So it was a long year. Looking forward to this one, though. All sorts of things I can stand seeing the back of, you can always hope, can’t you? You want another one of those, or do you want to try Bjorn’s new batch of Midwinter Ale? Right.
There you go, darlin’. I think you’ll like it. They certainly do, we’ll be lucky to see the back of them by dawn!
Ah, it was the annual New Year dinner for their local — they’d be the Ancients and Venerables of our local Guild of St. Nicholas. They always come in here from the Guild Hall after the dinner bit and keep the party going. They say they start with a toast to the Guildmaster, Lord Winter, and His Lady at the beginning of the dinner and pretty much plan to not stop ’til the next morning — the excuse, see, is that they pretty much don’t get to drink during practically all of December. Hey, you think drinking and driving is bad, you try it in a sledge with eight reindeer to control!
Well, no, not everyone, of course, just the Santas — the store elves and tree trimmers, candle lighters, gift wrappers, roast chestnut sellers, bell ringers, and professional carolers can usually get away with a tiddle here or there, but even so, it’s professional pride and custom that keeps most of them pretty much sober and working hard.
That entire guild doesn’t even bother with meetings or events from the end of November to after the New Year. I think they run around rescuing members from exhaustion and over-exertion, mainly.
Yeah, they spend most of the dinner laughing about things that happened, like the time Dan there on the end had two handfuls of his beard torn out by a kid who was sure it was fake, or the time Marta, the dark haired girl on the right, she’s a Christmas pudding maker, she discovered that her daughter had decided to store the salt in the sugar bin after she’d made three hundred puddings. Good thing winter puddings are made well before Christmas.
Nah, we don’t mind. They start off noisy and laughing, but sooner or later, they’ll go pretty quiet, once the toasts start, and once most of the other customers have left. Reynard usually sends us off-shift and stays at the bar himself. Oh, people sometimes stick around and try to listen, but weirdly, they don’t seem to remember much, other than getting this sort of, I don’t know, confused, solemn but peaceful look on their faces and saying that everyone just talked, but they can’t really remember any of it.
Even Spike, who’s usually impervious to just about anything. I once came in the morning after the dinner, and Spike was sleeping in the armchair there by the window. When I woke him up and gave him some ale for his breakfast, I asked him if he’d heard any good stories last night. He sort of screwed his face up in this confused kind of way, then smiled just like a little kid, and said, ‘bah, well maybe, I guess. . . only, jus’, you know, there’s still a real meaning behind Christmas, innit?’ Then afterwards, he didn’t remember saying it, looked at me like I was crazy when I said something about it ten minutes later.