Simon English: Doctor's orders - AGMs are bad for my sanity

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The Independent Online

Outlook The doctor says that I'm not to attend any more AGMs.

The effect on my mental well-being is so detrimental, he warns, that I become a danger to myself.

For hacks, these meetings follow a dreary pattern.

Drink too much coffee. Jitter through a conversation about the weather with the PR man who's just thrilled to see you. Have inappropriate thoughts about his young assistant. Start self-loathing. Nod to the guy from the Insurance Gazette. Try and pinpoint how your life became such an abject failure.

(This can't just be me.)

During AGMs, it's like being inside Dr Who's Tardis.

You listen to speeches that include words like "deconsolidated" and "feasibility" for what seems about three days, then escape in search of water to discover that only 20 minutes have passed.

You're looking around the room for a spark of rebellion and wondering whether anyone would notice if you jumped off the balcony.

One reason why AGMs are so dire is that they represent a conspiracy between the media and the City.

We agree to pretend they matter, that this is the one day a year when powerful companies actually get held to account. Shareholders are revolting! The chief executive got a bloody nose!

Then there's free sandwiches. And everyone carries on as before. Lunch next Wednesday? Spot of golf on Saturday? See you then.

Yesterday's event was unusual in that it actually meant something. Backs were not slapped. The anger was genuine.

And the whole occasion gave a very clear demonstration of the huge gap between the view of the world from the corporate boardroom and the one the rest of us live in.

Still depressing then. Just for different reasons than normal.