Strip 2421 was published in the Evening
Standard in December 1968 and in Bristow (1970)
The main event of the year organised
by the Sports and Social Club
Annual Christmas Dinner & Dance.This venerable institution has been
running its predictable and much-criticised course for as long anyone
can remember (though judging by the state of most the clerks the day
after, it's a wonder they can remember anything). The committee, chaired
by the unflagging Hickford
, has a varying
degree of committment to the Dance and goes through with it despite
their true feelings shown in strip
Strip 5538 was published in the Evening
Standard in December 1979 and in The Penguin Bristow
and The Big Big Big Bristow Book. This scan is from the Sydney
Morning Herald December 1979
The committee also has an interesting set of priorities. If Sir
is unable to attend, and his family also decline, the
guest of honour will be "old man" Pettigrew or some other
but should they too be unexpectedly
engaged, the choice of top table guests is obvious - strip
Strip 4788 was published in the Evening
Standard in December 1976. This scan is from the Glasgow
Evening Times December 1976
This glittering occasion is eagerly anticipated by the girls in the
typing pool (in case Robin Chester- Perry
should attend) and regarded with weary resignation by everyone
else. If Bristow is keen to sell tickets then the reason will be that
if he sells enough he doesn't have to go. There are several important
Strip 4790 was published in the Evening
Standard in December 1976
Speech time at the Christmas Dinner & Dance
When the speeches begin there is a mass rush for the bar.
Bristow finds himself buying a round of drinks that wipes out
his lunch money, tea money, fares, cinema money and savings for
the next month
A barrage of bread rolls meets speeches from the top table.
The speakers fortify themselves with alcohol before taking their
Peterson of Public Relations launches
a swingeing attack on the food, the decorations and entertainment
and is ejected with the traditional cry "And stay out".
Mr. Gordon Blue cooks his finest
golden turkey with roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts and all the
trimmings, only to see it smothered in tomato ketchup and then rejected
with contumely ("I think the station
buffet will still be open")
A number of committee members station themselves by the doors
(not to prevent gatecrashers but to stop anyone leaving early).
Sir Reginald Chester-Perry is always invited to attend and sadly,
is always unable to do so. The inevitable reason is that he has
rearranged his holiday schedules to overlap with the date of the
Dance, regardless of when it takes place. This does not deter the
committee from trying again each year, with ever more desperate
suggestions for enforcing his presence. Doubtless the reluctance
of the firm's founder to participate is related to his experiences
on the only occasion, in 1968, that he did attend the bunfight.
Robin Chester-Perry did attend the odd do but after his marriage
to Fiona Myles he has found better things to occupy his time.
Errol Chester-Perry, younger ne'er do well son of the firm's
founder is probably too busy whooping it up in a nightclub with
his latest actress girlfriend
In the good old days the Dinner & Dance took
place in a function hall but since the mid 1960s it has been held in
the firm’s canteen. This is either because Peterson of Public Relations
was so rude to the management of the local halls that no-one will take
a C-P booking or because, thanks to Hickford's incompetence, Gun
have got there first . "Why stop there" argues
Bristow in strip
Strip 1823 was published in the Evening
Standard in December 1966 and in Bristow (1970)
A wonderful example of the relationship
between staff and bosses comes one year when after the formal toasts
the attendees are invited to cross toast.
Strip 5550 was published in the Evening
Standard in December 1979. This scan is from the Glasgow
Evening Times December 1979
Miss Sunman gets particularly excited about
the Dinner & Dance. She always hopes that something romantic
will ensue. It never does. In fact it is unclear if anyone ever gets
off with anybody at this event. Certainly Bristow fails to. And judging
by his treament of the post boy, this fashionable
youngster fails to as well
Strip 10355 was published in the Evening
Standard in December 1998
The Christmas Dinner and Dance - Year by Year
Originally the Christmas do was a simple dance where
the most sophisticated event was the hokey-cokey. It was upgraded to
a Dinner and Dance in 1967. Here are some of the “highlights” of this
grand institution. It normally takes place in the firm’s canteen but
there are exceptions, particularly in the early years. Frank Dickens’
illness in November 2010 means that our record must, sadly, terminate
with the festivities in 2009.
Pedants might question if the Dinner and Dance is a company event or
a private event organised by the Sports & Social Club. The attendees
tend to refer to it as the “firm’s Christmas dance”. And there is one
time when Bristow suggests that attendance is compulsory. Be that as
it may, it is the Sports & Social Club, under the “leadership” of
Hickford, that is charged with the responsibility
of organising it.
There is no reference to a Sports and Social Club Christmas
event this year. Instead, in strips published in the Aberdeen Press
and Journal, (not in the Evening Standard) they hold a “kiddies party”
– it is not clear whether these are the offspring of Chester-Perry employees
or just kids unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity – and Bristow,
keen in those days to help as a means to advancement, is the chief washer-upper.
He is pleased when Fudge summons him the day
after – alas, the praise that is his due is supplanted by a bill for
The first mention of the Dance is in strip 563, on 3 December.
Venue: Not specified
Before: The charm of the typists
does not impress Bristow. There appear to be no other available women
attending. Sunman seems keen that Bristow goes.
During: Delighted that no senior managers are there, the staff
have a jolly good time.
Venue: The Assembly Rooms.
Before: The typists rib Bristow about being their partner.
During: Bristow bemoans the ugliness of the typists, and having
complained that all anyone does is talk shop, refuses to fraternise
with anyone outside the Buying Department.
Post-Mortem: Hall was too small – Hewitt:
Band was too loud – Jones: Lights were too bright
– Pilkington: Place was too draughty –
Atkins. “A good time was had by all” – House
Journal (according to Bristow, anyway)
Venue: Not specified, probably the Assembly Rooms
Before: Bristow dodges the typists and seems taken aback when
advised to change out of his regulation black jacket and striped trousers.
During: Bristow declines to head the conga in order to avoid
leading it back to the Chester-Perry Building and wishes that Sir Reginald
might jump from a giant cracker in order to liven things up
Post-Mortem: Miss Rouge enjoyed it enormously
(and Bristow skilfully avoided talking to her on the night)
Venue: Parish Hall.
Before: Bristow, studying the typists as usual, wonders if it
is worth going at all.
During: The glorious view of the Chester-Perry Building drives
everyone to drink. The MC, Peterson of Public
Relations, becomes aggressive, starts a fight and is thrown out.
Sadly, this pattern is to become all too familiar.
Venue: The firm’s canteen (and
from then on this is the venue unless noted otherwise)
Before: Bristow, unhappy about the choice of venue suggests holding
it in the Buying Department, if not around
(or even on) his desk.
During: The paltry decorations do not impress, nor does the uncanny
similarity of the Musical Chairs game to the normal lunchtime scramble
for a seat. Bristow attempts to impress by ordering a round of drinks.
It being the firm’s canteen, everything is off.
Post-Mortem: The amount of damage inflicted on the canteen makes
Bristow assume it will never be held there again (wrong!).
The first time that a Dinner is appended to the Dance. No
convincing reason for so doing is given this year or indeed since.
Before: Miss Rouge regrets that dinner speeches go on and on
and on and on and on (unlike her good self). Hewitt angrily declines
to attend on the grounds that it amounts to unpaid overtime. Oddly enough
his name appears on the seating plan.
During: Bristow invites a typist – any typist – to dance. He
is rejected, as he knows he will be, with contumely.
Post-Mortem: Bristow decides against lunching in the canteen,
knowing that the menu will consist of the previous night’s left-overs.
This is notable for two things - Hickford,
after trying, as he tell us, for ten years, persuades Sir Reginald
to attend. And master chef Mr. Gordon Blue takes charge of the catering
for the first time.
During: Bristow finds his place on the seating
plan is as far away from the top table as is physically possible. The
canteen is so full that chairs from the main building are brought over.
Bristow moans that that they forgot his cushion. Every part of the meal
is subject to withering criticism. Sir Reginald does actually attend,
together with a Mr. Musgrove the works manager. Mr. Blue acts as MC
as well as chef.
Before: Bristow lists all of his colleagues who are attending
to the typists, whose raspberry is heartfelt and spontaneous. But then
it is learned that Robin Chester-Perry, still unmarried and heir to
the C-P millions, is attending and all hell breaks loose in the pool.
During: Bristow generously buys a round, as he needs to break
a £5 note anyway and is handed 3d change (cue “sob”). A Mr. Walmsby-Smith
makes a speech that is greeted by a barrage of bread rolls (the first
time this time-honoured custom is mentioned). Someone very senior (Sir
Reginald?) leaves and at once everyone else is on the dance floor.
Post-Mortem: Buying clerks share happy memories, especially
of the bread-roll chucking.
Post Post-Mortem: In February 1970 the House Journal condemns
the bread-roll incident and publishes a photo of the instigator. But
only the back view is available. Mr. Tracer,
the firms’ amateur sleuth is called in to investigate. The case is solved
in the usual way (by pinning it on Mr.
Meeke (the firm’s scapegoat)
Before: Hickford thought he had secured the Brolly
& Bowler, the local pub, as the venue but is double-crossed by Gun
& Fames. He is delighted to tell the committee that Robin Chester-Perry
has granted permission to use the firm’s canteen. His colleagues evince
a certain disdain. Bristow is given the job of informing Gordon Blue
that his services will once more be required. This permits a devastating
round of food-based puns. The committee also decide to scrap the live
band and have a disco. It is not clear why Miss Rouge is “assisting”
with the disco by undertaking to talk between the records. None of the
Chester-Perrys are coming, nor are any of the top management.
During: The eager party-goers take one look at the decorated
canteen and are ready to go home
Post-Mortem: Bristow gives Hickford a scathing compendium of
Before: In October, the committee cunningly outwit those calling
for a change of venue. The resolution is put to a membership so dyspeptic
after a canteen lunch special that no-one can raise their arm to vote
During: For some reason the men decide to spice up their appearance
by using the suntan lounge at the City Sauna. All except Atkins, whom
Bristow hails across a crowded room as “Dr. Livingstone, I presume”.
There is a grand raffle with fifty prizes. Bristow is unimpressed with
the first prize, a cigarette lighter, and with the last, a clerkship
in the Buying Department. Once again Mr. Blue’s cuisine does not impress
and bread rolls are reserved for the moment he takes his bow.
Post-Mortem: Apart from condemning the food, the speeches, the
band, the Glee Club (how did they get in there?), the price of the drinks
and the price of the raffle tickets, the diners seem to have enjoyed
Before: Tickets go on sale curiously late and Bristow is
taken aback by the price. The dress code is relaxed. Sir Reginald accepts
a number of invitations to banquets with various institutions, except
a certain one from the Sports and Social club.
During: The committee had hoped to book the banqueting hall at
the Brolly & Bowler. But it was an error of judgement to ask Peterson
of Public Relations to act as negotiator. The firm’s canteen it is.
Bristow takes avoiding action when seated across the table from Bessie
Bland “the ugliest woman in the firm”. Mr Blue’s hopes of a standing
ovation for his food are dashed when the throng demand instead supplies
of tomato ketchup.
Post-Mortem: Bristow arrives at work with memory loss and a hangover.
Everyone makes admiring comments about something he did, the sly dog.
He cheers up.
Before: Curiously, Bristow starts selling tickets
and encouraging others to go - “the hard sell starts with a smack in
the mouth” in late November. Sales pick up when he announces that he
is not going himself, but this is revealed to be a joke. Bristow’s old
fashioned tastes in music contrast with the up-to-the-minute post-boy.
During: Bristow is disappointed to find that, whilst his colleagues
are seated next to such interesting characters as Natalie
(“the firm’s sexpot”) and Mr. Gabby
(“the firm’s raconteur”), his partner is the hitherto unknown
Fatty Steadman (“the firm’s pig”). A disturbance at the door is put
down to gatecrashers (“they’re not trying to get in, dum dum,
they’re trying to get out”). Bristow complains about the food
to Mr. Gordon Blue who puts his trust in everything turning out alright
on the night.
Post-Mortem: Bristow describes the night as the best yet, the
highlight clearly being drowning out the speech of Mr. Pettigrew (filling
in for the unavoidably absent Sir Reginald) with a barrage of bread
Before: Sir Reginald finds time to have dinner with the Prime Minister
and the Lord Mayor, amongst others but sadly is not able to attend the
C-P dinner and dance. His secretary rashly suggests that he might go
just this once and is nearly brained by a paperweight. Mr Blue prepares
his usual sumptuous feast of turkey and all the trimmings for 748 guests,
and his staff order 748 bottles of tomato ketchup. Jones finds many
reasons to despair of the whole event in the hope that reality may be
slightly better so he won’t be let down.
During: The first speech is given by a Mr. Carruthers – his top-table
colleagues are unable to concentrate on it as they prepare for the bread-roll
assault. Bristow turns down the hopeful advances of Miss Sunman.
Post-Mortem: Bristow arrives at work to find his office devastated.
He is even more devastated when reminded that he was the one with the
bright idea to get things going with a conga.
Before: The committee decide to rid the dinner and dance of “undesirable
elements” (could this be a reference to Bristow?). They resolve to double
the ticket prices. They are then somewhat surprised to find that nobody
wishes to attend. A typist leaves the firm to get married and, following
Bristow’s brainwave, is presented with two tickets to the D & D.
When it is time for Bristow to buy his own ticket, he is mollified to
find that a bottle of tomato ketchup is included in the price. He is
less impressed to find that he is seated, not with his buying department
colleagues, but a group of people whose surnames he fails to recognise.
They turn out to be the post-boy, lift-boy, janitor, tea-lady, car park
attendant and the firm’s messenger.
During: Before dinner is served there is a roll-call to ensure
everyone has turned up. A diner voices his considerable objections to
the meal and is ejected – thus terminating Peterson of Public Relations’
interest in the proceedings. The guest speaker is Mr. Houghton of Transport
whose speech evokes the heaviest bread-roll barrage so far seen. After
dinner Bristow foolishly buys a round of drinks, wiping out his lunches,
fare money, tea money, laundry money and cinema for the following week.
More before: Learning
that Sir Reginald intends to sail on his winter cruise on the 14th
December, the committee cunningly bring the date of the dinner and dance
forward a week, thus guaranteeing his attendance. Sir Reginald with
even greater cunning brings the date of his cruise forward and is safely
in the southern Atlantic in good time.
Before: Bristow prepares for the dance with a bulk order from
Joe’s Joke Emporium. Most of his colleagues
reluctantly agree to attend because there is nothing good on the telly
During: A rush of diners sweeps Bristow aloft, then deposits
him alone at the bar for him to order everyone drinks. No directors
attend and the top table is occupied by the post boy, lift
boy, caretaker and Mrs Purdy. Mr Blue surpasses
himself with the turkey etc and is saddened to find his diners working
out where they can something to eat on the way home. This year the guest
speaker is not met by a bread-roll fusillade – instead there is a mass
exodus to the bar. And this is the famous night on which the post-boy
asks Bristow for his Christian name and is cruelly rebuffed – “It’s
not that convivial, you young pup”
Before: The committee meticulously plan for the big night but know
that all may not go as intended.
During: Mr Blue empties his kitchens of tomato ketchup. His guests
bring their own. Bristow is placed on a table of strangers who not only
listen to the speeches with interest; they actually eat their bread
rolls and leave none for throwing.
Very much before: The committee invite Sir Reginald to attend, cunningly issuing
their invitation in April. Sir Reginald, unfortunately, finds he has
only just accepted another invitation for that very night.
Before: Bristow and his fellow clerks decide to go to the dance
dressed as John Travolta, the disco king. As his style is to wear black
jacket and pin-stripe trousers, apparently, this enables them to wear
their normal working clothes.
During: The speeches are given by Roderick and Charles. The bread-rolls
start flying the moment Roderick foolishly leads grace – “For what we
are about to receive”. Charles then disconcerts him by suggesting he
keeps his speech short because there is Punch and Judy coming up.
Before: Sir Reginald pre-empts the committee by declining
their invitation before they issue it. Nonetheless the sale of 764 tickets
forces the committee to go through with the event. To liven up the music,
Elvis Boggis Travellin’ Music is
contracted to supply the disco. Elvis and his partner find the C-P mob
During: Bristow leads the entire staff in toasting order 4272406.
All, that is, apart from the bemused top table – “is there something
we don’t know?” The selection of Toady
Thompson to manage the raffle provokes thoughtfulness as he awards
each prize to one of the Directors.
Before: Bristow decides to wear his normal clobber, including velvet
collared drape jacket, drainpipe trousers and blue suede shoes.
During: The speakers fortify themselves with considerable amounts
of alcohol before leaving the safety of the boardroom. Mr. Blue, seeking
to bask in the approbation of his diners, finds most of them hastily
shovelling the leftovers into doggy bags.
Before: The committee determine to crack down on
hooliganism. Some of the clerks feel it is hardly worth going.
Before: The committee are unhappy when they realise
that Bristow has found about the dinner and dance.
Before: Bristow leaves his decision about attending
to the last minute – literally, to 4:59pm on the day.
During: Once again seated opposite the ugliest
woman in the firm (not named as Bessie Bland in this one), Bristow decides
to keep his coat on “- I'm not stopping”.
Post-Mortem: It must have been a good night, judging
by the groans coming from the Buying Department the next day, and the
demand for black coffee throughout the firm.
Before: Toady Thompson reports sick due to over-excitement
at the announcement of the date for the dinner and dance. Bristow wisely
packs a flask, magazines and a solitaire game in preparation for the
evening. Sunman, pretending she cannot go, traps Bristow into admitting
that he is.
During: Bristow impresses his
fellow diners with singing, dancing and flirting. But when Atkins asks
for a repeat, we find our hero recumbent under the table.
Venue: The Rising Sun banqueting rooms are chosen in preference
to the firm’s canteen.
Before: Sir Reginald declines to acknowledge an
invitation from the committee to attend the dinner and dance. The committee
ask their wine tasting committee to sample the wines chosen for the
event, but have to adjourn when the chairman is found under the table.
Tickets go on sale and Bristow is taken aback at the price (£10). The
Home Secretary drafts in 500 extra police to ensure public order.
Before: As usual Sir Reginald receives invitations
from various prestigious institutions which he seems minded to accept.
He does not appear so minded when one arrives from the Sports &
Social Club. Once again Bristow rails against spending £10 for a ticket.
This merely confirms to his colleagues that he’ll be there. The most
popular man is Mr. Blackett who sings “Down with the management” whilst
tearing up a House Journal
Before: Sir Reginald bins the Sports and Social
club invitation. Jones inveigles Bristow into going with the promise
that they can talk shop all night. Bristow antagonises the typists with
his usual objections to the standard of pulchritude. Sunman takes Bristow’s
“well, er” response when she asks about the Last Waltz as an eager acceptance.
During: Bristow and Jones cling gamely to the bar once the dancing
starts. “You wouldn’t get me out there for all the tea in China – Miss
Sunman has unpinned her hair”
Before: The price of the tickets induces a fit
of the vapours in Bristow. He is warned that security is being stepped
up and that latecomers will find the doors hermetically sealed.
During: Bristow’s seat is placed, as seems to
be traditional, as far away from the top table as possible. Amongst
his dining companions is Toady Thompson, who yearns to be at, or at
least nearer, to the elite on the top table. Sunman pulls the wishbone
with Bristow. She wishes he would take more interest in her. His thoughts
– “she should be so lucky”.
1989 (full details are
missing for this year)
Before: Sir Reginald consigns his invitation to the shredder
Before: Sir Reginald plays a cruel joke on the
committee, saying he will indeed say a few words at the dinner and dance,
but planning secretly to cancel just before. However nobody on the committee,
with the exception of the gullible chairman Hickford, believes him.
Bristow enjoyed it – the bread rolls were flying.
Before: Someone at the Sports and Social club committee
dares to suggest that it is not worth bothering to invite Sir Reginald
– but this glimmer of reality is shouted down. Jones laments that the
music is to be replaced by karaoke.
During: Bristow is delighted to be seated with the firm’s cashiers.
They appear to be a somewhat suspect bunch of ex-cons.
Post-Mortem: Bristow is pleased to have come second in the raffle,
karaoke and musical chairs. But Jones has the smug smile of a winner.
Before: Bristow promises to fix it that Sir Reginald
will attend, his innocent victim being a hitherto unknown Mr. Proby.
Sir Reginald reacts badly to the invitation and resorts to law. Sunman
forces Bristow to buy a ticket at a cost of £10, he submits knowing
that his wages will docked otherwise.
During: The dress code has been tightened – hard hats and overalls
are out. Bristow is seated next to Muscles
Maddox, the firm’s bully. Maddox has a wonderful time. Bristow suffers.
Sunman tries to get him dancing but he has an excuse ready.
Before: Bristow threatens to attend with a diamond
in his nose and sporting an earring. Jones trumps this by dragging out
his old 50s gear, drainpipe trousers, bootlace tie and all. Hickford
delicately reminds Bristow that, never mind buying this year’s ticket,
he still owes for the previous year.
During: Bristow relishes the stupefying dull chat about invoices
and orders, letters and requisitions of his fellow clerks.
Before: The 1992 dress code is restated.
During: Seated opposite Sunman, Bristow makes skilful use of
the table decorations, rather cruelly thinking “I don't want to look
at that face all evening”. He has another clever excuse ready to avoid
dancing with her as well.
1995-7 Information about these years is not available
Before: The committee abandon the attempt to persuade
Sir Reginald to attend. Once again Sunman entraps Bristow into admitting
that he is going.
During: Bristow orders the
post-boy to get on his feet and dance.
Post-Mortem: Hickford, very
foolishly, asks Bristow for his opinion. “I’ll find something for you
to bite on”
1999 full details are
Before: There is now a behaviour code in which cycling, skateboarding
and ball games are banned.
Before: The committee consider drugging Sir Reginald
and bringing him to the dinner and dance by force.
Before: Hickford approves the design of the tickets
“not a patch on the forged ones but they will have to do”. Sunman gets
over excited. Bristow plays it very cool.
Post-Mortem: The crowds of
workers going into the Chester-Perry building the next day are advised
to keep schtum “Anyone who looks as if they enjoyed themselves will
be taken aside for questioning”
Before: Bristow, hesitating about buying a ticket,
is warned that his absence might threaten his career.
Before: A Sports and Social committee man dares
to tell his colleagues they are stupid to think Sir Reginald will ever
attend. He is expelled forthwith. Jones and Bristow bemoan that hard
hats are now acceptable wear.
During: It is difficult to get into the canteen
due to people having a look before deciding whether to go in. Jones
tries to set up Bristow with a suitable young woman but he loses her
to a dashing cavalry officer (Atkins in disguise).
Post-mortem: The punch-up at the dance interests
Sky Sports who want to buy the film rights. Bristow explains that alcohol
was the root of the problem “Invoicing were pie-eyed when they arrived”.
Sunman clearly had a great time “every girl should be fought over just
once in her lifetime”. A scapegoat is found to carry the can
for the debacle – this is presumably Mr. Meeke.
Before: The dinner and dance is brought a week
early so the organisers can escape the country before Christmas. Sunman
is delighted because if she falls in love she has more time to sort
out her Christmas.
During: Bristow advises a youngster to duck under
the table the moment someone says “for what we are about to receive”
Post-mortem: The dinner was greatly enjoyed by
one individual who managed to do work with the people sitting near him
than in the whole of the previous year.
Post-mortem: People found the party more interesting
than Jones’ new book “Sex in the office”
Astonishing post-post-mortem: Miss Sunman and Toady Thompson
(“his name is not Toady, it’s Ronald”) get it together and are, in her
words, “an item”. Thompson has a son but as no wife has ever been mentioned,
perhaps he is a single parent. Otherwise this marks a shocking lapse
for both of them. But then again maybe all that did happen was
a peck on the cheek at the end.
Before: There are wild celebrations when one person buys a ticket
Post-mortem: Not much is recalled. The speech that Bristow dimly remembers
was apparently delivered at the 2006 shindig.
Before: Due to the recession, there is an announcement that the
Dinner and Dance is cancelled. Miss Sunman is inconsolable.
Post-Mortem: It transpires that the enterprising Sports and Social Club
have found an alternative venue. As this venue is the broom cupboard
on the second floor, the event is less of a success than they might
Before: Once again there is an attempt to persuade Sir Reginald
to attend. Bristow prefers his absence (“I feel he has his eye on me
the whole time”).