The Parkway Hotel was just a mile away from where I lived, in fact on a clear night you could easily see the lights of The Parkway across the fields from our house, The Parkway was one of only a few hotels around here that was big enough to hire out a room for a christmas function for a couple of hundred electricians, plasterers, decorators and sundry other building trades employees and office staff – such was the setup at my workplace.
Being across the fields was a tad inconvenient as I’d be dressed up a-swell in a suit and sheepskin coat (very fashionable in the 1970’s, stop laughing), and didn’t fancy tramping all over Freds Farm to get there, so a completely indirect route was required which took me two miles out of my way on a bus to the ring road and then another bus ride back up Otley Road to reach the hotel, a bit of a pain in the arse but it saved my dancing shoes from death by cow shit.
And then at the last minute one of the site supervisors offered me a lift from the ring road to the hotel, all I had to do was wait for him where my first bus had left me and he’d pick me up from there, so I accepted his kind offer.
And thats where the Guardian Angel of Arseing Things Up stepped in for a bit of fun with my evening arrangements.
I stood at the intended pickup spot for half an hour before deciding that my lift wasn’t going to appear and so cursing at the bas’tad I set off walking in the rain (sheepskin coat in the rain, not a good combination) on the two mile hike to The Parkway in my dancing shoes.
After what seemed like all night I eventually reached the halfway spot, a different pub who’s lights and music and beer beckoned me, I checked my watch and realised that in The Parkway they’d all be sitting down now for their slap-up festive meal, I’d missed the start of the “do” so one little beer wouldn’t go amiss and the rain was turning to sleet now so what the hell…
The Guardian Angel of Arseing Things Up made me stay in the pub for three pints, after all, I’d missed the soup course so why bother with the turkey and trimmings, and if you’ve missed the turkey and trimmings why would you want to walk in, soaking wet, while they are all tucking into their christmas pud, no, I was better off staying in the pub for a bit longer and I’d walk the rest of the way to The Parkway ready for the disco dancing afterwards with Maureen, the married secretary with the big baps.
Eventually, after trudging through the now steadily falling snow, I reached The Parkway where the sounds of merriment could be heard from the function room at the front of the large hotel, I entered and checked in my now rather sodden and heavy sheepskin coat at the reception desk where three porters carried it with the aid of a winch and trolley to an industrial weight hanger – I pity sheep who have to stand outside in the cold and rain all of their lives as their coats must weigh a ton by the time they fall off their sheep perches.
Entering the function room I looked around the dozens of occupied tables for a face that I recognised, from the back of the room there was no-one that looked friendly and so the Guardian Angel of Arseing Things Up told me to take a seat at the bar at the back of the room whilst these nice people finished their Christmas pudding course.
I ordered a beer and sat and watched them making merry over the pudding course, and then another beer while they all had coffee and mints, and then another beer with a whisky chaser while someone I did not recognise as being a boss from our office stood up and gave a speech thanking everyone for coming, finishing with the hope that they would all return to work refreshed after the Christmas break to sell lots more insurance and make 1976 a big year for the Leeds Amalgamated Insurers Corporation – or similar.
I missed the reference completely and sat at the bar enjoying my whisky chaser still scanning the room for a face that I could recognise, until the Guardian Angel of Fekking Up Christmas Parties reached over and tapped me on the shoulder to ask if I’d heard the bit about the Leeds Amalgamated Insurers Corporation – or similar – and I realised, I was in the wrong function suite, the Guardian Angel thought it was all hilarious fun.
I sidled out of the room and checked out my still dripping sheepskin coat from reception, asking if they had another, similar function suite that might be occupied tonight by burly building contractors rather than insurance salesmen, indeed they did, around the back of the hotel.
Once again I made my entrance into a function suite where a room full of people were just starting to tuck into their Christmas pudding course, I checked in my bedraggled sheepskin coat again and took up a seat at the bar, a beer and whisky chaser once more comforting me as I watched two hundred merry, drunken builders enjoy a night of free festive cheer while I missed out on anything to eat.
But not for long – Maureen the secretary with the unfeasibly large gazongas saw me from across the room and stood up in a party dress that barely covered any flesh at all – all of the male eyes turning to her immediately to see if the unfeasibly large gazongas could finally free themselves from the flimsy satin fabric, and they were making a damn good job of trying – “choo-ooo” she called across the crowded room to me “choo-ooo, we”re here” and then she sat down rather quickly with a drunken hiccup, pulled down to her seat actually by her rather large and muscular husband, a man with a permanent grin on his face like the cat who’s discovered the cream larder, as indeed he had with Maureens baps.
I joined them at their table in time for coffee and mints and recounted my story of the bas’tad who hadn’t picked me up as arranged, my long walk all night long to find the meal already enjoined (I missed out the bit about stopping in a pub on the way for an hour or two to elicit sympathy from Maureen and her heaving busom), and when I told them that I’d sat in the function room at the front of the hotel for the last half hour when actually there had been plenty of time to join them for their main course I nearly had Maureen in tears, it certainly had the Guardian Angel in tears, of laughter.
But he hadn’t finished with me yet.
Such was the sympathy that my story elicited that Maureens muscular and grinning husband ordered a waiter to go to the kitchen and bring me a plate of food, basically I was going to eat everyone’s leftovers but it was a nice thought anyway and as the tables were removed from the room, the lights turned down and the disco dancing commenced, I noticed across the room the same waiter emerge from the kitchen with a large silver salver of cold meat and assorted other foodstuffs, for my consumption – and I was bloody starving by now.
The food never made it all the way across the room to me.
Two hundred drunken builders made sure that it never had a chance of making it across the room, by the time the waiter arrived across the room the food had all been snaffled from the tray, he shrugged his shoulders, turned on his heel and disappeared for the rest of the night.
So while I never got a bite to eat that night I did get to trip the light fandango with Maureen and her unfeasibly large baps which seemed to have a life of their own when viewed through beer sodden eyes and as word of my missed Christmas meal spread among the assorted electricians, plasterers and plumbers I found myself receiving many random pints of beer donated by sympathetic tradesmen who waved from across the room until finally at some unearthly hour of the following day it was time to leave.
Beer does strange things to your brain and logic is often the first thing to take a hike, as I stood outside The Parkway Hotel in my huge and very damp sheepskin coat I was offered the shared use of many peoples taxi’s but I waved them all away with a cheery “No, I can see our house from here” as indeed I could notwithstanding the distance of at least a mile of farmers fields between our house and The Parkway, I determined to walk home across the fields rather than waste a small fortune on taxi fares, this decision was not unusual in my youth-hood for I had, and still have, an aversion to paying for taxi’s, I simply cannot tell you how many times and how many miles I have walked home rather than pay an exorbitant fee to a bloke in a Hillman Hunter with a perspex sign on his car roof.
I don’t know how long it took me to walk across those fields or how many times I fell over, trod in cow muck and fell in ditches, I do recall having to walk all the way around one field as in the pitch dark I couldn’t find a gate to get out of it, eventually crawling through a hawthorn hedge (which did my sheepskin coat no good at all) and then heading off in completely the wrong direction – it was a long time lets put it like that, probably two hours or more, to walk one mile, yes I was very, very drunk and when I got home I was very, very muddy, filthy in fact, and smelly with it too.
Fortunately my dear father had deemed to leave the house key under the brick on the doorstep where he always left it, burglars in the 1970s didn’t have the wit to wonder why on earth someone would have a random brick on their doorstep, and so I was able to let myself in the house and leave my once trendy Chelsea Boots now caked in cow dung, my ridiculous checked flared trousers now caked in cow dung, and the sheepskin coat with half a hawthorn hedge stuck to it, all piled up on the hallway floor for my mother to pick up and set about cleaning the next day.