Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Greatest Love of All

Due to wholesale absence and double-booking within the team, I was asked by Morag to attend a moderately important meeting in London. The meeting was to involve an overview of the organisation’s direction of travel in the face of swingeing government cuts. Our National Director made a state visit to our office recently. As he arranged his pashmina to take his leave, he smiled and quipped that we should all brace ourselves for the imminent ‘tsunami’ of public sector cuts.

I was prepared, therefore, for a sober message to take back and cascade to the rest of the team.

The meeting was held at the very agreeable ‘Lovelyspace’ in London – a converted sweetie factory across the road from W B Yeats’ old house. The building has a policy of eat as much as you please in the sunny basement refectory. The breakfasts are especially good – so a post breakfast meeting at Lovelyspace is probably the only way to stop me rocking in halfway through the introductions.

There was quite a buzz around the long, rustic tables. Members of the corporate ‘family’ speculated about the nature of the day’s message to the troops. It was last year’s appointment of Kit as day to day head of the ‘family’ that had allowed the National Director to move into the presidential territory that he prefers/feels he deserves. (There has been talk of an honour – even hushed mentions of a damehood). It was then to be Kit who would really stamp his personal style on the family’s future.

‘Apparently he’s going to ‘really express himself’ today.’

Rita was sat beside me and she was usually in the know – as she worked at The Hub. The Hub is comprised of three of the organisation’s four directorates and is situated in a plush office in Newcastle. Occasionally they buzz me in for a coffee – if it’s raining. The National Director shrewdly joined the ‘Flight of the Quangos’ out to the provinces, in the hope that the more visible bodies in the metropolis would be axed first. A single directorate remains in London – ‘The Rump’, as it is unkindly known.

‘He’s been spending a lot of time in The Cube – not mingling and chatting as much as he usually does. Not like him.’

The Cube is a large glass box in the centre of The Hub – in which Kit works wirelessly at a plain pine table. Kit eschews the word ‘office’.

‘It’s just a space in which to think and share.’

Twin arcs of desks surround The Cube – enabling Kit to cast smiles and winks at his co-creatives as he paces around or chills out on his beanbag.

I was intrigued by this suggestion that Kit would ‘really express himself’. Perhaps my opinion of him had been unfortunately coloured by his twee Facebook status updates or a profile picture which looks like a particularly grating Boden catalogue image. 
‘Between you and me,’ Rita continued with an enticing wink, ’I think he’s feeling the pressure.’

The breakfast chatter subsided, as people began to ascend the stairs to the lovely meeting space. There was a renewed buzz as we filed in. The blinds were down in the usually sun-filled room and there was a suspicion of dry ice. On the small stage at the end of the room stood a low level backdrop depicting a graffiti-covered  tower block fronted by burnt out cars and menacing figures in silhouette. The giggles of young people could be heard filtering through the door of the speaker’s entrance, stage right. I squinted to see if the table held any clues to what this ‘meeting’ would actually involve. All I could see was the usual array of ‘Lovelyspace’ paper, creative crayons and sweeties.

When the last attendee was seated, the door in the corner opened. Young people dressed in simple white robes began to process into the room – around a dozen in all. They were carrying candles and several were struggling to suppress giggles. They moved into a rehearsed formation in front of the tower block scene and assumed something like a class portrait pose – a kneeling row and others standing.

A slow, deliberate drum beat came over the p.a. and dry ice seeped from the foot of the stage. Colleagues peered through the gloom to gauge each other’s reactions, as momentous piano chords began. For a few moments I was struck by the familiarity of the chord sequence and began to scan my memory to name the tune. It was then that I heard gasps and my eye was attracted the top of the ‘tower block’. Kit was rising out of it on a wire, he too in a white gown and clearly wearing a radio microphone. With a trademark smile and a seductive wink he began:

‘I believe that children are our future.
Teach them well and let them lead the way……’


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