A view backstage at Beverley Minster

Parallel Worlds

It’s all in the mind, you know.
Not for the first time I’ve been baffled by something that’s happened in the Minster recently. This week I was happily sitting next to one of our parishioners, a perfectly friendly person most of the time, when she suddenly turned on me.
“Where were you last Thursday?” she demanded crossly.
“In the Minster, as normal,” I replied, puzzled by her question.
“Then why didn’t you stop all that banging?” she blurted out.
“But I did,” I replied, to her obvious disbelief.
Perhaps I’d better explain at this point – the ‘banging noise’ was rather louder than usual because we were having 40 foot of scaffolding erected around our West End Window. The resultant clanging sounded like the amplified spawn of a union between Tubular Bells and John Bonham (two 1970s rock-music references there for any pop historians who weren’t around at the time).
In the nave of the church it was awful, an overwhelming counterpoint to the quietness of the normal communion service which we hold at 10am every Thursday.
That’s why we had asked Gibbys, who are the regular contractors we’ve happily used for the last 15 years, to take a 45 minute tea-break at that time – a request to which they agreed with pleasure.
Anyway, as I listened intently from the side of the church I heaved a sigh of relief as work stopped when the clock struck the hour, just as the priest was starting his announcements. It was so smooth it could have been choreographed.
Then back to my office for some admin, with one ear cocked to the radio link in the background which gives me a continuous feed from the service. Everything seemed to be going OK until one of the congregation came out, complaining that the continuing noise from the scaffolding makers had destroyed the service for her, and she was going home.
Puzzled, I went out – no noise, no movement around the west window, just the sound of the Revd Terry Munroe conducting the service and a few visitors wandering around in the nave. I’m sorry to admit I rather dismissed her complaint.
Promptly at 10.45 the banging started again and I had to rush to the back and ask them to shut up for another few minutes as the service hadn’t quite finished – but that was a minor problem and quickly solved, although the noise was very off-putting at the time.
So imagine my surprise when I find someone else complaining that the church was still vibrating with clanging all the way through the service and especially loudly during the sermon. I started to doubt my own sanity.
I checked with the contractors and they assured me that they’d finished work promptly at 10 o’clock; I checked with Steve, one of our permanent maintenance staff and our linkman with the Gibbys – he confirmed they’d finished work and he’d been chatting to them while they took a break.
I listened again to my recording of the service – sure enough, there’s a lot of clanging and bashing just before the service starts, then it ends suddenly and there’s just the sound of the Terry making his announcements.
I spoke to two people who’d been in the service – they hadn’t heard the clanging after the service had started either.
So what on earth had disturbed these two ladies? I really don’t know, but I’d better start looking out for other strange phenomena. There might be something in Star Trek’s ‘parallel universe’ tales after all.
That’s if I’m not imagining it all, of course.

First published May 2009


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