What’s better than a Parish Council meeting? You’ve guessed it, two Parish Council meetings. The first gathering since my appointment, and I learn that we are to cover both the AGM and the monthly standing agenda. How much fun can can a group of relative stangers have in two hours? Turns out, not very much.
My first decision as an elected (ish) official is not particularly grand; where to sit at the. I eye up the the chairs distributed around the table, at which only the Parish Clerk has taken position. Paranoia kicks in, with every potential position feeling like some kind of power move. I could take up the seat I suspect is reserved for the Chairman – too much. Directly oposite the Chairman – to aggresive. Next to the Chairman – too keen / suck-up. I have it on poor authority that the Korean war continued for nearly three additional months whilst the various representatives debated (amongst other things) the seating plan for the peace negotiations. I can now see why this unlikely statistic could well be true.
By the time I’ve snapped out of it, only one seat remains; I’ll be next to the Chairman and potentially forever known as the suck-up. I am surprised to see that I have unconciously already left my notepad and pen at this location, so something deep inside has clearly guided me to secure this space. I suspect I have just selected my precise place at the table for the next 4-years, we shall see what fun can be had with this over the coming months.
Being the AGM, there are a few attendees from the general public. The great unwashed are provided a row of chairs in front of the Council table, a row that is hastily added to by the Vice Chairman as the public numbers swell to five. Bang on 19:30 to AGM is brought to order.
The vast majority of the AGM agenda passes without note, save for one incredible highlight right at the start. The Chairman is obliged to read aloud two statements; an end of year summary from himself, and an end of tenure statement from the outgoing District Councillor. What follows is an extremely awkward, pre-prepared speech on the achievements of the small collection of people around the table, each name dropped and given equal coverage and praise for all they have done. Somebody commits early with a ‘here here’ in response to a particular detail, leading innevitably to the same response to each and evey acknowledgement so as not to leave anybody out.
Just as I think it can’t get any more awkward, the statement is read out on behalf of the outgoing DC. I’m alarmed to see that the two pages of well populated A4 are double sided, and what follows is a strange combination of what is clearly somebody’s heart felt departing message (potentially written with an emotional theme music accompanyment in mind) read out unenthuistically by somebody who would clearly rather be doing anything else. Note to self – if ever there was a reason not become Chairman one day, this was it.
Perhaps the strangest 20 minute opening to a meeting I have ever experienced. I trust there will be many more to trump it.
If you want me to speak for two minutes, it will take me three weeks of preparation. If you want me to speak for thirty minutes, it will take me a week to prepare. If you want me to speak for an hour, I am ready now.
The AGM is brought to a close, with the majority of the public attendees taking the opportunity to leave at this point. For many of them this will be there only engagement with the Council, and I look forward to seeing them next year. I had prepared myself for a rant or two from the floor under ‘Any Other Business’, but nothing came. It seems a lot of effort to go to, to just turn up and say nothing; but that was the demorcratic choice this silent majority.
But wait – one character is staying on for the monthly Parish meeting that will commence in moments few. I will report on this in due course. The volume of notes I have accumulated from the subsequent 90 minutes will need a post or two over the coming weeks to really do it justice. We are truely off and running insidetheparish.