Friday, 18 March 2016

writing history

I wrote up the minutes of the music society committee meeting today.  They took rather a long time.  The chairman's verdict was that they seemed accurate though she felt they made the discussion sound more organised than it had been, which is what she said about the last lot of minutes.  In fact it was a pretty structured conversation, it just didn't stick to the running order on the agenda.  It never does, so by now I know to copy out the agenda headings before I type anything else (though not number them because that sets Word off making unwanted indentations.  I wish Microsoft would not keep trying to be helpful).  Then I go through my notes and enter each point worth minuting under the relevant heading, so all of the discussion on any given topic ends up minuted together, even if it cropped up several times during the meeting.

So they are not an accurate transcription of temporal events, but are a fair reflection of the topics covered during the course of the meeting.  Maybe that is more accurate than a straight he said, she said reiteration of the conversation.  It certainly makes them more useful if you ever want to check anything in them afterwards.

I am becoming a mistress of tact as well.  That might come as a surprise to those who know me in daily life.  Tactfulness is not a strong family trait.  But by now I have a fair idea when to elaborate on how a decision was reached, and which critiques of village life and personalities to skip lightly over.  The chairman gets first dibs on checking the minutes before I circulate them to the rest of the committee, but it's a while since she has wanted to change anything beyond misspellings of real names and the odd typo.  This time there weren't even any of those.

As I went through my eight pages of scribbled longhand notes, with the odd invented abbreviation, I noticed a couple of points where we hadn't actually reached a conclusion or agreed to do whatever was being proposed.  Sometimes if I notice during the meeting that we're moving on from a point before deciding anything I will chirp up and ask what we've decided as I need to write it down. Sometimes I'll decide it suits our purpose not to decide anything and leave it to the chairman.

Sometimes I'm so confused I really don't know what we've said, and have to do my best with the scribbles afterwards.  That doesn't happen often.  The last chairman nominated a former journalist on the committee as her chosen minutes taker when the previous one retired due to illness, but actually years of sitting through investment meetings in which somebody is generally trying to pull the wool over someone else's eyes about something is pretty good training for taking notes of the proceedings of an amateur committee.  My appointment came as a gentle relief to the retired university departmental secretary on the committee, who was already doing tickets and did not want to be stuck with the minutes as well.

Finally, when I'm sure everything that ought to be minuted has been included once and once only, I number the agenda items and highlight them in bold.  This time I made sure to double check the start time of the next meeting, as I got the last one wrong.  I think we had discussed both 5.00 and 5.30 pm, and I'd put the wrong one down.  Only one person noticed, and it's not as though it made any difference to when we did start, and the actual start time was sent out in advance with the agenda.  Be nice to minutes secretaries.  It's their record of what was agreed to that everybody will have in front of them months hence, when nobody can quite remember.

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