An ugly saga of burning ambition and bootleg liquor - welcome to the BOFH's Christmas past...

Year 1998 - Episode 1


A new year - how quickly time flies. It seems like only yesterday I was at the divisional pre-Christmas bash.

Admittedly I had consumed a couple of glasses of the mulled medicine so popular at that time of year, so my memory of events isn't too clear, but I do remember helping one of our more vocal clients bob for apples in the punch bowl - letting him up for air occasionally - just before that tragic accident with the Christmas tree.

Who could have known the lights were mains voltage, apart from the installer from B-Electrix of course. Still, the burning smell, screaming and impromptu breakdance act that followed the fall of the tree into the punch bowl, just as the boss was serving up another bucket of non-alcoholic refresher, was a good finale to the day and cost substantially less than a real fireworks display.

And to think that things were going to be different for Christmas 1997. The directive had come from on-high that anyone caught with alcohol on the premises was up for a quick stroll down unemployment avenue, courtesy of personnel.

Some people just have no sense of humour, I remember musing as I stashed a couple of half-empty spirits bottles in the bottom drawer of a particularly annoying user's desk. Unfortunately duty called, and I was unable to be there 10 minutes later when security acted on their anonymous phone tip-off about sly boozing on work time. Still, you can't have everything can you?

The PFY and I, true to 'Secure' Christmas protocol, had our booze safely stashed in Mission Control inside a set of what to outward appearances appeared to be run-of-the-mill fire extinguishers - a supply of which I keep on hand for special occasions.

Its amazing what money can buy. And if not money, certainly a couple of photos of an occupational safety consultant in full drag ensemble on stage at a progressive (and supposedly private) London club.

Sadly, after the tree incident, I have to defer to the PFY's reminiscences as I'd had an extinguisher-full and my memory was as clear as the terms of a typical software licence agreement.

Apparently, events unfolded in the following order:

At 4.15pm I helped the PFY make a replacement non-alcoholic punch - after bringing a couple of extinguishers down from the office to replace the ones used to put the boss out.

At approximately 5pm the party was starting to get into full swing with people appreciating the 'non-alcoholic' punch so much that I had to go get another couple of extinguishers to protect the PFY from spontaneous orange juice combustion while he mixed another batch up.

At approximately 6.17pm (from CCTV timestamps) I mounted a table and launched into the old party favourite 'The boss is so dumb'.

"How dumb is he?" the well-oiled crowd demanded.

"He's so dumb he can't even spell IT."

"He's so dumb he broke his toe rebooting his desktop."

"He thought preventative maintenance meant locking the engineer out."

"He has to study for a urine test. He's also lazy."

"How lazy is he?"

"He just finished his autobiography - Around the Cafeteria in 80 Days."

By 8.30pm the party was going downhill (or uphill, depending on your perspective) fast - the mixers had run out and the punch was pretty much a combination of gin and cleaning alcohol. The PFY was demonstrating to anyone interested how to secure a Windows NT machine, using only a hammer and the boss's new laptop.

The end came at around 10.45pm, as it usually does, with the arrival of the boss back from the casualty department.

Already fuming from his facial burns, his temper wasn't improved any when he heard party music coming from every security guard's walkie-talkie, courtesy of Radio IT and its drunken DJs.

Not recognising him at first because of the bandages, the PFY apparently tried to sign him up for the spitting competition - nearest to the boss's coffee mug wins, bonus prize for getting it in.

"Right!" the boss cried, upsetting the punch bowl as he barged over to the turntables to cut the lights and music. "That's bloody it, turn that bloody music off."

In retrospect, I'm sure the boss would have thought twice about walking past the candles on the Christmas cake with punch-soaked trousers but there you go. Even my patchy memory can recall the boss bouncing around in terror, pants on fire.

If only they hadn't used the nearest extinguisher I'm sure things would have ended differently. Still, two fireworks displays are better than one, and the troops really did enjoy taking turns on the fire hose - an unexpected Christmas bonus, so to speak.