“Look, it’s perfectly simple. I want a caipirinha mule, a sherry martini, a cabernet merlot and one of those Polish beers. A Zweibacker, I think.”
Actually, I’m not sure about the exact nomenclature, but it’s obvious what I want. The barman merely stares.
Oh God. It’ll all be fine if I can just get him to start pouring liquids and shaking things. If Suzanne has another of those purple arrangements she’ll forget that I mocked her brachydactylic thumbs. It’s clear that I’m not orange enough for these problems. It is also clear I’ve put a thief in my mouth to steal my brains. In which case he’s out of luck.
Was it really only seven hours ago that I’d arrived in Bristol for a civilized chat about contemporary issues with the staff of Provelio, the up-and-coming project manager? Piecing together the events of the evening, with the help of my increasingly cryptic notes, it’s clear there were ominous signs right from the start. During the first warm exchange of greetings, Paul is introduced as “Scumbag” and Amy as “Tosspiece”. These people are bright orange, but in different ways. Amy is posh (Suzanne accuses her of having attended Clifton College, and Paul claims her father pays the company £10k a year to take her off his hands) whereas Paul sometimes wears a T-shirt saying “them’s me daps, mind” (this is Bristolian for “don’t step on my shoes”).
Why orange? Because they are yellow and red. Provelio colour-codes staff and clients alike (see the scan of Paul’s sketch, for what these colours mean).
“You’re entitled to a bit of fun if you work as hard we do,” says Rob. Also the odd cheeky little weekend away skiing to celebrate Mark’s 40th, which is what the men are doing tomorrow. Also the occasional dad’s weekend away camping with the kids, of which they have enough to form a small tribe. Why can’t the girls come too? Mark: “It took me about a year to get the wife to agree to a boy’s weekend.” Suzanne: “We asked if we could bring our own dads.” Amy: “Oh yeah, but we weren’t allowed to come. No girls allowed. We cried.” Suzanne and Amy (together): “We did.” Suzanne: “I think you’ve got to be pretty thick-skinned to work here.” Amy: “I cry myself to sleep … he called me tosspiece.”
This is clearly an established double act, and the directors make only token attempts to interrupt, until Suzanne invites them back with: “Rob’s building up a little harem. Sometimes it’s just you and the girls hanging out.” Rob: “I discuss the offside rule when you’re talking about getting into your jeggings.” Amy: “The first time I heard ‘jeggings’ I actually wet myself a bit.”
That remark begins a conversation about Bristol dialect words, one or two of which deserve wider currency. Such as “scrage” (somewhere between a scratch and a graze), “naus” (a boring fellow) and “pitching” (snowfall that is lying rather than melting). This carries on until the men set off to wax their alpenstocks and the rest of us move on to a wine bar by the Wills Memorial Building, where I eventually place the drinks order mentioned above. Whatever happened after that has been lost to history; all I can say is that I woke up the next morning feeling intensely introverted and people-focused.