Something for nothing: the liggers' guide to parties

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Indy Lifestyle Online
EVERYONE likes to get something for nothing. In an age when the most secure thing about most occupations is job insecurity, there are other ways your employer can show just how much they care about you, you tiny cog in the monolithic machine of commerce. We're talking "fringe benefits" here, those little perks that nearly convince you you're not wasting your entire life for no good reason. With almost no preparation and largely using complicated methods like hearsay and chancing, and fully aware that the word "ligger" is derived from "least important guest", in a 10-day period I managed to crash several work jollies, to see just what the Man gives away when he gives something away.

Technology - Sony Playstation celebration

Setting: Converted gasworks in Fulham, looking something like a 19th- century primary school, this four-storey building, containing several hundred people, has precisely four toilets. And the windows don't open. Make that a 19th-century prison.

Food and drink: There is no food, presumably as it's considerably easier to mop up regurgitated liquid. But there is an infinite amount of free lager (see lack of loos above), gallons of voddy, and that dreaded German loony juice, Jagermeister, all served to you by barstaff so steaming even the punters notice.

Ambience: Sadly lacking. I know that computer games are meant to be the new rock'n'roll, or comedy, whatever, but there's nothing very glamorous about this motley collection of graphic designers, store buyers and geeky gaming journalists.

Music business - V98 festival launch party

Setting: Held at The End club in central London. Venue was excellent, even if the toilet attendant insists on singing at full volume, possibly hoping to wow someone from a local freesheet as they dry their hands.

Food and Drink: Food pleasant, alcoholic offerings mostly produced by the non-profit-making sections of Richard Branson's mighty empire. So that'll be Virgin Vodka - with Virgin Cola, Virgin orangeade or Virgin limeade ... oh, and Budweiser.

Ambience: Fame-free zone. Any stars were keeping well hidden, though I was informed that a member of Mansun had been recognised, possibly by his mother. Otherwise, though crap was certainly being spoken, I saw no obvious nose-up abuse, and after overhearing yet another road crew type conversation about delay settings, made my excuses and left.

Books - Faber & Faber launch

Setting: Faber & Faber's "penthouse" suite in Bloomsbury to celebrate the release of Giles Foden's The Last King of Scotland, a well received first novel set in Amin's Uganda.

Food and Drink: A selection of excellent hors d'oeuvres (prepared by a "local woman"), decent South African red and Penfold's white.

Ambience: Life as a bookseller is hard. The pay is pathetic, junkies steal your stock of A-Zs, and idiots keep recommending Captain Corelli's Mandolin like you've never heard of it and don't have a degree in English Literature already. These bashes often end in violence - recently staff from rival bookstores came to blows. Tonight sees the hysteria heightened. Being a journalist, Foden knows a lot of hacks and hacks drink like, well, booksellers. The celebrity count is Julian Barnes.

Wine trade - Champagne Information Bureau

Setting: Plaisterer's Hall in the City, appropriately enough. Beautifully decorated room.

Food and Drink: Champagne being the only drink acceptable at any time of the day or night - ever heard of a romantic gin breakfast? - the noon start presents no problem. Food - well, what do you expect? Chicken McNuggets? The finest spread of all, served up to the survivors, includes pate de foie gras (how long until the foie gra [sic] bomber starts threatening posh delis?), cured ham and artichokes, loin of veal, and quite possibly larks' tongues and manna.

Ambience: Well, you won't spot any stars here, unless you count Oz Clarke, from Food and Drink.

I discover that my uninformed choices bear an amazing similarity to those of real wine experts. Overheard snippets include a TV reporter telling his minions "I need a lot more spitting shots".

Best of all, I meet a rather soused, if elegant lady who once wrote a book called The Champagne Diet. She claims her finest trick, even in her dotage, is "The Gaiety Girl Kick", basically booting a flute of fizz from the hand of a presumably forewarned man, thus leading to marriage etc.