Okay, so at some point in October/November last year we started talking about what to do for Christmas.
We have to sort these things out early, because for the past couple of years we were essentially deprived of having any kind of Christmas lunch/meal due to minute-takers on other areas getting Speshul Privalijez - by which I mean the entire of East team (which comprised more than two people back in 2015) asked not to be minuting for an entire day so they could go out to lunch, which meant that we had to pick up the slack and couldn't enjoy our team bring-and-share lunch actually as a team. (One of the TL's later owned up to allowing this because she wasn't aware it was also our lunch, because for some reason it wasn't in our TL's diary.) The following year was a similar story because it was so bloody busy. We vetoed having evening meals because of people's childcare commitments and everyone being knackered.
Anyway, so: October or November in 2017, a few of us are having a discussion about what to do. Those of us present for the discussion agreed that an evening meal straight after work might be nice, possibly in Kings Heath as it was close to work and not too difficult to get back from. We didn't send an email out to this effect because nothing had properly been agreed.
I should also add at this point that the reason Kings Heath was floated as a venue was because at least three members of the team live in that area, including Pat who was part of the discussion group.
A day later, our union colleague (Clare) sent an email around stating she'd booked out a room on a certain date so we could have a bring and share lunch. She did this without any kind of precursor, admittedly with good intentions, having not been present the previous day for the discussion about the potential meal out.
I should additionally add at this point that Pat and Clare do not have the best of relationships, and I had to raise concerns with our TL last year that Pat was on the borderline of bullying Clare through pointed passive-aggressiveness.
Needless to say, when Pat saw Clare's email she was not very happy. TBH I'm not particularly clear about the details of what happened next, mostly because it was all so pointless and ridiculous but also because everyone is constantly in and out of the office attending meetings, so I may well have missed something. Regardless, a few days later there was another discussion about the Christmas meal / bring and share and Clare made a comment that she "wasn't invited" to the meal, at which point I clarified that nobody had been invited because nothing had officially been agreed.
Anyway - to try and play Devil's advocate I suggested that there was no reason we couldn't do both, given that they were going to be on separate days anyway. Any excuse for baking is fine by me. :P
The eventual venue for the meal turned out to be somewhere in Moseley instead (I think the Italian place but can no longer remember), so I paid my deposit but said that I wasn't actually 100% sure I'd be going and that I would play it by ear on the day, given that December is always insanely busy and uses up all my energy.
You'd think that would be the end of it, but sadly not. At some point before both of these events, our other union colleague, Yvette, broached the subject of whether we were having a meal or whatever, only to be very confused when we told her to not to bring it up. She had been absent from all of the previous discussions and was unaware of the drama. She tried her hardest to get everyone excited but was told to leave it by pretty much everyone.
Anyway, I think it transpired that the meal and the bring-and-share were a day apart (on checking my work calendar it looks like the bring-and-share was on 7th December, so I think the meal was on the 6th.)
I eventually decided not to bother going to the meal. As anticipated, I was exhausted by the time it rolled around, but also I was sick of all the drama and I had a horrible suspicion it might turn into a bitching session about those who were not present, and quite frankly I'm not interested in that shit.
Another issue is this: Pat always invites former colleagues to team meals. Which is fine, but when we rarely get to spend time together as a team it just feels weird. This time around she'd invited a few former Grade 2 staff - two temps who left during the last agency staff clear-out, and one who went on to better things with the police, plus possibly some members of the CIC team - as well as our former line manager, Amanda. She did not think to invite Jo, who as a reminder was managing us up until August 2017 before being moved to a different team. Amanda has not managed us since mid-2015.
It really didn't sit well with me, and that was the main reason I didn't attend.
(It also turns out that Pat sometimes organises meals out for certain, specific members of the team without inviting anyone else; those of us not part of the Special Clique are clearly unique in whatever way we've pissed her off! It's just hilariously petty.)
The day after was the bring-and-share, for which I had made a very impressive Christmas cake. Even up to the day of the meal, Pat was trying to convince us not to go ahead with the bring-and-share because it became apparent there were only a few people in. I basically responded that I'd be bringing the cake in regardless. I should also point out that for the duration of this time Pat was refusing to participate in the bring-and-share, presumably solely on the basis that Clare had organised it.
On the day itself, there were only four of us in so Pat obviously felt guilty and decided to take part. By the end of the day there was still over half of the cake left because apparently nobody wanted any of it after all the savouries, so I gave what was left to the more grateful staff in Area Admin, who subsequently devoured it in ten minutes flat. (A few days later someone in the team asked if it got eaten so she at least had clearly noticed my annoyance about it.)
During the week of 10th December we had a lot of snow, and our previous manager Jo made a welcome visit as our building is the nearest place to where she lives. During a quiet period when it was just the two of us in the room, I did not hesitate to update her on all the drama, including the fact that Amanda had been invited to the meal and not herself. I didn't do this to cause any further drama, but after everything that had happened I wanted her to know that some of us appreciated her line management even though others might not have done. (When Jo started, Pat in particular was very resistant, for the most part because Amanda had been so tied up with the Gr2 CIC staff that we were essentially left without a manager for several months, and it took some time to get used to having that authority actually present again.)
Jo herself made a comment about inviting the manager who had "washed her hands" of the team rather than the one who had tried to support, and honestly, she's right. Amanda did a perfunctory handover and then never bothered to check in with us. The one and only time she called was when the travellers moved into the car park and the news went through the grapevine to other offices. She asked for gossip and was disappointed when we didn't know anything more than what had been on the local news. She abandoned us for months when she managed us and then left Jo to clean up the mess. But sure, invite her to the meal for nostalgia's sake.
It later turned out that my suspicions were correct and the meal did in fact turn into a bitching session about those not present, so I'm glad I didn't attend. And apparently Pat was pissed off that I hadn't gone, even though I made it very clear on several occasions that I would be playing it by ear depending on my energy levels.
Like I said - petty and exhausting. This year, to try and mitigate against any potential drama, I set up a document on the shared drive asking people to indicate what they were interested in out of four potential options (meal out, bring-and-share, "posh" chip butties and Secret Santa), because there's no reason we can't just do four separate things if we can't come to an agreement. Yvette then took over organising the actual meal and Secret Santa. (Interestingly, Pat did not fill out the document; whilst I hope that's because she's feeling guilty about what happened last year, I suspect it's because she actually likes causing drama.)
The thing is... there's enough politics going on without something as simple as a Christmas get-together causing all this pointless stress. What was supposed to be an effort to reclaim the Christmas lunch we'd been denied for the past two years turned into unnecessary bickering and pettiness. Fingers crossed this year it will go without a hitch.
Next update will doubtless be the traditional Year in Review meme, which I will probably start drafting very soon....