Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Party time

There's a pop-up restaurant in Chinatown Square. It is in a tent that was put up in just a few hours last night. I know this because for those few hours last night I was kept awake by the sound of men dropping metal piping on a hard paved surface.

Groggy, I got up this morning in no fit state for a run. Plus it was threatening rain, and after enjoying sunlight and peace and quiet in Penang, my head was thrown for a wobble. I went to the office to wade through a swamp of email and draw some pretty graphs, and to help plan the Christmas party.The longer people stay away from the country they were born in, the more exaggerated and inaccurate their views of their home becomes. Eventually your view of what was home becomes so distorted, you just can't go back. As they say in The Go-Between,
The present is a foreign country; they do things differently there.
For an Englishman of a certain age this means complaining there are too many foreigners around. Never a dignified position to take, but especially not if you're living ten thousand miles from Kent and blathering on about a country which you are becoming foreign to.

I haven't reached that Blimpish point yet. As my blood pressure inexorably rises with age and I dedicate myself to a diet of Marmite sandwiches and Branston pickle with everything, it's only a matter of time before I start entertaining idiotic ideas of xenophobia and what constitutes 'the real England'.

Until then, there's the Christmas party. According to the caricature of England in our minds, the office party will only be a success if everyone gets paralytic, raving drunk, and embarasses themselves.

Because that's what England stands for. That ignores the fact that we're in Singapore, that not everyone in the office is alcoholic, that some people in the office don't drink alcohol at all, that perhaps the best way to plan a party isn't to look for the cheapest room in the city and try to fill it with the largest quantity of booze possible. Or as I put it "You have to have food in Asia. Nobody turns up without food." (Thus spake the Old China Hand, a fellow of infinite wisdom. And a hankering for cucumber sandwiches.)

Well, not the cheapest room in the city. There's a club called Shenzhen Molly's or Guangzhou Georgie's or similar, which sounds like a not-very-well-disguised knocking shop. Amusing in principle, it might not go down so well with employees with kids or wives. Or pet animals that will look at them in disgust the next day. So maybe we'll end up there.

Still, I can't knock it; when I think back to the last few office parties I attended in England, they were fairly insane affairs where at an unrespectable hour (say 9pm, long before it's respectable to be unrespectably drunk) I'd turn to face my co-worker and realise they were so utterly drunk that I was clearly pissed too and should go home as soon as I could. So despite saying I'm being true to something that doesn't exist, I'll actually be cleaving close to my own history.

And it won't just be drinking. We're going to make people wear hats. If that doesn't encourage esprit de corps, I don't know what will.

Actually, I do. Nothing says "team bonding" like making everyone eat dinner under canvas in a hastily assembled pop-up restaurant in Chinatown, right?


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