BATS AGM, Hampshire Court Hotel, 13-15 March 2020

By Janice North.

While several of our members arrived on Friday, I chose to arrive as I always do on Saturday morning, in good time for the start of the AGM itself. Our total number of attendees this year was somewhat depleted at just seventeen, a significant reduction on last year when we had been celebrating in quite different circumstances. Additionally of course, this year our meeting was held amid the unsettling emergence of Coronavirus, a completely unprecedented state of affairs.

It’s fair to say that on top of this, we were confronted by a few little challenges almost immediately. Upon arrival to the conference room, our first source of dismay was the initial absence of coffee, milk and our usual relished individually wrapped cookies, which had been disappointingly replaced by a few loose biscuits in a basket, not exactly reassuringly hygienic in the current climate. 

However, after this minor hiccup we continued gamely into our meeting, only to then encounter “Ant-gate”, a completely new phenomenon whereby a plethora of ants were present in little bowls of sweets on the tables! Not something we’d paid for and so was duly reported to the hotel, with photographic evidence of said ants recorded from various angles by several members!

After the meeting, we duly dispersed for a quick snack lunch before heading off to the tennis courts for our annual tennis tournament, something I have come to enjoy very much! There were ten of us playing this time and at the conclusion of each set, we acknowledged our congratulations to each other with the completely new method of communication, now known as The Elbow Bump.

As a result of some extremely spirited competition and very close sets, it was nearly three and a half hours later that the winners were decided. Congratulations to Joanna Hobson and Denzil Chapman!

By 6pm, my poor old body felt ready for a lie down if I’m perfectly honest, but the lure of catching up with good friends and considerable hunger pangs spurred me into my black dress and heels for drinks and dinner.

We met in the bar for our customary aperitifs and then migrated back to our meeting room in anticipation of a delicious meal. However, once again we sadly felt a little neglected due to there being a wedding party in full swing at the hotel, resulting in many of us enduring a lengthy wait for our food, by which time the corners of the tablecloth were starting to appear most appetising!

That said, the food was delicious when it finally arrived and our members enjoyed a thoroughly enjoyable little soirée together, catching up on recent events and of course Coronavirus, the hot topic of the day.

The next morning we of course met for breakfast and languished over multiple coffees to continue our chats about the previous evening and journeys home etc. 

I think it’s fair to say that after the party atmosphere of the previous year, this year’s AGM felt a little flat, what with all the concerns about Coronavirus swamping the collective conscience and the lack of the usual good service at the hotel. However the sheer heartiness of our members and determination to have a lovely time all together regardless, in spite of the challenges we face, purely served to reinforce to me how proud I am to be a member of such a fantastic association and how fond I am of people I have come to get to know as friends. We can all hope that next year will find us unencumbered by either the threat of hideous viruses or by the infiltration of the Basingstoke ants brigade. I for one will look forward to it immensely.

Janice North