I did another woodland charity talk this evening, at the AGM of a conservation group in one of Colchester's leafier suburbs. They had very considerately set the running order as my talk, then coffee and cake, then the formal business of the AGM, meaning I could slip away at the end of the refreshment break without having to stay for the formal business. They used to do the AGM first then move on to the speaker, before the current committee noticed the growing despair on the faces of their non-Colchester based speakers as heated debates about local planning issues dragged on, and realised that visitors probably didn't want to sit through that part.
I must admit that I have only ever attended the AGM of any club of which I was a member when I was on the committee and had to go. As William Morris almost put it, you should only go to meetings which you know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. In the course of doing talks I have sat through quite a few horticultural society and other AGMs, and they are not generally terribly entertaining. The Chairman reports on what they've done in the year, which the members presumably already broadly know. The Treasurer tells them how much money they've got and what they spent and whether it is enough. There is normally a plaintive appeal for fresh blood on the committee, nobody from the floor volunteers on the spot, and the Chairman implores them to think about it. Somebody from the floor asks an awkward question followed by a supplementary statement because they are not happy with the answer. Anybody who was thinking about stepping forward to join the committee decides against it. Miscellaneous people are thanked and possibly given flowers.
Anyway, I was allowed to miss that bit this time round which was great because it meant I didn't have to sit through whatever argument was brewing about the proposed bus lane. Instead they listened very attentively to the talk, thanked me afterwards and gave a generous donation to the charity. That's all good, as was the fact that when I got back to my car it had not been run into. The church hall where the meeting was held had no car park, and while parking was available on the opposite side of the road in the sense that there were no yellow lines, the speed of the passing traffic was anything but reassuring.
I was relieved to get home relatively early because I'd left the kittens locked in the study. The Systems Administrator had gone to London for the cricket, and I didn't want to leave them with free range to spend the evening demolishing the curtains while Our Ginger stayed shut out in the hall. The kittens had rather a restricted day. They were shut in the study for part of the morning because I had to vacuum. I let them outside after lunch but then couldn't relax and get on with weeding properly because I was so aware that if any of them were missing when it got to five o'clock then I would be faced with the awful dilemma whether to abandon him in the garden and go to do the talk with the cat door taped open, or ring the organiser and blow her out with two hours' notice. None of them have gone very far yet or ever failed to reappear at the first hint of food, but day by day they'll be going further and for longer. My nerves failed me and when they all wandered into the house for a spot of tea and a mid afternoon nap I shut them in again.
When I got home there was a lot of wailing from behind the study door and they had knocked their bowl of water over.