On the first day of Christmas, Ms Fang the hunter-killer secretary gave to me a chunky stollen. Not in a pear tree, but a cellophane wrapper with a label indicating that the traditional Austrian festive cake was made in Hong Kong – and they say our manufacturing industry is dead. It arrived at S-Meg Holdings in a hamper addressed to the Big Boss from the slightly less-than-averagely slimy Chiuchow family the Leungs. After our visionary Chairman and Managing Director cast the offering aside with an uninterested wave full of Christmas cheer, its contents were sequestered by his ever-acquisitive personal assistant. After helping herself to the chocolates and ham, she distributed the less desirable contents as she saw fit. Deputy Managing Director Mr Chan received the bottle of wine, while the three Stanleys in the mailroom got a big tube of pecan cookies. The stollen, being at the more inexplicable and exotic end of the culinary scale, went to the Company Gwailo, who would presumably know what to do with it.
On the second day of Christmas, Ms Fang the hunter-killer secretary gave to me a vast panettone in a tin. But not before making sure it was, as she suspected, a nasty, overly sweet cake-thing not suitable for the delicate Cantonese palate. This came in a large, ribbon-bedecked basket that momentarily excited the Big Boss when one of Stanleys dragged it into the conference room and announced that it was from Mr Li. A Yuletide tribute from Asia’s richest man would require his personal attention. But it was not to be. This is Mr Li of the venerable durian trading dynasty, who always followed their grandfather’s instructions to focus on fruit, which they know best, and not get diverted into areas like real estate, which is why today they are nonentities. Ms Fang helped herself to a pricy-looking selection of French preserves, Mr Chan had the champagne, and the office pantry has been replenished with a variety of herbal teas none of the three Stanleys wanted. My pair of Filipino elves will welcome the Italian sweet bread, but I’ll keep the amazing tin.
On the third day of Christmas, Ms Fang the hunter-killer secretary gave to me a 42-gallon barrel of Almond Roca buttercrunch somethings. It was one of the sicklier contents of a hamper from Ho, Ho and Ho, S-Meg’s long-suffering law firm, whose partners must attend emergency calls at three in the morning when Number-One Son crashes his Porsche. The Big Boss showed little interest after confirming that it had come with a suitably groveling message. After mulling over her options for some time, Ms Fang eventually gave her own personable and highly efficient assistant a box of ginger biscuits. Mr Chan got a fancy jar of marmalade, possibly because the label indicated that it had a hint of whisky in it, while the three Stanleys got a bag of exotic-looking breadsticks. Ms Fang thinks I didn’t see her swiping the big vacuum-packed slab of salmon.
On the fourth day of Christmas, Ms Fang the hunter-killer secretary gave to me a heavy black lump of British Christmas pudding. Or rather she offered it on the off-chance that I might want to rescue it from being thrown away. In Victorian times, a steamed fatty spiced wodge of dried fruit and nuts was an orgasm of rare and highly valued culinary sensations. Now, it is the Western equivalent of mooncakes: a seasonal punishment to be endured. This hamper was from Mr So and his wife, inveterate shoe-shiners who constantly nag the Big Boss for help in having their son made a Justice of the Peace. The Big Boss shrugged it aside with a grunt. Sophisticate Mr Chan inspired awe by asking specifically for the Stilton cheese – terrifying, mould-ridden cow-grease – which he declared would go well with the port. Ms Fang’s assistant received a dainty bottle of olive oil and Googled for advice on its best use, while the three Stanleys dived with relish into a can of gourmet organic honey-coated roast peanuts. The pantry was donated a jar of quince paste that looked too expensive to throw away. Everyone gets a wicker basket to transport their loot in. Ms Fang, gambling that Mr Chan would opt for the port, nabbed the selection of pates and the vanilla fudge before distributing the other items to everyone else. The two Filipino elves, who are apparently acquainted with the stodgy dish, have taken the big black lump with gratitude for serving at a barbecue at Repulse Bay tomorrow.
The other eight days were no less eventful, and at times we have been so inundated with fine Scottish shortbread, luxury sesame crackers and jars of exclusive hand-crafted honey, we have had no option but to pass the excess on to the peasants who toil in the Accounts Department.
I declare the weekend-in-the-middle-of-the-week open.
Park N Shop were out of turkeys…