It’s nearly that time of year when British tabloids start to publish pictures of debauched office parties spilling out onto the streets of provincial towns, with a stern commentary about the declining morals of a once proud nation. But while Office Christmas Parties (let’s call them OCPs, we’re all friends here) might be unhealthy, and might even lead to a short spell in a police cell for the acting head of payroll who’s covering for Lorraine while she’s on maternity leave, they’re part of our culture, like it or not.

A Very British Christmas

A Very British Christmas

You remember that fly-on-the-wall documentary of a typical British Christmas entitled Love Actually? In said film, Alan Rickman’s character tells us the typical approach to arranging an OCP: "It’s basic, really. Find a venue, over-order on the drinks, bulk-buy the guacamole and advise the girls to avoid Kevin if they want their breasts unfondled." But Kevin, who will surely face dismissal on his return to work in the New Year, is just one of a number of regular characters that you encounter at the typical OCP. Here are five others to watch out for:

1: The Party Organiser Spare a thought for the poor member of staff whose job it was to find the venue, pay the deposit, arrange for the food, drink, even entertainment, and is obliged to maintain a level of sobriety throughout the evening in case anything goes wrong. You can spot them by their empty glass and slightly nervous expression as the inevitable chaos begins to unfold around them.

2: The Disgruntled Employee The OCP can quickly morph into a drunken splurge of emotion following a year of tension over rejected expense claims and overlooked promotions. Keep alert for any utterance of the words “I’ve got a few things to get off my chest” and brace yourself for fireworks. Note: This behaviour isn’t restricted to those on the lower rungs of the ladder; I was told the story of a drunken CEO who grabbed the mic at an OCP and started ranting about how shit everyone was at their jobs, picking on people one by one, and then ended up punching the Director of Operations. People wept. This is how we, as a nation, choose to celebrate.

3: The Shell Emerger The person who has sat almost unnoticed in the office all year, can, with the assistance of a few champagne cocktails, suddenly transform into a volcanic social animal capable of marshalling the entire workforce into a choreographed dance routine to “Crazy In Love” while whirling a lasso about their head and bellowing in motivational epithets. Next week they’ll go back to meekly photocopying documents as if nothing had happened.

4: The Spurned Lover When someone from accounts has been going out with someone from human resources, but in late October decides to go out with someone in the marketing department instead, the person from human resources may choose the OCP as an appropriate place to exact revenge on both parties for ruining their life. It’s not the appropriate place, but they’ll do it anyway. This famously happened at a London Zoo Christmas Party in 2014, in a row involving a meerkat keeper and a monkey keeper fighting over a llama keeper. It wasn’t pretty, and it ended up in court. Be warned.

5: The Reluctant Attendee The reluctant attendee arrives, says hello to various people, leaves, and goes to a pub around the corner to read a book. They pop back briefly a couple more times over the course of the evening, thus managing to skilfully convince everyone that they were at the party all night when actually they were getting stuck into their copy of The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy. And who’s to say that their approach isn’t right?

A Very British Christmas by Rhodri Marsden is out now! (HQ, £9.99)