Tim Key: ‘I’m in the midst of an office Christmas party. I feel like such an outsider’

One asks what I’m writing and I pretend I’m German

Related Topics

I am writing from ‘the field’. It’s a Wednesday night and, thirsty and in need of inspiration, I have slipped from my bike and poured into a pub. And I have lucked out. I’ve bought myself a pint of Sagres (a Spanish lager with a thick, unpleasant taste) and I have found myself embroiled, if that’s a word, in an office Christmas party. It is a fascinating arena, and I have sloped quietly into a corner. I am now observing the festivities.

It’s not like I’ve never been to an office party before. I worked in offices tons in my twenties. Back then, these dos were my bread and butter. I’d be there, tie off, shoes gleaming, getting lashed off me tits on wine and having a crack at some poor engaged girl from HR. But since hitting my thirties I’ve been starved of this nectar. Self-employed and reclusive I have lived my life in parallel to these things. But now I am immersed. The action is all around me. It is like I’m watching Gravity.

They haven’t changed, office Christmas parties, since the turn of the century. The shrill squawks of young ladies fill the air to bursting. A goon troops round in a pair of reindeer antlers. He finds a girl with short hair and a lady’s version of a suit and dances with her to “Crazy Right Now”. A 40 year old is sat, in his outdoors coat, staring impassively forward like the Lost in Translation poster. A man with a wedding ring on reduces a girl with no rings on her fingers to hysterics. Occasionally her head rocks back with laughter and he takes the opportunity to tilt his eyes down to her throat.

I’m not denigrating office Christmas parties, of course, far from it. I’m in the midst of one, and you can barely move for red-cheeked merriment and delighted whoops. In my job there’s none of this. If you think that all the different columnists come together at Christmas and chase down WKDs, guzzle mini pork pies and dance ironically to Take That, you’re living in cloud cuckoo land. These days, my office party involves me, at some point in December, buying about 200g of Cathedral City extra mature Cheddar and a four-pack of Staropramen, nailing it in my study and then wandering down to the Post Office to photocopy my arse.

This one’s getting spicy. Now two members of the company are sitting right near where I’ve set up. One of them is in management and she’s bellowing that she trusts a girl in her team. Some others join and they down some sambucas. One asks what I’m writing and I pretend I’m German. I get the impression that someone they work with is called Peter and that he is dirty. “Return of the Mack” starts and there’s some ear-drum-popping squealing and I am left alone again. I become aware of a sober guy who seems to be photographing all the girls. So, thankfully, there will be a record of the events. I move behind a girl and smile. I want to be a part of it.

I think I can see the boss. He’s responsible for all this and good luck to him. Full of bitter, he leans against the bar and occasionally wipes sweat and satisfaction from his forehead with a hankie. He has found the bar manager and he is being fawning about the quality of the spread. He’s clearly plunged a lot of the company’s margin into this shindig and he feels he’s getting value. I couldn’t agree more. I steal a Scotch egg and wink at the photographer. I sip my Beck’s Vier. I feel like such an outsider. I long to be a part of something like this. I feel an acute sense of my own mortality. I rue the day I walked away and became freelance. I leave, shoulders sloping, for a fag.

Outside, two administrators discuss someone called Carla. One is upset. The other assures her that Carla means nothing by the things she says in the heat of the moment. I offer them both cigarettes. I just want to be involved.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Riyadh is setting itself up as region’s policeman

Lina Khatib
Ed Miliband and David Cameron  

Cameron and Miliband should have faith in their bolder policies

Ian Birrell
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor