Across The Pass of Cirith Ungol To The Christmas Party Season
21 December 2013
Christmas party season. Or, A Few Days In The Dungeons Of Mordor as it's known in my head.
Last night we were invited to a drinks party by one of the guys in the band. Couldn't really get out of that. The Parent Currently Known As Mum (TPCKAM) gave me a long lecture on how I shouldn't have my Fuck Off Face on. I don't think I have a fuck off face. To me it's just a Face. This is one of the fundamental areas of disagreement in our marriage.
We go to the party, sharing a taxi with another couple. The taxi arrives at 7.30. I say to the kids that we'll be back by 9.30, 10 at the latest. Discover that our friend has already booked the return taxi for 11.30. PM, at least, rather than the following morning.
I sit in the darkness of the cab on the short drive through the Somerset countryside, my Fuck Off Face and I having an internal monologue, like Sméagol and Gollum.
We arrive at the party. The first twenty to thirty minutes are fine, as I stand with TPCKAM, wearing her like a protective blanket. I rarely have to talk when she's there, as she does enough for both of us. Then inevitably, she moves off, leaving me vulnerable. I find someone to whom I can talk about football, but am so surprised by this that I don't take full advantage of it. Nevertheless, it moves proceedings ten minutes closer to the time when the taxi will return.
The place fills up, with people and a cacophony of conversation. I drift closer to the margins. My Fuck Off Face - hey, we'll call him Maureece, so that we're not continually being vulgar - starts to mutter dark things.
"Listen to them," he says. "Talking so much, saying so little. So much noise. How can you stand it? How can you talk to people, when you have to raise your voice to be heard, and make so much effort to listen. Let's walk home."
I ignore Maureece. Like I said at the start, I don't believe he exists anyway, so it's easy enough.
Conversations come and go. Someone comes to talk to me, wanders off, and then comes back to talk to me a second time. Holy shit, I think (although, I don't actually have a Holy Shit Face, so I don't need to worry about that) she must think I'm interesting enough to talk to twice. I need to be interesting again. What did I say before that was interesting?
Gradually I become detached. TPCKAM spots me across the room and summons me over to talk to one of the other guys in the band and his own personal TPCKAM. This is reasonably safe territory. Everything is fine. By now we're more than two and a half hours into proceedings, so things are looking not too bad. Then, from nowhere, like some sort of demon from the netherworld, a Balrog of Morgoth if ever there was one, a woman barges unceremoniously into the midst of our self-contained little group and starts talking to our friends. TPCKAM and I are instantly excluded. Although she doesn't actually look at us, the Balrog telepathically communicates to us, 'I don't know who the fuck you are or what you were talking about, and I don't care.' No attempt at an introduction, nothing. Terribly rude.
We stand in this shattered little group for a short while, but quickly enough TPCKAM wanders off and Maureece arrives. We stand there for a while, Maureece and I, detached from the other three, yet still socially part of them. I don't know what to do. This is the moment when Sméagol has just been shagged up the arse by some human or other, and Gollum is allowed to flourish.
I go and sit on a seat, some five yards detached from the maddening crowd. Feel uncomfortable. Bravely a mum from the school comes to talk to me, but we are interrupted by someone else I don't know. The mum leaves. I sit in silence, the exclusion zone around me growing. It's the worst possible time, no point now in walking the three miles home through the Somerset countryside.
TPCKAM spots me from across the room, and comes to drag me into one last uncomfortable conversation. We talk to a South African chap. Seeing one last glimmer of hope, I raise the topic of cricket. He doesn't follow cricket.
The taxi comes. We go home. Maureece is released from his duties. With only two Christmas parties on the menu, it means we're half way through the torture and can relax for a couple of days. Then one of our friends casually mentions having another impromptu Christmas drinks, and before I can scream, 'Noooooooooo! Seriously, how much talking can people do?' TPCKAM has already agreed, and with two Christmas drinks parties still to be negotiated, we're right back where we started.
Saturday is a rest day, before tomorrow, when the sun rises in the east and we will once more be summoned to the gates of Mordor.