Chapter 3 Building a Community Strategy and other Stories

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Chapter 3 Building a Community Strategy and other Stories

'You're all taking a big step forward in deciding to build a community strategy, and I want you to give yourselves a huge round of applause,' said Steve Paxman, leaning over the conference table in the big impersonal meeting room he had hired at the Holiday Inn Pitkirtly. Christopher had never set foot in the place before, although his sister Caroline was a member of the health club here and visited at least once every six months to get value for money out of her three hundred pounds a year subscription.

There was a stunned silence from the members of PLIF, most of whom, as Christopher was well aware, had not suspected themselves of deciding to build a community strategy. Young Dave poured a glass of water and sipped at it, while Mrs Stevenson stared out of the window at the view of the tarmac car park outside or perhaps at the Lomond Hills in the distance.

'We don't do that kind of thing here, Mr Paxman,' said Big Dave.

'Come on, Davie, I thought I asked you to call me Steve. We're all on the same side, after all.'

'Stalin was on the same side as us once,' said Big Dave, tactful as ever. 'And it's Dave, not Davie. Davie's a diminutive and I find it patronising and insulting.'

'I'm sorry, Dave,' said Steve, floundering a bit but making a reasonable recovery. 'So - let's get on with building the strategy then!'

To Christopher's ears it sounded much the same as 'let's all jump out of an aeroplane, then' or even 'let's all go and jump off a cliff like the lemmings we are', except that he was sure he had read recently that lemmings didn't really jump off cliffs. Jock McLean sucked on his empty pipe, daring Steve to invoke the non-smoking policy of the hotel, and glared alternately at Christopher, whom he blamed, somewhat unfairly, for starting the whole thing, and Amaryllis, who was sitting shuffling papers and as an outsider would be the automatic scapegoat, should one be needed.

'So - what are our aims in building this strategy?' Steve had now produced a big piece of paper, which he unrolled on the table in front of him. It was completely blank so far. 'Amaryllis, would you hand out the Post-Its, please?'

'Here you go,' said Amaryllis, handing round little clumps of the garish sticky notes. Please God, don't let him ask us to write a strategy on a Post-It, thought Christopher, surprising himself by his inner desperation.

'It's amazing what you can get on one of these,' said Steve, waving around a little bundle of bright blue ones. Christopher had deep pink, and he could see that Big Dave was embarrassed by the pale pink pile in front of him.

'I've heard tell there are monks who can write the whole Harry Potter saga on one of those,' observed Jock McLean. Steve gave him a hard look. Christopher waited for Jock to say 'Ooo, I'm really scared', but fortunately he didn't.

'I'd like you to write on one of your Post-Its what you think is the one thing this strategy will achieve,' said Steve. 'Then we'll stick them all on this big piece of paper here and that will enable us to discuss it in more detail.'

In other circumstances Christopher might have enjoyed playing around with Post-Its, sticking bits of paper together, and drawing in different colours, but not in present company. He could see Jock apparently doodling. Amaryllis had written what looked like a chapter of a novel on hers, but then she thought better of it, scrunched up the first one and threw it in her bag, and wrote just a few words on the new one.

He thought about what he would like to achieve, and the first answer that came to him was that he wanted things to move forward extremely slowly, at a snail's pace, so that the movement was imperceptible and painless to everyone. He hastily wrote 'research and consultation' on the Post-It - when it came to delaying things, these were definitely top of the list. Consulting everybody in the town would take months, if not years - even working out how to consult would take some time. Christopher brightened up a little. He smiled at Amaryllis, whom he hadn't spoken to since mentioning the kids. It was a pity he hadn't got the chance to tell her the full story, but if his delaying tactics worked, they would have all the time in the world to talk about these things.

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