Monday, July 10, 2006
Management Group, Associates and Partners
After several smaller conversations with various individuals and the main Management Group meeting, it’s time for the Associates and Partners Reception.
One of those social occasions when you’re absolutely supposed to speak to people you have either never met before or certainly don’t know very well. In many ways my idea of hell.
Fortunately a reasonably unusual name on the guest list had caught my eye and the person in question was indeed a former Manchester resident and colleague of best mate S. Grateful for any such crumbs that are tossed my way, I screw up my social courage and say hello.
It’s enough of a connection to get us talking. He asks if I’m one of the ‘five’. I reply in the affirmative, a little puzzled as to how a relative outsider to the organisation, knows this shorthand nomenclature. “Ah” he explains, “I’ve just spoken to N”. I should have guessed. How I envy her ability to handle these situations. Chances are, by the time I’d managed to achieve my feeble “err hello I think you know a good friend of mine”, she’s charmed five strangers (at least three of whom will magically have found themselves volunteering to cover some key need we have).
Sigh…I can only watch and learn.
Fortunately as we take our seats, I find my name card on the same table as several people I know including the lovely Jude. We remark that for once we’ll actually get the chance to talk and catch-up before I rush off.
Sat to one side of me is the excellent Y, one of those people that has an infectious sense of mischievous fun and a smile that just lights up your day and has you grinning within seconds of saying hello. I always knew he was a metaphorical prince among men, tonight as we discuss which particular region in Africa he hails from, I discover (“my Grandfather is the king”) that as it turns out he’s also a literal one.
No doubt my social manners are an affront to the monarchy, but he seems very forgiving and at least I know what the sushi is when it arrives. His face when I explain is a picture, “it’s raw what???”.
I lead him through his first experience as best I can and he sticks to the salmon and the nori rolls, which I explain as rice, prawn and a bit of cucumber. After he’s eaten I expand the explanation to include what the dark green element was. For a moment he refuses to believe me. Then the truth sinks home. He’s not the only one with a mischievous bent.
I suggest it might help to think of it as cabbage that grew in the sea.
Conversation flows easily at our end of the table assisted by the Fair Trade wine. Y explains what his organisation have planned for this year’s festival, including a massive chocolate fountain, linked to their theme of looking at addiction. I introduce him to L and suggest that her mum would make an excellent case study. As I regale him with stories about M&M fragments in laptops and Terry’s Chocolate Oranges being speared with biros on the train to Bristol, his eyes widen in incredulity. I can see it now, the lovely Sally perched on a stage being interviewed “so when did you realise that the cocoa was actually now controlling you?”..
Suddenly I see the time. I’m late. I should have left 10 minutes ago. I should make it, Just. Better run. I make rushed farewells, grab my bag and head out the door at a pace.
A voice shouts “Liz” Wait!”.
I turn and find a gorgeous ginger muddled head flying down the steps behind me and swooping me into a bear hug of an embrace. Now there’s a way to make ya feel right royally loved.
Yep, foiled by a larger group around the table than really allowed conversation from one end to the other and I guess both mindful that our purpose there is to talk to the guests not each other, Jude and I have yet again failed to really catch up. Buggeration.
I run to the tube and despite some minor delays on the Northern Line, I make it to Euston in time to run across the concourse and onto the last train to Manchester. Three whole minutes to spare. Too close for comfort given the consequences of missing it.
As I settle back and enjoy a long cold lemonade, it’s time for the final part of the post-Management Group ritual, a lovely chat with Sally. Such an excellent way to unwind – I love that she’s up at this time of night and puts up with our “tunnel!” interruptions. She always has me laughing or crying or more often than not crying with laughter.
The laptop saga forms the main grist to our mill and apparently it’s just as well that on seeing DC’s shiny new toy I didn’t make a facetious remark along the lines of “ooh do you think Sally would like one of them?”.
We roll in to Manchester a little after 1am, and seasoned traveller that I’ve become, I’m first off the train, first into a taxi and home by 1.15am.
Now if only I could sleep…