I had a couple of drinks on the way there. The Heritage Organisation had acquired and refurbished a new property that was relatively close to the flat that I was sharing with a university friend and an Italian bookshop assistant. Our evenings, therefore, mainly consisted of pot smoking and pasta eating. I popped home on the way from the office to the ‘do’ and raided the fridge for some acidic dutch comfort.
I was newly in charge of the department and I was already getting extremely bad vibes from The Beahive. She would stand in the doorway between our two offices and, with her hands balletically grasped on her hip, would tell me how she ran a department larger than this one in her previous organisation and what she would do in my situation was…[cue some extremely patronising and negativity-laded advice about how everyone needed to do as they were told and that no-one from a department that she ran was going to do any fundraising until the rest of the organisation was brought in line and did exactly as they were told].
It was a small ‘do’ but I was working in the knowledge that The Beahive was going to be keen to expose and highlight any singular weakness that I demonstrated at any juncture. In addition, the Chief Executive was going to be in attendance for the first time and was already liberally asking everyone in his immediate vicinity how much money we were going to be making. No matter how many times he was carefully informed that that was not how such occasions worked, he would make it clear that he didn’t see the exercise as an appropriate use of his time if he didn’t leave with his pockets stuffed full of cash.
The ‘do’ itself was compact and simple. Drinks, tour, drinks, depart. The guest list was made up of relatively well-cultivated prospects, all of whom were pleased to be spending their evening with some Georgian architecture and some warm white wine.
Within the first fifteen minutes, I was anxiety-necking my bodyweight in vino plonko whilst overly-vivaciously bon viveuring my way around the room. My volume levels were going up by the half-glass and I was starting to attract both the right and the wrong types of attention, one of which was an Investment Banker who became increasingly convinced as the evening wore on, that I was going to be giving him a great deal more on departure than an information pack and a patrons sign-up form.
The Chief Executive approached. His eyebrows were already arched way beyond the confines of his hairline and he was twitchily head-indicating towards the Senior Event Manager who was engaged in a conversation with an octogenarian dwarf who was, in another life, the ex Deputy Chair of a utilities firm. The Senior Event Manager seemed to have had a botox treatment in preparation for the occasion as well as a hair appointment where a bizarrely long extension had been affixed to the back of her head and which trailed down the entirety of her back.
“I think she’s making progress”, said the Chief Executive, still head-twitching towards the hair extension that, in turn, was jerking like a hangman’s rope.
“I think you need to move in”.
“They seem to be getting on just fine”, I slurred, not having spoken for a short while, during which time the anxiety-necking had started to have its unpleasant but inevitable effect.
“I think you need to move in”, he repeated, slightly more forcibly.
The weeks of explaining to him how a cultivation event dressed up as a drinks party worked finally took their final toll and I snapped,
“What do you expect me to do, grab her by her stupid pony tail, hoping that it doesn’t come off, wrestle her to the floor, and shake the midget down just so we can leave this goddawful event with some loose change?”
The Beahive had appeared by my right hand side at exactly that moment.
“Whoa there Trigger”, she said to me with wry amusement both in her voice and on her heavily-blushered face.
“Don’t worry, [Chief Executive]”, she purred, “I’ll take it from here”.
And with that she weirdly glided across the room and, to all intents and purposes, shouldered the Senior Events Manager out of the dwarf financier’s orbit and started a monologue that, as ever, didn’t seem designed to have an end.
My already slackened jaw descended further at my outburst, her putdown and her swopping. I headed to the door.
Although it was clear, ten minutes or so later when the event was wrapping up, that the moment was already forgotten in the haze of sponsored wine that had been consumed by all concerned, my sulk was starting to reach doom-laden proportions.
I was sitting on the pavement at the end of the drive, chain-smoking, and far from enjoying the effect that the Marlboro Lights were having on the back of a throat that was extremely well-coated with the treacly wine. I heard The Beahive hootingly fake-laughing from around 100 yards away as she approached with the Chief Executive. She had the most extraordinary habit of never breaking her heavily-encrusted face unless it was at the expense of someone else. “Oh, it’s just my unusual sense of humour”, she would say.
“Well done”, the Chief Executive said to me with a reasonably-high degree of sincerity sounding in his voice, leading me to hope that he had passed my ‘moment’ off as a joke that fitted in rather well with my usual array of sardonic commentary.
“I thought that all went rather well”.
I rolled my eyes and hauled myself to my feet. A small phalanx of over-priced mini cabs had arrived, as pre-ordered. The Senior Events Manager got into the first, deciding it was her prerogative as the person who had ordered them to do so. Her hair extension had now fully detached itself and was being twirled like a lasso as its owner folded herself into the back seat and disappeared off into the night.
I made a quiet, bow-headed show of deferring to the rest of the group, allowing them to take each of the taxis in the row before I sighed my way into the final one in the queue.
“Good night?” the driver asked as I looked him straight in the eye with an expression that was designed to convey a desire not to speak, not now or ever.
“Oh”, he said, disappointedly. “You’ve not got far to go. You could have walked’.
And with that I flung the door open, resulting in him bringing the car to a jolting halt, and flounced into the yellow-lit street.
“Ok, I will”, I said as I stalked off into the night, reaching for the crumpled packet of fags in my suit pocket, vowing to get the taxi driver sacked in the morning and hopefully The Beahive too.