Once every six, seven, eight or eleven weeks at ten to six a notice is pinned up on the door to the staff room:
STAFF MEETING TOMORROW 9.00am
ALL ITEMS FOR DISCUSSION
TO BE SUBMITTED IN ADVANCE TO MY SECRETARY
His secretary works 9 to 5.
The meetings start promptly at 9.00am, in so far as everyone except T. Aldous sits around the staff room table with cups of tea looking at their watches. T. Aldous turns up between 9.15 and 9.20 then spends the next ten minutes providing the latest implausible reason why it was impossible to do the ten minute drive from his home in Newhills in to Helminthdale and make it by 9.00am (front line staff commuting all the way from Catty or Dutch Bend have to be in by 9.00am sharp or face a disciplinary). Today it was leaves in the gutter in Melmoth Avenue.
At 9.30 the meeting breaks up because the library's open and staff must attend the customers.
Staff are divided into three groups:
- The nervous clockwatchers, ready to let loose from the slips at twenty-five past so that the library can be opened.
- The twitchers, ready and waiting to answer any 'phone call within the statutory four rings. (Resentfully since we found out that T. Aldous spends the previous evenings leaving messages on answerphones and emails asking people to ring 'first thing tomorrow morning')
- The rest of us, listening intently and wondering if he'll ever come to a point.
At last, the ghastly moment reached its crisis: the apparition sighed and straightened up, his face filled with exasperation at his errant six-year-olds.
"Scoring Points By Ticking Boxes!" he said.
Well! How were we to know that that performance meant the latest corporate action plan (soon to be a major motion picture)? He could at least have said if it was a film, a book, or whatever.
It was Frog Dropmore's turn to take minutes. I happened to glance at his notes at this point. He'd written: "Is it on the trolley?"