A view backstage at Beverley Minster

Old broom sweeps clean

We’re told that fresh starts are beneficial. Neil Pickford begs to differ.
I’ve been feeling a bit below par recently. Oh, nothing serious, thanks for asking, but just a trifle under the weather, not quite myself y’know, bit of a cough – just can’t shift it, had it for weeks, not getting any better, you know the sort of thing.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I went to the doctor who prescribed some penicillin on the off-chance it wasn’t viral and, lo and behold, it started working.

Well, I felt very pleased about this and so, when I heard some strange thumping and groaning in the Minster I thought I ought to investigate and see if I could help in any way.

Well, it turned out to be outgoing organmeister Alan Spedding and his long-suffering secretary Carol who were clearing out the organ loft and removing 42 years of accumulated wotsits.

Now, in his outgoing speech the previous Sunday night Alan had said some nice things about the Minster’s smiling and ever-helpful virgers, which had come as a bit of a shock to John and me.

We wondered who these paragons had been, how long ago Alan had worked with them, or if the poor old chap’s mind had started wandering in the excitement of it all.

Anyway, inspired by these perfect predecessors I offered to help – after I’d assessed that all the hard work had been done, naturally.

It turned out that everything had been cleared, except for the coconut mat at the bottom of the stairs to the organ, which Alan suggested might need a bit of a bashing to clean up.

“I’ll do it,” I volunteered, and grabbed at the slumped, brown shape. That turned out to be my big mistake.

The reason why that brown shape was slumpy was that it was laden down with nearly half a century of dust and dirt – and that’s heavy.

I realised that, well before humans walked on the moon, each time an organist took a  small step into the loft they deposited a little bit more debris into this mat.

Believe me, that knowledge weighed very heavily as I staggered to the door.

With a triumphant yell I finally pitched the dreadful object away from me onto the path, only for the whole world to be obliterated by a sudden explosion.

As I coughed my way back to life and blinked frantically in the slowly-brightening day I realised what had happened – I had inadvertently released billions of accumulated accumulations into the open air and, freed from the woven prison for the first time in half a century, they were exploring the environment with relish.

Opening Pandora’s box and unleashing evils into the world must have been something like this and, I have to say, I felt very sorry for doing it. Then, remembering Alan’s motivating words I re-entered the fray, heaved the nasty thing over a fence and started beating it with a broom. The air thickened again, making it hard to breath.
Looking down I could see a huge pile of dust on the ground and an equally large pile all down the front of my Minster shirt. And it was obvious that there was still so much more in the mat to come out yet. Could I stand it?
I remembered the sage advice of WC Fields: “If at first you don’t succeed try again, then give up. No point being a fool about it.” So I quit.
The three of us then debated what to do now. Suggestions varied from tying the mat to the back of my car and dragging it up and down Highgate’s cobbles for 20 minutes to give it a proper beating, to calling in the SAS to wrestle it to submission.
Eventually we decided to just chuck it away and buy a new one – give our new musical director a fresh start, so to speak.
If anyone feels like liberating the old one I’m afraid it’s too late. Mister Mat is currently in transit to a secret government landfill where it will be secured alongside any evidence for the existence of flying saucers and, probably, the ark of the covenant.
And, you’ll be delighted to know, my cough cleared up again two days later, so it all has a happy ending – except for the mat, of course.

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