CHANCES are you're reading this with a hefty dose of The Fear. The Christmas party season is upon us and nothing says regret like waking up with hazy memories of downing shots, hugging the toilet and badgering the managing director to do a duet of Baby, It's Cold Outside at the karaoke mic.

Or perhaps not. Badly-behaved office soirees could become a thing of the past, according to a new poll. The survey by hotel chain Leonardo Hotels found that 86 per cent of workers believe the stereotypical wild festive shindig is no longer de rigueur.

Instead, the average Brit aspires to spend less than two hours at their workplace Christmas party, with 29% saying they resented having to devote free time to socialising with colleagues.

Almost half believe being tipsy in front of a boss is unprofessional, while 28% insist that they have never considered using the office photocopier inappropriately.

While it's good news that we're ringing the changes – who hasn't been at a yuletide gathering where, as collars have loosened, so too has all grip on social decorum – there's part of me that can't help but lament their passing.

The office Christmas party is akin to pulling a pin from a grenade. Grievances are aired. Scores settled. Crushes are revealed. Illicit liaisons abound.

The air is thick with the cloying scent of myriad perfumes, Lynx Africa and desperation. Someone knots a tie around their head in a poor impersonation of Rambo. The resident introvert becomes Michael Flatley on the dancefloor.

There's a slew of eyewatering stiletto-related injuries in the stampede for the buffet. Inevitably someone ends up with red wine down their front, their similarly stained teeth and lips resembling Baldrick from Blackadder, as they make a beeline for the mistletoe.

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It is cheesy and excruciating and the equivalent of aural waterboarding as Slade, Wizzard and Shakin' Stevens play on a loop.

But it's also cathartic. Start the new year with a fresh slate. Or a P45. Whatever.

Breaking meows

IF you imagined that being a Whitehall mouser was all posing in natty neckwear and blithely ignoring scuttling rodents, then think again.

Details of the profession's dark underbelly have emerged when it was revealed that Palmerston, the Foreign Office cat, had newly returned to work after six months off with stress caused by civil servants constantly handling and overfeeding him.

In July, Palmerston – who had become overweight and groomed all of the hair off his front legs – was taken to the home of Sir Simon McDonald's Private Secretary to recover.

Sir Simon, a senior civil servant whose remit includes overseeing Palmerston's wellbeing, has reportedly issued a letter to staff containing a strict set of rules that, if not obeyed, could see the black and white puss retired permanently.

A "Palmerston Zone" has been set up, described as a "more manageable territory" for the middle-aged feline who was previously allowed to roam over all six floors at his King Charles Street residence, as well as into Downing Street and nearby St James's Park, where he once famously caught a duckling.

Staff have been warned not to touch the cat unless approached, and to stop feeding him treats. The moggy will be given his own sanctum – dubbed "Palmerston HQ" – where, like Greta Garbo, he can be alone as he chooses.

Rumours that Palmerston's long-time nemesis and fellow mouser Larry is set to undergo hypnosis to overcome his embarrassingly low rodent kill rate are purely scurrilous.

Mr Mansplain

THE tentacles of mansplaining now reach into every facet of life. Nowhere is safe from this blight – not even, it seems, children's books, with the Mr Men series the latest to come under fire.

Accusations that its stories and characters, created by the late Roger Hargreaves, perpetuate "antiquated gender roles" and "sexist iconography" have been levelled by PhD student Shelby Judge.

Her gripe centres on a conversation between Mr Clever and Little Miss Curious about the Forth Bridge in Mr Men in Scotland, which Judge spotted in the gift shop at Stirling Castle.

The text reads: "Mr Clever explained that it was named after the River Forth. Little Miss Curious thought for a moment. 'So, what happened to the River First, the River Second and the River Third?' she asked. Mr Clever sighed. It was going to be a very long day."

Ah, poor Mr Clever is not as smart as he reckons. A very simple joke has gone right over his head. The upshot? He kicks into mansplaining mode. We've all been there.

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To be fair, it can't be easy being a Mr Man. Mr Tickle has likely found his uninvited touching curtailed in the #MeToo era. Mr Rude, who spouts remarks such as "Fatty, you're supposed to eat the things in the fridge, not eat the fridge as well!", won't be winning fans either as an outright body fascist.

Perhaps it's time for a Mr Woke?