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Sorry, I’m a Christmas party pooper

Mortified by drunken memories and watching George Osborne dance to Dizzee Rascal, CLARE FOGES admits…

YOU are cordially invited to don your flashy Santa earrings and make excruciating small talk while drinking cheap fizz. RSVP.’ Yes, ’tis the season of forced chat with work colleagues you’d never dream of socialising with for the other 11 months of the year, and of being boomed at over loud music by a bloke with fishy canapé breath. I welcome Christmas party season as much as a dose of festive norovirus.

The nightmare begins with choosing The Dress, which must present you as a sparklier and sexier version of your non-festive self. How many times have I stood in a changing room adorned (sadistically) with wraparound mirrors, under lights as bright as those trained on a battery hen, while trying to stuff my form into some shiny number that makes me look like the human embodiment of a Quality Street?

The Toffee Penny, the Purple One, the Green Triangle; I’ve been them all…

Still, after The Dress ordeal, it’s with hopeful heart that the day of the Christmas party dawns.

You’ve been waxed and tanned, polished and pedicured.

This will be the year when you do the festive season like they do it in the adverts: a giggling whirl of spiced cocktails and velvet tuxedos. You’ll finally perfect that beauty page ‘red lip’, rather than looking like a deranged Ronald McDonald.

But the problem with Christmas parties is the gap between expectation and reality.

At office dos, we have visions of wowing our colleagues; impressing the boss; kissing the Mr Darcy looka-like from marketing. Instead, the reality is that we feel hot and bothered in our control underwear, we drunkenly bore on to the boss and Mr Darcy is a no-show.

Looking back over the Christmas parties is like flicking through a catalogue of cringe.

There was the time I lost my shoe in the toilet cubicle of a Soho bar and spent the rest of the night lolloping around on one stiletto.

The party where I learned that riding a bucking bronco is inadvisable in a short dress.

The karaoke bash I attended stone-cold sober where, microphone thrust into my hand, I had to sing a solo rendition of Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz. I’m not sure my toes have fully uncurled since.

Then there was the party I can only refer to as The Horror.

It began in a noisy Chinese restaurant, and I became so inebriated that I harassed a well-known golfer who happened to be in the same establishment. It is said he asked security to eject me, though thankfully I can’t remember that particular ignominy.

Worst is the morning-after paranoia about what you might have said or done while a few shandies down.

Perhaps you advised your cold female boss that she should show off her legs more often.

Or you told the guy you have barely exchanged a word with all year that you have always felt a ‘deep connection’ with him.

Or maybe you just walked around all night with purple teeth having consumed too much mulled wine.

While at a Christmas party in the days I worked in Westminster, I asked Michael Gove if I could smoke a ciggie in his office (where the party was being held). He politely refused permission. Some of the politicians themselves might have had regrets, too; one year, I watched the-then Chancellor George Osborne throwing some energetic shapes in a room in Downing Street to the strains of rapper Dizzee Rascal.

I’m not a total party pooper. What could be lovelier than a summer party outside in the early evening, drinking chilled G&Ts as shadows lengthen on lawns? When the sun is up and the sap is rising, it’s party time. When the umbrellas are up and the rain is falling, it’s not.

Back in the days when my Christmas party calendar was pretty full, there was at least one seasonal consolation – the joy of a cancellation. Being told that an event had been called off would see me singing more Hallelujahs than an angel welcoming the new Messiah. Is there anything so delicious as the cancellation of an event you had little desire in attending, especially if it would have required heading out into a cold winter’s night with nothing but 10 denier tights protecting you from a sharp north-easterly?

I know what you’re thinking: why go to Christmas parties if you hate them? Nowadays I don’t. A marvellous thing about getting older is realising, finally, what you enjoy and what you would walk over burning coals to swerve. Now in my 40s, I know to say ‘no’. This season my party calendar is joyfully empty.

No longer working in an office, I’ll be celebrating my own festive bash with a bowl of microwave popcorn, a sprig of holly atop. No small talk, no waiting for a taxi in the freezing cold.

Bah humbug it may be, but it sounds like bliss to me.

The joy of a cancelled party would see me singing Hallelujahs

Israel At War




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