Last Thursday saw the Only Connect Christmas extravaganza, suitably located at the awe-inspiring (and slightly trepidation-inducing) Living Room on Millennium Square.
Before I start, I feel I need to lay my cards on the table and declare that the very thought of this kind of thing is enough to send me into premature rigor mortis. From fear, you understand, not from boredom. The very idea of walking into a room full of 500 suited and booted folk who are all on a mission to talk to you if they think it will help their business – and the concept that I should be doing likewise…. well. As a quiet (-ish) and naturally crowd-shy writerly type, you can see the concern. But, as we shall see, it was great fun.
There was a red carpet entrance, and what a red carpet it was. Not a fleck of mud or frayed seam in sight. Numerous dashing military-looking men in uniform were there to inspect tickets and usher us in, while an even larger posse of impossibly high (I mean well-) heeled ladies in varying shades of bling were on meet, greet and Prosecco duty in the lobby.
And the snow! One of the loveliest touches was the light sprinkling of artificial snow, which was truly glamorous, even though it turned into something resembling car-wash froth as it melted on rapidly warming shoes.
Once safely inside, feeling my courage returning in direct proportion to the level of Prosecco in my glass, I had a moment to ponder how lucky I was to be in the company of friends from Bizi. I really, honestly, would have turned tail and fled as I surveyed the throngs from the vantage point of the balcony. But there was no time for that, and within a minute or so of descending the grand staircase with Claire, whom I had travelled down with while catching up on holiday plans, Graham was there offering a round of mojitos. Life saver! (Note to Graham: you are a darned sight too generous, but it was very much appreciated.)
After an enjoyable hour or so catching up with the Bizi crew – as pictured, looking more merry by the minute – the real business of the evening became apparent. As the volume rose, so did the crush for the bar and the ensuing propensity for 6 ft 6 rugby-playing alpha male types to actually make it to the bar and splash their money around. (Don’t think I’m not grateful. I was just a little wobbly on my feet by this stage).
And the networking. I nearly forgot! With such a large gathering, it is of course impossible to think about who you might plan to meet, and then find them – but the Bristol business community is quite inter-connected, so most people found they happily caught up with colleagues old and new, and were introduced to a few more.
Then there were the pushy ones: “Hey, I recognise you. Tell me why I should be interested in what you do. Oh, I’m really good, by the way. I…. I…. I…” (extensive overuse of the personal pronoun, until I could take no more and drifted away).
And the ladies on the prowl – outrageously sophisticated, with legs up to their armpits, and war-painted to the hilt. At one point I was chatting with a (male, perfectly pleasant, middle aged) business owner when one of said glamour girls sidled up and asked – yes, she really did – “How long have you known each other then, I mean are you together?”. Cue blank looks all round, at which point I was unobtrusively elbowed out of the way while she steered her new catch to the bar. At which point, I promptly tripped over my fourth mojito of the night, and staggered over to find my friends.
On rejoining them, I was fascinated to learn that someone thought our Kath (Kath!) was a dominatrix (well, I know she prides herself on being bossy, but really!), and that Graham had bet Faith £2 she wouldn’t shimmy up the ladder lying against the wine-rack-wall and pinch a nice bottle of red. Someone Zoe knew tried to kid us that Vivienne Westwood (in an outrageous milliner’s confection) was acting as co-host, but were we fooled? Ha!
I think that’s about all I remember. Apart from the donuts, which rapidly followed the canapés, with less sophistication but far greater stomach-lining capacity. I grabbed one as I left, mid-way through the raffle announcements and before the DJ – sorry! – and had to watch in bemusement as the chocolate filling oozed out and dripped all over my shoes. Oh well, they were covered in fake snow anyway…
Only Connect star rating (this is not a professional survey and should not be taken too seriously):
Anecdotal worth: *****
Amusement to be had: ****