Tuesday: Foam, Inflatables and Vodka

Tuesday 15/07/2003It's our quarterly company review meeting and party -- and as things are going well, the latter part of the afternoon has been declared an Official Fun Event. Hurrah!

Tuesday 15/07/2003
It's our quarterly company review meeting and party -- and as things are going well, the latter part of the afternoon has been declared an Official Fun Event. Hurrah! The details have been left in the hands of the Ents Committee -- a mysterious group composed of go-for-it young bucks, and they have decided to hire an It's A Knockout events team. The entire company decamps to the nearby Artillery Fields park, where an array of inflatable contraptions glow menacingly in the hot summer sun like the psychedelic playthings of a giant toddler. There are loudspeakers on poles, ropes marking out activity areas, and keen people in singlets bouncing around with gleams in their eyes. We are formed into teams. There are exercises. Yes, it's school sports day all over again. (Perhaps you enjoyed school sports days, or at least found them a pleasant break from routine. For me, it was a regular climax in the rhythm of humiliation that was the lot of the fat boy at a sporty school. Perhaps there were PE lessons where I didn't end up the butt of jokes from the crew-cut rugby nut in charge, and times when I might even have enjoyed failing to climb ropes or vault horses: I don't remember those. I remember much else, though, and the day I finally got enough seniority at the place to politely decline all such miseries was a day of supreme liberation. It all comes crashing back as I line up behind my teammates, and while doubtless the catharsis would be useful during a session with a shrink it's not really in keeping with the fun and games. After the first effort, I retire to a corner of the field and sit things out.) Everyone else has a whale of a time, as you might expect when one's colleagues and oneself are dressed up in penguin suits, covered in foam, showered in buckets of water, slid down slopes doused with Fairy Liquid and given strange objects to carry through long rubber tunnels. A select group of editorial types had previously noted that soft drinks only were to be served throughout the afternoon: towards the end a writers' flagon of orange juice and ice was procured and enhanced somewhat with an illicit bottle of vodka. See, told you it was just like school sports day. Rather wonderfully, it turns out that following my early retirement from the Blue Team, it turned into a hypercompetitive lean, mean racing machine -- winning first place, champagne and medals. My policy of going for the 1500 Metre Sulk paid off, to the palpable shock of my more active colleagues. "Whose medal is that?" asks Graeme 'Slope' Wearden, whose antics trying to clamber up the liquid-soaked inflatable mountain now grace the memory card of my camera. "Mine, of course" I say, and wish I could bottle the frank disbelief that flows forth.

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