We shuffled into the parish hall and took a seat in the back row. It was a damp, dark, dusty room that reeked of mould and was in dire need of a lick of paint and a good clean. But being the biggest hall in the parish it was the only realistic venue for the AGM.
I was an AGM virgin, always finding an excuse to be somewhere else whenever one came up. "Ah I'd love to Tommy, but there's a double bill of Emmerdale on that night. Sorry!"
This year was different. Although I'd a fair idea of the bore-fest I was getting myself into, I decided I was old enough to start getting involved. I persuaded two of the boys to accompany me, promising them that we'd make a dart for the pub if things got too heavy.
We sat and watched as the place filled up with the local football diehards. A funky smell tickled our nostrils as Tipper Doyle walked in. He obviously hadn't bothered to change after milking his cows that evening. At the top table the chairman rose to his feet.
"I'd like to welc . . . "
No one even batted an eyelid and after several attempts at quelling the noise a hurl was passed up to him by one of the board members. What a hurl was doing in our football-dominated parish I do not know but after a sharp bang on the table the noise petered out and he began proceedings.
"Settle down lads, we want to get out of here as soon as possible. There's no oil in the tanker so we've no heating. I'd like to welcome you all here tonight to our annual AGM . . ."
After some sniggering, he continued.
"I'm surprised to see such a poor turnout, but I've been informed that our local shopkeeper Frank blocked the sign detailing the meeting with a display of potatoes."
"Ada boy, Francie!"
"Come on lads enough of that. Ehh . . . it's been a great year for the club at senior level, the lads managed to bring home the county championship . . ."
Cheers and clapping rang out across the hall -- as if the parishioners hadn't previously been informed of the fact that we'd won the championship. The chairman was beginning to get restless. We, however, thought it was great crack altogether.
"Ah Jesus lads, come on will ye settle. As I said, a great year at senior but at underage level we didn't fare too well at all. Our minors and under 16s were dismal and both teams were relegated."
A faint hum broke out in the hall as an outbreak of muttering started. Eventually someone stood up to our left and pointed towards the front.
"Sure wasn't Francie serving them stout the whole time. How're they going to win games and them drunk as skunks?"
Angered by this remark; Frank, the shopkeeper who also doubled up as the barman and barber if you were desperate enough, leapt to his feet to fight his corner.
"I did in my bollox give them anything. I wouldn't mind but your young lad was often in pleading for a pint. Thirsty little whoer; it must be in the genes."
There was a mass 'oooohhhhh' from the crowd and the three of us broke into fits of laughter. AGM, where had you been all my life? There was a scramble to our left as Francie's accuser flipped his lid and hopped over a chair like Kauto Star clearing the last at Cheltenham. On landing, he made a beeline for poor Frank before being wrestled to the ground. "Get him out of here lads. Jesus Christ, can we not have a civil AGM for once?"
The chairman shook his head and busied himself in his notes for a few seconds. "Okay, we'll come back to the underage structuring. Right lads, finances."
There was a sharp exhalation of breath followed by groans and lots of bickering. After another clatter of the hurl on the table, the chairman continued.
"We're living in difficult times as you know and club finances are at an all-time low. We need ideas for fundraisers. Does anybody have anything novel?"
The room broke into a buzz of excited nattering as the crowd began to brainstorm. "We could rig a raffle?" The mumbles turned to laughter as the chairman shook his head. Another idea was then shared.
"Sell sections of the pitch, let a cow onto it and give a cash prize to the owner of whatever section she shites on. We could rig it too?"
"But sure wouldn't she cut the shite out of it?"
"Ah not if we put one of Tipper Doyle's yokes out on it; no weight in them at all, horrid bad cattle."
Tipper shook his head as the venue erupted with laughter. The chairman took out his hurl again and gave it an almighty rasp across the top table.
"What about white-collar boxing? The chairman of St Mary's has contacted me."
This was as far as he got as the hall again filled with excited conversation. Mary's were our biggest rivals and looking around there was a lot of smiles and rubbing together of hands.
Packie Reilly stood up to our right. He was the local postman and must have been 60 years of age. The room fell silent as everyone turned to see what he had to say. Packie was a quiet man, but very wise and probably the most respected soul in the village. When he talked, you listened. One can imagine that he wouldn't have been impressed with the goings on so far that evening. He looked around and eventually opened his mouth.
"Where do I sign up?"
The place exploded with laughter yet again. "That's your stuff Packie boy. We'll batter the shower of feckers."
"There's gonna be killings lads."
When the noise eventually settled the chairman spoke up. "Right, boxing it is. At least we've one thing sorted. Now, does anyone else have any motions they want to bring to the table."
Near the front a figure stood up. It was Dad, what the hell was he doing? "Mr Chairman, can we not get a bit of tarmac for the carpark above at the pitch. I made absolute shit of a rim dropping the gossons off for training last week. It's getting beyond the joke?"
"Here here!" finally we were getting somewhere.
An hour later we walked out into the cool November air and crossed the road for a pint.
I'd been elected as manager of the under 14 boys team after it had emerged that my only opponent hadn't paid his membership. Funnily enough, I couldn't remember paying mine either but I wasn't complaining. I sat down with the lads, who were going to be my selectors, and we began to plan our year.
"We'll cut no corners men. Weights, tracksuits, dietitians, tight-fit jerseys; our boys will get the whole shebang."
Giovanni Trapattoni eat your heart out.
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