I WOKE UP FEELING SICK AND UNCOMFORTABLE, as though something I had eaten had solidified into a football-sized lump in my gut. I was hot and sweaty, with itchy skin and uncomfortable joints, and I had a pain in my chest when I tried to move.
No reason to worry about DCS or burst lung, however. Admittedly my last dive was to 50-something metres, in a current, and we ended up missing four minutes of stops because Pete lost his grip on the lifting bag and we had to swim after it, but that was three weeks ago.
Then I remembered. Tonight is the third Wednesday of the month, committee meeting night. I hate committee meetings. They were OK when I was just a member of the committee, but since I became Chairman...
Me, Chairman? What a joke! I don't know why I ever agreed to do it.
I should have realised there was a catch when Ken and Derek started buying me beer, and talking about the strategic direction of the club and giving something back to the membership, and how it was important that the club continued in safe hands. I should have caught on when Mrs Ken started making eyes and dropping suggestive hints about men with power being a real turn-on, and how she could really go for a chap with a title.
But I never did work it out, never really saw the deep, dark rings under Ken's eyes, or understood why Derek's hands tremble like they do. I just put it down to long-term damage resulting from so many years under the influence of pressurised gases.
If only I'd looked clearly at Big Al, and realised that he actually looks 10 years younger than either Ken or Derek, despite having taught both of them to dive.
And do you know the worst part? I didn't just have to agree to be Chairman. Oh no. I had to run an election campaign. I had to talk to people and canvass support and get the members to agree to vote for me.
It was touch and go for a while, until Brian had the accident. It was horrible, the way the trailer seemed to come adrift and run across the car park in slow motion. Nobody could do anything to stop it, though we all tried.
Some of us tried quite hard as well, but in the end Brian's drysuit was ruined and his stab couldn't be salvaged, and the mess it made of his regulator set as the hoses wound round and round the axles had to be seen to be believed.
There was nothing left of the kit at all, and Ken told us afterwards that Brian didn't have any insurance and he couldn't afford to replace it, so he'd not be able to start diving again even when he got out of hospital.
Still, no point in joining if you can't take a joke, as my old Dad used to say, and he was an Army man. He knew all about the fear and the deprivation and the meaningless, repetitive jobs the Army dishes out to break the will and the spirit, until all that's left is an iron core of determination to survive and an unbending commitment to your comrades. It was a tough outfit, the Salvation Army.
What is on the agenda for tonight?
We'll start with the minutes of the last meeting as usual, and then take reports from the Treasurer, the Diving Officer and the Training Officer, and then the Vice-Chairman.
The minutes should be simple. We read them back at the end of each part of the meeting to make sure that they say what people think they should say, then put copies in the club notice book, on the club notice board and send more copies to each committee member.
And every month, every single, blindin' month, some wotsit has Matters Arising. If they can't think of anything else, they have a go at the spelling or the grammar. No way to predict what they'll have a go at this time, I'll need to play it by ear.
Playing things by ear isn't what being Chairman is all about, though. I much prefer to have it all sewn up nice and neat, and the decision taken before we go through that voting nonsense.
Democracy may be a good idea in principle, but in practice it's just mob rule with O-levels. I much prefer the concept of one man, one vote, where I'm the one man and I have the one vote.
Anyway, the Treasurer's report should be straightforward enough this time around, though God knows it was all looking a bit bleak a fortnight ago, when the insurance came due. Fortunately, Yellow Rocket came in by a nose at Kempton, and Geoff had managed to get a good whack on.
Arranging the right insurance is a key important responsibility of the Chairman.
Our company was really good; it paid out on the fire in the boathouse no trouble at all, but it's really whacked up the premium this time.
Still, the old boat was getting close to the end of the line, and what with the Lottery cash and the discount Mervin managed to negotiate for us, we ended up quids in, even if we didn't have much left in the bank.
The new boat is a cracker too, exactly the right size and with the perfect engine for us, plus all the goodies we could have wished for. Curious, Mervin didn't bother giving us the receipt. I'll have to send him a thank-you note and ask for it. I think he said he was in the Scrubs this time.
There shouldn't be anything particularly worrying about the Diving Officer's report either. Both weekends ran with barely a hitch and we brought back all the divers we took, which is all that counts.
Actually, we brought back an extra from the Anglesey weekend, but Sharon is old enough to make up her own mind about these things. I just told her to check that his bottle was in test and get his name and address first.
The training report could be sticky. Old Jim is a damn fine diver; he pulled me out of the canal that time when lesser men would have hesitated and I won't hear a word said against him. But, well, when you get right down to it, he is a bit of stickler for the rule-book.
Like the time Bill dropped his cylinder between the jetty and the boat and had to jump in to recover it. Maximum depth, 4ft of water, total time submerged, 15 seconds. Old Jim, who was Dive Marshal for the day, said it counted as a first dive, so Bill missed out on the wreck, and it turned out to be the only time we've ever had 15m of viz and seen a whale shark.
The real problem is that Jim insists on training according to the rule-book which he was given when he started to dive.
I can't fault his logic when he points out that he's been diving safely for nearly 40 years now, so the training he had was clearly first class, but I just can't get him to see the problem in spending the first three weeks showing his trainees how to make a wetsuit out of a pair of wellies, a tea-cosy and a rubber groundsheet.
We now have a total of 83 people doing snorkel training, with a further 17 still at the classroom stage. He hasn't actually qualified anybody since he took over, but he says that was only two years ago, and he wants his people properly trained before they hit the dangers of open water.
The thing is that Sarah wants to take over the training job. Sarah hasn't been diving anywhere near as long as Jim, but a lot of the younger members look up to her as a bit of a role model.
She's been on the Instructor courses and got the qualifications and everything. She can even deploy a delayed surface marker buoy. And she thinks it's about time we were dragged into the 20th century. I know it's the 21st century, but one century at a time is enough.
Sarah and Jim do not like one another. Sarah thinks Jim is antiquated, antediluvian, chauvinistic and a dinosaur. Jim can't understand words that long. He thinks Sarah is a plonker.
My job as Chairman is to cut through the personality issues and weld these two into a training force to be reckoned with. The problem is, how to do it.
I've thought about it for a long time, and I think I have a solution. I'm going to propose that we split the training job in two, with Jim doing the initial pool work and Sarah doing the open-water stuff.
The beauty of this is that it will give Sarah a job and a title, thereby making her feel important and wanted, while actually changing nothing, because Jim never lets anybody out of the pool.
And they say Machiavelli was devious.
Of course, Sarah isn't totally stupid, so she's likely to see through the scheme unless I really let her organise some training, like some skill-development courses for established members. Maybe she could teach us all how to deploy one of those delayed SMB thingies.
Jim, however, is totally stupid, so I can just tell him I'm doing it to allow him to concentrate his time and substantial expertise on the new starters, the people who need it most if they're to have long and safe diving careers.
This will bring us to the Vice-Chairman's report. Robin is mostly responsible for fund-raising initiatives and for organising the social functions. So far this year we've run seven raffles, done two sponsored swims and a parachute jump, all without raising very much money at all, and both barbies have been cancelled at the last minute. Time for some straight talking tonight, I think.
Ah, post's arrived. There's a card from the Maldives. From Robin. Saying he can't make the meeting tonight and resigning his post as Vice-Chairman and his membership of the club. The little so-and-so.
We'll finish the evening with Any Other Business. I hate that part the most. I thank the officers for their reports and ask if anyone has AOB and rap the gavel on the table and we're away to the pub for a drink.
But however fast I do it, Bernard Atkins always manages to say, in that irritating, nasal voice of his: "There is just one point, Mr Chairman," and we all know we're in for another hour of mind-numbing, meaningless discussion about some triviality or other.
One month he started with: "There is just one small point, Mr Chairman" and we were there until the early hours. One day he'll say: "There is just one tiny, little point" and I'll swing for him, I really will.
Still, only three months and my stint is over. Better buy Sarah a drink after the meeting. I'd like to see the club remain in good hands.