A view backstage at Beverley Minster

Back to School

With a final burst of sunshine the summer holidays are declared officially over and Beverley Minster starts preparing for its new vicar.
Bank Holiday Monday wasn’t the end of it, but it was certainly the beginning of the end. We’d had such a successful day with our Tower Tours that we repeated the exercise last Saturday, to mop up as much of the surplus demand as we could.
Again, very satisfying, with over 100 people climbing to enjoy panoramic views but we all felt we’d had enough by the end of it – me in particular. Having done a normal roof tour during the morning I was feeling confident that I could just bounce up the stairs when I took my 2.20pm turn leading a party up to the tympanum (strictly speaking, merely the space inside a roof, but we stretch the point a bit in the Minster), but how wrong I was.
The central tower stairs spiral clockwise but first stage of the clock tower climb takes us anti-clockwise and you’d be amazed at how that throws you out. I was literally on my hands and knees when I finally reached the level where I could hand the party over to my son for stage two. Trying to suppress the sounds of gasping, wheezing and sobbing as I headed downstairs again I contented myself with the thought that the next tour was the last this year, term time was already under way at Lincolnshire and North Yorks’ schools and ours would be following shortly so the flow of tourists should start reducing fairly soon.
Now we would have time to tidy up, take stock and begin preparations for Christmas – oh, and our new vicar, for whom the starting date is starting to loom large.
The first part of this latter process began on Monday with two days of staff training and discussion (mostly the latter), which reminded us all of what the jobs were we were meant to do and how they fitted in with the rest of the team. It also helped the new vicar (henceforth referred to as ‘Jeremy’) to get to know us – so I guess I’ll be looking for a new job soon.
The first day was intense (no it wasn’t, it was ‘in meetings’ – hahahahahahaha – ahem, sorry about that), dealing with issues of importance and great significance.
The second was more light-hearted and ‘team building’. I’m unable to breach the confidence of the confessional and tell you much about it, apart from the fact that, at one point, everyone sang: “Happy Birthday’ to me. (54 actually, thanks for asking. I know it’s a surprise but I do look good for my age, don’t I?).
Considering this chorus was led by our music master, and that our new vicar was once head of music planning at York Minster, it was an unusually mellifluous version of the well-known ditty. It made the large latte I was drinking at the time especially agreeable.
Actually Jeremy seems a really nice chap (creep, creep, hint, hint) and he’s also a railway buff, which is most encouraging. He and our musical director were soon swapping details about diesels while I interjected with stories of steamers, while the rest of the team threw bread rolls and abuse at us – Philistines.
Anyway, Jeremy’s induction will be on Wednesday 23rd September and we’re currently compiling the invitation list and calculating how many seats we’ll need. Current estimates are about 600 so that involves the virgers creating two extra rows down each of the side aisles, as well as filling in any gaps around the font. Then we’ve got to find out where and when we virge the bishop and other staff and then, as far as we’re concerned, the job is done.
That’s when it all starts getting interesting of course as we will have a new hand on the rudder, a new man in charge, for the first time in 11 months. Regardless of mealy-mouthed excuses by cost-cutting, staff-rationalising ‘managers’ in the Church of England every church needs a proper vicar as quickly as possible or it just drifts aimlessly. Now we’ve got one it feels as though we’re coming to the end of a hard but unreal period and you can sense a rising tempo and tide of expectations.
Or maybe that’s just me in my post-birthday euphoria.
One thing I do know won’t change, regardless of the vicar, and that’s having to climb that flipping NW Tower throughout the year for pastoral and official reasons. This weekend marks Quebec Day and we’ll be flying the East Yorkshires’ flag with the star for the weekend.
So, six-foot cloth in hand, I shall ascend those 212 steps once more with dread in my heart, lead in my boots and spots in front of my eyes.
I tell you, sometimes I feel very, very old.

First published September 2009


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