Christmas 2006 in London

What a fantastic week I’ve had! Working in the PR industry you kind of expect to be going to a never ending supply of parties, schmoozing with D-list celebrities, going to the swankiest clubs in London for free and jet setting around the world. The arrival of the festive season has seen exactly that and I made up my mind rather easily that it would be rude not to take advantage of the prospect of free (it’s a northern thing) booze and new experiences.

My first works Christmas party was, amazingly, a trip to Florence, Italy, completely paid for by my company. It was fantastic, I was completely in awe of the whole place – much like I often am in London – though more in the aesthetic beauty as opposed the sheer spectacle. Whilst my critique of art leaves a lot to be desired (“I’m not right into me art or nowt but that is  – insert varying degrees of swear words – great!” Which is then followed by a criticism such as “David’s got quite big hands though” or, “Renaissance in general is crap, – there’s always that suspicious person in the paintings that put me off”,) the place was amazing and I’ve realised that I am starting to appreciate things that I would have normally found completely boring. In fact, not just appreciating, but actually enjoying it, being totally fascinated by it all and by in particular the magnificence of it all. Me, flowery? Perhaps. But I guess I’m just thinking about things that little bit more than I use to.

The following Monday I attending a blogging debate with my colleague Sam (essentially JD from Scrubs who thinks that I look like I should be in Star Trek – that is all that is interesting about him) featuring my MD Stephen Waddington and Richard Adams, the bloke who pretty much set up BBC’s blogging activities, at the English Speaking Union in Mayfair. I won’t go into the details (because it will bore you rigid) but it was great watching a debate that doesn’t end up in someone calling someone else’s mum rude names.

After the event, me and Sam went for a quick beer downstairs where we were greeted by a bunch of, what can only be described as, posh gits – not just in monetary terms but the whole rah-rah accent and buffoon/buffon hair, the kind you want to look down on for having too much money but, being a commoner, you can’t help but be overly impressed by the fact that you would immediately choose their life over your own.

A pretty girl dressed in blue asked if we were attending the debating club which was discussing whether the House felt self sufficiency was a good thing. Now when you are teetering on the brink of inebriation, your night can go one of either two ways.  Your sensible and good conscience enters that eternal struggle with your bad. Fuelled by the intense debate I just attended (and the champagne I’d had) I pretended that, yes, in fact, we were there to add our collective thoughts into this debate, much to the horror of Sam. Before you laugh, I was more curious than anything else and, much like with chuggers (charity muggers), it helps if it’s someone attractive who is asking you.

Sam later told me he suspected we were in over our heads when they pulled out a ceremonial spear, given to someone’s posh uncle ages ago, to introduce proceedings and then bolted, yes bolted, the door. The debaters, a group of fairly attractive women and very camp men, began to position ‘self sufficiency’ as being single, and ‘dependence’ as being in a relationship. It was completely fascinating seeing the House split into two teams of intelligent well-to-do youngsters arguing without trading insults or blows, displaying a Stephen Fry-esqe wit instead of Jim Davidson style insults. The debate was thrown open to the floor, where the audience was invited to ask questions – at which point I will let Sam pick up the narrative as I have subconsciously blocked out the memory due to the pain.

Sam: “Car crashes, the Eurovision song contest, Tim’s entry into the world of debating. All horrendous events that you just can’t seem to tear your eyes away from.  Now, in situations I’m uncertain about I tend to be a bit cautious, and when there is a ceremonial spear involved(?!) it makes the little cogs in my head think – just maybe there is some sort of standard procedure in place for the whole event.  I am pleased to report that with Tim there is no such analysis.  As soon as he heard it was time for questions from the floor his hand was up faster than a toilet stop in rattle snake country.  Of course being first to raise his hand, meant he got invited to ask a question.  First.

“When Tim attempted to ask the question from his seat the chairman told him to stand.  With a muttering of, ‘ah, s*** under his breath, our hero rose to his feet.  At this point, this fairly large room was fairly full, but very silent.  Tim began with a sheepish grin: ‘Alright there, guys’.  No response.  Tough crowd.  ‘All I wanted to know was, on the agenda it says the debate is about whether this House should be self sufficient. So why is everyone talking about relationships, and why hasn’t the price of bricks or mortar been mentioned once?.’ I was initially confused but then realised that Tim had not figured out the ‘House’ was the people in the debate, not literally the building we were in! Idiot!

Cue silence.  Cue a look of disgust and the unmistakeable noise of a chair being dragged by the youngster to the side of us as he shuffles away. Everyone appeared to think it would be better to make no reference to the commoner’s comments. Best to pretend it never happened.

We stayed and drank their posh wine and ate their mince pies.  Tim thinks the fact that we were the only ‘chaps’ not sporting a side parting meant that everyone was too scared to comment on his question. Regardless, it was very funny and I think we’re going to the next one.  Tim is threatening to be one of the speakers, so keep an eye on YouTube.”

Sam later compared it to a David Brent-like squirming moment coupled with the part when Vic Reeves tells a deliberately unfunny joke in Shooting Stars and the tumbleweed rolls across the stage followed by the sound of wind and a death knell. I’m an idiot – it was so embarrassing! Sam and my other colleague Paul still make fun of me to this day. Now I think I know why the twelve year old Doogie Howser I was sat next to cried a little.

But it was funny – and I know I keep saying it – but it was an experience and I’ve put myself on the contacts list so that I can attend future ones, though only after I have drastically altered my appearance.

The following Wednesday I attended another Christmas party. A blogging site, The World’s Leading – essentially a Popbitch for the tech PR industry (not as boring as it sounds) – held a party at a bar in the West End. As sad as it sounds I read a lot of tech PR blogs and having read The World’s Leading regularly for about seven months this was like meeting minor celebs. It was a decent party with quite a few people in the industry there and was followed by watching Manchester United get through to the next round of the Champions League with our little Man U posse (I know that last sentence will probably alienate most of you or make you hate me but, after last year’s debacle, it was a fantastic result and I don’t care).

The next day we had our second Christmas party with the marketing firm that my agency recently merged with. Before that though a few of us attended the British Computer Society awards as the agency was one of its sponsors. I got to wear a tux for only the second time in my life and remembered how uncomfortable I felt in them – I don’t think they suit me at all and look like a kid wearing a school uniform for the first time.

It was the same building where the BAFTAs are held and I tried not to stand out in the throng of silver haired IT managers. The table we sat at was near the stage and we were served dinner first. It was as you’d expect posh food to be – very flavoured (i.e. not salty) but not enough of it – looked nice though. The tables were cramped with glasses and the organisers were kind enough to lay out more than one of each piece of cutlery in case you dropped one on the floor (well,it’s the only logical explanation I can think of). Everything was crisp and white and pristine – at least it was until I spilt red wine all over the place (and on one of the directors) and made myself look a fool. I’m such a clumsy git and it was so embarrassing.

Apart from that, the event went well and we headed to the company party. It was held in a gallery in South East London and brought together all the companies under the firm’s umbrella. The few work parties I’ve been to have been a sit down meal and a couple of drinks. This party was much the same idea – get everyone drunk and see what happens, but with much more style. It was themed around a plane journey with the departure lounge, the plane itself and the destination. Actresses were hired as trolley dollies and air hostesses – going through the motions and ignoring drunken requests to speak to them like the centurions at the Queen’s gates. It was the perfect combination of excess and indulgence, a touch of class married to a bit of rough – the exact reason why Paris Hilton is so appealing. Drinking is not big or clever, but when it’s fun, it’s really fun and everybody I spoke to had a fantastic time.

The week culminated in the dreaded walk of shame – going to work in the same clothes as the night before and reeking of booze and smoke because I ended up staying at my colleague Paul’s place. It’s no surprise to anyone who’s read anything I have written what a struggle I often find London – not just the whole money thing, but fitting in and the rest. However, as I sit here in my boxers, eating my microwaved hotdog, chips and pizza meal all on my own, chewing the rock hard bread and, on my 24th birthday, writing this blog, I can’t help but think what a fantastic time I’ve had down here so far.

I’ve done much more in the ten months down here than I’ve probably ever done. Yes, it can sometimes be boring, hard and lonely but right now I’m looking at the Guitar Hero Two game my colleagues bought me and think to myself that I’m doing alright and I wouldn’t swap with anyone in the world. Well, apart from them posh kids.

This article originally appeared here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bradford/content/articles/2006/12/21/tim_hoang_blog_04_feature.shtml

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