Chapter 4 : The AGM

“So what is this AGM everyone’s going on about,” Irish backpacker barmaid asks Manager, as the Club begins to swell with Members, Section Players, Regulars, interested parties, and some who just made the mistake of coming for a quiet beer. “AGM: it’s an acronym for A Gathering of Masochists,” Manager replies, as he checks the contents if the Club’s First Aid box next to the bar.

“How to best explain it? Well, it’s a time honored ritual for Aussie Clubs, steeped in tradition. Try to imagine a room full of members who are given the opportunity to be elected as an office bearer or to sit on the board of management for the next 12 months. “When that mess is sorted, the incumbent Board members sit down on a raised dais, are given the chance to explain their actions – or lack thereof – via a financial statement or some such, are then tied to their chairs so they can’t move, and all the Members get to throw rocks at them for 60 minutes. “The newly elected replacements then take over, and the new Board puts on free drinks for all Members for 30 minutes. “But this year, now pay attention to this, it’s very important …” Irish Barmaid stops checking Facebook on her mobile: “Yeah I am!” “… because of the Liberal Government’s austere measures, this year the Members will get only 20 minutes of free beer, not 30. It’s crucial, for our own safety, that we don’t tell them until AFTER they all get their rocks off!” Out the back of the Club, Snow is pacing about and can’t keep still. At the weekend, up Glum St at the top of Fractal Hill, it was so cold that the sleet was almost snow. Business isn’t exactly booming and the last thing he now needs is a natural competitor. Plus, he has heard that the Chairman has called in the Board Members for a crisis meeting, only minutes before the AGM is due to start. Perhaps the Chairman won’t allow him to put forward his special motion: that the Club immediately provide a unisex powder room for the use of all Members, Regulars, and Visitors. His reputation is on the line … literally. Meanwhile, Prez is in the handicap toilets, where he has cleaned some of the dust off the mirror and is looking at his reflection as he practises to deliver the annual Presidential Address to the Club. “… and so, my fellow Frackers, I pledge to you a New Club Order, with the Board now led by our candidate from Manchester. A man whose pedigree is to have come from the greatest empire the world has seen, on which the sun once never set. With my Section now controlling the Club’s finances and management, our future is guaranteed. Worry not, you little tiddlywink Sections, we will look after you. These are my promises – not like the superficial nonsense promises u may have heard from others during this election campaign; these are my core promises! Yes, these are the real littlejohnnyhowards – core promises! They are not merely set in stone, but set in … (pause for effect) … EMAIL!” He is interrupted as his mobile phone goes off, with the Board mole’s own special ringtone (the sound of a bomb falling). “Hmmm,” Prez mutters, “must be urgent for the mole to text me direct, without going through back channels.” He reads the text and is staggered! “Chairman has persuaded the Board Members to rule all postal votes as unreliable and invalid!” The Club Cabal faction’s entire strategy to get their Man from Manchester elected as Chairman is based on the overwhelming support from postals! Only yesterday, Prez decided to throw all of his support behind the Club Cabal’s Man from Manchester! This is a disaster! As Prez rushes out the door, he sends off an urgent mass-text to all of the Club Cabal: “Hear the Club clarion! It’s a call to arms! Come urgently to the Club! The Prez needs u! Now is the time for all good men to join the Winter Revolution!” In the Club meeting room, where the AGM is about to come to order, Chairman is smiling and reading quotes to the Board Members from his downloaded mobile app: Sun Tzu’s Art of Club Management (revised and abridged). Chairman: “Sun Tzu says, ‘Never use a little stick if u have a spare nuke handy.’ “These are wise words, ladies and gentlemen, wise words.” In one corner, Members of the Croquet section are whispering among themselves in hushed tones, and pointing accusingly to the nearby Petanque Members. “You know,” says Croquet Section leader to her fellow Croquers, “if the Petanquers go ahead and form a bloc with the Marbles and the Cricketers, we’re doomed. The Board’s sure to give our court to either Marbles or Pétanque. Keep a close eye on them.” The Pétanque section leader is watching the Croquet Members with keen interest: “Guys, if Croquet sides with the Cricketers and the Darts section, the Board’s sure to slug us with a weekly ‘piste fee’. I know it. Watch them!” Not far from both groups, the Marbles Members are asking their Section leader, who is known by his honorary title Tombowler, if the rumors are true that the Board has hired the outlawed bikie gang, the Black Bandits, to patrol the streets outside and prevent anyone from leaving the AGM early. The Darts Members, who have been given the duty of being security inside the Club during the AGM, are guarding the entrances and milling about in the crowd of Members. They are wearing sunglasses and have their darts in an open pouch attached by Velcro to their forearms, for ease of access in any eventuality. Members from other Club sections are noisily filing in, chatting, some angry, others happy. Outside, under a sullen and heavy sky, several riders in black Lycra and on black Piaggio scooters are doing laps of the local streets, each towing a sign that reads: “Be a Winner! Vote 1 The Man from Manchester”. Chairman stands up, clears his throat, and takes the microphone.

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