Earlier this week I attended a meeting of an organisation - which had better remain nameless - but which has a waterways focus and of which I am a member.
It was the AGM. Not always the most exciting of meetings of any group but in this case it did promise a potentially interesting speaker after the formalities and in any case it's the only meeting of the year that this organisation actually holds that is open to the general membership. And just to complete the attraction, although it was being held in a little village someway out of Lancaster and in the evening I could get there on the bus.
The first blow was that the speaker had brought his presentation in a version of the software than the organisation's PC couldn't handle - and he felt unable to speak without being able to show it! That left just the formal business, although in the event I doubt that there would have been time for the talk anyway!
Despite the formal officers' reports having been circulated in advance and hard copies being available on the night, each of the multi-page documents was read out, slowly, in full. As ever it was the Treasurer's report that excited the most interest: not the thousands of pounds raised and spent on various worthwhile projects of course, but the matter of a few hundred quid's worth of "expenses". Why had they paid and who had authorised them? Did this not conflict with Policy and why had that policy not been adhered to? From an outsider's point of view and from the explanation given by the committee, it was clear that although the letter of the constitution may not have been followed, the spirit certainly was and no harm had been done. The committee's case however was not exactly helped by the recipient of the expenses then complaining that he hadn't been told exactly what he could claim for or how much he was entitled to!
When eventually the Chairman got the meeting to agree to move on, more problems appeared. For the "election of officers" it was apparent that there were a number of important posts to be filled, with no candidates (I wonder why!). The Secretary's post was one, but the Chairman was pleased to announce that someone had come forward. Said person, however, then indicated that she could only do the work as a "job share". After a while, someone else offered to be the "share", but when the chairman suggested that the two also share the related role of Membership Secretary the "sharer" made it quite clear that under no circumstances would he have anything to do with that role!
There was even a discussion as to whether it was technically possible to share, with the retiring incumbent saying definitely not, at which someone else reminded the meeting that two named individuals had shared the role in the past.
The Chairman persevered and was just on the point of announcing that the two individuals would be appointed to the committee when someone pointed out that the meeting had not agreed to a job-share and that a vote would have to be taken, followed by another vote to elect the two people concerned. Both passed unanimously, but by this point I had to decide whether to spend the next half-hour before my bus was due listening to more of the same or whether to go across the road to the pub.
It was a very fine pint of Black Sheep Bitter - and the bus was bang on time.