“The best thing about being self-employed is that I don’t have to think of an excuse for missing the office party,” said my fellow home-worker – my husband.
I, however, am in need of some fun and games. Living up a lane in the Peak District is heavenly for three seasons of the year, but when the looming mists swirl in and blank out the fabulous views, and I can’t go anywhere without wellies, and it feels as though the long dark tea-time of the soul has set in till March, I get desperate for bright lights and company.
Unfortunately the man at the computer downstairs is not a party animal: he neither goes to parties, nor understands what they are for. I remember when I decided to have one for my fortieth birthday, he asked “Why on earth would you want to celebrate getting older and moving another few steps downhill? All we’re heading for now is death.”
He couldn’t face attending the party, but was concerned about the hordes of people I would be having in the house, and wanted to make a contribution to the preparations. He did. He calculated the tonnage of the assembled revellers, worried that the sitting room floor might collapse because dancers would refuse to keep to the edges of the rooms, and he went down to the cellar, where he used chunky four by four wooden posts to prop up the floor from underneath.
Apart from that, the only other time he’s been anywhere near a party was one New Year’s Eve when he found two of our oldest friends on the doorstep, unannounced, and waving a bottle of champagne. Unhappily, I was away, but he phoned me and while he wailed about the “scandalous imposition” of their expecting him to stay up until midnight and be jolly, I jumped up and down with frustration that I couldn’t be there to join in.
He’s not what you’d call a singing-and-dancing-kind-of-guy. Think less Gene Kelly and more Fraser, the Scottish undertaker in Dad’s Army - “Doomed! We’re all doomed!”
But he does have a tender heart, and, eager to cheer me up, he has suggested we have our own office party – just me and him.
We should have it in his study as it’s bigger than mine, he says. I am just wondering how he will press me up against the filing cabinet for a quick snog when you can’t get near it for all the wallet files spread out on the carpet for easy access, when he offers to clear the floor. He will also carry out into the hall the stacking plastic boxes stashed with papers and reports, and he’ll even wheel his poncey, sorry, precious new bike out to the shed (to join my sturdy workhorse) where he thinks it might be all right, just for a couple of hours.
I’m not sure what he’s got to offer by way of food and drink, though. He is teetotal, and he’s never been able to grasp the concept of eating as an enjoyable activity: as far as he’s concerned, eating is for refuelling. That’s apart from yoghurt, of which he is a connoisseur. At Christmas when he has to pre-buy in bulk, and yet I also need extra fridge space for family entertaining, he keeps his extra cartons of yoghurt cool by floating them in the water tank in the garden.
It may be just me, but when I think of party food, yoghurt isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.
I don’t care though, because for the party he says he will wear a Santa hat and download a festive screensaver onto his computer.
He really knows how to show a girl a good time.
I do appreciate the offer of an office party, I say, but I wonder whether it’s possible to have a party with only two people. Couldn’t we invite someone else ? Unfortunately, the only other people we see during our working days are the postman, a sweetie who likes to tell us how many buzzards he’s seen on his round, and our neighbouring farmer, who calls when he is moving his heifers, to ask us to stand in our gateway to stop them from coming in and cavorting on the lawn.
But we do have a continuous stream of telephone callers. Perhaps during the party we could have the phone on loudspeaker, I suggest, and at least have some conference calls, maybe with a Christmas quiz, so it doesn’t feel so lonely? He says we can’t do that, because he’s just recorded a seasonal message on the answering machine saying “Sod off, it’s Christmas.”
He says he’s willing, but his Christmas spirit is weak. And even after detailed explanations, his grasp of partying is non-existent. So I may flip out: cabin fever does strange things to people. If you see a news report of a desperate middle aged woman in sparkly reindeer antlers streaking through a Derbyshire village shrieking “Does anyone want to party?” you’ll know who it is.
© Sue Hepworth /Times newspapers 2015
Published here with kind permission of The Times