Co-workers on the annual works picnic of Quotidian, a mail solutions provider in Nottingham, agreed the prospect of having a good time on the day had been completely ruined by the presence of a battered acoustic guitar case casually left on a picnic blanket by the drinks icebox. ‘It’s bad enough having to spend a Saturday afternoon with the braying families of people you spend all week trying to avoid just because of heavy-handed hints about the importance of team-workers in these times of cutbacks,’ said supplies manager Ed Morton, ‘but the prospect of a sing-song? They won’t need to make me redundant, I’ll gladly quit…’
While the Managing Director and several eager graduate trainees worked to get the barbecue fired up, huddled clusters of colleagues looked around anxiously, attempting to identify the owner of the instrument to assess the extent of discomfort they were likely to be subjected to. ‘The mid-life crisis of Bill in accounts has had him talking about starting a band for months, so it could be him mangling Hotel California and Baker Street,’ mused receptionist Jade Cummings, while Morton was said to have ‘a very bad feeling the CIO’s been born again and we’ll all have to join in Kumbayah.’
The rest of the afternoon passed edgily with the unopened guitar case throwing a long shadow; even the sales team appeared subdued, failing to take the interdepartmental softball game too seriously, while making only a lacklustre series of sarcastic remarks about the in-house lawyer’s surprisingly tight-fitting choice of leisure trousers and unexpected earring. ‘All the charm of being outdoors eating hot food that’s gone a bit cold, and cold food that’s gotten slightly warmed has been ruined by the prospect of having gangs of local hoodies throwing empty WKD bottles at me while I half-heartedly hum Wonderwall in a grotty park,’ sighed Cummings.
As dusk began to settle on the occasion, it finally emerged that the guitar belonged to Ant, the quiet but handsome young boyfriend of Head of HR Claire Richmond. The remainder of the evening was spent with the women of the office singing along contentedly to modern singer songwriter classics, while the single males in the group tried to see how close they could get to Ant’s head with the Frisbee, and the in-house counsel greeted the end of each song with enthusiastic applause.