Minute of a meeting of the editorial commitee held at Liberator House on Tuesday 6 March 2018 at 11.30am
In attendance: Kitty Brewster (politics), Mary Culter (arts, media and gender issues), Tilly Drone (snowflake-in-residence), Sheriff Muir (legal and constitutional), Kirk Oswald (meteorological affairs and bus replacement services – as if).
Apologies for absence: Maggie Knockater (Banffshire correspondent) could not be present as she was leading the clear-up operation in Macduff inspired by the national initiative of Mr J Swinney, MSP. Despite an invitation, Storm Emma declined to appear. Director of art Bob Smith was on his way to a karate tournament in Walsall, but had left his latest creations at the door.
Beast from the East: progress report
Mary Culter reported that it was still snowing in Floak, which she had negotiated with some difficulty on her way to the meeting. 'There's no' mony folk in Floak,' joked Sheriff Muir, interjecting a misguided note of levity into discussion of the national emergency.
Now that the worst appeared to be over, the meeting considered sending a letter of heartfelt thanks to the good Professor Stephen Belcher, successor to the noble lady Dame Julia Slingo as chief scientist of the Met Office, and his colleagues on the board for kindly facilitating the closing down of Scotland at 3pm on 28th ultimo. As a result of the impeccably timed 'red warning' (so-called), the population was promptly ushered indoors on the instructions of Mr J Swinney, MSP, all except the usual idiots on the M8. The threat to life had been so serious that the only person left on the streets of Glasgow at the height of the crisis was an editorial representative of BBC Scotland who, without regard for her personal safety, walked all the way to the studios in order to warn her fellow citizens not to venture out in any circumstances. Her courage in perversity was warmly commended around the table.
As Sheriff Muir prepared to dash off a congratulatory missive to Professor Belcher, enclosing a 10 bob note as a small token of personal appreciation, Kirk Oswald piped up, as he occasionally does.
'Not many know,' he began, 'that Belcher and his mates are actually getting paid for doing their job.'
This strange remark was greeted with a bemused silence – finally broken by Mary Culter.
'You mean,' she asked disdainfully, 'that you expect the staff of the Met Office to work for nothing?'
'They may be the nearest thing we have to a modern deity,' added Sheriff Muir, 'but even gods have to be recompensed these days.'
'No, no,' insisted young Kirk. 'What I mean is, if they get it right, as they did last week, they're due a bonus.'
'What on earth do you mean?', demanded Sheriff Muir, abruptly dropping his pen.
Kirk Oswald revealed that he had been burning the midnight oil – until it ran out along with the bread and milk – in a study of the Met Office's annual accounts. Over a five-year period, staff at the publicly subsidised agency had been showered – it not persistently rained on – with performance-related bonuses totalling £20.8 million for correctly forecasting the weather.
'What you're saying,' said a frankly incredulous Mary Culter, 'is that these people are actually getting paid for doing their job.'
'Exactly,' confirmed young Kirk. 'That's what I was trying to tell you in the first place.'
Kitty Brewster was appalled. She reminded the meeting that, although she had correctly predicted the outcome of the EU referendum, the miserable sods (an indelicate allusion to her employers) had assumed she was simply doing her job and there had been no suggestion of even a modest gratuity for getting it right.
Kirk Oswald further disclosed that the chief scientist – whom Sheriff Muir had addressed in good faith as 'Dear God' – received, in addition to his basic of c£140,000 a year, an annual bonus estimated at between £10,000 and £15,000 for 'hitting accuracy targets,' that a similar bounty went annually to the chief executive of the organisation, Rob Varley, and smaller amounts to countless functionaries further down the cold front.
'The only train which is never subject to cancellation or delay,' reflected Sheriff Muir as he tore up his letter, 'is the gravy one.'
(1) Kitty Brewster noted the extensive media exposure for an Edinburgh restaurateur's decision to charge no-shows up to £50 by the simple expedient of demanding their credit card details at the time of booking. The most irritating thing about this helpful coverage, said Ms Brewster, was the use of the word 'eatery'. What, she wondered, was so wrong about calling a restaurant a restaurant? The meeting agreed that 'eatery' had become the gastronomic equivalent of 'uni' – the grisly shorthand for once-proud institutions of higher learning.
(2) A correspondent had been in touch to verify that, during a recent visit to an up-market eatery, the waitress came with a cloth between courses and announced that she intended to 'crumb down.'
(3) Sheriff Muir said he had heard from his old friend in Aberdeen, Hamish Mackay, about a new development in local government-speak. 'Challenges' has been retired after a long run. Instead, everyone is having a 'conversation'. In Mackay's company, an official had used the word dozens of times in the course of a short interview. It seems that, if you work for the council, you no longer have meetings. You have 'conversations'. 'And most of them take place in eateries,' claimed Kitty Brewster.
Corrections and clarifications
According to the BBC, spring had been 'postponed' by the Beast, while the Guardian reported that it had been 'put on hold.' Kirk Oswald, our specialist in meteorological affairs and bus replacement services, informed the meeting that spring 2018 in the northern hemipshere begins on Tuesday 20 March. Far from being 'postponed' or 'put on hold,' it is not due for another fortnight.
Our political correspondent, Kitty Brewster, provided a useful briefing on Angela Merkel's likely successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer:
• She is known as Mini-Merkel
• She turned up at last week's conference of the ruling party in an outfit of black trousers and pale round-collared jacket. 'Remind you of anyone?', Ms Brewster enquired rhetorically
• She is a fan of AC/DC
• Her name is so long that news bulletins will require to be extended by five seconds when she becomes chancellor.
The committee noted with approval that Mark McDonald, the troubled MSP, had been receiving behavioural coaching – a course of action that, in the opinion of Ms Brewster, many in public life would do well to emulate. Mary Culter admitted that she herself had engaged the services of a behavioural coach. The dog was responding well.
Notices and acknowledgements
The meeting learned with regret that there are no wild horses left in the world (according to the French National Centre for Scientific Research). Sheriff Muir explained that the term, 'Wild horses wouldn't drag me there,' referred to the medieval torture of using horses to stretch a prisoner and thereby force a confession. It was the sort of extreme experience that Sheriff Muir likened to being dragged by wild horses to something – anything – at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow. Tilly Drone volunteered that the term 'wild horses' was still being employed despite the death of the species. She quoted from a recent hotel review: 'Room tatty, mattress stained, bathroom smelt bad, no plug in sink, toilet seat needed replacing, ceiling fan hanging off, rubbish air con system, room not secure – wild horses wouldn't drag me back there.' It was agreed that there had been few more eloquent tributes to Scottish hospitality.
Any other business
(1) Kitty Brewster asked if anyone had noticed that the Scottish Tory party conference was cancelled because of the Beast. Mary Culter replied that it was impossible to tell the difference.
(2) Sheriff Muir wondered if anyone was heeding the Church of England's advice for Lent. He himself was getting in the habit of carrying his own cutlery to receptions and gala dinners of various kinds, and was dutifully using a bamboo toothbrush.
(3) The meeting deplored the change of name of the Scottish Youth Hostels Association, conveying as it did a certain dignity and sense of purpose, and its substitution by the vulgar 'Hostelling Scotland.' The SYHA had thus been reduced to the status of an eatery or a uni.
(4) It was noted without comment that the EU had simultaneously given the prime minister's latest impenetrable declaration on Brexit a 'warm' response (Daily Express) and a 'cool' one (Financial Times).
At the conclusion of the weekly editorial meeting, upon the presentation of pre-lunch refreshments, it had been the custom of Sheriff Muir to ask his colleagues to name their poison. In view of recent distressing events, it was agreed that he should refrain from this inappropriate practice.