Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Party Pooper (Part IV)

The final section of my staff Christmas Party report is given below. I'm writing this with brutal honesty as a warning to all other employers. Be very careful when allowing your employees to bring guests. You may wish, after reading my example, to draw up some guidelines with respect to vetting procedures.

Part III is here

Part II is here

Part I is here


Having made up my mind to leave I almost immediately doubled back on my own thoughts and decided to remain crouched under the desk in my studio. This reluctance to move forced me to listen to the sounds of McCavity and his girlfriend having an especially good time. It wasn't a pleasant experience, for neither of them bothered to be discrete or even euphemistic with instructions on what they wanted and how they wanted it. I covered my ears to block out the sound whilst I tried to work out what to do. All thoughts of finishing the Pictionary game had evaporated, along with any idea that this Christmas party was going to help with my rehabilitation into village life.

Try as I might, I couldn't think of an easy way out of my predicament. To disturb the rutting duo would lead to substantial embarrassment. But to retreat back to the main building ran the risk of something far more unedifying - the wrath of Dolores. You see, the camera that I saw turning in my direction had to have been operated manually, because the licence for the software that normally controls the camera expired last week, and Denise hadn't got round to renewing it. Whoever was controlling the camera had seen all. I could only pray it wasn't Dolores.

How much longer I stayed there, my mind swimming with dead-ended attempts at a solution, I do not know. Perhaps it was just a few minutes, perhaps longer. I cursed myself for not being stronger, but at the same time I couldn't but help feeling sorry for myself. It was as if all the unsettling events of the last nine months had come together to haunt me one last time before the year's end, with one final stab at demolishing my self-esteem.

'WHAT ARE YOU TWO DOING?'. The scream pierced my melancholoy like a cross-bow arrow, forcing me into a state of instant alert, heart pounding, mouth dry. It was the unmistakable voice of Dolores, my normally calm and fragrant wife, screaming like a banshee. Her pointed question was followed almost immediately by a reply from McCavity. It was the reply of someone taken completely by surprise whilst up to no good.

'Nothing!', he cried. A blatant lie.

'Get dressed and Get out!' shouted my wife. I couldn't see her from my position under the desk, but I knew she would be standing with her arms folded, legs together, head held high, eyes wide open. I knew this because it is her standard approach to scaring me into doing what she wants.

I didnb't hang around to listen to the rest of the conversation. If Dolores was here, it meant that she wasn't in the main building. I had the opportunity to return and confiscate/destroy the tape. If Dolores had been operating the camera, I would at least be able to deny everything and claim the tape had been stolen by a guest. Or something like that. No time to think clearly now. Must run!

I opened the back door to my studio as quietly as possible before legging it back towards the main building. I don't think I've ever run so fast in my life. The emergency door was still open, and I sprinted inside, only slowing down once I was sure that I was no longer visible to anyone looking outwards. Having forgotten to breathe during my fifty metre dash, I was immediately forced to gulp down air and site down on a pile of boxes to re-cuperate. But the image of Dolores forgmarching Chloe and McCavity back towards the living area was enough to make me forget my lack of fitness and push on through the lactic-acid towards my goal.

I jogged as quickly and silently as possible back through labs1 and 2, keeping low in case I was visible through the windows. Looking through the window in the lab door, I could just make out that the guests were milling around in the living area. They were all wearing coats, and were clearly on the verge of leaving. Ravel was standing by the monitor. I sighed with relief, for it was now likely that he, not Dolores, had been controlling the camera.

I had not a moment to lose. After briefly composing myself and taking several gulps of formaldehyde-tainted air, I stepped out into the living area. Ravel was the first to notice me. He pointed up at the monitor, drawing my attention to the camera image. It showed Chloe struggling to pull on her left boot, whilst McCavity shielded the girl from the piercing stare of my wife. I initially thought I must have been gifted with super-human speed in my dash to the institute, until I saw Chloe topple over and realised that she was probably trying to dress herself under the influence of quite a lot of alchohol.

The vet was the first person to see me. 'Ahh, there you are. We thought you must have fallen down a ditch or something. I was just about to send out a search party.' He motioned to the small crowd of people in their coats to press home the point.

'Aaah, 'I said, my brain racing to find a suitably anodyne response. 'I was, taken, I mean, I thought I heard someone crying, in the next field, but it turned out to be a, a, fox. They sound, er remarkably human sometimes, don't they?'

I could tell from the raised eyebrow of the vet that he wasn't convinced. 'Well, never mind' he said after a slightly awkward pause. 'I think I'll be off anyway. Thank Dolores for the dinner. Bye.' A few seconds later the whole crowd was walking towards the door. They all muttered some form of thanks to Dolores. Most of them were shaking their heads as they left.

I was, in fact, glad to see them go. It meant that I could now deal with Dolores, Chloe and McCavity in private. The trio entered the living area just a minute after the last guest had filed out. Dolores was clearly fuming, whilst the youngsters simply looked drunk and shamefaced.

'Deal with them' said Dolores, arms folded.

'Huh?' I said, feigning ignorance.

Dolores recounted what she had seen happening, right down to the extraction of a test-tube from an intimate area of Chloe's body. Concerned for our extended absences, Dolores had instructed Ravel to use the camera system. We do, in fact, have several cameras dotted around the place to detect intruders. It was Ravel who alerted Dolores to the activities of Chloe and McCavity in the Art studio. 'But he couldn't find you, Joseph.' said Dolores. 'Funny that'

I shrugged and ran through my story about mistaking a fox's bark for the cries of a hapless maiden. It was clear from her stony expression that she didn't believe me, but what could I do under the circumstances (I had to confess the truth in the end to be given permission to write this blog entry. Conjugal rights have been suspended until further notice)?

Chloe and McCavity took their telling off with reasonably good grace. At one point the young lady complained about 'invasion of privacy', but was brought up short by Dolores pointing out that she had been fornicating in a public exhibition area. The argument went no further. McCavity remained silent throughout, presumably aware that, under the terms of his contract, he was strictly still on duty at the time of the indecent act. 'You will be aware', I said solemnly, 'that misuse of test-tubes is a potentially sackable offence?' McCavity nodded solemnly. I continued in the same tone, less anyone present think that I was joking: 'it falls upon me, as director of this Institute, to check the statutes on this matter. Report to me in the morning.'

With this order ringing in his ears, McCavity was allowed to take his girlfriend back to his flat, where I have no doubt they continued where they left - minus the test tube. Their leaving marked the end of the Christmas party. Ravel and Denise helped clear up the detritus, and I was told to go and do 'something in the office' by Dolores. I used my time in solitary confinement to check the statutes, just in case. After all, I could hardly be seen to make empty threats against a staff member, could I? There was no mention of test-tubes, which, to be honest, I wasn't surprised about. So McCavity got the girl and kept his job.

Lucky sod.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Party Pooper (Part III)

Here is the third section of my report on the staff Christmas party at the Cumbernauld Institute of Parasitology. Please do not judge me harshly. I deal only in facts.

Part I is here

Part II is here


I waited on the periphery of the living area in anticipation that both Chloe and McCavity would re-join the group. Five minutes later they were still absent, and the remaining guests were showing signs of restlessness. Dolores was still doing the washing up in the kitchen. 'Ladies and gents', I eventually announced. 'I'm afraid that we are missing two members of our troupe. The rules of Pictionary clearly state that the teams must remain intact all the way through the game, otherwise the outcome is ruled null and void. If you'll just entertain yourselves for a couple of minutes, I'll go and find them.'

I made this up of course, as I've read the rules of the popular drawing game many times. But as I've already mentioned, I hate to break a game up part-way through. My determination to find the missing team members had caused me to form a white lie, but, as I set of in search of the missing couple, I immediately regretted what I had said. What would happen, for example, if the vet checked the rules himself, and found out that I had been lying? It's not like I have a solid reputation within the village after the events of previous months. All my guests had only shown up at the insistence and persuasion of Dolores, who said she was trying to 'rehabilitate me into village life'. Another unsettling episode, so close to Christmas, was not something I relished.

I first of all turned right out of the living area, in the direction of the bedrooms. For those of you who don't know (which is the vast majority, I suspect), the Institute consists of series of linked pre-fabricated rooms, each of which can be dissasembled and transported at short notice to another location. The living area occupies the central portion of the construction, with the laboratories and offices in modules to one side, and bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen down the other side. Here, for the first time, I reveal the layout of the Institute in sketch format (not to scale).
Please note 1) that not all rooms and partitions are shown, and that 2) the art studio and exhibition centre lies in a separate building. This is where I produce and exhibit the art work that can be previewed on the McCrumble Art Gallery pages

You can use the diagram to help you visualise my search. First, as mentioned, I proceeded towards the bedrooms. There was no-one in either bedroom 1, 2 or 3. The ensuite bathroom was clear, as was the spare room and the second bathroom. Satisfied that the domestic quarters were unoccupied by the missing couple, I then proceeded back along the main axis of the Institute. The guests watched as I moved past the living area and towards the meeting room. I smiled and waved at them, but they didn't respond. Two guests, I noticed, were wearing coats.

I quickened my pace.

The meeting room was empty. The doors to lab 1 were locked and the lights were off, but I knew that McCavity had a key, so I couldn't exclude the possibility that they were inside. A quick sweep of the lab confirmed it was empty, so I proceeded into lab2. Clear. Office - clear. This just left the store cupboard. Pressing my ear to the door, I could hear nothing. But light was spilling out from underneath the door, which meant someone had been inside. For a moment I wondered whether to simply barge in as if I was looking for something and had not an inkling that someone was inside. But there was nothing in the store cupboard that I needed, so I decided to knock instead.

Knock knock.

No reply.

Knock Knock.

Still no reply.

No sound either. All that was left for me to do was open the door. If they were hiding inside, it would be pretty obvious what they were doing, and the embarrassment would be on them. But, when I opened the door and peeked inside, the cupboard was empty. In fact, the only sign that anything had been disturbed recently was a open pack of of test-tubes on the floor (on seeing these I made a mental note to admonish my technician for not replacing them in their designated shelf.)

I was now thoroughly confused. I had been looking out the Institute windows as I moved around, and hadn't seen either Chloe or McCavity anywhere outside. My thorough search of the Institute had drawn a blank. There was only one place left to search - The Art Studio and Exhibition centre.

Rather than risking the staring eyes of my guests in the living area, I took a short cut through the emergency exit next to the store cupboard. It was getting dark by now, so I knew that I wouldn't be seen as I trotted towards the art studio. When I reached the building a minute later, I first noticed that the entrance door was slightly ajar. I then noticed from shadows of the window frames on the grass that there was a weak light source somewhere inside. I pressed my face to the glass, but could see nothing.

Rather than risking a potentially embarrassing entrance through the front door, I walked round the the door to my studio. It was locked, but I always carry my keys so gaining access was no problem. Once inside, I moved quickly to the internal door and opened it just enough that I could see inside the studio.

There was someone there!

It was McCavity!

He was standing in the middle of the exhibition area holding a bottle of wine in one hand and a paintbrush in the other. I couldn't see past him, so I moved out of the office and stood a little further inside the exhibition area. Display boards partly obscured my view, but I could see what appeared to be the form of a woman, reclining on the couch in the centre of the exhibition space. She was making a sound, not unlike the braying of a new-born calf.

My curiostity piqued, I moved further forward. There was just one more display board to navigate. What greeted my eyes as I leant round the edge was something quite unexpected.

Chloe, the tight-jean wearing, hair tossing, sloppy kissing brunette, who thought I was a ghost hunter of some repute, was lying on the couch wearing nothing but a red santa-hat. In her right hand was one of the test-tubes missing from the box in the store room. What she was doing with the test-tube was...well, I'll leave that to your imagination.

McCavity, for his part in this bizarre spectacle, was painting her as she lay, er, panting. His brush flew over the canvas, and I guessed from the wild strokes that he was less interested in the quality of his artwork than the behaviour of his model.

I must have watched them for no more than a, seconds, trying to work out what to do for the best and to avoid any embarassment, when I heard the familiar whirring noise of the security camera. I had the camera installed when the Art Studio was constructed, as it is often left unattended. Any movement within the studio is captured on film and images are transmitted back to some monitors in the....

Oh no. The sudden realisation of what was happening hit me like a sidewinder slamming into a wall of jelly. I staggered backwards as I saw the camera turning in my direction. All I could do was cover my face with my arms and retreat into the studio. I must have stayed there for five minutes, hiding under a desk, before I plucked up enough strength to evacuate myself from the building.

My only hope was that the guests were still in the living area. Any of them leaving whilst I was in the studio would have walked right past the monitor. I had to think fast....

**********TO BE CONTINUED!***********

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas party pooper (part II)

Hello all

This is part 2 of the report on my staff Christmas party. If you missed it, part I is here. I suggest you read part I first; otherwise Part II won't make much sense. What follows may not be suitable reading for all audiences. Reader discretion is advised. As usual, I tell the truth in its purest form. I cannot help myself, for I am a scientist.


Cloe started to draw very quickly on the paper. At first we couldn't see what she was doing, as her back was turned to the audience. Brenda was the first person to react, by clamping her hand over her mouth as if suddenly shocked by something she shouldn't have seen. The vet was next, wincing as if struck by something acutely painful. Denise and Ravel turned their heads to one side and frowned, as if unsure what was on the paper. When I saw what she had drawn, I could do nothing except gasp at her audacity.

'Come on, it's easy!' shouted Chloe at her team, as she put the finishing touches to her artwork and stepped to one side. Her fellow team members looked completely perplexed. I wasn't sure what to do at this stage. As master of ceremonies, it was my duty to maintain standards. But at the same time I didn't want another party to end in complete disaster. I was still mulling over the idea of creating a distraction when I suddenly noticed that shopkeeper had come over all animated and excited. I watched as he locked and unlocked his fingers, stroked his chin, rubbed his elbow. His team mates, including McCavity, seemed to shrink as he looked at them, eyes wide open, an expression of triumph on his face.

'Yes mate. You've got it, haven't you?' shouted Chloe, pointing at the portly man sitting on the floor in front of her. The shopkeeper nodded rapidly. 'Come on then! Time's running out! Whadisit, eh?'

'STRAP-ON DILDO!' shouted the shopkeeper, foaming slightly at the mouth as he spat the words out.

Brenda, now literally sitting on the edge of her seat, looked immediately shocked, and almost fell backwards into the chair. The vet wore an expression of disgust, Ravel and Denise looked bemused. My reflexes made me glance backwards towards the kitchen door, where I knew Dolores was preparing coffee.

'NO!', shouted Chloe almost immediately. 'Oh come on, you can do better than that!. Look here!', she said with a hint of urgency in her high pitched voice. 'Watch!'. With that, she started to make a pushing motion with one hand towards a point in her picture.

'I know!', shouted the shopkeeper, unswayed by his previous crude outburst. 'It's an ANAL PROBE!!' With that, he burst out laughing and fell sideways on to the floor, spilling his drink into the lap of McCavity. My no2. research assistant leapt to his feet, grabbed a near-by tissue and started to dab at the the wet patch on the groin area of his jeans. The shopkeeper simply continued to laugh, tears streaming from his face. Clearly, the pictoral representation of an anal probe was too much for his faculties to handle.

'Close!' shouted Chloe. 'Time's running out team! Come on McCavity, you know! What did we use last night?'

Have you ever seen anyone actually die of embarassment, right in front of you? It's not a pleasant sight. There's a sort of crumpling effect, as the legs give way. The face becomes ashen as the blood drains, and the person appears to regress into a child like state before finally succumbing to the effects of the mental poison that that they have just ingested, and falling backwards. Fortunately, in this case, McCavity was prevented from hitting the floor by the vet, who rushed forwards and managed to support my terminally weakened research assistant. 'I don't think we really need to know, do we?' said the vet in an authoritative voice, looking over to where I was standing at the back of the room.

I saw disaster looming. Glancing once again at the kitchen, I was in an immediate quandry. If I stopped the game, it would spell the end of the party. Dolores would find out what had happened and forbid me from ever having a staff Christmas party ever again. On the other hand, if I allowed the game to continue, it was likely to scar the minds of all present and lead to debauchery on a scale unimaginable in the history of the Institute. 'I, er, think that, the time has, er, run out, actually.' I said, trying to sound calm. 'We should move on. Sorry Chloe, you have to sit down now.'

Chloe looked immediately disappointed. 'Aw, you lot are useless. Angus, you should have guessed it. I can't believe it. It was a...'

Before Chloe could actually reveal the truth behind her controversial drawing I heard the kitchen door slam, quite hard. The sound distracted everyone enough to halt proceedings, and was followed immediately by the sight of Dolores striding into the room carrying a tray of mugs and a large pot.

'Coffee anyone?', said Dolores with a tone of clearly enforced jollity.

'Oh yes!' I shouted, pleased at the intervention of my wife. 'We'll pause the game I think and take coffee. I think it got just a little too exciting there. Too much sherry before lunch I think! Coffee everyone?'

I took the tray from Dolores, whom I had watched carefully as she came into the living area, for any indication that she had seen the drawing. Fortunately, she hadn't looked at the board. I kept myself between her and the drawing whilst she took the cups off the tray. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw the vet lift the sheet of paper over the stand to reveal a blank sheet underneath. Looking around the room, I noticed that everyone except Chloe and McCavity were talking in excited whispers. The two young disruptive elements were, in fact, nowhere to be seen. 'Where did McCavity go?' I asked Dolores.

'I saw him heading for the loo. He seemed to have wet himself.' said Dolores as she unloaded the last of the cups. 'Going well, is it Joseph? I had the radio on in the kitchen to drown out the noise. Everyone seems very excited.'

'Er, well, you know. Christmas high spirits and all that. Young Chloe seems to have brought something to the party, if you get my drift.'

'Nothing more than a filthy mind, as far as I can tell Joseph. Well, enjoy the party. I'm going to do the washing up. Don't disturb me.'

A few minutes later the group had more or less composed itself. The shopkeeper who had suffered the apoplectic laughing fit was being comforted by Brenda. Ravel and Denise were in discussion about something or other, and the other guests and staff were quietly sipping on their coffee. McCavity and Chloe were still missing. On the one hand I was happy for them to remain absent. But on the other hand I didn't want their Pictionary team to be short of members. In my experience, the surest way to lose a game of Pictionary is to have fewer members. I had to bring them back to save the game.

You may question this line of logic, but at the time it seemed sensible. I was desperate to bring the game of Pictionary to a satisfactory conclusion. I have an intense dislike of party games that end before their legal endpoint. I think it comes from something that happened in childhood. You see, I was often a bit cleverer than the other children, and they would get very angry with me if I won games where you had to think more than a few steps ahead. Sometimes I would get pushed around and the game would be stopped by someone throwing the board at me.

And on top of that, I can't actually see through walls or predict the future, because I am a parasitologist, not a parasychologist as young Chloe thought. I mean, how was I supposed to know what they were getting up to, eh?

******************TO BE CONTINUED!***************

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas party pooper (part I)

Hello all

I promised a report on yesterday's Christmas party today, so here it comes...

I opened proceedings a t 12:35 with a small sherry reception. This year I decided to offer both dry and sweet sherry, following complaints on previous occasions that I was being a bit 'tight'. The staff were all present, except for McCavity, who was still en route from London. He had phoned previously and told me to expect both himself and 'friend' around 1pm. Dolores, who doesn't like sherry, was in the kitchen putting the finishing touches to the menu.

Being Christmas, I took the opportunity to put on my favourite Christmas album. It is a collection of cover versions by singers from the 1980's that never fails to get me in the Christmas spirit. Ravel appeared to enjoy the electronic beats and drum machine rythms almost as much as me. He wanted to know about each of the artists when their song began, and I was entirely enthusiastic in reciting their (abridged) biography. I admit that I may have become a little too animated, as at one point I heard the kitchen door slam heavily. 'Dolores is pooping the party, eh boss?' said Ravel.

'No Ravel, Dolores has heard all this before. I think she needs to focus on basting the turkey. She'll be OK in a little while.'

'OK Boss, so carry on with your story about Jason Donovan. He seems like a groovy guy...'

I was just about to tell Ravel about Jason's groundbreaking performance as Joseph in 'Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat' when I heard people approaching the living area. Moments later, McCavity and his guest literally stumbled into view. 'Hello everyone!', shouted McCavity.

'Watcha!' shouted his companion, a twenty-something lady with long brunette hair, tight jeans stuck into leather boots, tight t-shirt and short jacket. Her left arm was wrapped around McCavity's waist, whereas her right hand contained a half drunk bottle of white wine.

I diagnosed immediately that both McCavity and his companion were inebriated.

'This is Chloe,' said McCavity, propelling his friend into the room. Chloe made as if to curtsey, but then seemed to think better of the idea, and merely waved. She looked around at the occupants before finally pointing at me and exclaiming, 'you must be Dr Crumble!'. Without waiting for confirmation, she came up close and planted a kiss on my lips. 'Pleased to meet you. He's told me ever so much.'

'I'm afraid I haven't had the reciprocal pleasure,' I said dryly, wiping her saliva from my lips.

'So this is the famous Insitutue of Parasychology!' said Chloe as she stepped back towards McCavity. 'I never knew it was done scientifically these days. When my mum had a reading it was in a tent somewhere near Margate and I reckon the woman was doing, what do they call it - a cold reading? Yeah! Wow. Thanks for inviting me Dr Crumble. When Angus said where he worked I just knew I had to meet you all!'

I looked over to McCavity expecting him to correct this gross misunderstanding. Nothing came forth. 'McCavity?' I asked. He lifted his head and completely blanked me. Just stared. No words at all. Not even the slightest hint that he understood his own position. I was baffled, and in turn could think of nothing else to say that would ease the tension. Anyway, it wasn't up to me to shatter the poor girl's delusion!

Dolores came to the rescue a few moments later. She opened the kitchen door and brought out a plate of handmade party sausage rolls. McCavity recovered himself and introduced his friend to Dolores. My wife made a sufficient number of pleasantries to diffuse the situation, and I turned the volume of the music up, slightly, so as to animate the ambience. I also made sure that I stayed out of range of Chloe, lest I be asked to read her rather sweaty palms.

The conversation ebbed and flowed for the next twenty minutes. Chloe seemed to want to mingle, whereas McCavity seemed content to keep his arm firmly round her waist whilst he nuzzled her ears. Ravel was talking with Denise about going hunting in Bulgarian forests, and it was up to me to chat to the rest of the staff (our cleaner - Jennifer, junior technician - Ian,) and invited guests (two shopkeepers from the village, the local vet, a friend of Dolores called Brenda). Each one of them asked me who the girl was, and how she could have made such a mistake. I could only smile, shrug my shoulders and offer them more sherry.

It was probably because of this unseasonally generous application of alcohol before the meal that, within about twenty minutes, everyone in the room was looking a bit flushed, and the volume of conversation had increased quite substantially. I was even forced to raise the volume on the hi-fi to compensate.

Dolores emerged from the kitchen to let us know that the food was ready. As in previous years, we decided to have a buffet rather than a sit-down meal. In my view, at least, this approach not only facilitates the party atmosphere, but allows people to eat at their own pace. I remember from childhood how I was forced to eat quicker whenever we had a sit-down meal, and since then I have been determined that others should not have to follow such a regime.

The guests filed up in front of the table. By chance, Chloe and her super-glued boyfriend managed to be just in front of me. Chloe turned her head to see who was behind, and upon seeing me she blew a big kiss before taking another slug of white wine. She offered me the bottle and seemed offended when I refused, as if to decline was some sort of insult. 'Angus!,' she cried, 'your boss doesn't want to take a drink with me. You tell him!'

McCavity either didn't hear her, or didn't want to respond. Instead, he picked up a plate and started loading it with food. I didn't really want to talk any more with the girl, so I pretended that I had forgotten something and moved out of the queue. Behind me was shopkeeper #1, who didn't seem to mind being next to the young brunette, so I left them to it.

Dolores was still in the kitchen, taking a break. I closed the door behind me and gave her a hug. 'How's it going out there?', she asked.

'As well as can be expected, I suppose. McCavity and his friend appear to be annoying or amusing the guests in equal measure. I think one of the shopkeepers fancies her, but the vet is just keeping out of her way. Brenda sat down about ten minutes with her third glass of sherry and hasn't moved since. The girl still thinks we are a bunch of paranormal investigators. Ravel tried to tell her the truth but she wouldn't listen.'

'Oh well, I'm sure you'll keep control of things. You haven't had too much to drink have you?'

'No dear. I'm keeping to my side of the deal, don't you worry.'

'Good. Now get back out there and make sure everyone is having a good time.'

'Don't you need a sit down, love?'

Dolores patted her bump. 'We're fine', she said.

The party proceeded in a light hearted fashion for a while. Everyone ate their fill, and a round of applause was offered up to Dolores, who graciously emerged from the kitchen for a moment to take a bow. She didn't seem to notice her friend, Brenda, who was still sat in the same chair she had occupied for the last thirty minutes, only standing to help herself to more food or wine. In fact, she fair swigged it back. At one point she carried a half empty bottle back from the table, only to have it snatched back by Chloe with the words that Brenda should 'not take from others what you don't want taken from yourself'.

Now, it is traditional at the McCrumble Christmas Party that we all play Pictionary (other party games are available, but I've always enjoyed this one in particular). I normally wait until people are about to fall asleep after lunch, so as to liven things up again. But this time, because of the extra alcohol, people seemed keen to carry on talking. I asked our guests in turn if they would perhaps like a game, but received no affirmative responses until I reached McCavity and Chloe. 'Oooh, Dr Crumble! I love Pictionary. Where's the box Angus? I'll get it!'

'It's OK, Chloe', I said, patting her shoulder. 'Angus doesn't know where it's kept. I'll go.' With that I stood up, clapped my hands and shouted 'Alright everyone. We've got some takers for Pictionary over here. I'm going to get the box, so please arrange yourselves into teams of four. Chop chop!'

I returned two minutes later with the box under my arm. Chloe first clapped, and then insisted that she help me set up the game. I had to push people a bit more into forming teams, but eventually we were ready. The die were rolled, and Chloe's team (herself, McCavity, Brenda and shopkeeper #1) were the first up to draw something. Chloe insisted on being the 'drawer'

'On your marks, go!' I shouted as I started the clock. Chloe picked up a pen, thought about it for a moment and then began to draw. But, what she actually put on the paper stunned the whole room into silence...

***********To BE CONTINUED!**********

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas Party

Today is the day of our annual staff Christmas party. I have been busy the last few days with our final survey of the year. Every December we conduct our survey of the parasitic fauna of the local fish population. The vital data that we collect tells us about the long term trends in the ecology of both the fish and their parasites. Fish have an amazing capacity to play host to several species at any one time, and a single dissection can take up to thirty minutes, even for a seasoned parasitologist such as myself.

But I digress.

In previous years, the Christmas party has usually gone reasonably well. I doubt that our version differs in any significant way from any other staff party, except with the possible exception that no-one, to my knowledge, has ever made any innapropriate movements towards anyone else. I suspect this is mainly because no-one on the staff is a heavy drinker. On top of that, Dolores keeps everything under control, and insists that we eat heavily before indulging in the Christmas spirit.

We don't have Christmas cake anymore, after a calamatous party two years ago when Denise tried baking one. To cut a long story short, she left the cake on a shelf near her bed to mature for three months. When it came to the cake's unveiling, we found out that something had crawled into the cake and died. It turned out to be her pet hamster, Dolly, which had gone missing two weeks before the party.

Dolores has been entirely responsible for the Christmas food before and since. Ravel keeps wanting to help, but my wife has stood firm. She doesn't have to cater for many people, and has told me that it is 'really no problem' to remain in the kitchen for the whole day. I suspect the real reason is that she isn't much of a party person herself. Anyone familiar with this blog will be aware of an episode during the summer when her negative attitude towards parties was driven home.

Anyway, I must move forwards. I've got the last ten fish to dissect before breakfast, then I have to write some emails. The party officially starts at 12:30pm with a sherry reception in the living area. McCavity (my no.2 research assistant) is arriving with his guest at 1pm. It will be nice to have a fresh face at the party, and, if we count them both in, we should just about make quorum for a game of Pictionary. I'll post tomorrow with a report on how things went.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

McCrumble hits the shelves!

Hello all

Dr Mark Booth, my marketing manager, sent me an email this morning with the following photograph attached:

He told me that it was taken in Heffers Bookshop, Trinity St, Cambridge. They have, apparently, kindly offered to stock the book, despite the fact that I am a first-time author and have self-published! Dr Booth has also negotiated with Brownes Bookstore on Mill Rd (also in Cambridge) to stock the book.

I feel a slight swelling of pride.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Long Answer to a Short Riddle

Dear all

'The Wonderful World of Joseph McCrumble' is now available in paperback. You probably know this already if you are even an infrequent visitor to the site. At £7.99, this 284 page book represents fantastic value for money, and really should be at the top of your shopping list. But it probably isn't.

I understand. My name is not synonymous with the idea of a blockbuster. In fact, I've never published anything like this before in my life. When Dr Mark Booth suggested putting the contents of my blog into a book, I shirked off the idea as ridiculous. But then he came up with the idea that all my royalties should go to charity. I was a little reluctant at first, what with the twins at boarding school and No.3 on the way. But he persisted, and I eventually saw the light. I have now become determined to help him raise money through the sale of the book.

'We need some incentives', I told him during a recent telephone call.

'Such as?', he asked. 'We can hardly offer a discount, given that all your royalties are going to charity.'

'What if we throw in something for free?', I suggested.

'Providing it costs nothing to produce', said Dr Booth, dryly.

'Mmmm, that's tricky', I opined, 'given that we are fast approaching Christmas and nothing comes for free.'

'Hang on though', said Dr Booth after a long pause. 'There is something you could offer, Joseph. It won't cost you a penny, and may even boost sales.'

'Huh?', I grunted, not sure where this was leading.

'Goodwill!', exclaimed Dr Booth.

'Are you serious?' I asked, incredulous at the idea.

'I am. Try it. You've become cynical, Joseph. I know it's been a hard year, but that doesn't mean the pot of goodwill has dried up. Try using some.'

'Well, I'll think about it, but I'm not sure. People might think it has no value if we just give it away.'

'Joseph. I can't believe you just said that.'

'OK, OK. I'll work something out.'

With that idea in my head, I set to work. The maths were difficult. I first had to invent some units of goodwill. After several hours of scribbling and crossing things out, I decided on dividing Goodwill into units called 'Booth's Unitary Numerator of Goodwill Standard' or, to give it its acronym 'B.U.N.G.S'

I then had to work out how much Goodwill I should give away with each book. I asked Dolores for her opinion, but she was too busy teaching Denise how to cook an omelette to pay any attention. Ravel was decorating the Christmas tree with some home-made ornaments, and McCavity was in the laboratory, dissecting something. So it was down to me to work it out.

Several mince pies and a few glasses of mulled-wine later, I had it. So here it is. My very, very special offer for every reader of 'The Wonderful World of Joseph McCrumble'

Buy 'The Wonderful World of Joseph McCrumble' and you will receive ABSOLUTELY FREE, not one, not two, not even three, four or five, but a massive

6.5 B.U.N.G.S. of GOODWILL!! *

This very, very special offer is only available until midnight on the 25th of December, after which the pot of Goodwill will spontaneously evaoporate into thin air. So hurry! Stocks are limited.

How to claim your Goodwill:

1) Purchase a copy of 'The Wonderful World of Joseph McCrumble'

2) That's it! Your 6.5 BUNGS of GOODWILL are automatically included with every copy.



*Terms and conditions apply: your Goodwill is at risk if you do not spread a little happiness. Goodwill cannot be resold, but can be shared. Value Added Tinsel (VAT) is applicable at 17.5%. Postage and Packing not included. McCrumble Enterprises Ltd accept no liability for Goodwill that is lost, stolen or broken. Goodwill can be returned at any time, but no refunds will be given. Additional Goodwill is available on request, or by shopping at

Friday, December 08, 2006


Hello all

I just tried to introduce Gabbly - the instant chat thing on the sidebar, to the blog of Mr Chris Evans, Radio 2 presenter. It failed, not surprisingly perhaps, because it has the potential for subversiveness and unregulated comments. Oh dear. Well, at the moment there is nothing to stop it from happening. Let's have some fun before they find a way of blocking it..

Simply add the following before the http:// part of a website address and it will open a chat window.

It really works.



Thursday, December 07, 2006

Just add text

Hello all

Sorry for the delay. I was forced to give up blogging for a while under the strict orders of Dolores, who wanted me to completely clear up the mess made whilst I was in the forest. I've yet to type up the final episode, but now that my dearest wife has given me permission to start again, I should have it finished soon. Hopefully.

In other news:

Risk of untimely death
The death threats have completely abated. Whether or not that means I am free from the risk of imminent extinguishment, I'm not sure. I'll keep my fingers crossed. If you don't hear from me for a while, do not automatically assume the worst.

Prosecutions pending
A date for my appearance as a defendant in the case of assault on Toby Hancock-Jones, my boyhood nemesis whom I decked in the summer during a brief visit to Kings Lynn has now been set. Unless something miraculous happens, I will be in front of a judge on Feb 7th 2007. The delay was down to the fact that Toby went AWOL for two months after becoming embroiled in a love triangle with his employers niece and someone from the Kings Lynn council.

Witness statement
A date for the trial of the head of department who is accused of fixing exam results has been set for January 13th. I am likely to be called as a witness.

Dolores is blooming. I tell her every day that she looks more beautiful than ever. She scowls whenever I say this, for reasons I cannot understand. Perhaps it is the effect of hormones. I'm not sure. She is going for her 20 week scan tomorrow, accompanied by moi, obviously.

It's selling, slowly. Dr Mark Booth (my marketing manager), tells me that its Amazon ranking oscillates between 20000 and 150000 depending on sales. He gave a book reading in Cambridge that was well received, so fingers crossed. Dr Booth asked me to remind my American readers that the book is available on, where it is currently showing a sales rank of zero.

Instant chat
I've Gabbly enabled the site (see the sidebar). If I'm blogging, I'll be happy to chat for a bit. Until Dolores catches me at it. She blames my obsession with blogging for most things. A bit unfair I think. If you've never Gabbled before, here are the relevant instructions:

1) Look at the Gabbly window
2) Identify your temporary Gabbler ID (it's the id written in the box underneath the chat window)
3) Change this to something meaningful
4) Type your message!