Christmas Is The Season To Be Jolly (Hung-Over).

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'In the City, Christmas is the season to be jolly (hung-over).

When I was a banker (1996-2008), hardly a day went by in December without some kind of debauched knees-up, and any stockbroker worth his salt would have a green and distended liver the size of Hartlepool come the holidays.

The bloodshot eyes, pale faces, sickly groans and stench of death on the average trading floor in the run-up to Christmas would convince any unfortunate visitor that they’d just walked onto the set of a particularly nauseating zombie film.

Of course, necking booze like it’s going out of fashion and doing a supposedly highly-professional job can be a recipe for disaster - especially when you consider the average profile of those involved – young, macho, highly competitive. And there was no minefield more dangerous than the bank’s annual big Christmas bash. Crossing the line at these events really could have a detrimental impact on your career prospects. And I should know, for on several occasions things got a little out of hand.

The last such event I attended was in 2007. About 500 bank employees of all ranks rocked up to this Caligulan extravaganza, which took place in an extremely plush City venue and involved wonderful food, playground rides and enough champers to keep everyone happy. After some preliminary sharpners in the local pub, my team-mates and I piled into the party like a bunch of frat boys invading a sorority. And we immediately began playing various inane drinking games. Within about an hour I could barely see, and that’s when the trouble started…

Apparently I allowed a simmering rivalry with a colleague to get out of hand. Gentle ‘matey’ mockery escalated quicker than a Middle East border dispute, but fortunately for him discretion proved the better part of valour and I allowed the hulking rugby player to walk away unharmed. I then apparently got on the dance floor, took my shirt off and began throwing shapes like an ecstasy-addled teenager in front of the disapproving MDs, whilst trying it on with every inappropriate lady within reach. These events are, of course, one of the key ways a City secretary can bag herself a millionaire but even if I’d had Abramovich’s billions and Clooney’s looks (whch I don't), there weren't any gold-diggers there that night sufficiently desperate enough to give me a second glance. I finally stumbled out at about midnight, after having deposited my lunch into some unsuspecting lady’s hand bag, and woke up on my sofa looking and smelling like Ollie Reed (and I say that fully aware he’s been dead for 8 years).

Interestingly, my antics pale into comparison with those of certain other Cityboys. There is the famous 2004 story about the Christmas fancy dress party at one famous Wall Street firm, when some buffoon - dressed as a ‘chav’ - who’d just failed to get a promotion, beat the crap out of someone from a rival team dressed as a Dalmatian. An ABN Amro banker also apparently head-butted one of his colleagues straight to hospital at one Christmas party – amusingly, over an argument about trading ethics! Both these testosterone-fuelled pugilists lost their jobs, as did the banker who was found asleep near Finsbury Circus with his trousers around his ankles after his firm’s seasonal shindig. He had apparently passed out in flagrante and the young lady involved left him in disgust.

Christmas comes but once a year and let’s thank the Lord for that … because after twelve months of hard work you can ruin it all in the blink of an eye (and just before bonus time too). Having said that, my ex-work colleagues tell me that those debauched days are long gone. A new generation of spoddy automatons has taken over, and even the old lags are so worried about their jobs that they daren’t risk giving their bosses an excuse to fire them. These bosses, keen to avoid the bad publicity that would arise from photos of pin-striped guffawing bankers downing champers, have also made it harder to fall at the last hurdle by urging restraint during the festive season and ceasing to put on mega Christmas parties.

Whilst these developments may seem a sad reflection of our ever-more professional and austere times, perhaps the end of the big City Xmas party is no bad thing for those bankers with a capacity to get out of control. And that’s because a gift-wrapped P45 is the one ‘Christmas bonus’ no Cityboy wants to get'.

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