The party's over, Brad
This year I had taken several steps to avoid any repeats. I would remain sober throughout the proceedings, and I would leave early, feigning migraine, impending bird flu or PMT. The only drawback was that the only date available for our group was the night before we started back to work.
That would keep a check on proceedings. Anyway, we were going back on a Thursday.
It was another one of those Take a Party to a Party events. I had checked that no directorate staff and no HMIs were attending. Norma, one of our former pupils, was now on the desk at the hotel, in between pregnancies, and she let me scan the list of attendees. Insurance companies, garages, banks, double-glazing companies and the local dairy - that should be fine.
The day arrived and, as usual, I really couldn't be bothered. Himself was flat out on the settee, snoring from both ends, comatose after another rugby club "selection meeting" and dreaming of a few pints and a curry with his new fantasy - Charlotte Church.
By the time I entered the hotel foyer, the assembled throng were well refreshed. I quickly scanned the table plan. We were sharing with the dairy. Safe enough.
The MC called us to order and we went in. Our lot were in good spirits, and the language was fairly controlled. The Dairy Gang were good company, and the drivers seemed nice enough. As usual, the office girls were "coorse", especially after a few dozen or so rainbow-coloured cocktails were thrown down their throats. They made me try one and, in fact, I quite liked it. I tried another. Bang went my best-laid plans.
Crash went my head. Wallop went my inhibitions. The room was bouncing as Agadoo and the Birdie Song were followed by the Superman song. What prats we must have looked, but who cared?
I reeled eightsome, I dashed the white sergeant and I stripped the willow.
I made lots of new friends. The dairy girls were a great bunch, improving with every new cocktail I was forced into trying. I never knew I had so many friends on our staff, or indeed in the dairy. I didn't even like milk.
I was feeling no pain. The two milk lorry drivers looked more and more like Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt as the night wore on. They were nice lads. The meal was a blur. What did I have? Who cared?
The conga was a real hoot - as we gyrated outside the hotel, round the car park and into the street. Traffic? What traffic? The bus driver was a sour-faced old so-and-so.The music got louder and louder. The voices grew louder and louder. The staff grew braver and braver with each toast.
The dairy staff seemed to join in, unaware of the personalities we were ridiculing with our series of toasts. "To the biggest Jessie in the world - here's to Teflon John!" shouted Betty. We all stood and raised our glasses.
"To Teflon John!" we echoed in unison. The room was spinning as I staggered to my feet. I saw the faces - just. "To the wettest, wimpiest director in the world." I raised my glass. Everyone stood up and toasted our boss. Thunderous applause from all at the table.
What a night it was. Then the lights went out. Darkness came over all the earth.
Surprisingly, I didn't feel too bad when I woke up. I showered, had breakfast and set off for work. I felt really good. A great bonding session. What a staff.
"Morning, Jim" I called across to the jannie, who seemed not to notice me.
The staff were all in fairly early, and everyone seemed concerned for my health. Why? I looked in the office mirror. I smiled. I looked fine. Eyes clear. Teeth clean. Tongue normal.
"We were all worried about you, Bridget" said a concerned Jennifer. I told them I was perfectly fine, and ready to face the first day back.
Jennifer looked worried. "First day back?" she asked in a voice that betrayed disbelief and embarrassment in equal measure. "Bridget, this is Day Two. We came back to work yesterday. We tried phoning you all day, but there was no answer."
I slumped into the chair. I must have slept for 29 hours. I had lost a whole day from my life.
When I got home, I was surprised to find two bottles of milk on the doorstep. Attached was a card which simply said: "What a night!" It was signed Brad Pitt.
I need a drink.