Secretarial: The Temp - Anyone for a game of sink or swim?

"NO," MUMBLES Nice Eric, who actually seems to have some idea of what he's doing, but lacks the leadership skills - which as far as I can see at the moment, amount to talking louder than anyone else - to put his views across. "If you do that, it will all tip over."

Everyone ignores him. Eric rubs his forehead, stands back and watches.

"Come on, Eric!" shouts Barry, he of the bullhorn throat. "Put some energy into it! This is supposed to be a team effort!"

"But..." starts Eric, "I honestly think that it would be a good idea if you thought about this a bit. You need some sort of framework to tie the drums to, or when the rope gets wet it'll expand and..."

"Oh, look!" Sheila stands up from tying reef knots, and puts her hands on her hips. "We can't do this without everyone's co-operation."

Eric rubs his forehead again and, heaving a quiet sigh, walks over and joins in.

Sometimes I witness things that make me eternally grateful that I don't have a real job after all. At least, at the end of the day, I can leave where I'm working and forget all about it; at least I don't have to lie awake at night fretting about real and imagined slights, and wondering how they affect my position in the political world, and at least - thank you, God - no-one forces me to take part in team-building exercises.

But I do get to witness them. I am playing Miss Facilitator - which means that I know where the sticking plasters are, and have a clock and a list of who is supposed to be in which team, tucked under my arm.

The sales force of this air-conditioning company spends its afternoon down by the upper reaches of the Thames attempting, in teams of eight, to build a raft from a pile of oildrums, planks and rope, - and get to the other side of the river for the next part of their company Awayday, which involves a lot of drinking.

I'm still not entirely sure how building a raft relates to persuading people to ventilate their offices, but the human resources officer of Eazibreez obviously believes that it does, so here we all are.

I think I know what's going on: Eazibreez are in difficulties, and redundancies are in the air. As the 24-strong sales team sweat and struggle and their personalities come to the fore, HR strolls up and down the bank and watches them, scribbling notes on her hand-held computer.

And because everyone is aware that this is what she's doing, they are exaggerating the qualities that they think she's looking for in the surviving employees. Barry thinks it's leadership she wants, so elbowed his way forward before we had even got off the coach to start organising "his" troops.

Sheila obviously believes that it's being a team player that counts. Eric, on the other hand, hopes that HR will see that he is a man of reason, someone who can actually come up with solutions.

Whatever she's really after, the result is chaos. The team have lined up nine oildrums in sets of three, and are lashing them together. I'm no Girl Guide, but even I can see that it's not going to work.

Nice Eric picks up a plank and comments: "If we at least put a couple of these diagonally..." but Barry replies: "We haven't got time for that. It doesn't have to look good, it just has to get us across before the others."

"But..." says Eric.

"No!" snaps Barry. "No arguments!"

HR stops, scribbles something, moves on.

With Barry standing to one side to oversee the heaving, the team bend and, vertebrae popping, drag their raft, sagging in the middle, into the river, where it bobs innocently in the sunshine.

Sheila suggests team-centred leg-ups, and four people finally scramble onto their makeshift craft. Eric stands quietly on the bank, specs glinting, and watches as they take a corner each and begin to paddle.

A groan from a straining rope, then another, and the centre drum erupts into the air, catches the heaviest paddler on the back and pitches him into the water.

One-by-one, the remaining barrels pop from their moorings and shoot away from beneath their passengers. They splash back to land and stand, dripping and puffing, as the barrels bob in the sunshine.

"Well," says Barry, displaying that other fine leadership quality of sidestepping the blame. "That was a pretty disastrous effort. Does anybody else have any clever suggestions?"

Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Arts and Entertainment


These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London