The 59th annual general meeting of the Ayers Rock Marbles Club was in session. Old Colonel Twittering was again in the chair, as he had been for the last 35 years. He knew nothing about meetings procedure and little about running sporting competitions, but he was rich and generous with donations and that made him an ideal club president.
In his younger days his name and title had also lent some credibility to the movement and this had been good for recruiting new members. Nowadays, however, his main connection with the sport seemed to be that he had actually lost his marbles.
Club meetings were usually fairly formal but boring events. On this occasion the club had young Miss Joan Fewster sitting next to the colonel in her capacity as acting secretary. Things immediately got off to a poor start. As soon as the apologies had been accepted she rose to her feet and astonished everyone by solemnly proposing her very first motion:
"As the former Secretary has left the district and as the former Minutes cannot be located I now move that the Minutes of the last Annual General Meeting be adopted as they would have been read, had they been found."
Mr Bob Jones attempted to take a point of order at this juncture, but the colonel was a no nonsense man. His idea of good annual meeting was one which was over after about six minutes.
"You can't take a point of order," he ruled in a solemn tone. "It's not on the agenda."
The correspondence included a very nice letter from Bill Smith, the club umpire, who was in hospital recovering from a minor operation. He wrote thanking the president for his recent bedside visit. The president reported that Bill had indeed looked very fit. "He even smiled when I explained that I was there on behalf of the entire committee. I told him that by a vote of 7 to 5 they had resolved to wish him a speedy recovery."
More serious difficulties arose later on in the proceedings. The meeting had before it a proposal to build a magnificent new clubhouse and convention centre for about $2 million.
The trouble was that nobody knew whether this was good value - should the cost really have been $1 million or $3 million? Those present were not willing to show their ignorance and so the motion was passed without debate in about 30 seconds flat.
As luck would have it, the very next item on the agenda was a proposal to send a small gift to the recently retired secretary in recognition of her hard work over the years and as a memento from all her friends. The suggestion was that this should be a book, costing about $20, suitably inscribed by the colonel as president.
All hell let loose. By this time everyone was feeling dreadfully guilty about having passed the previous resolution so quickly. People who could not comment meaningfully on the design of a new major building at least knew what a book was. They could also readily identify with the subject matter of the current motion.
So, in order to demonstrate how responsibly they all took the decision-making process, they debated at length as to which book the club should get, how much it should cost, what precisely the inscription should say, and so on.
After 90 minutes of this an amendment was proposed and carried enthusiastically - it instructed the acting secretary to get further background information and it also appointed a sub-committee to research the whole project in much greater detail!
Actually, this was a dangerous move. Last year a special sub-committee had been requested to choose between two conflicting alternatives and all that they had managed to do was to narrow the choice down to some eight different possibilities.
Shortly afterwards there was a sudden interruption. An excited member burst into the meeting room and shouted loudly: "Mr President, I have an important message from the police. A live bomb has just been found under the clubhouse. I move that it be disposed of immediately."
Pandemonium broke out as members attempted to take points of order all over the place. Some people asserted that the motion could not be put because 21 days' notice of it had not been given as required under the rules and others that it had not been validly proposed because the mover had not been given the call.
Others again were concerned because the motion had not been seconded properly. Somebody even tried to move the suspension of standing orders to deal with the matter.
Debate continued fiercely for another 10 minutes ...
And serve them all jolly well right.
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