NOT the Committee Minutes

For those who have never attended a committee meeting of (The Royal) Loch Broom Sailing Club here’s a taste of what you’ve been missing.

First thing to understand is that meetings scheduled for 4pm prompt start promptly at 4.30, or thereabouts. At five minutes to the hour the place is deserted; at two minutes still no-one is to be seen anywhere near the club house, except the commodore who has been hanging nervously around since before dawn, switching on heater and lights, going over and over in his head “don’t mention the skiff cushions”.

At one minute to the hour, in a haze of diesel smoke and chip fat aroma, a duo of ancient Land Rovers can be seen approaching, one of which is bumping noisily along the beach, shedding body panels along the way. At precisely the same moment the bicycle flying squad swoop down the ramp and dismount in superbly choreographed unison.

At the appointed hour the real business of the day begins, with a lengthy discussion outside on the merits of the electric bike that the commodore has acquired. After many an admiring look and questions about its capacity, rude remarks about the commodore’s age, etc etc, trial rides are organised, at which all are surprised and delighted.

The time is now 4.15 and the secretary, who has been warming up his computer indoors, is getting impatient. He has a lengthy speech to deliver about the merits of the club joining the Association of Community Affiliated Sport, Leisure and Rowing Clubs, ACASLRC, a document on which he and his lady wife have spent the last four months preparing.

Bike trials over, the committee assembles inside the now overheated club room where a lavish buffet, smoked salmon sandwiches, caviar canapés, sausages on sticks etc and, for the more traditional, pineapple and cheese chunks, plus a startling selection of  wines and spirits, including a large number of bottles of the Club claret (subject to an unminuted purchase in 2009 and now ready to drink) is spread out on silver platters, engraved with the club's coat of arms, herring rouge rampant.

Glasses are filled, canapés scoffed and without more ado the meeting is convened. The time is now 4.45.

The racing secretary’s iPhone bleeps. “Collapsed? The entire bridge? That’s your problem. Can’t talk now, I’m in a vital meeting.” What can it mean?

The commodore clears his throat and hopefully announces the meeting will be brief. There is an appreciative noise from the floor, and the sound of hiccupping from the back. The commodore begins to outline the high and low points of the past season of which there have been a number of highs, nicely balanced by the same number of lows. Naively the commodore believes that the lows have been lower than ever, until those who have been in the club for ever interject by saying that compared to some of the lows in the past these lows could in fact be considered as highs.

The club’s youth coordinator’s iPhone chirps. “No, I can’t speak now, I’m in an important meeting.” (guffaws). “No, a really important meeting. No, nothing to do with my bonus. Honest…”

The commodore struggles on. Nevertheless, he says, we must address the question of safety (cue embarrasssed silence). The reputation of the club is at stake (giggles); nay the very existence of the club has been jeopardised (outright laughter). Relief all round. It has ever been thus with the old Royal LBSC. Nostalgia grips the floor. Memories are swapped of epic escapes and near misses. "Remember when we went to St Kilda and that sheep blew off the hill and sank old Bob's Contessa? And then there's the time " The meeting is called to order.

The commodore continues, voice rising nervously, moving on to calmer waters. The Flying Fifteens. Three trailer collapses, two collisions and the dent left in the Winkie buoy suggest an unusually successful and trouble-free season, at which there is a round of applause.  "At least no one sank their Flying Fifteen," pipes up the man in the far corner, pointedly. The commodore blushes.

The results of the races will as usual be manipulated (should not that be calculated; Ed?) by the Sandicap officer. Wallets are produced; nods and winks exchanged and the results will have been settled there and then in a most efficient and sensible way.

The club’s entertainment officer’s iPhone bleeps. “No, make that a dozen,” we hear him say. “No, two dozen, there’ll be four of us.” What can it mean?

The treasurer’s report is brief. The club is awash with funds, to the cries of “Gie’s some, Paul”. Against his better judgement the commodore suggests that any spare cash should be directed towards roof repairs, hard standing, plumbing, electricity, changing room carpets and water heater. “We want new cushions,” comes the cry from the powerful skiff contingent, at which the commodore clasps his head in hands and heads for the heads, to return only to discover a motion has been passed to buy not only new cushions (in a fetching blue and mauve with gold embossed logo), but road trailer, cover, cox's padded back rest and purpose-built heated shed, plus unbreakable oars made of real wood.

The secretary's iPhone twitters. "A red backed shrike? Sure it wasn't a twite? Easily confused. One has a red back and the other doesn't. Besides there is a world of difference in their calls. The shrike goes 'weee-woop and the twite is largely voiceless' and then..." Cries from the floor of "get a move on".

On the subject of skiff expenditure (agreed at £3,400) the commodore accepts he is beaten, and passes the floor to the secretary who, everyone knows, will now regale us with hilarious tales of the benefits becoming an associate ACASLRC. To more cries of “get on with it”, the secretary, mercifully, spends a mere ten minutes on the subject before admitting defeat. The old LBSC ethos of self reliance, contempt for authority and strict adherence to Health and Safety issues (Er?) wins the day. The relief is palpable: the club can continue for the time being in a state of permanent virtual reality, circa 1998, the highest point in its history, or at least as high and as far back as any can nostalgically remember, a time when evenings were spent down the club in conviviality, tobacco smoke and alcohol fumes listening to stories of near misses, rock dodging, trailer collapses and hair raising voyages to Svalbard and beyond. There are many who would turn the clock back to those halcyon times.

The vice commodore’s  iPhone rings. “Exploded? What, gushing oil? Gulf of Mexico? Your problem mate. I’m in a very important meeting…” What can it mean?

The commodore trudges manfully on, voice getting weaker by the minute. He knows that the most important matters have yet be discussed, the first and most controversial of which is the parking of tenders (or the non-parking of tenders). The debate rages back and forth. An honorary member leaps to his feet, red faced and gesticulating, and is forcibly restrained. One owner, it is alleged, had to leap frog then rearrange six tenders to get to his. Another was verbally abused by the owner of a tender that was blocking his path. Another has received death threats through the post, another a brick through his window with the words “I know which one’s yours…”

With no sign of a compromise in sight the commodore pipes up to suggest that every tender owner pays a small levy, but can continue no further as a roar of laughter descends on him. At least it deflects attention away from the problem. Perhaps every tender should have its own designated parking spot? Pah! Eventually the problem is wholly solved by a brilliant intervention from the floor. Every tender is to have a STICKER, attached to its transom. Sighs of relief and murmurs of approval. That should do it. The commodore wonders. “A sticker, now why didn’t I think of that?” And worries whether he is really cut out to lead such a brilliant bunch.

More in pity, a motion is passed allowing the commodore to park wherever he wants.

At which another iPhone chirrups. “What? He’s stuck his head in the washing machine? What do you expect me to do about it? Besides, I’m in an important meeting. " Is it serious, we wonder?
Crisis over, the rest of the meeting is plain sailing (although the word sailing never appears). The date of the next meeting is pencilled in, and the arrangements for the annual party are made known. This causes a minor stir as the wording of the event is refined. Christmas Party? That excludes the atheists and agnostics among us, and we have been reminded by the secretary that in order to remain eligible for funding we must be “non discriminatory in issues involving the ethnicity, religiosity, background, gender, sexuality, facial hair, sailing abilities, colour, birthplace, make of car etc.”

The committee decides that the best way to describe it would be the Not the Annual LBSC Christmas Party, or just The Party. The motion is passed unanimously, a relatively easy one that, sighs the commodore looking at his watch. The ordeal must surely be over as he tentatively asks “Any other business?”

“Well there is one important matter,” says the secretary, but too late. Everyone has already made a  rush for the door and thence to The Royal where the real business of the club, as everyone knows, is enacted.

The meeting, officially closes at 5.30.

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