The evening couldn't come soon enough today. I left work at around 16:20 and headed off for a celebratory 'do' with some colleagues, to mark the fact that our Y2K work was more or less at an end. We met in a small homely pub which offered good beer, an open fire, and (best of all) an original 1980 table-top style Miss Pacman. Memories of childhood holidays on the south coast came flooding back, but our nostalgia trip came to an unexpectedly swift end when it was discovered that the coin slot didn't work. Bugger.

It was an odd group of folk who made their way off for a Mexican meal that night - unsurprisingly, I was the youngest of the eight, with another two hovering in the late twenties, and the remaining five somewhere in the 45-65 year old region. Not very accurate data, I admit, but you could cobble together a fairly reasonable histogram of ages...

I believe that you can discover more about colleagues in a few hours socialising than in a few months or years in the office, where people by and large behave in a fairly drone-like nature, giving away little personal information. It's as if there is an unwritten rule against asking somebody their religion, age, sexuality, salary or favourite LP while they're wearing a suit. Whilst this evening wasn't exactly revelatory, it nonetheless allowed a few choice glances into some of my coworker's psyche, and enabled me to view them all as being a little more human.

Prior to the meal, we visited a pub resembling a working man's club, in a fairly gloomy looking area. The only other patron was an archetypal Yorkshireman, flat cap and all, who stared at me as though I were an alien who had just punctured his torso with a chip fork and was about to start eating his pancreas. I proffered a cheery "Evening!", which only seemed to make him more suspicious. Fortunately there was a quiz machine to which we could turn our attentions. It offered four categories - "Mixed Bag", "Euro", "Movies", and "Adult". No prizes for guessing which topic we excelled on...

We were well alcohol-fuelled by the time we entered the restaurant, so it was through beer goggles that we all, young and not-so-young, drooled over the gorgeous waitress. She was most pleasant and helpful, and fully deserved the huge tip we left her (American readers take note - tipping is still by no means de facto in the UK!). In fact the whole meal was great - I'd never had Mexican food before, but I would not hesitate to do so again. The conversation was also good, and reasonably uninhibited, covering such esoteric topics as "Songs about onanism" and "The Waitress's Levi's".

Post-food, we called in at a rather Dickensian pub, complete with gas-fired lighting and obligatory lunatics. Fortunately, there was also a pool table and jukebox. Jukeboxes are strange devices - why do I feel compelled to pay 30p to listen to a favourite song which, at any other time (such as now) I could listen to for free? Regardless, we all did it. One of my colleagues selected several tracks by Talk Talk, whom he declared to be his all-time favourite group. That statement almost frightened me - I have great respect for people able to make such decisions, as my hugely divided band loyalties have never allowed me to do so. Yet another part of me wonders if he wasn't being glib, having failed to think the subject through fully. But regardless, they were an excellent band. I picked "Feed The Tree" by Belly and "In God's Country" by U2, and don't really know why...

And so, that was it, except for the brief return journey, during which someone decided to tell me the amount per annum that my company are paid for my services - I nearly died when I was quoted a figure over four times my gross annual salary. As they say, you'll never get rich working for other people, but then I'm too young and inexperienced to go contracting, and I need the security that full-time employment offers. Still, it makes you think.

Oh, I got another one of these today...

 

From: S----- B-----
Sent: 25 November 1998 1:55 pm
To: Nelson, Ian
Subject: Mock Journal
 
Journal Entry 3 - Wednesday.
 
"I didn't manage to lunch with Ian today. I got back and found everything much as it was when I left. S----- L----- is still alive. Ian exclaims: "I killed S----- with a butter knife", which he hasn't, but maybe he's thinking of how to execute (literally) his plan of action - re-inacting the whole scene in his mind. Yesterday Ian continued to watch a programme on how to become a rock star. I assume that he would like to be some sort of rock idol, but he can't sing or play music and he doesn't look very cool at all. I do often hear him singing in the house, but it's often his rendition of some piece of classical music in a ridiculously high tone. However he does talk to his car on occasions (which he's often likened to a pet), so his madness may pass him off as someone doped to the eyeballs. He's a strange fellow with an unusual 'spring' in his step. You can often spot him in the distance, because he's the only person who's head bob's up-and-down as he walks - strange. Maybe that paranormal spring is what leads him to perform cartwheels on street-corners when drunk. Anyway, tonight Ian is attending a team outing in B-----. No doubt he'll get drunk and maybe smash a beer glass and lunge it into his managers throat (who is also attending). Well, there's no telling with someone as deranged as him. Last night he was thinking of things which I probably haven't done, but he has. Very strange. Maybe he is trying to quantify his life into a mass of meaningful (to him) activities so that he can reminisce upon them when institutionalised into an asylum. And The Madness Of Ian Nelson continues on it swift path to self-destruction. I'm just a bystander, a neutral party. I just watch him fall apart. Who am I to intervene, and stop something taking it's own natural course? I just observe, until the situation reaches it's deadly climax."

You have to wonder who the mad one is...