I’ll Have a P, Please, Blog

Last week, I went to a pub quiz.

Now, much as I love a good pub quiz, I should explain that this particular event was a ‘networking’ quiz, organised by a bunch of lawyers, for a bunch of lawyers. And, if there is one thing guaranteed to suck the fun out of a social occasion, it’s populating it with members of the legal profession (as a solicitor myself, I readily accept that we are generally a humourless bunch, but hope I am one of the exceptions to the rule).

Normally, I wouldn’t think twice about attending a pub quiz, but when you add in the words ‘legal’ and ‘networking’, it does rather spoil my anticipated enjoyment. It would be like inviting me to a football match….. at Old Trafford, or a sexy strip show…. at a retirement home.

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Anyway, I weighed up the pro and cons, and ultimately agreed to attend, because if nothing else it was an excuse for a child-free night out, and the mention of a free bar and buffet was enough to persuade me.

Sadly, due to the fact we arrived at the venue with barely minutes to spare, the ‘free bar’ had been depleted to just a few bottles of Budweiser – which, if I was to rank the beers of the world in order, would feature somewhere near the very bottom – together with some nasty looking white wine (in fairness, it may have been a very nice expensive white wine, as I am by no means a connoisseur, but given the beer choice on offer, I’ll wager it was cheap shit). Still, it was free, so I tried to hide my disappointment and took a bottle of Budweiser while I still could.

Sure enough, as we located our table in the gloomy surroundings and sat down with our teammates for the evening, an announcement was made that the free bar had run dry before the quiz had even started. Awesome.

In the organiser’s defence, clearly some teams had arrived early and, for want of a better phrase, taken the piss (which, bearing in mind they had grabbed armfuls of Budweiser, is literally what they had done), and they did replenish the stocks about half an hour later, but they did so with more Budweiser, so it was a relatively empty gesture. I know this makes me sound ungrateful, but there are far better beers out there for an equivalent or lower cost.

My spirits (oh, how I wished there had been spirits) were raised somewhat, when I realised this was a proper pub quiz, with not only a picture sheet (and a ‘clever’ link between the answers), but rounds on film, sport and music – which allayed my initial fears that, with this being a ‘networking quiz for lawyers’, the organisers might think it fun to include legal questions. And that really would have sapped any remaining joy out of the occasion.

The first round was actually entitled ‘2018’ and, as the name suggests, it was based on the events of last year. It seemed to go relatively well, too, until it came to swapping our answer sheet with the team behind us for marking, when it quickly became apparent that they were, to put it mildly, pedantic fuckwits, who would stop at nothing to win.

For example, the very first question was (paraphrasing) “Which company got Facebook into trouble last year, by stealing everyone’s personal information?” Now, you may or may not know / recall the answer, but the company in question is called Cambridge Analytica, however our team (and I take responsibility here, as I was in charge of writing) mistakenly put Cambridge Analytical.

Now, had I been marking that answer, I would have allowed the slight error to go unnoticed; but unfortunately for us the group behind (who resembled a University Challenge team on a stag do) not only marked our answer as incorrect, but chose to query it in front of everyone.

“Erm, excuse me, but the team behind us have put Cambridge Analytical, so am I right in saying that’s incorrect and we shouldn’t give them a mark?”

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Fuck off, Hugo.

He even scoffed when announcing this, and I so desperately wanted to insert a Budweiser bottle into his rectum (big end first) in retaliation.

It’s not that I am necessarily competitive (much), and so long as our team avoided the humiliation of finishing last in the quiz I was happy enough; but I can also be a petty bastard at times, particularly if someone behaves like a cock, so I made a mental note to return the gesture should Tarquin and his chinless colleagues require any discretion with their own answers later in the quiz. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait very long.

Round Two was ‘Film’, and one of the questions was “Which musical is based on a Charles Dickens novel?” Now, the answer to that is Oliver! (and I made a point of adding the exclamation mark on our answer sheet especially, in case Team Trust Fund were going to insist on its inclusion for the full mark), but to my delight when we swapped sheets again, they had put ‘Oliver Twist’.

Oh no, my friend, that’s the book you’re thinking of, whereas the musical is just called Oliver!, so you’ll be receiving a massive cross next to that particular answer, you bell-end. Ha-fucking-ha.

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The best part was, when we swapped sheets back after all the answers had been announced, he actually made a point of checking my marking, and then tapped me on the shoulder.

‘Erm, excuse me,’ he said smugly, ‘but you appear to have marked our answer for question 8 as wrong, when we actually got it right.’

‘Erm, actually,’ I replied, making his smugness seem almost subtle in comparison, ‘I think you’ll find the answer was Oliver! WITH AN EXCLAMATION MARK, not Oliver Twist, which is the Dickens novel. It’s a common misconception…. among idiots.’

‘Well, it’s only one word different.’

‘Indeed, but in the last round you might recall that you marked us down for having one letter wrong, so you can kiss my ass, douchebag.’

Of course, as I have said before, I loathe all forms of confrontation, so what I actually responded with was:

‘Fine, whatever, give yourself an extra point.’

I couldn’t be bothered with the argument, to be honest (although I did mutter douchebag under my breath, which I felt was a moral victory at the time).

The remainder of the quiz was thankfully rather more amicable (thanks in no small part to the fact we swapped the rest of our answer sheets with the team to our right instead, who proved to be rather less competitive – and infinitely less anal – about the whole thing, and even at one point traded some answers with us), although I did briefly lose my shit over a James Bond question which the organisers had clearly got wrong (it’s my specialist subject, and Never Say Never Again is NOT an official Bond film).

Anyway, my fears of finishing last were unfounded, as our team ranked a respectable seventh out of twenty-five; and, even better, the pig molesters behind us didn’t win. It turns out, it doesn’t matter how much Daddy paid for your education, and how pedantic you are in stealing points, if your knowledge is ultimately inferior, chaps.

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That’s nearly it for this week’s entry, but before I draw matters to a close, I would like to leave you with one final anecdote from that evening.

Due to the fact the beer on offer at the quiz night had been mediocre at best (even once we had abandoned the free Budweiser, the alternative beers at the bar weren’t much better), we decided to dash back to Poynton for last orders at the local Wetherspoons. Fortunately, having raced through the door at 11.02pm, it transpired that they were serving until midnight, so we had plenty of time to fuel our hangovers for the next day.

At one point, shortly before we called it a night, I needed the loo, and if there is one thing I apparently specialise in (other than quiz questions on James Bond), it is dodgy encounters with other men in toilets (wait, I had better rephrase that….).

As I entered the gents (which, after the last sentence, should also perhaps be re-phrased), I noticed two younger men in there standing by the mirror admiring themselves, and upon seeing me one turned to the other and said ‘you should ask him’, motioning in my direction.

Agreeing, the first chap turned to face me, and asked ‘do you think I look fat?’

‘Eh?’

‘Do you think I look fat?’

‘Erm, no?’

‘Oh. Well, that’s not very nice.’

‘What? You want to look fat?’

‘No! I said, ‘do I look fly’?!’

‘Fly?’

‘Yeah. You know, like Pretty Fly for a White Guy?’

‘Oh. Right. In that case, erm, yes?’

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In truth, he didn’t look very fly at all, he looked like an early-twenties Millennial in skinny-fit jeans, who clearly wasn’t used to drinking lots; but I wanted to appease him to avoid any further toilet confrontation, and because I was in desperate need of a pee by this point (which I was rather keen to do in peace).

It seemed to work, too, because not only did his face immediately break into a wide grin, he exclaimed that we were now friends (awesome, I love making new friends in the gents), and he insisted that we ‘fist bump’ (which I prayed was the cool/lame handshake definition of the phrase, and not some weird sex-thing that Millennials are up to in public toilets these days).

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Turns out, it was the handshake-type gesture I expected (which was just as awkward, but infinitely less painful, I suspect), and he was thankfully on his way.

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Thanks for reading x

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Every Blog Has Its Day

This week’s entry is being hurriedly typed the day before, because I feel the need to tell you about the legal conference I attended on Wednesday.

I know what you are thinking, and, yes, finding the humour in a legal conference, is about as likely as finding an immigrant at the UKIP Christmas Party; but I found it, and I want to share it with you. Besides, I had bugger all else to write about this week.

I only found out that I would be accompanying my boss to the annual *firm name removed* Conference that morning, by which time I could not make any alternative arrangements for getting there and back – I had no choice but to drive into Manchester.

This wouldn’t normally bother me, but I knew there was a drinks reception and meal later in the evening, and if there is one thing you need to survive a stuffy legal conference, filled with sinfully boring lawyers (I feel justified in making this generalisation, for I am one), it is the numbing properties of alcohol. If you can imagine undergoing root canal surgery without anaesthetic, then attending a legal conference without booze is very much the same: it is always preferable to be completely numb (and, if possible, unconscious).

As I parked up outside the rather lavish hotel, desperately trying to avoid hitting the very expensive-looking Bentley and Audi on either side of my filthy went-to-Norfolk-at-the-weekend-and-the-kids-destroyed-it VW, I decided this was not going to be a fun day.

Having signed in, I attached my hastily-prepared name badge (they had to re-write it, when I explained that my surname is not, in actual fact, ‘whore’), and was then told of all the excitement the organisers had planned, starting with the opportunity to ‘network’ (verb: to walk around talking to boring people you don’t like, whilst trying to sound interested).

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Better still (sarcasm), each time you visited one of the twenty or so businesses dotted around the room – and, by way of illustration, the most interesting (by some margin) was the company selling photocopiers and office furniture – you got a little stamp in your book. Then, at the end of the day, the person with the most stamps would win a prize. Hooray, we were back at school.

Adopting my very finest fuck this attitude, I did eventually (and reluctantly) go and speak to a few businesses, but only because there is a limit to how much Facebook you can check on your phone before people start to notice, and also because I was drawn to their shiny freebies, like a kleptomaniac magpie.

I collected a power pack and plug-in fan for my phone (for those times when you need to make an important call, but find yourself both low on battery and warm of chin), only to discover that the various ‘universal’ connectors didn’t apply to my particular Samsung.  Silly me for having only the second largest selling phone on the planet. Ah well, it was probably for the best, as the fan would have lacerated my face at some point anyway.

Despite succumbing to their enforced business socialising, I did however manage an uncharacteristic act of defiance, by refusing to secure a single stamp in my little book (only to rue my rebellion later on, when I discovered the prize for collecting the most stamps was £100 of Amazon vouchers).

As an additional dollop of salt, into the fresh wound that was my increasingly disappointing day, I then discovered that the Manchester United squad (plus Jose Mourinho) were apparently having a pre-match get together in the next room, and the Bentley I had carefully avoided in the car park, probably belonged to one of them. Opportunity missed.

Having survived the hour-long networking session – which, in my opinion, was 59 minutes longer than necessary, but improved slightly by a buffet lunch that was not only tasty, but which offered the perfect excuse to become temporarily mute – we were then called into the large conference space.

The layout immediately struck me as ‘Wedding reception meets Tory Party Conference’, as there were several white linen tables, encircling a stage adorned with glass podium, pale blue uplighting, and the overwhelming stench of snobbery.

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Once we had taken our seats, and following some rather awkward introductions from the host firm – which involved no fewer than four people, who took it in turns to introduce one another, and then say the same thing, amid short blasts of music between them – it was time for the main event.

Following a brief cacophony of what I believe was Coldplay, the first session involved one lawyer ‘interviewing’ another, in a Parkinson-esque chat show format. This was actually quite entertaining, but only because the interviewer didn’t care what he said – although even I winced at the Fred ‘The Weatherman’ Talbot joke, which alluded to his extra-curricular activities with boys, during his time at Altrincham Grammar School in the 1970’s.

Next, after some deafening R&B, came a Q&A session – which was set up like a ‘Comic Con’ film panel, only without any interesting guests, subject matter, or questions. In fact, all the panel really achieved, was taking it in turns to talk about their own achievements, to try and seem more successful than the speaker before them.

“Everyone says how down to earth I am.”

With me, what you see, is what you get.”

“Yes, well, I made Partner at 27, something which is unheard of at our firm.”

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What made this even more unbearable, was the irritating woman sat next to me (you should never judge a lady by her age or size, so let’s just say she was mildly old, and mildly fat), who kept making inaudible comments under her breath, then chuckling away to herself.

To her right, were a couple from the same firm, and the sexual tension between them was frankly nauseating. Not only that, they had decided it would be appropriate to go to the bar beforehand, and bring cocktails in with them (honestly, he was drinking something with fruit in it, and she had a fucking Mojito). They then proceeded to chat loudly over all of the speakers, to the point everyone began staring.

Just when I thought our table could not get any worse, a *lady* arrived approximately 45 minutes late, made a very loud entrance (in a red dress that was way too short for someone clearly flirting with the menopause), and decided to plonk herself directly opposite me.

No sooner had she dropped her suitcase – yes, suitcase – under the table (by this point, I was certain she was a travelling prostitute), she stood back up, walked to the side of the stage in front of the entire audience, and plugged her phone into a socket to charge it.

Our table was honestly so embarrassing, I started looking for the hidden cameras, to see which prank show I was about to be a part of, and which of the characters around our table would turn out to be Ant and/or Dec in prosthetic make-up.

Shortly after 6pm, the conference was brought to a blessed close (despite an advertised finish of 5.15pm), but I still had the *pleasure* of the drinks reception and three course meal. Normally, I would have attacked the free bar with reckless abandon, to forget the horror of the previous three hours, but a free bar when you have to drive home, is like an all-you-can-eat buffet when your jaw has been wired shut.

Thankfully, after an hour of bonus networking (“I don’t feel I adequately explained how brilliant I am earlier, so I must find new victims to impress…”), we were called back into the conference room for dinner.

Then, when I thought the evening could not possibly get any more excruciating, the organisers had decided it would be *fun* to implement a seating plan and mix everyone up, separating those from the same firms.

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As a result, whilst my boss was on Table 7, I ended up on Table 10, with people I did not know, but felt sure I would instantly dislike.

As it happens, my dinner companions were all a vast improvement on our earlier table (lump was on the other side of the room, the cocktail couple were almost certainly naked somewhere, and red dress had presumably moved on to her evening job), but I was sat with people who all appeared to be in the mood for drinking, while discussing such enthralling topics as ‘so, what does your firm do?’

Fortunately, the lady to my right, who took no time in informing me she was on her first night out following the birth of her daughter three months earlier (at a legal conference – she knew how to party), was pleasantly entertaining. I’ll admit she lost me slightly, when she revealed the rather pretentious name she had given her daughter, but compared to Mr Stuffy (of Stuffy, Dullard & Boring), she was an increasingly drunken source of amusement.

My slightly-improved mood was then promptly ruined again, when the starter arrived. Look, I shouldn’t be ungrateful for a three course meal I hadn’t paid for, but who on earth thinks ‘Smoked Trout Mousse with Cucumber Jelly Cubes’ is appealing? Ok, lawyers can be pompous arseholes at times, but it takes a particularly obscure palate to salivate at what was essentially Fishy Porridge.

The main course, whilst a little cheesy for my own liking, was at least geared to the masses, as was the chocolate dessert, but nothing went down quite as well as the complimentary wine. Since I was obviously not partaking, I grew weary of the evening quite rapidly once the meal was over, and made my excuses to leave.

Even the entertainment of the prize draw (which saw one thoroughly-unimpressed man win a huge teddy bear), and the fact the two ladies hosting the evening had inadvertently worn exactly the same dress (much to their obvious disgust), was not enough to retain my interest, so I headed out to retrieve my runt-of-the-litter VW, from a car park that looked like a particularly extravagent episode of Top Gear.

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As a final insult, I knew United had already kicked off, which meant none of the remaining cars belonged to any players (they don’t strike me as the sort to car share), so I couldn’t even key one of the doors as I left.

And they bloody won.

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