Sunday, 26 April 2009

Tiers before bedtime

Friday night was my bank's annual general meeting. It was being held in a part of town that I was not familiar with so I consulted Google and planned my pedestrian route. A 21 minute walk. I put on a proper shirt and trousers and even a jacket. It was a warm night and it would be uphill for the last half of the trip, but had a lot to look forward to.
“L’assemblée générale se poursuivra dans la convivialité autour d’un apéritif et d’un buffet , un orchestre animera la fin de soirée”
That is to say there would be a drink, a buttet and an orchestra. So I did not make myself an evening meal.
I stopped part way up the hill and took a photo of the chateau from a new (for me) vantage point.

A bit further up the hill, I took some photos of the remaining show on the hills.

I was just about to re-incline myself, when a woman in the garden next to which I had been taking the pics started talking to me. But no, it was not trouble, it was the lady from the choir that was debating over whether or not to buy a clematis. She had been cutting one of her little lawns. Did I want to see where she had positioned the clematis that she had bought? She probably thinks that I am a plant stalker. In the UK I would have got a “What the bleep are you doing here?” In France it is assumed that you are tracking down plants. I said that I would like to see her plant, and she duly took me to another part of her garden, and sure enough, if you looked very closely, you could see where it had been planted. Fearing that she might think that I was a stalker, I showed her my bank letter and explained my mission.
I noted that there was a big chain attaching the floor of the second storey of her house to the ground. It is on a very steep slope and seems to hang out over the void. Still she does get a good view of the town and surrounding mountains.
I get to my location and note two big bank signs fixed on to the railings by the entrance to the university grounds. Not a sign of anyone, although there are some people sitting in cars. It is quarter of an hour before the meeting is due to start, so I wander further up the road, wander back, then enter the grounds. No sign of any welcome party, no signs to say, “This way” so I stroll through the leafy grounds, looking closely at the buildings I pass. Nada, I become aware that I am being followed, but I continue on trying to see what their open air amphitheatre is like. I do find it, but not because the signs point to its actual location. I spot a building with some suits standing near the entrance and make for that instead. Nestling below the building I find the amphitheatre.
I hover about a bit. There are no notices up. No one goes inside. More people arrive and at just before 7pm people start to shuffle inside. I join the queue, and over my piece of paper, sign a list, and when I ask I am given the same leaflet that everyone else has been given and a biro.
I look around to plan a quick route to the food and drink after the bank gig. No sign yet.
I enter a lecture theatre, which had tiered seats and choose one. I read the leaflet, I watch the projected films. The carpets are as new, the desks in front of the seats are unmarked, no initials carved, no chewing gum stuck underneath. There is a poster on the wall advertising a tourism conference dated 2000.
Eventually, only 35 minutes after the start time, the suits take their places and we begin. There must have been just short of 100 in the audience.
The 4 suits have stupidly long, grand titles. Their business cards must continue on the reverse side. They drone on as we look at figures and pie charts. Then we are voting for things. No idea what, so I just vote for the first option each time. All the motions are passed.
Then there are presentations of flowers, someone wins a holiday for 2. We also celebrate someone being dead. Then the guest speaker, with an even longer title talks about the problem of sub-prime mortgages in America, which seems to have caused the current crisis.
Finally the talking is over, no one has any questions Hooray!
I hang back a bit as I do not want people to think that I am only there for the free food and drink. I listen for the strains of a distant orchestra.
Yes. You’ve guessed it. Not a saucisson, not a Semillion, not a sonata.
Every one leaves the building, they get into their cars, and away they go.
I make my way home, clutching my biro, stomach rumbling. Never trust a French banker, or even a bunch of bankers. Bigger bankers is not necessarily a good thing.

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