The City of London’s Old Ropemaker Hall was packed for Amalgamated ClichÃ©s and Saws’ recent annual general meeting – a designation reluctantly accepted by many of those present, who would have preferred the gathering to have been called a symposium or, failing that, a brainstorming session.
Unassuaged, however, were the impassioned feelings of a ginger group gathered outside. The angry chants could be heard from within:
“What do we want?”
“When do we want it?”
“As soon as a window of opportunity presents itself!”
Airily dismissing the protest as “insufficiently overarching”, the chairman, John Smith, called the meeting to order.
“As those of you in the loop will be aware,” he began, “your board has been in meaningful negotiations with a view to acquiring a majority shareholding in Hackneyed Phrases and Tired Repetitions Incorporated of Philadelphia, the endgame being to restructure our group.”
“On a point of clarification,” said a voice from the floor, “shouldn’t that be to restructure our group going forward?”
“I am obliged to you for that,” said Smith. “Yes indeed, our mission is to go forward at this moment in time in the pursuit of excellence. Even so, it is my sad duty to report that our efforts have fallen upon stony ground and that, not to put too fine a point on it, the project has gone pear-shaped.”
A rumble of discontent rolled across the hall like distant thunder. An awkward silence was broken by a voice from the back. “You’ve lost the plot!” it cried, to shouts of “Get your act together!” “This is a worst-case scenario.” “You’re dead in the water. Big time.”
“And drinking in the last chance saloon,” shouted another angry shareholder to cries of approval.
“Hold up!” bellowed the chairman. “You’re totally out of order. At the end of the day we thought we wanted a level playing field, but no way. They moved the goalposts and it was a whole new ball game.
“Your board worked 24/7 at the coal face, pushing the envelope and singing from the same hymn sheet…”
“That is so not true,” interrupted a man in the front row with face like a belligerent tomato. “You’ve scored an own-goal and kicked the issue into the long grass.”
“All we ask,” said the finance director, a small man with pince-nez glasses and a ring in his ear, “is that you give us the time and the space to get up and running. I have positive vibes about this issue. A solution is up for grabs provided we allow common sense to prevail and win hearts and minds.”
“Don’t give up the day job,” shouted the tomato. “Get real!” yelled another voice. “Get a life!” screamed a third. The mood was turning ugly.
“All right, all right,” shouted the chairman above the hubbub, palms raised in a deprecatory gesture. “I hear where you’re coming from. Maybe we’ve been a little laid-back. Maybe we thought we had a done deal while the jury was still out. Maybe we took our eyes off the ball. Okay, I admit that. But this is a wake-up call. You’ve seen the downside, now hear the upside.
“From now on, your board will not talk the talk, we’ll walk the walk. This is, after all, a gateway issue and we have reached a defining moment. Believe me, we are on a roll. Not only that, we’re up to speed and hard-wired. Can’t you sense the pride and the passion?”
“So where’s the road map?” shouted a pensioner, waving his stick.
“Wouldn’t you know it, a loose cannon,” murmured the finance director behind his hand.
“I heard that,” said the pensioner. “This isn’t rocket science. We have every right to expect our directors to be proactive in a multi-dimensional takeover situation.”
Waving a shaking, bony finger, he added: “Call yourselves big hitters?”
There was another attempt at emollience.
“Wake up and smell the coffee,” smiled a lady non-executive director, sunglasses glinting atop her head. “The possibilities are absolutely fantastic. Amalgamated ClichÃ© is already iconic and we are minded to make it fabulous.
“And let me tell you something,” she added, artfully allowing her shoulder strap to slip enough to reveal a tantric tattoo. “Your board has been bonding like mad and is looking to be proactive. Never let it be said we are on the back foot.”
“You’re living on another planet,” bellowed a fat man at the back. “A parallel universe,” he added for good measure, nodding in approval at his own verbal felicity.
“How true is that?” said a mousy woman, probably from Islington. “This meeting is fast becoming the peasants’ revolt de nos jours.”
“Don’t even go there,” said a hand-flapping bystander of indeterminate sex. “I’m like, what is going on here?”
“I’ll tell you what,” said the tomato, turning a deeper shade of red. “It’s payback time.”
“Puh-lease,” pleaded the mousy woman. “No violence. Not in my name.”
“Let me run this past you,” interjected an American institutional investor in rimless glasses. “What say we lynch the dame with tattoo – pour encourager les autres?”
“Yup,” agreed the fat man, his eyes lighting up. “That way we get our due.”
“Shock and awe?” said the tomato hopefully.
“No,” said the fat man. “Closure.”