A view backstage at Beverley Minster

What am I doing?

It was 9.30 in the morning and I’d just gone back into my office after single-handedly dragging a 30 foot by 15 foot carpet around, setting up a large projector and screen, moving a Steinway piano and assembling a power supply for a sound system. I’d already directed several visitors to various attractions in the building, helped plan some arrangements for later in the day and had started making the first of several flasks of coffee for the catering team.
I was scheduled to take four roof tours later on, I still had to set up some staging for a special service tomorrow and I was thinking about the arrangements for a funeral.
I had just switched on the laminating machine to produce some weatherproof signs and notices for an imminent open day, loaded a cassette tape to make a record of a recent sermon for one of our parishioners and was about to score some slices of bread tomake them ready for communion when someone popped their head around the door.
“Are you doing anything?”
I thought long and hard about my response, and decided to be diplomatic.
“Well, I’m currently multitasking, but can I help you?” I replied.
Now I can’t honestly claim that every single minute in my working life is like that one, but it’s certainly not unusual either. I’m one of the two full-time virgers at Beverley Minster and we look after the building, and the people who use and visit it – seven days a week, for at least nine hours a day – sometimes many more. Our job makes us a mixture of front of house supervisors, teachers, backstage staff, janitors, trustees, tourist guides, counsellors, publicity officers, middle managers, bankers, muscle, community liaison officers, detectives, historians, car park supervisors, acoustic engineers and ceremonial figures in black robes who carry a metal rod. Some days we might walk up to 10 miles, all within one of the biggest parish churches in England and, last Bank Holiday, I climbed the 113 steps to the central tower seven times. When there’s nothing else to do we can always get out the Brasso and polish up the lectern.
As you can see, it’s not a job for someone who likes predictability – and it’s the most satisfying and enjoyable one I’ve ever had. I’ll tell you more about it in my next essay.

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