And it’s the night of the Branch’s Annual General Meeting. I have hugged the Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and a couple of general members. I am a hug tart.
The Branch Meetings are held once every two months, and all members are welcome to attend, but they rarely do.
Usually, there are the committee members themselves, occasionally a drinker or two will secrete themselves in the snug bar, and that’s all she wrote.
The AGM is a little different. Similar to the Oscars, but without the headshots and ethereal backing track, we have a roll call of the members we have lost in the last year. Often, this is the hardest part of the meeting. Tonight is no exception. We lost four this year, including Ivor, my honorary granddad and champion, in the middle of May.
The minute’s silence and recitation of ‘We will remember them..’ is ever sharper than in previous years.
We have terribly brief apologies, and then the standard run of President’s Address, read in his absence as he is on a cruise, Chairman’s Report, Secretary and Membership Secretary’s Statements, Treasurer’s Report and a summary read on behalf of the Poppy Appeal Organiser. The officers are duly elected because no-one is standing for any office they don’t already hold. Most of the officers in the Branch took on their titles on the understanding they would have those positions for the time being. No-one seems entirely keen on keeping a named job for years upon years.
As so often happens, a sigh of relief comes with every new Chairman, Secretary, Membership Secretary, Treasurer, Poppy Appeal Organiser and Standard Bearer, as we are convinced they will hold the job until they drop.
We have seen this in other organisations. The named officer will hold the job for as long as they must, and then they will put the word out that they want some of their lives for themselves. This is only fair. However, no-one, but no-one ever stands against them. Even when they have their name deleted from the roster, they still have no opposition. The assembly sits on their hands.
We have been given advance warning, we are told. The Chairman had intended to hold his post for a maximum of five years. We’re into the seventh and perhaps we’re taking the mickey, but he’s very good at what he does.
We have no Standard Bearer. There is a sweeping glance across the room, he takes in all our faces as we examine our thumbs. I’m sure I’m not alone in this: we’re none of us tall enough to be the Standard Bearer, and I can’t remember a time when our Standard Bearer was not of a military background. I’m sure it’s perfectly possible to hold the position and carry the flag at ceremonial occasions without military leanings, but none of us really stands with the correct posture. It would feel like an affront.
Our Parade Marshall, the chap in the bowler hat, who leads the terrified civilians in a march past the memorial on Remembrance Sunday, is retiring.
The civilians are only terrified because they’ve never had to march in their lives and they’re almost certainly doing it wrong. They don’t know what to do with their hands. Their thumbs feel awkward, as if their someone else’s.
It has been the practise of the Branch to visit the widows and widowers of our members, on at least a yearly basis, for a great number of years. As time passes, there are many more visits to be made.
Assistance is required to make the visits and deliver flowers to the widows.
The Poppy Appeal Organiser intends to finish up the season until after the main drive in November, and then she’ll retire. I don’t think we were expecting that. The last Poppy Appeal Organiser held the post for thirty years and was honoured with a gold brooch; her husband tells us about that semi-scornfully on a weekly basis. The new Poppy Appeal Organiser has been in her job for five years.
The Bingo has made a near-Biblical recovery by introducing a snowball (the jackpot is up around £180), which has improved attendance and contributions to the Poppy’s coffers. Before the snowball, when the numbers were low and the prizes somewhat meagre, the achievement of a full house was met with a small grumble, like an impromptu attempt at faked orgasm.
These days, they – fake – nothing.
Now, I don’t really do very much at all on the Branch Committee. I’ve donated to charities for a lot of years but I haven’t worked for them.
On the Club side, I created Movie Night and therefore made a position for myself. I didn’t need to wait for anyone to retire to make myself useful. I haven’t made a job for myself within the Branch. And now there are four positions gaping open and surely in need of filling and I am blisteringly underqualified. I consider myself utterly inappropriate for at least three of the jobs, so I guess I’ll be visiting the widows. I can cook and I’m a pretty good listener for someone who talks so much.
I’ve lost a lot of people so I don’t need much explaining to me, I’m not bad on home improvements, and I’m a hugger.
Put all that together with a hint of humour, and I think I’d be a lousy Standard Bearer.