Fight for the right to (Xmas) party!

It’s already been a week since we hosted our Christmas party. Although it would have been good to meet up in real life, as planned, it’s fitting that we had to move our party online. After all, we’ve been a fully remote team since 2020 (having started being remote around 2010) and we plan to stay that way!

Having changed our party plans at the eleventh hour, it was down to the management team to come up with ideas to get the party going. We began with a less-than-resounding singalong for Kim Stimpson’s birthday before moving on to the first item on the evening’s party agenda. 

Foil, but not as you know it

Our new Head of Sales, Mark Wilcox, kicked the party off with a hat competition with a twist. Having given the team a mere two days’ notice to produce a hat solely made of tin foil, the pressure was on. Almost every member of the team rose to the occasion, making for what was possibly one of the least photogenic video calls seen since the pandemic began.

An honourable mention goes to Tom Chadwin for his allegorical hat featuring a beautiful bird trapped within the bars of proprietary spatial software. With an almost deft flourish, Tom, representing a nameless British public sector organisation, whisked away the birdcage to free the bird which represented open source software. Despite earning a round of applause from his colleagues, our judge, The Right Honourable Steven Feldman, seemed less than impressed, reminding Tom that this was ‘a Christmas party’ and he planned to award the prize to the person who made him laugh.

Steven went on to give the prize to Dan Ormsby for his Beastie Boys baseball cap. Channelling his inner Gok Wan, Dan had carefully accessorised this with shades and a huge tin foil medal. Tracy Russell’s more traditional Christmas hat won her a well deserved second place.

A few of our Christmas party highlights

Other memorable ‘hats’ included Marco Finnberg’s hat for a finger, Jo Cook’s dragon hat, Mike Saunt’s Australian bush hat and a scarily similar trio of hats sported by Matt Travis, Moira Livesey and Jonathan Lake-Thomas. 

A bluffer’s paradise

Following on from the hat competition came an epic ‘find the fact’ battle. During the week, we all submitted three facts about ourselves, two of which were false. The game was scheduled to last twenty minutes but an outbreak of competitiveness, ruthless cross-examinations and hilarity drew it out for well over an hour. 

The Best Bluffer winner was none other than the enigmatic Mr Feldman, aka Steven X, an unlikely civil rights activist. Only two Astuners were able to catch him out. Highly commended in the bluffers category were Ali Linden and Jill Davis (on 3) and Gowthami Dhandapani and Matt Walker (on 4).

Most ridiculous bluffs:

I once turned down a job at MapInfo because I didn’t like the logo (Jill Davis).

I once spent a week with the Rolling Stones in Warwick Castle (Nick Turner).*

I met Arnold Schwarzenegger at a film premiere and ended up accidentally injuring him (Simon Chapman).

I’m a happy Windows user (Ian Turton). 

As for the Best Guesser, this hotly-contested prize went to Ant ‘Poirot’ Scott whose forensic cross-examination meant that 12 bluffers couldn’t fool him. Highly commended guessers were Mike Smith (11) and Pete Goulborn and Ali Linden (both 10). 

Most entertaining or scandalous facts:

I was once stopped by the police for suspected flashing (Matt Walker).

I once put an army base on red alert (Andrew Bailey).

My Mum baked all my cakes for the brownie cake-making competition and pretended I baked them so I won first prize three years in a row (Jo Cook).

I once locked myself in a building with Kylie Minogue and ended up with her clothes in my hands (Simon Chapman).

Thanks to Paul Porthouse who followed up his claim that he was once a highly trained athlete who won a coveted prize in a race by surprising us with a photo of him aged seven. 

For reasons which will remain confidential within the team, hours of detailed scoring and analysis were later thrown out of the window following Ian Turton’s shocking reveal. Instead, he became the winner of every category and possibly every competition yet to come.

The big geographic quiz

After a quick comfort break, Steven Feldman threw off his Steven X persona to become Astun’s answer to Stephen Fry. With some trepidation, the remaining participants embarked on his two quizzes which were both thought-provoking and devilishly difficult. Fortunately, we were scoring ourselves so we can all pretend we did fantastically well.


After many hours of anticipation, Mark Wilcox was eventually called upon to reveal his talents as a bingo caller. In what was possibly the most protracted game of bingo known to man, partially thanks to Tracy debating whether her pen was called a ‘dibber’ or a ‘dabber’, Mark’s knowledge of bingo terms was put to the test. 

The bingo winners were Tracy Russell, Mike Smith and Domna Kanari.

Odd Google searches

Finally, we rounded the evening off with another allegedly ‘quick’ game which involved guessing how popular Google searches end, for example, ‘is it cool to…?’ or ‘is bingo…?’. There were some weird, wonderful and frankly disturbing guesses which are now recorded for posterity on our Google team chat.  

Of course, having paid for everyone’s alcohol, it was only right that we rounded the day off with a free takeaway to help soak it up! After all, it was business as usual the following day.

Many thanks go to Mark, Dan and Nick, aka The Three Amigos, for all their hard work and to everyone else for being such good sports. 

*If we are to believe a word he says, Nick did spend a week at Warwick Castle but it was with Mick Hucknell of Simply Red fame, which is not the same. The most memorable aspect of his week (and Nick’s hidden fact) was him being attacked by eight peacocks.

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