The last of the delegates had finally crossed the room with the aid of a zimmer frame and been helped into his seat by the nursing staff when the double doors swung open.
"Will you please all stand for the anthem", Pamela called out.
From the desk in front of her, Pamela seized a loudhailer which emitted an ear-piercing squeak. She yelled,
"I said, ALL STAND FOR THE ANTHEM!!"
As the assembled delegates struggled to their feet, Miss Tremble struck up a rousing rendition of "God Save The Queen" on the piano and Muriel finally entered the room, resplendent in her new grousemoor autumn outfit which cunningly combined a range of browns with flashes of gold, crimson and old damson. Topping off the hand-woven Harris tweed suit was a magnificent tangerine Pekinese fur kindly supplied by Woofers Rescue Centre from surplus stock. Moving sedately across the Axminster, she waved regally at her followers.
Muriel took her seat at the centre of the top table, flanked by her fellow members of the executive. Four women and one elderly gentleman. Pamela, dressed in her familiar brown trouser suit, rose to address the room.
"It is a great honour to welcome you all here for the annual conference of the Women Independents executive, or the WI as we call ourselves for short. Not forgetting Jim, of course, who if I may be so bold is now an honorary old woman".
Pamela paused for appreciative applause. Miss Tremble tittered politely, but otherwise the room was silent but for the sound of wheezing, a snore and a muffled fart.
"Hilarity aside, in a moment I shall hand over to Muriel who will look back on another successful year and forward to our plans for the next twelve months. Muriel has also kindly agreed to speak on behalf of the rest of us, after which we will conclude proceedings with afternoon tea and a special performance of patriotic tunes by young Giles on his xylophone, ending in traditional manner with a rendition of Jerusalem."
Sensing she had lost her audience, Pamela seized the loudhailer once again and shouted,
"I said CLAP!"
To a ripple of applause Muriel stood and launched into her keynote speech.
"As some of you will be aware, the gutter press is once again trying to besmirch my name over a modest £2 billion grant I awarded to some nice men running a company called ACME Enterprises.
"'Muriel', they said to me, 'we have jotted down some ideas on this envelope which will bring immense prosperity to a local family business and which may, in the fullness of time, create jobs, jobs, jobs! £1.5bn should do it, but call it £2bn just to be on the safe side.'"
"Well, how could I refuse? So I signed away the activities budget to show that we are always open for business."
"Unfortunately the Treasurer took exception to this and complained to those interfering beancounters we have had so much trouble with. Mark and Ms Klebb from the press office are now dealing with that, and the Treasurer has gone into retirement - not before time, if you ask me! And of course, while we always defend our staff, I have made it clear that if anything goes wrong, it is all their fault."
"Such is the burden of this great office - the prying eyes, the carping, the nit-picking criticism from these reptiles - that I sometimes ask myself if it is all worth it."
"And then I remember the immortal words of that great hymn:
"And was Jerusalem builded here?"
"Well, look around you. Pondos Chicken Shack; Arkansas Flame Grilled Kreme Donuts; the Wimpy Grill; Grab-Brookes, the horse racing investment specialists; the Pissed Newt - all these businesses have voted with their feet, thanks to our grants. We have builded Jerusalem and more to make this a paradise for business. We have brought in Robbie Cabbage, the international business mogul and former Take This singer to develop a booming hotel industry alongside my beautiful racecourse, and where once were dark satanic mills shall arise a gleaming sausage factory."
"I say to the carping critics that the sword shall not sleep in my hand until Mark and I have completed our glorious mission. Bring me my Chariot of Fire!"
An elderly man raised his hand.
"What is it Ivor?"
"Will there be chocolate eclairs at the buffet?"
"There most certainly will, Ivor. But before that, I think it's time to vote on the programme I have just outlined. Pamela!"
Pamela rose. "Thank you Muriel for a most inspiring vision of what you and Mark have planned for us. So I suggest that we adopt this as policy. All those in favour, raise your hands."
Seeing the lack of response from the floor, Pamela once again impatiently resorted to the loudhailer.
"I said HANDS UP!"
There was a muffled cry from the back of the room.
"What is it Tom?"
"The Germans have landed! The Germans have landed! We must alert the Home Guard."
Shouting through the loudhailer, Pamela's patience finally snapped. "For God's sake, no. Hands up to vote, you old fool. We are voting on Muriel's plan. Now put your hand up!"
Pamela surveyed the room. "That's unanimous, then!"
"Ah, democracy in action," purred Muriel.
Pamela picked up the loudhailer for the last time. "RIGHT, THE BUFFET IS NOW OPEN. FORM AN ORDERLY QUEUE."