At perhaps 7pm last night we arrived alongside the river in a nearby town to board a huge river-boat for the evening – to meet up with all the current, and some of the past staff from the company I work for, along with their better halves for a relaxed evening celebrating 30 years since the founding of the company.
We arrived a little early, and wandered along the road to a nearby bar where word had it a number of co-workers could already be found. I ordered a glass of wine myself, and a Pimms for my other half, before joining everybody in the garden. Everybody seemed suitably amused with the plastic wine glass I was given.
Time ticked on – in the way it typically tends to – and before we knew it, we were downing drinks, and wandering along the quayside to the New Orleans style river boat sitting in wait. The car park was full to brimming with people on our return – faces both old and new – in some ways it was quite intimidating, approaching them all, and making conversation.
I don’t do well in group situations. I was always a shy kid – always a bit gawky – and have always defeated it by kind of switching into “outgoing mode” – which I did – laughing, joking, and reminiscing with everybody about places, projects, and people we have worked with over the years.
There were gasps of surprise when people discovered I was in my 15th year with the company – mainly because until recently I had tended to look like I was about 15 years old (and act like it, if you listen to my other half). I of course pointed out the whisps of grey hair appearing on my temples, and that I would probably look like Reed Richards by next year (they had no clue who I meant, but went along with it – Reed Richards is Mr Fantastic, from the Fantastic Four, if you were curious).
The boat was amazing. While boarding the crew lined up in their faux Royal Navy uniforms, and shepherded us towards the downstairs bar, where glasses of champagne awaited. We spent perhaps the first half hour of the trip crammed into the lounge area, making polite conversation and nursing our drinks, before one or two of us approached the bar to order further drinks. Imagine our surprise when we discovered it was an open bar. Also imagine the faces of others when we told them. I’m amazed the entire boat didn’t list to one side.
A few of us made it out onto the roof of the boat to watch the river go by, and the sun set. I hadn’t brought a coat, so didn’t stay out for long, but eventually found my way back down in time for dinner to be served.
After queing for food from the buffet, and entertaining everybody greatly when I asked “can I have a bit of everything?”, I somehow ended up on a table filled with the people I have worked with the longest. I can’t remember laughing so much in an evening – my face hurt as stories were told, and drinks consumed.
Presently the managing directory of the company stood at the end of the room to make the customary speech. He told more stories, and pretty much had the room in the palm of his hand – and then did something nobody expected. He went around the dining room, staff member by staff member, telling everybody else a little bit about them. I’ll save you from the words about everybody else, but will share what I remember of mine;
“Jonathan. Where do we start with Jonathan? He seems to know everything. When you ask him something, he starts answering the question you didn’t realise you were really asking before you’ve finished asking the wrong question – and he seems to remember everything he’s ever read too – ‘I saw an article about this or that, a few years ago’.”
He then went on to say what a pleasure I was to work with while I looked down at my drink, and grinned, feeling like I was ten feet tall. My other half leaned across the table towards me, and translated for everybody – “he just means you’re a huge nerd”. The table fell about laughing, and so did I. It was true. And I was back to my normal height again.
The rest of the evening flew by. I didn’t get to talk to half the people I really wanted to – I guess because I’ve worked there for so long, everybody knows me, so every step through the crowd turned into another conversation, more memories, more drinks, and more laughter.
Before we knew it the boat had moored back up, and the clock was about to strike midnight. Our carriage home arrived (a taxi, ordered by friends), and I was given charge of a box of cup-cakes. They had been on a table near the exit of the boat – we were told to “take some home”. We took a box full.
I slept like a log last night, and miraculously woke early, was up, made breakfast with the kids, had a shower, got dressed, and watched a few TV shows with them. Then, mid-morning, I think the cocktail of food and drink hit me, and my body reminded me that I’m really not twenty years old any more. To combat the growing rebellion going on internally, I fell asleep on the sofa in the living room, and didn’t wake up until mid afternoon. My other half asked “why don’t you go to bed”, but the sleep had worked some kind of magic. I still don’t feel great, but I’m lucid enough to sit and write this before everything leaves my head.
Thank the maker that we had nothing else planned this weekend.