the photos today of swathes of York underwater, I'm thinking how fortunate you were to be able to experience the delights of the city ... As always, I admire your ability to tell a story so entertainingly!


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