January is a simple month in Beverley Minster, at least for the virgers. There won’t be very many casual visitors or tourists coming through the doors, we’ve got no big events to plan or set up so it’s the ideal time to start our spring cleaning.
Naturally, our task is a bit more demanding than many of you may have experienced – starting with our window ledges, for example.
You’d probably assume we can’t just flick a duster on a flat surface, and you’d be right. Our ledges are about ten foot up in the air and lean at 45 degrees towards the leaded windows. The only solution is to assemble our scaffolding trolley, then use that elevated flooring to unleash our ‘Henrys’ onto 12 months worth of dust and tiny stone fragments.
Actually, our two red ‘Henry’ cleaners are the unsung heroes in this modern virgers’ repertoire and if the manufacturers would pay a large sum into the Minster General Fund then John and I would happily endorse their product. We can use them on stone or carpet surfaces and they’re sufficiently flexible and light to allow us to heave them up and down stairs as required.
That’s particularly important in the quire where we face a huge collection of delicate, highly detailed wooden Victorian statues and carvings over the misericords. In the bad old days it took the whole month to dust and oil the complete structure but now, thanks to a new platform I built last year, the Henrys and we got through the whole task in a week.
Then we can turn our attentions to polishing the many brasses and, finally, really concentrate on getting all the slivers of Christmas tinsel from between the flagstones.
We’ve often been complimented on how clean we keep the old place – that’s partly down to the Henrys and just keeping on top of the job, but also to the glorious colour of our stone which is very forgiving and seems to gleam in direct sunlight.
However, I’m afraid to admit, some of this flooring is starting to look a bit less pristine. These are the sections which are always under attack at events, concerts, church meetings and youth cafes from spilled coffee, hot chocolate, red wine and suchlike – and John and I haven’t really got a proper answer to it.
Oh, bleach in hot water will remove a bit of mess, if you get to it quickly enough, but the huge area we have to contend with means we’re always going to miss some stains until it’s well and truly stuck in. Then, unless we’ve got some mechanical system for removing huge quantities of dirty water and feeding in clean stuff (which we haven’t) all we’re really doing is just spreading the mess a bit wider. It removes the obvious discolouration but leaves a sort of grey sheen. With the increasing number of events and entertainments we’re hosting these days the problem isn’t going away, and that’s a darned pity.
So, if anyone can point us in the right direction for a relatively inexpensive machine that cleans and recycles water properly then I’ll consider going on a sponsored diet to pay for it. There’s at least two stone I should be able to lose without any problems and that’ll be my good deed for the year.
Speaking of good deeds, I’ll just prove to you what a loving husband I am. I bought my wife a Henry for Christmas. She’s delighted.