For the first time in forever, I had a Xmas party to attend, namely with the organisation I volunteer for; MARINElife. However, as their main base of operations is in Bridport, that was where the party was organised (in a hotel on the coast of Eype), and as I’m based near Caernarfon, that meant a long train journey, plus some hotel juggling, in order for me to be able to attend. That was no issue, albeit rather expensive, but then, for the first time in around seven years, it S.N.O.W.E.D! Literally the day I begin to make my way down south it starts, and I’m there, waiting on Bangor station, watching as the big flakes head on down to the ground. Marvelous!
Still, I carried on regardless, and headed on down to Exeter for my first stop-over. Shropshire is when things got a little dicey, and I sat on the train worrying that I was about to get stranded in the middle of nowhere…
…only to see green fields again 10 minutes out of Shrewsbury. Phew!
I made it safely to Exeter, and spent the night in an overpriced Premier Inn room (I had to pay double as they were short of rooms and I was put up in a disabled room), battling with their joke of an internet connection. Seriously, what company in their right mind toggles their wifi speed to 500K and forces you to pay out for a 2MB connection? Not only that, but the connection kept repeatedly cutting out on my laptop, forcing me to do a hard restart every 5-10 minutes in order to reconnect (cause Windows 10 is damned if I’m going to be able to toggle a switch to reconnect like I can with my android phone and tablet).
One frustrating, and very cold night later, I was off to Bridport, courtesy of an early National Express coach. There I got picked up by one of the MARINElife lot, who dropped me off at the hotel so I could get ready for the night’s festivities.
Fast forward to the evening, and I have a major problem. I work for MARINElife through the medium of the internet, I communicate with them by email, and so I was waiting for a group of people amongst whom I only knew the face of one; the Chairman (I’d pretty much forgotten what my pickup looked like by this point). The problem was compounded by the fact that the hotel was hosting a second company’s party night, so there was no way for me to know who belonged to which group. So there I was, sat on my own, nursing my apple juice, and starting to have anxiety-filled introvert regrets.
However, turns out this ignorance worked both ways. My pick up, who had briefly seen me bundled up in coat and bobble hat, didn’t recognise me sat in the corner, all scrubbed-up in my party gear. Subsequently, she, and the chairman (who had arrived at some point, but had managed to avoid the bar where I was), went up to my room to be met with silence. They hammered on the door to no avail, and even went as far as getting an emergency key to gain entry to check I wasn’t dead. Why it never occurred to them to text me I’ll never know. Anyway, the Chairman finally made his way into my line of sight, but it wasn’t until I stood in front of him and announced myself, did anyone twig to who I was.
Confusion done, the party finally got underway. I got to meet a few of the main volunteers, plus our organisation’s patron, Maya Plass who, funnily enough, did the same course at Plymouth uni as me, just a few years behind me.
As the only vegan in the group, I got my own set menu, which varied in quality. The starter of roast almond and broccoli soup was rather nice, and the main course of roasted nuts in tomato sauce on a roasted courgette was odd but tasty. However, the chef clearly lost inspiration when it came to my dessert, which was ‘fresh fruit salad’, i.e. a bowl of chopped fruit. It wasn’t even dressed up with a scoop of vegan ice cream, or a drizzle of vegan cream, but as I was hungry, I ate the lot, and it’s remarkable how filling plain fruit can be.
These days I don’t drink (other than a toast on New Year’s Eve), so socialising as a sober, painfully shy introvert is hard going. I did a lot of listening, which was difficult as all the noise and words meld together into a barely penetrable wall of sound. I didn’t dance. A few years back I would have (I used to love going to clubs and dancing to trance and dance music), but the years have chipped away at my confidence, and the dance floor now looks a scary place to be. Not that it mattered too much, as the disco music was pretty much all 70’s stuff, and not my kind of jam. I did relent to peer-pressure at one point and managed half a song on the dance floor last thing, before eventually calling it a night just before 1am, with an early morning ride with a soon-to-be very hungover Maya to look forward to.
And all the while, it’s snowing in the Midlands and South Wales….