THE STORY SO FAR: Kenneth Spotlessnob has decided Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision needs an away-day and Dale Brashcon is organising it. Staff arriving find the main entrance to the Outdoor Activity Centre locked and finding the side entrance is a test of their initiative. Inside, everything buzzes, especially Dale Brashcon, as the set hour approaches...but some puzzling wallcharts have attracted young Scott Fitzwilliam's attention. What can they mean?
There was a disturbance among the coffee cups and nervous conversation. Lucy Marlowe, who had joined OCC only five months before but was widely rumoured to be a high riser, was dashing round with a clipboard and a supply of little sticky coloured dots - red, blue, yellow, green, purple - one of which she attached to the most suitable surface on each participant. If she could not get at the front of the person, it went on the back. Lucy looked delighted to be doing something decisive and important. Dale Brashcon grinned as she stuck a purple dot on him and a man who everyone had assumed was from the I.T. semi-detached project took a photo.
The clock on the wall - a rare sight for many since OCC had removed all office clocks in a ruthless, smoothly-executed overnight putsch - jerked towards 9:00. There was a sudden, very loud SMACK. People and coffee-cups jumped. A few looked round to see if an illegal assault had occurred. It had not. Dale Brashcon had leapt athletically on to the stage and had clapped his hands for attention.He stood in front of purple and gold curtains with the air of a circus-owner.
"Colleagues - fellow-enthusiasts - it's great to have you all here! It's great you could all make it. As I was going around I could sense a really great atmosphere and I'm sure we're all going to have a really great day. Now I know you're all raring to go, but of course we do need to the usual bit..." he declared. Kelly Pattrick, simpering like a bridesmaid who'd just seen something wrong in another bridesmaid's dress, was ready to run through information about fire-alarms, toilets and mobile phones. "Great! Thanks, Kelly," Dale resumed. "I just want to remind you all what we're here for and what brings us together." He pulled a cord.
A number of people were trying to do something about the coffee they had spilt on themselves or others when Dale had clapped his hands, but the rest witnessed an unexpected piece of theatre. The curtains slid back smoothly and a very large picture began to come into view. The left-hand curtain snagged and halted. Dale stood as if frozen. An elderly man, bald and red-faced, appeared from the wings and freed the curtain. The revelation was complete. The crowd was staring at a very large map of Odanglesex with the OCC strategic priorities inscribed around the margin.
"That, boys and girls, is what we're all here for!" Dale proclaimed. Our vision is to make Odanglesex the best county in England!"
"Not in Wales, note," said Gwilym Roberts under his breath.
"Odanglesex in Wales?" what a horrible idea!" Scott whispered.
"That was my opinion too," Gwilym replied.
Dale had paused for his audience to take in the dramatic display; but now he began to talk. He wanted to point out that the A13 trunk dualling would improve communications between the North-West and the South-East of the county. He wanted to point out the cluster of institutions of further and higher learning. A dotted red line showed the path of the Olympic torch, and Hamish Carpenter, having a restless, statistically-inclined mind, wondered if there was a negative correlation between the route of the torch and areas of high deprivation. Dale was talking about transport problems for agricultural businesses, about compulsory sports for NEETs (unemployed youth), about flood protection, about affordable housing and about the encoragement of excellence through provision of unaffordable housing.
Kelly Pattrick looked at her watch. She made a gesture. She coughed.
"So those are our strategic priorities we're going to advance through today's exciting co-operative working!" Dale announced, and jumped down from the stage leaving Kelly in temporary command.
TO BE CONTINUED...