Dave and Sarah Peterson sat in their Christmas-decked living room of their Christmas-decked manor, waiting for their Zoom meeting to start. The room was eerily silent, in fact the whole manor was, as Will and Eleanor were asleep in their respective rooms, and Dave and Sarah were too transfixed on the laptop screen to talk to each other.
Dave was wearing a bespoke made sharp suit, and Sarah was wearing a sparkly black dress, each had a glass of speciality red wine, provided by Lower Strangling’s resident wine merchant Paul Stiller. Clearly this wasn’t a normal Zoom meeting.
Indeed it wasn’t. Usually at this time of year, the employees of technology company Banana and their spouses would have congregated on the top floor of Banana’s central London skyscraper, overlooking the city lights below whilst eating too much food and drinking too much wine. But this year, due to obvious circumstances, the employees and their spouses were instead drinking too much wine and eating too much food in their houses, talking to each other over Zoom.
Sarah stared at the screen for a moment, and then at the multi coloured lights spiralling up the 10ft high Norwegian Spruce in front of her, adorned with high quality Christmas decorations bought on a whim at Fortnum’s.
“I don’t know why you couldn’t have had the party in London,” Sarah finally said after a while, “I’m sure we could comfortably socially distance in your skyscraper.”
Dave sipped his wine before replying, “we thought it was fairer to do it like this, given our personal circumstances. The ones in London are currently in tier 2, soon to be tier 3, we of course are in tier 3, potentially soon to be tier 2, and Noah’s in tier 1.”
“Lucky bugger,” Sarah responded.
“Yeah, you’re telling me,” Dave answered before taking another sip of his wine.
Dave and Sarah sighed for a moment, then went back to staring at the laptop screen.
“I suppose the good thing about doing this is that we don’t need Simon to babysit the kids this year1,” Dave told his wife.
“Yeah, I guess there’s that,” Sarah replied, before shuddering.
Suddenly, the laptop screen burst to life, and Dave’s other colleagues and their spouses appeared. They greeted each other.
“Whey-hey! Davvy boy! How are ya?” Liam said to Dave.
“I’m good thanks,” Dave replied.
“And Sarah, looking particularly gorgeous tonight,” Liam said to Sarah.
“Well, I tried my best,” Sarah replied politely, before awkwardly sipping her red wine.
Leia, Liam’s wife, gave Sarah a sympathetic look.
Once everyone had greeted each other, Noah Campbell, the CEO of Banana, decided to officially kick things off.
“Well, everyone,” he announced, “it’s that time of year again.”
The other people on the meeting cheered as they would have done had they been in the same room.
“Although, we can’t be together this year, and therefore are unable to do Secret Santa this year,” Noah continued, the others trying to feign disappointment at not being able to do Secret Santa so as not to hurt Noah’s feelings despite being relived they they weren’t going to receive bits of random plastic tat from Poundland that they didn’t need and weren’t going to use, “I’m sure we can still have fun.”
The others cheered again, mainly because they felt they had too rather than because they wanted to.
“Why couldn’t we do at yours?” Liam asked Noah, noticing the large Palladian hall that Noah was clearly sitting in, “you have plenty of space, and a gorgeous location near the coast.”
The others agreed in unison with Liam.
“You know why we can’t do that, people from higher tiers cannot travel down to places in lower tiers, and you’re all in higher tiers to me,” Noah said, trying but failing to not sound smug. He sipped his wine.
“Yes, but why haven’t we done it before, when we weren’t in the midst of a global pandemic?” Liam asked, the others once again agreeing with him.
Noah sat in silence for a moment, staring blankly at the screen. “Noah, you alright mate?” Liam asked his boss.
A bit later, Noah finally answered.
“I’ve decided not to have party’s here, not after….” Noah trailed off, remembering to fateful party he held in the mid 90’s for Fred Berenstain. He did not complete his sentence, but everyone knew what he was about to say.
“But that was almost 30 years ago, mate. Fred’s dead, that stuff’s over now. You can have parties again,” Liam suggested.
“Hmm”, said Noah, followed by a long pause.
“Well, without further a due, let the fun begin.” Noah proclaimed quickly changing the subject. The others cheered once more, because Noah had finally stopped talking. But then Giles Richardson put his hand up. The others sighed, and Giles was in no doubt going to kill the mood.
“What it is, Giles?” Noah asked, failing slightly to hide his annoyance.
“I know we’re not supposed to discuss work matters at this party,” Giles began, “but I have an excellent idea for our next product. Something that will benefit us as much as it will benefit the general public, perhaps even more so.”
“He’s worked very hard on this for the past week during his spare time,” said Sally, Giles’ ever supportive and long suffering wife.
“Ok, Giles, what is this great idea of yours?” Noah asked.
“Well, I believe we should develop a vaccine,” Giles replied. Giles’ colleagues sighed exasperated sighs.
“You about ten months late for that, mate,” Liam said.
“No, I don’t mean a COVID vaccine, I mean a vaccine for the next global pandemic/national epidemic,” Giles said indignantly.
“Good to know you’re prepared,” Noah replied.
“Now then, I think it’s time for-” Noah began before being interrupted by Giles.
“That’s not all, inside the vaccine will be a miniscule microchip,” Giles continued.
“You mean like the one people believe Bill Gates put in the COVID vaccines?” Noah asked.
“Yes,” Giles answered.
“What would we do with the microchip?” Dave asked.
“Well, we’d have access to software which will allow us to control a vaccinated person of our choosing…. and make them buy our groceries.”
The other people on the zoom looked at him in silence.
“Well, I suppose it is a bother having to go to Truro to do my grocery shopping I suppose,” Noah responded.
“Exactly, so you can control someone in Truro to do your shopping for you. They’ll then deliver the groceries to your address and go home. They won’t know a thing that happened.”
The other participants of the Zoom meeting stared at Giles in disbelief.
“You could just shop online mate,” Liam added.
This was followed by another awkward silence.
“I’ll put that in the maybe pile,” Noah said, before continuing what was supposed to be Banana’s Christmas party.
“Now then, I think it’s time to get the ball rolling with-”
“Actually mate,” Liam interrupted “since we’re talking about new business ventures, I wanted to share with you something I’ve been working on.”
“Please don’t do this now, babe”, Leila tried to persuade her husband, “this is meant to be a Christmas party.”
“I’ll be done in a moment, darling, besides, it’s sort of Christmas related,” Liam said to his wife.
“Fine, whatever, like I care anyway,” Leia said.
“Well, Liam, what have you been working on?” Noah asked.
“Well, I got this idea from something I saw on the internet. It’s a bit of a novelty item, something in the same vain as Elf on the Shelf,” Liam continued, “here it is.”
With that, Liam showed the other participants in the Zoom call a small model of Prime Minister Boris Johnson standing on a boat. The others looked at it in confusion.
“Boris Johnson on a boat?” Dave asked.
“Well, yeah. But what boat? Come on. It’s easy,” Liam prompted the others.
“It looks like a punt,” Noah responded before rolling his eyes in disgust.
The others followed suit whilst Liam chuckled hysterically, being the only person in the group to find it funny.
“That is crass even by your standards, Liam,” Noah said.
“Don’t blame me, blame the tweet I saw. I just decided to make it a real thing,” Liam answered.
“Anyway, not everyone believe Boris Johnson is… that, and we need to be a apolitical organisation,” Noah replied.
“We could do one with Sir Kier Starmer on a plane; Knight on a Flight,” suggested Giles, “or maybe we could have him holding a spear; Keir with a Spear.”
“We could do a whole set, I’m sure it would sell quickly”, Liam said.
“Look, Banana sells high quality electronic devices, not some cheap plastic rubbish like this. I know Giles vaccine idea is also similarly pointless but at least it’s in a similar vein to what we do,” Noah proclaimed. “Ok, formal meeting over. Let’s actually start the party,” Noah annouced.
After that, things went just about as you’d expect from a work office party. There was a quiz, including a prize of the exact amount of money Banana lost during the year for the person to guess that amount, there were some songs, including a rendition by Noah of Brotherhood of Man’s Save your Kisses for Me, and there was a Game of Monopoly, which Noah won as he always wins in real life.
Finally, after about two or three hours, the party finally ended and Dave and Sarah’s laptop was once again blank. The Peterson’s sat in their living room for a moment in blissful silence.
“Well, that was… interesting,” Sarah said after a while.
“Sorry about that,” Dave said to his wife, “I didn’t think it would be that much of a shambles.”
“Dave, I’ve been to those Christmas parties for 23 years, I know what to expect,” Sarah reassured her husband.
Dave turned off his laptop and placed it on the table.
“We have to talk to your parents next week,” Dave said abruptly.
“We also need to talk to yours, and Jeff if he’s planning on making one of his rare family appearances,” Sarah reminded Dave.
“Maybe the elusive Steve might magically appear on screen after 33 years of being a non entity,” she suggested
“No, that’s not going to happen,” Dave replied, “We lost contact with Steve completely when he ran off to Australia. I have nothing with which to invite him to a family Zoom meeting. He’s probably forgotten we exist anyway. Unless, of course, you’ve made contact with him?”
“No, no. I was just wondering,” Sarah responded.
Sarah then got up from the sofa and turned of the Christmas lights.
“Right, I think it’s time we went to bed,” she announced.
“Yeah, me too”, Dave responded.
Dave then turned off the lights and the Peterson’s went up to their room, trying to forget the complete and utter shambles that was the Banana Christmas office party… on Zoom.
- Usually, when Dave and Sarah went to London overnight, Simon went into the Peterson’s manor to look after Will and Eleanor. Being a Vicar, Simon liked to lull them to sleep by reading from the KJV Bible. His go to passages were in Genesis, the gospels, and Revelation. Sometimes he read them the entire bible all the way through, carefully skipping over the passages he felt they were too young to know about yet. Usually the children fell asleep before he got to Isiah, but it he continued to read it aloud anyway, just for kicks.